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The things we learn as children are the things we rely on as adults. Our childhood becomes a foundation for an instinctual autopilot of sorts. A failsafe. A default set of assumptions that we rely on every day. For our actions and reactions. For every day relationships and for uncommon encounters with danger. For our basic habits and for our fight or flight response. And most people just live life without ever giving things a second thought.
“No matter what side of the car the driver’s seat is on, keep your body in the middle of the road,” Dad was preparing me for international driving. “The driver is always in the middle and the passenger side is always to the curb.”
(Note: He is right. Except when you change sides of the road when you drive from a country like Thailand into a country like Burma. But that’s a whole other conversation. And if you’re driving from Thailand to Burma, you’ll be worrying about bigger things than oncoming traffic. Anyhoo…)
I don’t know which is harder: driving on the “wrong” side of the road in another country, or remembering which is the “right” side when you return home. I used to tell myself: It’s the opposite of what I think it is. But after 15 years of driving on the “opposite side,” I can no longer trust my baseline. My wise and experienced father has experienced this mind confusion firsthand and his driving advice is tried and true. It comes down to this: you can’t rely on what you know. You have to purposefully develop a new system to anchor your old behaviors on. A new norm that transcends the autopilot of your upbringing.
I’m on a quest to build a new repertoire of meals that meet all my restrictions. I have to let go of my first food-language: Australian. And I have to let go of my immigrant second food-language: American. And now I’m learning a third: Free of gluten, cow&sheep-dairy, seafood, soy, sugars, yeast, mold, fermentation, metals, canned, white rice, fresh fruit… the list goes on. So my food is now like my international driving: I need a new foundation for my autopilot.
My goal is to find 31 really great basic GF DF SF meals for each season. Yes, four months’ worth of tried, tested and lovely dinners: summer, fall, winter and spring. To give me a new cooking autopilot. So I don’t keep spending hours every day on food research and prep. It’s time to step up to the challenge: There are no safety nets left. No fast food options. No frozen meal fallbacks. No quick go-tos from my childhood. Time to get this new foundation built.
With a whole butternut and three heads of broccoli (Trader Joes brocc comes in threes) in hand, I set out to make two meals with two distinct tastes. I gag at the thought of eating the same tasting meals night after night. And with my ever dwindling list of allowed foods, I don’t want to lose any to overuse disgust.
Meal #1 is based on LiveNourished’s Butternut + Broccoli Casserole but with a few modifications to add protein and omit the can, dairy and sugars. Thus my Coconut Quinoa Bean & Veg Casserole was born. Hmmm. It needs a better name. Ideas?
COCONUT QUINOA BEAN & VEG CASSEROLE
GF | DF | SF | SF | MF
– 3C peeled & chopped butternut – 2C chopped broccoli trunk, stems & florets
– 1/2 large onion, chopped – 2 cloves garlic, crushed
– 1/2C quinoa – 2C boxed coconut milk
– 1/2C dry white beans, soaked – 1+ tsp salt (to taste)
– 1/4+ tsp pepper (to taste) – 1/4 tsp nutmeg
– 1C oats, toasted – 1/4 nuts, chopped (ie. walnuts, pecans)
– Trader Joe’s Coconut Spray
1. Cook soaked beans according to package. I used white beans this time but any bean or combination would be great.
2. Cook quinoa according to package. I cooked ours in coconut milk but it doesn’t get to the point of separation in milk. So you might prefer to use water or broth.
(2b. Optional: Steam or stirfry broccoli trunks. The tough trunks will not get fully soft in the casserole. If you like a nice soft texture, you may want to precook a little first.)
3. Grease a large casserole dish with whatever you like. My fav is Trader Joe’s Coconut Spray.
4. Preheat oven to 375F. If you like, toast the oats and nuts in the oven while it preheats. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn!
5. Put butternut, broccoli, onion, garlic, quinoa, beans, coconut milk, nutmeg and salt & pepper (to taste) in the casserole. Combine.
6. Top with oats and nuts. Or a GF DF bread crumb would work too. Spritz with coconut spray or your fav oil spray. (The Misto is great for oils like olive. Or the Stainless Misto to avoid aluminum but it has a plastic liner. Sigh.)
7. Bake at 375F for 30+ minutes. Until the veggies are soft to your liking.
My husband loved this casserole as is and also liked it with a drizzle of sweet chili sauce. I had to add a lot more salt and pepper to mine. Clearly, I need a bigger flavor punch so I’ll be playing around with herbs and seasonings in the months to come. This dish will be part of every season’s meal plan. I can imagine tweaking the flavors to reflect the seasons. Curry? Cranberries? Sun-dried Tomatoes? If you try this recipe, let me know what you end up adding!
Stay tuned… Meal #2: Butternut & Broccoli Shepherd’s Pie, is coming in a separate post. It was delicious!!!