We all know that finding the time to lead healthy lives out on the road can be difficult, but over the years I have discovered that making a good majority of my meals at home in large quantities and freezing them to take along and warm up later is an easy place to start. It’s cheaper, healthier and I know exactly what is going in the pot!
I have recently switched from pulling reefers to pulling a stepdeck, so getting my exercise has not been a challenge, but finding the time to eat right is still difficult. Having ready-to-heat meals in the truck is a must to curb the urge to just run into the nearest fast food joint for a quick heart attack.
One of my favorite things to use in “make ahead and freeze” meals is quinoa (KEEN-wa). It’s a wonderful little supergrain that can be red or white. I started using it mainly because it cooks, freezes, and reheats without getting soggy like noodles do. I also love it because instead of being just an empty filler, it is high in protein. Check out the nutrition facts here.
Quinoa is extremely versatile. It can be used in cold salads, stir fry, hot breakfast cereals, eaten plain with a little butter, and in pretty much any dish that you would normally use rice or pasta in.
How to Cook Quinoa
There are several ways to cook quinoa but I usually boil it just like you would cook rice. The only difference is it MUST be washed very well before cooking or it will have an awful bitter taste! I soak it in a fine mesh colander with a little vinegar and swish it around with my hands to scrub any residue off and rinse, rinse, rinse!! You can then cook it in water, vegetable broth or meat broth, or add a little wine to give it flavor.
The recipe I would like to share today is something very easy that I concocted a while back. Only three main ingredients and it freezes for months! It’s basically spaghetti with meat sauce but I substitute quinoa for the spaghetti. This makes a very large batch, feel free to cut it in half!
- Two 20-ounce packages Italian seasoned lean ground Turkey. I used Jennie-O.
- Two 28-ounce cans of crushed or diced tomatoes, any flavor you choose.
- Two cups uncooked white quinoa — will yield approximately 6 cups cooked.
- Thyme and basil leaves in case it’s a little bland.
How to Make it:
Firstly prep your quinoa (rinse, rinse, rinse!) Then in a large stock pot add at least 10 cups water to the 2 cups uncooked quinoa. Bring it to a boil then simmer, stirring occasionally until the grain explodes revealing a little curly-q (the germ). This usually takes about 15-20 minutes. The grain should still have a little crunch to it, similar to rice. Then drain and rinse the quinoa with cold water and set aside.
While the quinoa pasta is cooking, brown the ground turkey. You can use plain ground turkey, chicken, or lean beef and flavor with whatever seasonings you choose but I like the ease of using the already seasoned kind. When you have all the meat browned and drained, put it in a large kettle. Now add the crushed tomatoes. If you happen to have diced or larger style cut tomatoes in the pantry, just run them through the blender for a pulse or two to break them up a little. Or you can make your own red sauce from fresh tomatoes! Then simmer for about 20 minutes to blend the flavors and add in a little thyme or basil if needed.
Now in an very large bowl (this is a huge batch so find the biggest bowl you have) mix the quinoa with the meaty red sauce.
I love the reusable or throw away Ziploc bowls. The 1.75 cup size is a perfect meal portion and I use them for almost all my cook ahead meals. My freezer is full of them with all kinds of individual meals to take with me in the truck. This batch will yield about 8-9 of those bowls full. Fill up the bowls, snap on the covers (leaving a little room for expansion) and throw them in the freezer. When you’re ready to reheat, just thaw them in the fridge for a day and pop them in the microwave. Simple! A slice of bread to mop up the sauce or a little cheese on top would make great additions. At home I have used this as stuffing for green peppers too.