Healthier Comfort! {Lightened} Cheesy Cauliflower Quinoa Casserole Recipe

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When you hear the words “melted cheese,” what comes to mind? I think of all kinds of comfort foods like homey mac & cheese, ginormous slices of mozzarella blanketed pizza blanketed, and hot Tex Mex queso and a basket of chips. However, all this ooey, gooey goodness comes with high-fat, high calorie consequences if I’m not careful. But, there are a few tweaks and tricks that will allow you to enjoy cheese in recipes while keeping you light on your feet (and hands)!

yoga handstand pose jennifer fisher

My cheese tips & tricks will keep you light on your feed (and hands)!

First of all, portion control. Just because you CAN eat a whole batch of cheese sticks, doesn’t mean you should. Second, moderation in the use of cheese as an ingredient – if a recipe calls for 1 cup, cut back and see if a little less will still yield the same effect. If you don’t want to sacrifice the “creaminess,” often you can also substitute a little Greek yogurt or a roux made with low fat milk as in my {Lightened} Cheesy Cauliflower Quinoa Casserole recipe below. Another way to keep cheese the star of the dish without globbing it on is to use a high quality cheese. Fresh cheese and artisan cheese taste so much better than the dried out, shredded stuff hanging in the bags at the supermarket – the taste is more pronounced and therefore you can use less!

aged cheddar cheese thefitfork

Recently, I took advantage of this last healthy cheese tip, by making a comforting casserole with a ton of healthy swaps.   First off, I used one of my favorite cheeses – Kerrygold Aged Cheddar – as the topping on my {Lightened} Cheesy Cauliflower Quinoa Casserole. Kerrygold Aged Cheddar is a cheese made from the milk of grass-fed cows and then aged for taste for one year – it’s described as “rich and full-bodied with a smooth finish” and I agree (nom,nom).  By using aged cheddar as the bold accent on top of the recipe, I was able to cut significantly on the cheese used within the interior of the casserole – in fact, only two ounces were stirred into the easy roux that had been kept light with low-fat milk and just a skosh of canola oil (no butter)! Also, instead of traditional rice or noodles, I used quinoa in this healthy casserole recipe for added protein – although it has no meat, it could make a hearty side dish as part of a Meatless Monday dinner.  Oh, and it has cauliflower – it just seems to turn to creamy, dreamy butter in this dish!

cheesy quinoa bake

{Lightened} Cheesy Cauliflower Quinoa Casserole Recipe

  • 1 ½ tablespoons canola oil (divided)
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 1 ¼ cup water
  • 1 12-oz bag microwave-in-bag frozen cauliflower florets
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups chopped sweet yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic from jar
  • ½ cup 1% milk
  • 2 ½ Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups chicken stock
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
  1.  Heat medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 ½ teaspoons oil and coat pan. Add quinoa and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until lightly toasted; stir frequently.
  2. Add 1 ¼ cups water and bring to a bowl. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 F degrees.
  4. In large skillet, add remaining 1 tablespoon oil in pan and sauté onions for 3 to 4 minutes until softened and turning golden. Stir in garlic during last 1 minute of cooking.
  5. In small bowl, whisk together milk and flour; stir chicken broth, salt and pepper into this mixture.
  6. Add milk-broth mixture to skillet and bring to a boil; stirring constantly for 2 minutes or until thickened.
  7. Remove skillet from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese until melted.
  8. Microwave cauliflower according to package directions. Carefully remove from bag and very coarsely chop.
  9. Stir in quinoa and cauliflower into Parmesan mixture.
  10. Place in 1 ½ to 2 quart baking dish that has been lightly coated with cooking spray. Or, you can do in individual ramekins as pictured below.Top with grated cheese.
  11. Bake at 400 F degrees for 15 – 20 minutes, or until heated through and cheese bubbling and lightly browned on top.
  12. Serves 6 – 8.

cauliflower quinoa ramekins

Cooking Light Best Cheese RecipesOkay, so I won’t lie. I was inspired to make this cheesy, delicious dish after getting my October issue of Cooking Light magazine. Hello, the headline is “Our Best Cheese Dishes” and it included a kid-friendly, make-ahead recipe for a Broccoli Quinoa Casserole with Chicken — of course, I HAD to tweak it and make it my own. Check out some of the other healthier cheese recipes from Cooking Light – you will be drooling!


What is your favorite type of cheese or recipe using cheese?

This post is sponsored by Cooking Light and KerryGold. I received free products / gifts in return for this post; however, all opinions and content (unless otherwise noted) are my own. 

23 thoughts on “Healthier Comfort! {Lightened} Cheesy Cauliflower Quinoa Casserole Recipe

    • Agree — I love all types of cheese — we could probably have at least a dozen different types in the fridge on any given day . . .

  1. Love love the photo! If I pay you will you teach me how to do a handstand? It’s a new goal and all I have to show for it so far is headaches 🙂

    The recipe looks delicious!

  2. Ooooh yum! I was a bit wary of clicking this post as I thought it might be some kind of casserole using nutritional yeast, I have seen a few people call cheesy dishes that have used that recently. I am pleasantly surprised to see I was wrong! This sounds yummy, and so glad you still see how cheese in moderation is good!

    Goats cheese is my fave, YUM!

  3. Pingback: Kale & Quinoa Casserole Recipe + The Running Event |

  4. This has gone over so well with my toddler. It’s soft and hold-able or fork-able and eo healthy!

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