The Dude Diet: Pizza Steak Quinoa Bake

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Today is a big day, Dude Dieters. HUGE.

Not only is it quarterly quinoa bake day (hallelujah), it’s also the one-year anniversary of The Dude Diet’s release into the wild!! It feels like it’s been a week since the book’s launch but also ten years at the same time? It’s weird.

Reflecting on the batshit craziness of the past year, I’m experiencing a lot of conflicting emotions today, but the most overwhelming are pride and joy. Hands down. Because that’s what The DD is to me—my pride and joy. (I have no puppies or babies, people. Just let me have this.) What began as a few simple recipes to help my roommate button his jeans and stop meat sweating through our sheets blossomed into an online community of clean(ish) food enthusiasts and eventually spawned an entire book devoted to realistic healthy eating. And that will never, ever cease to thrill me, dudes.

I’m nothing if not a realist, so I’m gonna come right out and say that I had managed expectations for what would happen when The DD hit shelves last fall. I hoped a decent (read: not embarrassing) number of copies would sell, the book might help a few people get their act together on the cooking and nutrition fronts, and perhaps it would serve as light bathroom reading for a few curious dudes. All I can say one year later is…

The reality is SO MUCH BETTER!!!

The overwhelming support The Dude Diet has received thus far has blown my modest expectations out of the fucking water. I could never have anticipated the number of photos, emails, Amazon reviews, and social media posts that would be sent my way by people happily sharing their recipe victories and health/weight loss success stories. Apparently, The Dude Diet has inspired many a solo culinary “journey” (yassss), as well as countless family meals and couples’ cooking sessions. It’s also made people smile, helped them gain kitchen confidence, and in many instances, drop some serious lbs. It makes me feel like Oprah. “You get a wonderland body, and you get a wonderland body. EVERYONE gets a wonderland body!!!”

I’m not sure you’ll ever fully understand how surreal/awesome it is for me to see or hear of people learning, cooking, and laughing via The Dude Diet, but just know that this doesn’t even begin to cover it. And since the bulk of The DD’s existence and success is due to this blog’s readership, I want to say a quick and sincere thank you. You da best, and I’m so grateful. Know that your weird blog lady wishes she could koala hug each and every one of you in person.

All of the above said, spreading The Dude Diet gospel hasn’t been all chest bumps and rainbows, friends. There were a lot of high hurdles and road blocks this year, especially while I was on the #dudediettour, and I had plenty of days when I wanted nothing more than to throw a plate of Buffalo fingies at the wall, wipe off my Kardashian contour, and shut the whole thing down.

I’m telling you this for two reasons. First, we have to keep at least some things real on the Internets. And second, the challenges and bad days taught me some extremely valuable—albeit somewhat cliché—life lessons, and it feels fitting to share them on this momentous occasion. Everyone loves a Hump Day pep talk, right?

I was on the road for almost four months straight with The DD last spring. Whenever I think about that amazingly strange time, there’s one experience that’s perpetually bolded in my memory. During my Minneapolis stint in March, I somehow decided to do an event at a well-known dive bar called CC Club. It was a rather unconventional location for a cookbook signing, sure, but I liked that. Dive bars rule, and they’re literally crawling with my target demo. Maybe I was a genius and bar signings would be the next big thing!!

Several people told me they didn’t think this was a very good idea. They said I wouldn’t sell any books in a dive bar, and worse, I might piss some of the CC regulars off. Well…

Those people were right! I sold a grand total of one book that night (which I actually paid for and gifted to the bar’s chef). Most patrons ignored me—v. impressive since I had a Barnes & Noble cash machine the size of a Sub-Zero refrigerator right next to my table!—and I overheard one woman say to her friends, “What the fuck is that chick doing selling her random diet books in here??”

The nice lady’s comment stung for a hot sec, but only until I realized I had a good answer to her question: Fucking hustling and not-so-casually following my dreams! (Also, drinking Grapefruit Beergaritas and admiring some very artsy tattoo work! Heyooo.)

What I learned at that “failed” event (and many times over since) is that there’s no shame in putting yourself out there. In fact, you have to, and you should never apologize for it. Most people won’t pick up what you’re putting down, and that’s, like, WHATEVER. No one else is going to believe in your work/product/mission or care about getting it out there as much as you do, so you have to keep on keeping on if you have any hope of successfully getting the word out. I was reminded of an old quote recently: “Fall down seven times, stand up eight,” and I’ve adopted it as both a business and life motto. (Second to “You do you.” Duh.) I encourage you to do the same if it feels right ;).

We’re going to celebrate The Dude Diet’s birthday and life lessons with a Pizza Steak Quinoa Bake now, which I think is all kinds of appropriate. Yes, this whole grain bad boy is cleanish deliciousness at its finest, but the current demand for quinoa bakes is also proof that commitment and persistence do pay off. A lot of you were skeptical of quinoa bakes in the beginning. Some said quinoa was weird and gross. Others said putting together one of these bakes seemed like a ridiculous amount of work. A few took issue with “casseroles” in general. And yet, I keep making them, and with each one, I bring a few more peeps over to the strong side. (For the record, quinoa bakes have become the most searched recipes on this site. WHOOOOP!!)

I know I say this about every quinoa bake, but this one might be my best yet? Loaded with thinly sliced steak, sautéed onions, bell peppers, portobellos, marinara, and cheese, it’s got all the beloved flavors of Philly’s dankest hybrid sub. My live-in cheesesteak connoisseur (aka Logan) has now eaten it for three straight days (last night he ate it as a “side” with his chili), and I don’t think I’ve heard such ecstatic grunting since the Cheeseburger Quinoa Bake’s 2015 debut. Great success.

A couple quick recipe notes and you do you options. Like most quinoa bakes, this one requires a little bit of a time commitment, but the process is pretty smooth if you time things correctly. Prep the meat and veggies while the quinoa cooks, then make the topping and the rest of the bake in the same skillet to streamline the process and minimize cleanup. It’s not that bad, I promise.

When it comes to the steak, I used top round (it’s lean and cheap!), but this recipe would also be great with flank steak or 90% lean ground beef. I went with classic Provolone cheese for its melting potential, although Mozzarella would be equally bomb. You could even get a little American cheese involved for that hint of “whiz” flavor sans chemicals. As always, the recipe calls for a responsible amount of cheese—enough for flavor and binding purposes, not so much that you’ll feel large and in charge after eating it. However, if you’re looking to treat yourself, feel free to add another ½ cup of cheese on top. Oh, and one last thing: You’re going to want to top each portion with warm marinara. (Just pass a warm bowl of sauce around and let people add what they like.) I forgot to do this in the glamour shots, but it’s a must.

Pizza Steak Quinoa Bake: (Serves 4-6)

1½ cups uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
1¾ cups low-sodium beef broth
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound top round steak, very thinly sliced against the grain
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
1½ bell peppers, diced (I used a mix of red, yellow, and green peppers, but you do you.)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 large portobello mushroom caps, stems and gills removed and diced
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1¼ cup marinara sauce
1½ cups grated provolone or mozzarella
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
For the topping:
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/3 cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
For serving: (optional)
Warm marinara sauce
Fresh basil


-Combine the quinoa and beef broth in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer, cover the saucepan with a lid, and cook for 14 minutes, or until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Let the quinoa rest, covered, for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

-Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

-While the quinoa cooks, prep the panko topping. Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook just until the garlic begins to turn golden, about 30 seconds. (Be very careful not to let the garlic burn, friends!) Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring regularly until they darken a shade in color and smell toasty, about 2 minutes. Transfer the topping to a bowl and set aside.

-Next, cook the steak. Increase the heat to medium-high and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the steak to the pan and season with a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly and breaking it up into smaller pieces with a spatula, until no longer pink. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer the steak to a bowl or plate and set aside. (*I used a different pan in this photo, but I highly recommend toasting your breadcrumbs in the same pan you’re using for your bake. Nobody likes extra dishes…)

-Wipe out the pan with a paper towel. Return it to the stove and lower the heat to medium. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the bell pepper, onion, and Portobellos to the pan. Season with a tiny pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper, and cook for about 7 minutes until the vegetables are tender (but not mushy!).

-Add the Worcestershire and soy sauce and cook for 30 seconds more.

-Return the steak to the pan, then add the cooked quinoa, marinara, and 1 cup of the grated Provolone. Fold everything together until well combined.

-Taste the filling and season with extra salt and pepper if necessary. Gently smooth the top of the filling, then sprinkle it with the remaining Provolone and the Parmesan cheese.

 -Top with the prepared panko mix.

-Bake for 20 minutes until the cheese is melted.

-Serve garnished with fresh basil and a side dish of warm marinara sauce. (I like to let people add as much marinara as they like to their serving!)

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