Baked Quinoa and Chicken Parmesan

This meal can easily replace a chickem parmesan with pasta and no one will feel deprived. The flavors are divine – but I do highly recommend using fresh herbs to really make the sauce what it is. You can prep this meal ahead of time and bake it later for a quick weekday meal.

 

For those who are unsure about quinoa, this is a great first dish to try the super-food. It isn’t pretty, per se, but it tastes GREAT! And thanks to the protein-packed quinoa, this meal comes in right at 33 grams of carbohydrate with lots of fiber and protein for staying power!

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (15 oz) can no salt added diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • basil and oregano, to taste (I used about 1/4 cup total)
  • 1 cup quinoa, uncooked
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup (4 oz) fresh mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided
  • 1 oz parmigiano-reggiano or pecorino romano, shredded
  • 2 Tbsp breadcrumbs (optional, exclude to make gluten-free)

Directions:

  1. Fill a pan with 1-1 1/2 inches water. Season with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and add chicken. Cover and allow to simmer for 5-6 minutes. Flip over the chicken and cook an additional 5-6 minutes. Remove from water and chop into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375. Spray a large baking dish with olive oil spray.
  3. To make the sauce, heat a large skillet over medium heat, and add the oil. Stir in the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30-60 seconds. Add the balsamic vinegar, scraping anything off the bottom of the pan, and cook until it’s almost fully absorbed. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, red pepper flakes, basil, oregano, and pepper to taste. Bring to a low boil, and then simmer while you prepare the rest of the meal.
  4. Place the quinoa in a mesh strainer, and rinse with cold water for about 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add the quinoa and water (and a dash of salt) to a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat, and simmer until cooked, about 20-25 minutes.
  6. In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa and chicken with the sauce and mix thoroughly.
  7. Place half the mixture in the baking dish, and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Top with the remaining quinoa mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella cheese, and the parmigiano/pecorino. Add the breadcrumbs.
  8. Cover with foil and bake for about 15 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly, about 10 more minutes.

Yield: 6 servings (about 1 1/3 cups each)

Nutrition Information (per serving): 336 calories; 9.3 g. fat; 51 mg. cholesterol; 539 mg. sodium; 33.3 g. carbohydrate; 5 g. fiber; 29.7 g. protein

Money Matters: Chicken ($4/lb) and fresh mozzarella ($0.50/oz or $8/lb) are the most expensive ingredients. Quinoa can be found for anywhere between $3 and $9 per pound. The cheapest places I’ve found are the bulk bins at Whole Foods or CostCo for around $4/lb (~$2/cup). The herbs can be expensive (start an herb garden to save!), and I estimated $1 in this recipe. Onion ($0.60), olive oil ($0.15), canned tomatoes/tomato sauce ($0.90/can), vinegar ($0.10), garlic ($0.10), and cheese ($0.20) comprise the rest of the cost. The total cost of the recipe comes to ~$11.45, making the cost per serving $1.91!

By Nicole Morrissey, R.D.

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