Home ยป Money Matters: Baked Quinoa and Chicken Parmesan

Money Matters: Baked Quinoa and Chicken Parmesan

bakedquinoaparm2Yesterday, I was sitting at my desk charting away on some of my afternoon patients. Even though my office is right off the clinic floor, it remains pretty quite within my four walls.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get a “feeling” that something isn’t right. That happened yesterday afternoon. I got up, walked out my office door, and there was a code blue going on. Right. There.

bakedquinoaparm1Someone was already on the phone with 911 and the staff was grabbing the crash cart.

It was scary. And a bit surreal – I had just been talking to the patient 5 minutes earlier.

Within minutes, there were 2 ambulances and a fire truck and 12 (yes, 12) firemen and paramedics in our clinic. Because I am not “direct patient care”, my job is to be sure the other patients stay calm.

Well, my job was easy. All but one patient slept through the entire ordeal. Chest compressions. Talking AED’s. The whole 9 yards. Just snoozin’ away.

bakedquinoaparm3The one patient who was awake…she was taking pictures of the paramedics and firemen. “I love a man in uniform!” she said. To see a 79-year-old take photos on a cell phone of paramedics tushies certainly lightened the air. I was able to laugh about it later…pretty hard. Our office clerk even joked with the patient, handing her a tissue and joking with her to wipe up the drool on his chin. Too funny.

As for my patient, he’s okay. Phew.

What does this story have to do with Baked Quinoa and Chicken Parmesan? Absolutely nothing other than being  truly memorable like the code blue yesterday. This dish, however, is sure to keep your heart healthy and your pulse regular and strong.

bakedquinoaparm4Chicken Parmesan, in all of its Italian inauthentic glory, is a weakness of mine. What’s not to love about cheesy chicken and tomato sauce served with pasta? Not…a…thing. This dish encompasses all that I love most about chicken parm with far less guilt (none at all, in fact!), lots of nutrition, and a kind price tag. Moreover, it is gluten-free, carb-controlled, high-fiber, and packed with protein.

Dinner for under 350 calories and less than $2 per serving is certainly memorable. But don’t take my word for the taste…you should make that memory and have it last for yourself. Mmmm!


Baked Quinoa and Chicken Parmesan ever so slightly adapted from Elly Says Opa

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)


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.

Preheat the oven to 375. Spray a large baking dish with olive oil spray.

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.

Place the quinoa in a mesh strainer, and rinse with cold water for about 1-2 minutes.

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.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa and chicken with the sauce and mix thoroughly.

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.

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

Result: This was cheesy, and hit the spot. 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 quiona. 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!

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!


Mr. P and I went out for a run last night, and a mile away from home it started it POUR. I hate rain!!! It put me in a cruddy mood the rest of the night.Weather.com, you are not to be trusted!

Be well,

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  1. Gina (The Candid RD)
    May 8, 2012 / 7:00 am

    lol, I can just see that lady taking pictures of the fireman, and then posting them on her FB page. HA ! Too funny. I hope the patient was ok.
    Thanks for the great recipe. This will have to be something I try for my weekly cooking business. I’m cooking for kids and it’s…..difficult. I haven’t had them try quinoa yet, but tomorrow I’m making a quinoa quiche. If they like it, I will try this recipe too!!

    • Nicole, RD
      May 8, 2012 / 7:01 am

      Quinoa quiche?! YUM! I need that recipe! ๐Ÿ™‚ And the patient is all good…phew!

  2. Erika - The Teenage Taste
    May 8, 2012 / 7:07 am

    Sounds like an interesting day at work to say the least! Glad to hear the patient was okay!
    This chicken parm casserole sounds delicious – love the idea of using quinoa!

  3. Amy B @ Second City Randomness
    May 8, 2012 / 7:09 am

    Well… who can blame the patient taking pics? Firemen really can be pretty sexy in those heavy duty uniforms… ha ha ha….

  4. Joanne
    May 8, 2012 / 8:18 am

    I literally have nightmares about the day that someone will a code blue and I will be the one responsible for making sure the patient is okay. Oy.

    I would need comfort food like this after a scary day like that! I LOVED this when elly posted it. Pretty sure there’s a way to veg-ify it. I’m just not quite sure what that is!

    • elly
      May 8, 2012 / 9:59 am

      You should just add some big slices of portobello to it, and maybe some spinach/chard/kale/etc. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Lauren A. @ Newest Obsession
    May 8, 2012 / 8:41 am

    Wow, this looks incredible! I am definitely going to have to make this soon! I am glad to hear your patient is okay, but that is scary!

  6. Mary Ellen
    May 8, 2012 / 9:44 am

    Looks great – I’m always trying to find new ways to use quinoa.

  7. elly
    May 8, 2012 / 10:00 am

    I’m so glad you liked this dish! Love the old lady taking pics. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  8. Kristen (swanky dietitian)
    May 8, 2012 / 10:47 am

    This dish looks fabulous! I love the idea of adding quinoa.
    That must have been a scary situation. I hope the patient was ok.

  9. Biz
    May 8, 2012 / 11:00 am

    Love this one too Nicole – I love that you and I have the same tastes – I love nearly everything you make! ๐Ÿ˜€

  10. Samantha Angela
    May 8, 2012 / 11:15 am

    That’s hilarious about the old woman!

  11. Namaste Mari
    May 8, 2012 / 12:11 pm

    I think I am going to be that 79 year old lady snapping pics of them…shoot I do it NOW hahaha

  12. Jane
    May 8, 2012 / 12:56 pm

    The chicken parm looks soooo good!!! And that is super scary about your patient! I’m glad everything turned out ok!

  13. Erin
    May 8, 2012 / 2:39 pm

    Yum, I am glad to see another person made this and it turned out, because I have been contemplating it as well. Glad your patient is okay!

  14. Leah @ Why Deprive?
    May 8, 2012 / 3:07 pm

    Im so glad he’s ok! That would be terrifying. As for the lady taking pictures, I feel like she and I would get along quite well. ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Heather @ Fit Mama Real Food
    May 8, 2012 / 3:55 pm

    So funny the old lady was taking pics of tushies! Love it ๐Ÿ™‚

    And I totally see this as a great freezer meal…. bookmarking! I made your crockpot honey sedans chicken into one. Can’t wait to dig into them!

  16. Liz
    May 8, 2012 / 9:31 pm

    This looks so amazing – I’m always looking for other ways to use quinoa – this looks perfect for bringing leftovers to work for lunch!

    • Nicole, RD
      May 8, 2012 / 9:32 pm

      It reheats so well! ๐Ÿ™‚ You’ll love it!

  17. Anna
    May 9, 2012 / 8:53 am

    Do you always cook your chicken in water? I haven’t heard of that method before.

    • Nicole, RD
      May 9, 2012 / 10:26 am

      Anna: If a recipe calls for cooked/shredded chicken, I usually do poach (cook in water) that has been seasoned with low sodium chicken stock (powder). I find that pan-frying or baking can dry out the chicken and it stays moist when poached. It’s quicker, too!

  18. Kate
    May 9, 2012 / 8:48 pm

    What’s funny is that I actually saw this recipe on another blog I read (linking back to you) before opening yours!

    • Nicole, RD
      May 9, 2012 / 8:52 pm

      Too funny! What blog?

        • Nicole, RD
          May 9, 2012 / 9:21 pm

          How cool! It’s amazing to think you don’t know a fraction of what goes on in the blogosphere. Thanks, Kate! ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Andrea
    May 10, 2012 / 12:30 am

    I just made this- hubby and I loved it! Fresh basil totally takes this over the top. I didn’t have access to fresh oregeno, so I used dried, but still… SO. GOOD. Thank you for another winning recipe!

    • Nicole, RD
      May 10, 2012 / 7:08 am

      Yay! I’m so glad it was a hit! It isn’t good-looking, but the taste…mmm! ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Claire
    May 12, 2012 / 12:09 am

    I made this tonight and we loved it – keep the great recipes coming ๐Ÿ™‚

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  24. Flora divine
    June 11, 2012 / 8:07 pm

    I just made this. I added some spinach and it turned out very well. It did take a bit of time, more time than I usually spend on dinner, but it made a lot so we’ll be eating off of it for a while. Much healthier than my usual version. My husband and I enjoyed it and I would consider making it again.

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  29. Ashton
    March 16, 2013 / 12:28 pm

    What size of baking dish do you use to make this recipe? I’m looking forward to making it; I’m kind of on a quinoa kick lately!

    • Nicole, RD
      March 16, 2013 / 12:29 pm

      Ashton: I used an 8×8 baking dish.

  30. Ellen
    April 23, 2013 / 1:59 pm

    This was served at my Recipe Group last night – delish! I’m wondering if it’s ok to use cooked quinoa. The dish I made was a quinoa and asparagus side dish (also yummy), and I have leftover quinoa. My boys would love this!

    • Ellen
      April 23, 2013 / 2:08 pm

      Never mind – took the time to read through the recipe and I see I can DEFINITELY use cooked quinoa – makes it even easier! Thanks!

  31. Dana Szczepanski
    February 25, 2014 / 2:11 pm

    Yum! I am feeling blessed that I feel upon your blog. Weight has always been a struggle for me, my husband too. I love to cooked, but sometimes have a hard time coming up with recipes that are healthy, low in calories and equally sometimes my husband will rave about!

    I made this last night and he LOVED it.

    Tonight I am going to make the Tilapia Parmesan and mashed potatoes/cauliflower!

    P.S. I am from Chicago too

  32. Teresa in Texas
    March 6, 2014 / 8:44 pm

    I bought this huge bag of quinoa from Costco and needed a new satisfying recipe… I made this for dinner tonight and it was FANTASTIC!!!! The sauce was especially delicious! I bet the leftovers are going to be awesome! I’ve enjoyed many of your recipes and enjoy your writing style.

    • Nicole, RD
      March 6, 2014 / 9:53 pm

      Aw, thanks so much Teresa! Means a lot ๐Ÿ™‚

  33. Carrie
    January 26, 2016 / 4:44 pm

    I have made this dish several times. It is a crowd pleaser for sure!! It is soo yummy. I am making it tonight and cannot wait to eat it!! Follow the directions and you will end up with a happy family.

  34. Anne
    May 3, 2016 / 8:49 am

    First of all there are too many comments from other bloggers saying how good it looks. I prefer to read comments from people who actually make it and have suggestions. Perhaps this is a new trend by bloggers to drive people to their sites.

    I made this and it was delicious. The recipe didn’t specify fresh or dried herbs. 1/4 cup dried is too much. So I used 1/2 teaspoon dried of each. You may want to clarify this. Thanks for a creative and tasty dish. It was so filling and tasted decadent. I highly recommend it.

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