Growing up Sunday dinners with family were always a special time. I grew up very fortunate to live near both sets of grandparents. There were fond memories of both places. At Mom-mom and Pop-pop’s there were countless games of “murder in the dark” upstairs with cousins or fighting over who got to play the organ downstairs. There was always Friendly’s dessert from my aunt who worked there. Plus you can’t forget the delicious cooking of my Pop-pop. And Mom-mom’s macaroni salad was the absolute best! At Granny and Grandpop’s, we were the oldest of the bunch so we were always swooning over a baby cousin and getting ourselves into trouble rummaging through the attics. We got yelled at so many times for running throughout the house, you would think that we would have listened after being told to stop for the tenth time. I can hear someone telling us in a quiet voice that we were going to upset Grandpop.
Now that my parents are grandparents, they continue the tradition of a Sunday dinner. Most Sundays we get there, but sometimes things don’t work out or someone is busy. On those days, I like to make an equally nice meal for Blair and I. I already gushed over quinoa here and my love for it continues to grow. In this dish, you replace a high calorie food, pasta, with the super grain quinoa. You mix all the flavors of a traditional Chicken Parmesan dish with the quinoa and you got yourself one delectable meal. We thoroughly enjoyed this dish and ended up eating it for a few nights since it made so much. Next time, I will probably half it since it felt like we were eating it for days. But with the combination of cheese and sauce, you can’t really go wrong with it. Make this and your thighs will thank you.
Baked Quinoa and Chicken Parmesan
For the sauce:
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 diced tomatoes
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
basil and oregano, to taste
For the casserole:
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water or broth
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken, cooked
2/3 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
2 Tbsp. breadcrumbs (optional)
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (optional)
What you’ll do:
Preheat the oven to 375 and coat a baking dish (9×13 pan) with cooking spray.
For the sauce:
Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add the oil. Stir in the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30-60 seconds. Add the balsamic vinegar, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, cook until it is all gone.
To the onions and garlic, add the ingredients from the tomato sauce to the basil and oregano. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a low boil, and then let simmer while preparing the rest.
For the quinoa:
Place the quinoa in a mesh strainer, and rinse with cold water.Place the quinoa and water or broth in a small 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 quinoa, chicken, and the sauce. Mix thoroughly. Add about half of the mixture to the baking dish, and sprinkle with half of the mozzarella cheese. Top with the remaining quinoa mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella cheese, followed by the Parmesan. Add the breadcrumbs, if using. Cover the baking dish 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.
Sprinkle with parsley (and additional Parmesan) before serving, if desired.