Frugal Foodie Mama: Parmesan & Veggie Quinoa Skillet

Friday, January 27, 2023

Parmesan & Veggie Quinoa Skillet

This one pot Parmesan & Veggie Quinoa Skillet combines fresh veggies with Parmesan cheese & hearty quinoa. This vegetarian-friendly recipe is the perfect dish to whip up when you are craving a little healthy comfort food...


As many of you know, I donated a kidney to my fiance in October of 2021. If you follow me on Instagram, then you may also know that we have had our struggles and setbacks since our surgeries a little over 1 year and 3 months ago. 

While his kidney function and numbers are better than they have been in over 15 years, the reality of life post-transplant was not exactly something that we felt we had really been made aware of or had been sufficiently prepared for. Over the course of the past 15 months, Colin has experienced emergency surgery, hospitalizations, 2 mild rejection episodes, more ER visits than I can remember, and numerous medication changes to try to find the right combination for him.

And while we are thankful that the surgeries, hospitalizations, and rejection episodes seem to now be a part of our past (knock on wood), we are still struggling with the latter two- particularly the medications. Colin takes quite a few medications to help prevent rejection and keep his blood pressure in check. They all can have significant side effects, and some of the meds and dosages are worse than others.

While we are leaving it to his team of docs to try to find the right combo and dosages of his much needed medications, we are doing what we can as a couple to lead healthier lives together. That includes eating healthier, going to the gym more each week, and cooking at home more often.

We have been trying to incorporate more fresh veggies and whole grains into our daily diet, while also trying to greatly reduce how much sodium we consume since it is such a huge contributor to high blood pressure.  

One of the main functions of our kidneys is to regulate our blood pressure. And since both Colin and I are now functioning on just one healthy kidney, we want to make sure that they both stay that way- healthy and functioning normally.

This Parmesan & Veggie Quinoa Skillet is one of my favorite healthy comfort food dishes to whip up. It combines fresh veggies with Parmesan cheese & hearty quinoa. And it also happens to be vegetarian-friendly.

What goes into this dish:

  • Fresh asparagus, cherry tomatoes, and bagged baby spinach- the only veggie that needs chopped is the asparagus! Easy prep.
  • Minced garlic, dried Italian seasoning, and a sprinkle of shredded Parmesan cheese give this dish all the flavor it needs minus the extra salt.
  • Quinoa happens to be one of my favorite grains to cook with. I often use it instead of rice or pasta. Not only is this super grain packed with nutrients, but it also happens to be gluten free. I always rinse my quinoa with cold water in a fine mesh strainer before cooking to remove any of the extra starch.

A few tips & tricks for making this recipe:

  • For super quick prep, cook the quinoa ahead of time and keep in an airtight container in the fridge. Simply add it in to reheat once the veggies have been sauteed. 
  • I love the combination of asparagus, cherry tomatoes, and baby spinach in this dish, but feel free to experiment with other fresh vegetables in this recipe. A few to try would be red bell peppers, broccoli florets, or zucchini.
  • What to make this dish vegan-friendly? Omit the Parmesan cheese or swap it out for a vegan version.
  • Need to feed 4 or maybe even 6? This recipe can be easily doubled or tripled to feed a larger crowd. Or make a bigger batch of this at the beginning of the week for easy meal planning.
  • While I think this dish is hearty enough to stand on its own as a main dish, it would also work wonderfully as a side with a grilled chicken breast or a piece of sauteed fish.

I just want to share a few final thoughts here on about life post-kidney transplant because I don't want anyone to think that it is all doom, gloom, and struggles. It isn't. And I don't want anyone to feel discouraged if they are considering donating a kidney.

We are continually grateful for this new lease on life for Colin and what that can mean for our future together. I would never take it back or do it differently. Ever. Any struggles that he has, that we have faced together since then is nothing compared to the uncertainty we experienced before the transplant or the tether of dialysis that literally seemed to drain the life from him on a daily basis.

But I think the one takeaway from our experience would be this- that for someone with kidney disease, a kidney transplant is a treatment. Not a cure. I hope my kidney lasts at least 20-30 years for him.