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shrimp and cheddar quinoa with bacon

Shrimp & Cheddar Quinoa with Bacon

I used to think I was busy.

Before I moved, I felt like I was at my busyness threshold. I had all I could take. My days were packed. I was at my limit. There was no way I could fit in anything else. But then, we moved here, and I added commuting. I had to. I didn’t have a choice. It was either you commute or you don’t eat. And not just the six hours of commuting I do for work twice a week, but commuting to everything. Instead of grocery shopping being an hour-long outing, it now takes me four or more hours to accomplish the same task. I could see the closest gas station from my old apartment, but it’s a 10 minute trip to the closest gas station, and 15 minutes to one that is reasonably priced. It takes me 20 minutes to get to my gym. It used to take me 90 seconds. Basically, everything takes longer when you live in the middle of nowhere (duh).

Thankfully, we balance it all out with all the awesome perks of living where we do like low-cost of living, some seriously awesome privacy, and space to spread out, but still, it takes some getting used to. Especially after spending so much time in the city.

So I did it. I thought I couldn’t take on something else, but I did. I added commuting. I added hours and hours and hours worth of driving per week (and simultaneously, hours and hours worth of NPR consumption).


And guess what? I haven’t imploded yet. I still sleep my full eight hours a night. Sometimes I even get to spend the evening vegging out in front of the TV. I actually don’t feel any busier. I still feel busy, but I don’t feel like I’m overextended.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again here, it’s interesting how busyness is so relative. What I think is busy might not be considered busy to someone else. And what I consider just busy enough might be absolutely insane to someone else. It’s unfortunate how often we use what’s on our plates to judge other people. I mean, I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard, “Well, you aren’t really busy, you don’t have kids.” And, being totally honest, I’ve been guilty of saying, “I work this many hours a week and I still find time to do it, why can’t she?” It’s so detrimental. It doesn’t accomplish anything. We each have our own thresholds. And it doesn’t mean we are better or worse than each other. It just means we’re different.

I find it so fascinating that that judgement exists within ourselves, too. I think back about the times when I felt really, truly, crazy busy in my life and sometimes I was (like in college, when I was doing my thesis, taking 19 credit hours and working five jobs, oh, and, uh, drinking heavily socializing) and sometimes I wasn’t (like in high school, when I thought I was going to die when I had to write two 500 word papers in a week). It’s all relative. And so often we are stronger than we think we are. It’s amazing what you can shoulder when you don’t have a choice.

Anyway, you’re probably all like, “That’s awesome, but what they hell does this have to do with shrimp and quinoa?” Hi, Point, I’ll find you eventually, I promise.

The truth is, we all feel busy. If you ask 100 people on a scale of 1-10 how busy they felt, I betcha at least 90 of them would pick numbers North of eight. And whether you are one of those people who juggles a million balls or one who gets overwhelmed when you can’t just focus on one thing at a time, life is crazy for all of us. And that’s why we are all so drawn to ways to simplify the everyday tasks of our life. And one of those is definitely food. Why else would 30 Minute Meals be so popular? Or, you know, the microwave? I think people so often feel like fast food has to be one of two things: McDonalds or flavorless. But I’m a huge believer that you can make fast food that is flavorful, simple and totally healthy.

This is one of those recipes. You can go from no-food to food in 15 minutes. And you get a ton of flavor, a ton of protein, and a touch of decadence. I think dishes like this help make our crazy busy world feel a little more in control.


shrimp and cheddar quinoa with bacon

  • Author: Cassie Johnston
  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings


Shrimp and cheddar quinoa with bacon is the perfect weeknight dinner—it’s ready in less than 20 minutes!


  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1-1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 slices thick-cut bacon*
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 16 medium raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa and broth and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until all broth is absorbed. Remove from heat.
  2. Meanwhile, cook bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove from pan, crumble and set aside.
  3. Reduce skillet heat to low, add red pepper flakes and minced garlic to the bacon grease and cook until garlic is softened about 3 minutes. Add in shrimp and cook until pink and opaque, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice.
  4. Add cheddar, salt and pepper to the quinoa and stir until all cheese is melted.
  5. Plate by spooning half of quinoa in a bowl, topping with half the shrimp and sauce and sprinkling half the green onions and crumbled bacon on top.


*Note: Thick-cut bacon is the best choice because it gives you enough bacon grease to saute the remaining ingredients, but regular bacon would work to. Just use three slices instead of two.


What are your favorite tricks and tips for dealing with your busy lifestyle? Any go-to favorite quick-and-easy recipes you want to share?

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Leave a Comment

  • Lisa SAYS

    What a delicious looking recipe. All of my favorite things! Shrimp is great because it’s so low in calories.

    Our dinners are really basic now. I used to do a lot of recipes but we’re just too busy right now. So protein + veggies + salad = dinner. Healthy, enough food and fast!

  • Nora SAYS

    I am recently obsessed with quinoa and shrimp (my mom is allergic to shellfish so I wasn’t introduced to it till I was older) so this looks AMAZING. I have been trying to build up the courage to try cooking shrimp for myself and I think this may be the recipe that makes me do it.

  • I make lots of stir fry – it cooks up so quickly and are healthy. When I bring veggies home from the store or farmer’s market I cut them all up and put them in plastic baggies. That way when I am ready to cook, the veg doesn’t need to be prepped. It’s kind of a pain to do at the time, but I am always really thankful later in the week that I did. Your recipe looks great – can’t wait to try it!

    • Cassie SAYS

      Do you always make Asian stir fries? Like with soy sauce/ginger/etc? I don’t like soy sauce, so I’ve yet to make/find a stir fry I like.

  • Oh my, Cassie, I LOVE this post. I want to print it and re-read it again and again! So true about busyness being relative. And that we shouldn’t judge others. AND- I definitely get sick of people thinking that you can’t be busy if you don’t have kids (having or not kids is a choice, people)- as if you don’t fill your time with other things. I think back to the days when I was in grad school and worked 8-4:30 every day and then had classes an hour away from 6-10 4 nights a week. I don’t know HOW I did it- but I don’t remember being that stressed (I was also 23- I could handle more stress back then!). I feel like I’ve always been “busy”- especially last year – and CRAZY stressed. Then I quit my job and suddenly my days were wide open. Funny thing is- I’ve found a way to fill every single hour- and still feel BUSY most days.
    But now, I definitely schedule time to just relax and BREATHE.
    Oh- and PS- this recipe makes me drool. Just like shrimp n grits!

    • Cassie SAYS

      My parents say something similar now that they are retired. They say they are busier now that they are jobless than they ever were when they were working 40+ hours a week!

  • Tena SAYS

    Cassie, I made this for lunch and it is fantastic!! “Delish” was the word my hubby used!! This recipe is a “keeper”.


  • Alison SAYS

    Gosh, this looks SO deliciously decadent – and simple! I love simple. And I love shrimp. Win-win.

  • OMG. I have actually not actually made quinoa yet. I bought some, but haven’t touched it. Been keeping my eye out for a recipe I would try. THIS. IS. IT! I happened to stubble upon it in a post by Dominique over at Will Run For Beer, so I thank her and you for what looks like the best quinoa recipe ever!

  • This quinoa looks so yummy! I’ve really fallen in love with quinoa lately, but have been having a hard time finding a variety of recipes in which to use it. I love this one’s play on shrimp and grits!

    • Cassie SAYS

      I love shrimp and grits, so this was definitely inspired by it! :) And I LOVE quinoa. I put it in pretty much everything! Chili, casseroles, salads. I have a Buffalo Blue Cheese Quinoa and Cauliflower casserole coming up on the blog this week. It was CRAZY good. :)

  • Thank you so much for sharing. I’m making this tonight!

  • Sarah SAYS

    Making this for dinner tonight! Looking forward to it!!

  • Alesha SAYS

    I bought all the stuff to make this last night. WhenIi brought it home my hubs said the quinoa “looked like birdseed”. He helped me make it and said it was awsome. He practically licked his plate clean. It was sooo fast to make I didn’t have time to make a salad to go with it. we piles some fresh corn we cut off the cob along with the greenbeans from tha garden. It was sooooooo yummy.

  • Denise SAYS

    What a great idea: comfort food mixed with healthy quinoa. Love this! Bookmarking it now!:)

  • Good morning, I featured this recipe on my blog today for my weekly seafood round-up. The photographs are stunning, thank you for allowing me to share! Here is the link:

  • Angela SAYS

    Finally got the chance to make this last night and it was a huge hit! My boyfriend was sad there was not seconds. Will totally make again and will have to double the recipe.

  • Kellie SAYS

    Looks YUMMY! Do you know the nutrition facts? Looking for calories, carbs, fat, protein amounts. Thanks!

  • I will now never complain about my commute, which is a quick jaunt compared to yours. And, yes, I am becoming well-versed in NPR. My evening commute coincides with Moneyline, so feel free to ask me about global finance issues. Love this riff on shrimp and grits.

  • busy or not, I think we could all use a delicious homecooked meal ready in under 30 minutes!

  • Christine SAYS

    Yummy! I can just imagine how this tastes!

  • What a great dish, easy and quick to make ~ trying this soon!

  • This looks like perfection! YUM!

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