Skinny Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli-Rice Casserole is soul-satisfying comfort food. Perfect for a chilly night. Leftovers are just as great too!
Although I try and live my life with no regrets, there are definitely some experiences I’d go back and “tweak” a little if I could.
Like the time none of my girlfriends nor I had dates to our sophomore year homecoming dance, so we got gussied up and went to dinner all by ourselves – girl power! (This was at the height of the Spice Girls’ popularity, I might add.) A limo was supposed to come to the restaurant afterwards to whisk us off to the dance where’d we’d boogey the night away and have so. Much. FUN! Yeah, no. The limo never showed and we all walked home barefoot. I’d tweak that.
Like the time I let Ben convince me that packing enormous hiking backpacks for our trip to Italy was a much better idea than packing suitcases. It’ll be so much easier! he said. Trust me! he said. Um, no. Within 30 minutes after arriving in Rome my over-sized, top-heavy backpack triumphed over the weary traveler, causing me to face plant on a majestic cobblestone street, nearly get run over by a moped, and start the vacation with a skinned knee and red face. I’d tweak that.
Like the beginnings of this blog when I used multiple !!!!!! to emphasize each point (ok I still might do that on occasion!) and take photos so close to the food that you could hardly even tell what the dang dish was. I’d tweak that!
Seeing as how I’ve been writing this blog for 4+ years, there are plenty of yummy dishes from the early days that were documented slightly, well, un-deliciously. Dark, too-close, and unappealing photos don’t do a lot of those recipes justice, and so many of them have been lost in the archives. That being said, I’ve decided to launch a new series on the blog called Way Back Wednesdays!
Occasionally on Wednesdays I’ll highlight a recipe that I made way back in the day that either deserve another chance in the spotlight, or at least get their photos updated. This Wednesday I’m starting with a fabulous fall dish - Skinny Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli-Rice Casserole!
I first made this dish for the blog nearly three years ago to help Ben fight a nasty cold. Sauteed chicken, steamed broccoli, and fluffy brown rice are mixed with a homemade cheese sauce then quickly broiled for a fabulous, comforting meal. It’s kind of an “un-casserole” as you don’t have to let the dish bake in the oven, rather, everything is made right on the stove top then tossed together in a casserole dish and quickly broiled.
I also tweaked a few of the ingredients from the original to make this dish a bit healthier. More broccoli, and the luscious homemade cheese sauce that brings all the ingredients together has less cheese, light sour cream, and skim milk. This casserole ROCKS. A total crowd-pleaser and fall must-have, for sure!
Start by cooking 2 cups long grain brown rice in 4 cups chicken broth. Cooking rice in chicken broth gives it tons of flavor with minimal added calories. You could use white rice in here, but I love the hearty chew brown rice has. Plus when you smother it in cheese sauce, I don’t think anybody’s going to notice!
When the rice has 5 minutes left to cook, add 4 cups broccoli florets and 2 chopped green onions to the pot, place the lid back on top, and let them steam until tender.
Meanwhile, cook 1lb chopped chicken breasts seasoned with garlic powder, salt, and pepper in 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat until no longer pink. Remove to a plate then very carefully wipe out the skillet with a dry paper towel and turn the heat down to medium.
To the wiped out skillet add 5 teaspoons flour whisked into 1/2 cup milk (I used skim,) then pour in 1-1/2 cups more milk.
Stir the milk and flour mixture continuously until thickened and bubbly, about 7-10 minutes, then take the skillet off the heat and add 6oz shredded cheddar cheese (freshly shredded, if possible!) 1/3 cup light sour cream, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
Stir the rice and broccoli mixture together with the cooked chicken and cheese sauce then scoop into a 9×13 baking dish, top with another 2oz shredded cheese and broil until melted and bubbly. Let the casserole rest for 5 minutes, then scoop, plate, and devour!
Skinny Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli-Rice Casserole
2 cups long grain brown rice
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups broccoli florets (about 1 head)
2 green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1lb chicken breasts, chopped into bite-sized pieces
salt, pepper, garlic powder
5 teaspoons flour
2 cups milk, divided (I used skim)
1/3 cup light sour cream
8oz shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- Bring chicken broth to a boil in a large pot then add rice. Cover then turn heat down to medium-low. When rice has 5 minutes left to cook add broccoli and green onions on top to steam.
- Meanwhile, heat extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and then saute until no longer pink. Remove to a plate and set aside then very carefully wipe out skillet with a dry paper towel.
- Turn heat down to medium then whisk together flour and 1/2 cup milk in a small bowl. Pour mixture into skillet then add remaining 1-1/2 cups milk. Cook mixture, stirring constantly, until thickened, 7-10 minutes. Remove skillet from heat then add 3/4 of the shredded cheese, sour cream, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and stir until smooth.
- Preheat broiler. Combine cooked rice and broccoli mixture with cheese sauce then scoop mixture into a nonstick sprayed 9×13 baking dish and top with remaining cheese. Broil until cheese is melted then let casserole rest for 5 minutes before serving.
I could have started with a more photogenic recipe, but this dish was worth bringing back into the spotlight right away. Homey, comforting and so dang good, you’ll find yourself sneaking your fork back into the dish again and again. Enjoy!