Healthy Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli-Rice Casserole Recipe

Yields: 6-8 servings
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30-35 minutes

Ingredients:

For the casserole:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice (or substitute with quinoa for extra protein)
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups broccoli florets, fresh or frozen

For the cheese sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups low-fat milk (or unsweetened almond/soy milk)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Instructions:

Preheat oven:

  • Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C) and lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.

Cook the chicken and vegetables:

  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes.
  • Add chicken, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 5-7 minutes.

Cook the rice:

  • Add the rice and chicken broth to the skillet with the chicken and onions.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the broccoli florets and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.

Make the cheese sauce:

  • While the rice is cooking, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  • Whisk in the whole wheat flour and cook for 1 minute.
  • Gradually whisk in the milk until smooth. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, and cook until the sauce thickens, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the salt, pepper, nutmeg (if using), and 3/4 cup of the cheddar cheese until melted.

Assemble the casserole:

  • Pour the chicken and rice mixture into the prepared baking dish.
  • Pour the cheese sauce evenly over the top.
  • Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese.

Bake:

  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Let the casserole rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Tips:

  • Extra veggies: Feel free to add other vegetables like mushrooms, bell peppers, or carrots for added nutrients.
  • Make it spicier: Add a pinch of red pepper flakes for a bit of heat.
  • Dairy-free: Use nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor in the sauce and top with dairy-free cheese substitute.
  • Whole-grain boost: Use whole-grain bread crumbs mixed with melted butter and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese for a crunchy topping alternative.

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