Chicken, SideMalia Howe

Cheesy Broccoli and Rice Casserole - Chicken or Turkey Optional

Chicken, SideMalia Howe
Cheesy Broccoli and Rice Casserole - Chicken or Turkey Optional

I am pretty excited about this casserole. It is a nod to one of my very favorite childhood holiday dishes--what we called broccoli and rice in our family--yet is so much better for you. No mushroom soup, no cheez whiz, no instant white rice. The nutritional value of this is much improved, and yet, it still tastes remarkably similar to that delicious dish of nostalgia. While this is a main dish in that contains chicken, you could easily leave it out and use it as a side or vegetarian main.  However you make it, I assure you that it will not disappoint. This is comfort food you can feel good about.

"Skinny" Cheesy Broccoli and Rice Casserole

-adapted from (please pardon weird formatting won't let me fix all the spaces in the ingredient list. First world problems)

-2 cups long grain brown rice
-4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
-4 cups broccoli florets (about 1 head), cut into small bite sized pieces
-3 green onions, chopped

-2 cups cooked chicken, cut into small pieces or shredded (Guess what? You could use your turkey leftovers here. It would be great!)

-5 teaspoons flour
-2 cups milk, divided (I used 1%)
-1/3 cup light sour cream
-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (it's worth it to grate it yourself. I used a small block of medium cheddar)
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/4 teaspoon pepper
-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

-1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

Bring 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 (based on package instructions) add broccoli and green onions on top to steam. Meanwhile, whisk together flour and 1/2 cup milk in a small bowl. Pour mixture into a saucepan then add remaining 1-1/2 cups milk. Cook mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly (don't burn it. It will boil and be frothy, but just keep stirring), until thickened, 7-10 minutes. Remove skillet from heat then add the shredded cheese, sour cream, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and stir until smooth. You'll probably want to add more salt and pepper to taste. Combine cooked rice and broccoli mixture with cheese sauce and chicken then scoop mixture into a nonstick sprayed 9×13 baking dish and top with panko. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, until panko is toasted and casserole is bubbling hot. Feel free to make this ahead and pop it in the oven after a long day (probably will need to double the cooking time in this case). I also think you could freeze it with high success--just wait to add the panko until you bake it.