30 August 2011

Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole (Cream Soup Free!)

I bought way too much broccoli at Sam's the last time I went.  In my defense, I thought it was only 2 lbs., and was surprised when I got it home and realized it was 3 lbs.  After having roasted broccoli with our dinners twice in one week, I still had a good amount left to use in a very short amount of time.  So I was trying to think of some recipe that uses a lot of broccoli.  I remembered seeing a chicken broccoli casserole on Pinterest, one that didn't call for cream of something soup.  I hadn't repinned it, but found it easily (Pinterest has a handy search function).  The original recipe came from the blog Just Get Off Your Butt And Bake.  It looked really good so I made it last night for dinner.  I ended up changing several things, customizing it to my own tastes and actually making it quite a bit healthier too.  Here's my version.

Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole

6 cups broccoli florets, lightly steamed
3 cups chicken breast, cooked and cubed
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 stick butter, divided
¼ cup cornstarch
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 cups skim milk
2 cups cheddar cheese, divided
1½ cups Panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a 9x13” baking dish, layer the broccoli, chicken, and brown rice.  In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt ⅓ cup butter.  Dissolve the cornstarch in the chicken broth and add to the melted butter. Stir well and add the milk.  Bring to a boil and continue stirring until sauce has thickened. Turn heat down to low, and add ½ cup of the shredded cheddar cheese. Stir until melted. Pour over the chicken, broccoli, and rice. Top with remaining 1½ cups grated cheddar cheese.

Melt the remainder of the stick of butter and stir it into the Panko breadcrumbs.  Sprinkle over the top of the grated cheese.

Bake uncovered for 25 minutes, or until bubbly around the edges.  Turn on broiler and broil 3-5 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Here's a list of things I changed:
  • Added brown rice to make it a complete meal.
  • Reduced cheese by a whole cup.
  • Changed whole milk to skim milk.
  • Reduced butter by 1/3 cup.
  • Used Panko breadcrumbs instead of 2 whole sleeves of Ritz crackers.

This recipe piqued my interest because it didn't call for cream of something soup.  I don't necessarily think that canned cream soups are completely evil, like some do.  But I do think it's best not to use them very often.  I keep a can in my pantry for emergency situations, but I don't cook with it on a regular basis.  Using cream soup in place of the cream sauce in this recipe would certainly be easier, but I think it's well worth it to make the sauce yourself.  Not only did it taste better, way better!, but I did the math and this sauce has about 1190 mg of sodium, compared to 2175 mg in one can of cream of chicken soup!  So you're saving yourself a whole 1,000 mg of sodium and sacrificing absolutely no taste.  Quite the opposite, actually!

To be honest, I liked this casserole much more than I thought I would.  I thought it would be kind of run-of-the-mill broccoli casserole, but wow, it's really tasty!  My three year old actually had THREE servings of it.  She's always a good eater, but I don't remember the last time she ate three servings of anything (except maybe fruit snacks!).

This casserole is perfect for using up leftovers.  Leftover chicken and rice, that is.  If you're like me, you always make too much rice when making Asian dishes, so instead of throwing it out, keep it and make this casserole.  I used brown rice, but white would work too.  If you don't have leftover rice, click the link in the recipe for my method of making perfect brown rice.

This is a great thing to make the day after you roast a chicken.  If you don't roast chickens, you can pick up one of those rotisserie chickens at the grocery store to make this.  I don't buy rotisserie chickens, so if I don't have any leftover chicken, I simply cook some up.  My preferred method of cooking chicken breasts is poaching.  Put some chicken breasts into a pot, add enough water just to cover, throw in some salt, and bring to a boil.  Once it boils, turn the heat down to medium-low and let simmer until the chicken is cooked through.  How long it takes will depend on the thickness of the breasts.  I use my handy dandy thermometer to tell me when it's done.  Cooking chicken breasts this way is super easy and doesn't take much time.  

Golden brown and delicious!

This was such a hit with my family that I might "accidentally" end up with too much broccoli again in the future!

This recipe was included in the chicken recipe blog hop at Savannah's Savory Bites and in the Comfort Foods Recipe Round-Up.

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Rachel @ Not Rachael Ray said...

Yum! Talk about comfort food! Perfection :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, I've made your recipe a couple of times and my family loves it. Making your own cheese sauce is so much better than the yucky cream of chicken soup. I do add a half packet of Lipton's onion soup mix to kick up the flavor (but that also kicks up the sodium!). Thank you very much for sharing.

Jenn said...

Trying it tonight!!

Christina said...

I made this casserole this evening with some modifications of my own. (I didnt have some of the things needed like Panko.) It came out really well. My fiance and I loved it. Your recipe was really the only casserole I found on line that did not require canned soup. Thank you so much for that I will certainly make this again!

Lesa @ Edesia's Notebook said...

How did you like it, Jenn?

Lesa @ Edesia's Notebook said...

I'm so glad you and your fiance liked it. Thank you for letting me know how it turned out for you! :)

April said...

has anyone tried this with soy/almond or coconut milk?

erika said...

Hi Lesa, thank you so much for this amazing recipe. I found it when searching for a can-free version of the dish and I am so thrilled with it! I did use less butter and it came out fine. I added salt, though, because it seemed quite bland without. And I mixed the panko with some homemade bread crumbs made from toasting a stale loaf of parmesan bread. Anyway, it was so amazing, and I just wanted to send my thanks. I will be checking out many more of your recipes. Bon appetit.

Lesa @ Edesia's Notebook said...

Thank you so much for your review, Erika. I appreciate you letting me know that you tried this recipe. I'm thrilled that you liked it and am very grateful to have you as a new fan.

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