Well don’t cha know. This is soo tummy-rumbly-I’m-goonna-eat-the-whoole-thing good, ya shure you betcha.
Being from Minnesota, I feel the need to represent my Midwestern culture here on the blog with things like casseroles. Or more accurately: express my undying love. Which actually probably promotes the incorrect stereotype that all Minnesotans cover their doors and windows with plastic, bundle up in their warmest reindeer-patterned sweaters, walk around muttering “yeah shure you betcha” while proceeding to bake cozy casseroles and hot dishes all winter long. Oh wait. That’s, um, my life.
And so I proudly bring you today the food of my Midwestern upbringing… The Casserole. But it’s sort of a mashup of my past life and current, because, you know, QUINOA and everything.
I grew up eating casseroles and hot dishes, don’t cha know. My favorite cozy-winter-dinner one was this particular hot dish that my mom made – it was sort of a casserole-stew fusion, with ground beef, cooked potatoes, chunks of carrots, baked all together with a tomato-based saucy sauce. A big plate of that with a piece of bread and a glass of milk = my 9 year old self’s dinner delight.
But don’t forget: taco casserole, Grandma’s noodle casserole – varieties 1-37, tuna casserole, chicken and broccoli casserole, and Reuben casserole. NO WAIT THOUGH I’M SERIOUS. Like a Reuben, but baked all together in deliciously cheesy (literally cheesy) retro casserole form. I begged for my mom to make it every year on my birthday because, you know, it’s normal for a child to have a food obsession with rye bread and sauerkraut. Do not even ask because I do not even know.
Casserole vs. Hot dish? It has something to do with, um, I have no idea. Tomato sauce vs. creamy sauce, maybe?
But no need to trouble yourself with deep questions like that. This is a casserole. Period. End of story.
If you’re looking for canned cream of something soup, look no further than a casserole. Because that is the nature of a casserole and don’t question it, you big city slicker hipster person you.
But I kind of have one foot in both the hipster world and the canned soup world, and so this beauty of a casserole has its own creamy velvety sauce that is made from scratch! *jumping up and down for joy* And it works perfectly for creating that mild, creamy texture that casseroles are known and loved for. I had first discovered that whole homemade cream of chicken soup thing way back when, and this turned out the be a great time to put that to use. And add bacon. And bake it with everything homey and nostalgic under the sun.
Creamy creamy yum yum. Nothing from a can. Everyone = happy.
Bottom line here: this baked goodness is the antidote to winter.
Partying together up in here we have: generously seasoned chicken, cooked quinoa, crispity delicious bacon, velvety homemade sauce, a tiny bit of Gruyère or whatever kinda cheese you want over the top, and bright green pops of broccoli. It’s almost overwhelming. Except it’s more like a big gentle hug loaded with good-for-you ingredients.
Get yourself a glass of milk, maybe a warm piece of bread or a salad, cuddle down with a blanket and slippers and enjoy this baby. Winter will be over soon. I think. Right? Someone? ANYONE?
One last thing! Here are a few (affiliate) links for some of the tools that you might want to have on hand for making this recipe:
- 2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup milk (I used 2%)
- 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
- ½ cup flour
- 2 cups water, divided
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
- ¼ cup cooked, crumbled bacon (optional... sort of)
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 2 teaspoons seasoning (like Emeril's Essence or any basic blend you like)
- ¼ cup shredded Gruyere cheese (any kind will work)
- 3 cups fresh broccoli florets
- Sauce: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and generously grease a 9x13 baking dish (seriously, be generous because it really really sticks to the sides). Bring the chicken broth and ½ cup milk to a low boil in a saucepan. Whisk the other ½ cup milk with the poultry seasoning and flour; add the mixture to the boiling liquid and whisk until a smooth creamy sauce forms.
- Assembly: In a large bowl, mix the sauce from step one, one cup water, quinoa, and bacon and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Slice the chicken breasts into thin strips and lay the chicken breasts strips over the top of the quinoa mixture. Sprinkle with the seasoning. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.
- Broccoli: While the casserole is in the oven, place the broccoli in boiling water for 1 minute until it turns bright green and then run under cold water. Set aside.
- Bake: Remove the casserole from the oven, check the mixture by stirring it around in the pan, and if needed, bake for an additional 10-15 minutes to get the right consistency. When the quinoa and chicken are cooked and the sauce is thickened, add the broccoli and a little bit of water (up to one cup) until the consistency is creamy and smooth and you can stir it up easily in the pan. Top with the cheese and bake for 5 minutes, or just long enough to melt the cheese.
Note: Several of you have kindly noted that after 30 minutes you still had a bit too much liquid. Thank you for your feedback – it really helps make the recipe better for others. Based on your comments, I adjusted the directions to account for a little extra uncovered baking time for some of that liquid to evaporate. Thank you!
PS. Favorite Superbowl commercial? Mine was the Microsoft one. Even though I’m a committed Apple customer, it made me cry a little bit. Go figure. I’m a marketer’s dream.
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