Recipe Review: Healthy Brown Rice Broccoli Chicken Cheese Bake

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Please don’t confuse this recipe with a traditional broccoli rice casserole.

The dish is full of flavor and texture.

It tastes like comfort food, but it’s still very good for you.

Six reasons your should make this.

#1 Plain ol’ milk is substituted for cream. And there are NO cans of condensed soup in this recipe!

#2 Two servings of vegetables per serving. And the broccoli is lightly steamed therefore it retains most of it’s nutritional value.

#3 Brown rice is in place of the traditional white rice. And brown rice is a complex carbohydrate which is MUCH better for you.

#4 There are twice as many vegetables as meat in this dish, making it super heart healthy.

#5. The sauce is finger licking good thanks to Parmesan and mustard. Weird combo I know. But it works!

#6. It’s not called a casserole. I don’t like casseroles:)

Need any more convincing?

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This America’s Test Kitchen recipe inspired my healthy version of this classic American casserole.

(By the way, the America’s Test Kitchen magazine, Cook’s Illustrated is my absolute favorite! If you want to learn to cook, it’s a great “course”)

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I start with 1.5 lbs of fresh broccoli.

Chop into bite size pieces.

Place in a microwaveable bowl with 1/4 inch of water.

Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 4 minutes.

Immediately place in a strainer and run cold water over the broccoli to stop the cooking.

Then set aside to drain completely.

These extra steps make for bright yummy looking broccoli.

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You don’t want to scorch or burn the garlic.

Scorched or burnt garlic is incredibly bitter.
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Side note: we are just making a basic roux.

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Now fluff the brown rice that is completely cooked.

Side note: If you are unsure of brown rice, buy a package of frozen precooked brown rice. Most grocery stores have it in the freezer section.

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Then whip out some chicken. Any chicken will do.

I had some of this grilled chicken left over from another meal.

Or rotisserie chicken would work well too.

The choice is yours.

It’s a free county, at least in regards to chicken.

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Brown Rice Broccoli Chicken Cheese Bake (click here →Broccoli Cheese Bake for printable recipe)

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated 30 Minute Meals, Cheesy Broccoli Chicken and Rice Casserole

  • 1 1/2 lbs fresh broccoli, chopped into bite size pieces (frozen broccoli works too, just cook it to your liking and then drain it very well)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 -2 teaspoons black pepper (depending on how spicy you like things)
  • 1/2 -1 tsp salt (depending on how salty the chicken stock is)
  • 1 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (reserve 1/2 cup of cheddar as the topping)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan
  • 2-3 cups cooked brown rice (follow the directions on the package, add salt to boiling water for extra flavor)
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, cubed

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°.

Place broccoli in a microwave safe container with 1/4 inch of water. Cover and microwave for 3-4 minutes on high.

Drain the broccoli immediately and rinse with cold water. Set aside to drain completely.

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Add chopped onion to the skillet and saute for 3 minutes, then add garlic and continue to saute another minute.

Add the flour to the hot skillet, mix with the onion and garlic, and continue stirring constantly for 1 minute.

Pour the chicken stock and milk into the skillet. Allow the sauce to thickened for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Once  the sauce starts to thicken, add mustard, black pepper, salt and the cheeses .

When the cheeses have melted into the sauce add the broccoli and mix well. Set aside.

Grease a casserole dish and layer cooked rice and then the chicken.

Pour the broccoli sauce mixture over the top of the chicken.

Option#1 Top with the reserved 1/2 cup of cheddar, cover and bake for 25 minutes at 375°. Remove cover and bake an additional 5 minutes until the top starts to brown slightly. ***If the dish seems a little dry sprinkle with a little water before baking.

Option#2 This is a great make ahead dish. You can refrigerate it up to two days before baking it or freeze it up to a month. Let it completely thaw before following the instructions in option #1.