We can probably all think of certain meals that remind us of our mother’s home cooking and take us back to our childhood. For me, it is my mom’s chicken broccoli casserole. Here’s her recipe. Isn’t her handwriting beautiful? I’ve always wished I could write like her. Every time I make this dish for my own family, the aroma transports me back to my childhood home sitting at the table with my parents and my sister. Kind of like that moment in Father of the Bride when Annie tells her dad she’s getting married and he envisions her as a preschooler with pigtails sitting at the table. This time of year with the cooler, fall temperatures and the craziness of after school activities, a warm make-ahead casserole dish is perfect. I can prepare it while the kids are at school or even the night before and then just pop it in the oven when I am ready. By the time I’ve got their backpacks and shoes picked up from the middle of the kitchen floor and set the table, dinner is about ready!
In recent years, I have been trying to avoid canned soup, one of the key ingredients in my mom’s recipe, as it is full of sodium and unappealing ingredients like “monosodium glutamate” and “butyric acid,” whatever those are. So I recently created my own version of my mom’s good old Chicken Broccoli Casserole, using “clean” ingredients. While it doesn’t taste exactly the same as my mom’s recipe, it’s pretty darn close.
What is “clean” eating, you might ask? Essentially it means eating fresh, whole, natural foods and avoiding processed and refined foods. Clean eating means consuming food in it’s most natural state or as close to it as possible. Packaged “clean foods” contain only a few ingredients or at least a short list of real, recognizable foods. It means buying organic and local whenever possible. I strive to eat “cleaner”. You can drive yourself crazy examining labels. And to be frank, I don’t the have time or patience to walk through the grocery store studying each and every box while my two-year-old is climbing out of the shopping cart. I focus on buying lots of fruits and veggies, whole grains, some organic meats and I have my stand-by packaged brands that I know have as few “ingredients” as possible. All of which are real, recognizable, healthy foods. Here’s a good article with more information about clean eating.
So here is my “cleaner” version of my mom’s Chicken Broccoli Casserole:
- 2 to 4 spears broccoli
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 4 Tbsp. flour (divided)
- 1 3/4 cup chicken broth
- 1 cup skim milk
- 1 tsp. kosher or sea salt
- 1/2 tsp. curry powder
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup whole wheat panko or regular bread crumbs
- 1 tbsp. melted butter
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken breasts in casserole dish, brush with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until internal temp is at 165 degrees. Chop broccoli into medium sized florets. Cook in boiling water for no more than 5 minutes. Drain well. Arrange broccoli in casserole dish sprayed with cooking spray. Cut chicken into slices, chunks or shred. Arrange on top of broccoli.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat and add garlic. Saute a few minutes until fragrant. Add 3 Tbsp. flour and mix well with whisk. Cook for a few more minutes. Whisk in chicken broth and cook for a few minutes. Add in milk and simmer until the sauce thickens stirring occasionally. Add remaining 1 Tbsp. of flour and whisk to mix in completely. Add salt and curry powder and stir. Top broccoli and chicken with cheese. Pour sauce over chicken and broccoli. Mix butter and bread crumbs. Sprinkle over top of everything. Bake for 20 minutes until bubbly and cheese is melted. If you want the top to look more browned, turn on the broiler for a minute or two. Makes 6 servings. Serve with brown rice.
With all that delicious creamy sauce you’d think this dish was a splurge. Nope! A serving is actually low in calories, high in fiber and protein and the benefits of broccoli make it high in potassium and Vitamin C. I use the My Fitness Pal app to track calories and nutrition.
Nutritional Facts for 1 serving:
Fat: 7.8 g
Cholesterol: 32.5 mg
Sodium: 722.5 mg
Fiber: 5.6 g
Sugars: 4.1 g
Vitamin A: 60.8%
Vitamin C: 99.2%
I hope I’ve inspired you to try “cleaning up” some of your favorite recipes. It’s a lot easier than you might think. Enjoy!