In terms of sheer comfort, casseroles are high on the list of my favorite autumn dishes. Double points with my family and friends if they contain a fair amount of cheese. I am so happy that the chilly evenings of fall have brought casseroles back into my weekly meal rotation. Big batches of tuna noodle casserole or shepherd’s pie make the kitchen cozy on Sunday and then become easy packed kids lunches or quick go-to dinners all week long. And if company stops by, no problem – there’s plenty to share. These are not your granny’s casseroles, instead we are substituting some healthy alternatives to the heavy carb loaded pasta casseroles and there isn’t a can of cream of chicken soup in sight.
Creamy Chicken & Quinoa Casserole
The party going on in this casserole includes: generously seasoned chicken, cooked quinoa, crispy delicious bacon, velvety homemade sauce, Gruyère cheese and Parmesan cheese over the top, and bright green pops of green beans and peas. Feel free to substitute the vegetables with your favorites…broccoli is always a crowd pleaser.
1 ½ tablespoons coconut oil
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 cups chicken bone broth
1 (12-ounce) package of trimmed green beans
1 package of fresh frozen green peas
2 6-8 ounce skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 ½ cups chopped onion
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 ¼ cup additional chicken bone broth or stock
½ cup 1% low-fat milk
2 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about ½ cup)
3-4 strips cooked bacon – broken into crumbles
4 ounces sharp gruyere cheese or smoked gouda, shredded (1 cup)
Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1 ½ teaspoons oil; swirl to coat. Add quinoa; cook 2 minutes or until toasted, stirring frequently. Add chicken bone broth; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until quinoa is tender. Remove from heat; strain if necessary let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
Preheat oven to 400°.
On a baking sheet roast the green beans and garlic in the oven for 10 minutes or until soft.
Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; sprinkle with ⅛ teaspoon salt and ⅛ teaspoon pepper. Cook 5 minutes or until browned, turning occasionally; remove from pan.
Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and sauté 5 minutes. Combine milk and flour, stirring with a whisk. Add milk mixture, stock, remaining ⅜ teaspoon salt, and remaining ⅜ teaspoon pepper to pan. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently; cook 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Add Parmesan, stirring until cheese melts. Stir in quinoa, green beans and roasted garlic, thawed peas, and chicken. Spoon mixture into a 2-quart glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with bacon and gruyere. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until casserole is bubbly and cheese melts.