Comfort food is spelled L-O-V-E: Chicken&Quinoa Casserole

   Who doesn’t like comfort food and we surely have our favorites when it comes to this! Different cultures and even different regions of the same country have their own notion of comfort food and as we know they bring back memories from growing up, memories of someone who made it with all the love in the whole world:)

   Where I come from in India (Kolkata), I think we have a couple of things that check the ‘comfort food’ box- ‘Khichuri‘ (or as it is known in other parts of India – ‘Khichdi‘) and the good old ‘Shedhdho Bhaat‘! Khichuri or Khichdi is made from rice and lentils, vegetables are often added to it and it is seasoned with butter or ghee (clarified butter). It tastes good everyday, but is blissful on a rainy day! Sheddho Bhaat is basically good old white rice, with some boiled lentils, mashed potatoes, some ghee and often a hard boiled egg! For the no so faint hearted, a side of the green chilli  adds a much loved kick to the whole dish:) We often make these here in our home, especially on days that either of us are too tired to cook or we feel festive (Khichudi is a staple of most festivals for where we come from!) or just want to feel good.

   However, Neel and I both love to try out food from all around the world and comfort food has been no exception! From pot pies to miso soup, quesadillas to haleems, casseroles to ramens, chilis to puddings…we like to eat anything that makes our hearts and tummies happy! And these are all the more satisfying during the cold winter months, which are a good five months on the East Coast:(

   Casseroles and ramens are my personal favorite. Both can be prepared with so many or just a handful of ingredients and you can almost never go wrong! Recently, I stumbled upon this casserole recipe which is my current favorite. Many recipes (all of which are awesome!) call for the ingredients to be cooked separately before being thrown in together into the oven but when you feel lazy or are tired and don’t have time for that extra preparation, it is good to have a recipe that doesn’t require a lot of your time or energy! This quinoa and chicken casserole recipe from pinchofyum.com is one such recipe that is sure to make your heart and tummy happy:) And when I saw the author, Lindsay was from a place so close to my heart- Minnesota, I knew I had to give this a try and I am so glad I did! I hope you will be too.

   I am posting the original recipe here for you to try. I have made it this way and also with some minor alterations (which are in red) and they have tasted good every time:)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 cups water, divided
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup cooked, crumbled bacon (optional… sort of)
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts (I marinated the chicken breasts for about 20-30 mins with some salt, lemon pepper, garlic, smoked paprika, a bit of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon Mayonnaise…it adds a wonderful flavor to the chicken)
  • 2 teaspoons seasoning (like Emeril’s Essence or any basic blend you like)
  • 1/4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese (any kind will work) (I have used Mexican blend or Pepper Jack or simply good old Cheddar)
  • 3 cups fresh broccoli florets (Instead of Broccoli, I have used sliced red peppers about 1 cup and 1 cup sliced mushrooms and 1 cup sliced onions and it has tasted wonderful!)

Instructions:

  1. Sauce: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and generously grease a 9×13 baking dish (seriously, be generous because it really really sticks to the sides). Bring the chicken broth and 1/2 cup milk to a low boil in a saucepan. Whisk the other 1/2 cup milk with the poultry seasoning and flour; add the mixture to the boiling liquid and whisk until a smooth creamy sauce forms.
  2. 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. (If you are not using broccoli and are going with the red peppers, onions and mushrooms instead, add all of these now. It makes the dish very flavorful but not an over-the-top types. You can then skip  step 3 and part of step 4 where you would have needed to add the broccoli))
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

You will not be disappointed any which way you try the dish. I am so happy that I stumbled upon this recipe:) I wish I had this during our freezing Minnesota nights!

Thank you Lindsay!

 

 

 

 

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