Category Archives: Cooking

Creamy Quinoa Chicken Broccoli Casserole

So, I have a secret to share….a bit of a confession to make…..

Ready for it???

I am the person who doesn’t let my food touch on my plate.  Whew, there I said it out loud.  **weight lifted off my shoulders**

Yes, I am THAT person.  I separate my food on my plate.  Nothing touches, AND I really don’t like mixing flavors, for example I don’t like sweet and sour, fruit with meat, sweet AND savory. I like my flavors to be separate.

However there is always an exception, right??  Well I do have an exception.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE casseroles!!  Chicken and dumplings, Minnesota hot dish, stews, chicken broccoli and rice, pot pie, shepherd’s pie, now those foods feed my soul y’all……not even joking!  But, they are less than healthy at times.  So I do my best to recreate these super yummy dishes in a more healthy version.

Today I am sharing one with you.  I absolutely adore the Cheesy chicken rice broccoli casserole, but white rice, cream of chicken soup, and lots of cheese is not so friendly to my waistline! So instead I found and tweaked a recipe to make it healthier.  I now want to introduce you to:

Picture used from myutensilcrock.com

Picture used from myutensilcrock.com

Creamy Quinoa Chicken Broccoli Casserole

Ingredients:
2 cups natural chicken broth (I use organic chicken base, and mix with water)
1 cup almond milk (Can use fat free milk instead if no lactose issues)
1 tsp of poultry seasoning
½ cup almond flour (If you don’t have gluten issues, you can use white whole wheat)
2 cups of water, divided
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
1 pound of boneless chicken breasts
3 cups of fresh broccoli florets
Sea salt and pepper to taste

(optional: 1/2 cup shredded organic cheese)

Directions:
1) Sauce: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease a 9×13 baking dish. Bring the chicken broth and 1/2 cup of almond milk to a low boil in a saucepan. Whisk the other 1/2 cup almond milk with the poultry seasoning and flour; add the mixture to the boiling liquid and whisk until a smooth creamy sauce forms. Do not add to quickly because it can get quite lumpy.

2) Assembly: In a large bowl, mix the sauce from step one, one cup water, and quinoa, and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Dice the chicken and mix it into the quinoa mixture. Sprinkle with more poultry seasoning if you like. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.

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 the cold water to blanch it. 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, shredded cheese, and a little bit of water (up to one cup) until the consistency is creamy and smooth and you can stir up easily in the pan. The amount of water will depend on how thick you want the sauce to be.  I don’t always need to add any more water.

This was truly a delightfully yummy dish.  You could change it up to make it vegan by removing chicken and chicken broth, and adding in more veggies, or tofu in place of chicken.

Chicken broth base I used:  (I bought it at Harris Teeter)

chickenbase

Stone Soup Recipe

As I have talked about before, my lovely Karol really enjoys cabbage.  So to please her I made Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls a few weeks ago when the boys were visiting their dad because the Universe knows, there is no way they would eat food with cabbage in it….sigh…..

When I made the cabbage rolls recipe, I only used half of the head of cabbage so I told her I would make some cabbage soup.  I was intrigued by some soup I had when I visited my mother during Thanksgiving, and hers had cabbage in it.  I enjoyed it and thought Karol would too.  As I looked over the recipe my mother gave me, I thought, “hmmmm, I bet I could change this up some.” I like to experiment in the kitchen, and really I think just taking stuff out of the refrigerator and throwing it together in a somewhat coherent fashion to make something yummy is fun, and challenging to boot.

Have I ever mentioned that in my youth I dreamed of being a chef?? For some reason my father dissuaded me.  He said it would be difficult for me because chefs had to lift really big heavy pots….hmmmmmm.  Somehow I think he just didn’t want me to be a chef….

So I decided to look through my refrigerator and make some soup ala “Chopped” style by just using what I had on hand…

And I ended up making what I am calling “Stone Soup”.  The name comes from the folk tale of a traveler who used a little trickery to create a lovely meal for an entire village:

Once upon a time, somewhere in post-war Eastern Europe, there was a great famine in which people jealously hoarded whatever food they could find, hiding it even from their friends and neighbors. One day a wandering soldier came into a village and began asking questions as if he planned to stay for the night.

“There’s not a bite to eat in the whole province,” he was told. “Better keep moving on.”

“Oh, I have everything I need,” he said. “In fact, I was thinking of making some stone soup to share with all of you.” He pulled an iron cauldron from his wagon, filled it with water, and built a fire under it. Then, with great ceremony, he drew an ordinary-looking stone from a velvet bag and dropped it into the water.

By now, hearing the rumor of food, most of the villagers had come to the square or watched from their windows. As the soldier sniffed the “broth” and licked his lips in anticipation, hunger began to overcome their skepticism.

“Ahh,” the soldier said to himself rather loudly, “I do like a tasty stone soup. Of course, stone soup with cabbage — that’s hard to beat.”

Soon a villager approached hesitantly, holding a cabbage he’d retrieved from its hiding place, and added it to the pot. “Capital!” cried the soldier. “You know, I once had stone soup with cabbage and a bit of salt beef as well, and it was fit for a king.”

The village butcher managed to find some salt beef . . . and so it went, through potatoes, onions, carrots, mushrooms, and so on, until there was indeed a delicious meal for all. The villagers offered the soldier a great deal of money for the magic stone, but he refused to sell and traveled on the next day. The moral is that by working together, with everyone contributing what they can, a greater good is achieved.

So this is my:

STONE SOUP

1 tbsp olive oil

½ cup chopped onion

2 tsp minced garlic

4 chopped carrots

2 stalks chopped celery

1 package turkey kielbasa

2 to 3 potatoes, chopped into bite sized pieces

1 can beans (I used great northern, but kidney would be nice also)

8 cups chicken stock

salt and pepper to taste

Put olive oil in Dutch oven or large pot. Cook onion until translucent. Then add carrots, celery, potatoes, and kielbasa and cook until veggies are softened and meat is browned. Add chicken stock. Simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Season to taste.

To me, the most important part is cooking all the veggies and meat together until you get those little browned bits in your pan. Then when you put the stock in, scrape up the brown bits, they will add a LOT of flavor. I did not add ANY seasoning to this soup, as the kielbasa and veggies flavored it enough. It was really quite delicious.

I shared some with the NewYorican, and she loved it so much she made it for her family the next day!  I am making it for dinner this week also.  It is perfect with a little baguette for sopping up the lovely flavors!

Enjoy!!

all the veggies and meat browning up and "shaking hands".  Getting yummy!!!

all the veggies and meat browning up and “shaking hands”. Getting yummy!!!

 

Finished product.  Hearty and delicious!!

Finished product. Hearty and delicious!!

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls

So my lovely Karol really loves cabbage.  I mean she REALLY loves cabbage.  Me not so much. But I am a considerate person, so on occasion I make something with cabbage just to put a smile on her beautiful face.

Some time ago my friend Jackie had posted a recipe on her Facebook wall for a deconstructed cabbage roll.  This intrigued Karol so much she shared it with me and asked me to make it for her.  So yesterday I indulged her.  After all the boys are visiting their dad for the holidays and there was no one here to complain about what I cooked for dinner or  “OMG, that smells like death”, which is what The Genius likes to say about food he doesn’t like……sigh……

So I am one of those people who posts pictures of food on Facebook.  Yes, I am, sorry. I like food.  This is why I have to spend so much time at the gym, but that is a story for another day.  Interestingly after I posted my picture of the cabbage medley on the stove at least 4 people asked me to post the recipe.  I have been looking for a reason to start blogging again.  I want to, but I spent so much time writing last semester (which shall forever be known as “the semester that kicked my ass”) that to sit down and start typing was not appealing…..at all……  But posting this recipe seemed like the perfect platform to spring off to get back into blogging, so here I am….

Anyway, I looked and looked for a recipe, but none of them had exactly what I wanted, so I did what most seasoned cooks do.  I picked something, and then adapted and changed it to be what I wanted.  The biggest things I wanted to change was giving it a “Hungarian” flavor, as well as adding in brown rice.  It is sometimes difficult to cook with rice because of knowing exactly how much liquid to add so you don’t end up with crunchy rice.  So I just cooked the rice separately and then added it in at the end.

So this is my version of Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls

DECONSTRUCTED CABBAGE ROLLS

Ingredients:
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil, divided (more or less, depending on your pan)
1 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 large onion, chopped small
2 tsp finely minced garlic
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp paprika
salt and black pepper to taste
1  heads green cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 can petite diced tomatoes with juice
1 can tomato sauce
2 cups cooked brown rice

Instructions:

Heat 1-2 tsp. olive oil in a large frying pan; cook onion until it is translucent, then add in ground beef, garlic, thyme and paprika.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Cook it  until beef is done and nicely browned, breaking apart as it cooks.
 Then add the diced tomatoes with juice, and tomato sauce.  Let mixture simmer until it’s hot and slightly thickened, about 10-15 minutes.
While the meat mixture simmers, cut cabbage in half, cut out the core, remove any wilted outer leaves, and then chop the cabbage coarsely into pieces.  (They don’t have to be all the same size, this is a coarse chop after all.)  Heat about 2 tsp. olive oil in a large frying pan or dutch oven with high sides, add the cabbage and cook over medium-high heat until the cabbage is wilted and about half cooked, turning it over several times so it all wilts and cooks.  Season cabbage with salt and fresh-ground black pepper.When the meat and tomato sauce mixture has cooked 10-15 minutes and thickened a bit, stir in the 2 cups of cooked rice and cabbage and gently combine. Let this simmer together for about 5-10 minutes until the flavors have combined, some, then serve.
I did not originally plan on posting this, so I apologize for no pictures other than the final one which looks like this (don’t judge my dirty stove please, I had just finished cooking)….
deconstructed cabbage rolls

To be honest, it was pretty yummy.  I bet it will be even better for leftovers when the flavors have had a better chance to “shake hands”, as my mother always says.

ENJOY!!