Lightened Up Chicken & Broccoli Casserole

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The other day I woke up with a strange craving for Chicken & Broccoli casserole. I’ve only really had it once, at a friend’s house back in high school, but suddenly I was struck with a craving and felt like I needed to make it.

One of my favorite meals growing up that my mom would make was Chicken, Ziti & Broccoli. Her version was pretty light, just using grated parmesan instead of an alfredo sauce, but always so satisfying. Chicken and broccoli pair well together, and cheese just makes everything better.

Many recipes I looked at for this casserole included loads of fatty ingredients such as condensed cream of chicken soup, mayonnaise, sour cream, etc. I knew cream of chicken soup would make it taste good and help hold everything together, but in addition to being fatty it’s also full of preservatives and weird ingredients. I wouldn’t say that my diet is 100% “clean”, as I do like to eat chips and candy every once in a while, but cream of chicken soup is just one thing I’ve never really had the desire to include in a recipe.

To make a healthier version of cream of chicken soup, I found a few low-fat ingredients in my kitchen and kind of decided to wing it. The soup starts out with a little bit of butter or olive oil, fat-free chicken stock, skim milk, and then fat-free Greek yogurt and low-fat cream cheese are whisked in. The result was surprisingly similar in texture to cream of chicken soup, but lighter and a bit tangier tasting. I was pleased with how it turned out and would definitely use it again in the future.

This Lightened Up Chicken & Broccoli Casserole is filled with bite-sized pieces of chicken, broccoli, whole grain breadcrumbs, and finished off with my cream of chicken soup substitute and some shredded cheese. It’s filling and flavorful and I’m betting whoever you serve it to wouldn’t guess that it’s low-fat 😉 If you’re looking to cut carbs, feel free to leave the bread out, or substitute it with something like quinoa.

Lightened Up Chicken & Broccoli Casserole
makes 3-4 servings

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Ingredients:

  • 1 large head broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 large or 2 small breasts cooked chicken (about 1/2 lb.), cubed
  • 2 slices whole grain bread, toasted and cut into small chunks
  • cream of chicken soup substitute (see recipe below)
  • 3/4 cup reduced fat shredded cheese (I recommend cheddar or mozzerella)

Lightened Up Cream of Chicken soup substitute: (makes about ~1 cup)

  • 1 Tbsp butter + 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup skim milk
  • 2 Tbsp nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp low-fat cream cheese or 1 Laughing Cow cheese wedge
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your ingredients (forgot to include the cream cheese!)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Prepare the broccoli by steaming it for 5-7 minutes, until it’s about halfway or 3/4 of the way cooked (it will continue to cook in the oven). Set aside.
  2. In a small sauce pan, melt butter and garlic over low heat. Add minced garlic and let it simmer for about 1 minute. Whisk in flour and stir well.
  3. Slowly whisk in chicken stock and skim milk and bring to a simmer over medium heat, continuing to stir. Once mixture is starting to thicken, stir in Greek yogurt and cream cheese. Once they’ve melted and the sauce is thick, you can remove it from heat.
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, combine cubed chicken, broccoli, chunks of bread, cream of chicken soup substitute, and half of the cheese. Stir well and layer into a greased 8×8″ baking dish. Top of with remaining cheese and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until cheese is melty and golden-brown. Let cool for 5 minutes and then serve. 🙂
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After cutting your broccoli into bite-sized pieces, steam until about halfway done (about 5-7 minutes). You should also preheat your oven to 350ºF at this time as well.

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Prepare your cream of chicken substitute by melting 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp olive oil together, and sauteing your minced garlic for 1-2 minutes.

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Whisk in your flour until well-incorporated, and then add chicken stock and skim milk. Bring to a boil, continuing to whisk, until mixture starts to thicken slightly. Add your Greek yogurt and cream cheese and stir until melted, then remove from heat.

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Don’t forget to cut your chicken and bread into small chunks!

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In a medium mixing bowl, add chicken, bread, broccoli, cream of chicken soup, and half of your cheese and stir to combine.

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Place mixture in a greased 8×8″ baking dish and top with remaining cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is melty and golden-brown.

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Let your casserole cool slightly and then dig in. Mmmm 🙂

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