Not Your Mom’s Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

Remember how your mom used to make that chicken, broccoli, and Campbell’s cream of mushroom casserole? Remember how delicious it was? A comfort food classic!

Well, I’ve updated it with fresher ingredients, and I think you’ll like the result. While my recipe is a little more involved than throwing canned chicken, frozen broccoli, and canned soup into a casserole dish, it’s really very easy. This one doesn’t dirty many dishes, and makes enough for some leftovers for your lunch (unless you have several kids!). There are a few steps, but the prep time is pretty minimal, making this a great weeknight recipe. Hey, there’s a reason Mom made it so often! And it’s just as satisfying as you remember, without all the salt!

2 large chicken breasts
~1 tsp olive oil
2 cups uncooked brown rice
3 Tbsp butter
1/2 one white onion, finely diced
2 cups cremini mushrooms, chopped
~1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp celery salt
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups broccoli florets, chopped into bite-size pieces
4 heaping Tbsp Greek yogurt
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (optional)

1. Preheat your oven to 325°. On a cookie sheet, lay out a large piece of foil. Place chicken breasts on the foil, and drizzle with olive oil. Tent chicken in the foil and bake for approximately 25 minutes, until chicken is cooked through, tender, and juicy.

2. Meanwhile, prep your other ingredients as above. Start by combining the rice and approximately three and a half cups of lukewarm water in a stock pot and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, cover and reduce heat to simmer. Allow the rice to cook for ten to twelve minutes, until it’s done and almost all of the water has cooked off.

3. While the rice is cooking, begin the vegetables. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium low heat. Add onions and mushrooms and cook for approximately ten minutes, until fragrant. Add balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and celery salt, and stir. Continue cooking for about one or two more minutes, then add chicken broth and stir again. Finally, add the broccoli. Cook for approximately five minutes, or until broccoli is bright green but still somewhat firm.

4. Meanwhile, remove the chicken from the oven. Once it’s done, allow it to cool slightly. Lightly grease a 3 quart baking dish (I use a rectangular Pyrex dish) with olive oil or butter. Cut the chicken into workable pieces, and finish shredding it into rough chunks with your hands, putting the pieces directly into your baking dish.

5. When the rice is done, drain any excess liquid and add the rice to the casserole dish with the chicken. Next, mix in the vegetables and any broth in their pan. Add yogurt, cream, pecans, and more salt and/or pepper, if desired. Mix thoroughly with a large spoon, then use the back side to press the mixture down in the dish to form a casserole of even depth.

6. Place the whole dish back into the oven and bake at 325° for a further 20 minutes. Remove from oven very carefully, and allow to cool on the stove top for about three to five minutes, then serve. Garnish with parsley, sage, sour cream, and/or cheese, if desired.

Serves 6.

Also makes excellent leftovers—just microwave and stir!


Stella’s Coconut Chicken Curry

This is the first curry I have made that turned out as well as I’d hoped, so I’m sharing it with you. It’s easy, filling, and very rich. I love coconut milk. You could also add other diced vegetables, or serve over rice. I used the leftover sauce to make an amazing tuna salad with slivered almonds.


4 skinless chicken breasts, chopped into one inch chunks
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp curry powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup full fat yogurt
4 large carrots, chopped into rounds
4 Tsbp butter, separated
1 Tbsp red wine
2 Tbsp tomato paste
3/4 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup fresh cilantro

1. Combine chopped chicken, garlic, spices, and yogurt in a mixing bowl bowl. Cover and refrigerate for an hour or more. Meanwhile, do the following prep steps.

2. In a small stock pot, boil carrots for approximately two minutes, until slightly softened. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. In a large skillet, melt butter. Add red wine and tomato paste. Bring to a quick boil, stir, and reduce heat. Continue simmering until sauce thickens a bit, approximately ten minutes.

4. Add chicken and yogurt mix to the pan and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally until chicken is cooked through. Add coconut milk, stir thoroughly, and allow to warm for a few minutes. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.

Serves 4.

Schmaltz Roasted Potatoes with Crunchy Sage

The secret ingredient? Schmaltz!

2 large baking potatoes
1/4 to 1/2 cup chicken schmaltz
1 Tbsp olive oil
handful fresh sage
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Meanwhile, peel and roughly chop potatoes into medium-sized chunks. Boil in a large pot for approximately 8 minutes until you can easily puncture them with a knife, but so that they are still solid.

2. Spoon your schmaltz into a medium roasting tin. Place it on your stovetop or (briefly) inside your oven, until the fat is mostly melted. Remove from heat.

3. Drain the potatoes and place them in the roasting tin. Stir gently to distribute the now-liquid fat, then drizzle in the oil. Bake for approximately 15 minutes.

4 Meanwhile, gather and chop your sage, if applicable. After about 15 minutes of baking, remove the potatoes, add the sage, and gently stir again. Place back in the oven for 5-10 minutes, or until potatoes are fully cooked and beginning to brown. At this point, move the roasting tin to the top shelf, turn your oven to broil, and monitor the potatoes until they are nicely browned and glistening.

5. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon (feel free to reserve some of the grease for dripping on the potatoes, though!), and be sure to fish out the little pieces of schmaltz-fried sage. Top with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

These are also excellent as leftovers, but be aware: they will lose their signature crunchiness. I like to refresh and reuse them by frying them alongside my sizzling bacon in the morning! If schmaltz-roasted potatoes weren’t decadent enough for you, try schmaltz-roasted, bacon-grease-fried breakfast potatoes.

I make no apologies.

Crispy Baked Lemon Rosemary Chicken

Pictured above with Garlic Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

This recipe will work for any pieces of chicken; I used thighs this time just to mix things up a bit. To cook for a larger group, just double or triple the other ingredients as necessary. This is easy and delectable, packing fresh lemon and rosemary flavors into a wonderfully crispy chicken dish.

4 pieces of chicken, bone-in, skin on
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp sea salt
~4 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 medium lemon
olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 425°. In a mortar and pestle, grind salt and garlic into a paste; set aside. Pour olive oil in a medium roasting tin or oven-safe glass dish until the bottom is covered. You want the olive oil to be about a quarter inch deep in the pan, so that you can roll the chicken in it. Sprinkle rosemary and pepper in pan. Cut lemon in half. Finely slice one half and set aside.

2. Place your chicken in the pan and roll each piece in the olive oil and rosemary until evenly covered. Take the lemon slices and place them under the pieces of chicken, arranged skin up in the pan. Use the other half of the lemon to squeeze fresh juice over the chicken. Finally, take the garlic paste and rub it into the top of each piece with your hands. Bake the chicken for about 30 minutes, depending on the size and cuts you’ve used. If you are unsure whether it’s done, use a meat thermometer.

3. Remove chicken when the pieces are nicely browned. If the meat is done but they are not sufficiently browned, broil them for a minute or two. When serving, spoon a small amount of the juices over each piece (if you make a large batch, you should have enough juices to make a gravy!).

Serves 2.

Mediterranean Turkey Burgers with Dill Yogurt Sauce

Now that summer’s upon us in full force here in Central Texas, I am one happy blogger. One of my favorite things in life is relaxing in or near a turquoise body of water, and I can’t help but daydream about Greek Islands. In 2004, I had the great fortune to be able to spend a week in Corfu, and it was the closest place to heaven I have yet been.

So, for tonight’s dinner, I decided to combine the very American organic ground turkey in my fridge with some of my favorite Mediterranean flavors. I’ve also been on a yogurt and (especially) sour cream kick lately, so this really hit the spot. It’s a pretty straightforward concoction, but the result is, both refreshing and satisfyingly savory, if not as gorgeous as the Ionian islands.

For the sauce
1 cup cup Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp sour cream (optional)
juice half a lemon
1 heaping tsp Dijon mustard
1 clove of garlic, minced (or dash or garlic powder)
1 flat tsp dried dill

In a bowl with an airtight lid, stir all ingredients thoroughly and refrigerate for at least two hours. This will allow the dill time to soften, and for the flavors to blend. This sauce can be used on a pita or sandwich, as a salad dressing, or as a dip for raw vegetables. It also makes an easy and delicious base for potato salad (warm or cold).

For this recipe, a side of raw vegetables for dipping makes a great addition!

This sauce will keep for several days in the refrigerator, as well.

For the burgers
1 lb ground turkey*
2 Tbsp pesto of your choice
~ 1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh mint, finely shredded and diced
1 tsp ground paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper, or to taste
1/2 cup fine Italian breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp olive oil (if cooking on the stovetop)
2 whole wheat pitas
1 cup feta cheese
lettuce or greens of your choice
fresh Kalamata olives as garnish (optional)

1. In a large bowl, mix the turkey, pesto, onion, herbs, salt and pepper, and breadcrumbs. Stir thoroughly with clean hands until all ingredients are evenly mixed.

2. Form mixture into four balls of equal size and mash out flat on a cutting board or other clean surface, to form patties, each approximately 3/4″ or so thick.

3. These may be cooked in a skillet with a little olive oil (about 5 minutes each side) or, as I frequently do, on the grill. As is usual on a weeknight, I used my George Foreman Grill for these (about 5 or 6 minutes). If cooking outside, factor in time to get your grill prepared before tossing them on.

4. While burgers are cooking, prepare pitas by cutting them in half and warming them slightly in the oven, microwave, or high on the grill. Chop any vegetables, such as carrots and cucumber, that you will be serving alongside your burgers.

5. Assemble burgers by sliding the patties into the pita halves and finishing with a dollop of Dill Yogurt Sauce, feta, and some lettuce. Use any extra sauce for dipping side vegetables. Add olives, if using, and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

* Of course, you could also substitute lamb.

Zakynthos, by Craig Grocott, on Flickr