I have to be honest… this casserole was an experiment. I tried to make it as healthy as I could, and then served it to my brothers and their sweet girlfriends for our Sunday night “bro dinner.” I was prepared to order pizza if it was terrible, but luckily it wasn’t terrible at all! It was actually really tasty! Woohoo! A creamy, cheesy, healthy and DELICIOUS chicken, broccoli, and quinoa casserole! Double woohoo!
This isn’t exactly a dump casserole. It takes a few steps… but bear with me because it’s worth it when you hear how nutrient packed it is. The cheese sauce is made from none other than… cauliflower. Yep. Now I wish I could claim the genius behind the idea of using pureed cauliflower to replace the traditional flour, butter, milk based sauce, but I can’t. That belongs to another blogger, who I adore. And now I need to digress and tell you a short story…
You may have seen the recipe for creamy cauliflower sauce floating around pinterest. Besides being such an amazing, versatile, healthy, fun way to make cream sauce… it is actually where my blogging story starts. I can trace that pin back to being the pin that changed everything for me. You see, that was the pin that lead me to Pinch of Yum, and I started reading about how Lindsay and Bjork were regular (adorable!) people who started a blog. And I read about how they were helping others start a blog. And I saw how they were documenting their journey to becoming self-employed, full-time bloggers. And it was all fascinating to me. I felt like Lindsay’s story was so similar to mine… She was a teacher (like me!), she loves to cook (like me!), she has a heart for serving (like me!). So I thought to myself, I can do this. Inspired and following the path they had already traveled and so graciously laid out for the world, I did it. I started this blog.
Fast forward and I am sitting here in May of 2015, having quit my full time job. What???? I am that crazy person. I quit my job. My stressful, beautiful, crazy, fun, exhausting, intensely-fulfilling, kindergarten job. At my incredibly supportive, teachers-would-envy-me-when-I-said-where-I-worked, wonderful school. Yep. I did that. BUT don’t be fooled… It’s not because I am making any money blogging. Far from it. Would I love to do this blog and make enough money to replace my income? OF COURSE! That would be a dream come true, but I’m not there yet. Little by little we will see what happens. Can we really afford for me to quit my job? Nope. When I think about the financial side of this leap my heart starts to beat a little faster, but this is where I am leaving room for the Lord. I am trusting that He has a GOOD plan… a plan that is better than mine! Maybe that plan is for this blog to grow and provide a way to support our family. Maybe that plan involves me working somewhere new. Most likely it will involve something I haven’t even imagined yet. I just don’t know, but I do know I prayed a whole lot about this decision, and I am confident it is the right one for me and our little family right now.
I have just come to realize that time goes by quickly. Cliché, I know… but it’s just true. I have blinked and my baby is almost 3! My eyes well-up when I look at baby pictures because while I know it happened… I almost don’t remember what having a baby around was like (and it was less than 3 years ago!).
AHHHHHHHHH. THE CHEEKS!!!
I have been soaking in every sweet word and squishy peanut butter smeared kiss that I can lately because I am beginning to realize just how fleeting this time thing is. Do I want my babies to grow-up? Of course. My prayer for my kids will always be that they grow big and strong with integrity and grit and love for Jesus and every person in this world. Does my mommy-heart ache a little as the time flies by (or a lot if I think too much)… yes. So for me, despite the uncertainty and doubt of what this decision may mean for our finances, I will trust. I will take giant leaps and make big changes. I will spend more time with my precious boy because right now, I’m missing it and missing him. And I will take comfort… if God loves our family more than I do (and I believe He does!), then I have nothing to fear.
So thank you, creamy cauliflower sauce, and more importantly thank you, Lindsay. Not sure that you will every read my little blip on this big internet radar, but I have to put it out there. You’ve changed my path. I would have never had the courage to blaze this trail alone. It is a crazy, scary, doubtful journey, but also one that leaves so much room for Jesus to do His thing. I am ever so grateful.
Now then… not sure of the most graceful way to steer this conversation back to the casserole recipe… awkward…
So let me just say, if you head over to Pinch of Yum you will find she has used this amazing creamy cauliflower sauce in bunches of recipes and has even written an e-cookbook highlighting 30 of them. If you’re interested you can check it out by clicking the link below.
This is just my version of her recipe. I pre-cooked the quinoa before layering it into the casserole dish. I saw some recipes that you actually just put uncooked quinoa in the casserole, and it just cooks in the oven. That would probably work with this too, and cut a prep step! I will have to try it! If you have done that please leave a comment below!
I cooked the quinoa, garlic, cauliflower and broccoli all in the same pot (just not at the same time) to save dishes. I have found that the longer you cook the cauliflower the less you taste the cauliflower, so I boiled mine for about 20 minutes. You do need a blender or food processor to make the sauce smooth.
I also didn’t want the broccoli to overcook in the oven, so I blanched it (aka boiled it for about a min), and stirred it into the casserole for the last five minutes of baking/broiling the cheese on top.
So there ya go… I am just another person trying to find her path in this world. Trying to do what’s best for my family. Trying to find balance. Trying to make yummy AND healthy food to feed my family. Thanks for being here. Thanks for the encouragement, love, and support. I am seriously overwhelmed. What a lucky girl.
- 2 cups well rinsed quinoa
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1 cup of milk
- 1 cup of cheese (I used a 3 cheddar blend)
- ¼ cup grated parmesan
- 1½ lbs boneless/skinless chicken breasts
- salt and pepper
- fresh or dried thyme
- garlic powder
- cayenne powder (optional)
- 1 broccoli crown, cut into florets
- additional cheese for sprinkling on top
- Boil the chicken stock
- Stir in the quinoa, bring back to a boil, reduce heat and cover, and cook until all the liquid is absorbed- about 15-20 minutes. Put in a large bowl and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 375°.
- Cook the garlic in the olive oil in the same pot that you used for the quinoa. Just 30 seconds or so until fragrant. Do not burn. Pour garlic and oil into bowl of blender or food processor.
- Boil water in the same pot. Cook the cauliflower for 20 minutes.
- Scoop the cauliflower out of the boiling water with a slotted spoon into the blender or food processor, leaving the boiling water in the pot.
- Add the milk and cheese to the cauliflower and puree until very smooth. Add more milk if necessary to make it creamy. Taste and season with salt as needed. Set aside.
- Prep the chicken by cutting into bite sized chunks and seasoning with salt and pepper, thyme, cayenne (sparingly) and garlic powder.
- Thoroughly butter or oil a 9x13 casserole dish. Layer the quinoa, chicken, and sauce in two layers in the dish.
- Bake for 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked. Stir halfway through cooking time.
- While it bakes, blanch the broccoli florets in the reserved water. Cook for 1-2 minutes until just barely tender.
- Take casserole out of the oven, stir in the broccoli, top with cheese and broil for 5 minutes to brown the cheese.
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