Most of the time, my family prefers simple, plant-based foods. We like beans and vegetables and whole grains, accented by a small something rich, like cheese or meat or homemade bone broth. We appreciate simplicity and humbleness from our meals. Most of the time. Like, 80% of the time.
The other 20% of the time, we want, well, something exactly like this. It's not humble. It's not stylish. It's not a culinary adventure. It's a big, creamy, chicken-y, heartland casserole. (Who am I kidding calling it a "bake." We all know it's a casserole, in all it's 1960's glory.) Give it to us.
And you should try it, too, because it's delicious. And because, despite its indulgent nature, its seemingly impossibly coziness, this creamy casserole dishes out a happy array of whole foods you want in your family's belly: cruciferous veggies (two of 'em!), carrots, celery, onions, full-fat dairy (why?), and 100% whole grains.
Then it's time to dig in...
Chicken-Veggie Quinoa Bake
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 + 1/2 cups cooked chicken, diced
1/2 a large sweet onion
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2-3 celery stalks, chopped
1 cup broccoli florets, chopped small
1 cup cauliflower florets, chopped small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup sour cream
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar (we shred fresh from a block)
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup stock or water
1 cup whole wheat or gluten-free bread crumbs (We make our own from oven-dried Ezekial bread--do try!)
roughly-chopped fresh parsley, to garnish
Preheat the oven to 375.
In a large, deep-sided pan over medium heat, saute celery, onion, and carrots in a swirl of EVOO until they begin to soften, about 7-10 minutes.
Add the garlic, broccoli, and cauliflower to the pan, and cook until the crucifers soften, another five minutes or so.
Stir in the quinoa, chicken, dried herbs, and salt, and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, combine the cheese, sour cream, and stock or water. Whisk, then pour the mixture over the quinoa, stirring well to combine everything.
Spoon the casserole into a baking dish (For one big casserole, try a 9 x 13 dish. I usually make several "personal" casseroles.)
Sprinkle breadcrumbs across the top and bake for 20-30 minutes, until the casserole is bubbling and the breadcrumbs are toasted.
Scatter with parsley and serve immediately.