The number one thing I focus on when I'm putting together my meal plan is: TIME.
Faster is better for this mama. Less time in the kitchen is a win!
I also think about...
How many pans will I have to use to make this recipe?
How will I distract my kids long enough for me to get food on the table?
Does this recipe support my health, my goals, and my kids?
Are my kids going to eat this?
All of these questions run through my brain as I'm putting together my family's meals and while I'm searching for new recipes to try. One of the biggest things that helps me make homemade meals easier is my food prep day. That's the hour or two I spend on the weekend prepping things ahead of time so that when I'm home with the kids by myself and we're all hungry and irritable I can whip up a meal in no time and we can get on with our night.
This casserole is one of this make-ahead meals that you will appreciate! If you prep it all in advance then all you'll need to do is pop it in the oven for about 30-45 minutes and dinner will be on the table without much work on your part. You're welcome!
Chicken & Broccoli Casserole
2 cups chicken, cooked and shredded (see note below on how to use your slow cooker or Instant Pot to easily cook a few chicken breasts)
1/2 Tbsp avocado oil
1 large head broccoli, cut into florets
8 oz bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced (I like to use jarred minced garlic to save time)
2 cups chicken broth
1/8 cup starch (corn or potato starch will work)
1/2 cup heavy cream (or full-fat canned coconut milk to make dairy-free)
1 Tbsp spicy brown mustard
1 Tbsp dried Italian seasoning
Sea salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1) Preheat oven to 400*F. Add broccoli florets to a large, rimmed baking dish and toss in avocado oil. Roast broccoli in the oven for 15 minutes.
2) While the broccoli is roasting, heat a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the chopped bacon to the pan and brown, stirring to break up the pieces as they cook. Once the bacon has browned, scoop the pieces out with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate.
3) Leave about 1 Tbsp of bacon grease in the pan and discard the rest (I like to keep my bacon grease in a jar to cook with later on). Lower the heat to medium, add the onion and garlic to the pan. Cook onion for a couple minutes until it becomes translucent.
4) Measure the broth and stir in the starch to dissolve. Pour the broth into the pan along with the cream, mustard, and seasonings. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the sauce thickens.
5) After the broccoli has roasted, remove the baking dish from the oven. Add to the broccoli the cooked chicken and sauce, toss together. Sprinkle on top the cooked bacon. (At this point you can cover the baking dish and keep in the refrigerator if you are prepping this for another day.)
6) Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until heated through.
*Ways to cook chicken ahead of time:
-Instant Pot: add chicken breasts to pot along with 1 cup of water. Set the pot to 'Manual' for 10 minutes. Allow to naturally release. Shred or chop after chicken is fully cooked.
-Slow cooker: add chicken breasts and 1 cup of water to the slow cooker pot. Set to high for 3 hours or to low for 6 hours.
-Oven: place chicken on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake in a 350*F oven for 30-35 minutes, until the center of the chicken breast reaches 165*F.
-Boil: add chicken breasts to a pot of water and cook over high heat and bring water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until center of the chicken reaches 165*F.