Chicken Broccoli Cheese Casserole (Gluten Free)

10/07/2013 update: Tonight’s variation: 4 cups diced turkey breast; white rice; 16 oz baby broccoli florets; 12 oz mixed vegetable (asparagus, corn, and carrot). Cheese sauce: 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan and 1 cup shredded Cheddar Jack; instead of salt and pepper, use 3/4 teaspoon of 7-2-2 seasoning mix (7 parts kosher salt, 2 parts ground black pepper, 2 parts granular garlic). Omit the almonds. Top with 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs. This version is not gluten-free, due to the panko.

12/24/2011 update: Another great combination is chicken, brown rice, 2 bags (10 to 12 oz each) of mixed vegetables (carrot, peas, and corn), and parmesan cheese in the sauce, instead of cheddar. We particularly like the Safeway brand mixed vegetable, 12 oz: Steams In the Bag Blend of Sugar Snap Peas, Whole Baby Carrots, and Whole Baby Cob Corn.

Cook’s notes: Sometimes you need to make comfort food that won’t hurt someone who has food sensitivities. The original recipe noted, “You will seldom find this recipe without condensed soups, but it is very simple to make it gluten-free.” Poaching chicken is also very easy. Use any type of vegetable in this all-in-one dinner. The homemade cheese sauce would be amazing on macaroni or any type of pasta, whether gluten-free or regular.

Before baking

1 large boneless skinless chicken breast (2 halves)
2 cups cooked brown rice (pre-cooked and frozen)
2 bags (10 oz) each of organic broccoli

Cheese sauce:
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons gluten-free all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1.5 cups (12 oz) 1% milk
1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese (6 oz package)

1/2 cup gluten-free bread crumbs
1/4 cup slivered almonds (1 large handful)

Poach the chicken breasts: Place the chicken in a large skillet with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 12 to 14 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink (170 degrees). Drain well. Shred chicken.

While the chicken cooks, microwave the rice. Cook the broccoli in a saucepan with water according to its directions. Do not overcook the broccoli.

Make the cheese sauce: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the flour, salt, and pepper. Cook 2 to 3 minutes until bubbly and foamy. Slowly whisk in the milk, and cook until thickened. Stir in the shredded cheese.

Place the brown rice, chicken, and broccoli in a casserole dish. Gently pour the cheese sauce over the top. Spread the breadcrumbs and slivered almonds over the top.

[make ahead tip: I stopped here, let it cool down, and stored it in a covered pan in the refrigerator overnight.]

When ready to eat, heat oven to 350F. Bake casserole uncovered for about 30 minutes.

Adapted from glutenfreemommy, a great site that appears to be offline (not updated) since 2008