After I graduated from college, life got a whole lot busier. While I still loved to cook, I found that I simply didn’t have time to whip up a whole meal every night or even every other night, as I typically did during undergrad. I eventually settled into a routine of cooking one or two big meals (like a tuna noodle casserole or a pound of spicy peanut noodles) over the weekend and then eating leftovers throughout the week. It could sometimes get a bit monotonous to eat the same thing for days on end, but it was still better than spending money I didn’t really have on take-out.
Things changed, however, after the boyfriend entered the picture. Once we began eating dinner together on a regular basis, gone were the days that I could get five or six dinners out of a pound of pasta. And when life gets crazy nowadays, I sometimes miss that routine (but hopefully it goes without saying that I’m nonetheless glad to have him around!). This past winter, I (finally!) discovered that large casseroles like chicken pot pie or this broccoli cheese potato bake can actually provide two or even three nights of dinners for the two of us!
So while this broccoli cheese potato bake does take a little longer to make (about 1 hour, 15 minutes) than your average pot of spaghetti, if you factor in how many meals you’ll get out of it (and that you won’t have many dishes to wash on leftovers nights), you’re totally coming out ahead, time-wise. Not to mention taste-bud-wise! This dish is basically a thick broccoli cheddar potato soup—hearty and creamy (but no cream needed!)—with some chicken thrown in for protein and topped with hot, fluffy biscuits. It’s got veggies, protein, dairy, and starches all in one pan, so it can stand alone as a meal, but it also pairs nicely with a green salad.
Do you have any time-saving tips or favorite recipes for when you’re pressed for time but still want to cook and eat at home?
- 1 pound chicken breast tenders
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup flour
- 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 1/2 cups milk (I use skim milk)
- 2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
- 2 large broccoli crowns
- 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
- 2 cups flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 2/3 cup milk
- Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the chicken tenders and cook until no longer pink inside, about 12-14 minutes (if you are using frozen chicken tenders). Flip over the tenders halfway through the cooking time. Once cooked, set aside.
- Heat the butter in a stockpot or Dutch oven medium heat until melted. Sauté the onions until tender (5-8 minutes). Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the flour and stir until the onions are coated.
- Add the chicken broth, milk, salt, and pepper to the stockpot and bring to a simmer. Once the liquid is simmering, add the potato cubes and cook until the potatoes can be pierced easily with a fork (about 15 minutes). Make sure to stir and scrape the bottom every couple of minutes so that the potatoes don’t stick! As soon as you add the potatoes, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the other ingredients. Chop the cooked chicken into bite-sized pieces. I recommend removing the tough outer skin from the broccoli with a paring knife, but you can skip this step if you’re not bothered by it. Steam the broccoli in the microwave: to do this, place the broccoli in a heat-safe bowl and add 1/2 – 3/4 cup water. Microwave, covered, for several minutes, until the broccoli is tender. The time will depend on your microwave; mine took about 2 1/2 minutes.
- Once the potatoes are cooked, turn off the heat. Add the cheese and stir until fully incorporated. Stir in the broccoli (I chopped half of the broccoli into smaller pieces, but you can also skip this if you prefer larger pieces) and chicken. Transfer the mixture to an ungreased casserole dish or 9×13 baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes.
- While the filling is baking, mix up the biscuits: combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, measure out the milk and oil into the same measuring cup, then pour the milk and oil into the dry ingredients. Mix until the dry ingredients have been coated and a dough forms. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and gently flatten into rounds.
- After the filling has baked for 15 minutes, remove the casserole dish from the oven. Carefully place the flattened rounds of biscuit dough on top of the filling. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the filling is bubbly and the biscuit tops are slightly golden.