A creamy sauce makes this dish seem slightly decadent, but using low-fat ingredients and serving it over a bed of steamed broccoli provides a healthful alternative to pasta.
Who doesn’t like a creamy cheesy sauce over just about anything? Many of us shun the indulgence to avoid excess fat and calories. This recipe provides a lighter version of a classic sauce and makes it even healthier by serving it over vegetables instead of noodles or rice.
½ pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
½ pound cleaned and trimmed broccoli cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil
¼ cup finely chopped onion
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp grainy mustard
2 cups lowfat (1%) milk
1 cup grated white cheddar
½ tsp dried tarragon
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried basil
¼ tsp salt plus more to taste
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper plus more to taste
Cooking the chicken separately keeps it moist. You can also do this step ahead of time or use leftovers.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl or ramekin mix together the last five ingredients crushing the spices with your fingers to mix. Place chicken breasts in a baking dish and coat with 1 tsp of olive oil. Sprinkle spice mixture over the chicken and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until just barely done.
While the chicken is baking, wash and chop the broccoli and place it in a microwaveable glass bowl. Cover the bowl with a plate and microwave until the broccoli is tender but still crisp, about 5 minutes. (Never microwave in plastic or use plastic wrap to cover food you are microwaving. The heat can cause some plastics to break down and leach into your food. As an alternative, you can steam the broccoli, but microwaving preserves more of the nutrients.) Divide between two bowls.
When chicken is just barely cooked through, remove from oven and allow to rest. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
Start with a basic béchamel sauce and build in your flavor
To a large skillet over medium-high heat add butter and olive oil. (Butter has fewer calories and more flavor than olive oil, but combining the two minimizes saturated fat. The recipe can also be made with all butter or all oil.) When the butter is melted and bubbling add the chopped onion. Sautee until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add flour and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until mixture turns golden brown. It will be clumpy. Whisking constantly, slowly add the milk and allow the sauce to come to a boil. The clumps will dissolve and the sauce will thicken. If it’s too thick add more milk; too thin, more flour.
Whisk in mustard. Whisk in grated cheddar. When the cheese is just melted add the chicken until warmed through and coated in sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings. Pour over broccoli and enjoy!
For added flavor, top the dish with a little fresh pesto (store bought will also work) and hot pepper flakes.
To the bowl of a small food processor add:
1 large garlic clove
2 cups fresh basil leaves (packed, washed and stems removed)
1/3 cup walnuts
½ cup grated parmesan
Pulse mixture until all ingredients are chopped and mixed. With the blade running, slowly drizzle in 1/3 to ½ cup good quality olive oil until the mixture is the desired consistency. Pesto is traditionally made with pine nuts, which are delicious if you want to splurge (they’re expensive).
Each serving (without pesto) contains approximately 590 calories, 19 g fat, 124 mg cholesterol, 742 mg sodium, and 30 g carbohydrate. This dish is high in protein (47 g, 94% DV), Vitamin A (25% DV), Vitamin C (138% DV), and calcium (35% DV).
*Percentage of Daily Values (DV) based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.