Creamy Pesto Spaghetti Squash with Chicken and Mushrooms (Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Paleo)

Creamy Pesto Spaghetti Squash with Chicken and Mushrooms - Big Eats Tiny Kitchen (Gluten Free, Paleo, Dairy Free)

I’m just going to say it. I really think pasta is SO over rated. Ya! I said it. There.

Is this just me?

When I gave up wheat and gluten over a year and a half ago, a lot of people said “but what about pasta? and bread?” Sure I miss bread, but pasta? Really? I just don’t get it. Unless you slather pasta in cheese or pesto or marinara sauce, it tastes like NOTHING. Think about it. What you really like is the sauce. Right? I’m a huuuuge sauce fan. The french were really onto something there. I could write a novel about my love for amazing sauces, dipping sauces, marinara sauces, cheesy goodness sauces, peanut sauces, mushroom sauces…mmmmmm. The list goes on! But there is no list of noodles. Bleh.

Creamy Pesto Spaghetti Squash with Chicken and Mushrooms - Big Eats Tiny Kitchen (Gluten Free, Paleo, Dairy Free)

Basically, all I need is something to put my sauce on…besides just a spoon.

There are a few awesome and wholesome ways to get your sauciness on without relying on the bland noodle man. Break free from those noodle chains!

Creamy Pesto Spaghetti Squash with Chicken and Mushrooms - Big Eats Tiny Kitchen (Gluten Free, Paleo, Dairy Free)

Creamy Pesto Spaghetti Squash with Chicken and Mushrooms - Big Eats Tiny Kitchen (Gluten Free, Paleo, Dairy Free)

Today we are going to celebrate a little forgotten winter squash…Miss Spaghetti Squash. I don’t think she gets enough props. She works really hard and creates amazing vegetable noodle-like goodness that can be used sooooo many ways. Numero uno is that she is an amazing base for all your SAUCE love. I love that nature has created this amazing and beautiful vegetable that when cooked, the meat of the squash pulls away like noodles. But better. Because there are nutrients in them. NUTRIENTS. VITAMINS. Ya, these may not be the sexiest things, but they are real. And your body will love you for it and give you sexy thighs. Dudes and gals both. These nutrients are sexist. They benefit all.

Creamy Pesto Spaghetti Squash with Chicken and Mushrooms - Big Eats Tiny Kitchen (Gluten Free, Paleo, Dairy Free)

There are a few ways to cook the spaghetti squash. First you can always cut it in half, deseed it, and place it in an oven (cut side down) in a pyrex pan with about an inch of water and let it roast for about 30 to 45 minutes. Another way (and my preferred quick method) is to place the WHOLE squash onto a plate and microwave on high for 10 to 12 minutes (depending on the size of your squash). Remove carefully from the microwave and let it sit until you can handle it and cut it in half. Removing the seeds from method two is a bit more tedious because some of the cooked squash strands tend to hold on to the seeds and come out with it. But method two takes less than half the time of method one, so I prefer it. Do whichever floats your boat. The squash strands easily peel out with a fork and then can be added to whatever dish you choose. You can also put them directly into bowls with some salt and pepper and spoon your desired sauce over them.

Without further delay…drum roll please.

Let’s get SAUCY!

Creamy Pesto Spaghetti Squash with Chicken and Mushrooms - Big Eats Tiny Kitchen
Creamy Pesto Spaghetti Squash with Chicken and Mushrooms – Big Eats Tiny Kitchen

The possibilities are endless now.  I have used spaghetti squash as a base for pad thai and for marinara, but lately I have been craving something more comfy and creamy. I came up with this dairy-free pesto sauce that uses cashew cream as the base. The raw cashews should be soaked for at least 30 minutes in hot water. You will need either a high-speed blender or good food processor to puree the cashews and water into a creamy sauce. Fresh basil and garlic lend an amazing fresh flavor to the creamy base.  I prefer to use either shredded leftover chicken or sautéed chicken sausage, but it can be left out for a vegetarian or vegan meal. Mushrooms add a great meaty texture to the dish too. I have also used sun dried tomatoes and roasted garlic.

This is a pretty quick one pot meal that has quickly been added to the favorites list in our house. I hope you and your thighs enjoy it. 🙂

DSC_0296

Creamy Pesto Spaghetti Squash with Chicken and Mushrooms (Grain Free, Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Paleo-Friendly)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 medium spaghetti squash
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups of fresh basil (additional basil for topping)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced baby bella mushrooms
  • 2 chicken sausage links (sliced) or 1 chicken breast diced and cooked (I used trader joe’s pesto chicken and turkey sausage)

Instructions

  1. Soak cashews in 1 cup of hot water for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Place whole spaghetti squash on a dinner plate in the microwave. Microwave for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from microwave and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Be careful, this puppy will be HOT. Cut in half and remove seeds carefully. After seeds have been discarded, use a fork to separate out the spaghetti-like strands.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender and begin to brown (6 to 8 minutes). Add chicken sausage slices or cooked chicken and warm through. Add spaghetti squash and stir to combine. Lower heat and allow to cook, stirring occasionally.
  4. Meanwhile for the creamy pesto, in the bowl of a food processor (or high speed blender), add soaked cashews and half of soaking liquid. Process on high and blend everything together until mixture is smooth and creamy. Add basil, salt, and red pepper flakes. Blend everything together. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add more water or olive oil to thin to your desired consistency.
  5. Add creamy cashew pesto sauce to the large skillet with the spaghetti squash mixture. Stir until the squash mixture is coated evenly. Serve with additional slivered basil on top.
Advertisements

Basil Chicken Stir Fry

Life.

It is something that we are all given.  With that life, we make choices. With those choices, we affect our life but more importantly, we affect the lives of others.

This weekend was a hard one. My husband’s family suffered a great loss. An unexpected loss at that. Times like these reaffirm my belief that we should always let people know how much they mean to us.

After such a long weekend out of town, we arrived home this afternoon and I was hungry for fresh vegetables. A basic stir fry is the easiest way to use up whatever vegetables you have lingering in your fridge. Feel free to sub any fresh or frozen vegetables that you may have around or in the garden.

Stir Fry Tip Numero Uno – Cut all your veggies up in advance and have everything prepped and ready to go.

Stir Fry Tip Numero Dos – Have a good stir fry sauce recipe.

I have also included my basic stir fry sauce recipe which is adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook. Because we have recently given up soy products, I used coconut aminos in place of soy sauce.  It is available at any natural food grocer or online. This recipe would also taste great with coconut milk and curry. Mmmm.

For other stir fry ideas, check out the Food Matters Project here.

Basil Chicken Stir Fry

Serves 4

Basic Stir Fry Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup raw coconut aminos (or soy sauce)
  • 1/4 water
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Basil Chicken Stir Fry Ingredients:

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons coconut oil (or grapeseed oil)
  • 1 lb chicken breast or thighs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 medium-sized onion, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups of vegetables: bell peppers (cut into 1/4-inch strips),  carrot (cut into thin slices), mushrooms (sliced), kale (chopped), spinach, green beans, cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes, broccoli, etc.
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more depending on desired spiciness)
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, sliced (plus more for topping)
  • sesame seeds (optional)

Instructions

  • Combine stir fry sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a large skillet. Place diced chicken in skillet with half of the stir fry sauce. Cook until browned and cooked through (about 10 minutes). Stir frequently. When cooked through, remove chicken from skillet and place in a separate bowl.
  • In same skillet that the chicken just was removed from, add another tablespoon of coconut oil. Allow to melt (30 seconds). Turn heat to medium-high. Add onions and salt and stir fry for about 2 minutes.
  • Add all other vegetables except leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard) and tomatoes. Stir fry until they begin to get tender. Add tomatoes, leafy greens, and the remaining stir fry sauce to the skillet. Keep the heat medium-high. Stir frequently. The sauce will begin to thicken.
  • Add chicken, red pepper flakes, and basil. Stir until heated through and incorporated. Remove from heat. Top with additional basil and sesame seeds.