Sunday, January 7, 2018

BIG Flavor, Little Cleanup

This weekend was a weekend of one-dish meals.  Friday night, I made Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash Casserole (say that ten times fast), and I have Kusa (with ground turkey) in the oven as I type. I've realized that as time changes, my preferred cooking methods are also changing. Look back five years ago and you'd see my table strewn with three side dishes (usually two veggies and a carb) and a protein. I was the side dish queen, and still favor them in any meal. But now, I'm finding the beauty in less cleanup. Not long ago, I used to wash a minimum of two pots per meal and did so willingly because I knew it was worth the deliciousness I had just experienced. But is that necessary? It's not! Don't get me wrong, I have my evenings when nothing but the full spread will do. It's in my DNA to have plenty of food scattered on tables and enough for people to have seconds or thirds. The latter will never change, but I'm all about finding balance in compact meals. 

Being a personal chef for the last five years and counting, I've learned new ways to incorporate balance in meals while keeping it simple. You'd be surprised how many clients will tell me, "the food was great, but can we have more simple meals?" I remember how bewildered I would be, thinking-- you're hiring a PERSONAL CHEF and you want a casserole?! Yes. That's exactly what they wanted, and as a personal chef it's my job to give them what they want. 

Maybe it's the fact that I'm almost eight months pregnant, or the fact that I have a toddler, but my cooking style is definitely shifting in my day-to-day meal prep. Which is what leads me to the tongue-twister that is the buffalo chicken casserole. It's low-carb, healthy, and full of flavor. If you want to add a carb, you can always crunch some corn tortilla chips on top as well!

Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash Casserole
Servings: 4      Prep-time: 10 minutes      Cook-time: 1 hour

Ingredients:
2 small to medium spaghetti squash
1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 lbs chicken breast, boneless and skinless
3/4c. chicken broth
1 c. buffalo sauce, I used Frank's
1/2 c. ranch dressing
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
8oz mild cheddar or colby jack, finely shredded
2 oz cream cheese
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Steps:
Preheat oven to 400 deg F.
Place chicken breasts in aluminum foil on a baking pan and fold it into a pocket to allow steam to generate. Slice off the stem end of the spaghetti squash's and slice them in half lengthwise. Use a small spoon to scoop out the seeds (be sure to do this PRIOR to baking, as it's a lot easier to do so now then when it's cooked). Drizzle olive oil on each half of the inside spaghetti squash and sprinkle salt and pepper as well. Use your hands to rub each half to ensure seasoning is evenly distributed. 

Place spaghetti squash halves on a second large baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Bake both the chicken and the spaghetti squash for 30 minutes on different shelves in the oven. While that's baking, reserve half the cheese and scallions, then combine the rest of the ingredients into a medium-size mixing bowl. Don't worry about the cream cheese and shredded cheese not being warm, the chicken will warm it up. 

Take the chicken and squash out and lay the chicken aside to rest while you use a fork to empty out the spaghetti squash halves into a large casserole dish. Note: Resting allows the juices to retain back into the meat. Use two forks to shred the chicken and place in the mixing bowl with the sauce. Don't discard the juice that occurred during roasting, pour it in the bowl as well! Combine the ingredients from the bowl with the spaghetti squash in the casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese and scallions, reduce heat to 375 deg F, and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Serve warm with crunched corn tortilla chips and enjoy.