smokey sweet potato & chicken soup

Soup season is fiiiiiiiiiinally here! I couldn’t be more thrilled, although I’m sure y’all caught on to that already.

So, let’s talk. I’m the first to admit that even in the hottest, most humid parts of summer, I will crave soup. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember. There’s just something that speaks to my soul about a bowl brimming with seasoned broth, emanating the most wonderful aromas. It’s divine.

So now that autumn has hit our quiet little town with full force {the leaves on the tree in our front yard have all fallen down, completely!} it’s time to embrace the heartier, more substantial side of the soup spectrum. Root vegetables, beans and squash find their way into my concoctions way more frequently than they do in the summer months – but that’s what this season is all about, no?

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This soup should be the way everyone welcomes autumn. Pulling out your largest stock pots and preparing to simmer a hearty mixture of vibrant sweet potatoes and a mixture of beans, this will stick to your ribs and leave you feeling full and satisfied, but not weighed down. You’re going to get a great mix of vitamins and nutrients from the vegetables we’re using here, plus a protein boost from the shredded chicken. It comes together quickly, and in just one pot {!}, making it a perfect weeknight meal.

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Smokey Sweet Potato & Chicken Soup {recipe adapted from The Gouda Life}

Easily adaptable to whatever root vegetables and beans you have on hand, this soup makes the perfect weeknight dinner. It’s filling but won’t leave you feeling stuffed. Made even more wonderful when topped with some roasted seeds {pumpkin or sunflower would be great here} and drizzled with a bit of creme fraiche, this is truly a one-pot wonder. I’d recommend making a double batch, if you’re feeling up to it – this freezes beautifully and defrosts easily. 

Ingredients:

olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 large sweet potato, diced small {skins on or off}

3-4 cups cooked chicken, pulled or cut into slices

1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 tsp. paprika {sweet or smoked}

1 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. oregano

4 cups low-sodium chicken stock

salt and pepper, to taste

optional: 1 cup of your favorite greens {arugula, spinach, kale, or mustard greens would be ideal in here}

To Prepare:

Drizzle a large pot with a few glugs of olive oil, and turn the heat on to medium.

Add in the diced onion and sweat for 5 minutes, making sure to season with salt and pepper.

Add in the garlic, sweet potato, chicken, beans, and spices and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer {I covered the pot to trap in all the delicious steam, preventing evaporation of liquid. It may reach a boil if you do this, so don’t stray too far from the pot!}.

Let cook for about 15 minutes, or until the sweet potato has softened. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. If opting to stir in the greens, do it now and let them merry with the soup for about 1 minute.

Ladle the soup into bowls, and be sure to serve with toasted bread!

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Let’s Discuss: what are some of your favorite seasonal soups to make? Do you reserve soup for the cooler months only, or enjoy it year round?

hot & sweet baked chicken wings

Chicken wings. Everyone loves ’em, myself included.

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BUT! One of my biggest issues with this delicious indulgence is that it veers slightly {ok, a lot} on the unhealthy side. I’ll be the first to agree with “everything in moderation” and “it’s ok to indulge once in awhile” but what is a girl to do smack-dab in the middle of football season, when wings abound at almost every game gathering?

Rather than spending my time mulling over the loss of eating wings, I decided to come up with my own! Easy or not, it’s always fun for me to come up with healthier recipes on more indulgent treats. Y’all should know that by now.

And let me tell you, this wings are a WINNER. Every time I’ve made these beauties, there is not one scrap of a leftover. They are THAT GOOD {the emphasis of caps is totally necessary for these, I’m not joking}. The flavor of the sauce, both sweet and hot, permeates down to the core of these wings, making every bite as delicious as the one prior. The exterior remains crispy, due to the high heat of baking {no frying here!},yett the meat itself is so perfectly moist and tender. These are to.die.for.

But be forewarned! – if you show up at a party with these, don’t expect to get away attending your next one without a batch or two. Your friends might not let you through the door.

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Hot & Sweet Baked Chicken Wings

the perfect balance of spicy and sweet, these beauties are sure to please! & because we’re baking them in high heat for a long period of time, these are guaranteed to come out perfectly moist and delicious – every single time. 

Ingredients: marinade can be mixed and used to soak the chicken before cooking; I suggest a good 3-4 hours for maximum flavor absorption

2 large packages (anywhere from 2-3 lbs. & will be about 12 pieces) of bone-in, skin-on chicken wings {make sure you look for the ones that have the wing tip connected to the actual arm of the bird!)

1-1/2 cups Frank’s Original Hot Sauce

1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce

1/2 to 1 tsp. ground ginger, or to taste

drizzle of honey, optional

To Prepare:

If you have pre-marinated your chicken , remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before preheating the oven to allow them to remove some of the chill. This helps the wings to cook more evenly. 

In a large measuring cup, combine the 1-1/2 cups of Frank’s Original Hot Sauce, 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce, ground ginger, and optional honey. Whisk well to combine, and set aside.

Remove the chicken from its packaging and pat dry, making sure to remove any excess moisture. Add all pieces into a large mixing bowl, and pour in the marinade. Toss to coat, making sure every nook of the wings are coated. I really like to get in there, and just use my hands to do the mixing; it’s up to you! {just make sure to wash your hands really well}

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Prepare your baking trays – along the bottom and sides of a rimmed baking sheet, line generously with heavy duty aluminum foil. Place a cooling rack directly atop the foil, and spray generously with cooking spray. Repeat with the second baking sheet, and set aside.

Evenly disperse your chicken wings among the two baking sheets. Should you have any extra marinade left, make sure to drizzle on top of the wings!

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Bake for anywhere from 60-75 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken {at its thickest point} reads 165.

Serve with slices of crunchy vegetables {celery, carrots, etc} and blue cheese dressing!

Let’s Discuss: what are some of your favorite wing flavors? Do you like sweet, savory, zingy, or any other combination?

let’s talk…fritattas!

A little bit of this…a pinch of that…fold in the contents of that tupperware…

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We’ve all been there, and I wholeheartedly believe it’s not a bad place to be! We’re talking “leftovers night” today, dears! Sometimes, and I would be the first to say I have them more often than I care to admit, you get home from work and all you want to do is throw yourself on the couch, switch on the TV,and veg out. But there’s that nagging feeling called dinner, and it’s pulling you towards the kitchen gut first. Rather than turn to the phone and order {yet again!} your take-out of choice, let’s peruse the fridge, shall we?

…and so begins the story of how this meal came about. The hubs and I had entertained a few nights prior, and after a long day of work, were staring into the fridge. I was {gasp!!} not really in the mood to whip up a full meal, but rather quickly throw together what we had left over – some roasted chicken, leftover roasted veggies, and some greek-yogurt based spinach and artichoke dip. A half-used box of egg whites {remaining from cocktails at said gathering} stared back at me, standing tall and proud next to a few lonely farm eggs. And that…that!…is when the light bulb went off.

FRITATTAS!

How much simpler can it get? A quick toss of ingredients into my trusty sautese pan, whisking up some eggs, letting it set on the stove, and finishing off in the oven. Dinner’s done, just like that!

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And the beauty of this dish, dears, is that you can seriously use whatever you have on hand. Leftover steak? Toss it in with a little crumbled cheese and herbs, and you’ve got a fun twist on a Philly sandwich. Basket brimming with veggies? Make it a meatless dinner! The only thing to remember is season well – from there, you really can’t go wrong.

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Classic Fritatta

{serves 4 for dinner, 6 for a brunch-style dining experience}

remember that this is just a basis to follow…feel free to swap out ingredients as needed. Whatever you have on hand, and whatever flavor combinations you like, will certainly work perfectly!

Ingredients:

2 large farm fresh eggs

6-8 egg whites

salt and pepper, to taste

extra virgin olive oil {to coat the pan}

assorted herbs – I love to use fresh parsley, rosemary, and basil….but honestly, whatever you have on hand and what flavor combination{s} you like will work fabulously

assortment of meats, cheeses, and vegetables {for this particular recipe, I used leftover shredded chicken, sauteed spinach and artichoke with Greek yogurt, and leftover roasted asparagus/brussel sprouts/cauliflower}

 

To Make:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees, and place rack in the center of the oven.

Generously coat a large non-stick skillet with extra virgin olive oil and place over a burner on medium heat. Gradually bring up to temperature {you’ll notice the oil start to ripple and spatter  – that’s how you know it’s ready}.

Begin by adding in your vegetables and saute for several minutes, until they begin to soften slightly but still retain a bit of snap. Fold in your choice of herbs and/or sauce {in my case, the spinach/artichoke dip I had kicking around the refrigerator}. Bring to temperature, then add in any meats. Cook until heated through. Reduce the heat to medium low.

In an appropriately sized bowl, whisk together your eggs and egg whites. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then gently pour over the sauteed vegetable/meat mixture in your skillet. Allow to sit for one to two minutes, then gingerly use your spatula to “pull” the egg mixture towards the center of the pan – I do this at four or five different edges around the pan. Just make sure to keep your ingredients evenly distributed throughout the fritatta! Cook for another few minutes, until you start seeing the edges of the egg mixture pull away from the sides of the skillet.

Transfer to your preheated oven. Cook for 15  minutes, or until the top of the fritatta just begins to look set. Remove from the oven and cut into wedges. Serve warm, with crusty French bread drizzled with olive oil.

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Leftovers will keep several days in the refrigerator, and it reheats best when done in slow increments. 

chicken divan

First and foremost, wishing the happiest of Mother’s Day to all you wonderful mothers out there – and especially to my own Momma : ) It goes without saying that I wouldn’t be here today, doing {& cooking!} what I love, if it wasn’t for her constant encouragement!

With that being said, I thought it would be most appropriate to dedicate a recipe, albeit a favorite one of my mom’s, here in honor of her.

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Chicken Divan is one of those meals that, for me at least, holds wonderful memories of my childhood. We were allowed on our birthday, each year, to pick out whatever meal and dessert that we wanted, and my mom would whip it up for dinner. It was fabulous – and I always, without a doubt, chose this meal. I kid you not when I say that I requested this at least 5 or 6 years in a row…it’s just that good. Because honestly, is there a better combination of chicken/brocooli/cheese/cream sauce that you can think of? I should think not, especially when it’s made just for you.

Flash forward some 15 odd years or so later; this meal is still one of my favorites. It always seemed so labor intensive when I was younger, but with several years of copious kitchen time under my belt, this particular meal is actually fairly easy to throw together. A “one dish” casserole meal, if you prefer.

But, because it’s me, I’ve made it a little bit more laborious than its traditional counterpart {but only by a few minutes or so, I promise!}. This is still easy to make after a long day of work, even if you choose to make the sauce I’ve dictated out below. We all know by now that I love a good and healthy tofu-based sauce, so I’ve gone ahead and replaced the traditional sauce {condensed soup, sour cream, and milk} with a thick and creamy sauce of tofu, sauteed onions/garlic, and bountiful herbs. With its luxurious mouth feel, it beautifully coats each piece of chicken and broccoli in this casserole, and blends so delightfully with the bed of rice you serve this atop of.

Go ahead and give this dish a try – not to toot my own horn here, dears….but this is definitely a “winner winner, chicken dinner.”

xx

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Chicken Divan

Ingredients:

1 lb. organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts {fully cooked and shredded}

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large head of broccoli, blanched {or keep it easy and use a steamer bag – I adore these}

14 oz. firm tofu*

1/4 to 1/2 C. low sodium chicken stock

1 C. bread crumbs

grated cheese, to suit your taste {I go between 1 to 1-1/2 cups}

extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

dried herbs…such as rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano, etc. {optional}

Rice, or your pasta of choice, for serving

 

To Prepare:

Precook the chicken

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum {to ensure easy clean up} and place chicken atop. Drizzle liberally with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn to the other side, and with clean hands, season the other side. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear. Set aside to cool, then shred using your hands or forks when it is cool enough to handle. Set aside.

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Keep oven temperature at 375 degrees.

Prepare the sauce

Set a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Drizzle with a turn or two of olive oil, and when hot enough {the oil will ripple and spatter slightly} add in the garlic and onions. Season with salt and pepper  and cook until the onions become translucent and the garlic has rendered out some of its spicy notes.

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Drain and cube up your firm tofu, and place into the base of a large food processor {I have a 14 cup…talk about a great wedding present!}. Add in the sauteed onion/garlic mixture, chicken stock {starting with a 1/4 cup and adding in more only as necessary} and begin to process. Let it initially go for 3-5 minutes, then remove the lid and scrape down the sides. Taste and adjust for seasoning – salt and pepper is a must, and sometimes I like to crush up some dried herbs and add in for another layer of flavor. Let the mixture process together for another 3-5 minutes. You want your resulting sauce to be extremely creamy and free of lumps.

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Build the casserole

Spray a 9 x 13 glass casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Spread a thin layer of the white sauce on the bottom of the dish, then layer in the chicken and broccoli. Add in the remaining sauce {feel free to give it a good swirl in the dish, allowing for the sauce to coat all sides of the chicken and broccoli, and get into the nooks and crannies}. Sprinkle with cheese and bread crumbs, then drizzle with olive oil to help it crisp up.

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Cook for 25-30 minutes, or until the edges begin to bubble and the top is a beautiful golden brown.

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Serve atop rice or your favorite pasta alternative! I’ve had great success using my trusty spaghetti squash “pasta” as well.

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*next time, I may double the amount of tofu, so that there is a bit more of the sauce throughout the casserole. Feel free to adjust, suiting to your taste and preference!

chicken pho

Yes, yes, I know – we’re halfway through April, and I have the audacity to post yet another soup recipe.

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But friends, I just couldn’t help myself. You see, there is something about pho {pronounced ‘fuh’} that keeps me coming back, time and time again. I love it. I would go as far to say that I would eat it once a week…because, frankly, I have been doing so for at least the past two months. I never tire of it.

Some of you may be asking yourself – “What is pho?”

Dating back to the early 20th century, pho is a noodle-based soup laced with meat and herbs, a popular street food in Vietnam. Often made to eat for breakfast, it’s typically made with rare-cooked strips of beef. A lesser common version replaces lean white chicken breast for the beef, a swap that I am more than happy with. Other meaty additions you might find in pho include tripe, meatballs, pork, and…innards. To each his own, right?

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What really makes this bowl of awesome stand apart from its more traditional “chicken noodle soup” brothers and sisters is the rich and complex broth. Marrying flavors together – we’re talking charred onions and roasted ginger, star anise and coriander, fennel and cloves – is truly what makes this stand far off and superior from any other soup that I have yet to taste. Slowly cooked and steeped together for hours, the flavor is truly unmatched. Please, I beseech you, please take the time to make the broth from scratch. Even if you just do it one time, you will not regret it {if you’re really planning ahead, make the broth one day and the soup the next – I often find it helpful to batch cook and spread the workload out}.

A savory “toppings bar”, if you’ll humor me, is the crowning glory to the chicken pho. As you finalize your broth and finish cooking off the noodles, you’l want to lay out your fresh herbs, citrus wedges, sauces {both spicy and sweet!}, and your tender pieces of cooked chicken. For me, the perfect bowl is a heaping mound of ramen noodles, a generous handful of the meaty chicken, then almost gluttonous amounts of snap peas, bean sprouts, slivered onion, and two or three large wedges of ripe lime. If I’m feeling particularly edgy, I may even thrown in a squirt or two of that silly red rooster, the infamous Sriracha sauce that we all know and love.

This soup is fully customize-able, so go to town when you build your bowl! Just make sure to enjoy the aromatics when cooking and eating, because it is honestly unlike anything else you’ll ever experience. I promise.

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Chicken Pho

{adapted, minimally, from Smitten Kitchen – previously adapted from Vietnamese Home Cooking}

{serves 6}

IngredientsBroth
2 unpeeled yellow onions, quartered
Three 1/2-inch-thick slices of unpeeled fresh ginger, smashed
4 quarts cold water
3 pounds chicken bones or chicken wings {Iused a mix of chicken legs and chicken breasts, it was what I had on hand}
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 pound dried ramen noodles

*I added in a large bag, probably about 1 lb., of dried shiitake mushrooms*

Additional spices include coriander, cinnamon, star anise, fennel, black cardamoms,and cloves

Garnishes
1 large scallion, thinly sliced
1 pound mung bean sprouts {my grocery store hasn’t stocked these over the winter, so I used sugar snap peas}
1/2 cup torn basil leaves, Thai basil if you can find it
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
2 limes, cut into wedges
2 jalapeños, thinly sliced
Asian chili-garlic sauce {I set out Sriracha}
Hoisin sauce {I set out soy sauce}

Char onions and ginger:

Heat the oven to 400°F. Put the onions and ginger on a lightly oiled baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, or until softened and lightly browned. {If you have a gas range, just char them a bit over a flame. It would save a lot of time.}

Cook the chicken:

Fill a large stockpot with the water and bring to a boil. Add the roasted onions and ginger, dried shiitake mushrooms, and the chicken bones or wings, salt, and sugar and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to moderate and simmer until the chicken is cooked, about 30 minutes.

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Remove the chicken and finish the broth: Using tongs, transfer the chicken legs and breasts to a plate and let cool slightly. Remove the meat from the bones and refrigerate. Return the skin and bones to the stockpot and simmer for 2 hours longer. Strain the chicken broth into a large soup pot and cook over high heat until reduced to 12 cups, about 15 minutes.

Prepare noodles:

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add in the noodles, then add them to the saucepan and boil over high heat until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain well. Divide the noodles between 6 large bowls and sprinkle with the scallion.

Finish and serve the soup:

Add the reserved chicken to the broth and simmer until heated through. Ladle the broth and chicken over the noodles. Serve with the bean sprouts, basil, lime wedges, jalapeños, chili-garlic sauce, hoisin sauce and crispy shallots.

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* Note: Phan has you cook the noodles separately in water, so they can be drained and used as needed (this is what I did). I believe he’s concerned about them overcooking in the soup pot. Theoretically, you could of course save time by cooking the noodles in the broth pot while the chicken reheats, however, the noodles are likely to make the broth cloudy, when ideal pho usually has a pristine, clear broth.

 

Do ahead: The broth can be made ahead and refrigerated for two days, a great way to divide up this recipe.

chicken “noodle” casserole

This is classic comfort food right here. I don’t know about y’all, but I am a casserole freak. Ever since I was a little girl, casserole was among the top favorites for me. On our birthdays, my mom always let us pick what we wanted for dinner that night. It was always, always, a no-brainer for me.

Chicken.Noodle.Casserole.

And we’re talking old-school, Campbell’s Soup based casserole. This is not fancy, frilly food by any means. And honestly, I think that is what makes food special. It’s the memory that food evokes, not the expensive ingredients or crazy cookware.

Since I’ve gotten older, chicken noodle casserole still remains a favorite of mine. But as you all know by now, my food brain tends to work in crazy, albeit kooky ways sometimes. And I’m fully okay with that! At this point, I’m sure you all area scratching your heads, thinking “Where is Alicia going with this?” Well, let’s dive in, shall we?

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What makes this casserole so different is the ingredients that go in here. As I’ve talked about here, I discovered spaghetti squash a few years ago, and it made me rethink pasta. I absolutely love using this wondrous gourd in all sorts of “traditional” pasta dishes. And I’ll tell you what, it works fabulously! Once cooked, spaghetti squash takes on a – you guessed it – spaghetti-like texture. I love it. And in a direct comparison to pasta, it totally wins out in the nutritional sense too. Less carbs, more vitamins….what this means for me is that I can enjoy a lot more of the dish and not worry about feeling weighed down or sluggish after it. #winning

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The other star of this dish is the sauce that holds it together. Tofu! Can you believe it? Super protein packed, and it takes on the flavor of whatever you add to it. In this case, we’ll be going heavy on the herbs that pair well with the chicken. I first tried this sauce for my in-laws. When I told them the base of the sauce was tofu, they was amazed. And not to mention, they both loved it.

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This is one crazy casserole. A new, healthier twist on a classic. I promise, y’all won’t be disappointed.

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Chicken “Noodle” Casserole {original recipe, serves 2 with leftover sauce and squash}

…this can easily be doubled!

1 large spaghetti squash, pre-cooked and shredded*

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts

olive oil, to drizzle in the pan
1 large onion, finely diced
2-3 large garlic cloves

1 pack (14 ounces) firm tofu
1/2 C low sodium chicken stock (I like Kitchen Basics)
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 C bread crumbs
1/2 C fresh grated Parmesan cheese

salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, with the rack in the middle of the oven.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and drizzle with olive oil. With clean hands, place chicken breasts in, coating each sides with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Cook for 30-35 minutes, or until the juices run clear. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool.

While chicken is cooking, preheat a large nonstick skillet. Drizzle with olive oil, and set to medium heat. Dice the onions and mince the garlic, and add to the pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and cook until onions are translucent. Once at that stage, cut the heat and move to a cool space on the stovetop.

Drain the excess liquid off the tofu, and cut into cubes (don’t worry about it being precise, this is just to help with the processing). Add to the food processor, along with the sauteed onions and garlic, dried basil, dried oregano, and chicken stock. Pulse until smooth, pausing to scrape down the sides. You want it to have a smooth, silky consistency – similar to a bechemel sauce.

Grease your baking dish (in this case, I used two large ramekins for individual servings. If you don’t have these, an 8×8 or 9×9 glass casserole dish works great for this amount). Spoon a small amount of sauce into the bottom, spreading to coat. Next, layer in the half the chicken (a quarter in each dish), then some of the shredded spaghetti squash. Top with the sauce. Repeat the layering process – the remaining chicken, spaghetti squash, and sauce. Mix the bread crumbs and cheese, and sprinkle evenly over the dish(es). I then like to drizzle a little olive oil on top – it makes for a good crunch!

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the casserole is golden brown on top and bubbly. Serve immediately, ideally with crusty bread for dipping and a glass of white wine.

*to cook the spaghetti squash – preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, and place in a casserole dish. Cook for 60-65 minutes, or until you can insert a fork in without resistance. Let cool, the shred with a fork…making “spaghetti” like strands…and store in the fridge in an airtight container. I like to do this the night before, to help reduce cooking time.