Spinach, Artichoke, and Chicken Spaghetti Squash Bake

This was one of those meals that sort of crept up on me, when I was considering what I had around the kitchen that needed to be used up (how many times have I said THAT before??). To be totally honest, I was kind of scared it would be terrible! But, the dinner gods smiled down upon me, and it was actually damn good. I can absolutely see myself making this again… maybe even as a side dish for a holiday. I am a huge, huge fan of spinach artichoke dip, and this definitely satisified that craving, while actually being pretty light! Magic, I tell you.

Spinach, Artichoke, and Chicken Spaghetti Squash Bake

Spinach Artichoke and Chicken Spaghetti Squash Bake
serves 6 generously

2 medium spaghetti squash
6 ounces whipped cream cheese
6 ounces 2% plain greek yogurt
10 ounce package frozen spinach
1 can artichoke hearts, drained well and chopped
1 pound chicken, cooked and diced
2 cloves garlic, grated
4 ounces monterey jack, grated
kosher salt
black pepper

Spinach, Artichoke, and Chicken Spaghetti Squash Bake

1.) Preheat your oven to 350°, and then start by dealing with your spaghetti squash. Cut off the stem, and then cut the squash in half lengthwise if you can; if you can’t without feeling like you’re going to lose a finger (or several), go ahead and bake that sucker whole. If you manage to get them cut in half, scrape out the seeds, place the halves cut-side down on a baking sheet, and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until fork tender. (If you’re baking them whole, you’re probably going to need 60-90 minutes, depending on how large they are. When they’re softened and they’ve slumped a bit, pull them out, let them cool until you can handle them, and then cut them in half and scoop out the seeds.)

2.) While your squash bakes, you can make your spinach and artichoke mixture. Defrost the spinach in the microwave; allow it to cool, and then squeeze ALLLLL the water out (you should end up with a clump of spinach that’s pretty dry to the touch, and slightly smaller than a baseball).

3.) Add the spinach, chopped artichokes, chopped chicken, whipped cream cheese, greek yogurt, grated garlic, and about 1/2 teaspoon each of kosher salt and pepper to a bowl. Mix with a rubber spatula until everything is combined.

4.) When your squash is done roasting, leave your oven at 350°. Let the squash cool for a few minutes; then, take a fork and scrape out all the “spaghetti.” Put all the squash into another bowl, and season with a couple healthy pinches of salt and pepper. Toss the strands with tongs so that it all ends up evenly seasoned.

Spinach, Artichoke, and Chicken Spaghetti Squash Bake

5.) At this point, I chose to layer my squash and spinach artichoke mixture; I was concerned that trying to mix it all together would result in the squash getting all broken up and mushy. Feel free to give that a shot if you’d like, and let me know how it goes! Anyways, spray a large baking dish with cooking spray. Spread half the squash out on the bottom of the dish; top that with half the spinach artichoke mixture, then the second half of the squash, then the rest of the spinach artichoke mixture. Top the entire thing with the grated monterey jack, and bake for about 30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and browned (you can always pass it under the broiler at the end if your cheese needs some help browning).

Spinach, Artichoke, and Chicken Spaghetti Squash Bake

6.) Let the dish stand for a few minutes so it sets a bit, then dig in and enjoy!

Spinach, Artichoke, and Chicken Spaghetti Squash Bake

Now, listen… I am not one of those people that’s going to try and insist that spaghetti squash is JUST LIKE spaghetti! You’ll hardly know the difference! That is crap, and we all know it. However, spaghetti squash IS super neutral in flavor… so it’s a great vehicle for other, most interesting flavors. This dish is nice and creamy and cheesy – but it’s also STUFFED FULL of vegetables (and lots of protein, between the chicken and greek yogurt). So you can enjoy the hell out of it, and still feel smug and self-righteous because you just consumed, like, THREE servings of vegetables. BOOM.

Why are spaghetti squash SO DAMN HARD to cut???
Tina

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Sausage Dressing with Pistachios and Blueberries

Of all the traditional Thanksgiving foods, I’ve gotta say that stuffing or dressing is my least favorite. It’s usually a little soggy, the flavors aren’t super exciting, and there’s not a lot of texture to it. When I decided I wanted to try to make a dressing that I DID like, I knew I’d have my work cut out for me; I wanted LOTS of flavor, and I wanted the texture to be just a little custard-y on the inside.

I’ll be honest, I’m the one who came up with it, and this flavor combination seemed a little odd even to ME, at first! But, I’m glad I trusted my instincts and went for it, because the combination of the spicy sausage and the sweet blueberries was really interesting, and delicious. I hope you enjoy it, too!

 Sausage Dressing with Pistachios and Blueberries

Sausage Dressing with Pistachios and Blueberries
serves 4-6 as a side (can easily be doubled)

8oz high quality bread, stale, cut into 1″ cubes*
8oz hot Italian sausage
one medium sweet onion, diced
3oz dried blueberries
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3oz shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
2oz feta cheese
3 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 cup + 2 Tbps chicken stock, divided
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 egg
olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper

 Sausage Dressing with Pistachios and Blueberries

*your bread cubes should be pretty dry and crusty. If they’re not, spread them out onto a baking sheet and pop them into a 250° oven for about 20-30 minutes to dry them out. Let the bread cool before continuing.

 Sausage Dressing with Pistachios and Blueberries

1.) Preheat your oven to 350°. Heat a couple teaspoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, and add your Italian sausage. Brown the sausage, crumbling it as you go. Add the onion, and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes.

2.) Add the dried blueberries to the skillet, along with a good pinch each of salt and pepper. Stir everything together, and then add two tablespoons of chicken stock and one tablespoon apple cider vinegar to deglaze the pan; use a wooden spoon to scrape all the browned bits up from the bottom of the skillet. Continue cooking until most of the liquid is gone (the blueberries should reconstitute and plump up just a bit).

 Sausage Dressing with Pistachios and Blueberries

3.) Whisk together the heavy cream, one cup of chicken stock, the egg, and a good pinch each of salt and pepper. Set aside.

4.) Put the bread cubes into a large bowl, and top with the sausage mixture. Pour in half the chicken stock mixture, and stir to combine everything so that the bread is evenly moistened.

 Sausage Dressing with Pistachios and Blueberries

5.) Add the pistachios, parsley, and feta; pour in the rest of the chicken stock mixture, and stir again. Pour everything into a baking dish sprayed with non-stick or olive oil spray, and spread it into an even layer.

6.) Cover the dish with foil, and bake for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove the foil, bump the oven temp to 375°, and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until the top of the dressing is a deep golden brown.

 Sausage Dressing with Pistachios and Blueberries

7.) Allow the dressing to set for about ten minutes, and serve.

I tell you what, this dressing is big on flavor AND texture. Crispy, crunchy bread, chewy, spicy sausage, the little pops of sweetness from the blueberries… and let’s not forget the roasty, salty, crunch from the pistachios. I think you could add it to your Thanksgiving table, right alongside the traditional stuffing, if you wanted to; it’s such a different flavor profile, and it would be a nice addition to the more classic Thanksgiving dishes.

 Sausage Dressing with Pistachios and Blueberries

Alright, I’ve got (at least) one more recipe coming your way, hopefully tomorrow… a delicious and easy non-traditional dessert!

The best part about this dressing is that it never saw the inside of a bird,
Tina

Holiday Recipe Roundup!

Well, friends, the holiday season is upon us! And by “holiday season”, you know I really mean “eating season” – so, put on some elastic-waist pants, grab a big blanket to wrap yourself up with, and let’s get to work making your Thanksgiving menu, shall we?

After more than two years of posting recipes to the blog, we’ve got QUITE the collection of dishes to round out your holiday meal. You won’t find much in the way of sweet potatoes topped with mini marshmallows, or how to prep and roast a giant turkey (I’m more of a ham girl, myself), but you WILL find plenty of delicious recipes that will add something new and fun to your meal (when all else fails? Sprinkle your dish with pomegranate seeds! Festive!). I’ve broken this (gigantic) list down into several categories: Salads, Sides, and Desserts. A good amount of them are quick and easy to make, most will impress the hell out of your friends and family, and ALL of them are delicious. Feel free to send me the leftovers of any of the following:

Salads:

Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pomegranate and Fried Goat Cheese

Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pomegranate and Fried Goat Cheese

Lemony Kale Salad with Dried Cranberries and Pepitas

strawberry spinach salad with poppyseed onion dressing

Strawberry Spinach Salad with Poppy Seed Vidalia Dressing

Beet Salad with Honey Goat Cheese Vinaigrette

Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Honey Dijon Vinaigrette

Honey Goat Cheese Salad Dressing

Ina’s Ranch Dressing

Side Dishes:

Honey Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Pistachios and Dried Cranberries

Honey Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pistachios and Dried Cranberries

Maple Mustard Brussels Sprouts

Honey Balsamic Carrots

Spicy Corn with Feta and Lime

Spicy Corn with Feta and Lime

Creamy Mashed Potatoes

Smoky Parmesan Roasted Potatoes

Mustard Roasted Potatoes

balsamic roasted potatoes.

Balsamic Roasted Potatoes

Sweet Potato, Pecan, and Dried Cherry Salad

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Chutney Vinaigrette

Cauliflower Fritters with Smoked Greek Yogurt and Pomegranate Seeds

Cauliflower Fritters with Smoked Greek Yogurt and Pomegranate Seeds

Cauliflower Gratin with Gruyere and Parmesan

Green Beans with Whole Grain Mustard Vinaigrette

Bacon Wrapped Green Bean Bundles

Green Beans with Orange, Goat Cheese, and Pomegranate Seeds

Green Beans with Orange, Goat Cheese, and Pomegranate Seeds

Bacon Creamed Corn

Beer and Chile Macaroni and Cheese

Four Cheese Baked Macaroni

Four Cheese Baked Macaroni

Desserts:

Classic Pecan Pie

Pecan Pie

Cider Mill Donut Bread Pudding

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Cream Cheese Filling

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Cream Cheese Filling

Classic Cheesecake with a Gingersnap Crust

Nutella Rugelach

Ginger Pear Hand Pies

Ginger Pear Hand Pies (you could absolutely use apples instead of pears, if you wanted to!)

Devil’s Food Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream

Finished cakes, with a slightly prettier caramel drizzle.

Finished cakes, with a slightly prettier caramel drizzle.

Mini Salted Caramel Icebox Cakes

Chocolate Cakes with Cream Cheese Filling

Coconut Cream Pie

Brownie Sandwiches with Salted Caramel Buttercream

Chocolate Pots de Creme

no-bake nutella cheesecakes.

No-Bake Nutella Cheesecakes

I am going to TRY to get a couple more Thanksgiving (or Thanksgivukkah, or other holiday) worthy recipes up on the blog over the weekend/early next week… but I can’t promise anything, as I might find myself too busy “taste testing” the desserts I’m making for all our Thanksgiving gatherings to get to the computer. I mean, do you think someone ELSE is going to test the Pumpkin Whoopie Pies to make sure they’re not poisonous?? No ma’am, it’s all on my shoulders. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.

I hope you’ve found something that looks delicious enough to add to your holiday meal, and I hope your holiday weekend is filled with tasty feasts, and stretchy waistbands.

Bring on the pecan pie and mashed potatoes,
Tina

Beer and Chile Macaroni and Cheese

I’m just going to start out by saying that you’re going to want to serve this macaroni and cheese as a part of your Thanksgiving meal, so go ahead and write it on your menu right now. It’s okay, I’ll wait.

Okay, great. I’m glad you agree that this macaroni and cheese is DEFINITELY holiday-worthy. It’s also the-in-laws-are-coming-for-dinner worthy, or rainy-Saturday-watching-football worthy, or birthday-dinner worthy. This macaroni and cheese is perfect for any day, any occasion, and I advise that you make it often.

Beer and Chile Macaroni and Cheese

One of my favorite parts about this mac and cheese? That it doesn’t require making a roux, and waiting 100 hours for your sauce to thicken. No matter how many times I make cheese sauces, I frequently have issues – the cheese separates and the sauce breaks, the sauce never quite thickens up right, the sauce thickens TOO MUCH, etc – and it was FABULOUS to not have to worry about all that. Definitely another tally mark in the “Pro” column.

Beer and Chile Macaroni and Cheese
serves 6-8

1lb macaroni noodles, cooked just shy of al dente
1 cup heavy cream
8oz beer
8oz cream cheese
6oz cheddar cheese, grated
6oz smoked gouda, grated (divided)
1 heaping tablespoon chile salsa*
heaping 1/2 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
olive oil

*Let’s briefly discuss the chile salsa. I bought this salsa a while back, and despite its rather steep price tag, I would buy it again, a million times over. I use just the tiniest bit in all kinds of applications – mixed with some greek yogurt to top a baked potato, spread thinly on top of the cream cheese on a bagel, smeared onto a sandwich. The little hint of heat and smoke it adds to any dish is fantastic. I’d highly recommend it. HOWEVER: if you don’t have this particular salsa, and have no desire to acquire it, here are some alternatives for this particular dish:

– one minced chipotle pepper (with sauce), plus a teaspoon of smoked paprika
– any good, smoky salsa (preferably one with a less chunky texture), drained of its liquid
– one teaspoon each smoked paprika and chile powder plus a 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1.) Preheat your oven to 375°, and put your pasta water on to boil. Meanwhile, add your heavy cream, beer, and cream cheese to a large, heavy-bottomed pot, and place it over medium-low heat. Whisk occasionally as the mixture heats, until the cream cheese is well-combined with the cream and beer.

2.) Salt your pasta water well, and get your noodles cooking. Be careful not to overcook them; you want them to have a bit more bite than you want them to have in the final, baked dish.

Beer and Chile Macaroni and Cheese

3.) Add the onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and chile salsa to the cream mixture. Whisk to combine everything. Then, add all the grated cheddar and all of the gouda, save for a small handful (set that small handful of gouda aside for the topping). Whisk until the cheese is melted and you have a smooth, even sauce. Turn the heat down to low.

Beer and Chile Macaroni and Cheese

4.) Drain your pasta, and add it to the cheese sauce. Stir until all the noodles are coated.

Beer and Chile Macaroni and Cheese

5.) Pour your macaroni and cheese into a baking dish (9×13-ish is fine). Sprinkle the panko and the reserved gouda over the top of the macaroni, and lightly mist or drizzle with olive oil. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are just browned, and everything is warmed through. (Don’t over-bake this dish! It will dry out, and be slightly less delicious, and that will be sad.)

If you can manage not to go back for seconds and thirds of this stuff, then you are a stronger person than I am. The cheese sauce is SO flavorful and creamy; the chile salsa adds a perfect spice, without being too hot or overbearing, and it works beautifully with the smoky gouda. I will certainly never, ever, ever turn down a bowl of regular old mac and cheese – but this version takes mac and cheese to a whole new place. You should go there.

Beer and Chile Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is a traditional Thanksgiving dish, right?
Tina