I keep saying life is going to slow down a little bit and “get back to normal” but I don’t think that’s happening anytime soon. Summer may technically be over with the close of the Labor Day weekend but it’s still hot as hell here and I’m going to take advantage of all the sunshine I can get. There’s lots more tanning to be done, margaritas to be drunk and all the grilled meat to be eaten. But, as always with this time of year, that onset of Fall makes me start to crave those comfort type foods. Every time I go to Costco, which is basically weekly, I cross my fingers that there’s spaghetti squash again but no such luck. And a few weeks back this stranger sitting next to me and my husband at the bar at Farmshop forced us to try a piece of his pizza and it was to die for. I couldn’t tell you the last time I had pizza, and now that’s right up there on my list of food cravings.
However, two weeks ago, I hit the reset button. Summer is basically over, vacations are all in the books, and I signed up for the Crossfit Team Series with my gym buddies. So I decided it was time to get my sh*t back together…until September 21st at least. Then my birthday festivities will ensue, and October 1st will be my 5 year wedding anniversary, so I’ll give myself a little bit of leeway for some well-deserved celebrating. And then I can hit that reset button again. Using the term “reset button” is probably a little misleading because I never felt that bad about deviating from my norm during the summer months. In the time leading up to summer I trained hard, worked hard, sacrificed a ton and felt like I needed to make up for some lost time in the last three months. So I did. I enjoyed myself when I wanted to, and made sure I drank ALL the margaritas I could stand. But let’s be real, my deviations are pretty laughable. I told my girlfriend that one stressful night in Tahoe (that’s a whole other story) I “binged” on granola and almond milk. She looked at me and said “most people binge on things like ice cream and cookies, I think you’re ok.” And she’s right, I’m totally ok, but for me, two bowls of granola is not my norm bahaha. So many excess carbs not being used to fuel my training…I may have topped off my last fun summer weekend with an ice cream cookie sandwich though. Zero nutritional value and probably about a days’ worth of calories but worth every bite while sitting next to my husband on a street bench in the mountain air. If you don’t believe me, check out the picture for proof. When I consistently deviate from my normal diet, whether it’s one day a week, once every two weeks, or consecutive days, I definitely can feel a difference. It’s not outrageous, but I definitely find myself working harder to get the same results and things don’t come as easily as when I’m dialed in. I’m ok with that feeling here and there, but not on a daily basis.
Therefore…back to my point…I’m resetting and pizza is a no-go during my reset period. All that means is I have to find a different way to satisfy that craving for the time being. There’s a million recipes out there for different kinds of spaghetti squash bakes, pizza flavored or not, but everything seems to be loaded with unnecessary ingredients. As always, I try to keep things simple, clean and tasty. I’ve had these frozen artichoke hearts from Trader Joe’s staring at me in my freezer for a while and decided to start there. I love artichoke hearts and I love them on pizza. Great. I had one last red heirloom tomato left from my girlfriend’s mother’s garden. Perfect. I pretty much always have brown crimini mushrooms on hand. Another pizza staple. And a giant container of spinach that needed to be used. Lastly, in my world, I don’t drink my protein because I like to eat it, so this “pizza” is gonna be loaded with chicken thighs. So there you have it. Spinach Artichoke Chicken Pizza Bake. Boom. There is wiggle room for different veggies to be used, and the amount of each ingredient used is really up to you. You can load up your squash threads with tons of spinach and mushroom slices, or you can keep them to a minimum. If you decide you made too much of the veggie mix, save them for tomorrow’s leftovers and make an omelet! And FYI, this was one of those meals that Stevie couldn’t stop saying how good it was while eating (granted I loaded his up with extra cheese, but that’s ok. It’s just as good without it). And when he asks me how I made something I know that means he’s filing away the directions so he can make it at the Firehouse. Winner winner chicken dinner.
Large Spaghetti Squash – Baked and Threaded
Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
1 package TJ’s Frozen Artichoke Hearts (thaw thoroughly and dry before)
4 Large Handfuls Raw Spinach
Sliced Brown Crimini Mushrooms
Red Tomato – Any Sweet Variety
Light Mozzarella Cheese (or full fat if you prefer)
8 Cloves Chopped Garlic
Kosher Salt & Pepper
Garlic & Onion Powder
Red Pepper Flakes – Optional
Bake and thread the spaghetti squash, saving the shells – if possible, do this earlier in the day so that spaghetti squash has time to cool and makes handling much easier. Also a BIG time saver J Set aside the threads and shells for later.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Wash, dry and trim chicken thighs of excess fat. Lightly coat thighs with nonstick olive oil spray or olive oil and season both sides to taste with kosher salt and pepper, onion and garlic powder, and a sprinkle of dried oregano. Brown both sides of the thighs in a cast iron skillet or grill pan. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake in the oven for approximately 10-15 minutes or until cooked through.
Coat a large saucepan with olive oil or non-stick spray. Sautee the chopped garlic until translucent. Roughly chop the artichoke hearts and add to the pan and sautee until slightly browned. Add the sliced mushrooms and continue to sautee until mostly cooked through. Lastly add spinach and sautee until slightly wilted. Season all veggies with salt and pepper.
Remove veggie mix from pan and set aside. Coat pan with additional olive oil or spray and add the spaghetti squash threads. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste. Red pepper flakes are great addition here as well if a bit of heat is desired. Stir continuously until threads are warmed through. Add the veggie mix and combine all ingredients.
Place spaghetti squash shells on a baking sheet, drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil or coat with non-stick olive oil spray. Season the bottom with salt, pepper and a few sprinkles of oregano. Bake shells in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Remove shells and fill with the squash threads and veggie mix.
Layer thin slices of the tomato on top, seasoned with a little salt and pepper. Chop the chicken thighs into bite sized pieces and spread across the tomato slices. Top with 1-2 oz. of the mozzarella cheese depending on dietary preferences. Additional cheese may be layered between the veggie mix and tomatoes if desired. Or divide allotted cheese between the middle and top.
Top with additional red pepper flakes if desired and bake for 15 minutes. Once cheese is thoroughly melted, turn on the broiler for a minute or two brown. Watch closely so it doesn’t burn!
Remove from oven and eat directly from the shells!