Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai (Sort Of) with Chicken Satay

We are trying to get ourselves back on track after a VERY naughty holiday season…I’m talking Thanksgiving THROUGH the New Year. NAUGHTY!

So this week I’ve been a cooking machine. On Monday, teriyaki shrimp with grilled pineapple, red peppers and broccoli over cauliflower rice. On Tuesday, zucchini noodles and sauteed chard with turkey meatballs and kale pesto. And then last night. Oh, last night! It was DELICIOUS! I made a variation of this recipe that was sort of pad thai, sort of chicken satay salad. I didn’t have tamarind and wasn’t sure I would have the time to make or buy the ingredients…so that is when I veered away from pad thai…and went more towards the Thai peanut sauce I had in the fridge. I also upped the veggie content. Mama needs some green in her din-din. Also, our new nanny is vegetarian so it is challenging me to not only make more strictly vegetarian meals, but meals that can be eaten both vegetarian and high in meat proteins. Always up for a challenge.

  

Ingredients (for four people):

  • 1 large spaghetti squash
  • 2 large carrots
  • four scallions or green onions
  • 1 bag of bean sprouts
  • extra large handful of spinach
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 3 large eggs, whisked
  • about 6-8 chicken tenders
  •  1 package of extra firm tofu
  • Thai Peanut Sauce
  • peanut oil
  • corn starch
  • chopped peanuts
  • cilantro
  • lime wedges

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare all of the ingredients mis en plas prior to cooking as once you start cooking, it will go quickly.

While the oven heats, cut the spaghetti squash lengthwise (stem to stern), scoop out the seeds and innards, cover both sides with olive oil, and sprinkle the insides of the squash with salt and pepper. If you have a dish large enough, you can put them side-by-side, face down in a pan. I don’t, so I put them in two pans. Then add about a 1/4 inch of water to the pan. Depending on your oven, it could take about 30-40 minutes. You’ll know when they are done when you poke at the top and the side collapses a bit. Be wary of the steam when opening the oven. The water makes that first burst of steam VERY hot. [Side note: I used a convection oven so it cut down the time to about 20 minutes.]  [Side note(2): You can do this the night before to save time…spaghetti squash does well in the refrigerator for a few days.]

During the time the spaghetti squash is cooking, prep everything else. Cut your tofu into cubes and sprinkle with about two tablespoons of corn starch. Mix these together and let sit. Skewer the chicken and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Make ribbons of the carrots using a veggie peeler. Roughly chop the spinach. Thinly slice your yellow onion (I used a sprializer to make the process fast and easy). Whisk your eggs. Prepare your green onions by cutting off the white ends and chopping them on the bias…about quarter to half inch pieces. Have everything ready in bowls next to your stove.

This is also a good time to sear the chicken skewers. If you have a grill pan, use it. If not, a shallow pan works best (maybe something you use for pancakes).  Spray the pan with oil and sear both sides of the skewers until both sides are golden brown where it touches the pan and the interior is beginning to turn white. You will put them in the oven to cook through when the spaghetti squash is out.

Put a wok or large pan on the stove on high heat. Set two large bowls to the side of the stove for the cooked food. We’ll do this in steps. When the wok is hot, add a few teaspoons of peanut oil and coat the pan. Add the tofu and cook until all sides are golden brown. Put into the bowl when finished. Keeping the pan hot, add a bit more peanut oil and cook the onions until slightly browned and softened. Add these to the bowl with the tofu when cooked. Add a bit more oil, then pour in the eggs, rolling it around the pan making a thin omelette. My experience had me letting the center “set” a bit instead of continually moving it around the pan. Once it begins to set, cut it with your tongs into small pieces and it will finish cooking quickly. Add this to the bowl on top of the tofu and onions. Turn off the heat for the pan and check the spaghetti squash.

At this point it should be softening. If so, remove the pans from the oven and let them cool while you begin cooking the other veggies. Don’t cook the veggies until the spaghetti squash is ready because you’ll want the veggies warm and don’t want to overcook them. When the spaghetti squash has slightly cooled, drain the water from the pan(s) and turn them over using either a fork or a oven mitt. Using a fork, shred the inside into “noodles.”

Put the seared chicken skewers in the (now dry) pan the spaghetti squash was in and into the hot oven (still at 400 degrees) with the skewer part covered in tinfoil. These will be ready by the time everything else cooks. Use a meat thermometer to double check, though.

Turn the heat back up on the wok and add a splash of peanut oil. Add the carrots, bean sprouts, and green onions to the pan. After a minute or two, turning the veggies often, add the spinach, mixing the spinach in with the rest of the veggies. Add those veggies to the second bowl and set aside. In the hot wok add just a splash more peanut oil, coat the pant, and put the spaghetti squash noodles into the pan in a even layer around the pan. Let them sit for a bit to get some crunch. Stir again and let sit.

While that sits, add three or four tablespoons of the peanut sauce to a bowl and add a splash of hot water to thin out the sauce. Pour some of this sauce around the edge of the pan and mix it into the spaghetti squash. Once well mixed, add all of the other ingredients and stir in the remaining sauce. Check the chicken. Remove when finished

Plate the dish and finish with chopped peanuts, chopped cilantro, and two lime wedges. Drizzle the peanut sauce (not thinned) over the whole plate. Ta da! Enjoy!

 

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Thyme and Lime Chicken with Crispy Leeks and Spaghetti Squash and Kale

I have more thyme than I could ever possibly use. The garden is absolutely being taken over. I use it here and there, normally, but have never cooked a meal that was heavy on the fresh thyme…now was the (wait for it) time (commence groaning now).

In my refrigerator I had chicken that needed to be cooked, a stalk of leek that was just holding on to life and a bunch of dinosaur kale. In my window I had a bag full of persian limes, a small spaghetti squash, a basil plant just screaming to be used and a gorgeous farmer’s market yellow onion.

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The chicken:

  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Thyme
  • 2 or 3 limes
  • Salt/Pepper
  • 1/2 of a thinly sliced leek
  • Grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon of butter

The spaghetti squash and kale:

  • Small to medium spaghetti squash
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • Half of yellow onion
  • The other half of the leek
  • 1/4 cup of red wine (leftover wine is fine)
  • Handful of basil
  • Thyme
  • Feta
  • 1/2 tablespoon of butter

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I knew we wanted to eat early last night (our au pair was going to a concert) so I prepped the chicken and the marinade just after lunch and roasted the spaghetti squash.

After collecting a VERY large handful of thyme and washing it, in a glass bowl I put probably a cup full of thyme and the juice of two limes (three if they are not very juicy).  I added a few tablespoons of grapeseed oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper.

The next step was the slice the chicken into smaller pieces (the better to soak up the marinade in my opinion…and it spreads out the portion so that people can take what they want to eat) and then cut the leek. To thinly slice the leek, cut off the green top, leaving the bottom root intact. Using a very sharp knife and tucked away fingers, cut the leek, from the top into a checkerboard (see picture).

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And THEN cut off the bottom, “rooty” portion. It should fall apart into long, thinly sliced leek. Usually about 3 inches long. If there are any pieces that aren’t cut through, tear them apart with your hands or with a paring knife.

Put the half of the leeks into the bowl with the rest of the marinade, saving the other half for the other part of the meal, and then add the chicken, pushing the chicken into the juice and squishing it into the bottom of the bowl so that all of the chicken got the yummy marinade. Put it in the fridge until you are ready to cook it, about 10 minutes before you want to serve dinner.

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Preheat the oven to 375.

Cut the tail off of the spaghetti squash and then, with a very sharp knife and the squash standing on the cut end allowing for it to be flat, cut the squash lengthwise.

Then clean out the seeds and the wet pulp with a spoon. I sometimes save these seeds to roast and top the meal but today I wasn’t into separating it all out.

Spray or rub the inside of the cleaned out squash  with some olive oil. Get out a cookie sheet and either cover it with parchment paper or a silpat. I used a silpat. You will be putting the squash cut side down on here. But before you do that put a few sprigs of thyme on the inside. The spaghetti squash on its own can be pretty bland. A healthy dose of herbs really does a lot to add flavor…as well as the other ingredients that we will mix in later.

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Place them face down on the cookie sheet and into the over about halfway up. Depending on how soft you want your spaghetti squash, time it from there. I wanted this to be pretty soft…but actually cooked it just a bit too long (40 minutes instead of my usual 30). I got distracted by the kids and so the squash, when I forked it out later, wash more like a mass instead of individual threads. You can tell when it is done by sticking a knife into the skin. If it goes in easily, it is finished. After roasting it looks like this:

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Let the squash cool for about 20 minutes (or longer) before “forking” it. Then using a pot holder to hold the outside of the squash, run a fork through the inside, forming spaghetti like threads. Set this aside.

A few hours later I came back to finish up the meal before our au pair prepared the food for the kids.

I chopped the onions and prepared the kale. The easiest way to do this, I have found, is take the stalk of kale in your hand by the white end and then pull back the towards the green leaf and the kale will separate easily. I then tore the kale into bite size pieces.

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In a 12 inch saute pan, I put a pat of butter. Once hot and slightly browned (YUM!), I added the chopped yellow onion and let that soften. When the onion was close to translucent, I added the kale and the rest of the leeks.

I let this cook down for a bit, until the kale was beginning to wilt. I tore the basil into small pieces (no need to be precise here…it will blend in with the kale) and threw those into the mix. I then added in a splash of red wine (OKAY, okay, I’ll admit it…it was more like a 1/4 cup. No? Alright. 1/2 a cup) to help the kale cook down and offset some of the bitterness.

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I cooked it over low heat until the leaves were bright green and wilted, the onions soft and the wine absorbed.

This is a good time to turn off the greens until you are ready to cook the chicken. While the chicken cooks you will add in the rest of the ingredients.

Pull out another saute pan, big enough to fit all of your chicken with about an inch between the pieces. Heat up a pat of butter in the pan and swirl it around. The chicken has been marinating with grapeseed oil so you don’t need to add more oil to the pan.

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My husband likes his onions, especially leeks, incredibly crispy (and practically burned…much to my chagrin). So I add them in at the beginning with the chicken and cook them at a medium temp. If you want them less crispy, add them a bit later. Save the marinade to pour back over the chicken when you flip. I don’t flip until the first side is browned. As these pieces are smaller than a full chicken breast, they take less time. Keep an eye on them. Also, make sure that you push the cooking chicken and leeks around in the juices.

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While the chicken is cooking, turn the kale mix back on at a low temp and add to it the spaghetti squash and sprinkle on some feta cheese and a splash more of the red wine and a squeeze of lime juice, should you have any left over.

Break up the feta so that it is throughout the dish. Same goes for the spaghetti squash…try to break it up so it isn’t in big clumps. Also, if you see any random thyme stems, pull those out. Nooooot tasty those stems! Taste and see if it needs any more salt. It may. Spaghetti squash can be WAY undersalted.

Let the feta melt, the rest of the dish heat up and all of the yummy goodness to absorb that last splash of wine and lime. As I am completely dependent on my istaread thermometer, when both sides of the chicken are properly browned, pull them off the heat when they reach 160 degrees. I usually test the smallest pieces first and pull them off if they are done before the big guys.

We served in a shallow bowl with the kale and spaghetti squash under the chicken. It was incredibly fragrant and the chicken majorly juicy with the savoriness of the thyme and leeks and the citrus of the lime.  OH! I almost forgot. I felt like it needed a bit of crunch so at the very end I also added a dash of Onion Crunch. Totally finished it right.

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Faux Coq Vin

There is a before and after with this post. Just before we started on the no _____ kick I discovered a new favorite recipe. I didn’t have to change TOO much about it and I really didn’t compromise very much of the taste.

The original Faux Coq Vin is made with pasta. And, honestly, it was freaking DELICIOUS. And I wanted to make it again and again. And that is why I started to move out of my comfort zone health wise.

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Doesn’t that look amazing? Here is the original recipe:

  • Butter
  • White onion
  • Dried mushrooms
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Marjoram
  • Bay leaves (keep track of how many you put in so that you take out the same amount in the end)
  • Chicken stock
  • White wine
  • Hoisin
  • Whole grain dijon

Add olive oil and butter to bottom of Dutch oven over medium/high heat. Once butter melts, add chopped white onion. Lightly salt the onion about halfway to translucency. Meanwhile, cut chicken into similarly sized pieces. Salt and pepper the chicken, lightly season with marjoram, rosemary and thyme. Add hot water to a cup of dried mushrooms (I used porcini). Set aside.

Once onions are ready, move to the sides of the pan and add chicken. Lightly brown one side and flip. Once second side is browned, cover with white wine and chicken stock in a 1:1 ratio. Add parsley, bay leaves, drained mushrooms, hoisin and dijon. 

Turn down and cover (about 10-15 min). Once chicken is cooked through (internal temp of 165) remove from heat. Remove bay leaves. Take out chicken and place on a plate. Use hand mixer to lightly puree sauce. Add instant gravy flour and puree again.
Add rotini to sauce, cover and simmer. 
Bake/toast/warm bread. Once rotini is al dente,  spoon into bowls. Serve.

DEEEEEELISH!

So now I want the same dish, but I don’t want the pasta in it and I want to up the veggie content. What does one do?! SPAGHETTI SQUASH!

Before you start any of the above process, get the spaghetti squash going. Turn the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Clean out the seeds and goopy threads with a spoon. Sprinkle the insides with rosemary, salt and pepper. Place face down in a pyrex pan and add an inch of water. If your spaghetti squash is big, you may need a pyrex pan for each half. Put it in the oven and cook for about 45 minutes (or until the outside of the shell is soft enough that when punctured with a knife, it easily is cut through). Remove from the oven and place both halves on a cutting board. Take a fork and run it through the inside of the squash, making “spaghetti”. Repeat for both halves. Sprinkle with more rosemary. At the point in the recipe above where it says to add the rotini to the sauce? That is when you put the “spaghetti” in the sauce. Let it soak up those yummy, onion-y, mushroom-y juices.