Chicken Casserole with a Paleo Pumpkin Twist

I keep meaning to write a post that is not food related (just to mix things up) but events keep conspiring against me. Last night I arrived home to find that Don was still not home from hunting for the past two days. I had not planned ahead for dinner, foolishly thinking he would be home and he would be handling that. I don’t know what I was thinking. He would have missed a good portion of the day if he had come home that early. So, dinner was on me. And nothing was defrosted. And most of our vegetables were with him. So what was I to do?

Well, I saw this recipe yesterday so I went to the computer and pulled it up again and, as luck would have it, I had everything to make the meal – except a head of cauliflower. The chicken was still frozen so I pulled it out to defrost, took a quick 25 min spin on the stationary bike, then made a quick trip up to the closest grocery store and grabbed a cauliflower. All in all, not a huge delay on getting started and in the end it worked out fine because the casserole came out of the oven just as Don was finished unloading the trailer and coming inside.

It was good. Not mind-blowing. A little light on the flavor for our taste. After I added a little cayenne to my plate and mixed it in, it was better. I had added some red pepper flakes to the cauliflower as I roasted it, thinking that would add a little kick, but I was not sure how it would blend with the pumpkin flavor so I didn’t use much and the flavor really didn’t come through. Other than that, I kept pretty strict to the recipe posted on paleOMG. If Don had been home earlier I would have consulted him on flavor of the sauce and asked him what else we could do to spice it up. Since I was on my own I played it safe. I didn’t want to ruin 1.5 lbs of chicken and waste all the other ingredients.

If you’d like to give this dish a try, here’s what you’ll need. I’m certain you’ll enjoy it, especially if you have stronger culinary instincts than me and can add spices “to flavor” better than me. 🙂

Ingredients (as I used them):

  • 1.5 lbs chicken, cut into bite size pieces
  • spaghetti squash (I used leftovers)
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 15 oz pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 can canned coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 3/4 sweet onion
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Preheat your oven to 425 for roasting the cauliflower. Cut your cauliflower into bite size pieces and drizzle some olive oil on it. Add salt and pepper to taste. (I added some red pepper flakes as an afterthought.)

Place in oven and roast for 25 minutes. I stirred the cauliflower around to help it roast evenly about two or three times.

While the cauliflower does it’s thing, if you need to cook your squash, stab it six or eight times with a knife and place it in the microwave for 6 minutes. Then turn/flip it, and nuke it again for another 6 minutes. You can tell that it’s done if you touch the side and it gives a little. Once cooked, take it out and let it cool enough to touch. Then cut open and remove the squash. For more details and pics, see my recent post for spaghetti squash. I was able to skip this step because I had leftover squash from making spaghetti during the weekend. It was a great way to use up the rest after having eaten spaghetti for four meals in the previous three days.

While your veggies are cooking, chop up your onion and sautee it with a little olive oil and garlic.

Once the onions are nice and tender, add your chicken.

Place a lid over the pan and steam the chicken and onions for about 5 minutes or until the chicken looks mostly cooked through. I let mine go for about 8 minutes. I didn’t want the chicken to be undercooked and the subsequent steps didn’t seem like there would be much more cooking to me.

Next, add the coconut milk, pumpkin, and spices.

Mix together well. I let the sauce simmer for maybe ten minutes to blend the flavors and to give the chicken more chance to cook. It was about this time that Don rolled up in the trailer so I was also stretching out the last few steps so that the dish would not be ready to eat too soon.

In the meantime, the cauliflower had finished roasting so I took it out and let it sit while I reheated my leftover squash.

Next, place the cauliflower into a casserole dish and layer the squash over it.

When you’re satisfied with your chicken and sauce mix, pour it over the top.

Then broil for about 5 minutes. Again, I let mine go for about 7 because I was stretching things.

Take the dish out and let it sit for at least 10 minutes to cool and to let the sauce thicken.

At last, dish up and enjoy!

Vegetables are interesting but lack a sense of purpose when unaccompanied by a good cut of meat. 
~ Fran Lebowitz

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