Chicken Fajita Spaghetti Squash Bowl
Keto, Gluten Free, Dairy Free
My grandparents were first generation German poultry farmers from Ohio and my mom, who was raised on the farm, often talks about what it was like growing up. In the spring, they would receive thousands of young turkeys and baby chickens on their 78 acres that they would mature and process to sell before the cold winter months.
I am fascinated to hear about how my mom, her brother and their parents ran this business with no additional help. They grew wheat and corn to feed their pigs and cows and made and sold butter and cheese that their milk cows produced. My grandmother baked with the grains grown on the farm and very little, if anything, was purchased at market.
This was not an easy life by any means, but to be almost entirely self sufficient definitely helped bond them together and created a sense of responsibility and structure.
When I was growing up, not surprisingly, we ate a lot of chicken and as far as I can remember, it was mostly cooked as skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts. Quite frankly, this was my mom’s favorite part of the bird. Her usual technique was to season the chicken and sear the skin side then roast skin side up until well-done.
The result was crispy skin, rendered of fat, and fully cooked white meat chicken breast. She would usually serve it with some vegetables or other side and I remember squirting sweet BBQ sauce on the plate to run the chicken through to provide moisture and flavor.
Thinking back to those years, I rarely recall ever having chicken thighs or other dark meat chicken. It was always the breast and always bone-in, which my mom would say was more economical and provided more flavor.
There is definitely a personal preference most people have either for white or dark meat and it makes me wonder if it has to do with how they were brought up and what their parents preferred or cooked for them as kids.
I believe there is a common misconception regarding the difference between white and dark chicken parts and that many assume that the breast is healthier while the dark meat is higher in fat and is not as good for you.
This is one of those fact vs. fiction food topics I love to talk about from the perspective of someone who has learned to appreciate and prefer legs and thighs over the breasts I grew up with.
The truth is that yes, chicken thighs are higher in fat content but this fat is monounsaturated fat, the good kind, like what’s found in avocados and olive oil. These fats can reduce cholesterol, lower your risk of heart disease and cancer and can actually even promote weight loss by increasing your metabolic rate which specifically helps you to burn stomach fat faster.
Health attributes aside, chicken thighs also are far cheaper than white meat, have better flavor and are more tender than their counterpart. They’re also much more forgiving and versatile and can withstand longer cooking times without drying out. There’s a reason I used to douse my white meat in BBQ sauce as a kid.
In this recipe, I’m going to use spaghetti squash. This winter squash is high in dietary fiber which aids in digestion and is a good source of beta carotene, vitamins A and C and minerals that are good for bone health.
This particular squash offers many applications of use as when cooked/roasted, the flesh becomes a similar texture/appearance as noodles. It’s a great way to low carb or keto a pasta dish with a lower calorie and healthier alternative.
This recipe is just the tip of the spaghetti squash iceberg as its universe of use is infinite. Try this one out and then use your imagination and creativity to explore variations using an array of other ingredients like tomato bases or meat sauces, salsas or even Thai noodle flavor profiles.
- 1 spaghetti squash – halved
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs – large dice
- 1 ½ tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp chile powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground pepper
- 2 limes – juiced
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion – sliced
- 3 cloves garlic – minced
- 1 green pepper – cut into strips
- 1 red pepper – cut into strips
- 1 medium tomato – cored, seeded – diced
- 1 avocado – diced
- 3 green onions, green part – sliced
Set oven to 400.
Rub the flesh side of the squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the squash flesh/flat side down on the parchment paper. Set your timer for 50 minutes and place the sheet tray in the oven.
Add the chicken, cumin, chile powder, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper and 1 Tbsp olive oil to a bowl. Mix thoroughly, cover and place in the fridge for a half hour to marinate.
In a large saute pan on medium heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Add the sliced onion and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the marinated chicken and increase the heat to medium/high. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the chicken is slightly caramelized and fully cooked. Add the strips of peppers and a sprinkle of salt and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato and remove from heat.
When the timer goes off, check the squash by inserting a fork through the top of the flesh. If the fork easily penetrates, the squash is done.
Carefully turn the squash over and using a fork, scrap the flesh of the squash starting from the middle outwards to the sides. You basically are “fluffing’ the squash flesh here to resemble noodles. It will also help the vegetable to cool off enough to consume.
Spoon half the chicken and pepper mixture on top of the squash and garnish with the cubes of avocado and green onion.
I’m already thinking of a Pad Thai spaghetti squash bowl for my next adventure!