Eat Good Food – Creamy Pesto Chicken: Paleo-Friendly and Gluten-Free

Creamy Pesto Chicken from Making it Sweet

I was never one to eat too much processed food. I cook most of our meals from scratch and make my kids’ lunches. You could say that we are a “pretty healthy” family. We still ate out —  hitting up Costco for an oh-so-delicious-and-cheap hot dog when we’re running errands or indulging in a California burrito because, why not? 

My husband has always struggled with his weight, even when we tried to eat healthy as a family.  I thought  the culprit was the quantity of what he consumed. Yes, calories do count — especially when you’re eating the “wrong” foods. There are many people who don’t count calories but still maintain a healthy weight and are seemingly healthy overall. What’s the difference? It’s all about food choices.

Now, I don’t claim to be an expert in this field, but I know that eating chemically-injected / lab-created foods can’t be good for you. I fully believe in God’s providence, that He put everything we need on this earth to nourish and heal ourselves— including the foods that we eat. So what does that mean, exactly? I’m talking about edible stuff that comes out of the grown (fruits and vegetables) and meat that hasn’t had stuff injected into them. 

A few months ago my husband and I went on a 30-day challenge to reduce our sugar intake and pretty much go paleo.  The rules: no artificial or refined sugar, no alcohol or sugary beverages, no “bad” oils, no dairy, no bread, limit fruits (especially high-sugar fruits), eat more veggies, eat organic meats… I’m sure there were more rules but you can see there were a lot of foods to avoid. It definitely was a challenge since I had to change the way I cook. The results were eye-opening. We have never felt and looked better — I’m talking about the bags under my eyes and my complexion. The weight loss was a benefit, too! 

Cooking Food Within “The Rules”

Adhering to this challenge, I went to the ever-so-trusty Pinterest to find great recipes that fit these requirements and came up with my own using several recipes as inspiration. One in particular is this creamy—yes, creamy—pesto chicken on top of spaghetti squash. The cream doesn’t come from dairy but instead uses raw cashews. I made my pesto from fresh basil (store-bought pesto has cheese) and used spaghetti squash in place of pasta.

Fresh basil and pine nuts ready to blend

A change of lifestyle requires a new perspective. Spaghetti squash does NOT taste like pasta, nor does it have the same texture. But it is neutral in flavor and gives you a good base to soak up sauce. Plus, you’ll feel good that you’re putting something healthy in your body instead of processed food. The sauce is the star here, so the chicken and the squash is just something to fill you up. 

This recipe does take some time to prep but it comes together quickly in the end.  To make the cream sauce, you need to soak 1 cup of raw cashews in water for about two hours. I just add enough water to cover a little over the top of the cashews. If you don’t have a high-powered blender (like a NutriBullet) soaking it for longer or even overnight will help.

After the cashews have softened, add them (water and all) to a high-powered blender along with garlic and nutritional yeast and blend. You might want to add a little more water if you feel that it needs to be creamier.

This needs a little more water but it’s getting there!

Nutritional yeast is pretty vital here in making the sauce taste almost cheesy.  You can find it in health food stores or order it on Amazon by clicking the photo below.

Once you have the squash all these sauces ready, the rest is easy. Cook the chicken, add the sauces, throw in some tomatoes, and add it on top of the spaghetti squash and you’re done! It’s delicious and kid-approved (I used gluten-free pasta for the kids). You don’t have to say what it’s a made of or how healthy it is — they won’t be able to tell the difference!

Creamy Pesto Chicken
Serves 4
Creamy pesto chicken over spaghetti squash that's paleo-friendly and gluten-free
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Prep Time
2 hr 15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Prep Time
2 hr 15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 Medium Spaghetti Squash
  2. 2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
  3. 1 Roma Tomato diced
  4. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
For the Cream Sauce
  1. 1 Cup of Raw Cashews
  2. 2 Cloves of Garlic
  3. 2 Tbsp. Nutritional Yeast
  4. Water
For the Pesto
  1. 1 Cup Fresh Basil
  2. 1 Heaping Tablespoon of Pine Nuts
  3. 1 Clove Garlic
  4. 1 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast
  5. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  6. Salt and Pepper to Taste
Bake the Spaghetti Squash
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Slice the spaghetti squash horizontally to make 1-inch rings
  3. Lay squash rings in one layer and drizzle with olive oil
  4. Bake for 30 minutes
  5. Allow to cool (about 15-20 minutes) then peel off the skin and shred into "noodles"
Make the Cream Sauce
  1. Place raw cashews in a bowl and add just enough water to cover the nuts.
  2. Soak for 2 hours (or more)
  3. Place the cashews with the water, garlic, and nutritional yeast in a high-powered blender (like a NutriBullet)
  4. Blend then add a little more water, salt or nutritional yeast if needed.
Make the Pesto
  1. Place basil, garlic, pine nuts, nutritional yeast and salt and pepper in a food processor.
  2. Run the food processor and add olive oil until it comes together. It shouldn't be runny, but thick enough that it holds a little shape on a spoon.
Cook the Chicken
  1. Salt and pepper the chicken breasts on both sides and cook on medium in a large pan.
  2. Cooking times will vary but it would be about 5-7 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of the breast.
  3. Remove chicken from pan and cover it with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 5 minutes then chop into 1x2 inch pieces.
  4. Put the pan on low and add the cream and pesto sauces. Add the chicken pieces and stir to combine. Allow sauce and chicken to heat through and add salt and pepper to taste. Add the tomato right before serving.
  5. Plate the spaghetti squash and top with the chicken and cream sauce. Garnish with chopped fresh basil if desired.
Notes
  1. To save time, bake the spaghetti squash while you put together the sauces.
Making it Sweet http://www.makingitsweet.com/
So how is it going for us now? Well, sad to say, after the challenge we fell of the wagon  — but not completely. We’ve definitely reduced our sugar and have been making better food choices (except for that one time we were obsessed with Jack in the Box tacos).  Our bodies are craving to go back on this lifestyle and I think Lent is a great time to start!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links where I get a tiny (I mean tiny) commission off any sales. Thanks for your support if you click-through! 

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