Paleo Nacho Casserole

This nacho casserole is packed with delicious Mexican flavours and a ton of vegetables. It’s perfect if you’re looking for a healthier way to satisfy your craving for nachos, and you can load it up with plenty of toppings, including salsa, avocado, and green onion. I considered calling this recipe “Not-yo’ Typical Casserole” but decided that was a bit much…

I made this casserole on one of the last days of the Whole30. Although I don’t plan on sticking to a completely Paleo diet now that the Whole30 is over, I was inspired by a recipe for Paleo Spaghetti Squash Casserole, created by Alysia at Slim Sanity, and wanted to create a similar version with a Mexican twist! This recipe is a great meal prep option if you make it at the start of the week. I had three exams this past week, so I made the casserole on the weekend and ate it over the course of several busy days of studying. It’s easy to get into a pattern of unhealthy eating when you’re stressed during exams. Having a pre-made dinner in my fridge is helpful because it makes it less likely that I’ll go grab some take-out when I want to get back to studying quickly.

Spaghetti squash provides the bulk of the casserole. This squash is great because you can eat a large serving without adding a ton of extra calories. It also has a nice neutral flavour so you can enjoy it with different sauces or spice mixtures. For this recipe, the squash is mixed with taco-seasoned ground chicken, red pepper, onion, spinach, cherry tomatoes, olives, and a little salsa. I’d recommend choosing a squash that is on the smaller side – around 1-1.2 kg – so each bite has a balance of different flavours rather than being overpowered by squash.

If you want to keep this recipe paleo, you’ll have to find a sugar-free salsa. The salsa I’ve been using lately is this one by Herdez – I was surprised when I found it at the grocery store because it’s not full of additives like a lot of other salsas and it still tastes amazing! The only ingredients are tomatoes, onions, serrano peppers, salt, and cilantro.

When you’re making this recipe, there are a few different components to prepare before everything gets mixed together and spread into a casserole dish. The spaghetti squash has to bake, the veggies need to be sauteed, and the ground chicken needs to be cooked. I recommend using three pieces of cookware to prepare everything: a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish, one large pot, and a large frying pan.

Begin by preparing the spaghetti squash and putting it in the oven at 375°. Although a spaghetti squash can be baked whole, it saves cooking time if you cut it in half first. But I’m not going to lie, this can be a bit of a struggle. Usually I get my knife stuck in the squash and then I’m left trying to yank it out sword-in-the-stone style. Not ideal. I told my housemate the other day that if I ever get a cooking-related injury it’s probably going to be when I’m trying to cut a squash in half. So, that being said, be careful! Use a sharp knife and go slowly. I’ve had a bit more success starting at one of the ends and cutting it open from there. Also, if anyone has any hacks for easily splitting a squash in two, please share!

Once you’ve got the squash open, scoop out the seeds, drizzle it with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake the squash in the oven in the casserole dish with the fleshy side down (in the picture below I’ve just flipped it over after removing it from the oven.

While the squash is baking, you can prepare and cook the other ingredients – stir fry the veggies and spices in the large pot, and stir fry the chicken in the frying pan until brown.

After 40-45 minutes, the spaghetti squash will be cooked and you can remove it from the oven. At this point, add the chicken and squash to the big pot with the vegetables, plus an egg and some salsa, and mix everything to combine. I actually don’t have a giant pot in my student house because there aren’t too many occasions where my housemates or I need to make a large recipe. So instead of mixing all the ingredients together in a pot, I used a large bowl to combine everything before baking. Then, pour the mixture into a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish (the one that was already used to cook the squash), and bake at 400° for 15 minutes.

When the casserole came out of the oven I topped it with green onion and added some avocado and salsa to each serving.

Pin for later:

Paleo Nacho Casserole

Print Recipe
Paleo Nacho Casserole
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Toppings:
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Toppings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Cut open the spaghetti squash lengthwise, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the squash face-down in a 9x13 inch casserole dish.
  2. Bake the squash in the oven for 40-45 minutes, until a fork goes through it easily. While the squash is baking, prepare the other ingredients.
  3. Heat a small amount of cooking oil in a frying pan. Add the ground chicken, and stir fry on medium heat until brown - about 15 minutes. When the meat is cooked, add taco seasoning and stir to coat.
  4. Heat cooking oil in a large pot. Add garlic and onion, and stir fry over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add red pepper and all spices and continue stir frying for a few more minutes, until the pepper begins to soften.
  6. Add black olives, cherry tomatoes, and spinach. Stir until the spinach begins to wilt. Remove from heat.
  7. When spaghetti squash is cooked, remove from the oven, and turn the oven temperature up to 400° F. Using a fork, scrape the flesh of the squash into a bowl.
  8. Put the spaghetti squash, chicken, salsa, and egg into the large pot with the cooked vegetables. Mix well until all ingredients are combined.
  9. Pour the mixture into the 9x11 inch casserole dish used to cook the squash. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. When the casserole comes out of the oven, top with green onion, and serve with avocado and salsa.

Turkey and Sweet Potato Pasta Sauce

This hearty pasta sauce is packed full of veggies, and will keep you full well past dinner time, with turkey for protein and sweet potato for some extra carbs and nutrients. It’s a perfect addition to spiralized zucchini, and it’s gluten-free, dairy-free and paleo. 

 This sauce is one of my favourite recipes I’ve created so far. Not only is it an amazing way to add more veggies into my diet, but I can make it at the start of the week and usually get 4 or more meals from it. It’s fairly easy to throw together – just chop all the veggies first, then everything except the spices and tomatoes go in a pot to stir fry until the turkey has browned, and then you add the tomatoes and spices and simmer until the sweet potato is soft.

My favourite ways to enjoy this sauce:

  1. On top of spiralized zucchini (zucchini noodles or “zoodles” as I like to refer to them). I used to be a bit of a pasta addict. It was my go-to meal during second year, and although it was delicious, eating it in large quantities was not doing great things to my body. After I decided to stop eating gluten because it was contributing to a lot of inflammation, I replaced my usual spaghetti with zoodles and was surprised to find that I was equally satisfied! Maybe I’m just a sucker for something you have to twirl up before you eat. Zoodles are great because you can add a lot of bulk to your meal without a ton of extra calories. This sauce is perfect for zoodles because the sweet potato provides a source of carbs, which you don’t get as much of when using zoodles instead of pasta. I use the OXO Good Grip Hand Held Spiralizer to make my zoodles, which I’ve found works well for zucchini – I haven’t tried it using other veggies.

  2. On top of gluten-free pasta. This is a more traditional use for pasta sauce, and it is definitely delicious! Catelli makes excellent gluten-free noodles. Pictured below is my sauce on top of Catelli’s gluten-free fusilli.

One thing that’s great about this sauce is that it tastes delicious cold (at least I think so) so I can take it to campus for lunch, and don’t have to worry about finding a microwave to heat it up.

Monday Eats

Zoodles and this pasta sauce were the way I ended my day today, but my other two meals were also very delicious.

Breakfast

Scrambled eggs with yellow pepper, onion, and homemade salsa; roasted potatoes; tomato slices.

I made some salsa at the start of the week in my food processor from a recipe I found online, and although it was edible, it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for.  So next week I’m going to experiment more to try and develop my own salsa recipe! I like making my own salsa because salsas from stores often contain a lot of salt. My skin is really sensitive to the amount of salt I put in my body, so I like to reduce sodium whenever possible.

Lunch

Salad with roasted chicken, chopped Granny Smith apple, cucumber, celery, and lettuce. Topped with apple cider vinegar for dressing.

Before I left campus after my last class, I went to the gym and did a full-body circuit workout. I’ve been experimenting with Tabata-style workouts lately; today’s workout consisted of three circuits made up of 4 exercises in each circuit. Each circuit had a specific focus (lower body, upper body, abs), and combined a variety of bodyweight, cardio, and free weight moves. I’ll be posting some of my favourite circuit workouts soon!

I definitely had a large helping of sauce on top of my zoodles to refuel after my challenging workout!

Print Recipe
Turkey and Sweet Potato Pasta Sauce
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a large pot. Add onion and garlic, and cook for 1-2 minutes on medium heat.
  2. Add celery, carrot, sweet potato, and ground turkey. Stir with a spatula to combine the vegetables and break up the turkey. Continue stir-frying until the turkey has browned (about 15 minutes).
  3. Add crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, and basil. Stir to combine.
  4. Bring the sauce to a simmer and turn the heat down to low. Continue to simmer the sauce until the sweet potato has softened (approximately 30-45 minutes).