Healthy Southwestern Chicken Spaghetti Casserole


Happy Hump Day, everyone!

Tomorrow marks the first day of May, which equates to the beginning of swimsuit season in my brain. Here in Austin, we started the week of with temperatures above 90 that had me longing for the pool, and I realized that for the first time in my short 24-year-long (or short, I guess) life, I’m SO PUMPED to go bikini shopping. I might actually go this Friday. Coincidentally, the first few party barge/boat party invites have started to circulate, and I’m not worried about buying a cover-up to hide under. The fact that I have self-confidence WITHOUT having to drink a ton before I feel comfortable in a bikini is kind of a big deal to me. I’d say it’s an unbeatable feeling.

All of that aside, I’m still keeping up with my morning weight sessions and evening HIIT sessions at boot camp because they’re my favorite parts of the day — not because I’m obsessing over how I’ll look in a swimsuit a month from now. I think I’m finally at my “happy weight” in terms of what the scale says, but I still want to grow more muscle (just because I love lifting and feeling strong). Took me a year to get where I am today, but I’m sure as hell not stopping now. :o) I upped my weights this week, and I’ve been more diligent about writing down what I’m going to do before I set foot in the gym to keep myself on track during my workout. (Seriously a major, major help if you’re easily distracted like I am.)

Since I’m not as focused on losing weight these days and have upped my training significantly, I feel like I’m constantly eating. The irony of this is that when I was 50 pounds heavier, I stayed away from food as much as possible (then went on massive binges, usually over the weekend — terrible for my metabolism). Here’s a visual comparison, and keep in mind that the girl in the left picture was trying to eat less than 1500cal/day:

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The girl on the right (who finally has some ab and oblique definition coming along — slowly) eats about 2300cal/day and loves every last bite, as you can see. (Cinnamon raisin Ezekiel English Muffins are the bomb. I can eat them in about 4 bites.)

I feel like my appetite has skyrocketed since I started lifting, so I eat when I’m hungry, but my waistline hasn’t expanded. Food is fuel, plain and simple. If you’re active, you need more of the good things instead of abstaining from calories in general.

Another fun thing that I’ve been doing over the last few weeks: helping friends and fellow campers with weekly meal prep! I’ve been spending hours (pretty much all day Saturday and Sunday) of my weekends helping others cook their food for the week, and let me tell you: ZERO part of me misses lounging around on the couch for hours at a time. I have too much energy for that, and I’d rather spend my “free time” helping other people anyway. Last week, I added a few new items to the weekly menu, and this recipe is an absolute hit. I made this on a whim for dinner a while back (had leftover brown rice noodles from my Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo experiment) and was pleased, but what was even better was eating it for lunch throughout the week. It holds together VERY well, and it’s super easy to throw together in a casserole dish during meal prep over the weekend. You can even make it in bulk and freeze it!

Southwestern Chicken Spaghetti Casserole

Nutritional Overview (for 1/6 of recipe):

Calories: 303
Fat: 7
Carbs: 32
Protein: 27

Serves: 6
Cook time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 20oz shredded chicken (I used leftovers from a ginormous batch of my slow-cooker salsa chicken)
  • 5oz brown rice pasta, dry measure (I used Tinkyada brand, found at HEB/Whole Foods)
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1 pkg Pacific Natural Cream of Chicken Condensed Soup (or 1 1/2 cups of another condensed soup)
  • 1/2 cup fat free shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup 2% Mexican shredded cheese
  • 1 Poblano pepper, stem and insides removed
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped white onion
  • 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin
  • Low-sodium Lawry’s seasoning salt, to taste (I used about 1.5 tsp)
  • Crushed black pepper, to taste (I used about 1.5 tsp)
  • Optional: 1/2 can black beans (not included in nutritional information)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray or grease a 3qt. baking dish (9″x13″)
  2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook your pasta for about 7-9 minutes, then drain
  3. Set aside 1/4 cup of the Mexican shredded cheese. Combine all remaining ingredients into a large bowl and mix well
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  4. Transfer to your baking dish and top with reserved shredded cheese
  5. Bake for 25 minutes.
    20140430-130357.jpg

This is perfect as a meal on its own, or you could pair it with some roasted broccoli to add an extra serving of vegetables. After last weekend, I have what seems like an endless supply of this, my Zucchini Lasagna, and my Broccoli Chicken Quinoa Casserole stocked in my fridge. I’m a happy, happy camper.

I think I’m going to try to get one more recipe posted this week. A make-ahead breakfast casserole, maybe? Perhaps a dessert. I haven’t decided yet. What do you guys want to see more of? Feel free to let me know in a comment!

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