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school night dinners

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One Skillet Creamy Tomato Basil Spinach Pasta & Chicken

August 28, 2021

Get dinner done in one shot with this easy one skillet creamy tomato basil spinach pasta and chicken!

One Skillet Creamy Tomato Basil Spinach Pasta & Chicken

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything, and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

Birthday girl dinner requests!

The youngest member of our crew turns 8 this week! EIGHT! I have no idea how this is even possible, but she is just the kindest little spunk you ever did meet. The most perfect blend of sweet and spice! She is my rainbow after the storm, and without getting to emotional on you, our household is truly complete with her. In honor of her birthday, I wanted to share her dinner request! In true third kid form, she is incredibly go-with-the-flow, and while I would have made her just about anything, I’m *super* pumped that she picked this easy, one skillet dinner considering her birthday is 2 days before the new school year starts!

One Skillet Creamy Tomato Basil Spinach Pasta & Chicken

One skillet mealtime perfection!

Is there really ever a time of year where a one pot meal doesn’t work? I think not! Whether its the on-the-go summer days, or busy school routine winter weeks, having a dinner that can be done in one skillet is really a game changer! You may even want to use a larger skillet, or 2 of them to double up so that there are leftovers for lunch the next day – this skillet is sure to disappear fast!

One Skillet Creamy Tomato Basil Spinach Pasta & Chicken

Veggie packed, and macro-nutrient balanced

Because we’re doing a whole dinner in one skillet, I usually try to get every meal component into the skillet. Side salads are nice, but a truly one skillet dinner has it all. This also makes it much easier to get a load of nutrient packed veggies into smaller children without the fuss of a salad. Once the spinach wilts down, the kids will never know its there – and there is a lot of it! Protein from the chicken, healthy fats all around, and some slow burning, fiber rich carbohydrates – a balanced one pot meal!

One Skillet Creamy Tomato Basil Spinach Pasta & Chicken

A note on the protein

You really can change this up to your family’s preferences. If your crew prefers chicken breasts, by all means change that up! If you only have beef in the house, that would taste amazing as well. I think the flavor that chicken thighs lend into the pan is life changing – if you have some around give it a try!

One Skillet Creamy Tomato Basil Spinach Pasta & Chicken

Let’s talk about the pasta!

There are so many gluten free pasta choices around these days! If you don’t need to be gluten free, you can use whatever pasta you like to use. I prefer a brown rice pasta for gluten free versions and you can find them both at the grocery stores, as well as online now. The pasta will cook right in the liquid of the skillet, so there is no need to get a pot of water boiling. The starches from the pasta will give the sauce a creaminess that is so comforting, and once again, everything is done all in one pan!

One Skillet Creamy Tomato Basil Spinach Pasta & Chicken

Veggie change ups, and leftovers!

There is a myriad of ways to get even more veggies into this skillet. One of my favorites is to add finely chopped cauliflower. They take on the color of the sauce, and don’t change the flavor at all. My crew also loves when I add mushrooms. You can add both of these into step 3 where you are sautéing the sundried tomatoes and garlic. And speaking of sundried tomatoes! Costco has a great jar of them packed in olive oil! You can find them just about anywhere, but really be careful to take note of what they are packed in – either a really good healthy oil, or just dried in a package is best. You can also leave them out if you don’t have access. Leftovers taste amazing warmed up with a splash of water or bone broth. You can pack it in a thermos for work or school too!

One Skillet Creamy Tomato Basil Spinach Pasta & Chicken

One Skillet Creamy Tomato Basil Spinach Pasta & Chicken

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Whisk the sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder in a small bowl and sprinkle over the chicken thighs, seasoning each side. I use my hands to get the rub onto both sides of the chicken.
  • Heat a large skillet over high heat, and melt the coconut oil. You will want the pan screaming hot so that it gives the chicken a good sear. Place the chicken into the oiled pan and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side. You want a golden sear on both sides. Set the chicken aside to rest.
  • Turn the skillet temperature down to medium heat and add the red wine to deglaze the pan. Stir the wine around, and then add the garlic, sun dried tomatoes, and tomato paste. Simmer for 2-3 minutes until everything is fragrant.
  • Add the basil, tomato sauce, coconut milk, water, and dried pasta and stir to combine. Stir in half of the chopped baby spinach and cover the skillet with a lid.
  • Let the pasta simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes before stirring. Once you stir the pasta, add the chicken back into the skillet, along with the rest of the spinach, and put the lid back on. Cook on medium heat until the pasta is al dente – check your box of pasta to see how long it takes to cook and follow that.
  • Once the pasta is cooked, you can serve with grated cheese, fresh basil, or a dollop of coconut cream!

Notes

  • You can swap the wine for broth or water if you can’t have the wine – the flavor depth it brings is fantastic though so if you have it, use it! The alcohol cooks off so it is safe for children.
  • I get my sun dried tomatoes packed in olive oil at Costco. If you don’t have access to a good sun dried tomato in safe packaging or oil, you can cook down some halved cherry tomatoes with the red wine and garlic at the beginning of the recipe, or leave them out completely.
  • If you can’t have the pasta,  you can leave out the extra water and serve your creamy tomato basil and spinach sauce and chicken over spaghetti squash, or a baked potato or sweet potato.
One Skillet Creamy Tomato Basil Spinach Pasta & Chicken

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One Skillet Copycat Hamburger Helper :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, & Veggie Loaded!

August 21, 2021

Hamburger Helper nostalgia with a nutrient loaded, healthy whole foods twist!

One Skillet Copycat Hamburger Helper :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, & Veggie Loaded!

Product links in this post are affiliate links. It does not cost you anything, and helps maintain the free information on this site, as well as answer the questions of “what brand do you use?” Please know I never personally recommend any product I wouldn’t use on my own family.

The slow transition from summer to fall routines…

I started noticing the sun a little lower in the sky during our after-dinner swims on the big lake a week or so ago. It’s always a little bittersweet to me. We had such a fun, carefree summer. We put school completely behind us. We played and hiked, read a zillion books, and swam (and swam some more!). But when the sun starts setting just a little earlier we are all at the point of being ready to get back to a little more routine. We’re certain to have another good month of beach days left, but I was ready to start thinking about fall meal plans! And I know you all have been asking for my “Hamburger Helper” copycat that I have posted a here and there to Instagram. Today is the day!

One Skillet Copycat Hamburger Helper :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, & Veggie Loaded!

An 80’s classic…and some curious foodie kids

It’s no secret this momma grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. Boxed dinners were totally the thing, and while I really don’t remember my mom ever using this particular one that often, we did have our fair share of convenience foods. Earlier this summer the girls asked if they could try Hamburger Helper – I still have no idea where they heard about it, but it doesn’t matter. Our kids don’t live in a bubble, and I want to help them learn how to work through this kind of situation because it will be hitting them from every angle for the rest of their lives!

One Skillet Copycat Hamburger Helper :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, & Veggie Loaded!

Kids that can use critical thinking…and creative solutions!

My approach to most of these kind of situations is to first show them them box ingredients and see what they think. No condemnation. It’s more of a “well before you decide to eat something, it’s probably a good idea to see what you will be putting into your body first.” When they were little, I’d read it for them and be more verbal in helping them draw conclusions (remember wayyyy back when Chloe, my oldest, was in preschool and the little boy wanted her to make him “mac n cheese” in the preschool play kitchen?!). They are old enough to see through the marketing now, but I still see the value in this exercise. We went to the store, found the Hamburger Helper, and it was a pretty quick peek before they asked “well, can we make it at home instead?!” I mean, saucy, cheesy, noodles and beef…what’s not to love?!

One Skillet Copycat Hamburger Helper :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, & Veggie Loaded!

Same fun meal, same fun taste…with an upgraded whole foods twist!

I’ve been fussing around with this “copycat” Hamburger Helper recipe, as gluten, dairy, egg, nut, and sugar free, and it’s pretty spectacular! You can see in the pictures how I’ve also managed to veggie load it, and that is because I truly want this to be a one skillet, no other side items needed kind of a dinner. That is the whole point of the hamburger helper anyway, right? Something that will be a no-fuss, weeknight friendly comfort food. School nights can be hectic, and I’m hoping to help you fill the kids up with real food in a fun way.

One Skillet Copycat Hamburger Helper :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, & Veggie Loaded!

But will my kids “taste” the veggies???

The flavor that comes from the aromatics and mushrooms is where the depth and amazing flavors build. If you think the kids will be funny about the pieces, just cut them smaller or buzz them up in the food processor. It does look like a lot to start, but it really, really cooks down. And the spinach? Well spinach is magical like that. Once it cooks in a dish like this, you never taste it, so you can get all the health benefits without the kids having to fuss over the taste!

One Skillet Copycat Hamburger Helper :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, & Veggie Loaded!

Back to school meal plans, and a little prep help

I really hope this Hamburger Helper skillet makes the perfect back to school dinner for your meal plan this fall! I think if you are one of those families that comes home from the day super late, having the veggies chopped before-hand would help. You have a couple choices. Either chop the veggies the night before, so that you can just dump them in the pan when you get home. Or, you could just buzz them up in the food processor to cut the chopping step down a little – it really doesn’t matter if the veggies are cut in a perfect dice.

One Skillet Copycat Hamburger Helper :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, & Veggie Loaded!

One Skillet Copycat Hamburger Helper :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, & Veggie Loaded!

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Heat your skillet to medium high heat, melt the coconut oil, and add in the onion, carrot, pepper, and mushrooms to cook for about 5 minutes with a big pinch of sea salt until everything is soft and sweet.
  • Add the spinach and garlic and cook for about a minute, stirring them into the cooked veggies.
  • Add the ground beef to the pan with another pinch of sea salt and pepper to season the beef, and break the beef up to brown up in the pan.
  • Once the beef is browned, stir in the nutritional yeast, potato starch, and paprika until everything is coated and incorporated. Then, add the pumpkin puree, tomato paste, coconut aminos, bone broth, and coconut milk, and stir to combine.
  • Add the pasta and bring everything to a simmer. Stir around after a minute and add a lid to the pan, bringing the heat down to medium-low to simmer until the pasta is al-dente. Take the lid off every few minutes to stir and make sure the pasta is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. If you need a little extra liquid you can add more broth or water. Once the pasta is cooked through, sea salt and pepper the skillet meal to your taste and serve!

Notes

  • The nutritional yeast gives a cheesy flavor to the skillet without the dairy. If you tolerate dairy and want to use cheese, just add the cheese in to melt at the end.
  • The potato starch helps thicken the sauce. You could also use tapioca starch or arrowroot.
One Skillet Copycat Hamburger Helper :: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, & Veggie Loaded!

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