Another Pilot Meal For Zeb’s 4-Day Trip: Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash Bake
Last week I shared some of the unique and challenging aspects of a commercial airline pilot’s work trip schedule, and how we often meal prep and pack homemade balanced meals to keep my husband from eating out for four days straight. If you’re interested in a little more of the standard (or not-so-standard) lifestyle of this career, definitely check out this post first!
For Zeb’s most recent four-day trip, he requested something low-carb for this week’s meal prep…..maybe our upcoming tropical summer vacation has something to do with that, haha. He would be doing multiple flights a day with nightly hotel stays in Tri-Cities, Washington, Meford, Oregon, and Eugene, Oregon. Not the most glamorous trip route this time.
I took to Pinterest for some low-carb inspiration, found a recipe, and tweaked it a little to make it my own. This trip, I made and packed Zeb a Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash Bake & I kept a container for myself because it was so yummy! I LOVE the flavor of buffalo sauce.
You start by baking a spaghetti squash (which Brynnley kept calling a banana and a ball) and chicken breast. I like to microwave my squash for about 7-8 minutes first to help it cook a little faster, since it does take close to an hour!
In the meantime, you can prep the rest of your ingredients. Thinly sliced celery, diced tomatoes, shredded cheese, crumbled blue cheese, ranch dressing, buffalo wing sauce, and parsley for topping.
Once the chicken is cooked and cooled, dice it up and add it to your mixture. Then use two forks to pull apart the spaghetti squash strands and add them to your large bowl.
Place the buffalo chicken spaghetti squash mixture into a greased casserole dish and bake at 400 degrees for another 20 minutes. You can add more cheese on top if you wish!
Zeb did say that I broke my own rule with this one because it wasn’t as good cold. Luckily he ended each day of this trip pretty early and was able to eat his meal in his hotel room with a microwave.
Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash Bake
- 1 Spaghetti Squash
- 2 lb. Chicken Breast
- 1 cup Celery , thinly sliced
- 1 cup Tomato , diced
- 1 cup Shredded cheddar cheese
- 2/3 cup Crumbled Blue Cheese
- 1 cup Ranch Dressing
- 1 cup Buffalo Wing Sauce (or more, dependent on your taste)
- Parsley for garnish
- Salt, Pepper and Garlic Powder to taste
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, greased. Also grease a 9×9 baking dish and set aside for later.
- Cut the spaghetti squash in half and place both halves face-down on the foil. Place chicken breast next to them.
- Bake until chicken is heated to 165 degrees internal temperature and remove from sheet. Place squash back into oven until it is very soft and tender.
- While squash and chicken are baking, combine the rest of your ingredients in a LARGE mixing bowl: thinly sliced celery, diced tomato, shredded cheese, crumbled blue cheese, ranch dressing, buffalo sauce, salt, pepper and garlic powder.
- Once the cooked chicken has cooled, cut it into bite-sized cubes and add it to the buffalo mixture.
- Once cooked spaghetti squash has cooled, remove the squash strands with two forks and add to the buffalo mixture. Blend well.
- Add the mixture to the greased baking dish and bake for another 20 minutes. Feel free to add cheese on top and continue baking until it browns. I liked to top mine with extra buffalo sauce.
- Garnish with parsley and add a little ranch dressing drizzle, if you so desire!
And there you have this week’s installment of what I meal prepped for my pilot husband! We are going to enjoy our Memorial Day weekend with our first trip to the pool of the year, and I can’t wait! Last summer, we went to the pool quite often and Brynnley seemed to enjoy it but she was only 5-7 months old. Now she’s nearly a year and a half and can run around the splash pad on her own. She LOVES water and insists on sticking herself in front of the hose whenever I’m out watering my garden.
She and I have been taking 2-3 walks A DAY because the weather is sooo perfect and I know hotter days are coming so we are taking advantage while we can.
I have a fun blog post idea planned for later next week so check back soon! Happy Memorial Day Weekend!
Packing Meals For a Pilot + Shredded Chicken Tamale Casserole Recipe
Last week I filmed and shared a little vlog on my YouTube channel that just followed a day in the life with Brynnley and I as Zeb was on a four-day trip. He’s a commercial pilot, so our lifestyle is unique in that he’s gone between 3-5 days a week. That means a whole lot of solo-parenting, and a lot of unique challenges to our family’s schedule. Which is something I thought I could share a little more about here as well!
Until I started dating Zeb, I actually had no idea that pilots spent many nights away from their home. I assumed they had a “route” that they flew back and forth and ended back at home each night. Nope! There’s nothing normal or regular about their schedule! They also do not have a designated “route.” Based on seniority, they can request certain criteria in their flight schedule but very rarely do they fly the same trip twice!
Zeb’s trips can start on any day of the week, including Saturday and Sunday. They can be 2 days, 3 days, or 4 days. Their layover and hotel can be in pretty much any city with a major airport. Sometimes he’s in Burbank, Salt Lake City, and Houston, and other times he’s in Nashville for three nights in a row! Some trips he flies from 5am-noon every day and other trips he’s hanging out in a hotel until 4pm and flying until midnight. It’s ALWAYS different.
One of the interesting aspects that many people don’t think about when it comes to a pilot (or flight attendant) schedule is packing meals and snacks for their trips that can be up to four days long. Most of the airplanes my husband flies actually don’t have microwaves to heat up his meals! He takes a rolling luggage bag and a large cooler bag on each trip. Many days he starts his trip as early as 5am and it might be 12 hours until he can transfer his food into a hotel mini fridge for the evening. So logistically, there are some restrictions to what kinds of food he can take along with him to avoid eating out for all four days. Eating airport and restaurant food is not the healthiest option but it also adds up to so much extra money spent on food!
I don’t mind meal prepping for him so that he has nutritious food to eat on his trip, but it’s taken a while to figure out what types of foods keep well for multiple days in a cooler bag and are something he will actually EAT and not bring back home to dump down the garbage disposal.
This post is only going to contain one recipe that was a hit for his last four-day trip, and I’ll continue to share more as I make them each week! I’ll have to start a new little page on this blog specifically for pilot meals, packing tips, and more about this bizarre lifestyle.
First thing to consider when picking a recipe to meal prep for his trip is that it has to taste good both hot and cold, in case he needs to eat it as lunch or dinner on the airplane and doesn’t have a way to heat it up.
On his most recent trip, I made a shredded chicken tamale casserole that was a hit!
Shredded Chicken Tamale Casserole
- 1 casserole dish , greased
- 1 box cornbread mix (plus ingredients on packaging)
- 4.5 oz diced green chiles
- 2 cups cooked shredded chicken
- 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese
- 1 cup Mexican blend cheese
- 1 cup creamed corn
- 15 oz black beans
- 10 oz green enchilada sauce
- 1 Tbs garlic powder
- 1 Tbs cumin
- salt & pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease a 9×9 casserole dish.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the cornbread mix and the ingredients listed on its packaging. Add diced green chiles, set aside.
- In a separate large bowl, combine the shredded chicken and spices. Add black beans, creamed corn, 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, 1/2 cup Mexican blend cheese, and green enchilada sauce.
- Pour the chicken mixture into the greased casserole dish and spread evenly.
- Pour the cornbread batter evenly over the top of the chicken mixture.
- Bake for 25 minutes. Then add the remaining Monterey Jack and Mexican blend cheeses.
- Continue baking for another 15 minutes until the cheese begins to brown.
- Allow to cool and enjoy! Optional toppings: sour cream, cilanto, salsa, and avocado.
I divided up some big portions into three containers for Zeb to pack along with some Spanish rice, just in case he was extra hungry!
I had one container left at home for myself and can attest that it was yummy hot AND cold, if necessary!
Some snack staples that Zeb also usually packs along are beef jerky, almonds, and a few of my homemade “Cat balls” (peanut butter energy balls). He has unlimited airplane snacks, including whatever is offered to first class, which have actually come a long way from pretzels! Now there are fun options like pistachios, chocolate covered almonds, and Sun Chips. He brings me home some extras sometimes and I never want to eat another Biscoff cookie in my life haha.
Any other fellow spouses of an aviation crew member? Share your favorite meals to pack with me!