Buffalo Chicken Zucchini Boats: A Story of Trial, Error, and Evolution

So my ONLY problem with buffalo chicken dip is that it isn’t the healthiest.  And that’s an understatement.  Inspiration struck me: buffalo chicken zucchini boats! Great idea, right?  Turns out there was a bit of trial and error on this one, since I was improvising the entire time.  The recipe uses my family’s basic wing dip recipe, which is customizable (feel free to add plain Greek yogurt instead of cream cheese.  Loses some of the flavor for me, but go for it if that floats your boat. Oh! Unintentional pun!).  I was banned from working out last week when I made this, so I was trying to watch calories. I also have a hard time telling the difference between reduced fat and normal versions—if I were going to make this for someone, I wouldn’t cut any calorie corners.

Buffalo Chicken Zucchini Boats, Two Ways

  • 2 chicken breasts**
  • ½ c buffalo wing sauce + extra.  Recommend Moore’s or Frank’s.
  • ½ c ranch, reduced fat.
  • 1-2 packets of ranch dressing seasoning mix
  • 8 oz cream cheese, fat free
  • 1 c cheddar cheese, 2% milk
  • 5-6 medium Zucchini
  • Olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste
  • Tortilla strips to garnish (found in salad toppings section).
Serving Size: 5-6. The serving size really depends on how large your zucchini are and how much dip you put on each one.  I planned on one zucchini per serving, and my dip lasted me about five days…but my zucchini were giant.
**You can also cheat if you’re short on time or chicken, and use two cans of chicken, eliminating the cooking.
Wing Dip: Preheat oven to 375.  In a baking dish, place the chicken and coat with extra wing sauce.  Add salt and pepper to both sides.  Cook for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.
Mix cream cheese, cheddar cheese, remaining hot sauce, ranch in a bowl.  Once chicken is done, add chicken to bowl and shred.  (Alternatively, shred chicken in separate  bowl.  That’s a bit easier—one of those trial and error things I discovered).  Place to the side.  You want this dip to be fairly chunky with chicken/cheese–the more liquid the dip is, the harder it will be to add to the zucchini.

 

Version 1, The Boat: Turn oven to 350. Take one zucchini and cut in half, length-wise.  Hollow out zucchini with a spoon.  I tried to re-use the zucchini innards, but wasn’t able to in this case.  Place zucchini on a sheet pan, skin-side down.  Drizzle the hollowed out boat with olive oil, season (lightly) with salt and pepper).  Sprinkle ranch dressing seasoning packet over the zucchini—the trick with this is to give it a solid coating.  Place in oven and cook until slightly golden, or about 6-8 minutes.  Remove from oven and spoon the buffalo chicken dip into the zucchini boat.  Personally, I love chicken dip so I loaded the boat up.  Return to oven for 2-5 minutes, or until chicken dip is warmed through.  Top with tortilla strips. Serve.

Version 2, Work Lunch:  The problem with zucchini is that it’s a water-based vegetable.  If you cook it ahead of time, it tends to be mushy.  If you don’t have access to an oven at work, that makes this recipe difficult.  Eating anything “stuffed” at work quickly becomes a messy endeavor.  So, for this version, make the buffalo chicken dip as listed above, but a slight tweak on the zucchini.
Instead of hollowing the zucchini into a boat, dice the zucchini into one inch square pieces.  Heat the oven to 350.  Drizzle the zucchini with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Liberally sprinkle the ranch seasoning packet over the zucchini, coating it.  Bake for approximately 5 minutes, or until zucchini is slightly golden.  Place zucchini on plate and top with buffalo chicken dip.  If you’re making it at work, place this in the fridge the night before and reheat it in the microwave, topping with the tortilla strips when serving.  If you decide to make this version instead of the boats, heat the chicken dip through in the microwave or in the oven before adding it to the zucchini. Enjoy!

 

A few notes on this recipe…This one took awhile for me to tweak, and is open to several adjustments.  I tried unsalted/un-ranched zucchini boats, diced zucchini, and everything in between until I hit on flavoring it with ranch seasoning mix.  It complements the ranch in the chicken dip and makes for a more robust dish.  If your chicken dip is too spicy and you can’t add any more ranch as the dip has too much liquid, sprinkle some cheddar cheese over top of the zucchini boat.  Again, it’s all about what makes you happiest.

For single servings and work version:  Look, I love prep cooking.  It’s so much easier to have everything ready to go when I get in from work, and I’m only cooking for myself.  This does make it more difficult sometimes—by day 4 of my portioned-out meal, I’m ready for a change.  For this recipe, go ahead and throw the wing dip together the first day.  That will cover you for the week—and most likely will have some left over for some guilt-free buffalo chicken dipping later on.  One zucchini is one serving, so only cook one at a time.  If you become over-zucchini’d, it’s easy to change it up and just go straight for the buffalo chicken dip.

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