The Half-Crunchy Mama

Trying to live a natural life with balance


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Mexican Squash

IMG_20151207_204651It’s Day 7 of this kick I’ve been on over at my Facebook page, sharing recipes to help you get hot meals on the table during these busy holiday weeks. Monday night, I made up one of my own to share. I dug around and just used what I had in the fridge and pantry, and I will offer other ingredient ideas below that you can include depending on what you have on hand. I also tailored this a bit to Sugar Bee’s tastes as she was the one that chose between Mexican and Italian as options for the spaghetti squash that The Russian had cooked up for me the night before. (I ran out of steam to finish cooking dinner Sunday night, so I stashed it in the fridge to use the following night.)

It was actually even faster to make this dish than it usually would be because the squash was precooked (but not pulled into threads). I just put it in a closed container and popped it in the fridge that night. It was all set to get spaghettied and thrown into the pan when the time came the following night. Even better was that I didn’t have to worry about burning my hands off after the squash came out of the oven because I’m too impatient (and often pressed for time) to allow it to properly cool off. And it’s amazing as leftovers because the flavors have time to meld together. Play around with this one. I’m sure it will be slightly different every time I make this!IMAG7154


Mexican Squash

After purchasing a spaghetti squash and 1-1.5 pounds of ground beef, sift through your pantry and see what you come up with. You could use diced tomatoes (I would have included a can of fire-roasted, but Sugar Bee is on this “no tomatoes” kick these days and I’m picking my battles), taco seasoning instead of the spices I used, enchilada or tomatillo sauce in place of the tomato sauce, sliced black olives (again, Sugar Bee or they would have been in there), or kidney beans. Then from the fridge, you could add shredded carrots (when you start the onions), sliced scallions (when you top with cheese), or sour cream to mix in. The possibilities are endless! You could even swap the beef for shredded chicken or lose the meat completely and triple the beans instead. This one-pan meal is perfect for a busy weeknight, especially if you cook the squash earlier in the day or even the night before!

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INGREDIENTS
  • 1 medium-large spaghetti squash
  • 1 Tbsp bacon fat/lard/ghee/EVOO
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1.35 lbs ground beef
  • 2-3 Tbsp of chili powder, depending on desired spice level (I used 3)
  • 2-3 Tbsp of cumin
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp garlic powder (I was actually out of garlic or this would be 2-4 cloves of minced garlic)
  • 4-oz. can of diced, fire-roasted green chilies (I use Ortega as there’s not a lot of junk in their stuff)
  • 15-oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 8-oz. can of tomato sauce
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (I prefer a Mexican blend)
DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds. Rub insides with a little olive oil and place cut side down onto a cookie sheet. Bake for 25-35 minutes. Squash is ready when skin gives slightly when pressing on it. Try not to overcook or you will get mush instead of spaghetti strands. Remove and allow to cool.*
  2. When squash is finished cooking and is waiting to be pulled into spaghetti, melt fat or oil in large, oven-safe skillet (broiler proof, preferably) over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute for a few minutes until softened.
  3. Add ground beef and spices to pan. Cook until meat is almost finished and you can’t see any pink. Preheat broiler on high.
  4. Add chilies, beans, and tomato sauce, stirring well to combine.
  5. Shred the squash into spaghetti strands with a fork and add to meat mixture. You may want to taste and see if you need to add more spices once everything is coated and combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Even out the squash and meat mixture so it’s flat. (If you don’t have a pan that can be used under the broiler, transfer to a broiler-safe baking dish.) Top with shredded cheese and place under broiler for 3-4 minutes until top is golden brown. Serve with some sour cream, chopped fresh cilantro, and/or sliced scallions. Enjoy!

* You can do this the night before and store in the refrigerator in a sealed container until ready to use. Just don’t shred it until you are about to throw it into the pan!

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Southwest Black Bean Soup

Southwest Black Bean Soup | The Half-Crunchy Mama

It’s that time of year when all I want is warm soup. Even if it’s not that cold in Georgia, it’s still winter. And the temperature swing from midday to midnight can easily be 30 degrees. I’m really trying to lower our food budget, so soups are also budget-friendly and you end up with several meals worth when it’s done. Sugar Bee, my three year old, loves beans, especially black beans, so she’ll pretty much eat any soup now that has beans. I have even been known to add some beans to my chicken soup for her eating enjoyment. Here is another winner for her.

This one is also a time-saver. I usually make bean soups in the crock pot since I try to cook my own beans as much as possible. Not only is it a lot cheaper to soak and cook dried beans yourself (and you get to control the amount of salt), it also helps make them a less musical fruit if they are freshly cooked. Freshly soaking the beans loosens the skins, and releases the gas causing agent (oligosaccherides). When you dump that gassy water from the overnight soak and cook them with fresh, clean water, you end up with less gas. (Here’s a great post about how to cook and soak your own beans.) That aside, because I used canned beans for this recipe, I can see being able to throw this together for a last-minute dinner on a weeknight. Cheap, fast, and easy…just how I like my meals.


 Southwest Black Bean Soup

Cheap, fast, and easy. That’s how I like my meals. Soups are a great way to get more out of your food budget. Bean soups are even more thrifty. This recipe uses canned beans, but you can easily swap the cans for a pound of presoaked beans, throw everything in the slow cooker, and set it for 8 hours on low. Either way, this is a perfect meal for a winter’s night.

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 Tbsp oil (I used expeller-pressed coconut oil)
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 generous Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 generous Tablespoon cumin
  • Four 15 oz cans black beans
  • 32 oz broth (I used vegetable broth)
  • 2 large roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • Juice of one lime
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped
DIRECTIONS
  1. Heat oil in large stock pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook for 5-7 minutes, until softened, but not browned. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute.
  2. Add cumin, chili powder, and beans, stirring to coat everything in spices.
  3. Add broth, peppers, tomato paste, bay leaves, and pepper, and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes. Add fresh lime juice and stir.
  5. Spoon into bowls and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Southwest Black Bean Soup | The Half-Crunchy Mama

(Optional: Add spoon of sour cream like The Russian did)