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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Garlic and Herb “Spaghetti”

Garlic and Herb "Spaghetti" | The Half-Crunchy MamaIf you still have not tried spaghetti squash, whether it’s because you are intimidated by the thought of cooking a food that is new to you or you think it’s too healthy or have an aversion to food that is good for you, stop right now and go get one at the store. It is so easy to cook up spaghetti squash and use it in place of pasta for any dish. I first started using it for my Eggplant Ragout several years ago. As it turns out, it’s a good thing that I love using it in my meals because it has been a blessing with Sugar Bee and her wheat issues. Squash is an even better alternative than any gluten-free pasta that I could give her. When she was one, she would double-fist feed herself with my ragout over “spaghetti” and was the talk of her school. I have even made a quiche using spaghetti squash as a crust. It’s just awesome. And so easy.

Slice the squash in half, being very careful as I’m always certain that this time will be the time I lose a finger doing it, and scoop the seeds and rough, stringy parts out. Coat the insides with extra-virgin olive oil and place cut-side down onto a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven at 450ºF for about 30 minutes. It is done when the skin gives as you press down on it. I like mine to be a little more roasted like in this picture, but be careful not to cook it too long or it will be more like spaghetti mush instead of spaghetti strands.Garlic and Herb "Spaghetti" | The Half-Crunchy MamaWhile that’s in the oven, prep your onion and herbs. Chop one small onion into fairly small dice. I used the herbs that I had on hand, but feel free to experiment with other flavors and what you have in the house or garden. I chopped one tablespoon of fresh thyme, and two tablespoons each of fresh parsley and basil. I also included five cloves of minced garlic, but I would probably push it to at least six because as I’ve said before, we LOVE garlic here.Garlic and Herb "Spaghetti" | The Half-Crunchy MamaWhen the spaghetti squash is finished and cooled enough to handle, strip out the strands with a fork. It should look something like this. Garlic and Herb "Spaghetti" | The Half-Crunchy MamaMelt about two tablespoons of Kerrygold butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and stir, cooking about a minute. Throw in the “spaghetti” and fresh herbs, and add some sea salt and fresh ground pepper, stirring well to combine. I added some freshly grated Parmesan cheese since I’m allowed a bit of hard cheese now and then. Butter and Herb "Spaghetti" | The Half-Crunchy MamaI served this as my side dish with a delicious salmon burger from Costco. Wild-caught salmon and very few other ingredients (some oil and spices), without any wheat to hold them together. It was such an easy meal to throw together. And nutritious!Garlic and Herb "Spaghetti" | The Half-Crunchy Mama(The Russian doesn’t mind his food touching, so this one was his)


 Garlic and Herb “Spaghetti”

Spaghetti squash is a great alternative to pasta for any recipe and can also be a side dish or meal on its own. Depending on what it’s served with, I usually get 3-4 servings out of a medium squash. This is a flavorful way to serve it up and you can add almost anything you want to this basic recipe.

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 medium-large spaghetti squash
  • 1-2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, however much is needed to coat the inside of the cut squash
  • 2 Tbsp Kerrygold butter, ghee, or oil of your choice
  • 1 small onion, diced small
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, minced (to your preference)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF
  2. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds and stringy threads.
  3. Coat the insides and cut edges of the squash with EVOO. Place the halves cut side down on a baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes. Squash is done when skin gives from a poke with your finger. Turn over squash halves and set aside to cool until able to handle.
  4. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook 5 minutes until soft.
  5. Meanwhile, pull spaghetti strands from squash with a fork, pulling the fork through the flesh lengthwise from one end to the other. (Use a potholder to hold the squash if still too warm to handle.)
  6. Add garlic and stir, cooking until fragrant, about a minute.
  7. Toss squash and the fresh herbs in the pan with the onions and garlic, mixing well to combine.
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!