Nutrition and Recipes

Veggies Most: Getting Creative with Spaghetti Squash

I love all things spice. In my younger years of unstoppable optimism and blissful financial ignorance, I spent a great deal of money on travel (work in the summer, transfer my box of dollar bills into American Express Traveler’s Checks, and dart off for the fall). I spent a good deal of time in South East Asia, savoring the red skies and spices of India.

There is nothing that can compare to the vibrancy, the intensity of South East Asia – from the people, to the streets, to the food, every part of one’s day, every moment, is saturated in vivid intensity. Every flavor, heightened; every sense and sensation, rising to meet it.

The bad is that much worse, but the good times? They are branded into my memory and my soul (and that goes doubly for the food).

Sadly, American-ized South East Asian cuisine lacks that same vibrancy – the colors, the ingredients, the flavors are there. But they are almost always missing something. 

When pregnant with my son, Atticus, I went on a spice binge of epic proportions. I craved curry and pad thai. I longed for Delhi street foods and pomegranates. I dreamed of samosas and butter chicken and even that bite of fennel at the end of an epic meal.

I worked with what I had. I would routinely order an already spicy and delicious red curry with tofu from a little restaurant in Crested Butte (legendary among ski circles) known as Ryce. I would order it extra extra EXTRA spicy… with extra EXTRA veggies, and then add my own spices for good measure.

Now, a tad more comfortable in the kitchen and a bit more conscious, I am convinced that the secret to a great bit of spice lies in the cooks and the hands that prepare it. The right mindset, that slow consistent effort, that dedication to simple things done with passion – that is the secret to a good, spicy bit of heaven.

That, and a lot of veggies.

Yes, it’s true. Veggies are the spice of LIFE. They provide nourishment and joy. They make every meal better. And they make my body sing and my spirit shine.

Rice and noodles, I have found, just dull all that spicy goodness. Like a sponge, they steal all my flavor into a bed of dully beige “bleh.” And, after all, I’d rather have more room in my belly for the “good stuff.”

Thus, a bit of creativity, a lot of love, and more veggies later, I have perfected it: my spicy, veggie most, all the GOOD stuff, Pad Thai.

Trust me. You want some (did I mention it’s pretty healthy? There is literally no down side to my favorite meal – I’d make it every night if my husband would permit it…and sometimes I do – just for me).

Are you ready for this? It (and spaghetti squash) might just change your life for the better.

NOTE: Spaghetti Squash is an amazing vegetable. If you have never had it, you need to change that – immediately. When cooked it has the consistency of rice noodles (just with a LOT more flavor and nutrients). What’s more, the squash does not get soggy when saturated in curry-goodness, and it does not change its texture when re-heated. It’s my miracle plant (and I cannot WAIT to grow a few hundred of them in our garden this year).

Veggie Most: Spicy Pad Thai

Pad Thai with Spaghetti Squash

Prep Time     20 minutes

Cook Time    1 hour 30  minutes

Total Time    1 hour 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 medium spaghetti squash
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2-4 tbs water
  • 2+ tbs siracha
  • 3 tbs cornstarch
  • 2 tbs oil (peanut oil is recommended)
  • 12 oz. extra-firm tofu, cut into small cubes
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, beans, or other veggie
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 green onions, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tbs. chopped peanuts
  • Jalopeno, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • lime wedges
  • cilantro
  • Crushed red pepper
  • fish sauce (optional)

Instructions

Preparing the Squash

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.

  2. Place squash on a parchment lined baking sheet. Poke squash 2 or 3 times with a fork. Bake for 60 to 80 minutes. Cool for 20 to 30 minutes. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Remove seeds. Scrape flesh into stringy noodles. Set aside.

Preparing the sauce

  1. Combine vinegar, water, honey, and sriracha in sauce pan. Hear over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Add fish sauce if desired. Add additional water if needed.  Add more/less of honey and heat according to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preparing the tofu

  1. Coat tofu in cornstarch in a small bowl; mix.
  2. Heat large skillet over high heat. Add oil (peanut oil preferred) and coat pan.
  3. Add tofu.
  4. Watch diligently, stirring frequently until all sides are brown.
  5. Remove from pan and set aside.

Preparing the eggs

  1. Add oil to pan; coat.
  2. Add eggs; cook over medium heat. Create a thin omelette. When cooked, chop eggs with spatula. Remove from heat and set aside.

Putting it all together

  1. Add oil to pan; coat.
  2. Add garlic and onion. Saute over medium heat for 1 minute.
  3. Add jalapenos (if desired) and red pepper (or other veggies).
  4. Add spaghetti squash in layers. Cook each layer for 1 minute, stirring frequently until squash is warm and golden brown.
  5. Fold sauce into squash. Mix.
  6. Add green onions and bean sprouts. Mix.
  7. Add tofu. Cook for 2 minutes while stirring frequently.
  8. Transfer to a serving platter. Serve with peanuts, lime wedges, cilantro, and crushed red pepper. Serve immediately or store for later.

pad thai recipe with spaghetti squash

Recommendations

I like to double, even triple, the sauce (and quadruple the spice) – but that is up to you!

You can substitute the tofu for more veggie or chicken (I recommend marinating the chicken the night before with some lime and yogurt).

This meal stores well for about 3 days. Prep ahead of time and enjoy a savory lunch for DAYS!

While nothing can compare to the “real thing,” with a bit of love, this healthy, scrumptious dish comes close. Enjoy with the people you love!

Coach Life

What is an online fitness coach? (And why do you need one?)

Modern Fit Magazine recently ran a feature on the advent of the Online Fitness Coach (with yours truly included! – check out the issue here). These lovely individuals are not fitness models; they are not personal trainers or nutritionists; they are not youtube stars or TGR heroes. They are not gym owners or professional athletes.

We aren’t perfect…and that’s the point.

So…what exactly are they? What do they do and why are they changing the way we think about health, fitness, and wellness in our modern world?

These individuals come from a variety of different backgrounds – from yoga instructors and chakra queens, to fitmoms, professional skiers, bad!@# grandmas, power lifters, and stay at home dads; from Crossfit instructors to weekend warriors; from mountain gypsies to city kings; from alpine tundras to Manhattan high rises; from fitness advocates to those who are just getting started.

Coaches understand the potential struggles and incredible triumphs of health and wellness; they understand the importance of fitness and are actively working towards their own goals (whatever those might be). Along the way, coaches share their story, organize challenges, and build communities to inspire and support others.

It sounds simple, right? And it is! But within this simplicity lies the accountability and support necessary for lifelong health and wellness. To understand the power of fitness coaches (and why your coach will empower you to realize your health goals), we first need to explore why committing to fitness can be such a challenge.

Why do most fitness journeys end short?

Fitness mean embracing struggle and triumph.

If it was easy, everyone would do it…

That’s the thing about fitness – it seems easy: eat healthy foods, be active, and take care of your mental and physical health. Not only is this equation simple, it is also positive – it feels good to take care of one’s mind and body. 

You may be well aware of the physical benefits of exercise – from the big things: increased life expectancy, decreased risk of a host of terrifying illnesses – from cancer to health disease and everything in between…to the little things: the ability to play with your children, for example.

The benefits of exercise, however, go far beyond your physical form. In fact, in a 2011 article, the American Psychological Association made a compelling argument that psychologists should be working with patients to incorporate exercise into existing treatments.

As immediate past president of APA’s Div. 47 (Exercise and Sport Psychology), she’s well aware of the mental health benefits of moving your muscles. “I often recommend exercise for my psychotherapy clients, particularly for those who are anxious or depressed,” she says.

Exercise has a dramatic impact on one’s mental well being. In fact, according to Psyblog, when it comes to the mind, there is very little that exercise can’t do. Exercise has been clinically proven to:

So, exercise paired with clean eating = a longer, healthier, and happier life. Why, then, is it so difficult? Why do so few realize their health and wellness goals?

Exercise is hard (and it should be).

Fitness is empowering…and inherently difficult

Transforming your body and mind isn’t easy. It cannot be. The benefits of a healthy and active life demand that you push your limits, that you challenge your body and mind over and over, day after day. At a biological level, to build strength, your body must literally eat its own fat reserves, tear muscle tissue, and build that tissue back (stronger than before) while you sleep. At a mental level, you must push beyond self doubt and fear to challenge yourself. In fact, fitness depends on failure – you must work to the point of failure, fail, then rebuild, and try again.

It is (literally) much easier to just sit on the coach or better yet, move – but not really push it (the casual, slow treadmill trod + gym, make-up selfie comes to mind – if your fake eyelashes are still in place after a workout, you are doing it wrong). What’s more, as a general trend, we like being comfortable. We do not like failing. We do not like pushing limits. We do not like risk. We do not appreciate challenges that demand change, effort, or transformation. In fact, as a culture, we have associated this kind of hard work with negative stereotypes and erroneously believe that when we are rich enough, fit enough, successful enough,  we can stop working so hard; our success will be portrayed by our constant ease and effortless existence (Mai Tia’s on the beach anyone?).

Not to mention the fact that exercise (in the gym and treadmill sense) is, well, really boring.

Fitness (and just about any level of success) demands intense and consistent effort. It demands that we continuously move beyond our comfort zones in pursuit of something just beyond, always – not just until we realize a specific weight or dress size.

You cannot eat whatever you want.

Tacos? Anyone?

You know what else releases all those feel good endorphins? Food. And my God, do we have an unhealthy relationship with it. It is a source of pleasure and guilt, of joy and torment. And this dysfunctional relationship makes any nutrition program difficult. In short, diets don’t work. To realize life long health and wellness, we need to fundamentally change the way we view food and nourishment. We cannot simply cut out food groups or drastically cut calories. Exercise is hard work; it will make you hungry. To exercise, you must eat – but we also cannot eat whatever we want whenever we want. We need to learn how to fuel and nourish our bodies, how to read and satisfy hunger cues, how to foster a healthy relationship with the foods we eat. This takes time and effort; it demands knowledge and agency.

And, just like physical activity, it takes work – from the inside out. Did we mention that work is hard? Yes. yes it it.

The Trap of Routine

As human beings, we adore routine. We are creatures of habit, and we like to know what to expect; we like to feel in control and we appreciate the semblance of control that our routines provide. But routines, while they can provide a sense of stability that we all love and admire, are detrimental to fitness and wellness. In fact, that gym routine is working against your fitness goals. To continue to realize the benefits of a fit and active lifestyle, you must challenge yourself – meaning, you must purposefully avoid and push past your comfort zone.

All this hard stuff? You have to do it forever.

Health and wellness isn’t a journey with a definite destination. This journey? It is a lifelong process.

The problem of motivation

Doing hard things forever is difficult – even if those hard things are incredible for you (and make you feel and look fabulous). To be successful in the long run, to make good choices every day from this day forward, you are going to need motivation – intrinsic motivation.

All the little external tricks that we use (that brownie for completing that run? that dress you bought? that trip to the spa you promised yourself?) are not the ticket to permanent transformation. Traditional forms of motivation (losing a specific amount of weight, fitting into a specific dress size, competing in a run or charity event) have a definite end. They are dependent on external cues and, once those cues have been met and satisfied, the motivation to stick with and do “the hard things” fades.

To be and stay motivated long after the initial glamour collapses into a pool of sweat, to continuously pursue challenge and possibility, to push beyond your comfort zone time and time again, you need to build an internal motivation source. In short, to motivate external transformation, we have to first change inside – internally.

How Coaches Create Intrinsic Motivation

The question then: what motivates us at our cores? What are the deepest needs and desires motivating our daily choices and actions? On a daily basis, we need:

  • to be accepted and loved
  • to interact with others
  • to feel empowered and powerful
  • to feel important
  • to be organized and “in the know”
  • to feel unique
  • to be supported
  • to feel as though we are a part of something more or greater

Coaches, thus:

A little helping hand makes it all that much easier (and more fun)
  1. Build and maintain online fitness communities (fitfams) that support long term health and wellness goals, inspire healthy choices, and encourage individuals within that community to overcome challenges and to continue moving forward. These communities enable members to share their journeys and to share in the journeys of others, appealing to our natural desire to be a part of something greater than ourselves while simultaneously cultivating acceptance, support, and social interaction – anytime and anywhere. In your community, you are surrounded, virtually and physically, by others who understand your struggles, who support your fit lifestyle, and who share in your triumphs and set backs (making those triumphs that much sweeter, and those set backs just a little bit easier).
  2. Run fitness challenges, utilizing various tools, programs, and incentives. Coaches don’t simply build a community and then set you loose to wander, aimlessly (I have definitely walked into a gym more than once and, unable to figure out how to work that $#! thing, walked out)! Using a diverse set of programs and tools, coaches establish expectations along with specific workout and nutrition programs. They provide the knowledge and the means to realize these expectations, step by step. They take the guess work out of fitness, tailoring your program to your specific goals and unique needs/concerns while providing the knowledge, support, and guidance necessary to realize success – day in and day out.
  3. Enable you to pursue fitness any time and anywhere. Coaches understand that we all lead busy lives. Thus, they provide the support and tools necessary for you to integrate fitness and healthy choices within your daily “routine.” Your coaches are always just a message away – and while you are still responsible for you, coaches empower the members of their community to take an active role in their own transformations by requiring active engagement, accountability, and above all, positivity.

If you are looking for something that works, if you are ready to take the next step forward and commit to a healthy life and lifestyle…

You aren’t looking for a gym membership, spin class, or the next diet craze. You are looking for a coach.

Ready to take the next step? Click here to make me your coach.