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!

Mom Life

A Love Letter to my Post-Baby Body

A Love Letter to My Post-Baby Body

Pregnancy isn’t all glamour…though it is a whole lot of love

Pregnancy – there were too many words and then, too few. My language, desires, passions, along with my energy, were swallowed into a growing chasm of possibility – a darkness bathed in the light of a dozen competing dreams and ambitions, of what ifs and maybes, a growing lump of futures and pasts, a million different stories with a million different endings, written in the flesh of my expanding body.

I had been an athlete, riddled with muscles and scars. I had been too hard for the possibilities of my child and our future, and so, my body shifted and pressed outward until those hard places collapsed into jelly. I became soft and pliable. Every inch of me shifted, like water, and my skin bubbled out into radiant balloons and clouds, dreaming just beyond the horizon of my son, his future, our family, our future – my story told in the third person, by me but for someone else.

I was a walking, talking embodiment of every duality and hypocrisy: simultaneously strong, then weak, empowered and powerless. The world moved forward with and because of me…and regardless of me and what I thought I wanted, nature would, at some point, take over.

In birth, there is a death: the woman you were before fades and the mother you will become follows your child out into the world. You take your first breath together.

As an athlete and as a poet, I had always been focused on questions of the body. From how it worked (and how far it could take my extreme desires and goals) to the stories it told and transcribed; from mountain descents in spring to my graduate dissertation and several largely un-read books of poetry.

Inspiring labor with exercise: 24 hours to baby

Thus, my pregnancy created another opportunity, not only for me to reflect on my body, but for others to share in its struggles, triumphs, and transformations. Pregnancy was my first realization that my body, built by and for me, was not solely mine. It was of me, but it did not belong only to me. It was a part of some greater dance, of some larger purpose and reality, of the wilderness without and the communities I built against that wilderness.

Thus, for nine months, we discussed how motherhood transforms your life and career; we also discuss, at great lengths, the various troubles and awkward situations that pregnancy itself creates – from morning sickness and swollen feet, to weight gain and back pain. And while there was discussion of getting my “pre baby body” back, of the bike and ski trips that would follow, of my silly claims that I would be back in the saddle (literally) in just a few short weeks – no one mentioned the obvious: that person and that body were gone, replaced instead with the mother I became the instant my son entered the world and landed, like a bird, onto my chest.

Perhaps this is what so many fitness professionals, well meaning grandmothers, and ill advised athletic trainers misunderstand when it comes to motherhood and the postpartum period…

After a day of pre-labor, two hours of the universe repeatedly breaking my pelvis awhile squeezing my stomach with barbed wire, and a dramatically quick series of pushes, my son was being weighed and cleaned while I was stepping out of the tub and back into some new world. Naked, in a maze of midwives, grandma’s, and soft baby voices, I looked in the mirror.

From the outside, it wasn’t pretty. I was caked in sweat and fluids, my hair was a nest of anxiety and humidity, my breasts swollen from the sudden rush of motherhood, my body exhausted and strained. And yet, standing there, I took my hands and passed them over my stomach. I pressed it in to my spine, feeling the sensation of empty air and taking in with that sensation, my new body. I was light, free, filled with an impossible confidence and irresponsible satisfaction. Appreciative, perhaps. Liberated and new.

My world had changed; so had I. And my body had shifted along with it, emerging from the dark pain of labor with a new strength and thus, a new form.

48 hours into the world, stealing sleep, healing

There was no getting my  pre-baby body back. That person, that body, that story was over. Something new had emerged in its place. And discovering that body, living in it, learning to love it, occupying it? THAT was what my fitness journey was and became.

Not losing weight.

Not regaining my figure.

Not jumping back into racing or mountain adventures.

But, instead, resting, regaining strength, discovering this new body in all its forms, and learning to adore and appreciate its unique beauty and possibilities.

There were frustrations, of course. Fears. Sadness. The sleep deprivation, anxiety, uncertainty, and of course, the pain of my recovery. There was also my inability to let go of who I was. I loved her, of course – that gypsy of a woman. I mourned her. I had spent 32 years building and defining who I was (and the body that encapsulated and expressed her). The thought of rebuilding seemed impossible.

And yet, piece by piece, day by day, choice by choice, the painful, boring, and sometimes exhilarating process of rediscovery and re-imagination took hold.

Piece by piece, rebuilding a life x2

Perhaps that is what my journey as a coach, a mother, was; perhaps that is my love letter to my post-baby body and the insight I bring to the new mamas who join me. I was someone; I became someone else. And my body, my brilliant, flawed, captivating, compelling physical form, still soft and pliable, shifted and slowly empowered me to become that someone new –

A mother

An athlete

A coach

A writer

…and so much more.