Friday, April 18, 2014

The Magical Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash is a variety of hard squash unlike any other. It looks similar to acorn squash, pumpkin, butternut squash, etc. but has a texture unlike any of those squashes. When cooked you can run a fork down the squash and yield strands of squash in the shape of angel hair pasta or spaghetti.

It is popular among the dieting and low carb crowds because it is as filling as pasta but is much less calorie dense. Here are the nutritional stats for one cup of cooked spaghetti squash:

You can use it in any recipe where you'd normally use pasta, and it's neutral flavor pairs well with any cuisine. Many other bloggers have covered how to cook it, and I suggest clicking on the squash photo below to read a post from Elana's Pantry with a nice short set of instructions with photos:

I eat spaghetti squash at least once a month, and usually eat one small squash worth of noodles per serving. Here are some of my favorite toppings: 

Italian Style
1 medium onion, sliced
1-2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1 small bell pepper, sliced
1 clove garlic, diced
1 bunch kale, sliced into ribbons (can sub any other dark leafy green)
1 can diced tomatoes
1-2 cups broccoli, chopped
Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste
Nutritional yeast to taste
Black olives to taste

Saute the onions, mushrooms, and pepper for 3-5 minutes on medium heat in a medium pot. Use juice from the tomatoes, red wine vinegar or water to keep the veggies from sticking. Add garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes.

Add in your sliced kale and tomatoes. Add in salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste. Stir to combine and cook until kale is wilted.

Add your broccoli, cover and let simmer on low heat for 3-5 minutes. Stir in broccoli once it's had a few minutes to steam. Continue to cook until your preferred broccoli doneness. 

Place 1/2 of this mixture on your squash. Top with nutritional yeast and chopped olives.

Bulked up Rawsta
Follow the instructions for Rawsta from this post

Mix raw noodles with squash and pesto or hummus.

Mexican Style
1 medium onion, sliced
1-2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1 small bell pepper, sliced
1 clove garlic, diced
1 can/2 cups black beans
1/2 container fresh salsa
Salt, pepper, taco blend (cumin, coriander, garlic, chili powder, cayenne) to taste

Saute the onions, mushrooms, and pepper for 3-5 minutes on medium heat in a medium pot. Use juice from the salsa, red wine vinegar or water to keep the veggies from sticking. Add garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes.

Stir in black beans and salsa plus your seasonings. Cook for at least 10 minutes for flavors to combine. You can also add fresh or frozen greens with the beans and salsa.

Top the squash with 1/3-1/2 of this mixture plus avocado and cilantro.

Add the squash noodles to your favorite soup. It's best to add warm noodles to warm soup.

Use the noodles in place of where you'd normally use rice, for example, as a bed for a delicious curry.

Side Dish
The noodles are great on their own as a side dish to a more traditional meal, like a slice of lentil loaf or a veggie burger. Make sure to season with your favorite spices, condiments or nutritional yeast.

If you have another way you love to eat spaghetti squash please share it in the comments!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What I Ate Wednesday

I'm not feeling wordy this morning but I do enjoy reviewing and sharing my food experiences from the week. I hope you do as well!

One of my favorite easy meals: bean tostadas topped with cilantro lime lettuce and avocado.

Fruity pancakes

I like having one pack of veggie burgers on hand at all times for quick meals. This is a salad with a Gardenburger and roasted sweet potato.

Lunch in Cocoa, FL at the adorable So Good Cottage Cafe. This salad was fantastic! It's a peanut curry sauce with brown rice.  

Asparagus & edamame salad. Dressing was avocado, miso, lime and rice vinegar. 

Left: dinner portion of salad with salsa, sprouted lentils, sauteed mushrooms & onions, and roasted cauliflower. Right: lunch portion the next day (cauliflower was on the side!)

Kabooki Sushi: this moriawase plate was so pretty I had to share again!

One of my new favorite combos: black bean soup with a side of nooch grits.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Patience + Recovery

I saw the foot doctor last night and got the news I was hoping for: the surgical shoe did its job and I can begin six weeks of a rest/recovery protocol. I really like this doctor, so check him out if you’re in Orlando and need foot care! This visit he did an ultrasound of my second and third metatarsals (the bones that run from your toes back into your foot). This is what it looked like (image from Google, not my own!):

The white line at the top is skin, and the white line with the arrow is the bone. Mine looked similar, but instead of an actual break you could see spots (1 on the second metatarsal and 2 on the third) that looked darker. You could also see areas above those spots where new bone was growing. It was nice to finally visualize the injury and helped me to mentally accept the lifestyle changes I’ve had to make and will continue to make for the next six weeks.

The protocol for the next six weeks is this: figure out what my 100%, normal foot load is. That includes all my daily walking, exercise on my feet, standing, etc. For this first week I need to aim for 10% of that maximum, week 2 is 20%, week 3 is 30%. In week 4 I need to drop back to almost nothing, and even wear the surgical shoe again. Then in week 5 I jump back to 30-40%, and in week 6 I can try to get close to my 100%. Before the injury I was running 3-4 days per week, cycling once a week, and strength training on my feet for at least 3 days per week. I also took one 15 minute walk a day minimum and spent most of my work day standing at my desk.

It’s hard to figure out what to aim for, but I am going to be conservative. I want to be patient with this process so I truly heal and don’t re-injure myself. One of the bloggers I read, Laura at The Gluten Free Treadmill, is going through a similar injury and her posts about it resonate strongly. She talks about her frustrations and fears about gaining weight. I absolutely relate to that fear and have been struggling with modifying my food intake in response to less movement. I have found a good balance of strength training off my feet and cycling over the last few weeks, and will continue that protocol. On days where I know my foot stress is low I might add in a short walk or use the elliptical/ARC trainer.

Running and being physically active have become prominent parts of my life, and I've had to think long and hard about who I am without those things. The people I've met since I moved to Florida a year ago know me as super healthy and active, and it’s odd to step away from that role temporarily. I do worry that health and wellness is more like an obsession and I've had to confront a lot of my feelings and fears about food and fitness. Another blog I love is Choosing Raw, and in her Weekend Reading post this week she talks about her food not having to be perfect.

This is an ideal I’m trying to adopt again. I often feel like I’m doing something wrong if I’m not eating a big salad or soup full of vegetables for lunch/dinner. I also worry too much about portions and sometimes macronutrients. I need to remind myself every day that as long as I am eating mostly whole foods I am okay. Last night we went to our favorite sushi place so Carly could have it once more before she moved. I got the vegetable moriawase plate and since we were sitting at the bar talking to the chef he made it special, and by special I mean with lots of avocado.

Avocado is something I usually try to eat in moderation and at first I got a little freaked out, but then I thought about it and realized that avocados are whole foods that are full of healthy fats and nutrients. Eating a plate of raw veggies, rice and seaweed with some avocado is a good choice and will balance out in the end. I am being patient with myself during this process and am trying to embrace the choices I make instead of punish myself for them.

Thanks for sticking with me if you’re still here. I will keep the blog updated with my recovery, and with results of the other medical tests/appointments I've been going through. I moved up my bone marrow biopsy follow up to this Thursday so hopefully I will be posting some good news on that soon!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Small Step Sunday: Freeze it!

Your freezer is probably not doing everything it could be for you. Many of us only use our freezer for ice, desserts, and frozen meals. I've written before about how important it is to make a plan for your week of meals and your freezer can be a big help.

Here are some ways to better utilize your freezer:

1. Buy pre-cut frozen vegetables for use in recipes or smoothies. They can sometimes be cheaper than fresh, and are more nutritious than canned (and also don't have preservatives and exposure to BPA). 

2. Make extra portions of soup, stews, cooked beans, loaves, casseroles, etc. and freeze them for later use. I like to use masking tape and a sharpie to label each item. 

3. Keep your nuts and seeds in the freezer. This will keep them from going bad as quickly.

4. Make your smoothies ahead. I make smoothies for my whole week on Sunday. I freeze them all and take one out the night before and let it defrost in the fridge. It is ready for me to eat by the time I get to work.

5. Keep a tub of frozen bananas ready for fresh smoothies and quick ice cream. Sometimes I'll only need half a fresh banana, and having a tub in my freezer to store extra bananas is very helpful.

6. Make your own protein bars/balls and store them in the freezer. This is especially nice in the summer when you are warm from a workout. Cold bars from the freezer help you cool down and fuel up. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

In Other Words

Recover with 110%
A wonderful short & sweet list of 10 ways to aid recovery from athletic endeavors. The giveaway featured on the post is no longer active, but the information is timeless!

A Visual Guide to Nuts 
I love nuts. All kinds of nuts. This guide from Epicurious shows you what the nuts look like, and has information about the characteristics of each nut paired with recipes. A lot of people are scared of fats, but eating nuts has been shown in myriad studies to be helpful for your health. Do not read this if you are hungry!

How to Pick a Personal Trainer
When my foot is healed I am planning to hire a trainer to help me make a more advanced strength training program and ensure that I’m performing exercises correctly. This amazing post is long but highly detailed and informative. Anyone thinking about hiring a trainer or becoming one needs to read this post.

This Infographic Shows the Phytonutrients You Need to Stay Healthy 
If you can’t tell by now, I love infographics. They’re a great way to deliver information in an easily digestible way. This one discusses food groups by color, as color is usually determined by the type of phytonutrients in the food. This is why I always try to eat a rainbow every day!

Harnessing the Power of Self-Identity
I wrote a post recently about identity and shortly after I came across this much more in depth piece on the same topic. I don’t totally buy into the Primal stuff on this blog, but the posts are always thoughtful. Self-identity is a key to making sustainable changes and this article discusses how we can modify our self-identities.

New evidence linking fruit and vegetable consumption with lower mortality
We are bombarded with scientific studies every day, and can often be misled when we don’t take the time to read them carefully. I heard of one recently that denigrated vegetarian diets, but only had something like 2% vegetarian subjects of a sample of thousands. The short and simple of this one: “Eating seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day reduces your risk of death at any point in time by 42 percent compared to eating less than one portion, reports a new study.” This is great advice, and really not especially hard to implement even on a omnivore diet.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

WIAW + UConn

I can't start this post without waxing nostalgic about the UConn Huskies women's basketball program. I began watching them when I was 10 years old and they won their first championship. I have been an avid fan since then. I have watched them win all of their nine titles and have followed former Huskies through their professional careers. There is something powerful about the consistent excellence of the team that inspires me as an athlete and as someone working in education.

Coach Auriemma's philosophy is that hard work makes the difference, and that little things add up to greatness. These lessons translate to whatever work you are doing whether it relates to school, your professional life, wellness, art or building relationships. Life will always give you speedbumps and setbacks, but consistent hard work over time will always pay off. Congratulations to UConn, now on to the food!

A standard meal in our house: Mediterranean influenced tapas. This plate has hummus, chickpea artichoke salad, roasted cauliflower and tons of fresh veg.

My two favorite foods: Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes. 

A typical Friday night leftovers plate. My co-worker gave me some beautiful greens that we braised and paired with all the leftover stuff from the fridge.

Lunch at Hawker's in Orlando. Jicama salad and bean sprouts!

It's been a rough month and we were driving right by our friendly local vegan/gluten free bakery Raphsodic! I treated myself to a vanilla mocha cupcake and got Carly this blueberry biscotti.

Bed of greens/kale, quinoa, black beans, thinly sliced squash, peppers, and topped with a homemade chimichurri sauce. 

Really tasty corn soup (we have local corn in our market!). I based it on this recipe but used amaranth instead of millet, added nutritional yeast, and threw in the rest of my collards at the end.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Small Step Sunday: Laugh

We've all heard the phrase "laughter is the best medicine". According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter increases oxygen in your blood and releases stress in the short term and can have long term benefits such as improving your immune system and relieving pain. If you've been reading my blog you know that I've been simultaneously dealing with breaking up an 11 year relationship, my first serious running injury, and some mysterious/troubling blood test results. It's been a very rough few months, and I was feeling really down about it all on Friday night. Luckily we had just gotten "Anchorman 2" from Netflix and it was exactly what I needed to relieve some of the stress, sadness, and tension.

The Internet makes it really easy to laugh thanks to YouTube and memes. Here are a few of my favorites to get your bellies laughing: