Stuffed Spaghetti Squash Boats with Tofu

Stuffed Spaghetti Squash Boats (perfect vegetarian Thanksgiving dish!)As the country becomes collectively more health-conscious, holiday meals have gotten a little more difficult. Your aunt is vegan; your cousin doesn’t eat gluten; Grandma is lactose-intolerant; your sister doesn’t eat meat; Dad invited Michael Pollan to dinner—sh*t just got complicated and that Stop & Shop turkey ain’t gonna cut it.

While that scenario is a little dramatized (Me? Exaggerate?? Never…), we probably all have a person coming to dinner this Thanksgiving who doesn’t want to eat turkey. In my family, it’s my mom and I. Luckily, there are countless ways to incorporate holiday flavors into a main course without meat. As part of my collaboration with Nasoya, I experimented around with tons of vegetarian recipes in the kitchen, and these spaghetti squash boats were a home run. They’re filling, use seasonal flavors, and make for a perfect vegetarian Thanksgiving meal. If you’re vegan, just leave out the goat cheese!

Stuffed Spaghetti Squash Boats (perfect vegetarian Thanksgiving dish!)

Stuffed Spaghetti Squash Boats with Tofu

Yield: 2

Stuffed Spaghetti Squash Boats with Tofu

Ingredients

  • ½ container Nasoya lite firm tofu (about 7oz), crumbled using a fork
  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • ½-3/4 lb Brussels sprouts, halved
  • ½ cup cranberry sauce (I used whole fruit sauce because I love the chunks!)
  • 1/3 cup pecans
  • ¼ cup crumbled goat cheese
  • Extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper for seasoning

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise; scrape out the seeds and stringy guts; brush with olive oil, salt and pepper; place face-side down in a pan; and bake for 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of your squash. If you’re unfamiliar with spaghetti squash, use THIS TUTORIAL as a reference—it’ll walk you through the baking process using pictures.
  2. When the squash is cooked, flip the halves over and partially scrape out the inside with a fork. You want to leave at least a ½-inch of the meat attached to the skin so that your boats hold their structure. Add the squash you’ve scraped out to a bowl with the Brussels sprouts, crumbled tofu, cranberry sauce, and pecans. Stir it all together.
  3. Fill the two spaghetti squash halves with the mixture and sprinkle the top with the goat cheese.
  4. Reduce your oven’s temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and cook for 10 minutes.
  5. Enjoy! Make sure to scrape out the sides of your bowl as you eat so you don’t let any delicious spaghetti squash go to waste.
http://pumpsandiron.com/2014/11/19/stuffed-spaghetti-squash-boats-with-tofu/

Stuffed Spaghetti Squash Boats (perfect vegetarian Thanksgiving dish!)Stuffed Spaghetti Squash Boats (perfect vegetarian Thanksgiving dish!)This post was sponsored by Nasoya. I was giving full creative control over the content and all opinions, as always, are my own.

Do you have any vegetarians coming to Thanksgiving dinner this year? What are you planning on serving?

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Festive Finds: My Holiday Shopping Day with Nespresso and Sur La Table

Nespresso VertuoLineI feel like this week’s theme is all about blogging being the best form of “work” going. Hilton Head Health, and I had another awesome opportunity a few weeks ago, teaming up with Nespresso and Sur La Table for a holiday shopping spree. I know, I know, I’m annoying and spoiled.

As part of their Festive Finds experience, Nespresso hooked me up with their new VertuoLine (I’m obsessed—I’ve been using it every morning) and gave me a Sur La Table gift card to use during a shopping day. If you follow me on Instagram (@nicoleperr), you already got a little peek into the day, but it started with a car service picking me up at my apartment, driving me to the Nespresso boutique on Newbury Street for a cup of coffee and breakfast treat, and then taking me over to Sur La Table.

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I ended up spending my gift card on a mix of kitchen necessities (I was in desperate need of new pans!), fun gadgets (popsicle maker? Yes, please.), and a few blogging props (can never have enough decorative straws, am I right??). Check out my festive finds:

Sur La Table Holiday Shopping Guide

When I went in for my shopping day, Sur La Table didn’t have any Nespresso accessories, but next on my wish list is a container for the coffee capsules. I haven’t tried all the flavors yet, but so far vanilla is a standout favorite.nespresso-festive-finds-1nespresso-pods

nespresso-festive-finds-4Big thanks to Nespresso and Sur La Table–you spoiled me!

If you could go on a mini shopping spree at Sur La Table what would top your buying list? If you’re a Nespresso fan, what’s your favorite brew?

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Tips for Portion Control and Why It Matters

hilton-head-health-menu-food-plan-13Hey guys! Sorry it was so quiet on the blog last week. If you follow me on social media, you probably already put two and two together, but I was invited to Hilton Head Health for the week, a wellness spa and weight loss retreat in South Carolina, along with five other bloggers. Rough job I have, huh? ;)

I thought a lot about how to best talk about the trip on P&I. One big post with a general description of the program? Several day-in-the-life posts? A formal review? A food diary of what we ate? Nothing seemed quite right. And if it seems like I’m making a mountain out of a molehill decision, it’s because that’s exactly what the whole experience was like that for me—I ended up getting a ton out of a trip that initially had me wondering “why was I even asked here?” I am so thankful I got the opportunity to go on this trip, and can’t wait to share all the takeaways and “ah-ha” moments on the blog over the next couple weeks. I think it’ll work best to spread out all I want to write about over several blog posts, so expect regular mentions of HH Health in between normally scheduled workouts and other P&I posts.

I wanted to start by sharing some takeaways from a lecture on portion control I attended while at H3. Each day there are educational workshops and lectures at Hilton Head Health on various topics that guests can attend, and this one led by Bob Wright, the Director of Education, caught my interest. Whether you’re fighting a food addiction, want to lose weight, or are just trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, I think you’ll find the following information useful—I know I did!

Why Portion Control Matters

“We’ve oversold exercise as a means for weight loss.”

Couldn’t have said it better, Bob. I get asked all the time: “What exercises can I do to make [insert body part] smaller?” Eat a salad, dude. Eat. A. Salad. Exercise is, of course, an essential component to weight loss, but its efficacy pales in comparison to that of a healthy diet. What you eat and, more importantly, how much you eat is of the upmost importance. Think about how much time and effort it would take to burn 1,500 calories through exercise. You’d have to run at a 10-minute-mile pace for roughly 15 miles. Fifteen. On the flip side, it would take you a mere 20 minutes to consume that many calories if you went out to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.hilton-head-health-menu-food-plan-3

The Halo Effect—-remember, even healthy calories count.

Choosing healthy foods is just half the battle; you can still undermine your efforts if you’re not controlling portions of those foods. Bob referred to this tendency for us to eat more of something the healthier it sounds as “the Halo Effect,” and I’m sure it’s something we’ve all experienced. Today health is used as a marketing tool—if we see “sugar-free” or “all natural” on the packaging of foods, we feel better about eating it—and eating more of it.

I think the best example of the Halo Effect is peanut/almond/nut butter. It’s a nutrient-dense, healthy food. But if you eat a jar of it in two days (my typical rate of consumption) … not so great. Portion control matters.hilton-head-health-menu-food-plan-8

Tips for Portion Control

Identify your “danger” foods.

Danger foods are those not-so-healthy treats (or healthy foods that are not-so-healthy in large quantities) that you can’t eat in moderation. Bob differentiated them from other treats by defining them as the foods that, once in your house, you don’t forget are there. I love thinking about them that way. For me, honey roasted peanut butter would be a danger food. If I buy a jar, it burns a hole through my pantry and is the sole subject matter of my thoughts whenever I’m in the apartment. Hmm what else can I smear this on?? Inevitably, two days after buying it, my boyfriend will open up the pantry and ask, “Wasn’t there just a full thing of peanut butter in here?” MAYBE THERE WAS MAYBE THERE WASN’T SHUT UP.

I’m the same way about certain ice creams (a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Cinnamon Buns is a single serving and you can’t tell me otherwise). But there are lots of other treats that don’t faze me. I’ll buy chocolate bars and chocolate chips and totally forget they’re even in the kitchen. Same with candy; I can have a couple pieces and then stop eating without much effort.

The first step in mastering portion control is acknowledging that there are some foods you can’t control. We all have them! Once you’ve identified yours, keep danger foods out of your home and limit the presence of other treat foods. It doesn’t mean you can never eat ice cream again, it just means you shouldn’t constantly surround yourself with it.hilton-head-health-menu-food-plan-4

Re-engineer your environment.

One of my favorite things Bob said during this lecture was that willpower is a muscle that fatigues. You often hear willpower being associated to a muscle, but usually in the context that it can be strengthened. I had never thought about the opposite effect, but it’s so true! Just like a muscle, willpower can also fatigue from overuse. You wouldn’t workout 24/7 so why would you surround yourself by trigger foods 24/7? Exercise your willpower when you go out to dinner with friends or attend holiday parties. Let your willpower rest and recover when at home. Keep danger foods out of your home to create a kitchen environment that minimizes the need for willpower. Out of sight, out of mind.

In addition to the food you surround yourself with, creating an environment that promotes success may mean swapping out your plates. Since 1950, plate size has increased by an inch and a half, and studies show that people eat more when they’re eating out/off of bigger containers. It made me think back to my first apartment in Boston out of college. It hadn’t been remodeled in decades (post-grad budget = a new appreciation for “vintage” things), and I remember my dinner plates wouldn’t fit in the cupboards. Never thought much about it at the time, but now I realize it’s probably because plates were smaller back then. Stop supersizing your dinnerware and you’ll stop supersizing your portions.hilton-head-health-menu-food-plan-9

Lose the “clean your plate” mentality.

To a degree, we’re all conditioned to eat until it’s done, but I think older generations will find this point particularly relevant. I know my dad, for example, wasn’t allowed to leave the dinner table as a kid until he’d finished everything on his plate—a common household rule back then and still today. Bob raised a good point: Of course parents who lived through the Great Depression, a time when food and money were scarce, would have (and pass on) a clean-your-plate mentality!

But you’re not doing yourself any favors by eating more than your body needs. Worried about wasting food? What about all those “starving kids in Africa”? As Bob put it, you can either waste food or waist it. He then asked us how cleaning a dinner plate was going to help children in Africa—a question we all couldn’t help but laugh at. It’s so true! Stop eating when you’ve satisfied your hunger. hilton-head-health-menu-food-plan-12

When you look at nutrition labels, pay particular attention to serving size.

When I look at a nutrition label, I’m looking for two things in particular: ingredient list (what am I eating?) and serving size (how much am I eating?). A serving size on a label is not always equal to the portion size you’ll eat. Nutrition label structure hasn’t been changed in over 20 years, so companies can get away with showing stats for just a fraction of what most people would consume as a single portion. Doesn’t it drive you crazy when you grab a snack-sized bag of something-or-other and look at the label only to realize there are five “servings” within that one tiny bag?! Who the hell is going to eat just one-fifth of a snack-sized bag? Not this girl, that’s for sure.hilton-head-health-menu-food-plan-11

For anyone interested in reading more about the topic, Bob left us with three book recommendations: Mindless Eating and Slim by Design, both by Brian Wansink, and The 9-Inch Diet by Alex Bogusky and Chuck Porter.

All the pictures in this post are of the beautiful (and thoughtfully portioned!) dishes we were served at Hilton Head Health. As you can clearly see, taste doesn’t need to be scarified when eating healthy. The portions did at times feel small, but the flavor never disappointed. I honestly loved every single thing I ate while at H3!

Do you ever struggle with portion control? What are your “danger foods”? Any tips to add? Portion control is a huge (and important) topic–let’s discuss!

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