Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

Our mother needed a break today, as all mothers occasionally do. Audrey is cooking dinner, which terrifies me, and I am writing today’s blog post.

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Tonight’s dinner is vegetarian spaghetti squash lasagna. This healthy lasagna is low-carb, reduced-calorie, paleo (depending on what marinara sauce and cheeses you use), “clean” (depending on your very subjective definition of “clean”), high-protein and veggie-packed! Hey, I think I hit all the buzzwords! Seriously, though, this lasagna is delicious but far far better for you than your usual starch- and fat-laden junk from Olive Garden or whatever.

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The idea of spaghetti squash lasagna is not a new one, but given our great love for all things spaghetti squash and all things lasagna, we thought it would be appropriate to make our own recipe and share it with everyone.

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Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

Serves 3-4 hungry people

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 cups cooked spaghetti squash (we microwaved the halved squash for about 8 minutes)
  • 1 cup marinara sauce (we used Francesco Rinaldi no-salt-added tomato sauce)
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese (we used Trader Joe’s Fat-Free Ricotta)
  • 1 oz or 1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano, shredded
  • 6 oz or 1.5 cups mozzarella shreds (we used Lucerne Fat-Free Mozzarella, which has 9 grams of protein per ounce, about 50% more than regular mozzarella!)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Layer the spaghetti squash, marinara sauce, ricotta, parmesan, and mozzarella in an oven-safe casserole dish, making sure that the topmost layer is a cheesy layer!
  3. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for about 20 minutes.
  4. Remove the foil and broil until the cheese bubbles.
  5. Eat!

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make salad with the leftovers!

make salad with the leftovers!

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna, 中文 Translation

今天我们的妈妈很累,所以妹妹做了晚饭,我得写今天的博客。对不起,我的中文不好。

我们今天的晚餐是健康的烤宽面条,其实一点面也没有。最近美国人不喜欢吃面粉,因为他们都觉得麸质是有毒的。当然麸质没有什么不好的,我常常吃面筋,可是面粉其实没有什么营养,而且吃面粉会让你的血糖提高,所以吃这种没有太多碳水化合物的食品会让你健康,对你的小蛮腰好。

我不知道你懂不懂我的中文。我的父母不知道我的中文这么差,因为我考AP中文考了一个五(最高分)。其实,谁都考了一个五,化学考试也是的。请别告诉他们,我中文是很马虎的。哈哈哈,我是老虎,妹妹是马,我们最的事当然都是很马马虎虎的。

成分:

  • 差不多710 mL意大利面条壁球 (谢谢,Google 翻译)
  • 237mL 防切将
  • 425 g 乳清干酪 (谢谢,Google 翻译)
  • 28 g 干酪 (谢谢,Google 翻译。不知道你对不对。)
  • 170 g 无肥马苏里拉奶酪

用这些成分做lasagna,有没有那么难!快吃!很好很强大!

我们在养这个草泥马,真可爱!

Top Four On-the-Go Workouts… Even for the Exercise-Averse!

Note: If you want to see photos of my mother ballroom dancing then keep reading!

When I first went to school away from home, I became completely sedentary. I’ve never been good at most team sports, there was no karate studio nearby, and the gym was full of scary upperclassmen (or so it seemed when I was a freshman). In an attempt to get some exercise, I Googled “prison workouts” to see what I could do inside my closet-sized dorm room but none of them seemed very appealing to me.

too hardcore

too hardcore

A different type of prison workout - from Pinterest

A different type of prison workout – from Pinterest

By spring term I had worked up the guts to go to the school gym, but before that I relied solely on these four workouts!

endorphin rush! ignore the jaundice

endorphin rush! ignore the jaundice and gigantic face

The best part is that they’re not just for the dorm; anyone who’s stuck in a hotel room, apartment, or other small space (prison?) can do ’em – my mom often does these when she’s on location and doesn’t have access to/can’t be bothered to go to the gym!
1. Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred

30-day-shred

Good workout, but no, 99.99999% of people are NOT going to lose 20 lb. in 30 days just doing this video workout. Just sayin’

Are you ready to get shredded????? Well personally I just wanted to stop being a sedentary lump but my mother did indeed use this in another one of her attempts to get ripped. (I’d like to take this opportunity to note that no matter how much exercise you do, you ain’t gonna get lean and mean unless you have an energy deficit. So cut down on the peanuts, Mommy!)

This 20 min workout is not going to make you expend as much energy (i.e., be as good a cardio sesh) as, say, running, swimming, or using a cardio machine at the gym, but it sure does make you feel like you worked hard!

All you need is a pair of dumbbells, however heavy you want, and either a yoga mat or a carpet/rug. For most exercises there’s a hard version and an easy version so no matter what level of fitness you are at, it won’t be too hard or too easy.

2. Jillian Michael’s Six Week Six Pack

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Okay, before I talk about this video and the rest of the workouts I’d like to take a moment to be really preachy and annoying. Bear with me or skip the next paragraph.

You can’t spot reduce. You can’t spot reduce. You can build muscle in a particular part of your body by doing strength training that focuses on that area, but DOING CRUNCHES IS NOT GOING TO GET RID OF YOUR MUFFIN TOP. There, I said it. So even though I love these workouts, I’m really nitpicky about these things and I can’t stand it when they claim that exercising a certain part of your body will make you lose fat in that area. You lose fat throughout your body by maintaing an energy deficit. Okay, end of tirade against spot reduction myth.

Back to the video. This is another workout video from Jillian Michaels with a focus on abs. There’s special ab workouts as well as some cardio. You can find level one for free here.

3. ¡Zumba!

Zumba-Fitness-Exhilarate-Th

My mother is really into dancing.

China's version of "Dancing with the Stars"

China’s version of “Dancing with the Stars”

She also hates every single other form of exercise. Hates ’em all with a burning passion, I tell you. One day I decided to introduce her to zumba – it’s dancing but with extra cardio! She fell in love right away and now zumba is her go-to workout. She takes zumba classes at the local Y but when she’s shooting she uses the zumba videos that she bought from Amazon.

look at dem quads

look at dem quads and glutes

If you normally dislike exercise then you might like zumba! Honestly, who doesn’t like shaking it?

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fun fact: she weighs more than he does. shhh!

http://tv.sohu.com/20130512/n375628080.shtml

http://tv.sohu.com/20130609/n378536480.shtml

Above is the link to her dances.

ok this isn't zumba but i just find this really funny so i'm gonna post it anyway

ok this isn’t zumba but i just find this really funny so i’m gonna post it anyway

4. Blogilates!

Fun workouts! But NO this will not slim your arms because spot reduction is a myth. Sorry not sorry

Fun workouts! But NO this will not slim your arms because spot reduction is a myth. Sorry not sorry

Cassey Ho is kind of like Jillian Michaels, except peppier and nicer and Asian-er. There are tons and tons of free videos on Blogilates.com, and they’re all really fun! My personal favorites are the song challenges because they’re all pretty short (just the length of a pop song) so you can pick and choose which ones you want to do for your (strength training) workout.

There are soooo many different exercise videos on Blogilates so there’s lots of variety! My favorites include:

  1. What Makes You Booty-ful – oh God, the pain… hard to sit through a math exam after this.
  2. “Work Work” Ab Challenge – dear college admission officers, please note that I said “work work” and not “Work _____.”
  3. Gangnam Style Call Me Maybe Squat Mashup – really fun, not too hard, good for da glutes
  4. Victoria’s Secret Bombshell Butt – disclaimer: didn’t get a bombshell butt. Really fun though!

In addition to workout vids Blogilates also has lots of fun recipes and blog posts! I love the “Cheap Clean Eats” series, especially the banana egg pancakes – I usually do a variation with egg whites and half a scoop of Cellucor whey. I also love Aubernutter mug pancakes which are kinda sorta based on the banana egg recipe!

Happy werkin’!!

My first kiss went a little like this…

Chase painting Joan

Chase painting me when I was 19 before I came to the US

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Vanity Fair Magazine write-up on the book Chase and I made

Dusting the living room coffee table this morning, I saw the book my brother Chase and I made when we were starving artists in Los Angeles.  We reminisced about our childhood in China, which was still a strong influence in Chase’s art work after he came to the US.  Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa wrote in his Letters to a Young Novelist: “The novelist doesn’t choose his themes; he is chosen by them.  He writes on certain subjects because certain things have happened to him.”  This is also true with artists or filmmakers. 

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Chase and I being the Marx brothers for Halloween

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Chase’s self portrait from that era

I am sharing parts of the book here in this blog:

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When we were children, we spent most of our time leaning on the window, looking out and day dreaming. 

My brother taught me how to really see the things that we looked at, how there were shapes in what appeared to be one shape, and colors in what I thought to be one color.  How did he know all this?  I didn’t know.  He was older than me.  Older brothers knew these things.

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We stared at the black roof tiles, grey buildings, brown dirt and green tree tops for hours on end.  The geometry of the shadow changed as the day went on.  The clouds were never the same from minute to minute.  Nature went out of its way to please us — kids with no toys.

One morning, just before dawn, I woke up to see my brother propped up on his elbows by the window sill.  He had the abstract expression of someone in a trance.  Curious, I joined him and looked out.  Everything slumbered still in primeval blue, blurred and dewy.  The world was absolutely calm and still, I could hear my own heart beating.  It was as though the first time in my life I became aware of the creature that was myself.  And I was living the morning’s first stirring breath of air, the first bird taking wing and the sun winking above the horizon.

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Why is it that some moments stay with us, moments that didn’t seem significant?  I close my eyes and I can see the blue mist of that morning, and feel the moist air in my nostrils.

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My mother saw us looking at the sky and bought us a picture book called Forecast the Weather by Observing the Sky.  She hoped that our staring at the sky would somehow turn into an educational experience.  “The red sky forecast a high wind and storm tomorrow,” I’d account at the end of the day.  Or, “the fish-scaled clouds suggest a light drizzle.” I finally had something important to say.

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My mother with my brother Chase in front of our house

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Even in the coldest of winter, we sat by the window and stared.  Our feet rested upon a round box made of wrought iron, filled with poplar wood cinder, covered with fine ashes.  The box was called a foot-warmer.

Before Lunar New Year, after my mother did the rationed special purchase for the festivity, our room would be filled with the warm odor of chestnuts, sweet yams, or dates being cooked in the foot-warmer.  I would feel happy and drowsy from the sweet aroma and carbon monoxide that the brazier emanated.

We looked into other people’s windows too.  Some of the windows looked like mirrors of our own.  The same little faces staring back, lost in their imaginations or boredom.  In the window across from ours lived an older girl with very long black hair.  Every time she lifted her arm to tie her pony tail, I wished I was her.  My mother caught me watching and said, “A big waste of soap to wash all that hair.”  Soap was scarce.  Throughout my childhood, the length of my hair stayed firmly at my earlobe.

Age12_bro_dad

One window always had its curtain drawn.  I heard the other children say that there was a ghost living in that house.  She only came out at night to steal little children.

The curtain was made of a pale blue cotton, dotted with tiny yellow flowers.  Where the flowers had been, there were little holes.  The yellow dye at the time was somehow very erosive and tended to eat through the fabric.

One night my brother and I decided to climb up to that window.  We peeked throughout the yellow flowers.  A ghost! I gasped and nearly fell.  She was an old woman with a very white face, ghastly blue eyes, and a long nose.  We later learned that she was a foreigner, an American.  She had married a handsome Chinese doctor a long, long time ago.

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The day came when I was no longer content with seeking hidden colors in the grey wall.  I had noticed a neighborhood boy and waited for him to pass by every day.  The billowing of the beige curtain in the breeze felt like a caress on my face.  One afternoon, he looked up and saw me.  Did he hear the clamor that my senses made?  I felt like spilling out the window.

This was the time when students were being sent down to work on the farms.  The night before he left, he put his mouth against mine and moved his lips in a funny way.  I didn’t know that was called a kiss.  Nobody told me.  All I knew was I wanted the return of those lips.  That night was the first sleepless night of my life.

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My second sleepless night was during a moist and hot summer.  The girl with long hair was not at her window.  In her place was her grandmother.  Grandmothers didn’t stare out the windows.  They were always cleaning rooms and cooking in the kitchen.  But this one stared.  At nothing.  She seemed to be waiting for something, but I didn’t know what.  Nobody ever came.  She was just in her window, staring, cut off from the world.  It was not the kind of expression that I was used to see in windows.

Then she climbed up and sat on the sill, new black shoes on her bound feet.  My heart missed a beat when I saw her jump out.  Later, I heard that she had wanted to die, but the building was not high enough.  She broke her legs and many ribs.  She had been rich.  Her late husband had owned factories and land.  She was the enemy of the proletariate.  I swore by that window that I’d never be rich.

My family, too, was once well-to-do.  My grandparents owned much land, and had an American education.  They adopted a “better attitude” toward the revolution and gave away most of our eight room house to families that had no house of their own. My brother and I didn’t mind that much about the crowded chaos, but we missed our back room windows.

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My grandparents with their children. My father is the handsome dude in the back

Soon, we made friends with the people who had invaded our house.  The back rooms that they occupied had a view of the long, narrow garden that grew in what had a dried up river bed.  In the spring, the air was perfumed by blooming flowers and fresh cow droppings.  I would stand by the window, breathe in with all the force that my lungs could muster, and sneeze the most satisfying and intoxicating sneeze.

Cow Painting

Beyond the long and narrow garden was a pasture.  My brother would be cow-watching as I sneezed.  For him, their melancholy slow pace radiated resignation and dignity — nowhere worth hurrying to, nothing worth fretting about.  Their black and white hides reflected the blue of the sky, the brown of the earth, the green of the grass.  As for me, I saw only their pink nipples and longed for ice cream.

Ice bream was a rarity in China when we were growing up.  I heard from other girls that you would be rewarded with a bowl of ice cream if you were lucky enough to have your tonsils taken out.  It was minor surgery, but performed without anesthesia.  I convinced my mother, and we went for the operation.  And they did give me a bowl of ice cream to sooth my throat.  But swallowing hurt so terribly that I gave my reward to my brother.

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So many years have passed.  We’ve left behind our childhood.  The windows are on the other side of the earth now.  My brother is still fascinated by the cows and pastures.  Me? I’m still fascinated by the pink nipples and vanilla ice cream.

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The first time I saw an avocado grove and tasted an avocado was when I visited Ojai with Chase, where he painted some of his paintings at the time.  The creamy buttery texture, the floral earthy smell and the complex taste made an indelible impression.  Now that my children are both vegetarians, I use avocados in our meals very often.  They are nutritious and very satiating.

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I used a simple recipe from allrecipe.com with minor changes:

4 large tomatoes, chopped (I used grape tomatoes)

4 avocados – peeled, pitted and diced

1 red onion, thinly sliced (I used red shallots) 

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste

1 (8 ounce) bottle balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing (I used Balsamic glaze and fresh lemon)

I also added a few kernels of fresh sweet corn that is not in the original recipe

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Top Four Fast, Delicious (and Surprisingly Healthy!) Lunch Choices

1. Sandwiches and Wraps

According to some very reputable source on the internet, sandwiches are the top source of calories in the Standard American Diet. If you’re at all surprised, remember that Big Macs and Fatburgers fall under the sandwich category.

Don’t worry, though, because sandwiches can be healthy! Not just healthy but also yummy as a cheeseburger and healthy as a… I don’t know, a collard green? Whatever, just really healthy! And even if you’re on Atkins/Paleo/raw vegan/tapeworm diet (just kidding!) you can always use lettuce or coconut wraps to make a burrito/roll type thing that fits your needs.

sandwich

This is love.

For lunch today I had the best motherlovin’ sandwich ever. It was made with 45-calorie 100% whole wheat bread toasted with Jarlsberg Lite with some dijon mustard, roasted bell peppers, tomato, lettuce, and 1/4 of an avocado. Yum! These are just the things I had on hand, too, so it was super convenient to make.

Oh yeah, and you know what I had on the side of my sandwich? That’s right…

2. Salad!

I know, I know, salad gets a horrible rap from everyone. Salad. It’s like longhand for “sad.” Fitness websites are always whining about how restaurant salads are so deceptive and they are full of mayonnaise and bacon and fried chips and blah blah blah! Everyone hates subsisting on pathetic little leaves of lettuce all in the name of health. And worse yet are those stupid bloggers (oopsies) who go on and on and on about how much they love salads! Who can stand them?

But you know what? Salads can be healthy and yummy, and not just by Slim-Fast standards. A good salad can just be a bunch of (preferably healthy) leftovers with veggies and stuff. It can be whatever you want it to be.

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Summer salad – romaine, watermelon, and baked tofu

So spiralize those cucumbers! Sprinkle on the hulled barley and walnuts. And if you want, spray some olive oil or add a bit of non-diabetes-causing dressing.

3. Soup

There’s nothing better than a nice warm soup on a chilly day. Or a nice chilled soup on a hot day. Or a hearty room temperature soup after a long day. You get the idea.

The best part is that you can freeze and reheat most soups so you can make a huge batch and eat it for months if you’re into the whole meal-prepping thing. You can use practically any ingredients you have to make a great soup. I personally love my soymilk machine (yes, soymilk machine) for making soup – it purees and cooks all the ingredients so I get wonderfully creamy-tasting soups, minus the cream.

soup

Pumpkin soup topped with plain nonfat Greek yogurt, basil, and pepitas.

4. Leftover Mashup

Okay, I realize that pretty much everything here could be a leftover mashup, but sometimes you just want to combine leftovers without even calling it a soup, salad, or sandwich, ya feel?

Sometimes you just want to get food out of the fridge and scarf it down. I definitely feel that a lot.

Well, how can you make this random mashup of leftovers healthy? Easy! You’ve just got to make sure you get three important components: veggies (duh), protein, and (unless you’re on Atkins of whatever, then you can sub cauli rice or spiralized noodles or whatever) starch.

Kitchen

I just want to eat it all right now.

So no matter how busy you are, no excuses! Eat something healthy, yummy, and easy to make. Now that’s a triumvirate of dieting success.

I'm happy because I'm no longer hungry.

I’m happy because I’m no longer hungry.