I’m Thankful For…

Did your family have a tradition of sharing something they were thankful for before dinner was served on Thanksgiving? Mine did. As everyone got older, the things we were thankful for shifted. I remember as a young kid, I never knew what was the right thing to say, so I often just reiterated what people said before me. Thankful for family. Thankful for friends. Thankful for this wonderful meal we were about to eat.

As an adult, I find it hard to pick just one thing to share as my item I’m most thankful for, especially this year. My family. My family’s health. My health. Our home. The ability to put food on the table. The list goes on.

But my kids? They had no problem picking one thing.

My 4-year old shared he’s most thankful for “dump trucks!”

My almost 3-year old shared he’s most thankful for “the roaring T-rex!” (note: he doesn’t have this toy yet; he asked Santa for it).

And my 1-year old smiled at me and pointed to his truck. And a Mickey book. And his airplane. And then walked away with some Mega Blocks.

When I asked them again the next day, their answers changed: “my dolphin toy because they are so cool when they splash.” “My t-rex Halloween costume!”

And their answers changed again later that afternoon: “TV time!” “A new book from Mommy.”

The moral here is to keep it simple. Life is hard and challenging and can throw us curve balls, usually when we least expect it (or when we’re already feeling pretty run-down).

So when you’re asked what you’re thankful for, be present in that moment and answer truthfully.

As I write this post, I’m thankful for a lazy afternoon when the entire house settled for just long enough that I was able to sit with my kids and read an article in a magazine I had wanted to read for the past 2 weeks.

That was enough.

Take Action
Don’t overthink what you’re thankful for this year. Be present in the moment. What makes you smile? What makes you feel happy?

What are you thankful for?

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Rethinking the Holidays

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Now You’ve Had A Taste: Do You Really Like Working From Home?

For many organizations, the request from employees to work from home was nearly constant. In fact, many organizations touted work from home as a benefit, a way to differentiate their workplace and attract high-performing workers.

But now that so many people have lived through the experiment of working from home, does it still have the attraction it had just 60 days ago?

I think many people who are being honest with themselves will say “no.”

Consider this: in a survey of 2,000 US office workers conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Citrix, 36% of respondents felt overwhelmed working at home and 28% felt lonely.

We are social creatures and though we complain about our commutes, who left the dirty mugs in the sink and who keeps stealing our lunches from the fridge, we want and need our workplace interactions.

Our meetings are more effective because we can watch body language more effectively to know when we are rambling on and need to shut it down or to keep going because the team is into it. Our one-on-one encounters in the office to share an idea that just popped into our head are easier and require less structured planning than to set up a Zoom meeting long after the idea showed up. Or morning huddles that were truly huddles, sharing space, ideas, coffee and life with others.

Our complaints about others now seems like something we want back because it was ours and it felt normal. The person who speaks too loud on the phone, the one with the irritating vocal pitch or laugh, or the one who makes it to their desk only a second before their start time. Yes. All of it was normal.

So, with a little information and experience under our belts, it is time to check in on how remote work is going.

As a mindfulness coach, I always guide my clients to use the What’s Working/What’s Not Working approach to review any situation. Doing this can help you better understand the full picture of what’s happening right now. This is a mindfulness practice to expand awareness that ultimately improves decision-making.

When it comes to the work-from-home experience, I recommend that those who are new to working at home try this approach to check in on how things are really going. Start by creating a summary of What’s Working when working at home. How does working at home make work, performance, engagement, productivity, social connections, creativity and home life better? List all of the ways.

Then complete the list of What’s Not Working by working at home. Review the same areas and list everything that is unproductive about working at home.

Following this approach equips you with an inventory where you can clearly see both sides together. The next step: mindfully review what worked and didn’t work about the experience. Was it all you thought it would be? Or did you notice that sometimes, things look better until you actually try them? Do you still want to work from home?

I believe this approach is something that should be explored by not only individuals for their own unique work experiences, but also by managers. Conducting this What Worked/What Didn’t Work analysis about your remote employees can not only help managers better support employees who are struggling with this new normal by getting at the aspects of remote work that work and don’t work for the employee/the employee’s situation, but it can also shed some light on which employees may actually perform best in this way.

Some questions to consider answering include: did the work get done as it needed to be? Did your service standard get delivered? Did your employees feel engaged, valued and part of the team? Did you live your cultural values as remote employees?

No one really knows what will happen in our recovery period from COVID-19. However, now armed with some information about remote work from company and employee perspectives, does remote work fit into your future approach to work?

Use information from today to wisely guide you to better decisions tomorrow.

Take Action
Try using the What’s Working / What’s Not Working approach in every aspect of your life. Start with your working situation as both the employee and, if appropriate, the manager. Then try it out in other areas of your life: pets, kids, relationships, various life goals you’ve set for yourself.

Creating these lists provides you with information that equips you to make better and more intentional decisions.  

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How to Manage New Remote Employees

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A Look in the Mirror

Sometimes, I feel like parenting is a look in the mirror. You see what you’re doing well and you see where things can improve in real-time, all the time.  

We’ve all seen those memes about realizing your kids is growing up to be like you.

And there are those “quizzes” on Facebook that are made up of a short list of questions to ask your kids. One of those questions is, “what is something I [the questioner] say a lot?”

What a great social experiment it would have been to have asked your kid(s) these questions before, during and after quarantine to see how you evolved over the weeks at home. I know mine would shed some light on things…big time.

I started thinking about this the other night when we were watching some home videos of my husband when he was a kid. In one shot, he was wearing his sneakers while sitting on the couch. That’s a big no-no in our house; shoes off at the door. And my 2-year old shot up from his seat and practically shouted, “uh oh Daddy, your shoes are on.”

My husband thought this was pretty funny, but my 2-year old didn’t stop there. He had more explaining to do. “Shoes are for outside. No shoes in the house. Unless they’re slippers. They must be slippers. Slippers are inside shoes, so those are ok. Shoes are for outside only.”

My husband, though laughing, gave me a look out of the corner of his eye.

But me? I was so proud. And horrified. My words not only sunk in, but he’s repeating them.

What else have I been saying or doing over the last month in quarantine at home with my boys that they’re going to do or say?

So I started asking myself: what is something I say a lot?

Here are my lists:

Before Quarantine

  • I love you!
  • Great job!
  • I can’t wait to see what you drew/made/have to show me.
  • Let’s see how much dinner you have before we have dessert.
  • Please slow down/pay attention.
  • SMALLER BITES!
  • Wash your hands, please.

During Quarantine (I admit, I polled the house for this one a bit)

  • I love you!
  • That’s great babe.
  • Can you please just stay still for a second?
  • FOR THE LOVE OF GOD (caps required)
  • Are you kidding me!?
  • PLEASE PAY ATTENTION
  • OH MY GOD SMALLER BITES I DON’T WANT YOU TO CHOKE!!
  • WASH YOUR HANDS. This is not something new. WASH YOUR HANDS!

It’s easy to overlook how powerful your impact can be on people, places and things. As a parent, it’s a mixed blessing to have a mirror walking around and talking to you. You can see the things you’re doing well; that reflection is positive and makes you feel good and proud.

But that mirror also shows you where things can improve. Don’t label these as good or bad, or even right or wrong. Instead, see this as recognizing that there are some things you can improve on to be more successful, effective or even happier. You may even see things in you that are now showing up in your kids, like the way they raise their voices when they are upset, or they are always stressed or anxious.

The purpose of all of this is to encourage you to stop, notice and reflect. The mirror is there, showing you what’s working and what’s not. Take advantage of the real-time opportunity for information. Don’t judge it. Don’t ignore it. Don’t berate yourself. Don’t dwell on it. Just see it for what it is. Celebrate the good and figure out how to improve on the other, unproductive things.

Take Action
Parenting needs the mirror. A tiny, walking, talking mirror. It helps you see what you are doing so you can assess what to do more of and what to improve on. Don’t miss the opportunity to keep developing your parenting A-game.

So, the next time you notice something great in your kid(s), applaud them. Celebrate even the smallest of victories. And when you see something unproductive or some questionable behavior, ask yourself what behavior they may be mimicking.

Disclaimer: some behaviors do warrant additional, professional help. If you are unsure if your child is exhibiting behavior that could benefit from the help of a pediatrician or therapist, call your pediatrician to confirm the best next steps for your child.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Double Standard to Accepting Change: Kids vs. Adults

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The Power of Journaling

One of the best self-awareness and self-management tools we encourage our coaching clients to use is journaling. Journaling provides the ability to sit down and write what you’re thinking and feeling with no judgement; the impact is clarifying, enlightening and freeing. Sometimes, the ability to tune out the rest of the world and just be honest with yourself can open your eyes to greater awareness, information and realizations you may have missed or ignored. It can help you get clear to be able to make wise decisions, small or large. It can help you transition through challenging times. It can take a weight off your shoulders.

As the impact of COVID-19 continues to evolve, changing the way we see and live our lives, I’ve noticed many parents are encouraging their kids to keep a journal. And this isn’t an age specific activity, either. I’ve seen parents sharing this idea with their teens right down to their toddlers. In fact, I recently saw a post from a parent who shared that her young daughter had trouble explaining the big emotions she was feeling. After she encouraged her to write things down, both of them had an easier time communicating with each other.

I’ve also heard of parents who are encouraging their toddlers – the kids who can’t write for themselves – to tell them what they’re thinking and feeling, and parents are writing it down for them.

And I’ve heard of parents who are encouraging their older children – especially those in college who were sent home to finish their year through online courses from the comfort of their childhood bedrooms – to journal to help them understand and channel their big emotions in a productive way.

We’re loving this use of journaling. There’s a power in writing things down, to create a visual representation of what you’re thinking and feeling. It makes it real. It also clears it out of your mind so it stops the continual pinging and distracting thoughts. Left unattended, our thoughts will run around our head, disrupting our concentration, affecting our mood and influencing our behaviors (sometimes not in the most productive ways). Addressing them by giving yourself time and space to release them and see them creates the ability to be a wiser, calmer person.

So if you’re struggling to find the right words to discuss this big event with your kids, considering journaling for yourself. To start, get in a quiet place. Take a few deep breaths. Ask yourself a question like, “What I am feeling right now?” or “What is the thing that seems to be getting my attention?” Write what comes to mind. Don’t judge it. Just write. When you feel you are done (you will know), review what you wrote and reflect on it. Allow yourself to experience whatever is going on with you. Journaling gives it words. With these, you can then better use the information to quiet your mind and make more intentional decisions.  

This is a big, scary event for everyone. The best way to prevent panic is to ensure you take time to get centered and present. Your family needs you to be informed, calm and responsive, not anxious and reactive. Journaling can help you find your moment of Zen in a noisy and changing world.

Take Action
Take 5 minutes today to write down how you’re feeling in whatever format works best for you, whether it’s a list of words, a formal journal entry or even a drawing. Write down the emotions you’re feeling right now. How does this help you see things more clearly? How can you use journaling to help you step outside the internal spiral you might be feeling or experiencing so you are able to relax, keep perspective and continue to make wise decisions?

If journaling can help you, consider how it can help your kids who are still learning – and possibly just starting to see – how this pandemic will change their world.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading How Do You Talk to Your Kids About Current Events?

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Make the Moments Count

“Life is unpredictable and capricious,” writes the Chinese philosopher Mencius. It comes and it goes. People come and go. So, make each moment count.

My city recently lost its young mayor. A dynamic and well-respected 41-year-old who was on his way to a city commission meeting when he suffered a brain aneurysm. He didn’t make it. The city is stunned.

Why is it that we move through life in autopilot until something like this happens to grab us by the collar and shake us? Why is it we let things and people go by without really taking the time to stop, notice, appreciate, thank and just be fully present in the moment?

This reminded me of the value of reflection because reflection helps us tune in to, appreciate, learn from and be fully part of each of our moments.

The news of losing our young and great mayor shook me. It reminded me to ask myself – and to suggest that you ask yourself – the following questions:

  • Today, how will I slow down to be really part of my life and be present for and with the people in it?
  • Today, how will I notice that we all share this one great sky? Everyone I meet has an element of greatness, so how can I support them to find it and release it?
  • Today, how will I take a risk on something that I’ve been too timid to do – to tell that person I love them, to ask for the promotion, to be kind when others aren’t, to give up something to make someone’s life better, to go against the negative attitudes and voices to be the positive and optimistic one?
  • Today, how will I see that my moments are not infinite – so that each one must matter because it is the only one like it that I will have?

Take Action
Sometimes life shakes us or gives us a slap to get our attention (most recently, the quarantine efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19). In those moments, we can see how we are mostly not paying attention. So, welcome the shake or the slap to get you back to being more present in the moments. After all, the quality of your life is made up of the quality of your moments. Don’t let them slip by. Make each one count.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Making Memories

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The Year to Get Clear: If you had no limits, what would you do every day?

This week, our Get Clear question is: if you had no limits, what is one thing you would do every day?

The purpose of this question is to get you to think outside the limits you’ve set for yourself. Whether intentional or unintentional, each of us go through our days with a list of what we can and can’t do. Sometimes it comes through the voices of others; sometimes it comes through our own voice. This is where we find excuses, casually explaining or justifying why we didn’t or can’t do things we love to do or want to do.

To talk about a life with no limits, we first have to pay attention to what we assume to be our limits. Many people say time and money. Some say it is opportunity or family commitments. Some say it is talents and skills. Others say it’s just luck or bad luck. What do you consider your limits to be and where do you get them from?

For me, one of the biggest limits I’ve realized I set on myself is time. Every day, I set my intentions and goals for what I want to achieve during the day and increasingly, I find myself falling short. As a mother of three young boys, having any sort of schedule is laughable to the more experienced parents; nothing ever goes as planned. It has made me realize that I need to better define intentions vs. goals and get myself into a proper mindset for the day. So, as a result, I have the intention to do many things, but a more focused goal to achieve specific items during the day. In this mindset shift, I’ve identified my limits (time and family commitments) and acknowledged how I can change how I think about these “limits” so I can do more of what I want, need and love to do each day.

Another way to think about this “get clear” question is to see it as being given the freedom dream, wonder and invent. Without limits, you create a larger view of what is possible. You can always scale it back if you need to, but if you can only see 100 feet in front of you instead of 1,000 feet, then you miss the opportunities in the additional 900 feet.

Take Action
Ask yourself your Get Clear question of the week again: what would you do every day if you had nothing holding you back?

Start small if you want, but start. Picture a world of possibilities and name yours. More time at the gym. A healthier lifestyle. A promotion or advancement at work. A move to another part of the country or world. More financial security. A remarkable personal relationship. Enjoy what it feels like to focus on a big dream or goal. Get excited about what it could be like when it happens. All of this is there to help you learn to see how capable you are but for you to activate this personal capacity, you need to clearly envision what you want.

Whatever it is, go do it. What’s holding you back?

Are you part of our 2020 Vision Facebook Group? Sign up now to have your chance to connect with our team of coaches and engage with other community members to help you gain even greater clarity about yourself and your goals for 2020.

By The Forte Factor Team

Consider reading Creating Goals: Start with “Be Better”

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The Year to Get Clear: What do People Applaud Me For?

This week, our Get Clear question is: for the you here today, what do people applaud you for?

This is an important question to ask yourself for two reasons. First, to gain greater awareness of your strengths so you can use them more intentionally in your days. And second, to gain awareness of the strengths others see in you that you may not be aware of.

In our work with thousands of people and hundreds of companies, we can tell you that a seemingly universal truth is that everyone can identify what they think is wrong with them vs. what is right. Nearly everyone can easily list their faults and weaknesses, mostly because the world is quick to point them out. You’re too talkative, too direct, too confrontational… the list is endless.

This is why this question is so important. The goal is to help you start to discover, see and understand what others see as great in you, what they applaud you for.

Once you hear from those who know you well, stand in front of the mirror and tell yourself what about you is remarkable. Don’t hold back. Don’t play small. Notice everything others positively comment on and applaud. Start a list. Keep adding to the list as you identify more things to help you balance what you know of yourself so you can see what greatness others see in you.

Take Action
Ask yourself your Get Clear question of the week again: What do people applaud you for?

As you identify any new strength or ability this activity helps you discover, add it to your expanding understanding of yourself. Spend a minute understanding what others applaud you for so you can get acquainted with it and start to build on it. Mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn stated, “There is more right with you than wrong with you no matter what you think is wrong with you.”

Get clear. Be the real you. This is the key to a great life.

Are you part of our 2020 Vision Facebook Group? Sign up now to have your chance to connect with our team of coaches and engage with other community members to help you gain even greater clarity about yourself and your goals for 2020.

By The Forte Factor Team

Consider reading How to Help Your People Improve

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The Year to Get Clear: When you were young, what did you love to do?

Our goal over the next eight weeks is to help people learn how to get clear about what they want in 2020. After all, 20/20 vision is considered perfect vision.

To kick-off our weekly Get Clear efforts, we asked: when you were young, what did you love to do?

Some of the answers we heard, at face value, talked about hobbies people enjoyed or spending time with family or friends. At face value, those are great answers that tell you a bit about what someone’s childhood was like. But the answers to this question actually have a lot more meaning.

The reason for this question is that when we were younger, we were more connected to our true selves, something we lose touch with over time because we aim to please. Whether done intentionally or subconsciously, we modify who we are to please and accommodate the people and world around us, and the unintended consequence is that we can lose our true selves.

To help get clear about yourself – so you can make wise and meaningful decisions about your life and your work – you need to connect to your true self to have accurate and complete information to work with.

So, when you were younger, what did you love to do? I bet some of this is still there for you.

When Jay was younger, he was always writing. He had three brothers who were always outside and active, but he was always inside dreaming, inventing and writing stories. As time went on, he was guided to pursue a career that seemed more achievable than writing. He never really thought about being a writer until someone suggested he write a book about the ideas he had to create a remarkable workplace. That rekindled the flame for writing and reminded him how much he loved it. A year later, he wrote his first book and a second book the following year.

Writing, dreaming, storytelling, writing poetry, thinking about big ideas has always been a passion for him. He explained, “When I step back into it, life is better, fuller and more connected to who I really am. I now write everyday – blogs, articles, programs to teach others and anything that helps me get my ideas out to share them with my world.  And it was only in reconnecting to what I was truly passionate about as a kid that I realized that the something I loved to do as a kid holds the same weight today. This passion helped me define and develop my career, a career that uses what I am passionate about every day. Sometimes by allowing yourself to think back to when you were younger, you see things that you gave up on – for whatever reason – that belong back in your days.

Take Action
Ask yourself your Get Clear question of the week again: when you were young, what did you love to do? How is this still important to you? Does it (or can it) fit into your life? How does this help you get clear about what belongs in your work and life that fits the real you?

Now take a moment to reflect on that answer. Get clear. Be the real you. This is the key to a great life.

Are you part of our 2020 Vision Facebook Group? Sign up now to have your chance to connect with our team of coaches and engage with other community members to help you gain even greater clarity about yourself and your goals for 2020.

By The Forte Factor Team

Consider reading Pay Attention

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Looking Back, What Did 2018 Tell You?

By Jay Forte

Another year comes to a close. As with anything that we call the past, it has lessons to share.

I find that this time of year invites us to be reflective. If we can carve a few minutes out of the noise and busyness of the holidays, shopping and festivities, we could learn from our past to be ready to make wise decisions about our future.

Here are two great questions to ask yourself that are worthy of review at this time of year.

When looking back at the past year, what worked that I should probably do more of?

Our habit is to be more tuned into our failures than our successes. But your successes have a lot of information for you if you make the time and effort to notice them. As you look at 2018, what were your successes and victories – large and small? What improvements, growth and opportunities happened – and why? What do these events tell you about you – your attitude, your strengths, your dreams or even your goals? What do these events tell you about who you are and who you are becoming?

You are amazing at some things. Know these things and do more of them. You are passionate and inspired by some things. I imagine your successes were in these areas. Know them so you do more of them.

When looking back at 2018, what didn’t work that needs improvement for 2019?

Our challenges and failures – the job you didn’t get, the relationship that failed, the out of control finances, the poor eating habits – are all just information. You made decisions that resulted in these outcomes. Notice what didn’t work and ask why. This will give you great information to consider what you could do to make improvement(s). No need to waste any energy feeling upset or sorry for yourself. You made some decisions or had some events that didn’t work out. Simply notice that they need improving and use your energy to notice them, understand them and to come up with the first few steps to make a change. Know them so you can improve them.

Both successes and failures are life lessons. Successes teach you how to celebrate and remind you of your strengths, abilities and capabilities. Challenges and failures remind you of the areas that need improvement and greater attention. That’s it – it’s just information. But you can’t learn from these to make a better 2019 if you don’t make the time to review and reflect on what lessons 2018 has for you.

So, as you approach the end of the year, commit to making time to let 2018 speak to you. It has lessons for you. Learn the lessons – do more of what works and improve what doesn’t work – only you can do this for you. And when you do this, you will have a more amazing 2019.

Take Action
We learn how to celebrate and continue through our successes, or we learn how to improve from our failures or challenges. Either way, it is just life doing what life does – constantly giving us the ability to be better tomorrow than we were today.

Take five minutes today to think about the past year. What worked? What didn’t work?

 

Consider reading You Can’t Improve on Something You Don’t Measure

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What Pasta Can Teach You About Having a Great Life in 2019

By Jay Forte

My family is Italian. In an Italian house, all good life lessons involve food. Here is one…

Life is like pasta because no matter how you serve it, it is always good. But with a little information about the shape of the pasta (what makes it unique) and the sauce that fits it, it can change the dish from good to great. This requires a quick pasta lesson.

Pasta is a “carrier” – the shape of the pasta is used to deliver, appreciate and celebrate its sauce. There are nine types of pasta – short/long, smooth/lined, flat/round, straight/cupped, or filled. Pasta – good. Pasta with the right sauce – great.

Consider:

  • Chunky sauces (think marinara, Bolognese, vegetable or meat sauces) require pasta with lines, edges and short lengths so they can carry the chunky sauce with each bite.
  • Oil or butter sauces (think pesto, garlic and oil, cheese and butter) require smooth or filled pasta of any length or size because they just need to be evenly coated and light to allow the taste of the filling to shine through.
  • Cheesy sauces (think alfredo, béchamel or any creamy sauce) require shorter pasta with large openings, curves or scoops to bring more of the sauce with each bite.

Think about the American favorite – spaghetti with meat sauce. A meat or tomato sauce does not stick to a slick, long and thin, slippery pasta. The result is when you finish the pasta, the sauce is still in the bowl. Unforgivable for an Italian! Instead, if you love meat or tomato sauce, use a lined ziti, penne, mostaccioli or rigatoni – you’ll enjoy the sauce and the pasta together. With this little bit of information, we can now better match the sauce with the pasta and go from good to great.

It is the same in life. To set the stage for a great and happy life in 2019, remember that we are each like a shape of pasta – we are unique in our personal combination of talents, interests and values. This combination works great in some places and not so well in others. When we know ourselves and connect ourselves to the places in work and life that fit us, we are like pasta connecting to the rights sauce – things move from good to great. When we align ourselves to what we do and like best, we become more capable, competent and confident. We have found our “thing.” We feel more successful and happier. Everything is better.

The more you know and appreciate what makes you unique, the more I am reminded of what my mother told us as she taught my five siblings and me how to cook, “When you know your ingredients, you can always make something great.”

Know your ingredients – your talents, strengths and passions – then select the things in life that need your amazing (and unique) ingredients. This is how to go from good to great in the kitchen, and how to have a great and happy life in 2019 and beyond.

One of my favorite pasta recipes: Ziti with Spinach and Olives

In a large sauté pan, sauté a finally chopped onion, pancetta (or smoky bacon) and crushed red pepper in olive oil. When cooked, add black and green olives (I’m Italian – I don’t measure things; we go by look and feel. Add as many olives as you like). In a separate pot, cook ziti (smooth, no lines; this is an oil-based sauce). Drain ziti and add to it to the pan with onion, pancetta and olives, and return it to the (low) heat. Add a small handful of fresh gently-chopped spinach for each person being served and stir until the spinach is wilted and the ingredients are blended. Pour into a large warmed pasta bowl to be set in the middle of the table. Top with fresh ground black pepper and freshly-grated parmesan cheese.

Total time – about 12 minutes.

Swap out the spinach for swiss chard, beet greens, arugula, kale or whatever is fresh. Serve with a salad.

Tutti a tavola!

 

Consider reading Embrace Your Face

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