The Role of Metabolism for Weight Management

According to the Mayo Clinic, your metabolism influences your body’s basic energy needs, but how much you eat and drink along with how much physical activity you get are the things that ultimately determine your weight.

The term metabolism refers to all the processes in the body that naturally use energy. However, the way you increase or decrease the rate you burn calories depends on your age, gender, daily habits, and any underlying health conditions. Your resting metabolic rate, or RMR, is the number of calories you burn while sedentary. Your RMR is approximately 60 to 75% of your total daily calorie needs. Everyone’s RMR is different. For example, someone who is very large and muscular needs more calories to maintain his body at rest than someone very small. As you get older, your muscle mass decreases and fat accounts for more of your weight, which slows down calorie burning.

We often blame metabolism for weight gain and are mystified by teenagers who can eat anything they want and not gain weight. Unfortunately, weight gain is a complicated process. It’s often a combination of genetics, hormonal controls, diet composition, and the impact of the environment on your lifestyle, including sleep, physical activity, and stress.

Below are a few ways to boost your metabolism at any age:

Eat more protein. Eating small amounts of lean proteins each day, like chicken and fish, may increase the number of calories you burn. Easy ways to incorporate more protein is to choose Greek yogurt which contains 17-20 grams of protein, pairing peanut butter with fruit, or snacking on cheddar cheese.

Strength training. When your body has more muscle mass, you burn more calories, even when resting. Aim for at least two weight sessions a week. Try the row + weights work out below! All you need is a rowing machine (at most gyms) and two dumbbells!

  • 6 x 500 m row
  • 6 x 10 bicep curls
  • 6 x 10 overhead press
  • 6 x 15 weighted squats
  • 6 x 10 weighted lunges (each leg)

Get more sleep. Regular sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on your hunger and appetite hormones, which may cause you to overeat. Shoot for 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.

Exercise. Physical activity that raises your heart rate such as running, swimming, aerobics, and walking, fuels your metabolism and helps burn calories. Rigorous exercise may also suppress your appetite post-workout. The workout above incorporates cardio, too – killing two birds with one stone!

Eat often. To keep your brain and body full of energy, eat regularly through the day. Eating four to five small meals throughout the day while being mindful of the amount you eat at each meal will help boost your metabolism.

In addition to the tips above, any extra movement helps burn calories, so seek ways to walk and move around a few minutes more each day. This may include gardening, doing laundry, or taking the dog for an extra walk. Even simple movements like sitting up straight or standing at your desk will boost your energy and improve your metabolism.

Quote of the Week: Positive thoughts generate positive feelings and attract positive life experiences.

Recipe of the Week:
No-Bake Dark Chocolate Coconut Almond Butter Energy Bites

This is an excellent snack as a pre-workout, after-dinner treat, or healthy addition to your kid’s lunchbox.

Ingredients:

· 1 ½ cups of old-fashioned rolled oats

· ½ cup of ground flax seed

· 1 teaspoon of cinnamon

· ⅓ cup of unsweetened coconut flakes

· ½ cup of raw honey

· ½ cup of almond butter

· 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

· ½ cup of dark chocolate chips

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Form energy bite mixture into 1″ balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Enjoy! 

No-Bake Dark Chocolate Coconut Almond Butter Energy Bites

How to Eat Healthy When Eating Out

Planning a special occasion dinner on the town or just a break from the kitchen? Dining out can be social and relaxing, but it can also be healthy with some planning. We all know that life sometimes gets in the way of cooking a healthy meal at home, but if you think about ways in advance to eat healthy on the go, your heart and waistline will thank you.

Since I eat a primarily plant-based diet, I always look at the menu ahead of time. Some restaurants offer nutritional information on their websites which is a way to learn about items that are lower in calories, saturated fat, and sodium. If it is a special occasion dinner where the sides are a la carte and the portions are large, I will eat mostly sides and take the rest home for another meal. Or, I will swap out a carbohydrate-rich side for an extra helping of veggies. Another way to control portions is to order an appetizer (or two!) for your meal or share a meal to keep the calories (and cost) to a minimum.

When ordering a salad as a meal or appetizer, ask for the dressing on the side and instead of pouring the dressing over the salad, dip your fork into the dressing and then take a scoop of greens. A few other tricks to curb overeating (at home or out to dinner) is to drink water before and during a meal and put your fork down between bites. If you have a late reservation, eat a healthy snack before you go so you don’t dive into the bread basket the minute it hits the table.

The American Heart Association offers some easy swaps below to help you make the healthy choice when eating out:

LOSE IT

  • bacon, sausage & fatty, salty meats
  • white bread, rice and pasta
  • cream-based or cheese soups
  • deep-fried, pan-fried, extra crispy, creamed, stuffed
  • French fries
  • refried beans
  • sour cream, queso
  • salty sauces like soy, teriyaki, cocktail, au jus
  • all-you-can-eat, supersize, buffet
  • traditional desserts, cookies, ice cream
  • soda, sweet tea, sugary cocktails

CHOOSE IT

  • skinless chicken, fish, lean meat
  • whole-grain bread, rice and pasta
  • broth-based soup with lots of veggies
  • grilled, sautéed, roasted, steamed, baked, poached
  • baked potato or side salad
  • pintos or black beans
  • guacamole, pico de gallo
  • light sauces flavored with herbs, spices, vinegar, wine
  • a la carte, light menu, salad bar
  • fresh fruit and fruit-based desserts
  • water, 100% juice, diet soda, seltzer, spritzers

Quote of the Week:

“We need to remember across generations that there is as much to learn as there is to teach.”

~ Gloria Steinem

Recipe of the Week: Apple Broccoli Cauliflower Salad

If you are looking for ways to get your vegetable and fruit intake for the day, this recipe is for you! I adapted the recipe from The Real Food Dieticians. One note for the next time I make it (feedback from the family taste test) is I would blanch the cauliflower and broccoli so they are slightly tender and brighter.

INGREDIENTS:

    2–3 small heads of broccoli, chopped (3–4 cups)

    1 head cauliflower (3–4 cups)

    1 medium apple, diced

    2 celery ribs, diced (3/4 cup)

    1/2 medium red onion, diced (1 cup)

    1/2 cup dried cranberries

    3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (sub sunflower seeds for nut-free)

    2/3 cup Lemon Garlic Dressing (see recipe below)

    1/3 cup mayo

    1 Tbsp. fresh thyme (optional)

    Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, toss together all of the ingredients except for the dressing, mayo and thyme. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon dressing, mayo and fresh thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the dressing to the large bowl and toss until well combined. Let salad sit in the fridge for 30 minutes to allow veggies to marinate in the dressing. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4-5 days.

Prep tip: This salad can be made a day in advance. Add the walnuts just before serving so that they keep their crunch.

Homemade Lemon Garlic Dressing:

Whisk together –

    1/3 cup organic olive oil

    3 Tbsp. lemon juice

    2 garlic cloves, minced

    1 tsp. lemon zest (optional)

    1/2 tsp. sea salt

    1/4 tsp. black pepper

Apple Broccoli Cauliflower Salad

Creative Ways to Turn Your Dinner Leftovers into Delicious Lunches (or Snacks!)

A few months ago, I wrote about ways to meal prep. One of the easiest ways to have healthy meals ready in your fridge is to double recipes when you cook. I often make a few big meals on the weekend, so there are leftovers for dinners, lunches, or a snack. When preparing meals during the week, I will grill extra meats and vegetables so they can be tossed into a salad or over grains for a hearty lunch. If I am making rice or pasta to accompany dinner, I will double the recipe to use in other meals. When preparing a salad, I wash several heads of lettuce so it is easy to toss together a salad for a next day’s lunch or dinner. It is also easy to create a hearty soup with leftover veggies, meats, and grains.

Fortunately, my family enjoys leftovers any time of the day, so it makes my life easier knowing I can cook big meals and there will be no waste. I know many people who, for various reasons, do not eat leftovers. One reason may be that you are concerned about food safety. Below are tips on how to keep your leftovers safe and fresh to eat for a few days.

  • Do not leave leftovers at room temperature for more than two hours. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture “Bacteria grow rapidly between the temperatures of 40° F and 140° F. After food is safely cooked, hot food must be kept hot at 140° F or warmer to prevent bacterial growth. Within 2 hours of cooking food or after it is removed from an appliance keeping it warm, leftovers must be refrigerated. Throw away all perishable foods left at room temperature for more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature is over 90° F, such as at an outdoor picnic during summer).”
  • Transfer food to smaller, airtight containers to speed up the cooling time. This helps keep bacteria out and retain moisture.  After food has been cooled and covered, leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days or frozen for 3 to 4 months.
  • Label containers, so you know how long food has been in your fridge. This step will help take the guesswork out of eating questionable foods. Many potentially dangerous microbes are invisible to the naked eye, so something may look fine when it probably is not.

Making dinners that create good leftovers takes some planning, and some meals even taste better the next day. Below are seven recipe ideas that make great leftovers.

Soba Noodles With Miso, Ginger, and Avocado (from Blissful Basil) – Soba noodles are sturdy and can also are enjoyed cold the next day. You can also top with chicken or a hard-boiled egg for extra protein.

Chicken Burrito Bowls (from Damn Delicious) – Think homemade Chipotle bowls! This recipe was created with leftovers in mind because you can make the ingredients and separate into containers for future lunches or dinners.

Sloppy Joe Baked Sweet Potatoes (from SkinnyTaste) – Prep your meat and sweet potatoes and then keep them separate until you’re ready to eat. Great for leftovers, even better for meal prep.

Roasted Veggie, Chickpea, and Pesto Quinoa Salad (from Ambitious Kitchen) – This protein-packed quinoa salad is great on its own or as a side dish.

Chicken, Broccoli, and Sweet Potato Sheet Pan Dinner (from Cooking Classy) – Sheet pan dinners are easy to prepare and make great leftovers. Swap or add vegetables of choice!

Italian Sausage and Veggie Bowls (from Gimme Some Oven) – Grilled sausage has an abundance of flavor and will last up to four days in the fridge.

Fried Brown Rice With Kale and Turmeric (from Bon Appétit) – This recipe may change your mind about eating kale, and you can make the rice ahead of time for better results.

Quote of the Week: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

~ Maya Angelou

Recipe of the Week: Lime-Ginger Scallops

My Mom made this dish for me and it was delish! Easy summer dish that takes minutes to make (and there will be no leftovers for this one!). Below is her recipe. Thanks, Mom!

Ingredients:

1 pound of sea scallops

2 tablespoons of flour

2 tablespoons of butter

Lime

Fresh ginger

Salt and Pepper

Dredge scallops lightly in flour. Soften 2 tablespoons of butter with zest of one lime, 1 tablespoon of grated fresh ginger, salt, and pepper to taste.  Mix until incorporated. 

Place in hot skillet and sear scallops on both sides, about three minutes per side. Remove from pan and deglaze the pan with the juice of one lime. Serve with quinoa, pasta salad, or over angel hair pasta.

Lime-Ginger Scallops with Mediterranean Quinoa Salad and Snap Peas

Healthy Foods to Make, Eat, or Bring to a Summer Barbecue

Summer barbecues are a great way to gather friends and family, but eating healthy can sometimes be a challenge. Often, BBQ fare is laden with fat, salt, sugar, and calories. You do not have to deprive yourself of foods you love, but you have to learn how to make healthy choices or control the portions of the not-so-healthy options. As a non-meat eater, I always make a healthy side dish or two to bring to a barbecue or summer party. Dishes may include a tossed garden salad with homemade dressing on the side or a grain bowl. One of my favorite recipes that I make all year long is Jennifer Aniston’s simple quinoa salad (see recipe below).

If you are hosting a party, making healthy dishes ahead of time allows you to be a guest at your party while offering healthy options. Follow this link for inspiration on side dishes that are under 250 calories. Below are some tricks to eating healthy at your next BBQ:

  1. Fill half your plate with raw vegetables and fresh fruit. If you do this first, there is less room on the plate for less healthy options.
  2. If you eat meat, choose a lean protein such as turkey or chicken. If you enjoy fatty meats such as ribs or pulled pork, keep your portion to the size of the palm of your hand (or about one-half cup) and ditch the bun.
  3. Another protein source that is full of fiber is beans. Just 1/2 cup (130 grams) of baked beans supplies 18% of the recommended daily intake for fiber. A healthy option is a hearty bean salad, but baked beans can be nutritious if you make them yourself. Follow this link for a slow-cooker baked bean recipe.
  4. Corn on the cob tastes like summer to me and is perfect when boiled or barbecued. To keep the vegetable healthy, avoid topping with butter and salt.
  5. Choosing coleslaw and potato salad that is vinegar-based instead of mayonnaise-based is a healthier option and cheaper to make at home. If you enjoy the creamier versions, try to stick to a small serving and make it yourself so you can adjust the ingredients. Store-bought versions of these types of salads can have an abundance of saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.

Quote of the week:

It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary.

~ Paulo Coelho

Recipe of the Week: Jennifer Aniston’s Favorite Quinoa Salad

Made with only six ingredients, this salad can be served as side dish or enjoyed as a main meal.

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup quinoa

1 cup water

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley washed and chopped (thick stems removed)

4 Persian cucumbers, peeled in strips, seeded and diced

2 medium tomatoes diced

1 ripe, but slightly firm avocado diced

2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a small saucepan bring water and salt to a boil.
  2. Stir in quinoa, cover and lower the heat to simmer. Cook for 15 minutes.
  3. Put quinoa into a medium size mixing bowl and cool.
  4. Add parsley, cucumbers, tomatoes, avocado and oil to quinoa.
  5. Mix and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 2.

Jennifer Aniston’s Favorite Quinoa Salad

The Importance of Hydration For Your Body and Overall Health

Water is one of the most vital components of the human body and composes 60% of your body. Water regulates body temperature, surrounds and protects vital organs, and aids in the digestive process. Water also acts within each cell to transport nutrients and eliminate waste.

Water must be consumed to replace the amount lost each day during basic daily activities. The Food and Nutrition Board recommends that women consume 2.7 liters (91 oz) daily and men consume 3.7 liters (125 oz) through various beverages (80%) or in food (20%). Active individuals need more water, particularly if they’re exercising in hot weather. Drinking water is especially important during the 24 hours before vigorous exercise. You can meet your body’s daily need of water through a variety of fluids and foods, including juices, smoothies, tea, soups, fruits, and vegetables.

In one hour of exercise, the body can lose more than a quart of water, depending on exercise intensity and air temperature. If there is not enough water for the body to cool itself through perspiration, your body may become dehydrated. Fluid intake is especially important for athletes because dehydration could lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

When I was training for the Boston marathon in cold New England weather, I had to practice drinking enough fluids because I did not know what the temperature was going to be on race-day (it was in the 80s!). Figuring out how to stay hydrated, but not overhydrated was important for my run and post-run success. For most individuals, water is the best way to replenish fluids during exercise. Sports drinks help replace lost electrolytes during high-intensity exercise exceeding 45 to 60 minutes. Individuals who sweat profusely during exercise and whose sweat contains a high amount of sodium should choose sports drinks and ensure that their diet contains adequate sodium to prevent hyponatremia (water intoxication).

Other signs of dehydration include lack of energy and muscle cramps. It is essential to consume water before the symptoms of thirst appear. One way to check your hydration level is to monitor your urine. It should be ample and pale yellow unless you are taking supplements, which will darken the color for several hours after consumption.

Hydration Hints (from the American Heart Association):

•    Drink 17 to 20 ounces of water two hours before the start of exercise.

•    Drink 7 to 10 ounces of fluid every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise.

•    Drink 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost after exercise.

Hint: Rehydration occurs faster in the presence of sodium, regardless of whether it is provided in a sports drink.

Happy Fourth of July!

Quote of the week:

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year.”  

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Recipe of the Week: Buffalo Cauliflower

I enjoyed this dish as an appetizer at a restaurant and searched for the recipe because it was so delicious. Great substitution for buffalo wings. Recipe adapted from allrecipes.com.

Ingredients:

olive oil cooking spray

3/4 cup flour

1 cup water

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, or to taste

salt and ground black pepper to taste

2 heads cauliflower, cut into bite-size pieces

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup hot pepper sauce (I use Frank’s RedHot)

1 teaspoon honey

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray.
  2. Mix flour, water, garlic powder, salt, and pepper together in a bowl using a whisk until batter is smooth and somewhat runny. Add cauliflower to batter and mix until cauliflower is coated; spread onto the baking sheet.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove saucepan from heat and stir hot pepper sauce and honey into butter until smooth. Brush hot sauce mixture over each cauliflower piece, repeating brushing until all the hot sauce mixture is used.
  5. Bake in the oven until cauliflower is browned, about 10 minutes. Remove baking sheet from oven and allow the cauliflower to cool 10 to 15 minutes.
Buffalo Cauliflower

Is Alcohol Sabotaging Your Diet and Your Health?

All year long, there are reasons to celebrate. Holidays, birthdays, summer vacations, graduations, weddings, it’s Wednesday. But studies consistently show that alcohol impedes the best-intended diets and overall health. One night of partying could set you back 1,000 calories. If this sounds like a buzz kill, consider the following:

Excess (Empty) Calories: If you enjoy mixed drinks and cocktails, the alcohol is not the problem, but the sugary mixes like juice and soda. For example, one jigger (1.5 fluid ounce) of vodka is only 97 calories. Combined with juice or soda and your drink now contains 250 calories. For one drink! Wine, light beer, and pure forms of alcohol — such as vodka, whiskey, rum and gin — offer few or zero carbs per serving and are easily paired with low calorie mixers like seltzer, diet soda, or sugar-free tonic water.

Slower Metabolism: Drinking alcohol decreases your ability to burn fat and slows your metabolism by approximately 70-percent. For example, when you drink, your body converts its energy on eliminating the toxins in alcohol instead of the bag of chips you ate before you went to bed.

Increased Appetite: Drinking alcohol harms brain chemicals and may cause you to lose your inhibitions, especially when it comes to eating and snacking. For example, you are more likely to reach for a carbohydrate-rich, sugar, and/or fat-laden snack or meal when you drink alcohol.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate alcohol consumption is defined as having up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. Examples of one drink include:

•    Beer: 12 fluid ounces (355 milliliters)

•    Wine: 5 fluid ounces (148 milliliters)

•    Distilled spirits (80 proof): 1.5 fluid ounces (44 milliliters)

There are pros and cons to moderate alcohol use. Moderate alcohol consumption may provide some health benefits, such as:

•    Reducing your risk of developing and dying from heart disease

•    Possibly reducing your risk of ischemic stroke (when the arteries to your brain become narrowed or blocked, causing severely reduced blood flow)

•    Possibly reducing your risk of diabetes

Excessive drinking can increase your risk of severe health problems, including:

•    Certain cancers, including breast cancer and cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and liver

•    Pancreatitis

•    Heart muscle damage (alcoholic cardiomyopathy) leading to heart failure

•    Stroke

•    High blood pressure

•    Liver disease

Your diet is only one part of the equation. For optimal health, it is best to keep alcohol consumption in check to avoid adverse health effects and an expanded waistline.

Quote of the week:

“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

Recipe of the Week: Summer Vegetable Ribbon Salad

All you need is a vegetable peeler and fresh vegetables for this colorful summer side dish.

Ingredients:

1 zucchini, ends cut off

1 yellow squash, ends cut off

1 small bunch asparagus, tough ends removed

2 large carrots, peeled and ends cut off

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 ounces shaved Pecorino Romano or Parmesan

Using a vegetable peeler, shave the zucchini, squash, and carrots into long thin strips (“ribbons”). Thinly slice the asparagus on a diagonal.

Fill a small saucepan with water, and bring a boil over high heat. Carefully add in the sliced asparagus, and boil for 1-2 minutes, until the asparagus turns bright green. Using a slotted spoon, remove the asparagus and immediately place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Let sit for a minute, then drain the water, and toss the asparagus with the zucchini, squash, and carrots in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine and drizzle over the vegetables. Toss to coat. Garnish with the pecorino or parmesan shavings. Serve.

The Health Benefits of Eating in Season

Our local farmer’s market opens today and will be open every Wednesday through October. I enjoy browsing the market when I can to purchase fresh produce as well as cheese, fish, eggs, and wine! What I like most about shopping at a farmer’s market is seasonal fruits and vegetables that are produced on local farms. They often are fresher, tastier, and more nutritious than food consumed out of season or at a commercial grocery store. Studies have shown that fruits and vegetables contain more nutrients when allowed to ripen naturally on their parent plant. Nutrient content changes in foods depending on which seasons they were produced in. Local food also benefits the environment and supports the local economy.

Other benefits of eating what’s in season is it supports your body’s natural nutritional needs. In winter, nature provides an abundance of  citrus fruits, which are high in Vitamin C and important for preventing infections such as colds and the flu. Winter vegetables offer comfort and are perfect for hot meals, healthy stews, soups, casseroles, and other warm meals. Summer foods such as stone fruits, provide us with extra beta-carotenes and other carotenoids that help protect us against sun damage. They also have natural sugar that provide extra energy for increased outdoor activities. And seasonal summer vegetables are perfect for cool salads when it is too hot to cook.

How do you choose seasonal produce? It depends on where you live. MyPlate, MyState is a great resource to learn the foods grown in your region. For instance, in Massachusetts, the following fruits and vegetables are locally grown and produced:

Fruits: Apples, Apricots, Blackberries, Blueberries (tame and wild), Cantaloupes and Muskmelons, Cherries (sweet and tart), Cranberries, Currants, Grapes, Honeydew Melons, Nectarines, Peaches, Pears, Persimmons, Plums and Prunes, Raspberries, Rhubarb, Strawberries, Watermelon

Vegetables: Asparagus, Beans (green lima and snap), Beets, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage (Chinese and head), Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chicory, Collards, Cucumbers and Pickles, Eggplant, Garlic, Kale, Lettuce (head, leaf, and Romaine), Mushrooms, Mustard Greens, Okra, Onions (dry and green), Parsley, Peas (Chinese and green), Peppers, Potatoes, Pumpkins, Radishes, Spinach, Squash (summer and winter), Sweet Corn, Sweet Potatoes, Tomatoes,  Turnip Greens, Turnips

Choosing seasonal foods, even if you did not grow them yourself, helps you reconnect with nature’s natural cadences. So, enjoy your summer peaches and corn while you can before it’s time for fall soup weather.

Quote of the week:

Shop where you live to support your local businesses.

Recipe of the Week: One Pot Farmer’s Market Pasta

This is an easy, quick meal that will feed the whole family. You can add a variety of different veggies for this dish, whatever you have on hand and/or in season. You can also add carrots, zucchini, and cauliflower to super-size the vegetables. 

Ingredients:

12 oz spaghetti (I use Barilla Protein Pasta or Whole Wheat Pasta)

1 medium red onion, peeled, halved, and sliced

1 small Japanese eggplant, halved lengthwise and sliced

5-6 stalks asparagus, cut in 2-inch pieces

a handful of broccoli florets, cut in half

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (some for the pot, then the rest for after the dish is cooked).

1 colorful bell pepper, chopped

2 cloves garlic peeled and minced

2 handfuls baby greens (I used baby kale or fresh spinach)

1 tsp salt and fresh cracked pepper

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 cup dry white wine (or vegetable/chicken stock)

3 1/2 cups water

1 Tbsp white wine or sherry vinegar

1 cup shredded hard Italian cheese

Shredded fresh basil (for garnish)

Put everything in a large pot except the cheese and fresh basil. Add the wine and water (measure exactly since you will not drain the pasta) to the pot and bring to a boil. If your pasta doesn’t fit completely into the pot, nudge it down into the water as it softens. Cover the pot while it comes to a boil then uncover and boil for about 7-9 minutes, until the pasta is just al dente. Watch the pan to make sure the pasta doesn’t stick. Do not over cook the pasta. There will still be some water left in the pan.

Toss the pasta with the cheese, and serve with the extra tomatoes and fresh basil.