Foodie National Holidays: Ravioli

Wild Herb Ravioli

“Wild Herb Ravioli” from Garden Therapy

As many of you know, I’m trying to catalogue as many of the “Food Holidays” as I can find. Yes, there will be a calendar being printed at some point. One problem that I’ve come across is the difference between International and National food days. Growing up as a global nomad I’m so out of tune with things like national pride and boundaries so I don’t care what country a feast day or foodie holiday is from.  So I’m just going to declare myself the Grande (and benevolent) Dictator or the Foodie Nation and as such I wish all my subjects a very merry Ravioli Day!

Lemon and Goat's Cheese Ravioli

“Lemon and Goat’s Cheese Ravioli” from Lisa Is Cooking

Pumpkin Ravioli

“Pumpkin Ravioli” from Wolgang Puck

Olive and Goat Cheese Ravioli

“Olive and Goat Cheese Ravioli” from Heather Cristo Books

Three Cheese Ravioli in Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

“Three Cheese Ravioli in Roasted Red Pepper Sauce” from Baking with Blondie



Gastroporn Menu – November.2012

I know some people have been asking me if November’s Gastroporn Menu would be Thanksgiving themed. The simple answer is “No”. Thanksgiving is a magical time and should not be attached to anything else. That would spoil it. I will do a special Thanksgiving post later. This menu is inspired by the fact that on November 2 I’ve been asked to give a special vespers program on “Health”. Why they picked me for something I obviously don’t take care of personally is beyond me but I’ll do my best.

I’ll probably do something that has little to do with healthy eating and more to do with a healthy lifestyle and mindset. Part of that is being able to think critically about yourself and your environment. This may seem a little off point but I don’t think so.  Studies show that families who have a sit down dinner together more often have a better family dynamic and the kids turn out better. Point and fact: My family eats most meals together and I turned out fantastic! Also, taking longer to eat your food means you will eat less and usually with more conscience than someone who just scarfs down a burger or junk good on the go. The time we put into getting and making our food can be a religious experience that, when done right, makes us think less about stress and more about the things that make us happy in life. The things we should be known.

So the following menu is a “Life Lessons” Menu. Forcing us to take the time to plan things in advance and spend time with ourselves while we are creating and, in the end, share what we produce with the people that mean the most to us. This is what having a healthy lifestyle is all about: Making sure we take the time to do what we love and do with it with/for the right people.

The Lesson


Roasted Almonds

Fall Sangria

Pear, Walnut, and Ricotta Crostini

Caesar Salad in Parmesan Cheese Baskets

Spinach Gnocchi with Sage Butter

Blackberry Prosecco Popsicle

Lavender, Cardamom, and Dark Chocolate Truffles

served with Coffee

Cheese Board

Take THAT!

So I’ve been spending a bunch of time with my grandma (the one with the horrifying coleslaw memories. The other one lives with me. See: “A Tale of Two Grandmas…”). Staying in her house always poses a difficult scenario. Growing up I always associated going to my grandparents’ house with vacation. Their house is only about 30-40 minutes from mine but when we lived overseas the commute was significantly…longer (usually about 2 days). So when we’d come to the US we would spend longer amounts of time with my grandparents and I was often exempt from most of my educational obligations.

During the day we’d all eat food my Gma approved of (low sodium, low fat, vegetarian, often vegan, and LOTS of fresh fruits and vegetables). But at night… At night…

When I was a kid my Gpa was still fairly feisty. He and I used to go into his basement office and play Myst and Riven for hours or record books onto tape together. He also used to have, what I now consider to be, the greatest sleeping habits. He’s wake up around 9am to do all his medicines and vitamins. Drink his coffee (thick, black and sweet). Then he’d go through the TV Guide and circle things he’d want to watch. He’d read in-between those things. After lunch he would take a good nap for an hour or so. After nap… more coffee. Then various activities including: Freecell with Gma, ordering new books, garden research, Chinese practice (to keep up with me once I started), Tetris, crosswords… and so much more. He also wrote a book about his time in China at some point. In the evening he and Gma watch “60 Minutes” during dinner and then my Gma would go and get ready for bed while Gpa would settle in for some late night TV and eventually a midnight snack. That’s where I’d usually join in.

On weekends it was the best because we would watch some of our favorite cartoons and shows, like “2 Stupid Dogs” and “Tom and Jerry”.

“2 Stupid Dogs”: Possibly the funniest, dumbest, and most mind shaping show from my childhood.

This is the time of midnight snacking. Cookies and milk. Ice cream. Desserts of all kinds. Saltines with cheddar and Worcestershire sauce (in the microwave for 20 seconds).

So now that I’m older I’m stuck having to help my Gma make her meals now that’s she’s forced to use a walker because of some recent accidents (the woman’s 91 turning 92 next weekend I think she’s earned a little service). So for breakfast it’s toast and fruit with some soy milk (no soy milk for me, thanks) and salad with soup that a swear has absolutely no taste whatsoever but Gma raves about it. And dinner was yogurt (because of the antibiotics in the hospital. Gma, not me) with something warm to drink down all the pills. My grandma also loves tennis. She made sure I knew that Roger Federer is her FAVORITE player and watched at least 3 games of his in a day.  I know she likes him as a tennis player but her sitting up straighter in her seat and clapping her hands and smiling/blushing every so often when they show his close-up or he wins would tell a different story. My grandma is adorable.

Roger Federer: My Grandma’s Indulgence

Well after all that healthy food (there was also a faux quiche made without dairy or salt) and watching physically fit people run around on the TV all day I needed to do something after Gma would go to bed in order to counteract it all. My taste buds needed some sort of reimbursement. So I would fall back on a couple old favorites while sitting up late at night playing on Pinterest and watching cartoons or “Top Gear”. Because my mommy loves me (and was more than excited to be able to take the weekend off to get some rest and help out with some international guests) she’d left me fully stocked with the works. Starting with this:

Ben & Jerry’s: “Chocolate Therapy”

As far as I’m concerned this is the top of the Ice Cream Food Chain right now. If you haven’t had it. Go have some. Even I can only eat it in small doses it’s so rich.

Also in the freezer, tucked behind the tower of frozen pizzas my grandma buys for my brother, was this:

Welsh Rarebit

I tried it two different ways. On tater tots and on toast. I prefer the traditional method with the sauce over toast but I found another use of the tater tots so it was not a disappointment.

As I was eating my sin on toast I was reminded of the saltines with cheese and Worcestershire meets macaroni and cheese. It was a beautiful thing. Brought me back to when I learned how to make macaroni and cheese from scratch. I’d always had it pre-made or one of those “kits” in a box. My Gma used to buy it for me at Christmas, the kind you put in the oven and you get those yummy burnt bits around the edges.

It was a picnic maybe 3 summers ago. Time is all winky wonky in my universe. It was a picnic for a group my brother was a part of  that all the families attend once a year. This year it happened to be in the house of a family where both parents were chefs who now teach cooking lessons somewhere in the Metro DC Area. All the details are fuzzy because I heard them 3rd hand. But whoever/whatever they are, they knew what they were doing in their kitchen. The wife/mother (who’s name I don’t think I ever learned) asked for a hand in the kitchen and my mom offered me up.

So there I was in a rather tiny kitchen space with a wooden spoon encouraging the melting of butter in a large saucepan while she was busy boiling a vat of water for the pasta. Here’s how the whole process was explained to me, keeping in mind that this was for a large number of people:

Put on a really big pot of water on to boil. In a large saucepan melt a stick of butter. Once melted add in a couple table spoons of flour and mix well until it looks a little like apple sauce. Over medium-low heat keep stirring the mixture until it begins to brown at the edges and smell fragrant. Add in about 2 cups of milk (that’s my years-later-guesstimate) and whisk. Then you start adding cheese. She used the pre-shredded stuff in bags. So about 2 bags of cheddar, 1 bag of mozzarella, and 1 bag of parmesan. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Mix it all until everything is all melty and gooey.  Somewhere in this process you’ve put in 4 boxes of elbow macaroni pasta into the boiling water and it’s cooked al dente. Drain the pasta and pour it into a large oven safe pan or dish and then pour the cheese sauce on top. Mix it all together and then sprinkle more cheddar cheese on top and put in in a 350 F oven for about 15-20 minutes until it’s toasted looking on top.

My brother being a mac & cheese fanatic has asked me to make this several times. For a smaller batch cut the butter to 1/4 stick and lower the amount of milk by about 50% and then add cheese to get the consistency you want. It’s still a lot of cheese no matter how much you’re making.

Needless to say I owe a good two to three hours on the bike with some heavier weights after all the making up eating I did to counter act the salads.

But to end this rant here is a montage of Macaroni and Cheese recipes and variations:

Southern-Style Macaroni and Cheese

Smoked Gouda Macaroni and Cheese

Greek Macaroni & Cheese with Roast Garlic, Caramelized Leeks

Smoked Gouda and Sharp Cheddar Mac and Cheese (with really good “How To” photos)

Beer Mac & Cheese

Fontina Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese with Roasted Chicken, Goat Cheese, and Rosemary (Although, in general, I’m not a huge fan of chicken)

Potato Skins Mac and Cheese (Also with good “How To” photos)