Remembering My Mom’s Ravioli

Thanksgiving is tough for me this year. I lost my mom just last week, and all I want to do is talk to her and eat her delicious meals. My heart breaks thinking I’ll never hear her voice or taste her cooking again.

My mom

Mom made Thanksgiving meals wonderful, whether Thanksgiving was hosted at our home or at my dad’s siblings’ homes. (We rotated homes each year.) And, for some of those years, mom prepared ravioli as a side dish.

Mom made ravioli because she knew we didn’t enjoy dad’s family tradition of mashed potatoes and raisins. Yes, raisins. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind mashed potatoes or raisins. However, I never understood why the potatoes were ruined with raisins. I didn’t like my paternal grandmother’s raisin pie for dessert either. I appreciate some of our family’s traditions, but I choose not to continue those involving raisins. 

Like most women born at the end of the Great Depression, my mom cooked from scratch mostly. She prepared the stuffing (sometimes with cubed left-over, dried-out sourdough bread), simmered and whisked up a gravy (from the turkey’s broth and giblets), mashed the potatoes (sans raisins), cooked down the cranberries (dashed with orange juice and Grand Mariner), steamed green beans (tossed in olive oil, lemon, and slivered almonds typically). Everything tasted fresh. I find myself lucky never to have tasted a green bean casserole.

Mom rarely followed a recipe. She modified recipes to meet whatever ingredients available to her at the time. Her practical process made every dish memorable.

Today, I will share my memory of my mom’s process for making ravioli. 

Not my mom’s ravioli.

She sauteed some meat (either fresh or what was leftover from last night’s meal), something green and leafy, onions, garlic, oregano, and basil. No measuring amounts, just eye-balled it. She added a dash of salt and pepper. When it looked to be done, she’d scrape it into a big bowl. She let the sauteed ingredients cool then mixed in the ricotta and parmesan. (The types of cheeses changed with whatever was in the fridge, as did the meat.) As the prepared mixture cooled, she made the dough. In her younger years, she made the dough on the kitchen counter or table, rolled it out by hand, spooned and dolloped the mixed ingredients onto the expanse of dough in a grid pattern with generous imaginary borders. She topped the whole thing with another layer of rolled out pasta dough. She ran her finger along the imaginary border pressing the doughs together. She followed her path with that weird wavey wheeling knife tool to cut and separate the mass into ravioli. In her later years, she bought the pre-made circle-shaped wonton wrapper dough at the grocery store. She didn’t care about not making the dough; she was practical. She was getting older, her hands and back needed a break from standing so long. And she had to make more ravioli, since the dinners had grown from 12 people to about 26 people. The sauce for the ravioli was prepared the day before. The ingredients varied with what was in the garden or fridge and whether the ravioli were meat or ricotta lemon. 

Tonight, I will serve ravioli for Thanksgiving dinner. But I won’t make it from scratch. My heart (and kitchen) are in a shambles. I hope to make it for my family next year.

Cheers! 🧡💛🤎

Ravioli Dreams of Nonna

My dreams of preparing ravioli from scratch are inspired by mother and brief memories–real and imagined–of my maternal grandmother. I grew up calling her grandma, but now I want to remember her as nonna.

Steph’s nonna

Nonna was born in America in 1913 of Italian heritage. Her mother from Abruzzo, her father from Calabria. She lived a life I know little about, yet her shy muted spirit lives in my heart.

My few memories of Nonna have the naive fuzzy edges of a six or seven year old. She had gray hair and carried the weight of her years in a barrel atop two short legs. She lived humbly, in a rundown home patched with corrugated metal and an outhouse, in a depressed community out in the middle of the desert.

Visits with Nonna were short and usually involved my parents bringing her practical items from our middle-class home. (If we got a new kitchen table, then we brought her our old one.) Our trips from the big city took most of the day, with our visit to be just long enough to unload the car and for my folks to address any familial matters. My limited time with Nonna was precious.

Mostly, I remember that Nonna couldn’t speak–Italian or English. Her vocal chords were irreversibly damaged as a young child. Yet the spoken word wasn’t necessary for her to be understood and endeared.

Her smiling eyes would light upon an item and her body would dance. My eyes would follow her movements and my mind would race. Her gestures and facial expressions could tell stories and demonstrate basic needs.

Nonna lifted an item, made some moves, and I understood. She showed me a bottle of milk and raised her hand to her lips. I smiled and nodded. She made me an egg (or was it bologna?) sandwich, and I watched her cook potatoes. Her kitchen was bare, but my belly and heart were full.

Rocco’s Homemade Cheese Ravioli

Unfortunately, I never learned much about her or even how to cook ravioli by watching her. But I liked to imagine the sound of her voice, the stories from her life, and the tastes from her table. Perhaps her voice and her ravioli were as endearing as those of the nonna from my dreams?


© Stephanie Abbott. Sunday, November 24, 2019. The photo of my nonna is from my family tree. The photo of Rocco’s ravioli was taken while I cooked dinner tonight. The memories I shared are inspired from my youth, the ricotta ravioli from Rocco’s NY Pizzeria (“Just like Grandma used to make!”), and the video, “Italian Grandma Makes Homemade Ravioli” published by Buon-A-Petitti at https://youtu.be/n68W0bVolmU.

Being Optimistic

Do you find beauty where others find ugliness? Hold on, because this quote is deep…

“I demand that the world be good, and lo, it obeys. I proclaim the world good, and facts range themselves to prove my proclamation overwhelmingly true.”

-Helen Keller

The World I Live In and Optimism: A Collection of Essays

https://books.google.com/books/about/Optimism.html?id=YrMcAAAAMAAJ

Personally, I demand for some young people to benefit from a law-related education and support Trial By Peers, a diversion court operated by the Clark County Law Foundation.

#lookingforflowers

#findinglife

#trialbypeers

#NaBloPoMo18

#Create30

#GivingTuesday

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About this post:

Image: Photo of an artichoke cactus I found among along a walk in downtown Las Vegas earlier this year.

Quote (above): I chose this quote for a variety of reasons, including my experience of working (briefly) for a woman who was both deaf and blind.

Today’s post follows this prompt: “Whether it is on a teabag or in a fortune cookie, tidbits of wisdom are everywhere. What is one you have read that was worth keeping? Share it with us. #NaBloPoMo18, Day 27”

————–©2018 Stephanie Abbott. All rights reserved.

Interviewing The Candidate

Steph: Hello. How may I help you?

The Candidate: I would like your vote.

Steph: Really? Why should I choose you?

The Candidate: Because I am the best. Believe me.

Steph: Are you really? I am unaware of your qualifications. Who said so?

The Candidate: I am telling you to believe me.

Steph: Hmm… Will you work to help improve ABC or XYZ?

The Candidate: Perhaps, if it those things are in my best interest.

Steph: How do you consider the opinions, needs, reality of your challengers? And those of their supporters?

The Candidate: I do not agree with them. I will not consider their needs. I will ignore their reality. They will bend to my will and feed my appetite for glory.

Steph: What do you plan to do if you are elected? Do you have a plan to achieve your goals?

The Candidate: Of course. I plan to do lots of things. Of course, they all may not be of concern to you directly.

Steph: Of course. Tell me about your plan. Does it include ABC? Have you considered XYZ? What sets of data did you resource for your study? When? How? Why? Who? …

The Candidate: Oh, well, we don’t need to go into such detail. You just need to trust that when I get into office, I will work to protect the interests of my constituents.

Steph: You will? I am one of your constituents. Will you work to address my concerns?

The Candidate: Well, I can take your concerns under consideration. In the meantime, how much can you donate to my campaign? May I count on your vote?

Steph: Nope, bloodsucker.


The featured image for this post is a sketch I created for one of my posts written in 2011. Read “Sideburns are dark, scripted comments about character.

© 2017 Steph Abbott. All rights reserved.

I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words #6. Day 6 of the Write Tribe Festival of Words #6 and today’s prompt is: Feature a guest – a guest post / an interview. While I did not secure a guest writer or interview a real person, I outlined the high points from what I perceive the eternal interview with the candidate from hell. #writebravely #writetribe #festivalofwords

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Strolling the Land of Dragons to #WriteBravely

Weekend road trip to California with the family? Sure. Let’s escape the heat.

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California and Nevada. Image courtesy U.S. Department of the Interior-Bureau of Land Management © 1988 Department of the Interior-Geological Survey, Reston Virginia-Public Domain-Note: This particular image was found on the website of the Mount Diablo Surveyors Historic Society.

This past weekend, I traveled from the scorching desert in Las Vegas to the cool coastline near San Diego. A highlight of this trip was my stroll through LEGOLAND® California Resort. For those who live under a rock, without kids, this place is filled with virtual world of miniature cities, models, and replicas built with the famous colored plastic bricks and designed to reflect the spectacular to the mundane.

I found it to be quite surreal. And, on this particular day,  I felt like I may have entered a dreamlike state.

I walked and envisioned, “this is where I could build a castle with rooms for all my family and friends. I would include a magnificent kitchen for us to enjoy meals and drink wine. Maybe even decide that I was the best ruler in all the land and never want to leave?”

My dream continued, because why not?! I am in a place designed to foster the imagination.

“Of course, I would need a moat and a titan to protect my perfect world. And what about that smoke dragon? Perhaps I should build a wall around it all?”

After a few minutes, I remembered that I was sober and decided to leave the childish dreams (or paranoid delusions) to others and continue my stroll to check out the mini cities, landmarks, and moats on display that were made to entertain and enthuse.

What is it about those bright interlocking blocks? Alone they are boring blocks made of cheap plastic. Yet give a bucket of bricks to someone with an imaginative mind and a
reasonable block of time, and voila!, they have created a castle with a crazy king to defend and a smoke dragon to defeat.

Yes, my inner child jumped for joy while at LEGOLAND. Yes, I care that plastic is killing our planet. And, yes, I care that LEGO plans to change their brick baking recipe to a more sustainable material. See “Why Lego Is Spending Millions To Ditch Oil-Based Plastic” by Adele Peters (Fast Company, July 7, 2017) at https://www.fastcompany.com/3048017/why-lego-is-spending-millions-to-ditch-oil-based-plastic.

Copyright 2017 Steph Abbott. All rights reserved.

I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words #6. Today’s prompt was to “Feature a map and write about a place either real or virtual.” #writetribe #writingbravely #festivalofwords

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Appreciating My Treasure and #WritingBravely

Beheld by their splendor, I sat still, gazing at my treasure. Though not mine to truly possess, each provided me with an innate value and enduring promise. Their inner light danced in the summer sun just to catch my breath. My gale swelled with love for these smokey sapphire and golden-flecked gems. As their eyes met mine, my rich soul beamed back. Family is truly a treasure.

_________

This passage and image were inspired by the prompt, “write about a treasure you have.” I wrote this piece and created this image using my smartphone while riding with my family through the Mohave desert. Copyright 2017 Steph Abbott. All rights reserved. #writetribe #writingbravely #festivalofwords #ArtRage

Continue reading “Appreciating My Treasure and #WritingBravely”

Morning Muse

Good morning, Monday. I know we are friends and all, but why am I looking for your the sunset already?

©2017 Stephanie Abbott. All rights reserved. I wrote this after waking from a deep sleep and exercising this morning. I doodles the image last night using OmniSketch. Hugs to Corinne from #WriteTribe today. #mondaymusings #motivationmonday #coffeetime #fitbit #weightlossjourney

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When She Found Me

When​ ​she​ ​found​ ​me,​ ​I​ ​was​ ​skipping​ ​rope.
​​Whoosh,​ ​jump,​ ​snap.
With​ ​each​ ​turn​ ​of​ ​the​ ​rope,​ ​I​ ​glimpsed​ ​key​ ​features.
Her​ ​locks,​ ​dark.
Whoosh.
Her​ ​eyes,​ ​bright.
Jump.
Her​ ​mouth,​ ​agape.
Snap.
My​​ ​​eyes​ ​darted​​ ​​away,​​ ​​for​​ ​​fear​​ ​​of​​ ​​her​​ ​​catching​​ ​​my​​ ​​gaze.​
Whoosh.
I​ ​skipped.
She​ ​found​ ​me.

©2017 Stephanie Abbott. All rights reserved. I wrote this piece in response to a prompt in the post “Loving In The Face Of Fear #MondayMusings” by Corinne Rodrigues. #WriteTribe

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Silver & Blue Bourbon Balls – A bit of Nevada spirit

Spent the day with my mom. We relished yesterday’s meal, drank smoothies, folded laundry, and considered the pending Nevada v. Boise State football game. My folks are big Nevada fans. Best of all, we made Mrs. B’s fabulous bourbon balls. (We doubled the recipe and used what my husband had of some old bourbon. The rest was straight rye.) In the end, I tickled my mom with the fancy toppings in her team colors—silver and blue crystallized sugars. Go Pack!

Mr. & Mrs. B’s Bourbon Balls—a recipe for fun and friendship.

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Growing up, I remember all the yummy, tasty gifts that would arrive during the holiday season. You know, trays of treats and canisters of confections that friends of the family would deliver while spending some time visiting with the folks. One family in particular, the B’s, always brought over Panettone and bourbon balls.

Those bourbon balls were legendary in their power over the palate (and senses)! As a distilled confection, my mom would store them in glass Mason jars in the freezer. She would break them out after dinner on special occasions to be enjoyed by all the adults. While my sister and I were only allowed one during the holidays, we would pilfer those jars throughout the year!

As life started to pass by, I realized my love of those bourbon balls had endured through boys, sign-language courses, several jobs and a cat. A food-memory if you will. I associated them with a wonderful time and fabulous friends. I started to crave these goodies and share their distilled deliciousness with my friends.

I put in a few calls and ended up on the phone with Mrs. B. She waited patiently on the line while I scrawled her recipe on a scrap of paper. I think she was tickled with the request. I’m not sure whether it was because her family tradition had made such an impression or simply that the recipe was not all that secret. I know it was a bit of both. I was giddy from the gift of friendship from the 90-proof confections!

While I’ve already told the tale of how this spirited treat has infused my dreams, I am happy to report that I have found that scrap of paper. So, while you (and @MagicBartender) may already know the recipe, here is the one that has had my mind marinating for a while now:

Mr. & Mrs. B’s Bourbon Balls

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups vanilla wafers

1 cup walnuts

2/3 cup good bourbon (I’m partial to JD and counsel away from the bottled bird. Otherwise it’s your game.)

1 cup confectioner’s sugar (that’s powdered sugar for the Gen-Xers)

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

Various toppings, confectioners & crystallized sugars to roll the balls in for the presentation.

Directions:

Pulverize wafers with a mallet (or use a food processor) and put in a big bowl. Grind walnuts (use a food processor this time) and add them to the wafer crumbs.

Blend the remaining ingredients (except the various toppings) for 10 minutes and add to the crumby bowl.

Mix all the ingredients well. This step can be fun yet messy using your hands or quick and even using a big bowl mixer or a food processor. Either way, lapping up the sticky mixture is quite the treat. Tip? Think of the end-user. Hands only for the solo hoarders. Mixers for mixed company.

Then, let it all sit and stew. Both the mixture and you. Drink a few shots and shoot the breeze with your family, friends, or the cat. However, don’t get carried away and don’t throw darts. You’ve got to get all the mixture rolled into balls and rolled again in any toppings.

Turning the strong-smelling chocolate mess into handsome balls of fun takes quite a bit of time. You’ll need to prep a clean flat surface (waxed paper on cookie trays or your husband’s recently-cleared desk).

Roll the mixture into 1 inch balls. Scoop out the thick, sticky batter with a spoon or one of those nifty cookie dough scoops. Come to think of it, cookie dough scoops don’t work all that well. The batter will get stuck inside the scoop, and you’ll have to use your fingers to dig it out. Use a teaspoon and the palm of your hands to roll into balls. Yes, this is messy. Use some of those plastic, food service gloves. Place the balls on the waxed paper.

Roll in the topping(s) of your choice. Gaze at your work and decide who deserves them enough to receive as gifts. Divvy them up and store them in airtight containers for at least 24 hours before serving or delivering them to the lucky ones.

If delivering past the porch, please do not eat these balls and drive!

Special thanks to Mr. & Mrs. B for all the special memories and that beautiful, ball-shaped, crystal serving dish!

Sent from my iPad