Nov 11 2016

I grieve and I celebrate today

I always wake up on Veterans Day not sure how I’m going to feel. Long time friends and readers know that November 11 was also my late husband Ace’s birthday. Today we would have been celebrating his 48th birthday. 

Six years ago I decided to celebrate life, by honoring the amazing veterans that served my country by attending my first local Veterans Day parade.  

Today I’m acknowledging my sadness and grief, but I’m also choosing to celebrate freedom and the wonderful place I live – by once again attending the parade – which has grown so much over the past few years. 

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I’m not a person who posts political rants here on my blog or on Facebook. I don’t unfriend people for posting articles and opinions that don’t align with mine. I simply “hide” crap I don’t want to read… but here’s the thing, young students don’t know how to compartmentalize. Kids hear/absorb everything. You MAY think they are busy with their various activities and digital devices, but they are listening, reading and in some cases mimicking your every word.

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ALL of the name calling, hatred towards opposing political sides, finger pointing/blaming and the justifications. That stuff follows them onto buses, into classrooms, onto playgrounds and sports fields. I’ve listened to teachers this week, and looked at horrible images and words on Instagram representing pure hate and racial divide among our students and it’s awful. This is happening all over America and that crushes me. No kid should be afraid to go to school, it’s unacceptable and we as adults need to be the change to right this wrong.

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I felt such a sense of pride standing along the parade route seeing American flag after American flag and hearing over and over – thank you, thank you for your service and sacrifices made to every veteran attending or in the parade. People were cheering, people were united and for the afternoon – it renewed my faith in humanity. 

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VFW 8358 – and dancing dragons

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The above veteran served in Vietnam. His wife was standing by me and having trouble with her iPhone. The techie geek in me came to the rescue. She had her brightness turned down so low, her screen was black which was an easy fix. She gave me a huge hug. She was so proud of her husband – when he finally walked by, he saw her, waved and then ran over to give her a huge hug and kiss. I got a little choked up for sure. 

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The above was a 1948 antique fire engine that once served the Elk Grove community.

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Elk Grove’s Vice Mayor and soon to be Mayor – Steve Ly – handing out flags to parade attendees. 

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It was great to be able to say, “hi”  to Steve in person. He has been a huge part of my Time of Remembrance Oral Histories project. His father was an officer under General Vang Pao and a Robin (Backseater) to our American Raven pilots in Laos during the Secret War. 

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Our School Board President, Bobbie Singh-Allen, walking proudly with Sikh veterans. 

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Sikhs have served in the U.S. military since WWI and the retired Army veteran/father standing next to me made a point to say this to his three children as they passed by us on the parade route. He said, “These men and their families are just as American as we are. They fought shoulder to shoulder with us and deserve the same level of love and respect you give me and my other veteran friends, please remember that.” I pretty wanted to hug him. 

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As the mini ponies passed – a parade watcher yelled “Hooray for the poop scooper, they couldn’t do it without you!” – everyone laughed and the poop scooper took a bow. 

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So many of our high school bands did such a great job playing and marching along the parade route.

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I’m glad I chose to attend the parade today. It’s just what I needed. I will continue to do my work with my co-worker Gail in the area of teaching cultural competence, cyberbullying, LGBTQ community support and our Time of Remembrance Oral Histories project… it’s my way of making sense of all of this and contributing to my own community and beyond. 

There is so much work to do in other areas too. Jump in, volunteer, talk to your family, friends and neighbors. LISTEN to them, their fears, their ideas. Step outside your comfort zone and start “doing” whatever you can to make you community, your city, your state, your country, a place you are proud of.

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Now since this is a food blog. I stopped at a deli on my way home and grabbed a turkey, avocado, jack cheese, spinach and tomato sandwich and Ace’s favorite – a Bud. There is nothing wrong with day drinking on Veterans Day. There will also be cake tonight. Happy Birthday wishes to heaven and a huge thank you to all veterans for their service and sacrifices. 

Foo

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Nov 08 2016

31st Annual Lake Tahoe Autumn Food & Wine Festival

Is this thing on? Wow – it’s very hard for me to believe that it’s been over a year since I’ve posted anything here on my blog. How in the world did an entire year fly by so quickly? I have still been cooking, creating recipes, going on food adventures and enjoying life, but blogging took a back burner because it’s what I do for a living – ALL DAY LONG. Enough of that – I enjoy my blog and sharing with family, friends and fellow food lovers, so I’m bringing Foodiddy back. I can’t think of a better thing to do while watching election coverage tonight. 

Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival

I’m going to use a time machine to travel back a few months to September. I decided it’s a good place to start. I attended a dear friend’s bachelorette weekend in Lake Tahoe and part of our intinery included attending the Lake Tahoe Autumn Food & Wine Festival and a special winemaker luncheon at Petra. 

Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival Guest Chefs

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Petra is a casual wine bar located in the Village at Northstar. They have over 150 wines to choose from with a focus on limited-production and family-owned wineries from California and around the world. 

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We could not wait to dive into our multi-course food/wine adventure.

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I have been to the Village at Northstar on many occasions, but this was the first time venturing into Petra. I loved the simple decor and upscale rustic vibe of the place. 

Albatross Ridge Winery

We learned the history behind Albatross Ridge Winery and it’s creators, the father and son team of Brad and Garrett Bowlus. Their vision was to find a place where they could plant two styles of grapes – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Their search included many places along the California and Oregon coasts. They finally found what they were looking for high upon Monterey’s Carmel Coast – a place near and dear to my heart. 

I’m kind of obsessed with wine labels and the story behind each one. The Albatross Ridge rep explained how the name Albatross Ridge came about and the connection to the name. I later went to their website and learned even more. 

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“In the 1930s, famed engineer and pilot William Hawley Bowlus, whose pioneering sailplanes are in the Smithsonian, used to fly gliders of his own design off the ridgetops of Monterey’s majestic Carmel Coast. Eight decades later, his grandson and great-grandson unknowingly came to the same mountain slopes, where they have established one of California’s most exciting vineyards. 

It was only after planting the vineyard, when Brad and Garrett were searching for a name for the site, that they discovered an old book on local Monterey history. On its very last page, they found something as remarkable as it was improbable—a photo of Hawley Bowlus launching his Albatross sailplane off the same high mountain slopes where they founded their vineyard. “It was such a serendipitous discovery,” says Brad. “It affirmed everything we had been working so hard to achieve.” – Source: albatrossridge.com

Let’s bring on the food…

Spring Ricotta Spread

First up was Spring Ricotta Spread – pea shoots, basil, lemon, ricotta and toasted flatbread points. The balsamic drizzle on top made for a delicious first round. At this point we were all wishing we had a lighter breakfast knowing what was to arrive next.

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Albatross Ridge Chardonnay was served to be paired with our next course – Handmade Artichoke and Crab Ravioli.

Handmade Artichoke and Crab Ravioli

Lemon cream sauce, heirloom zucchini and cherry tomatoes were the perfect pairing to the artichoke and crab stuffed raviolis. 

Dry Rubbed Berkshire Pork Tenderloin

Next up was Dry Rubbed Berkshire Pork Tenderloin served with a creamy polenta, cremini mushroom sauce and charred green beans. This dish made me ask the same question I ask myself every time I have polenta at a restuaruant – Why the heck don’t I make polenta at home? The pork was delicious and served with Albatross Ridge “Vivienne” Pinot Noir – equally fabulous and my favorite glass of the day.

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We did manage to save room for dessert. This was prior to playing a game of trivia about what we learned throughout the event. 

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Artisan Cheese & Chocolate – triple creme brie, fig jam, dark chocolate dipped strawberries, toasted flatbread points and honey glazed marcona almonds. This course was paired with Albatross Ridge “Reserve” Pinot Noir. Chocolate dipped strawberries… YES PLEASE! I was very full, but those were the perfect ending to our delicious meal. 

Lake Tahoe Autum Food and Wine Festival

We definitely needed to walk around after our two plus hour lunch. We checked out some of the booths and stopped at every dog along the way. I was lucky to be with three other dog lovers that equally missed their fur babies.

We later drove to Incline Village – a place where I spent many summers full of fond memories. We enjoyed a few more beverages at Lone Eagle Grille and then headed back to the cabin for a walk to the beach with more wine… in our custom sippy cups – thank you very much. 

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It was a wonderful weekend away with some pretty amazing women/friends. We chatted a lot about the upcoming wedding, but most importantly just chilled/relaxed. Very different and more my style compared to the bachelorette parties I attended in my 20’s and 30’s. 

Wow, that was like riding a bike. One post down and a handful more in the works. I just had to rip the band-aid off – no turning back now. Thanks for sticking around during my long break, it feels good to be back. 

Foo 

 

 

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Oct 30 2015

Spinach and Artichoke Ravioli Bake

I was on the search for a quick casserole style meal for a mid-week get together with a few friends. I’ve pinned a bunch on Pinterest and finally decided to make one. 

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It should be noted that I failed big time to take a photo of the entire casserole coming out of the oven – the above photo was a portioned out/re-heat the next day. Which, BTW, was delicious as leftovers. 

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Baked Ravioli Ingredients
5 oz. Baby Spinach – Chopped
1 Can Quartered Artichokes
2 Tablespoons Pesto
2 Cups Alfredo Sauce
1 Package Cheese Ravioli
2 Cups Italian Style Cheese

Alfredo Sauce Ingredients
8 Tablespoons Butter
1 Cup Heavy Cream
2 Cups Parmesan Cheese – Freshly Grated
1/4 Cup Vegetable Broth
Salt and Pepper to Taste

You could also buy pre-made Alfredo sauce from the refrigerated section of the store (Think Buitoni or the like) or even a jar variety would be fine. I really do like making my own. It’s frightening to see how many calories/fat go into it and it is my hope as the butter melts into the heavy cream, that my brain sees that it should only be an occasional splurge, ha-ha. I also like my Alfredo sauce thinner than pre-made, so I added the veggie broth to make that happen. I did double the Alfredo sauce recipe. As posted it makes 2-cups. I ended up using 3 cups total and saved the additional cup for something else. 

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I knew I wasn’t going to have time to make pesto from scratch, so I went with a quick Giovanni Rana® Basil Pesto because that is what my Walmart Neighborhood Market carried. Any pesto will do. I measured out my spinach and drained my artichoke hearts and then combined all three into my pan. Next time I will probably use more spinach. 

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I put the ingredients over a medium heat and gave it a quick stir until mixed. You could just leave it uncooked, but I wanted my spinach to be a little wilted. A typical smaller bag of spinach contains 5-6 oz. and the recipe called for 5. I think you could use much more, especially when heating it first, which takes away the volume you get with it raw.

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I started with a layer of Alfredo sauce on the bottom of my 9×13 baking dish. Reminder: I doubled the Alfredo recipe and while I didn’t use all of it, I’m glad I made the extra quantity, because I think it really needed it. 

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I figured I would end up doing three layers of raviolis based on how many I had in the bag, so I divided the spinach, artichoke and pesto mixture into three parts. Place the mixture on top of the Alfredo and then start your ravioli layer. You could certainly do more layers if you purchase two packages of raviolis and increase the measurements of the spinach, artichoke and pesto mixture – or if you use a smaller baking dish.

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My first row of raviolis went down. The brand I bought wasn’t frozen, they were fresh. You could use either. If using frozen, you’ll want to thaw them beforehand so your dish doesn’t get too watery. These were on the larger side, if your raviolis are smaller, you may need more than one bag. Even with the larger size, I did buy two bags in case I needed more, since it was my first time making the dish.

I had to stop myself from going all OCD on the rows – there were going to be multiple layers and this was a dish that wasn’t supposed to take all day. It should be noted that I do indeed cringe when I look at the vertical rows in these photos.

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I added more of the artichoke, spinach and pesto mixture on top of my first layer of raviolis and repeated the process.

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Nope, layer three of my raviolis were NOT lined up and I was still able to sleep that night.  Miracles do happen. I poured more of the Alfredo sauce on top and then I placed the baking dish into the 375°F oven for 30 minutes. 

I gave it a quick check after the 30 minutes and then sprinkled the 2 cups of Italian style cheese (Shredded Low-Moisture Part-Skim Mozzarella, Provolone, Parmesan, Romano, Fontina and Asiago) on top, followed by a few micro-plane grinds of even more Parmesan cheese. I’m pretty sure I have a cheese problem – in a good way. I cut up some spinach ribbons and used those as a topper before serving. Next time I’ll take a photo of the entire casserole dish and add it to this post. People had already arrived, it was dark and I just decided I’d take photographs the next day. 

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This ravioli bake will be in the rotation of my top 10 comfort food meals. Sure, it was super rich, but man was it delicious! Everyone liked it and I especially did since most of the ingredients were already prepared and it was easy to throw together. Total prep time, minus the photographs and staging, was probably about 15-20 minutes. It would even be less if you bought pre-made Alfredo sauce. So this recipe is a keeper for sure.

Enjoy!
foo

 

Spinach and Artichoke Ravioli Bake
Serves 8
A quick Italian style, easy to prepare, dinner for the entire family.
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Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
50 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
50 min
Ingredients
  1. Baked Ravioli
  2. 5 oz. Baby Spinach - Chopped
  3. 1 Can Quartered Artichokes
  4. 2 Tablespoons Pesto
  5. 2 Cups Alfredo Sauce
  6. 1 Package Cheese Ravioli
  7. 2 Cups Italian Style Cheese
  8. Alfredo Sauce
  9. 8 Tablespoons Butter
  10. 1 Cup Heavy Cream
  11. 1/4 Cup Vegetable Broth
  12. 2 Cups Parmesan Cheese - Freshly Grated
  13. Salt and Pepper to Taste
Instructions
  1. Combine spinach, artichoke and pesto in pan and mix well over medium heat. You can choose to just mix in a bowl without heating.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the Alfredo sauce and veggie broth. To make the Alfredo sauce - melt the butter over medium heat and pour in the heavy cream once melted. Stir to combine. Add the Parmesan cheese. The veggie broth goes in next to thin out the consistency. Then add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Spread 1/3 of the Alfredo sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish.
  4. Top with half of the spinach/artichoke mixture.
  5. Lay ravioli in a single layer on top of the spinach/artichoke mixture.
  6. Repeat the layering process. (2 layers of raviolis)
  7. Finish up with more Alfredo sauce.
  8. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees F. for 30 minutes.
  9. Check at 30 minutes, sprinkle with cheese and broil at 450 degrees F. for 3-5 minutes. Make sure you really watch it, the cheese browns quickly.
  10. Let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.
Adapted from Betty Crocker/The Cooking Jar
Adapted from Betty Crocker/The Cooking Jar
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