My Mother and Grandmother and the Food We Cook

As Mothers Day approaches I think about my mom and grandma and the effect they have had on my career. I’m a Chef and I owe a lot of my love of cooking to them.

My mom and dad got married when they were 18 and 19 years old respectfully. My mom did not know how to cook, so my dad’s mom came to live with them for a bit to teach my mother how to cook. My grandmother was very large Italian women whose love of food and cooking was her life. My mom is a petite woman, just a kid when she married my dad. Quite a contrast. Two women from two different worlds getting together through marriage and “food”.

My grandmother taught my mom everything she knew when it came to food. In turn my mom became an incredible cook in her own right.

Growing up I remember when my grandmother and my mother would come together for holiday meals. We always had pasta at just about every meal, especially on the holidays. My grandmother would clear off the kitchen table, throw out the flour, eggs, and olive oil and start to make her famous homemade raviolis. She was fun to watch. Everything she did was by hand, no electric mixers or pasta making machines or fancy rolling pins, just plain old “from scratch” pasta making. She would mix the dough, kneading the dough with her very large hands and rolling out the dough with a long wooden poll. It was like watching an artist at work. I was quite young then, but I remember it like yesterday. The meatballs, the stuffed cabbage, the meat and spinach pies and the list goes on. Luckily, my mom was writing all these recipes down, goodness knows, gram had them all in her head, not on paper.

As I have said in a previous article, growing up we ate most of our family meals at the dinner table in our home as a family. And my mother was not opening frozen dinners or making dinners out of a box. They were homemade. Thus, my love of food began. I liked hanging out in the kitchen with my mom, watching her cook. During the holidays I always helped my mother with the cookies from a very young age. It was great. Food is something my mom and I talk about all the time to this day. She taught me how to make all those recipes from my grandmother. Recipes that I use today when I’m teaching my cooking classes.
When I’m doing my cooking classes I always talk about the history behind these recipes and how they have been handed down from gram to mom to me. I talk about my very large Italian grandmother making these same homemade raviolis on the kitchen table at moms house, its great. My clients love the stories. I tell these stories to my 12 year old daughter when she helps me in the kitchen. She loves it.

Cooking is my life and there’s a long history of food in my family and I plan to carry that love of food on!

To my mom and my late grandmother….

Happy Mothers Day, I Love You and Thank You!

Dinner with the Family

As I look back growing up in the late 60’s and 70’s, I think about the evening dinners I spent with my 2 sisters, my brother and my Mom and Dad. At the time, I thought “how inconvenient”, I wanted to stay out and play or watch some TV, not sit down with the family and discuss the day. Now I think to myself, “what good times those dinners were”. Even if someone was in trouble or there were tense moments, or we were talking about funny things, I think back and say to myself how I miss those dinners.

We all talked, or not. The point is we were all together as a family. I felt as though I was part of something, a safety zone so to speak. Not so much free time to possibly get myself in trouble or become brain dead watching TV.

It seems that in this day and age, with both parents working to make ends meet and all the after school activities children are involved in, that due to time restraints the family dinner is something of the past. That to me is sad.

I’m a private chef now at this point in my life. I have a daughter from my first marriage. She’s 12. When she is with Cindy and I, we sit down and have dinner as a family. It would be easier to get up and go out to dinner, but it’s just not the same. I find when we sit and eat together at home, its much more relaxed and personal. Great stories are told, I find out what’s going in school and understand more about my dinner each time. It’s great.

One of the things I’m realizing with my business is that other families of my generation are starting to feel the same way. I now have clients who want me to give their teenagers cooking lessons as well as teach them proper table etiquette. My clients are starting to make the effort to sit for dinner as a family and actually try to communicate with their children. It’s not every night of the week. Lets face it, our generation doesn’t have as much time as our parents did, but my clients are starting to make the time, even if its couple, three times a week. If we as parents really try we can make some time, even if its just one night a week. It may seem difficult, but the rewards far out weight the down side.

With all the social media outlets that our children seem to become involved with, they are losing the ability to socially interact with other people on a personal level. The “art” of conversation is becoming a lost art.

Food and conversation go hand and hand. A family I started working with a few months ago has two children, 14 and 16. The mom wanted me to teach them how to cook, how to shop as well as proper table etiquette. The mom felt the children were seriously lacking in those abilities and felt that if they were to learn them, it would only help them in the future. I have to tell you, her children weren’t very happy about it. The first few lessons were actually quite difficult. I sat down with the family for quite a few of the family meals and boy the first couple, were quite awkward. As time went by they became easier and easier. Here we are 3 months later and I spoke with their mom this past week and she could not tell me enough how happy she is with the outcome. She said that dinner with the family has actually brought her family closer. I must say that made me very happy to hear.

Now, I’m not saying you need to hire a private chef to accomplish this; I’m saying get back into the routine of dinner with the family. Have everybody participate in the meal, from preparation to clean up. You may have some unhappy kids at first, but in the long run I think you will reap the rewards. Lets not let the times take that away from us. Maybe there are some things we can learn from the 60’s and 70’s, when we grew up. Those days seemed to be a bit simpler, a bit slower paced. Sit down at home and have dinner with your kids at the dinner table, no TV on, no texting or phone conversations, no iPods, and communicate, person to person. I think you’ll be very happy with the outcome!

Stuffed Mushrooms a la Lenore

Here is a recipe from a long time friend, Lenore Drivas Incorvaia. It looks great and I’m going to make them for New Years. THANKS LENORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Lenore’s recipe for Stuffed Mushrooms:

3 small containers of fresh mushrooms…approx 28
2 cups Italian style bread crumbs
olive oil
3/4 cup fresh parsley
5 -8 large fresh garlic cloves
3 TBLS soy sauce
1 cup- 1 1/2 cups white wine (depending how heavy your hand is) lol
1/2 stick butter
1 1/2 cups fresh grated Romano cheese

TURN YOUR OVEN ON 400 degrees

clean and remove stems from the mushrooms. when you finished that, dice the stems fine. In a large skillet add the olive oil to cover the bottom of your pan. add the diced mushroom stems. let saute for about 10 mins to that you will add 5-8 cloves of garlic, fairly large cloves. Add 1/2 stick of butter, 3 Tbls of soy sauce, about 1cup- 1 1/2 cups white wine, about 3/4 cup chopped fresh parley. let saute for about 1/2 hr.

Pour your Italian style bread crumbs in a large bowl. Add warm water to the bread crumbs to make a thick paste (this is the trick) it makes the stuffing creamy instead of griddy like sand. To the bread crumbs add about 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Romano cheese. To that add the mixture from your skillet and mix well with a folk after a couple mins you can then continue mixing by hand making sure everything is mixed together properly.
Now you can begin to stuff your mushrooms and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. When your done arranging them, lightly drizzle the tops with olive oil.
Let bake about 25 mins or until a nice golden crust has formed on the stuffing and the mushrooms are a beautiful dark brown color…..

Hope you enjoy as much as my family and friends do when I make them!!!

Grandma’s Italian Sausage Stuffing

Coming from Italian decent, almost every holiday meal or daily meal for that matter had some sort of Italian flare to it. Besides the usual homemade ravioli’s and sauce, my Grandmother always made her Italian sausage stuffing to serve with the bird. I do it every year and its always a hit. I have also made it for the guests at resorts and hotels I’ve worked at over the years and have always gotten positive reviews.

1.5 pound Mild Italian sausage
1 stalk Celery (med dice)
1 each Yellow Onion (med dice)
4 cloves Garlic (minced)
1 each Green Bell Pepper (med dice)
1 teaspoon Thyme (dry)
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
2 each Eggs
1/2 cup Milk
2 tablespoons Butter (melted)
1/2 loaf Italian Bread (cubed)
1/2 cup Water
4 tablespoon Italian Flat Parsley

Saute Italian sausage with the garlic, onions, celery and green pepper till sausage is cooked and veggies are soft. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

In a bowl mix together the eggs, butter, thyme, salt and pepper, parsley, milk, water and bread crumbs. Mix well.

Add sausage mixture to bread mixture and mix well. I use my hands just like Gram did.

you can cook stuffed in the bird or cook in pan covered with foil for about 1 hour. If you do stuff the bird, make sure the internal temperature for the stuffing inside the turkey is at least 140 degrees. It adds a ton of flavor and people who have never had it, love. I will also make a traditional stuffing as well just in case a guest does not want to experiment.

This will be the first year in a long time that Cindy and I are not having a big dinner at our house. Were going to the Hotel Del in Cornado Island for a long weekend and were coming home the day before Thanksgiving. We decided were going to make homemade ravioli stuff with ground turkey and cranberry’s for the 2 of us. But rest assured I will be making a batch of Grams Stuffing!!!!!!


Dinner and Demo Party Menu!

Preparing the Bibb Salad

Roasted Beef Tenderloin w/ Au Jus

1ea. Whole Beef Tenderloin, cleaned and chain removed
2Tbsp Roasting Seasoning (your choice)
Salt and Pepper
2ea. Carrots – chopped
1ea. Yellow Onion – chopped
3stalks Celery – chopped
3ea. Garlic Clove – peeled and left whole
1qt. Beef Stock or Beef Broth (found in soup section of supermarket)
1cp. Dry White Cooking Wine

Take large roasting pan and coat pan with vegetable oil. Place in 400 degrees pre heated oven and heat oil. Once oil is heated place beef in pan and sear on all sides. Turn oven down to 350 degrees. Add chopped carrot, celery, onion and garlic and roast beef for 30 to 45 minutes or until internal temperature of 115 degrees.

Remove beef and set aside to rest for 20 minutes. Place roasting pan on top of stove and heat. Deglaze with white wine and reduce by ½. Add beef broth and brig to boil. Strain into 2-quart saucepan. Simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and season to taste.

Béarnaise Mousse

1pint Heavy Whipping Cream
5sprigs Fresh Tarragon
4oz Red Wine vinegar
½ TBSP Lemon Pepper
Salt and Pepper to Taste

In a small saucepan place Red Wine Vinegar and Tarragon and reduce by half. Add tarragon and vinegar and lemon pepper into cream and whip cream to a semi hard peak (like whipped cream). You can also use a hand mixer or kitchen aid mixer if you don’t want to do by hand. Serve with Beef

Wedge of Bibb lettuce w/ Blue Cheese Dressing

2 heads Bibb lettuce, cleaned and cut into quarters
1 ea Red Onion, sliced thin
4 ea Roma Tomatoes, cut into quarter
½ pound Blue Cheese
1 cup Mayonnaise
⅓ cup Heavy Cream
2tsp Tarragon Wine Vinegar

2Tbsp Chopped Italian Parsley

Place Bibb lettuce on plate and garnish with tomato and onion.

For the blue cheese dressing, place ½ of the blue cheese, mayo, whipping cream, vinegar, 1tsp of salt, and ½tsp of pepper into the bowl of the food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until combined and still chunky.
Drizzle the dressing over the salad. Crumble the rest of the blue cheese over the salad and serve close to room temperature.

Roasted Potatoes

18 ea. Yellow Bliss Potatoes, cut in half’s
4 TBSP Vegetable Oil
1 Sprig Fresh Oregano chopped
1 Sprig Fresh Thyme chopped
1 Sprig Fresh Rosemary chopped
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Take 2 tablespoon of the oil, the potatoes and the fresh herbs and toss together in bowl. Add salt and pepper and toss again.

Place small roasting pan with the rest of oil in 350-degree oven and heat oil. When oil is hot toss in the potato mixture and bake for 25 to 45 minutes. Remove from pan and serve.

Broccoli florets with Garlic and Butter

2 heads Fresh Broccoli cut into florets
4 cloves Fresh Garlic chopped
1 ea. Shallot
4TBSP Salted Butter
Salt and Pepper to taste

Blanch broccoli in boiling water till tender. Remove from water and cool in ice bath

Take sauté pan and add 1 tablespoon of butter, add garlic and shallots and cook till golden brown. Add Broccoli and rest of butter and toss in pan and serve

RavenHearse Halloween Party 2009

Me and Grievsley

Me and Grievsley

RavenHearse Mansion and The Practical Chef have teamed up to plan and cater events throughout the year. the mansion is a great place for parties, weddings and mystery theater. 2010 is looking to be a big year. Please check out more pictures on Facebook at the Practical Chef fan page.


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