Holiday Cook-off

A little bit of Italy on the Thanksgiving Table

Lovingly shared by Sylvia Laabs

Nonna Tosca’s Florentine Stuffing

Thanksgiving meals have an impact on us all. It might be memories of having extended family sitting together to eat – or it might be memories of moving up from the “kids table” to the “big table”. I remember my first time moving up to the Big Table. While I was excited to move up, I was upset that my (favorite) cousin who was 4 years younger, and next-in-line, also moved up the same year I did! That’s not fair! But I digress.

Another fond memory of Thanksgiving meals was that my Nonna Tosca, a first generation Italian, always had spaghetti on the table. Maybe that’s why today, spaghetti and meat balls is one of my all-time comfort meals. Her family was from Lucca and Pontasserchio, located between Pisa and Florence. I always liked that we incorporated traditional Thanksgiving food with food from our family origins.

But the food that really stood out was her stuffing! It was seasoned with so much goodness; it wasn’t just moist, baked breadcrumbs. Every year there were spoonfuls on my plate, then turkey and stuffing sandwiches a few hours later, while Nonna would play Blackjack with me and my cousins. That’s how I learned to count so quickly in my head, well, at least multiples of 10 and 11. Nonna wasn’t made of lots of money, but she loved to go to Vegas to gamble, and Blackjack was her game. She took me to Vegas as my 21st birthday present, and that’s when I found out she didn’t know the betting strategies to get the best odds. I hated playing at the same table as her during that trip. But as a kid, playing Blackjack after Thanksgiving dinner with pennies, nickels, and dimes – it was the best after-dinner thing we could do with Nonna!

Ace and King of spades playing cards

One year, I went to my Nonna’s the day before Thanksgiving to help her prep food. I got to help make her Florentine stuffing. I told her I wanted the recipe so I could make it when I would host my own Thanksgiving meals in the future. She said she didn’t have a recipe, she just “knows what to do, like I was taught”. Fortunately, I had the foresight to grab a pen and paper. I had her put ingredients into a pan or bowl, then I’d take it out and measure it, and put it into another bowl so she could continue making her stuffing. I wrote down the entire recipe and it has become a treasured family recipe. For several years after my Nonna passed away, I’d get a call in early November from an Aunt or cousin, asking for Nonna’s stuffing recipe that no one else ever wrote down. But I had it… and it’s a staple on my Thanksgiving table now.

As a Christmas present, I’ve asked my family for a custom cutting board with the recipe etched on the board, like cutting boards found here. Let’s see if I get it this year!

Quality ingredients are key to a tasty stuffing. You can find the fresh vegetables to use in your stuffing at the local Channel Island Harbor Farmers Market.

Fresh veggies chopped and ready to add to the browned meat
browned meat with vegetables simmering
Spinach, eggs and parmesan cheese to add to chilled meat and veggie mix

Nonna Tosca’s Florentine Stuffing

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • ¼ lb. pork sausage
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 5 stalks celery, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 2 carrots, grated fine
  • ½ C chopped parsley
  • 2 bunches fresh spinach (or 2 packs of frozen leaf spinach)
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • 1 box of bread stuffing
  • 1 ¾ C parmesan cheese
  • 14 – 20 oz turkey/chicken broth
  1. Brown the meats in a little olive oil
  2. Add garlic and vegetables (except spinach) and let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally
  3. Put in a big bowl and let cool
  4. Add chopped spinach, beaten eggs and 1 C parmesan cheese
  5. Add bread stuffing and turkey/chicken broth to moisten mixture
  6. Put into baking dish (deep 9×13) so stuffing is about 2 inches thick
  7. Sprinkle remaining ¾ C Parmesan on top
  8. Bake covered at 325 for 40 minutes, then an additional 10 minutes uncovered
Tosca’s Florentine Stuffing

You can also check out other favorite recipes from my classmates

Mangia Mangia!

Culture & Student Life

It’s feeding time at Moorpark College’s Teaching Zoo!

Join us LIVE at 3:30pm on Sunday November 21st.

Go face-to-face with Ira the male African Lion, as the Exotic Animal & Training Management (EATM) students show how they feed, train and care for Ira!

Ira waiting for dinner

Then get a glimpse into how they feed and care for some of the other large carnivore animals at the America’s Teaching Zoo!

Bottle feeding a young tiger

America’s Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College was established in 1974, and is currently a five acre “classroom” for the Exotic Animal Training and Management Program. You can follow all your favorite animals on Instagram @americasteachingzoo.

Watch LIVE at @vcsocialbrand

Culture & Student Life

Programs and Services for Disabled Students: The EAC is here to help you

Image of the Educational Assistance Center building

You may have heard of the DSP&S/EAC on Ventura College’s campus but not be familiar with what it is or what they do. I know I wasn’t familiar with this acronym. So, I did a little digging and found a wonderful program that is here to serve the students at Ventura College.

The official name is Disabled Students Programs & Services / Educational Assistance Center (DSP&S/EAC). For short, known as the EAC. The EAC promotes the educational and vocational potential of students with disabilities by supporting each student’s integration into the mainstream of college life.

Recently, I spoke with Patty Wendt, the EAC coordinator, who has been with EAC for 26 years, and has a wealth of information on what the EAC offers Ventura college students.

Goals in serving the student

The EAC serves on average, over 1,200 Ventura College students each year. Their primary goals are:

  • To provide students with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in the educational activities at Ventura College.
  • To provide qualified students with disabilities the required services and accommodations to meet their educational needs.
  • To provide qualified students with disabilities the special classes needed to prepare them for success in the general college classes.

EAC provides services to students with:

  • Physical disabilities
  • Deaf and hard of hearing
  • Blind or have low vision
  • Learning disabilities
  • Acquired brain injuries
  • ADHD
  • Intellectual disability
  • Autism Spectrum
  • Mental health disability

So, what services do they offer?

  • Priority Registration to students who qualify for services through EAC. This ensures students get access to the classes they need; with the accommodations they need.
  • Classroom accommodations, such as sitting at the front of the class.
  • Note taking assistance, if a student doesn’t have the ability to take notes during a class lecture, due to their disability.
  • Extended test time if a student’s disability may prohibit them from completing a test during the allowed class time.
  • 1:1 tutoring is available if needed, beyond general tutoring assistance
  • Alternate media formats are available to students, if they need instructional materials in Braille, large print, or auditory formats.
  • Learning Abilities Program, offering classes such as LS V02 (Reading Comprehension and Problem Solving), LS V07 (Techniques of Problem Solving – Math), and LS V25 (Improving Grammar and Writing Skills), allowing students to gain skills that they can apply in their approach to other college classes.
  • Assistive Computer Technology (ACT) provides alternatives to interacting with computers. Students who are blind or have low vision can use software tools which verbalize the text content of the screen. There are software tools which magnify the content of the screen. Students also have access to Braille printers with optical character recognition and speech synthesizers.
  • Innovation Cognitive Achievement network (ICAN)/Journey Overcoming Barriers (JOB) helps studentsbuild essential employment skills, including the “soft skills” that employers desire and value most. It’s not a specific career pathway, but students learn appropriate social skills and optimal workplace behavior, appropriate communication skills for the workplace, as well as computer, personal finance, and technological skills to succeed in the workplace.
  • Learning Disability (LD) assessments can be arranged to support students who may have an undiagnosed Learning Disability. Current Ventura students with no other qualifying disability can meet with the Learning Disability Specialist for a thorough Intake screening to decide if assessment is appropriate. This will allow you to discover your cognitive and academic strengths and weaknesses while also determining eligibility for services. You’ll receive an individual recommendation on how to improve learning, study strategies, and utilize accommodations.

How to apply for Services

You must complete an application to qualify for requested services. In addition to the application, you must also complete the disability verification form. Then you can make an appointment with an EAC counselor either in-person or online. The counselor will complete the Academic Accommodation plan with you which will authorize learning accommodations based on the educational limitations caused by your disability. There is no fee for the services received through EAC. If you don’t have documentation for the disability through a doctor, EAC can provide you with an assessment to see if you qualify for assistance.

There’s a team working with you

The EAC has two counselors, one person managing alternate media formats, one person managing disability testing, and two instructional teachers for EAC Learning Skills courses. You will get the support you need, based on your individual circumstances.

The team is on campus:

  • M/W/TH from 8am – 5pm
  • T from 8am – 7pm
  • F from 8am – 3pm

The EAC office is in the Administration Building (ADM).

If you feel you may benefit from Educational Assistance, you should reach out to the EAC office to see if you qualify for assistance. There is no cost for these services, but you must currently be enrolled and taking classes at Ventura College. You can reach them at 805-289-6300 or email at

Culture & Student Life

Stay alert to stay safe

There’s safety in numbers

College is an exciting time to meet new people and go out to have fun. House parties and going to bars is part of college life. But while out with friends, follow these safety tips to keep you and your friends safe:

1. Always have a buddy system in place with someone you trust. You are automatically a less desirable target if you’re not alone.

2. Avoid alleys and other poorly lit, closed spaces that might allow an attacker the advantage of surprise.

3. A distracted person is an easy target. Put your phone away while walking. If you’re occupied with your phone, your eyes, mind, and hands are not aware of your surroundings.

4. Listen to the sounds around you. Be aware of footsteps, rustling bushes, and approaching cars.

5. Walk with purpose and project confidence. Look up, forward and keep a steady pace. Attackers are more likely to victimize someone who looks lost or timid.

Kristin Smart – 1996

Kristin Smart is an unfortunate example of what happens when friends don’t stick together until they arrive home safely. Kristin was a first-year college student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo back in 1996. She had attended a party off campus and eventually walked back to her dorm with a few friends and an unknown guy who was also at the party. The guy, Paul Flores, had creeped out people at the party, aggressively hitting on several girls. Paul insisted on walking back to campus with the group. When they got near Kristin’s dorm, the friends continued to their dorms and left her with the ‘creepy guy’. Kristin disappeared that night and has never been found.

The Your Own Backyard podcast by Chris Lambert, includes many interviews of people who knew Kristin, who knew or had encounters with the suspect Paul Flores, and others who are part of the ongoing investigation. It becomes clear throughout the podcast, that several women had unpleasant encounters with Paul Flores either when they were alone with him or even in a group setting. The case has picked up steam and as new evidence has been uncovered, there was a pre-trial hearing in September to determine that Paul Flores and his father (accessory after the fact) are both going to stand trial for Kristen’s disappearance.

The bottom line is, use the buddy system when out with friends. Don’t leave a friend alone at a party to find their own way home. Don’t walk alone at night. If you’re taking a night class, use the buddy system with someone in your class when walking to the campus parking lot. 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Remember, sticking with a friend is for their safety – and yours.