Tasty Tangents

Food, life and other morsels

October 20, 2013
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Comments Off on Cannoli!


Sicilian Cannoli
Sicilian cannoli may be my absolute favourite dessert, which is a little odd given the minimal amount of chocolate in them.

They seem to have the perfect balance of sweet and savoury, creamy and crunchy, sugar and citrus. I don’t think I’ve ever met a cannolo I didn’t like – though a soggy exterior can certainly be a downer.

These particular cannoli were purchased for my dad’s birthday – but I’m pretty sure he ordered them for me and my husband – who shares my passion for these things.

That said, I’ve never attempted to make these beauties at home, neither the sweet ricotta filling nor the delicious fried tubes of dough.

It’s one of those cases where I feel like just leaving it to the experts. The ingredients themselves are a little pricey, and frying the dough rounds individually and then filling them is quite time consuming.

Is there anything else where you think it makes sense to let someone else do the work?

September 28, 2013
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The Ilderton Fair

The fall fair in Ilderton, Ont. is an annual tradition for us. When I was younger, besides being about turkey, Thanksgiving was about heading to the Woodbridge Fair, just north of Toronto.

Every year I still look forward to the agricultural displays, animal events, children’s crafts, homemade (and local) gifts for sale – and of course – the food.

There are all kinds of new-fangled, deep-fried things you can get at most fairs these days, but for me it’s about two things – tiny donuts and cotton candy – okay, and maybe some kettle corn.

I don’t know what it is about warm little donuts, made fresh and covered in cinnamon sugar, that make my heart skip a beat. The rest of the year I can mostly take or leave the fried dough, but not at outdoor events like the fair.

If anyone can explain it, I’m all ears. In the meantime, so I don’t tempt you, here’s a giant pumpkin.

May 25, 2013
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The smell of lilacs

Lovely lilacs

Lovely lilacs

There’s nothing like bringing some lilac branches inside to make it really start to feel like summer. Luckily, my mother-in-law’s bush and ours, we get a lovely selection of colours that just make me smile.

February 24, 2013
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From Mom…A Letter of Love

In my family, food is all mixed in with loving, sharing, family traditions and shared memories.

Reproduced with permission and edited just a little, below you’ll find an email from my mom to my sister living overseas with some great tips for quick and healthy soups that are perfect for the final days of winter.

Mom's Easy Cabbage Soup

Hi Joanna,

It is with hope that you will find your own favourite way to produce the tastiest soups and minestrone type dishes that I write to you a little bit about the process.

My soup this evening was made at about 5 p.m. when I wanted to quickly produce a low calorie dish that would taste good. Sound impossible?  Well it is possible.

I chopped about a quarter of a head of green cabbage into a pot and covered it with boiling water.  I added a cup of leftover plain tomato sauce and added salt and pepper to taste.

The pot came to a full boil and I added a half cup of left over stir fry (onions, zucchini, peppers and carrots).  I chopped some parsley and added it to the pot.

This simmered for about an hour and was ready to serve.  I cooked some brown rice and served the soup in a bowl with some rice.  We topped it with grated Pecorino cheese.

A drizzle of olive oil could have been added but we got plenty of taste from the many ingredients.  Delicious!

You asked for the basic recipe for borlotti beans.  The dry beans can be soaked overnight and then cooked in a pot for about an hour. Rinse them and cover them with water and add a bay leaf and a clove of garlic in the pot.They should be cooked at a low boil and when the beans are tender and ready you add the salt to taste.  You can use the beans for many dishes.

Here is my basic minestra recipe. (More commonly known as Italian Wedding Soup.)


2 cups approx. cooked or canned beans (rinse well if using canned)
1 onion chopped
1 stalk of celery chopped
1 carrot chopped
1 tomato fresh chopped plus 1 cup water or  1 cup of canned tomatoes
2 small slices of pancetta or bacon chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 potatoes peeled and cubed
1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper or to taste
a bay leaf

Begin by putting the olive oil, onions, pancetta (if using), and sautee for a few minutes.  Add the celery, carrots, tomato and bring to a boil then simmer for about 5 minutes.

Add the potato and cover with boiling water (about a litre) or use broth.  This is the basic part of the soup that cooks for about 45 minutes and is ready for adding the beans.

Salt and pepper to taste and correct for liquid (add some water or broth if it is too dense). After a low boil for about 5 minutes the soup is ready.

You can serve this soup as it is or with rice, tubetti or any pasta.  It is a good idea to rest the soup before serving.  Cover it and wait 5 minutes if you can. Wink, Wink.

If you have any questions please let me know.


And the result, beans and minestra on the stove in a French kitchen.

February 15, 2013
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Comments Off on Always learning: Notes from a country schoolhouse

Always learning: Notes from a country schoolhouse

Without any further ado, a fabulous guest post from my good friend Warren:

“Always learning: Notes from a country schoolhouse” would be the name of my blog, if I had one.  I don’t think I have enough time, or thoughts, to be able to have a regular blog though, so I thought I would hijack Amanda’s.  Just for a trial run.

It is wintertime, and everyone seems to be drawn to “comfort foods.”  Different people and different regions will have a unique definition of what this means.  For me, things like meatloaf, mashed potatoes, chili and pastas.  Generally speaking, not soup.  I’m just not a soup person.

A couple of weeks ago, on my way home from work I decided to roast a chicken for dinner.  I grabbed a nice sized bird, some bacon and a couple of sausages from the meat counter. (I decided to stuff the chicken with a sausage based stuffing and blanket it in bacon)

Anyway, after I got the chicken in the oven, and had the rice cooker ready to rock, I started to think maybe I should make soup out of the chicken carcass.  Don’t ask me why.  I’d only ever made soup once before.  As I said, I’m just not a soup lover.  I’m guessing it was that draw to “comfort food” having its affect on me.

The following afternoon on my way home for work I realized I needed carrots, onion and celery to start my soup. (Why exactly we use those three to make a base – mirepoix – I have no idea.)  I knew I had onions at home, but likely not carrots and most definitely not celery.  Realizing that I would never use an entire bunch of celery, even if it would last for a year in my fridge, I came up with an alternative way of getting what I needed.  I went to the local Casey’s Grillhouse, had a beer and ordered a side of celery and carrots to go. Just 99 cents!  Brilliant!  I got just enough and wouldn’t have the leftovers rotting in the veggie drawer.

The making of mirepoix, onions, carrots and celery.

So as I was boiling down the carcass in one pot and starting my mirepoix in another, while also making dinner (I decided it was a two day event to make soup) my wife says “are you making dumplings too? I love dumplings”

My memories of dumplings as a kid would not fall into the “comfort food” category.  My mother is a fabulous lady.  Happy, generous and still pretty spry for close to 80, but she has never been a great cook.  Dumplings as a kid were these lumpy doughy things that were likely meant to fill a person up, but really had no flavour or appeal.

And she wanted me to make dumplings?

Okay, why not.  Most things I try come out better than they should, so it was worth a try.  I found a recipe online that sounded okay, and got mostly good ratings.

The making of dumplings.

This one single recipe has made me a fan of soups again and made dumplings one of my new favourite foods.  They are soft, smooth, melt-in-your-mouth yumminess.

I used this Bobby Flay recipe on foodnetwork.com with some small tweaks.


1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs


Bring the milk and butter to a boil, add salt and nutmeg. Remove from heat and immediately add flour stirring until dough leaves the sides of the pan. Incorporate the eggs, 1 at a time, forming a sticky dough.

(I used large eggs and needed to add about 1/4 cup of extra flour, oh, and used garlic powder instead of nutmeg.)

Bring soup to a nice boil.  Add spoon-sized balls of dough and simmer until dumplings rise.

Chicken Soup with Dumplings

I roasted a chicken again this week (this time stuffed with a head of garlic) just so I could make soup with dumplings again.

Ah, comfort food!