Thursday, January 30, 2014

Do you know who I am? by Margaret Ullrich

This has been a brutally cold winter just about everywhere.
Most of our friends have been staying in and catching up on chores.
We’ll be free to do a lot of socializing once it gets warmer.
If that ever happens.

Things collect when you've lived in a house for almost 26 years.
It's funny but things that once seemed so important, just aren’t.
To be honest, some of them didn’t even bring back a memory.

A while ago I compared the passing of two actors: Larry D. Mann and Cory Monteith.
They were both Canadians, but that’s where the similarity ends.
Mann was a steady worker with a very long career, but not famous.
Monteith had his problems and a very short career, but was very famous.

Fame sometimes makes otherwise sane people do peculiar things.
Last April Reese Witherspoon was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after she disobeyed an officer's instructions, and then asked him if he knew who she was.
Not one of her finest moments, and she soon publicly apologized.

One can have awkward brushes with celebrities even here in Winnipeg.

In 1986 Paul and I were about to leave Skinners, a local eatery, when an older fellow flashed a huge smile, leaned across the counter, and blocked our way to the door.
I glanced at him, and then walked around him so I could leave.
Apparently Skinners' exterior was being used as a set for a television show.
Well, I wasn’t into country music and hadn’t recognized Ray St. Germain.

Ray St. Germain is a Canadian musician, author, and radio show host.
He had written, produced and hosted the nationally-syndicated, award-winning Big Sky Country that aired for 13 years, has received the Aboriginal Order of Canada, and was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010.
Most Canadians would have asked for his autograph.

In 1997 I volunteered at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival.
After the staff made sure we knew how to make change they told us that once the play had begun, no one, and they meant NO ONE, was to be allowed entry.
The venues were small and it would distract the actors, most of whom were amateurs.

A local politician, whose picture had been in the papers while she had served in Premier Howard Pawley’s cabinet, arrived 15 minutes after the show began.
She demanded to be allowed in to see that performance.
We explained that the play had begun, and she’d have to wait.
Giving us a withering look, she announced, “Do you know who I am?”
This wasn't my partner's first time at dealing with celebrities.
“Yes, you're the woman who has to wait for the next performance.” 

It's a good idea to use some caution when agreeing to friend on Facebook.
Especially when one's last name is toward the end of the alphabet.
No, being in the same line of work is not a good enough reason.
Trust me.

A couple of weeks ago Paul and I were chatting with a friend on Facebook. 
A simple discussion that many seniors have at one time or another: downsizing, moving, other cities, housing, facilities, services, the weather.

A Winnipeg YA author with a Fine Arts Degree entered the conversation.
Starting with how her great-grandmother had chosen to move to and settle in Winnipeg, she continued with the tedious saga of her family's history, which, she added, gave her roots as deep as prairie grass.
As I'd never personally met this woman or her relatives, I couldn't see how all that should have any bearing on where we would spend our golden years.

She then added that she had visited Ottawa, where one of her books had been banned by a school division, and that she could hardly stand the humidity when she was there.

The Winnipeg YA author and I had seven mutual friends, so I tried to be polite.
The other woman in the conversation, also a writer whose family was rooted in Winnipeg, tried to humour the Winnipeg YA author.
The Winnipeg YA author then fell into a pattern.
She would post a long rant, then announce she was done and leaving.
Taking her at her word, we would pick up our chat before the family history began, only to have the Winnipeg YA author return.
It soon became quite annoying.

The other woman and I formed a strategy in the privacy of ‘Chat’:
We would avoid any further discussions with the Winnipeg YA author.
The Winnipeg YA author didn’t take well to our ignoring her.
After ten minutes the Winnipeg YA author's comments were disappearing.
I checked.  To my great relief she had unfriended me.
How wonderful to be done with her!

Yes, celebrity, even the small amount a big fish in a small pond has, sometimes makes otherwise sane people do peculiar things.

About tonight’s new moon in Aquarius…
The second New Moon in the same month is called a Black Moon.
A Black Moon is seen as an omen of change and a time when hidden truths will surface.

According to the folks at
Get ready for a hardworking year ahead as this new Moon marks the beginning of the Chinese Year of the Horse! 
Since Aquarius is a sign that loves teamwork, it's a great time to invite others to help you reach your goals… return the favour and invest your energy in group projects that make others' lives better. 
Spend more time with good friends - they can help you succeed. 
You now have an opportunity to make a fresh start… make a strong effort to pursue something, whether it's a goal, job, or relationship!

It’s going to be a busy year.
Without any fame involved.
But that can be a very, very good thing.
With all the chores done, there’ll be plenty of time to socialize.
Without the Winnipeg YA author.
Also a very, very, very good thing.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Carmela Soprano's Prosciutto Bread / Glazing Bread Loaves

Along with homemade soups, fresh breads are great during a long cold winter.
Homemade breads are hot, soft and smell delicious.
And the heat from the oven doesn’t hurt.
It’s better than a portable heater, so making bread is a two-fer.

Sometimes I had trouble believing what I read in Entertaining with the Sopranos.
I can picture Carmela baking bread.
Sure, there are all sorts of ‘buy and bake’ loaves available.
But I really can’t picture Carmela making bread.
Those long nails… Can you imagine trying to get all the sticky goop out of those nails?


According to the book, Carmela uses a food processor to make her Prosciutto Bread.
You can use different ground meats, even fake if you're worried about cholesterol.  
Just add some spices, like garlic powder and oregano.

Carmela doesn’t mention glazing the loaves, but it’s something I like to do.
it’s very easy and makes the loaves look pretty.
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
Beat together and brush loaves before baking.

It’s simpler and healthier.
And, yes, she glazed it.

                        Prosciutto Bread

Grease a large baking pan.         

Combine in small bowl
5 teaspoons yeast
1 1/2 Cups warm water (100º to 110º F)       
Let stand 5 minutes.
Stir until the yeast is dissolved.

While the yeast mixture is standing:
Combine in large mixer bowl (or a food processor)
3 1/2 Cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

the yeast mixture
3 tablespoons olive oil
Mix or process until the dough comes together into a ball.
Remove the dough from the bowl.
Knead 1 minute, until smooth but still moist.
If it feels sticky add more flour.
Oil a large bowl.
Place the dough in the bowl and rotate it so all the surfaces get oiled.
Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

While the bread is rising dice
4 ounces prosciutto, or other ham
4 ounces soppressata, or other salami
2 ounces sharp provolone

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface.
Flatten it with your hands to remove air bubbles.
Scatter the diced meat and cheese over half of the bread dough.
Fold the uncovered dough over the meat and cheese.
Flatten and fold it a few times to distribute the meat and cheese.
Cut the dough in half.
Roll each piece into a 10-inch loaf with your hands.
Place the loaves several inches apart on the prepared pan.
Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375º  

With a sharp knife, cut 3 diagonal slashes in each loaf.
Glaze, if you wish.
Bake 30 minutes, until golden brown.
Slide the loaves onto a wire rack and cool slightly.
Serve warm.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Carmela Soprano's Chicken Paillards with Tomato-Olive Salad / Chinese New Year Traditions for the Year of the Horse

January 31 is Chinese New Year -
Kung Hei Fat Choy!
It will be the Year of the Horse, so there will be surprises in adventure and romance.

Chinese New Year runs for 15 days, ending on the full moon. 
Homes are cleaned before the beginning of the new year.
So you’ve got a few days to get ready.

And put away all cleaning equipment before New Year's Eve because good fortune may be swept away if you’re tempted to clean on New Year's Day.

Firecrackers are set off on New Year's Eve to welcome in the new.
Flowers are an important part of New Year decorations. 
Red is a key colour for New Year's, as it symbolizes a bright and happy future.

Some traditional dishes are steamed rice pudding, long noodles, and dumplings.
Tangerines and oranges are a sign of luck and wealth.
Many people avoid meat on the first day to bring good luck in the new year. 
Day seven is the birthday of human beings, and long noodles (for longevity) and raw fish (for success) are eaten. 
On the 13th day, people eat rice congee and mustard greens to settle their stomachs.
The 14th day is spent getting ready for the Lantern Festival on the 15th night. 

So, it’s a season that’s just as hectic as an Italian Christmas.
If you’re curious about other traditions, check out 
It’s a post that also has a good chicken recipe.

Speaking of good chicken recipes…
Carmela's recipe Chicken Paillards with Tomato-Olive Salad is another recipe from Entertaining with the Sopranos that got short shrift in the instructions department.
It’s a nice recipe that uses the boneless, skinless chicken breasts you got on sale.

if you don’t have fresh thyme (or basil) use 1 teaspoon dry.

                        Chicken Paillards with Tomato-Olive Salad

Serves 4

For the salad:
In a large bowl whisk together
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse and dry well
6 Cups mesclun or baby salad greens
Wash and dice
2 ripe medium tomatoes
Have on hand
1/2 Cup black olives, such as Gaeta, pitted and coarsely chopped

For the chicken:
Start with 
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Place each breast between 2 sheets of plastic wrap.
Gently pound each chicken breast until it is 1/4 inch thick.
Place the pieces in a bowl and toss with
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (or basil)
salt and pepper

Brush a large grill pan or nonstick skillet with oil
Heat the pan over medium-high heat.
Arrange the chicken pieces on the pan.
Cook 5 minutes on one side, 2 minutes on the other.
Check that the chicken is cooked through.
Arrange the chicken on four plates.
Toss the greens, tomatoes and olives with the dressing.
Place the salad on top of the chicken and serve immediately.

For Chinese New Year's I'd serve it hot with spaghetti.
Uncut noodles, symbol of longevity… √
Chicken, symbol of prosperity… √

About the do not use sharp knives on New Year’s Day
Maybe you could cook the chicken and cut it the day before.
As I had said in the post Chicken with Parsley Crumbs, it’s better to be safe.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Carmela Soprano's Pasta E Ceci (Pasta and Chickpeas) l Preparing Dried Beans

Along with the bills January, in the northern hemisphere, means winter.
And it’s been a brutally cold winter this year.
This is a soup recipe, great for making one feel warm and toasty.
Soup is also good for the budget.
The extra water is supposed to fill you up.

Back in 2010 I posted about a few recipes in Entertaining with The Sopranos.
About is the operative word - no ingredients, amounts and instructions.
I really thought instructions weren’t necessary, as I grew up with it as a staple.
Not everyone was so lucky.

Chickpeas were a basic food in Ma’s house.
Maybe your Ma called them something else.
Other names for chickpeas are garbanzo bean, ceci bean, channa and Bengal gram.
Chickpeas have a high protein content, and are very good for you.

Back to budget cooking…
Pancetta is Italian bacon made of pork belly meat that is salt cured and peppery.
Most grocers don’t even carry the stuff.  Don’t panic.
Some nice thick sliced bacon or ham would do.  Add some pepper.

Carmela's recipe calls for 8 ounces spaghetti, broken into bite-sized pieces.  
Don't go to any trouble.  Elbow macaroni will do just fine.

About the fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves…
If we’re talking budget, dried is cheaper, and you probably have some already.
Dried has a more concentrated flavour, so 1/8 Cup should do it.
Suit yourself.

If you're trying to use dried chickpeas, they'll need a little prep work in advance.
One Cup of dried chickpeas will give you an amount equal to about 3 Cups canned.
Dried chickpeas need to cook 1–2 hours, but will turn to mush when cooked longer. 
If soaked for 12–24 hours, cooking time can be shortened by around 30 minutes.

Preparing Dried Beans

Place in a bowl
1 Cup dried chickpeas
enough cold water to cover by 2 inches
Let stand for 4 hours, or overnight, in the refrigerator.
If the beans appear above water level, add more water.

Drain the beans and place them in a pot with fresh water to cover by 1/2 inch.
Over low heat, bring to a simmer.
Cover the pot and simmer about 1/2 to 2 hours (see above).
If the beans appear above water level, add more water.
When the beans are soft, drain and use as canned.

                        Pasta E Ceci

Serves 4 to 6

In a dutch oven pour
1/4 Cup olive oil
2 ounces pancetta, chopped
Cook, stirring over medium heat, for 10 minutes.
You want the meat to be lightly browned.
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
pinch of crushed red pepper
Cook, stirring, until the garlic is golden.
2  16-ounce cans of chickpeas, drained
2 Cups canned tomatoes, chopped, with the liquid
1/4 Cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
Bring to a simmer and cook about 15 minutes. 
Crush some of the chickpeas with the back of a spoon.
5 Cups water
Bring to a simmer.
8 ounces spaghetti, broken into bite-sized pieces
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente.
Add some water if the pasta starts sticking to the bottom of the pot.
You want something resembling chunky soup.

Let cool slightly before serving.
Serve with
coarsely ground black pepper (or not)

Want another bean recipe?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Carmela Soprano's Pasta Piselli (Pasta with Peas and Eggs)

It’s January.
The bills have just been flying in, as if they were Harry’s invitations to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that were delivered by a zillion owls.
I mean, they are just everywhere and there’s no avoiding them.

Still, one has to eat.
And it would be nice if the food tasted good, too.
Cheap wouldn’t hurt, either.

Back in 2010 I posted about Ma’s Ross il-forn and Carmela’s Pasta Piselli.
It was one of the recipes in Entertaining with The Sopranos that I didn’t quite post.
Well, here it is: ingredients, amounts and instructions.

It’s good.
It’s an all in one pot, comfort food.
And it’s cheap.
Well, it can be if you make a couple of adjustments.
But it will still be good.

Carmela used 2 Cups fresh peas.  
Frozen is easier to find, and most likely cheaper, especially if you have a big bag of it.

About the fresh basil or flat-leaf parsley leaves…
If we’re talking budget, dried is cheaper, and you probably already have some already.
Dried has a more concentrated flavour, so 1/4 Cup should do it.
Suit yourself.

                        Pasta Piselli

Serves 6

In a medium bowl combine
3 large eggs, beaten
1/2 Cup grated Romano cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Before the onions are cooked start the water for the pasta:
In a large pot place
4 quarts water
salt to taste
Bring to a boil.
Stir in
1 pound small elbows or ditalini 
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente.
Set aside 1/2 Cup of the cooking water.

In a dutch oven pour
1/4 Cup olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
Cook, stirring over medium heat, for 10 minutes.
You want the onions to be lightly golden.
10 ounces frozen peas, slightly thawed
salt and pepper to taste
Cook for 5 minutes, until the peas are tender.
Remove from heat.

Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the peas.
Cooking over medium heat add the egg mixture.
Cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes.
Add some of the reserved cooking water if it seems too dry.
When the eggs are almost set, stir in
!/2 Cup torn fresh basil or flat-leaf parsley leaves

Serve immediately.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Eaton’s original Red Velvet Cake by Margaret Ullrich

When I was the mom of a preschooler back in 1984 I had a dream for my future.
This goal crystallized for me in a moment of crisis.

I was in Winnipeg's downtown Eaton's, on the third floor.
Yes, the third floor where the crystal and fine china were on display.

I had to pay a cashier and had let go of my son’s hand.
In less than a heartbeat he was racing toward the crystal and fine china department.
Of course he wouldn’t be running to anything cheap.
I ran and grabbed him just as he reached out to a crystal goblet.
Financial disaster averted.

And I had a moment, like Scarlet O’Hara had a moment, in Gone With the Wind.
You know, the moment she had at Tara just after she barfed after eating a raw carrot.
When she swore, “As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”
Believe me, I was swearing, too, but my food goal was more specific.

I was dreaming of a future when I could go to Eaton’s without hauling a child in tow.
When I could browse through the crystal without picturing a major financial disaster.
A time when I could casually stroll into the Grill Room, and order a lovely adult meal.
When I could leisurely enjoy a well prepared lunch, topped off with Red Velvet Cake.

A time that has gone with the wind, literally.
Eaton’s is gone.
It was torn down over a decade ago.
The MTS Centre is in its place.

Last week Pink performed there.
I know Pink’s received the Billboard 2013 Woman of the Year Award.
I know she puts on a really good show.
It’s just that watching Pink is not what I pictured enjoying as a senior.

Eaton’s is a memory from my past.
Luckily I still have the recipe for Eaton’s original Red Velvet Cake.

                                     Red Velvet Cake

Preheat oven to 350º
Grease well 3 9-inch round pans or 1 9x13-inch pan

2 1/2 Cups cake flour

Make a paste of
2 ounces red food colouring
2 Tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon salt

In a bowl cream
1/2 Cup shortening
Add gradually
1 1/2 Cups white sugar
Beat until light and fluffy.
Add one at a time
2 large eggs
Beat after each addition.
Add cocoa / food colouring mixture.

1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon vinegar
Add to the buttermilk.

Add flour alternately with buttermilk mixture to the shortening,
3 dry and 2 liquid additions, stirring just enough to blend.
Mix until smooth and pour into prepared pan.
Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until done.
Cool cake thoroughly before frosting.

While the cake is baking, prepare


In a saucepan place
5 Tablespoons flour
Add gradually
1 Cup milk
Mix until smooth.
Cook at medium heat until thickened.  
Remove from heat.

While the sauce is cooling, in a medium bowl cream together
1 Cup butter
1 Cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat until light and fluffy.
Add cooled flour mixture to the butter / sugar mixture a spoonful at a time, 
beating well after each addition.
Spread frosting over the cooled cake.

Enjoy with Earl Grey Tea in your best china cup.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Cold, Clutter, Coyotes, Cory Monteith and Yukon Cornelius (Larry D. Mann) by Margaret Ullrich

We are two weeks into the new year 2014.
We have been through an extremely cold period across most of North America.
Hope you all have been safe and warm.

Most folks around here just stayed indoors, which can be a good thing.
As the saying goes, It’s an ill wind that blows no one good.
This has been a perfect time to catch up on chores.

I have thrown out quite a bit of stuff during the past few months.
And I had the empty boxes to prove it.
I was like the woman who’d lost a lot of weight, but can’t quite bring herself to throw away her fat clothes, because, well, you never know if you might need them… again.
I know, I know...  that sends a bad message out to the universe.
Like, are you really serious about getting rid of the clutter or not?

Since we were stuck indoors I sorted through the empty boxes.
Some will be used for packing odds and ends to give to local charities.
My husband cut down the other boxes so they could go out with the recycling.
Now the universe knows I mean business.

Local grocers give a flat 10% discount the first Tuesday of every month.
It's usually the perfect time to meet neighbours and catch up on the gossip.
I walk to our local stores and haul groceries in my baba buggy.
A few weeks ago I had gotten some fresh produce.
The lettuce had black tips by the time I got home.
I figured I’d have compost in my cart if I shopped on Tuesday, so I waited until Saturday to get groceries.
It doesn’t hurt to live off the hump every so often.

The January full moon is called Full Wolf Moon.
Here in Winnipeg there have been sightings of coyotes.
It’s been a hard winter and they’re searching for food.
There have been a few mauled deer carcasses found within the city limits.
People are worried about their children and family pets.

Just so you know:
Manitoba Conservation advises people to keep calm and ensure the animal has an escape route. If the coyote notices you, let it know you are human by shouting, waving your arms, and throwing stones or other objects.
Do not turn away or run.
If the coyote attacks, fight back instead of playing dead.

Ah, life in the big city.
Well, life in a big Canadian city in the prairies.

There was some sad news on January 6.
Larry D. Mann had died in Los Angeles at the age of 91.
He was the voice of Yukon Cornelius in the 1964 animated Christmas classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
His son, Richard Mann, said he had died of age-related causes.

Larry D. Mann started as a disc jockey in his native Toronto.
In 1953 Mann performed with the puppet, Uncle Chichimus, on the show Let's See.
He had gotten the job when his friend, actor Don Harron, pointed him out to producer Norman Jewison.
He also appeared as Cap'n Scuttlebutt on the Canadian version of Howdy Doody, and hosted a late-night program called Midnight Zone.
His TV work also includes The Wayne and Shuster Show, Gunsmoke, Bewitched, Hogan's Heroes, Green Acres and Hill Street Blues.

He'd had small roles in more than 20 movies, including In the Heat of the Night.
He also played Mr. Clemens, the railroad conductor who arranged for Paul Newman to join the poker game, in the 1973 movie The Sting.

Mann did TV commercials, including "The Boss" in a 1980s series of Bell Canada ads.
His last role was playing a talent agent in the 1991 TV show Homefront.

His biography on the Internet Movie Database site lists 157 TV and movie credits.
It’s a safe bet everyone has seen him at least once.
Yet, for most people, the name just doesn’t ring a bell.
Entertainment Tonight didn’t mention his passing.

On July 13, 2013, at the age of 31, Cory Monteith, another Canadian actor, was found dead in his room in Vancouver from a heroin and alcohol overdose.
He’d had a 9 year career, and was known for portraying Finn Hudson for four year on the television series Glee.
The circumstances of his death, and its impact on his co-workers on Glee, were the top stories on Entertainment Tonight for weeks.
On September 22, 2013, Monteith, along with four other actors who had died in 2013, was given an extended tribute on the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards.

How would you compare the importance of the two actors?

Life often doesn't make sense.
The steady workers who do their jobs - which pretty much covers the majority of people in most lines of work - just keep plugging away.
No headlines, no covers of People magazine, no coverage on Entertainment Tonight.
The select few are famous, or notorious, and get all the publicity.
Their every action is followed, especially if there’s a bit of scandal involved.
So it goes.

About tonight’s full moon…
According to the folks at
Your ambitions and goals for the year were highlighted during the new Moon in Capricorn on January 1. Now, the full Moon in Cancer asks you to focus on your personal needs to make sure that the public and personal aspects of your life are in healthy balance. 
Make changes in your home that soothe you. 
Get rid of clutter… or simply buy yourself some fresh flowers… make a goal to nurture and take good care of yourself… form a plan to maximize all that's great as you make changes that will make you feel more comfortable and secure.

It’s all about balance.
And about knowing what's important in life.
The clutter is gone, including the empty boxes.

About buying those fresh flowers… I’ll wait until it’s a bit warmer.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Carmela Soprano's Arugula and Mushroom Salad

Okay… Carmela’s Antipasto was a bit of a job.
Not to mention being not quite diet friendly.
But there are salads, and then there are salads.
And the recipe for Arugula and Mushroom Salad from Entertaining with the Sopranos is more diet friendly.

One slight problem…
Same as with Carmela’s Watercress and Orange Salad, I couldn’t find arugula.
I substituted iceberg.
I suppose romaine would work, too.

Like I said in 2010, it's funny how something that's just daily fare to one person is exotic to another person.
Or a pain in the neck to find.

                        Arugula and Mushroom Salad

Serves 6

Tear into bite-sized pieces
2 large bunches arugula, trimmed, rinsed and dried 
Place the leaves (about 6 Cups) in a large bowl.
4 ounces white mushrooms, very thinly sliced

In a small jar combine
1/4 Cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
Shake until well blended.
Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well.
Serve immediately.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Carmela Soprano's Sfingi (St. Joseph's Day Zeppole)

Salads are great.
They leave plenty of room for desserts.
To my way of thinking, it all balances out in the end.

I’ve noticed that people have searched for traditional recipes at a variety of times.
I’ve seen people look for fruitcake recipes in the spring.
Maybe they just like to plan ahead.

If you’re in the mood for a doughnut - or just want to get ready for the feast 
of St. Joseph on March 19 - here’s the recipe for Carmela’s Sfingi from Entertaining with The Sopranos.  It is also called St. Joseph's Day Zeppole.

Sfingi has a lot of Mediterranean mojo attached to it.
As Carmela explained: 
If it is not St. Joseph's Day, you can just shake these, without the filling, 
in a bag with cinnamon sugar and serve them like donuts.

If there's someone in the crowd who is lactose intolerant, Bobby's recipe for Zeppole in his chapter If I Couldn't Eat, I'd F**king Die in Artie Bucco's The Sopranos Family Cookbook is also good.
Or you can just serve them as unfilled donuts.


If you don't have a deep-frying thermometer, test the oil by slipping a bit of the dough into the oil.  It should sizzle and turn brown in 1 minute.


Makes 12

For the Filling

In a medium bowl whisk together until smooth
15 ounces ricotta
3/4 Cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Stir in
1/4 Cup mini chocolate chips
1 Tablespoon finely chopped candied citron or orange peel
Cover and refrigerate overnight.

For the Sfingi

In a medium saucepan place
1 Cup water
1/2 stick (4 Tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
Bring to a boil over medium heat.
Cook until the butter melts.
Remove from heat.

Add all at once
1 Cup flour
Stir well until the flour is completely mixed in.

Return the saucepan to the medium heat.
Cook, stirring constantly for 3 minutes, until the dough
begins to leave a thin film on the bottom of the pan.
(Don’t rush this - you want the dough to dry so the puffs will be crisp.)
Scrape the dough into a large bowl.

With an electric mixer or wooden spoon, beat in
4 large eggs, at room temperature
Continue to beat until smooth and shiny, about 2 minutes.

In a deep saucepan or deep fryer pour
about 3 inches vegetable oil
Heat to 375º on a deep-fry thermometer or test with dough.

With a tablespoon, scoop a rounded spoonful of batter.
With another spoon, carefully scrape the dough into the hot oil.
Be careful that it doesn’t splash.
Continue to add spoonfuls of dough.
The dough will puff up, so don’t add too much.
Don't crowd or they will stick together and won't fry properly.

Cook, stirring a couple of times, about 4 minutes,
until the balls break open.
Continue to cook another 2 minutes, until crisp and golden brown.

Remove the sfingi with a slotted spoon.
Drain on paper towels.
Repeat with the remaining dough.
Let cool slightly.

With a small knife, split the sfingi partway open.
Spoon the Ricotta Cream Filling into the puffs, allowing a bit to show in the split.
Press into the cream of each
a halved candied cherry (12 halves)
Place on a platter.
Sprinkle the sfingi with 
2 Tablespoons chopped unsalted pistachios
Dust with 
Confectioners’ sugar

If filled, they are best served right after they are made.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Carmela Soprano's Octopus Salad

Back to the salads…
Well, to be honest, I nattered on about the problems with making Octopus Salad.
Especially when one lives in the Canadian prairies.

I searched in the frozen food section.
I asked the butcher /  fish monger of our local stores.
I had to settle with something called Seafood Combination.
That’s about as close as I’m going to get to an octopus here in Winnipeg.
Well, there are worse problems.

The picture had octopus tentacles.
Everything in the bag was tiny, so I haven’t a clue if there were any tentacles.

I also nattered about the problems with serving Octopus Salad.

Octopus is a common food in Mediterranean cuisine. 
On the Tunisian island of Djerba, people catch them by taking advantage of the animals' habit of hiding in safe places. In the evening they put ceramic pots on the sea bed. The next morning they check them for octopuses. 
In the Greek islands octopuses are often caught by spear fishing close to the shore. 

No matter how you caught them, octopus needs to be cooked a good long time. 
If you’ve got a frozen octopus, thaw it first.
Some people just use the tentacles.  Suit yourself.

With the Seafood Combination you can skip the cleaning, washing and cutting. 
Seafood Combination only needs to cook for about 30 minutes.

You can serve the cooked octopus warm after it’s been mixed with the dressing.
Or you can chill it and serve it on a bed of lettuce leaves.
Again, suit yourself.

Without further ado or nattering, here’s Carmela’s recipe for Octopus Salad from Entertaining with the Sopranos:

                        Octopus Salad

Serves 6

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
3 1/2 pounds octopus, cleaned
2 garlic cloves, slightly crushed
1 bay leaf
Partially cover the pot and cook 1 to 1 1/4 hours.
The octopus should be tender when pierced with a fork.
Drain the octopus and cut into bite-sized pieces.

In a large bowl whisk together
1/4 Cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
Pinch of crushed red pepper
salt to taste
the octopus pieces 
Stir well.
1/4 Cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
Serve immediately, or chill and serve on a bed of lettuce.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Handy Links, Especially for Winnipeggers

Winnipeg 311 / City Services links

My Right Care for all medical questions!

Global NewsCTV News and CBC News

What you can recycle

Hot Zones for deer and motorist collisions

The Canadian Mental Health Association

First Fridays in the Exchange

If you or someone you know needs help, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline now at
1-800-273-TALK (8255).

If you live in Manitoba:
Crisis stabilization unit
Klinic 24 hour suicide crisis line
Manitoba suicide line


Please check these Safety Reminders

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service

Highway conditions for: Manitoba……... Saskatchewan
Ontario………... North Dakota……………….Minnesota

Safe Schools Manitoba tells you how to Stop Bullying. Other problems?
Check out Kids Help Phone and If you need help stopping online abuse

Help animals through The Animal Rescue Site. It's FREE!
D'Arcy's Arc is a Winnipeg no-kill animal shelter.
Check happenings at The Winnipeg Humane Society

Visit Shelmerdine for expert gardening advice.

Sage Garden Herbs has an on-line store.

It's Showtime!!!!
Manitoba Food Events
Fresh Manitoba Produce
Manitoba Farmers' Market
Manitoba Food Processors Links
Christmas / Holiday Favorites

Heard about a food recall?
Visit Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Speak to a dietician to eat better.
Nutrition A - Z
Food sources for vitamins
Canada's Food Guide
Check out these Safety Reminders.

One of the first rules for getting fresh vegetables at their best quality - and cheapest price - is to buy them in season.  These are the dates for fresh produce in the midwest area of North America.  Buying Fresh Produce in Season.
If you live further south, or on the east or west coast, you have a longer season. Here's the produce grouped by when they're in season.
Menus Planning with Fresh Produce

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Carmela Soprano's Antipasto

After a few days those commercials to join a gym can get to you.
I know we’ve all overindulged.
And now we all want to lose a few pounds.
But a salad just seems like such a letdown from all the fun holiday food.

In Entertaining with the Sopranos there’s a compromise.
Yes, I know that basically it’s a salad.
But it just has a certain festive flair to it.

Back in 2010 I gave a quick rundown of what’s in Antipasto:
Cold cuts, cheese, olives, mixed pickled veggies and tomatoes.
Anchovies on a separate dish because Paul hates them.

Antipasto can be a pot luck dish of whatever you have in the house.
If you want to do it a la the Sopranos, here’s Carmela’s recipe.

If you want to go to a little extra trouble you can also prepare:


Serves 8 to 12

On a large serving platter make a bed of
1 small head green leaf lettuce, trimmed, washed and dried

Loosely fold or roll up
4 ounces sliced hot or sweet capicola
4 ounces sliced soppressata or other Italian-style salami 
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, such as prosciutto di Parma
Arrange them on the platter.

Add to the platter
4 ounces sliced mortadella
8 ounces sharp provolone, cut into wedges
8 ounces ricotta salata, cut into wedges

Garnish the platter with
black olives, such as Gaela or oil-cured cracked green Sicilian olives
Pickled peperoncini or other hot peppers
Giardiniera (mixed pickled vegetables)
Roasted peppers
Anchovy fillets
Marinated sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, mushrooms
Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serve with Italian bread or breadsticks.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Carmela Soprano's Watercress and Orange Salad

In that post in 2010 along with the gnocchi I also mentioned trying to serve Carmela's Watercress and Orange Salad from the cookbook Entertaining with the Sopranos.
Trying is the operative word here.
No problem with finding the navel oranges.
I just couldn’t find watercress.

Instead I bought some romaine. 
I never did find watercress. 
If you can find watercress in you neighbourhood, enjoy.
If you can’t, it worked with romaine.

                        Watercress and Orange Salad

Serves 6

Remove the tough stems from
2 bunches watercress, rinsed and dried 
Place the leaves (about 6 Cups) in a large bowl.

Cut into crosswise slices, then into bit-sized pieces
2 navel oranges, peeled
Place the pieces on top of the watercress.

In a small bowl whisk together
1/4 Cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well.
Serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Carmela Soprano's Gnocchi

We’ve been in 2014 for a week already.
Farewell to another holiday season with its traditional recipes.
It’s time to get back to regular meals.

Back in 2010 I quickly posted about Carmela Soprano's Gnocchi.
I know the post was lacking in measurements and directions.
I’m sorry about that - it’s time to give you the details.

I’ve always have a problem with guessing how many potatoes to boil to prepare mashed potatoes for the whole gang.
If you have the same problem, this recipe could be a way to use up a few leftovers.
If you didn’t boil enough potatoes, well, you have enough guilt from that meal.

In the Entertaining with The Sopranos cookbook the recipe looks huge.
But it’s really very simple, so don’t panic.

And there were many great hints:
Do not use a food processor, or the potatoes will become gluey.

To test the dough - 
bring a small pot of salted water to a boil.
Take a grape sized piece of dough and boil it until it rises to the surface, then let it cook another 30 seconds.
Scoop it out and bite it.
if it’s mushy, add more flour.

To press the gnocchi -
Hold a fork with the tines facing down.
Using your thumb, press the dough against the tines.
On one side there’ll be ridges, on the other an indentation.

The gnocchi can be refrigerated overnight.

Gnocchi can be frozen up to one month. 
Place the baking sheets in the freezer for 1 hour, until they are firm.
Then place them in a plastic bag.
Do not thaw before cooking.

Before making the gnocchi have on hand either


Serves 6 to 8
Sprinkle 2 large baking sheets with flour.

In a large pot put
2 pounds baking potatoes, scrubbed
Add enough cold water to cover.
Cook 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
Drain and let the potatoes cool slightly.
Peel the potatoes and cut into chunks.
Mash the potatoes, using either a masher, ricer or food mill.

2 large egg yolks, beaten
2 teaspoons salt
Stir in
1 1/2 Cups flour
After mixing, scrape the potatoes onto a floured surface.
Knead, adding more flour (about a Cup) to make a slightly sticky dough.
Test the dough (see above).

Wash and dry your hands.
Cut the dough into 8 pieces.
While working with one piece, cover the others.

Roll the piece into a rope about 3/4 inch thick.
Cut the rope into 1/2 inch pieces.
Press the gnocchi (see above).
Place the gnocchi onto a prepared baking sheet.
Cover with a towel or aluminum foil.
Repeat with the remaining dough.

When you are ready to cook the gnocchi:
Place a few spoons of tomato sauce in a large heated serving bowl.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Lower the heat.
Drop about a third of the gnocchi into the water.
Stir gently to separate the pieces.
Boil until they rise to the surface, then let them cook another 30 seconds.
Scoop them out, drain well and place them in the prepared bowl.
Spoon on more sauce and stir gently.
Cook and drain the remaining gnocchi in the same way.
Add them to the bowl with the remaining sauce.

Sprinkle with 
1/2 Cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Serve hot with the heated tomato sauce in a bowl.