Behind my home, in the backyard, sits a small 14×10 foot back house. It’s been under my care for years and, during that time, has retained various names and uses: lean-to, shed, taco stand, guest house, photography studio, and, very recently, writer’s retreat. During the pandemic, I’ve fallen smitten with this tiny space, my private, sunlit sanctuary that offers a break from the suffocating four walls of this past year, providing an entirely different perspective without disobeying CDC orders.
Each weekend (and sometimes weekday evenings), I bound out the back door, skip along the winding flagstone path and turn the handle to this tranquil refuge overlooking the garden and well-frequented birdbath, providing me both the physical and mental space to write. I’ve become so enamored by my little hut of heaven that I’ve taken to sharing photos on social media. One of my friends, Oscie, recently commented that I “have and amazing life” to which I responded, “We ALL have an amazing life, it’s just a matter of being grateful for the good bits and leaving the rest behind.” Pollyanna I am not, yet I stand behind this statement. I’ve built a good life for myself and I’m grateful for many parts of it – a house I own, an amazing tribe of friends, a secure job with leaders I respect, a knack for baking, a passion for writing, a blog that combines the two, a healthy body, a family so far unscathed by the pandemic – all things I’m aware could change in an instant.
Yet, my life is far from perfect. I could just as easily focus on the bad bits. My extra time I’ve carved out for writing resulted from reduced work hours due to COVID, meaning a less stable career and less income. My snug little cottage of calm – and my house – are inhabited by pesky destructive termites, something I’ll need to address sooner rather than later. The verdant, wildlife-filled garden outside my window grows unruly with weeds from the recent rains, a day long project in itself.
I have a choice – we all have a choice – to focus on this life-altering pandemic, the people and things not in our lives, and our never-ending to-do lists…or we can delight in the good bits. For me, I’m choosing the latter.
Speaking of good bits, I wanted to share this additional cannoli recipe that came out of my recent Holy Cannoli Dessert Duo. This is the more traditional of the two. The tart springtime lemon raspberry version can be found here.
Chocolate Chip Almond Cannoli
Shaved chocolate, candied almonds, and just a hint of cinnamon recall traditional cannoli recipes, but this version is a step up – cannoli for those who don’t like cannoli.
- Cannoli Shells
- 12 cannoli shells
- 6 oz. milk chocolate
- 3 oz. candied almonds, finely chopped (I used sliced honey roasted almonds from Trader Joe’s) Filling
- 10 oz. whole-milk ricotta, drained in a mesh sieve overnight
- 8 oz. mascarpone
- ⅓ cup superfine sugar
- 1 ¼ cups milk chocolate, finely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch salt
- powdered sugar (for dusting)
- Prepare the shells: Melt the 6 oz. chocolate in the microwave by heating it at 30 second intervals and stirring until melted (about 90 seconds total). Dip both ends of cannoli shells in chocolate then in the candied almonds. Cool to set.
- Fill the shells: Stir together ricotta, mascarpone, and sugar. Add the milk chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon and salt and combine. Let rest for 30 minutes in the refrigerator to allow sugar time to melt. Fill a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle with filling. Pipe the filling into both ends of the cannoli, filling completely. Dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately.
I used a food processor to make quick work of finely chopping the chocolate.