Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Zucchini and Lemon Cake - A (messy) photo essay

I have written already about how much my childhood came into play when it came to my love of food. It would only be logical that I have an intense desire to pass on this love in the same way to my children, and since there is a lack so far thereof, my kiddies. That would be the kids that are in my class at the daycare.

Cooking has got to be one of the activities that keeps their (minute) attention focused the longest. They eat this stuff up, literally. Haha I'm so funny. Ahem. Some of these kids have cooked a few times with mama at home, but most have never seen a whisk at work, never mind stirring it themselves. Which is ridiculous, because cooking touches upon so many developmental stages that are necessary for children. Things like math, science, gross and fine motor, language and social skills ARE ALL DEVELOPED IN ONE ACTIVITY. An educator's dream, really. Which is why I don't understand why people don't do it more often.

But anyways, when I cook with my kiddies, I try to make things that they've never eaten before. Luckily for me, that usually falls into the realm of vegetables and fruits. Zucchini and lemon were most definetly a weird thing to eat, and this recipe was so fun to make. Take a look!

Grating. Supervision recquired.

Stirring the dry ingredients.

The easiest way to add ingredients is using pre-measured baggies. Trust me.

More whisking!

Are you sure we can eat this?

Adding zucchini with concentration.

Adding lemon zest

Unnapetizing before, oh-so-tasty after!



  • 1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (2 medium)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce (might need a little more)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used half white hald whole wheat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • zest from one lemon, plus juice from half (I let the kids taste the other half.. HAHAHAHA)


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease an 8x4 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a bowl, beat together the honey, egg, and apple sauce. Fold in the zucchini. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon. Stir in the zest and juice. Stir the flour mixture into the zucchini mixture just until blended. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from heat, and cool about 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Side note: If I were going to make this for adults, I would have added a glaze of 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup lemon juice. Boil till sugar is disolved, then when cake has cooled for 10 minutes, apply with brush without poking holes on the top. Keep reapplying until absorbed.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sausage and Shrimp Jambalaya

First off, as a disclaimer, let me just say that this is not a traditional cajun jambalaya and the people in the south would probably have my head for using the same name as their dish. But whatevs.

What is a jambalaya? Its a dish that has its origins in the Carribean Islands, but then traveled to the bayou and became well known in Louisiana, and more specifically New Orleans. One day I will visit New Orleans and feast on jambalaya, crab cakes, and beignets while listening to some awesome street jazz. But I digress. The word comes from Provencal (but I think its patois) word jambaiala, meaning mish mash. Its pretty close to Spanish paella, but minus the (ridiculously expensive) saffron. Its base ingredients are rice, tomatoes, aromatics, and usually meat; but I treat jambalaya as a throw in what you have pot. Its such an easy dish to temper with and construct your own based on preferred flavors! Plus, its essentially a one pot dish (and is easily adaptable to the slow cooker), and who the heck doesn't love less dishes? As long as you follow the basics, you got one tasty a-la-carte creole inspired dish coming your way!

Sausage and Shrimp Jambalaya


  • 1 large onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • about 6 large button mushrooms
  • 5 celery stalks
  • 3/4 of 1ltr jar of canned tomatoes (if you don't can, just go pick up a regular 750 ml diced tomatoes can)
  • 1 cup of yellow corn (one small can)
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • 5 spicy Italian style sausages (Andouilles sausages are super tasty also)
  • 1 lb of shrimp, precooked, still frozen (I still havent learned how to devein fresh shrimp)
  • 2 cups of brown rice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper

  1. First, prep for cooking. Chop your aromatics (onion, celery) as well as the pepper, and slice the mushrooms. Set aside. Cut the sausages in coins of desired thickness, maybe 1 1/2 inch - 2 inch.
  2. Heat a drizzle of olive oil at the bottom of a large pot at medium, and when ready, start to cook the sausages. Brown them on both sides to prevent the meat from disintegrating before adding anything else, but don't cook them all the way through, approx 5-7 minutes (make sure you don't use chicken or turkey sausages. If you do, cook all the way through in seperate pan).
  3. Add all the chopped veggies, and the mushroom and cook for another 5 minutes. It should look pretty colorful already.
  4. Add the corn and the tomatoes, with the stock. By now, it should look something like a stew:
  5. Let cook until bubbling merrily away, something like 7-8 minutes, before adding the rice. My rice took about 15 minutes at low-medium heat (stirring frequently) before ready. White rice is less long.
  6. This is where the magic happens. Add the frozen shrimp and stir until incorporated through. Turn off the heat, and cover your pot with a metal bowl. The bowl will allow the heat to circulate through without trapping it close to the surface like a lid would. This will essentially steam your shrimp inside the jambalaya and make them oh so tasty. This shouldn't take longer than a few minutes, no one likes rubbery shrimp!
  7. Finally, add the cayenne pepper, and other seasonings if desired at your level of desired spicyness. Serve in a colorful bowl, and garnish with parsley if desired. I serve this with sliced cucumbers and fresh buns to help cool the tongue from the spice!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cynthia, my name is...

EEEEEE! That was me being exhuberant at joining this most awesome group! I am a nerd and a geek, and I love food oh-so-much, so I was very excited to be asked to join, and hope to honor my fellow baristas and this awesome-possum blog with my posts!

Now on to my culinary life snapshot!

Top culinary influences: Personally speaking, my father, my mother, and my French grandmother. I remember being so small and sitting at the table in my father's home and seeing him skewer marinated meat for souflaki, or sitting in my grandmother's home and smelling that pate au pattes de cochons that took a total of 36 hours to complete, and would be devoured in a couple of hours by my family on Christmas. I learned a love of food that took time to prepare at their knees and kitchen tables, and still today I add certain spices or prepare meat a certain way because of them.
She's pretty badass.
So is he.

Favorite cook books: Honestly, I don't refer to cookbooks alot. Its very rare that I follow a recipe (even though Im sure my husband wishes I would sometimes), and I look through cookbooks for pictures and adapt that picture to what I have. I think that the most honest answer to this would be to refer you to, where I can input certain ingredients and see what other users have come up with. The whole interwebz iz ma cookbook, yall!

Favorite 5 ingredients: ONLY FIVE?? Right now, it would be olive oil, garlic, oregano, chicken, lemons. And honey. And molasses. And brown rice. And apples. Ok Ill stop now.

Favorite 5 dishes: Macaronia with canella and lamb, loukoumades (does this count?), pate au pattes de cochons, slow cooked beef stew,

How did you learn to cook?: First, its in my blood. That's just how Greeks do. Second, I learned everything I know (and still learning) from my family. My Greek side taught me to like delicious Mediterrenean flavors, to feel joy when you smell a freshly squeezed lemon, and to put tzatziki on basically everything. My Quebecois side taught me to enjoy the simple dishes that take long hours to cook, and the pleasure of assembling around a dinner table without silly TV's and phones and other distractions, and just enjoy the food and enjoy each other. Which is, in my belief, every bit as important as preparing and cooking the food.

Your week in cooking: .Well let's see, I had two days off thanks to eating at my mother's (every Sunday night), and eating at Jeff's mother's (SCORE LEFTOVERS). I made sausage and shrimp Cajun jambalaya, roasted corn soup, pita pizzas, chicken fajitas, and lemon garlic herb crusted salmon.

Culinary fascination of the moment: Canning anything and everything. Ive been canning and preserving for a couple of years (by myself, with my grandmother, since I was 6). Its a pleasure that I just cant seem to get enough. I LOVE LOVE LOVE TO CAN!

Culinary ambitions: I have two culinary ambitions, one is personal, and the other professional. My personal ambition is to be able to feed my future (hopefully, quite large) family real food made as much as possible with my own two hands, organic and wholesome, to teach them the sacredness of sharing a meal together, and to love food for everything it is and everything it could be. My professional ambition is still to be discovered, but I know it lurks there. I have a (very) small business selling organic preserves which is called NomNom Goodies (yes, I just shamelessly self promoted, check it out on Facebook.), and I love it. But we'll see what God has in store for me!

Your dream kitchen: Laaaaarge, with TONS of storage space, and with windows brightly illuminating this airy space with natural light. Country feel, with wood everywhere. A gas stove top, a double oven, a huge fridge! No plastic anywhere in sight, and glass storage for everything. Basically, Chef Michael Smith's pantry.
In closing, I would like to warn everyone that I am quite goofy and make really weird faces when I taste food, like this:
Which you will undoubtedly see. Because Im cool like that. PEACE!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Garden Food

This warm weather and melting snow is giving me gardening fever! Anyone planting an edible garden this spring? Do tell. :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

chocolate peanut butter cups

1 1/3 c roasted salted peanuts
2 tsp honey
1 1/2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt

2 c chocolate chips

--> prepare 12 cupcake liners in a muffin pan
--> grind and mix filling ingredients and form into 12 balls, just slightly flattened
--> zap 1/2 c chocolate in the microwave for 1 minute, stir, add 30 seconds, repeat until melted. pour and spread about 2 tsp at the bottom of each liner.
--> center a peanut butter patty in each liner. Heat and melt remaining chocolate, as above. Pour evenly over each patty.
--> chill in fridge until quite firm.

Next time, to be classier, I might mix up the nuts a bit (I think toasted pecans would be amazing) and will definitely use a fair trade, organic bar chocolate.

Adapted from...

Julia's baby shower

The spread: veggies with green onion and mayo dip; brie and jalepeno havarti; pain d'epi bread (cut into chunks arranged to look almost braided, like a wheat stalk - easy for parties, you just break off a chunk and don't worry about slicing); zatar; chocolate sour cream cake; lemon meringue sugar sandwich cookies.

the heart stencil is easy to make - cut it out of thin cardboard and tape on a thin finger handle for easy lifting when you're done.

assembling meringue cookies.

Julia & Sam.

Jake enjoying bread with cheese, with Ambrose in hot pursuit.

Olive loves dried apricots.

I love parties!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Holy Mackerel

I don't quite know whether it's the Mediterranean roots, or my childhood obsession with "The Little Mermaid"...or even the treasure chest full of toys at Red Lobster, but the mention of seafood always sets my heart aflutter. Whenever I'm at a grocery chain, I find myself inexplicably drawn to the seafood counter, inadverdently flirting with the (99.99% male) poisonnerie staff as I eye the glistening rows of whole Atlantic salmon.

Seafood fever definitely runs in the family. My parents tell me of their glorious summer vacations by the shores of Alexandria, where you could buy freshly caught, grilled fish right off the beach from local merchants and savour your meal right by the rolling waves of the Meditteranean. I distinctly remember my mother and grandmother taking me to numerous fish markets, gushing like schoolgirls over sea bass and porgi, touching fish with their bare hands ("The flesh is FIRM! Take that one!" and "Sonia! The eye is RED! It must be fresh!") as the clerks desperately tried to make them wear plastic gloves....but I felt like a fish out of water. The pervasive stench was unbearable for a wee fry like myself, always contending to linger just outside the door while they were finished up.

Grandma Gabriel surveying the goods

Last week, after years and years of scheduling conflicts (and changes of heart), I was finally able to take my grandmother to Coralli's-- apparently one of Montreal's finest seafood institutions.

The place...was HUGE. They had pretty much everything you can imagine. Every condiment for every critter. They even smoked their own salmon (I don't even know why this delights/surprises me, but I guess it demonstrates the absurb degree to which we are dispossessed from the production of our food)! On the car ride there, my grandmother kept calling it "smoke meat!!!", and kept raving about how good it was, and how we were going to feast on it for lunch. And in my head, I'm thinking: "Can I really trust the brisket at the fish joint? What, are they running a boucherie on the side too? This sounds like sketchy business, man."

like butter