For many people, the current cost of organic produce is prohibitive. If you can’t afford to buy organic everything, then there are some organic things that are worth the purchase. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s list of the ‘dirty dozen’, produce rife with pesticides.
I have spent much time scouring the aisles of specialty grocery stores, stands at food festivals and counters at bakeries in search of something unique, an item I’ve never tried before. Sometimes it is money well spent and sometimes it is not. These were excellent purchases.
However let’s not talk about the vegan ‘toona’ aka cat food for people. There are some things I’ve had that could easily be made at home; the gluten-free chilli mac and cheese frozen dinner from Amy’s Kitchen. (I bought it anyway just as a frame of reference for when I make it myself.) But when it comes to fruits and vegetables, it is always worthwhile to explore and experiment with produce one has never experienced before. Enter the barese cucumber, sometimes called a hairy cucumber but most popularly known as the Italian melon cucumber.
I picked up this gem from one of my go-to produce stands in the St. Lawrence Market. I have no idea what to do with it and apparently many others don’t either. An internet search has not turned up very few fabulously creative ways to use a hairy cucumber. For now, I see some of it being eaten raw with the remainder turned into a homemade relish.
Variety is indeed the spice of life, particularly when it comes to food. Here are just a few tips when embarking on a culinary adventure.
Budget for a treat day once a month for that one cupcake or decadent dessert that keeps eyeing you from the glass bakery window.
Budget for a specialty purchase when you travel.
Every season, aim to try at least one new fruit and vegetable you haven’t tried before.
Beware of gimmicks. Many items are packaged and marketed in a way that scream “must-have, buy me!” If you read the labels you’ll find there is not much special about these items. Instead, use the products for inspiration in your own kitchen. While the chilli mac and cheese was tasty, I could have made it myself and with much less sodium.
Laura Slack’s back! Chocolate skull filled with caramel and black garlic.
I found myself on a work contract last year where I was walking distance to Soma Chocolate 2 days a week! It was chocolate every day for me: tumbled hazelnuts baked into Nutella cookies; tumbled ginger baked into ginger cookies, and spicy mayan hot chocolate mix. I wanted to perform an experiment to see what effect, besides to my waistline, having chocolate every week would do. Apparently it’s benefitting my cholesterol level, memory and risk of heart disease and stroke.
Stress, weather and just plain desire are some of the more personally compelling reasons to indulge in chocolate. Check out the following links for recommended chocolate shops around the world. And remember to research which brands use fair-trade cocoa products.