Why I love American grocery stores

I went grocery shopping this morning. Sounds like a pretty mundane, ordinary way to spend your Saturday morning, right? Not that fun? Wrong! (Or at least wrong if you’re anything like me).

During the school year at home, I’m not in charge of the groceries so I usually make do with whatever shows up in my fridge or cabinet. Admittedly, I don’t need too much food here because I eat my weekday dinners at Google, but weekends are a time for me to wander aimlessly through the aisles of Trader Joe’s and happily indulge in the illusion that it’s wise for me to fill up my fridge. When I’m talking about grocery shopping, though, I’m really talking about Trader Joe’s and Sprouts and Whole Foods – all of the kind of hippy places that we don’t have at home. Reasons I love these places include:

  • The variety of things you can get, including items that you wouldn’t normally think of. One of my favourite purchases from today was coconut oil, which made my squash DELICIOUS. Which also leads me to my second point:
  • It’s reasonably priced. I’m not saying we don’t have a lot of these foods at home, but they tend to be way more expensive. Case in point: Greek yogurt. I’m addicted to the stuff. At home there’s maybe one or two kinds that cost twice as much as normal yogurt, but here I’m confronted by shelves and shelves of cheap probiotic goodness.
  • It’s easy to find healthy options! I really do try to keep an eye on what I eat and not ingest too many heart-threatening things, and there’s always tons of options that let me feel better about what I’m eating and enjoy it at the same time.
  • Last, and this is kind of a silly reason, but the stores are pretty. Er. Yeah. I’m a girl, alright? The labels are all so cheery. I love it.

Anyways, I actually really enjoyed picking up food and my foray to the farmer’s market afterwards. It’s definitely a first world problem, but sometimes I wish I had more opportunities to cook.

I fit this all in my backpack and biked back. Be impressed.

I did make an amazing dinner for myself, though. My mom’s been advocating going wheat-free for a month now, and really pushing me to try it. (She read this book about how we’re all going to die because we eat wheat. Er, maybe not that extreme. But it’s something to do with how wheat is genetically modified and making us fat). She keeps on telling me how much better it’ll be for me, etc, etc. Anyways, I’m a little skeptical, but I’ve decided I’m going to give it a chance and cut out wheat from my diet. I’m not going to be uber strict: if I’m going out on the weekend and I order a bowl of pasta, it won’t be the end of the world. But in my everyday meals, I’ll be veering away from wheat and eating corn, quinoa, rice, that sort of thing. The hardest part will be bread, because it’s one of my favourite things. To try and stick to this rule, I bought quinoa linguine – and was amazed and happy when it tastes exactly like normal pasta! I also got to eat the squash I bought at the farmer’s market. Yum.

Squash and Salmon Pasta (serves 1)

Ingredients:

  • Two small yellow squash (by small, I mean a couple of inches), cut into rounds
  • Coconut oil
  • Salt
  • 1 small pack of smoked salmon
  • Pasta of your choice (I used quinoa linguine)
  • Marinara sauce

Directions:

  1. Set water to boil, add some salt, and cook pasta to al dente.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, add some coconut oil to a pan (probably about a tablespoon). Add squash and a sprinkle of salt. Saute until the squash is tender – about five minutes or so.
  3. Add marinara sauce, smoked salmon, and drained pasta to your squash. Stir them all together and inhale when it’s all piping hot and delicious.

My favourite part about this was the flavour of the coconut oil and how the smoked salmon added a hit of saltiness. So good.

I also got to try out a restaurant on Thursday called the Boiling Crab, where they basically plunk your food in a bag on the table and you eat with your hands. It’s all seafood – crab, shrimp, clams…it was absolutely delicious and absolutely cavelike.

Wow, this has been a very food-related post. Hope you’re all hungry now!

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Stressless in Seattle

It’s finally reading break!

Usually I scoff at the “reading” part, but unfortunately it looks like I actually have a lot of homework to do over the break. And by a lot, I mean an amount that makes me cringe and send off little prayers to the denial gods every time I think about it.

However, I feel like I’ve started off my reading break pretty well. I had intended to cross off some homework on Saturday, but I ended up running around doing errands instead. I did have a chance to snap a picture of the beautiful sun peeking over the mountains, though:

After a day of non-productiveness, I went for dinner at one of my favourite Chinese restaurants: Sha-lin on Broadway. It has awesome food, including the most amazing panfried dumplings and zhajiang noodles ever. Drool.

My family tends to eat a fair bit, as shown by our empty plates.

I also met up with a friend for drinks at the Diamond in Gastown, right across from Chill Winston’s. I felt extremely cool going there because it’s completely tucked away on the top floor of an ordinary building – you enter through this nondescript little door that looks slightly sketchy, and emerge into a bar with a beautiful view of Gastown, a great cocktail list and a complete hipster vibe. I did feel like I was supposed to give a secret password or something – and somebody actually told me later that they supposedly have this secret room where there is a password and all these rules you have to follow, or you get kicked out. A little too hardcore for me, but interesting to know.

Sunday morning I left bright and early (though I definitely wasn’t bright, but bleary-eyed and stumbling) for Seattle. I assume it was to slightly assuage their guilt about leaving me behind when they go to the Caribbean, but my parents decided to take a day off and take me to Seattle overnight so that I could have a bit of a break before returning to my lair (er, bedroom). My dad wanted to visit a friend who had just moved to Seattle as well, so it worked out. He dropped my mom and I off at the outlet centre and we basically shopped all afternoon. It was nice to be able to spend American money – I made some money at Google the past summer but haven’t been able to touch it because – well – I live in Canada and it’s American money, so I didn’t want to convert it. I got some nice stuff – pretty much all clothes and shoes, but hey, I’m a girl. We like those things.

We stayed at my dad’s friend’s place overnight and decided to spend today exploring Seattle a bit. We went to Pike Place, which reminded me a lot of Granville Island – lots of different food and handmade things.

It appears that my penchant for taking photos of food lingers even when I’m in a market with a million other things to take pictures of. What can I say.

I did find that Seattle reminds me of Portland which slightly reminds me of Vancouver which reminds me of San Francisco. (Well, Vancouver is where I stopped, but there’s a point here.) West coast cities seem to have a similar kind of vibe, though there are definitely differences. I’m a west coast girl through and through, and I figure that vibe is what’s going to keep me sane if I ever have to leave my beloved Vancity.

After Pike Place, we wandered around a bit more – to be honest Mom and I did more shopping. Retail therapy is great. We found these beautiful native art rings in an art gallery that actually fit our tiny fingers!

(Yes, that’s my leg…I got bored on the car ride home.)

We wanted to beat the traffic, so we headed out of Seattle at around two. My parents wanted to hit up Costco and Trader Joe’s before getting home, but before that could happen our stomachs had to be appeased. The solution was the buffet at the Tulalip casino. Classy, I know. It was decent – I had to try multiple desserts before I could find one I actually liked.

I may or may not have eaten them all…you’ll never know.

I was really happy that we got to go to Trader Joe’s though – I am really jealous of my American friends sometimes. Joe’s has such interesting foods and it’s not as rip-the-money-out-of-your-wallet as Whole Foods (though I have to admit, I have a Whole Foods fetish). We got some things that aren’t really around at home – cocoa almond butter, lemon curd sauce, interesting sea salts, that sort of thing. There was a really nice sunset on the way home too, so that finished the day off nicely.

Overall, it was a short trip, but it worked well in its intended purpose of letting me destress (despite – or perhaps because of – the fact that I basically shopped for most of it). I feel a little more ready to tackle the mound of homework that is narrowing its evil eyes at me…gulp.