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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Grocery Voyeurism

This past summer, my life changed. Fairway, the grocery and specialty store with some of Manhattan's most moderate (yes, oxymoron) pricing and exotic assortment, opened a branch six blocks away from my apartment.
I used to have to make special trips to the West Side store hunting for my hard-to-find seeds, flours and strange ingredients or look for them online and in 5 or 6 different stores all over the Upper East Side. Those days are over! Now, stopping at Fairway after dropping my kids off in school has become as part of my routine as brushing my teeth. Actually, more than routine, and addiction.
Fairway has turned into my personal office, and the center of my social life (imagine how much fun it is to hang out with me!). I take care of business there: I buy ingredients for my baking, I bump into friends and acquaintances, schedule future cooking classes, while I also interrupt people's conversations when I hear they don't know how to use a certain ingredient in the organic isles and I give them tips and recipes. I'm full service, I even guide the shoppers to where the items are. I've become the unofficial (and unpaid) Fairway ambassadress.
I have also had a chance to exercise more often my bad grocery voyeurism habit. Yes. I tend to peek into other people's carts and make secret judgements about the person pushing it: "they like eating healthy, they are addicted to soda, they don't cook, they are gourmands, they have a huge family, they don't read labels, they are shopping for someone else, they like the same chocolate I like (so they must be smart and have good taste), they suffer from celiac disease, they have bad taste, how can they buy so much stuff I'd never buy?, Oh...I wonder where they found that..."

I was there (obviously) on a Sunday afternoon with my daughter (NOTE: never go on Sunday afternoon. It's a zoo). I curbed our cart and started studying the organic grain section, right where I had found the fabulous green lentils I wrote about on an earlier post. From the same truRoots brand, I found a bag of chia seeds. I had ran out of chia at home, and since I liked the brand's products I grabbed the bag. I started reading in their serving suggestions how to make pudding with the seed that I usually add to baked goods, and found the possibility, fascinating. My daughter and I took the cart and continued our shopping mission.

Then, this man started following us and staring at our cart. "A fellow cart voyeur," I thought. But this was becoming too much. "At least I try to be discreet! Can he be less obvious?" Maybe he was SO impressed with the food selection in my cart, that he wanted to ask me for advice. Maybe he wanted to hire me to do his own shopping. Maybe he'd never seen better, more interesting, smarter, more perfect ingredient choices in his life. Maybe he wanted to congratulate me, but he was too shy...
It was getting really weird...I made eye contact with him, and without saying a word I inquired about his crazy behavior. Very politely, he said: "I'm sorry, but I think you took my cart. Yours must be right next to the fish section." I looked down, and yes, in deed, those weren't my veggies in the basket. I grabbed my chia with one hand, my scared daughter's hand with the other one (or ashamed of her cart thief mom), and laughed all they way back to where our cart was. My daughter relaxed, and I realized the only sicko at Fairway was me!

I have LOTS to say about the fabulous chia, so I will start doing so in this post and continue on the next one. It's a super healthy and fun ingredient to work with. Even more now that I learned about it's gelling properties.

Chia, yes, the seeds that eventually sprout to become a Chia Pet's fur or Obama's "hair" are probably the highest vegetable source of Omega-3 fatty acids and are extremely rich in soluble fiber and antioxidants. They also contain some protein and minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, molybdenum, niacin, and zinc. For its nutritional properties, chia is a good addition to our diet to help prevent chronic disease, like cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

Here are two simple recipes that use very few ingredients and the only technique required is mixing with a spoon or fork. NO baking or cooking necessary, so they are raw-friendly and very tasty preparations.


This can be served as a yogurt or ice cream topping, a salad dressing, a sauce, in a fruit salad or as my husband (who doesn't even like grapefruit), my friend J (or Y), my daughter and I ended up doing: eaten by the spoonful for a strange, original and very pleasant mouth feel.

  • Vegetarian (uses honey), nut, gluten, dairy, soy, and wheat free
  • Super ingredients: chia, fresh grapefruit and lemon juice (high in antioxidants), raw honey

1 Ruby Red grapefruit (or any other kind) 
1/2 lemon, zested
1 1/2 tablespoons raw honey (I loved it with Tupelo)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract (optional)
1/4 cup chia seeds

Squeeze grapefruit and lemon juice onto a bowl or a measuring cup fitted with a strainer.

Add lemon zest, honey and extracts to the juice and mix well with a spoon or a fork.

Mix in chia and let mixture set for at least 20 minutes (or refrigerate overnight).

The longer it sits, the more liquid the chia absorbs and the thicker the gel gets. Add more juice if you'd like to thin it down and drink it as a beverage.

A great alternative to commercially packaged puddings, this is a nice and healthy snack. You can add more or less date puree and/or cocoa powder to taste.

  • Vegan, dairy, nut, soy, egg, wheat and gluten free
  • Super ingredients: chia, non-alkalized cocoa powder (which contains an incredible amount of antioxidants and a nice amount of iron), dates (rich in antioxidants, fiber and minerals)

1/2 cup unsweetened rice milk (or the milk of your choice, such as: coconut, dairy, nut, soy, if there are no allergies or other limitations)
2 tablespoons date puree (or to taste)
1 tablespoon non-alkalized cocoa powder (such as Scharffen-Berger) OR carob powder
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
2 tablespoons chia seeds


In a small bowl mix all the ingredients with a spoon or fork, until cocoa (or carob) powder has completely dissolved. Let sit for at least 20 minutes or cover and refrigerate overnight.

1 comment:

dori said...

THAT IS TOO FUNNY! i can't believe you stole his cart! i can just see mortified auntie ali grabbing eliana and running away. hilarious.