get your ABCs naturally at bulk barn

Bulk Barn is one of my favorite stores. What is not to like about a place where you can get all sorts of baking supplies, whole grains, organic ingredients and british candy all under one roof with the added benefit of buying in bulk? As I have mentioned before, my trips years ago to the Bulk Barn used to be all about the candy, and the rows of brightly coloured goodies are still mighty tempting, but now I see them in a different light. Most of the stuff is artificially coloured and flavoured, not to mention other yucky things like preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, etc. So, the other day I thought I’d see if I could find any candy that was relatively “natural” which I could use as fun toppings on my cupcakes. Well, the interesting thing was there was a small section of “natural” candies which were made with real fruit juice, but only ONE of the candies had ONLY natural colour and flavour – alphabet gummies. My only problem was after scooping out quite a few, I ended up with not a great variety of letters, much like a frustrating game of scrabble. I will have to go back and take a closer look at the letters in the bin – it would be nice to be able to spell something!

Oh and yes, they taste and feel like real gummy candies. Nice to know I can get something like this close to home rather than making the trek to a large natural foods store…

morning lemon – sweet sparkles

lemonadelabel1.jpgSo, being pregnant, I have a bit of an exaggerated sweet tooth. I try to keep it in check as best I can, but I figure, hey – I may only get this chance once so I might as well indulge a bit! Of course, even though I want something sweet, it doesn’t mean I want something loaded with high fructose corn syrup and artificial additives. At one of my favorite stores down the street Farmer’s Daughter, I often peek at/covet the elegant bottles of french lemonade. So the other day I thought – today’s the day I’m just going to let myself have one. There is good reason why I don’t indulge in these bottles more often, and it has nothing to do with the ingredients – it’s the price. The bottle I picked up was $7.25 (yikes) so if you ever see them anywhere for less than that, you’re getting a deal.

lemonadelabel2.jpgA short ingredient list – that’s what I love. Especially in these lemonades (I got the classic “french” style which is clear, but there is also a more lemony one, and pink, plus a few other interesting drinks in their product line) when all you’re looking at is carbonated water, beet sugar (as opposed to cane sugar) citric acid, and lemon aroma (which I’m assuming is from some sort of herb – maybe lemon balm?) The pink lemonade is coloured with elderberry concentrate – nice. As it clearly states on the bottle “contains no juice” – so it’s not a nutritional drink, it’s a treat. But a treat you can feel pretty good about instead of having a soda. I’m sure they would make a great mixer for alcoholic drinks at parties as well – I’ll have to get back to you about that sometime next year…

5% to willow breast cancer support at whole foods

Tomorrow, Wednesday September 12 (10am-6pm) is another 5% day at Whole Foods Market. As I have said many times before, Whole Foods Market is an indulgence, but 5% of the net sales going to Willow Breast Cancer Support Canada is a good reason to indulge. Willow provides free services, information and emotional support to those affected by breast cancer. Pack your camera, head on down to Yorkville, stalk some celebs while you have a coffee, then go grab some goodies at Whole Foods (make sure to check out their baked goods!)

have you been to Bulk Barn lately?

flax.jpgI remember a time when I used to go to Bulk Barn to buy sour gummis and chocolate almonds. I also remember that the store was kind of grungy and seemed uncool. Maybe you have similar memories, and haven’t been there in ages. Well, I’m here to tell you that my recent visits have been quite different (except for the chocolate almonds :)).

It seems to me that somehow over the years Bulk Barn has cleaned up and changed its image a bit. I frequent the one at Shopper’s World Danforth (Vic Park/Danforth) and it is very tidy and has good staff. I also noticed a new one opened up recently at 2422 Kingston Road (sorry don’t know the major cross street!) and it also looks sparkly and inviting. Aside from the fact that they don’t seem as grungy anymore, the real treat is the products that I never realized they had. Pretty much anything you need to keep your natural/healthy pantry stocked is there – we’re talking oats, flax seeds (buy the whole seeds, and grind yourself to ensure freshness), organic quinoa, brown rice, unbleached flour, organic cane sugar, multigrain pasta, etc. They also have a nice line of herbal supplements, gluten-free mixes, as well as soy and rice milks. For bakers, there is wide range of supplies, including tons of frosting tips, and cardboard cake boxes. Basically, if you need something, Bulk Barn is a good place to look.

Buying bulk dry goods is a great way to cut down on excess packaging, and usually save yourself some money. Also, I hate it when I am baking something and I only need a bit of say, brown sugar, and a grocery store forces me to buy a whole bag which will inevitably end up getting hard as a rock in my cupboard. I say, thank you Bulk Barn for giving me a choice.

What is your favorite indulgence at Bulk Barn? Come on, I told you about my chocolate almonds…

a follow up to my guest piece on suite 101…

What a glorious morning – because the sky is so blue, the sun is so warm, and my guest piece about spring detoxing on suite101.com is up! Check it out here.

A big THANK YOU to Mary Luz, writer at suite101.com who I met through the Women’s Culinary Network. She writes for the food trends section, and has a lot of really interesting articles to peruse.

Now, there was a mention in the article of some great “detox” dishes: kale salad, beet salad, etc. You could make these at home, many recipes are available on the internet, or if you are out and about and need to grab a bite, these dishes can be found at Camros Organic Eatery on Hayden Street, just south of Yonge and Bloor in downtown Toronto. If you know me, I am sure you have heard me rave about this place – organic, healthy, tasty food, in a warm, enviting, eco-friendly place, run by an amazing family. I am collaborating with them on some interesting projects – stay tuned for more exciting news!

For those who are looking to buy some more natural wholesome foods, a great place to start is your local health food store, a nearby farmer’s market or even a Loblaws, which should have a natural and organic food section. (Also, several other big grocery chains like Dominion, Sobeys and Longos are bringing in more alternatives all the time.) Please watch out for the natural/organic product coupon book The Healthy Shopper which should be available in health food stores in April. For first time buyers, this is a great way to try something new, and save a few bucks.

Finally, I thought I would give you all a little crash course in label -reading: “natural” vs “organic”. I recently read through a great food magazine published by Wegman’s a big grocery chain in the US which is focused on wellness and high quality foods. They had a little piece describing “natural” and “organic” which I think makes it crystal clear:

“Natural Foods contain no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or additives, and are minimally processed. All organic foods are natural, but not all natural foods are organic. Natural foods can be grown by conventional methods. There is currently no government-approved definition of “natural” foods, except for meat.” (I am not sure about the meat thing in Canada.)

“Organic Foods are grown in greater harmony with nature, without using synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, or growth hormones. To be sure an item is the real thing, look for the USDA label – foods with this designation are certified to have been grown and processed according to the USDA Organic Standards, with inspections to verify organic authenticity.”

(from Menu, winter 2007, pg. 88 published by Wegmans)

So, now you know the difference but what do you buy? The best choice is always whatever works for you. Organic foods can be expensive, and organic does not always = healthy. Depending on your dietary needs, you have to take protein, carbohydrate, fat, sodium and sugar levels into account, no matter if the product is “natural” or “organic”. The easiest choice is to pick up items from your local farmer’s market from a vendor you trust.

If you are interested in a nutritional program due to a diagnosed condition, to effectively lose weight, or to prevent future health issues, please visit my website lemonholistic.com.

Now go outside and enjoy this glorious Friday!

If you have any comments about the spring detox article, Camros Organic Eatery, The Healthy Shopper book, or “natural” vs “organic”, I would love to hear from you!

Farmer’s Daughter saved my butt

So, on the day of the Women’s Culinary Network dinner, I was frantically baking and frosting multiple rounds of cupcakes, and also had to prepare a dish for the dinner. I was making edamame dip, and realized I forgot to buy cilantro. My husband was out with the car, and it was freezing cold outside. I started to panic. Before I got too crazy, I thought – “Hey, Farmer’s Daughter is just down the street, and they always have fresh herbs, and that’s not far enough for me to freeze to death if I walk.” So I called them, and they said they had cilantro in their KITCHEN they could give to me. Not that they had it out for sale, but they would sell it to me, if I didn’t need that much. Now that is what I call service. I scurried over, got a nice bunch of cilantro for a dollar, and scurried home, and made the edamame dip. So this is an official THANK YOU to Farmer’s Daughter for being one of the best food stores around, and saving my butt on a cold day.