Shopping is one of my guilty pleasures. When I am the really stressed, nothing soothes the nerves as well as an aimless shopping trip. No agenda, just the prowl for great gets. But I don’t need to tell you this can be a dangerous habit, so I have worked hard to keep the indulgence under control. I’ve learned that scoring that designer suit for 80% off is no bargain if I don’t need it. Out of control credit card balances helped me learn that lesson. I can’t tell you how many bargains I found myself paying 18.9% finance charges on for months on end. You got it, my bargains ended up costing full price and then some.
Money is one limitation for those of us who use shopping as therapy. Time is another limitation. A hectic work schedule, maintaining my home, community work and of course the biggest priority of them all, my family, are what consume my time these days. I just don’t have the extra few hours a week needed to wander aimlessly on the sale aisle. The real pleasure for me on a shopping trip is exploring the possibilities of what I can get or at least what I would like to get. That exploration requires time.
Okay, that is my reality. But I still believe that shopping in and of itself isn’t bad for me. In fact, I think it’s pretty healthy. I really do feel less stressed after a nice journey into the land of retail, as long as it doesn’t put me in the hole financially or in a time crunch. The natural question for me was “how can a shopaholic get her fix, without boat loads of cash or oodles of time?” Lucky for me (and you) I have found an answer that is surprisingly satisfying.
I have targeted that shopping to fit another need in my life— eating. A great meal or fun snack is also a good diversion for me. I am not talking about a trip to the grocery store to get the week’s dinners in order. What I have in mind is much more indulgent. First, the where matters. You need to pick a market that is fun to visit; a farmers market, ethnic market, or gourmet market. Then wander around. Look for something that is going to add something to your life. Something new, that you’ve never tried can do this, so can something that forces you to create something new, a key ingredient. So you discover the bag of key limes, maybe its time to make a key lime pie. Fresh figs can be the secret to an amazing smoothie.
You are reading this, so I know you care about money. The best part about this kind of shopping therapy is that the freshest items are generally the cheapest ones to buy even at the most fancy markets. From fish, to fruit, fresh is not only the best tasting; it’s the easiest on your wallet. One or two new finds, and then create a fun challenge in the kitchen; what do you do with it? You can find loads of free recipes on the web once you have found your new ingredient.
To help inspire you to try this targeted shopping therapy I’ve included my family recipe for Risotto. The beauty of Risotto is that you can build it around almost any ingredient. Below is a Risotto I made after finding some succulent sea scallops on one of my shopping therapy adventures. Enjoy. -Mary Caraccioli
Caraccioli Risotto Recipe
1-pound jumbo fresh sea scallops
4 cups unsalted stock (chicken or vegetable)
1/4 cup dry white wine or Champagne
Large pinch saffron threads
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1-1/3 cups Arborio rice
1 cup of asparagus,
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1. To make the risotto: Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the onion, and cook, stirring, until translucent. Add the rice and stir to coat it evenly. Combine saffron and wine then stir in the wine and cook for 1 or 2 minutes. Add the stock by the ladleful, stirring it slowly into the rice until fully absorbed. Keep adding the stock by the ladleful and stirring it in. The risotto is done when the mixture is creamy but the rice is firm to the bite, a total of about 20 to 25 minutes. There should be almost no liquid remaining in the pan. Do not feel obliged to use all the stock but do stir constantly.
2. While you are cooking the risotto, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant but not colored. Add the scallops and toss quickly with the garlic. Add the asparagus, and sauté the mixture, tossing until the scallops are cooked through but the vegetable are still crisp-tender, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and season with salt and pepper.
3. Add the risotto to the scallops and vegetables, and stir to combine well. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese.
4. Serve on a small bed of spring mix and ENJOY!