Happy New Year from the Red Apron

Happy New Year!

The New Year presents us with an opportunity to reflect – on our careers, our health and our family –  and set our intentions for the coming year. What are the major goals we want to set for ourselves this year? What small changes do we feel we are capable of making to improve our life. How are we going to take better care of ourselves and those around us in 2020?

Many of us struggle to treat ourselves with kindness and I believe that our resolutions and intentions should reflect kindness, to ourselves especially. It’s easy to say ‘I resolve to lose 20 pounds’ this year and then be self-critical when we find it a difficult goal. It would be much kinder to say ‘I intend to fill my beautiful body with more delicious and nutritious vegetables every day’. The end result could be the same.

Local Tomatoes

The vegan and vegetarian trend is strong and there can be a lot of pressure on meat eaters to conform. However, there are still many very ethical farmers out there producing ‘clean’ meat, free of hormones and antibiotics. They care about their land and their animals and often focus their efforts on raising heritage breeds, which themselves are endangered creatures. We can resolve to eat less meat for our health and the environment, and be careful to only support trusted and local sources. This is a resolution I have been practicing for many years in our home and our business.

In this time of concern for the climate, there are many ways we can reduce our impact. Resolve to bring your own shopping bags, and purchase items that are packaged in fully recyclable containers, or not packaged at all. Become familiar with our City’s blue and black box program and be clear on what goes in these bins.  At the Red Apron we are working to ensure that all of our packaging can be either re-used, composted or goes into the blue, black or green bin in the City of Ottawa. A significant amount of our packaging is made in Canada, and made from 100% recycled materials. More and more of our packaging is made from plants and compostable.

Red Apron's New Canadian Made Packaging

Often our resolutions involve serious commitments to fitness and exercise. That’s wonderful if it works for you, and all of us could benefit from more movement. Maybe there are other opportunities to increase movement in ways that speak more to your heart and soul? I love to dance, so look I for opportunities to go dancing any time I can. My business partner takes couples dance classes each week at Fred Astaire. You can go Salsa Dancing every week at Rahim’s Salsa on Elgin. If dancing isn’t your thing, then walk more, take a yoga class, or swim!

One of my most important resolutions that I try to practice each day is expressing gratitude. Like everyone, I experience struggles, challenges, set-backs, frustrations and loss. It’s part of life, and the older we get the more opportunity we have to experience these things. However, I am very focused on the things in my life that cause me joy and I try to show appreciation for these gifts every day. I communicate my appreciation and gratitude verbally to those I love, and work with, and I am very aware of how fortunate I am. Some people find a gratitude journal is very helpful, and others count their blessings each morning or night before bed. Being grateful has made a huge difference in my life and it has honestly changed the person I am.

One really important personal resolution I have made is to try to spend more time outside, and surrounded by nature, especially trees. A forest walk can have huge physical, mental and health benefits that we are only recently able to quantify. Exposure to forests and trees has been proven to boost the immune system lower blood pressure and stress, improve your mood and increase your ability to focus. It can accelerate recovery from illness and increase energy levels while helping to improve sleep. Talk about drug free cure for what ails you!

Strolling Through Gatineau Park

This January, the Red Apron will be Nourishing our customers with a month of meals that are designed to boost your immune system, increase your vegetable consumption, reduce your meat consumption, and introduce new colours and flavours into your diet. Our ‘Nourish Yourself’ menu features a weekly vegetarian and a weekly vegan meal, and is posted on our website.

This month I wanted to share easy ideas for Taco Meals. I love tacos and find them to be a very simple way to eat a nutritious breakfast, lunch or dinner. If you keep your freezer stocked with a package of corn or wheat flour tortillas, you can execute a delicious meal in very short order using mostly leftovers in your fridge. This type of meal is extremely popular with young kids too, and allows them to participate in making some of their food choices.

Red Apron's Southwestern Salad

Breakfast Taco Ideas

I like to lay out a buffet of small plates, with a pile of warm taco shells and some, or all of the following ingredients:

Scrambled eggs
Black beans – warmed in a bowl with a sprinkle of cumin and a drizzle of olive oil
Bacon or thick sliced pork belly
Grated cheddar cheese
Sliced ripe avocado or leftover guacamole
Diced tomatoes or a tomato salsa

Warmed taco shells, 2-3 per person

Lunch or Dinner Taco Ideas

We often serve tacos on the Red Apron menu and the varieties are endless. We have done duck, pork belly, fish, chicken, beef and vegetarian versions. Here are my suggestions on how to build an amazing taco buffet:

In the taco

Protein of your choice – this could be any leftovers from a previous dinner
Cheese – we like cheddar, goat cheese, or Monterey Jack
Salsa – this could be a store-bought variety, or one you make yourself
Slaw – slaw makes a great taco garnish, and any combination of shredded vegetables tossed in a spicey vinaigrette will do!
Guacamole – easy to make with ripe avocado, diced tomatoes, lemon or lime juice & salt
Beans – any variety, including re-fried – our southwestern salad (pictured above) is the perfect taco filling
Hot Sauce

Corn or wheat flour tortillas

On the side

Tacos are generally a complete meal all on their own, but there are a variety of items that make great sides for a taco meal.

Rice or rice with beans
Oven roasted sweet potatoes with chili and sea salt
Refried beans
Corn, or corn on the cob, depending on the time of year