Red Apron on Shopping Local this Holiday Season

In our business we try to support local growers and producers as much as possible, and work to keep our dollars in our community. When shopping for the holidays I try to apply those same values. In the spirit of a happier, more ethical and local holiday season, here are some of tips you might find helpful.

I try to shop local where possible. Each dollar you spend at an independent business returns 3 times more money to your local economy than one spent at a chain store, and makes a lasting impact on the prosperity of local residents. Independent businesses employ more people per dollar of revenue and use the services of other local businesses  (accountants, doctors, farmers, lawyers, designers, developers, printers, etc.).

I talk to the shop owners directly. Your shop owner and their team should be able to tell you what their position is on sourcing brands and products for their shelves. Are they selling fair trade, sweatshop free, organic or local products?  For example, in a recent conversation with a new business in our community – The Stomping Ground– I discovered that the owner makes significant efforts to ensure his products are fair trade and many of his brands are also organic. His ability to articulate the  values he adheres to when sourcing new products, which convinced me that I could feel comfortable shopping in his store.

In that spirit you can ‘shop local’ at the Ottawa Farmer’s Market at Lansdowne this Saturday & Sunday  from 9am-3pm (December 21 & 22).The Christmas market goes beyond food stuffs and showcases knitters, weavers, crafters, soap & jewelry makers, just to name a few. Visit their website for details and a list of vendors.

Re-gift, make by hand or re-purpose. I am not a super crafty person and don’t own any fancy tools or equipment, but I can cook and bake.  I am also not opposed to re-gifting items that I know I can’t use (but please don’t tell my mother).  I also have a few simple and creative ideas for turning something old into something beautiful.

A few years ago I took a tarnished silver cream & sugar set, planted them up with succulents, and gifted them to a friend. They were so beautiful, I almost hated to part with them.  This year I poured vodka over some vanilla beans in a beautiful bottle I had saved. In 6 months my recipient will have vanilla extract.  If they can’t wait that long, they can make some crafty vanilla infused cocktails.

I am sharing recipes that are great for breakfast/brunch and both can actually be made the night before and popped into the oven first thing in the morning.

Christmas Morning Frittata

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small onion or green onion, chopped
2 large handfuls of fresh spinach, chopped
8 whole eggs
8 sun-dried tomato halves, chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta or chevre
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 1 tablespoon pesto
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Heat oven to 400°F. Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. Cook onions until soft but not brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add spinach; cook 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Lightly whisk eggs in a bowl and season with salt & pepper.   Oil the bottom of a baking dish and cover sun-dried tomatoes, cheese, basil, spinach mixture. Pour over the filling mixture and bake until firm in the center – approximately 20-30 minutes. You can test for doneness by jiggling the dish and if the center appears runny then continue cooking.  Do not overcook as your frittata will continue to cook for a few minutes after it has been removed from the oven.

You can do all these steps the night before right up to the cooking, and keep the frittata in the fridge overnight.  Cooking time may vary if the frittata goes into the oven cold.

Morning Buns

1 ½     cups of milk
1/3      cup of vegetable oil
1/3      cup of sugar

3 1/3   cups of flour
7 gr     yeast (1 package)

½         cup of flour
½         teaspoon baking soda
1/3      teaspoon baking powder
½         teaspoon salt

4          cups sliced bananas
1          cup caramel sauce
1          cup chocolate chips

Warm the milk, oil and sugar until the sugar is disolved and the mixture warm to the touch but not hot.

In a large bowl or stand mixer with a dough hook combine the 3 1/3 cups of flour and yeast and add the warm milk mixture.  Mix until combined.  Let stand for one hour or until doubled in size, covered with a tea towel.

Mix the remaining half cup flour with baking powder, soda and salt and add to the dough mixture.  Knead for 5 minutes until a soft dough comes together.

Mix the bananas, caramel sauce and chocolate chips and set aside.

Roll out the dough to make a rectangle about ½ inch thick.  Spread the banana mixture on top of the rolled dough and then roll the dough up into a log shape.  Slice the log into 1 inch pices and arrange the swirls in a greased 9 x 13 cake pan so they are touching each other.

At this point you can put the pan in the fridge overnight to bake the next morning.  You could also freeze your buns for a couple of weeks and bake from frozen.  Otherwise, put the pan right into a 350 degree pre-heated oven for 40-45 minutes until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.