Christmas is time for extravagant meals, festive desserts, dressing up in your holiday best and sharing with those you love. No matter if you're staying close to home or heading out of town, it's nice to think local for holiday shopping.
Every family has it's own traditions for the centerpiece of their Christmas dinner. In my grandparents house, it was always a juicy pork roast. In my husband's family, they always serve a honeyed ham.
For a spectacular finish for that special meal, think beyond cookie trays and fruit cakes.
Walla Walla Bread Company makes a stunning Buche de Noel, a classic French yule log. Complete with forest "mushrooms" and decadent frosting, this dessert will wow your guests, impress your host and finish off that special meal with something memorable. Michael Kline, owner of WWBC, also will make other holiday desserts, including handmade candy canes.
Still gift shopping? For out-of-town friends and family, consider a Made in Walla Walla Holiday Box. Many people nowadays want experience gifts or something consumable rather than something that will take up space on a shelf and gather dust. Spread some Walla Walla love with a holiday box full of handmade local goodies, such as Midnight Oil Soap, Octopus Garden honey, Detour Farm biscotti, spiced nuts by local chefs, handmade cards, soy candles and a handcrafted wooden bottle stopper. Put together by the Daily Market Co-op and priced at $30 each, these boxes are available at Blue Valley Meats and the Whitman Bookstore.
For the aspiring chef or avid foodie on your list, check out Providence Fine Living. It stocks a wonderful assortment of high quality kitchen supplies and the owner is also a lot of fun to chat with. I'm heading there to pick up something for my hard-to-please father-in-law.
For those holiday parties and Christmas dinners you don't have to cook for, it's always nice to bring a gift for the host to show your appreciation for their hard work. Bottles of wine are a standard, welcome gift, or go for something different and show up with a thankful growler of locally made beer from Laht Neppur. With an assortment of delicious brews, such as Neddy's Nut Brown, Mike's Golden Ale, Oatmeal Porter, Peach Hefeweizen, or seasonal Waitsburg Winter Warmer, you can't go wrong.
After the holiday rush, and you have a little extra time on your hands, consider taking a food adventure to explore a cuisine. Asia Oriental Store is a tiny shop at 1922 E. Isaacs Ave. in Walla Walla. It carries many Asian food staples, more than you can find anywhere else in town. If you're familiar with different Asian cuisines, it's a fun place to browse and stock up on noodles, seaweed, miso and condiments. If you're new, it makes for an interesting foreign experience.
Just this last weekend, on our way home with our freshly cut Christmas tree tied to our roof, we stopped in for Japanese udon soup ingredients. With this freezing weather, a nice hot bowl of nourishing noodle soup is just the answer.
No matter where you go or what you plan this holiday season, remember shopping locally makes a difference and helps support local businesses and the friends and neighbors they employ. Modest changes in consumer spending habits can generate substantial local economic impact. I'd much rather spend an extra couple dollars, knowing my money goes directly to a fellow community member than going to nationally-owned chain store. The product seems to taste better and I feel the satisfaction knowing I contributed to the success of my neighbor doing something he or she loves.
Wishing you and yours a festive delicious holiday!
Melissa Davis, a local chef with a bachelor's degree in nutrition, specializes in natural foods. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. More of her writing is at www.melissadavisfood.wordpress.com.
The vegetables are up to you - but keep them thinly sliced so they cook quickly. Zucchini, small broccoli florets, cabbage and even frozen corn and peas are great. Fresh shitake or white button mushrooms work nicely as well.
If you are using a different kind of miso other than shiro miso (white miso) lessen the amount by a couple teaspoons. Shiro miso is the least salty and intense of all miso.
- 1 12-ounce package udon noodles
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots
- 1/2 cup snow peas, sliced on the diagonal
- 1/2 cup fresh mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons white miso (shiro miso)
- 1/2 cup green onions
Cook the udon noodles according to the package directions, drain and set aside.
In a large saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. Lower the heat to medium, add carrots and cook until crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the snow peas and cook until slightly tender but still bright green, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms, cook for 30 seconds and remove from the heat.
Spoon the miso in a medium bowl and add a ladleful of hot broth. Whisk until the miso is dissolved, then pour mixture into the pot with the soup. Do not boil the soup with the miso, as the miso will become gritty. Stir in the noodles and the green onions and enjoy!