Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Best Gifts Are Made With Love

Submitted by Michelle
Christmas is here and we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief. I don't know about you, but for me, no matter how well intentioned I am, I find myself having something to purchase or wrap until the very last second. And while I love giving presents, gift giving can often stress me out as I search to find exactly the right thing for friends and family. Over the years I have scaled back and tried to have the courage to live within my means rather than shopping with reckless abandon all in the name good will and cheer. The less is more concept, so to speak.

This year I've found myself feeling a little melancholy over the Christmas holiday. Perhaps it is because my family is spread out and I miss being with all of them. Maybe the commercialization of Christmas bums me out. I'm really not sure what it is, but rather than being a Grinch I decided to embrace an idea from Buddy the Elf (a.k.a. Will Ferrell.) Buddy says "the best way to spread Christmas cheer is by singing loud for all to hear." Now my singing voice is fairly tolerable and while I do enjoy being musical, I thought an even better way to spread Christmas cheer would be by getting in the kitchen and cooking up food for a friend who was traveling on Christmas Eve with her husband and 2 small children.

I knew I wanted to keep the food on the vegetarian side so that it wouldn't need to be refrigerated. For the main course I baked up a Winter Squash Tart using butternut squash, leeks, thyme and Gruyere cheese.
I wanted a green salad component but knew that lettuce would not do well so I created a veggie salad consisting of roasted yellow beets, roasted red bell pepper, green beans and kalamata olives. I sprinkled it with fresh chopped Italian parsley and dressed it with olive oil, a teeny splash of white wine vinegar, salt and pepper.
For dessert I included some of my homemade rugelach and chocolate bark in cute boxes that I picked up at The Container Store.
I also made pita chips to add a crunchy element and threw in a bag of honey roasted almonds just to be sure there were enough snacks to get them to their destination.
Everything fit nicely in a reusable tote bag and I even had a few extra Hershey Bar reindeer to include for the kids.
I delivered my bag of food to my friend Analisa at her clothing store in Old Town La Quinta, where she was working on Christmas Eve day. She was so appreciative of the present and I felt good knowing I was keeping up with the Front Row Friends motto of spreading joy and sunshine or in this case, Christmas cheer. Analisa's husband gave me the best compliment I could ask for saying, "This food must have been made with a lot of love." Sometimes, the best remedy for feeling a little blue can be doing something nice for someone else. I know it worked for me.

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