That special time of year is upon us. The season that brings out the best in most people. The first snowfall elicits a chorus of applause, the children start counting down the days until Christmas with the help of store-bought and handmade advent calendars. People, young and old, get together more often, for cocktail parties and dinners and family events. It’s a time for joy and celebration. And it’s a reason to be thankful for all that we have and everyone important in our lives. We come together for a few times a year but Christmas seems to pull us closer.
Each passing season brings with it new traditions and old memories. Some get replaced and others hold on tight, finding a refuge in our memory banks . For the longest time Christmas meant spending time with my family and a trip to my grandparents on the 24th. We’d spend the day and evening before Christmas enjoying great food and telling stories close to our hearts.
My grandmother would play her old, sometimes-scratched vinyl records on the player that never left its spot in her Christmas room. There her favourite artists would spin on that player through the night. My grandfather would watch movies through the night, or fall asleep with the television playing loud enough for all to hear. I adored him even though he lacked any real appreciation for what the holidays are really about. My mom and I would soak up the environment, which played home to us once per year. Like clockwork. Just the four us. In the home she grew up in.
But things change. Some traditions fall to the wayside and we grow up and begin our own new ones. Over time memories dull and fade away. The strongest ones persist, the others disappear as if never taking place in the first place. We’d wake up early in the morning and eat cinnamon french toast and drink juice and sit back and exchange gifts. At an early age that’s all that seemed to matter. Gifts. But that also slips away as our priorities shift. And life progresses. Looking back my fondest recollections have nothing to do with a single present. The strongest ones are of me holding my grandmother and telling her I loved her. And watching her smile with her big, open-mouth smile.
When I met W at first we showered each other with gifts, especially at Christmas. But we realized soon thereafter that special occasions didn’t necessarily equate to a present. We are blessed to have almost anything we could ask for. And we soon realized that we couldn’t remember the presents gifted us the year before, or the one before that. So we made a decision to do things our own way. Maybe the right way. We stopped exchanging gifts and started appreciating the holidays for all they are, a time to reconnect and reunite. A chance to be grateful for all that we have and all that we had. So we traded the gifts for moments in time. Together.
I’m happy we made that choice years ago. Truth be told, the only present I’ve ever wanted wakes up beside me each Christmas morning. And every other day throughout the year. Say what you want but it’s true. My wife is the better than anything that fits in a box. When it comes to the holidays, she makes it what it is. Tree decorating together, our very own traditions and time spent with our respective families. I couldn’t ask for anything more than that. So when Christmas comes I deeply appreciate the place she holds in my heart. And I’m blessed to have a strong, loving relationship with my mom plus long-lasting memories of my grandparents. The first people that showed me what Christmas was all about.
The holidays also means one other thing. Especially in my house. Lots to drink and even more good eats. And it’s hard to keep certain foods in moderation when we’re pulled one way or the other, lacking time and energy and going from one party to another. So we’re trying to eat with more wholesome ingredients and healthier foods so we can enjoy the indulgence that comes with the season. And this salad is the perfect way to start that. Long before the resolutions force a temporary change.
From my kitchen to yours,
Roasted Golden Beet & Butternut Squash Salad
- 1 bunch of golden beets, scrubbed and greens cut off
- 1/2 a small butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1/2″ cubes
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tbsp. sherry vinegar
- 1 tbsp. agave nectar
- 1 tbsp. avocado oil
- 1 raddichio, cut into quarters, core removed, leaves separated
- 2 cups baby arugula leaves
- 3 figs, sliced into rounds
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
- 1/8 cup greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup goat cheese, to top
- 1/4 pomegranate, seeded, to top
- Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. Place beets in a baking pan and add 1/3″ of water to the pan. Cover with the lid and bake for about 30 minutes or the they are tender. Meanwhile, coat a saute pan with the olive oil and add in your squash. Saute for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Pour into another baking dish and place beside the beets in the centre of the oven. Cook for 20 minutes or until they are tender. Remove and allow to cool.
- In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the sherry vinegar, agave nectar, avocado oil and salt & pepper to taste. With the beets cool, trim the ends and slice thinly. Remove half of the dressing and add in the beets and toss to combine. Mix the squash with the remaining dressing and keep aside.
- Mix the horseradish, yogurt and lemon juice and season.
- Grab four glasses and put spoon some of the horseradish mixture into the bottom of each plate. We are going to layer the salad. Spoon the squash into the bottom of each glass, leaving the dressing behind for the end.. Next take 4-5 raddichio leaves and stack them on top and the fig rounds spread over them. Grab a big pinch of baby arugula and stack on top of the raddichio and crumble the goat cheese on top. Fan out the beet slices on top. Finally, spread some pomegranate seeds over top, drizzle with the remaining dressing and season.
- Serves 4.