If “Variety is the spice of life” – then this season ought to be your favorite for sure!  I have always loved the month of December, because of the immense variety of smells that I invariably stumble upon.  Whether it is walking around my neighborhood or around different streets lined with stores, bakeries and restaurants the smells of the season always make me smile.  I know that someone is taking the time to prepare a dish, either for their loved ones or with complete strangers who will quickly become friends. It’s the simple act of gathering to share a meal, a snack or a sweet treat that I enjoy so much this time of year.

Cooking and baking have been a part of my life since I was a child.  I always loved when my Nana would make her “famous” oatmeal raisin cookies.  She always told me it was her secret recipe – that I later found out was the recipe on the Quaker Oats container – but it didn’t matter.  She loved to make them, and always made them with love and a smile.  She doesn’t bake anymore, at the ripe young age of 97, but whenever I smell someone making oatmeal raisin cookies – it takes me back to her kitchen, and such wonderful memories.

This holiday season we are so fortunate to have so many people in our community stepping up to host food drives to ensure that everyone has healthy and nutritious food to prepare to celebrate the holidays with their loved ones.  One type of ingredient that we often don’t receive much of are spices: Salt, pepper, paprika, oregano, garlic, cumin, turmeric, nutmeg, cinnamon – and way too many more to list here, are often called for in recipes.  Even more basic ingredients such as oil, flour, sugar, brown sugar are staples that we do not see come through our doors.

So this holiday season, whether you are collecting food as an organization, or just want to make a difference in the lives of others and are left wondering, “what should I donate”?  look no further than what you have prepared for your own families over the past week, or perhaps what you plan to serve soon. Aside from the main components take a look at the list of all ingredients needed to make that dish.  These are the items that can help make a meal “pop” and really make everything just a pinch better.

I have been baking with my daughter since she was three, and I love watching her eyes light up as we create something memorable to enjoy with friends and family.  While we always try to follow the recipes, we also like to make up our own!  We also make sure that every recipe we make includes the “secret ingredient” I learned from Nana– love.

From all of us, to all of you – we wish you all a healthy and variety-filled holiday season surrounded by amazing recipes, lasting memories and a whole lot of love!

Season-ings greetings -from the St Louis Area Foodbank Family to yours!