Anyone who’s known me for more than a few minutes knows how much I adore cooking.
Even so, sometimes, even for people like me, who embrace cooking as pure joy and even therapy, not a chore, there are times when, well, there’s just not time or energy to cook.
So it was that long ago and far away there was a time I was between marriages and earning my journalism degree at CSU, Chico. I was stressed to the max, making the daily drive between Redding and Chico, praying that I wouldn’t fall asleep on the way home and get into a crash, because on my week with my school-age kids (then 13, 10 and 7 ), they were home alone, waiting for me.
When the guilt washes over me for leaving them to fend for themselves in those after-school afternoon hours, I tell myself that those years helped develop my kids’ love of cooking, because many times I’d arrive home to a find a meal prepared by my children as a surprise, so I didn’t have to cook that night.
Grateful as I was, this pushed all kinds of buttons for me, mainly the one that said that a “good” mother cooks for and feeds her kids. And if you cook no other time, you sure as heck better cook the major holiday meals.
One year, it just wasn’t possible. So I “cheated” and bought a boxed ready-made turkey dinner that contained the basics: turkey, gravy, rolls, dressing and a pie.
I transferred the hot food from their foil containers to real platters and bowls. I set the table for Thanksgiving, and served my kids their first pre-made holiday dinner, feeling like a maternal failure.
You know what I’m going to say, right? The kids loved it. In fact, one of them said it was the best Thanksgiving meal I’d ever made.
I had to laugh. All that worry and guilt for nothing.
This Thanksgiving I’ll be in the kitchen, happily cooking. Because I have the time and inclination. And we’re ordering a Diestel all-natural turkey from Tops for our dinner.
But if I weren’t in a cooking frame of mind, I’d take advantage of Tops Markets’ from-scratch Thanksgiving dinners, prepared in Tops deli at both the Weaverville and Redding locations.
Speaking of Tops, before I list each dinner’s contents, did you know that every Thursday Tops sells rotisserie chickens, two for $10? And Thanksgiving is on Thursday … so, if all else fails one might buy a couple of those chickens and present them as mini turkeys. After all, they’re both roasted poultry, so the swap out would make sense.
But I digress. Back to the ready-made Tops holiday meals. Each family-sized dinner serves eight to 10 people, and costs $89. The dinner includes:An oven-roasted tom turkey (15 – 17 pounds) Turkey gravy Cranberry sauce Savory herb dressing Buttermilk mashed potatoes Green bean casserole Old-fashioned candied yams topped with toasted pecans 1 dozen butter and egg dinner rolls 1 9-inch pumpkin pie
That pretty much covers the traditional meal, doesn’t it? So what shall I share for this week’s recipe? You could make my favorite spiced cranberries, but that would be redundant, because Tops’ Thanksgiving dinner has cranberries.
So this week’s recipe won’t be about Thanksgiving dinner. But how about Thanksgiving breakfast, a highly bypassed meal on Thanksgiving, because so many people hit the kitchen running and forget to eat. You already have my Sour Cream Coffee Cake recipe. How about Dutch Babies, those high and puffy baked pancakes that rise like a huge bowl-shaped from just a puddle of batter.
The beauty of Dutch Babies is you can top them with sweet or savory fillings. Go with sweet and you can fill them with fruit and even a dollop of whipped cream. Go savory and you can sprinkle them with cheese and vegetables.
Either way, as my mother often said, eat a better breakfast, feel better all day. You want to keep your strength up to either cook, or for the drive to pick up your Thanksgiving turkey, or even the whole meal. Either way, it will be delicious. And you’ll feel thankful.
To order ready-made holiday dinners in the Weaverville area, call (530) 623-2494. To place an order for the Redding area, call (530) 241-1391.
Dutch Babies3 eggs 1/2 cup flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup milk 2 tablespoons melted butter , plus more for buttering pan(s)
Whisk the eggs until blended. Sift the flour and salt and add to the eggs in 4 additions, beating just until smooth after each addition. Add milk in 2 additions, beating slightly each time.
Lightly beat in melted butter.
Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9 or 10-inch oven-proof frying pan or 2 or 3 individual pans.
Pour batter in pan(s) and bake in a 450-degree oven for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 10 minutes or more. Slip onto heated platter. Serve immediately.
Topping options: fresh fruit, syrup, powdered sugar, jam, lemon, melted butter, cinnamon.
Serves 2 or 3.
This recipe sponsored by Tops Market in Weaverville and Redding.
Click here to order a sandwich online from the Weaverville Tops Market.
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.