Don’t panic, but Christmas is exactly two weeks away.
We’re barely over Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, and now Christmas is nearly upon us.
Even so, I do feel good about a few things, like I got my European packages in the mail, hopefully in time for Christmas, which included son Joe’s request for a couple of boxes of Snow’s Cake Flour, not found in the Czech Republic, which I always hope Czech customs agents won’t think is some kind of a drug shipment.
And I’ve made my annual English toffee, which I put on tins on my garbage cans as thank-you gifts for the city workers who pick up my trash each week.
And sister Shelly and I hosted our annual gingerbread house party, where Austin hogged all the plastic trees (great-grandson of a forester) and tried to create a car port on his house, just like his daddy’s.
There’s time to leave a treat in the driveway for the newspaper carrier and near my mailbox for the woman who delivers my mail.
But I still need to strain and bottle my apricot brandy, and I’m expected to cook up something good for holiday parties, and I still need to make my annual challah.
OK, I changed my mind. Panic.
I looked at the Tops ads this week and was interested in a couple of things. First, were the bargains, like 10 avocados for $6, and chicken thighs for 98 cents a pound, and a 3-pound bag of Fuji apples, $3.69.
Second, like Thanksgiving, Tops offers prepared dinners for Christmas, too, but instead of just of turkey, you have the choice of prime rib of beef, or glazed ham, with all the side dishes.
Plus, I’ve fallen in love with Tops’ Thursday specials in the deli, fully-cooked chickens, $5 each, or a rack of perfectly cooked baby back ribs for $10.
In keeping with my local foods focus for my holiday baskets, I’ll shop at Tops Market in Redding (formerly Sunset) for bags of Ancient Fire Coffee, roasted here in Redding by Blake Dorsey.
And Tops continues to host its wine-tastings in both Redding at Weaverville. This month’s tastings are Dec. 13 and 20.
If you need to whip up a quick holiday food treat, I suggest my English Toffee recipe. A couple of tips, though: 1. Get a reliable candy thermometer. 2. Don’t rush it … cook at medium heat or the butter will not incorporate into the brown sugar, 3. Lay out everything you need so you’re not wasting time opening bags of chocolate chips or nuts as the toffee cools. 4. Use a heavy pot … NOT a non-stick variety. 5. DO NOT LICK THE SPOON. Super hot. Other than that, it’s easy.
Doni’s English Toffee1/2 cup butter 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or milk chocolate or even white chocolate) 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
In a large pot, stirring continuously, cook butter and brown sugar over medium heat until the candy thermometer reaches 290 degrees.
Remove from heat and spread the mixture onto a heavy, buttered cookie sheet (Or a slab of cold marble).
Sprinkle chocolate pieces on top of the hot toffee. Let stand 1 to 2 minutes, to allow chocolate to melt.
Use a knife or spatula to spread the melted chocolate over the toffee. Sprinkle nuts on top. Let sit in a cool place to harden.
Use a heavy knife to cut into pieces. Makes about 1 pound.
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.