It’s that time of year: the calm before the storm.
Thanksgiving is fast approaching, but less than a week from the annual rite of turkey feasting, you get overwhelmed by a mad flurry of exams, research papers and all-nighter induced Red Bull binges. Right after the semester ends and you think relief is in sight, the stress of holidays hits you.
At frantic times like this, it is important to take a step back and breathe. Pour yourself a glass of wine (or cranberry juice) and treat yourself right by gifting yourself these nine treats during the holiday season.
1. Bathe in chocolate
Food can be a great temporary stress-reliever, but let’s face it — it’s also why obesity is so prevalent. For guiltless satisfaction without the calories, find bath products that smell like your favorite treats.
With fragrances like Ginger Snap, Perfect Pumpkin, and the brownie-flavored The Devil Made Me Do It, KleanSpa in Burbank, Calif., sells all kinds of bath products that will pamper your foodie senses while keeping you clean, scrubbed and moisturized in preparation for exams.
2. Stock up your pantry
Never has your grocery store been so cheap. Supermarkets are competing with each other to attract the most customers, and prices are dipping lower than ever.
Here are some basement-priced staples to load up on: turkey (get two: one for Thanksgiving and freeze the other), nuts and seeds (for snacking, baking and brittles), flour, crackers and butter (for everything).
3. Try Crazy Festive Cupcakes
Cupcakes might be so 2000s, but before you leave for the holidays, take home a box of Yummy Cupcakes’ seasonal cupcakes, such as its turkey gravy cupcake with cranberry relish cream cheese frosting.
For a less ambitious offering, try their Candy Cane cupcake with peppermint buttercream and mini candy cane. Or the Spiked Eggnog with brandy eggnog buttercream. Or the Marshmallow Yam.
You get the point. Festive flavors go cupcake-crazy at Yummy Cupcakes, and you don’t want to miss it.
4. Grab Jammies Jams’ Turkey Bacon Jam
Jammies Jams’ turkey bacon jam (www.jammiesjams.com) is another Angeleno souvenir you should be sure to snag. Jam isn’t just for bread and butter, especially when you’ve got such a wonderful, spreadable blend of sweet apple butter and turkey bacon, pecan, bourbon, pimento and spices.
Heat and melt the jam, slather it onto your favorite holiday bird (or even ham) and let the meat roast in the sweet, sticky glaze. If turkey in turkey jam sounds too odd for you, you can also baste thick bacon slices with the condiment to make candied bacon.
Or what about savory thumbprint jam cookies for holiday gifts?
5. Call Foodie 911
Not everyone is born a chef. We can’t all whip out feather-light pavlovas or roll out impromptu gnocchi from leftover mashed potatoes. Most of us just want to eat good food.
But the holidays might require you to play the chef. When you’re up to your elbows cooking for a dinner party that will arrive in an hour, you don’t want to be guessing or making up a last-minute dish when something stumps you in the kitchen.
Instead, log on, text message or tweet the Foodpickle at food52 (www.food52.com/foodpickle) for real-time answers to all questions food-related. If the problem has to do with turkey, call 1-800-BUTTERBALL, or chat them on Facebook and Twitter.
6. Volunteer at the Soup Kitchen
’Tis the season to be merry and unselfish. After all the love, hugs and gifts you’ll be receiving, it will do the universe good to give a little back.
Search for volunteer opportunities at DoSomething.org’s volunteer database or drop by your community’s soup kitchens to find out what they need. Even if the volunteer list is full, there are always opportunities to share some love, so keep your eyes — and heart —open.
7. Shop at Artisanal L.A.
If you missed the first Artisanal L.A. in October, mark down Dec. 11 and 12 for this holiday edition pop-up shop selling all things local.
Not only will you be able to sample and buy all sorts of delicious, creative products made by hand, your holiday gifts would also showcase the talents and pride of Angelenos who sold you their artwork in person.
8. Visit The Grove
The Grove is dangerous, especially during the holidays. When the lights are strung, the fountain gleaming with colorful reflections and everyone around you is lugging holiday-themed shopping bags, you just cannot resist the urge to spend.
Even if you promise to just window-shop, there are lots of things to see, most notably the recently opened Wonderland Bakery, which looks like a fairy-tale house brought to life with its sweet pastel colors and candy decorations.
Lust over its fancy, adorable cupcakes and cookies from a safe distance, but blame it on magic if you come out with a pair of gingerbread men.
9. Go Korean
Ever since the success of Korean taco truck Kogi gained national fame, Korean food is becoming more and more popular. Technomic, a Chicago-based market research firm, has even predicted Korean cuisine to be a 2011 food trend.
Get a head start on the trend by taking advantage of Los Angeles’ Koreatown. Beside the usual Korean tacos and BBQ, try Korean fried chicken, blood sausages, rice cakes, noodles, stews and casseroles.
The holidays are a time to eat well and be happy. Whatever you choose, enjoy it.
Sophia Lee is a sophomore majoring in print and digital journalism. Her column, “That’s What She Ate,” ran Mondays.