Thanksgiving #2

Albany John and I hosted Thanksgiving on Thursday this year. Much more low key than the 18 or so people we had last year. My mom, sister, Sistah, one of Albany John’s fraternity brothers, and one of my mom’s friends.

And just like that, an old dresser becomes a table, and the nook above it becomes a great place for library books and a box wine. The flowers in the vase were the last of the year from my garden. Some stragglers giving me something to be thankful for. A few canterbury bells, and some gai lan that had gone to seed.

Albany John was busy with all of his food preparation that day. I tried to make a few raw dishes for my sister, who’d said she’d eat some cooked stuff, but she’s got a nack for changing her mind and I wanted to make her some stuff to eat, so I became the raw food chef de cuisine.

Speaking of that garden, I pulled the last of the carrots out of the ground, too. Seemed fitting enough for Thanksgiving. I peeled and boiled them, though. Made them just a touch sweeter and just soft enough to lose their crunchiness. My sister ended up eating some veganly cooked veggies, carrots included.

Albany John made this rub for the turkey that was outta this world good. Garlic, last of the parsely from the garden, magic… I don’t know. Something like that. It was a perfectly sized bird for our gang. A 12 lb Murray’s Turkey cooked up in a few hours. Although next time I think Albany John will use the temperature probe you can leave in the turkey next year.

He and Sistah picked at the turkey and probably had a meal of their own before anything was set down.

I made… this… stuff for my sister. It was not terrible, but… um… I don’t know how you could pass up a turkey for this. Or even roasted butternut squash.

So I rented a bunch of books on raw food from the library to try and make my sister something really, really good. Most of the recipes are fairly flexible, so I just soaked some almonds and purred them with some dehydrated sweet potato chips, raw black sesame seeds, some carrot, some basil, onion… it was a real mish-mash of nuts, seeds, and while certainly edible, it wasn’t something that I’d ever have a desire to eat again. My sister really seemed to like it, though.

I’ll at least give it props for its flexibility. It doubled as a tabbouli-textured dip when wrung out, and became dehydrated patties, too.

I was all “Bye, raw food! Have a good Thanksgiving!” when I popped these babies out of the oven. Buns made with butter and milk. And slathered with butter on top. Some folks have an achilles heel, I’ve got a gluten heel.

And another raw food staple, zucchini noodles with raw “cheeze”. The raw cheeze was easy enough to make. Soaked cashews with some salt and a clove of garlic. Meh, it was okay for an every day meal, but I wish I could have made something more substantially impressive.

More food laid out! Raw side of the table on the right – spinach salad with some sprouts Albany John made, and then deliciously roasted turkey, sausage stuffing, roasted butternut squash, and mashed potatoes.

But the best part of dinner was the TEAPOT OF GRAVY. We couldn’t find a gravyboat (assuming we even have one), but Sistah and Albany John came up with this dynamite idea of using a small teapot to serve gravy out of. NEW FAMILY TRADITION, RIGHT HERE!

I must be getting old – I could only manage one plate. But I had to make room for the stuffing, so I scarfed the salad down quickly.

We had some pie, and then my mom made Sistah one of her measured drinks, which are basically flammable. In addition to bringing over some kick-ass mashed potatoes, my mom also brought about three bottles of wine, and a… cube of vodka for the festivities. Thus making it the year my mom tried to kill Sistah with a drink that separated after 20 minutes. I’m guessing she was also trying to kill the rest of us, but hey, now we’ve got a bunch of wine left, which is never really that much of a problem.
Sistah made this really good apple pie that tasted like there was caramel, but there was none in it. I don’t know. Magic, I’m guessing. I loved that she did dessert, though – totally let me off the hook for that one!

And then there was chocolate-banana sugar-free chia pudding soaked in pecan milk. Not baaaad, per se, but… y’know. Would have been awesome with a caramel drizzle and sugar. My sister seemed pretty psyched, so I’ll have to hear how it went over. This is something I’ll play with and eat. Likely so it’s neither raw or vegan, but still, good.

So how was your Thanksgiving, guys? I’m most thankful for the fact that my sister and I didn’t come to words and start throwing food at each other over our respective fooding habits.


Guess who’s got two thumbs and likes turkey? THIS GAL!

Albany John and I headed over to Amherst this weekend to do early Thanksgiving with his side of the family. Which meant about three uninterrupted days of bliss and delicious food.

Manhattan Maka, CVS, Albany John and I ventured into town to get pizza from Antonio’s (31 N Pleasant St, Amherst, MA), where the boys had been getting pizza from since they were kids. Their strong suit is doing whatever it is you tell them to… When Albany John called in his order, he was on the phone for longer than I’ve ever seen because they kept asking him to specify stuff. And I think all of their topping pizzas come with two toppings? We ordered a BBQ chicken pizza and they kept asking for another topping and further specifications. And thankfully Mama Amherst chimed in with “extra cheese!” ’cause what can go wrong with extra cheese?

Hah, Albany John – that means you really are a New Yorker ’cause you’re used to saying “I want XYZ pizza” and that is the end of the conversation. They make you XYZ pizza.

It was definitely not a New York style pie. And there could have been a lot more BBQ sauce and more time to cook and crisp up the crust. But overall, it was not that bad. It was pizza, and cheap, too! Only about $15 for a pie with two toppings and a generous amount of chicken.

The next morning we went to Atkins Farms (1150 West Street, Amherst, MA), where you can eat cupcakes with puppy and kitten faces on them, or weird gooby alien face cupcakes.

Fresh seafood counter.

And FREE ICE CREAM!! One of the ice creameries was giving away gigantic ‘samples’ of ice cream cones. I got pumpkin, and Albany John got… something else. I think egg nog. They also had apple pie and vanilla. The pumpkin was awesome.

We went for a walk on one of Amherst’s many trails and pathways, so this ice cream was a totally necessary energy boost.

We came back home and Manhattan Maka and I put together an appetizer plate. I picked up some olives, tarmasalata, and sopressata from Roma’s in Latham before heading out. And smoked mozzarella from the co-op. Yummy.

And it begins. Turkey carving!

Albany John and I may or may not have run around the house taking nibbles of things cooling off. Stuffing, I’MMA EAT YOU! This stuffing was so good. Some nuts, tasty bread, sausage. I’d never really eaten stuffing before meeting these Amherstians, and now I can’t keep away from it.

Camera-ninja peeping skills still leave a bit to be desired. But check out those buns and asparagusssesss!
Dinner table’s set! And everything came out at the same time! Woo woo! There was a really tasty Menage a Trois red wine – really fruity and good.

Man, we must all be getting old – we could only manage one plate of food. But it was so tasty and good. This is a pre-gravy-slathering shot, but just imagine this covered in the best-tasting brown sauce ever, and you get the picture.

Mashed potatoes, crisply roasted brussels sprouts, perfectly moist turkey, lightly roasted asparagus, and insanely good stuffing. And rolls. And all kinds of cranberry sauce and relish. An Amherst Thanksgiving is the best kind of Thanksgiving (especially when it comes early).

Dessert! Ginger ice cream from Flayvors (evidently they have enough butterfat content to make Haagen Das blush, but that’s all they’ll say), lemon pie, and apple pie! My stomach opened up enough to have room for all of the above.
The next morning Albany John made a sandwich of epic proportions. It was really tasty, too.

We slowly made our way out and made our first stop at Maple Farm Foods (10 South Maple Street, Hadley, MA). It’s expanded from a mostly European grocery store to include a little bit of everything. But still a heavy Euro influence. Like this refrigerated wall of cured meats. Albany John loves the pate (the blur is his hand holding one and talking excitedly) and picked up two of them.

I love how many Mass native produce items they sell in many of the stores in the area, Maple Farm included. They had carrots for $0.99/2 lb bags! I had to pick some up.
There’s a deli section, and there were golumpki’s bigger than both of Albany John’s fists! They were like mini nerf-footballs. Gigantic golumpkis!

We made Trader Joe’s our final stop before heading out, which was something of a mistake. Sunday before Thanksgiving is NOT the time to go there. It was a mob scene, albeit a polite New England mob scene. The lines were back through the aisles, and the aisles were really hard to move through, especially when people with carts would just leave them in the middle or side of places.

I picked up a wedge of my beloved Belletoile brie and some tempeh bricks and was like “I NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE!”. I managed to get in a shorter line… with one of the slowest people ever behind the register. Despite the fact that the entire store was packed with people, half of which wanted to check out, this cashier was leisurely checking everyone out. Keying in two items when it would have been faster to just scan them both, seemingly oblivious to the crowd around her. Most of the folks in my line didn’t have that much, which offered the false glimmer of hope that we would be out quickly, but the people in the line next to us that had cartful after cartful of items were out the door quicker than we were. About 10 painful minutes of three people with small hand carts of food later, and we were out.

The drive home was fairly uneventful, except for the fact that my car is starting to get old and lose the awesome control it used to have (just a little extra play in the wheel every now and again, nothing serious). Albany John and I kept drooling over the stuffing Papa Amherst made, so he requested I make some bread for our own Thanksgiving so he could try to replicate it.

I made a soft loaf of white and whole wheat, and had a bit of dough left to make rolls from. Also made some egg noodles with tomatoes and onions and couldn’t help but cut off a hunk of brie to eat with the roll. Good way to end the night.

AoA Lunch @ Nipper’s Hot Dogs

All Over Albany has been hosting lunch week, wherin they feature snippets surrounding mid day munching. The ususal suspects have written some great articles, and AoA has also featured some scoundrels and riff-raff.

Today had the bright and sunny bonus of featuring the sun an honest to goodness lunch place: Nipper’s Hot Dogs was selling 2 Chicago-style hot dogs for $2.00 (singles for $1.25)!

I love you, Nipperlicious two for two dollars hot dog seller, Bob!

These dogs normally retail over $1.25 each, and are all beef, which means they lack the delicious confines of a snappy pork intestine. They are still quite a tasty dog. Like a more flavorful and less salty Hebrew National, and larger too.

CONDIMENT BAR!! The Profussor is modeling how to correctly build a Chicago-Style dog. There are little sport pepeprs, pickles, sweet onion, sweet relish, and tomatoes to pop on from the covered goods, and ketchup, mustard, and celery salt as well.
The good Mr. Fussy and I were planning on going out for lunch any way, but when news broke of the AoA special going on we both simultaneously messaged each other asking to change plans.
Mine looked like this: “HOT DOGS FOR $2!!! I think we need to change it up. TWO DOLLARS, YESSSSSSS!”

I did not follow any such algorithm and loaded up on the onions and relish. I don’t know if I could ever get enough onions on a hot dog.

I like how they hang over the edge a little bit, too. Kind of like the hot dogs’ feet are hanging out of the ends of their bun beds. BEFORE I KILL THEM AND EAT THEM WITH MY MOUTH.

Mary and a baby with something adorably whap-able. Man, you would not believe how many hot dogs a baby can eat. As long as you give it to them, they’ll just keep on downing them. I stopped counting at sixteen.

Some other seedy folks showed up to have hot dogs, too. Man, talk about skeeetchyyyy.

I didn’t spill too much food over myself, as the Profussor and I were getting in the car (we were being green [okay, he was cool and gave me a ride and I was too lazy to drive]) he asked:
“Hey, do you have time to go to Crisan?”

YES!! I was just about to ask if YOU wanted to go!” I replied/shouted while dancing in the seat.

Hello Crisan Bakery pastry case! Since I’m on a pistachio kick, I felt it was my duty to get the Georgette ($2.60), which was described as Layers of Pistachio & White Chocolate Meringue Cake, Coffee Butter Cream.

I also really wanted one of those White Truffles ($1.75) sitting to the right of the Georgette, as well as the Empress Elena ($4.50), Pina Colada cake ($3.25) and Vanilla Squares ($2.80) sitting on the shelf above. Tough decisions, I know.

I restrained myself in only getting the Georgette, because I also wanted gelato, too. Heavy is the crown I wear, I know, I know.

They also had FRESHLY MADE PISTACHIO!!! Like, two-minutes-out-of-the-gelato-maker fresh!

But there was also honey. Oh, tough call. I’ve been experiencing the start of a cold, so I also thought honey might be a good cold rememdy. You know, healthy gelato for its curative properties. I tried a sample of them both, and they were so good. So good. So hard to choose one.
I went with a scoop of honey ($2.00, pints $7.50), but the pistachio was also good.

Do you see how twee and adorable the utensils are?! They’re like little fairy knives and forks. I usually get take out. I’m eating in next time! So cute!

I liked the cake – firm/dry cake layers, and buttery butter cream layers. Plus some complimentary pistacho flavors, too. I’d get this again. And again, and again. Rich, creamy, buttery. A great little dessert that went really well with honey gelato.

This was straight out of the pastry fridge and cold, which meant the butter cream layers were hard. I think it would have been better if I’d lounged around a bit more and had time to let it get up to room temperature. But it’s a pastry and when they are in front of me, do you think I’m going to not begin consuming immediately? Hahahaha, no. No, I am eating as soon as possible.

Biscuits – the fluffy and delicious kind, plus dinner

For a baking enthusiast, I have had a pretty bad track record with biscuits. They seem simple enough, and lord knows I love a fatty carbohydrate.

Biscuits usually don’t like me. Sometimes they’d turn out ok, but a little flat. Other times, they were closer to hardtack. Pleh, pleh, not good at all.

Albany John’s dad makes some killer biscuits. There was also a kid I dated in high school – his dad also made amazing biscuits. I have never been able to get near these biscuits, and I have to admit – my biscuits usually came out of a can, popped, and then put in the oven. Even then, the bottoms always burned and sent an acrid smell through the house.

So you’d think I’d have given up by now.

Nope, biscuits are still attempted. Albany John prompted the most recent attempt, with a simple ‘Hey, I’d like some biscuits when I get back,’ as he walked out the door.

It was a simple enough request, and he’d said it so casually. I had to give it another shot, so I googled around and found a blog: Small Time Cooks with awesome pictures.

I stuck some butter in the freezer and read over the recipe.

Wait, hold up. Butter? In the freezer?
Yep, butter in the freezer. Cooks Illustrated gave it as a tip a while back for making fluffy biscuits. It’s easy to shred in your grater. Ok, that sounds weird too, but trust me. The shredding thing keeps your butter colder, and keeps them tiny – so you don’t have to work the dough as much and don’t release as much gluten. I used to have to mix the crap out of my dough, but this really works well and helps with the flaky layers.

I halved the recipe, put the barely assembled mix on the counter and folded it a few times until it all stuck together. Then I took my Slyboro Farms (empty) wine bottle and rolled out the dough to get it thin. I’ve been meaning to buy a new rolling pin, but in a pinch, there’s usually something cylindrical in the kitchen. This also probably tells you I haven’t been baking bread all that often either!

I crossed my fingers and stuck the biscuits in the oven. In my excitement (and poor reading comp skeelz) I didn’t melt butter to put on top of them. But I don’t think it matters – they came out $13 minutes later perfectly browned and puffed up.

LAYERS!!! Layers of flaky biscuits and I made them! Hahahahahah!

Albany John had just walked in the door when I popped a piece in his mouth. OMG, yes, he loved it.

But it didn’t end there. Oh, no, that’s where normal people would stop.

We cooked up some trout in a pan. I really like my fish prepared minimally, which often annoys Albany John. He keeps trying to convince me lemon pepper would be good on fish. We just stuck a pan on high heat, added a touch of olive oil and put the fillet in skin side down until the sides on the thicker part started to become more solid and less opaque. Once the fish sides turn opaque, flip it and it is almost done.

Albany John made an awesome spinach salad. I think he used fresh spinach, hazelnuts, dried cranberries, raw turnip and mustard with some kind of olive oil-vinegar dressing.

And then…

I put goat cheese and honey on the biscuits. I’m pretty sure I had about 6 of them they were so good.