Christmas 2013


Merry Christmas! I feel like I’m finally recovering from the holidays and getting back into the swing of things. Albany John and I decorated the house with the few lights we had and my trusty pinky purple mini Christmas tree. I put the cat in a Christmas sweater. My belated cat Lex used to wear it, but The Bean seems to enjoy it as well. Christmas and holidays in general have a way of bringing up memories.

This Christmas I thought about my life, and how people come (and go). People currently in my life, people who used to be in my life. Ways to try and keep people in my life, ways to better communicate with the people in my life.
We went sparse with the lights because just before Christmas we had the window to the right replaced (post to follow on the company I used to replace the window, etc., but I want to give the window time to wear for a few months before posting a conclusive experience) so we didn’t put up too many decorations this year. (Well, that’s the excuse for this year)


She enjoys a nice little dress-up. Merry Christmas everyone.


For Christmas, Albany John and I got to host Xmas eve dinner. Daniel B. gave us this turkey from his freezer before he left for NJ, and Xmas seemed like an appropriate time to break it out.


Herby butter stuffed everywhere underneath the skin. I was fighting off a cold at the time and feeling pretty icky, so Albany John did the majority of the food handling to keep everyone else healthy.


Guess what lasts forever? Apples. These are apples from my tree. Still good from the fridge. We tossed some of these small guys in the cavity of the turkey to add some more flavor.


I was super paranoid about making a mess in the oven, so I bought those Reynolds oven bags. This bird was close to 20 lbs, and didn’t leave much room in the bag. The convection oven cooked it evenly, really digging that setting. There was still some mess on the walls of the oven and the oven floor, but Albany John was sweet to me and cleaned it up even though I made the mess.


Albany John made pumpkin pie, too! Yummy!


Pumpkin pie and whipped cream – what could be better?

Oh yes, so for dinner my mom came over and Albany John’s folks came from Amherst. And since we have a house with multiple bedrooms, they stayed over! Hooray! And they brought…


Miss Lulu! She was so excited to have a present of her own on Christmas morning.


Sadly, I did not share as much enthusiasm as my random cold ick morphed into stomach bug megatron 5000 and had me within 5 feet of a bathroom at all times. I even napped. Stomach bugs are the worst. I can take sore throats, earaches, headaches, and fevers, but nausea and dizziness put me completely out of what. I even napped. I was out of kaput for a few days. Rough stuff.

Our cousin in DC sent us some goodies from the DC area. So many nice treats from family and friends. I felt kind of blah humbuggy about gifts this year. I just really wanted to see people. Presents I kind of fell flat on buying.


I am so bad at remembering to take pictures of these things. Albany John cheffed it up like crazy this weekend. We had the FUSSYlittleFAMILY over, another one of my fave chosen couples, and Artsy Designer Friend.

The picture looks like a hot mess, but the food was banging:
Spinach dip
kosher mashed potatoes shaped like a pancake
pork & beans

smoked dark meat turkey
roasted turkey breast
veggie stir fry
sweet potato slices with onions, honey, and butter (nom)
spinach salad
lemon-soaked onions
roasted carrots & onions

Nom! So good. And Daniel B. brought over an orb of Burrata. Mmmmm.
I made raspberry macarons with vanilla buttercream. So tasty. Maybe I’ll do another post proper on them, but short and dirty: Add 20-25g of freeze fried raspberries to your blender with the 200g of powdered sugar & 110g almond flour. Pulse until the dry stuff is pink-hued.

Thanksgiving – Cooked and Raw Food style

Happy Thanksgiving! This year I am thankful for many things. 18 years with the best furry Party Cat ever, is one of them. Were he still with us, he’d have been on that plate of turkey in no time. Glaring and chomping away.

As it was, we settled on a new tradition of dog fights and blood drawing (oddly enough not between any family members, and more the result of two big doggie ‘tudes in one small kitchen). This was joined with family traditions of yore, like my mom hosting Thanksgiving.

It’s been a heck of a year for the lass, and when she offered to host, we all happily accepted. My good in-laws also trekked over from Amherst for the holiday.
Ready. Set. Eat. My mom even made cranberry sauce from scratch – quite a step out in her culinary repertoire, and tasty, too. My sister’s raw feast can be seen in the background. She also ate some cooked vegan foods as well, which was quite nice for the family. No quibbling or teasing, everyone enjoying company of some sort.

Albany John brought some gluten-free bread (with dates, nuts, cranberries, and raisins). I helped him make dressing/stuffing (which means I prepped everything and made him do the assembly/seasoning).
The pooches post-fighting. Water under the bridge. Must be nice to have the memory of a dog, right? Funny part of the night – the little one ate more than the big one.
Dessert time! My sister made a raw apple pie (coz she ate the raw pie I made) on the left. I made the pumpkin swirl cheesecake at center, and Mama and Papa Amherst brought ice cream from Flayvors (Inez and Pumpkin, yum!).

Pumpkin cheesecake was stupid easy to make. Take some regular cheesecake batter, and mix it with pumpkin pulp. Then swirl in. Done! My cheesecake had three cracks, though. I was quite pouty. No perfect cheesecake for me. :/

Here is the raw pie I made that my sister ate. I only brought 3/4 of it. I had to sample it earlier, to make sure it was worthy of bringing. And then I had to sample a slice to my sister as well, to make sure it was truly acceptable to the person who most enjoys raw food. I mean, if it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have made it in the first place, you know? I wouldn’t bring it if she thought it sucked.

What’s it made of?

Coconut cashew cream with pecans and cranberries, TYVM. On a sunflower seed chocolate crust.

Here’s what I like most about raw foods. You can pretty much wing it. No baking times means that many ingredients are flexible. A lot of raw crusts call for almonds, pecans, cashews, or other expensive nuts. I soaked sunflower seeds for the majority of this crust. Way more economical, and you can’t really tell it apart from any other soaked nut.

Chocolate Sunflower Crust Recipe:
1/4-1/3 C virgin coconut oil, melted (dehydrator, your hot little hands, hot oven, etc)
1 C sunflower seeds, soaked until soft (30-60 mins in hot water) then ground/minced
1/4 C cocoa powder
2 T liquid sweetener (I used maple syrup. I know it’s not really raw, but it’s what I had at home. Go for agave syrup if you’re gonna have a fit about it)
1/4 -1/3 C almond meal
Mix it all up, then press in a pan.

I liked lining my pan with plastic wrap. Made it easy to spread and take out to serve later.

Step two: filling. Coconut cashew cream. This is just plain awesome. You don’t need to like raw food to like this. I had a ton of filling left over, and boy did I enjoy each and every spoonful.

Coconut Cashew Cream Recipe
1 C cashews, soaked ~2 hours
1/2 of a fresh (dried) coconut. The brown kind of coconut that you have to crack.
1/4-1/2 C liquid sweetener
1/2 of liquid from coconut (as needed to blend)
1/2 C coconut oil

Blend together until it has a paste/pudding consistency. I put this in an electric blender for several minutes until it was smooth.
Then add in some chopped cranberries and pecans. You can add as many cranberries as you like. The richness from the coconut cashew cream will balance out the tartness. Go for about 1/4 -1/3 C to start.
All mixed together.
Then you just plop and freeze it all together. You can take it out of the freezer an hour or two before you want to serve it, or just serve it frozen. This holds up surprisingly well (when I brought a slice to my sister before Turkey Day, it kicked around in a tupperware in my car for a few hours with no ill effects or mis-shaping).

I wouldn’t say this is an extremely rich pie. If you’re used to cooked food, this is probably a fine and dandy pie on its own to you. If you’re trying to eat foods that are a little less refined, you will also like this pie. If you like creamy tasty fillings, oh holy moly, you will freaking LURVE this pie.

I’m most thankful my sister was chill about me using maple syrup in the pie and not freaking out about it being a form of sugar and not being raw. And she sneakily ate the remaining 3/4 of it on Thanksgiving while cooking, and sheepishly admitted to it while we were serving up dessert and I was like “Hey, where’d the rest of mah pie go?!” . Now I’m starting to believe we actually are related. Sneakily eating almost a whole pie, and being cute about eating it all? Happy Thanksgiving indeed.


In case you didn’t know, there have been some fairly recent resto changes in downtown Troy. The place that used to be… the place that some of the guys from Badass Burrito owned is now Broadway Brew. And the place that used to be the Golden Fox is now Bootlegger’s. Albany John and I were in Troy late-ish one evening, and you know what? The pickings for something other than pizza are kinda slim. So we hit up Bootlegger’s for some food.

And I had a Powers whiskey and club soda to start. This was a small. $9. Eh… Not so crazy about that price, but it’s basically like a small double anywhere else. It’s cheaper than Jameson (retail), but way less bite in terms of flavor. One of Albany John’s friends introduced me to it, and… yum. Glad to see it available in a bar, even if it’s a bit on the pricier side.

If you can’t tell, Bootlegger’s also has free popcorms. Mmmm! Tastiness!

Albany John got some kind of turkey sandwich with sweet potato fries. It was okay, nothing to write home about, but they do tout that the turkey is roasted in-house.

I got an anemic looking crock of French onion soup. It was okay, but I like my cheese with a little more char to it. The broth tasted canned/boxed. Eh. S’okay. Not great.

Okay, so it was typical bar food. Not awful, but I’m probably not gonna be like “OH! We should SO go to Bootlegger’s for dinner.” Although I’m sure if I’m drunk and hungry I’ll be all over some fried bar food. It’s good for drunk food.

However, the service is quite nice. I wasn’t wowed by the food on this one visit, but loved the service. I’ve been back for some drinks and darts a few times and it has been good. Bootlegger’s is definitely a bar and not a bar+food place for me. One of the bartenders (I want to say Pierre) has consistently impressed me with his professionalism and niceness. It’s never been too crazy when I’ve gone, and always a fairly relaxed crowd.

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.

Turkey Prices

You may remember that I was curious about turkey prices for Thanksgiving last year, and called around for turkeys and prices. Overall, the prices for turkeys seem to be the same. And they birds are spelled “Jaindl” and not “Jaindal” like I mistakenly typed last year. Whoops.

At any rate, here are the most up-to-date prices I have found for turkeys sold by local butchers for Thanksgiving 2010 in the Cap Region. These turkeys are minimally processed and most if not all are all natural and fed vegetarian diets. If you have anything you’d like to add, please add a comment.

In no particular order:

Honest Weight Food Co-Op – Misty Knoll (from Vermont) turkeys $4.39/lb. Pasture raised, antibiotic- and hormone-free. Organic Stone & Thistle turkeys (near Oneonta) $6.29/lb.

Fred The Butcher – Clifton Park location is changing, will not have turkeys for Thanksgiving. New location will open up about a week after Thanksgiving.

Helmbold’s – Not open on Mondays, will call back Tuesday and see.

Roma Importing – (Call 785-7746 for Roma’s Butcher department) No official pricing as of yet, but Prices will be similar to last year, which were – Jaindl’s at $2.59/lb, and Murray’s for $2.99/lb. They prefer Murray’s as the better turkey. Both are all natural turkeys.

Cardona’s Market – Jaindl turkeys for about $2.69/lb and Plainville turkeys for about $2.79/lb. Both are all natural birds, no preference between the two.

Pioneer Food Market/Troy Co-Op – Plainville turkeys for $2.99/lb – all natural bird. Order deadline by Nov 14th.

It looks like the popular All Natural turkeys are Jaindl and Plainville. From what I’ve read, Jaindl seems to be a lighter or lower-fat turkey than others, and has more white meat than other turkeys. I purchased my Thanksgiving turkey from Cardona’s Market last year, and may do the same again this year. I forget which kind it was, but it was a tasty bird. I want to say it was the Jaindl. However, I’ve really been digging Murry’s chickens that are available at Roma and the Troy Co-Op, so I might go that route, too.

I am also interested in the idea of buying a turkey from a local farm, but most of them pre-order at the beginning of the season. But if anyone knows of one, please post a comment to let us know.

Turkey Jerk

Turkey jerk! This is the last turkosity I’ll be having for a while. Albany John was going to hold a Marchgiving, where he thaws out a turkey we bought in November and cooks a bunch of different things, but then he forgot about other plans he’d made, so we had to cancel that had this small turkey in the fridge. He carved it up and we put some of it back in the freezer (I think. Or maybe we just ate it all. Crap. I think we might have eaten it all. We’re piggies).

These two drumsticks were sitting in the fridge and all I could hear was “Jerk, jerk, jerk!” echoing in my mind. You guys know what poor impulse control I have, so I ran off to Save-A-Lot to grab some habanero peppers. I knew Save-A-Lot always has habaneros (and cheapo, fresh cilantro).

Oh, lone habanero.

Save-A-Lot was SO PATHETIC when I walked in. It was hilarious. I guess the end of the month is not a priority for stocking things, because just about everything was O-U-T. The entire refrigerated section of beef, a good amount of vegetables, fruits, display cases – all empty. It was a wreck. And my one lone habanero. Figures that the time I’d actually buy them, they’d be almost all out.

At any rate, it only cost $0.04 for this one little pepper. Yep, four cents!

Looking around was a boon in my jerk marinade quest. I kind of stayed with one recipe, but switched it up a bit. But HOOOH, did it smell spicy! It came out a thick paste because I processed everything very finely.

Here’s how I made the marinade:

Jerk Marinade
2 T allspice berries, toasted
1 t white pepper berries, toasted
1 t black pepper berries, toasted
1 bay leaf
(whir in a spice grinder)
Add in a blender:
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1 fire roasted habanero (bonus points for pathetic-ness)
2 t Kosher salt
the green parts of 1 leek
3 cloves garlic
1-2 T dried thyme
1/2″ ginger, peeled
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 C water (enough to make into a thick slurry)
blend all together, slather over some meat.

Toss in about 10 t of sugar in the raw.

Then I let it sit in the fridge for 24 hours.

After a day, I put on my sexiest latex glove to handle the turkey jerk. Hey, I don’t want burny fingers.

Goopy. Haha. This is the raw turkey in the jerk marinade.

I wanted to cook the jerk by smoking it first, and then charring the skin. I used 3 T of the plum wood chips in the top right corner.

Plopped the drumsticks onto Eldir, my Nordic Ware smoker, and began the smoking process.

I pulled them when they were near 150 F to char them in my broiler. I may have overcooked them a few degrees, but at that point it’s not very noticeable.

Char, char, char, char, char! I didn’t wany any gross soggy and flabby skin on this jerk. Poultry skin tastes best when it’s got a little bit of crunch to it.

I made some rice & peas to go along with it. I used some coconut milk and coconut water with jasmine rice and mung beans, but I think it’d be fine without the milk. Just a little too heavy. Coconut water or just regular water would be better.

Smokement of glory! I got a pink ring of smoke around my turkey. Woo hoo!

The jerk marinade tasted great, but I think it could have used more heat. That’s saying a lot coming from me. I offered Albany John some hot sauce, but he said he liked the flavor of the jerk on its own. A big compliment coming from someone who can down a blob of wasabi like nothing. So it’s a good middle ground for spice-wusses and heat lovers as it stands right now.
Next time, though, I’d up it to at least 3 habaneros.
And now I am debating about whether I should get some more jerk ingredients and smoke/grill some food up this weekend since the weather is going to be splendiferous. Mmm, decisions. It might just be the time of year to head out to a park and grill a ton of meat up. Who’s in?

Smoked Turkey Breast

Hell yeah I smoked a turkey breast! Albany John butchered a turkey for me, rubbed and marinated it in some white balsamic vinegar, tarragon, sea salt, and other goodness, and then left it to me to smoke it in Eldir, the Nordic Ware smoker.

We also ordered some chips from the Wood King off ebay. This guy really knows his smoke. We got a 6 pack of chips. It’s supposed to be about 7.5 quarts of 6 different chips. After shipping and handling it was around $27 for 6 hard-to-find smoker chips and was quite a good deal. I’m not sure if it’s quite that amount, since quarts measure by volume, and wood chips can compact a good deal during shipping.

This stuff is the shiz, though. I used about 3 tablespoons of Sweet Maple chips in the smoker. They gave off much more smoke than the crappy little chips that came with the smoker (coincidentally, the smoker was supposed to come with 2 kinds of chips, but only had one (hickory)). At the end of smoking, there was still smoke in the pan. The other stuff burned off much faster.

I put it all in the smoker, left the top exhaust open over medium heat until it started smoking a lot, then covered it and turned the heat down. The little book we have really urges you to get it in the 190-210 F sweet spot as soon as possible. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have my food cook at a slow and steadily rising pace for several hours. “Quick” and “smoked” aren’t two words I generally associate (Unless it’s “I want some smoked chicken quickly. Let’s go to Capital Q”).

So I let Eldir go at his own pace, and pulled the breast when it got to 160 F. And lemme tell ya, having a digital thermometer in that sucker from the get-go is reeeaaalllly handy. Next time I’d pull it at 150, or maybe even 145. The turkey rose to 174 F before we decided to just screw it and carve it. I don’t want to know how much it would have risen.

So this bird boob was a little on the dry side, but very smoky! And there wasn’t too much liquid. The skin was insanely smokey and not rubbery. Holy moly! It was a successful dry smoke! Not a dry-but-still-kinda-wet-because-of-all-the-juices-the-meat-gave-off-so-it-was-more-of-a-wet-smoke kind of way, but really, a dry smoke! YEEAAAHHH!

Oh, and I cheated and made one of those cheap and super fakey “turkey gravy” packets to counteract the dry meat. Dudes, adding smokey dripping from the catch pan made that stuff taste pretty close to real gravy!

Aside from Sweet Maple, the other chips were: Apple, Alder, Apricot, Cherry, and Plum. I cannot wait to try them out! Smoking party at my place!

Turkey Pho

Last night Bro came over for dinner. It was nice to be able to just chill with him. He helped me polish off most of the turkey left over from Thanksgiving. I decided to make pho, using my favorite pho soup base.

It’s way easier and cheaper than trying to make my own soup base – boil 10 C water, add packet (it’s all dry/powdered seasonings) and boil for one minute. Really, really easy. Broth made from bones that have been boiled all day would be great, but oddly enough bones aren’t that cheap.

I also poured some boiling water over dried mung bean vermicelli noodles in a large bowl. I like mung bean vermicelli over rice noodles because they retain a slightly al dente texture and they’re really hard to overcook into mush. Most packets say they only need boiling water over them for 3-5 minutes, but I usually end up doing 10 minutes. Anything less and they still taste undercooked and hard to me. After that, I strained them and let them sit in the sink. Hooray for quick and relatively fool-proof noodles!

After the soup boiled and while the noodles were “cooking” in their hot water, I assembled the fixins plate. Bean sprouts, cilantro, lime wedges, and red onion.

I went to the Asian Supermarket, but I didn’t like how the bean sprouts looked, so I hopped across the street to Lee’s. I haven’t been there since the new place opened, and guess what? They are keeping competitively priced! The bean sprouts were the same price ($0.79/lb) at Lee’s Market as they were at the Asian Supermarket. And the cilantro looked a little better at Lee’s (but it was a little flavorless in the soup, sadly).

Turkey! It was a little dry (well, it was about a week old at this point…), but the soup broth restored moisture and made it nice and juicy! I feel like this broth cooled down very quickly with all of the extras added in. Ah well, nothing the microwave couldn’t fix, and Albany John and Bro had no such complaints.

Albany John whipped out the condiments to go with our little family meal – chili flakes in oil, chili oil, hoisin sauce, and fish sauce. The chili flakes in oil is my favorite. It has a chunky consistency and you only need a pinch of it to really spice up a dish. It burns, but so, so good! The chili oil itself is like liquid fire – viscous, red, and hot-hot-hot. Hoisin sauce adds a dash of sweet saltiness and rounds things out.

I added hoisin and chili flakes in mine, plus all of the fixins! Bro and I piled on the red onions. So yummy!

I really like this pho since it’s so hearty and bone warming, and very easy to whip up. You don’t need to have all of the fixins, just what you have on hand (but I really love bean sprouts). I do think the condiments help doctor up the broth a bit to take it from “Pretty good flavor from a packet” to “Oh, I’m going back for seconds!”