Five Things I Liked This Week

1. Shake Shack’s Smoke Shack Burger, my lunch on Tuesday and the last meaty thing I’ll  eat until the end of Lent

2. ‘Ben’s My Friend’ – Sun Kil Moon

I heard this song a while ago, but started listening to the whole album, Benjithis week.

3. This interview with former Quiverfull members and advocates for homeschooling policy reform on The Hairpin.

4. ‘Barbara Allen’ – Jean Ritchie

I rediscovered this one while thinking about future folk songs to write about.

5. Martha Stewart’s Reddit AMA

I also really liked the whole John Travolta/Adele Dazeem thing but uhhhh so did everyone so I’m not counting it as one of the five things. For the record, my ‘Travoltified’ name is ‘Harley Fitzgerald,’ which I think is fantastic.

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Two Turkeys

I cooked two turkeys during the month of November. That is two more turkeys to add to the list of turkeys I’ve cooked in my lifetime, bringing my total to four. I wish I could have written about this in a more timely manner, but I’m still recovering from many, many days of celebration.

The first turkey – nicknamed Reginald P. Birdington – was for the annual friendsgiving (for the lack of a better term) that I host with my friends Jen and Liza the Saturday before Thanksgiving. This event is officially called “Cheese?giving” as it is derived from the name of the fake band that we – shockingly, soberly – started in college. We started this as a way to get all of our friends together when we moved to New York City after college and it has been a success for three years now. Each year we provide the turkey and a few other things but request that our guests bring appetizers, side dishes, desserts and beverages to add to the mix.

Reginald P. Birdington – also known to some as Reginald B. Turkington – was about twenty-five pounds, making him our largest Cheese?giving turkey to date. (We probably ended up having forty people so…a turkey this hefty was pretty necessary.) His preparation was certainly a group effort. Liza picked him up and started the brining process – with brine from the Greenpoint Trading Co. – twenty-four hours before we started cooking him.

Jen and I went to Liza’s the night before to discuss other preparations for the party, but we ended up drinking several bottles of wine and eating large amounts of sushi, which was great for my digestion. We had pretty much everything we needed anyway. I got up super early the next morning, went grocery shopping and headed back over to Liza’s, still burping up what was basically ceviche at that point. We successfully hefted the bird with brine bag out of the refrigerator and into the sink, took the bird out of the brine bag and (mercifully) spilled only a little bit of the brine on the floor. Then we shoved him into his roasting pan and into the oven and disinfected the entire kitchen.

Reginald

I didn’t take too many pictures of the other things we made, because I was using my phone to play music for most of the day. (Spotify playlist here: Cheesegiving. I suggest listening on shuffle as I was too lazy to order the songs.) We spent the remaining hours before the party making cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts (that I made with this Martha Stewart recipe and never served because there was too much on the table) and a few other things. I had just as much fun preparing everything as I did at the actual party!

Brussels sprouts that eventually went uneaten.

Even though we were nervous about turnout and being able to serve and clean up so much food out of a small kitchen, everything worked out really well. It seemed like all of our guests were happy, well fed and drunk, which is exactly what we wanted. The night ended just as it should have, with someone throwing up all over the floor at 4 am. I give a hearty thank you to my partners in Cheese? for putting together such a successful evening and to all of our friends who attended for partying.

Turkey #2

The second turkey I cooked was much smaller. My immediate family had our very first Thanksgiving with just the eight of us at home last week. My mom and I planned the menu together. My mom made mashed potatoes, green beans, butternut squash and apple pie.  I was responsible for the following:

– Turkey (using this Tom Colicchio recipe)
– Cranberry sauce (from Simply Recipes, also made this for Cheese?giving even though I really do like the kind that comes from a can)
– Stuffing (from Ina Garten, Jen made this for Cheese?giving)
– Pumpkin swirl brownies (using the Smitten Kitchen recipe, without cayenne pepper because my mom refused to buy it)

Despite nursing a modest hangover due to night-before-Thanksgiving festivities, I managed to make everything pretty tasty. (Props to Advil and coffee.)

Dinner time!

Once dinner time rolled around, I think we all had a pretty nice time hanging out together. Only like twenty poop jokes were made during dinner and my family even made a toast to me for doing much of the cooking. Then we – well, not really me – cleaned up which led to a Beyoncé dance party in the kitchen with all six Flannery kids.

Singing along to ‘Countdown’.

Very good times were had by all.

Aidan let us make a guest appearance in his daily Instagram selfie.

The First Step Is Admitting You Have a Problem

I’ve been on and off Weight Watchers for the last three years and it’s safe to say that I’m really and truly off right now. Like, I just went to the site to track my points for the first time in weeks (and weeks and weeks) and I didn’t even recognize the log in page. There was a whole year where I tracked points religiously. Or maybe I mean to say continuously. Because it was an all-day-everyday thing. It was half of what I thought about and three quarters of what I talked about. And then, one day, I stopped. I mean, not totally, but I stopped being such a psycho about calculating points and weighting myself. I had lost a very decent amount of weight. I missed drinking good beer in large quantities and eating meals that were not mostly composed of green leaves. And I really, really missed baking.

I went a whole year without baking more than probably six or seven times which now just seems ABSURD to me. Baking has been one of my hobbies since I was a kid. Now, I bake a lot. Maybe more than I should? It’s kind of negatively affecting my life. Like an addiction!

Whenever I have some sort of gathering to attend, I feel the need to bake something before it. So, if this gathering is on a weeknight, I spend the whole night before baking. Which means I don’t go to the gym or do laundry or read or write or do whatever other thing I had planned on doing that night in addition to baking but don’t actually do because I have a job and need to sleep. I also inevitably eat a lot of what I make. So, I’m like a person who cooks meth and then does some of it before giving it to other people. (That’s an apt comparison, right?)

So, I’ve decided that I’m going to start baking in moderation. Or at least, not when I need to get other things done. I’m telling myself that I’m going to plan ahead and stick to those plans! Which is, I guess, something that I learned from Weight Watchers many moons ago before I fell off the wagon.

Anyway, I’ve annoyed myself by writing all of the above because my original intention was just to tell you about two good things I baked recently!

1. Pumpkin-Chocolate Swirl Brownies

I used this Smitten Kitchen recipe (well, adaptation of a Martha Stewart recipe) that I’ve been a big fan of since I first tried it last fall. Pumpkin and chocolate are amazing together and these brownies have just a little bit of cayenne pepper, setting them apart from other “fall” desserts. The only part of the recipe that I didn’t follow was the whole melting the butter and chocolate with a double boiler. I don’t have a double boiler and I also am too lazy to purchase one. The microwave worked just fine for the task.

Two of my favorite things.

I meant to take a photo of the finished product when it came out of the oven, but I didn’t because I was in a rush. So, I took a picture of the last brownie left in the batch!

 

Note: These are even better after a few days!

2.  Banana Blackout Cupcakes

OK, I made up the name for these chocolate-banana cupcakes myself. I needed to call them something clever because they were for our book club discussion of David Carr’s The Night of the Gun, which incidentally is about addiction. I adapted this recipe from Joy of Baking. And by adapted, I mean I tried to halve it and then I accidentally added twice as much milk as I needed and then I tried to fix it by only adding a little bit of vegetable oil. But they turned out to be amazing! They were really moist – I think because of the bananas – and um, basically perfect. I’ll just have to figure out what I did exactly before I try to replicate my success.

Banana Blackout Cupcake Leftovers

I also made my own frosting for these…by hand. Aggressively stirring a bunch of butter and sugar and cocoa powder together at 11 PM isn’t so much fun, but the finished product was delicious!

 

(I used Martha Stewart’s recipe for Ultimate Chocolate Frosting.)

What should I try making next? (Now that I’ve written about these I’m excited to try something new!) A pie? One of the cakes in Baking by James Peterson? Whatever I do, I’m going to set aside an afternoon weekend for it so it doesn’t make me crazy.

Also, there won’t be a Friday Roundup this week because I’ll be in Montreal, which I’ll tell you all about once I’m back!