Three Saturdays ago (Dec. 10), Tony and I went to the Bucks County Playhouse to catch a preview of Murder for Two: Holiday Edition. We both enjoyed this musical, which, in its non-Christmas-themed version, had gotten mostly rave reviews and an extended engagement at a second theater when it ran Off-Broadway in 2013.
Both of the actors in this two-hander1 are incredibly talented; while one sang, the other accompanied him on piano, and they sometimes played the piano together. Joe Kinosian, who also wrote the music and co-wrote the book, played all of the suspects. Brett Ryback played Marcus, the police officer who sees the Christmas Eve murder of a novelist as his big chance to earn a promotion to detective. Kinosian was amazingly fluid in his multiple roles. And I had such a crush on the dreamy Ryback, who's also a writer and composer in his own right and who starred in the Off-Broadway production.
The songs were very clever, both musically and lyrically, and the book was full of LOLs. I'm glad we set aside a Saturday afternoon to see this show.
When we got home, there was an empty aluminum pan on the floor and a really guilty-looking dog nearby. I'd bought a package of dinner rolls at the Stangl Farmers' Market that morning and had eaten a couple of them for lunch—even though I know they're supposed to be for dinner only. 😉 I found them to be too bland, needing more salt and maybe more butter in the dough. (I ate them without spreading any butter on them, which would have zhushed them up a bit, of course.) But Missy apparently couldn't resist them and managed to get them off the table in the sunroom, out of their plastic bag, and into her belly.
I told Missy I was really disappointed in her. She looked like she felt just terrible about the food theft. But I know she'd do it again if given the chance. The corgi in her can't resist carbs left in low-enough places.
Two Sundays ago, after a horrible day for Huge Hound Frozen Desserts at the Hunterdon Land Trust Farmers' Market2, I consoled myself by cooking a turkey London broil from Purely Farm for dinner. I'd been intrigued by the idea of that cut of meat after having seen it on Purely's signage at the market for many weeks. PF's Joanna told me it's a cross-section of breast, and she gave me a recipe involving a sesame oil marinade that sounded good. I decided to try a creation of my own instead, though, and the turkey turned out wonderfully.
I browned it in a skillet along with some chopped onion and finished cooking it in chicken broth so as not to dry it out. I flavored it with thyme, sage, and tarragon:
For a side dish, I made Sorta Scalloped Rutabagas and Potatoes. I sliced the root veggies thinly; put them, along with oil, water, galangal, S&P, and potato starch, in a glass dish; and mixed the ingredients with my hands until the veggies were coated with seasoning and starch. It was my first time using that last ingredient (which is called for in many recipes in my BabyCakes3 books) as a thickener in a scalloped potatoes–like dish, and it worked well:
I also made a Salad With Gold Beet, Pomegranate, and Lime-Nutmeg Vinaigrette:
To drink, we had an el cheapo South African chenin blanc that was very good for the price.
I visited Granny on the 22nd. I feel so bad that she's stuck in a nursing home after so many years of independence. On this visit, she spoke appreciatively of the fact she was being taken care of, and she said she didn't complain to the aides, like some patients do. But she also talked about how miserable she is living there, unable to move much on her own and in a lot of pain from arthritis.
I saw one of the aides turn the crank that raises the top part of Gran's bed, so now I know how that's done. I took a selfie with Gran, and she agreed that we didn't look bad in it:
I gave Gran a cute, needle-felted baby birds ornament and a long-sleeved Huge Hound Frozen Desserts T-shirt for Christmas. When I went back the next morning to see Gran again before heading back home, there was no sign of the ornament. Maybe someone who works there thought it was cute, too.
Dad and Jean treated me to dinner at Martinos in Vineland. I had told him we could go "somewhere there's a lot of gluten" since Tony wouldn't be making the trip down with me so he could work on some job applications.
On Dec. 9, I made a dozen Spiced Marble Donuts that Tony and I (but mostly I) quickly devoured:
Three days later, I made Vanilla Cake Donuts With Chocolate Glaze:
And the day after that, I made Chocolate Cake Donuts With Vanilla Sugar Glaze:
And on Christmas Eve morning, I made Lingonberry Swirl Donuts:
The recipes came from BabyCakes Covers the Classics, the BabyCakes book I use the most and reference fairly regularly on the blog. I've specifically mentioned the SMDs on the blog twice before: here and here. I'd forgotten about the saltiness issue with the Sugar-Sweetened Chocolate Dipping Sauce you use to create the marbling and that also acts as the glaze on the vanilla donuts. I found it to be much too salty myself this time. I hope I remember to cut back on the salt the next time I make it.
The Vanilla Cake Donuts are actually named Plain Cake Donuts in the book. But the recipe for those donuts, like all of the other donuts I made, calls for 1/4 cup of vanilla extract in the batter. That's too much vanilla to call them "plain." 😄 I'm willing to bet Erin McKenna has tried these recipes with lesser amounts of vanilla and found them to be lacking without the full 1/4 cup, but I'm sure tempted to try using only 1/8 cup (aka 2 tablespoons) and see how that goes.
I mailed six each of the vanilla with chocolate and the chocolate with vanilla donuts to the Schultieses. That left Tony and me with six of each kind as well. They were both good, but I preferred the less-salty and satisfyingly sweet chocolate with vanilla.
Jen texted me this gif the evening the donuts arrived in the mail. Bob texted, "There's no way I'd know they were Tony-able," meaning no gluten or dairy. He said I should start a monthly subscription, $20 for a dozen donuts.
Lingonberry jam is one of Tony's favorites, so I used that instead of the blackberry jam called for in the recipe. We also didn't have any blackberry jam in the house. I'd bought Pomegranate and Orange Jelly from Artisanal Jams by Kim at the HLT market on the same Sunday I'd bought the turkey London broil. That flavor sounded like it would be a winner in the donuts, though I ended up using the lingonberry that Tony always keeps on-hand instead.
Kim's Blackberry Jam contains dairy. The woman who was working the stand (who I know isn't Kim herself) said only a tiny bit of butter is used, to decrease foaming as the jam is cooking. Such a small amount of dairy in a presumably large batch of jam probably wouldn't have had a negative effect on my guy, but I went with the vegan P&O instead. We haven't opened it up yet. Maybe I'll make Pomegranate-Orange Swirl Donuts next year.
Tony made two flavored vodkas this past month: cinnamon and—an inspired choice—celery seed. The cinnamon is delightful in heated apple cider, but the celery seed is my favorite. In spicy mixed-vegetable juice, it creates a drink that puts the standard Bloody Mary to shame:
I've been wanting to decorate a ficus tree for Christmas for years, and it finally happened this holiday season. I bought some LED lights at a major drugstore chain and looked at red and gold garland but didn't buy any. I planned to make strings of cranberries instead, but I couldn't find the time to get that done. I bought five new ornaments (from different Etsy shops than I bought Granny's ornament from) and finally got to enjoy on a tree some other ornaments I've been collecting or have been gifted over the years:
The Gerbers hosted Christmas Eve dinner on Saturday, which was also the first night of Hanukkah. Tracey made an out-of-this-world brisket, and (left to right) Matt and Mike prepared delicious latkes:
Matt got his hair cut shorter, about the same length as Mike's, and it looks great.
Here's my first-go-round plate:
Tracey made a lettuce salad, which I had in a side bowl, and Jean brought her green Jell-O salad that I look forward to having every year and that I ate as a pre-dessert.
For dessert, at David's request, Tracey had prepared a Chocolate Pudding Pie like she'd made for his birthday, which was on the 14th. It was the bomb:
My Mom made this pie a lot when we were growing up. And Granny often had individual glass dishes of chocolate pudding and a can of Reddi-Wip in the fridge when she knew we'd be visiting.
Tracey baked an allergen-free pumpkin pie she'd found at a store. I enjoyed the sliver I had. Tony brought the remaining third or so of it home and finished it off as a Christmas evening snack.
Between dinner and dessert, M&M and David lit the first candle on the menorah, ...
... and the Gerbers opened some presents:
Tony and I hosted Christmas dinner again. And Tony once again made prime rib. David picked up the meat at Tony's favorite butcher shop in the West Village a week ago Thursday. It was 19 pounds—larger than Tony had requested. "I'm packing a lot of meat here," David texted. "Oh, and I picked up the roast too. 😜 😜 "
For appetizers, Tony made three kinds of roasted nuts, plus a sesame brittle (different than the one he made at Thanksgiving) that he wasn't thrilled with. My favorite nut, maybe of all time, was Mike's Wasabi and Soy Roasted Almonds. The Moroccan Spiced Walnuts, redolent of ras el hanout, were also very good, as were the cinnamony, caramely pecans. Tony used ghee instead of butter in the walnuts and pecans, and he changed up the recipe so much for the pecans that it may not be worth bothering to link to, but I will anyway.
I made dairy-free mashed potatoes with roasted garlic and lots of olive oil and "regular" mashed potatoes with lots of half-and-half and butter. And a beautiful Salad with Daikon Radish, Pomegranate, Kohlrabi, and a Lime–Chinese Five Spice Vinaigrette:
I bet the 'phews ate a quarter of the salad between them. 😃
The lettuce, kohlrabi, and radish were from Sandbrook Meadow Farm. We had bought a winter CSA share that kicked in after our summer share ended. The last day for using up the winter-share credits was Dec. 20. SMF will be at two more HLT markets in January, and then we'll be without their produce for many months. *shakes head with a disappointed look on face*
Tony made the same wonderful cabbage and carrot dishes he made last year—the former with juniper berries and the latter with marjoram from a pot in our sunroom and lemon juice. And he made the same mushrooms, too. And the horseradish mustard. It was a case of not tinkering with perfection. 😄
Unlike last year, Tony asked me to make a gravy from the beef juices. It was much too fatty; I should have removed probably two-thirds of the mostly solidified beef tallow from the pan before I started.
I didn't take a photo of my plate on Christmas day, but here's a photo of the leftovers I had for lunch the day after, with a ginormous pile of browned-in-a-cast-iron-skillet mashed taters:
I did take photos of everyone else as we ate. M&M were with me in the sunroom:
Tracey, David, Dad, and Jean were in the (backlit) dining room:
I really like this pic of D&J taken from the other end of the table:
The sun was too bright on T&D to get a good pic of them from the other angle. I should have closed the blinds for them.
Tony, Rich, and Vince were at the bar:
I also, naturally, took selfies with Molly. Here are my favorites from Christmas ...
... and from Christmas Eve:
As usual, we opened presents between dinner and dessert. I gave Matt some records he'd requested to play on the record player that was in the big box in the photo of him, Mike, and (in the background) Grady above:
And I gave Mike some comic collections he'd requested:
I gave everyone in my family a Huge Hound T-shirt; David had mentioned a while ago that he'd like to have one. Unfortunately, though some of us suggested we ought to do it, we couldn't persuade all the Gerbers and Hawleys to put on their shirts for a group photo. And I didn't really push for it. I should have said there would be no dessert until everyone complied.
Rich had made a chocolate pie whose filling had a brownie-like consistency. I dug it.
I contributed Huge Hound ice creams that paired well with chocolate: Ginger, Vanilla, Vanilla Fudge, and Beet-Nutmeg. I opted for Ginger:
I'll wrap up this post with a few more photos.
Missy on Christmas Eve morning:
A sassy napkin4:
Ornaments from Mike and Matt's schools on the Gerbers' tree:
The Heat Miser:
The Les Paul guitar ornament I gave David last year:
This year, I gave him a Stratocaster ornament from the same Etsy maker.
Our lovely wreath from Larry, Tony's friend in Vermont:
A selfie-with-Molly outtake with another basset nose:
A koi pond ornament on my tree:
And an Empire State Building ornament:
1Why don't they call a two-person show a four-hander?
2I lost $3 after paying for my spot. *sigh*
3I just learned the BabyCakes bakeries have been rebranded Erin McKenna's Bakery NYC and LA because of a trademark issue. (See the second comment in the linked story.) I also learned EM has a new book, with recipes for various breads and nondairy butter, that I will purchase immediately after I'm finished writing this post.
4My friend Bill from college complained on Facebook—where I'd posted this photo on Christmas Eve afternoon, right after I'd started drinking that wine—that without the comma, "the napkin is commanding you to drink bitches." I first commented: "*drinks bitches.*" Later, I wrote the following:
Based on my many years of experience as a copy editor, I can safely assume that if there was a copy editor involved in the production of this napkin, the conversation went like this:
Copy editor: "There has to be a comma after 'up.' Otherwise, we're telling people to drink up bitches rather than telling the bitches to drink up."
Art director: "The comma looks stupid."
Boss: "No comma."