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It’s the Sunday night after Thanksgiving. It’s so quiet in my Brooklyn apartment that it feels like I’m either in some country house I’ve rented for the weekend or it’s New York City in January after a blanketing of snow quiets the city. Never mind, a neighbor just started blaring some Katy Perry remix and all is normal again.

For the first time, I hosted my family for the holiday and was really honored to do so. It’s been a full house here for days. My family is almost always together for this holiday, which includes celebrating my older sister’s birthday, but we are usually in Vermont. It’s hard to beat my father and stepmother’s house, the fireplace,  the snow (sometimes), the sauna, the woods, it’s pretty perfect for the occasion.  But for various reasons we decided to do Brooklyn this year and my boyfriend John so graciously hosted us in his slightly bigger apartment than mine up the street.

This is such a sullied American holiday—one that’s nearly impossible not to celebrate here in the U.S. and yet one that never feels right celebrating either (what with the whole genocide of native peoples and all, not to mention a holiday founded on the slaughter of animals)—so it’s complicated really. I do love to gather my siblings and half the parents together and have days to sit around catching up on our years and the months we haven’t seen one another. My nephew, just past 2 1/2, projectile-vomited right before the dinner. Poor little guy. I was in the kitchen managing the last-minute shenanigans and I can’t say I’m sorry I missed it. But moments later, like a champ, he was sitting around the table like the rest of us, asking over and over if it was time for cake yet. That’s the spirit.

The attendees: Dad and stepmom from Vermont; sister, sister-in-law, and nephew from Northampton, Mass., brother from Boston, sister from Durham, N.C. and her doggie. As soon as it was confirmed I’d be hosting I wanted to invite my NYC friends but nine was about the maximum that could fit around the table.

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The best part of the Thanksgiving organizing was menu planning. I culled recipes mainly from Bon Appétit, the Minimalist Baker (which has become one of my new favorite sources for recipes and inspiration), and the New York Times. I was accommodating a variety of diets, including: non-dairy; can’t eat garlic and onions; and vegetarian. As my boyfriend reminded me, it is often challenges that bring about the best creativity. Ugh, don’t you just hate when people saying annoyingly true things like that?

On the table:

Turkey
Kale Stuffing
Gravy
Vegan Mashed Potatoes
Garlic and Ginger Green Beans
Vegan & Gluten-Free Spaghetti Squash Lasagna
Parsnip & Sweet Potato Soup, served with Caramelized Pears and a Gorgonzola-Mascarpone Whip*
Raw Broccoli and Brussels Sprout Slaw
Homemade Parker House Rolls
Cranberry-Orange Relish**

Desserts I can take no credit for, but:
Pumpkin-Pecan Pie
Apple Crumble Pie
Birthday cake with chocolate-buttercream frosting and the kind of candles that never blow out completely, hehe

Pas Mal!

*This is an unpublished recipe that will appear in the forthcoming book by Meike Peters of the popular blog Eat In My Kitchen, published by Prestel USA in Fall 2016. I ate it in Berlin in October and knew right then and there it had to be on my Thanksgiving table.

**My stepmom’s classic recipe, the only thing I specifically asked that she bring with her from Vermont. She was so so kind enough to also bring, unsolicited, homemade apple sauce from her tree!

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Now, my notes. The outstanding dishes had to have been the soup and the raw slaw, though everything was very kindly applauded by my family, who honestly, I think were stunned at the quantity of food I produced. I did have a couple of great helpers in the kitchen — John and my sister Emily. And very sweetly, in the hour before dinner was served, my dad gamely mashed the potatoes and carved the turkey and my stepmom stepped in to make the gravy, which was so good, as always.

The soup is this delicious blend of sweet potatoes, parsnip, herbs, and stock. It can be made totally vegan and it tastes like fall. If you’re not making it vegan I do recommend the whipped gorgonzola and mascarpone dollop. The raw slaw was a hit because it’s such a refreshing contrast to all the heavy roasted side dishes. The stuffing, which includes a sub-recipe for Suzanne Goin’s Tuscan kale, was so labor-intensive I might shy away from it in the future but it was damn good. And the spaghetti squash lasagna was so good and relatively easy to make I’d put this in my regular weekly rotation. (Instead of dairy the cheese-like filling is made from a tofu-olive oil-basil-lemon juice concoction that’s so rich and flavorful.)

After the last of the turkey was carved and the leftovers stuffed into every last tupperwear container we could possibly find, John and I slept for nine hours. For dinner tonight we made brown rice with tofu and steamed broccoli. Can you blame us?

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Previous posts about Thanksgiving:

2011: Thanksgiving Overload

2012: Giving Thanks

2014: Butternut Squash Galette

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It was Easter. It was (is) Pesach. It was a super moon.

As tradition dictates, I spent the Sunday that is Easter with my grandmother on Long Island. I’ve written a post I think each year about this and the various shenanigans we get into. For instance there was this retro easter cake debacle I wrote about four (!) years ago.

Earlier this week I was flipping through the latest Bon App and came across a recipe for a very springy Rhubarb Cake (p. 66 of the April 2015 version if you have the hard copy). That’s it! Perfect, I thought. I’d make that for my grandmother, a woman who loves tart rhubarb baked into pies and cakes.

But of course neither the Union Square Greenmarket nor the Park Slope Food Coop is carrying rhubarb yet. Duh. It’s the first week of April. I think it may be another two weeks away. I picked up the organic blueberries on sale at the coop for $2.99 a pint in a pinch, hoping it would be an adequate substitution.

The blueberry was a hit. I’d still like to try this in a few weeks with the season’s rhubarb but I will definitely make this version again.

P.S. – I reduced the sugar quotient from the original recipe because blueberries don’t need to be offset the way rhubarb does. I also substituted 1/2 cup of the all-purpose flour with spelt flour, because, well, regular flour is a little boring, and spelt flour has a subtle depth or nutty flavor I like.

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Blueberry Almond Cake
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Serves 8

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter*
1/2 cup raw cane sugar
2 pints blueberries, rinsed
1/2 cup spelt flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (would be fine to use all-purpose flour only, 1 1/4 cup)
3/4 cup blanched almonds
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (1/2 tsp vanilla extract if you can’t find vanilla beans)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup Greek yogurt

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a tart pan (or small rectangular baking dish) and set aside.

In a blender or food processor, pulse the flours, almonds, baking powder, and salt until the almonds are finely ground.

Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Scrape the little black seeds from the vanilla bean and reserve the pod for another use like making vanilla-scented sugar. Using your electric mixer on high speed, beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Don’t cheat. Add the eggs one at a time to fully incorporated and then some, about another 3 or 4 minutes.

Reducing the speed to low, add the dry ingredients, and then the yogurt. Fold in half of the blueberries (one pint) and pour into the pan. Arrange the remaining blueberries on top.

If using a tart pan place this on a baking sheet (to catch any juices that may escape) and bake for approximately one hour, or until the cake is cooked through (comes clean with a toothpick) and golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

*A note on butter: the quality of butter matters here. I use Kerrygold because it’s made with milk from grassfed cows and is the same price and sometimes cheaper than Kate’s butter from Maine.

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No doubt chia is trending. By now you’ve probably heard it’s packed with fiber, omega 3 fatty acids, and, like flax, can be used as an egg substitute for vegan baking. I love it for breakfast, a late-afternoon snack. It’s the new oatmeal. Or yogurt. Or something.

The gelatinous quality of the gel, which is formed by combining the seeds with liquid, slithers and satisfies, but may not be for everyone. My stepmother, when I texted her a photo of the pudding, asked if it was for eating or facials. It took me a while to drink kombucha with chia seeds but now I like the slimy seeds sliding down my throat.

There are infinite substations you can make here, using your favorite spices, berries, sweetener. You could add pepitas, almonds, sunflower seeds; cardamom instead of cinnamon; agave instead of maple syrup. You can add more or less vanilla and cinnamon, to taste. I make this pudding incredibly not sweet, and I’ve had some with no sweetener at all—both are good. Adjust to your taste. You want approximately 1 cup of liquid per 1/4 cup of chia seeds — and beyond that you can decide what kind of milk to use, or yogurt. I like the combination here of almond and coconut milks.

Oh and since the ground is still frozen here in New York, and berries are a mere dream of a food I once tried long ago, I used frozen blueberries here. Worked like a charm. Now thaw, ground, thaw.

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Chia Seed Pudding
Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 1/3 cup almond milk (my recipe for homemade here)
2/3 cup coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp maple syrup, more to taste
1/2 cup chia seeds
coconut chips
blueberries

In a blender combine the almond milk, coconut milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and maple syrup and blend just until smooth. Place the chia seeds in a medium-sized bowl and add the liquid mixture. Stir until combined and let sit for a minimum of a half hour, or as much as overnight. To serve, transfer to a bowl or small jars and layer with the blueberries and coconut chips. Keep refrigerated and eat within a few days.

Pic below from an exhibition on plastic at Mass MoCA in North Adams, Mass.

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Kehinde Wiley show at the Brooklyn Museum, opened last week.

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Chinese New Year, on Pell Street in New York’s Chinatown last weekend.

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Snow reflecting on the mirror inside La Colombe, some of the best coffee in town. Lafayette Street, New York.

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