Avoid your family! Eat at Boston Market for the holidays

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Some of the best holiday memories are made in the kitchen. The wafting aroma of ham and reheated Hawaiian rolls, the rush to make sure the cream of mushroom soup moistens that green bean casserole, the agonized sighs after reading the calorie count on the Sara Lee pie box. And, if you are me, the screeching sound of various family members asking me if I'm still a registered Democrat, and why President Obama is trying to take away their guns.

But if all of that is just too damn stress-inducing and you don't want to mortgage your home to order half of a Honeybaked Ham for Christmas, Boston Market is the perfect place to get your holiday feast on the cheap -- plus extra creamed spinach and no questions about your sexual orientation or lifestyle.

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When I stopped in this past weekend, the Boston Market at 500 Grant Street was warm -- steamy, really -- and inviting with the aromas of steamed broccoli and pot pies. Approaching the huge, walled-in steam table made me feel a lot like Christmas -- except better because, I had no family members asking me if I'm ever going to get a real job. Matter of fact, the nice lady at the counter didn't ask me why I've never wanted a condo and a Lexus -- she just asked me if I wanted chicken, turkey, pot roast or meatloaf. I liked her. Boston Market does cater, and it does sell price-fixed holiday meals to go, but I wasn't ready to commit, because I hadn't eaten at the Market for years -- so a couple of individual meals would be sufficient to get my homestyle holiday meal tastes. I chose a half rotisserie chicken with macaroni and cheese, and garlic dill new potatoes; meatloaf with loaded mashed potatoes, cinnamon apples and creamed spinach. I was disappointed there wasn't any of Boston Market's signature cheesy baked zucchini-squash casserole, but apparently that's a regional thing, and I wasn't in the right region.Watching the nice lady drop scoop up creamed spinach gave me a serious case of the holiday warm fuzzies. She filled my portioned plates, didn't tell me how much weight I'd put on or ask me why I still shopped at Hot Topic even though I'm thirty-six. She didn't bring up that time back in high school when I stole my mom's Chevrolet suburban and wrecked it. And she didn't chastise me for wandering off while she was scooping: I'd discovered something I hadn't seen before at Boston Market; giant plates of brownies over by the register.

For five measly quatloos I got a plate heaping with fresh-baked brownies -- the good, cake-like ones with chocolate chips instead of walnuts. Ho, ho, ho!

Boston Market was founded as "Boston Chicken" in Massachusetts in 1985, got a name change and is now headquartered in Golden -- so I was, in a way, eating at home for the holidays. The early '90s weren't kind to this chain; accelerated growth and expansion caused the company to file for bankruptcy in 1998, and McDonald's purchased the chain in 2000, reportedly with the intent of picking the bones for real estate -- but when execs discovered the chain still had some life in it, McDoo sold it to Sun Capital Partners in 2007. Boston Market seems to be doing fine at the moment...and has a far less dysfunctional history than my family holidays.

I won't lie -- I ate a brownie before I ate any of the dinner food. It was so incredibly moist, rich and chocolaty and just the perfect balance of soft and dense that I had to celebrate the holiday season by eating another one immediately.

I was so ecstatic at the idea of being able to eat a holiday season meal without listening to anyone talk about how socialism is ruinng the country, or how women get too many abortions, that I almost forgot to eat my meatloaf and rotisserie chicken before it got cold.

Boston Market does some fine-ass chicken. It's roasted with crisp, garlicky skin, not too salty, as is the case with many restaurant rotisserie chickens; the white meat is moist as the dark meat -- another rare treat with chain roasted chicken. And although folks don't usually eat meatloaf for Christmas -- even though they really should -- these slices were smothered with a hickory-ish tomato sauce and brown gravy -- why pick just one? -- and fall-apart fork-able.

And Boston Market's side dishes are what really make this chain great -- and a one-stop shop for holiday feasting. The macaroni and cheese had al dente spiral pasta soaked in savory cheese sauce; I was impressed, as always, that the Market manages to keep this dish from seizing up and getting dry and clumpy under the heat lamps. The baby dill potatoes were a bit toothsome -- I prefer mine slightly overcooked and more mealy -- but well-seasoned.

At this point I ate another brownie...it's not my fault I have no self-control. My therapist told me it was because my family spent too much time during the holidays berating me for having pink hair and spending nine years in college when I should have been having babies and reading articles in Cosmopolitan on how to keep my man happy.

I was pleased as holiday rum punch when I noticed that Boston Market had started producing chilled, supermarket versions of some side dishes a half-dozen years ago, like its cinnamon apples. Strangely enough, the cook-at-home version of the apples taste almost exactly like the ones in the restaurant: tender-crisp, tart-sweet and bathed in a light cinnamon syrup.

And the sweetest part of eating them? Not being bugged by my sister's baby-daddy -- who I swear was dipped in stupid sauce as an infant -- who owes $33,000 in back child support but who can still afford to buy gold rims and gold "toofs" to further his image as a "rapper."Another pleasing sight at the Market was how the company smarties decided to take their normally decent mashed potatoes and top them with cheese and bacon. It's tough to find anything that isn't made better-tasting with the addition of melted cheddar and crispy bacon bits. And the creamed spinach at Boston Market is the absolute best dish in the whole place. It's a delightfully gloopy mess of cream, cheese and spinach, with the consistency of quicksand, and it tastes like the hallowed defecation of angels on high. An extra helping to go with my huge plate of brownies was not amiss, and this surplus served me well later on that night as I was able to emoti-munch while on the phone with my family, making another creative excuse for why I wasn't flying home for Christmas this year.

I had to really reach this year, as I have already used the "overloaded with work" and the "I'm allergic to the material on airplane seats" excuses, so this year in order to avoid sitting at a table listening to "why Jennifer ought to marry a man with a decent dental practice," I told them I was house-sitting for Michael Moore.

Boston Market makes a splendid holiday spread, with brownies and sans creepy cousins who want to make out/borrow $50. I would recommend ordering a fine holiday feast to-go, with extra creamed spinach, while you and your plastic fork enjoy a quiet, sane Christmas.

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