Monday, October 20, 2014

Cider Cocktail: The Young Buck

I spent the end part of last week communing with my archival friends at the Fall 2014 MARAC meeting in Baltimore.  There may have been some drinking.  Now that it's fall, there should be some warming cocktails on the menu.  Here's a list from BuzzFeed, and my favorite of that list below - though the Cranberry Apple Cider Cocktail was a very, very close second.

Cider Cocktail: Young Buck
About This Recipe Yield: 1
Active time: 10 minutes
Total time: 10 minutes
Special equipment: pilsner glass

For the Hibiscus Simple Syrup:
  • 1/4 cup sugar 
  • 1/4 cup water 
  • 1/4 ounce dried hibiscus flowers 
For the Cocktail:
  • ice 
  • 3 ounces ginger beer 
  • 6 ounces semi-dry sparkling cider 
  • 1 tablespoon hibiscus simple syrup
  • dried hibiscus flower for garnish 
  1. To make the hibiscus simple syrup, combine the sugar, water, and hibiscus flowers in a small pan. Turn heat to medium and stir until sugar is fully dissolved and mixture has reduced slightly, five to seven minutes. Remove from heat, strain to remove hibiscus, and let cool. (Can be bottled and refrigerated up to 3 weeks.) 
  2. To make the cocktail, fill a pilsner glass with ice. Add ginger beer to the glass. Slowly pour cider on top of ginger beer. There should be a nice separation between the ginger beer and the cider. Drizzle the hibiscus simple syrup on top of the cider. Garnish with a dried hibiscus flower and serve immediately.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

"I Have Become Death"

C in DC recently posted to my FB wall regarding a list that was out there on "13 TV Character Deaths That We Never Got Over."  The list was pitiful.  If you really want to see it - you can click on the link.  But it was suggested that I come up with my own list of TV Deaths that had major impact.  (Bonus points for the one who identifies the title quote and where it was used in a movie)

So here goes, in no particular order:
  • Edith Bunker on All in the Family - She was missing from the above list, and it is possibly one of the most poignant episodes of the entire series.  I still get choked up when I think about that scene where Archie is talking to her slipper.
  • Henry Blake on M*A*S*H - Henry's tragic departure was on the above list, but that was not enough to save the list's credibility.  I think that one of the reasons this has such an impact was that the cast was not told of this plot twist until the moment of the filming - which is why Radar's delivery is so moving.
  • Dolores Landingham on The West Wing - As many viewers never saw this coming - it hit hard.  It, of course, set the stage for the series to hit the gas and blaze forward and her later appearances in Jed's memory were helpful to series watchers find closure.  Honorable mention here - Leo McGarry, though we all knew this was coming following the death of John Spencer.
  • Gary Shepard on thirtysomething - in one of life's great ironies, Gary, who didn't drive a car, rode his bike everywhere, is killed in an auto accident.
  • Coach on Cheers - Due to the untimely death of actor Nick Colasanto, we we forced to say goodbye to Sam Malone's greatest foil.  We liked you Woody, but you were no coach.
  • Mr. Hooper on Sesame Street - On a show aimed at kids, it forced parents everywhere to take a crash course on explaining death to their children - and luckily the gang at Sesame Street were there to help.
  • Zoe Barnes on House of Cards - Mrs. BA and I came late to the House of Cards bandwagon, so we knew this was coming.  But the violence of the moment still made us both gasp and showed us the ruthlessness of Frank.
  • Rosalind Shays on L.A. Law - I never, ever, step blindly onto an elevator.  Not after seeing this untimely end of the evil Rosalind.
  • Nate Fisher on Six Feet Under - For a show that started every episode with a death, the death of Nate as the show was concluding was still very painful. 
  • Lane Pryce on Mad Men - Lane got himself in a little bit of trouble and took the easy way out, leaving the other partners of SCDP to clean things up and move on.  When viewers found out (and saw it) it stunned us.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Twist on Chicken Salad

I am lucky in that LBA likes salad.  SoBA, not as much.  This is why I often say LBA is mine and SoBA belongs to Mrs. BA.

But here's a recipe I think all of us could get behind - from the Barefoot Contessa.

Roast Chicken with Bread & Arugula Salad
Serves 4
  • 1 (4- to 4½-pound) whole chicken, preferably Bell & Evans 
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 large garlic cloves, smashed flat 
  • 1 lemon, quartered 
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus extra for serving 
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 3 to 4 (¾-inch-thick) slices country bread 
  • Good olive oil 

For the Arugula Salad (recipe follows)
  • ¼ cup Champagne vinegar 
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic 
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 
  • ½ cup good olive oil 
  • ½ cup thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts (3 scallions) 
  • 2 tablespoons dried currants 
  • 6 cups baby arugula, lightly packed (6 to 8 ounces) 
Place the chicken in a baking dish. Using your fingers, gently loosen the skin from the breasts and thighs without breaking the skin. Carefully slide the sprigs of thyme and the garlic under the skin. Put the lemon in the cavity. Tie the legs together and tuck the wings under the body. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of sea salt and the pepper, cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. (Be sure your oven is very clean!) Place the bread in a medium (10-inch) cast-iron skillet in a single layer. Brush the chicken with olive oil and place it, breast side up, on top of the bread. Roast for 30 minutes, turn it over and roast for 15 minutes, until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh. Wrap the skillet tightly with aluminum foil and allow the chicken to rest at room temperature for a full 30 minutes. (Don’t worry; it will stay hot.) The bread will be almost burnt on the bottom and soft with the pan drippings on top.

Place the Arugula Salad in a very large, shallow serving platter. Put the chicken and the bread on a cutting board. Cut the bread into 1-inch squares and sprinkle them on the salad. Carve the chicken thickly and place it on top of the salad. Spoon the pan juices over the chicken, sprinkle it with sea salt, and serve warm.

For the Arugula Salad:
Whisk the vinegar, mustard, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper together in a small bowl or glass measuring cup.
Whisk in the olive oil, stir in the scallions and currants, and set aside.
Place the arugula in a large bowl, add the vinaigrette, and toss well.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Apples and Sausage

I actually have a good recipe for sausages simmered with apples.  I haven't made it in some time - as the boys both seem to enjoy the basic sausage sandwich.  It might be time to branch out.  From the Washington Post Food section, September 17, 2014

Apples and Sausage in Cider, Asturian Style

Dry cider is the traditional drink of Asturias, a coastal province of northern Spain, where it is often served or cooked with chorizo or other kinds of sausage. For this recipe, use a crisp, sweet apple like Gala or GoldRush; Granny Smith, in a pinch; or these heirloom apples if you can find them: Belle de Boskoop, Bramley's Seedling, Ashmead's Kernel or Ananas Reinette. The original recipe did call for chorizo (fresh or cured/dried); feel free to substitute. We liked the pairing with sumac-spiced merguez from Whitmore Farm of Emmitsburg, Md., which sells at the Broad Branch Farmers Market in Northwest Washington on Saturday mornings.
  • 1 pound lamb merguez sausage (casings on or off; see headnote) 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 1/2 onion, cut into very thin slices 
  • 1 cup dry (hard) apple cider 
  • 1 or 2 apples, cored and sliced into half-moons (see headnote) 
  • Kosher salt (optional) 
  • Chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish 
  • Thin, toasted slices of baguette or ciabatta, for serving 
Cut the merguez sausage into 1-inch pieces, then use the palm of your hand to flatten each piece.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the sausage; cook, stirring, until the sausage has browned and is releasing some of its juices and fat, about 5 minutes. Pour off all but a tablespoon or two of the rendered fat, if desired.

Add the onion and cider; cook for 6 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the onion has softened. Add the apple slices and stir to incorporate. Cook for 6 minutes, stirring once or twice; some of the liquid will evaporate, slightly thickening the cider sauce. Taste, and add salt if needed.

Divide among individual small bowls. Garnish with the parsley. Serve warm, with the toasted bread slices.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Salted Caramel Apple Hand Pies

Hey Mrs. BA - A candidate for next year's bakeoff? From Just a Taste

Salted Caramel Apple Hand Pies
Yield: Makes 10 (3-inch) hand pies
Prep Time: 1 hour (includes chilling)
Cook Time: 15 min

For the dough:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes 
  • 1/2 cup cold sour cream 
For the filling:
  • 2 cups small diced (peeled) Granny Smith apples (See Kelly's Notes) 
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1/4 cup sugar 
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour 
  • 8 store-bought soft caramels, roughly chopped 
  • Large flake sea salt (See Kelly's Notes) 
  • Egg wash (1 egg lightly whisked with 1 Tablespoon water) 
  • Crystal sanding sugar (optional) 

Make the dough: 
Whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl.

Add the cubed butter to the bowl and use your fingers to work the butter into the flour until the mixture is the consistency of wet sand.

Stir in the sour cream (the dough will be very wet), and then turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface.

Knead the dough a few times until it comes together, adding more flour, 1 teaspoon at a time, if the dough is too sticky to handle. Roll the dough into an 8x10-inch rectangle and dust both sides with flour before folding it into thirds as if you were folding a letter.

Rotate the dough 90º and roll it out again into an 8x10-inch rectangle. Fold the dough again into thirds then wrap it securely in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes while you make the filling.

Make the filling:
In a small bowl, combine the apples, lemon juice, cinnamon, sugar and flour, stirring until thoroughly mixed. Set aside.

Assemble the pies:
Preheat the oven to 425ºF.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and unfold it onto a well-floured surface, rolling it out to a 14x14-inch square. (See Kelly's Notes.)

Using a 3-inch circular cookie cutter or cup, cut out as many circles as possible. Re-roll the scraps and continue cutting out circles until you run out of dough, ensuring you end up with an even number of circles. (You should have approximately 20 3-inch circles.)

Place six of the dough circles on a Silpat or parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Spoon a small portion of the apple filling into the center of each circle, leaving enough of a border around the filling. Top the apple filling with a portion of the chopped caramels and a pinch of sea salt. Place a second dough circle atop each filled circle then use a fork to crimp the edges together, sealing each pie.

Brush each pie with the egg wash, and using a sharp knife, cut two or three vents on the top of each pie. Sprinkle the pies with crystal sanding sugar (optional).

Bake the pies for about 15 minutes, or until they're golden brown.

Remove the pies from the oven and allow them to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Repeat the filling and baking process with the remaining dough circles.

Kelly's Notes: 
  • The cubed apples should be no larger than the size of corn kernels to ensure they become tender during the quick 15-minute bake time. 
  • Large flake sea salt is available in most supermarkets. My preferred brand is Maldon Salt. 
  • If the dough is too firm to work with after refrigerating, allow it to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before cutting out the circular shapes. 
  • If the sour cream in the dough makes it too sticky at any point in the rolling out process, just simply sprinkle a pinch of flour atop the wet areas and continue rolling.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Day Off to Golf!

The Brave Astronaut is taking the day off tomorrow to golf in the annual St. Ambrose Men's Club Golf Tournament.  This will be the first time all year that I have swung a golf club as I have been suffering from a pinched nerve in my neck since the end of March.  I have been through a variety of treatments, including seeing my chiropractor regularly (whose playing in the tournament with me today, which may be a good thing), an orthopedist, physical therapy, and most recently acupuncture (I had a treatment just today - to be ready for tomorrow).

I have had back pain since 1985, when, as a Senior in High School, I broke my leg.  As a result, I started to walk differently and threw out my back.  After the initial examination, it was determined that I don't have a fully developed L5 vertebrae (I know, you're jealous).

So here's a list of "21 Struggles People With Back Pain Know to be True."  Here's hoping that I can get through 18 holes tomorrow.
  1. You’re on a first name basis with your chiropractor - well, I am.
  2. You know what good posture is, but can’t make yourself use it regularly
  3. Heated back pads are a lifesaver
  4. The icy-warm of tingle of pain cream is such a relief … 
  5. … But you can’t stand the way it smells.
  6. Your medicine cabinet is like a who’s who of painkillers and muscle relaxers.
  7. And you’ve gone on a “trip” or gotten queasy when you’ve taken them on an empty stomach.
  8. Kinesio tape has become an art form to you, but damn if it doesn’t itch after a couple of days.
  9. Electrotherapy makes you look and feel like a cyborg.
  10. You have found out the hard way that massages can be anything but relaxing.
  11. You’ve had a head rush from spinal decompression exercises.
  12. After a while you can pretty much read your own x-ray.
  13. You’ve tried every type of stretch. Flexibility can help relieve pain.
  14. You’ve even tried less traditional methods to get more flexible.
  15. Over time you’ve learned to embrace your back brace.
  16. MRI machines always make you feel claustrophobic.
  17. You know firsthand that the hardest part about falling down is getting back up.
  18. You even tried alternative treatments, in spite of how painful they look.
  19. You get strange looks at work when sitting in a pain-free position.
  20. You wouldn’t even dream of picking up something heavy off the ground.
  21. After icing your back daily, an ice bucket challenge looks like child’s play.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Creamy Greek Noodle Soup

LBA was just mentioning the other day that he wouldn't mind seeing soup as a main meal more often.  Mrs. BA makes an outstanding baked potato soup and outdid herself with several varieties when the parish Men's Club sponsored "Soup and Stations" one Friday during Lent.

I've previously posted of my love for Avgolemono Soup.  Here's a similar soup that would probably go over well at the Launchpad, despite the fact that if we're eating soup, it's probably cool and that's going to just make Mrs. BA mad.

From the Washington Post Food section, September 17, 2014

Creamy Greek Noodle Soup

  • 1 large carrot 
  • 1/2 small onion 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • Kosher salt 
  • Freshly ground black pepper 
  • 4 cups homemade or no-salt-added chicken broth 
  • 1 cup thin dried egg noodles (sometimes called soup noodles) 
  • 1 lemon 
  • 2 large eggs 
  • One 4-to-6-ounce chunk cooked boneless, skinless turkey breast (may substitute cooked chicken) 
  • Handful fresh dill 

Cut the carrot and onion into small dice; piling them together is okay.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, stir in the vegetables. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes or until the carrots have softened.

Increase the heat to medium-high; add the broth and bring to a boil, then stir in the noodles. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes, until the noodles are almost done (al dente), then reduce the heat to low. Taste, and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Cut the lemon in half. Squeeze the juice, without any seeds, into a medium heatproof bowl. Whisk in the eggs until the mixture is smooth and well blended. Gradually ladle about 1/2 cup of the broth mixture into the egg-lemon mixture, whisking to incorporate and temper it. (It’s okay if a few noodles sneak in.) Gradually ladle in another 1/2 cup. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

Drizzle the tempered egg-lemon mixture into the saucepan of broth and noodles, whisking constantly for 2 minutes. The soup should come together and look creamy.

Shred the turkey or cut it into bite-size chunks. Finely chop the dill. Add both to the soup. Taste, and add a final pinch each of salt and pepper as needed.

Divide among individual bowls. Serve warm.