Monday, January 23, 2017

Cupcakes!

Cupcakes are perfect!  These would be problematic for the best way to eat cupcakes however, which is to make cupcake sandwiches.  From Cooking Classy via BuzzFeed.

Creme Brûlée Cupcakes 
Yield: 12 cupcakes 

Ingredients 
Pastry Cream
  • 1 cup heavy cream 
  • 2/3 cup milk 
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided 
  • 1/8 tsp salt 
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 3 Tbsp cornstarch 
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
Cupcake 
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 tsp baking powder 
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature 
  • 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar 
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature 
  • 2 large egg whites, at room temperature 
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
Topping
  • Granulated sugar, about 1/3 cup 
  • Whipped cream (optional) 
  • 12 fresh raspberries (optional)

Directions
For the pastry cream:
In a medium saucepan, heat heavy cream, milk, 6 Tbsp sugar, salt and seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean along with vanilla bean pod over medium heat. Bring mixture just to a gentle bubble, stirring occasionally (remove from heat as necessary to prevent vigorous boiling while preparing remainder). Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks and 2 Tbsp sugar until well blended. Add cornstarch to egg yolk mixture and mix until very well combined and and slightly pale and fluffy. Take about 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture from pan, and while vigorously whisking, slowly pour hot cream mixture (about 1 Tbsp at a time) into egg yolk mixture. Reduce burner temperature to medium-low. Then, while whisking hot cream mixture in saucepan, slowly pour egg yolk mixture into hot cream mixture in saucepan. Cook mixture, whisking constantly, until thickened (allow it to boil for about 30 seconds to cook out starchy flavor). Immediately force mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Mix in 1 Tbsp butter. Cover with plastic wrap pressing directly against surface of custard. Chill thoroughly, about 2 hours.

For the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt for seconds, set aside. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter and granulated sugar until pale and fluffy. Mix in egg then blend in egg whites and vanilla. Add 1/2 of the flour mixture and blend just until combined, then add milk and blend just until combined and finish adding in remaining 1/2 flour mixture and blend just until combined. Divide batter among 12 paper lined muffin cups, filling each cup about 2/3 full. Bake in preheated oven 21 - 24 minutes until toothpick inserted into center of cupcake comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To assemble cupcakes:
Pipe or spread chilled pastry cream over cooled cupcakes into an even layer. Working with one cupcake at a time, sprinkle entirety of pastry cream with sugar then heat with a kitchen torch until sugar begins to melt and caramelize (I would first coat the edges of pastry cream while rotating the cupcake, then sprinkle tops, then I would torch it and add another layer of sugar. I just found working in layers worked best so it didn't all bead up and just run off the sides, but just experiment and see what works best for you. I used about 1 - 1 1/2 tsp sugar per cupcake). Allow topping to cool then garnish with whipped cream and a raspberry if desired. Serve immediately (note: the pastry cream can be made the day before and the cupcakes can be made hours ahead of time but top with sugar and caramelize sugar just before serving).

 Recipe Source: vanilla cupcake adapted from Sprinkles Cupcakes via Oprah, pastry cream lightly adapted from Cook's Illustrated

Friday, January 20, 2017

Transitions

Just a few days after the election last November, Mrs. BA and I agreed that we could not be in the DC area on January 20.  So we've bugged out for the weekend.  The Brave Astronaut Clan has gone to Florida and are today at Legoland and headed to Universal Studios Saturday and Sunday.  Monday we will take in Cape Canaveral before flying home.

Later I'll figure out how to walk through the lobby of my building every day, where a portrait of the President hangs on the wall.  For the moment I will look back at this.  And I'll read this.  I'll be listening to this.

You can substitute the new President's name here wherever he says "Bob Rumsen"


And if you're wondering - Jed Bartlet is still my President.


Monday, January 16, 2017

One Pot Pizza Rigatoni

Pepperoni Pizza is a big favorite on pizza night at the Launchpad.  SoBA would eat his weight in pasta (and peas) if given the chance. (Parenthetically, when did LBA and SoBA phase out of the McDonald's Happy Meals in favor of a 20-piece chicken nuggets and a Quarter Pounder meal?)

Here's another one-pot recipe that should please the diners at the Launchpad. Via A Night Owl blog, from BuzzFeed.

One Pot Pizza Rigatoni
Prep time 5 mins
Cook time: 25 mins
Total time: 30 mins
Serves: 8 servings


Ingredients 
  • 16 oz ground Italian sausage 
  • ½ cup pepperoni, divided 
  • 1 jar Marinara sauce 
  • 3 cups water 
  • 16 oz box rigatoni pasta 
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese 
  • Seasoning salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a large dutch oven pot, brown your ground Italian sausage; drain excess fat. 
  2. Slice up about half of your pepperoni into strips and stir into Italian sausage and cook for a minute or so. 
  3. Add your jar of sauce and seasoning salt and pepper to taste. 
  4. Add water and box of rigatoni and bring it all to boil. 
  5. Once boiling, cover your pot and reduce the heat to a simmer until pasta is cooked through and tender, about 15 minutes. 
  6. Remove your pot from the heat, top with mozzarella and remaining pepperoni. 
  7. Place into oven to broil on high until the cheese is melted and golden brown.

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Hot Toddy

Evidently January 11 is National Hot Toddy Day.  And now that I'm a fan of the sweet brown liquor, I might have to start having these.  I'll keep the colds away and feel all warm inside at the same time.

If you're out and about in DC, you can find hot toddies in several spots around town.  See this article from DCist for more information. If you're interested in having them in your own home, try this recipe.

The Hot Toddy
Yield Makes 1 drink
Active Time 5 min
Total Time 10 min

Ingredients
  • 1 oz (2 tablespoons) bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon mild honey
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup boiling-hot water
Preparation
Put bourbon, honey, and lemon juice in a 6-ounce mug. Top off with hot water and stir until honey is dissolved.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Slow Cooker Potato Soup

LBA (and Mrs. BA) really love the Baked Potato Soup.  I bet this would make everyone feel good.
From Gimme Some Oven via BuzzFeed.

Slow Cooker Potato Soup
Yield: 8-10 servings
Prep Time: 10 mins 
Cook Time: 4 hours 10 mins 
Total Time: 4 hours 20 mins 

Ingredients
  • 6 slices cooked bacon*, diced
  • 3-4 cups good-quality chicken or vegetable stock 
  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes**, peeled (if desired) and diced 
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion, peeled and diced 
  • 4 tablespoons bacon grease* (or butter) 
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 (12-ounce) can 2% evaporated milk 
  • 1 cup shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese 
  • 1/2 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt or low-fat sour cream 
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, or more to taste 
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper 
  • optional toppings: thinly-sliced green onions or chives, extra shredded cheese, extra bacon, sour cream 
Directions
  1. Add bacon, 3 cups chicken stock, potatoes and onion to the bowl of a large slow cooker, and stir to combine. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours, or until the potatoes are completely tender and cooked through. 
  2. Once the soup has slow cooked and is about ready to serve, cook the butter in a small saucepan on the stove over medium-high heat until it has melted. Whisk in the flour until it is completely combined, and then cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Gradually add in the evaporated milk while whisking it together with the flour mixture, and continue whisking until the mixture is completely smooth. Let the mixture continue cooking until it reaches a simmer, stirring occasionally, and then it should get really thick. 
  3. Immediately pour the milk mixture into the slow cooker with the potatoes, and stir until combined. Add in the cheddar cheese, Greek yogurt (or sour cream), salt and pepper, and stir until combined. If you would like the soup to be even thicker, you can use a potato masher or a large spoon to mash about half of the potatoes (while the soup is still in the slow cooker) to thicken the soup up. If you would like the soup to be thinner, add in an extra 1-2 cups of warmed chicken or vegetable stock. Stir to combine, then taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. 
  4. Serve warm, garnished with desired toppings. Or transfer to a sealed container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. (This recipe will not freeze well.) 
*You can either fry the bacon, cook it in the microwave, or buy pre-cooked bacon. If frying or microwaving, I recommend dicing the bacon before cooking it. And if you are frying it, I highly recommend saving the bacon grease for later and then using it to make your roux (instead of butter).

**I highly recommend using Yukon gold potatoes, which have the perfect texture and buttery taste for this soup. But Russet potatoes or red potatoes would also work just fine in this recipe.

***If you would like to make this recipe vegetarian, use vegetable stock, omit the bacon, and I would recommend adding in 2-3 teaspoons of Old Bay seasoning for extra flavor.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2016 - You Suck

On so many levels, this was not a good year.  I know that I don't have to tell you all that.  But with the announcement of the death of Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher, today, December 27, this was a year that sucked, truly.  Let's hope that they didn't know something we didn't about 2017.

Here's a list of deaths that significantly impacted me over the past year.  Unfortunately, this list is by no means comprehensive.

Literature:
  • Harper Lee, 89 (February)
  • Edward Albee, 88 (September)
  • W. P. Kinsella, 81 (September) - author of the story that became Field of Dreams
Television:
  • Beth Howland, 74 (December 2015) - Vera from Alice
  • Wayne Rogers, 82 (December 2015) - Trapper John McIntyre from MASH
  • Pat Harrington, 86 (January) - Schneider from One Day at a Time
  • Dan Haggerty, 74 (January) - Grizzly Adams 
  • Abe Vigoda, 94 (January) - Detective Fish from Barney Miller 
  • Larry Drake, 66 (March) - Benny from LA Law
  • James Noble, 94 (March) - the Governor from Benson, but for me he's the Rev. John Witherspoon from 1776
  • Patty Duke, 69 (March)
  • Garry Shandling, 66 (March)
  • Doris Roberts, 90 (April) - the matriarch from Everybody Loves Raymond
  • Morley Safer, 84 (May) - 60 Minutes legend
  • Garry Marshall, 81 (July)
  • Florence Henderson, 82 (November) - Mrs. Brady helped raise me.
  • Ron Glass, 71 (November) - from Barney Miller
  • Grant Tinker, 90 (November) - Mr. Mary Tyler Moore
  • Alan Thicke, 69 (December)
Movies:
  • Alan Rickman, 69 (January) - for me, he's always Hans
  • David Margulies, 78 (January) - the Mayor in Ghostbusters
  • George Kennedy, 88 (February)
  • Anton Yelchin, 27 (June) - the new Chekov from the Star Trek reboot
  • Gene Wilder, 83 (August) - the one and only Willy Wonka
  • Zsa Zsa Gabor, 99 (December)
  • Robert Vaughn, 83 (November) - I've listed him under movies for his role in The Towering Inferno (he dies in that one, too)
  • Bernard Fox, 89 (December) - you know him from a lot of TV and movies.  I just saw him the other night on Big Jake, one of my favorite John Wayne films
  • Carrie Fisher, 60 (December)
Music:
  • Natalie Cole, 65 (December 2015)
  • David Bowie, 69 (January)
  • Glenn Frey, 67 (January)
  • Frank Sinatra, Jr., 72 (March)
  • Merle Haggard, 79 (April)
  • Prince, 57 (April)
  • Kay Starr, 94 (November) - legendary jazz singer
  • Leonard Cohen, 82 (November)
  • George Michael, 53 (December)
Sports:
  • Meadowlark Lemon, 83 (December 2015) - star of the Harlem Globetrotters
  • Andy Bathgate, 83 (February) - legendary New York Ranger
  • Muhammad Ali, 74 (June)
  • Joe Garagiola, 74 (March)
  • Gordie Howe, 88 (June) - Mr. Hockey
  • Pat Summitt, 64 (June)
  • Arnold Palmer, 87 (September) - Mr. Golf
  • Ralph Branca, 90 (November) - Brooklyn Dodgers player
  • Craig Sager, 65 (December) - sports announcer
Politics:
  • Boutros-Boutros-Ghali, 81 (February) - former United Nations Secretary General
  • Nancy Reagan, 94 (March)
  • Elie Wiesel, 87 (July)
  • John McLaughlin, 89 (August) - founder of the McLaughlin Group
  • Phyllis Schlafly, 92 (September)
  • Shimon Peres, 93 (September)
  • Tom Hayden, 76 (October) - among other things, he was married to Jane Fonda
  • Janet Reno, 78 (November)
  • Gwen Ifill, 61 (November)
  • Fidel Castro, 90 (November) - finally
  • John Glenn, 95 (December)
Other:
  • American Democracy, 226 (November)

Monday, December 26, 2016

Roasted Potatoes

My grandmother used to make the perfect roasted potato.  My mother used to try and make them but they always fell apart.  My mother once watched closely as my grandmother made them - and still couldn't get it right.

Perhaps this recipe will get me there. My grandmother (and mother) used to make them like this in a dutch oven, I think it's the shaking and the fat that make them that much better..  And now that the Launchpad has a new oven, I bet they will come out even better.  Recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini.

Perfect Roasted Potatoes
Prep Time: 10 minutes 
Cook Time: 35 minutes 
Total Time: 45 minutes 
Serves 4

Ingredients 
  • 1.2 kilos (2 1/2 pounds) potatoes (waxy or floury -- both types will work equally well) 
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or duck fat 
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt 
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary (optional) 
Instructions 
  • Preheat the oven to 210°C (410°F).
  • If your potatoes are smooth-skinned, scrub them well and peel them in alternative stripes so that strips of skin remain. If, on the other hand, the skin of your potatoes is rugged and grainy, peel it off completely (no need to scrub) then rinse the potatoes well in cold water. 
  • Cut the potatoes into even chunks, about 2 cm (3/4 inch) in width. Place them in a saucepan large enough to accommodate them, cover with cold water, and add 1 teaspoon coarse salt. Set over high heat, cover, bring to a low boil, then lower the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. 
  • As soon as the water boils, pour the fat into a rimmed baking sheet, and place the sheet in the oven, so the fat and baking sheet will heat up. 
  • After the 5 minutes of boiling, drain the potatoes -- they will not be cooked at that point -- and return them to the saucepan. Add the fine sea salt and the rosemary, if using. 
  • Place a lid on the saucepan. Holding the lid firmly shut with both hands (the saucepan will be hot, so wear oven mitts or use dish towels), shake the saucepan vigorously for a few seconds, until the surface of the potato chunks is fuzzy; this will help the formation of a crust. 
  • Remove the baking sheet from the oven, pour the potatoes onto the sheet, and stir well to coat with the fat. 
  • Return to the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, flipping the potatoes halfway through, until cooked through (when you insert the tip of a knife in one of the pieces, it should meet no resistance), crusty, and golden. If you want a little more color on them, you can switch to grill mode for the final few minutes. 
  • Serve immediately.