Thursday, June 28, 2012

Arkansas - #25 - June 15, 1836

So we are halfway home (so to speak). Please enjoy the video above of a drive around the country as we discuss our next state.

We've arrived at the home of the 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton. A note about the Arkansas flag: the diamond represents the only place in North America where diamonds have been discovered and mined. The twenty-five white stars around the diamond indicate Arkansas's status as the 25th state, while the single star over "Arkansas" denotes the state's membership in the Confederacy. The other three stars represent Spain, France and the United States, countries that had earlier ruled the land that includes Arkansas.

Arkansas was a reluctant participant in the US Civil War joining the Confederacy late (it was a slave state) and promptly found the majority of its territory occupied by Union troops.  During the war for Texas, the region, which shared a border with Texas, had many soldiers passing through Arkansas on its way to secure Texan independence.

Arkansas later became a flashpoint in the Civil Rights struggle when Governor Orville Faubus [who served as Governor longer than any other individual] attempted to block the integration of Central High School in Little Rock in 1957.  The school was to be desegregated as part of the landmark decision, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas, handed down in 1954.  Nine students were enrolled at Central and angry crowds prevented them from entering the school.  Faubus called out the Arkansas National Guard to bar their entry.  Local police took the students to safety and President Eisenhower federalized the National Guard to allow the students to enter.  Little Rock schools closed for a year and then reopened with limited integration.  Faubus's showdown with Eisenhower did help him in Arkansas, he was reelected Governor four more times.

Two weeks in a row we have arrived at a presidential producing state, as noted above, Bill Clinton hailed from Hope, served as Governor of the State, and his Presidential Library was established in Little Rock. The current Governor of Arkansas is Democrat Mike Beebe. Arkansas' Senators are separated by the ideological aisle, Democrat Mark Pryor and Republican John Boozman. Here's an interesting trivia question to see how many people are paying attention (and reading these posts) - How many of the fifty states have split Senators, that is one from each party?  The Arkansas Congressional Delegation is only four strong, three Republicans and one Democrat.
  • State Capital (and largest city) - Little Rock
  • Date of Admission - June 15, 1836
  • Area - 53,179 sq mi (29th)
  • Population (2011 est.) - 2,937,979 (32nd)
  • State Motto - "Regnat populus" "The People Rule" 
  • State Nickname - The Natural State
  • State bird - mockingbird
  • State flower - apple blossom
  • State gem - give you three guesses, first two don't count
  • State tree - loblolly pine
  • State University - The University of Arkansas
  • State Archives - The Arkansas History Commission ( - isn't that cute?)
Prominent Arkansans / Razorbacks - (here's a few lists to peruse, one and two)

Answer to the question above - 17, now name them (the states, not the Senators).

Monday, June 25, 2012

It's Summer - Have a Drink!

Well that was quite a weekend.  On Friday night as Mrs. BA and I hosted a cookout for the camp coaches and host families for the camp that LBA attended all week - our little town, and specifically our house and street - was hit by a microburst storm.  A high voltage power line fell between our home and our neighbor's home, electrifying their fence (melting it in several places) and house (there are burn marks around the house and the doorbell melted).  Of course, the power went out.  And stayed out.  And it was hot.  Forty hours later the power returned.  We lost most of the contents of our refrigerator but the freezer items stayed frozen and nothing was lost.  I can't say enough of about our mayor and the power company that worked around the clock to restore power.  It could have been much worse - no one was hurt and the damage was not as bad as it could have been.

For this Recipe Monday, it's a good time to relax and have a drink (there were several beers in the Brave Astronaut fridge that had to be drunk lest they go bad).  Additionally, one of my neighbors was recently looking for suggestions for the perfect summer cocktail.  The nice folks at the New York Times Magazine obliged with twelve variations using four different liquors.  From the May 13, 2012 magazine.  You're welcome.

I think I might start drinking Moscow Mules.


Add 1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice and 2 tablespoons simple syrup to 1/4 cup vodka. Top with ginger beer. Garnish: Candied ginger.

If you are spending your time in bars drinking - here's a way to make some of your bar tab back - 10 Bets You Will Never Lose.  from kottke.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Missouri - #24, August 10, 1821

Welcome to the Show Me State! Let's start with a trivia question - the state capital of Missouri is the first (in this order of how the states are being presented) of four to be an answer in the trivia question - How many state capitals have the word "city" in their names? Any guesses on the other three? We won't see them for several more weeks, one in about three months (#36) and the other two (#45 and #46) in four months. While we are talking trivia, Missouri and one other state (which is also a Missouri neighbor) border eight states - no other state but these two border more than eight states. What's the other state?

Now take your seats, boys and girls - it's time for the History Lesson. Missouri became a state in 1821 as part of the Missouri Compromise. In order to preserve the balance of power in Congress between slave and free states, the Missouri Compromise was passed in 1820, admitting Maine as a free state and Missouri as a slave state. The Compromise also prohibited slavery, with the exception of Missouri, in any portion of the Louisiana Territory north of the 36° 30´ latitude line. The Missouri Compromise was repealed by the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, which allowed settlers of those two states to determine if they wanted slavery or not. Three years later, the Missouri Compromise was then declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott decision, which ruled that Congress did not have the authority to prohibit slavery in the territories.

Missouri gets its name from an Native American word meaning the "town of large canoes." Following the 2012 decennial census, the mean center of US population was again located in Missouri, in the town of Plato. Missouri's unofficial nickname as the "Gateway to the West" owes itself to the fact that the Pony Express got its start in the state; St. Louis was the embarkation point for both the Oregon and Santa Fe Trails. It was also the starting and ending point for the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Missouri is our next state to have produced a Chief Executive. The 33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman was born in the state and Independence is the location of the Truman Presidential Library.

The current Governor of Missouri is Jay Nixon, a Democrat. The Senators for Missouri are currently split - one Republican and one Democrat. Claire McCaskill (D) is the Senior Senator and is being targeted in the fall elections. Former Congressman Roy Blunt (R) is the Junior Senator. Missouri's Congressional delegation has nine members, three Democrats and six Republicans.
  • State Capital - Jefferson City
  • Largest city - Kansas City
  • Date of Admission - August 10, 1821
  • Area - 69,704 sq mi (21st)
  • Population (2011 est.) - 6,010,688 (18th)
  • State Motto - "Salus populi suprema lex esto" "The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law"
  • State Nickname - The Show Me State
  • State animal - the mule (so, what does that say?)
  • State bird - bluebird
  • State flower - hawthorn
  • State tree - flowering dogwood ("it's a tree and a flower, I'll take a dozen, please" - oh wait that's Virginia, better go with the ham)
  • State University - The University of Missouri
  • State Archives (which are under the Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan)- Missouri State Archives
  • The State Historical Society of Missouri
  • The Missouri History Museum
Prominent Missourians - (here's a few lists to peruse, one and two)

Monday, June 18, 2012

National Cherry Tart Day

Here's another opportunity to brush off your dessert baking skills to celebrate National Cherry Tart Day, which is today.  This recipe comes from Epicurious.

Cherry Tart
Bon App├ętit - May 2002

Malta This thin, cookie-like tart with a lattice crust is offered on a feast day that commemorates the birth of the Virgin Mary and the exit of the Turks in 1565

Yield: Makes 8 to 10 servings

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 large egg 
  • 1 cup cherry preserves
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried Bing (sweet) cherries (about 2 1/2 ounces) 
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel 
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract 
  • 1/4 cup unsalted natural pistachios, chopped 
  • 1 large egg 
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk 
  • 2 tablespoons sugar 
For crust: Combine flour, sugar, and salt in processor; blend 5 seconds. Add butter and cut in, using on/off turns, until mixture resembles fine meal. Add egg and process just until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Flatten each half into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm enough to roll, about 1 hour. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.)

For filling: Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 325°F. Mix preserves, chopped cherries, peel, and almond extract in medium bowl. Roll out 1 dough disk on lightly floured surface to 11-inch round. Transfer round to 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Press dough gently into pan; trim overhang even with top of pan sides. Spread filling in crust; sprinkle with pistachios. Roll out second dough disk on lightly floured surface to 11-inch round; cut into 3/4-inch-wide strips. Arrange several strips, spaced 3/4 inch apart, over filling. Top with more strips at slight angle, forming lattice. Press strip ends to edge of pan, trimming overhang.

For glaze: Beat egg and whole milk in small bowl to blend. Brush some of glaze over lattice crust; sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake tart until crust is golden brown and cherry filling is bubbling thickly, about 1 hour 5 minutes. Cool tart completely in pan on rack. (Tart can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and store at room temperature.)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Maine - #23, March 15, 1820

Maine started out as part of Massachusetts before becoming part of the United States in the Missouri Compromise of 1820 (we'll cover that more next week).  Maine holds the distinction of being the easternmost of all of the US states and Eastport and Lubec are the easternmost city and town in the United States, respectively.  It is the least densely populated state east of the Mississippi River.  During the Civil War, the 20th Maine, under Joshua Chamberlain rose to distinction during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Maine evidently holds 98% of the country's "low bush" blueberries and produces 25% of the country's blueberries.  There are also the Maine potato, Maine maple syrup (shh, don't tell Vermont), um, Maine lobsters.  While there's nothing wrong with blueberries, I personally will associate raspberries with Maine as my siblings, cousins, and I would walk the road from my grandmother's house and pick raspberries from the bushes along the side of the road.  Naval shipbuilding continues in Maine at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and the Bath Iron Works.

On the list below of prominent "Down Easters," I should put my father (and grandfather on this list) but then again they were both born in France.  I could put down my brother who now lives there, but also not born there. There is my aunt's second husband, who was part of a prominent fish monger family in Camden.  By the way, on all the lists I looked at - I didn't see Andre the Seal or the Belted Galloway but I guess the cows aren't native, either). Growing up in Maine - we would always take at least a day to drive up to Camden to see Andre and then the Belted Galloway cattle, before taking a ride up to the top of Mount Battie.

The current Governor of Maine is Republican Paul LePage. The Senators for Maine are both Republican women - Olympia Snowe (who is leaving the Senate this year) and Susan Collins.  Both Snowe and Collins represent a dying breed in the Republican party - the moderate.  Maine has only two Congressional Representatives, both Democrats.
  • State Capital - Augusta
  • Largest city - Portland (which also served as the first capital of the state, before being moved to more centrally located Augusta in 1832)
  • Date of Admission - March 15, 1820
  • Area - 35,385 sq mi (39th)
  • State Motto - "Dirigo" "I Lead"
  • State Nickname - The Pine Tree State, Vacationland
  • State animal - moose
  • State berry - blueberry
  • State bird - Chickadee
  • State cat - Maine Coon cat (duh)
  • State crustacean (unofficial) - lobster
  • State flower - White Pine Cone and tassel
  • State tree - White Pine tree
  • State fish - landlocked salmon
  • State soft drink - Moxie (it takes some getting used to)
  • State University - The University of Maine, my father spent a year there before transferring to Brown University, where he met my mother, and the rest is as they say, history.
  • State Archives - Maine State Archives
  • Maine Historical Society
  • Population (2011 est.) - 1,328,188 (41st) 
Prominent Mainers - quite the literary set from the Great State of Maine (here's a few lists to peruse, one and two)

Monday, June 11, 2012

It's National German Chocolate Cake Day

Earlier this month I saw a post on BuzzFeed for 99 Food Holidays to celebrate this summer.  I have chosen some of the ones that fall on Mondays for Recipe Mondays here on Order from Chaos.  Here's the first.

June 11 is National German Chocolate Cake Day.  Our neighbor expressed a love of German Chocolate Cake and Mrs. BA made him one.  This was the recipe she used.

German Chocolate Cake
One big, tall 9-inch cake; about 16 servings

For the cake:
  • 2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chopped 
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped 
  • 6 tablespoons water 
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
  • 1 ¼ cup + ¼ cup sugar 
  • 4 large eggs, separated 
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • ½ teaspoon salt 
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
For the filling:
  • 1 cup heavy cream 
  • 1 cup sugar 
  • 3 large egg yolks 
  •  3 ounces butter, cut into small pieces 
  • ½ teaspoon salt 
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped 
  • 1 1/3 cups unsweetened coconut, toasted 
For the syrup:
  • 1 cup water 
  • ¾ cup sugar 
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum 
For the chocolate icing:
  • 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup 
  • 1 ½ ounces unsalted butter 
  • 1 cup heavy cream 
  1. Butter two 9-inch cake pans, then line the bottoms with rounds of parchment or wax paper. Preheat the oven to 350°. 
  2. Melt both chocolates together with the 6 tablespoons of water. Use either a double-boiler or a microwave. Stir until smooth, then set aside until room temperature. 
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, or by hand, beat the butter and 1 ¼ cup of the sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate, then the egg yolks, one at a time. 
  4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 
  5. Mix in half of the dry ingredients into the creamed butter mixture, then the buttermilk and the vanilla extract, then the rest of the dry ingredients. 
  6. In a separate metal or glass bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold soft, droopy peaks. Beat in the ¼ cup of sugar until stiff. 
  7. Fold about one-third of the egg whites into the cake batter to lighten it, then fold in the remaining egg whites just until there’s no trace of egg white visible. 
  8. Divide the batter into the 2 prepared cake pans, smooth the tops, and bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. 
Cool cake layers completely.

While the cakes are baking and cooling, make the filling, syrup, and icing.

To make the filling: 
  1. Mix the cream, sugar, and egg yolks in a medium saucepan. Put the 3 ounces butter, salt, toasted coconut, and pecan pieces in a large bowl. 
  2. Heat the cream mixture and cook, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the spoon (an instant-read thermometer will read 170°.) 
  3. Pour the hot custard immediately into the pecan-coconut mixture and stir until the butter is melted. Cool completely to room temperature. (It will thicken.) 
To make the syrup:
  1. In a small saucepan, heat the sugar and water until the sugar has melted. Remove from heat and stir in the dark rum. 
To make the icing:
  1. Place the 8 ounces of chopped chocolate in a bowl with the corn syrup and 1 ½ ounces of butter. \
  2. Heat the cream until it just begins to boil. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Let stand one minute, then stir until smooth. Let sit until room temperature. 
To assemble the cake:
Remove the cake layers from the pans and cut both cake layers in half horizontally, using a serrated bread knife.

Set the first cake layer on a cake plate. Brush well with syrup. Spread ¾ cup of the coconut filling over the cake layer, making sure to reach to the edges. Set another cake layer on top.

Repeat, using the syrup to brush each cake layer, then spreading ¾ cup of the coconut filling over each layer, including the top.

Ice the sides with the chocolate icing, then pipe a decorative border of chocolate icing around the top, encircling the coconut topping.

(It may seem like a lot of chocolate icing, but use it all. Trust me. You won’t be sorry.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Alabama - #22, December 14, 1819

In high school, I dated a girl from Alabama.  Flew from New York to her senior prom.  In a full leg cast.  Through three airports.  Danced at the prom and enjoyed post-prom activities.  That was a long time ago.  Kimberly Ann Port - where are you now?

The twenty-second state admitted to the Union is also the first state alphabetically - Alabama.  As it is adjacent to the state of Florida, the territory was visited by Hernando DeSoto on his quest for the fountain of youth.  During the Civil War the Confederacy was established in Montgomery and served as the initial capital of the Confederacy.  The state was later a flashpoint in the Civil Rights movement, including the Montgomery bus boycott and the Freedom March from Selma.

The current Governor of Alabama is Republican Robert Bentley. The Senators for Alabama are both Republicans, the senior Senator is Richard Shelby and the Junior Senator is Jeff Sessions. There are seven members in the Alabama Congressional delegation, all but one are Republicans.
Prominent Alabamans - the state seems to have produced a fair number of athletes (here's a few lists to peruse, one and two)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Red Potato Salad with Bacon

Mrs. BA has now made this dish twice and it is very tasty.  I mean, it's got bacon in it.  And it's from Paula Deen, so it must be good for you, right?

  • 6 cups cubed red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled (about 1 1/4 pounds) 
  • Salt 
  • 2 ounces bacon (2 or 3 strips) 
  • 1 cup chopped bell pepper (any color or a combination) 
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion 
  • 1/4 cup sliced scallions (about 2 scallions) 
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar 
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard 
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise 
  • Freshly ground pepper 
Put the potatoes in a large pot; add water just to cover and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and cool slightly.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large skillet until crisp. Drain on paper towels and finely chop.

In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, chopped bacon, bell pepper, onion and scallions.

In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, mayonnaise, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Pour over the potato mixture, tossing gently to coat. Cover and refrigerate or serve at room temperature.