Thursday, December 31, 2015

The 2015 Twelve Posts of Christmas #11

Remember those days when you would turn on the old transistor radio (or maybe that Panasonic clock radio, with the numbers that flipped) to listen to the top songs of the year played all day on New Year's Eve?  Yep, me neither :)

Here's an a capella version of the top songs of 2015.  It's pretty catchy.  These kids might have something here (via BuzzFeed).  Enjoy - don't overdo it tonight!


Of course, if music isn't your thing, the year end lists are everywhere. Here's one of the top 2015 movies (via kottke).

Monday, December 28, 2015

The 2015 Twelve Posts of Christmas #10

The Brave Astronaut is hosting an Open House at the Launchpad on New Year's Day!  Are you coming?  While we will be having appetizers and desserts, there is likely not going to be any homemade stuff - a factor of time, unfortunately.  But that is not to say that these might not appear at some point in the future.  From Land O Lakes (hence the emphasis on Land O Lakes products) via the Pioneer Woman.

Pecan Pie Bites
40 min. prep time
1:25 total time
36 cookies

Cookie
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar 
  • 6 tablespoons Land O Lakes® Unsalted Butter, softened 
  • 1 Land O Lakes® Egg (yolk only) 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 

Filling
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans 
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar 
  • 1/4 cup Land O Lakes® Heavy Whipping Cream 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 

Directions
Heat oven to 350ºF. Spray 36 mini muffin pan cups with no-stick cooking spray; set aside.

Combine 1/2 cup brown sugar, butter, egg yolk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add flour, baking powder and salt; beat at low speed until well mixed.

Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls; place each into prepared mini muffin pan cups, pressing dough onto bottom and up one-third sides of each cup, creating a shallow cup.

Combine all filling ingredients in bowl; spoon 1 teaspoon filling into each cookie.

Bake 13-15 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool 10 minutes in pan on cooling rack.

Remove cookies from pans by running small knife around edge of cookie. Place onto cooling rack; cool completely.

Nutrition Facts (1 cookie)
Calories: 80 
Fat: 5g 
Cholesterol: 10mg 
Sodium: 25mg 
Carbohydrates: 10g 
Dietary Fiber: 0g 
Protein: 1g 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

On Bagels



The Brave Astronaut Clan is on Long Island this weekend for some Christmas visiting with the family.  I have long said - there are no good bagels outside the New York area (despite that it might be an urban myth - I'm pretty sure it's the water).  The clan will certainly stock up on our way out of town before heading home to the launchpad.

In case you were wondering, I am not alone in my thinking.  Here's an article from the New York Times Magazine.  And here's a shameless plug for the best bagels in the New York area - if you need one, you've got to go see the Boss.

Friday, December 25, 2015

The 2015 Twelve Posts of Christmas #9

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

I hope that all of you always hear the bell.  I still do.  As did Virginia O'Hanlon and Francis P. Church.  Remember, while he may not exist physically, Santa lives in your heart.

______________________________

Francis Pharcellus Church
Virginia O'Hanlon
Eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York’s Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897.

The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history’s most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps - Read more


DEAR EDITOR:
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

VIRGINIA O’HANLON.
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET. 
________________________________

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished. 

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. 

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The 2015 Twelve Posts of Christmas #8

Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night!

NORAD's Santa Tracker Began With A Typo And A Good Sport
December 19, 2014 4:02 AM ET
NPR Staff

This Christmas Eve people all over the world will log on to the official Santa Tracker to follow his progress through U.S. military radar. This all started in 1955, with a misprint in a Colorado Springs newspaper and a call to Col. Harry Shoup's secret hotline at the Continental Air Defense Command, now known as NORAD.

The Santa Tracker tradition started with an ad for Sears, which instructed children to call Santa on what turned out to be a secret military hotline. Kids today can call 1-877 HI-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) to talk to NORAD staff about Santa's exact location.

Terri remembers her dad had two phones on his desk, including a red one. "Only a four-star general at the Pentagon and my dad had the number," she says.

"This was the '50s, this was the Cold War, and he would have been the first one to know if there was an attack on the United States," Rick says.

The red phone rang one day in December 1955, and Shoup answered it, Pam says. "And then there was a small voice that just asked, 'Is this Santa Claus?'"

His children remember Shoup as straight-laced and disciplined, and he was annoyed and upset by the call and thought it was a joke — but then, Terri says, the little voice started crying.

"And Dad realized that it wasn't a joke," her sister says. "So he talked to him, ho-ho-ho'd and asked if he had been a good boy and, 'May I talk to your mother?' And the mother got on and said, 'You haven't seen the paper yet? There's a phone number to call Santa. It's in the Sears ad.' Dad looked it up, and there it was, his red phone number. And they had children calling one after another, so he put a couple of airmen on the phones to act like Santa Claus."

"It got to be a big joke at the command center. You know, 'The old man's really flipped his lid this time. We're answering Santa calls,' " Terri says.

"The airmen had this big glass board with the United States on it and Canada, and when airplanes would come in they would track them," Pam says.

"And Christmas Eve of 1955, when Dad walked in, there was a drawing of a sleigh with eight reindeer coming over the North Pole," Rick says.

"Dad said, 'What is that?' They say, 'Colonel, we're sorry. We were just making a joke. Do you want us to take that down?' Dad looked at it for a while, and next thing you know, Dad had called the radio station and had said, 'This is the commander at the Combat Alert Center, and we have an unidentified flying object. Why, it looks like a sleigh.' Well, the radio stations would call him like every hour and say, 'Where's Santa now?' " Terri says.

"And later in life he got letters from all over the world, people saying, 'Thank you, Colonel,' for having, you know, this sense of humor. And in his 90s, he would carry those letters around with him in a briefcase that had a lock on it like it was top-secret information," she says. "You know, he was an important guy, but this is the thing he's known for."

"Yeah," Rick says, "it's probably the thing he was proudest of, too."

Monday, December 21, 2015

The 2015 Twelve Posts of Christmas #7

As discussed earlier - it is likely there will be a New Year's Open House at the Launchpad soon.  An invitation is being drafted and should be circulated soon.  If you're in the DMV, consider yourself invited!

Now I just need to decide what to serve and where we will put everyone!  I do own two crockpots  . . . (recipes from a BuzzFeed post)

Mulled Ginger-Apple Cider
Serves 12

Slice 1 apple thinly crosswise (like, across the equator) so that the center forms a star pattern. Remove the seeds. In a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine the apple slices with with 1 gallon fresh apple cider (preferably unpasteurized), ½ cup roughly chopped fresh ginger, 3 cinnamon sticks, 10 whole cloves, 5 whole allspice, and 1 thinly sliced orange. Cook on high heat for 3-4 hours, or on low heat for 6-8 hours. Spike each serving with 1½ oz. dark rum.

Crockpot Spinach Artichoke Dip
Serves 12

Put 3 cups chopped artichoke hearts, 1 lb. cream cheese, one 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach, 8 oz. shredded part-skim mozzarella, 1 cup each grated parmesan and mayonnaise, and 2 chopped garlic cloves in a slow cooker. Season with a teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low for 3 to 4 hours or high for 2 hours, stirring at the end. Serve from the slow cooker (set to “warm”) with crackers.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

It's Brave Astronaut Day!

Today is the day set aside for me, the Brave Astronaut.  Feel free to wish me well.  If you're looking for gifts, here's a list of ways for me to show my Sagittarius pride (via BuzzFeed).
1.  A delicate bow and arrow tattoo - though I'm not the tattoo kind of guy
https://www.pinterest.com/explore/arrow-wrist-tattoos/


2.  This adorable embroidery
http://etsy.me/1ve2EmY

 3.  This print
https://www.etsy.com/listing/179492173/printable-sagittarius-print-zodiac-print?ref=shop_home_active_1&ga_search_query=sagittarius

4.  A nice Sagittarius key chain
https://www.etsy.com/listing/223037585/sagittarius-constellation-hand-stamped?ref=shop_home_active_11&ga_search_query=constellation

 5.  This T-shirt with a Sagittarian personality
https://www.etsy.com/listing/212008533/im-not-quiet-i-just-dont-like-you?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=i%20don%27t%20like%20you&ref=sr_gallery_37&source=aw&awc=6220_1449084308_db0212e7549f87d7dd068e24cbd2fa7c&utm_source=affiliate_window&utm_medium=affiliate&utm_campaign=us_location_buyer&utm_content=181013

If all else fails, you can just send money :)

Thanks all for reading over the years.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The 2015 Twelve Posts of Christmas #6

Someone on Facebook asked the very important question the other day - what's your favorite Christmas movie?  My immediate response is that's like choosing you favorite child.  I mean there are 12 Days of Christmas, can't I have 12 movies?

1.  It's a Wonderful Life - always number 1.

2.  Collectively, the Rankin-Bass specials
  1. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  2. Santa Claus is Comin' to Town - Fred Astaire!
  3. The Year Without a Santa Claus - Mickey Rooney!
  4. Frosty the Snowman - Jimmy Durante!
  5. there are others, but those are all you need
3.  The Original (Boris Karloff!) The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

4.   A Charlie Brown Christmas

5.  Scrooged

6.  Scrooge (A Christmas Carol) - and the first shall be best (Alistair Sim)

7.  Elf - we just watched this the other night!

8.  White Christmas

9.  and to a certain extent, though Fred Astaire's firecracker routine is what makes the movie, Holiday Inn

10.  Love, Actually

11.  Miracle on 34th Street - the original, always, and un-colorized

12.  Die Hard - sure, sure, I know, but it takes place on Christmas Eve!

Monday, December 14, 2015

The 2015 Twelve Posts of Christmas #5

Sorry.  I just need a minute.  Deep Breath.  Deep Breath.  Now I can go make this.  (via BuzzFeed from Crunkcakes)

Dark ‘n’ Stormy Apple Crisp with Rum 
Recipe by Faith Alice Sleeper of Crunkcakes

INGREDIENTS 
  • 5 Granny Smith apples 
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced 
  • 1 ½ tablespoon freshly grated ginger 
  • 1/3 cup Goslings Rum 
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar 
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats 
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar, packed 
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted 

PREPARATION 
Peel, core, and slice five apples, then add into a large bowl. Add lime juice and zest, grated ginger, rum, and granulated sugar, and mix thoroughly until apples are coated.

Then, make your crumble: Stir together the flour, oats, and brown sugar in a bowl. Melt a stick of butter on the stovetop or in the microwave, and pour it into the flour mixture. Stir until fully combined.

Pour the apples into a greased baking pan, then cover the top with the crumble mixture. Bake at 350 degrees until crisp is golden and apples are softened, about 45 minutes.

This recipe is part of a complete baking & booze dessert menu, found here.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The 2015 Twelve Posts of Christmas #4

Today is the 100th Anniversary of the birth of the Chairman of the Board.  Frank Sinatra.  Growing up in my parent's home, Frank was a staple, broadcast on WNEW 1130 on your AM dial.  Needless to say, Frank's Christmas music made frequent appearances on the stereo at home.

The new car at the launchpad has XM radio in it and I have been listening to the various Christmas music channels that have cropped up at this time of year.  Of course, there is the local radio station that has been playing Christmas music since, I think, July.  But on that station there is a greater chance of hearing this song, which is banned at the Launchpad.  Mrs. BA usually promotes this analysis of the song anyway.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

The 2015 Twelve Posts of Christmas #3

Any 12 posts of Christmas would be incomplete without letting all of you know how much it would cost you to buy all the items from the 12 Days of Christmas.  Herewith is the breakdown of the 2015 gifts.  The total cost this year rose .06% for a total of $34,130.99.  It is noteworthy (to a history geek like me) that this tradition started 32 years ago when an economist at PNC decided to figure out how much all the gifts would cost - and PNC has kept the index every year since.  For comparison, in 1984 when the index was first published, the gifts would have cost you a mere $18,845.97.

Most of the prices stayed level this year and no costs went down this year.  The largest jumps came in the avian category, with two turtle doves rising 11.5% and the cost of one little partridge went up 3.5%.  All of the other birds, french female chickens, birds on phones, and geese and swans all held the line.  Rising salaries for ten Lords A Leaping also saw that cost increase 3%, although all of the other individuals (milkmaids, dancers, drummers, and pipers) stayed the same.

Remember that the costs above are for single gifts - if you want to buy all of the repeated items in the song, amounting to 364 gifts, it will set you back $155,407.18.  But remember, that can get you in trouble.

Now to find a tree, well several trees for the launchpad (one for the living room, one for our bedroom, and one for the boy's room).

 
(you gotta love both the mullet and the femullet in this)

Monday, December 7, 2015

The 2015 Twelve Posts of Christmas #2

Mrs. BA is thinking about a Holiday Open House around New Years.  I'm on board with this plan.  Maybe we can make a boatload of mug cakes, particularly this one (from FiveHeartHome). (via BuzzFeed)

Snickerdoodle Mug Cake 
Yield: 1 mug cake

Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar 
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1/4 cup milk, at room temperature 
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter, melted and cooled 
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
 For layering/topping: 
  • 1 tablespoon sugar 
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 

Directions
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon until thoroughly, completely combined, with no streaks of any ingredients remaining. Blend in milk, butter, and vanilla until batter is smooth. Into a 14-ounce (or larger) microwave-safe mug with straight sides, scoop a big spoonful of batter, then sprinkle with a spoonful of cinnamon sugar. Alternate layers, ending with cinnamon sugar. 
  2. Microwave on high for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, or until cake is done to your liking. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes before serving. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The 2015 Twelve Posts of Christmas #1

Here it is December 1 and things are heating up at the Launchpad.  This weekend will be set aside for a number of activities, including the first Christmas party of the season - the St. Ambrose Men's Club President's Dinner!

I am also hoping to carve out some time for decorating - though it doesn't look like we will have time for tree hunting this year.  But with this list and a half-full DVR, I can plan my holiday viewing accordingly.

Now this list is by no means complete - I also need to see Scrooged, Die Hard, and all of the Rankin-Bass specials, among others.

Wednesday, December 2
  • Christmas in Rockefeller Center NBC | 8:00pm - this showing always gives me the opportunity to tell the story about my brother getting separated from the rest of the family when they went to the tree lighting one year.

Friday, December 4
  • Elf ABC Family | 7:30pm - though I own this movie so we can watch it anytime we like.
Saturday, December 5
  • A Very Brady Christmas ABC Family | 7:00am - "I asked Santa to give Mommy her voice back so she could sing in church!" - Cindy Brady
  • It’s A Wonderful Life NBC | 8:00pm - This is also a movie I own and will watch at least once during the holidays.
Thursday, December 17
  • Disney Prep & Landing ABC | 8:00pm - IT'S SO TINSEL!
  • Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice ABC | 8:30pm 
Thursday, December 24
  • It’s Your 50th Christmas, Charlie Brown ABC | 8:00pm - I also watched this last night, too.
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas ABC | 9:00pm

Monday, November 30, 2015

Pizza Pinwheels

I am in charge of lunches for LBA and SoBA.  Most days that means a ham and turkey wrap for LBA and PB&J for SoBA.  Lately, I turned them on to sandwich pepperoni and mozzarella cheese sandwiches.  They seem to like them.

Of course, Friday is pizza movie night at the launchpad.  On occasion we will also have special dinners downstairs for a big sporting event, with nachos, little hot dogs and other snacky items.  I think these would be a great addition.  Recipe Via BuzzFeed.

Pizza Pinwheels
Makes 14 to 16
Recipe by Lindsay Hunt

INGREDIENTS 

  1. 1 17.6-ounce package puff pastry, thawed to room temperature 
  2. ½ cup marinara 
  3. 3 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese 
  4. ½ pound sliced pepperoni

PREPARATION 
Preheat the oven to 400º F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.

Roll out one sheet of the puff pastry on a floured surface, using a rolling pin to make it slightly larger.

Top with half the marinara, half the pepperoni, and 1 cup of the mozzarella. Starting at one of the narrow ends of the rectangle, roll the dough into a tight log, pressing down to seal. Slice into 1-inch pieces and place on the baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between each pinwheel.

Repeat with the remaining sheet of puff pastry, marinara, pepperoni, and 1 cup mozzarella to make more pinwheels. Sprinkle each pinwheel with the remaining cheese.

Bake the pinwheels until they are golden brown and the puff pastry is cooked through, 18 to 22 minutes. Serve hot.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

The Brave Astronaut clan will be home for Thanksgiving this year and will be hosting the Brave Astronaut's sister and two of her boys.  We will be eight around the Launchpad table - appetizers will be served, the turkey has been bought, the potatoes are ready for mashing, there will be plenty of desserts, and vegetables will be prepared - including this recipe below - sorry, folks, I like Brussel Sprouts (via Simply Recipes).

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Shallots
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients
  • 2 pounds brussels sprouts, tough outer leaves removed, base trimmed, sprouts cut in half 
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil 
  • Several large shallots, peeled and thickly sliced, about a cup 
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled, sliced in half 
  • 2 Tbsp plus 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar 
  • Salt 
  • Pepper 
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme 
Method
In a oven-safe pan, heat the oil on medium heat.  Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 5-8 minutes.  Add the brussel sprouts and garlic and cook for an additional 5-6 minutes, until the sprouts start to brown.  Add 2 TB of balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper.

Place in oven, pre-heated to 425 degrees, uncovered.  Cook for 20-30 minutes.  Remove from oven,, add remaining balsamic vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Slow Cooker Apple Crisp

I would like to use the slow cooker more.  This would work. From BuzzFeed via DiningDelish.

Slow Cooker Apple Crisp
Serves: 6 servings

Ingredients 
For the Apples
  • 6-7 Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored and sliced 
  • Juice of 1 lemon 
  • ¼ cup white sugar 
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract 
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon 
  • ½ tsp. baking powder 

For the Topping
  • ½ cup dry oats (instant or rolled, certified gluten free) 
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour, gluten free 
  • 8 tbsp. (1 stick) butter, unsalted 
  • ¾ cup brown sugar 
  • ¼ cup white sugar 
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon 
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg 
  • ¼ tsp. salt 

Instructions 
  1. Place sliced apples in slow cooker.
  2. Add lemon juice, cinnamon, white sugar, baking powder, and vanilla extract. Stir until apples are evenly coated. 
  3. In a mixing bowl, add oats, flour, brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Stir to combine all ingredients. 
  4. Cut butter into flour mixture. 
  5. Using a spoon or your hands, combine flour mixture and butter until it forms a dough. 
  6. Crumble dough on top of apples evenly. 
  7. Place lid on slow cooker and set on High for 2 hours OR Low for 4 hours. 
  8. Open lid part way and cook for about an additional hour to let top get "crispy". 
  9. Serve warm and top with vanilla ice cream if desired.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Slow Cooker Roast Beef

Though Mrs. BA hates it - it's fall.  I just made this and it was really good. Via BuzzFeed from Creme de la Crumb.

Slow Cooker Beef Roast

Prep time 10 mins
Cook time 6 hours
Total time 6 hours 10 mins
Serves: 4

Ingredients 
  • 1 3-pound chuck or rump roast (see note) 
  • 2 tablespoons steak seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning 
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 pound baby carrots 
  • 2 pounds potatoes, chopped into 2 inch pieces 
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, cut into chunks 
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped 
  • 2 teaspoons salt (or more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper 
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder 
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder 
  • 3 tablespoons cold water + 3 tablespoons corn starch 

Instructions
  1. Whisk together steak seasoning and Italian seasoning. Rub seasoning mix all over the roast. Grease a slow cooker. Add roast, beef broth, potatoes, carrots, onions, and celery. Cover and cook on low for 9 hours or on high for 6 hours. 
  2. minutes before serving, prepare the gravy. Drain liquid from sow cooker into a medium sauce pan. Add salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Bring to a boil. 
  3. Whisk together corn starch and cold water. Add to sauce pan and reduce heat to medium-low. Allow to thicken for 3-5 minutes. 
  4. Place roast on a large plate or serving platter. Use a fork to gently pull apart the roast. Pour gravy over roast (and veggies if desired) and serve. Enjoy! 

Notes 
*This method also works well with larger roasts up to 8 pounds. Simply adjust the amount of carrots and potatoes to feed however many are in your group. Follow instructions as written. For roasts over 8 pounds, double the entire recipe.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Penne Alla Vodka with Chicken

I made pasta and sauce the other night and was reminded how relatively easy it is (I used my mother's recipe, which basically involves a pound of ground beef, a jar of sauce and some tomato paste - though I did add sausage to this batch).  I should make it more often.

Then I saw this recipe (from the Washington Post).  Wait. Do I have vodka in the house? :)

Penne Alla Vodka with Chicken
Servings: 4-6
Tested size: 4-6 servings

Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
  • 1 medium onion, cut into small dice (about 1 cup) 
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced or grated on a Microplane zester (about 2 teaspoons) 
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes 
  • One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, plus juices, crushed by hand or with a potato masher into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 stem fresh basil (optional) 
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream 
  • 1/4 cup vodka 
  • 8 to 12 ounces dried penne, ziti or other short pasta 
  • Kosher salt 
  • Reserved pasta cooking water 
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch-wide slivers 
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnish 

Directions 
Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted and the foaming subsides, add the onion; cook, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper flakes; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, with their juices, and the basil, if using. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low so the mixture is barely bubbling; cook for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened and reduced to 4 cups. Discard the basil.

Working in batches as needed, transfer the sauce to a blender. Add the cream and vodka. Remove the center knob on the lid (to allow steam to escape); place a paper towel over the lid opening to avoid splash-ups. Starting on the lowest speed and gradually increasing to high, blend until completely smooth, about 30 seconds. Return to the saucepan and bring just to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium-low and cook, allowing the sauce to reduce further while the pasta cooks.

Place the pasta in a large pot and cover with hot water by a couple of inches. Add a large pinch of salt and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally to keep the pasta from sticking. Continue to cook until the pasta is fully softened but retains a slight bite in the center.

Meanwhile, about 2 minutes before the pasta is done (when you can bite into the pasta, but it still resists more than you'd be comfortable dealing with on the plate), add the chicken to the sauce and stir to combine.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 1/2 cups of the cooking water, then return the pasta to the pot. Stir to combine, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has achieved the desired consistency, about 1 minute, adding some of the reserved pasta cooking water as necessary.

Serve right away, topped with the parsley and grated cheese (to taste).

Monday, October 26, 2015

The New England Express

The other day, a colleague of mine posted that it was officially fall for her now that she had made her first batch of New England Express cocktails.  I might need to move into the cubicle next to her.  Then again, I know the guy who works in the cubicle who works next to her.

Recipe from Bon Appetit

The New England Express
Servings: 8

Ingredients 
  • Thyme Syrup 
    • ⅓ cup sugar 
    • 8 sprigs thyme 
  • Assembly 
    • 2 cups apple cider 
    • 1½ cups dark rum 
    • ¾ cup fresh lime juice 
    • 1 teaspoon Angostura bitters 
    • Club soda 
    • 8 sprigs thyme 
    • 8 lime slices 

Preparation
Thyme syrup: Bring sugar and ⅓ cup water to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat, add thyme sprigs, and cover. Let stand 10 minutes, then strain into a small jar. Let cool.

Do Ahead: Syrup can be made 1 month ahead. Cover and chill.

Assembly: Mix thyme syrup, cider, rum, lime juice, and bitters in a pitcher. Divide among rocks glasses filled with ice; top off with club soda. Garnish with thyme sprigs and lime slices.

Do Ahead: Thyme syrup, cider, rum, lime juice, and bitters can be mixed 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Potato Gratin Fries

I really, really want a deep fryer. These would be really, really good. From the Washington Post Magazine, August 23, 2015.

Potato Gratin Fries

A rich, special-occasion dish of beautifully layered potatoes, crisp on the outside and buttery within. Without the top crust, it's not a true gratin, but it is assembled in the same way for the baking. At G by Mike Isabella, these accompany a cauliflower "steak"; you can serve them the same way you would any fries: alongside roasts or steaks, with sandwiches or salads, or as an appetizer (with ketchup or the dipping sauce of your choice, if desired). You'll need an instant-read thermometer.

Make Ahead: The baked potato gratin needs to be refrigerated/weighted overnight. It can be refrigerated for up to 5 days before frying.

Servings: 12-16
Tested size: 12-16 servings

Ingredients
  • 5 pounds russet potatoes (5 to 6 large), peeled
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
Directions 
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the potatoes as thinly as possible, preferably using a mandoline. (Don’t worry about immersing them in water to keep them from turning gray; the last-step frying renders that moot.)
  2. Line the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper, and brush it with some of the melted butter. Arrange one layer of the potatoes in the dish, overlapping them slightly. Brush with the butter and sprinkle with a little bit of the salt. Repeat with another layer of potatoes, butter and salt, and repeat until all the potatoes, butter and salt are used.
  3. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil; bake until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a skewer, 60 to 90 minutes. Remove from the oven. Fit a dish on top so it presses directly on the potatoes through the foil, and put a few heavy cans of tomatoes or beans on the dish, as weights. Cool to room temperature, then transfer the setup to the refrigerator to chill and compress overnight.
  4. When ready to fry, pour the oil to a depth of 4 inches into a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet lined with paper towels.
  5. Remove the potato gratin from the refrigerator. Fill the sink with an inch of hot tap water, and set the pan in the water for a minute or two to loosen the solid mass. Discard the foil, run a knife blade around the inside edge of the dish and invert onto a cutting board so the gratin comes out in one block. Discard the parchment paper.
  6. Use a sharp knife to cut the gratin into 1-inch slabs. Turn each slab onto its side and cut on the diagonal into 1/2-inch pieces. Return the bulk of the pieces to the refrigerator to stay chilled until you fry them.
  7. Once the oil registers 375 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, use a slotted spoon to carefully lower each piece into the hot oil, holding it for a few seconds before releasing (so the layers won't break up). Fry in batches, to avoid overcrowding, until the potatoes are golden brown, about 5 minutes. (Fry any odd/stray layered potato pieces left over from cutting, too.) Transfer to the cooling rack. Serve warm.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Broccoli Chicken Mac and Cheese

I think both LBA and SoBA would eat this.  Mrs. BA, probably not.  From Gimme Some Oven via BuzzFeed


Broccoli Chicken Mac and Cheese
Yield: 6-8 servings
This Broccoli Chicken Mac and Cheese recipe is made with a delicious cheddar-Parmesan cheesy sauce, and kicked up a notch with fresh broccoli and cooked chicken.

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Total: 50 mins
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients
  • 1 pound dry pasta (I used small shells, but you could use macaroni or any shape of pasta) 
  • 1 bunch broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets 
  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 3 tablespoons flour 
  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken stock 
  • 1 cup milk, warmed 
  • 2 1/2 cups freshly-grated cheddar cheese (I recommend sharp cheddar) 
  • 1/2 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste 
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely-ground black pepper, or more to taste 
  • 2 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup extra shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs 

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cook pasta al dente in a large stockpot of salted water according to package instructions. About 2-3 minutes before the pasta reaches al dente, add in the broccoli florets and let them cook alongside the pasta for the remainder of the cooking time. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, as the pasta water is heating, melt butter in a (separate) medium saute pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute or until fragrant, stirring occasionally. Whisk in the flour until combined and cook for an additional 1 minute, whisking occasionally. Slowly whisk in vegetable or chicken stock until the mixture is smooth. Then slowly whisk in the milk until it is combined. Continue cooking for 1-2 minutes, or until the mixture comes to a simmer. Then remove from heat, and stir in the cheddar, Parmesan, salt and pepper until the cheese sauce is smooth. Remove from heat.

Once the pasta and broccoli are cooked, pour the cheese sauce on top of the pasta, add in the chicken, and toss until everything is evenly combined.

At this point, you can either serve the pasta stovetop-style as-is. Or pour the pasta into a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish, and sprinkle with extra cheddar cheese and Panko breadcrumbs. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the top becomes slightly crispy and the breadcrumbs are slightly golden. Remove and serve immediately.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Salty Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I love a good chocolate chip cookie.  Mrs. BA, in fact made some just this past weekend, she used Mrs. Nestle Toulouse's recipe.  She should make these, too. Via Epicurious

YIELD: Makes 24 servings

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature 
  • 3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar 
  • 1/2 cup sugar 
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar 
  • 2 large egg yolks 
  • 1 large egg 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 72% cacao), coarsely chopped
  • Maldon or other flaky sea salt
Preparation
Place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 375°F. Whisk flour, baking powder, kosher salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl; set aside.

Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, brown sugar, sugar, and powdered sugar until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add egg yolks, egg, and vanilla. Beat, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl, until mixture is pale and fluffy, 4-5 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low; slowly add dry ingredients, mixing just to blend. Using a spatula, fold in chocolate.

Spoon rounded tablespoonfuls of cookie dough onto 2 parchment paper-lined baking sheets, spacing 1" apart. Sprinkle cookies with sea salt.

Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until just golden brown around the edges, 10-12 minutes (the cookies will firm up as they cool). Let cool slightly on baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks; let cool completely.

DO AHEAD: Cookies can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Chili - Without the Beans

Don't tell Mrs. BA - but fall has arrived.  It's time for sweaters, slow cookers, and chili!  I like chili - and this one, without beans and more beef in it's place, sounds particularly hearty (via pumpkinspice).  Here's a complete list of 12 chili recipes from BuzzFeed.

Slow Cooker Hearty No-Bean Chili
Made with two types of ground beef and loaded with flavor, 
you’ll never miss the beans in this Slow Cooker Hearty No-Bean Chili! 

Ingredients
  • 1 pound lean ground beef 
  • 1 pound ground chuck 
  • 2 (29 ounce) cans tomato sauce 
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans diced tomatoes 
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste 
  • 1/2 white onion, diced 
  • 1 green pepper, diced 
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic 
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin 
  • 5-6 tablespoons chili powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon white sugar 
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano 
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 

Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, brown and crumble ground beef and ground chuck until cooked through. Drain and add to slow cooker. 
  2. Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, pepper, minced garlic, cayenne pepper, ground cumin, chili powder, white sugar, oregano, and pepper to slow cooker. 
  3. Stir to combine. 
  4. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours. 
  5. Serve with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream, if desired. 
  6. Enjoy!

Monday, September 21, 2015

All Coffee All the Time

Often, Mrs. BA and I will be sitting downstairs, after LBA and SoBA have gone to bed and one of us will say to the other, "You know what would taste good right now?" which is code for, "go upstairs and make milkshakes."

Mrs. BA is all about the chocolate milkshake, while I prefer the coffee milkshake.  Here's a list of 26 coffee desserts that I might need Mrs. BA to start making her way through.  Below is my favorite from the list (via Crumb).  From BuzzFeed.

Coffee-Toffee Thumbprint Cookies
Author: Isabelle Boucher (Crumb)
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 12 mins
Total time: 22 mins
Serves: 48

Coffee-toffee isn't just a fun tongue twister -
it's also a great flavour pairing for this
variation on the classic thumbprint cookie.

Ingredients
Coffee-Toffee Cookie Dough:
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened 
  • ¾ cup brown sugar 
  • 1 egg 
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract 
  • 2¼ cups flour 
  • 1 cup toffee bits (also known as Heath or Skor bits) 
  • 2 tbsp instant espresso powder 
  • ½ tsp baking powder 
  • ½ tsp salt 
Caramel Filling:
  • 18 soft caramels, unwrapped 
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream 
Instructions
Make the Cookies:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F, and line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper. 
  2. Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until well combined. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract. 
  3. In a second mixing bowl, combine the flour, espresso powder, baking powder, salt and toffee bits. Add to the wet ingredients, and beat on low speed until combined. 
  4. Roll the dough into 1-inch round balls, and arrange on prepared baking sheets. Using your thumb, press a deep indent into the middle of each ball. 
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until golden-brown. Let cool on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling completely. 
Fill the Cookies:
  1. While the cookies are cooling, place the caramels and cream in a small microwave-safe bowl and microwave on High for 30 seconds, or until melted and smooth. (If necessary, continue to microwave in 10-second increments until the caramels are melted, stirring between bursts.)
  2. Spoon a small amount of caramel into the centre of each cookie. Let cool for 15-20 minutes before serving to allow the caramel to set.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Happy Birthday to Stephen King!

Tomorrow is Stephen King's birthday.  When the Brave Astronaut clan visited Maine in August, I kept saying we should go and visit his home in Bangor - but we didn't get there.  Ah well, maybe next time.

On a family trip when I was much younger, I read my first Stephen King book, Salem's Lot on my way Down East.  Needless to say I didn't sleep well that week - listening for the tap, tap, tap, of vampires on my window.  But that didn't stop me from going to a bookstore (you remember bookstores, right?) and buying a copy of Christine to read as a follow-up. I have read almost everything that King has written (I never got into the Dark Tower books) - I prefer King's horror and macabre works over his foray into sci-fi.  That includes his non-fiction work, On Writing, in which he suggests first nearly 100 books and then in an updated edition, another 80, that everyone should read (not including his own works).  I'm a bit ashamed to note that I haven't read a lot of these.  List/Quiz on BuzzFeed.  How'd you do?
  1. A PERFECT CRIME by Peter Abrahams
  2. LIGHTS OUT by Peter Abrahams
  3. PRESSURE DROP by Peter Abrahams
  4. REVOLUTION #9 by Peter Abrahams
  5. A DEATH IN THE FAMILY by James Agee
  6. LIVES OF THE MONSTER DOGS by Kirsten Bakis
  7. REGENERATION by Pat Barker
  8. THE EYE IN THE DOOR by Pat Barker
  9. THE GHOST ROAD by Pat Barker
  10. IN THE NIGHT SEASON by Richard Bausch
  11. THE INTRUDER by Peter Blauner
  12. THE SHELTERING SKY by Paul Bowles
  13. THE TORTILLA CURTAIN by T. Coraghessan Boyle 
  14. A WALK IN THE WOODS by Bill Bryson
  15. THANK YOU FOR SMOKING by Christopher Buckley
  16. WHERE I’M CALLING FROM by Raymond Carver
  17. WEREWOLVES IN THEIR YOUTH by Michael Chabon
  18. LATITUDE ZERO by Windsor Chorlton
  19. THE POET by Michael Connelly
  20. HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad
  21. FAMILY VALUES by K.C. Constantine
  22. UNDERWORLD by Don Delillo
  23. CATHEDRAL by Nelson DeMille
  24. THE GOLD COAST by Nelson DeMille
  25. OLIVER TWIST by Charles Dickens
  26. COMMON CARNAGE by Stephen Dobyns
  27. THE CHURCH OF DEAD GIRLS by Stephen Dobyns
  28. THE WOMAN WHO WALKED INTO DOORS by Roddy Doyle
  29. THE DICK GIBSON SHOW by Stanley Elkin
  30. AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner
  31. THE BEACH by Alex Garland
  32. DECEPTION ON HIS MIND by Elizabeth George
  33. GRAVITY by Tess Gerritsen
  34. LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
  35. FURNACE by Muriel Gray
  36. A GUN FOR SALE by Graham Greene
  37. OUR MAN IN HAVANA by Graham Greene
  38. THE FIFTIES by David Halberstam
  39. WHY SINATRA MATTERS by Pete Hamill
  40. HANNIBAL by Thomas Harris
  41. PLAINSONG by Kent Haruf
  42. SMILA’S SENSE OF SNOW by Peter Hoeg
  43. DIRTY WHITE BOYS by Stephen Hunter
  44. A FIRING OFFENSE by David Ignatius
  45. A WIDOW FOR ONE YEAR by John Irving
  46. THE TOOTH FAIRY by Graham Joyce
  47. THE DEVIL’S OWN WORK by Alan Judd
  48. GOOD ENOUGH TO DREAM by Roger Kahn
  49. THE LIAR’S CLUB by Mary Karr
  50. RIGHT TO LIFE by Jack Ketchum
  51. SURVIVOR by Tabitha King
  52. SKY IN THE WATER by Tabitha King
  53. THE POISONWOOD BIBLE by Barbara Kingsolver
  54. INTO THIN AIR by Jon Krakauer
  55. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee
  56. OUR GUYS by Bernard Lefkowitz
  57. THE IGNORED by Bentley Little
  58. A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT by Norman Maclean
  59. THE MOON AND SIXPENCE by W. Somerset Maugham
  60. CITIES OF THE PLAIN by Cormac McCarthy
  61. THE CROSSING by Cormac McCarthy
  62. ANGELA’S ASHES by Frank McCourt
  63. CHARMING BILLY by Alice McDermott
  64. ANCIENT SHORES by Jack McDevitt
  65. ENDURING LOVE by Ian McEwan
  66. THE CEMENT GARDEN by Ian McEwan
  67. DEAD MAN’S WALK by Larry McMurty
  68. ZEKE AND NED by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana
  69. A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
  70. ZOMBIE by Joyce Carol Oates
  71. IN THE LAKE OF THE WOODS by Tim O’Brien
  72. THE SPEED QUEEN by Stewart O’Nan
  73. THE ENGLISH PATIENT by Michael Ondaatje
  74. NO SAFE PLACE by Richard North Patterson
  75. FREEDOMLAND by Richard Price
  76. CLOSE RANGE by Annie Proulx
  77. THE SHIPPING NEWS by Annie Proulx
  78. ONE TRUE THING by Anna Quindlen
  79. A SIGHT FOR SORE EYES by Ruth Rendell
  80. WAITING by Frank M. Robinson
  81. HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS by J.K. Rowling
  82. HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN by J.K. Rowling
  83. HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE by J.K. Rowling
  84. MOHAWK by Richard Russo
  85. RESERVATION ROAD by John Burnham Schwartz
  86. A SUITABLE BOY by Vikram Seth
  87. THE YOUNG LIONS by Irwin Shaw
  88. THE CRATER by Richard Slotkin
  89. THE ILLUSIONIST by Dinitia Smith
  90. MEN IN BLACK by Scott Spencer
  91. JOE HILL by Wallace Stegner
  92. THE SECRET HISTORY by Donna Tartt
  93. A PATCHWORK PLANET by Anne Tyler
  94. HOCUS POCUS by Kurt Vonnegut
  95. BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh
  96. THE AX by Donald E. Westlake
  97. END OF STORY by Peter Abrahams
  98. THE TUTOR by Peter Abrahams
  99. THE WHITE TIGER by Aravind Adiga
  100. ONE GOOD TURN by Kate Atkinson
  101. ORYX AND CRAKE by Margaret Atwood
  102. FIELDWORK by Mischa Berlinkski
  103. CHRISTINE FALLS by Benjamin Black
  104. THE LAST GOOD DAY by Peter Blauner
  105. 2666 by Roberto Bolaño
  106. THE NIGHT OF THE GUN by David Carr
  107. SPARTINA by John Casey
  108. THE YIDDISH POLICEMEN’S UNION by Michael Chabon
  109. JACK REACHER Series by Lee Child
  110. THE NARROWS by Michael Connelly
  111. THE HOURS by Michael Cunningham
  112. HOUSE OF LEAVES by Mark Z. Danielewski
  113. THE BRIEF AND WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO by Junot Diaz
  114. WHITE MAN’S GRAVE by Richard Dooling
  115. ZOO STATION by David Downing
  116. THE GARDEN OF LAST DAYS by Andre Dubus
  117. PEACE LIKE A RIVER by Leif Enger
  118. A FAN’S NOTES by Frederick Exley
  119. THEN WE CAME TO THE END by Joshua Ferris
  120. STRONG MOTION by Jonathan Franzen
  121. THE CORRECTIONS by Jonathan Franzen 
  122. AMERICAN GODS by Neil Gaiman
  123. CROSSCUT by Meg Gardiner
  124. THE DIRTY SECRETS CLUB by Meg Gardiner
  125. THE LONG HOME by William Gay
  126. PAINTING THE DARKNESS by Robert Goddard
  127. WATER FOR ELEPHANTS by Sara Gruen
  128. THE RAW SHARK TEXTS by Steven Hall
  129. A SOLDIER OF THE GREAT WAR by Mark Helprin
  130. THE HANK THOMPSON TRILOGY by Charlie Huston
  131. TREE OF SMOKE by Denis Johnson
  132. GOOD POEMS Edited by Garrison Keillor
  133. THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES by Sue Monk Kid
  134. FARGO ROCK CITY by Chuck Klosterman
  135. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO by Stieg Larsson
  136. ABSOLUTE FRIENDS by John le Carré
  137. THE GIVEN DAY by Dennis Lehane
  138. UP IN HONEY’S ROOM by Elmore Leonard
  139. THE FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE by Jonathan Lethem
  140. WHAT THE DEAD KNOW by Laura Lippman
  141. DISPATCH by Bentley Little
  142. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN by Cormac McCarthy
  143. ATONEMENT by Ian McEwan
  144. THE PEOPLE’S ACT OF LOVE by James Meek
  145. HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY by Audrey Niffenegger
  146. THE AUBREY/MATURIN NOVELS by Patrick O’Brian
  147. THE GOOD WIFE by Stewart O’Nan
  148. WE WERE THE MULVANEYS by Joyce Carol Oates
  149. HARD REVOLUTION by George Pelecanos
  150. THE TURNAROUND by George Pelecanos
  151. THE ABSTINENCE TEACHER by Tom Perrotta 
  152. NINETEEN MINUTES by Jodi Picoult
  153. VERNON GOD LITTLE by DBC Pierre
  154. FINE JUST THE WAY IT IS by Annie Proulx
  155. SHATTER by Michael Robotham
  156. AMERICAN PASTORAL by Philip Roth
  157. THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA by Philip Roth
  158. MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN by Salman Rushdie
  159. BRIDGE OF SIGHS by Richard Russo
  160. EMPIRE FALLS by Richard Russo 
  161. DROOD by Dan Simmons
  162. TERROR by Dan Simmons
  163. AMERICAN WIFE by Curtis Sittenfeld
  164. CHILD 44 by Tom Rob Smith
  165. VOODOO HEART by Scott Snyder
  166. QUICKSILVER by Neil Stephenson
  167. THE LITTLE FRIEND by Donna Tartt
  168. WAR AND PEACE by Leo Tolstoy
  169. HOLLYWOOD STATION by Joseph Wambaugh
  170. ALL THE KING’S MEN by Robert Penn Warren
  171. THE LITTLE STRANGER by Sarah Waters
  172. CROOKED RIVER BURNING by Mark Winegardner
  173. THE GODFATHER RETURNS by Mark Winegardner
  174. THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE by David Wroblewski
  175. REVOLUTIONARY ROAD by Richard Yates
  176. BIG IF by Mark Costello
  177. LIFE OF PI by Yann Martel
  178. THE FIXER by Bernard Malamud

Monday, September 14, 2015

Strawberry Pretzel Pie

Don't tell Mrs. BA - but I really think I'm in love with the Pioneer Woman.

Strawberry Pretzel Pie
Pie Prep Time: 4 Hours
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Servings: 8

Ingredients
  • 4 cups Pretzel Sticks 
  • 1 stick (8 Tablespoons) Butter, Melted 
  • 1/3 cup Brown Sugar 
  • 1-1/2 cup Sugar 
  • 3 Tablespoons Cornstarch 
  • 1 package (3.5 Ounce) Strawberry-flavored Jello 
  • 1-1/2 cup Water 
  • 3 pints Strawberries, Hulled And Halved 
  • Unsweetened Whipped Cream 

Preparation Instructions
For the pretzel crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Crush the pretzels in a large resealable plastic bag with a rolling pin. Mix in a bowl with the butter and brown sugar. Press into a pie pan and bake for 8 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.

For the strawberry filling: Put 1 1/2 cups water, the granulated sugar, cornstarch and gelatin powder in a saucepan. Stir together and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook until it starts to thicken, about 2 to 3 minutes, then remove from the heat. Let the liquid cool for a good 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Put the strawberries in a bowl and pour over the sauce, gently tossing together. Allow to sit for 5-7 minutes, then carefully pile the coated strawberries into the cooled pie crust. Spoon over a little leftover sauce if needed, and refrigerate, uncovered, for 4 hours.

Cut into slices and serve with whipped cream. (Unsweetened is nice because the pie is so sweet!)

Monday, September 7, 2015

It's Labor Day - Have a Drink!

I know there's dark rum in the house - it came back from vacation after being acquired at the NH State Liquor Store.  Now if I can still get some cherries.  From Epicurious.

The Cherry Bomb
Yield: 1 cocktail
Active Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients 
  • 4 fresh sweet cherries, halved, pitted 
  • 1/4 of a lemon 
  • 1/4 of a lime 
  • 5–6 fresh mint leaves 
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup 
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters 
  • 2 ounces dark rum 
  • Mint sprigs (for garnish) 

Preparation
Using a muddler or the handle of a wooden spoon, muddle cherries, lemon and lime wedges, mint leaves, simple syrup, and bitters in a mixing glass or cocktail shaker. Add rum and stir to combine.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Mayonnaise

There are some things that I don't make - because there are others who do a much better than me.  Mayonnaise for instance.  The fine folks at Hellman's have got this.  But if I were to make my own - I would use this recipe.  Via BuzzFeed.

Basic Mayonnaise
Makes 2 cups
Recipe by Emily Gennis

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 2 tablespoons very cold water 
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice 
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil, refrigerator cold

PREPARATION
  1. Combine all ingredients except the oil in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and blend until combined, 5-10 seconds. 
  2. While the food processor is still running, add the cold oil in a very slow, steady stream. It should take about a minute to add all of the oil.
  3. When all of the oil is incorporated, the mixture should be thick, emulsified, and a pale yellowish-white. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. 
And if you're not happy with the basic mayo - check here for some varieties.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Garlice and Herb Spatchcock Grilled Chicken

The Brave Astronaut is back from vacation and a conference trip to Cleveland and ready to get back in a routine.  That means dinner at home more regularly.  But it doesn't mean an end to grilling.  From epicurious.

Garlic and Herb Spatchcock Grilled Chicken
Yield: Serves 4
Active Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 1/4 hours

Ingredients
  • 1 bunch rosemary 
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed 
  • 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 1 (3 1/2-pound) whole chicken 
  • 1 (1 1/2-pound) skin-on, bone-in whole chicken breast 
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt 
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Chimichurri Sauce (for serving) 

Preparation
Prepare a grill for medium-high heat with both direct and indirect heat zones, preferably with hardwood or hardwood charcoal. Separate leaves from 5 rosemary sprigs, then coarsely chop leaves. Tie remaining sprigs together with kitchen twine to form a brush. Combine garlic and oil in a measuring cup.

Remove backbone of whole chicken with kitchen shears by cutting along both sides of the spine while chicken is breast side down. Reserve backbone for stock. Remove keel bone. Turn chicken over, breast side up, and splay it open. Press down on breastbone with your palms until you hear it crack. Tuck the wings behind the breasts, then tuck in the legs so the bottoms of the drumsticks are pointed away from the body and chicken is as flat as possible.

Press down on breastbone of whole chicken breast with your palms until it cracks and lies as flat as possible.

Brush all sides of both pieces of chicken with the garlic-oil using rosemary brush. Sprinkle all sides with chopped rosemary leaves, salt, and pepper.

Grill both pieces of chicken, skin side down, over direct heat, until skin is golden brown, crispy, and lightly charred, about 5 minutes. Flip both pieces of chicken over, transfer to indirect heat, and baste with rosemary brush dipped in garlic-oil.

Continue to grill chicken, basting occasionally, until skin is golden brown, juices run clear, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 165°F, 45–60 minutes for whole chicken and 25–35 minutes for chicken breast. Let chicken stand at least 10 minutes before carving. Arrange chicken on a serving platter and serve with chimichurri sauce alongside.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Cleveland Rocks! Go visit a museum!

I'm traveling again today (after the great summer vacation in Maine last week) - heading for the Society of American Archivists meeting in Cleveland, Ohio.  I will meet up with my archival friends, speak on a panel and take in some minor league ball (the Indians are out of town this week).

None of the museums on this list are in Cleveland (but the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is - and I'll be going there) - but one should visit these, I've been to several already and will work on the rest in the coming years!
  1. The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - I've been here (at another conference).  The largest museum dedicated to a single artist in the United States, the Andy Warhol museum features works from throughout the career of the king of pop art. The museum is located in the North Side of Pittsburgh, which was Warhol’s hometown.
  2. Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, California - I missed out on the SAA meeting in San Francisco and have yet to visit the city by the bay.  San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum features one of the largest and most comprehensive collection of art and handicrafts from throughout the Asian continent.
  3. The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii - I've not been to Hawaii and don't have a whole lot of interest, unfortunately.  While Honolulu’s Bishop museum features several different exhibits ranging from Earth science to art, what really makes this museum unique is its collection of items of importance from the Hawaiian people and their culture, which is unparalleled, and visiting the Bishop Museum means you are in Hawaii, which is pretty excellent.
  4. Chasing Rainbows Museum, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee - I've not been to Tennessee either, but might be able to be convinced.  Yes, that’s right, there is a museum that’s all about Dolly Parton, and, yes, you have to visit this all Dolly Parton museum that’s a featured attraction in Dollywood, the all Dolly Parton theme park located in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains.
  5. Clinton Presidential Center, Little Rock, Arkansas - Hey, it's a National Archives location! If you are in the mood for some 90s nostalgia, there’s really no better place on this planet today than Little Rock, the home of Bill Clinton’s presidential library and museum, which does a pretty nice job of breaking down the state of the world during the Clinton presidency.
  6. Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York - I really meant to stop here on the way home from Rochester last year.  This could be done as a day trip or an overnight.  Located in the small Upstate New York town of Corning, which is also the home of the Corning Glass Works that founded this museum in the 1950s, the Corning Museum of Glass is part hands on science museum and part art/history museum focusing on the development of glass as a material and it’s many uses.
  7. Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art, Staten Island, New York - Wait, there's something other that landfill on Staten Island? Tucked in a suburban neighborhood on New York’s remote Staten Island is one of the world’s best collection of Tibetan and Himalayan art and artifacts. It’s a pretty interesting and quiet oasis in the middle of one of the world’s biggest cities.
  8. National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, New York - CHECK! While certainly an important stop for any fan of America’s Pastime, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum presents a succinct telling of American history through the lens of one of this nation’s most popular sports. It seems like today there is a hall of fame for just about everything, but Cooperstown is no doubt the best of the bunch.
  9. National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, Tennessee - Two museums from Tennessee on the same list?  Housed in the former Lorraine Motel in Memphis, infamous as the place where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in April, 1968, the National Civil Rights Museum takes a poignant look at America’s Civil Rights Movement from the 1600s through today.
  10. National Cryptologic Museum, Fort George G. Meade, Maryland - I keep meaning to go, but I can never find it, plus I think it's password protected.  If you can believe it, the National Cryptologic Museum is a pet project of controversial National Security Agency (NSA). The museum is perfect if you are a fan of looking at the actual objects that inspired your favorite Bond gadgets, this museum is perfect for you. It’s perhaps best to turn off your phone before you enter though… just in case. 
  11. New Bedford Whaling Museum, New Bedford, Massachusetts - Growing up on Long Island, I often would visit the Whaling Museum in Cold Spring Harbor.  That's not to say that I'm not prepared to branch out.  Before we discovered fossil fuels were capable of helping us generate energy while destroying the environment, people actually loaded up on sailing vessels and went out to harpoon whales to process their blubber as oil. The New Bedford Whaling Museum, located in what was once one of the biggest whaling ports in the world, looks at the history and culture of the whale fishing era, whale biology as well as the fight to help save these incredible creatures. 
  12. Seashore Trolley Museum, Kennebunkport, Maine - We hit this one up just last week! With all the summers I spent in Maine, I had never been there.  Located in the small coastal Maine village of Kennebunkport, the Seashore Trolley Museum is home to the world’s largest collection of mass transit vehicles from street cars dating to the 1800s to busses and subway trains just decommissioned from their respective cities. Be sure to take a ride on one of their functioning cars for a bit of transit nostalgia.
  13. Totem Heritage Center, Ketchikan, Alaska - I've not been to the Last Frontier State, yet. Tucked at the end of the scenic Alaskan Peninsula, Ketchikan hosts the worlds largest single collection of authentic totem poles in the Totem Heritage Center along with the Totem Bight State Historic Park and other nearby facilities.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

It's the Day for the Left!

At the Brave Astronaut Clan enjoys it's time Down East with our good friends for the week - it's time to pause and recognize the holiday that occurs today - International Left Hander's Day!

I, am of course, left handed - something that is very prominent in my profession I have come to notice.  Perhaps one of my industrious brethren should come up with a whole line of left-handed archival supplies!  Because below is a list of things that are a challenge to those of us that "if the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body" are the only ones who are in their right minds. (via BuzzFeed)
  1. “Scissors” - What it usually means: A tool used for cutting or for brandishing at smaller siblings. What it means to lefties: An ancient torture device that sometimes leaves you hacking at a piece of paper because no one can ever find that one pair of left-handed scissors that’s floating somewhere in the universe. 
  2. “Can Opener” - What it usually means: A tool used for opening the can of tuna that’s been at the back of your pantry since 2002. What it means to lefties: An instrument of death that makes you shift into a series of angles that human bodies are not made to withstand.
  3. “First Day of School” - What it usually means: A fresh start! Knowledge! The opportunity for an undercover cop to pose as a fresh2death millennial and allow hijinks to ensue! What it means to lefties: Quickly scanning the classroom to grab the one left-handed desk, if there even is one. Otherwise, it means looking forward to a year of performing unnatural and possibly illegal contortions in order to write. 
  4. “Dinner Party” - What it usually means: A gathering where friends and/or family partake in food and tedious small talk until someone gets drunk and starts talking about moon landing conspiracy theories. What it means to lefties: A brutal battle where no elbow emerges unscathed. 
  5. “Binder” - What it usually means: A place to keep your papers and thoughts organized until the snaps come apart and everything goes flying to the floor. What it means to lefties: A tool forged in hell to annoy you as you attempt to write.
  6. “Writing” - What it usually means: Committing words to a page using a writing utensil. Retro texting. What it means to lefties: Smearing ink or lead across the side of one’s hand because life is not fair and no one is looking out for you and nothing matters.
  7. “SmudgeGuard” - What it usually means: An open glove meant to prevent lefties’ hands from being stained as they write. A toe shoe for your hand. What it means to lefties: A hand garment created by the Righty Industrial Complex to make us look foolish.
  8. “Cooking” - What it usually means: Preparing food when you should have just ordered pizza. What it means to lefties: Wrestling with a saucepan that has a lip on the wrong side so that you end up sloshing half your cooking liquid all over the counter like some moron in a late-night infomercial. Although thank goodness for these things.
  9. “Mug” - What it usually means: A vessel from which to sip the blood of your enemies. What it means to lefties: A vessel from which to sip the blood of our right-handed oppressors on which cute little novelty slogans are usually printed so that we cannot see them as we imbibe.
  10. “Baseball” - What is usually means: A sport that involves throwing a ball and running while wearing pajamas. What it means to lefties: Gingerly placing your hand into the one lefty glove, if you can even find it, that smells like it is haunted by the ghosts of a million farts.
  11. “Camera” - What it usually means: A device that takes photos of food. What it means for lefties: A frustrating device that takes photos of food. 
  12. “Gun” - What it usually means: A weapon used in hunting, law enforcement, straight-up murder, firing paintballs at frenemies, or any combination of these. What it means to lefties: A potentially bad idea.
  13. “Video Game” - What it usually means: A way to unwind and have fun, usually while murdering pixelated people and/or demons. What it means to lefties: Using a controller that acts as a constant reminder of the Righty Industrial Complex’s vendetta against its superior left-handed brethren.
  14. “Lefty” - What it usually means: A person who favors his or her left hand when writing and performing other functions. Also, sometimes it means political stuff. What is means to lefties: A person who puts up with a lot of crap.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The United Nations Takes a Step Forward

On this day in History, President Harry Truman signed the United Nations Charter, and the United States became the first nation to complete the process of joining the new international organization - which will celebrate its 70th anniversary in October.

There are currently 193 nations in the United Nations.  I had an idea that I was going to do a series of posts this year to commemorate the founding of the UN, but couldn't get it together.  How could I adequately highlight all of the countries?

I used to visit the UN Headquarters often while growing up in New York.  If you're in New York, it is absolutely worth a visit.

To mark this significant anniversary, here are 15 Crazy Facts About Some of the World's Lesser Known Countries. From BuzzFeed.
  1. Kiribati (UN Member since 1999) is the world’s only country to fall within all four hemispheres.
  2. The island nation of Niue (not a member of the UN) has coins featuring Disney characters, Star Wars characters, and more. Located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and with only about 1,200 residents, the small island nation of Niue is one of the most remote in the world.
  3. Ethiopia (Original Member - 1945) still follows a traditional calendar that is seven years behind the rest of the world. Because of the strong presence of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the country, the traditional calendar of that church is still influential in Ethiopia. The calendar came about in the 16th century when most of Christianity changed the date Jesus is believed to have been born on, but those in Ethiopia decided to maintain the original date. 
  4. Greenland (an autonomous country within Denmark) is unable to join FIFA because the ground there can’t grow a grass field. Because of the country’s climate, the ground is generally covered in ice or permafrost, making it nearly impossible to grow enough grass to form a regulation-size soccer field. 
  5. The country of Nauru (member since 1999) does not have a capital city.
  6. Nauru also holds the distinction of being the fattest nation in the world. Due to the popularity of Western-style fast food that was brought to the country following the island’s financial success in phosphate mining, the average citizen of Nauru has a BMI of between 34 and 35. For reference, a normal BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9.
  7. Tuvalu (member since 2000) received $50 million in exchange for the rights to the nation’s lucrative internet domain, .tv. 
  8. The most isolated tree in the world was located in the middle of the Sahara Desert in Niger (member since 1960). Known as the Tree of Ténéré (or L’Arbre du Ténéré to locals, as Niger’s official language is French), this small acacia tree was separated from any other trees by a distance of 250 miles. 
  9. One of the islands in the Federated States of Micronesia (UN member since 1991)uses giant carved stones as a form of currency. The country is made up of numerous islands spread across the Pacific Ocean, including the island state of Yap. And on Yap, instead of paper currency, the traditional form of money has been giant limestone discs (rai stones), which are considered rare and important because the limestone originated on another island far away. Of course, the sheer size of these stones makes it difficult for them to actually be moved, so most times, payment with the stones is simply based on oral agreement rather than any physical exchange. 
  10. There are 23 native languages recognized by the government in Guatemala (Original UN Member - 1945). Overall, about 40% of the population speaks one of these languages, including Quiche, Kekchi, and Mam.
  11. In 1973, Bhutan (UN Member since 1971) instituted a policy to measure the nation’s Gross National Happiness (as opposed to the more typical Gross Domestic Product). 
  12. A 2007-2008 Gallup poll found Estonia (UN Member since 1991) to be the least religious country in the world. The poll asked respondents from around the world, “Is religion an important part of your daily life?” Only 14% of Estonians answered in the affirmative, the lowest of all nations. In contrast, in that same poll, Egypt had a 100% “yes” rate.
  13. San Marino (UN Member since 1992) has the highest amount of automobiles per people in the world. A 2010 study found that the tiny nation of San Marino, which is located entirety within Italy, had 1,139.06 cars per 1,000 people the only nation in the study, in fact, that had more cars than citizens.
  14. Papua New Guinea (UN Member since 1975), with only 6.5 million residents, contains about 12% of the world’s spoken languages. Although most are spoken by fewer than 1,000 people, there are more than 800 indigenous languages used in Papua New Guinea.
  15. Liechtenstein (UN Member since 1990) is the world’s largest producer of false teeth. Even with just under 40,000 residents, the Principality of Liechtenstein is a major powerhouse when it comes to the production of false teeth. In 2010, it was manufacturing about 60 million false teeth, which was one-fifth of the total amount of false teeth produced worldwide.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Saltine Ice Cream Sandwiches

The Brave Astronaut is hitting the road for our big summer vacation soon - so there will be lots of ice cream in our future, I know all the good places (as long as they are still there).  But I would make these . . . via Smitten Kitchen.


Saltine Crack Ice Cream Sandwiches
  • 32 (about 100 grams) saltine-style crackers 
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) unsalted butter, cut into a few large pieces 
  • 1/2 cup (95 grams) packed light or dark brown sugar 
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1 1/3 cups (8 ounces) dark chocolate (semi- or bittersweet) chips or the equivalent amount of chopped chocolate 
  • 2/3 cup toasted, chopped almonds or a nut of your choice (optional) 
  • Sea salt for sprinkling 
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups ice cream, any flavor (we used vanilla) 
Heat your oven: To 350°F (175°C).

Prepare pans: Line the bottom and sides of 1 9×13-inch baking sheet or 2 8×8-inch cake pans with foil, then lightly coat foil with nonstick spray. Arrange crackers in a single layer so that they fit in the bottom of your pan. In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have to cut any to make them fit flat. In ours, I used a serrated knife to cut several to fit neatly. Having no crackers overlap will make it easier to spread the caramel in a few minutes.

Make toffee: In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and brown sugar together. Stir until it begins to boil, then whisk (which will help the butter and sugar come together) for 2 to 3 more minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. I only add salt at this point if using unsalted crackers, i.e. not saltines. Pour over cracker-lined pan(s) and use an offset spatula to evenly spread the caramel, working quickly as it will be eager to cool and set.

Bake: In heated oven for 10 to 15 minutes, checking in at 10 minutes to make sure the corners aren’t darkening too quickly. Remove from oven and scatter chocolate chips over caramel crackers. Wait 5 minutes for them to soften, then use a spatula to spread the chocolate into an even layer. Sprinkle with nuts and a couple pinches of sea salt.

Chill crackers: Transfer pan(s) to freezer until absolutely cold and solid, about 15 to 30 minutes. Using the foil to lift toffee sheet, carefully transfer the candy to a cutting board and remove the foil. If you’ve made this in one pan, cut your sheet evenly in half with a serrated knife.

Assemble ice cream sandwich block: Line the bottoms and sides of your baking pan (now foil-free) with a piece of plastic wrap. Place your first sheet of candy chocolate side down in the bottom of your pan. Scoop your desired amount of ice cream over the sheet and spread it into an even layer. Place second sheet of candy, chocolate side up, on top, pressing it onto the ice cream. Return to freezer for several hours, at least 4 but probably 8 is best to get the block of sandwiches solid enough to cut without being completely aggravating.

Cut block into individual sandwiches: When sandwich block is frozen solid, transfer to a cutting board (you can also freeze your cutting surface for 10 minutes before using, to give you more time before things get too melty) and use a sharp serrated knife to very, very carefully saw your block into ice cream sandwich squares. I cut my 8×8-inch blocks into 16 2-inch sandwiches. This is definitely the peskiest part. If things warm and melt too fast, just place the whole thing back in the freezer for 10 minutes before continuing.

Once cut, return sandwiches to freezer to let them firm up again, before transferring them to a container or freezer bag for store, or, you know, your mouth for near-immediate gratification.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Going to be ON Long Island NOT in Long Island

Please note, one is never IN Long Island, you are always ON Long Island. And that big place at the western edge of the Long Island Rail Road, it's just The City.  And everything north of Westchester is Upstate.  The Brave Astronaut is on the road again this weekend - headed to Long Island for my 30th High School Reunion.  Go Braves!


Do you think you understand Long Island? (from ThrillList) (my comments in italics)
  1. You can buy beer anywhere that sells anything, except, quite oddly, at liquor stores (different from my life here in MD).
  2. We didn't all play lacrosse growing up, but we do all own lacrosse shorts. (I didn't and I don't own lacrosse shorts)
  3. Fire Island isn't just full of naked people, it is full of Rocket Fuel, though.
  4. Suffolk County and Nassau County are two very, very different places (Yes.  Yes they are)
  5. Our pizza (especially slice joints) and bagels are consistently better and more plentiful than those in the city. (Bagel Boss this weekend!
  6. And one fine example named Little Vincent's puts cold cheese on top of the not-cold cheese It's very insane, and very perfect. Also there's about three fights a night in that place. (I've never heard of this place)
  7. We all love Billy Joel completely un-ironically, even though he’s crashed his car into the front of most of our houses. (He's playing the Coliseum on Monday - I wonder if he'll show up to the reunion to warm up)
  8. Half of the island had to go into therapy after having their area code changed from 516 to 631 in 1999, many still consider 631 a grave mark of shame. (Their fault for being the lesser county)
  9. North Shore beaches basically suck; South Shore beaches are like real beaches, with sand and waves, and also guys walking up and down with a cooler, shouting, "Fudgie Wudgie bars!!!".
  10. All of those beaches are fantastic for drinking on, even though you’re not supposed to, especially at night. (I've never done that, really.  Truly.)
  11. Speaking of drinking, you're basically legally required to do it on the LIRR and the beer tap setups at Penn are actually totally dope these days, as long as you consider getting a 64oz, 8% ABV beer for $8 "totally dope". (Ah, the late, lamented bar car)
  12. Brooklyn and Queens are both ON LONG ISLAND but in all the ways that matter, they totally aren't. 
  13. Watson and Crick invented goddamn DNA at the Cold Spring Harbor Labs! 
  14. "Stationery stores" don't sell stationery; they sell candy and cap guns and mylar balloons and booby magazines in plastic bags. They have plenty of stationery, they just don't sell any of it. (Oscar's in Plainview - it was a rite of passage to go in there and steal something)
  15. One highway can have 15 different legitimate names and sometimes two at the exact same time -- looking at you, 106/107!
  16. Buying rims that cost more than the entire rest of your car is a totally reasonable thing to do as long as you save money for an exhaust. 
  17. Half and half is not something that goes in your coffee unless you like putting gigantic, delicious, foam-cupped Arnold Palmers in your coffee. (And coffee regular means milk and sugar)
  18. You can’t ever get lost, because if you do, you just keep driving until you hit water and then turn around, just hope you get lost going North-South. 
  19. That pile of stuff on the ground in the parking lot is invariably the innards of a Dutch Masters cigar.
  20. We wear MLB fitted hats backwards and slightly cocked to the side (though I wish we wouldn't)
  21. There’s a wine country, and it’s pretty legit. You'll have to get someone to drive you from vineyard to vineyard, but to get there, take the train and drink on the way to warm up. 
  22. Nothing else in the world is like a Long Island deli, a magical place where you can name literally anything you'd like to see on a sandwich, and it's understood that they will have it When you can get chicken cutlet with American cheese, bacon, and Russian dressing on a hero, it doesn’t really matter that their interiors haven’t been updated since the '60s. 
  23. Buttered rolls Are basically a delicacy. (I used to live on those in college)
  24. If you drive more than a mile in any direction and you haven't passed a 7-Eleven, you are no longer on Long Island.
  25. Jersey is much, much worse. Actually, everyone already did know that one.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Parmesan Zucchini Crisps

We get a box of fruits and veggies every other week delivered to the launchpad - thanks Washington Green Grocer!  Occasionally there will be zucchini in the box, which LBA likes and SoBA tolerates.  I usually will just saute the slices in a pan with some garlic and olive oil.  Then I saw this recipe - via Spoon Fork Bacon via BuzzFeed.

Parmesan Zucchini Crisps
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients
  • 2 large zucchini, very thinly sliced (using a mandolin would be best) 
  • 1 ounce Parmesan 
  • 1 tablespoon finely crushed sea salt flakes 

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 200˚F. 
  2. Line zucchini slices onto 2 baking sheets lined with parchment. 
  3. Grate parmesan evenly over slices and sprinkle with salt. 
  4. Place baking sheets in the oven and bake for 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours and 30 minutes, depending on thickness (rotating the baking sheets halfway through). 
  5. Remove from the oven and allow crisps to cool completely. Serve.