Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Elvis has left the building

I get a variety of trivial information delivered to me via email each morning (this day in history, birthdays. etc.). One email service I signed up for at some point (call it morbid curiosity) is from Dead at your Age, where you can enter your date of birth and find out who died at your exact age. They also have an email service where they send you an email when someone died at your exact age. Today I got to work and had the following email:

You are exactly 42 years and 220 days old today.

At your exact age, Elvis Presley died of a heart attack. He was a the immortal King of Rock 'n' Roll.

So to honor the King, I will stay away from the PB and Banana sandwiches today. But that doesn't mean that I will avoid some of these foods(seen on BuzzFeed, where the link goes to an, in this case, ironically named blog called

Herewith, a list of the 50 Fattiest Foods in the United States, with comment where appropriate:
  1. Alabama - Bacon-wrapped meatloaf (One 3-ounce serving of 80% lean meatloaf has roughly 14 grams of fat. Each slice of bacon will cost you an additional 3 grams of fat) - OK, I don't have a problem with this, it's how I eat my meatloaf now.
  2. Alaska - Eskimo Ice Cream - yum, reindeer fat.
  3. Arizona - Quadruple Bypass Burger - um, wow.
  4. Arkansas - Catfish - hey everything tastes better when deep fried in oil.
  5. California - In-N-Out Burger Double Double - I have yet to enjoy an In-N-Out burger (41g fat), but Five Guys (43g fat) is pretty good. It must be the fat.
  6. Colorado - Jack-N-Grill’s 7-pound breakfast burritos (7 potatoes, 12 eggs, a pound of ham, a whole onion, cheese, and chili) - hold on a minute, I need to take a knee.
  7. Connecticut - The Two-Foot long Hot Dog (The average foot-long hot dog has about 24g of fat, 10g of it saturated. And this is double that, plus it has bacon, chili, and cheddar cheese.)
  8. Delaware - Deep Fried Pastry - yet another reason why I am not allowed to own a deep fryer ("Hey, I wonder what this will taste like deep fried?").
  9. Florida - Empanadas - surely there's something fattier available at Disney World?
  10. Georgia - The Luther Burger - Paula Deen took this one step further (burger on a Krispy Kreme "bun") by adding a fried egg to the sandwich.
  11. Hawaii - Loco Moco (two hamburger patties, two eggs, three scoops of jasmine rice, plus onions, fish, and mushroom gravy, 43g fat).
  12. Idaho - Bacon Blue Cheese Dressing - not feeling it at all for this, even with the bacon.
  13. Illinois - Deep Dish Pizza - yeah, this is why I prefer NY-style pizza, it's healthier.
  14. Indiana - Fried Brain Sandwich (A 6-ounce scoop of beef brain batter contained about 24g of fat. The now used pork version is estimated at 18g) - so this would be brain food in its truest sense? I guess if you are a fat head, wow, bad joke.
  15. Iowa - Hot Meat Sundae (Mashed potatoes, roast beef, beef gravy, cheddar cheese, tomato) - that's just blasphemy to ice cream lovers everywhere.
  16. Kansas - Charred Ends (crunchy cubes of the fatty end of a barbecued brisket) - is it wrong to just want to have a big bowl of these?
  17. Kentucky - KFC Double Down - I still haven't tried one of these. I don't have an EMT that follows me around.
  18. Louisiana - Beignets (about 11g of fat, the same as in a McDonald’s cheeseburger) - yeah, so?
  19. Maine - Lobster Roll - I'll give you this one. Lobster Rolls are good, but if you're having it, eat 'em steamed with drawn butter.
  20. Maryland - Smith Island Cake - which is evidently the Official State Dessert of Maryland. Wait, there are official state foods?
  21. Massachusetts - Chocolate Chip Cookie (The average weight of a commercially prepared cookie is about 12g. The weight of a version from fast-food chain Carl’s Jr. is 71g, with 19g of that being fat)
  22. Michigan - BLT - nothing wrong with a little bacon now and then. This particular version however, from Tony's I-75 uses a whole pound of bacon (for 192g of fat!)
  23. Minnesota - Dairy Queen's FlameThrower GrillBurger - why must you be mean to the meat?
  24. Mississippi - Mud Pie - Mississippi has held the title of the state with the highest obesity rate in the country, at 32.5%, for five years in a row.
  25. Missouri - Hardee's 2/3 lb. Monster ThickBurger (Two 1/3 pound beef patties, 4 strips of bacon, 3 slices of American cheese, mayonnaise, sesame seed bun) - OK, this meat you can be mean to.
  26. Montana - Rocky Mountain Oysters - OK, only going to point out there's no ocean near Montana. You want to know more about these, google it.
  27. Nebraska - Eskimo Pie (Vanilla ice cream with Nestle Crunch chocolate coating and a relatively tame 13g of fat per bar)
  28. Nevada - Buffets - 'nuff said.
  29. New Hampshire - New England Clam Chowder - I'm really not getting into this debate, but I think I know someone who reads this blog who might. New Hampshire gets the Chowder, really?
  30. New Jersey - the Fat Darrell (Chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, marinara sauce, French fries, lettuce, tomato, roll and an estimated 45 grams of fat) - I think I might weep.
  31. New Mexico - Frito Pie (estimates vary based on the toppings you add) - Um, I have been known to salt Fritos.
  32. New York - The Garbage Plate (A base of home fries, macaroni salad, baked beans or French fries, topped with choice of meat (hamburger, cheeseburger, hot dog, sausage, chicken tender, fish, fried ham), and drenched in mustard, onions, and hot sauce—all amounting to about 3 pounds of food!) - now I need to lie down.
  33. North Carolina - Livermush (Pig liver, assorted other pig parts (usually fatty), cornmeal, pepper, salt) - never, ever, and I eat bologna.
  34. North Dakota - Fleischkuechle (a meat patty smothered in a fried dough wrapping) - so like a pierogie.
  35. Ohio - Bob Evans Sausage Biscuit Bowl (Home fries, eggs, sausage gravy, sausage, cheddar cheese, scallions, margarine, in a biscuit bowl) - wait, wasn't margarine good for you at one point?
  36. Oklahoma - Chicken Fried Steak - All I'm saying is steak is steak, chicken is chicken, and gravy is not white.
  37. Oregon - The Redonkadonk (which is being peddled by a Portland Food Truck, contains egg, ham, Spam, bacon, and American cheese on a beef patty, between two grilled-cheese sandwiches on thicker-than-normal Texas Toast bread in the place of a bun).
  38. Pennsylvania - The Cheesesteak - I will hear no criticism of this food nirvana.
  39. Rhode Island - New York System Hot Wieners - (A beef hot dog drenched in yellow mustard, onions, celery salt, and ground-beef sauce and about 28g of fat)
  40. South Carolina - The Turducken
  41. South Dakota - Frybread - from the picture, it looks a lot like funnel cake.
  42. Tennessee - Ruby Tuesday's Triple Prime Bacon Cheddar Burger (115g of fat)
  43. Texas - the Corn Dog
  44. Utah - Scone - no, not this kind of scone, the one that more doughy and gets deep fried.
  45. Vermont - The Ben and Jerry's Vermonster (20 scoops of ice cream, hot fudge, banana, cookies, brownies, and other toppings of your choice).
  46. Virginia - Ham - not the best meat for you, but not the worst either.
  47. Washington - Crab Louis Salad (Salad greens, tomato, hard-boiled egg, celery, crabmeat, with dressing made of mayonnaise, chili sauce or cocktail sauce, green peppers, sweet pickles, onion)
  48. West Virginia - Hillbilly Hot Dogs 10 lb. burger (about 800g of fat).
  49. Wisconsin - Fried Cheese Curds (Milk or beer, egg, flour, sugar, salt, baking power, cheese curds, oil for frying)
  50. Wyoming - Lamb - lamb, really, that's what we end with?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mini Sliders!

The Brave Astronaut clan is making the most of our pool membership this summer. The trick is making sure that we have dinner ready to go for the pool, so we are not dependent on the snack bar, although the freshly grilled burgers are especially delicious.

Here is a recipe forwarded to me by C in DC for sliders, which would be perfect for the pool. There was no ingredients list up front, but it's pretty straight forward.

"Take a cookie sheet and cover it with parchment paper. Sprinkle the entire surface with dried onion bits. Use a lot of them because they are a big part of why this recipe is so wonderful.

Take 2 pounds of ground meat and sit it right in the middle of the pan. Do not use lean ground meat because you want these to be juicy.

Put a sheet of plastic wrap over the meat and begin rolling it out to the edges of the pan and covering the dried onions.

Remove the plastic wrap.

Sprinkle the surface of the meat with a seasoned salt. Don't skimp on the salt. You don't want to have to salt these while eating. Place the pan in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes

I made homemade miniature buns. Some stores now carry slider buns or you could also use the mini potato rolls from the store but homemade is best!

After 20 minutes remove the pan from the oven and turn the oven off. The meat will have shrunk a bit while cooking.

Sprinkle the entire surface with cheddar cheese. You can use any kind of cheese that you like. Sit the pan back in the oven for a few minutes until the cheese melts.

The meat re-hydrates the onions while cooking and actually sort of sucks them up into the meat.

Cut the meat into squares to fit the buns. Top with some ketchup, mustard and a couple dill pickles.

These are the best sliders I have ever had. Plus, you get about 40 of them from one cookie sheet so you can feed lots of people very simply and inexpensively. These are sized so that you can eat them in about 2 bites. They can even be made in advance and gently reheated right before serving."

Monday, July 19, 2010

It's Not Soup Weather, But . . .

It's always a good time for Avgolemono. You don't know Avgolemono? Not up on all of your Greek cuisine? Avgolemono is Greek Lemon Chicken Soup and it is outstanding. When I get a chance to visit Marathon Deli and have a gyro - if it is Avgolemono Soup Day, I'm having some of that, too.

This recipe comes from a blog friend, whose blog I read. She doesn't usually post recipes, but this one was worth disseminating further. Enjoy!

  • 6 cups of chicken stock
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup orzo pasta
  • meat from chicken bones
  • black pepper and sea salt to taste
Put the stock and orzo in a pot and heat. Once it reaches a boil cover it and simmer until the pasta is al dente.

While the stock is coming to boil whisk the eggs thoroughly in a big bowl, not massive but eventually the bowl will have about 3 cups of fluid you need to be whisking around so it has to accommodate that unless you're fond of having this mess fly all over your counter. Mix the lemon juice and water together then slowly add it to the eggs as you continue whisking them. This is the part where you practice that slow adding and whisking at the same time. You're going to be doing a lot of that for this recipe. It's really important later on.

Once the pasta is al dente take the pot off the heat and remove 2 cups of the broth. VERY SLOWLY add this to the lemon/egg mixture as you continue to whisk. When I say very slowly, I mean it. If you go dumping all that boiling hot broth into your eggs willy nilly just forget it. Slow down! I mean add it drip by drip, seriously. It took me several minutes to add 2 cups of hot broth to the eggs. And don't stop whisking.

Now that you've practiced that you get to do it some more. Take that broth /egg/lemon mixture and VERY SLOWLY add it back to the pot as you stir the soup constantly.

After all the mixture is added back into the pot, add salt and pepper, toss in the meat, and reheat the whole thing on medium low heat until it SOUNDS like it's boiling but isn't actually having bubbles break the surface. Stir it occasionally. Once it sounds boiling take it off the heat and stir it gently.

Ladle it into the bowls, slurp it up enjoying the slightly lemony tang. Congratulate yourself on a fine pot of soup.

Friday, July 16, 2010

What am I doing?

Too much, obviously.

I stayed home sick today. I woke up with a crushing headache (I think it's weather related - it had nothing to do with the earthquake that hit the DC area this morning - really, I slept through that), the same type that I have had on several mornings this summer. I took some Advil and then went back to sleep, waking up around 10:00. I gave some thought to going into work, but the dull ache was still in my head somewhere, so I decided to take the day. I settled into the family room (the coolest in the house as it is below grade) to watch the British Open and relax. There was no shortage of things I could be doing (as you will see in a moment) but I needed to just take a little Brave Astronaut time.

In Part I of this "I don't have time for anything" ongoing saga, I laid out what a normal day looks like for the Brave Astronaut clan. Part II concerned what I was doing with my father and his girlfriend when they came for a visit over the Fourth of July weekend. As I like to say about family visits, "No one cried, and no one died."

So what is it that I'm doing that leaves me feeling that I'm not getting anything done?

In my full time job, I spend my day working on processing archival records and providing reference service to researchers. It keeps me busy and I manage to get things done most of the time. I'm successful at making To-Do lists and get a sense of accomplishment by crossing things off the list. There are some times that I wish that I got more done, but then again, who doesn't.

Professionally, I am fairly involved. I feel very strongly about professional development and like to volunteer. Within my agency, I am currently the Treasurer of the professional staff association, a position I have held for the past three years. As I have written here before, I am also active in my regional professional organization, most recently I have volunteered to serve as the Local Arrangements Committee Co-Chair for the upcoming Spring 2011 MARAC Meeting, to be held in Alexandria, VA next May. At the national level, I am on a Task Force for the Society of American Archivists, which is planning for the 75th Anniversary of the Society, which keeps me busy with those things. The Annual Meeting this year is taking place here in Washington DC and I am organizing my regular outing to baseball. As of today, I am up to nearly 150 people. Wanna come? I still have some tickets available.

Locally, I was recently elected to the Board of the local pool and then was named Treasurer. It's a good gig and the perks of being a Board member are pretty good. And I feel it's my duty to go to the pool as much as possible. Personally, I am, of course, the father of two very active boys, which as previously noted, keep me very busy and leave little time for the things that I would like to be doing after they go to bed.

As an archivist, there are lots of records around the house that are in need of processing. But much like the cobbler's children, often the last thing I want to do is deal with records here at home. But as I am in custody of some of the family records, including some that my father would like to see, I think I need to get going on that project. I would also like to undertake a photo scanning project. In addition to my own personal photo collection, again, I have custody of the Brave Astronaut family photos and would like to capture those photos digitally before they are lost to the ages. I would also like to lessen the footprint of the Brave Astronaut. One reason for buying a house was because we needed more room (with SoBA on the way), but now we've crammed stuff into a lot of its crevices and it's time to de-clutter.

While I do try to keep my end up on the household chores, I would like to be more helpful around the house for Mrs. BA. As one might expect (and if you have children, you know) there is always laundry to do and lunches and snacks to make, cleaning, dishes to do, and all of the stuff that one needs to do to keep house.

My problem is (as Mrs. BA and I discussed just last night), starting any kind of project after the boys are in bed, that may take several hours will push bedtime into the wee hours of the morning. It is hard enough to just keep up with the daily routine. But I'm going to try harder. Maybe I'll give up sleeping.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Trees, Eggs, and Cheese

I like asparagus. I do, however, prefer it cold with a mayonnaise sauce. But this recipe could make an appearance on the table and I wouldn't object. The other residents of the launchpad might though, as asparagus is not high on their vegetable like list. The recipes come from the New York Times Magazine, reprinting a 1977 version that closely resembles an asparagus quiche and the modern equivalent is more the pairing of eggs and asparagus. Try them both and see what you think.

RECIPE: 1977, Asparagus Alla Fontina
This recipe appeared in an article in The Times by Mimi Sheraton.
  • Salt
  • 2 1/2 pounds thin asparagus, trimmed and washed
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup grated Gruyère (see note)
  • 3/4 cup finely minced or slivered prosciutto
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan.
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook until crisp-tender. Drain and cut into 1-to-1½-inch lengths. Return the asparagus to the pot. Add the butter and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Set over low heat and stir to melt the butter. Remove from the heat.
  2. Turn the asparagus and the melted butter into a 9- or 10-inch pie plate. Arrange in an even layer. Sprinkle with the Gruyère, prosciutto and parsley. Pour the beaten eggs on top, gently shaking the pan to distribute.
  3. Top with the Parmesan and bake until the eggs are set into a custard and a golden-brown crust forms on top, about 35 minutes. Serve hot or warm. Serves 4 to 6.
Note: You may use fontina in place of the Gruyère.

Recipe: 2010, Asparagus, Prosciutto and Egg
By Carlo Mirarchi, the chef and co-owner of Roberta’s in Brooklyn
  • 20 stalks medium-thickness asparagus, washed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
  • Sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 5 large eggs (chicken or duck)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 4 large, thin slices La Quercia prosciutto (see note)
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino Romano
  • Freshly ground black pepper.
  1. Prepare the asparagus: trim the ends off the asparagus where they break naturally. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in large sauté pan over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the asparagus and season with sea salt. Turn frequently and cook until the spears are crisp-tender, about 8 minutes. When the asparagus is almost ready, add 1 tablespoon butter to the pan and use it to baste the asparagus. Squeeze lemon juice over the asparagus, and lay the stalks on a paper towel to drain.
  2. To cook the eggs, heat 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Once it is melted, crack the eggs into the saucepan and add the cream. As the whites of the eggs become visible, slowly whisk the eggs with a fork until they have a soft and creamy texture. It is important that they remain very creamy and soft. They will continue cooking off the heat, so stop before they are fully cooked. Once the eggs are the desired texture, add sea salt to taste.
  3. To assemble the dish, divide the asparagus among 4 warm plates. Drape a slice of prosciutto over each bundle of asparagus. Spoon the soft scrambled eggs over the prosciutto, followed by the grated pecorino and black pepper. Sprinkle with olive oil and serve immediately. Serves 4 as a first course.
Note: La Quercia prosciutto is available at Whole Foods and at

Monday, July 5, 2010

It's Not Flag Cake, but it's close

Today is the federal holiday for Independence Day, which was yesterday. As previously noted, my father is visiting for the weekend and we are wrapping up his visit with something surely designed to keep us cool.

Years of 4th of July parties growing up would always feature Flag Cake, a creation of any cake, frosted with whipped cream and then strawberries and blueberries in the shape of a flag. (The Fourth is also my father's birthday - so there were usually candles, or sparklers on the cake.)

I spotted this recipe in the Food Section of the Washington Post last Wednesday. Now if my raspberry bush hadn't died, I might have actually been able to make this. But I still might . . .

Raspberry Frangipane Cake

This cake is so rich and moist that it needs no icing. Serve on its own, or with whipped cream and berries. The batter can be combined in a food processor, up to the point of adding the flour.

MAKE AHEAD: The cake can be stored, covered, at room temperature for up to 3 days.

12 servings

  • 14 tablespoons (2 sticks minus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1 cup sifted cake flour, plus more for the pan and berries
  • 14 tablespoons (7 ounces) almond paste (do not use marzipan)
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries (berries cut in half, if desired)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use butter to lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan, then dust with flour, shaking out any excess.

Combine the almond paste, the 14 tablespoons of butter and the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held mixer; beat on low, then medium speed until smooth and light. Add the vanilla and eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.

By hand, gently fold in the flour until barely incorporated.

Use a little flour to coat the raspberries, then fold them into the batter; avoid overmixing, or the cake will be tough. Pour the batter into the prepared pan; bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the top is nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool completely before removing from the pan.

Recipe Source:
Adapted from "Cooking From the Garden," edited by Ruth Lively and Courtney Jordan (Taunton Press, 2010).

Thursday, July 1, 2010

So What Are You Doing With Your Free Time?

Part 2 of why I have no time for anything else. Read Part 1 here.

Tonight I picked up my father and his girlfriend at the airport, as they have decided to visit with the Brave Astronauts for the holiday weekend. I suggested to Mrs. BA that we invite them, not expecting them to accept and then they did. But we are going to have a good weekend, with lots of things to keep us busy. Here's the weekend line-up:
  • Friday - as close to a normal day as we will have. Both Mrs. BA and I will go to work and the boys to daycare. Neither of us is expecting an early dismissal (although the chances for Mrs. BA are better than mine). I have already told my father they will be on their own for much of the day, unless they decide to venture out. We might cap it off with a visit to the pool in the evening. I'm also planning on suggesting that perhaps someone might make dinner for us tomorrow night. (If I ask here, it's like asking her, right?)
  • Saturday - we have a picnic at a local park for the boy's daycare. It will surely be controlled chaos, with lots of kids, lots of parents, and hopefully some good food. The pool will close at 8:00 on Saturday night for "Adult Night," which is not as seemly as it sounds. It's just the one night out of the pool season, where no kids are allowed, and alcohol is served. So no pool on Saturday night.
  • Sunday (the Fourth) - I am going to be one of several "float escorts" for the parade down Constitution Avenue in Washington. My employer is going to have a float in the parade this year and several staff were selected to walk along with the float. I am given to understand there will be sashes . . . That's my morning. In the late afternoon, the Brave Astronaut clan will head east for the Annapolis parade, in which OSG will march with his fife and drum corps. So Sunday will have not one, but two parades, and likely several very tired people, and fireworks. There needs to be fireworks.
  • Monday is still up in the air (it's the federal holiday, Independence Day Observed). It might involve the pool for much of the day, which would be fine. We will see if something else presents itself. My father and his girlfriend will head home on Tuesday morning.
Free time? I'm sorry, what is this thing, free time, of which you speak? Now, this post was supposed to be about all the other things I am involved in, but I've already taken up too much time with one weekend's activities. Stay tuned for Part 3. Happy Fourth everyone - and to my Canadian friends out there - Happy First! (also known as Canada Day!)