Friday, October 29, 2010

Reading, Part II

Here are the rest of the questions from the reading meme that I started last week (see part I here). Thanks to C in DC for giving me some content for the blog!
  • Favorite reading snack? There's no eating or drinking in a library! But a hot cup of coffee and maybe a cookie?
  • Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience. I can honestly say, I don't think that has happened to me - then again, I have avoided the Harry Potter books and the other, most recent overly publicized book series.
  • How often do you agree with critics about a book? God, I remember how my mother used to read the NYT Book Review every Sunday and then write up her book lists and go off to the library with a stack of reserve slips. Today, you are lucky to find a decent book review, so if I do, I will usually read it and it might push me in a particular direction.
  • How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews? If it's bad, it's bad. Move on.
  • Most intimidating book you’ve ever read? I don't think that I have ever been intimidated by a book - although I am sure there was a college textbook here and there that I really didn't want to read for one reason or another - but it probably wasn't intimidation.
  • Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin? Isn't War and Peace like the benchmark for this question?
  • Favorite Poet? Robert Frost. Period. End of Discussion.
  • How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time? When I went to the library on a regular basis, 3-4 often came home.
  • How often have you returned book to the library unread? On a rare occasion.
  • Favorite fictional character? Ooh, tough question. But if we are sticking with Mr. King (see the next question), I'm going with Andy Dufresne and Red from "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption."
  • Favorite fictional villain? First one(s) that pop into my head would be the many, scary villains / monsters that populate Stephen King's stories. In the lead would be Randall Flagg from The Stand.
  • Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation? paperbacks
  • The longest I’ve gone without reading. I don't think I've ever really stopped reading, I just don't do it as often.
  • Name a book that you could/would not finish. I don't know if I can identify one, although I am sure there was a college textbook in there somewhere that I could not get through, despite the requirements.
  • What distracts you easily when you’re reading? I don't really get distracted too . . . hey what's that over there?
  • Most disappointing film adaptation? The Stand
  • The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time? I'm not at liberty to say. But on myself, probably too much, on others, not enough.
  • How often do you skim a book before reading it? I do not adopt the Billy Crystal approach (see "When Harry Met Sally") but I will usually read the leaf pages to see if it is something that I might enjoy.
  • What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through? See my earlier answers about if it is not good, it's not worth the time.
  • Do you like to keep your books organized? Hi. Have we met? You all know what I do for a living right? The Brave Astronaut library is even online through Library Thing. Here's a story. Before I moved in with Mrs. BA (back when we were dating), I would visit her and would visibly twitch at her serendipitous arrangement of the books in her apartment. She would repeatedly tell me, when you move in, you can rearrange the books. The day I moved in, before I unpacked a box or a suitcase, I was emptying those shelves and arranging them according to subject, genre, and author.
  • Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them? There are a lot of books in my home and there always will be. But I also have a large inventory of books up on
  • Are there any books you’ve been avoiding? No, although Mrs. BA would probably tell you she avoids The Giving Tree.
  • Name a book that made you angry. Mrs. BA would probably say The Giving Tree makes her angry, too.
  • A book you didn’t expect to like but did? That's sort of a bonus for me. I have been given books as gifts and given them a shot. In most of the cases, it has worked. But it will always come back to if it's bad (or I don't like it), I'm not going to read it anymore.
  • A book that you expected to like but didn’t? I attempted to get through the few collaborative works that Stephen King wrote with others, but couldn't. It was too clear to me where his writing ended and the other started up.
  • Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading? Not necessarily a book, but I still enjoy reading the comics in the newspaper. Last thing in the paper I read everyday.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Am An Archivist, Really - Part II

Last week (see Part I), I gave some background on my professional life, how I got to be where I am, what I have done before my current profession, etc. Next week, I will discuss those things that I would like to be doing. Feel free to come along and comment for the ride.

To confirm? deny? support? disavow? that what I am doing is the right thing, I am going to answer a few questions that were recently posed to friends in the profession and answered on their blogs. Geof, the first, is one of those people who is always operating at that higher plane. We can all aspire to be like him - or at least be liked by him. The second, who chose to answer the questions on his blog is also one of those "too cool for school" archivists. I am glad Terry agrees to be seen with me on occasion.

How did you become an archivist?

That's an interesting story. I went to school fully intending to become a social studies teacher. Which I did. For a few years. Then the education system and I had a disagreement and I found myself looking for something else to do. It came down to wanting to work with the records and being able to work with people with a genuine interest in history (the students only had a marginal interest, at best).

There is some conjecture in the archival profession that many of us suddenly find ourselves working in archives (starting work in libraries and other information-related positions, like teaching). I know of many of my colleagues who started work at some library, museum, etc., and then found themselves "in the archives" and then never left.

What's changed the most since you became an archivist?

When I started at my first archives position, we had only two computers that were connected to "the Internet." This was in 1995. For us, the web was still a series of pages that often contained the word [image]. I helped my repository update its computers, revolutionized the website and served as its webmaster until I left.

In my second archival position, I had the opportunity to work for a repository that was just getting its archives program up off the ground. Now, of course, I work primarily with electronic records (which I never thought I would). So, if you ask me what has changed since I became an archivist, it would be that everything has. Suddenly we are picking up steam and really barreling into the next generation. Finally.

What's stayed the same (for better or worse)?

I have long wondered why the national organization for our profession does not get behind and support an "official" archives degree and make sure that job vacancies call for that degree. I got a Masters in Library Science (MLS) because that's what I needed to get ahead in the field, but I am not a librarian.

Another thing that I would like to see start to change would be the competitive nature that exists between the various archivist types that populate our profession. In the end people, we are all really just trying to do the same thing. We don't need to be sniping at one another.

How did you become interested in electronic records?

I never expected to be where I am now, dealing primarily with electronic records of the federal government. While I think I have told this story before, it serves as a really good answer to the question. A few months into my position here I was sitting with two friends and colleagues and we were discussing our work and I began talking about this and that and actually making sense about electronic records. The two of them looked at one another and then looked at me and pretty much said together, "you remember when you said you didn't want to work with electronic records? Well, you're there now." So it would seem that I made the transition fairly easily.

What advice do you have for new archivists or those interested in the profession?

Get involved.

Our profession will only continue to be successful with us reaching out, speaking out, being involved in the issues that are important to us.

Monday, October 25, 2010

It's International Kim Ayres Day!

It's Monday. Which means recipe day. I was all prepared to post some regular recipe and then I saw that several bloggers were getting together to honor one of our own. Over across the pond, is one particular blogger, who has even visited this blog on occasion. I once labeled him a celebrity blogger and have come to know him through the wires and now consider him a friend. Although we have never met, through his photography, his brilliant writing, and his sharing of his speaking voice on another of his blogs, I feel as if I know him very well. One of his photographs is currently my desktop wallpaper on my home computer and he and I have corresponded outside of our blog personas on a variety of issues that we have in common.

Today is his birthday. He turns 44 today, which he is not ashamed to admit. In common, we both have lovely wives, who we adore, and two wonderful children. I hope one day to find myself in Scotland and to have the opportunity to share a pint or two with Kim. A few months ago, I had the most vivid dream where I was visiting with him in Scotland and it was a rollicking good time, as I expect it would be.

This idea to honor and celebrate the great Kim Ayres started with Debra. Several others, whose blogs I read also picked up on the idea, including Mary, Pat, and Eryl, which is when I decided to hop on. Go and visit with them, but be sure to go and see Kim and wish him the best!
I am not sure what his wife, Maggie, is preparing for his birthday culinary celebration, or if his son, Rogan, who has become a fine baker in his own right, has something extra special for him, but I thought I would share a recipe that Kim shared with me. It is for his wife's Bramble Crumble.

A very Happy Birthday to Kim Ayres!

Bramble Crumble
from the Kitchen of Maggie Ayres

[It should be noted this is a recipe of approximations and eyeballing the measurements.]

  • Rub 4 ounces of butter into 8 ounces of self-raising flour (or a mix of flour and oats), then mix in about 4 ounces of sugar (brown or white – it’s up to you).

  • Place 1 pound of blackberries (or any fruit you want) into an oven-proof dish and sprinkle on sugar (how much sugar gets very vague at this point – “to taste” is my wife’s phrase – as it depends on how sweet or sharp the fruit is – but it could be up to a couple of ounces). Mix it together.

  • Pour the flour/butter/sugar mix onto the top and place into an oven for about 40 minutes (or “until it looks ready…”) at Gas Mark 4 or 5
Serve with thick fresh cream, or good quality vanilla ice cream. Eat until nearly sick and have gained several pounds in weight.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

It's All About Baseball

In a few days, the World Series will get under way. As most people know, I have always been a Yankee fan. I have borne the scorn of my friends for being a Yankee fan - for, again as you may know, the Yankees are not universally loved. I do not make apologies for the Yankees, they are what they are. I do not approve of everything they do, especially the huge, obnoxious sums of money they throw at players (see the upcoming purchase of Cliff Lee as a perfect example). I am, for the most part, a baseball purist and really want to watch games for the sake of the game. (And don't I know that the preceding sentence is going to get me in trouble.)

Well the Yankees got sent packing - and of course they will be back next year. Congratulations to the Texas Rangers - it is nice to see a team that has never been to the World Series get there - it was hard to root against Nolan Ryan. Ryan is one of those players that played the game for the game. He is why people love this game. But let's remember that guy who used to be part owner of the Rangers. And that they used to be the Washington Senators. And their manager used to be Ted Williams. And . . .

Good luck to the Rangers who will face off against the San Francisco Giants in the Fall Classic. Both Pennant series were great displays of baseball and I hope the World Series will not disappoint.

Baseball has become an industry. It's not a pastime anymore. Owners, agents and "superplayers" have definitely polluted the game. Scandals have rocked the game and money has driven fans away. But I will continue to watch. It's broken, but there isn't an easy fix.

To that end, here is something I spotted on McSweeney's the other day.

After You Hit a Home Run:
A Guide for Major League Baseball Players
by Kate Hahn
  1. Point to God.
  2. Kiss necklace.
  3. Kiss your hands, biceps, and shoulders. Kiss each finger, individually.
  4. Begin running.
  5. At first base, stop, mount podium your agent has rolled out for you, and make thank you speech.
  6. Kiss your own mouth, for making such a beautiful speech.
  7. Run slowly, very slowly to second. Raise your hands in the air to make the crowd cheer louder. Fist pump! Monster face! Gorilla gallop! Back flip! (Kidding, you're not in that kind of shape.) It's like you are the only player who has ever hit one out of the park!
  8. At second base, call agent on cell and demand endorsement deal with God.
  9. Between second and third, tackle opposing team's shortstop and ask him, "Who the man? Who the man?" Dance on his chest, pointing to the sky.
  10. At third base, build a small church. Invite select group of international dignitaries to attend your first sermon. Preach about how God will make you rich if you follow the right path, especially if it's an uninterrupted path around a major league baseball diamond.
  11. Refuse to cross home plate until you have warmed up for your happy dance.
  12. Jump on home plate and do happy dance. This should be a signature move that fans associate only with you, or it can be from Footloose, which everyone loves. Either way, it should include pointing at the sky.
  13. Do a chicken-walk toward the dugout, emphasizing a head nod at the catcher. This shows the fans you have a sense of humor about yourself. Plus it subtly reminds them to buy your bobblehead doll.
  14. Enter dugout. High five your teammates. One high five is not enough! Allot ten minutes. Refuse to come out of dugout again until your agent has gotten you the endorsement deal with God.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Reading? I Vaguely Remember What That Is . . .

Unfortunately, my reading these days is limited to childrens fare and while I know I should, I am not reading as much as I would like. But here for your enjoyment (and possible derision) is a reading meme that I stole from C in DC. The meme has 55 questions and she broke her posts into 4 different posts. I'm going with two posts. Look for Part II next Friday.

One of my jobs growing up was as a page in a library. It was an enjoyable job and I made some great friends there. It also helped to strengthen my love of reading (which had been instilled in me by my mother).
  • Favorite childhood book? This is certainly different from favorite children's book, which is what I read a lot of now, as the parent of a 6 and 3 year old. But one childhood book that jumps up in front of me is My Brother Sam is Dead (I know, I know), which was a historical fiction book about a boy whose brother is killed in the American Revolution. Sorry to start out on such a downer.
  • What are you reading right now? American Lion by Jon Meacham (a biography of Andrew Jackson in the White House)
  • What books do you have on request at the library? None. I am ashamed to admit that I do not even currently have a library card.
  • Bad book habit? How to answer this question? A habit, as in addiction? Maybe. A bad habit, like dog-earing pages? No.
  • What do you currently have checked out at the library? Unfortunately, nothing as noted above.
  • Do you have an e-reader? Never. I will always want the feel of pages on my fingers (newspapers, too).
  • Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once? I have tried this, but I prefer, and do better, with one at a time.
  • Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog? No, it was more the kids that changed it.
  • Least favorite book you read this year (so far?) With the amount of time that I have to read, if I don't like the book, I move on. My mother's rule was to give it 100 pages, if it didn't have you by then, don't waste your time.
  • Favorite book you’ve read this year? I really enjoyed the most recent Stephen King book, Under the Dome.
  • How often do you read out of your comfort zone? When I do read, I really want to enjoy the experience. I am long past the era of "required reading" and don't need the aggravation.
  • What is your reading comfort zone? I have long been a fan of fiction (especially historical fiction) and the political thriller. I also enjoy good biographies (as evidenced by my current book on the night table).
  • Can you read on the bus or train? I can pretty much read anywhere, but I usually cannot do much else, that is, the book must be the focus.
  • Favorite place to read? in bed
  • What is your policy on book lending? For all you people can tell the difference, I am a librarian. You can borrow my books.
  • Do you ever dog-ear books? No
  • Do you ever write in the margins of your books? No
  • Not even with text books? That would imply that I had read them closely enough to have wanted to make marginalia [cough, cough]
  • What is your favorite language to read in? English
  • If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose? I could, if I really wanted to struggle, read a book in French. I had a relative, who spent much of her life moving in the circles of the French Communists (and met Lenin and many other revolutionaries) and wrote a book about that time. Someday, I would like to read that book.
  • What makes you love a book? The language. And being able to "see" the story that I am reading.
  • What will inspire you to recommend a book? Same as above.
  • Favorite genre? Fine, nail me down? Political Thriller
  • Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?) Fantasy, but only on the rarest of occasions.
  • Favorite biography? Wow. Tough one. Nail me down again? The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant (the autobiography he wrote as he was dying so that his family would have some income after his passing).
  • Have you ever read a self-help book? Yes, if the "dummies" books count.
  • Favorite cookbook? Hands down, The Very Best Recipe Cookbook (although I don't think that is the exact title) from the publishers of Cooks Illustrated. Have not had a bad thing out of it.
  • Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)? Inspiration is not really my thing (although with LBA in Catholic School and our semi-regular attendance at Sunday Mass, I am getting a little more accustomed to the bible readings).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What Do I Want to Be When I Grow Up? - Part I

I recently started a temporary detail to another division in the agency where I work. I will be a part of this division until the middle of December. The division is "above" the division where I work and the work is at a much higher level than the granularity of processing and reference where I work every day. The detail comes at a good point, I was beginning to feel a little stale and it is my hope and expectation that I will return to my work refreshed and ready to be much more productive and efficient. (It will also coincide with those New Years Resolutions that I should make.) Let me be clear, I love what I do and am very glad to be doing it.

There is a larger question here as well, that being, am I doing what I want with my life?. Excepting those teenager part time jobs that I did growing up that kept me in candy and Matchbox cars, I have done a variety of things so far. I was a paperboy, but that got old rather quickly. I mean, really, delivering papers? In the morning? As previously discussed, I worked in a library, which was a job that I really enjoyed - likely pushing me in the direction of where I am now. Later, I also spent a few brief months as a bank teller before I started teaching.

One of the most fun jobs that I have had was one as a valet parking attendant. It was a job I got at the last minute (I needed money and responded to an ad and got sent out to a job that next evening). The money was really good and I had the opportunity to drive some really nice cars (and learn how to drive a standard). And there was always Prime Rib from the kitchen at the catering halls after the cars were all parked.

Inexplicable to many (including Mrs. BA), I spent a fair amount of time working in retail. I was never interested in the fast food or restaurant-type jobs, but I could work with people and I became fairly good at it. I rose through the ranks of retail, from a sales associate, to a trainer of new hires, then to a staffing supervisor, then finally "retiring" as a Senior Customer Service Manager (basically, when a customer got out of hand, they sent me to deal with them).

As for my first "real job," I was one of those people who went off to college fairly certain I knew what it was I wanted to be. I wanted to be a teacher. It had everything to do with the Social Studies teacher I had in high school. So I went to college and pursued that degree. My undergraduate degree was in American History (with a minor in Political Science - I am and always have been a political junkie) and I then set out to get my Masters Degree in Social Studies Education.

I performed my student teaching in the Junior High School where I went to school, a somewhat surreal experience. There were those teachers (ones that I had not had as a student) who I could call by their first names and then those that would always be referred to by their surnames. After my student teaching, I spent another year at good old Harry B. Thompson (by now) Middle School) as the building substitute, before getting my first real teaching job. Unfortunately, the educational system of which I wanted to be a part of did not exhibit the same fondness for me and I ultimately left education behind for a job in archives.

My career in archives started as a result of my first marriage. My wife at the time took a position in archives with the understanding that it was what she wanted to do. Then she realized it wasn't. She had also been recruited to return to a position as a library director for a small public library where we were living in the Hudson Valley. She jumped at the chance. I was at a point in my life where I was out of education, back in retail, and looking for something else. In my head I could hear the words of one of my beloved college professors - "You must make the decision to either teach students history or teach history to students." He never explained himself and left it up to us to figure out what he meant. As a teacher, I strove to emphasize the latter, using first-hand historical materials whenever possible and trying to make history as much fun for them as I had always found it.

So why not a job in archives, where I could be right next to those materials that I enjoyed working with for so long? I got myself an interview with the Director of the Archive Center and the rest is, as they say, history. As much as I thought I really had wanted to be a teacher, I had moved into a career that I really enjoyed.

In a subsequent post sometime next week, I will address several questions about how I got into the archives field (which have also been touched on here) and finally, address the idea that somehow my professional life may as yet, still be unfulfilled.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Creme Brulee

Over the weekend, I took the boys to a local farm to pick pumpkins and generally enjoy a great fall Sunday in Maryland. Fall has really taken hold here and the weather is crisp (but don't tell Mrs. BA - she hates "crisp"). I also seem to have gotten myself subscribed to an email distribution of Better Homes and Gardens recipes and they have started with holiday recipes. While I am not a fan of the pumpkin pie that usually graces the Thanksgiving table, here is a recipe that I might be able to get behind.

And yes, I know that I missed the recipe deadline yesterday - chalk it up to too much to do and not enough time to do it. I mean there's baseball to watch (but if the Yankees continue on this pace - my interest will vanish, possibly as early as tomorrow), soccer practices and games to attend (LBA is becoming quite proficient in soccer), and places to be. But again, no excuses, just promises to try and be better.

Pumpkin Spice Creme Brulee

  • 2 cups whipping cream (no substitutes)
  • 3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 10 baby pumpkins*
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small saucepan, heat whipping cream over medium heat just until bubbly. Remove from heat; set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine egg yolks, eggs, the 1/2 cup sugar, pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves. Beat with a whisk or rotary beater just until combined. Slowly whisk the hot whipping cream into the egg mixture.
  3. Use a small serrated knife to cut off the top 1/2-inch of the baby pumpkins. Discard the tops. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.
  4. Place the pumpkins in a roasting pan. Divide custard mixture evenly among the pumpkins. Place roasting pan on oven rack. Pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to reach halfway up the sides of the pumpkins.
  5. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until centers appear nearly set when gently shaken. Carefully remove pan from oven. Remove pumpkins from water; cool on a wire rack. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours.
  6. Before serving, let custards stand at room temperature for 20 minutes. **Meanwhile, for caramelized sugar: in a heavy 8-inch skillet, heat the 1/4 cup sugar over medium-high heat until sugar begins to melt, shaking skillet occasionally to heat sugar evenly. Do not stir. Once sugar starts to melt, reduce heat to low; cook 3 to 5 minutes more or until all of the sugar is melted and golden brown, stirring as needed with a wooden spoon.
  7. Quickly drizzle caramelized sugar over the custards. (If sugar starts to harden in the skillet, return to heat, stirring until melted.) Serve immediately. Makes 10 filled pumpkins or 6 custard cups.
* Instead of the pumpkins, you can use six 3/4-cup souffle dishes or 6-ounce custard cups. Place the souffle dishes or custard cups in a 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

**Culinary Torch Method: Instead of caramelizing the sugar in the skillet as directed in steps 6 and 7, sprinkle sugar evenly over custards. Use a culinary torch to caramelize the sugar.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Casseroles and Crock Pots

As Fall arrives, it is time to think about some warm, comforting food. It is a daily dilemma as to what to prepare for dinner, and I often have to "hit the ground running" and throw something together quickly. It would be better for all of us if there was some menu planning and food readied to defrost before that time. I think it is my goal to find that crock pot up on that shelf somewhere, dust it off and see about getting some more dinners ready to go in the morning.

This recipe jumped out at me from a recent Washington Post food section as casseroles (especially those that can be prepared ahead of time) are also good dishes to be able to serve in a relative short amount of time (provided they are defrosted, etc.)

Lemon Chicken and Rice Casserole
The Washington Post, September 29, 2010

  • This is comfort food you’ll be glad to have around. For ease of use, cut the cooled casserole into individual portions before freezing.
  • The sauce recipe beats using canned condensed cream of chicken soup.
  • Serve with sauteed spinach or a spinach salad.
MAKE AHEAD: The sauce can be made and refrigerated up to 5 days in advance. The casserole can be frozen for up to 6 weeks (see directions). To reheat the casserole, unwrap it and drop it back into its original casserole dish. Cover with plastic wrap and defrost in the refrigerator for 12 to 18 hours. To reheat, discard the plastic wrap. Sprinkle the surface with the bread crumbs. Cover with foil and bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake for 15 minutes to brown the topping. Insert a knife into the center before serving to make sure the casserole is heated through.

6 servings

For the sauce
  • 1 cup regular or low-fat milk
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons rice flour
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
For the casserole
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 large onion, finely chopped (3/4 cup)
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced
  • 4 cups cooked white or brown rice
  • 3/4 cup regular or low-fat sour cream (do not use nonfat)
  • Freshly squeezed juice from 2 to 3 lemons (1/2 cup)
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 cups cooked (skinless) chicken, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup seasoned Italian-style bread crumbs
For the sauce: Combine the milk and broth in a large, heat-safe measuring cup. Microwave on MEDIUM just long enough to warm through (without boiling).

Melt the butter in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the rice flour and cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Slowly pour in the warm milk-broth mixture, whisking, until all of the liquid is incorporated. Stir in the cheese; cook for 4 to 5 minutes, whisking to form a smooth sauce that has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Season with salt and pepper to taste. The yield is 2 cups.

For the casserole: Combine the butter and oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the onion and garlic; cook for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft. Add the rice and stir to coat evenly.

Combine the 2 cups of sauce, the sour cream, lemon juice and broth in a large bowl; mix well, then add the rice mixture, chicken and spinach, stirring to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use nonstick cooking oil spray to grease the inside of an 8-by-8-inch baking dish.

Spread the chicken-rice mixture evenly in the baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. If you plan to serve the casserole right away, uncover and sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly over the top. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes or until the the crumbs have lightly browned.

If you plan to freeze the casserole, bypass the bread crumb step. Remove the casserole from the oven after the 30 minutes and allow it to cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate to chill through. (At this point, if desired, cut it into individual portions and wrap each one first in plastic wrap, then in foil.) Freeze for 6 to 8 hours, then unmold and wrap first in plastic wrap, then in foil. Return to the freezer and store for up to 6 weeks.

Recipe Source:
Adapted from "Cook & Freeze: 150 Delicious Dishes to Serve Now and Later," by Dana Jacobi (Rodale, 2010)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Is Wegman's Watching Me?

Last week, I reported about the impending arrival of Wegman's up the road and how much I was looking forward to shopping there (although I have been warned my grocery bill may be going up). Last night, we prepared a nice Sunday dinner, inviting over a friend to share at our table. We were going to prepare a roast chicken, but there were none to be had at the store. So we went with flank steak instead.

We decided to roast some potatoes, instead of baking them, as we will often do with flank steak. We went with a rosemary-olive oil toss and roasted them in the oven as the steak grilled outside (in the rain!). Then today, I see on the Wegman's Twitter feed this recipe for Rosemary and Garlic Potatoes. I know that Wegman's is supposed to be very community oriented, but this is a little much . . . Full disclosure, I did use just regular potatoes, not the fingerling variety called for in this recipe - but they were good nonetheless.

Rosemary & Garlic Potatoes
Serves 8
Active Time: 5 min
Total Time: 30 min
  • 1 pkg (24 oz) Food You Feel Good About Fingerling Potato Medley, larger ones halved on the bias
  • 4 cloves Food You Feel Good About Peeled Garlic, halved lengthwise
  • 2 Tbsp Wegmans Basting Oil
  • Wegmans Sea Salt
  • Fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 pkg (0.25 oz) Food You Feel Good About Rosemary
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Toss potatoes and garlic with basting oil in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Scatter rosemary sprigs on foil-lined baking sheet (reserve 1 sprig). Top with single layer of potatoes and garlic.

Roast 25-30 min on center rack of oven, until potatoes are fork-tender and light brown. Garnish potatoes with reserved rosemary sprig.