Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Recipes (4 of 4)

For the final recipe (as it is appearing the Monday after Thanksgiving), here's a recipe for a breakfast casserole that would be good for a post Thanksgiving brunch. This one could even make an appearance on what is becoming the normal Monday night "brinner" at the launchpad.

Make-it-Mine Egg Casserole
Makes: 6 servings
Prep: 20 minutes
Bake: 45 minutes
Stand: 10 minutes

  • 4 to 5 cups Bread Cubes (see choices below)
  • Meat (see choices below)
  • Vegetable (see choices below)
  • 4 to 6 ounces Shredded Cheese (see choices below)
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1-1/2 cups Dairy (see choices below)
  • Seasonings (see choices below)
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 2-quart square baking dish. Spread half of the Bread Cubes in the dish. Add the Meat, Vegetable, and Shredded Cheese. Top with the remaining Bread Cubes.
  2. In a bowl whisk together the eggs, Dairy, and Seasonings. Evenly pour over the layers in the dish.
  3. Bake, uncovered, in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Makes 6 servings.
Make-ahead directions: Prepare as above through Step 2. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours. Bake, uncovered, in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 60 to 65 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Bread Cubes: white or wheat bread, English muffins, baguette-style French bread, sweet Hawaiian bread, Texas toast, pumpernickel, rye bread.

Meat: 2 cups chopped smoked sausage, 2 cups cubed cooked ham, 2 cups cubed smoked turkey, 1 6-ounce can lump crab meat, drained and flaked, 8 ounces cooked bulk pork sausage, 6 slices bacon, crisp-cooked, drained, and crumbled, 5 ounces chopped Canadian-style bacon

Vegetable: 3/4 cup chopped sweet peppers, 1/2 cup canned sliced mushrooms, 1-1/2 cups blanched cut-up asparagus, 1-1/2 cups blanched broccoli florets, 1 cup frozen hash brown potatoes, 1 cup fresh or frozen chopped spinach (thawed and squeezed dry, if frozen)

Shredded Cheese: Italian blend cheeses, Swiss, cheddar, Monterey Jack

Dairy: milk, half-and-half, 1/2 cup dairy sour cream plus 1 cup milk

Seasonings: 1 tablespoon Dijon-style or coarse-grain mustard, 1 teaspoon dried dillweed, 1/4 cup sliced green onions, 1 tablespoon snipped fresh Italian parsley or basil, 1 teaspoon minced garlic.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Beach Thanksgiving

So the Brave Astronaut clan has taken itself to the beach for the Great American Holiday. We found ourselves devoid of family obligations - Mrs. BA's family held a "fake" Thanksgiving this past Sunday and we were not interested in joining the crushing tide along the New Jersey Turnpike (not after an 11-hour trip last Christmas, which we hope to avoid next month) to go to NY to see my father. We are "vacationing" in a friend's condo on the beach block in North Ocean City (it is practically Delaware - we are two blocks from the state line).

Even though it is just the four of us, I still wanted to have a traditional Thanksgiving. There had been talk of all sorts of downsizing (turkey breast) or alternate menus (seafood), but I decided to go with the regular menu. So today we will have a turkey, now properly defrosted and brined, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry, and green beans. There will be pie and ice cream for dessert. I'm sorry Mom, but the pearled onions will not be on the table - don't be mad. I'll make sure they appear at Christmas. The turkey is small and there will be leftovers, which will be good as we don't have a menu plan for Friday or Saturday. We are heading home on Saturday, so maybe everyone gets turkey sandwiches in the car.

Today of course started with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and sure to be followed by some football. Tomorrow or Saturday we are thinking about a trip to the outlets in Rehoboth. I am tempted to go there tonight for "Midnight Madness" as all of the stores will open at midnight with crazy sales. But the tax-free and the already low prices prevalent at outlets will help whenever we go. Mrs. BA and I should be able to get a jump on Christmas gifts for the boys.

The beach in the off season is an interesting place. Driving in on Tuesday night (made in record time- beat that you New York bound people), we turned onto Coastal Highway and could have stopped and unloaded in the middle of the road as there was not a soul to be seen. The condo building is also empty except for us. We may think about ice skating here, perhaps make use of their pool, too. Another destination we have in mind is this to help push us in the appropriate direction for the Christmas season.

I wish all of you a happy and blessed Thanksgiving. I hope that you are spending the day with those you love and that you all have something to be thankful for. I am of course, extremely thankful for my family and I am very glad to be with you and am thinking about those that I am not with and look forward to spending time with them soon.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Recipes (3 of 4)

Regardless of where we spend Thanksgiving, there must be dessert. My mother would come back and haunt me for the rest of my days if I didn't. As it is, I am risking her wrath by not having a huge crowd for Thanksgiving Dinner.

Here's a dessert that looks easy enough that it could be made at a condo at the beach.

Café Au Lait Puddings
Gourmet | November 2009

Fans of milky coffee will go crazy for these softly set little puddings adorned with whipped cream. Use decaffeinated instant coffee granules if you will be serving them to children or caffeine-wary adults.

Yield: Makes 4 servings
Active Time: 15 min
Total Time: 45 min

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoon sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Cinnamon for sprinkling
Equipment: 4 (4-to 5-ounces) cups or ramekins

Whisk together milk, coffee granules, cornstarch, 1/4 cup sugar, and a small pinch of salt in a heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, then boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Transfer to a metal bowl set in an ice bath and cool, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Pour into cups or ramekins and chill, uncovered, 20 minutes.

Beat cream with vanilla and remaining 2 tablespoon sugar using an electric mixer just until soft peaks form. Spoon whipped cream onto puddings and dust cream lightly with cinnamon.

Friday, November 19, 2010

No Score, Just Four Years

When I started this blog (four years ago), I thought occasionally I might have loftier ideas to share here. Sure there have been lots of recipes and there have been noticeable gaps, but every once in a while something good comes along.

On this day, November 19, a tall man wearing a dark suit stood to make an address. He was not the primary speaker of the day, that honor belonged to a well-known orator, who spoke for more than two hours before yielding the podium. The great orator wrote to the tall man later, "I wish that I could flatter myself that I had come as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes.”

The great orator was Edward Everett. The tall man was Abraham Lincoln. The occasion was the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery. Lincoln's address was of course, the Gettysburg Address, delivered on this day "seven score and seven years ago" (that's 147 years ago to you and me) on November 19, 1863. Think you know all about the Gettysburg Address? Look here for some random facts (and this would be the opportunity for C in DC to tell her archives story, which she has done here before, if she likes).

Time Magazine rated the Gettysburg Address fourth in a recent list of the ten greatest speeches
The text of the speech appears below, followed by the list of the ten speeches. What do you think?
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
  1. Socrates, Apology, 4th C. BC - "The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways — I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows."
  2. Patrick Henry, Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death, 1775
  3. Frederick Douglass, The Hypocrisy of American Slavery, 1852 - "Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future."
  4. Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address, 1863
  5. Susan B. Anthony, Women's Rights to the Suffrage, 1873 - "It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people — women as well as men."
  6. Winston Churchill, Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat, 1940 - "You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy."
  7. John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, 1961
  8. Martin Luther King, Jr., "I Have a Dream" Speech, 1963
  9. Lyndon B. Johnson, The American Promise, 1965 - "There is no moral issue. It is wrong — deadly wrong — to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country. There is no issue of States rights or national rights. There is only the struggle for human rights. I have not the slightest doubt what will be your answer."
  10. Ronald Reagan, Remarks at the Brandenburg Gate, 1987

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

MARAC Harrisburg Recap

As noted here last week, I finished last week in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania at the Fall 2010 meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC). It was a very good meeting and was well attended.

On Thursday, the meeting is devoted to tours and committee meetings. I participated in both parts. My MARAC Tour involved golf. Six of us played a round at the Hershey West Course at the Hershey Country Club. It was a great day for golf with perfect weather. My score however, was nowhere near perfect. After checking in at the hotel, I went off to my meetings. Unfortunately, right around that same time, I came down with a migraine headache and took to bed for a few hours before heading out to find some culinary delights in the city of Harrisburg.

The next day, I headed down for breakfast with the vendors and then to the plenary address, featuring Kathleen Roe. Kathleen is a great speaker and she kept us all entertained all the while making sure that we are doing everything we can to protect archives (and our funding). As I am co-chairing the Spring 2011 meeting (to be held in Alexandria, Virginia), I took the opportunity to talk with the vendors exhibiting in Harrisburg and getting them on board for my meeting.

All of the sessions that I attended were really good. One in particular was a new tactic for MARAC, but well done, in my opinion. It was a Pecha Kucha session, where eight of my colleagues spoke for just about 5-10 minutes on "A Day in the Life of an Archivist." There will be a Pecha Kucha session in Alexandria.

On Saturday morning, MARAC holds its business meeting. At that meeting, I was tapped to give the presentation to garner interest in my colleagues to come to Alexandria. If I do say so myself, I thought the presentation was . . . sensational.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thanksgiving Recipes (2 of 4)

If we decide to do a turkey for our Thanksgiving dinner, this might be the one I would try. From

Maple-Brined Turkey
Prep: 20 minutes
Marinate: 12 hours
Roast: 2-3/4 hours
Stand: 15 minutes

  • 1-1/2 gallons water (24 cups)
  • 1-1/2 cups pure maple syrup or maple-flavored syrup
  • 1 cup coarse salt
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 8- to10-pound turkey (not self-basting)
  • Cooking oil
  1. For brine, in a 10-quart pot combine water, syrup, salt, and brown sugar; stir to dissolve sugar and salt. Set aside.
  2. Rinse turkey inside and out; remove any excess fat from cavity. Carefully add turkey to brine. Cover and marinate in refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours.
  3. Remove turkey from brine; discard brine. Rinse turkey and pat dry with paper towels. Place turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Tuck drumstick ends under the band of skin across the tail. (If the band of skin is not present, tie the drumsticks securely to the tail.) Twist wing tips under the back. Brush with oil. Insert a meat thermometer into the center of one of the inside thigh muscles.
  4. Cover turkey loosely with foil. Roast turkey in a 325 degree F oven for 2-3/4 to 3 hours or until thermometer registers 180 degrees F. After 2-1/4 hours, remove foil and cut band of skin or string between the drumsticks so thighs will cook evenly. When done, drumsticks should move very easily in their sockets. Cover turkey; let stand at room temperature 20 minutes before carving. Makes 12 servings.
The test kitchen found that a 10-quart stockpot worked best to hold the turkey and brining mixture.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Off to MARAC - Harrisburg

Tonight, I am making my way to Hershey, Pennsylvania (The Sweetest Place on Earth!) in advance of the Fall 2010 meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC). At this meeting, I will be making a presentation to my colleagues, inviting them to the next meeting (which is the best meeting). I am serving as co-Chair of the Local Arrangements Committee for that meeting, which will be in Alexandria, VA in May 2011. If you're around, you should come.

I enjoy traveling to conferences. It is good to meet up with my friends and colleagues and hear what is going on in the profession. While I always attend sessions, for me, the most beneficial aspects of the meeting are the networking opportunities the meetings present. I will admit to having a problem staying awake in sessions at times, even in the most interesting of sessions. I don't know what it is, but put me in a chair and don't let me move for a while, and down I will go.

Some time ago, a blog I read, Marginal Revolution, written by the very astute Tyler Cowen, an economics professor at George Mason University, posted a question from a reader, "Why do people ask questions at public events?"

The exact question was:
Does anybody have a theory about the length of questions during the Q&A sessions that follow lectures/talks? Is there a relationship between length of question and age, gender, status, place in queue? Why do some people make rambling statements disguised as "questions"? How can moderators avoid such abuse of the process (pleas to keep questions short don't seem to have any effect)?
Cowen's response made note of some use of Q&A sessions as satisfying a need to:
1. "make a public statement and show them" motive.
2. "somehow feel a need to void" motive.
3. "signal intelligence" motive.

I am not sure moderators wish to avoid "abuse" of the question and answer process. Perhaps the process is part of what draws people to the talk.

My favorite method for giving "talks" is to offer no formal material but to respond to pre-written questions, which are presented and read off as the "talk" proceeds.
I recently chaired a session at a MARAC meeting, where following the presentations, I took a microphone and walked around the audience to get the questions from the floor. I felt very much like Phil Donahue and even remarked that I was feeling that way, but most of the people in the room likely had no idea who I was talking about.

Unfortunately, Q&A sessions at our professional meetings are the time when people get up and head somewhere else (the bar?, no not us). But there is value in questions posed at the end of session talks, isn't there?


I will work on having another post for you mid-meeting, maybe something on Friday.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Thanksgiving Recipes (1 of 4)

This is of course the month devoted to Thanksgiving, that all-American holiday where we all eat too much, watch football and parades, and oh yeah, give thanks for what we have. This year, the Brave Astronaut clan is eschewing the family get-together and likely escaping to the beach. Yes, I know, it's not exactly beach weather (we are just going to the Delaware/Ocean City area), but there will be something charming about Thanksgiving Dinner at the beach. Won't there?

Here on Recipe Mondays for the month of November, I will post four recipes for Thanksgiving dishes that, if you like, you can add to your repertoire for you Turkey Day Feast. Enjoy.

A beach Thanksgiving may mean shaking up the usual suspects for dinner. That, coupled with the fact there are only four of us, may mean no [big] turkey (turkey hoagies on the beach perhaps?). But to start us off, here's a recipe (from for a potato gratin, which sounds pretty good. And there at the end is an option for those of you who prefer sweet potatoes on their Turkey Table.

Cheesy Garlic Potato Gratin
Makes: 6 servings
Prep: 25 minutes
Bake: 1-1/2 hours
Stand: 10 minutes

  • 4 medium Yukon gold or other yellow-fleshed potatoes (1-1/2 pounds), thinly sliced (about 5 cups)
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onion (3) or thinly sliced leek
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese,Gruyere, provolone, or Jarslberg cheese (6 ounces)
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 2-quart square baking dish. Layer half of the sliced potatoes and half of the green onion in prepared dish. Sprinkle with half of the garlic, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle with half of the cheese. Repeat layers. Pour whipping cream over top.
  2. Bake, covered, in the preheated oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Uncover; bake for 20 to 30 minutes more or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork and top is golden brown. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Makes 6 servings.
Cheesy Garlic Sweet Potato Gratin: Prepare as above, except substitute sweet potatoes for half of the Yukon gold potatoes.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Tomorrow is Date Night!

This weekend, my MIL is taking the boys to her house for Saturday night. She offered and Mrs. BA are taking the opportunity to go out to dinner and then to a movie. Oh, the Luxury! Our dinner destination is likely to be Hank's (I have a little problem with the fresh BBQ chips) and then next door to the movies. I think we should go see this as Mrs. BA and I have a thing for The Hangover and this looks to be just like that.

The Map above comes from here. It is sure to prompt discussion and dissent. But I don't care, I'm still taking my wife out for dinner and a movie.

And while I am sure to enjoy a beer at Hanks, Mrs. BA is sure to get herself at least one Coke. Here's another map that I came across of late regarding the wide variety of terms used to describe the carbonated soft drink. Which, BTW, it's never pop.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What Could I Be Doing? Part III

In my previous two related posts (Part I and Part II), I remarked about my "professional life" and then answered some questions about being an archivist. Finally, here today, I wanted to address what I could be? want to be? doing with my life. (I have to admit that I am a little proud of myself - I have found the time to write for the blog - I thank everyone for sticking with me).

Recently, I went through a few days where I wasn't feeling 100%. I wasn't exactly sure what it was, I thought I had a cold, then it got worse and felt like the flu, and so I finally went to the doctor. He put me on a run of steroids which made me feel 1000 times better. So whatever it was, the steroids killed it. And I'm getting a flu shot. And next week I'm getting a physical.

But while home sick at least one of those days I realized that I probably wouldn't be happy doing nothing for the rest of my life. But I would like to at least give it the old college try. Daytime TV is a barren wasteland (now that I don't watch the "soaps" anymore) although occasionally you score with the good movie. A few weeks ago it was the Airport 1975 and I am a HUGE sucker for the disaster flick. Then again, my point is still if I were to win the lottery and didn't have to work, I would still want to do something.

So what would I do? One thing I have always wanted to do was run my own restaurant. Mrs. BA, OSG, and Mrs. OSG even flirted with the idea a few years ago. I would still consider this one day. But on the "heavy workload" scale, that one is certainly at the top of the list.

I have been writing a novel for the better part of the last several years. One day I am going to finish it and see if I could get it published. I think it's a pretty good story. I also have a few ideas for non-fiction books. So if I had all the time in the world, I would write more.

As an employee of the federal government, I am not allowed to participate in partisan elections. As many of you know, I ran for Town Council last year (a non-partisan position) and am considering running again. I have always loved politics and I truly believe in the concept of public service and would like the opportunity to work for the people in my community. Maybe someday, if I am out of the federal service, I might think about some higher office.

So what's in your pipe [dream]? What would you do differently if you could?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Homemade Candy Corn

So, sick of all that Halloween candy? C'mon, admit it, you either buy stuff you don't like so you don't eat it - or you buy the good stuff and then turn off your porch light early so you'll have some for yourself.

There was recently an "issue" at the launchpad when LBA and SoBA received a small Halloween goody bag (courtesy of the neighbors - thanks!), which contained a small amount of candy corn. Now I am not a big fan of the candy corn, but Mrs. BA does have a small problem with addiction. LBA had a different treat out of the goody bag and without telling LBA, I gave the candy corn to Mrs. BA. I also neglected to tell Mrs. BA that she was eating LBA's candy corn. Then he noticed (as she put the last piece into her mouth). So I had to give SoBA's candy corn to LBA with the instructions that he share. He shared one or two and then as SoBA asked for one more piece, LBA told him to say please (as I had said, too). So, as SoBA said please to have one more, LBA popped the last one into his mouth. Nice.

So if you aren't sick of candy, candy corn, or sibling rivalry, think about making your own candy corn. From a recipe found on Sugarcrafter via the New York Times Food DIY Section.

Homemade Candy Corn
  • 2/3 cup agave nectar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • Pinch of salt
  • Orange & yellow food coloring
In a sauce pan, stir together the agave nectar, sugar, butter, and vanilla. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, corn starch, and salt.

Reduce the heat to medium and boil 5 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Let cool at least 20 minutes.

Knead the dough gently until smooth. If it begins sticking to everything, don’t add extra powdered sugar to the dough – simply work with the dough on wax paper.

Divide into 3 pieces. With rubber gloves on, knead several drops of yellow food coloring to one piece of the dough until the color is even. Repeat with the orange food coloring. Leave the third piece of dough uncolored.

Divide each color dough in half again. Roll each piece into a long, thin rope. Line one rope of each color next to the others: yellow first, then orange, and then white. Flatten with a rolling pin. Cut the ropes into triangles. Some will be yellow-tipped and some will be white-tipped.

Place in the refrigerator for about 15-20 minutes to firm up, and then enjoy homemade candy corn!