Monday, February 28, 2011

I Want a Smoothie!

Both LBA and SoBA enjoy yogurt. A lot. I think if I owned a blender, I would make them more smoothies, possibly starting with this recipe for Strawberry Shakes.

Strawberry Yogurt Shake

Recipe Summary:
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Number of Servings: 2
Cups of Fruits and Vegetables Per Person: 1.00

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
  • 3/4 cup plain low fat yogurt
  • 1-1/2 cups frozen, unsweetened strawberries
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
Add ingredients, in order listed, to blender container. Puree at medium speed, until thick and smooth.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Springtime Snow Stories

Last week the DC area enjoyed some very springlike, almost summer-like, temperatures. The mercury rose above 70 degrees for three days in a row. It was wonderful. It made one think that the days of relaxing poolside were coming very soon.

Then it snowed. Well first it rained. Then it changed to sleet. Then a dusting of snow came on top of that. Note I said a DUSTING. I could have sneezed and blown the snow off the walk. And yet, my son's school district closed. Again. Now don't get me wrong, I love snow. But I am now at a point in my life where if it is going to snow - it has to be paralyzing, government closing snow. Otherwise I find myself in a position of burning leave that I don't have so that LBA is not sitting at home by himself (although soon enough, he might not mind that). I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank (profusely) my neighbor (and fellow member of the collective) who took LBA in for a few hours in the afternoon yesterday so I could get to work and not lose an entire day.

I have to believe the end of snow days is near (although as I have said before, my mother always warned us to make sure we had her birthday present because she always wished for snow on her birthday, which was March 22). Today's snow story is one that demonstrates how winter does not always give up easily.

In April 1982 (?), our family was expecting a visit from a French cousin. She was expected to arrive at JFK Airport to spend a week or so with us. My mother, ever the experienced airport greeter, got ready to go and meet our cousin. There was snow in the forecast and the weather prognosticators were rattling their sabers that it would be a good one (for April anyway). So my mother decided (smartly) to take an airport shuttle to the airport and not try to drive herself.

She made it to the airport without issue, met our cousin and then made their way back to the shuttle desk to work on getting home. It was now getting bad out there and road conditions were deteriorating rapidly. And my cousin? She had been told, "Oh it's almost springtime there, you won't need a winter coat." My mother called me at home (from an airport payphone - there were no cellphones) to tell me they were heading out. My father was stuck in New Jersey, unable to get home from his office in Morristown - he had made it to his sister's in nearby Livingston.

So I waited. And waited. My father called frequently, asking if I had heard anything. Finally after about an hour, the phone rang and my mother (calling from another payphone) told me they had made it to one of the shuttle stops to let out some passengers. They were about a third of the way from the airport to our home. Under normal circumstances a trip between JFK and our house should take about 3o minutes. She told me they had a few more stops to try and make and hung up.

So I waited. And waited. My father called and I updated him. Then my mother called back and said they had made it to another stop and were only about 10 miles away - but the driver was not going to be able to take them to the shuttle stop, he was only going to come off the Long Island Expressway and drop my mother and cousin on the service road and get back on the Expressway. Again, normally this would be fine (the shuttle stop was farther away from the house and it wasn't a bad walk down the service road to our house, which is just off the service road - on a normal day - which this no longer was). I looked out the window and asked my mother if she was seeing the same thing I was. We estimated how long it would be before she and my cousin would be let off and I told her that I would come up and meet them to help them get home.

So I waited. My father called and I told him the latest. I called my friend who lived around the corner (closer to where I had to go) and asked him if he was up for an adventure. I bundled up, grabbed my trusty Flexible Flyer sled and headed out into the darkening evening. I made it around the corner to my friend's house and he joined me and we trudged on through the drifting snow. Normally, the walk from our house to the Expressway exit takes about 15 minutes (it's only a 1/2 mile). After about 30 minutes (with about a 1/4 mile to go), I saw two figures emerging from the snow. It was my mother and my cousin. We put my cousin's luggage on the sled and started back.

My mother's adventure had lasted about six hours, my cousin about three, and mine, an hour.

Then, of course, there was shoveling. And retrieving the car where my mother had parked it for the shuttle. And calming my father down - he tends to worry (and overreact). We wound up making snow bunnies, instead of snow men, as it was almost Easter. And I am pretty sure I had at least one day off of school. Maybe.

Monday, February 21, 2011

New York Pizza

When I moved to Maryland, I missed good New York style pizza. According to the map (click to embiggen) above, it is the food for New York. I have managed to find some good pizza here in the area, possibly the best is here. Now that I have a bread maker (and have already made some pretty good cinnamon raisin bread, I might have to try pizza dough to see how it turns out.

Pizza Dough (Bread Machine)
from CDKitchen
Serves/Makes: 2 crusts | Difficulty Level: 2 | Ready In: 1-2 hrs

  • 1 cup water PLUS
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
Place ingredients in pan in order listed or as directed per machine instructions. Select white dough cycle. Makes two 12 inch regular crusts or one 16 inch deep dish crust. Top with desired toppings and bake at 400 degrees F for 18-20 minutes or until crust is light brown.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Double Date Night

The DC area got to temperatures in the 70s again today - for the third day in a row - unprecedented weather. If I had not been sick earlier in the week, I might have "caught" something that would have kept me home today. As it is, Mrs. BA and I are in the midst of an unprecedented two-night event of our own. It's Double Date Night! Two Date Nights and Double Dates with two different couples!

Yesterday evening, our friend (Ed in Pittsburgh) and his lovely wife came for a visit. He had some meetings to attend to today and his wife took the opportunity to come along and visit with an old friend. They came without their children. When the plan developed, I immediately saw an opportunity for a date night. As you may know, it's Pizza / Movie night at the Launchpad and we asked one of our frequent attendees (and good friend) to think about looking after LBA and SoBA for the evening. She readily agreed - so Mr. and Mrs. BA are getting out to dinner tonight with Ed and Mrs. Ed. We have made a plan to go here for dinner. It is always good to see them and we are having a great time with them as we usually do (we went away for an anniversary weekend with them a few years ago, which was also a lot of fun.

Thursday also marked the birthday of Mrs. OSG and it was her desire to go out for a grown-up meal. Her hope was to go somewhere that did not have mac and cheese or hot dogs on the menu - and perhaps a place where people would bring us food - and somewhere where we might even be able to drink a little. Who were we to deny this birthday wish?! My [very kind] MIL gave Mrs. BA and I a gift card for dinner out at Christmas, with the added bonus of her being willing to babysit when we wanted to cash in. So we are doing just that. Our destination for Saturday night is this restaurant, where I have my eyes on the Coffee-cured Filet Mignon. I am pretty sure that Mrs. BA and Mr. OSG will be diving into an appetizer plate of the "Mountain of Blue Cheese Chips."

We have not been to Stoney River before and are certainly looking forward to it. As I have said before, I would go out all the time if my wallet and waistline could take it. And there is no lack of new places to go here in the DC area:
But wait there's more! Here's the bonus. My [extremely kind] MIL is in fact, babysitting, and is taking the boys to her house for Saturday night. So our second date night will allow us to have the house to ourselves. Although LBA does have a birthday party on Sunday so Mrs. BA will head out to get them in time for that. I need to go to the grocery store - and I would love to find a store that has one of these installed. As the post notes, there are plans to bring them to the US within the year.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Recipe

One of the greatest meals Mrs. BA enjoyed (she still talks about it) was the salted cod at Tavira, a Portuguese restaurant in Chevy Chase. I'm pretty sure if she's reading this, her mouth is already watering.

As today is Valentine's Day, perhaps you can make this for someone you love. Happy Valentine's Day! The recipe comes from here.

Salt-Crusted Chicken
  • one chicken, organic and/or from a source you trust, about 2 kilos (4.4 pounds)
  • 1 medium bunch flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed with the flat of a knife blade
  • 500 grams (17 2/3 ounces, about 3 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 300 grams (10 1/2 ounces, about 1 1/3 cups) coarse salt
  • 3 tablespoons thyme, fresh if available, dried otherwise (other dried herbs may be substituted, such as rosemary or oregano)
  • 6 tablespoons ground flax seeds, or 160 grams (5 2/3 ounces) egg whites (from 4 to 5 large eggs)
Serves 4 to 5.

Lightly oil a baking dish big enough to hold the chicken comfortably. Set aside.

If you're using flax seeds rather than egg whites, place them in a bowl with 100 ml (6 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) fresh water, and set aside for about 15 minutes, until the water is completely absorbed and the mixture is gelled.

Place the chicken on a work surface, on its back, with the neck side facing you. Slip your hand under the skin, starting at the base of the neck, and work gently to get your hand further in, lifting the skin from the flesh over each breast, and down over each thigh, without tearing the skin. Once the skin is loosened, slip in the chopped parsley, pushing it underneath the skin to cover the breasts and the thighs as evenly as you can.

Sprinkle a few pinches of salt inside the cavity of the chicken, and add in the garlic. Using a piece of chicken string, truss the chicken. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour with the salt and thyme. Add the soaked ground flax seeds or the egg whites, and 160 ml (2/3 cup) fresh water, and stir with a wooden spoon or a dough whisk until the liquids are absorbed. Turn out onto a clean work surface, and knead briefly until the dough comes together; it should be supple and pleasant to work with, not sticky or crumbly. Add a little water or flour as needed to adjust the consistency.

Flour your work surface well, and roll out the salt dough into a circle large enough to wrap the chicken in it (I shoot for a diameter of about 50 cm or 20").

Place the chicken in the middle of the circle and fold opposite flaps of the dough over the chicken to wrap it entirely. Press gently to seal; if it looks like the dough might not stay put, brush the seams with a pastry brush dipped lightly in water.

Lift the whole thing carefully but with determination, and transfer it to the prepared baking dish. Place in the fridge until ready to bake -- you can leave it in for a few hours or overnight. If the salt crust cracks slightly here or there, don't worry about it; it doesn't need to be 100% airtight.

Remove the chicken from the fridge and preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Insert the dish in the oven and leave it in for 1 1/2 hours (a little more won't hurt if the guests are late; just turn off the oven and leave the chicken inside).

Remove the dish from the oven, and break the salt crust open with a meat mallet or the handle of a chef knife. Once fractured, the crust can be simply pulled open with your oven-mitt-clad hands (it's fun).

Lift the chicken from the open crust, transfer it to a cutting board, and carve it. Discard the crust. Serve the chicken with the cooking juices, perfect roasted potatoes, and a green salad.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happy Birthday Abe

Today is Abraham Lincoln's birthday. Unfortunately, he, George Washington (February 22), and all of the Presidents, got screwed out of their own individual days when the vague "President's Day" Holiday was established on the third Monday in February.

As you, my faithful readers know, I am a volunteer usher at Ford's Theatre in Washington, which holds its own special place in Lincoln history. A while back, a website I read, We Love DC, dedicated one of its recurring posts, DC Mythbusting, to a Lincoln Edition. It talked about there was allegedly a depiction of Robert E. Lee in the hair of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial (not true) and other Memorial Factoids.

The post also explained why there is a portrait of George Washington outside the presidential box at Fords. Do you know? It is one of the most frequent questions I get of theater-goers when I usher.

Happy Birthday Mr. President. For those who are socially motivated, I recommend that you follow @Mr_Lincoln on Twitter and you can "like" HonestAbrahamLincoln" on Facebook.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Kenneth Wayne Rose

On February 3, the archives community lost a friend and champion. The Rockefeller Archive Center lost its heart and soul. I lost a friend and mentor. Ken Rose, who served as Assistant to the Director when I worked at the Archive Center, left us behind to wonder how to continue on.

Last night, I went with a colleague from the Archive Center, who now lives here in the DC area as well to the service in Ken's hometown of Winchester, VA. It was a wonderful service, one that I think Ken would have accepted, although he did not like being the center of attention.

I dreamed of Ken last night. Over the weekend, after having learned of Ken's passing, I was searching for a "Ken story" that I could share. I became frustrated with myself that I couldn't come up with something specific. As I was traveling with a colleague to the memorial service yesterday evening, I came to the realization that is just how Ken was. Many of the successes that I had at the Archive Center were because of Ken. He was the type of individual that would stand behind you and push you forward. He was a listener, a deep thinker. I cannot count the number of afternoons I spent in his office, sitting on the couch in his office, while he sat behind an enormous desk that had come to the Center from the Commonwealth Fund, as we would talk about everything, family, friends, archives, history, baseball. There was no end to the subjects on which Ken could conduct a great conversation.

In my dream last night (one that I only sort of remember), Ken was not a vivid presence, he was for me, as he was in life, standing there off to the side, watching, listening. He was being Ken. As I write this, Ken has been laid to rest in Virginia. The words that were offered in comfort yesterday evening were fitting. I am, however reminded of the words of Aeschylus, spoken by Robert Kennedy to a crowd of people in Indianapolis, Indiana, upon learning of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until, in our own despair,
against our will,
comes wisdom
through the awful grace of God."
Later that year, when Robert Kennedy was himself laid to rest, his brother, Ted Kennedy, spoke words that could also be used to describe Ken.
"[He] need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man."
Farewell Ken. Rest well. Your earthly travels are finished now. We will see you down the road.

from the Archives and Archivists listserv:
It is with great sadness that the staff of the Rockefeller Archive Center announces the passing of Kenneth Wayne Rose, on Thursday, February 3, 2011, after a brief illness. Ken managed the outreach programs as the Associate Director of Research and Education at the Rockefeller Archive Center in Pocantico Hills, NY. With more than twenty-three years of service at the Archive Center, Ken’s loss to the archival and scholarly communities is incalculable.

A native of Albright, W. Va., Ken received his BA in history from Washington and Lee University, and his MA and PhD degrees from Case Western Reserve University. He was senior managing editor of the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History before joining the staff of the Rockefeller Archive Center in 1987. He has written articles on the Rockefeller family and Rockefeller philanthropy for various journals, reference volumes and conferences. He also has contributed to the American National Biography, the Dictionary of Virginia Biography, and the historical encyclopedias for New York City, New Jersey, and the Midwest. Ken was selected as a Fulbright Fellow to teach American history at Ege University in Izmir, Turkey.

A historian, Rose remained a Virginian at heart, yet engaged with scholars and archivists in China and Turkey as easily as those in the United States. He was intrigued by local history, by African-American history, by 20th-century radicals and by traditional American folk music.

The family suggests charitable donations in Ken's name to the American Heart Association or the Remote Area Medical Foundation.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Rene Verdon

While much of America is surely wiping off some melted cheese from their shirts after yesterday's Super Bowl parties (I had actually intended to post some of my favorite Super Bowl recipes myself), it seems somewhat wrong to post an obituary for classic French chef Rene Verdon, while the smell of hot sauce still lingers in the air.

Verdon was the White House chef during the Kennedy years, before leaving quite publicly after a rift with the Johnson family. Evidently Lyndon and Lady Bird's tastes were, um, a little more, um, let's say basic, from Jackie Kennedy. Read the obituary linked above (from the Washington Post) and you will see what I mean.

Many say that Verdon inspired many Americans to try French cuisine in their homes. My mother was one of those people so inspired. Here is a Verdon recipe used for a luncheon at the White House to honor Princess Grace in May 1961 (taken from here).

Strawberries Romanoff
  • 1 cup vanilla ice cream
  • 4 cups halved small strawberries
  • 2 tbsp each curacao and Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Candied violets or mint leaves
Place ice cream in refrigerator for 30 minutes or until soft enough to smooth easily with the back of a spoon.

Meanwhile, place the strawberries in large bowl. Pour curacao and Grand Marnier over berries; stir gently to combine. Let stand for 30 minutes.

In large chilled bowl and using electric mixer, beat whipping cream at low speed for 45 seconds or until slightly thickened. Add sugar and vanilla; increase speed to medium-high and beat for 3 minutes, or until thick.

In large bowl, stir softened ice cream with wooden spoon until soft. Using rubber spatula, fold dollop of whipped cream into ice cream. Add remaining whipped cream and fold gently until well combined.

Into each of chilled glass dessert bowls, spoon enough strawberries to just cover bottom; top with large dollop of cream mixture, then divide remaining berries, and any juices, among bowls. Distribute remaining cream equally. Garnish each dish with candied violets or mint leaves. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

Tips: If strawberries are large, cut into quarters. Candied violets can be purchases at most upscale grocers or cake decorating shops.