Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Remembering a Tragedy

This past Friday marked the 45th Anniversary of the launchpad fire that killed Apollo 1 astronauts, Roger Chaffee, Gus Grissom and Ed White. As previously mentioned before, why half of my online moniker is that my junior high school mascot was the Astronauts and the three academic halls in the building were named for these space pioneers.

Of course, this tragedy has been thoroughly documented and the issues that caused the fire were corrected and future space missions were successful. I have written about the fire before (here and here) but noted the article in the newspaper yesterday and wanted to mention it to all of you again.

Remember that space travel is something we need to keep doing. It's what's next.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Super Snacks

Next Sunday is the Super Bowl (in case you weren't aware). Last Sunday, on Championship Sunday (when the Giants beat the Niners and the Patriots finished off the Ravens to punch their tickets to the big game) - the Brave Astronaut clan had a Super Bowl Rehearsal Party. We made nachos, little hot dogs and veggies and dip. We ate in front of the TV and watched the game(s) and we will likely do much of the same next Sunday.

Mrs. BA always asks that we try and find something nutritious for LBA and SoBA (hence the vegetables) but I usually just look at her funny when she says that. C'mon, it's the Super Bowl. You're supposed to eat crap. Where are the pizza rolls? The question is, can I get her to make Super Bowl Cake again? Epicurious did a bunch of Super Bowl party recipes. Here's just one.

Bacon Banana Cookies
Epicurious | December 2011
by Libbie Summers
The Whole Hog Cookbook
Ginger, my mother, never liked a bunch of kids in her house. Even as a young girl, I could feel her angst when too many neighborhood kids were around. Her clever solution was to bake a plate of my favorite Bacon Banana Cookies and leave them on the front porch, locking the door behind her. I never minded being sequestered outside with my food loot in the summer because the porch concrete cooled my skin.

The winter—that was a different story. When I bake these cookies now for my son, Anthony, I'm secretly baking them for myself. I wonder if my mom did the same thing? I'll be sure to ask her...as soon as she unlocks the front door.
Yield: Yields 30 cookies

  • 2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 bananas, mashed (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 1/2 pound bacon, cooked crisp, chopped

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon, and the salt.

In a medium mixing bowl, use a hand mixer to cream together the butter and 1 cup of the sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until they are fully incorporated. Beat in the vanilla. Add the butter mixture to the flour mixture, then stir in the mashed bananas, beating well after each addition. Fold in the bacon.

Stir together the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the remaining cinnamon.

Drop the dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheet 1 inch apart. Sprinkle generously with the cinnamon-sugar and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until slightly browned. Allow the cookies to cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Cookies will keep for 5 to 7 days.

Rock-hard bananas? Ripen them quickly for Bacon Banana Cookies by placing the peeled fruit on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cooking them in a 400°F oven for 10 minutes until they are soft.

Next time you make banana bread, try stirring 4 slices cooked and chopped bacon into the batter.

Source Information
From The Whole Hog Cookbook: Chops, Loin, Shoulder, Bacon, and All That Good Stuff by Libbie Summers. © Libbie Summers; photographs © Chia Chong. Published by Rizzoli International Publications, Inc.

Friday, January 27, 2012

What the Wizard of Oz was Really About?

As you, my faithful readers, know, Fridays are normally pizza-movie night at the Launchpad. Today, I am home with SoBA, who was up most of the night emptying out his stomach. Now, after watching Toy Story 3, we segued into Stuart Little 2, during which he fell asleep. There will likely be more video entertainment later in the afternoon when he wakes up. Hopefully, he will want something to eat, now that several hours have passed without his throwing up. When I was sick, my sick day routine involved a lot of TV, drinks drunk with a straw on the couch, and pastina. So far, all we are missing for SoBA is the third (there is some getting flat Sprite on the table next to him) item.

LBA has seen the Wizard of Oz and it has been featured for pizza-movie night in the past. But do you know some of the myths and trivia associated with the blockbuster film?
  1. Dorothy's iconic shirt was actually pink.
  2. The Wicked Witch Cries Out, "Fly, Fly, my Pretties!"
  3. Buddy Ebsen was originally cast as the Tin Man but was recast when the makeup nearly killed him.
  4. The Land Of Oz Was Named For L. Frank Baum's Cabinet Drawer Marked O-Z
  5. Margaret Hamilton's Make-Up Was Life Threateningly Toxic
  6. Pink Floyd Purposely Created "Dark Side Of The Moon" To Coincide With Oz
  7. Unbeknownst At The Time, Professor Marvel Is Wearing L. Frank Baum's Jacket
  8. A Munchkin Committed Suicide by Hanging Himself on Film

Thursday, January 26, 2012

New Jersey - #3, December 18, 1787

As the United States Constitution was ratified by the original thirteen colonies, the United States took shape fairly quickly. The third state in our series is the Garden State, New Jersey. I have a sort of love-hate relationship with New Jersey. It is where Mrs. BA and I honeymooned in Cape May after we were married ten years ago (and will return in April to celebrate our anniversary - with a bunch of archivists - but celebrate we will).

I have spent a fair amount of time in New Jersey. My grandmother and aunt used to live in Livingston and we would travel there from our home on Long Island at the holidays. I have been to several meetings in New Jersey - New Brunswick, Trenton, and Morristown. My fascination with lighthouses has brought me to New Jersey to look at the many lighthouses that mark the coast. I have also been to the sin city of the East, Atlantic City. I went there once with my mother to try out for Jeopardy and learned later that Mrs. BA was there that same day.

Running up the middle of the state is the hate part of the relationship, The New Jersey Turnpike. When the road works, it's great. But over the course of several recent trips to New York (more specifically trying to get home from New York), the Turnpike has let me down. It is truly a case of too many cars and not enough road.

The current governor of New Jersey is Chris Christie, a Republican. Both Senators for the Garden State are Democrats, Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez. The House delegation is almost evenly split 7-6, with one more Democrat than Republicans.
  • State Capital - Trenton
  • Date of Admission - December 18, 1787
  • Area - 8,721 sq. mi. (47th)
  • State Motto - "Liberty and Prosperity"
  • State Nickname - the Garden State
  • State bird - American Goldfinch
  • State mammal - horse
  • State flower - common meadow violet
  • State University - Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
  • State Archives - the State Archives
  • Population (2011 est.) - 8,821,155
  • Signers of the Declaration of Independence -Abraham Clark, John Hart, Francis Hopkinson, Richard Stockton, Reverend John Witherspoon

Prominent New Jerseyites (more here and here's another)

  • Both Abbott and Costello
  • Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin
  • Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito
  • Count Basie
  • Jon Bon Jovi
  • Former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan
  • Whitney Houston
  • Jerry Lewis
  • recently announced NFL Hall of Fame inductee Bill Parcells
  • Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (that's three!)
  • Ol' Blue Eyes, the Chairman of the Board
  • The Boss
  • Joe Theismann (whose career was ended by a player that played for the New York Giants)
  • New Jersey is the birthplace of Grover Cleveland and can lay partial claim to another President, Woodrow Wilson, who was president of Princeton shortly before his election. Although he is the last President to have been from Virginia, the mother of the presidency.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Nutella Coated Bacon

I saw this on Friday and almost posted a special Friday recipe. Good lord, this sounds good. Seen on BuzzFeed, copied from the Detroit Free Press website. It appears the recipe originally comes from here.

Sweet and Spicy Nutella-Coated Bacon
Serves: 6
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Vegetable oil cooking spray
  • 6 thick slices bacon (1/2 to 3/4 pound)
  • 3 tablespoons Nutella
  • Fleur de sel or another coarse salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine brown sugar, chili powder and black pepper in a small bowl and set aside.

Spray a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange bacon slices on baking sheet, making sure they do not overlap. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, depending on desired doneness, then remove from oven and carefully flip bacon slices.

Sprinkle each slice liberally with sugar-pepper mixture. Return to oven and bake for an additional 8 to 10 minutes. Cool bacon slices on paper towels until approximately room temperature.

When bacon has cooled, place Nutella into a small bowl and microwave on high for approximately 15 to 20 seconds, until softened. Transfer bacon slices to a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet or large plate. Using a silicon brush or icing spatula, lightly spread Nutella onto the top of each bacon slice. Place plate into refrigerator and allow Nutella to harden. Once coating is firm to the touch, sprinkle with fleur de sel and serve.

  • Reduce the amount of black pepper to 1/2 teaspoon and add 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon ground red (cayenne) pepper to the spice mixture.
  • To make a European Elvis sandwich, spread the top of one slice of bread lightly with honey, top with the coated bacon and thin slices of banana, then close with a second slice of bread.
Adapted from bellalimento.com. Tested by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
150 calories (60% from fat)
10 grams fat (3.5 grams sat. fat)
8 grams carbohydrates
7 grams protein
355 mg sodium
15 mg cholesterol
0 grams fiber

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Click, Clack, Ding, Kerchunk!

One of the more popular books in the rotation for LBA and SoBA is called Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type. It occurs to me that while reading this story, SoBA and LBA might be confused with the use of something called a "typewriter." Sadly, back in April 2011, it was reported the last typewriter factory closed its doors.

I remember taking "Keyboarding" in (junior?) high school. I wound up dropping the class because I had already "learned" to type and wasn't in the mood to relearn. Now, of course, I can type pretty fast and don't have to look at the keyboard (I'm not doing it now) to make sure that I am typing correctly. I do sort of hover near the "home keys" but the backspace / delete key is much easier to use than "correct-a-type" ever was.

In keyboarding, we used IBM Selectric typewriters. It had that very satisfying hum when you turned it on. Sometimes it felt like you could take it outside to mow the lawn with it. We had a manual typewriter around the house growing up until that finally gave up the ghost. When I went off to college, I had a brand spanking new word processing typewriter that had a disk drive that you could type your papers and then save! them to this piece of plastic. It had a little delay on it that you would type a line of text and then it would magically appear on the paper. It had a flip screen that served as a keyboard cover. For the life of me, I can't remember what it was called or who made it. But then again, if you can't remember a lot from college, you must have had a pretty good time, right?

Here in the office (where I deal primarily with electronic records) there was a typewriter around for a while - I don't know if it is still here somewhere. But with a computer on everyone's desk and the "Avery Plug-in" available so readily, is anyone still typing out addresses on envelopes (the last line of defense for needing a typewriter)?

So, dear reader. Typewriters? What do you think?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pennsylvania - #2, December 12, 1787

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (the first of four Commonwealths in the United States state list - any guesses of the other three before we get there?) became the second state to become part of the United States just five days after Delaware. Pennsylvania is the only one of the original thirteen colonies that does not border the Atlantic Ocean.

While the capital of the state, Harrisburg, is located near the center of the state, its two largest cities are found on the eastern and western borders, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, respectively. Philadelphia, of course, holds a special place in the history of the nation, as the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and waged the American Revolution and signed the Declaration of Independence. Pittsburgh also holds a spot in history as KDKA became the world's first radio station, when it started broadcasting in 1920.

I have traveled all across Pennsylvania - having attended several professional meetings across the state (most recently I was in Bethlehem). I also have a number of friends in the state, including Ed in Pittsburgh, Anna (Mrs. BA's best pal), J in PA and Special K, PCW, and several others. PCW, of course, has one of the sweetest jobs in the world, literally. She works here.

Of the many colleges and universities in Pennsylvania, Dickinson College, J in PA's employer holds the distinction of being the first college founded in the United States (after independence). My two older siblings also went to college in the Keystone State, at LaSalle University. Mrs. BA also went to college in Pennsylvania.

The current governor of Pennsylvania is Tom Corbett, a Republican. The Senators for the state are split, one Republican, Patrick Toomey, and one Democrat, Robert Casey, Jr. The House delegation is currently split 12-7, in favor of the Republicans.

Prominent Pennsylvanians (again, subjective and my own opinion - one list found here and here's another)

  • Pennsylvania has produced only one President of the United States, and the only bachelor President, James Buchanan.
  • Louisa May Alcott
  • Kevin Bacon
  • The Barrymores
  • Joe Biden gets to be on this list, too. He was born in Scranton.
  • Daniel Boone (although I would always place him with the Lone Star State, when we get there)
  • Alexander Calder
  • Adrian Cronauer (I was watching this movie when preparing this post)
  • Bill Cosby
  • Ann B. Davis
  • W.C. Fields
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Robert Fulton (as with Boone, I would associate him with another state more - New York)
  • Milton Hershey
  • Reggie Jackson (see above)
  • Gene Kelly
  • Mario Lanza (wait he's not a native Italian?)
  • Benjamin Netanyahu (yes, the current PM of Israel)
  • Arnold Palmer
  • William Penn
  • Jimmy Stewart
  • Andrew Wyeth

Monday, January 16, 2012

But the Twinkies will Still be Good, Right?

Word has reached the launchpad that Hostess Cakes is filing bankruptcy. But Twinkies will live forever, right?

Here is a list of several recipes using the indestructible sponge cake. Below is my favorite (and something that might actually be edible). Believe it or not, there is a whole cookbook that you can order, devoted to using Hostess Cakes for cooking.

Twinkie Toffee Treat

Items Needed:
  • 1 box Hostess Twinkies
  • 2 prepared packages of pudding (I usually use vanilla, but like chocolate as well!)
  • 1 large tub of whipped topping
  • 6 Heath candy bars
DIRECTIONS: Crush Heath candy bars in a sturdy plastic bag. Cut Twinkies lengthwise and line bottom of glass pan with Twinkies, creme side up. Add a layer of pudding. Layer with remaining Twinkies, creme side down. Top with the whipped topping. Sprinkle with the crushed candies. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Delaware - #1, December 7, 1787

So here we are. The first post of the new States of the Union series here on Order from Chaos. Over the course of the remainder of the year, I will post information about the 50 states in the order of their admittance to the Union. That means, week 1, is the First State, Delaware.

Delaware is the second smallest state in the union (after what state?), comprised of three counties (the fewest number of counties of any state) - Mrs. BA used to know someone who would say "three counties when the tide was out, one when the tide was in" - and is about 100 miles long and ranges from 9 to 35 miles wide. Delaware also has the only circular state boundary in the United States, the Twelve Mile Circle.

Having driven through Delaware more times than I care to recount, I believe that most of the state is Interstate 95 - known in the state as the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway. Paying a toll for the privilege just adds insult to injury. Delaware also features favorable incorporation laws and as a result, about half of the publicly traded corporations in the United States and 60% of the Fortune 500 companies are incorporated in Delaware.

The state is reliably Democratic - the current Governor is Jack Markell (D), both Senators and its sole House Member are Democrats: Thomas Carper, Chris Coons, and John Carney.

Delaware also has great beaches and is a popular destination for the Brave Astronaut clan when the situation presents itself. There is a minor league baseball team, located in Wilmington, The Wilmington Blue Rocks, which I have been to, organizing a group outing to a game. Wilmington, Delaware's major city, has been home to many professional meetings for the Brave Astronaut and it holds a very special place in my heart.

  • State Capital - Dover
  • Date of Admission - December 7, 1787
  • State Motto - Liberty and Independence
  • State bird - blue hen chicken
  • State flower - peach blossom
  • State University - The University of Delaware (and employer of one of Mrs. BA's brothers-in-law)
  • State Archives - the Delaware Public Archives
  • Population (2010) - 897,934
  • Signers of the Declaration of Independence - Col. Thomas McKean, George Read, Caesar Rodney.

Prominent Delawareans (completely subjective and my own opinion - full list here)

So that's the first post. What do you think? What's missing?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Oregano Brussel Sprouts

I like brussel sprouts. There I said it. You can't make me stop liking brussel sprouts. In fact I made some for Christmas dinner, but was the only one to eat them. I made this recipe, which was good, but here's another recipe for you to try so that you might develop a taste for them as well. Recipe from here.

Oregano Brussels Sprouts

To make a meal of this, serve over farro, quinoa, rice, or on top of a frittata. Use leftover oregano drizzle over everything from roasted squash, frittatas, baked potatoes, or with a good amount of fresh lemon juice, as a salad vinaigrette.
  • 24 small brussels sprouts (less if you can only find larger sprouts)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • fine grain sea salt
Oregano Drizzle
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 large garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing
  • a big handful of toasted almond slices
Wash the brussels sprouts well. Trim the stem ends and remove any raggy outer leaves. Cut in half from stem to top (quarter, if using larger sprouts) and gently rub each half with olive oil, keeping it intact. Or if you're feeling lazy, just toss them in a bowl with a glug of olive oil.

Make the oregano drizzle by pulsing the olive oil, oregano, parsley, garlic, and salt in a food processor until the herbs are just little flecks of green. Season with more salt if needed, and set aside.

Just a few minutes before you're ready to eat, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in your largest skillet over medium heat. Don't overheat the skillet, or the outsides of the brussels sprouts will cook too quickly. Place the sprouts in the pan flat side down (single-layer), sprinkle with a couple pinches of salt, cover, and cook for roughly 5 minutes; the bottoms of the sprouts should only show a hint of browning. Cut into or taste one of the sprouts to gauge whether they're tender throughout. If not, cover and cook for a few more minutes.

Once just tender, uncover, turn up the heat, and cook until the flat sides are deep brown and caramelized. Use a metal spatula to toss them once or twice to get some browning on the rounded side. Remove from heat and drizzle and toss with as much (or little) oregano pesto as you like. Season to taste, and serve sprinkled generously with the almonds as soon as possible. They really are best straight from the stove top.

Serves 4 as a side.
Prep time: 5 min - Cook time: 8 min

Thursday, January 5, 2012

States of the Union: A New Series

I love the Animaniacs. I would let LBA watch these guys instead of some of the other stuff he sits slack jawed in front of the TV watching now.

It's been a while since I had a recurring list appear on the blog (you may recall the Presidents of the United States series - you can still refer to them with the list that appears on the right side of this blog). I think it's time for a new set. LBA, deep into first grade, is learning at a mad pace and often will quiz me on things. He is trying to memorize all of the fifty states. So this new series should help. You got a preview of this series with those posts back in November and December.

As there are fifty states, this series will run for the entire year (I will do my best to make sure I am here every week). The final week will feature some sort of conclusion, as yet to be determined. The states will be revealed in the order of their admission to the Union, sorry Hawaii and Alaska lovers, you're gonna have to wait for a while. But hey, Delawareans, you guys win! You'll be up first, next week. Be sure to let me know if there is something specific about a state that you want / need to know!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Salty Chicken

Wait. Does this mean I can't eat the skin? That's the best part. And if it's all salty, yummy goodness . . .

Salt-Roasted Chicken
Bon Appétit - December 2011
by Christian Domschitz

Christian Domschitz, chef de cuisine at Vestibül, locks in the chicken's flavor and moisture under a simple crust made with kosher salt and egg whites.
Yield: Makes 4 Servings

  • 3 large sprigs flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 large sprigs marjoram
  • 3 large sprigs tarragon
  • 1 3–4-pound chicken
  • 7 cups (about 2 3/4 pounds) kosher salt
  • 12 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a 15x11" roasting pan with foil, if desired. Stuff herbs into chicken cavity; tie legs loosely together. Tuck wing tips under.

Place salt and egg whites in a large bowl. Use your hands to blend well, kneading to soften slightly, about 4 minutes. Pack 1/3 of salt mixture onto bottom of pan. Place chicken on top. Pack remaining salt mixture over and around chicken to completely enclose.

Roast until a thermometer registers 165°F when inserted through the salt crust into thickest part of thigh, about 70 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes. Crack salt with the back of a knife or wooden spoon. Remove salt and skin from chicken; transfer meat to a work surface. Carve and serve.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Years Resolutions

Yeah, yeah. I know. Everybody and their brother makes them. And doesn't keep them. It's up to you dear readers to keep me in line.
  1. Lose weight. I stalled for a while, I was going to the gym at work fairly regularly. Then the kids became the exercise. Problem is, I often find myself picking at their plates when they are done with dinner. I need to find some regimen that will help me get to my goal, which is about 15-20 pounds away.
  2. Have date night at least once a month. I like going to the movies. I like spending time with Mrs. BA and our friends. We don't get a chance to do it enough. I'd like to do that more.
  3. Yell less. My father like(d/s) to yell. My mother was the primary disciplinarian at home and "wait until your father comes home" made you feel strange, because you didn't necessarily think you would get in more trouble, but there might be yelling. I don't want to be that father. I need to take a breath before responding to LBA and SoBA. It's hard, but they deserve better than they sometimes get.
  4. Be outstanding, or at least highly successful. My fellow federal workers, you understand. I think I am on the way to this, hopefully.

What resolutions are you all making? Is there something missing from my list?

I wish you all a happy and healthy new year!