Thursday, May 31, 2012

Illinois - #21, December 3, 1818

Illinois is the state that is smack in the middle of the rest of the states when it comes to size.  It is the twenty-fifth most extensive state - while it is the fifth most populous state in the Union.  It is of course, home to the Windy City, Sweet Home Chicago.  The founding of Chicago in 1830 (more than ten years after Illinois became a state) owes itself to settlers finding one of the few natural harbors along Lake Michigan, in the Chicago River.  Illinois was also part of the vast Northwest Territory.

Sports is very important to Illinois, more specifically Chicago.  Baseball is well represented with the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox.  The Chicago Bulls are a fixture of the NBA and the Chicago Blackhawks are one of the original six teams of the NHL.  Of course, there are also the NFL's Da Bahrs.

Ronald Reagan was the only President born in Illinois (Tampico), but three others were elected President from the state of Illinois.  Reagan had been Governor of California and a resident of the Golden State when elected.  Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant and of course, Barack Obama, were elected as residents of the State of Illinois.  The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield is the largest presidential library in the United States.

In the history of the United States Senate - only six African Americans have served in the Senate.  Half of them have been from Illinois - Carol Moseley Braun, Barack Obama, and Roland Burris.  There have been two families that have dominated politics in Illinois:  the Stevensons and the Daleys.

The current Governor of Illinois is Democrat Pat Quinn, who succeeded Rod Blagojevich, who got himself into some troubles over Barack Obama's Senate seat, when Obama was elected President in 2008. The Senators for Illinois are split, one Republican, Mark Kirk (who is the successor to Barack Obama's seat) and one Democrat, Richard Durbin. Durbin is also the Assistant Majority Leader in the Senate.  There are nineteen members in the Illinois Congressional delegation, eleven Republicans and eight Democrats.
  • State Capital (and sixth largest city in the state) - Springfield
  • Largest city (and third largest city in the country) - Chicago
  • Date of Admission - December 3, 1818
  • Area - 57,914 sq mi (25th) 
  • State Motto - "State Sovereignty, National Union" 
  • State Nickname - The Prairie State, Land of Lincoln
  • State bird - cardinal
  • State flower - violet
  • State tree - white oak
  • State University - The University of Illinois
  • State Archives - Illinois State Archives
  • Population (2011 est.) - 12,869,257 (5th) 
Prominent Illinoisans (here's a few lists to peruse, one and two)

Monday, May 28, 2012

It's Memorial Day - Bring on the Summer!

Despite the non-winter we had this year (I would have really liked at least one good snowstorm - I guess my mother wasn't paying attention), today is Memorial Day, the unofficial kickoff to summer.  In related news, the pool opened this weekend and the Brave Astronaut clan is set for another summer of lounging poolside.

Barbecuing is practically law on this day and these would be a perfect accompaniment to the end of a meal of steak grilled outside.

From the Smitten Kitchen
Look, guys, you’re never going to see my living room on a design blog. As lovely as the walls in landlord-chosen sallow yellow-beige are, as handsome as this coffee table once was (before the finish chipped off the top and we decided to ignore it until it fixed itself), and as charming as the explosion of half-deflated balloons, overturned fire trucks and other toys (some not even wooden, organic, or in sync with our decorating scheme, which, by the way, doesn’t exist) might be, this is hardly the stuff of [envy]. Our parties are equally uncoordinated. There are no Mason jar cocktails with homemade bitters, flour sack table runners, or dishes sprinkled with fresh herbs from our window box garden (which also, uh, doesn’t exist, although if you saw the grime that accumulates on our windowsills from the avenue below, you might thank us). We’ve never sent guests home with a party favor aside from a hangover and we usually forget to make coffee at brunch. Our poor toddler has been deprived of organized birthday parties thus far, as I secretly hoped to stick with family brunches and homemade cakes (of course) until he was capable of expressing even the slightest interest in a more elaborate affair. (Although this year, he’s already made his intentions clear: “Jacob turn three. With cake. And guitar. And cake.” Noted!)

But, I do have my moments of high obsessiveness, such as my longstanding affair with creating homemade versions of things you normally buy at the grocery store, be they Oreos, goldfish crackers, graham crackers, fudge popsicles, or marshmallows. I can’t help it; the homemade versions always taste a zillion times better and contain no mystery ingredients. So, when I spied a recipe for ice cream sandwiches in a new book about parties, even I knew I’d probably never make the gold luster cookie Oscar statuettes, Walk of Fame brownie stars or glitzy gold curtains in the chapter that focuses on creating an old-fashioned Hollywood-style movie night party, there wasn’t a chance they wouldn’t be in my freezer by that very weekend.
The book is from Amy Atlas, a New York City party planner known for her stunning party spreads that execute a theme down to the tiniest details. Her book is spectacular, 15 chapters with everything from tablescapes to directions for how to do all of those pesky things (applying fondant, flooding sugar cookies with decorative frosting, doweling a cake, etc.) that seemed really intimidating before she walked you through it and you realized it could be a cinch. But lest you think the book is just pretty pictures and ambitious parties, these sandwiches will correct you in a single bite: they are perfection. If store-bought ice cream sandwiches tasted half this good, well, it would be dangerous. Fortunately, it’s impossible to keep these around long enough to cause any considerable damage — especially if you bring them to a (themed, of course) rooftop barbecue, as I did on Saturday night.

Classic Ice Cream Sandwiches
Adapted from Sweet Designs by Amy Atlas
Yield: 12 2-by-4-by-1-inch ice cream sandwiches (24 cookies).

  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup plus 1/4 cup extra dark or Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 gallon ice cream, your choice of flavor (I used cookies and cream), softened
Preheat oven to 350°F degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift the flour and cocoa together (I am generally too lazy to sift things but cocoa is really lumpy so don’t skip this) and set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and salt together until light and fluffy. Add the yolks and vanilla and mix until combined, then scrape down sides and mix briefly again. Add the flour mixture a little at a time then mix until combined.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and divide into two equal pieces. If the dough is too soft to handle, wrap and chill it until firm enough to roll out (I recommend 30 minutes only; any longer and it becomes crumbly to roll out). Roll each batch into a 1/4-inch thick rectangle, about 10 by 8 inches. Cut into a total of 24 2-by-4-inch rectangles.

Use an offset spatula to transfer the rectangles to the prepared sheets; you’ll only need an inch space between them. Use the tip of a thermometer (totally brilliant tip from Amy, by the way; it made far better indentations than skewers that I usually use for docking) to poke the cookies with holes (Amy recommends 14 holes but I used this as my guide and made more).

Bake the cookies for 16 to 18 minutes, or until they stay firm when tapped in the center. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining cookie dough, rerolling scraps as needed.

Meanwhile, line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pan with parchment paper, allowing it to overhang on two sides (it will act as a sling for the ice cream). Spread the softened ice cream into the pan, smooth the top and freeze until firm, about one hour (or longer if your freezer is as terrible as mine).

Run a knife along the exposed sides of the pan to loosen the ice cream. Holding onto the parchment paper, lift ice cream out of the pan and onto the work surface. Using one of the cookies as a template, cut ice cream into 12 2-by-4-inch bars. Strangely, I found using kitchen shears to go right through the ice cream and the paper underneath the easiest. I then flipped each piece of ice cream onto a cookie, peeled off the paper, and finished sandwiching the rectangle of ice cream with a second cookie.

(Look, I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that this whole ice cream part caused a spectacular mess in my kitchen. Huge! It was an ice cream massacre! But, I was rushing and you should not. If your ice cream begins to soften, just slide it back into the freezer for a bit and it will become easy to work with again. Promise. Do as I say, not as I did, unless you like sticky floors.)

Wrap each ice cream sandwich in plastic and please, again, listen to Amy here. I was all “Oh, let me just get them cold again and I’ll wrap them later.” Which was wrong. They continue to lose their shape for a bit, runny and melting, before they freeze up and that is why my sandwiches were kind of a mess. “Sealing” them into their shape immediately with plastic is, well, the reason that Amy is a sweets stylist and my food looks, uh, “handmade.”

Freeze until just before serving.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Post Number 1000

This is my 1000th post.   Statistics and observations are below - but I want to begin by noting the closure of an event that had a significant impact on my childhood.  Thirty-three years ago Friday Etan Patz disappeared on his way to school.  He was six years old and was walking to school alone for the first time.  Etan became the most famous missing child in New York City.  I was 11 years old when Etan disappeared and my parents and my friends parents started to look a little more carefully as where we were going.  Living on Long Island - my friends and I were aware of what had happened, as much as pre-teens were aware at that time.

It was announced yesterday that NYC Police had arrested an individual who had implicated himself in the disappearance and death of Etan Patz.  Patz's parents still live in the apartment where Etan left from and I hope that they can find peace.  Nothing will ever bring Etan back but at least they can now know what happened to him.  Rest in peace Etan.

So here we are. A significant milestone. 1000 blog posts. Here's some highlights.

My first post was September 5, 2006. No comments.  The first post to receive a comment was my first post about September 11 (September 11, 2006). I have posted each year on that somber anniversary. Mondays soon became Recipe Day on Order from Chaos. Here's the first one, September 25, 2006 - remember what it was for? How many recipes have there been? 274 (at least four did not contain recipes for food - and while there were similarities, there have been no repeaters) And how many of them have I made or eaten? 64.  My most commented blog post to date was "I've Reached Two Score" December 19, 2007, which garnered thirteen comments, on my reaching the age of 40.

According to the tagging - this blog has been "about me" 250 times; "archives," "mandatory archival content," or archives conferences about 200 times; sports 121 times; history and politics more than 160 times.

For those who are really interested in the "metadata" here's the complete tag list for the postings.  While some posts have clearly been multiple tagged, my tagging has not been consistent.
  • 9/11 (6), About Me (251), Anniversary (15), Archives (100), Art (9), At Home (26)
  • Baseball (62), Basketball (7), Birthday (21), BlogDay2007 (1), Blogging (38), Books (39)
  • Candy (5), Cars (1), Cats (3), Christmas (48), Cleaning (1), Coffee (4), College (8), Comedy (3), Commuting (3), Computers (3), Conferences (44), Crime (3)
  • Dining Out (12), Dreams (1), Drink (17), Education (4), Europe (5), Family (56), Fashion (1), Fatherhood (22), Food (68), Football (12), Friends (1), Fun and Games (10)
  • Geography (3), Girl Scouts (3), Golf (20), Government (7), Guest Blogger (10)
  • Health (12), History (107), Hockey (43), Holidays (68), Humor (7), Ice Cream (2), Issues (1)
  • Language (1), Libraries (16), Lighthouses (4), Lists (81), Literature (1), Local (3), Long Island (5), Lunch Bunch (1)
  • MAC (Mandatory Archival Content) (8), Magazines (2), MARAC (27), March Drunken Madness (4), Meme (21), Movies (53), Moving (9), Museums (6), Music (28)
  • New Years Resolutions (5), New York (37), News (124), Nostalgia (42)
  • Obituary (6), On the Road (15), On this Date (42), Out on the Town (24), Poetry (2), Politics (55)
  • Quiz (38), Radio (4), Real Estate (1), Recipes (274), Religion (6), Restaurants (6), Reviews (4)
  • SAA (12), SAA2007 (6), Science (1), Shopping (14), Space (17), Sports (22), States of the Union (20), Summer (13)
  • Teaching (5), Technology (1), Telephone (6), Television (49), The American President (65), The Web (6), Theater (9), Toys (4), Traffic (17), Travel (4)
  • Vacation (23), Video (43), Washington DC (35), Weather (11), Wine (3), Winter (4), Women (4), Work (10)
Some other numbers of note:
  • 46,146 - number of page views on Order from Chaos
  • 2,237 - number of total comments across the blog
  • 2,091 - number of days between post 1 and post 1000
  • 1,048 - highest number of page views for a blog post, "Ring Dings vs. Ding Dongs, Discuss"
  • 952 - number of referrals from Anna VS's blog (the most referrals)
  • 789 - number of page views (the most of all the recipe pages) for "Mom's Beefaroni"
  • 587 - Facebook friends (I joined Facebook after starting this blog and have reconnected with a lot of old friends and high school classmates)
  • 402 - number of page views for the 100th Post of Order from Chaos
  • 309 - the number of page views for the American President series, for Herbert Hoover
  • 107 - number of different tags / labels used on the blog
  • 44 - my current age
  • 27 - number of years I have been out of high school - I attempted to organize a 25 year reunion in 2010 to limited success
  • 18 - number of followers to Order from Chaos
  • 17 - number of years I have been working as an archivist
  • 10 - number of years I have been married to Mrs. BA
  • 7 - current age of LBA (who is older than this blog)
  • 5 - number of years I have been with my current employer
  • 5 - the number of other blogs I have created during this time: The Political Point (not current - but may be coming back); National Archives Fantasy Baseball (the blog for my fantasy baseball league - also has not been kept up); Take Me Drunk, I'm Home (the March Madness drinking stories contest blog) and two family oriented blogs created for my family and Mrs. BA's family.
  • 4 - current age of SoBA (who is younger than this blog)
  • at least 4 - number of "blends" (blogging friends) I have made since I started blogging
  • 3 - number of cars I have owned during this blog's life - we are down to just one
  • 2 - series created on Order from Chaos - one on the Presidents of the US and one on the States of the Union (in progress) - there may be another one next year, I'm still thinking about what it will be.
So there it is.  I am still enjoying this and will continue to blog.  I hope that you have enjoyed stopping by and will keep coming back.

Brave Astronaut

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mississippi - #20, December 10, 1817

Our next state is one that almost any child can spell, even if they don't live there.  It's one of the easier states to learn how to spell, with all those repeating letters M - ISS - ISS - IPP - I.  Plus everyone knows that it takes a full second to say the state (one - mississippi, two - mississippi, three - mississippi).  Mississippi has deep roots across several genres of American Music, specifically the blues, jazz, gospel music, and rock and roll.

Mississippi was organized as a territory following the American Revolution, carved out of land ceded by Georgia and South Carolina.  At the outbreak of the Civil Way, Mississippi became the second state to secede from the Union and was a founding member of the Confederacy.  The state suffered the largest percentage of people who died in the Civil War of any Confederate State. 78,000 Mississippians entered the Confederate army. By the end of the war 59,000 were either dead or wounded.   It rejoined the Union in 1870.

Mississippi has been slow to react to laws that were widely adopted elsewhere in the US.  In 1966, it was the last state to officially repeal prohibition, which had been overturned with the ratification of the Twenty-third amendment - in 1933.  In 1987, the state repealed its ban on interracial marriage, which had been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court - in 1967.  One hundred thirty years after its ratification, Mississippi symbolically ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery.  In 1989, it repealed its poll tax and twenty years later, in 2009, it repealed other discriminatory civil rights laws, which had been enacted as part of the Civil Rights Act - of 1964.

Despite being a "little slow on the uptake" - it has a few things going for it:
  • In 1894, the first Coca-Cola was bottled in the state, at the Biedenarn Candy Company in Vicksburg
  • Root Beer was invented in Biloxi in 1898 by Edward Adolf Barq, founder of Barq's Root Beer
  • In 1902, while hunting in Sharkey County, President Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot a bear cub - leading to the creation of the "Teddy Bear"
  • Mamie Thomas became the first female rural mail carrier in the United States, when she delivered mail by buggy to the area southeast of Vicksburg in 1914
  • Babe Ruth is forever connected to two Mississippians - Guy Bush of Tupelo played for the Chicago Cubs and was the pitcher off whom Babe Ruth hit his last home run and Sam Vick played for both the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox and is the only man ever to pinch hit for Ruth 
  • The Vicksburg National Cemetery is second in size only to Arlington National Cemetery
The state of Mississippi is one of the more "red" states in the Union and is part of the deep Republican South.  The current Governor of Mississippi is Republican Phil Bryant, who succeeded Haley Barbour, one of Mississippi's more prominent residents. Both of Mississippi's Senators are Republicans, Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker.  There are four members of the Mississippi Congressional delegation, three Republicans and one Democrat.

  • State Capital (and largest city) - Jackson
  • Date of Admission - December 10, 1817
  • Area - 48,430 sq mi (32nd) 
  • State Motto - "Virtue et Armis" ("By Valor and Arms")
  • State Nickname - the Magnolia State 
  • State bird - mockingbird
  • State flower - magnolia
  • State tree - southern magnolia
  • State fish - the largemouth bass (although the state produces the majority of the farm-raised catfish consumed in the US)
  • State University - Mississippi State University
  • State Archives - Mississippi Department of Archives and History
  • Population (2011 est.) - 2,978,512 (31st) 


Prominent Mississippians (here's a few lists to peruse, one and two - the state evidently knows how to produce football players and musicians/singers)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

There's nothing quite like good gumbo.  From the January 2012 Bon Appetit via Epicurious.

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
Bon Appétit | January 2012
by The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen

For authentic gumbo, add filé, a Creole herb found in better markets.
Yield: Makes 8 to 10 servings
Active Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 3 hours 15 minutes

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt plus more 
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1 teaspoon paprika 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
  • 3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs 
  • 1/2 cup (or more) vegetable oil 
  • 1 pound andouille or other spicy smoked sausage, cut into 1/2" rounds 
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped 
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced (white and pale parts separated from dark)
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped 
  • 2 green bell peppers, finely chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic 
  • 8 cups low-salt chicken broth 
  • 2 bay leaves 
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme 
  • 2 cups 1/2"-thick slices fresh (or frozen, thawed) okra, divided 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce 
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce (preferably Crystal) 
  • 1 teaspoon filé powder plus more (optional) 
  • Steamed rice 
Combine 1 tablespoon salt and next 3 ingredients in a small bowl; sprinkle all over chicken. Heat 1/2 cup oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Working in batches, sear chicken until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. Add sausage to pot; cook until browned, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to plate with chicken.

Strain drippings from pot through a fine-mesh sieve into a 2-cup heatproof measuring cup; reserve 1 cup drippings, adding more oil if needed to measure 1 cup. Wipe pot clean; return drippings to pot.

Heat drippings over medium heat. Whisk in flour. Whisk constantly until roux is the color of milk chocolate, 15–20 minutes. Reduce heat to low; add onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in white and pale-green parts of scallions and next 3 ingredients. Cook, stirring often, until soft, about 10 minutes.

Slowly whisk in broth. Add bay leaves, thyme, and reserved chicken and sausage. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer gently, skimming fat from surface and stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes.

Stir in 1 cup okra, Worcestershire, and hot sauce. Simmer until chicken is very tender and flavors meld, about 45 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 cup okra; simmer until okra is crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Season to taste with salt. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Let cool slightly; chill uncovered until cold. Cover and keep chilled. Rewarm gently before continuing. Add 1 teaspoon filé powder, if using.

Serve gumbo over rice. Garnish with dark-green parts of scallions. Sprinkle with more filé powder, if desired.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Indiana - #19, December 11, 1816

We have arrived at the "Crossroads of America," Indiana.  This post goes up at a time when there is about to be a lot of noise coming out of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  It's time for time trials in advance of the Indy 500, which is traditionally run on the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend.  For me, one of the highlights of watching the race is the pre-game festivities, with Jim Nabors singing "Back Home Again in Indiana."  Unfortunately, Jim Nabors will not be able to sing this year in person - he is scheduled for heart surgery over Memorial Day weekend.  Enjoy the video below of a previous appearance.

Indiana is also rich with sports history, specifically high school basketball.  While James Naismith "invented" basketball in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1891, when he visited Indiana in 1925 and witnessed screaming crowds watching a game, he later wrote, "Basketball really had its origin in Indiana, which remains the center of the sport."  The movie "Hoosiers" adds to that lore.

The "Indian Land" was created as the territory of Indiana out of the Northwest Territory in 1800 and became a state sixteen years later.  President William Henry Harrison (our 31 day President, 1841) was named territorial governor of Indiana.  Ten years later, Harrison led forces against the Shawnee Chief Tecumseh to victory at the Battle of Tippecanoe.  The victory propelled Harrison to the Presidency in 1840.

The current Governor of Indiana is Republican Mitch Daniels, who is not running for President and finds himself constantly saying he is not going to be Mitt Romney's Vice President. Both of Indiana's Senators are currently Republicans, at least for the moment.  Although he was in the Senate for ten years (1989-1999), Dan Coats' return in 2011makes him the junior Senator for Indiana. Richard Lugar is the senior Senator and lost his primary last week and with it, his seat and his status as the most senior Republican in the Senate.  There is a good chance the Democrats will pick up this seat in November, Congressman Joe Donnelly is running for the upper house and has a good chance.  There are nine members of the Indiana Congressional delegation, three Democrats and six Republicans.
  • State Capital (and Largest City) -Indianapolis
  • Date of Admission - December 11, 1816
  • Area - 36,418 sq mi (38th)
  • State Motto - "The Crossroads of America"
  • State Nickname - the Hoosier State
  • State bird - cardinal
  • State flower - peony
  • State tree - yellow poplar
  • State University - Indiana University is the largest school in the state - Indiana State University is the land grant school.  Among other prominent universities, Indiana is also the home of Notre Dame.
  • State Archives - Indiana State Archives 
  • Population (2011 est.) - 6,516,922 (15th)


Prominent Indianans (here's a few lists to peruse, one and two)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Lasagna - Pasta Cheesy Goodness

If it weren't so time consuming, I would make lasagna more. When it's done well, it's really good. Here's the Amateur Gourmet's effort (lifted from Ina Garten).


Summary: A relatively easy, flavor-packed lasagna adapted from Ina Garten.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 chopped yellow onion
  • 3 minced cloves of garlic
  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian pork sausage removed from the casing
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes in tomato puree
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound lasagna noodles
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 3 to 4 ounces creamy goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/4 cup for sprinkling
  • 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  1. If you want to make the lasagna right away, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. If you want to save it for later, preheat the oven when you’re ready to bake.
  2. Start by making the sauce: heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook over medium-low heat until translucent. Add the garlic and cook just until the garlic is fragrant, about one minute. Add the sausage and break it up with your wooden spoon as it cooks until there are no big chunks of it–and cook until the sausage is no longer pink, about 8 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, the basil (if you’re using it), 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes until thickened; taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
  4. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with the hottest tap water. Add the noodles and allow them to sit in the water for 20 minutes. Drain.
  5. In another bowl, combine the ricotta, goat cheese, 1 cup of Parmesan, the egg, the remaining 2 tablespoons of parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.
  6. Ladle 1/3rd of the sauce into a 9 X 12 (or 13)-inch baking dish, spreading the sauce around. Add a layer of pasta, half the mozzarella, half the ricotta (spread it around with an offset spatula) and 1/3rd of the sauce. Add the rest of the pasta, mozzarella, ricotta, and finally, sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of Parmesan (or more, to cover the surface) and bake for 30 minutes until the sauce is bubbling.
Quick notes
This isn’t a case where you need to buy the highest-end ricotta or goat cheese; because of the big flavors going on here (especially the sweetness from the tomato paste) feel free to use supermarket brands–you probably won’t notice the difference. And serve it up with my favorite Caesar salad; it’s a great pairing.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Saturday's Quiz - How'd That Company Get It's Name?

I'm a big fan of Sporcle, the online quiz site.  I visit frequently and take the new quizzes when they appear.  I am also a big reader of BuzzFeed, an Internet aggregator.  A while back BuzzFeed had a post asking their readers if they knew how 50 companies got their names.

So, I'm asking you - Do you?  Click here for the answers (in the original BuzzFeed post).  In parentheses, I've indicated, (Y) or (N), if I knew the answer.

  1. 3M (N)
  2. 7-11 (Y - actually Mrs. BA knew this one and reminded me)
  3. Adidas (N)
  4. Adobe (N and not very original naming)
  5. (N but it makes sense)
  6. AMC Theaters (Y, sort of)
  7. Arby's (if the answer is America's Roast Beef, Yes, Sir - then Y, but it's not, so N)
  8. Arm & Hammer (N)
  9. Atari (N)
  10. AT&T (that's an easy one, Y)
  11. Audi (N)
  12. Bridgestone (N)
  13. Canon (N)
  14. Coca-Cola (Y - Mrs. BA would probably divorce me if I didn't know this one)
  15. Comcast (N, but it also makes sense - see #5)
  16. ConocoPhillips (Y - having worked for a time for the Standard Oil family, I became versed in a lot of the oil company names)
  17. CVS (Y)
  18. Duane Reade (N - I really thought it was the name of the founder)
  19. eBay (N)
  20. Garmin (N)
  21. Geico (Y)
  22. Hasbro (N)
  23. H&R Block (Y)
  24. IBM (Y, but it does not stand for "I've Been Moved")
  25. Ikea (N, but c'mon, all those names are made up, aren't they?)
  26. Kia (N)
  27. Lego (N)
  28. Mattel (N)
  29. Nabisco (Y)
  30. Nikon (N)
  31. Nintendo (N)
  32. Nissan (N - but didn't this used to be Datsun, too?)
  33. Nokia (N)
  34. Pepsi (N, and I think I might have been better off not knowing, ew.)
  35. Qualcomm (sort of obvious, so Y)
  36. QVC (Y - operators are standing by!)
  37. Reebok (N - but that's kind of cool)
  38. Saab (N)
  39. Sega (N)
  40. Sharp (N, and really?)
  41. Sony (N)
  42. Sprint (N)
  43. Starbucks (N, but then again I didn't read the book)
  44. Taco Bell (N)
  45. Verizon (N, snort)
  46. Virgin (N, really Branson, that's how you came up with that?)
  47. Vodafone (N)
  48. Volkswagen (Y)
  49. Walmart (Y)
  50. Wendy's (Y)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Louisiana - #18, April 30, 1812

Our next state is named for French King Louis XIV (the Sun King).  It is the only state in the union that is divided into Parishes, not counties.  It was part of the Louisiana Purchase, which when completed in 1803, doubled the size of the United States.  It also gave control of the Mississippi River to the United States.

On Aug. 29, 2005, less than two weeks after the Brave Astronaut had visited the state for a conference, Louisiana was hit by Hurricane Katrina, devastating New Orleans, and killing hundreds elsewhere in the state, particularly in the parishes of Jefferson and St. Bernard. Federal and local officials were widely criticized for their slow and inadequate response to the initial disaster and subsequent recovery programs.  Even today, the city of New Orleans and the state continue to recover.

The current Governor of Louisiana is Republican Bobby Jindal.  Jindal, an Indian-American was on John McCain's short list for Vice President and is rumored to be on Romney's short list as well.  The Senators for the state are Democrat Mary Landrieu and Republican David Vitter.  The Louisiana Congressional delegation contains seven members, all but one are Republicans.
  • State Capital - Baton Rouge
  • Largest City - New Orleans
  • Date of Admission - April 30, 1812
  • Area - 51,843 sq mi (31st) 
  • State Motto - "Union, Justice, and Confidence" 
  • State Nickname - the Pelican State 
  • State bird - Eastern Brown Pelican (it's on the flag)
  • State flower - Magnolia
  • State tree - bald cypress
  • State University - Louisiana State University
  • State Archives - Louisiana State Archives
  • Population (2011 est.) - 4,574,836 (25th)
Prominent Louisianans (here's a few lists to peruse, one and two)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Coffee Panna Cotta

Despite the fact this recipe comes from a healthy eating magazine (Eating Well), I would eat this.

Coffee Panna Cotta
From EatingWell: March/April 2011

Panna cotta (“cooked cream” in Italian) is a silky-smooth dessert that works beautifully with the flavor of coffee. The sauce was inspired by café brûlot, the New Orleans classic coffee drink spiked with flamed brandy. Cooking for teetotalers? Use brandy extract in the panna ­cottas and omit brandy (and flambéing) from the sauce. Garnish with chocolate-covered espresso beans, if desired. Recipe by Joyce Hendley for EatingWell.

6 servings
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours (including 4 1/2 hours chilling time)

Panna Cotta
  • 1 cup hot brewed coffee, divided
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 3/4 cup nonfat vanilla yogurt
  • 3/4 cup reduced-fat milk
  • 2 teaspoons brandy
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream, well chilled
Coffee-Brandy Sauce
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons brewed coffee
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  1. To prepare panna cotta: Place 1/4 cup hot coffee in a small heatproof glass bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over the coffee; stir to mix. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 3/4 cup coffee, yogurt, milk, 2 teaspoons brandy, vanilla and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
  3. Microwave the coffee-gelatin mixture, uncovered, on High until the gelatin has completely dissolved but the liquid is not boiling, 20 to 40 seconds. (Alternatively, set the bowl in a small skillet of simmering water until the gelatin has dissolved completely.) Stir until smooth. Add granulated sugar and stir until dissolved.
  4. Slowly whisk the gelatin mixture into the yogurt mixture. Refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until it just begins to thicken, 30 to 45 minutes.
  5. Beat the cream with a whisk or electric mixer until soft peaks form. Whisk into the yogurt mixture until smooth. Divide among six 4-ounce (1/2-cup) custard cups. Cover and refrigerate until the panna cotta is chilled and set, at least 4 hours and up to 3 days.
  6. To prepare sauce: Combine brown sugar and 3 tablespoons coffee in a small skillet. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the liquid is reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour in 2 tablespoons brandy. Tilting the pan away from you, use a long-handled match (or grill lighter) to carefully ignite the liquid, gently shaking the pan until the flames subside. Let cool slightly.
  7. To serve: Run a knife around the cups to loosen the panna cotta. One at a time, set the cups in hot water for 30 to 40 seconds, then invert onto a serving plate, holding the cup and plate tightly together. If it doesn’t unmold, carefully run the knife around the edge of the cup to loosen the panna cotta again, then invert onto the plate. Drizzle each panna cotta with a little of the sauce.
Per serving : 181 Calories; 7 g Fat; 4 g Sat; 2 g Mono; 25 mg Cholesterol; 23 g Carbohydrates; 4 g Protein; 0 g Fiber; 46 mg Sodium; 162 mg Potassium

Tips & Notes
  • Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate panna cottas and sauce for up to 3 days. Heat the sauce for a few seconds before using. | Equipment: Six 4-ounce (1/2-cup) custard cups or ramekins, long-handled match or grill lighter

Friday, May 4, 2012

Ten Years Later

I was on the golf course last Friday, playing with my sister-in-law's husband.  The Brave Astronaut clan was in the great state of Delaware to celebrate his 40th birthday, a weekend that had been completely arranged by his wife, Mrs. BA's sister.  I remarked to him that we had done pretty well for ourselves with the women we had married.

Mrs. BA's sister and her husband celebrated 10 years of marriage in January.  When Mrs. BA and I prepared to get married in May, we asked the two of them to stand up with us as our best people.  Mrs. BA and my 10th wedding anniversary is today.

We have known each other sixteen years.  We became a couple twelve years ago.  I hope that Mrs. BA does not think of me as Marion did, when remarking to Indiana Jones, "You're not the man I knew ten years ago" although his response, "It's not the years honey, it's the mileage" is how my body feels sometimes, too.

I am to a point where I can't remember what my life was like when she wasn't in it.  I can't imagine how my life would be if she weren't in it.

She is the love of my life, my best friend, my partner, my wife, the mother of our children, and my foundation.  Whenever she is around, everything else matters less.  If you come across her today, wish her a happy anniversary, and while you're at it, thank her for rescuing me and making me the happiest man in the world.

Mrs. BA - you are everything to me and I love you with every fiber of my being.  We are moving down the road - together - and I look forward to many more years together with you and our children.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Ohio - #17, March 1, 1803

We have arrived at the seventeenth state to join the Union, the Buckeye State, Ohio.  You will note in the picture above the unique shape of the flag of Ohio. It is the only one of the 50 states flags that is not rectangular.  In fact, it is not known as a flag at all, its official definition is a burgee.  The name "Ohio" is an Iroquois word meaning "good river."  It may be noted that while the Ohio River borders the state - the river itself is "owned" by Kentucky and West Virginia.

Ohio is the first state admitted to the Union that was part of the Northwest Territory (which comprised what would become six different states - go ahead name them) under the Northwest Ordinance.  While it was granted statehood in 1803 - it was learned in 1953 that Congress never passed a resolution admitting the state.  A resolution was proposed by Ohio Congressman George Bender granting retroactive statehood.  President Eisenhower signed the resolution during the 150th anniversary of Ohio's admission.

Ohio is very popular for tourism.  The Football Hall of Fame is found in the state, in Canton.  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland, and Brave Astronaut does have a thing for roller coasters so this place is certainly on my bucket list.

As mentioned in an earlier post, the State of Ohio has produced a good number of Presidents (it is also known as the Mother of the Presidency).  The Presidents noted below were all born in Ohio.  William Henry Harrison was born in Virginia, but spent most of his life in Ohio and is also buried there.
  1. James A. Garfield 
  2. Ulysses S. Grant 
  3. Warren Harding 
  4. Rutherford B. Hayes 
  5. Benjamin Harrison 
  6. William McKinley 
  7. William Howard Taft  
 Unfortunately three of them died in office.

The current Governor of Ohio is former Republican Congressman John Kasich.  Ohio's Senators are Sherrod Brown, a Democrat and Rob Portman, a Republican.  Portman is rumored to be on the short list to be Mitt Romney's choice as the vice presidential nominee. The Ohio Congressional delegation contains eighteen members, 5 Democrats and 13 Republicans, including the current Speaker of the House, John Boehner.

Prominent Ohioans or "Buckeyes" (here's a few lists to peruse, one and two)