Monday, January 28, 2013

Well It is cold and Flu Season

As you my faithful readers may recall - I was down with a sickness about two weeks ago.  It started over the weekend, I spiked a fever on Monday night, and finally went to the doctor on Thursday evening.  It turned out I had an upper respiratory infection.  Steroids and antibiotics knocked it out of me and I am far down the road to recovery - for now.

Of course, as the father of two and a federal employee, I am constantly exposed to germs - the first because that's what small children do, carry around germs (in fact SoBA went down with a fever on the day I went to the doctor) and the second because well, if you don't have the leave or feel a sense of needing to go to work, you bring your germs with you to the office and share them around.

One of the other benefits of being a federal employee however is getting free flu shots.  Which I did this year - although I learned later it is only about 60% effective this year, and we are in the midst of a pretty bad flu season.  I don't think I had the flu, I think I just got sick.  When I do get sick, I sometimes say that I "feel like a bucket of warm spit."  When I had my infection - I would have loved to feel like warm spit.  It would have been a step up.

I found this BuzzFeed post in my reader a few weeks ago and, had I had the energy - I would have tried several of them to try and feel better.

Honey Ginger Lemon "cocktail"

Don't let cold and flu season knock you for a loop. Stock up on this home cold & flu remedy before the cold weather sets in. It's even delicious when you're feeling great!
For a long time, honey, ginger, and lemon have been recognized for their homeopathic properties. When combined, they make a knock-out remedy against a myriad of ailments. This elixir will relieve many of the symptoms that accompany flu, cold, infection and inflammation. Just check out some of the natural properties of these ingredients:
  • Honey: antibacterial, antioxidant, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral 
  • Ginger: antiviral, anti-inflammatory, aids digestion, effective against human respiratory syncytial virus
  • Lemon: antiseptic, aids digestion, great source of calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, bioflavonoids 
So you can see how combining these elements will create a tasty treat that will relieve your aches, pains, indigestion, and even help you breathe a little better.

  • Fresh lemon 
  • Fresh ginger 
  • Raw honey* 

  • Slice lemon into quarters and pack into jar 
  • Grate ginger, and add to lemon (the amount is up to you - the more the better, I say!) 
  • While stirring, fill jar with honey 
To Use: Add 1 tablespoon (or more to taste) to hot water and stir This also makes a great holiday or house warming gift! Just add a label with directions and the use-by date. Jar can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 months.

And for a portable version, make your own cough drops!

* Please note: honey is not intended for use by children under 12 months of age.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Baked Potato Soup and Barack Obama

Yesterday was January 20, the day set aside for the quadrennial presidential inauguration.  However, with the day falling on a Sunday, the public events were all set for today.  Further, the United States Constitution [specifically the 20th Amendment] requires the President (and Vice President) to be sworn in before noon on the 20th of January - so both Barack Obama and Joe Biden were sworn into their second terms yesterday.

Today was also the day to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and as such, a "federally mandated playdate" for LBA and some of his friends.  This is a tradition that we began several years ago and it has continued though LBA and his friends are no longer in the same daycare.

So we had some friends over and Mrs. BA decided on soup for lunch for the grownups.  (There had been a chili discussion - but that is the usual go-to dish for these events so she wanted to try something else.)  As has been noted here before, Mrs. BA and I are/were big fans of the Houston's Baked Potato Soup and she wanted to try and replicate it.  She did a really good job.  Then again - how wrong can it be with milk, cheese, butter, and sour cream (and potatoes)?

Here's the recipe she started from.

Houston's Baked Potato Soup
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Serves: 8

This soup is beyond yummy! Your family and friends will love it!

  • 5 Medium Russet Potatoes 
  • 3 cup Whole Milk 
  • 1/2 cup Half and Half 
  • 1/2 cup Sour Cream 
  • 1 cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Chives 
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt or to taste 
  • 1/4 teaspoon Fresh Ground Pepper or more to taste 
  • 2 1/2 tablespoon Butter 
  • 1/4 teaspoon Celery Salt 
  • 1 Green Onion Diced 
  • 5 Strips of Bacon Diced and Fried Crispy-drain 
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon Fennel Seeds 

 Wash and scrub potatoes, pat dry. Rub potatoes with butter and place in baking pan, bake at 350 for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until done. Remove from oven and cool slightly. When the potatoes have cooled enough to touch, peel 4 of the potatoes, we will need the skin on the 5th potato. While potatoes are cooling, add fennel seeds to milk and half and half, and scald the milk. Scalding is heating milk at moderated temperature just until boiling point but not boiling and quickly remove from heat. Scalding will keep the mixture from separating. Let milk cool slightly with fennel seeds in mixture. When potatoes or cool enough to work with carefully cut 4 in half and place in a food processor. Potatoes should measure out to 1 1/2 - 2 cups cooked potato. Dice the 5th potato and set aside, leave the potato skins on this potato. To the cooked potato add sour cream, chives, salt, pepper, celery salt and 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon shredded cheddar cheese. Strain the fennel seeds from warm milk and discard seeds, pour milk mixture into food processor and processes 1 1/2 - 2 minutes until smooth. Place mixture into a sauce pan add butter and diced potato stir frequently and simmer on very low setting for about 15 - 20 minutes. When ready to serve ladle into individual bowls and garnish with cheddar cheese, bacon, and green diced onion.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I'm Still Here, Barely

I just realized that I hadn't posted last week's recipe (it was still in draft form) and also realized that I didn't have one in the hopper for last night.

Well, I've been sick.  I felt it coming on over the weekend and it really gained steam on Monday.  The problem was (and is) that Mrs. BA is in New York overnight on a work trip and I'm alone with the boys.  Luckily I have the best friends and neighbors a Brave Astronaut could ask for.

Today, we got LBA off to school and Mrs. BA took SoBA to school before heading off for her train.  Tonight, my good neighbor (for whom last week / this week's Butterscotch Pudding recipe is destined) called me and asked if there was anything he could do.  He picked up LBA from school at the end of the day.

The MtJ family, coming off their own bouts of illness, picked up SoBA and brought him home.  They have also volunteered to help out again tomorrow.

What I don't understand is I got a flu shot.  I don't think I have the flu.  But I really would like to feel better again someday.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Butterscotch Pudding

I am lucky enough to have one of the best neighbors ever. Last week, when the Brave Astronaut clan found itself without the ability to stay home for LBA's last day of Christmas break, our neighbor took LBA in and took him to the movies with his kids - it helps that LBA and the boy next door are the best of friends.

Mrs. BA is going to set out to reward our good neighbor, with some of his favorite butterscotch pudding.  Not this recipe - but this one sounds really good, too (the Brave Astronaut is a sucker for toffee)

You have all heard me here mention what a great little town the Brave Astronaut lives in - that was reinforced tonight when I came home and found a letter from the mayor that the Launchpad had been recognized as one of the best decorated homes in the town!  I can go to the Town Meeting on Thursday and pick up my certificate in person!

Butterscotch Pudding with Toffee Crumbles
Author: Jennifer Hill
Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Total time: 25 mins
Serves: 6

  • 3 tbsp salted butter 
  • ¾ cup packed dark brown sugar 
  • 1 cup heavy cream 
  • 2 cups milk 
  • ⅓ cup cornstarch 
  • ¼ tsp salt 
  • 2 large egg yolks 
  • 1 tbsp Scotch or whiskey 
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract 
For topping:
  • ¾ cup cold heavy cream 
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar 
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1 chocolate-covered toffee bar (such as Heath or Crunchie), crushed 

  1. Melt butter in a saucepan, then add brown sugar and stir until all brown sugar is wet-looking. Stop stirring, and let the mixture bubble and caramelize until it becomes liquid (rather than like thick wet sand) and it smells nutty and caramelly. This should take about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in 1 cup of heavy cream. Set aside. 
  2. In a large saucepan off of heat, whisk together milk, cornstarch and salt. Place over medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and whisk in butterscotch. 
  3. In a glass measuring cup, beat yolks with a fork. In a very slow, steady stream, pour about 1 cup of hot pudding mixture into the yolks, whisking constantly. Whisk yolk mixture back into remaining pudding and stir over medium-low heat until it thickens and a few sputtering bubbles appear at the surface, about 5 minutes. Transfer pudding to a large bowl (pressing it through a fine-meshed sieve if it looks curdled at all). Stir in scotch and 2 tsp vanilla extract. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding, and refrigerate until chilled, at least 3 hours or up to 24 hours in advance. Just before serving, beat cream on high speed of an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Beat in sugar and vanilla extract. Top individual servings of pudding with whipped cream, sprinkle with toffee crumbles and serve.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The 12 Posts of Christmas (2012), volume XII

So here we are - New Year's Day - January 1, 2013.  We dangled one foot over the fiscal cliff, slipped and grabbed a branch on the way down.  It appears that economic catastrophe has been avoided, for now.

Last night was, of course, New Years Eve.  The Brave Astronaut clan celebrated in traditional fashion, with the OSG clan having fondue to ring in the new year.  We wrapped up at their house and headed home and welcomed 2013 in our bed.  SoBA fell asleep on the way home and missed out on midnight.  Mrs. BA almost missed it - as she dozed up to midnight as well.  LBA made it to midnight and then went off to bed.  Long gone are the days when Mrs. BA and I would make it long enough to say we were up until a respectable time into the new year.

Today we will celebrate New Years with our other good friends - let's call them the MTJs.  Currently we are watching the Tournament of Roses parade, but surely there should be a viewing of the Poseidon Adventure at some point today.

Here's a basic cheese fondue recipe if you wish to celebrate like the Brave Astronaut clan.

  • 1/2 pound imported Swiss cheese, shredded 
  • 1/2 pound Gruyere cheese, shredded 
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch 
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled 
  • 1 cup dry white wine 
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice 
  • 1 tablespoon cherry brandy, such as kirsch 
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard 
  • Pinch nutmeg 
  • Assorted dippers 
In a small bowl, coat the cheeses with cornstarch and set aside. Rub the inside of the ceramic fondue pot with the garlic, then discard.

Over medium heat, add the wine and lemon juice and bring to a gentle simmer. Gradually stir the cheese into the simmering liquid. Melting the cheese gradually encourages a smooth fondue. Once smooth, stir in cherry brandy, mustard and nutmeg.

Arrange an assortment of bite-sized dipping foods on a lazy Susan around fondue pot. Serve with chunks of French and pumpernickel breads. Some other suggestions are Granny Smith apples and blanched vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and asparagus. Spear with fondue forks or wooden skewers, dip, swirl and enjoy!