Monday, April 28, 2014


I will often treat myself by going out to lunch - though the options near my office are somewhat limited.  A popular destination (especially if I am getting my haircut next door) is the Marathon Deli, which makes some of the best Gyros I've ever had.  I don't know if I could replicate them at home, but here's a recipe if you'd like to give it a whirl.  From the Washington Post.

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post
Dinner in Minutes Mar 5, 2014
This is a sandwich to keep in mind when dinner is time-delayed for your various diners. The meat can stay warm in loaf form, wrapped in foil; cut it to order just before serving. Serve with crisp strips of fresh red, orange and yellow peppers. 
Servings: 3-4
Tested size: 3-4 servings

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts 
  • 3 cloves garlic 
  • 1 lemon 
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder 
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder 
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano 
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 6 ounces ground lamb 
  • 6 ounces lean ground beef (85-15) 
  • Sweet or spicy paprika 
  • 3 or 4 whole-wheat pitas or whole-wheat naan 
  • 1/2 seedless (English) cucumber 
  • 1/2 small red onion 
  • Leaves from 3 stems mint 
  • 1 cup plain nonfat yogurt, preferably Greek-style 
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 

Position an oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiler element or flame; preheat the broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, then spray the center with cooking oil spray.

Toast the pine nuts in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat for 2 or 3 minutes, until fragrant and lightly golden. Shake the pan as needed to avoid scorching. Transfer the nuts to a cutting board to cool, then coarsely chop them.

Mince the garlic; transfer to a mixing bowl. Cut the lemon in half; squeeze 2 teaspoons of juice from one half over the bowl. Add the onion powder, the teaspoon of granulated garlic or garlic powder, the dried oregano and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, stirring to combine.

Add the chopped, toasted pine nuts and the ground lamb and beef; use your clean hands to blend the mixture, then divide and shape it into two loaves that are 6 inches long by 3 inches wide. Place them on the oiled baking sheet. Broil for a total of 12 to 14 minutes, turning them over halfway through. Transfer to a cutting board. Sprinkle the tops lightly with paprika.

Stack the pitas or naan and wrap them in foil; once the oven is turned off, place them inside to warm.

Meanwhile, line a medium bowl with a few layers of paper towels. Cut the 1/2 cucumber in half lengthwise. Use the large holes of a box grater to shred the cucumber flesh into the paper towels, guiding the cucumber with your hand pressed against the peel. Discard the peel.

Cut the onion into very thin half-moons and add to the cucumber; reserve a small portion of the onion for garnishing each gyro, if desired. Cover with another layer of paper towels and press lightly. Drain for 5 minutes.

Chop the mint.

Discard the paper towels, letting the cucumber-onion mixture fall back into the bowl; add the yogurt, mint, the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, the remaining 1/8 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder and the pepper. Squeeze another 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of juice from the remaining lemon half. Stir to form a sauce.

To serve, cut each meat loaf into very thin slices. Place a pita or naan on each plate, then top with equal portions of the meat and sauce. Garnish with reserved onion, if using. Serve right away.

Adapted from "Cooking Light: Lighten Up, America!" by Allison Fishman Task (Oxmoor House, 2013). Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Take a Left on that Road, you know the one with the number

The Brave Astronaut is wrapping up a trip through the Empire State this week, having attended the Spring 2014 MARAC Meeting in Rochester, New York.  There was a lot of driving on roads with both names and numbers.

Growing up, one referred to the Long Island Expressway as that - not 495 (its Interstate Number).  The New York State Thruway (which we spent a fair amount of time on this week) was not I-87 or I-90 - it was just the Thruway.  Living in Maryland it is always the Beltway, I-95 is I-95 (though it gets confusing sometimes because the Beltway is also I-95 at points and there's I-95 in both Maryland and Virginia.

Most of the other major arteries in the DC area Wisconsin Avenue, Connecticut Avenue, Georgia Avenue, etc., also have numerical designations for them in the state of Maryland.  Route 50 in Maryland is also named the "John Hanson Highway" and MD Route 410 is known by other names than just "East-West Highway."  Then there's always US Route 1, with it's many monikers.

Some time ago, the website, Greater Greater Washington, posted an article on this "phenomena."  A little consistency would be nice.  If I have to travel a road, I would like for it to stay with me for the time that I'm going to be on it.  That would lead me to think about sticking with a number, because the names can change several times, sometimes within minutes.

Thoughts?  How is it for you?  What are you used to?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Off to Another Conference!

The Brave Astronaut Clan is on the road for another professional meeting.  LBA and and SoBA are along for the ride - but they're really here for the baseball portions of the trip (Cooperstown, a Rochester Red Wings game on Saturday, and maybe a stop at the Little League Museum on the way home).

The Spring 2014 MARAC Meeting is being held in Rochester, NY this week.  There is a full slate of activities, sessions, and events for my friends and colleagues to do for the next few days.  BuzzFeed posted a while back on the "Awful Stages of Attending a Conference."  Hopefully our meetings aren't like this.
  1. You have to wake up at a stupidly early hour because the event starts at 8.30 ON THE DOT.  Even though half the delegates arrive late and no conference in the history of human evolution has ever started or ended on time.  (For years, we have been toying with our schedule to try and get some events moved to different parts of the day from first thing in the morning - but someone is always going to get screwed.) 
  2. Conferences usually take place in the basement of musty old hotels, where there’s no phone reception. (This is becoming less of a problem as hotels join the 21st Century and provide free wi-fi - so you can keep playing that game of Words With Friends or Candy Crush.) 
  3. You’re supposed to be networking and exchanging business cards, but it’s too early and you find it endlessly awkward peering at people’s name badges to see who they are. (As the President of the organization, I meet a lot of the conferees and I'm ashamed to admit that I have stolen more than a few glances at name badges when people come up to me.) You're supposed to be networking and exchanging business cards, but it's too early and you find it endlessly awkward peering at people's name badges to see who they are.
  4. And when you do see someone you know, you can’t remember their name so avoid making eye contact. (I know someone in the profession that when engaged in a conversation with him - he would constantly be looking past you for someone else to talk to.) 
  5. There may be an exhibition area where sponsors can tell you all about their wonderful products. They may have hired a DJ. (In my memory, there's never been a DJ - but we get some good swag from our exhibitors - and there's often candy - something that LBA and SoBA will root out very quickly this week.) 
  6. Then the conference itself starts. There are some great speakers… and some not so great ones. (As a profession, we are not the most dynamic speakers - but we do OK.)  
  7. If you're a journalist covering a conference, you're often reduced to searching for laptop battery power. (We don't get a lot of journalists covering our meetings.) 
  8. Lunchtime! Now you have to try to eat and chat while holding a plate and cutlery and and a drink. Good luck. Bonus observation: What’s with those metal food heaters you get at conferences? Where do they come from? (We have pretty good luncheons - I used to avoid them unless the topic really grabbed me - but now as President, I'm there.) 
  9. You are praying there are cakes. Please let there be cakes. You are praying there are cakes. (We have pretty good breaks - and at this conference there is reported to be ice cream!) 
  10. After lunch is when you have to ward off that sleepy feeling. (Yeah, I try not to go to sessions in the afternoon - I don't want my snoring to disturb the presenters.)
  11. It wouldn’t be so bad if conferences weren’t so expensive. It will cost you $6,000 to attend the TED event in Rio this year. (Well MARAC is still pretty affordable - and most of the time - our employers will help with the costs.)
  12. And when it’s all over? There’s a free bar. Which you make full use of. (MARAC's Hospitality Suite "After-Parties" are legendary in the organization.) 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Spiced Peach, Graham Cracker and Oat Crisp

LBA and SoBA get snacks for after school each day (though not this week as they are off for Easter Break).  Most of the time it's Cheez-its and Cheerios and raisins, but sometimes I will mix it up and give them Triscuits and graham crackers.  So there's usually graham crackers in the house.  There may be some frozen peaches in the house, but I know I need more oats.  From the Washington Post.

Spiced Peach, Graham Cracker and Oat Crisp
Sarah L. Voisin / The Washington Post
Nourish Mar 5, 2014
Warm fruit desserts are one of my favorite ways to end a meal or dress up a weekend breakfast. I'm always tinkering with different combinations of fruits, spices and toppings to mix things up. Here, a classic peach crisp is spiced like a gingerbread cookie. 

To really indulge, serve with a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt or ice cream.
Servings: 8
Tested size: 8 servings

For the fruit 
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar 
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 
  • 2 pounds frozen peaches, cut into 3/4-inch chunks 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
For the topping 
  • 1/4 cup quick-cooking or regular rolled oats (not instant) 
  • 1/2 cup finely crushed graham cracker crumbs 
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 
  • 3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter
For the fruit: Whisk together the brown sugar, cornstarch, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg in a mixing bowl. Add the peach chunks and vanilla extract; toss to evenly distribute. Let the mixture rest for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the topping: Combine the oats, graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg in a separate bowl. Add the butter and use your fingers to thoroughly work it into the dry ingredients to create a crumbly mixture.

Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees. Use cooking oil spray to grease a 9-by-13-inch shallow baking dish or one of equal volume (2 1/2 quarts).

Pour the fruit mixture into the baking dish, distributing the peaches evenly. Scatter the crumb topping over the fruit, covering the surface as much as possible. Bake (on the lower oven rack) for 45 to 50 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling up the sides of the dish and the fruit at the center is tender when pierced with a fork or skewer.

Wait 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

See The USA!

The Brave Astronaut Clan is on Spring Break this week.  Time to see the USA - or at least a little corner of it.  The Huffington Post put out this list of the ONE thing that you need to see in each state.
  1. ALABAMA - Go to space camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center Aspiring astronauts ages 9 to 99 come to Huntsville for a chance to sleep in bunks, spin in the Multi-Axis Trainer, and handle a crisis on simulated intergalactic missions - I've been to Huntsville.  I've seen the Rocket Center.  The rest of my time in Alabama is a story for another time.
  2. ALASKA - Hang with polar bears in their real home at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge The villages of Kaktovik and Barrow, located on Alaska's 19 million-acre wildlife refuge, are especially spectacular spots to stay the night, meet a guide, and watch polar bears live wild and freely. polar bears - I've not been to Alaska
  3. ARIZONA - Spend a night on the floor of the Grand Canyon Yes, you could settle for a standard daytime walk around the rim. But that way, you wouldn't see Havasu Falls - I've been to Arizona, but not yet to the Grand Canyon.
  4. ARKANSAS - Visit Anthony Chapel in Garvan Woodland Gardens Nestled within 210 acres of flowers, streams and waterfalls is a sky-high (okay, six stories high) chapel made of pine beams and floor-to-ceiling glass windows. You can practically hear Mother Nature singing - I haven't been to Arkansas.
  5. CALIFORNIA - Drive State Route 1 through Big Sur Nothing is more California than a coastal road trip, and this one will take you past some of the most precious views on Earth. Stop at Nepenthe for sunset cocktails on cliffs over the water - I have not been to Northern California
  6. COLORADO - Go sandboarding at Great Sand Dunes National Park If you thought Colorado's mountains were shreddable, wait till you speed down the tallest dunes in North America on a fiberglass board. Don't worry; you can usually still see snowcapped peaks in the background - I've been to Colorado, but only to Denver, and I'm not really a "boarding" guy.
  7. CONNECTICUT - Order the white clam pizza at Frank Pepe Pizzeria "Pepe's" is one of the oldest pizza joints in the country. It was Frank Pepe himself who invented apizza -- now a New Haven delicacy -- by subtracting mozzarella, adding oregano, and thinning the crust of the average slice. Pepe's white clam apizza has been called the best pizza in America - I've been to Connecticut, I've been to New Haven, I may have even been here - but I'm not sure.
  8. WASHINGTON, D.C. - Go paddle boating on the Tidal Basin There's something about seeing D.C.'s biggest monuments from the water. On a warm spring day, you can paddle past the Jefferson Memorial and catch sun between the cherry trees - check
  9. DELAWARE - Walk the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk Finally, a U.S. boardwalk that hasn't lost its vintage vibe. At precisely one mile long, your stroll will last the perfect amount of time to finish a Kohr Brothers cone. Stop at Arena's Deli for a sandwich if you're still hungry - check
  10. FLORIDA - Climb the Shark Valley tower Take a tram tour or brave the humidity and bike around this zone of Everglades National Park. Halfway through, there's an observation tower you can climb-- it lets you realize, from above, just how many zillions of alligators have been lurking in the swamps all along - been to Florida but not into the Everglades
  11. GEORGIA - Eat at the Olde Pink House in Savannah This refined Southern restaurant has played many roles as a residence, a bank and an army headquarters - this is something James Habersham, the home's original owner, is apparently not happy about. Patrons have reportedly seen Mr. Habersham's ghost hanging around the bar... so take your spiked raspberry lemonade to go and walk along the Savannah River outside - I've been to Savannah, but maybe I can check this off the list when we are back this summer.
  12. HAWAII - Climb the Stairway to Heaven Ok, we can't exactly promote this hike, since it's technically illegal. But the view is actually spectacular - not been to Hawaii. 
  13. IDAHO - Drive Interstate 90 across the Panhandle This fast, furious, 75-mile zoom across Idaho's top portion will remind you why driving is an American pastime. Stop in scenic Coeur d'Alene for a cold PBR - I've haven't been to the Potato State.
  14. ILLINOIS - Have a drink at the top of the Hancock Building Whether it's the sunset hour or late at night, the best way to see Chicago is from a table at The Signature Lounge on the 95th floor... with an esquire martini in hand - I've done most of the sights in Chicago but not this one. 
  15. INDIANA - Try the tenderloin sandwich at Ivanhoes This family-run restaurant in Upland has 100 shakes and sundaes to choose from. For a total Midwest experience, complement yours with thin-pounded, deep-fried pork loin on a hamburger bun - I haven't been here but it sounds like I should.
  16. IOWA - Visit the Butter Cow at the Iowa State Fair A dynasty of five master artists have sculpted the Butter Cow over the years... he's been a State Fair tradition since 1911. At 600 pounds, the Butter Cow could butter 19,200 slices of toast - I would like to see a butter cow. 
  17. KANSAS - Sample the No. 6 Oatmeal Stout at Gella's Diner & Lb. Brewing Co. One day, Gerald Wyman's wife told him to please stop brewing beer in their kitchen. A few years later, Wyman had a charming-yet-modern storefront and a Gold World Beer Cup Award for his Oatmeal Stout - I haven't been to Kansas.
  18. KENTUCKY - Drive and drink (but don't drink and drive!) along the Bourbon Trail This pre-planned route leads you past eight of Kentucky's distilleries, from Jim Beam to Maker's Mark. If you can't be trusted to operate a motor vehicle, hire a party bus - I don't do the brown liquor and I haven't been to Kentucky. 
  19. LOUISIANA - Go to the French Quarter Festival New Orleans's classic neighborhood hits its prime during this free three-day music festival every spring. It's also the best way to fit every local delicacy into your stomach at once: restaurants sell little sample-size plates at the "world's largest jazz brunch" - I've been to New Orleans a few times, but never for the jazz festival.
  20. MAINE - Watch the sunrise on Cadillac Mountain Most of the year, this is the first place the sun comes up in the whole United States. It's also the most famous hike in beautiful Acadia National Park - check, well not the sunrise, but I've been to the top of Cadillac.
  21. MARYLAND - Crack a crab at Cantler's You can drive your boat directly up to this "riverside inn," where they sort crabs in a wash basin right before your eyes. Accompany with LOTS of Old Bay seasoning - I've been meaning to go, this summer it will happen.
  22. MASSACHUSETTS - Dance at The Beachcomber on Cape Cod This rollicking, old-school dance bar is parked right on the beach in a former lifesaving station. After a few mudslide cocktails, the live reggae and rock will make you feel supercharged enough to sprint into the ocean - been to the Bay State, but not to the Cape. 
  23. MICHIGAN - Visit the Shinola Store Shinola is aiming to "reinvigorate the storied American brand" - and reinvigorate Detroit in general - by manufacturing quality watches, bikes and leather goods right in the heart of the city. At their hipster-licious storefront, you can shop for timepieces and watch the bicycle assembly line - I've not been to Michigan.
  24. MINNESOTA - Canoe the Boundary Waters There are over a thousand individual lakes in this slice of Superior National Forest. Many of them are only reachable if you paddle past majestic pine groves and hulking rock formations - I've not been to Minnesota.
  25. MISSISSIPPI - Listen to blues at The Lyric in Oxford When you need - if you need - a break from the beer bars and battle cries of the Ole Miss students in Oxford, hide out in this movie-theater-turned-concert-hall. It first served as a stable for William Faulkner's family - I can spell it, but I haven't been there.
  26. MISSOURI - Explore the Ozark Caverns Out of thousands of caves in Missouri, the most famous feature is Angel Showers, where water constantly flows from the ceiling like a waterfall. During your tour, you might also encounter the rare blind salamander - Haven't been to the Show-Me State.
  27. MONTANA - Drive Going-to-the-Sun Road You'll feel like you're in one of those nature-themed IMAX movies during this 50-mile drive through Glacier National Park - haven't been to Big Sky Country 
  28. NEBRASKA - Throw horseshoes during Popcorn Days in North Loup At this festival, Nebraskans pay tribute to their state's most prosperous crop with three days of polka dancing, turtle racing, bull riding, and UNLIMITED FREE POPCORN! - one of the flyover states, that I haven't been to.
  29. NEVADA - Order a late-night Awful Awful Burger at The Nugget Gamblers say they're coming to Reno for the refreshingly low-key vibe at Peppermill Casino. What they're actually after, however, is probably just The Nugget's world-famous Awful Awful Burger, served with a "mountain of fries" - Haven't been to Nevada. 
  30. NEW HAMPSHIRE - Add your pumpkin to the wall at the Keene Pumpkin Festival Every year, people from far and wide lug pumpkins to Keene-- they're battling to either defend or win back the official world record for "most jack-o'-lanterns in one place." Last year, they successfully snagged the title back from Boston - I've been to New Hampshire but haven't done this. 
  31. NEW JERSEY - Climb Barnegat Lighthouse on Long Beach Island There are 217 steps in this tower, which locals affectionately refer to as "Barney." It's clearly not the tacky Jersey shore you've seen on TV - I've climbed New Jersey lighthouses, but not this one. 
  32. NEW MEXICO - Watch a Balloon Glow at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta At the biggest balloon rally in the world, hundreds of hot air balloons hit the big blue sky at once. When they light up for a Balloon Glow night ascent, you feel all magical and ticklish inside - I've been to New Mexico, but not amongst the balloons.
  33. NEW YORK - Go wine (and pie) tasting on Long Island's North Fork You'd never guess that 30 picture-perfect wineries were so close to the city - or so insanely cheap to tour. A strawberry pie from Briermere Farms will further alter your life - check
  34. NORTH CAROLINA - Tour the Biltmore Estate Exploring the largest private residence in the United States feels like being at the Palace of Versailles . . . except you're in America. And you can rent bikes to whiz freely around the gigantic property - This is on the list of things to do - but it hasn't happened yet. 
  35. NORTH DAKOTA - Climb White Butte This massive hill outside the town of Amidon is the highest point in the whole state, at 3,507 feet above sea level. The hike (or "wilderness stroll," shall we say) to the top only takes about an hour, but climbers from all over the world come to conquer it because the trail is littered with dangerous rattlesnakes. Pack a celebratory picnic in case you survive - I've not been to either of the Dakotas. 
  36. OHIO - Get a scoop of black raspberry chocolate chip at Graeter's Ice Cream This adorable store in Cincinnati has been selling its famous, ultra-thick ice cream (made in tiny two-gallon batches) for well over a hundred years . . . and it's sooo good - I will travel pretty far for ice cream - I could get there in about 8 hours, DAY TRIP!
  37. OKLAHOMA - Go to the Norman Music Festival What started in 2008 as a tiny, one-day music fest has exploded into a three-day concert experience with multiple stages, art walks, and local food tastings... all for free. That's the Oklahoman way - Not been to the Sooner State 
  38. OREGON - Get lost in Powell's City of Books This bookstore in Portland claims it's the largest one in the world . . . and considering 1.6 acres of bookshelves and nine color-coded rooms, we're inclined to believe them - it's a bookstore - but it's somewhere I haven't been.
  39. PENNSYLVANIA - Go to a mud sale in Lancaster County Mud sales (named for the wet ground in springtime) are the live auctions and craft sales that happen every year in Amish Country. Pennsylvanians - both Amish and not - haggle with each other to score a handmade quilt or home-baked pie. Take a tour of the quaint Amish countryside afterward! - Been through most of PA, and the Amish country, but not to a Mud Sale. 
  40. RHODE ISLAND - Take the Cliff Walk in Newport Ocean on one side, gigantic Gilded Age mansions on the other. Your only problem in life will be deciding which view to look at - check.
  41. SOUTH CAROLINA - Taste the barbecue hash at Sweatman's BBQ They call this 100-mile barbecue because it's totally worth the long drive to Bub Sweatman's house-turned-buffet-room in the town of Holly Hill - Been to South Carolina, but not for this BBQ
  42. SOUTH DAKOTA - Visit the Mitchell Corn Palace This multi-use facility isn't all that interesting on the inside. But the outside, it's truly a sight. The building is actually decorated with crop art and is redesigned each year with a new theme! - This over Mount Rushmore? Someday maybe. 
  43. TENNESSEE - Spend a day in Dollywood It's the most awesomely kitschy and fabulously delicious experience in all of Tennessee. The park, in Pigeon Forge, is run in a partnership between the great Dolly Parton and Herschend Family Entertainment. Think food, waterslides and all things Dolly - Haven't been to Tennessee and don't feel the need to visit this particular amusement park. 
  44. TEXAS - Tube the Guadalupe River Nothin' says Texas like drifting down the river on a toasty summer day with all your best friends and a massive floating cooler of Coors - been to Texas, but not to tube 
  45. UTAH - Hike to Delicate Arch It's the most famous sandstone formation in Arches National Park and the same one you'll see on Utah's license plates. The Olympic torch even passed through the arch in 2002, making this hike both beautiful and historic - Haven't been to Utah.
  46. VERMONT - Take a brewery tour For a small state, Vermont packs an alcoholic punch-- it has the most breweries per capita of any state. Visit as many breweries as possible, without having to travel very far! The Vermont Breweries Association offers a full list of options. Make sure to check out Magic Hat Brewery in South Burlington and take a free guided tour - been to Vermont, and to Ben and Jerry's factory but not for beer.
  47. VIRGINIA - See a movie at The Byrd Theater in Carytown, Richmond's cutesy shopping district, and The Byrd is the big, glamorous old-time movie palace that's been showing films since 1928 - on Saturdays, you can still hear an organ performance before your movie. Tickets are $1.99, which means you have more than enough spare change for a french toast donut from Dixie Donuts - Been to Richmond and other places in Virginia, but not to the movies here. 
  48. WASHINGTON - Hike the Ape Caves They're actually ultra-long lava tubes near Mount St. Helens, one of our country's "highest threat" volcanoes. Wander through the dark, cold tubes with a headlamp, and pop out in a sunny forest on the other side - Haven't been to Washington. 
  49. WEST VIRGINIA - Eat a pepperoni roll from Country Club Bakery Never heard of a pepperoni roll? That's because they're basically only in West Virginia. The Country Club Bakery in Fairmont is where it all began, when Italian immigrant Giuseppe Argiro first stuffed freshly-seasoned pepperoni into a warm roll - Been to Charleston but not for pepperoni rolls.
  50. WISCONSIN - Shop the Dane County Farmer's Market Everyone in Madison - from hippies to soccer moms - shops the Saturday smorgasbord that sets up around the Capitol building (they're open almost all year round!). Be sure to pick up some classic Wisconsin cheese curds - I've been to Wisconsin but not to Madison
  51. WYOMING - Go to Cheyenne Frontier Days On your way to Cheyenne, pass through Wyoming's seven national parks to get a feel for the state's supreme scenery. Then, meet their supreme people at "The Daddy of 'em All," a 10-day rodeo-meets-small-town-bonanza with free pancake breakfasts and concerts from the likes of Brad Paisley - Haven't been to Wyoming.

Monday, April 14, 2014

DIY Cadbury Creme Eggs

Mrs. BA has a weakness for Cadbury Creme Eggs.  Personally, I can't stand them.  And that's saying a lot.  With the introduction of Halloween Creme Eggs a few years ago, she can get her fix now twice a year.  But now if she wants, she can make her own any time of the year.

In addition to the recipe below, BuzzFeed posted a while back - "17 [other] Scrumptious Ways to Eat a Creme Egg."  Click on the link to see the recipes for the items listed below.
  1. Creme Egg Donuts.
  2. Creme Egg Brownies
  3. Creme Egg Pudding
  4. Homemade Creme Eggs
  5. Dip Toasted Brioche In A Creme Egg
  6. Deep Fried Creme Eggs
  7. Creme Egg Cupcakes
  8. Creme Eggs Benedict
  9. Creme Egg Salad Sandwich
  10. Creme Egg Toastie
  11. Creme Egg Foo Young
  12. Creme Egg and Bacon Rolls
  13. Creme Egg Cocktail
  14. Creme Egg Chocolate Hearts
  15. Creme Egg Milkshake
  16. Creme Egg Cookies
  17. Creme Egg pie

Homemade Creme Eggs
(from Food 52 - see a video here)

Makes 15 to 20 eggs

  • 1/2 cup Lyle's golden syrup (or corn syrup) 
  • 6 tablespoons butter 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 3 drops orange blossom water (optional) 
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds removed (optional) 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 3 cups powdered sugar 
  • 12 ounces dark chocolate (or bittersweet chips) 
  1. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer that has been fitted with the paddle attachment (this can easily be done by hand or with a hand mixer). Add the golden syrup, salt, orange blossom water (if using), vanilla seeds, and vanilla extract. Mix on medium-low to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure everything is mixed well. 
  2. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the powdered sugar. Mix until completely smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. 
  3. Place one third of the mixture into a small bowl and add enough yellow food color to obtain desired color. 
  4. Cover both bowls with plastic wrap and put into the freezer for at least 15 minutes. It is necessary that this mixture be very cold while you work with it. 
  5. When the sugar mixture is thoroughly chilled, remove from the freezer. Working quickly take about a half teaspoon of the “yolk” mixture and roll it into a ball. Continue forming your yolks. 
  6. Once the yolks are complete, place them on a plate or a sheet tray covered with parchment and then put that back into the freezer. 
  7. Now, measure a tablespoon of your “whites”, and then roll that into a ball. Continue until all the white portion of the sugar mixture is gone. If the whites are too soft to work with, place back into the freezer for a few minutes. 
  8. Remove the yolks from the freezer. Place a white in the palm of your hand and gently flatten a bit. Create an indent in the center to rest the yolk in. Place the yolk in the center of the white, then cover it up. Roll the white into an egg shape. If at any point the sugar mixture gets too soft, quickly put it back into the freezer. 
  9. Continue this process until all your eggs are complete. Return to the freezer. While your eggs are chilling, temper your chocolate. Or melt the chocolate in a microwave at 30 second intervals stirring very well in between. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil to the chocolate and stir well. This gives you a little more flexibility with the chocolate eliminating some of the need for precise tempering. You will not, however get as nice of a crack as you bite into the egg. 
  10. Working with one egg at a time, remove the egg from the freezer and stick a toothpick in it. Dip the egg into the chocolate and carefully let the excess chocolate drip off. Place the toothpick into something – like a potato perhaps – while the chocolate sets.
  11. Place the chocolate-covered egg into the fridge for 10 minutes while the chocolate sets. Carefully remove the toothpick from the egg and cover up the small hole with a little bit of tempered chocolate.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Where are the Kayaks?

Every time I announce that I am going to Costco (as I will do tomorrow to buy things for Mrs. BA's family to join us for dinner on Sunday) - SoBA yells, "you can't go by yourself, because you'll buy a kayak.  Kayaks are one of those things that Costco sells, next to the five loaves of bread and the battery piles to get you through the apocalypse.  I'm over the kayak - but SoBA hasn't seen the basketball hoop set they are currently selling. From BuzzFeed (my comments in italics)

20 Survival Tips To Get You Through Costco Alive
  1. Get there early - parking spaces go faster than a cheesecake sample.
  2. Never let your kid bring a toy inside with them - because if he/she loses it in there you are NEVER. EVER. GOING. TO. FIND. IT.
  3. Don’t forget your membership card - not just anyone can join this club, you know. Well, that’s not true. Anyone can. But they still won’t let you in without it. 
  4. Skip the flat bed - you’ll want to strap your kids into the shopping cart so they can’t run around.
  5. Don’t even think about going in there without a shopping list - I once knew a family who went to Costco just to browse. I miss them.
  6. Keep your head down and walk straight to the first item on your list - you do not want the kids to see the toy section. And your wallet doesn’t need you to see all the cool stuff in the electronics section, either. (I have always been an up and down every aisle kind of guy - but even I skip aisles at Costco.)
  7. Seriously, don’t let yourself be tempted by big-ticket items.
  8. Visit the sample folks every chance you get - “Why, yes, I would like to try a chicken, apple, and herb breakfast sausage.”
  9. Just be sure to get out of the way once you’ve got your sample.
  10. Samples are awesome for kids too - if your kids are picky eaters, you’ll love that they can try it before you buy it. (On those occasions when LBA and SoBA come with me - they're all about the samples)
  11. It’s smart to focus on nonperishable items - when you buy in bulk, you’ll want to be able to take your time eating this stuff.
  12. But think twice on perishables - I once got a deal on four pounds of shrimp. For the next week I woke up every night in a cold sweat worrying that it’d go bad before I finished it all.
  13. You’ll want to think about your freezer space too - If your freezer isn’t big enough to stash a body, you probably should pass on that economy-sized box of waffles.
  14. It’s easy to get distracted by the Costco-ness of it all. Stay focused - yes, those are 14-foot Christmas trees for sale in August. No, you don’t need one. What’s next on the shopping list?
  15. Speaking of distractions… Don’t waste time searching for the ark of the covenant - It looks like the same place, I know, but it’s not. Seriously. Stay focused.
  16. If you get lost, don’t panic.
  17. Also, don’t look up - or you’ll be in for a serious case of vertigo.
  18. Just keep heading in one direction until you see something you recognize - “There in the distance… Past the industrial sized jar of oatmeal… That’s the book section! I know where we are! I KNOW WHERE WE ARE!”
  19. Once you have everything on your list, there’s one last challenge: checkout - if your kids complain, remind them they have no problem waiting 45 minutes in line at Six Flags.
  20. Congratulations! You survived! - reward the family with a slice of Costco’s awesome pizza. And a hot dog. And a churro. Anyone know if they sell this stuff in bulk too?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Everything Bagels!

We are approaching the Passover season - the only time of the year when Bagel Boss, the best bagel shop on Long Island, IMHO, is closed - you can't exactly sell bagels when you're not supposed to eat bread products.  The Brave Astronaut clan stocked up when we were up at Christmas - but they never last.  We will buy more when we are up in the summer to celebrate my father's birthday.

In the meantime, maybe I will give this a go.  I often tell people the story about New York bagels are so distinctive because of the water.  There was evidently a New Yorker who moved to Texas and opened a bagel shop and had New York water trucked in so he could make the authentic bagels. Recipe from the Amateur Gourmet.

Everything Bagels from Scratch 
Summary: Adapted from

  • 1 1/2 cups tepid water (105 F) plus 1 tablespoon for the egg wash 
  • 1 (1/4-ounce) packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons) 
  • 4 cups bread flour 
  • 2 teaspoons malt powder 
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt (that’s salty! Cut it down to 1 tablespoon if you’re worried) 
  • 4 teaspoons granulated sugar 
  • 1 large egg white 
  • 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds 
  • 2 teaspoons black sesame seeds 
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds 
  • 1 tablespoon dried onions 
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder 
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 

  1. Mix together the tepid water and yeast in a measuring cup with a fork; set aside. In the bowl of a Kitchen-Aid mixer with the dough hook attached, combine the flour, malt powder, salt and sugar. Add the yeast mixture, scraping out any dissolved bits. 
  2. Mix on low speed, about 2 minutes. Then increase the speed to medium low and continue mixing until the dough is “stiff, smooth, and elastic” about 9 minutes more. (If the dough gets stuck on the hook, mash it back to the bottom of the bowl.) The dough should be stiff. 
  3. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large oiled bowl, turning to coat it in the oil. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it rise for 20 minutes. 
  4. Heat the oven to 425. Fill a large, wide pan (I used a Dutch Oven) with water, bringing to a boil over high heat. Set a wire rack over a pan to collect the boiled bagels. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper for baking the bagels. Mix together the egg white and the tablespoon of water for the eggwash. Combine the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried onions, onion powder and garlic powder in a separate bowl.
  5. Turn the risen dough on to a dry surface. Divide into 12 equal pieces, about 3 ounces each (you can use a scale to measure, I didn’t). (While you work, keep the dough you’re not handling covered with a damp towel to prevent drying). Roll each piece into a 9-inch rope, lightly moisten the ends with water, overlap the ends by 1 inch and press to join so you’ve created a bagel. The hole at the center should be quarter-sized. Cover the shaped bagels with a damp towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes. 
  6. Then, boil the bagels 3 or 4 at a time, letting them bob around for 30 seconds on each side until they look shriveled. Then remove to the rack and finish the rest of the bagels. 
  7. Place the bagels on the parchment-lined cookie sheet, brush them with the egg wash and sprinkle with the everything bagel spices. Pop into the oven and bake for 25 minutes until they’re a “deep caramel color” and have formed a crust on the bottom and top. 
  8. The hardest part: let them cool for 30 minutes before eating. Good luck. 
Preparation time: 2 hour(s)
Cooking time: 30 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 12

Friday, April 4, 2014

By the time you read this title - all of this stuff will have happened!

Every once in a while it's nice to slow down and look around.  But every five seconds all of these things will happen.  From BuzzFeed.

Food and Drink
  1. Every 5 seconds, 10,056 pounds of edible food is thrown away in the United States. 
  2. Every 5 seconds, 375 McDonalds burgers are sold.
  3. Every 5 seconds, Americans consume 1,750 pizza slices. 
  4. Every 5 seconds, 2,090 KitKat fingers are consumed worldwide. 
  5. Every 5 seconds of every day in the month of January, Americans purchase an average of 500 cans of Campbell’s Soup. 
  6. Every 5 seconds on an average day, Dunkin’ Donuts sells more than 100 cups of freshly brewed coffee. 
  7. Every 5 seconds, 2,750 hot dogs are eaten in America. 
  8. Every 5 seconds, two jars of Nutella are sold. 
  9. Every 5 seconds, over 35,000 Coca-Cola products are consumed. 

Internet and Social Media
  1. Every 5 seconds, 205,000 Facebook posts are posted.
  2. Every 5 seconds, 23,000 tweets are posted.
  3. Every 5 seconds, 1,860 people search for porn on Google. 
  4. Every 5 seconds, 8,666 Snapchats are sent.
  5. Every 5 seconds, 17 million emails are sent.
  6. Every 5 seconds, 47 new websites are created.
  7. Every 5 seconds, 28 new Wordpress posts are created. 
  8. Every 5 seconds, six hours worth of YouTube video content is uploaded.
  9. Every 5 seconds, 300 new Instagram pictures are uploaded.
  1. Every 5 seconds, 1,250 iTunes tracks are downloaded from the iTunes store. 
  2. Every 5 seconds, Amazon sells nearly $7,000 worth of product. 
  3. Every 5 seconds, 35 LEGO sets are sold by retailers around the world. 
  4. Every 5 seconds, nearly two Barbie dolls are sold somewhere in the world. 
  5. Every 5 seconds, Nike makes a little over $3,000. 
  6. While every 5 seconds, someone working at a Nike factory in Vietnam makes $.00012. 
  7. Every 5 seconds, Americans consume 7,500 water bottles. 
  8. Every 5 seconds, Americans consume 60,000 plastic bags. 
  9. Every 5 seconds, about 3,150 steel cans are recycled. 
  10. Every 5 seconds, about 79,181 pounds of trash is thrown away in the United States. 
  11. Every 5 seconds, about 4,645 barrels of oil are used.
Life and Death
  1. Every 5 seconds, about 21 babies are born in the world.
  2. Every 5 seconds, about 10 babies are born into poverty.
  3. Every 5 seconds, about one baby is born with birth defects.
  4. The world population has a net gain of about 13 people every 5 seconds.
  5. Every 5 seconds, about 9 people die in the world. 
  6. Every 5 seconds, 1.5 people die of starvation in the world. 
  7. Every 5 seconds, one child in the world dies of starvation.
Earth and Outer Space
  1. Every 5 seconds, about 500 lightning strikes have struck the ground.
  2. Every 5 seconds, the sound of thunder travels one mile.
  3. Every 5 seconds, 15,800 tons of water flows over Niagara Falls.
  4. Every 5 seconds, 80 million tons of water has evaporated from the Earth’s surface.
  5. Every 5 seconds, the Sun has flung five million tons of matter out into space.
  6. Every 5 seconds, the universe has expanded about 46 miles.
Humans, Insects, and Animals
  1. Every 5 seconds, some flies can beat their wings up to 1,000 times; three times faster than a hummingbird.
  2. Every 5 seconds, 500,000 chemical reactions have taken place in every single cell of your body. 
  3. Every 5 seconds, the average person blinks.
  4. Every 5 seconds, a woodpecker can hammer with its beak 12.5 times.
  5. Every 5 seconds, a sloth can move at a rapid speed of a little over one foot; 13 feet per minute.
  6. Every 5 seconds, adult bed bugs can crawl about 4 inches.
And for motivation:
  1. Every 5 seconds, Oprah earns a little over $43. 
  2. Every 5 seconds, Bill Gates earn $1,250; about $20 million a day.
  3. BONUS: Every 5 seconds, the average person in the world makes $.001.

[Home] Opening Day!

The Washington Nationals open their season today at home (they started the season on the road - with a series against the Mets earlier this week).  There's instant replay in baseball this year and each of the managers are allowed one challenge (like in football).  The problem is - we may not see some of these managerial eruptions any more.  From BuzzFeed.
"In a preseason game Monday, Major League Baseball saw its first use of the expanded instant replay system.  This is great news! But there is also reason to mourn. Because the advent of instant replay could mean a scarcity of disputed calls, and therefore, epic manager ejections. So let’s take this moment to appreciate some of the great manager meltdowns of the past."
1.  Lou Piniella - June 2, 2007 - one of the all time greats at blowing up, Lou Piniella even has a signature move — kicking his hat around the field. Which he enthusiastically employs here. This was his first ejection as Cubs manager, and the crowd is immediately behind him, launching their own hats and assorted detritus onto the field in solidarity.
Best Part: The groundskeeping crew swarming the field to collect the debris at the end.
End result: Lou’s Cubs lost, 3-5.

2.  Joe Mikulik - June 25, 2006 - the minor leagues are known for having some of the best manager meltdowns around. Frequently, minor league managers will “get their money’s worth” from their ejections in an attempt to raise the profile of themselves or their teams. Here, Joe Mikulik just plain goes ballistic, throwing bases, covering home plate with dirt, throwing bats on the field and more, all while the home team sound system taunts Mikulik with a stream of music and movie clips (the “Who’s On First” routine matches shockingly well).
Best moment: After Mikulik throws bats out on the field, the poor bat boy takes a step toward them to clean them up, only to jump back from Mikulik’s re-emergence from the dugout.
End result: The Tourists lost, 2-5.

3.  Gary Robinson - August 27, 2010 - There are certain moves that become recurring themes in manager meltdowns — kicking dirt on the umpires, uprooting and throwing the bases, and covering home plate with dirt are tried and true favorites. But sometimes a manager takes a move and makes it his own. Take State College Spikes manager Gary Robinson, who doesn’t just remove a base, he then PULLS A PEN OUT OF HIS UNIFORM AND AUTOGRAPHS IT for a kid in the stands. Was it planned? Improvised? I’m honestly not sure which is more awesome.
Best moment: The kid’s awkward thumbs up to the camera after he receives the autographed base.
End result: The Spikes lost 3-7.

4.  Gary Allenson - June 12, 2011 - Here is an ejection tirade that will probably never be replicated. In the top of the ninth inning, Norfolk Tides right fielder Tyler Henson launches what appears to be a home run, but upon replay is actually a ground rule double. The ball landed behind the padding of the wall. The Durham Bulls players notified the umps that the ball was still behind the padding, and the umps reversed the call. Tides manager Gary Allenson did not agree with overturning the call. Presumably thinking that the ball behind the wall was already there from before, Allenson marched out to the wall, climbed the wall, and searched the grass behind the wall to see if he could find, in theory, the “real” ball. Not surprisingly, he did not find it.
Best moment: The “Well what did you expect to find?!” smirk from the umpire during Allenson’s long walk back.
End result: The Tides won even without the home run, 11-5.

5.  Wally Backman - June 26, 2007 - in 2007, a ten episode documentary called “Playing For Peanuts” followed the return of manager Wally Backman to minor league baseball, as he managed the South Georgia Peanuts. During one game, Backman came out to argue a call, got ejected, and proceeded to flip out on the umpires. The cameras recorded every single word (most of those words NSFW) for future generations to enjoy, in all it’s bat-throwing, nail-clipping glory.
Best moment: “Let’s go have a beer, Doug.”
End Result: The Peanuts lost 5-6.

6.  Phillip Wellman - June 1, 2007 - there is a point at which this stops being a baseball ejection and becomes something resembling performance art. It starts off with the classics — covering home plate in dirt, removing bases and throwing them, etc. But then Mississippi Braves manager Phillip Wellman takes it to another level, dropping to the ground in an army crawl, and pantomiming throwing a rosin bag grenade at one of the umpires before ultimately marching through the outfield to the exit, pausing to bow to his adoring fans.
Best moment: Are you kidding? Of course it’s the grenade throw.
End result: The Braves lost 6-7.

7.  Earl Weaver - September 17, 1980 - this confrontation is profane, hilarious baseball poetry. Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver, a true baseball character who once had a meltdown so massive he ended up forfeiting a game in the middle of a pennant race, and umpire Bill Haller get into a truly extraordinary shouting match. There are countless amazing lines from each. Weaver is a diminutive bulldog, going straight at his much taller opponent, and Haller is the perfect dance partner, alternatively dishing the hostility back at Weaver, then dismissing him with a weary, “Ahhhh.” Notice how Weaver plays the crowd, coaxing a thrilled cheer from them with every time he turns back to continue the confrontation.
Best moment: Though the video is dominated by Weaver, Haller lands the best blow with, “You gonna be in the Hall of Fame for f*cking up World Series?”
End result: Weaver’s Orioles coasted, 9-3.
"Although baseball’s expanded replay system will eliminate plenty of mistakes, balls and strikes, most managers’ favorite argument topics, still belong strictly to the umps. So while the apoplectic manager might become more rare, he will likely never go extinct."