Monday, August 31, 2015


There are some things that I don't make - because there are others who do a much better than me.  Mayonnaise for instance.  The fine folks at Hellman's have got this.  But if I were to make my own - I would use this recipe.  Via BuzzFeed.

Basic Mayonnaise
Makes 2 cups
Recipe by Emily Gennis

  • 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 2 tablespoons very cold water 
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice 
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil, refrigerator cold

  1. Combine all ingredients except the oil in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and blend until combined, 5-10 seconds. 
  2. While the food processor is still running, add the cold oil in a very slow, steady stream. It should take about a minute to add all of the oil.
  3. When all of the oil is incorporated, the mixture should be thick, emulsified, and a pale yellowish-white. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. 
And if you're not happy with the basic mayo - check here for some varieties.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Garlice and Herb Spatchcock Grilled Chicken

The Brave Astronaut is back from vacation and a conference trip to Cleveland and ready to get back in a routine.  That means dinner at home more regularly.  But it doesn't mean an end to grilling.  From epicurious.

Garlic and Herb Spatchcock Grilled Chicken
Yield: Serves 4
Active Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 1/4 hours

  • 1 bunch rosemary 
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed 
  • 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 1 (3 1/2-pound) whole chicken 
  • 1 (1 1/2-pound) skin-on, bone-in whole chicken breast 
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt 
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Chimichurri Sauce (for serving) 

Prepare a grill for medium-high heat with both direct and indirect heat zones, preferably with hardwood or hardwood charcoal. Separate leaves from 5 rosemary sprigs, then coarsely chop leaves. Tie remaining sprigs together with kitchen twine to form a brush. Combine garlic and oil in a measuring cup.

Remove backbone of whole chicken with kitchen shears by cutting along both sides of the spine while chicken is breast side down. Reserve backbone for stock. Remove keel bone. Turn chicken over, breast side up, and splay it open. Press down on breastbone with your palms until you hear it crack. Tuck the wings behind the breasts, then tuck in the legs so the bottoms of the drumsticks are pointed away from the body and chicken is as flat as possible.

Press down on breastbone of whole chicken breast with your palms until it cracks and lies as flat as possible.

Brush all sides of both pieces of chicken with the garlic-oil using rosemary brush. Sprinkle all sides with chopped rosemary leaves, salt, and pepper.

Grill both pieces of chicken, skin side down, over direct heat, until skin is golden brown, crispy, and lightly charred, about 5 minutes. Flip both pieces of chicken over, transfer to indirect heat, and baste with rosemary brush dipped in garlic-oil.

Continue to grill chicken, basting occasionally, until skin is golden brown, juices run clear, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 165°F, 45–60 minutes for whole chicken and 25–35 minutes for chicken breast. Let chicken stand at least 10 minutes before carving. Arrange chicken on a serving platter and serve with chimichurri sauce alongside.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Cleveland Rocks! Go visit a museum!

I'm traveling again today (after the great summer vacation in Maine last week) - heading for the Society of American Archivists meeting in Cleveland, Ohio.  I will meet up with my archival friends, speak on a panel and take in some minor league ball (the Indians are out of town this week).

None of the museums on this list are in Cleveland (but the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is - and I'll be going there) - but one should visit these, I've been to several already and will work on the rest in the coming years!
  1. The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - I've been here (at another conference).  The largest museum dedicated to a single artist in the United States, the Andy Warhol museum features works from throughout the career of the king of pop art. The museum is located in the North Side of Pittsburgh, which was Warhol’s hometown.
  2. Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, California - I missed out on the SAA meeting in San Francisco and have yet to visit the city by the bay.  San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum features one of the largest and most comprehensive collection of art and handicrafts from throughout the Asian continent.
  3. The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii - I've not been to Hawaii and don't have a whole lot of interest, unfortunately.  While Honolulu’s Bishop museum features several different exhibits ranging from Earth science to art, what really makes this museum unique is its collection of items of importance from the Hawaiian people and their culture, which is unparalleled, and visiting the Bishop Museum means you are in Hawaii, which is pretty excellent.
  4. Chasing Rainbows Museum, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee - I've not been to Tennessee either, but might be able to be convinced.  Yes, that’s right, there is a museum that’s all about Dolly Parton, and, yes, you have to visit this all Dolly Parton museum that’s a featured attraction in Dollywood, the all Dolly Parton theme park located in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains.
  5. Clinton Presidential Center, Little Rock, Arkansas - Hey, it's a National Archives location! If you are in the mood for some 90s nostalgia, there’s really no better place on this planet today than Little Rock, the home of Bill Clinton’s presidential library and museum, which does a pretty nice job of breaking down the state of the world during the Clinton presidency.
  6. Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York - I really meant to stop here on the way home from Rochester last year.  This could be done as a day trip or an overnight.  Located in the small Upstate New York town of Corning, which is also the home of the Corning Glass Works that founded this museum in the 1950s, the Corning Museum of Glass is part hands on science museum and part art/history museum focusing on the development of glass as a material and it’s many uses.
  7. Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art, Staten Island, New York - Wait, there's something other that landfill on Staten Island? Tucked in a suburban neighborhood on New York’s remote Staten Island is one of the world’s best collection of Tibetan and Himalayan art and artifacts. It’s a pretty interesting and quiet oasis in the middle of one of the world’s biggest cities.
  8. National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, New York - CHECK! While certainly an important stop for any fan of America’s Pastime, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum presents a succinct telling of American history through the lens of one of this nation’s most popular sports. It seems like today there is a hall of fame for just about everything, but Cooperstown is no doubt the best of the bunch.
  9. National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, Tennessee - Two museums from Tennessee on the same list?  Housed in the former Lorraine Motel in Memphis, infamous as the place where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in April, 1968, the National Civil Rights Museum takes a poignant look at America’s Civil Rights Movement from the 1600s through today.
  10. National Cryptologic Museum, Fort George G. Meade, Maryland - I keep meaning to go, but I can never find it, plus I think it's password protected.  If you can believe it, the National Cryptologic Museum is a pet project of controversial National Security Agency (NSA). The museum is perfect if you are a fan of looking at the actual objects that inspired your favorite Bond gadgets, this museum is perfect for you. It’s perhaps best to turn off your phone before you enter though… just in case. 
  11. New Bedford Whaling Museum, New Bedford, Massachusetts - Growing up on Long Island, I often would visit the Whaling Museum in Cold Spring Harbor.  That's not to say that I'm not prepared to branch out.  Before we discovered fossil fuels were capable of helping us generate energy while destroying the environment, people actually loaded up on sailing vessels and went out to harpoon whales to process their blubber as oil. The New Bedford Whaling Museum, located in what was once one of the biggest whaling ports in the world, looks at the history and culture of the whale fishing era, whale biology as well as the fight to help save these incredible creatures. 
  12. Seashore Trolley Museum, Kennebunkport, Maine - We hit this one up just last week! With all the summers I spent in Maine, I had never been there.  Located in the small coastal Maine village of Kennebunkport, the Seashore Trolley Museum is home to the world’s largest collection of mass transit vehicles from street cars dating to the 1800s to busses and subway trains just decommissioned from their respective cities. Be sure to take a ride on one of their functioning cars for a bit of transit nostalgia.
  13. Totem Heritage Center, Ketchikan, Alaska - I've not been to the Last Frontier State, yet. Tucked at the end of the scenic Alaskan Peninsula, Ketchikan hosts the worlds largest single collection of authentic totem poles in the Totem Heritage Center along with the Totem Bight State Historic Park and other nearby facilities.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

It's the Day for the Left!

At the Brave Astronaut Clan enjoys it's time Down East with our good friends for the week - it's time to pause and recognize the holiday that occurs today - International Left Hander's Day!

I, am of course, left handed - something that is very prominent in my profession I have come to notice.  Perhaps one of my industrious brethren should come up with a whole line of left-handed archival supplies!  Because below is a list of things that are a challenge to those of us that "if the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body" are the only ones who are in their right minds. (via BuzzFeed)
  1. “Scissors” - What it usually means: A tool used for cutting or for brandishing at smaller siblings. What it means to lefties: An ancient torture device that sometimes leaves you hacking at a piece of paper because no one can ever find that one pair of left-handed scissors that’s floating somewhere in the universe. 
  2. “Can Opener” - What it usually means: A tool used for opening the can of tuna that’s been at the back of your pantry since 2002. What it means to lefties: An instrument of death that makes you shift into a series of angles that human bodies are not made to withstand.
  3. “First Day of School” - What it usually means: A fresh start! Knowledge! The opportunity for an undercover cop to pose as a fresh2death millennial and allow hijinks to ensue! What it means to lefties: Quickly scanning the classroom to grab the one left-handed desk, if there even is one. Otherwise, it means looking forward to a year of performing unnatural and possibly illegal contortions in order to write. 
  4. “Dinner Party” - What it usually means: A gathering where friends and/or family partake in food and tedious small talk until someone gets drunk and starts talking about moon landing conspiracy theories. What it means to lefties: A brutal battle where no elbow emerges unscathed. 
  5. “Binder” - What it usually means: A place to keep your papers and thoughts organized until the snaps come apart and everything goes flying to the floor. What it means to lefties: A tool forged in hell to annoy you as you attempt to write.
  6. “Writing” - What it usually means: Committing words to a page using a writing utensil. Retro texting. What it means to lefties: Smearing ink or lead across the side of one’s hand because life is not fair and no one is looking out for you and nothing matters.
  7. “SmudgeGuard” - What it usually means: An open glove meant to prevent lefties’ hands from being stained as they write. A toe shoe for your hand. What it means to lefties: A hand garment created by the Righty Industrial Complex to make us look foolish.
  8. “Cooking” - What it usually means: Preparing food when you should have just ordered pizza. What it means to lefties: Wrestling with a saucepan that has a lip on the wrong side so that you end up sloshing half your cooking liquid all over the counter like some moron in a late-night infomercial. Although thank goodness for these things.
  9. “Mug” - What it usually means: A vessel from which to sip the blood of your enemies. What it means to lefties: A vessel from which to sip the blood of our right-handed oppressors on which cute little novelty slogans are usually printed so that we cannot see them as we imbibe.
  10. “Baseball” - What is usually means: A sport that involves throwing a ball and running while wearing pajamas. What it means to lefties: Gingerly placing your hand into the one lefty glove, if you can even find it, that smells like it is haunted by the ghosts of a million farts.
  11. “Camera” - What it usually means: A device that takes photos of food. What it means for lefties: A frustrating device that takes photos of food. 
  12. “Gun” - What it usually means: A weapon used in hunting, law enforcement, straight-up murder, firing paintballs at frenemies, or any combination of these. What it means to lefties: A potentially bad idea.
  13. “Video Game” - What it usually means: A way to unwind and have fun, usually while murdering pixelated people and/or demons. What it means to lefties: Using a controller that acts as a constant reminder of the Righty Industrial Complex’s vendetta against its superior left-handed brethren.
  14. “Lefty” - What it usually means: A person who favors his or her left hand when writing and performing other functions. Also, sometimes it means political stuff. What is means to lefties: A person who puts up with a lot of crap.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The United Nations Takes a Step Forward

On this day in History, President Harry Truman signed the United Nations Charter, and the United States became the first nation to complete the process of joining the new international organization - which will celebrate its 70th anniversary in October.

There are currently 193 nations in the United Nations.  I had an idea that I was going to do a series of posts this year to commemorate the founding of the UN, but couldn't get it together.  How could I adequately highlight all of the countries?

I used to visit the UN Headquarters often while growing up in New York.  If you're in New York, it is absolutely worth a visit.

To mark this significant anniversary, here are 15 Crazy Facts About Some of the World's Lesser Known Countries. From BuzzFeed.
  1. Kiribati (UN Member since 1999) is the world’s only country to fall within all four hemispheres.
  2. The island nation of Niue (not a member of the UN) has coins featuring Disney characters, Star Wars characters, and more. Located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and with only about 1,200 residents, the small island nation of Niue is one of the most remote in the world.
  3. Ethiopia (Original Member - 1945) still follows a traditional calendar that is seven years behind the rest of the world. Because of the strong presence of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the country, the traditional calendar of that church is still influential in Ethiopia. The calendar came about in the 16th century when most of Christianity changed the date Jesus is believed to have been born on, but those in Ethiopia decided to maintain the original date. 
  4. Greenland (an autonomous country within Denmark) is unable to join FIFA because the ground there can’t grow a grass field. Because of the country’s climate, the ground is generally covered in ice or permafrost, making it nearly impossible to grow enough grass to form a regulation-size soccer field. 
  5. The country of Nauru (member since 1999) does not have a capital city.
  6. Nauru also holds the distinction of being the fattest nation in the world. Due to the popularity of Western-style fast food that was brought to the country following the island’s financial success in phosphate mining, the average citizen of Nauru has a BMI of between 34 and 35. For reference, a normal BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9.
  7. Tuvalu (member since 2000) received $50 million in exchange for the rights to the nation’s lucrative internet domain, .tv. 
  8. The most isolated tree in the world was located in the middle of the Sahara Desert in Niger (member since 1960). Known as the Tree of Ténéré (or L’Arbre du Ténéré to locals, as Niger’s official language is French), this small acacia tree was separated from any other trees by a distance of 250 miles. 
  9. One of the islands in the Federated States of Micronesia (UN member since 1991)uses giant carved stones as a form of currency. The country is made up of numerous islands spread across the Pacific Ocean, including the island state of Yap. And on Yap, instead of paper currency, the traditional form of money has been giant limestone discs (rai stones), which are considered rare and important because the limestone originated on another island far away. Of course, the sheer size of these stones makes it difficult for them to actually be moved, so most times, payment with the stones is simply based on oral agreement rather than any physical exchange. 
  10. There are 23 native languages recognized by the government in Guatemala (Original UN Member - 1945). Overall, about 40% of the population speaks one of these languages, including Quiche, Kekchi, and Mam.
  11. In 1973, Bhutan (UN Member since 1971) instituted a policy to measure the nation’s Gross National Happiness (as opposed to the more typical Gross Domestic Product). 
  12. A 2007-2008 Gallup poll found Estonia (UN Member since 1991) to be the least religious country in the world. The poll asked respondents from around the world, “Is religion an important part of your daily life?” Only 14% of Estonians answered in the affirmative, the lowest of all nations. In contrast, in that same poll, Egypt had a 100% “yes” rate.
  13. San Marino (UN Member since 1992) has the highest amount of automobiles per people in the world. A 2010 study found that the tiny nation of San Marino, which is located entirety within Italy, had 1,139.06 cars per 1,000 people the only nation in the study, in fact, that had more cars than citizens.
  14. Papua New Guinea (UN Member since 1975), with only 6.5 million residents, contains about 12% of the world’s spoken languages. Although most are spoken by fewer than 1,000 people, there are more than 800 indigenous languages used in Papua New Guinea.
  15. Liechtenstein (UN Member since 1990) is the world’s largest producer of false teeth. Even with just under 40,000 residents, the Principality of Liechtenstein is a major powerhouse when it comes to the production of false teeth. In 2010, it was manufacturing about 60 million false teeth, which was one-fifth of the total amount of false teeth produced worldwide.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Saltine Ice Cream Sandwiches

The Brave Astronaut is hitting the road for our big summer vacation soon - so there will be lots of ice cream in our future, I know all the good places (as long as they are still there).  But I would make these . . . via Smitten Kitchen.

Saltine Crack Ice Cream Sandwiches
  • 32 (about 100 grams) saltine-style crackers 
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) unsalted butter, cut into a few large pieces 
  • 1/2 cup (95 grams) packed light or dark brown sugar 
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1 1/3 cups (8 ounces) dark chocolate (semi- or bittersweet) chips or the equivalent amount of chopped chocolate 
  • 2/3 cup toasted, chopped almonds or a nut of your choice (optional) 
  • Sea salt for sprinkling 
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups ice cream, any flavor (we used vanilla) 
Heat your oven: To 350°F (175°C).

Prepare pans: Line the bottom and sides of 1 9×13-inch baking sheet or 2 8×8-inch cake pans with foil, then lightly coat foil with nonstick spray. Arrange crackers in a single layer so that they fit in the bottom of your pan. In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have to cut any to make them fit flat. In ours, I used a serrated knife to cut several to fit neatly. Having no crackers overlap will make it easier to spread the caramel in a few minutes.

Make toffee: In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and brown sugar together. Stir until it begins to boil, then whisk (which will help the butter and sugar come together) for 2 to 3 more minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. I only add salt at this point if using unsalted crackers, i.e. not saltines. Pour over cracker-lined pan(s) and use an offset spatula to evenly spread the caramel, working quickly as it will be eager to cool and set.

Bake: In heated oven for 10 to 15 minutes, checking in at 10 minutes to make sure the corners aren’t darkening too quickly. Remove from oven and scatter chocolate chips over caramel crackers. Wait 5 minutes for them to soften, then use a spatula to spread the chocolate into an even layer. Sprinkle with nuts and a couple pinches of sea salt.

Chill crackers: Transfer pan(s) to freezer until absolutely cold and solid, about 15 to 30 minutes. Using the foil to lift toffee sheet, carefully transfer the candy to a cutting board and remove the foil. If you’ve made this in one pan, cut your sheet evenly in half with a serrated knife.

Assemble ice cream sandwich block: Line the bottoms and sides of your baking pan (now foil-free) with a piece of plastic wrap. Place your first sheet of candy chocolate side down in the bottom of your pan. Scoop your desired amount of ice cream over the sheet and spread it into an even layer. Place second sheet of candy, chocolate side up, on top, pressing it onto the ice cream. Return to freezer for several hours, at least 4 but probably 8 is best to get the block of sandwiches solid enough to cut without being completely aggravating.

Cut block into individual sandwiches: When sandwich block is frozen solid, transfer to a cutting board (you can also freeze your cutting surface for 10 minutes before using, to give you more time before things get too melty) and use a sharp serrated knife to very, very carefully saw your block into ice cream sandwich squares. I cut my 8×8-inch blocks into 16 2-inch sandwiches. This is definitely the peskiest part. If things warm and melt too fast, just place the whole thing back in the freezer for 10 minutes before continuing.

Once cut, return sandwiches to freezer to let them firm up again, before transferring them to a container or freezer bag for store, or, you know, your mouth for near-immediate gratification.