Monday, February 29, 2016

The Leap Year Cocktail

Who knew?  There is actually a cocktail that was allegedly invented on February 29, 1928.  It calls for gin - so it may not be for me - but by all means, have at it (via Slate)

The Leap Year Cocktail 
Yield: 1 serving
Time: A couple to 3 minutes
  • 2 ounces gin
  • ½ ounce Grand Marnier
  • Scant ½ ounce sweet vermouth 
  • Generous ½ ounce lemon juice 
  • Lemon twist for garnish 
Shake the gin, Grand Marnier, vermouth, and lemon juice with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

10 Years Gone

Ten years ago, at about this time of the morning, I received a call from my sister that my mother was gone.  It was not unexpected, she had been sick for a while and my siblings and I had all been home the previous weekend to say goodbye.  It didn't make it any easier, it never is, but we knew that at last, she was free of pain.

My mother firmly believed that God had a eternal datebook and that each day he opens it and there is a list of names on the page.  And if you're name is on it - then it's your time.  She used to say that when you would hear stories about people surviving plane crashes because they missed the flight or someone was taken too soon.  My mother had a good, long life and she got to meet LBA (seen above with her in 2005), but did not get to meet SoBA.

Social Media was just starting out when my mother was declining - and I used to get these "instant messages" from her that were laid out like email.  She was getting the hang of it and I say very often that she would have LOVED Facebook.  Not so much Twitter, though - my mother could never keep it to 140 characters.

My siblings and I have all faced challenges in these past 10 years and we've had a lot of great things in our lives, too.  Just the other day someone commented on Facebook that they had heard something that they wanted to call their mother and share with her - then realized she wasn't there anymore.  I feel that way a lot.

My mother also liked to say that in heaven you get to be whatever age you want and that you get to meet with whomever you like.  So I know that once she got there, after she reconnected with her family, she has dinner parties every night and all her favorites are there to hang out with her.  Frank Sinatra, Paul Newman came in 2008, Andy Williams stopped by in 2012.  I bet she hangs out with Juliette Gordon Low and Lady Baden-Powell a fair bit of the time as well.  I am sure that she was there to greet Bob when he left us too soon last September.

In her downtime (if she has any), I know that she is looking after all of us and that she is never ever completely gone from us.  I see a lot of her in SoBA (it's the gregarious personality and the non-stop conversational style), so that even though she didn't get to meet him - it's like she's always close by.

I love you Mom. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Martha Washington's Great Cake

Today is George Washington's birthday - yes, yes, I know we had President's Day last Monday, but today is the actual day of his birth.

So by all means, you should make Martha Washington's Great Cake (from the Mount Vernon website).

Great Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups currants 
  • 1/3 cup chopped candied orange peel 
  • 1/3 cup chopped candied lemon peel 
  • 1/3 cup chopped candied citron 
  • 3/4 cup Madeira, divided 
  • 1/4 cup French brandy 
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted 
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds 
  • 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg 
  • 1/2 teaspoons ground mace 
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened 
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar 
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • Sugar Icing (recipe follows) (optional) 

Sugar Icing:
  • 3 large egg whites at room temperature 
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar 
  • 2 tablespoons rose water or orange-flower water

In the bowl of an electric mixer, start beating the egg whites on low speed, gradually adding 2 tablespoons of the sugar. After about 3 minutes, or when they just begin to form soft peaks, increase the speed to high and continue adding the sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until all the sugar is incorporated and the egg whites form soft peaks. Add the rose water, and continue beating to form stiff peaks. Use immediately to ice the cake.

Instructions for Cake
  1. Combine the currants, orange and lemon peels, and citron in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the Madeira, and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap, and set aside for at least 3 hours, or as long as overnight. Stir the remainder of the Madeira together with the brandy, cover, and set aside. 
  2. When ready to bake the cake, preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan. 
  3. Drain the fruits in a large strainer set over a bowl, stirring occasionally to extract as much of the Madeira as possible. Add the strained Madeira to the set-aside Madeira and brandy. 
  4. Combine 1/4 cup of the flour with the fruit, and mix well. Add the almonds, and set aside. Sift the remaining flour with the nutmeg and mace. 
  5. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter until it is light. Add the sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating for several minutes after adding each ingredient. Whisk the egg yolks until they are light and smooth, and add them to the butter and sugar. Continue to beat for several minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy. 
  6. Alternately add the spiced flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and the Madeira and brandy, beating until smooth. 
  7. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites to form stiff peaks. By hand, gently fold them into the batter, combining lightly until well blended. By hand, fold in the fruit in thirds, mixing until well combined. 
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Set the cake on a wire rack to cool in the pan for 20 minutes. If serving the cake plain, turn it out of the pan to cool completely. If finishing it with icing, turn the warm cake out of the pan onto a baking sheet, and proceed with the icing. 
  9. To ice the cake, spread Sugar Icing generously onto the surface, piling it high and swirling it around the top and sides. Set in the turned-off warm oven and let sit for at least 3 hours, or until the cake is cool and the icing has hardened. The icing will crumble when the cake is sliced.

For those of you who may be interested in the Virginia Gentleman Farmer, the Library of Congress recently restored a book in Washington's hand on the weaving industry (and the work done at Mount Vernon) and the effect it had on his own personal (and political) goals and mission.  You can read more here.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Signers: Delaware and Georgia

There is a new restaurant open now in Washington DC.  It is called Declaration and it is located in the North Shaw neighborhood. (well that's great there, Brave Astronaut, but why do I care?)  If you choose to dine at Declaration, you can order your very own "Signers-created Pizza."  So below, and from here on out, I will tell who what pizza you can have it you are fond of a particular signer.

Today's post concerns the First State and the southernmost colony.


  • George Read (1733-1798), a lawyer initially voted against the resolution on independence as proposed by Richard Henry Lee, but later joined with the majority in signing the Declaration.  In 1776, Read returned home to Delaware to chair the new state's Constitutional Convention.  In 1777 he became the emergency governor and led the state through the Revolution.  The final office he held before his death was Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court.
  • Caesar Rodney (1728-1784), had no formal education, but served as a clerk in Delaware which exposed him to politics.  An ardent patriot, Rodney was a strong voice for independence.  Following the signing of the Declaration, Rodney returned home to serve as President of the State of Delaware and also served as a commander in the Delaware militia.  He suffered a number of physical ailments and was never in good health.  He died while serving as Speaker of the Delaware Assembly.
  • Thomas McKean (1734-1817), served multiple states and jurisdictions over the course of a long political career.  Among many roles, McKeon served as Governor of Pennsylvania, President of Delaware, and was a Colonel in the New Jersey militia.  At Declaration, you can order the "Thomas McKeon," a pizza with ricotta, parmesan, fresh mozzarella, sausage, idiazabal cheese, brussels sprouts.


  • Button Gwinnett (1735-1777), an ardent revolutionary, Gwinnett represented Georgia but had political enemies at home.  Hoping to head Georgia's militia following his signing of the Declaration, the position instead went to his political rival.  Gwinnett challenged the man to a duel and Gwinnett was shot and died three days later at the age of 42.
  • Lyman Hall (1724-1790), Dr. Lyman Hall came to the Continental Congress initially undecided on independence.  He was for it, but the residents of Georgia weren't so sure.  He ultimately signed the document and paid for it when the British burned his home in Georgia and he was forced to flee to South Carolina and later Connecticut.  At Declaration, the Lyman Hall pizza features roasted celery, carrot, onions, oven roasted amish chicken, mushrooms.
  • George Walton (1741-1804), Walton was also a devout patriot in Georgia, and was closely aligned with Gwinnett.  After signing the Declaration, he returned to Georgia, serving in the Georgia militia.  He later served as Governor and Chief Justice in the Peach State.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Pecan Pie Bites

OK.  Now we have a problem.  I pretty much love everything that the Pioneer Woman puts out there - but I'm just going on record, Mrs. BA's Pecan Bars ROCK.  These might be good - but Mrs. BA's would be better, I just know it.  From a Land O' Lakes recipe via the Pioneer Woman.

Pecan Pie Bites
40 min. prep time 
1:25 total time 
36 cookies 

  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar 
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans 
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar 
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350ºF. Spray 36 mini muffin pan cups with no-stick cooking spray; set aside.

Combine 1/2 cup brown sugar, butter, egg yolk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add flour, baking powder and salt; beat at low speed until well mixed.

Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls; place each into prepared mini muffin pan cups, pressing dough onto bottom and up one-third sides of each cup, creating a shallow cup.

Combine all filling ingredients in bowl; spoon 1 teaspoon filling into each cookie.

Bake 13-15 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool 10 minutes in pan on cooling rack.

Remove cookies from pans by running small knife around edge of cookie. Place onto cooling rack; cool completely.

Nutrition Facts (1 cookie) 
Calories: 80 
Fat: 5g 
Cholesterol: 10mg 
Sodium: 25mg 
Carbohydrates: 10g 
Dietary Fiber: 0g 
Protein: 1g

Monday, February 8, 2016

Another Way for Salmon

Well, dear readers, if you were here last week, you saw my PSA for serving crepes on Candlemas / Groundhog Day.  Upon serving them up on Tuesday, LBA asked about how to make them.  I explained they are relatively easy to make, with just four ingredients in equal proportions.  SoBA contemplated this and quickly asked, "then why don't we have them more often?"  A fine question, indeed.  By virtue of the calendar, crepes will again be on the menu tomorrow night for Mardi Gras, the night before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent in the Catholic calendar.  But it would seem that crepes need to appear more than twice a year, in the same month.

For Ash Wednesday, Catholics are requested to abstain from meat (and also give something up for Lent), so maybe we will have salmon for dinner.  Here's a recipe for Salmon with Brussel Sprouts (which I think are coming in the box tomorrow - along with more snow overnight).  Recipe from Diethood via BuzzFeed.

One Sheet Pan Garlic Roasted Salmon with Brussels Sprouts
Serves: 6 Servings
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Total time: 30 mins

  • 2 pounds brussel sprouts, ends trimmed 
  • 3 tablespoons STAR Garlic Flavored Olive Oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt 
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

2 pounds salmon fillet, skinned and cut into 6 portions
1 tablespoon STAR Garlic Flavored Olive Oil
3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt fresh ground pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 450F. 
  2. Lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside. 
  3. In a large mixing bowl combine trimmed brussel sprouts, olive oil, salt and pepper; mix until well combined. 
  4. Transfer brussel sprouts to previously prepared baking sheet; arrange in a single layer and bake for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice during cooking. 
  5. In the meantime, prepare the salmon. 
  6. Drizzle salmon with olive oil. 
  7. Evenly divide and press minced garlic on top of each fillet. 
  8. Season with oregano, salt and pepper. 
  9. Remove baking sheet from oven; move the brussel sprouts around, making 6 empty spots for the salmon fillets. 
  10. Place salmon in empty spots and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until salmon is cooked through.
  11. Remove from oven; let stand 2 minutes and serve.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Signers: The Declaration Committee

On June 11, 1776, the Second Continental Congress appointed a committee of five individuals to draft and submit to the Congress for its approval.

The five individuals were:
  • John Adams - firebrand member of the Congress, chief advocate for independence, representative from the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Adams had made a name for himself prior to joining the Congress as an attorney in Massachusetts.  He would, of course go on to serve as the 2nd President of the United States.  Upon his death on July 4, 1826, he outlived by a few hours, his successor as President, 
  • Thomas Jefferson - The epitome of the American Renaissance man, Jefferson was the primary scribe of the Declaration of Independence, serving as a delegate from Virginia.  After losing to John Adams in 1796, Jefferson won the presidency in 1800, going on to serve two terms as the 3rd President of the United States.
  • Benjamin Franklin - the elder statesman of the Congress, representing Pennsylvania, brought gravitas to the Committee of Five.  After the establishment of the United States, Franklin served as the country's first Postmaster.
  • Robert Livingston - from New York, served on the Committee of Five, but was recalled by New York before he could sign the Declaration.  Livingston went on to serve as the nation's first Secretary of Foreign Affairs, the forerunner of Secretary of State.  It was Livingston that administered the Oath of Office to George Washington, inaugurating him as the first President.
  • Roger Sherman - was one of the most active members of the Continental Congress, serving on many committees, including the Committee of Five.  He was also very active outside his congressional duties and was later very involved in the Constitutional Convention.  At the time of his death in 1793, Sherman was serving as one of Connecticut's first Senators.

Meet the President of the Continental Congress, John Hancock, of Massachusetts.  No signature on the Declaration of Independence is more prominent than Hancock's.  Hancock was the first to sign the document and opted to sign large enough, "so King George can see that without his glasses" though it is more likely that since he was first, he had an entirely blank space in which to sign.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Lamb and Phyllo Cigars

First of all - a PSA - tomorrow is Candelmas / Groundhog Day - don't forget to make your crepes!

In the Food Section of the Washington Post on January 20, I spotted this recipe.  I might need to work on getting these to the Launchpad table.  Hey I now own a deep fat fryer!

Lamb and Phyllo Cigars
"Frying phyllo almost guarantees a shatteringly crisp crunch; the payoff here is split between the spiced, savory lamb­ and ­pine­nut filling and the sumac­ mint yogurt dipping sauce. You'll need an instant­ read thermometer for monitoring the oil."

Make Ahead: The dipping sauce (without the pomegranate molasses drizzle) can be refrigerated up to 1 day in advance.
SERVINGS: 7 servings, makes 21 cigars


  • 1 cup plain low­fat Greek­style yogurt 
  • 2 tablespoons low­fat milk 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 
  • 6 fresh mint leaves, stacked, rolled and cut into thin ribbons (chiffonade) 
  • 1 tablespoon ground sumac 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • Pomegranate molasses, for drizzling
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander 
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper 
  • 1 pound ground lamb 
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses 
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts 
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat­leaf parsley or cilantro 
  • Peanut or canola oil, for frying 
  • 7 sheets phyllo dough (14 by 18 inches), defrosted 1 large egg, beaten

For the dip: Whisk together the yogurt, milk, lemon juice, mint, sumac and salt in a medium bowl until well blended. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (and up to 1 day). 

For the cigars: Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium­high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring several times, until it’s lightly golden.

Add the garlic to the skillet, then the salt, black pepper, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg and cayenne pepper; cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then add the lamb, breaking it up with your fingers as you go. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the lamb loses its raw look and the spices are evenly distributed. 

Clear a spot at the center of the pan; add the tomato paste and spread it a bit; cook for 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat. Add the pomegranate molasses, pine nuts and the parsley or cilantro, and stir to combine. 

Pour about 3 inches of peanut or canola oil into a deep saute pan; heat over medium-high heat to 350 degrees. Seat a wire cooling rack inside a rimmed baking sheet.

Meanwhile, unroll the phyllo sheets and stack them; cover with damp paper towels. Place one sheet of the phyllo on a clean work surface and coat it with a light application of olive oil cooking spray (or brush lightly with olive oil). Repeat this step to build and coat a second layer. 

Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut the sheets in half lengthwise, then cut each of those halves horizontally into 3 rectangles of equal size, so you have 6 rectangles total. 

Use the beaten egg to brush three edges of each phyllo rectangle, leaving one long side plain. Spoon a tablespoon of the lamb mixture an inch inside the unbrushed edge, in a line parallel to the edge, leaving a 1/2 ­inch margin at either end. Roll the dough over the filling, tightly. Once it's rolled, use your fingers to gently push and fold in the sides of the roll. Keep the cigars covered with a damp paper towel. Repeat to use all but 3 tablespoons of the filling, forming 18 cigars.

Spray/brush the last of the phyllo sheets with oil, then fold it in half lengthwise; cut the fold, then cut the folded phyllo into 3 equal rectangles. Repeat the egg­wash, filling, rolling, sealing, spraying and covering steps, so you have a total of 21 cigars. Check to make sure the seams of the phyllo are tightly sealed; if not, brush with more of the egg. (Discard any leftover egg after you're finished frying.) 

Working in batches, gently drop the cigars into the hot oil; fry the cigars for about 3 minutes, turning so they’re evenly and lightly browned. Use tongs to transfer them to the wire rack to cool. (If the cigars open a bit along the seam, you can cut or pinch off that bit.)

Just before serving, drizzle some pomegranate molasses over the dipping sauce. Serve warm or at room temperature, with the sauce.