Monday, October 31, 2016

Vodka Tonic Jello Shots

Today is Halloween.  Trick or Treating will take place in our little town tonight from 6-8.  LBA is preparing to be out as Doc Brown (from Back to the Future), I'm not sure why.  I really wanted SoBA to go as Marty McFly, but I couldn't convince him.

As is routine, I will likely walk the boys around town for candy collection and Mrs. BA will stay home and pass out candy.  Maybe I will make a batch of these and walk them around with me, passing them out to dedicated parents.  Of course, one of the first stops is usually the mayor's house, where the kids get full size candy bars and the parents get adult beverages.

Halloween cocktails from  Jello Shot Bats from "Chloe's Inspiration."

  • 1 1/3 cups tonic water 
  • 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice 
  • 1 tablespoon sugar 
  • 3 envelopes plain Knox gelatin (makes a firm jelly shot for setting in a mold. Decrease to 2 or 2 1/2 envelopes if using other methods to set, such as loaf pan or mini martini glasses. An envelope of plain Knox gelatin equals about 2 tsp of gelatin powder.) 
  • 2/3 cup vodka (citrus flavored is nice . . .)

First, prepare the silicon molds with a light application of cooking spray. Then wipe the mold cavities out with a clean paper towel. This method will leave just the slightest residue, which will help unmold the gelatin without affecting the taste or appearance. Place each mold on a cookie sheet or cooling rack to provide a stable surface for handling.

Combine the tonic, citrus juice, and sugar in a small saucepan and sprinkle with the gelatin. Allow the gelatin to soak for a minute or two. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until gelatin is dissolved, about 5 minutes. (Mixture will be very foamy, but this will diminish.) Remove from the heat and stir in the vodka.

Pour the gelatin mixture into the molds, and refrigerate until fully set, several hours or overnight. To serve, unmold, loosen the edges by pulling away from the side of the mold, and pop each jelly shot out.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Cinnamon Roll Pound Cake

I like cinnamon rolls.  I like pound cake.  From Creme de la Crumb via BuzzFeed.

Cinnamon Roll Pound Cake
Prep time 20 mins
Cook time 60 mins
Total time 1 hour 20 mins

Serves: 12

  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened 
  • 3 cups sugar plus ¼ cup, divided 
  • 1 cup vanilla greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream 
  • 6 eggs 
  • 3 cups flour 
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
For the Icing
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened 
  • 2 oz cream cheese, softened 
  • ¼ cup heavy cream 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line two 9x5 loaf pans with nonstick foil, spray heavily with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in Greek yogurt. Stir in heavy cream and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each egg. In a separate bowl mix flour and baking soda. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
  3. In a small bowl mix ¼ cup sugar and cinnamon. Pour ⅓ of batter into loaf pans. Sprinkle half of cinnamon sugar mixture into pan. Repeat with remaining batter, then cinnamon sugar, then ending with batter. 
  4. Bake about 50 minutes or until edges begin to brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. If cake is not ready at 50 minutes, check again every 5-10 minutes. Allow to cool completely before gently removing from pans. 
  5. For the icing, mix together butter and cream cheese. Add cream, vanilla, and powdered sugar and mix to combine. Pour over cooled loaves. Allow to cool and set at least one hour before slicing and serving. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Iowa Loose Meat Sandwiches

It's like Mom's Beefaroni on a bun!  From the Washington Post Food Section on sandwiches, October 5. 

Iowa Loose Meat Sandwiches
Not quite a hamburger and not quite a sloppy Joe, this is said to have first been served in the state’s Maid-Rite restaurants. Serve with mustard and ketchup on the side. 
Servings: 6

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 pounds ground beef (20 percent fat) 
  • 1 medium onion, cut into small dice 
  • 1 cup homemade or store-bought no-salt-added chicken broth 
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar 
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce 
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 
  • 1 chopped chipotle pepper in adobo (optional) 
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 6 split hamburger buns, for serving 
  • Dill pickle slices, for garnish

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, stir in the ground beef and onion; cook for several minutes, until they have browned, stirring vigorously and breaking up any clumps of meat. The end result should look like lots of small crumbles.

Add the broth, vinegar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, the chipotle pepper, if using, the brown sugar, salt and black pepper, stirring to incorporate. Bring to a boil, stirring, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the liquid has evaporated.

Use a slotted spoon to pile a large amount of meat atop each bottom bun half. Garnish with a couple of pickle slices, and serve with the top bun.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Tragedy of Washington Sports Teams

Ninety-two years.  That's a long time to wait.  1924 was the last time that a Washington baseball team won a post season series.  And it just grew by one more.  Despite winning the National League East and having one of the most formidable starting rotations in baseball, the Washington Nationals lost last night in game 5 to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  The season is over.

As most you all know, dear readers, I grew up in New York, rooting for the team that plays baseball in the Bronx.  I was never a big fan of the guys that played in that "purple stadium" in Queens.  When I came to DC, I signed on with the Nationals as soon as they arrived.  I went to Opening Day for the first several seasons and made it to at least half a dozen games each season.  At some point I will have season tickets for the team.  I would tell my New York friends that I was fine rooting for the Nats - it was only if they made it to the World Series against the Yankees that I would find myself in a dilemma.  With the way that both teams have been playing the last few seasons, I'm OK for now.

I stayed up to watch the entire game and sat on the edge of my seat as the Nationals put the tying and go ahead runs on base in the bottom of the night.  Then I held the remote in my hand for the final at-bat, with my finger on the power button, and turned it off seconds after the last swing.  Mrs. BA and I had allowed LBA and SoBA to watch the beginning of the game - sending them to bed when the Nationals were up 1-0.  I didn't have the heart to tell either of them this morning - though LBA had learned the outcome from his device.  We didn't discuss it.

I don't really have a solution for the team - I guess if I did, I'd be in the dugout with Dusty.  But I do think there is something to be said for the curse that afflicts the sports teams in the Capital City.  The Nationals will get there at some point, hopefully before they hit the century mark of a postseason win drought.

In related news, the National Hockey League started its season and the Washington Capitals had their first game last night, losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins.  I am not in a position to comment on that team's successes and failures, my friend ADR has lived with them much longer than I.  Again, as noted, I am a New Yorker by birth and grew up with my allegiance pledged to the New York Rangers.  It has made for some tense conversations with ADR, especially at playoff time.  I can root for the Caps, and do so, except when the Rangers face off against them, which happens a fair number of times during the season and often during the Stanley Cup playoffs.  The Rangers know of Cup droughts, going more that 40 years between Cup wins.  The Caps haven't hoisted the Cup yet and continue to perform above expectations each season.  With the dawn of each season, there is hope.  But here in Washington, sadness and anger smack us again at the end of a season, with goals unfulfilled.  Here's to another great season and that maybe, this is the year.

I won't comment on the basketball team - I'm not a big fan of the bouncy ball and the sport doesn't really do it for me.  I do like college basketball and will watch March Madness.  But other than that, I can't get excited about it.  As to the Washington football team, I don't particularly care about that sport either, I was never a big football fan growing up, but as I will say, if you pin me down, I was a fan of the Giants over the Jets.  Now, while the team that currently plays football here has won the Super Bowl, I really believe that they won't (or can't) win again until the weasel owner of the team is gone.  I don't really care about the name controversy, I suppose it should change, but he's not in favor of that, so that sort of puts me on the other side of that issue, if only to be in opposition to him.

Finally, as a parent of two boys engaged in soccer for their fall sport, this is one that I really don't get.  Maybe I just don't understand it well enough - but there is nothing more mind numbing that watching players run up and down a field, with the occasional (and infrequent) goal here and there.  But I'll root for the Cheverly teams any day of the week and twice on Sundays (which is usually the case with both of them playing games on Saturdays and Sundays for the next few weeks.

Monday, October 10, 2016

No Churn Coffee Ice Cream

This is good, because I'm not actually sure where the ice cream maker is. From Baked by an Introvert via BuzzFeed.

No Churn Coffee Crunch Ice Cream
Yields 6 cups
The smoothest ice cream made without an ice cream maker and only 4 ingredients! Coffee flavored ice cream speckled with mini chocolate chips is great for a summer afternoon pick me up. You will not believe how simple this delightful coffee crunch ice cream is!

  • 1/2 cup strong brewed coffee, cold 
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk 
  • 2 cups heavy cream 
  • 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips 

Combine the condensed milk and coffee in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth. Add the heavy cream to a large bowl. Using an electric mixer set to medium speed, beat until stiff peaks form. Turn the speed to low and slowly pour in the condensed milk and coffee mixture. Turn the speed back up to medium and beat until thickened. Using a silicone spatula, gently fold in the chocolate chips. Transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze for at least 6 hours.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

For Tracy

The first text came while I was at church on Sunday morning.  Then a Facebook message from another class mate.  When I saw the words, "News about Tracy Fentress" I knew.  I didn't want to believe it, but I knew.

Tracy and I met in elementary school.  We became fast friends and then when the school district reorganized, I went to a different school until we were reunited in junior high.  She had become active in girl scouts and so I still saw her on occasion - as my mother was one of the troop leaders.  The year that my mother organized a troop trip to Bermuda (of all places), I got to tag along and stayed with friends of my parents while the girls camped not far away.  I have a great picture from that trip of Tracy, throwing some shade (before throwing shade was a thing) while we are all on the beach.  But you can see it even in that picture, the bubbly friendly personality that embodied Tracy.

We graduated high school and went off to different colleges and our lives diverged further. When my mother died in 2006, one of the people I remember seeing at both the wake and the funeral was Tracy and her mother.  Tracy continued in girl scouting, becoming a leader for her daughter's troop and cookie mother.  Tracy would often contact me at cookie time, because she knew that I would buy boxes from her, knowing full well that I wasn't going to be able to eat them - but I made the donation to her - because that's what she wanted (and it's what my mother would want me to do).

Once Facebook began to bring old friends back together, Tracy and I reconnected as I did with many others from my high school class.  I now am the moderator for a group dedicated to my class, which is a little weird for me, because I wasn't the most popular kid in high school, I was just one of the class, in the middle of the pack.  But I am happy with the way the group has turned out and that so many of us from our class (we were over 500 people in our class) have been able to reconnect and reminisce about old times.  I post each week the birthdays that are ahead and almost without fail, Tracy would be one of the first people to comment, wishing everyone a heartfelt happy birthday.

In 2010, I attempted to use Facebook to organize a 25th Reunion, which did not manifest itself very well - though those of us who came had a good time.  Tracy was involved in that reunion planning, but unfortunately she had begun her battle against cancer and she was unable to attend our mini-reunion. I was urged by my classmates to give it a go again for our 30th, set for 2015.  I knew my own limitations and found one of the few remaining reunion companies to help me organize the reunion the right way.  Once again, Tracy reached out to me and volunteered to be there for whatever I needed as the plans moved forward.

As several of us met in the bar before going upstairs to the ballroom for the reunion, I got tapped on the shoulder and turned around to see Tracy.  As with so many of us that evening, it was like we were back in high school and not 30 years later and the night just got better from there.  Later, as we tried to get everyone's attention to say a few words - it was Tracy who managed to get everyone to listen for a few minutes so that I could express my thanks to everyone for making the night such a success - but it was Tracy's words that echoed with everyone - because when Tracy talked, you listened.

She made a point of saying to several of us that evening that she would be back for the next reunion - but unfortunately that won't happen.  A few months ago, she posted on Facebook that she was back at Sloan-Kettering because she was having some pain.  I commented then that I was sure she would get through this as she had been doing all along.  But after fighting the bravest fight, Tracy lost her battle with breast cancer on Sunday morning.  She was 49 years old.  She leaves behind her husband and daughter, her sister and brother, both her parents, and all of us from the Class of 1985.  Tracy is the 14th Brave to leave us from our class - Once a Brave, Always a Brave.

Tonight family and friends gathered to remember Tracy and tomorrow she will be sent home.  I really wanted to be there - but couldn't make it happen.  I know that Tracy would have understood, but she would have also given me a little lip about it.  But she didn't quite know how to stay mad at people.

God speed my dear friend. You are free of pain now. I am sure that you and my mother are having a grand time talking about anything and everything.  And eating girl scout cookies.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Lemon Herb Chicken and Rice

I usually have chicken breasts in the freezer and am always on the lookout for quick and easy dinners for the Launchpad. From Creme de la Crumb via BuzzFeed.

One Pot Lemon Herb Chicken & Rice

Prep time 5 mins
Cook time 25 mins
Total time 30 mins
Serves: 4

Ingredients for the chicken
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts 
  • 2 tablespoons butter 
  • salt and pepper to taste 
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning 

Ingredients for the rice
  • 1 cup uncooked rice (white or brown) 
  • 2¼ cups chicken broth (I used low sodium)  
  • juice of 1 lemon 
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

  1. Melt butter over medium heat in a large skillet or pan (one that has a lid). Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste, and Italian seasoning. Brown chicken in the butter for 1-2 minutes on each side. (Chicken shouldn't be cooked through at this point) Transfer chicken to a plate. 
  2. Add rice, chicken broth, lemon juice, and remaining Italian seasoning to the pan (no need to clean it first). Place chicken on top, then cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 20-25 minutes until liquid is dissolved. 
  3. Garnish with fresh parsley or cilantro if desired and lemon wedges for squeezing. Serve immediately.