Monday, January 30, 2017

Sheet Pan Fish and Chips

Mrs. BA is one to order fish and chips if it's on the menu. Her usual follow-up question is if they are made in house, she's a stickler. Maybe I can put these on the menu at the Launchpad.  Thanks to Simply Recipes for the recipe.  I might even get SoBA to eat it.  Now to put tartar sauce on the Wegman's list.

Sheet Pan Fish and Chips
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Yield: 4 to 6 servings 

  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil, or more if needed 
  • 2 1/2 pounds potatoes (3 large or 6 medium), unpeeled (I think that butter/yellow would work best - thought I'll probably use russet)
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 cup Panko, or other unseasoned dry white breadcrumbs 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper 
  • 2 pounds firm-fleshed white fish fillets, skins removed (I've got some flounder in the freezer)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley 
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges, to serve 
  • Tartar sauce, to serve 
  • Preheat the oven to 450F. Arrange 2 oven racks in the top and bottom third of the oven. Line 2 baking sheets with foil and coat with olive oil (about 1 tablespoon per baking sheet) or with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Prepare the potatoes: Quarter the potatoes lengthwise into 8 spears. In a bowl, toss the potatoes with 2 tablespoons of the oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Spread the potatoes on the baking sheet with their wedges pointing up, if possible, so the cut sides are exposed 
  • Roast the potatoes on the lower rack in the oven for 40 minutes. Turn pan after 20 minutes of cooking and move the potatoes around the sheet pan
  • Toast the breadcrumbs in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add the panko (no oil needed), and lower the heat to medium. Stir frequently, for 10 to 15 minutes or until a deep golden brown. Remove the skillet from heat. Add olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper into the panko breadcrumbs until well coated. Transfer the crumbs to a shallow bowl.
  • Cut the fish into large strips. Rub with remaining olive oil. 
  • Coat the fish with the panko until well coated. Place the fish on the second baking sheet, spaced slightly apart. 
  • When the potatoes are almost done (about 15-20 minutes remaining), bake the fish for 10-20 minutes, depending on thickness, until the fish is firm and the coating is starting to brown.
  • Serve the fish and chips, sprinkle with parsley, serve with lemon and tartar sauce.

Thursday, January 26, 2017


The Brave Astronaut has a thing for lighthouses. In fact on our recent trip to Legoland, I may have bought this. As we all seek shelter in a port away from the storm - here are some lighthouse photos to soothe you.

Or maybe you're looking to get away from it all - and you want to go and live in a lighthouse?  It may not be the life you think it is.  Read more here.

If you live here in the DMV, maybe you'd like to visit some of the local lights.  Here's a list.
  1. Turkey Point Lighthouse - Elk Neck State Park 4395 Turkey Point Rd., North East, MD 21901: The 35-foot-tall tower was built in 1833 to direct ships along the Elk River toward the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. Perched atop a 100-foot cliff, the lighthouse remains the highest beacon on the bay. Its light can be seen for 13 miles. Another thing that sets Turkey Point apart is that four of the keepers were women, which was remarkable for an era when the physical labor and extreme isolation were seen as conditions only tolerable for a man. The last keeper, Fannie Mae Salter, was appointed after the death of her husband in 1925. In her early 40s, she initially was told she was too old for the job. It wasn't until President Calvin Coolidge stepped in that Salter was allowed to stay. She went on to serve until her retirement in the late 1940s - a feat that earned her the title of last civilian female keeper in the country. The light was automated in 1948 and now runs completely on solar energy. In the spring of 2007 the stairs were rebuilt in the same way they were in 1833, and visitors can climb to the top for a spectacular view. Interesting fact: The cliffs around the lighthouse appeared in Clint Eastwood's 1997 film "Absolute Power."
  2. Concord Point Lighthouse 100 Lafayette St., Havre de Grace, MD 21078: This 36-foot-tall tower of granite, with three-foot-thick walls at its base to the 27 steps in the spiral staircase, is not the quaint striped beacon many think of when they romantically picture a lighthouse. But it's absolutely worth a visit. The tower was built by John Donahoo, a legend among Chesapeake Bay lighthouse lovers: He is responsible for building 12 lighthouses on the bay, including Concord Point in his home town of Havre de Grace in 1827. His lighthouse was built to mark the entrance to the Susquehanna River. Despite Donahoo's request to be keeper, the honor went to War of 1812 hero John O'Neill. The responsibility was kept within the family with O'Neill's son, daughter-in-law, grandson and great-grandson each tending the light. The keepers' residence, 200 feet from the tower, went through several reincarnations during its history, including stints as a bar and restaurant. It went through a renovation in 1990 to restore it to its 1884 glory and now serves as a museum and gift shop. Interesting fact: The current light comes from a 100-watt bulb.
  3. Seven Foot Lighthouse S. President Street and Eastern Avenue, Pier 5, Baltimore, MD 21202: Seven Foot Knoll is a screw-pile lighthouse, meaning it was suspended above water on long cast-iron pilings screwed into the sea floor. It was built from 1855 to 1856 at the mouth of the Patapsco River and named for the shoal that it marked. Approachable only by boat, it also served as a home for the keeper and two assistants. So how did the bright red, 220-ton circular goliath end up on a pier in Baltimore? After the light was automated in the late 1940s, the structure succumbed to the elements and was retired. The Coast Guard donated the structure to the city, and in 1988, over the course of two days, Seven Foot Knoll was moved to its present location. Original features have been preserved, while interpretive exhibits have been added. Visitors can climb to the watch room (ladder access to the beacon is restricted) and take in a view that includes Federal Hill, the Domino Sugar factory and boats docked in the harbor.
  4. Lightship 116 Chesapeake E. Pratt Street and S. Gay Street, Pier 3, Baltimore, MD 21202: The Lightship Chesapeake is docked at pier 3, near the Seven-Foot Knoll lighthouse. First used in 1930, the ship was a movable aide used to direct maritime traffic everywhere from Fenwick Island Shoal in Delaware to the waters off Cape Henry. During World War II it aided in the war effort off the Cape Cod Canal. It was decommissioned and since 1971 has served as a floating museum. Interesting fact: The lightship has a gallery of photographs of dogs that served as mascots on Navy and Coast Guard ships from the 1880s through the 1950s.
  5. Fort Washington Park 13551 Fort Washington Rd., Fort Washington, MD 20744: It is easy to overlook the squat, 32-foot-tall wooden tower on the Maryland shore of the Potomac River. One's eye naturally goes toward the mammoth fort atop the hill looming behind it. History views the structure in a similar light. George Washington picked the location as a prime spot for a fort to protect the fledgling nation's capital. Subsequent forts were built around the same spot to reflect military advancements and to protect the city. But as maritime traffic along the Potomac River increased and the size of ships grew during the 1800s, a light was needed to direct ships away from shallow water near the shore. Before a beacon was installed, the military was calling the shots. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis approved the light so long as it was "not within any of the fortifications; and the light keeper shall be subordinate to the military command." Two other beacons preceded the one that visitors see today. Interesting fact: The first beacon was an 18-1/2-foot-tall post with a light on it, installed in 1857.
  6. Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum 213 N. Talbot Street, St. Michaels, MD 21663: Hooper Strait lighthouse, now at home on the grounds of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, once guided ships through dangerous waters between Tangier Sound and the Chesapeake Bay, 40 miles to the south. The screw-pile cottage was actually the third light used at that location. Beginning in 1827, lightships were used to direct the boats, and in 1867 the first screw-pile lighthouse was built. That lasted only a decade before icy floes carried it away in January 1877. The keepers nearly went down with the house, evacuating at the last minute on a small boat. The latest lighthouse, built in 1879, almost met a similar fate. After being automated in 1954, the lighthouse began deteriorating. It was set to be demolished, but the museum rescued it and moved it to the museum in 1966. Visitors can walk through the six-room house and explore what life was like for a keeper. Children are encouraged to explore and find tidbits of information hidden in everything from empty paint cans to desk drawers to a goose wing. Interesting fact: Youth groups can spend a night in the lighthouse select Fridays and Saturdays in the spring and fall. 
  7. Cove Point 3500 Lighthouse Blvd., Lusby, MD 20657: Cove Point is another lighthouse on the bay built by John Donahoo, and, like his structures at Concord Point and Turkey Point, it is a basic white tower with black lantern room. Built in 1828 to mark the entrance of the Patuxent River, the Cove Point lighthouse has been witness to two interesting pieces of history: the very early introduction of a telephone in 1899 and World War II practice landings and invasions. The keepers even once rescued a drunk man who, after losing the oars to his boat, tried to swim ashore. From World War II until its automation in 1986, there was enough room for three keepers and their families to live around the lighthouse. Interesting fact: The light is the oldest continuously operated light in the state of Maryland.
  8. Drum Point Light Calvert Marine Museum 14200 Solomons Island Rd., Solomons, MD 20688: At one point in time, you would have no trouble finding a screw-pile lighthouse on the Chesapeake Bay - 45 dotted the waterway. Now if you want to see one up close you need to visit Drum Point at the Calvert Marine Museum. Like its screw-pile brother, Seven Foot Knoll in Baltimore, Drum Point fell into disrepair after it was decommissioned but was later rescued and relocated. In Drum Point's case, the 1883 lighthouse was originally at the entrance to the Patuxent River and was moved to the grounds of the Calvert Marine Museum in 1975, 13 years after it was decommissioned. Based on lighthouse logs from 1883 to 1943 kept at the National Archives, the museum was able to lovingly restore the building to its early 20th-century grandeur, and visitors can walk through it. Interesting fact: What passed for bathrooms on lighthouses like Drum Point were outhouse-like structures that opened up over the water.
  9. Piney Point Lighthouse Museum and Historic Park 44720 Lighthouse Rd., Piney Point, MD 20674: When most people think of lighthouses, they think of lonely towers isolated by water and rocks. Not so with Piney Point, on the Potomac River. It was once a popular resort area for wealthy Washingtonians, including President Theodore Roosevelt, who would ride down on his yacht to go fishing. With amazing views of the water and sandy beaches, it remains a popular spot for vacationers. The lighthouse was in use from 1836 until 1964, and in 2002 it opened to the public as part of the museum. The museum's historic park interprets the history of St. Mary's County with exhibits about Dory boats, World War II torpedoes and a separate building dedicated to a Potomac River Maritime exhibit. Interesting fact: There is a sunken U-1105 offshore, marked by a buoy. One of the rooms in the museum is dedicated to the German submarine, which the United States claimed after World War II.
  10. Point Lookout State Park 11175 Point Lookout Rd., Scotland, MD 20687: While the Civil War played an important part in the history of many lighthouses along the Chesapeake Bay, perhaps none was more greatly affected by the conflict than Point Lookout. The lighthouse was built in 1830, and during the Civil War, the Union used the land around it as a Confederate prison. It is estimated that 52,000 prisoners were kept there and more than 3,300 died. The lighthouse keeper during the war had Southern leanings, and it is noted in logs that she was reprimanded at least once for aiding the South. It isn't clear what she did, but she was allowed to remain in her position. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1966, and for a while the duplex was rented as a home. After the last resident moved out in 1981, the lighthouse suffered from vandalism and neglect. In 2006, preservation efforts began with the hopes of restoring the lighthouse to its last renovation in 1927. Visitors can take a self-guided tour during open houses, explore the unfurnished rooms and read interpretive posters. One of the former keeper's daughters, who grew up in the house, often visits during open houses to share her experiences during the '40s and '50s. Interesting fact: Point Lookout is believed to be haunted. Former residents and visitors have reported hearing footsteps, smelling a strange odor in one room and hearing disembodied voices saying "abandon" and "get out."
  11. Assateague Island and Chincoteague Beaches 8231 Beach Rd., Chincoteague, VA 23336: Assateague Island is perhaps best known for its annual wild pony swim and as the setting of Marguerite Henry's novel "Misty of Chincoteague." But a close second might be its iconic red-and-white striped lighthouse. The 142-foot-tall tower was built in 1867 to warn ships away from the dangerous shore between the Chesapeake and Delaware bays. About seven years ago it opened to the public for climbing, and when the weather is especially nice a line forms out the door. Visitors are advised to come early and wear tennis shoes. The parking lot is a short, shady walk from the lighthouse, and then the climb is 175 steps. There is a landing with a window every 25 steps just in case you need a break. Also be sure to visit the oil shed next door to the house, where artists take residence and display their work. The band Three Sheets occasionally performs sea shanties. Interesting fact: During the Civil War, the island sided with the north in order to continue selling seafood to Union states. The soldiers protected the light.

Monday, January 23, 2017


Cupcakes are perfect!  These would be problematic for the best way to eat cupcakes however, which is to make cupcake sandwiches.  From Cooking Classy via BuzzFeed.

Creme Brûlée Cupcakes 
Yield: 12 cupcakes 

Pastry Cream
  • 1 cup heavy cream 
  • 2/3 cup milk 
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided 
  • 1/8 tsp salt 
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 3 Tbsp cornstarch 
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 tsp baking powder 
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature 
  • 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar 
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature 
  • 2 large egg whites, at room temperature 
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • Granulated sugar, about 1/3 cup 
  • Whipped cream (optional) 
  • 12 fresh raspberries (optional)

For the pastry cream:
In a medium saucepan, heat heavy cream, milk, 6 Tbsp sugar, salt and seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean along with vanilla bean pod over medium heat. Bring mixture just to a gentle bubble, stirring occasionally (remove from heat as necessary to prevent vigorous boiling while preparing remainder). Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks and 2 Tbsp sugar until well blended. Add cornstarch to egg yolk mixture and mix until very well combined and and slightly pale and fluffy. Take about 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture from pan, and while vigorously whisking, slowly pour hot cream mixture (about 1 Tbsp at a time) into egg yolk mixture. Reduce burner temperature to medium-low. Then, while whisking hot cream mixture in saucepan, slowly pour egg yolk mixture into hot cream mixture in saucepan. Cook mixture, whisking constantly, until thickened (allow it to boil for about 30 seconds to cook out starchy flavor). Immediately force mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Mix in 1 Tbsp butter. Cover with plastic wrap pressing directly against surface of custard. Chill thoroughly, about 2 hours.

For the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt for seconds, set aside. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter and granulated sugar until pale and fluffy. Mix in egg then blend in egg whites and vanilla. Add 1/2 of the flour mixture and blend just until combined, then add milk and blend just until combined and finish adding in remaining 1/2 flour mixture and blend just until combined. Divide batter among 12 paper lined muffin cups, filling each cup about 2/3 full. Bake in preheated oven 21 - 24 minutes until toothpick inserted into center of cupcake comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To assemble cupcakes:
Pipe or spread chilled pastry cream over cooled cupcakes into an even layer. Working with one cupcake at a time, sprinkle entirety of pastry cream with sugar then heat with a kitchen torch until sugar begins to melt and caramelize (I would first coat the edges of pastry cream while rotating the cupcake, then sprinkle tops, then I would torch it and add another layer of sugar. I just found working in layers worked best so it didn't all bead up and just run off the sides, but just experiment and see what works best for you. I used about 1 - 1 1/2 tsp sugar per cupcake). Allow topping to cool then garnish with whipped cream and a raspberry if desired. Serve immediately (note: the pastry cream can be made the day before and the cupcakes can be made hours ahead of time but top with sugar and caramelize sugar just before serving).

 Recipe Source: vanilla cupcake adapted from Sprinkles Cupcakes via Oprah, pastry cream lightly adapted from Cook's Illustrated

Friday, January 20, 2017


Just a few days after the election last November, Mrs. BA and I agreed that we could not be in the DC area on January 20.  So we've bugged out for the weekend.  The Brave Astronaut Clan has gone to Florida and are today at Legoland and headed to Universal Studios Saturday and Sunday.  Monday we will take in Cape Canaveral before flying home.

Later I'll figure out how to walk through the lobby of my building every day, where a portrait of the President hangs on the wall.  For the moment I will look back at this.  And I'll read this.  I'll be listening to this.

You can substitute the new President's name here wherever he says "Bob Rumsen"

And if you're wondering - Jed Bartlet is still my President.

Monday, January 16, 2017

One Pot Pizza Rigatoni

Pepperoni Pizza is a big favorite on pizza night at the Launchpad.  SoBA would eat his weight in pasta (and peas) if given the chance. (Parenthetically, when did LBA and SoBA phase out of the McDonald's Happy Meals in favor of a 20-piece chicken nuggets and a Quarter Pounder meal?)

Here's another one-pot recipe that should please the diners at the Launchpad. Via A Night Owl blog, from BuzzFeed.

One Pot Pizza Rigatoni
Prep time 5 mins
Cook time: 25 mins
Total time: 30 mins
Serves: 8 servings

  • 16 oz ground Italian sausage 
  • ½ cup pepperoni, divided 
  • 1 jar Marinara sauce 
  • 3 cups water 
  • 16 oz box rigatoni pasta 
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese 
  • Seasoning salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large dutch oven pot, brown your ground Italian sausage; drain excess fat. 
  2. Slice up about half of your pepperoni into strips and stir into Italian sausage and cook for a minute or so. 
  3. Add your jar of sauce and seasoning salt and pepper to taste. 
  4. Add water and box of rigatoni and bring it all to boil. 
  5. Once boiling, cover your pot and reduce the heat to a simmer until pasta is cooked through and tender, about 15 minutes. 
  6. Remove your pot from the heat, top with mozzarella and remaining pepperoni. 
  7. Place into oven to broil on high until the cheese is melted and golden brown.

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Hot Toddy

Evidently January 11 is National Hot Toddy Day.  And now that I'm a fan of the sweet brown liquor, I might have to start having these.  I'll keep the colds away and feel all warm inside at the same time.

If you're out and about in DC, you can find hot toddies in several spots around town.  See this article from DCist for more information. If you're interested in having them in your own home, try this recipe.

The Hot Toddy
Yield Makes 1 drink
Active Time 5 min
Total Time 10 min

  • 1 oz (2 tablespoons) bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon mild honey
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup boiling-hot water
Put bourbon, honey, and lemon juice in a 6-ounce mug. Top off with hot water and stir until honey is dissolved.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Slow Cooker Potato Soup

LBA (and Mrs. BA) really love the Baked Potato Soup.  I bet this would make everyone feel good.
From Gimme Some Oven via BuzzFeed.

Slow Cooker Potato Soup
Yield: 8-10 servings
Prep Time: 10 mins 
Cook Time: 4 hours 10 mins 
Total Time: 4 hours 20 mins 

  • 6 slices cooked bacon*, diced
  • 3-4 cups good-quality chicken or vegetable stock 
  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes**, peeled (if desired) and diced 
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion, peeled and diced 
  • 4 tablespoons bacon grease* (or butter) 
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 (12-ounce) can 2% evaporated milk 
  • 1 cup shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese 
  • 1/2 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt or low-fat sour cream 
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, or more to taste 
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper 
  • optional toppings: thinly-sliced green onions or chives, extra shredded cheese, extra bacon, sour cream 
  1. Add bacon, 3 cups chicken stock, potatoes and onion to the bowl of a large slow cooker, and stir to combine. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours, or until the potatoes are completely tender and cooked through. 
  2. Once the soup has slow cooked and is about ready to serve, cook the butter in a small saucepan on the stove over medium-high heat until it has melted. Whisk in the flour until it is completely combined, and then cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Gradually add in the evaporated milk while whisking it together with the flour mixture, and continue whisking until the mixture is completely smooth. Let the mixture continue cooking until it reaches a simmer, stirring occasionally, and then it should get really thick. 
  3. Immediately pour the milk mixture into the slow cooker with the potatoes, and stir until combined. Add in the cheddar cheese, Greek yogurt (or sour cream), salt and pepper, and stir until combined. If you would like the soup to be even thicker, you can use a potato masher or a large spoon to mash about half of the potatoes (while the soup is still in the slow cooker) to thicken the soup up. If you would like the soup to be thinner, add in an extra 1-2 cups of warmed chicken or vegetable stock. Stir to combine, then taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. 
  4. Serve warm, garnished with desired toppings. Or transfer to a sealed container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. (This recipe will not freeze well.) 
*You can either fry the bacon, cook it in the microwave, or buy pre-cooked bacon. If frying or microwaving, I recommend dicing the bacon before cooking it. And if you are frying it, I highly recommend saving the bacon grease for later and then using it to make your roux (instead of butter).

**I highly recommend using Yukon gold potatoes, which have the perfect texture and buttery taste for this soup. But Russet potatoes or red potatoes would also work just fine in this recipe.

***If you would like to make this recipe vegetarian, use vegetable stock, omit the bacon, and I would recommend adding in 2-3 teaspoons of Old Bay seasoning for extra flavor.