Monday, December 25, 2017

Crock Pot Lasagne

The Brave Astronaut Birthday fell on a Wednesday this year.  Don't fear, the clan appropriately feted me for my big day.  But on the day itself, I opted for lasagne, and because it was a Wednesday, I used this slow cooker option. From Tastes Better from Scratch via BuzzFeed (I substituted ricotta for cottage, because cottage cheese, is well, eew.)

Merry Christmas to all out there!

Slow Cooker Lasagna
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 4 hrs
Total Time 4 hrs 10 mins
Servings: 5

  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 large onion , chopped *
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons parsley
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 29 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 8 oz. pkg regular lasagna noodles, uncooked
  • 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  1. In a large skillet over medium heat brown the ground beef, Italian sausage and onion.
  2. Add salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, parsley, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, tomato sauce, sugar, and water. Stir and simmer 15-20 minutes. (You could make the sauce in advance!)
  3. Spread a fourth of the meat sauce into the bottom of your slow cooker. Arrange a third of the noodles over the sauce (break the noodles to fit, if necessary).
  4. Combine the mozzarella, ricotta cheese and parmesan cheese; spoon a third of the mixture over noodles. Repeat layers twice.
  5. Top with remaining meat sauce and sprinkle with extra mozzarella cheese, if desired.
  6. Cover and cook on low for about 4-5 hours or until noodles are tender.
Recipe Notes * You could substitute 1-2 Tbsp dried minced onion.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Brave Astronaut Turns 50!

Today marks the day that I mark my fiftieth spin around the sun.

Here's a list, numbered one to fifty with some facts about the Brave Astronaut.
  1. Time difference (1 hour) between home and Bermuda, where the Brave Astronaut and his siblings traveled earlier this year to scatter our parents ashes, in accordance with their final wishes.
  2. Number of Brave Astronaut children - LBA (who turns 13 on Christmas Day) and SoBA (who turns 10! on the 30th).
  3. How many siblings I have - I'm the youngest.
  4. Number of book ideas I have in my head: one novel, one historical fiction, and two non-fiction books - I have about 200 pages of the novel written and outlines for the other three.
  5. The number of permanent members on the United Nations Security Council that hold veto power (the US, Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom).  In high school, I was a member of the Model UN Club and attended several mock UN meetings.
  6. The number of years between me and my next sibling.
  7.  My house number of my home growing up.
  8. The number of places I have lived: Syosset, NY, Albany, NY for school (2 different dorms at the University at Albany, Poughkeepsie, NY (first an apartment, then a house), and three places in Maryland (Bethesda, Rockville, and our current home in Cheverly).
  9. The number of cars I have owned (I think that's right): a 1982 Mercury Zephyr, a Nissan Sentra, a Mazda 323, a Mazda 626 hatchback, a Mazda Protege, my mother's old Ford Taurus, a Volvo sedan (bought on the Internet - don't do that), a Mazda 5, and the current Brave Astronaut Clan Car - a Kia Sorento
  10. The number of US Presidents under which I have lived - and I hope to make it to number 11 sooner rather than later.
  11. The number that remains when you subtract my mother's age when she passed (76) and my father's age (87) on his death earlier this year.
  12. Number of emails currently in my work email box
  13. Number of cards in a suit of playing cards (ace-king).  I enjoy playing cards, specifically a family game known as Liverpool, a contract rummy game.
  14. The number of years between me and my oldest sibling. 
  15. The number of rooms, including the side porch, foyer, and attic at the Launchpad.
  16. In 2018, the number of years that I will have been married to Mrs. BA
  17. The atomic number of chlorine, which is used to keep the Cheverly Pool clean.  This year, I was elected as President of the Board of the pool.
  18. The number of years that I have been organizing baseball outings to my national professional organization (the Society of American Archivists) - Since 1999, I have brought about 1500 archivists to 20 baseball games over the past 16 years (for three conferences there was no baseball to be had and for 4 of the meetings, we went to more than one game).  In 2018, JAL Tours will be putting together the 17th Annual / 22nd Game SAA Baseball event here in Washington DC.
  19. The number of national professional Annual Meetings (Society of American Archivists) I have attended since becoming a professional archivist.
  20. The number of either elected or appointed positions that I have held or currently hold - I have been active in my profession an well as in my community.
  21. The number of years I have been an archivist (the Rockefeller Archive Center for 6 years, the International Monetary Fund Archives for 4 years and my current position at the National Archives for the past 11)
  22. Approximate number of people in the United States that share my last name - and they are all related to me.
  23. How many years I have been playing golf.
  24. The number of people in my extended family (one mother-in-law, 8 related to Mrs. BA, 7 on my side, and 4 in the Brave Astronaut Clan).
  25. The estimated number of primary characters in The West Wing, one of my favorite television shows of all time. Jed Bartlet is my President!
  26. The number of people who have not yet replied to the invitation of the Brave Astronaut Clan to our New Year's Day Open House - if you're in the neighborhood, you should come by!
  27. The number of states in the United States that I have visited (from west to east: CA, AZ, CO, NM, TX, LA, WI, IL, OH, AL, ME, NH, VT, MA, NY, RI, CT, NJ, PA, DE, MD, WV, VA, NC, SC, GA, FL)
  28. The age at which Billy Joel released The Stranger.  Billy Joel is my favorite artist - I have seen him in concert many times.
  29. The track from which the Chattanooga Choo Choo departs in the song by Glenn Miller.  Songs of the big band era were standard fare for me growing up at home.
  30. The minimum age requirement for US Senators.  I considered politics as a profession.
  31. The number of flavors sold by Baskin-Robbins.  I am a big fan of ice cream.
  32. How many years have passed since I graduated high school - 1985 - Go Braves!
  33. The number of reference requests that I have already responded to in this fiscal year, which began in October), it is my primary work responsibility.
  34. How old I was when I got married to Mrs. BA
  35. How old Mrs. BA was when she married me (until yesterday we were in that point in time when I was two years younger than Mrs. BA - her birthday is in August and we were married in May)
  36. The number of strikes one would have to bowl to achieve three perfect games (300-300-300).  When I bowled regularly, my average was about 145.
  37. The approximate number of different golf courses I have played on since I began playing golf.
  38. The number of slots in a standard roulette wheel.  I am serving again as the co-chair for my son's school's Casino Night fundraising night, in February.  You should come!
  39. Number of active members in our local church's men's club, for which I currently serve as President.
  40. The number of hours in a standard work week - I work full time.
  41. The title of a song by Dave Matthews, one of Mrs. BA's most favorite bands.  When we were first dating, I helped get her really good seats to a Dave Matthews concert at the Meadowlands
  42. Number of MARAC Meetings that I have attended since becoming a professional archivist
  43. My lowest golf score for nine holes.  Now that I'm 50, I think I should play more golf.  I had long ago set a goal of playing consistently in the 90s for 18 holes by the time I was 50.
  44. The number of characters in the novel that I have been working on, on and off, for the past 10 years or so.
  45. Number of emails currently in my personal email box
  46. The number for the next President.  And that individual cannot get here soon enough.
  47. The P-47 Thunderbolt was a World War II fighter plane.  My father was constantly building models of planes, ships, figures - although he was fond of tanks, primarily.
  48. The number of seats available in the chapel where Mrs. BA and I got married.  Naturally we invited about 85 people.  Seventy showed up.
  49. The uniform number of Ron Guidry, longtime New York Yankees pitcher.  I have loved baseball for years, played a little, watched a lot, and coached both LBA and SoBA's teams.
  50. Slang for the police - something I think I can say I've never run afoul of, except for speeding tickets and the occasional camera tickets.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Crock Pot Apple Cider

Who doesn't love hot apple cider?  The Brave Astronaut is having an Open House on New Year's Day - this will likely make an appearance!  From Gimme Some Oven via BuzzFeed.

Slow Cooker Apple Cider
Yield: 14-16 cups
Total Time: 4 hours 10 mins
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 4 hours

  • 9 medium apples, assorted types
  • 1 orange
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 whole nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole allspice (optional)
  • 12-16 cups water
  • 1/3 – 2/3 cup brown sugar

  1. Wash apples and the orange, and then roughly cut into quarters. (Don’t worry about removing peels, seeds, or stems.) Place in the bowl of your a large cooker. Add cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, cloves and allspice. Cover with water, filling the slow cooker until it is nearly full. (I left about 1/2 inch of space at the top of my pot.) Cook on high heat for 3-4 hours, or on low heat for 6-8 hours.
  2. About an hour before the cider is done cooking, use a potato masher (or tongs or the side of a spoon) to mash the apple and orange slices once they are soft. Finish cooking for one more hour.
  3. Strain out the apple cider juice into a clean pitcher or pot. To get the maximum juice out of the apples, you can press them through a fine-mesh strainer or strain through a cheese cloth. Stir in your desired amount of sweetener until it is dissolved.
  4. Serve hot. (You can also transfer the cider to a heat-safe sealed container and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Just rewarm the cider to serve.)

Monday, December 11, 2017

"Next Level Roast Chicken"

I spotted this recipe in the Washington Post Magazine.  We are always on the lookout for things to do with a roast chicken, it's a popular Sunday dinner option. Don't know if I can sell the mushroom sauce or the potato pancakes to LBA, SoBA, or Mrs. BA for that matter.

Greek-Style Roast Chicken With Rosemary Potato Pancake and Mushroom Sauce
This spatchcocked bird is fairly miraculous all by itself, but combined with the rosemary potato pancake and mushroom sauce, it’s over the top — a hearty and flavorful fall meal that will make the whole family happy.

Make Ahead: The chicken needs to marinate in the refrigerator for 3 hours.
Servings: Tested size: 4 servings

For the chicken
  • One 4 1/4- or 4 1/2-pound whole chicken, giblets removed
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest and 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
For the potato pancake
  • 1 to 1 1/4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms, preferably a gourmet blend
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • Freshly ground black pepper
For the chicken: Cut out the backbone; reserve it for another use (such as stock), and then flatten the bird. Kitchen shears are the right tool for removing the backbone of the chicken, but if you don’t happen to own any, a sharp chef’s knife will do the trick. Stand the chicken on its wishbone with the breasts facing away from you and the legs reaching for the ceiling. Carefully cut down one side of the backbone from top to bottom; repeat on the other side of the backbone, and then remove it. Last, flatten the bird by pressing down hard with both hands on the breast halves.

Combine the lemon zest and juice, salt and garlic in a shallow pan just large enough to hold the bird, whisking until the salt has dissolved. Whisk in the oil, then use the mixture to coat the chicken all over. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours, turning it over several times.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Transfer the chicken to a large, rimmed baking sheet. Pour the marinade over the bird through a fine-mesh strainer (to avoid burnt garlic bits). Roast (middle rack) for 35 minutes or until the meat is firm to the touch and the skin is golden brown. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the fat/juices from the baking sheet and transfer the chicken to a platter to rest for 15 minutes before carving.

Meanwhile, make the potato pancake: Toss the potatoes with the rosemary, salt and pepper. Heat half the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Distribute the grated potato evenly on the bottom of the skillet, pressing down firmly to form one large pancake. Reduce the heat to medium; cook for about 15 minutes, pressing on it occasionally with a spatula, until golden brown. Slide the pancake onto a baking sheet or a platter. Invert the skillet over a baking sheet and quickly invert to return the potato pancake, browned side up, to the skillet.

Add the remaining oil around the edges; cook for about 10 minutes, pressing down occasionally with the spatula until browned on the second side. It can be prepared up to this point and kept off heat until it is time to finish the chicken and then reheated over medium heat for about 3 minutes per side.

For the mushrooms: While the chicken is resting, heat the 2 tablespoons of reserved fat/juices in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, then stir in the mushrooms and the pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender.

Add the wine and increase the heat to medium-high; once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until most of the wine has evaporated. Add the broth and the juices from the resting chicken; cook until the liquid has reduced by half. Taste and season with salt and/or pepper, as needed.

Cut the chicken into pieces for serving. Divide the potato pancake into 4 equal wedges and place one on each plate. Top with a portion of chicken, then spoon some of the mushrooms and pan sauce over the top. Serve warm.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Slow Cooker Baked Potato Soup

I've covered Baked Potato Soup a few times before on this blog, namely here, here, and here.  But we're always on the lookout for variety, it being the spice of life and all that.  From Gimme Some Oven via BuzzFeed.

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