Monday, September 29, 2014

Salted Caramel Apple Hand Pies

Hey Mrs. BA - A candidate for next year's bakeoff? From Just a Taste

Salted Caramel Apple Hand Pies
Yield: Makes 10 (3-inch) hand pies
Prep Time: 1 hour (includes chilling)
Cook Time: 15 min

For the dough:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes 
  • 1/2 cup cold sour cream 
For the filling:
  • 2 cups small diced (peeled) Granny Smith apples (See Kelly's Notes) 
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1/4 cup sugar 
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour 
  • 8 store-bought soft caramels, roughly chopped 
  • Large flake sea salt (See Kelly's Notes) 
  • Egg wash (1 egg lightly whisked with 1 Tablespoon water) 
  • Crystal sanding sugar (optional) 

Make the dough: 
Whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl.

Add the cubed butter to the bowl and use your fingers to work the butter into the flour until the mixture is the consistency of wet sand.

Stir in the sour cream (the dough will be very wet), and then turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface.

Knead the dough a few times until it comes together, adding more flour, 1 teaspoon at a time, if the dough is too sticky to handle. Roll the dough into an 8x10-inch rectangle and dust both sides with flour before folding it into thirds as if you were folding a letter.

Rotate the dough 90º and roll it out again into an 8x10-inch rectangle. Fold the dough again into thirds then wrap it securely in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes while you make the filling.

Make the filling:
In a small bowl, combine the apples, lemon juice, cinnamon, sugar and flour, stirring until thoroughly mixed. Set aside.

Assemble the pies:
Preheat the oven to 425ºF.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and unfold it onto a well-floured surface, rolling it out to a 14x14-inch square. (See Kelly's Notes.)

Using a 3-inch circular cookie cutter or cup, cut out as many circles as possible. Re-roll the scraps and continue cutting out circles until you run out of dough, ensuring you end up with an even number of circles. (You should have approximately 20 3-inch circles.)

Place six of the dough circles on a Silpat or parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Spoon a small portion of the apple filling into the center of each circle, leaving enough of a border around the filling. Top the apple filling with a portion of the chopped caramels and a pinch of sea salt. Place a second dough circle atop each filled circle then use a fork to crimp the edges together, sealing each pie.

Brush each pie with the egg wash, and using a sharp knife, cut two or three vents on the top of each pie. Sprinkle the pies with crystal sanding sugar (optional).

Bake the pies for about 15 minutes, or until they're golden brown.

Remove the pies from the oven and allow them to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Repeat the filling and baking process with the remaining dough circles.

Kelly's Notes: 
  • The cubed apples should be no larger than the size of corn kernels to ensure they become tender during the quick 15-minute bake time. 
  • Large flake sea salt is available in most supermarkets. My preferred brand is Maldon Salt. 
  • If the dough is too firm to work with after refrigerating, allow it to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before cutting out the circular shapes. 
  • If the sour cream in the dough makes it too sticky at any point in the rolling out process, just simply sprinkle a pinch of flour atop the wet areas and continue rolling.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Day Off to Golf!

The Brave Astronaut is taking the day off tomorrow to golf in the annual St. Ambrose Men's Club Golf Tournament.  This will be the first time all year that I have swung a golf club as I have been suffering from a pinched nerve in my neck since the end of March.  I have been through a variety of treatments, including seeing my chiropractor regularly (whose playing in the tournament with me today, which may be a good thing), an orthopedist, physical therapy, and most recently acupuncture (I had a treatment just today - to be ready for tomorrow).

I have had back pain since 1985, when, as a Senior in High School, I broke my leg.  As a result, I started to walk differently and threw out my back.  After the initial examination, it was determined that I don't have a fully developed L5 vertebrae (I know, you're jealous).

So here's a list of "21 Struggles People With Back Pain Know to be True."  Here's hoping that I can get through 18 holes tomorrow.
  1. You’re on a first name basis with your chiropractor - well, I am.
  2. You know what good posture is, but can’t make yourself use it regularly
  3. Heated back pads are a lifesaver
  4. The icy-warm of tingle of pain cream is such a relief … 
  5. … But you can’t stand the way it smells.
  6. Your medicine cabinet is like a who’s who of painkillers and muscle relaxers.
  7. And you’ve gone on a “trip” or gotten queasy when you’ve taken them on an empty stomach.
  8. Kinesio tape has become an art form to you, but damn if it doesn’t itch after a couple of days.
  9. Electrotherapy makes you look and feel like a cyborg.
  10. You have found out the hard way that massages can be anything but relaxing.
  11. You’ve had a head rush from spinal decompression exercises.
  12. After a while you can pretty much read your own x-ray.
  13. You’ve tried every type of stretch. Flexibility can help relieve pain.
  14. You’ve even tried less traditional methods to get more flexible.
  15. Over time you’ve learned to embrace your back brace.
  16. MRI machines always make you feel claustrophobic.
  17. You know firsthand that the hardest part about falling down is getting back up.
  18. You even tried alternative treatments, in spite of how painful they look.
  19. You get strange looks at work when sitting in a pain-free position.
  20. You wouldn’t even dream of picking up something heavy off the ground.
  21. After icing your back daily, an ice bucket challenge looks like child’s play.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Creamy Greek Noodle Soup

LBA was just mentioning the other day that he wouldn't mind seeing soup as a main meal more often.  Mrs. BA makes an outstanding baked potato soup and outdid herself with several varieties when the parish Men's Club sponsored "Soup and Stations" one Friday during Lent.

I've previously posted of my love for Avgolemono Soup.  Here's a similar soup that would probably go over well at the Launchpad, despite the fact that if we're eating soup, it's probably cool and that's going to just make Mrs. BA mad.

From the Washington Post Food section, September 17, 2014

Creamy Greek Noodle Soup

  • 1 large carrot 
  • 1/2 small onion 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • Kosher salt 
  • Freshly ground black pepper 
  • 4 cups homemade or no-salt-added chicken broth 
  • 1 cup thin dried egg noodles (sometimes called soup noodles) 
  • 1 lemon 
  • 2 large eggs 
  • One 4-to-6-ounce chunk cooked boneless, skinless turkey breast (may substitute cooked chicken) 
  • Handful fresh dill 

Cut the carrot and onion into small dice; piling them together is okay.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, stir in the vegetables. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes or until the carrots have softened.

Increase the heat to medium-high; add the broth and bring to a boil, then stir in the noodles. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes, until the noodles are almost done (al dente), then reduce the heat to low. Taste, and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Cut the lemon in half. Squeeze the juice, without any seeds, into a medium heatproof bowl. Whisk in the eggs until the mixture is smooth and well blended. Gradually ladle about 1/2 cup of the broth mixture into the egg-lemon mixture, whisking to incorporate and temper it. (It’s okay if a few noodles sneak in.) Gradually ladle in another 1/2 cup. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

Drizzle the tempered egg-lemon mixture into the saucepan of broth and noodles, whisking constantly for 2 minutes. The soup should come together and look creamy.

Shred the turkey or cut it into bite-size chunks. Finely chop the dill. Add both to the soup. Taste, and add a final pinch each of salt and pepper as needed.

Divide among individual bowls. Serve warm.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The most prolific and king of horror - Stephen King

Today marks the 67th birthday of the King of Horror, Stephen King.  I have long been a fan of the Maineac author - having read my first King novel, Salem's Lot, while on vacation in Maine.  Needless to say, I did not sleep well that week.

According to BuzzFeed in identifying the "11 Essential Stephen King books, notes that  "Stephen King is one of the most prolific authors in the world, with more than 50 books in print, and more coming out every year . . . So many people criticize King, without even realizing that they enjoyed movies that were written by him: Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and Stand By Me, for example . . . Good luck, and happy reading." (My comments in italics)
  1. The Stand -  For me, the writing of Stephen King starts and ends with The Stand. It is an epic, post-apocalyptic horror story that begins with “Captain Trips,” a deadly virus, and ends with a massive showdown, good vs. evil — the last stand. I can still remember the opening scene, the family running from the medical facility, crashing into a gas station, miles away — handing the story to the immune Stu Redman. It’s a big book, the uncut version clocking in at 1,100 pages, but it needs to be this big. We have so many storylines to follow, people to root for, and miles to cover, crossing the United States, one horrific moment after another. We root for Mother Abigail, the spiritual leader; Larry Underwood, the rock star; Nick Andros, a deaf man from the Midwest; and Frannie Goldsmith, a teenager. We meet the “Trashcan Man” and of course, the dark spirit, Randall Flagg. While people often list The Stand, The Shining, or It as his best work, if I had to pick one as my favorite, it has to be The Stand. This story is a rollercoaster ride of tension and hope, a beautiful narrative that left me in tears. I tend to keep books around and while I have excessed some of the King books out of my library - this one is and will always be on my shelf.
  2. The Shining - Due to the famous film by Stanley Kubrick, and the performance of Jack Nicholson, this may be King’s most well-known book. I recently re-read it for the first time in 30 years and it still holds up. And the ending, the father-son story — I can see why King hated Kubrick’s version; it lacked so much heart. Where The Stand holds tension over 1,100 pages, The Shining is an exploration of one man, Jack Torrance, falling apart, losing his mind to the Overlook Hotel, and the abuse and suffering that his family endures. I wondered, when I re-read this, if it would still scare me — and you know what, it did! And the same places, too — those damn hedge animals. This is really a classic King title, and one that puts the vulnerable Danny Torrance (REDRUM! REDRUM!) front and center, while also flipping back and forth between the quickly eroding mind of Jack, and the worrisome, helpless mother, Wendy. This is an iconic book, another essential King read.  I have seen the movie, but can't confirm that I have read the book.
  3. It - Another massive book, also over 1,100 pages, It is another favorite King book of mine. It introduces us to the horror that lurks in the sewers of Derry, Maine, and a creepy clown known as Pennywise. We follow a cast of misfits, “The Losers Club,” first as children, and then later, as adults. What’s the line? “We all float down here.” Not only does King build on the vulnerability of a handful of kids trying to fight and defeat a terrible presence after the disappearance and eventual death of Georgie Denbrough, but King makes them come back to face the evil as adults. There has always been some controversy over the “bonding scene” between Beverly and the boys, with many fans saying it put them off the book altogether, but I never saw it that way — more like soldiers surviving a war, a blood oath and bond that could never be severed. It’s dark for sure, though.  I have read the book and have seen the movie and fully commiserate with those who hate clowns.
  4. The Dead Zone - I think what draws me to this book over many other King titles is the noble, but complicated, cause of Johnny Smith. Imagine if you were this man, or if you knew him, and he said that certain events were going to transpire? That the president, or some other politician, was going to cause the end of the world through his selfish acts? You’d say he was crazy, right? So we root for Johnny, because we know he’s telling the truth, we know the obstacles he’s up against, and we want to see him win. And of course anything involving luck, the occult, or any sort of supernatural powers is always a fascinating read. We feel for Johnny when his fiancée moves on; we see the sad, sordid life he’s living, and we feel sympathy, empathy. And in the end, he is the hero, and we’re one of the few who know about his secret. And that’s part of King’s appeal, sometimes, that he lets us peek behind the curtain, lets us know about what dark magic is happening in the shadows. It’s also one hell of a good movie, starring Christopher Walken. And Martin Sheen as a crazy President, years before West Wing.  This book is very well done and the movie version is true to the book.
  5. The Long Walk - This is such an original book. Long before The Hunger Games, there was The Long Walk. Originally written under his pseudonym, Richard Bachman, King’s The Long Walk first came out in paperback but was later collected in The Bachman Books. Part reinstated draft, part lottery, much like in It, King uses the vulnerability of youth in 100 young boys to show us a dark and horrific story, where only one boy will survive. And that’s part of what makes it such a compelling read, right? From the very beginning, we know they are all going to die, all but one. Who do we root for? Who do we hate? There are so many kids to know, with Raymond Garraty as the protagonist. Over time, we get to know their stories, and everything changes. There are odds on the contestants; a heavy favorite is married; one may be the son of the Major, the man who runs the event; another, a loner, has alienated everyone but Ray; a group of the boys form “The Musketeers”— the plot getting more and more complicated, and heartbreaking, as the story unfolds. It’s a powerful book that’s sometimes overlooked when talking about Stephen King. And it’s a thin one, only a few hundred pages!  Because they were "hidden" for a while before it was revealed who Richard Bachman was, I am not sure if I have read this - but I probably have.
  6. Pet Sematary - This starts out, as many of King’s books do, as a sweet, innocent story, with a family moving to the country. But even though they are surrounded by nature and kind neighbors, it doesn’t take long for the horror to creep in — in the woods and the highway that runs so close by the house, where a pet or child might easily wander out into the rumbling semis and speeding cars. King likes to ask a lot of “what if” questions in his books as he chases the rabbit down the hole. And this story is no exception. If memory serves me correctly this novel has some pretty intense sex scenes, which King usually avoids, and that offsets the darkness and violence — there’s plenty of that, don’t worry. It’s definitely one of his creepiest books. When you ask yourself what lengths you would go to for your family, to fix things, to undo a horrible accident, do you have limits? King doesn’t. Now, as a father, this book is sort of off limits for me.  But I remember reading it (and seeing the movie).
  7. Salem’s Lot - I thought about leaving this book off the list just because vampires have been so overdone lately, but then I remembered that this book was written in 1975, and that it’s one of my favorite vampire novels, so I had to include it. I love the way King takes a classic monster, or situation, and places it in a contemporary setting. What WOULD it look like if vampires existed now, in contemporary society? What if children started to disappear? The tension in this book is palpable, using the small town and isolation to his benefit (as he often would over the years) as well as a small band of good-hearted people who are striving to protect their own, to right a wrong. These vampires do not sparkle — they are violent, eternal, and terrifying.  As noted earlier, this was the first King book I read, and I was hooked . . . and scared to death.
  8. Needful Things - This one may surprise a lot of people, and it may not make a lot of lists, but it always fascinated me. Once again King masters the small-town life, tapping into the hopes and dreams of wholesome, simple people. But there are so many secrets, so many wishes, and so many debts to be paid. And as those wishes are granted, more base desires bubble to the surface — jealousies, resentments, and hatred. The tension that King builds for the first 250 pages increases, layer upon layer, until the satisfying climax, at the end of another mammoth 1,000-page book. This was deemed “the last Castle Rock story,” and it definitely ends with a bang. Being a King fan, you learn to invest in sturdy bookshelves, that’s for sure.  Castle Rock features so prominently in King's books and this one did not disappoint.
  9. Night Shift - I had to include one of King’s short story collections, and when I look at the stories that are in this collection, his first, it’s just packed full of some of his best short fiction. Many of these stories were first published in “men’s magazines” such as Cavalier, Penthouse, and Gallery — which is where a lot of authors got started back then; it’s how they paid their rent. “Night Surf” would go on to become The Stand. Obviously, “Jerusalem’s Lot” has ties to Salem’s Lot. And, many people, when selecting their favorite King story ever, mention some that are in here: “Quitters, Inc.,” “I Am the Doorway,” and “I Know What You Need.” Also, several of these stories were later made into feature length films, as well: The Lawnmower Man, Children of the Corn, Cat’s Eye, Maximum Overdrive, Graveyard Shift, and The Mangler. When it came out, it also included FOUR previously unpublished short stories, which is kind of unheard of. While all of his short story collections are worth picking up, this is my favorite, possibly because it was my first collection of his. King has since gone on to place stories in the best magazines and journals around — the Paris Review, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, etc. I don't know if I would have included this collection, if we are picking a short story collection, I definitely go with #10
  10. Different Seasons - Part of what makes this collection of four novellas so interesting is the very fact that King focused on the often ignored and underappreciated novella. These four novellas have gone on to garner a lot of attention. “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” became one of the most loved movies of all time, and was nominated for an Academy Award. “Apt Pupil” also went on to become a major motion picture. And in case you forgot, “The Body” became the movie Stand By Me, another very well known, and loved, film. For those that think King is a windbag, going on way too long, this may be the book for you. It’s got more substance than a short story collection; you have more time with each of the stories and characters, but you could also finish off an entire novella in a few hours. But really, it’s always about the writing, right? Don’t worry about the length. This is a fantastic collection of stories, and another essential King book.  When you look at the stories here and see what they went on to become, that's why this one belongs on the list.
  11. The Dark Tower series - BOOKS: The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger (1982); The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three (1987); The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands (1991); The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass (1997); The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla (2003); The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah (2004); The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower (2004); The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole (2012). Yes, I cheated and included all eight books as my 11th selection. It’s hard to know where to even start with this series. What I do know is that the opening line to The Gunslinger is one that has stayed with me since I first read it some 25 years ago: “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” Gives me chills just to say it — it always does. If The Stand was an epic novel, this is so much more, an expansive universe that touches on so MANY of King’s other books as well. How’s it go? “All things serve the beam.” Inspired by the poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” by Robert Browning, it starts with a lonely gunslinger, Roland Deschain, a man with a mission, and many secrets. Along the way his group, his ka-tet, expands to include Jake Chambers, Eddie Dean, Susannah Dean, and the bumbler (a kind of dog-like thing), Oy. They are on a mission to find the tower, and to save the world by defeating The Man in Black (who has many different forms) and The Crimson King. Roland is the last living member of a knightly order known as gunslingers and the last of the line of “Arthur Eld,” his world’s analogue of King Arthur. This is such a unique mix of genres that it’s really hard to compare it anything. There have always been those who mention the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I suppose there is that. Many have said that Roland resembles “the man with no name,” a Clint Eastwood character, and I see that as well. King has described it as his “magnum opus,” which simply means “great work,” and I think that’s accurate as well. This series is brilliant. I’ve never cared so much about so many different fictional characters, have never been so invested, have never cried so hard or so often while reading something. When they released the eighth book, a side story, many years after the seventh (and supposedly last) book came out, I gobbled it up in one day. That’s the kind of passion King creates in his fans, the kind of spell he casts.  I never got into this series. 
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Misery, Carrie, The Talisman, Black House, Firestarter, Doctor Sleep, The Eyes of the Dragon, 11/22/63, The Green Mile, Under the Dome, Dolores Claiborne, and, of course, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (non-fiction).

Now go and take this quiz to see if you are as crazy as me about Stephen King.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

100 Best Animated Movies

Tomorrow night will, of course, be pizza/movie night at the Launchpad.  Last week (as there is most weeks) there was discussion as to what movie we should watch.  At one point in the negotiations, SoBA noted that he's only allowed to watch animated movies. LBA, Mrs. BA, and I all called him out on it - then we watched Star Wars.

Here's a list from Time Out of the 100 best animated movies.  If the Brave Astronaut clan has seen the film, I've noted that in my comments.  How many have you seen? (via kottke)
100. Peter Pan (Disney, 1953) - this is a little disappointing having this at the bottom of the list.  Of the Disney classics on this list, I've seen most if not all, but the boys haven't yet - in some cases, they seen (by request) the lesser sequels to some of the Disney films.
99. Millennium Actress (anime, 2001) - I don't have a lot of exposure to the anime genre - and haven't seen the majority, if not all of the ones on this list.
98. Feherlofia (1981)
97. Perfect Blue (anime, 1997)
96. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (anime, 1984)
95. Little Otik (2000)
94. Night on the Galactic Railroad (1985) - it's got cats in it, but I've not seen it
93. Kirijou and the Sorceress (1998)
92. James and the Giant Peach (1996) - the boys may have seen this, but I don't recall seeing it
91. Gulliver's Travels (1939) - I've seen this, but the boys have not
90. Goodbye Mr. Christie (2011) - it may be animated, but it's not a kid's film
89. ParaNorman (2012) - the boys have seen this
88. Ernest & Celestine (2012)
87. Bugs Bunny / Road Runner Movie (1979) - a timeless classic and one the boys have seen as I too have
86. The Tale of the Fox (1930) - the world's first feature-length stop-motion animation
85. Coonskin (1975) - another cartoon, but not a kid's movie
84. Castle in the Sky (anime, 1976)
83. Ghost in the Shell (anime, 1995)
82. Alice in Wonderland (1951) - I've seen it, of course
81. Robin Hood (1973) - Also seen by me
80. The Lord of the Rings (1978) - I've not seen the "real films" and have a vague recollection of having seen parts of this animated version of the book
79. The King and the Mockingbird (1980)
78. Kung Fu Panda (2008) - this is one of those ones that we've all seen and the boys have also exposed themselves to the sequels, though most, if not all of them are never as good as the first
77. Faust (1994) - a blend of both live-action and animation
76. Coraline (2009) - I think the boys have seen this
75. Paprika (2006)
74. Heavy Traffic (1973) - as noted in the description, "A grubby New York City, a murderous cast of characters and plenty of off-color jokes — Walt would not approve."
73. Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (anime, 2004)
72. The Lion King (Disney, 1994) - Hakuna Matata, baby!
71. Rango (2011) - we went through a phase where we watched this, a lot.
70. Pom Poko (anime, 1994)
69. Porco Rosso (anime, 1992)
68. Aladdin (Disney, 1992) - with the unfortunate departure of the "Genie" from this world, I'm trying to get this onto the movie night calendar.
67. Frozen (2013) - Mrs. BA took the boys to see this (or maybe it was my MIL), all I know is that it wasn't me - thank God
66. Sleeping Beauty (Disney, 1959)
65. Neon Genesis Evangelion: the End of Evangelion (anime, 1997)
64. King Kong (1933) - B&W stop-action classic
63. Jason and the Argonauts (1963) - Argo F*&K yourself, oh wait, that's a different movie
62. Heaven and Earth Magic (1962)
61. Only Yesterday (anime, 1991)
60. Kiki's Delivery Service (anime, 1989)
59. Animal Farm (1954) - I actually saw this in school as part of an English class, where we had read the book
58. The Illusionist (2010)
57. Lady and the Tramp (Disney, 1955)
56. Wreck-it-Ralph (2012) - the Brave Astronaut clan owns this movie
55. Whisper of the Heart (anime, 1955)
54. Tangled (Disney, 2010) - we've also all seen this movie
53. Mind Game (anime, 2004)
52. Tokyo Godfathers (anime, 2003)
51. Sita Sings the Blues (2008)
50. Fritz the Cat (1972) - another film that had Walt Disney turning in his grave
49. The Lego Movie (2014) - don't be such a bon vivant - of course, we've seen this movie!
48. The Castle of Cagliostro (anime, 1979)
47. Allegro Non Troppo (1976) - a Fantasia knockoff
46. Waltz with Bashir (2008)
45. Monsters, Inc. (2001) - a very popular film at the launchpad
44. The Little Mermaid (1989) - I think the boys have seen this
43. Cinderella (1950)
42. Mary and Max (2009)
41. The Secret of Nimh (1982) - I've seen this, and have proposed it to the boys, but got no interest - it also violates the rat/mouse move embargo in place by Mrs. BA
40. When the Wind Blows (1986)
39. Walking Life (2001)
38. Consuming Spirits (2012)
37. How to Train Your Dragon (2012) - enjoyed by both LBA and SoBA
36. Wall-E (2008) - I've not seen this, but the boys have
35. Chicken Run (2000) - this has been played at the launchpad
34. The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926)
33. Beauty and the Beast (1991) - one of my favorites
32. Toy Story 3 (2010) - just don't make me watch the end, again
31. Finding Nemo (2003) - just keep swimming, just keep swimming
30. Toy Story 2 (1999) - I would actually swap 2 and 3
29. The Jungle Book (Disney, 1967) - I got the boys to watch this recently
28. Princess Mononoke (anime, 1997)
27. Watership Down (1978) - a borderline not for kids move, it's very powerful
26. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999) - never.
25. Persepolis (2007)
24. Bambi (Disney, 1942) - stay out of the meadow, Bambi!
23. 101 Dalmatians (Disney, 1961) - one of my most favorite Disney classics
22. The Triplets of Belleville (2003)
21. Fantastic Planet (1973)
20. Up (2009) - Squirrel!
19. Ratatouille (2007) - I like this one a lot, too
18. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) - I showed this to the boys recently, they seemed to enjoy it, but not as much as I did when I first saw it.
17. Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) - we've seen at least one of the W&G movies, but I don't recall if it was this one.
16. It's Such a Beautiful Day (2012)
15. Grave of the Fireflies (anime, 1988)
14. Akira (anime, 1988)
13. Fantasia (Disney, 1940)
12. Alice (1988)
11. Yellow Submarine (1968) - I think the boys could watch this, though not in the state that most have probably watched this movie.
10. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) - seen by both boys (I've seen parts of this also)
9. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) - Tim Burton, not for me.
8. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Disney, 1937)
7. The Iron Giant (1999) - I think LBA has seen this
6. Dumbo (Disney, 1941) - I still have trouble watching this one, though most of the Disney films start off with this tragic beginning, for some reason, this one is the most emotional for me.
5. The Incredibles (2004) - enjoyed by all at the Launchpad
4. Toy Story (1995)
3. My Neighbor Totoro (anime, 1988)
2. Spirited Away (anime, 2001)
1. Pinocchio (Disney, 1940)
In my opinion, missing from the list:
  • Cars
  • Pocahontas
  • A Bug's Life
  • The Aristocats
  • The Fox and the Hound
  • Winnie the Pooh
  • I would even cast a vote for Mary Poppins, though primarily a live-action film

Monday, September 15, 2014

Coffee-Caramel Creme Brulee

Hey, I own a torch.  I like coffee.  Why aren't I eating this?  From this list on BuzzFeed of coffee desserts.  There's lots of other yummy desserts here, this one is the best of the bunch, imo.

Coffee-Caramel Creme Brulee
from Bon Appetit

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided 
  • 1/4 cup dark-roast coffee beans (such as French roast; about 3/4 ounce), crushed with mallet in plastic bag 
  • 1 cup sugar, divided 
  • 1/2 cup water 
  • 2 cups half and half 
  • 8 large egg yolks 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 8 teaspoons raw sugar* 
Bring 1 cup cream and coffee beans to simmer in heavy small saucepan. Remove from heat; cover and let steep at least 20 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 325°F. Stir 2/3 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush. Boil without stirring until syrup is deep amber, swirling pan occasionally, about 11 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Add remaining 1 cup whipping cream (mixture will bubble up). Stir over low heat until caramel is smooth. Stir in half and half. Strain coffee-infused cream into caramel cream; discard coffee beans in strainer.

Whisk yolks, salt, and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in cream mixture. Strain custard into large measuring cup.

Arrange eight 2/3- to 3/4-cup ramekins or custard cups in roasting pan. Divide custard among ramekins. Add enough warm water to roasting pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins or custard cups.

Bake custards until just set in center, 65 to 70 minutes. Transfer custards from water bath directly to refrigerator. Chill uncovered until cold, at least 3 hours and up to 1 day.

Sprinkle top of each custard with 1 teaspoon raw sugar. Using kitchen torch, melt sugar on each custard until deep amber. (Alternatively, preheat broiler. Arrange custards on small rimmed baking sheet; broil until sugar topping melts and browns, about 2 minutes.) Refrigerate custards until sugar topping hardens, at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour (do not chill longer than 1 hour or topping will start to soften). Serve custards cold.

*Also called turbinado or demerara sugar; available at most supermarkets and at natural foods stores.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

To Remember

Today our nation will pause, as it has done for the past thirteen years, to remember, to reflect.

The events of September 11, 2001 are seared in our minds.  On that particular day, I left for work, dropped my car off for service, and when I picked it up that afternoon, the world had changed.  Each year since starting this blog, I have posted to remember the day.  Feel free to go back and read the previous posts:
Take a minute today.  Take several minutes.  Remember. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Banana Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

SoBA is after me to produce some more banana bread.  Think he would notice if I make this substitution?  From averiecooks

Banana Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins (vegan)
Baking with zucchini keeps everything so soft, moist, and you can't taste it. The muffins taste like banana bread. The one-bowl, no-mixer muffins are vegan and healthy. No butter, no eggs, the chocolate chips are solely sprinkled on top, and they're made with coconut oil. It adds a nearly imperceptible undertone that’s sweeter and more fragrant than canola or vegetable oil, but substitute if you’d like. Between the softening powers of coconut oil, the creamy bananas that add tenderness, and the moisture-enhancing powers of zucchini, these are some of the softest and moistest muffins. They continue to get softer as the days pass, and the flavors marry together and tasted better the second day. You'll never complain about eating your vegetables after these muffins. 

Yield: about 11 medium/large muffins
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: about 18 minutes, note reduction in oven temp after 10 minutes
Total Time: about 40 minutes, for cooling

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar 
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted (vegetable or canola oil may be substituted) 
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed 
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened vanilla almond milk (coconut, soy, rice, cow's milk may be substituted) 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1 cup ripe mashed bananas (about 2 small/medium bananas) 
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded zucchini, measured loosely laid in cup (not packed in or squeezed; about 1 medium zucchini, I didn't peel it) 
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder 
  • pinch salt, optional and to taste 
  • about 11 teaspoons mini semi-sweet chocolate chips divided, about 1 teaspoon for each muffin (regular-sized chips may be substituted)

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Spray a Non-Stick 12-Cup Regular Muffin Pan very well with floured cooking spray or grease and flour the pan; set aside. (I don't prefer the cosmetic look of muffin liners and I am not sure if the paper will stick to the muffins). 
  2. To a large bowl, add the first 6 ingredients, through cinnamon, and whisk to combine. 
  3. Add the bananas and whisk to combine. 
  4. Before adding the zucchini, put it in a paper towel and squeeze tightly for about 10 seconds to remove some moisture. After squeezing, you should have about 3/4 cup of compacted shreds. Add zucchini to bowl and stir to incorporate. 
  5. Add the flour, baking powder, optional salt and stir until just combined; don't overmix. 
  6. Using a large cookie scoop, 1/4-cup measure, or spoon, turn batter out into prepared pan, noting that the recipe yields 11 muffins. If I try to make 12 given my muffin pan, the muffins are too skimpy but pans vary. Each cavity should be filled to about 3/4 full, but not exceeding or batter could overflow. 
  7. Sprinkle the top of each muffin generously with mini chocolate chips, about 1 teaspoon each. 
  8. Bake at 400F for 10 minutes, reduce oven temp to 350F and bake for 8 minutes, or until muffins are set, domed, golden, and a toothpick comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter. Allow muffins to cool in pan for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until they've firmed up and are cool enough to handle. It's normal for muffin tops to be flatten as they cool. Muffins will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 6 months. I find the muffins get softer over time and taste better on days 2-3 after the flavors have married.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Grilled Rack of Lamb

Today is Labor Day.  The unofficial end of Summer.  But my grill sees year round work.  I've even made leg of lamb on the grill when the oven died one Easter.  Labor Day is the day usually set aside for that one last cookout with friends and family.  But if I'm making this . . . it might just be me.  OK, me and Mrs. BA.  Maybe LBA and SoBA.  Maybe.  We did have Mr. C in DC's outstanding Brazilian Beef Ribs on Saturday evening - so the grill quota is good.  And yesterday, we took in many fried fair foods at the Maryland State Fair.  Recipe from Spoon Fork Bacon

Easy Grilled Rack of Lamb with a Creamy Feta-Horseradish Sauce 
Serves 3 to 4
Creamy Feta-Horseradish Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup crème fraiche 
  • 2 ounces feta, crumbled 
  • 2 tablespoon buttermilk (optional) 
  • 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper 
  • pinch of sea salt 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced thyme 
  • 1 teaspoon minced marjoram (oregano is fine) 
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced rosemary 
  • 1 rack of American lamb 

  1. Preheat grill to 375˚F. (over high heat)
  2. For the sauce: Place all ingredients into a food processor and whip until smooth. Adjust seasonings and set aside. 
  3. French the ribs of the rack (unless you’ve already had a butcher do so for you) and wrap the tips of each rib with about an inch of aluminum foil.
  4. Place the thyme, oregano and rosemary into a small bowl and toss together. Set aside. 
  5. Once the grill is hot, brush both the rack and grill with extra virgin olive oil and generously season the rack with herb mix, salt and pepper, on both sides.
  6. Place rack on the grill, fat side down and sear for about 4 minutes. Flip the rack and continue to sear for 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the flames to medium and cover the grill. Allow the rack to grill with the cover closed, for about 6 to 8 minutes (keeping a close eye out for flame ups), uncover the grill allow the rack to continue to cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. This will give you medium to medium-rare results. For a medium to medium-well rack of lamb, keep grill cover closed for 8 to 10 minutes. 
  7. Remove from heat and transfer the lamb onto a cutting board and loosely cover with foil. Allow the lamb to rest for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
  8. Serve rack with sauce and roasted radishes.