Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2016 - You Suck

On so many levels, this was not a good year.  I know that I don't have to tell you all that.  But with the announcement of the death of Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher, today, December 27, this was a year that sucked, truly.  Let's hope that they didn't know something we didn't about 2017.

Here's a list of deaths that significantly impacted me over the past year.  Unfortunately, this list is by no means comprehensive.

  • Harper Lee, 89 (February)
  • Edward Albee, 88 (September)
  • W. P. Kinsella, 81 (September) - author of the story that became Field of Dreams
  • Beth Howland, 74 (December 2015) - Vera from Alice
  • Wayne Rogers, 82 (December 2015) - Trapper John McIntyre from MASH
  • Pat Harrington, 86 (January) - Schneider from One Day at a Time
  • Dan Haggerty, 74 (January) - Grizzly Adams 
  • Abe Vigoda, 94 (January) - Detective Fish from Barney Miller 
  • Larry Drake, 66 (March) - Benny from LA Law
  • James Noble, 94 (March) - the Governor from Benson, but for me he's the Rev. John Witherspoon from 1776
  • Patty Duke, 69 (March)
  • Garry Shandling, 66 (March)
  • Doris Roberts, 90 (April) - the matriarch from Everybody Loves Raymond
  • Morley Safer, 84 (May) - 60 Minutes legend
  • Garry Marshall, 81 (July)
  • Florence Henderson, 82 (November) - Mrs. Brady helped raise me.
  • Ron Glass, 71 (November) - from Barney Miller
  • Grant Tinker, 90 (November) - Mr. Mary Tyler Moore
  • Alan Thicke, 69 (December)
  • Alan Rickman, 69 (January) - for me, he's always Hans
  • David Margulies, 78 (January) - the Mayor in Ghostbusters
  • George Kennedy, 88 (February)
  • Anton Yelchin, 27 (June) - the new Chekov from the Star Trek reboot
  • Gene Wilder, 83 (August) - the one and only Willy Wonka
  • Zsa Zsa Gabor, 99 (December)
  • Robert Vaughn, 83 (November) - I've listed him under movies for his role in The Towering Inferno (he dies in that one, too)
  • Bernard Fox, 89 (December) - you know him from a lot of TV and movies.  I just saw him the other night on Big Jake, one of my favorite John Wayne films
  • Carrie Fisher, 60 (December)
  • Natalie Cole, 65 (December 2015)
  • David Bowie, 69 (January)
  • Glenn Frey, 67 (January)
  • Frank Sinatra, Jr., 72 (March)
  • Merle Haggard, 79 (April)
  • Prince, 57 (April)
  • Kay Starr, 94 (November) - legendary jazz singer
  • Leonard Cohen, 82 (November)
  • George Michael, 53 (December)
  • Meadowlark Lemon, 83 (December 2015) - star of the Harlem Globetrotters
  • Andy Bathgate, 83 (February) - legendary New York Ranger
  • Muhammad Ali, 74 (June)
  • Joe Garagiola, 74 (March)
  • Gordie Howe, 88 (June) - Mr. Hockey
  • Pat Summitt, 64 (June)
  • Arnold Palmer, 87 (September) - Mr. Golf
  • Ralph Branca, 90 (November) - Brooklyn Dodgers player
  • Craig Sager, 65 (December) - sports announcer
  • Boutros-Boutros-Ghali, 81 (February) - former United Nations Secretary General
  • Nancy Reagan, 94 (March)
  • Elie Wiesel, 87 (July)
  • John McLaughlin, 89 (August) - founder of the McLaughlin Group
  • Phyllis Schlafly, 92 (September)
  • Shimon Peres, 93 (September)
  • Tom Hayden, 76 (October) - among other things, he was married to Jane Fonda
  • Janet Reno, 78 (November)
  • Gwen Ifill, 61 (November)
  • Fidel Castro, 90 (November) - finally
  • John Glenn, 95 (December)
  • American Democracy, 226 (November)

Monday, December 26, 2016

Roasted Potatoes

My grandmother used to make the perfect roasted potato.  My mother used to try and make them but they always fell apart.  My mother once watched closely as my grandmother made them - and still couldn't get it right.

Perhaps this recipe will get me there. My grandmother (and mother) used to make them like this in a dutch oven, I think it's the shaking and the fat that make them that much better..  And now that the Launchpad has a new oven, I bet they will come out even better.  Recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini.

Perfect Roasted Potatoes
Prep Time: 10 minutes 
Cook Time: 35 minutes 
Total Time: 45 minutes 
Serves 4

  • 1.2 kilos (2 1/2 pounds) potatoes (waxy or floury -- both types will work equally well) 
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or duck fat 
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt 
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary (optional) 
  • Preheat the oven to 210°C (410°F).
  • If your potatoes are smooth-skinned, scrub them well and peel them in alternative stripes so that strips of skin remain. If, on the other hand, the skin of your potatoes is rugged and grainy, peel it off completely (no need to scrub) then rinse the potatoes well in cold water. 
  • Cut the potatoes into even chunks, about 2 cm (3/4 inch) in width. Place them in a saucepan large enough to accommodate them, cover with cold water, and add 1 teaspoon coarse salt. Set over high heat, cover, bring to a low boil, then lower the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. 
  • As soon as the water boils, pour the fat into a rimmed baking sheet, and place the sheet in the oven, so the fat and baking sheet will heat up. 
  • After the 5 minutes of boiling, drain the potatoes -- they will not be cooked at that point -- and return them to the saucepan. Add the fine sea salt and the rosemary, if using. 
  • Place a lid on the saucepan. Holding the lid firmly shut with both hands (the saucepan will be hot, so wear oven mitts or use dish towels), shake the saucepan vigorously for a few seconds, until the surface of the potato chunks is fuzzy; this will help the formation of a crust. 
  • Remove the baking sheet from the oven, pour the potatoes onto the sheet, and stir well to coat with the fat. 
  • Return to the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, flipping the potatoes halfway through, until cooked through (when you insert the tip of a knife in one of the pieces, it should meet no resistance), crusty, and golden. If you want a little more color on them, you can switch to grill mode for the final few minutes. 
  • Serve immediately.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Like many Americans, I have been adrift of late trying to figure out what country I am living in.  As most of you know, my dear readers, I was in favor of the other candidate who was running for president in the recent election.  The night before the election, President Obama recorded a message for the American people, saying that, regardless of what happened, the sun would come up in the morning. After hearing that message, and seeing the results, I was reminded of the scene above.

I don't know what the next four years will bring, but in the morning, the sun will rise and who knows that the tide will bring? Today is Brave Astronaut Day - for it is the anniversary of my birth.  I have reached the precipice - next year is the Big "L". As you may know Mrs. BA hit the number earlier this year - but we are looking forward to many more years together, at least I know I am!

My birthday, falling on a Tuesday, is not all that spectacular but I made the best of it.  I had a great lunch with friends.  Both LBA and SoBA had basketball practice so a big family dinner wasn't in the cards.  But the boys are out of school tomorrow at noon and they are going to be spending the few days leading up to Christmas at their cousin's house so Mrs. BA and I may have a date night on Thursday.

Then we will have Christmas at the launchpad, followed by a few days with my sister before we all travel to NY for a Brave Astronaut family Christmas, where we will celebrate SoBA's birthday on Friday the 30th.  You will note that this blog has been missing the "12 posts of Christmas" this year, some of that is due to my feelings noted above, and some of it is just because that as the subtitle of this blog notes, I have a very full life, "with room for improvement, and little time to do it."

Thank you for sticking around with me on this blogging journey, which is more than 1400 posts long and more than ten years old!  I promise to come here a little more often in 2017 and offer a few more thoughts and posts other than the weekly recipe. I am very blessed to have a wonderful wife who loves me, two boys who seem to like me as well, a great family, my father, brother, sisters, nieces and nephews and all my in-laws.

Of course, dear reader, you know how much I love numbers, so I would be remiss if I didn't end this post with some statistics.  As of this posting my birthday garnered the following:
  • Approximately 195 posts on my Facebook wall, many of which were commented on on top of that.
  • 11 Promo emails (offering me a deal for my birthday)
  • 10 distinct birthday posts (on which multiple people commented) on Facebook
  • 9 in person birthday wishes
  • 3 birthday emails
  • 3 texts
  • 2 phone calls (my father and sister)
  • 1 birthday lunch with 3 people
  • 1 Facebook Messenger message (though it was not necessarily birthday related)
  • 1 holiday lighting contest in town - not sure if I got an advantage or not.
  • 1 blog post (this one)
The first birthday wishes came from (again this year) Kim Ayres, who has the advantage of being across the pond and it turns into my birthday over there before it does here.  If you're not reading his blog (or buying his photography) - you most certainly should be.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Banana Chocolate Chunk Bread

SoBA is a big fan of the banana.  He eats at least 1 or 2 a day.  We will often be getting ready to sit down to dinner and SoBA will ask for a snack - and the banana is a good option.  I have made my share of banana bread in the past, for if SoBA is off his game - there may be an overripe banana or two around the house.  I have posted banana bread recipes before, this is the classic go to that I use.

Here's one that uses parts of chocolate bars and cinnamon. From BuzzFeed via Unicorns in the Kitchen.  I won't tell the boys about the zucchini.

Banana Chocolate Chunk Bread
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 45 min
Total Time: 1 hr


  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour 
  • 2 tsp baking powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 cup sugar 
  • 1/2 cup olive oil 
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed 
  • 1 egg 
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla 
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini 
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnut 
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chunks (or more) 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Coat a loaf pan with non-stick spray and line with parchment paper. Set aside. 
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl, set aside. 
  3. In a large bowl beat the sugar and olive oil until completely incorporated. Add in mashed bananas, egg, and vanilla. Beat until completely mixed. 
  4. Add in flour mixture and mix until incorporated. Fold in zucchini and walnuts. 
  5. Pour the batter in the loaf pan, top with chocolate chunks and bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes our with small crumbs on it. 
  6. Let the bread cool completely before slicing it.

Monday, December 12, 2016

One Pot Chicken Parmesan

You may have noticed (or maybe you didn't) that I missed last Monday's recipe. But life must go on.

Here's a recipe that is sure to please LBA and SoBA (although the latter is always iffy).  From One Pot Dinners from BuzzFeed via Unicorns in the Kitchen.

One Pan Chicken Parmesan Pasta


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced 
  • 1/2 chicken breast, cut into small pieces 
  • 1 jar spaghetti sauce
  • 1/2 cup water 
  • 8 ounce pasta
  • 1/3 cup grated parmigiano reggiano 
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella (or more) 

  1. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Saute onion until golden brown. 
  2. Add in chicken breast pieces and saute until the color has changed to light brown, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. 
  3. Add in sauce and water. Stir and add in pasta. cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until pasta is cooked. uncover and let it simmer until the sauce is thick and reduced. 
  4. Top with parmigiano reggiano and mozzarella, cover and cook for 1 minute until cheese is melted. 
  5. Serve warm.