Friday, February 22, 2019

Girl Scout Cookie Lemon Shortbread Cheesecake


The great and fun gathering of the usual suspects last Saturday night not only featured a pretty good meal, but we also capped off the evening with a return of the Girl Scout cookie-inspired lemon shortbread cheesecake, that is deeply loved and fondly sought after in this household. So I had to give in and offer it up, which might actually have made a few folks—and their bellies—moderately happy.

It's a no-bake wonder, although I deviate from the recipe author's suggestion to freeze it, finding that simply chilling it for several hours is sufficient to help it set up and be cuttable and servable. And easily digestible!

The Girl Scout munchkins in front of the Harris Teeter, and also the neighbor children who came 'round to ring the doorbell, have been impossible to resist during this winter's cookie-pushing period...completely because of this easy and pleasing concoction.



"Lemon Shortbread Cheesecake," by Rosalia Roger of Lincoln, Nebraska. Originally published in Taste of Home, February/March, 2016, p. 64-65.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Meal No. 2305: Braised New Mexico-Style Pork in Red Chile Sauce

Gorgeous Braising Sauce of New Mexico Chiles

Saturday night offered another great gathering of the most regular Roediger House regulars for hanging out and watching a new favorite streaming series. So of course there also needed to be some grub to serve at dinnertime, and I thought we might be ready for a second go of carne adovada (I'd first made it back in August.) Two sort of similar sides were offered up as well: Mexican street corn salad with black beans, and Mexican coleslaw. It was rather a festive feast and that was some damned fine pork.




"Braised New Mexico-Style Pork in Red Chile Sauce (Carne Adovada)," by Annie Petito. In Cook's Illustrated, Number 154 (September/October 2018), p. 6-7.

"Mexican Street Corn Salad," by Joanna Cismaru. From JoCooks.com. [Published 04 May 2017]

Guidance for air roasting corn from "An Air Fryer Makes Eating Vegetables Easier and More Delicious," by Annaliese Griffin on Quartzy.com. [Published 10 January 2019]

"Mexican Coleslaw," from Christin of SpicySouthernKitchen.com. [Published 08 August 2017]

"Taco Seasoning I," from Bill Echols on AllRecipes.com.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Chocolate Pots de Creme


When the dinner was done with on Valentine's Day Thursday night, and all the clean-up was completed, I still had a trick up my sleeve: tucked away in the wetbar fridge were two ramekins of delicious chocolate pots de creme. I added a sweetened whipped cream, enhanced with a bit of cream cheese, and thinly sliced strawberries to make a complete creation. This was a first for me, and it won't be the last!




"Chocolate Pots de Creme," from the Food Network Magazine.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Meal No. 2304: Shrimp Pad Thai


On Valentine's evening, the Roediger House dinnertime meal featured a new take on shrimp pad thai, with ideas to get me started from a recipe for Thai shrimp and noodles. I went an extra step and created my own paste from a block of tamarind pulp that I'd recently bought from the Asia Grocery, just down Peters Creek Parkway from the house. I still had some of that really good garlicky shrimp made earlier in the week and it was perfect with this bowl of goodness.



Adapted from "Thai Shrimp and Noodles," by Karen from Colorado. From GeniusKitchen.com.

Guidance for extracting Tamarind Paste from "Technique: How to Use Tamarind Pulp," by Emma Christensen of TheKitchn.com. [Published 20 July 2009]

Monday, February 18, 2019

Cap'n Crunch Cookies


When I was up extra early on Thursday morning, it offered an opportunity to make a small batch of Cap'n Crunch cookies. I even ate one.



"Cap'n Crunch Cookies," found online at The Capitol Baker, with credit going to The Sugar Plum Blog for inspiration and the source of the adapted recipe.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Meal No. 2303: Cobb Salad, Round 2


With most of the ingredients still on hand, plus those that I'd resupplied (like avocados), I was ready for a second go at Cobb salad. This time I made some fresh buttermilk ranch dressing, which was tasty albeit thin and plain. Still, it was a perfectly suitable meal to finish out a surprisingly chilly and windy Wednesday.



"Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing," from Jenn Segal of Once Upon a Chef.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Meal No. 2302: Swiss Baked Chicken Breasts


The gathering of four on Tuesday sat down at dinnertime to creamy Swiss baked chicken breasts, which I used to make quite a lot and have sort of gotten away from for the last few years. I pretty regularly have trouble avoiding toughening up the breasts when I cook this dish, and yet the flavors all come together really well. I made extra stuffing and also brought out a batch of sweet southern coleslaw, based in part on my mother's recipe.

Fire No. 67

Before going to bed on Monday night, I had checked the Tuesday forecast and was expecting a slow rise in temps to the low 50s. But the cold drizzle and heavy skies persisted and, here at the house, the gauge never rose above 41°F. I had awakened early—around 4 am—and had a fire going before 5 am. And I kept it going all day long, which I find rather delightful.



"Easy Creamy Swiss Baked Chicken Breasts," a recipe shared with me by Cindy Coulson in 1997. Versions of the recipe can be found here and here.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Meal No. 2301: Cobb Salad with Shrimp


Salad has certainly taken up a home here at the Roediger House these last few months and, to avoid getting into too much of a Caesar rut, I decided to really orchestrate a whole 'nother level of salad on Monday night, in the vein of the famous Brown Derby Cobb salad. My version that night included garlicky barbecue shrimp, crumbled bacon, Gorgonzola, avocado, cherry tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and more of that miso buttermilk ranch dressing on mixed power greens. It was mighty darned delicious and left me full as a tick.



Cobb Salad inspired by many different recipes but overall plan based mostly on "Cobb Salad," by Maria Lichty of the Two Peas and Their Pod blog. [Published 13 August 2018]

"BBQ Shrimp," by Chef Brian D. Smith of Randol's Restaurant and Cajun Dancehall in Lafayette, LA.

Guidance for Hard-Boiled Eggs from "Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs," by Jill Winger of the Prairie Homestead [Published April 2016]; and from "Instant Pot Recipes Everyone Should Know," by Alina Bradford from c|net.com. [Published 17 May 2018]

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Meal No. 2300: Grilled Cheese Bacon Sandwiches


The Sunday night meal at the Roediger House: grilled cheese bacon sandwiches that were spot-on delicious.


Over the weekend, winter made a triumphant return with chilly breezes, overcast skies, and temps in the low to mid-40s. When I got up Sunday morning, I lit a fire and kept it going all day until bedtime, and it was a warm consolation against the unwelcome resumption of seasonal temps.

This was Fire No. 66 since the wood-burning fireplace was included in the kitchen addition back in 2010.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Meal No. 2299: Stuffed French Bread


When Amy and Gern came over for a casual evening hang on Saturday night, I served up a beef-and-pork filling in my third attempt at stuffed French bread sandwiches. It's flavorful and savory and went nicely with roasted broccoli florets and a fresh batch of southern sweet coleslaw.



Adapted from "Stuffed French Bread," from Holly of Life in the Lofthouse.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Meal No. 2298: Shredded Barbecue Sandwiches


When Friday night rolled around and I was hoping to get a quick supper on the table, I thought I'd try a recipe for Instant Pot shredded barbecue chicken to serve on Brioche rolls, along with some miso ranch dressing and some sweet southern coleslaw.



"Instant Pot BBQ Chicken," by Dee of MeatloafandMelodrama.com. [Published 01 August 2018]

"Miso Ranch Dressing," by Emma Laperruque. From Food52.com. [Published 04 June 2018]

Monday, February 11, 2019

Meal No. 2297: Sausage & Beef Manicotti


Thursday night, with four at the table, it was time to bring back sausage and beef manicotti with its tasty homemade marinara. And there were ample leftovers to send home with Mookie and Kristen when it was all over.



"Sausage & Beef Manicotti with Homemade Marinara," from Celebrate the Seasons: Autumn Classics from Cuisine at Home. Issue No. 6, October/November 2015, p. 18.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

I'll Take a Sizzle Over a Snow

Last Thursday, February 7th, was one for the record books:


And if you know me, as I think you might, you'll appreciate how much I loved it, even though I had to turn on the AC!

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Meal No. 2296: Salad, Again


Last Sunday night at the RoHo: Salad. Again. With too much dressing but that homemade Caesar is dee-lishus. What's with all the salads and what happened to all the pretty darned good meals I used to make?


Because as recently as last May, I was wearing these trousers comfortably. And most pictures I've looked at from last spring don't make the change seem that obvious to me, but perhaps it's clearer that I was a bit of a puffy marshmallow in this shot from Mookie and Kristen's wedding in April...in those very pants:



Friday, February 8, 2019

Meal No. 2295: Roasted Salmon on Caesar-topped Greens


As I work on weight maintenance for myself, it means that some nights are simple smoothies instead of a meal, or a simple salad or a fruit plate or a bowl of yogurt with granola on top. The pace of meal-making has changed around here. It also means about once a week I'd like to have salmon, either on a salad or with simple roasted vegetable sides, and that was the choice last Saturday night. The salmon has just been knock-out good of late, but the meal was especially good and filling with the substitution of "power greens" in place of the typical romaine. The combo of spinach, kale, and chard is proving to be pretty pleasing to the palate.

The morning started out cool and breezy, and it seemed ideal for the first fire of February:

Fire No. 65

But it warmed up sufficiently into rather a nice afternoon, and Sumner and I took an energetic walk that encircled downtown Winston-Salem:


Thursday, February 7, 2019

Surprising Signs of Spring

Yesterday, Sumner and I enjoyed the heck out of the beautiful warm day, when temps got up to 70°F here in Winston-Salem. Our strolls around the yard were delightful not only because I was basking in the feel of warm sun on my head, but also because the earliest harbingers of spring were just beginning to emerge:

Crocus

Daffodils

Tulips

The Bradford pear is just beginning to show some buds and tiny emerging blossoms:


All while the snowbells strut their stuff on either side of the front steps:


The forecast for later today is for what might be a record-breaking high of 76°F. I've got a Greensboro lunch appointment and some errands to run, but I'll be doing it with windows down and music blasting!


By the weekend, we'll be back to our regularly-scheduled winter.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Meal No. 2294: Spiced Lamb Tacos


The festive Friday night at the Roediger House included an evening hang with Kristen and Mookie, and pool playing, TV watching, and dinner were on the agenda. At suppertime, I served up for the second time a batch of spiced lamb tacos, based on ideas that drive the lamb köfte I've been making for the last several years.


This version was spiced ground lamb with harissa and pomegranate molasses topped with sweet caramelized onions, roasted red pepper strips, diced tomatoes, goat cheese, and cheddar cheese. Once they were baked up, we then spooned a tahini yogurt sauce on them. Man, they were good!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Meal No. 2293: Roasted Salmon over Power Greens


Another delicious roasted salmon filet sat atop a mix of spinach, kale, and chard with a fresh batch of homemade creamy Caesar dressing, following a good day of coaching conversations at a local Winston-Salem high school Thursday.


Thursday was also Day 2 of our January polar vortex adjacency, with morning temps officially at 17°F when I took Sumner out for his first-of-the-day poop. Although street lights made it fruitless to attempt a photo, I was again delighted by the celestial display of Antares next to Jupiter next to a sliver of waning crescent moon which was just to the right of a startling Venus.


When I pulled up the Google Sky app, I could see that the arc continued with a full solar system choir all lurking in the eastern sky, although not visible to me: turning slowly left/toward the north, the app showed Saturn, then Pluto, then Mercury against a not-yet-dawned sun, then Neptune and Mars and Uranus. Pretty cool to "catch 'em" occupying basically a quarter slice of the morning sky.



"Easy Lemon Caesar Salad Dressing," by Kim of lowcarbmaven.com.


Monday, February 4, 2019

Sour Cream Pound Cake


As the winter's first major polar vortex began its invasion of the northern tier, midwest, and rust belt states last Tuesday night, I baked a sour cream pound cake. Our temps here dipped down only to around 20°F but boy howdy the wind chills were not much fun. I definitely felt bad for the family I have up in Rossville, IN, with wind chills at -50°F. It sure turned out to be a fine pound cake, though.



"Sour Cream Pound Cake," from McCormick. Found online and on the Vanilla Butter & Nut flavoring's packaging box.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Meal No. 2292: Pioneer Woman Meatloaf


Tuesday night's dinner for four at the Roediger House: Ree Drummond's recipe for meatloaf, with roasted broccoli florets and mashed potatoes, along with a zingy tangy sauce. It was nice to still have some lemon curd ice cream to finish off the evening!



"My Favorite Meatloaf," from Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman. Posted 20 September 2010.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Butter Toffee Cookies


It's been over a year since one of my favorite cookie recipes has made an appearance at the Roediger House. When I copied this recipe from a King Arthur Flour clipping, they were simply called butter toffee cookies. It's a remarkably flavorful combination of ingredients, including butter rum flavoring and the unique addition of cappuccino baking chips, which I have to special order.



"Butter Toffee Cookies," originally from King Arthur Flour. The catalog that comes periodically from KAF has recipes in it, which is where I originally got this. But, as sometimes happens, it is not available on their website. I'm glad someone posted it to Food.com.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Lemon Curd Ice Cream


To go with the remaining iced lemon curd pound cake, following Saturday night's soup supper, I had made lemon curd ice cream. The folks around the table said it was pretty good, although I did not partake of it. Living in denial might please me when I get on the morning scales, but it sure is tough some nights when good stuff sits temptingly in ice cream bowls!



"Lemon Curd Ice Cream," by Rachel Currier of BakedbyRachel.com. [Published 27 May 2016]

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Meal No. 2291: Vierling Saloon Chicken and Wild Rice Soup


Saturday was raw and chilly, albeit sunny, and with six of us at dinner that night I loved the idea of a giant pot of the incredibly delicious Vierling Saloon chicken and wild rice soup.


There was a good bit of pool playing beforehand, which is always fun to do.



"Vierling Saloon Cream of Chicken and Wild Rice Soup," formerly offered at the Vierling Saloon in Marquette, Michigan. This was first shared with me by my sister Allison Holden and her husband Tom, from Rossville, Indiana. Another online version of the recipe can be found at Miss Mary's Blog.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Chill January Mornings


Most of the entries to the blog are written in advance and set up to post automatically over night. Ironically, today's post (about last Friday's chilly morning) is showing up right when a record-setting polar vortex has settled over the midwest and the Great Lakes region, leading to record-busting low temps and wind chills.


While it was 19°F when I got up around 7 am this morning, we were fortunately far enough south of the vortex so as not to be brutalized by it in the same way as our northern neighbors.


As for last Friday, Sumner and I were up pretty early, and in that cold morning air well before sunrise, we were witness to a rather cool celestial display, including two adjacent brightnesses that I needed Google Sky to confirm what I suspected: Venus and Jupiter were again close to one another.  I guess I could've tried to photograph it, but I snagged the Sky app screenshot instead.


(Also, according to that marvelous app, below the horizon between those planets and the sun lurked both Saturn and Pluto.)


Saturday morning's chill was sufficient that it called for a nice blazing fire: No. 64 in the ongoing tally since the kitchen addition was completed in 2010.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Lemon Curd Pound Cake with Limoncello Glaze


With extra lemon curd hanging out in the fridge, left over from the Lemon Shortbread Cheesecake I made last weekend, I was interested in trying out new recipes that would utilize it well. On Friday morning, I made a lemon curd pound cake topped with a limoncello glaze that provided a sweet treat following the Friday night meal (although I did not partake!). Then, on Saturday morning, when neighbors came up bearing smoked salmon and bagels, it was a nice closer to our late breakfast.



"Lemon Curd Pound Cake with Limoncello Glaze," from Shelly Jaronsky of CookiesandCups.com. [Posted 14 June 2015]

Monday, January 28, 2019

Meal No. 2290: Salmon over Caesar Salad


Because I've not been cooking as much, the ongoing string of blog entries might make it appear that I'm eating salmon more frequently than is true, although it's been so darned good and good for me that I'm tempted to make it more than once a week. Together with the really tasty homemade Caesar dressing that I'm also really enjoying, it makes a protein-topped salad an easy selection. Even though it was dinner last Sunday night, I brought it back for Friday night's evening meal as well, with no regrets. No regrets at all. That picture (above) makes the case for me, doesn't it?



"Easy Lemon Caesar Salad Dressing," by Kim of lowcarbmaven.com.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Smartening Up the Homestead


Apparently it's hard to know the exact number of Amazon Alexa voice assistants that have actually been sold, but I can tell you that there are two of them in the Roediger House. I got a pair of Echo Shows a couple of years ago, in part because it's a great way to communicate between the kitchen and the 3rd floor. I also thought it might open the door for video communication with friends and family as they also got their own devices.

Initially, my use of Alexa was pretty simplistic, in the scheme of what's possible. It has been a kitchen timer and a house intercom; I tell it to add items to my shopping list and occasionally set reminders; Alexa can tell me the weather and temp and forecast and she also displays upcoming events pulled from my Google calendar. It's easy to get simple reference and trivia information (i.e., "How old is Olivia de Havilland?"). Sometimes it's a quick source for a song or video. Rarely I'll ask her to play a music station or genre. Perhaps once I asked her to order something for me from Amazon and for a brief period I linked my orders and deliveries for her to report on (until that became annoying but also spoiled some surprises). Every once in a while I'm enticed to ask Alexa to tell me more about an item in her ongoing scrolling news feed. That's been the pattern for the first couple of years.


Now I've decided it's time to take the smart home possibilities up to the next level, which I guess began to kick in when I upgraded two of the thermostats to Nests. As we moved from Christmas into the new year, I finally decided to upgrade the wifi router to a 3-unit mesh system for better whole-house coverage. LinkSys Velop routers are now strategically placed throughout the house (see photo above).


One easy upgrade was to get several smart plugs. For years, I've had various lamps on timers. Alas, because they are mechanical, some of them had gotten rickety and noisy and you could distinctly hear the grinding of their slow-moving gears. Also, if I was visiting with guests in one of the front parlours past the cut-off time on the lamps, I wasn't able to easily turn them back on because the timer plug was behind the sofas. Now that all of those lamps are controlled by smart plugs, I can adjust their schedules easily and also turn them on or off with voice commands or via my Alexa app.


The next simple smart home upgrade was to get a set of Philips Hue wifi bulbs. They've proven to be a great choice in a couple of hallway lamps and at the base of the stairs going up to the attic, but the bulb is not bright enough for my fireside reading lamp so I'll have to come up with another plan for that fixture. I also swapped out two of the LED kits in the east and north nooks/gables of the attic so that I could put BR30 LED smart bulbs in. That's also been a good option, although both of these bulbs have been turning themselves on randomly and I'd like them to not do that.


The big-deal investment was in smart light switches, and I might have gotten a bit carried away on that part of the project. But with the help of Fred Schlosser of eWire Electric Company, who really made it happen even in some of the tight old switch boxes in the front of the house, the Roediger House has emerged into 21st Century functionality.

Outdoor Bay Lights (old timer) plus two GE smart dimmer switches

The kitchen, the main hallway, and the attic have now been largely upgraded to a whole set of Z-wave dimmer smart switches and, frankly, it's pretty dandy.


In the meantime, I have linked a few more skills to Alexa.  I've got the security cameras linked in so that we can get Alexa to show us, for instance, the porch or who's at the back door without pulling up the video monitoring app on the phone. Another skill is for the Sonos devices, but let's also acknowledge that Sonos has not yet achieved good integration with Alexa, so the commands are limited, and frequently Alexa tells me the device "doesn't support that" when I ask her, for instance, to turn the music up or down.


The last acquisition was a Schlage Z-wave smart lock for the back door. That means I can lock or unlock the door using the app, whether I'm home or away, and I can also tell Alexa to unlock it (with an additional security code) as well as to lock it back. While I prefer for folks coming to visit to use the front door and the doorbell, some of the younger set report to the back door and text their arrival. Now, it will be easy to let them in without coming down two flights of stairs. Also, it's not unusual for a guest to forget to lock the door behind her. It's nice to have that extra option for controlling and securing that entry.


Thanks to the routines I can program into the Alexa app, my repetitive beginning-and-end-of-day tasks are all automated. I tell her to "Start My Day," and the front hallway lights and lamps will come on. The kitchen undercabinet lights turn on in the kitchen, as well as my fireside lamp. There are different routines to run the lighting in the attic, whether it's for TV watching, pool playing, or bringing up all the lights for cleaning. As I leave the kitchen after the final before-bedtime trip out with the pooch, I tell Alexa to "Shut It Down," and all lights and lamps are turned off. I do have a number of lamps on schedules, too, so that they continue to operate even when I'm on the road. In the upstairs hallway, thanks to this automation, the lamp dims to more of a nightlight setting after 9 pm, before going out completely an hour or so after that.


Several of the devices do depend on hubs, so I now have two: one specifically for the Philips Hue bulbs, and then the more universal SmartThings hub from Samsung. I went considerably further with these smart upgrades than I'd initially intended, but once you get started and consider the options and possibilities, it's easy to overdo it. I'd say that, although it's still a cool novelty at the moment, I can also appreciate the ongoing utility of it for the long haul.