Monday, December 18, 2017


On the 17th day of December in 2017 at the Roediger House...

There was a gorgeous watercolor palette of colors in the eastern sky:

It was a great chilly day for the 34th fire in the kitchen (included in the kitchen addition project of 2008-2009):

Strangely, daffodils appear confused about what season it is:

And I can report that my crazy azalea finally stopped blooming after almost four-and-a-half months of beautiful color:

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Meal No. 1981: Smothered Pork Chops with Onion-Thyme Gravy

Friday was my final day of work leading into the Christmas holidays, and it was a great day spent with the instructional leadership team at John F. Kennedy High School here in Winston-Salem. With company coming that evening and not having caught up (or even unpacked!) from my work week in Virginia Beach, I grabbed a package from the grocery fresh meat case and came home and made some delicious smothered pork chops with onion-thyme gravy. Traditional Campbell's green bean casserole went well with them.

My cooktop has been acting up lately and that night I could not get it to sustain a heating element for me. Fortunately, I had recently on a whim gotten a Paragon smart-cooking induction single cooktop that stepped into the breach nicely.

I was in Virginia Beach from Sunday through Thursday evening, working with the admin teams from four different high schools there, but I rushed home to begin a short overnight visit from one of my very best friends in the world: Jason Miller. Jason was an RA and then my assistant hall director when I was a graduate hall director while getting my master's at Wake Forest University. It's been too long since we saw one another and we did our best to maximize the time to catch-up before he had to leave to pick up his daughter from college in Lynchburg.

"Smothered Pork Chops," by Erika Bruce. In Cook's Country, April/May 2011, p. 22-23.

"Campbell's Classic Green Bean Casserole," from Campbell's Kitchen. Recipe available online.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Meal No. 1980: St. Louis Pork Spareribs

For last Saturday night's earlier meal (a holiday party at a neighboring home was on the agenda, too), I tried a terrific recipe for some incredibly awesome pork spareribs. Good grief, they were amazing. Roasted baby Dutch potatoes and hot buttered corn were suitable accompaniments but were definitely not the main attraction.

That was also the second day of the strangely early snow event for Winston-Salem. I got the bird feeders refilled because there were a lot of hugely hungry birds around.

And there was also a mangy worse-for-the-wear old squirrel that planted himself on the platform feeder outside my kitchen sink window and gorged himself on the seed and nuts there. And that made Sumner absolutely crazy.

"How to Make Great Ribs in the Oven," by Emma Christensen. From The Kitchn. [Published 01 July 2017]

Friday, December 15, 2017

Meal No. 1979: Open Tacos and Snow!

When last week's Friday forecast said there was a chance of snow or a wintry mix, there was likely a collective, "Yeah, right."

And then we got a pretty darned good snowfall for so early in December.

I'd spent a final day with the terrific team in the Guilford County subcohort from High Point University's Leadership Academy and, once I got home, I knew there'd be no braving the grocery store.

Fortunately, I had on hand what was needed to whip up some open-faced tacos, with spicy hearty meat on top of cheese slices on toasted tortillas with onion and tomato and more cheese and sour cream. Just two of them did me in.

With snow still coming down Saturday morning and afternoon, I made a cozy simple breakfast so that it wasn't necessary to run out to the market:

"Crispy Beef Tacos," by Hilah Johnson. From

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Meal No. 1978: Potato and Cheese Soup

After a few mild days to get December up and running, the cold has now begun to invade. By the end of last week, we weren't expected to climb out of the 30s for a high and snow was threatened. With Mookie and Kristen coming for an overdue dinner on Thursday night, and with it being a pretty busy work week for me, I settled on potato and cheese soup to comfort and warm us. And it did.

"Potato and Cheese Soup," shared with me by my sister and her husband, who got it through a cooking class at KitchenArt in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Pre-Holiday Scotcheroos for HPU Cohorts

As I've noted in a few blog posts this fall, I've been encouraged by members of the High Point University Leadership Academy not to show up empty-handed when we report to various schools as part of our instructional leadership institute. This past week, to honor that request/demand, I had with me a batch of chocolate-butterscotch scotcheroos, which have long been a holiday favorite in the Jones family.

"Chocolate-Butterscotch Scotcheroos," from the Rice Krispies cereal box.  I first noted and recorded this recipe in 1988.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Chewy Sugar Cookies

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I had tried a new recipe for the most amazing sugar cookies, and when the pressure was put on me to have goodies in hand when I reported to Concord Middle School on Wednesday, I made sure I had a fresh batch of 'em. The crew seemed to love how they turned out. This really is a spot-on sugar cookie recipe!

"Chewy Sugar Cookies," by Katie Leaird. In Cook's Country, December/January 2018, p. 24-25.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Meal No. 1977: Beefy Macaroni Casserole

It's pretty rare that I "invent" a dish...I'm pretty good at finding decent recipes that are worth following or, perhaps, tinkering with only just a bit. And the meal last Tuesday night wasn't totally without some basis: I was inspired by a couple of recipes I'd seen for beefy macaroni casserole and also took hints from the way I make pipetizer casserole. The special flavor in the version I made this week was Emeril's Essence, so it had a slightly Creole flair to it while still being just cheesy beefy goodness.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Meal No. 1976: Biscuits & Sausage Gravy

This week some of my meal choices were driven by what was coming close to the expiration dates among items in the meat drawer. So Monday night that meant good ol' biscuits 'n sausage gravy. Normally I just go with frozen biscuits but that night I decided to make really delicious buttery flaky homemade hoecake-style biscuits and it was really all too much...

"Fluffy Southern-Style Hoecakes," by Erica of My Busy Bees and Me. Recipe first encountered through her YouTube video.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Meal No. 1975: Light & Fluffy Waffles

This past Sunday was gorgeous, from the early morning hours through the mid-60s sunny afternoon, right up through the full Super Moon that rose over the city skyline that night. In short sleeves, I tackled a second round of leaves, which my body handled somewhat well given that the next day I had a long drive down to Southern Pines and back.

I think Sumner really loved having nearly a full day outside with me:

After the filling lunch of shrimp and grits mid-day, a lighter dinner seemed called for. I've been in a bit of a waffle-crave lately and couldn't think of anything better for that night's meal. So I made yet another batch of the light and fluffy waffles that showed up in a fall recipe magazine, and they were oh-so-good yet again:

"Light and Fluffy Waffles," by James Schend, Food Editor of Taste of Home, September/October 2017, p. 26.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Meal No. 1974: Shrimp and Goat Cheese Grits with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Recently someone was overheard to make a quote along these lines: Sunday brunch is breakfast at lunchtime but with a one-hour wait. I didn't see the need to go somewhere and wait in line but figured I could make something pretty brunch-y at mid-day this past Sunday. That resulted in shrimp and goat cheese grits with roasted red pepper sauce and a sherry cream sauce, over stone-ground creamy grits. It was pretty awesome.

"Shrimp and Goat Cheese Grits with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce," in Tupelo Honey Cafe: Spirited Recipes from Asheville's New South Kitchen, by Elizabeth Sims with Chef Brian Sonoskus. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC (2011), p. 100-101, 179.

Guidance for making the creamy grits: Luquire Family Stone Ground Grits, milled in Greenwood, SC.

"Sherry Cream Sauce," by Dianne Rattray. Published online via The Spruce (formerly

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Meal No. 1973: Saturday Morning Breakfast

A hearty and filling breakfast was on my agenda this past Saturday morning, when it was overcast and chilly and it just felt good to be inside.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Meal No. 1972: Pan-Seared Sage and Garlic Pork Chops

The great item on my agenda this past Friday was to journey down to High Point University to see the final presentations of the Leadership Academy's Cohort 1. That's the group I've had the pleasure of working with on observations and coaching conversations over the last few months. It was a lovely day in the Piedmont Triad, and after a late afternoon beer on the porch in the sunshine, I turned my attention to dinner. On the menu: sage-and-garlic pan-seared pork chops topped with poached eggs, smashed sweet potatoes, and hot buttered peas.

"Your New Favorite Pork Chops," by Alison Roman, in Bon Appétit, March 2015, p. 35.

"Ultimate Poached Egg Upgrade," from the guys at ChefSteps.

"Smashed Sweet Potatoes" (p. 128), in Tupelo Honey Cafe: Spirited Recipes from Asheville's New South Kitchen, by Elizabeth Sims with Chef Brian Sonoskus. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing (2011).

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Meal No. 1971: Sous Vide Chicken Breasts

As happens from time to time, a scheduled work day had to be cancelled because of a change in a principal's schedule, so I had the unexpected surprise of being off this past Thursday. That gave me a chance to work on a small backlog of tasks and also to do a bit of research so that I could finally put my Joule sous vide cooking equipment to use. I started easy and simple, though: chicken breasts that I then seared in the cast iron skillet. That allowed me to be fancier with the sides: bright and bold carrot-and-miso purée and thyme-marjoram-parmesan risotto. I'll have to work on getting more flavor into the chicken but overall this was a pretty decent weeknight supper.

"Sous Vide Chicken Breasts" and "Bright and Bold Carrot Purée," from the crew at ChefSteps.

Thyme, Marjoram, and Parmesan Risotto based on Emeril Lagasse's directions found in "Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto Casserole."

Monday, December 4, 2017

Meal No. 1970: Broccoli-Garlic Angel Hair Pasta

The Wednesday evening meal was simple, ingredients-wise, but terrifically full of flavor when it came time to toss it into my face. The recipe came from the an issue of AllRecipes Magazine and it proved to be an ideal weeknight offering.

"Broccoli-Garlic Angel Hair Pasta," by Chef John. In AllRecipes Magazine, December/January 2017, p. 34.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Meal No. 1969: Bistro Bacon, Caramelized Onion, and Blue Cheese Pizza

For last Tuesday night's dinner, I made a bistro-style pizza flat with bacon, caramelized onion, and blue cheese. I really like how those flavors come together.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Meal No. 1968: Peanut Butter Bacon Burgers

Because I'd first made peanut butter bacon burgers over a Thanksgiving holiday back in 2010, I find myself drawn back to them regularly on this holiday weekend. That's what was on the agenda this past Sunday night, for four of us, and boy howdy were they as good as ever.

I do go to the full set of trouble when I'm making peanut butter bacon burgers, including grinding the beef and making homemade peanut butter and making a burger sauce and even buttering and toasting the buns. It sure pays off in the final product.

A review of key points about the Roediger House peanut butter bacon burgers, on the occasion of their 28th appearance on the kitchen table:
  • Inspired by Yo Mama's in the French Quarter of New Orleans
  • First Made: Meal No. 180
  • Last Made: Meal No. 1817
  • Fresh Home-Ground Beef, typically from boneless beef short ribs and top sirloin
  • Homemade Peanut Butter
  • Homemade Classic Burger Sauce (recipe below)
  • Labeled Sample "Final Product" Burger: Guide to Meal No. 234

Classic Burger Sauce
from Cook's Illustrated, July-August 2008, p. 11.
4 T mayonnaise
2 T ketchup
1 tsp sweet pickle relish
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.

Guidance on grinding, shaping, and cooking burgers from "Best Old-Fashioned Burgers," by J. Kenji Alt, in Cook's Illustrated, No. 93 (July/August 2008), p. 10-11.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Sugar Cookies and Eggnog Ice Cream

This past Saturday night, in the spirit of the beginning of the holidays, I thought a good dessert idea would be a new recipe for sugar cookies plus a batch of homemade eggnog ice cream.

Good Lord. I need to quit eating like this.

"Chewy Sugar Cookies," by Katie Leaird. In Cook's Country, December/January 2018, p. 24-25.

"Eggnog Ice Cream," from Bi-Rite Creamery's Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones, by Kris Hoogerhyde, Anne Walker, and Dabney Gough. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press (2012), p. 186-187.