Monday, May 31, 2010

Meal No. 104: Thanksgiving on the Half-Year

Jody Watson and I were talking several months back and decided that it was a definite shame that we feel limited to only once a year to have the incredible feast that is Thanksgiving. When we checked out the calendar and saw that Memorial Day was roughly six months from Thanksgiving, the notion of "Thanksgiving on the Half-Year" was born.

So, on Memorial Day, the dining room table was again a table filled with a bounty of delicious food and good friends. And it was a happy gathering of 12, making me again happy I've got a table and chairs that will allow for this kind of good time.

On the menu: herbed roasted turkey breast, holiday beef tenderloin with a spicy horseradish sauce, dressing, layered green bean casserole, corn souffle, sweet potato casserole, and dilled carrots. In addition to yesterday's cookies, I also made a black bottom pecan cheesecake pie, and a couple of other desserts were also brought by members of the dinner party.

A bit of a break on the front porch was required before we could dig into the desserts.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Desserts and Goodies

This final Sunday in May had as a primary focus creating some good desserts in anticipation of Monday's big "Thanksgiving on the Half-Year" dinner. First on my agenda was this perverted version of a stone fruit cobbler:

It's fresh sliced pears and peaches, some ginger, and ample helpings of butter and sugar, topped with cubes of brioche. This led to it being nicknamed "BrioShit-That's-Good-Cobbler."

I also worked on some chocolate espresso cookies with white chocolate chunks (which I'd tried once before). There's still some tinkering to be done with this recipe, because the cookies do not spread when they bake and instead stay as a big rounded lump. Hence, the fork tine marks where I mashed those suckers down. Those who sampled them seemed to think they were decent, though.

And let me assure you: that fresh-made pear cobbler was mighty fine with a scoop or two of my recently-made vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Hot Water Heater Stutters?

It has been almost exactly one year since the 75-gallon gas hot water heater was installed to service the extensive water needs of the downstairs of the house. It comes with a power vent to take care of the exhaust. Of course, excited though I was when it was installed, it was much to my chagrin to find that he morning after it was installed, I was only getting lukewarm water because there was some issue with the power vent, but the plumbers quickly took care of this.

Over the last year, however, I've really enjoyed my hot hot water and the endless supply of it.

Ah, but when I was doing extensive clean-up from the several dishes I whipped up on Thursday, I noticed my hot water wasn't very hot. That evening, I also noticed that the power vent on the hot water heater was running endlessly. I sent a late-night note to my general contractor, Peter LaRoque of LaRoque Construction of Mocksville, NC. He sent me the number for the plumber who installed the water heater but has taken little interest in whether the issue was resolved. That's a pretty expensive hot water heater to have been in place only a year, as part of his project, and installed by his sub-contractor.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Meal No. 103: Turkey Tettrazini

Meal No. 103 on this Friday evening, when it looks like storms are threatening: turkey tettrazini. Again, something new for me, that I've neither made nor even eaten before, that I know of.

Nice for a week's end meal for four of us who could gather.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Meal No. 102: Yin Yang Chicken

The kick of late has been to keep trying recipes that I haven't yet gotten around to trying. For instance, after securing some delicious plump green tomatoes from Ronnie's Country Store downtown, it was time to try my hand at making fried green tomatoes.

I was pleasantly surprised with the end result, and I found them to be a tasty appetizer with a side of dipping sauce inspired by the Bloomin' Onion goop you can find at the Outback Steakhouse.

The dinner main course has earned the name Yin Yang Chicken, mostly because of this picture. What's actually going on here is that I had a mega-package of chicken drumsticks and two different recipes I wanted to try out. When I served it up, the chicken drumsticks fit nicely together in a yin-yang pattern. The darker piece has been spiced and roasted in a way that probably equates with "blackening." The lighter piece has a dijon/panko/spice coating. On the plate alongside are the last of this week's blue cheese coleslaw and a hearty pasta salad that was made from a hodge-podge of recipe ideas.

And for dessert, as pictured above in the late afternoon sun coming in through the eating bay windows: homemade vanilla ice cream and monster chip cookies. Delicious. Definitely delicious.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Delights of a Downtown Day

Now see, here's one of the things I like about living downtown: the several things I needed to take care of today were all in easy walking distance from the house. I wanted to check for some green tomatoes, and right there on Cherry Street near the Convention Center is (1) Ronnie's County Store. It's the end of the month, so I could walk over to (2) Piedmont Federal on East Third Street and pay my mortgage. Then, since I'm out of the baby aspirin I take daily, I stepped over to (3) CVS pharmacy before swinging by the University of North Carolina School of the Arts box office at the (4) Stevens Center. Tonight and tomorrow night, I'll be headed to the screenings of the 3rd and 4th year filmmaking students' projects.

I could also have walked to Ollie's Bakery, down Brookstown Avenue from the house, but I made that a driving trip when I was running other errands today.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Meal No. 101: Lasagna

When I first got out of college, and was working for the Baptist Retirement Homes of North Carolina, Inc., the head dietician hooked me up with a recipe for lasagna. I made it one time and wished it were much better.

When I started teaching at Wake Forest in 2001, I tried a recipe on the box of lasagna noodles, but it wasn't nearly good enough so I did not make it again.

Last night, I tried making lasagna for the third time in my life, and apparently it was the charm. This version popped up when I was searching for something else entirely on, where I have found several good ideas for dishes and a few that were not so good.

Anyway, with this much food, I knew I needed company at the dinner table, so six were invited and four were able to dine. This photo is looking at Bradley's plate just before he buttered the fresh-made golden potato bread. That's the lasagna, some salad, the blue cheese coleslaw from Monday evening, and a nice slice of bread.

"World's Best Lasagna," by John Chandler (Dallas, TX). Found online at

Monday, May 24, 2010

Rained-Out Movie Night Becomes Awesome Party

By special request again this year, the plan was to kick off the fourth season of the Roediger Theatre outdoor movie nights in conjunction with Beau Ward's birthday. Alas, the weather did not cooperate (just like it did not cooperate last year, in fact):

So instead, an impromptu party broke out that ended up being pretty awesome. Best guess about the head-count: around 30 folks. Most of the crew made good use of the porch, where there was much laughter, cajolery, tomfoolery, and joy.

Inside, the table boasted goodies brought by some of the guests and one of the better batches of monster chip cookies that I've ever made.

From Roediger House

Meal No. 100: Beau's Birthday Burgers

The timing of a May 24th birthday makes for a perfect kick-off for each new season of movie nights, so Beau Ward is smart to ask if I mind hosting a gathering and outdoor film when his birthday rolls around. This year I also managed to throw together burgers for us to grill, so here are some shots of the official Meal No. 100 in the new and improved Roediger House.

And this is Amy knocking out the very last of the chocolate cream pie that was so good and that, unfortunately, Bradley had to miss.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Meal No. 99: Beef Stroganoff

This Sunday evening's meal was a slow-cooker recipe pulled from a cooking website: beef stroganoff over egg noodles, with a side of yeast rolls and Caesar salad. And that strange-looking bottle next to it is an Estonian beer called Viru that I might just have to get more of. Tasty, but only 10 ounces in a bottle.

Right now, I'm trying to let my dinner settle enough so that I can have another big slice of last night's chocolate cream pie. Mmm, mmm, good.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Meal No. 98: Shrimp Po'Boys

Here's a wild hair: I decided I needed to take a stab at making shrimp po'boys tonight. It only made sense, because earlier today I got some grease going to try my hand at onion rings (about which I'll probably blog on some later date). So the grease was there in the electric skillet, so why not? I whipped up the "dressing" which was a bit heavy on the onion but I also added some sriracha to give it a little more heat and flavor. The french rolls were warmed in the oven, the shrimp were freshly breaded and fried, and the po'boys assembled with ease. And it was delicious.

For dessert: chocolate cream pie...also a recipe I'd never made before. More than delicious. I'm still smacking my lips and wishing it was tomorrow so that I could feel good about having another slice.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Meal No. 97: Pizza IV

A sweet advantage of spending a couple of days working in Richmond County, NC, is that I can actually get home to Winston-Salem before 5 pm. And on this Friday evening, that meant there was time to cook dinner at home. I'd already lined up my ingredients before leaving home Wednesday night, so this was easy doings.

Tonight I tried out a recipe for a focaccia-style crust. It didn't rise as much as I wanted it to but the flavor was terrific.

This is the fourth go-round for me at making homemade pizza from scratch. Tonight I piled on that tasty crust: a pesto base, tomato-basil feta, mozzarella cheese, sweet yellow bell peppers, tomato, baby bella mushrooms, and shredded cheddar cheese. On one half, I put some pieces of the spice-crusted grilled pork tenderloin that I made earlier in the week.

The result was mighty good!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Barnette Takes a Peak at the Leak

When the upstairs HVAC system unexpectedly shut down and Barnette Heating & A/C of Mocksville, NC, came out to repair it, they determined that there might be a leak in this new system because of the low freon.

So they came back out today to check it. They told me they believe that the system (which Barnette installed) started out low. Doesn't that just give you more confidence?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sticky Bun to Cinnamon Roll

You know what it takes to transform a sticky bun into a cinnamon roll? A healthy smattering of Cinnabon-inspired icing. That's what made this morning's reheating of yesterday's sticky buns into a whole 'nother treat.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sticky Buns Make It a Good Morning

For about five years, I've been toting around a recipe for really delicious sticky buns that I got from my sister Allison and her husband Tom, but have never gotten around to making them. Until this morning. There's a group of us going out for dinner tonight so I knew I wouldn't have afternoon/evening kitchen duty, and I got up early enough to make this endeavor worth attempting.

As I may have mentioned elsewhere in the blog, I still have not done all that much in working with yeast and dough, so taking on recipes like this one is a task I greet with some trepidation. While the first pass at the dough left me feeling like I'd not used enough flour (I added a good bit more in while I was kneading it), it ended up rising nicely and rolled out just as I remembered Tom doing it. (Next time, I might create a larger supply of the butter/pecan/brown sugar/cinnamon filling because it didn't spread out as far as I wanted.)

Then, into the oven they went. Sticky buns baking sure can make a kitchen smell amazing.

And the end result? Perfectly delicious. I ate two.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Meal No. 96: Spice-Crusted Grilled Pork Tenderloin

It's an unseasonably cold and rainy Monday in Winston-Salem today. Wake Forest University moved its commencement exercises to the Joel Coliseum, which turned out to be a very smart move. It felt much more like a late November day than like the advent of spring.

But I'd already decided this was going to be a day to grill out. And it did turn out to be a pretty delicious meal.

What you see here is spice-crusted grilled pork tenderloin with brussels sprouts and my first go at a mac-n-cheese recipe that I got from Andrea Bond (and which mirrors one I got from Barbara Huneycutt). Add a couple of Starr Hill Amber Ales and some Vietnamese coffee ice cream for dessert again, and my belly is right full.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Meal No. 95: Cumin Chicken with Risotto

Being home from my travels means there's time to try out more recipes. This evening, that led to Meal No. 95: a baked cumin chicken dish with mushrooms, onions, apples, and other goodies. I also tried my hand at making Risotto, for the first time. Everything tasted good, although the chicken did not completely bake, so it had to go in the microwave, which threw everything off with dinner.

Dessert made up for it, though: homemade Vietnamese coffee ice cream.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hanging Basket/Casket

A principal at a school I worked with a couple of weeks ago very thoughtfully gave our group a very nice plant in a hanging basket, when we were done with our day's work there.

It only took me a week to kill it dead.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Fly, My Little Birdie!

More confirmation this morning that blue jays nested around here: somebody got pushed out of the nest and was trying out his new wings.

Mom and Dad were lurking overhead and shouting out encouragement. I tried to be cautious in moving around him, to keep everybody from getting too antsy.

He was working hard at it but slow to get the hang of it. Still, I appreciate a little natural treat like this since city living makes these kinds of things fewer and farther between.

As the afternoon wore on, I tried to keep an eye on the little bugger. At one point, he'd flown over into the neighboring gravel parking lot, and that didn't seem to bode well for his future, so I went out and scurried him back into my backyard. His parents stayed close by, watchful, calling to him, chasing off other birds if they came in close. I sat outside a while with my camera, hoping to snag a good shot of the whole family, but they're much too cautious for that. Here's one of mama as she swooped down, upchucked, and fed the boy.

After I came inside to sit by the fireside and work on my computer, I spotted a bit more blue jay activity: the parents were giving an invading squirrel a run for his money, because his quest for scraps and spillage from the backyard bird feeder brought him way too close to their darling little offspring. They were relentless...wish I had a camera that would have let me capture the action. This is a shot of the squirrel as he worked his way forward, but I wasn't able to get any shots of the pair of blue jays swooping in on him and squawking.

Ah, my cozy little universe with the smallest smattering of wood and wildlife...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Inaugural Mosquito of Summer

Mark down the date: today was when the first mosquito of 2010 was spotted. And it was, of course, in the house. But he died quickly and easily.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Licked Lizard

So, last weekend, when I was rushing around frantically with my late-night juicy burgers on the grill preparations, an unexpected and uninvited visitor showed up on my computer. He was stopped just before he finished doing a google search for ""

Now, with the lovely weather last Sunday, there was a lot more coming and going from the back doors, and I have all ideas that when I went out to do some weed-eater action outside the kitchen eating bay windows, around where the air conditioning units are, this little rascal snuck in. He was smart enough to try to scurry out the same way he'd entered (sorry this pic is a bit blurry, but this was fast-action stuff here). It was cool watching him shift his colors to match the bricks, the floor, the computer...