Sunday, October 31, 2010

Prepping for Halloween Party 2010

It is time yet again for the annual Roediger House Halloween Party.

The house is decorated, prepped, and ready.

Jack-O-Lanterns kindly donated by a pumpkin-carving crew of friends.

This is a shot of the first goodies I was whipping up yesterday, the classic party item simply known as Sugar Peanuts. Instructions are helpfully included right inside the burlap bag of Aunt Ruby's North Carolina shelled raw peanuts.

The problem, if course, is that when I've got over 24 hours between prepping them and when the party starts up, they remain a pretty powerful temptation sitting there in a Ziploc bag on the counter. Good thing I made two recipes of 'em.

By the time the party rolled around, I had also made:
  • monster chip cookies
  • roasted red pepper dip
  • cowboy shrimp dip
  • chocolate fudge
  • gnarly garlic cheese dip
  • slow cooker sausage queso dip

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Meal No. 166: Grilled Ribeye

If this were not the weekend of Halloween, it seems likely I could have been up in Virginia working with one of my regular school districts up there. But of course there is the annual Roediger House Halloween Party to be prepping for, so I made sure my travel schedule had me home by this past Tuesday evening.

You see, if I were working up in Virginia, I think I would have had to get over to Washington, D.C., to be in attendance for Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity. The idea of it is compelling enough, and I would want to do my part by showing up. Plus, I imagine it will be quite a fascinating experience.

It could also do much to restore a sense of sanity and offer some glimmers of hope that people are willing to think and to "take it down a notch."

Instead, it is a weekend at home, and with the Roediger House as that home, not such a bad place to be.

Yesterday was the first day of the fall when evening brought a noticeable drop in the temperatures, making it a little less appealing to be outside grilling and frying french fries. But with this kind of result, it was well worth it.

Last night's fixins: grilled ribeye steak, thick and hearty and tender and perfectly cooked. On the side, deep fryer french fries. I forgot I'd made a Caesar salad to boot, so at this moment it still sits wrapped up in the fridge. I even had shaved parmesan on top of it.

It was too much food, but as you can see from this shot (which also reveals dinner was consumed along with another episode of Star Trek from its second season), I managed to knock it all down:

It does seem as though I have an "Obsession" with steak.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Meal No. 165: Roast with Onion & Mushroom Gravy

Last evening, a crockpot extravaganza. I never seem to make crockpot meals, but a pot roast was calling my name. This is a beef chuck roast with onion and mushroom gravy (I also seldom make gravy), and it was mighty, mighty good. A side of green beans, yeast rolls, and company mashed potatoes made it savory and spectacular.

A cast of the usual suspects took part in the edibles of the evening.

Slow Cooker Roast with Onion Mushroom Gravy: Southern Living Slow-Cooker Cookbook, 2006, p. 18. [rj19; sbw19; aw16; bw15; bp10]

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Meal No. 164: Kung Pao Chicken

I went through a phase where I was liking stir fry so much that I wanted to try to do it at least once a week. I guess I didn't stick very well with that, but I have been breaking out the wok a bit more of late. Last night's meal was a good excuse to do so again.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Meal No. 163: Coronation Chicken

Coming in off the road last night with some chicken breasts waiting in the refrigerator for cooking, I reached for a simple recipe that is filling and good. This is Coronation Chicken over jasmine rice, with some crescent rolls and a Xingu on the side.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Taste for Abita Amber

Thanks to my former student Tim Schwarz, who has me working regularly with him and his faculty at a charter school in New Orleans, I've developed quite a fondness for Abita Amber. This Louisiana brewery has quite a few nice selections, but they are not widely available to me here in Winston-Salem. So I am left to order it through friends connected with a local restaurant.

It's always a pleasure when a fresh case arrives. I keep the beverage cooler in the wetbar well-stocked with Abita Amber, Xingu (a Brazilian black beer), Viru (a nice find from Estonia), and occasionally Starr Hill Amber (from Crozet/Charlottesville, VA) and Newcastle.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Who's the Branch Manager?

It seems I'm going to have to do a bit more education of my neighbors about the City's policies on yard waste. The fact that I collect and pile sticks and branches on my curb is because the City has a program to collect these at regular intervals. There are restrictions and limitations, of course: the limbs cannot be more than 6 inches in diameter and they cannot be longer than 6 feet. Leaves are another matter: they're piled along the curb but must be free of branches, and they're only collected during the fall.

So when I come home and find a limb longer than 6 feet, with a pile of leaves mixed in, it presents a problem. Why is it piled in front of my house instead of at the curb of the property owner from which it came? And why does it violate the City's rules for this stuff?

Instead of taking the time to break down the branch and separate out the leaves and vines piled thereon, I just picked it up and took it back across the street from where I am pretty sure it came.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Meal No. 162: BBQ & Vegetarian Chili

Listen: when Lowe's Foods in Winston-Salem decides it wants to offer a $20 Boston Butt pork roast for only eight bucks, seems to me it's a good time to plan on another round of indoor pulled pork barbeque with a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce. Alongside for this meal is the perfect accompaniment of blue cheese coleslaw, which was as good this time as it's ever been, and some of Granny Wilson's honey wheat cornbread.

Below is a picture of Jennifer Twineham-Subasavage, who was the sole vegetarian in attendance for this grand meal, and who was therefore my inspiration to try my hand at a new dish. Here, she is looking down at the pot cooking on the stove with what I hope passes for happy anticipation....

And here's what she was taking a gander at: a pot of vegetarian chili...

It was a delightful gathering of seven for the evening's meal, served buffet style from the grand expanse of countertop in the new kitchen:

The dinner was delicious, I'd say:

"Vegetarian Chili," from All About Vegetarian Cooking. By the editors of Joy of Cooking: Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker. New York: Scribner (2000), p. 82-83. Cookbook was a gift from former student Alison Pomeroy.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Spring Street Closed for WSSU Homecoming Parade

I found signs on Spring Street on Friday which were an early warning sign that the road was going to be closed off again. Sure enough, that's exactly what happened on Saturday morning.

I get that I live right off Fourth Street, an ideal location for much that is fun to do in the greater downtown area. And I know that this close proximity means occasional inconveniences for me as a downtown dweller. What does get me irked is that the kind of event that requires a permit for street closures is probably planned well in advance. Why is it so hard for these closures to be communicated to the residents and property owners? And while I have generally liked the members of the Winston-Salem Police Department's downtown bike patrol, I can safely assert that the motorcycle cop manning the barricade at the end of Spring Street this morning was equipped with a butt on his shoulders when I told him my general contractor would need to get through.

"How long have you lived in that house?" he asked me.

"Since 2003," I told him.

"Then you should know that the Homecoming Parade is going to be happening," he sniffed, as though it's my fault that I do not track down every possible occasion and reason for Spring Street to be closed off.

When I've planned an event weeks in advance, or scheduled something important related to the house (general contractor, tree removal, furniture delivery), it is not really helpful for there to be NO notice of a street closure. I think it's time for a letter to my city councilwoman about the frequency of street closures and the dearth of resident notifications.

Ah, but this street closure was for a very good reason: it was Winston-Salem State University's Homecoming parade, which is always a fun event to witness from the north windows of the Roediger House or to look down on the staging of from the upstairs porch.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Meal No. 161: Country Ham & Rice

A favorite breakfast meal for me growing up in Buies Creek was country ham with rice and biscuits, and a tall cold glass of milk. My mom did a pretty consistently good job making it and I wish I could replicate it better than I do. Every once in a while I get a hankering for this, so that's what happened on this Friday night, after I'd spent the day working with instructional services personnel here in Winston-Salem.

The rice was the disappointing aspect, as per my usual bad luck with that food item, but the biscuits were fluffy and succulent, and the country ham was cooked just right. The milk was cold, the butter was savory, and my belly ended up quite stuffed.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Meal No. 160: Moroccan Bistro Chicken

This lovely plate of food is my best effort to follow the directions emailed to me by Brendan Shanley, who fixed this meal when I visited with him and his family last Christmas holiday. Yet again, it was darned delicious, and as Brendan notes, it's a pretty forgiving dish when it comes to the cooking of it.

Served this time over some white basmati rice, with crescent rolls on the side, it was a good meal to have after two days of working down in Richmond County.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Monster Chip Cookies for Richmond County Folks

I really like the good people in Richmond County Schools that I've been working with these last two years. It is fun to watch the different principals competing with one another to see who can play the best host for the administrators they're hosting when we work on observation skills and post-observation conferencing. I don't want to get caught up in their competitions, but I like being the happy beneficiary of their good food and goodies and such.

Since I like to whip things up in the kitchen as well, I have wanted to bring something along on one of my ventures down US 220 to Rockingham and Hamlet. Since yesterday's dinner was an early one, I had time to get a batch of monster chip cookies baked.

Not my best selection, but they're still tempting to have sitting on the counter.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Meal No. 159: Turkey Cutlets in Garlic Butter Sauce

It is true that I'm often driven in my menu planning by what's on sale when I go to the grocery store. On a whim, when I went to the bank, I swung by the Lowe's Foods store out on Robinhood Road, where I was lucky enough to find Smucker's Mixed Fruit Jelly a few weeks ago. On this particular afternoon, the sale item was turkey breast cutlets: Buy One, Get One Free.

I've never made these before, so I did a quick internet search for some recipes to get a handle on prep and cooking options. I decided to go with browning them in oil and butter in the skillet, which set me up to create a garlic butter sauce to serve with them.

With mashed potatoes and lima beans alongside, and the late afternoon sun coming in the back glass door where the eating nook/bay is, it made a pretty picture and a tasty meal.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Meal No. 158: Easy Taco Pie

After a day spent in Marion, NC, to observe and visit with Wake Forest graduate Brian Hill, I didn't want to make much of an investment in this evening's meal at the Roediger House. So here it is: Impossibly Easy Taco Pie. Pretty good stuff but truly just serviceable.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Meal No. 157: Chicken Alfredo Casserole

The Saturday night meal was comfort food, most appropriate given that the nights are noticeably cooler. Thanks to a new casserole-focused cookbook I got not too long ago, this dish proved to be a simple one to put together. It was mighty good, with a side of Caesar salad and some garlic artisan loaf. Yum.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Post-Play Gathering at the RoHo

This evening involved an excursion over to Körner's Folly in Kernersville, NC, to take in the world premiere of playwright Bill Cissna's show, "Conversations in a Café." (The top floor of this crazy historic house is an intimate theatre called Cupid's Park Theater.) Friend and former student Bradley Phillis was one of the actors. After the play, there was a chance for the lot of us to hang out and get our laughters on 'round the kitchen table. It was a good way to wind down the evening.

Friday, October 15, 2010

NEVER Use Barnette Heating of Mocksville, NC

Lest the point be insufficiently driven home, this morning represents another in a long string of mornings when I wake up too early with my frustration running ridiculously high, and I can thank the lack of service from and problem-plagued installation of my HVAC system by Barnette Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc., of Mocksville, NC.

My experience with them was awful and it galls me that the fall-out continues to affect the quality of life, and the quality of the physical structure, in my historic home in downtown Winston-Salem.

And to think that Barnette Heating & A/C refused to correct the problems themselves. That's just bad business. And it's inexcusable.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Early Shades of Fall

Some early signs of autumn, as captured on a recent beautiful Saturday afternoon:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

New Canon Rebel EOS Camera

Pictured here on the right is a recent addition to the Roediger House: a new Canon Rebel EOS camera that I got a few weeks ago. The old 4.0 megapixel Canon Powershot point-and-shoot camera I got about eight years ago just didn't cut the mustard around here. And with the daily blogging I've been doing for some strange reason during 2010, I needed to be able to capture sights and sounds of the world of Roediger without worrying about clarity or quality of the shots. That old Powershot left me with too many blurry or washed-out pictures, and its battery was rather lousy, too.

I got a little inspired when my college suitemates were here for our reunion back in August. Several of them had pretty decent SLR digital cameras and were taking a lot of great shots. It pushed me over from my previously-wavering position and I pulled the trigger and got myself one.

And I love it. It's been taking some mighty fine pictures. Some future blog post is going to offer a sampling of some nighttime photos that turned out very, very cool, by my estimation.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Meal No. 156: Biscuits & Gravy

Here's something I've only made one other time: biscuits and sausage gravy.

That was back in the old kitchen, before all this renovation and addition stuff. For the last year or so, I've been getting biscuits and gravy from former student Bradley Phillis, when he has kindly consented to be chef over at his place for a gathering of good friends. This proved to be the right kind of mid-afternoon meal yesterday before it was time to pack and hit the road for work in Virginia.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Meal No. 155: T-Bones on the Grill

Talk about a great sale at the Harris-Teeter: T-bone steaks were on a ripping good deal when I went to the grocery this week. So last night was a perfect ending to a relaxing, beautiful-weather weekend, and a few of us gathered to enjoy good old grilled red meat and a huge side of french fries.

I guess I'm not used to my picture being taken, and I didn't keep my eyes open enough. Sorry if I look drunk or stoned; I promise I was neither.

The T-bone I saved for myself was extra thick:

And this is how much of it was still left when my belly was filled to capacity:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Meal No. 154: Kung Pao Chicken

The Roediger House has a great kitchen now, and it always had a great butler's pantry. So there's plenty of storage. Which is a good thing, because I have managed to accumulate quite a few appliances. Some get used more than others, but it's nice to have the equipment to do whatever job I've got in mind when it comes to whipping up some tasty meals here.

Take, for instance, the electric wok. Asian cooking purists do not think an electric wok is the way to go, but thus far, mine has been easy to work with and has led to some great meals. Above, you can see it working on the vegetables for last night's dinner, which was Kung Pao Chicken.

By the time I added the peanut sauce, I could also sense the heightened awareness of my taste buds, because it was wafting up the best most tempting smells.

Served over fried brown rice, it made a colorful dish. Even better, it tasted incredible.

By the way, happy 10/10/10. There...I said it. Just like everybody else did.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Meal No. 153: Tuna with Tarragon-Mushroom Sauce

Last night's meal (No. 153 in the new kitchen...don't you love my tabulation obsession?) was seared sashimi yellowfin tuna steaks with a tarragon-mushroom cream sauce. It was tasty to chow down on while watching the final episode of the second season of TRUE BLOOD.

This is not the first time I've made this sauce; last time it was the accompaniment to some salmon fillets. That previous meal was also when I tried out my new rice cooker for the first time. Last night was my first time making brown rice with that cooker. It takes considerably longer to cook (almost two hours), but the result was well worth it. I made extra in hopes there will be an excuse to whip up some stir-fry with fried rice before the weekend is out.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Upstairs HVAC Restored to Health?

Friday morning, after my two days on the road, involved an early start, because Webb Heating and Air Conditioning Company, Inc., was back to replace the faulty coil in the air handler in the attic that serves the upstairs.

The serviceman, Keith, was here for about five hours. He had to drain all the freon out of the system, remove the original faulty coil, install the new one, and then refill the freon.

I asked him as he was leaving if the leak above the wetbar that showed up back in August was likely to be from freezing along the chiller lines, when the freon was low in that system. He said that was a pretty reasonable conclusion.

So, the failure of Barnette Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc., of Mocksville, NC, to identify the problem of the leak very likely means that I have mold in one of my new bathrooms. I am currently without use of that bathroom. I have a hole cut in the ceiling of my kitchen while we try to control for any more mysterious dripping water.

If that's what you'd like your own house to look like, then using Barnette Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc., can make all that misery yours.