Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Lone Eastern Towhee

This spring has brought a here-to-fore unseen (or not-spotted) new visitor to the back yard here at the Roediger House.

At first glance, I thought he represented the first Baltimore Oriole that I'd seen since I was a kid growing up in Buies Creek, when they were very present visitors to our nice sloping and wooded backyard.

But he doesn't have the full orange breast that the guidebooks show, and it took me a while to look in the right section in order to see he more closely matched the Eastern Towhee.

Had me fooled and excited for a while till I realized I'd initially mis-identified him. But he's still a wonderful little bird.

April's Wildlife in the Yard

On this last day of April, 2011, I thought I'd offer up a sampling of this month's frolicking wildlife from the yard.

First up: a lovely male cardinal having supper at the new feeder by one of the kitchen bay windows, with the late afternoon sun catching him just right:

Next, a couple of shots of my busy and hungry finches:

And the yard squirrel Rocky does seem to really appreciate it when I've left some nuts out on the table for him:

Without really thinking about it, I was going to catch him perched on the side of one of the trash trees on the back wall, but then he leaped just as I was snapping. Late afternoon and the light is off, but I like the blur and poise:

And you faithful blog readers know I enjoy my hawk sightings, but these rascals seldom give me enough time to set up any good shots. So a couple of days ago, I looked up in time to see him alight on the fence outside the kitchen bay windows and snagged a quick photo before he was off again:

Friday, April 29, 2011

Meal No. 270: Ranch Sliders

I'm not sure what led me to this recipe, but it ended up in my folder and I decided that today's beautiful spring weather called for grilling out for me and some of the fellas. These little rascals are cheesy ranch sliders, which I decided to make with real ground beef instead of the ground turkey that was recommended for it. I had some different Wisconsin cheeses that didn't get used at last Sunday's party, and that left a nice variety of toppings for the sliders. It was a fine ending to the week, sitting on camp chairs out on the front porch in the early evening, with cold beers to wash it down.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Meal No. 269: Chicken Supreme

Now, I'm beginning to calm it down a notch or two, after doing serious time in the Roediger House kitchen this last stretch of days. This evening's meal was made using a recipe my mother gave me after I graduated from college and moved out to start my first job. I still have it on the little "Carolina Telephone" notepad where we put down some recipes that she thought I should have. I haven't made this in probably 20 years, though. She was a fine cook but she did not go much for meals that were out of the ordinary or all that fancy…this one was a little more on the exotic side in the Jones household, where meat and potatoes ruled the day.

Not that this is a difficult meal: it's not. It's rotisserie chicken (which we didn't have at our grocery stores way back in those days when she used to make it) over steamed broccoli with parmesan cheese, topped with a sauce made from sour cream, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and more parmesan cheese. There wasn't much left over, and what little there was I sent home with Amy Williamson.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Meal No. 268: Beef & Mushroom Stir-Fry

If it weren't for the fact that my roasting dish runs a little small, when considered in light of the beef tenderloins I buy, tonight's meal might not have been on the docket. But I tend to cut off the small end of the tenderloin and save it for just this sort of thing, and I like the result.

Alas, this time I think I cut too small a portion, because by the time I'd trimmed away the fat and silverskin, it didn't leave me much steak. Nonetheless, the serving size turned out just right, once I'd added in the cremini mushrooms, onions, and asparagus and served it over some long-grain white rice from the rice cooker.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Meal No. 267: Seared Tuna Medallions over Four-Cheese Tortellini with Roasted Red Pepper Cream Sauce

Since I made some delicious southern pimento cheese over the weekend to serve with the Dead Celebrity Bash, I now had an open jar of Mt. Olive roasted red peppers. With a quick search online for recipes, I came across one for a roasted red pepper cream sauce that seemed fairly straightforward. I served it over four-cheese tortellini and topped it with seared tuna medallions.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Meal No. 266: Beef Tenderloin

Even though there was a big ol' party at the Roediger House last night, with all the attendant clean-up and chores surrounding it, I was ready to whip up a big meal for a gathering of six around the kitchen table for tonight's meal.

This is what I do when these things go on sale: I have to buy them, and then people have to indulge my culinary madnesses and come partake. To go along with the beef tenderloin in wine sauce, there was a different take on the three-cheese pasta bake from several days ago, and a layered green bean casserole. I pulled out some madeira stilton demiglace sauce left over from my rack of lamb meal and also prepped a creamy horseradish sauce.

Dessert: some very light and tasty vanilla bean cheesecake bars.

"Beef Tenderloin in Wine Sauce" (p. 296) and "Spicy Horseradish Sauce" (p. 295) from The All-New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook. Compiled and Edited by Julie Fisher Gunter. Oxmoor Press (2006).

"Layered Green Bean Casserole," from my sister Allison in Rossville, Indiana.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dead Celebrity Easter Bash

Easter Sunday night proved to be an occasion for a good blow-out party, which hasn't really happened since the 2010 Halloween shindig. That meant a lot of prep in the kitchen, as I am wont to do: peanut butter fudge, white chocolate macadamia nut cookies, pimento cheese, gnarly garlic dip, a very well received hot sausage queso, and a warm swiss and bacon dip that really seemed to make a splash. Also on hand: cheeses, hummus, deli meats for quick sandwiches, and some fresh veggies.

There were a lot of great costumes, including these two:

I think the final count of people was in the mid-30s, which kept it fun and not crazy.

And I had a blast.

With things winding down around 3:30 am, it seemed best to just leave clean-up until the next day.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Meal No. 265: Spicy Sichuan Noodles with Pork & Shiitake Musrooms

Tonight's meal: spicy Sichuan noodles made with pork and shiitake mushrooms, served over pasta noodles. I think I made it a bit too spicy, but what a lot of good flavor in it.

On another note, I have begun today to really exhibit what appears to be Pine Nut Syndrome: a very bitter, metallic taste in my mouth, exacerbated when I am eating or tasting things. The online information available about this says it may last up to two weeks. Darn it. Guess those were cheap Chinese pine nuts I've been buying from the Harris Teeter and incorporating into Israeli couscous, quinoa, and pizza.

From Cook's Illustrated, from America's Test Kitchen. Published May 1, 2001.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Meal No. 264: Grilled Tuna

What I had hoped to come home from Harris Teeter with did not pan out, because the other seafood I was interested in just didn't look all that good this afternoon. But the tuna medallions were looking mighty fine, and I knew from earlier meals that grilled tuna with a red wine vinegar and rosemary dijon vinaigrette would be a terrific meal.

Alongside I fancied up some quinoa, the same way that I've made Israeli couscous in recent dinners.

And with helpful directions from Donna Whitley-Smith from Luray, VA, I took my first stab at her version of Gussied Up Greens. It's spinach with onion, garlic, and gorgonzola. I need to get closer to her technique so that it comes out not so watery. But it was delicious.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Meal No. 263: Pizza Crap

Well, I've made what I think was my first inedible meal in the new Roediger House kitchen. I mean I actually could not eat the food I had prepared because it was so terrible.

This was a quick-fix meal, because I'd been working out of town for three days and just wanted to get some food on the table without having to go out to eat. So I tried out another recipe for pizza crust, styled along the lines of focaccia bread, and I must've had inactive yeast (although it hadn't expired yet) or something.

Anyway, I took a few bites and threw the rest of it away. Yuck, yuck, yuck.

PS: Other blog titles considered:
  • Pizza Pallor
  • Pizza Potty
  • Fell-Flat-Bread
  • Fo-can't-cia Pizza
  • Pizza without Pizzazz

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Magical White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookie

Sometimes the white chocolate madadamia nut cookies come out tasting just amazing, and every once in a while, they also look bakery perfect. Here's what I mean.

Weekend Evening Porch Party

This past Saturday, earlier in the day, other areas of North Carolina were hard-hit by powerful storm cells that spawned tornadoes, but things stayed relatively calm in Winston-Salem. The two cities where I did my public school teaching were not so lucky: both Raleigh and Sanford suffered a lot of destruction and several deaths.

But once the system had moved through, it left us with beautiful clear skies and more gentle breezes, and that opened up the possibility of an impromptu porch party upstairs.

It seems that these were a bit more common in years past, where people would stop by or there'd be an evening out, and then a large gathering would end up talking and laughing on that terrific balcony with its great view of the Winston-Salem skyline.

On this particular evening, this was the pre-dinner casual hang, and it was a treat.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sensational Smoothies

I've gone through a little spell where I'm trying my hand at homemade smoothies, using little bags of frozen fruit varieties, along with some frozen yogurt, plain yogurt, and juices.

They've been darned tasty mid-day snacks to tide me over till dinner.

Damn Cat: The Next Generation

How can I have a yard so full of birds and still be surprised at the other nuisances that might come along with their song-birdy joy?

In the last week or so, I've discovered there is a stray cat that cannot resist the siren calls issuing forth from my trees and feeders. And who also finds my back stoop, right next to three feeders, to be a cozy place to stretch out or to curl up.

About a year ago, I blogged about a feline menace that was unable to resist the birdy attractions of my yard. She was a beautiful yellow cat and, were it not for the fact that we have competing notions about my hospitality, I might enjoy having her on my lap and giving her a good rub.

Unfortunately, because she terrorized and occasionally slaughtered my birds (and left cat upchuck on my porch from time to time), I'm not sure she'd be limited to getting a rubbing if she sat in my lap. Maybe a rubbing-out?

Of course, you know I just talk big.

I imagine this year's yellow cat to be an off-spring of last year's unwelcome visitor...she just looks and acts younger and more kitten-like. And I don't think last year's damn cat had the patch of white on her neck and upper chest that this year's model does.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Meal No. 262: General Roe's Chicken

Last meal of the weekend today, before taking off for a few days of work south of here, in Richmond County, NC. The new recipe that got a trial today: General Tso's Chicken, as described in the May 2011 issue of Food and Wine. Of course, with the Roediger House spin on this dish, I had to rename it.

I probably needed to have my oil a bit hotter and not quite as deep, because I got more of a "fried" taste that I wanted. But overall, this recipe is another keeper in the Roediger House kitchen.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Meal No. 261: Barbecued Chicken Kebabs

The drive to keep trying out new recipes continues. With a picture-perfect, glorious, and sunny April Sunday lifting my spirits and giving me some joyful quiet time outdoors, I found myself drawn again to a grilling recipe. Tonight's palate-pleaser, a couple of pages ahead of the recipe I used last night in the latest Cook's Illustrated, was for barbecued chicken kebabs.

Here's an interesting twist that might intrigue (or repulse) you: the raw chicken meat gets a good spice rub that includes raw bacon that's been processed into a paste.

The barbecue sauce that is used both at the end of the grilling and then also passed at the table was a terrific balance of sweet and potent. I can see pulling it out for other meals in the future, whether it involves grilling or not.

Once again, I gave a head of cauliflower the cumin-coriander treatment and roasted it in a 450°F oven. Baby limas were the vegetable representative.

"Rescuing Barbecued Chicken Kebabs," in Cook's Illustrated, Number 110, May-June 2011, p 6-7.

"Cumin-Coriander Cauliflower," from Cuisine at Home, Issue No. 85, February 2011

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Meal No. 260: Grilled Pork Rib Roast

Among the better nights in the Roediger House is when the table is fully surrounded with six good souls, and the food is on the table and joyful laughter is in the air.

Another new recipe was the driving force behind last night's dinner get-together. Above, what you see is a pork rib roast grilling along with some hickory wood chips for extra smoky flavoriciousness.

It was a mighty fine looking roast when it was all done with its cooking and resting.

And with yet another version of mac and cheese to try out and get a verdict on, along with sugar snap peas, I'd say it was another successful meal in the Roediger House kitchen.

The three-cheese pasta bake was well-received.

Grilled Pork Roast from "The Secrets of Bone-In Pork Roast," in Cook's Illustrated, Number 110, May-June 2011, p 8-9.

Three Cheese Pasta Bake, from Anna Olson on LifeStyle FOOD.