Friday, September 30, 2011

Meal No. 357: Emeril's Beef Stroganoff

As I've already noted, it's a week of simple meals, I guess. With some ground beef on hand and a desire to stick mostly to the staples in the cabinets, I turned to an idea for skillet stroganoff from Emeril Lagasse. It's quick, it's easy, it's good. Made for a good portable bowl of tastiness for watching a couple more episodes of True Blood from last season.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Meal No. 356: Dijon Pork Medallions

Looks like this entire week is going to feature familiar dishes that are favorites at the Roediger House. Tonight this involved reaching for one of my first recipe magazines from when I decided I enjoyed cooking: from Pillsbury Classic Cookbooks, the "A Taste of the BAKE-OFF Contest" issue from March 2001. It's a dish that was submitted in the competition by Frank Hollands, from Minnesota. He called it "Pork Medallions with Dijon Mushroom Sauce."

I called it good. With baked sweet potatoes and delicious green garden peas sharing space on the plate, I managed to eat my fill.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Meal No. 355: Cajun Pasta Alfredo

Still keeping it simple, I guess. Last night's very late-night dinner was a Cajun take on pasta alfredo, with sautéed chicken breast on top.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Meal No. 354: Bama Chicken

The return to the Roediger House has started out with a trip down Favorites Lane. Last night, the choice was my sister's recipe for 'Bama Chicken (or, as some people call it: "Poppyseed Chicken"). I overdid the goop a bit, but it was still mighty good along with stuffing and sugar snap peas and yeast rolls and salad with homemade blue cheese dressing.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Meal No. 353: Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

The fancy picture in the most recent issue of Cooking at Home has been taunting me ever since it arrived at the house, and I've been of a determined mind to give these fancied-up pancakes a trial run. That happened this morning.

You can tell I'm happy to be back in my kitchen, because I usually invest my cooking energy into dinner or desserts, rather than breakfast. Then, too, this was a very dessert-like breakfast!

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes
If I were skilled and artistic, I'd've made the spiced syrup and the creamy icing swirl together like they do in the magazine's picture, but instead I just plopped the icing on and deluged it with syrup. These were amazing.

"Cinnamon Roll Pancakes," Cooking at Home, Issue 89, October 2011, p. 42-43.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Meal No. 352: Filets with Cognac Cream Sauce

Ah, it's good to be home.

And it's good to be able to eat a really good steak and not be somewhere I'm having to pay thirty or forty bucks for it.

On my trips this month, I drove past so many hayfields and so many cow pastures, I kept thinking about steak. But once I sat down in a restaurant, I just couldn't get myself to shell out big bucks for a meal that I can fix every bit as delicious at home. That led me to choose filet mignon for the first post-vacation meal tonight.

Homemade blue cheese dressing on salad started it all off.

I sought to fancy up tonight's meal by adding a brandy-roquefort butter to the steaks once they were grilled, and then also topping it with a cognac cream sauce. The roasted garlic-parmesan asparagus and fresh, sweet corn-on-the-cob, along with mashed potatoes, made this a huge supper. I paid for it later.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Southwestern U.S. Tour: Day 10

The last night of the southwestern United States tour was spent in Las Vegas, because the flight home departs from here this morning. So the obligatory visit to the Las Vegas Strip took place, but it was 100°F just as the sun was going down, and it was a Friday night of drunk throngs of people. I hate Las Vegas anyway, so I'm not sure why I thought this was the way to finish things up. Still, when in Vegas…

I dragged my camera along; here are a few shots for you.

The dumpy hotel, that I got using my accumulated hotel points:

Dinner that wasn't bad from the Riviera Food Court, where the Indian place shares kitchen space with the Big Burger:

And the walk up and down the Strip. The length of it. The approximately four miles of it. And back.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Southwestern U.S. Tour: Day 9

I doubt I could ever get tired of waking up in a room perched atop the south rim of the Grand Canyon and being able to look out and across and down into it.

It was another perfect weather day, the sky clear and bright, the sun warm on my face. For a while, it was enough to sit with coffee in hand and just marvel at the grandeur and beauty. I also had to consider that it might be a while before I get to come back again.

Lunch was in Williams, AZ, and then there was time for a stop at Hoover Dam before cruising into Vegas late afternoon. When Sheryl Cohen and I came through here on our cross-country drive in 1998, US 93 still traced a course right over the dam. I suppose that's too big of a security threat now, plus they've four-laned US 93 from Kingman up to just south of Boulder City, NV. So getting down into the dam area takes a little more doing. Today, with my smartphone telling me it was 107°F and the continued good fortune of crystal blue clear skies above, it was a quick park and walk across the dam and snag a few photos here and there. I was pretty withered by the time I got back to the car, and I decided to pass on the chance to go up on the new Memorial bridge span and look down on it all. Maybe another time.

The dam does, of course, straddle the border between Arizona and Nevada, so here is one final state welcome sign to finish out this fantastic trip.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Southwestern U.S. Tour: Day 8

The El Tovar Hotel opened in 1905, which means it is the same age as the Roediger House. It's a grand rustic lodge and, to me, it was worth it to pay to stay here on the rim. After breakfast in the main dining room, it's just a matter of stepping out the side door and you're looking out at the Grand Canyon. Which brought me my first close viewing of some mule deer, who were snacking on leaves from scrub trees just below the retaining wall outside the El Tovar. Because I was coming from breakfast, I didn't have my camera. But that's okay. The day was young, yet.

This great hulking elk was on the canyon side of the rim trail, working his huge rack against a tree, and that attracted quite a crowd around him. We were all snapping pictures like crazy. When he decided to head back into the wooded areas, we all definitely cleared a path for him, but that also gave us even better shots, like the one above. A few of us followed him as he brayed loudly and signaled for his mate and two kids to join him,  and they lazily snacked and gradually worked their way deeper into the woods.

I don't even begin to know how to choose from among my dozens of pictures today, so here are a few for the sampling.

And there was yet another chance to photograph mule deer at day's end, because this fawn had wondered onto the lawn outside the lodge, and his mother quickly came to corral him back to safety. (But there were too many people around, so they just stayed still for bit.)

One final word: I'm sunburned. But I'm going to enjoy a great final meal here in the Canyon by returning to the El Tovar dining room. Time to shower up and get dressed.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Southwestern U.S. Tour: Day 7

Oh, Sedona. Oh, Oak Creek Canyon. You are both beautiful and lovely to behold. I'm really glad I got to see you.

I'm also really glad I got to see you before returning to the Grand Canyon, because while you may have some stunning features and amazing views, there is not now nor will there ever be anything that rivals what it feels like to stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon and to look out at its incredible vast wonderfulness.

It's been almost 12 years since my last visit to the Grand Canyon, and I am very glad to be back.

Ah…and to once again see a Grand Canyon sunset:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Southwestern U.S. Tour: Day 6

Today's journey involved an early departure from San Diego in order to make the nearly-eight-hour drive to Sedona, Arizona. It was another beautiful day, I might add, although it was misting just a wee bit when I was loading up the car to head out. The day cleared pretty soon, though, and it was a nice drive.

I'm really glad that Jo Ann Wagner, Assistant Superintendent in Nelson County, Virginia, strongly encouraged me to make Sedona part of this tour of the southwestern U.S. The red rocks here are something else, and it is just beautiful.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Southwestern U.S. Tour: Day 5

This was my work day on this great vacation. Well, sort of a work day. I don't know if Trevor did it for me, of if I was doing it for him, but Mr. LaFauci invited me to come observe his World History class at Coleman Tech Charter High School in San Diego. It was great to have a chance to see Trevor in action again. He taught a couple of years in Winston-Salem after he finished at Wake Forest, but I think he is now permanently lost to us with his relocation to sunny San Diego.

Before going to see Trevor teach, though, I had to make at least one trip to the California institution In-N-Out Burgers. And it was a simple and great burger with fresh-cut shoestring fries. If only they also featured Pepsi instead of Coke.

And while it was tempting to go downtown to the Gaslamp Quarter to have fancy-dancy sushi at NOBU, because there's a dress code and because many reviews said they were awfully pricey, I took the easy route and hit the Hillcrest neighborhood for local favorite Ono. It also just so happens that they have happy hour on Mondays, with half-priced sushi rolls and half-priced beer. Lucky me.

Tonight had the additional indulgence of dessert: pinkberry.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Southwestern U.S. Tour: Day 4

After starting the day again with Starbucks in hand, it was time to point the rental car south with an endpoint of San Diego in mind. But there are places worth stopping or seeing along the way, including Mission San Juan Capistrano, just north of San Clemente, CA.

I'd been here years ago, thanks to good friend and UVA chum Sheryl Cohen, with whom I had dinner last night out in the San Fernando Valley (as mentioned in yesterday's blog post).

Lunch was at Port Pizza in San Clemente. Part of the rest of the drive was over on the 101 Coastal Highway, which included passing through Encinitas, Solano Beach, and Del Mar. A mid-afternoon arrival in San Diego meant there was time to sit in the warm sunshine in Balboa Park and read a while before hunting up another Starbucks and a couple of used bookstores.

Dinner out at the Pacific Beach Fish Shop with former Wake Forest student Trevor LaFauci made the day complete.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Southwestern U.S. Tour: Day 3

With basically part of one day to explore Los Angeles a bit, only so much could fit into the agenda. The first stop was the La Brea Tar Pits.

Here's something new I learned: "direwolves" are not just an invention of George R. R. Martin for his Game of Thrones novels. They actually existed and are the single most common animal fossil that's been extracted from the tar pits. Here is a dire wolf skull that was just recently extracted from a massive excavation project currently underway on the grounds of the La Brea Tar Pits.

Grauman's Chinese Theatre got a drive-by, as did the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Holloway House. I did make it up to Griffith Park and, more specifically, to the very famous Griffith Observatory.

We tourists were all excited to discover you can get a really good view of the HOLLYWOOD sign up on the hillside, from the excellent vantage point of the roof of the observatory.

For the afternoon, it was the Getty Center, right on the 405 Freeway north of Los Angeles.  I love the Getty Museum. The collection is always pleasing and its various exhibits are worth seeing. But I have always been in love with the facility itself. It is absolutely gorgeous. As I look through the photos I chose to take, it was clear to me that the art I was most taken with this time at the Getty was the Getty itself.

Dinner afterwards was the special treat of catching up again with fellow University of Virginia PhD grad Sheryl Cohen, who is now the Director of the early childhood center of the Stephen Wise Temple School. We found our way to some excellent sushi and gorged ourselves silly. It was also nice to see the house she's bought since I was last out in L.A.

I guess it's been since March 2005 that I actually last saw Sheryl in person, and that's just too long.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Southwestern U.S. Tour: Day 2

Sequoia National Forest

After an overnight stay at the Kern Lodge in Kernville, California, I pointed the car north to drive up into the Sequoia National Forest. The drive up was gorgeous, mostly following alongside the Kern River

The Trail of 100 Giants was my first exposure to Sequoia trees. They are pretty stunning, pretty amazing, pretty remarkable. Prior to seeing them here, I did not realize that they were scattered among a forest of mostly other kinds of trees. I guess the pictures I'd seen of northern California's redwoods had me imagining I'd been in a dense grove of primarily sequoias. Nonetheless, they are a sight to behold.

After the magnificence of the Giant Sequoias, it was time to head out of the Sequoia National Forest and work my way to the smog and traffic and modernity of Los Angeles. (Well, the actual destination was Santa Monica, but it's about being in the larger L.A. metro area.) 

Make no mistake: there is a heckuva lot of beautiful territory to behold between the mountainous terrain of the Sierra Nevada mountains and the rolling oil rig-dotted flatter lands of Bakersfield.

Given the steep grade and winding hairpin turns on the narrow road down the mountain, I did find myself guffawing at this warning sign:

It seemed much more likely and reasonable to me that I'd see signs like these (which are indeed warning signs I did encounter on this trip):

I mean: seriously? I've got to worry about cattle in the road? Burros and bears and deer and such would make sense to me. But not cows. However, four sharp turns later, what do you suppose was in the road?

 Once I got down far enough off the mountain, but before leaving the rolling hills totally, it became this incredible canvas of grasslands stretching farther than the eye could see. I'm sorry this photo does not quite capture the unreal quality of it, but at least it gives you a taste: