Sunday, June 16, 2019

Meal No. 2385: Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

On Tuesday evening it was a return to grilled chicken atop Caesar-dressed power greens, a filling and reasonably healthy supper following a most gorgeous and glorious sunny day. I ought to have invested quality time in yard projects, but most of my outside time involved sitting in the sunshine and enjoying the relaxing afternoon with Sumner.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Meal No. 2384: Grilled Filet Mignon

The Monday afternoon meal at the Roediger House was the special treat of grilled filet mignon, wonderfully rare and flavorful, together with roasted parmesan asparagus cuts. It seems I don't get to eat steak all that much any more, so it was a welcome variation from the current norm.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Grandma Bastow's Skillet Cake

After Sunday's pork tenderloin supper, I also had a new cake recipe for us to try out: Grandma Bastow's Skillet Chocolate Cake. Incredibly moist and chortlingly chocolatey, topped with a vanilla frosting, it really did a number on us. That's a cake that needs to show up here again. In the picture above, you can see the addition of cocoa nibs from the local Black Mountain Chocolate.

"Grandma Bastow's Skillet Cake," from Pat Spencer on [Published 07 September 2011]

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Meal No. 2383: Hoisin-Roasted Pork Tenderloin

With Amy and Gern over for Sunday night supper, I made us a hearty meal of a meat and two sides. Anchoring the menu was an oven-roasted hoisin pork tenderloin, with support from company mashed potatoes and seasoned green beans. We did a great job of cleaning our plates.

"Company Mashed Potatoes," a Jones family favorite.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Cultural Affairs and Downtown Living

I like to talk from time to time about how much I enjoy downtown living and all that it offers. Over the weekend, I delighted in having the pleasure of strolling to a couple of "cultural" activities. On Saturday, that included a mid-day viewing of the French film, Non-Fiction, showing at a/perture, our arthouse theatre on Fourth Street (I took the photo above during our January 2017 snowstorm).

On Sunday, I walked in a different direction but still a short distance from the house. Spirit Gum Theatre Company's production of The Altruists was being performed at the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts (see the picture above that I took back in 2010), only blocks from the house. It was a terrific production with a strong cast, including my neighbor from just down the street.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Visitors of Early June

Last week was great for getting to see special people as they traveled through Winston-Salem. It began with my sister and nephew passing through, as May turned to June. Then, last Thursday night was the rare and special treat of a short overnighter from Jim Huneycutt, one of my dearest friends from my doc program at the University of Virginia, as he traveled down to Salisbury on family business. And at mid-day Friday, my best friend from my masters days at Wake Forest passed through with his oldest daughter on their way to see his brother in Cary, and we got to meet up for lunch just up the street from the house. Above you'll see Jim and me...he's quite a tall fellow! And I'm kind of short. But there you have it: friends for over 20 years now...

Monday, June 10, 2019

DoubleTree-Style Chocolate Chip Cookies

As I waited for dear friend and colleague Jim Huneycutt to complete his journey down to Winston-Salem from Charlottesville last Thursday night, I thought I'd be ready with some hot delicious cookies. It seemed to call for the special and terrific Doubletree-style chocolate chip cookies that I'm really very fond of, although I see from the blog I hadn't made them since October! They proved tempting for all of us.

"Doubletree Hotel's Chocolate Chip Cookies," by Ayşegül Sanford and her blog, Foolproof Living. Published December 29, 2013.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Meal No. 2382: Roasted Salmon and Broccoli

Here it is just coming out of the oven last Thursday night: spiced roasted salmon along with roasted broccoli florets, eaten straight out of the pan as I sat at the kitchen island and clicked through headlines.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Summertime Lunch Breaks

By the time late morning rolls around and I start feeling a bit peckish, I've been pretty content to have myself a bowl of yogurt with granola...but now that summertime is rolling in, the addition of some fine fresh fruit is pretty divine. This is what's been powering me through till dinner most days.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Meal No. 2381: Cajun Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo

The Tuesday evening meal was sort of thrown together but it came out mighty fine and good: grilled creole-spiced chicken breast nestled in cajun fettuccine alfredo. Creamy and flavorful with a mix of asiago and parmesan cheeses in the sauce, it proved to be a tasty dish for dinner.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Meal No. 2380: Cheesy Chicken, Broccoli, and Rice Casserole

With four at dinner on Sunday evening, we started with super greens salads topped with my homemade creamy Caesar dressing...

...and followed it up with heaping globs of cheesy chicken, broccoli, and rice casserole. It's been a couple of years since I'd made this, I believe, and we all seemed glad that I brought it back (even though I ate too much!).

While I have pretty much made it my own recipe, I still got inspiration and ideas from:

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Meal No. 2379: Roasted Salmon on Caesar'd Power Greens

While my sister and nephew were here this past weekend, my sister made a second meal request that I was able to accommodate after we all went to see Rocketman in the afternoon matinee. It was a nice thick slab of salmon, spiced and roasted, atop power greens dressed with my homemade creamy Caesar. It seemed to be reasonably decent for dinner.

Based on "Easy Lemon Caesar Salad Dressing," by Kim of

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Meal No. 2378: Braised Chicken over Brussels Sprouts

My sister Allison and nephew Eli stopped in over the weekend on their way down to the beach, and Allison's request for dinner Friday night was the terrific braised chicken and Brussels sprouts meal. It sure does hit the spot each time.

"Braised Chicken and Brussels Sprouts," in Everyday Food, Issue 97, November 2012, p. 22.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Meal No. 2377: Salmon on Caesar-topped Power Greens

By Thursday evening, I figured I'd best moderate my food intake but still needed to refortify after some yard labors here at the end of our weird May heatwave. There remained some salmon from the previous night's meal and it went great with my homemade Caesar dressing over a bed of power greens.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Meal No. 2376: Chicken Quesadillas

With a nice remaining piece of grilled chicken left over, I was able to make a scrumptious mid-day meal on Thursday: chicken quesadillas. Hadn't made these in a while and it was nice to find 'em back on my plate.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Meal No. 2375: Roasted Salmon and Roasted Green Beans

The heatwave of the last several days has severely impacted my ability to work in the yard, so I've been having to lay low and venture out only in the late afternoon when the sun is behind the house, even if the temps haven't moderated much. I'm delving into new challenges with some of my projects and they are proving to have quite a steep learning curve, which can be incredibly frustrating. But I worked up a good enough appetite at mid-week that I was craving a good slab of roasted spiced salmon, to which I added roasted green beans with button mushrooms. It hit the spot.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Meal No. 2374: Grilled Spicy Chicken Wrap

I got a bit creative on Wednesday night and made a new concoction for dinner: a grilled spicy chicken wrap, incredibly flavorful and filling. I've typed up the recipe as best as I could approximate it but it's a recipe that can serve as a guide. Any who wish to make it ought to experiment liberally.

"Grilled Spicy Chicken Wrap," a Roediger House original recipe.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Meal No. 2373: Indoor Pulled Pork

Sunday night was a chance for the regular six-person Roediger House crew to get together, which seems to be harder to pull off these days. That made it extra special to have everybody back at the dinner table. Up for suppertime consideration: indoor pulled pork barbecue with a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce, creamy stuffed eggs, and blue cheese coleslaw. For dessert, I offered the banana cake that I'd made earlier in the weekend.

By the way: I was a little curious about when I first made this pulled pork recipe, because it is yet another one of the frequent favorites that I really do rely on. My quick search of the blog showed me it first appeared for Meal No. 71 in February 2010. It appears that was also the first time I tried making Ina Garten's blue cheese coleslaw, which was also included in the Sunday evening feast this week.

"Indoor Pulled Pork," by Bryan Roof. In Cook's Illustrated, January & February 2010 (No. 102), p. 6-7.

"Blue Cheese Coleslaw," from Ina Garten, from the Food Network website.

"Creamy Stuffed Eggs," a recipe shared with me by Barbara Huneycutt of Crozet, VA.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

One Year Anniversary of Weight Loss Journey

"It's just this sweatshirt making me look fat, right?"
06 January 2018

Today marks the one year anniversary since I started on a deliberate journey to lose weight. In early March of 2018, my doctor gave me the fat-shaming talk because I had weighed in for that appointment at 185, or 20 pounds over the recommended upper limit for weight/BMI for my height. So, on May 29th, 2018, I started the 84-hour fast to precede initiation of a keto-focused dieting period with an initial goal of getting down to 165 and a fantasy of getting down to 150.

Or, as I sometimes put it, (1) I wanted to need a different waist size in pants and (2) I wanted people to ask me if I'd been sick.

As I noted in "My Keto Diary," the blog entry at about the one-month point in this journey, I'm pretty skeptical of how much the keto approach helped me versus all the other avenues I was tackling to get the weight off: exercise, yard work, deprivation, and so on.

This morning, I had my lowest weigh-in of the whole year: 127.2. Which is close to my memory of my high school weight and is also too much weight to have lost. I know that. I get that. I don't want to appear to be auditioning for Schindler's List 2, for heaven's sake. I overshot the mark and I definitely look like I overshot the mark.

A drop in the bucket of what went to Goodwill.

I've gone from Size 34 dress pants down to 29...which sometimes can feel just a tad loose. I do feel much, much better. I'm glad that tying my shoes doesn't make me groan and grunt, and that my knees are no longer bothering me, and that I'm never in situations where I realize I'm sucking in my gut because I'm self-conscious. I regret how expensive it is to replace one's wardrobe (I had to get rid of some really nice suits and stacks and stacks of jeans and trousers.)

I miss beer, having had fewer than 10 bottles in the last 12 months, I suspect. I hardly eat bread anymore, I'm pretty good about sweets and snacking, I eat a lot of salad and salmon and yogurt and granola and fruit. Yes: sometimes I skip meals. But I weigh myself every single morning and have kept track for the whole year. It lets me know where I am and deserves a lot of credit for helping me avoid wild weight swings. (In May, except for today, I've stayed between 128 and 131. In April, I kept it between 128 and 133. In March the high was 132.8 and the low was 127.8. In February, I got as high as 134.2 and no lower than 129.8.) Month-to-month for the last year has showed fairly stable decline...pretty dramatic for the first six months and then appropriately gradual for the next few months and steady maintenance for the last several.

That's the state of things as I mark the beginning of Year Two of watching what the heck I'm doing to my body!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Meal No. 2372: Sunday Brunch for Four

Delightful neighbors Alaina and Deborah came up for Sunday brunch over the weekend, which offered a nice opportunity to make for the first time an asparagus-and-asiago tart, along with the old classic for souped-up scrambled eggs with mushrooms and green onions. There was also a nice bowl of fresh fruit. At meal's end, I offered them slices of the really moist and tempting banana cake with cream cheese frosting that I'd made at the end of the week...which ain't my thing per se but they seemed to like it just fine.

Based on "Fontina Asparagus Tart," from Heidi Meek (Grand Rapids, MI), from Originally published as "Heidi's Cheesy Lemon Asparagus Tart" in Country Woman, November/December 2006.

Eggs based in part on "Slow Cooker Make-Ahead Scrambled Eggs," from Pillsbury Classic Cookbooks, April 2001, No. 242, p. 18-19.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Meal No. 2371: Grilled Chicken & Swiss English Muffins

The mid-day meal on Saturday allowed me to use a bit more of the grilled chicken I had on hand: thinly-sliced, on a Swiss-topped toasted English muffin, and dressed with a thin Hollandaise-style sauce. It was sufficient to fortify me before I ventured out into the unusual heat of that late-May afternoon.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Best Banana Cake?

I made a banana cake with cream cheese frosting. It was okay.

"The Best Banana Cake," by Carrian Cheney of the Oh Sweet Basil blog. [Published 12 May 2019]

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Meal No. 2370: Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

Thursday dawned with showers and rain that hadn't been anticipated, and that made the yard a bit sticky to work in even after the skies cleared. I reckon that was fine with me, because I'd managed to overdo my back on Wednesday and was grateful for the weather-imposed break. I tackled inside tasks, caught up on email (and got my InBox back down to "0"), generated some letters, and straightened up the laundry room just a smidge. And I managed to be pretty hungry by evening because I never did stop for lunch. I grilled some chicken breasts with blackening spice on 'em and, after sunset, slices of it sat nicely along with a fresh-made batch of creamy Caesar dressing on a bed of power greens.

Based on "Easy Lemon Caesar Salad Dressing," by Kim of

Friday, May 24, 2019

Meal No. 2369: Chicken Philly Cheesesteaks

After first trying my hand at them in February 2017, and liking the result, I made chicken philly cheesesteaks three times that year. And then not again, until this past Wednesday night, when they proved to be a delicious day-ender after a full day of sod removal and wheelbarrow wrestling.

Based on a combination of ideas from:

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Meal No. 2368: Cheeseburger Subs

I've always been a bit of a sucker for a cheeseburger sub, given that I'm not all that big on classic sub sandwiches, Italian subs, reubens, or even most cold cuts. So when I've been on the job and we've ordered from a local sub place, I was always glad if I spotted cheeseburger subs among the options. I decided to make a version of them for the three of us at dinner on Monday night, using my go-to burger recipe as a starting point and playing a bit wildly with it from there. I caramelized onions, buttered and grilled sandwich rolls, and made our favorite classic burger sauce. The rolls were a bit tender and didn't hold up well to the man-handling that was required to wrestle these behemoths but that's where the sin of silverware came in...

Starting point for burgers was "Grilled Juicy Burgers," from Pillsbury Classic Cookbooks recipe magazine.

"Classic Burger Sauce" recipe can be found at the bottom of this post on peanut butter bacon burgers.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Cap'n Crunch Cookies

Cap'n Crunch cookies are a go-to recipe for me when it's time to whip up a quick batch of baked treats, in part because it doesn't require extra time for butter to soften since it depends on browned butter instead. I needed some sort of sweet treat Monday afternoon while waiting for the non-performing threat of showers to pass Winston-Salem so's I could get back out into the yard.

"Cap'n Crunch Cookies," found online at The Capitol Baker, with credit going to The Sugar Plum Blog for inspiration and the source of the adapted recipe.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Meal No. 2367: Roasted Salmon

Before catching an evening showing of John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum on Monday night, it was a hurried supper of roasted salmon, roasted broccoli, and simple power greens salad with homemade blue cheese dressing. The salmon portions were generous and eagerly devoured!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Meal No. 2366: Biscuits 'N Gravy

Not a meal that I ever ate growing up but boy howdy I sure do enjoy indulging in this great southern breakfast treat: biscuits with sausage gravy. (Neese's hot sausage, every time, of course!) That was the mid-day meal on Saturday.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Landscaping the Backyard Slope: Phase Two

L: Back Yard (blue dot) // R: Front Yard facing N Spring Street

The Roediger House sits on a roughly quarter-acre downtown lot, 120 feet wide and 100 feet deep. With the size of the house itself, and the generous paved parking area, there's only so much yard. In the back, having built out the kitchen addition in 2008-2009 all the way up to the 20-foot setback limit in the zoning codes, it left me at present with a long strip of strangely sloped yard, rising up to meet the ghost of a demolished retaining wall and also graded to create a reasonable drain field. Let's detour through a quick trip down memory lane to show the yard's transformations over the years...

Before demolishing the old kitchen and mud porch, the backyard had a very different look and feel. Above is looking north from the parking area in 2003; below is the view from the adjoining lot to the north of the house that same year.

Once the kitchen addition was completed in the spring of 2009, this is how things looked back there:

View of the north west corner of the Roediger House, 2010

As seen from the parking area after tree removal, 2012

I guess the first "thing" I did to that barren backyard was to build a very amateur patio pad for the firewood rack and my grill:

I also planted a couple of hibiscus shrubs and a butterfly bush...and that was about it until the fall of 2016, when I removed those and planted three autumn blaze maple trees. Then, last summer, I started with the northwest corner of the backyard and initiated a somewhat more intentional landscaping plan for the steep slope that runs up to the silt fence along the rear property line. As the summer came to a close last year, I began the next phase of landscaping that sloped area but only got as far as tilling and removing a lot of buried bricks (as noted in this blog post from last August).

Over the last three weeks, I picked up where I left off, retilling the top area, and I planted shrubs on that top level (above photo).

I also dug out a great portion of the clay from the slope and replaced it with topsoil.

I still tilled or spaded up a number of buried bricks, but also ran into this interesting buried stumbling block (that I decided to just cover over and plant around):

I've planted a nice variety of shrubs and flowering plants and finished up with petunias for the summer season.

A daylily has already begun blooming beautifully...

...and I am loving the color and vibrancy of the larkspur: