Thursday, January 31, 2019

Meal No. 2291: Vierling Saloon Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Saturday was raw and chilly, albeit sunny, and with six of us at dinner that night I loved the idea of a giant pot of the incredibly delicious Vierling Saloon chicken and wild rice soup.

There was a good bit of pool playing beforehand, which is always fun to do.

"Vierling Saloon Cream of Chicken and Wild Rice Soup," formerly offered at the Vierling Saloon in Marquette, Michigan. This was first shared with me by my sister Allison Holden and her husband Tom, from Rossville, Indiana. Another online version of the recipe can be found at Miss Mary's Blog.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Chill January Mornings

Most of the entries to the blog are written in advance and set up to post automatically over night. Ironically, today's post (about last Friday's chilly morning) is showing up right when a record-setting polar vortex has settled over the midwest and the Great Lakes region, leading to record-busting low temps and wind chills.

While it was 19°F when I got up around 7 am this morning, we were fortunately far enough south of the vortex so as not to be brutalized by it in the same way as our northern neighbors.

As for last Friday, Sumner and I were up pretty early, and in that cold morning air well before sunrise, we were witness to a rather cool celestial display, including two adjacent brightnesses that I needed Google Sky to confirm what I suspected: Venus and Jupiter were again close to one another.  I guess I could've tried to photograph it, but I snagged the Sky app screenshot instead.

(Also, according to that marvelous app, below the horizon between those planets and the sun lurked both Saturn and Pluto.)

Saturday morning's chill was sufficient that it called for a nice blazing fire: No. 64 in the ongoing tally since the kitchen addition was completed in 2010.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Lemon Curd Pound Cake with Limoncello Glaze

With extra lemon curd hanging out in the fridge, left over from the Lemon Shortbread Cheesecake I made last weekend, I was interested in trying out new recipes that would utilize it well. On Friday morning, I made a lemon curd pound cake topped with a limoncello glaze that provided a sweet treat following the Friday night meal (although I did not partake!). Then, on Saturday morning, when neighbors came up bearing smoked salmon and bagels, it was a nice closer to our late breakfast.

"Lemon Curd Pound Cake with Limoncello Glaze," from Shelly Jaronsky of [Posted 14 June 2015]

Monday, January 28, 2019

Meal No. 2290: Salmon over Caesar Salad

Because I've not been cooking as much, the ongoing string of blog entries might make it appear that I'm eating salmon more frequently than is true, although it's been so darned good and good for me that I'm tempted to make it more than once a week. Together with the really tasty homemade Caesar dressing that I'm also really enjoying, it makes a protein-topped salad an easy selection. Even though it was dinner last Sunday night, I brought it back for Friday night's evening meal as well, with no regrets. No regrets at all. That picture (above) makes the case for me, doesn't it?

"Easy Lemon Caesar Salad Dressing," by Kim of

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Smartening Up the Homestead

Apparently it's hard to know the exact number of Amazon Alexa voice assistants that have actually been sold, but I can tell you that there are two of them in the Roediger House. I got a pair of Echo Shows a couple of years ago, in part because it's a great way to communicate between the kitchen and the 3rd floor. I also thought it might open the door for video communication with friends and family as they also got their own devices.

Initially, my use of Alexa was pretty simplistic, in the scheme of what's possible. It has been a kitchen timer and a house intercom; I tell it to add items to my shopping list and occasionally set reminders; Alexa can tell me the weather and temp and forecast and she also displays upcoming events pulled from my Google calendar. It's easy to get simple reference and trivia information (i.e., "How old is Olivia de Havilland?"). Sometimes it's a quick source for a song or video. Rarely I'll ask her to play a music station or genre. Perhaps once I asked her to order something for me from Amazon and for a brief period I linked my orders and deliveries for her to report on (until that became annoying but also spoiled some surprises). Every once in a while I'm enticed to ask Alexa to tell me more about an item in her ongoing scrolling news feed. That's been the pattern for the first couple of years.

Now I've decided it's time to take the smart home possibilities up to the next level, which I guess began to kick in when I upgraded two of the thermostats to Nests. As we moved from Christmas into the new year, I finally decided to upgrade the wifi router to a 3-unit mesh system for better whole-house coverage. LinkSys Velop routers are now strategically placed throughout the house (see photo above).

One easy upgrade was to get several smart plugs. For years, I've had various lamps on timers. Alas, because they are mechanical, some of them had gotten rickety and noisy and you could distinctly hear the grinding of their slow-moving gears. Also, if I was visiting with guests in one of the front parlours past the cut-off time on the lamps, I wasn't able to easily turn them back on because the timer plug was behind the sofas. Now that all of those lamps are controlled by smart plugs, I can adjust their schedules easily and also turn them on or off with voice commands or via my Alexa app.

The next simple smart home upgrade was to get a set of Philips Hue wifi bulbs. They've proven to be a great choice in a couple of hallway lamps and at the base of the stairs going up to the attic, but the bulb is not bright enough for my fireside reading lamp so I'll have to come up with another plan for that fixture. I also swapped out two of the LED kits in the east and north nooks/gables of the attic so that I could put BR30 LED smart bulbs in. That's also been a good option, although both of these bulbs have been turning themselves on randomly and I'd like them to not do that.

The big-deal investment was in smart light switches, and I might have gotten a bit carried away on that part of the project. But with the help of Fred Schlosser of eWire Electric Company, who really made it happen even in some of the tight old switch boxes in the front of the house, the Roediger House has emerged into 21st Century functionality.

Outdoor Bay Lights (old timer) plus two GE smart dimmer switches

The kitchen, the main hallway, and the attic have now been largely upgraded to a whole set of Z-wave dimmer smart switches and, frankly, it's pretty dandy.

In the meantime, I have linked a few more skills to Alexa.  I've got the security cameras linked in so that we can get Alexa to show us, for instance, the porch or who's at the back door without pulling up the video monitoring app on the phone. Another skill is for the Sonos devices, but let's also acknowledge that Sonos has not yet achieved good integration with Alexa, so the commands are limited, and frequently Alexa tells me the device "doesn't support that" when I ask her, for instance, to turn the music up or down.

The last acquisition was a Schlage Z-wave smart lock for the back door. That means I can lock or unlock the door using the app, whether I'm home or away, and I can also tell Alexa to unlock it (with an additional security code) as well as to lock it back. While I prefer for folks coming to visit to use the front door and the doorbell, some of the younger set report to the back door and text their arrival. Now, it will be easy to let them in without coming down two flights of stairs. Also, it's not unusual for a guest to forget to lock the door behind her. It's nice to have that extra option for controlling and securing that entry.

Thanks to the routines I can program into the Alexa app, my repetitive beginning-and-end-of-day tasks are all automated. I tell her to "Start My Day," and the front hallway lights and lamps will come on. The kitchen undercabinet lights turn on in the kitchen, as well as my fireside lamp. There are different routines to run the lighting in the attic, whether it's for TV watching, pool playing, or bringing up all the lights for cleaning. As I leave the kitchen after the final before-bedtime trip out with the pooch, I tell Alexa to "Shut It Down," and all lights and lamps are turned off. I do have a number of lamps on schedules, too, so that they continue to operate even when I'm on the road. In the upstairs hallway, thanks to this automation, the lamp dims to more of a nightlight setting after 9 pm, before going out completely an hour or so after that.

Several of the devices do depend on hubs, so I now have two: one specifically for the Philips Hue bulbs, and then the more universal SmartThings hub from Samsung. I went considerably further with these smart upgrades than I'd initially intended, but once you get started and consider the options and possibilities, it's easy to overdo it. I'd say that, although it's still a cool novelty at the moment, I can also appreciate the ongoing utility of it for the long haul.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Meal No. 2289: Slow Cooker Texas Pulled Pork

It was my intention to serve up some tasty and tangy pulled pork barbecue on the evening of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday last Monday. Alas, I didn't get the main feature into the slow cooker well enough in advance, so I had to leave it to do its cooking longer and instead served it on Tuesday. There sure was a lot of it but without a full table of folks to serve it to!

Still it was good, and what another great opportunity to make a batch of coleslaw based on my mother's simple recipe.

Pulled Pork based on a Review with Modifications by jenleighd, made in response to "Slow Cooker Texas Pulled Pork," from cmccreight on

Barbecue Sauce made for serving was "Homemade BBQ Sauce," from Ali of [Published 03 July 2014]

Sweet Southern Coleslaw based on recipe from Allison M. Jones.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Meal No. 2288: Fusilli Beef Casserole

With Mookie and Kristen over for a Monday night meal, I served up a comforting bowl of cheesy fusilli beef casserole, along with Caesar salads with homemade dressing. I'd made this once before, but on this night I thought it tasted a bit plain. Oh well. They're likely to give me another chance.

"Macaroni Beef Casserole," from Imma of Immaculate Bites, a blog found at

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Meal No. 2287: Roasted Salmon over Caesar Salad

Sunday night's somewhat health-conscious salmon over Caesar salad sure does make a pretty picture, doesn't it?

"Easy Lemon Caesar Salad Dressing," by Kim of

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Lemon Shortbread Cheesecake

As I emerged from the Harris Teeter at the end of last week with my groceries in hand, a couple of Girl Scouts and a parent had a table set up outside to entice folks to buy Girl Scout cookies. Thanks to a recipe contest a couple of years ago, Taste of Home published some interesting creations that depend on those seasonal goodies. A crowd-pleaser here has been the lemon shortbread cheesecake, made with Trefoils shortbread cookies in the crust and with Lemonades cookies mixed into the filling. A sweetly-tart lemon curd is cooked up, cooled, and spooned on top. It's a no-bake wonder that I simply refrigerate, even though the directions suggest freezing it. That's how we ended our movie-and-chili night last Saturday.

Lemon Shortbread Cheesecake, before lemon curd topping added

I'm not sure why the magazine no longer makes those recipes available on its website—all traces of them have been scrubbed—but since I'm a subscriber I still have my copy in the cabinet. I went ahead and created a pdf of it to download and print (see link at bottom of blog post). If you feel like creating an account on the newspaper's website, you can read more about it through this Lincoln [NE] Journal-Star article.

"Lemon Shortbread Cheesecake," by Rosalia Roger of Lincoln, Nebraska. Originally published in Taste of Home, February/March, 2016, p. 64-65.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Deep Winter Arrives

I've certainly managed to bitch and moan a lot thus far this winter about, well, winter. But we didn't really get our first true deep freeze until Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Sunday was moderate but with steady heavy winds and gusts that were just east of ridiculous, so the wind chill maintained a cruel dose of unpleasantness. As you can see from the above weather graphic, the drop in temps from a mid-50s high down into the teens was the dramatic turn of events.

Sure enough, by Monday morning, it was 13°F according to the home temperature monitor under the front porch. Officially, it was 14°F at the airport, but with wind chills that gave us a "Real Feel" of 5°F. You'd've thought I'd insist on having an all-day fire since I was at home for the holiday, but it didn't quite happen.

But you'd better believe I broke out Grandmother's amazing quilt, with my parents' 1947 wedding date embroidered into it. I'm counting down the days till Spring.

At least I had comforting company that chilly morning!

Monday, January 21, 2019

Meal No. 2286: Simple Beef Chili with Beans

The usual crew came over on Saturday night so that we could play pool and watch A Quiet Place. And of course I wanted to serve up some dinner on that dreary rainy night, so we had beef chili, piping hot, and topped with cheddar cheese and sour cream and onions, for those who were so inclined.

While we were hanging out upstairs, I also had the famous creamy stuffed eggs and a fresh batch of southwestern dip. It was another great evening with friends!

"Simple Beef Chili with Kidney Beans," from Cook's Illustrated, Number Sixty-One [March-April 2003], p. 10-11.

"Southwestern Dip," in Betty Crocker Monthly Recipes, December 2001.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Meal No. 2285: Rotisserie-Style Whole Chicken

The Friday night meal for four was a pretty delicious feast: rotisserie-style whole chicken, Alabama great white sauce for dipping, Jiffy corn casserole, and seasoned green beans. We did a fine job of cleaning our plates, and I was glad to see folks going back for seconds!

"How to Cook Instant Pot Whole Chicken - Rotisserie Style," by Sheena from

"Rotisserie Chicken Seasoning," by Judith Hanneman, The Midnight Baker.

"Alabama Great White Sauce" (p. 362), in Smoke & Spice, by Cheryl and Bill Jamison. Boston: The Harvard Common Press, 2003.

"Jiffy Corn Casserole," found on Facebook. Also known as "Corn SoufflĂ©," as found in Stirring Performances, from The Junior League of Winston-Salem, Inc. (1988), p. 219. Online recipe (called "Spoon Bread Casserole") can be found on the JIFFY Mix website from Chelsea Milling Co.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

French Yogurt Cake

Both for Thursday night's dinner-ending sweet treat, as well as for breakfast on Friday morning, I made a French yogurt cake. Yum.

"French Yogurt Cake," by Andrew Knowlton. In Bon Appétit, May 2012, p. 30.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Meal No. 2284: Broccoli and Cheese Soup

Thursday evening at the Roediger House found four of us at the dinner table. In the continuing spirit of meal-planning being heavily influenced by the ungainly persistence of winter, it just felt like a soup-and-sandwich night. Into the bowls went broccoli and cheese soup, and onto the neighboring plates I tossed rustic bread grilled cheese sandwiches, to the apparent delight of all.

And for thems what wanted even more, I also had creamy stuffed eggs. I wanted it to be hard for folks to go hungry.

"Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup," by ChefNini and posted to

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

Thursday, January 17, 2019

January Mulchfest

Normally I'd try to do a mulching of the planting and shrubbery beds sometime during the fall, but it didn't happen on schedule. With a slow start to January and even a single day last week that looked like it might be sunny and moderate, I put in my order for 7 yards of hardwood mulch from Pope Sand & Gravel, which was delivered Wednesday a week ago.

The truck was barely out of sight before I was out there with pitchfork and wheelbarrow, spreading 17 loads Wednesday in the low 60s warmth and sunshine, and an additional 26 loads through Thursday's brisk and chilling low 40s, with me all bundled up but still determined!

I quickly depleted most of what I'd gotten and needed one more day to finish. But the cold and then the rains last weekend put a damper on that for a few days, so I did the final 9 wheelbarrow loads on Monday before hitting the road for Chesterfield County, VA.

One of the winter tasks that I always try to do around January 1st is to trim the dead limbs from plants like the large-blooming hibiscus, and I also like to knock down the lariope and the ornamental grasses:

I must confess: my body was feeling it after being so sedentary these last few months! But each mulching day Sumner and I got to enjoy our lunch breaks together before resuming our outside work time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Meal No. 2283: Potato and Cheddar Soup

Winter. Cold. Miserable. And this past Sunday with its freezing rain and ice-covered trees and harsh steady cutting winds made it clear that it must be a soup supper. To the rescue: potato and cheese soup, adapted from a recipe given to me by my sister in Indiana. I've made it enough times that I'm freely tinkering with it, to a fine result that night.

Adapted from "Potato and Cheese Soup," shared with me by my sister and her husband, who got it through a cooking class at KitchenArt in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Freezing Rain, Freezing Ray

We had us another winter weather event overnight Saturday and into Sunday: the barest amount of sleet and just a steady freezing rain that left everything glazed and eerie in the dim light of waking.

The day held on to its dark drear and never lightened up much, although temps did rise enough to lead most of that ice to drip, crack, and break off as the afternoon proceeded.

This winter is being especially hard on me as an old man who's also trying to get used to toting around 45 fewer pounds than I had last winter. I'm frickin' cold all the time, if you must know. Fire No. 63 was a great comfort Sunday morning!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Meal No. 2282: Braised Chicken over Brussels Sprouts

When Amy came over for dinner and a Saturday evening hang over the weekend, we sat down to the delicious and comforting braised chicken over Brussels sprouts and shallots. This is a dependable palate-pleaser, which is why it manages to show up here pretty frequently. While it was a delightful evening inside the Roediger House, outside it was cold, drizzly, sleet-y, and just plain awful.  Winston was under a winter weather watch with freezing rain being the nastiest element of it.

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

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Meal No. 2281: Skillet Beef Stroganoff

I had to scramble Friday night to put together a meal for the four of us, and fortunately a terrifically quick and delicious beef stroganoff recipe jumped out at me and that's what I made. I also left open the choice of salad dressings: southwestern Caesar or creamy blue cheese (both homemade!).

That morning it was a very chilly 21°F when I got up, so I also enjoyed my first fire of 2019:

Fire No. 62

Based on "Beef Stroganoff Hamburger Dinner in a Skillet," by Emeril Lagasse. Found online at The Food Network.