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:

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Meal No. 2365: One-Pan Pork Tenderloin

Although we had gully-washer downpours over the weekend, this week has had some perfect weather, and I've been intensely focused on yard work and landscaping. Future blog entries will say more about it, but I've opened up a multi-front war on several rather sizable projects, most of which entail no previous knowledge or experience on my part. It's helping me give my body a good daily workout but it is also kicking up my appetite! That's why it was nice to sit down to a full plate of goodness when Mookie and Kristen came for dinner on Wednesday night, and I brought back out the easy and always-satisfying one-pan pork tenderloin (with a hoisin glaze), with roasted green beans and roasted new potatoes topped with a garlic-chive butter. All that, and my next morning weigh-in showed a small loss instead of a gain, and I'll take it.

"One-Pan Pork Tenderloin with Green Beans and Potatoes," by Christie Morrison. In Cook's Country, October/November 2015, p. 27.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Meal No. 2364: Skillet Beef Strognoff

I worked in the yard up until dark on Tuesday night and found myself reverting back to quite the late suppertime: about 9:15 pm. Fortunately, I'd gone with a skillet meal that fit nicely into a bowl so that there could be unwinding up on the 3rd floor from the day's labors while enjoying a comforting dish of Emeril's beef stroganoff with a tall glass of cold water.

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

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Meal No. 2363: Grilled Pork Chops

Last Sunday night seemed like the perfect weather evening for grilling, and I had a couple of nice pork chops ready to take their place on the grate. A side salad with more of the homemade blue cheese dressing, plus a rice-and-vermicelli mix, rounded out the meal.

The skies turned ominous once I got the meat onto the heat and I rushed things along a bit as a result, but the chops still turned out juicy and delicious.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Broad Street Connector Public Input

The North Carolina Department of Transportation has put forward a proposal to make a significant change to Broad Street, which runs behind the house and is a major north-south thoroughfare on the west side of downtown. The two alternatives to tie Broad Street in with the heavily-traveled Peters Creek Parkway have been put forward for public comment. What I submitted as part of this public review is posted below.

I write in opposition to both of the alternatives that have been proposed for Project U-6063: The Broad Street Connector.

A downtown neighborhood understandably deals with the dual challenge of connecting with the vibrant life of a city’s center while also perhaps seeking reasonable insularity from it. Having lived in the Holly Avenue Neighborhood longer than most who are here now, I strongly advocate for maintenance of a traditional city grid system and for vehicular and pedestrian connectivity to all that surrounds us. One of the trade-offs residential dwellers must, of necessity, accept is that central living requires surrendering the option of a cocoon.

Creating dead-end streets to close off portions of my neighborhood is highly objectionable to me. I do not think my neighbors and I are better off if we are surrounded by a heavily-trafficked moat of thoroughfares because of the elimination of various routes for those needing to drive into OR through the Holly Avenue Neighborhood. Further, no-outlet streets that end in, say, park space can create a potentially desirable situation; those that are merely barricaded from a rushing thoroughfare (such as Broad Street) are likely to diminish property values, increase loitering, and lead to dumping and neglect. We see this clearly on the south end of the 100 block of South Poplar Street, or somewhat less so at the north end of the 300 block of South Spring Street.

I make no claims to understand traffic engineering or the modeling that planners use to predict and anticipate traffic volumes in a painfully unpredictable future. However, I would argue that the engineers have depended on models for daily traffic volumes for First and Second Streets east of Broad that defy logic and don’t pass the smell test. Once First and Second Streets undergo conversions from one-way to two-way traffic, the planners believe there will be a roughly 350% increase in traffic on First, and they suggest that the volume on Second Street will diminish by roughly 60%. The engineers and consultants behind the two proposed alternatives never questioned these figures as they developed the proposals that depended on them. How do I know? Because I asked them and it took weeks to get answers about the seriousness and credibility of the projections. The radical proposals to dead end or close-loop both Brookstown Avenue and Second Street would have seemed crazy without these depressed and unrealistic projections for the volumes on these streets. The engineers and consultants failed to be convincing to me, at least, but the implications of their dependence on that shaky ground will have a serious and long-lasting impact on both Holly Avenue Neighborhood and this portion of downtown.

All indications are that we have top-notch staff in the Division 9 office of the North Carolina Department of Transportation, led by Division Engineer Pat Ivey who is a terrific public face and by all appearances a commendable public servant. But my gut reaction when I viewed the two proposed Broad Street Connector alternatives was that I wasn’t sure where to place them on a scale between comically inept and criminally idiotic. Imagine, wildly, that these two alternatives were a low-level task unseriously assigned to the last-hired engineer (who also wasn’t a top-tier candidate for the job), who forgot about it until the morning it was due. Or that these proposals were those submitted for extra credit by two Forsyth Tech students in an introductory traffic planning class taught by a moonlighting NCDOT staff engineer. We would laugh those out of the room, of course. But I’m not sure I can see any distinguishing differences between those absurd and imagined sources and those that were actually proposed. The Broad Street Connector ought to be a compelling and convincing proposal that inspires us with confidence that its design is both smart and right. From reviewing the alternatives and multiple interactions with those behind them, no such compelling case is being made for them.

It is not unreasonable to suggest that the proposals to create this Connector are evidence that the implications of closing the Broad Street ramps to the US 421/Salem Parkway were not anticipated well or were glossed over. By dumping so much downtown and northside traffic onto the wildly curvy Peters Creek Parkway’s north end, we are now having to figure out what to do with 20,000 cars trying to turn left every day. This connector project would throw good money after bad and be a neighborhood-diminishing solution to a problem that, one might argue, has been created by a lack of sufficient foresight and good planning. I’m sorry that our transportation planners and traffic engineers either didn’t see this coming or failed to incorporate a whole-cloth solution to the ill-fated Broad Street ramp closure decision. I do not want my neighborhood to pay an even greater price for these earlier and unfortunate decisions.

Finally, the doubts I immediately had as a neighbor to this ill-advised traffic monster have certainly been exacerbated by how I’ve seen the public input process play out. The engineers and consultants struggled to provide answers and insights to questions that focused on key elements of the proposals’ designs. When a plan has been well-examined and studied while it is being developed and reviewed, its crafters can talk easily and convincingly about its key features and can seamlessly describe the promises and pitfalls of the alternatives. That was not how the designers handled themselves when subjected to a small bit of scrutiny. The proposed alternatives might look foolish because they are, in fact, foolish. I encourage a rejection of both of them.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Meal No. 2362: Baked Chicken Wings

Of necessity, the dinner last Saturday night needed to be quite late, and it put me into a late-night appetizer mindset when it was time to put it all together. So I tried a recipe for chicken wings with an Asian-y vinaigrette to toss them in, and I made some fresh buttermilk blue cheese dressing for dipping. And as long as I was being naughty, I thought: why not add southwestern dip and tortilla chips to it?

"Spicy Baked Chicken Wings That'll Knock Your Socks Off," from Joanna Cismaru of [Published 01 July 2011]

Adapted from "Chart House Blue Cheese Dressing," by Carl of the 2 Keto Dudes blog. [Published 08 November 2016]

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

Monday, May 13, 2019

Meal No. 2361: Braised Chicken over Brussels Sprouts

I'll assume that, when dear friend and colleague Donna Whitley-Smith passed on a collection of recipe magazines to me, she didn't expect me to get stuck on a single one among them and very nearly perseverate on it. But that's what happened with the always-delicious braised chicken over Brussels sprouts, which is both a regular dish and a favorite dish among the Roediger House meals. It's what I made for four of us last Friday night, and we ate the heck out of it before slipping up to the 3rd floor to watch the 2018 remake of Suspiria.

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

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Meal No. 2360: Baked Chicken Thighs

I was ready for a meal of some substance last Wednesday night, given my continued yard labors, and onto our plates that night went delicious tender baked chicken thighs together with roasted baby Yukon potatoes and roasted garlic-and-parmesan asparagus. It was all terrifically delicious, swaddled in all that simplicity.

"Baked Tender Chicken Thighs," from Valentina's Corner.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Meal No. 2359: Roasted Salmon on Caesar

Last Tuesday was an especially fierce day of yard work and it included not a small amount of tiller labor. My busted body was grateful for the evening's respite and also a hearty healthy meal, which featured a return to perfectly roasted salmon atop power greens and gussied up with a creamy homemade Caesar dressing. Roasted sunflower seeds represented an extra decadence.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Meal No. 2358: Chicken Salad Melts

With inspiration from a favorite lunchtime menu item at the nearby Fourth Street Filling Station, and using leftover chicken from the previous evening's dinner, on Monday night, it was simple plates of chicken salad melts to be eaten while catching the next episodes of Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

Based on "California-Style Chicken Salad," by Cecelia Jenkins. In Cook's Country, April/May 2019, p. 7.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Meal No. 2357: Rotisserie-Style Whole Chicken

It felt like we were due for a Sunday dinner of Sunday dinner proportions and styling, so I went with a rotisserie-style whole chicken in the Instant Pot. It's awesome to dip these succulent morsels of chicken in Alabama great white sauce, so I made a batch of that, too. And then there were the roasted favorites of baby Dutch potatoes and broccoli florets so that the plate looked well-balanced. Given the last few meals, this felt like a holiday feast in comparison.

"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.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Back-Breaking Stump Removal

In the pen drawing made of the house some time before I bought it (and which I'm glad was passed on to me), you can see how the Roediger House looked, say, in the 1990s. From the front, it still looks much the same, although the shutters are gone...and so are those two trees. The one on the left had to be brought down almost exactly eight years ago, but the one on the right had been cut down before my time here.

Turns out, all this time, that right stump has been just beneath the surface, quietly rotting away while the topsoil covering it slowly dissipated. You can see the grassless patch in the upper right corner of the photo above (not that the whole grassy section doesn't look weak!). There was also a small opening to the hollow inside of that stump that had appeared:

So I figured it was time to dig it all out, which proved (of course!) to be a sufficiently involved endeavor.

It took about three days...

...and I had to bust up the very solid core of it, as well as chop away all the weaker rotting roots and shoots...

...but it all came up and out.

It was loading the last largest heaviest chunk (on the far right, above) into the wheelbarrow that offered me a chance to make a significant mistake: trying to hoist it alone, letting it tip and slip, so that I managed to wrench my back pretty well...and that put me off of yard work for a couple of days. But I've recovered and am back at my yearly spring shenanigans.