Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Chappy Chanukkah from the Rices!

Happy half-way through Hanukkah to all our friends!

On the first night Anna and Max came over for latkes, candle-lighting, and an exciting (if not long) game of 90's Edition Trivial Pursuit. It was a really nice way to kick off the holiday.

On the second night we headed over to Joe and Ellen Konstan's house for the Noazim (20- and 30-something's group at our synagogue) Hanukkah party. We ate cookies and bars and latkes and candy and then we ate some more. About 30 people showed from both Mount Zion and Temple Israel. A couple of huge games of Jewish Apples to Apples (arranged by yours truly!) and some enjoyable conversation later, and we had sufficiently ushered in Hanukkah :)

On the third night -- last night -- we quickly lit candles before heading down to Buffalo Wild Wings in Eagan with Katie and Adam to meet Katie's sister and some of her friends for wing night. When we got there, Adam decided to join some of the other guys in trying the Blazin' Hot Challenge. I never thought I'd see anyone attempt it, much less complete it (and under time, no less!), but you should have seen it. He could have been eating a hot dog or potato chips, or even just teriyaki chicken wings -- not the hottest item on BW3's menu. So calm. So collected. So not dripping with sweat. Remarkable! I present exhibits A through D:

On to four more nights of the Festival of Lights -- or Oil, which I think is a more appropriate name :) Still to come: Christmas with my parents and Eric's dad Jim, Luke's 25th (ack!) birthday, our small Hanukkah dinner party Saturday night, and family Hanukkah on the last night at Eric's mom and step-dad's house.

Chag urim Sameach!!! (Happy Hanukkah!)

Cooking in an All-Clad Wonderland!

Thanks to many generous wedding (and Hanukkah) presents and one wicked good deal at William-Sonoma, Eric and I broke down and bought these gorgeous, amazing pots and pans from All-Clad. Can you tell I'm smitten?

And they look so pretty hanging from our pot rack, too! Look forward to many posts in the future detailing the exquisite offerings that spill forth from their stainless steel loins :)


English Muffin Bread

This was one of my favorite things my mom made when I was growing up. It is the pinnacle of comfort food if you use it to make open-faced tuna melt sandwiches, but equally satisfying toasted with peanut butter. It's light and spongy, goes from empty pan to warm, ready to eat bread in under an hour, and has just the right amount of flavor. No kneading, no mixer, just a wooden spoon and a little elbow grease. Plus, it makes two loaves, so you always have some to share with a friend, making you extra popular.

60-Minute English Muffin Bread
Makes two 8"x4" loaves
5-6 C all-purpose flour
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 packages regular yeast
2 C milk
1/4 C water
Cornmeal to dust/coat

  1. In a large bowl, combine 3 C flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and yeast (dry mix).
  2. In a saucepan, heat milk and water until very warm (125-130 degrees).
  3. Pour warm liquid over dry ingredients.
  4. Stir. Add remaining flour cup by cup to make desired batter. Should be very stiff.
  5. Grease pans, sprinkling with cornmeal and shaking out excess.
  6. Spoon batter into pans. Sprinkle tops with cornmeal if desired.
  7. Cover with a dish towel. Let rise 45 minutes.
  8. Bake in preheated 400-degree oven for 25 minutes (less for smaller pans).
  9. Test for doneness. Remove pans immediately. Cool on a wire rack.

Pineapple-Upside-Down Cake like the pioneers. Sort of.

As in, made in my electric-ignition, gas line-fed stove in my kitchen lit with ceiling lamps, and whose batter was mixed with a hand-held electric mixer. But, you know, like the pioneers. I made it in my cast iron skillet on both the stove and in the oven! The recipe actually called for making it in a round cake pan, but that is supremely less interesting and less fun than using a cast iron skillet that goes from stove top to oven without batting an eyelash.

The results were so delicious that I had to promptly pack them up and deliver them to the neighbors; there are far too many calories in this thing to have it on hand longer than a piece... or two.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
from Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook
Makes 10 slices
2 Tbsp butter
1/3 C packed brown sugar
15 oz can pineapple slices, liquid reserved
1 1/3 C all-purpose flour
2/3 C granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2/3 C milk
1/4 C butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
8+ maraschino cherries (optional)

  1. Melt the 2 Tbsp butter in skillet over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar and 1 Tbsp reserved pineapple juice. Arrangepineapple slices and cherries in the pan. Set pan aside.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, and baking powder. Add milk, the 1/4 cup butter, egg, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Spoot batter over fruit in the prepared skillet.
  3. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 5 minutes. Loosen cake from pan; invert on a plate. Serve warm.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My new buddy Eli

This is my new buddy Eli, my friend Zoe's new little one. Isn't he an adorable grumpy little man? He's kind of a big deal, with his own blog and everything. My weekly lunches with Zoe have been so wonderful -- I get to catch up with her AND snuggle a clean, happy, baby-smelling baby (and I think she appreciates having two hands to eat with, too ;) )

Friday, November 28, 2008

Waffles: something to be thankful for, even the day after Thanksgiving

Seriously -- who doesn't like waffles? Like bacon and cookies, waffles easily rank among world's best things. And I, being the lucky bride that I am, was, well, lucky enough to get what I now believe is the best waffle iron ever. At least as good as I'll ever need. Do you see those perfect square indents? The even browning? How the batter is all but gone after feeding Eric, his brother Doug, and me? Thank you to my parents, the bringers of All-Clad 4-slice Belgian Waffle Iron!

I was even thinking clearly enough before we went to bed to prep the waffle batter. Thanks once again goes to the ever-handy Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, that red gingham bastion of reliability.
Overnight Waffles
from Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook
Makes about 12 5-inch waffles
2 1/4 C all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 package active dry yeast
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 C milk
2 eggs
1/3 C cooking oil or melted butter

In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, yeast, vanilla, and salt.
Add milk, eggs, and oil. Beat with an electric mixer until thoroughly combined.
Cover batter loosely and chill overnight or up to 24 hours.
Stir batter. Pour slightly less than covers the waffle iron grid for each slice as the batter will spread. Close lid quickly; do not open until done! Bake according to manufacturer's directions for timing.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wedding Photos!

The five weeks since our wedding has seemed like an eternity waiting for our photos, and the suspense was killing me! Our fabulous photographer, Becca Dilley, sent the links to us today -- wait no more!

For those of you who want the highlights (all 270 of them!), click here. For those of you with a little more time on your hands, check out all 665 here.

Love to all of you, and enjoy the photos!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wedding and Honeymoon Photos!

Eric and I finally got our personal photos uploaded to Picasa. There are multiple albums, comprising 550+ photos (that's without all the photos everyone else has posted!), so this should keep you occupied for at least a few hours at work tomorrow, right?

We'll let you make up your own stories about what we did -- there are too many photos to add captions to all of them. Or just ask.
Rehearsal Dinner
Getting Ready
Honeymoon: Kauai, Days 1-2
Honeymoon: Kauai, Day 3
Honeymoon: Kauai, Day 4
Honeymoon: Day 5, Kauai
Honeymoon: Kauai, Day 6
Honeymoon: Last Day in Kauai (Day 7)
Honeymoon: Big Island, Day 7-8
Honeymoon: Big Island, Day 10
Honeymoon: Big Island, Day 11
Honeymoon: Last Day on the Big Island

Coming soon: photos from our wedding photographer!!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Celebration Bars!

I got really motivated to bake yesterday. I don't know if it was the new cookie and cupcake blogs I found, or the excitement of the election results rolling in, but all I know is I needed to bake something. So I did.

Piecing together the chocolate cookie crust from a cheesecake bar recipe, a variation on brownies I found (a sort of blondies/chocolate chip cookie bars concoction -- brown sugar brownies!), and a touch of spice because I've been dying to make something chocolate-y and spicy, I give you Celebration Bars!

Chocolate Crust
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a Baker's Edge pan (or any 9x13-inch baking pan). Begin by making the crust. In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter until smooth and fluffy. In a small bowl, sift together flour, cocoa and salt. Working at a low speed, gradually beat in flour mixture. Mixture will be crumbly when all the flour has been incorporated. Press evenly into prepared pan and bake for 15-17 minutes.

1 1/3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I swapped the nuts for 60% cacao chocolate chips)

While the crust bakes, sift together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In large bowl, beat together butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Stir in the flour mixture and the nuts (or chocolate chips) until well blended.

Pour the filling over the hot/warm crust, spreading evenly (you may want to use your hands once it's all in, as it is quite sticky). Bake 25-30 minutes or until surface springs back when gently pressed. Cool slightly. While still warm, cut into bars with a sharp knife.

I cut mine into 32 slices because they were pretty deep (doubled recipe).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Some preview wedding pics!

Becca Dilley, our fabulous wedding photograher, has posted a handful of photos from our wedding on her blog.
Or, if you're on Facebook, see a couple more from Becca here.
Other Facebook albums:
Lauren and Matt's (or here if you're not on Facebook for the same pics),
Katie's here and here
Mom and Dad's here and here

Stay tuned for more!

If you took photos, we'd love for you to share them with us! Email them to either one of us PLEASE!!! :) We're going to put together a big album of everything (online, probably, in addition to printed copies).

Mr. and Mrs. Rice!

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Survey of I-90 State Welcome Signs, and more!

This is what our trip home looked like, considered through the signs each state used (or lack thereof) on our move back across the country from Boston, MA, to the Twin Cities.

New York was all dark. I didn't think a black rectangle made for good reading.

Pennsylvania. It's really quite a pretty state for the roughly nine miles we were there.

"Thanks for paying to get into our state." - Ohio, at the I-90 toll plaza

"All those tolls you pay to get in here, and we can't even pave a straight highway. Good luck." - Ohio, coming into downtown (yes, downtown) Cleveland
The sign isn't joking, they're not exaggerating. This is a literal 90-degree turn. If you miss it, you end up in the drink otherwise known as Lake Erie.

Ahh, Indiana -- a sign you can easily overlook, just like your state.

Note: There is no "Welcome to Illinois" sign. Even the state thinks it's inferior to its most populated city. I happen to believe that the lack of sign probably has more to do with encouraging tourism -- but probably not in the way you think. If you had randomly decided to head east on I-90 and came to Gary, Indiana, you probably wouldn't continue on either if it was just Illinois you had to look forward to. The "Welcome to Chicago" sign is clearly an effort to tell passengers "It's OK -- you made it out on the other side! Keep driving!" (Have you been to Gary, Indiana?)

"Wisconsin Welcomes You"...

...Shouldn't this really be the sign they have instead?

Minnesota, hats off to thee... Your signs may be unremarkable, and you may not have the official "welcome" sign close enough to the border, but anything is better than another Gary, Indiana.

Girls Just Wanna Have Fu-un

Last Saturday was superbly fun-filled -- my bridesmaids Katie, Zoe, Jill, and Marni threw me a brunch bridal shower -- complete with Wuollet's pastries, cheesy hashbrowns, mimosas, and more! THEN, later that evening Katie, Jill, and Zoe threw me a bachelorette party (Marni may be 12 now, but she's still not quite old enough to partake ;) ) with many a bottle of wine. And maybe some pizza rolls.

I have to keep some of the evidence hush-hush, but here are some of the street-legal highlights from the festivities:
1. Seeing lots of my girlfriends!

2. Bridal haute couture, modeled by KatieJ, Marni, and Greta!

3. Hanging out with the prettiest, smartest, awesomest bridesmaids ever ;)

4. Deliciousness

5. A dissertation on fine art given by yours truly

6. Snuggling!

7. And presents, presents, presents!

(Bet you're wondering what's in the box, aren'tcha?)

LADIES: If you have more pictures, please send them to me!

Much laughter was laughed, many games were played, and much wine was drank. And yes Eric, it's true, I knew I loved you when I saw your triangle hair. I won't deny it anymore ;)

Thank you to all my girls, the moms, and Eric for marrying me, and ergo affording me the opportunity to have such awesome parties.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I now pronounce you... Mr. and Mrs. Kuitunen!

Yesterday Eric and I spent some time in northern Minnesota at my uncle Eric's wedding to Mishawn. After dating for more than eight years (I think), they finally got engaged, and we all headed up to beautiful Jay Cooke State Park and Fitger's Inn and Brew House in downtown Duluth for their nuptials. The rain held off just long enough for the ceremony, and the fog that ushered it gave the whole park an ethereal, fairy-tale quality that you can see in my pictures, I hope.

See pictures here. Or, watch them recite their vows:

Lots of love to you both, Eric and Mishawn!

Friday, September 12, 2008

*Check out these hotties!*

This is me with my friend KatieJ. I hope she's not embarassed that I'm posting this... : ) In the last year or so we've lost more than 100 pounds between us. This picture was taken a couple days ago at our "I can't believe I lost 50lbs!" celebration :)

From Birthday Losers

Shabbatin' it up, Jew-style

Now that I'm a full-fledged Jew, I thought I'd kick it off right and have a big Shabbat dinner for the family before services. I love that we have a holiday every week. That's right -- every Friday night/Saturday! Nearly everyone was there -- Eric, Michelle, Gary, Marni, Doug, Jim, and Casey, Doug's friend. We lit candles using my new candlesticks that the rabbis and cantor gave me at my conversion and blessed everything -- Shabbat, bread, and the wine!

Behold, my first Shabbat dinner! I made super delicious challah from scratch (with help from Marni on the stirring and Casey's help with the braiding),

matzo ball soup (with thanks to Doug and Casey for handling most of it!), honey-orange chicken (this was way yummier than this picture would lead you to believe -- it was moist, flavorful, sweet, and deliciously breaded and pan-fried),

glazed carrots (who doesn't enjoy carrots in a soup of buttery-sugary goodness?),

and, the pièce de résistance, scallion-gruyere latkes!

After dinner, we rushed to the synagogue to make services because I was going to be called up to the bimah for a special blessing. It was really cool and I got to hold the Torah -- apparently quite the honor, since most people don't get to ever. I found out later that photos aren't allowed during services, so there aren't any pictures of my moment, so I'll let you imagine it. :)

Although I don't promise anything as elaborate as this meal, Eric and I love hosting Shabbat dinners, so expect to be invited once in awhile to partake in the festivities!