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 ;) )