Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ode to Swiss Veg Med

As we are in the midst of a holiday season, which at least in my world, revolves largely around food, I thought I would share with you one of my favorite holiday dinner/potluck recipes. I suppose it could really be made anytime of year, but it has always stuck in my mind as a holiday food. The food: Swiss Vegetable Medley, or as it has been written on many a holiday shopping list in my family, "Swiss Veg Med".

As you will see, it is a close cousin to the Green Bean Casserole, but I would argue that it is approximately 3000% awesomer. Why?
1. It does not contain green beans.
2. It contains cheese.

Enough said.

Swiss Vegetable Medley
16 oz frozen California blend vegetables, thawed and drained
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese, divided
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 can (2.8 oz) French fried onions (the cheese flavored ones add extra deliciousness), divided

Preheat oven to 350. Combine vegetables, soup, 1/2 cup cheese, sour cream, pepper, and 1/2 can onion. Pour into greased 1-quart casserole. Cover. Bake for 30 minutes. Top with remaining cheese and onion, then bake uncovered for 5 minutes.

Microwave directions: prepare as above, cook covered on high for 8 minutes. Top with remaining cheese and onion, then cook uncovered for 1 minute or until cheese melts.

For the record, part of the beauty of this recipe is that it is very, very flexible. And you can't screw it up, even when you screw it up. It's flexible even by casserole standards, which are pretty darn flexible to start with. For example, when I made this for Thanksgiving dinner while living in London, I couldn't find fried onions, so I substituted crushed Ritz crackers on top. I also had a fun time trying to track down "Swiss" cheese at the supermarket. My sheltered Wisconsin self didn't know that there were multiple varieties of cheese made in Swizerland and that they all had different names, but fortunately a kind staff member in the study abroad office steered me toward gruyere.

When I made this for Christmas dinner while traveling in Austria, there was no cream of mushroom soup to be found. Extra sour cream and some chopped mushrooms seemed to do the trick. I have no recollection of what vegetable blends I ended up using in each of these countries, as I very much doubt that I was able to find a bag of carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower. And yes, I have actually tried the microwave directions, when I made this for an office potluck a few years ago. What can I say, this dish and I have a history!

Tonight's version of it may be the most interesting yet: it's pretty much impossible to find pre-shredded Swiss/gruyere around here, and I can't seem to buy the blocks in small enough quantity that I use up the rest before it goes moldy. So today I'm experimenting with cheddar jack. And I sort of screwed up and added all of it to the mix instead of saving some to sprinkle on top. Oopsy. And we were out of sour cream, so I figured a dash of milk and a little more cheese would do the trick. Fingers crossed!

Finally, I would like to leave you with one lesson: buy the small can of onions. If you buy the 6-oz. can of onions, thinking you will have enough to make this dish twice, you just might find yourself eating half a can of onions while mixing the casserole together. Oopsy again. On second thought, if I'd only had the small can, I might have had to run out and buy more while it was in the oven so that I'd have something to top it with.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I'm the one in the big white dress. No, the other one.

We arrived at the ceremony about 10 minutes before it was scheduled to start, popped out of the limo, and ran inside to freshen up and see our families. The little boys were dressed in their tuxes and the crowd was settling in! Right on time someone let us know that the pianist was starting in on the song we agreed would be the mothers’ entrance. We realized in this moment that we wanted to delay a little, to give people time to get settled. But it was just like it was all in motion and there was no stopping it…and so we forged ahead.

I hardly remember the ceremony itself, which I suppose is why people advocate getting a wedding video. We did have a friend video informally, so hopefully that will be enough for us. Pretty much I think it went exactly according to plan. We realized at the rehearsal that the two of us and the minister were the only ones who had any idea what was in the ceremony, which was kind of accidental fun. Meagan’s rendition of Gandhi/Buddha was lovely, the benediction worked great from the back as we had chosen at the rehearsal, and oddly people weren’t too squished in the church. I still haven’t quite figured out if a lot of people were standing at the back or if people skipped the ceremony or what exactly happened to make that work, but I guess it doesn’t matter anymore. I was a little sad that we ended up missing the postlude (in addition to the prelude, but we’d talked about expecting that). It’s strange to put time and effort into choosing things that you don’t see or hear!

We did the whole receiving line thing, which was a bit long, but was actually nice to be able to see all of the faces that we’d both been avoiding looking at in the church (it’s really weird to stand up in front of everybody!) Then we headed outside for some outdoor formal pictures. Other people complained about being cold, so I guess the fact that I was not is testament to a combination of the unseasonably warm November weather and the adrenaline. Not to mention the excessively heavy big white dress (side note: I have no idea how people get married in the summer. I would die of heatstroke.)

The limo ride back to the mansion was much more relaxed and jovial. We cracked open the Asti and the string cheese. Yum.

When we arrived we greeted a few people and then ran upstairs to freshen and fluff. A lovely friend brought up a plate of appetizers. We returned downstairs and mingled until dinner. As we were being called to the tables I complained (somewhat bitterly, no shame here!) to my mom about having not been able to taste the spanakopita-type appetizer. The amazing coordinator at the mansion overheard me, and appeared at the head table a few minutes later with a whole plate of them!

After sitting down to dinner for a while someone realized that we did not have a centerpiece at the head table. We had planned to use our bouquets for the centerpiece… which meant that the bouquets were busy cruising around Minneapolis in the trunk of the limo we had dismissed for the evening. Winning major customer service points again, the mansion coordinator apparently managed to track them down for us and before we hardly even knew it we were reunited with our bouquets.

Our fathers, maids of honor, and Miss Becky herself all gave loving toasts. I still can’t quite believe Becky let me stand by my declaration that I didn’t want to talk, but if I say that too much she’ll start to think I owe her one or something! The food was delicious. At the urging of my sister, Becky and I attempted to circulate and socialize in between the courses. This turned out to be a good thing, but we started too late and did an unfortunate job of pacing ourselves, which sadly meant that we didn’t have time to make it to all the tables – in particular the tables where some of our young friends were sitting. I think one big regret that we both have is that we weren’t able to spend more time talking to some of our younger friends who traveled to the wedding and who we don’t get to see very often. Overall I think we did pretty well for two introverts. But, between all of the things we were juggling and the fact that several people ended up leaving earlier than we expected we really missed out on a few, which does make us sad. (Yes, we’ve talked about this ad nauseum, so I can definitely speak for Becky too.)

They forced us (hehe) to cut into our gorgeous cake, and we fed each other a few bites of the pumpkin layer. It turned out to be the majority of the wedding cake I ended up eating, because we were so busy. Becky’s cousin’s four year old daughter was our most attentive guest, as she had apparently been drooling over the cake all evening. Her mom also brought her up to us at one point because she wanted to share with us her adorable observation that “I have the same dress as you.” Mine cost more, kiddo! Seriously though, it was a little trippy to be (one of) the one (s) in a big white dress being idolized by a kid in the princess stage of development.

And then there was dancing. And more dancing. As mentioned earlier, people cleared out a little earlier than we expected, but a decent group stayed and danced until the end. We had a lot of fun rocking out to a pretty eclectic mix of music – including John Denver’s Thank God I’m A Country Boy – which was the one song all evening that caused Becky’s sisters to come RUNNING to the dance floor.

We had planned to leave before the end and have a send off with bubbles. My mom had painstakingly tied personalized ribbons around them for us, even. But it just didn’t really fit into the evening. Casualty of the dance, I suppose.

The next morning we re-grouped at my parents’ house for quiche and the best chocolate cheesecake ever (plus some other food, including birthday cake in honor of Becky’s sister Jenny). We opened gifts and generally enjoyed the afterglow. And then finally, later than expected, we jetted down to Hastings for two much needed decompression days. That’ll probably be another post too, just what you always wanted!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The new Mrs.(s)

This blogging thing is more complicated than it looks! Somehow time keeps getting away from me…

We had a wedding! And a rehearsal dinner and a brunch and minimoon and all the fuss and festivities that surround all of those things. I can hardly believe it’s actually over. Even afterwards I kept waking up in the night thinking it was still coming and thinking of things that I needed to make sure to do or bring or make sure happened. And then I would remember, oh yeah, it’s over. There’s nothing more that can be changed, it is over.

And it really was amazing and lovely and beautiful and all of that, but it went by so incredibly fast. Everyone said it would, but I guess I didn’t really believe it. Going in to Friday the only major project left was the childhood picture slideshow, plus a lot of general organizing and finishing touches for other projects. We went to a local nail salon with our mothers and my sister and Merry to have some spa time, and somehow a quick mani/pedi appointment turned into over three hours. Intense anxiety over the time crunch pretty much started there and didn’t end until after the reception was over.

Becky and I were almost half an hour late to the rehearsal, and then afterwards still needed to spend time in the car frantically finishing up thank you notes for all of our amazing attendants and other participants, which we gave out at the dinner. I felt sad at the time to miss out on the beginning of the dinner, but in retrospect we still had plenty of time at the restaurant. Because, of course, nothing starts without the brides!
After dinner Becky headed to the hotel with her family and I toted Becky’s computer back to my family’s home to work on our still unfinished slideshow. Jen and I stayed up as late as we could manage selecting and ordering pictures, and then resolved to finish in the morning.

The morning… was just a whirlwind. The hair stylist came a few minutes early, while Merry was a few minutes late, and we were more than a few minutes late in getting Sean and the babies out of the house. My family was our typical chaotic selves and we all ran around frantically while Matthew and Thomas threw porridge from their high chairs. I packed while I waited for Becky’s dad to come over with the computer power cord we neglected to trade the night before, and then once it arrived worked on the slideshow while Merry and Jen got their hair done. The two of them then took over the project while I got mine done. My one regret is that we didn’t get more pictures in all of this chaos, particularly of Jen and Merry’s hair being done. I think I checked and double checked that I had everything in my getting ready/overnight bag at least a dozen times.

We headed to the mansion a bit late, of course, only to arrive at exactly the same time as Becky and her family. The staff had started setting up the tables, the cake had been delivered, and everything looked so incredibly beautiful. And of course, as Becky already noted, the weather was absolutely the best November in Minnesota weather we possibly could have hoped to have.

Getting dressed and make-up’ed proceeded to take much longer than expected, interrupted only by a small snafu in which the florist misunderstood our order of “trailing ribbons” for the bouquets. (She had the ribbon sticking out from the bouquets, but only about 8 stubby inches!) Unfortunately she didn’t have the ribbons with her, but she took off as quickly as she could and drove home and made it back in time to vastly improve them before we needed to start pictures. We resumed trying to decode the mysteries of over-priced make-up and corset-backed wedding dresses until we were finally ready for pictures.

We sort of frantically packed what Becky and I had envisioned as an hour and a half of pictures into about fourty five minutes. During a round of the pictures Jen and Merry took over finishing the slideshow. And then the limo showed up and whisked us away to the ceremony!

And this post is getting ridiculously long, so we'll end with a To Be Continued!

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Well, after months and months of planning, followed by a few weeks of crazy planning, followed by a couple of days that I can only call sheer madness, our wedding came and went. And it was lovely. So many of our wonderful friends and family members pitched in to help make everything happen. Even the weather smiled on us--57 degrees and sunny is better than we could have reasonably hoped for on a November day in Minnesota!

The timing worked out, the ceremony was beautiful, the decorations and details all got finished and were gorgeous, the food was delicious, the cake and flowers were pretty, and we danced the night away. In short: it was incredible. But it went by so fast, and I still can't quite believe it's over, much less digest everything in a way that I can write about it. So for now, I'll leave you with a few pictures that we've seen so far. Since Carrie and I didn't have our cameras that day, we're left to rely on the pictures of our friends and families (hint: if you have pictures from our wedding, please please please email them to me!) while we wait for the full set from the photographers. Here's my favorite picture from our first dance (snagged by my sister):

For more fantastic photography, check out pictures from our dear friend Jen and a preview from Becca Dilley, our amazing photographer.