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Lilly Pulitzer

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In order to honor Lilly Pulitzer, who passed away yesterday, here’s a link to some great desktop wallpapers. 

Lilly started juicing citrus grown at her family’s groves at a juice stand but was always covered in juice stains at the end of the day. She designed her first shift dress as a way to mask the stains and the rest is history! (Who knew!)

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Happy April!

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Happy April! (and how right was I about March zooming by?!)

I found a heads up penny on my way to work today, and I’m taking it as a sign that this is going to be a good month! (And yeah, I know, I need a(nother) manicure.)

Tomorrow I’m going to tell you all about my and Brett’s new plants! How exciting is THAT?! (No, but seriously, they are really cute and you’ll like them.)

Manda Cooks

Dear Loyal Saucy Readers,

You may have caught on to the fact that Christina and I haven’t been cooking together lately. Don’t worry—our friendship doesn’t flip flop as often as Blair and Serena’s (despite other striking similarities)…it’s just that…deepbreath….just say it……wedon’tliveinthesamecityanymore. Phew. Now it’s out there in the open. Saucy currently lives 116 miles apart, but it could be worse, right?

Anyway, the point is that I, Amanda, have decided to launch my own little food forum, MANDA COOKS.

Norman Rene’s Pumpkin Bread

A few weeks ago, fellow cooking-enthusiast Julian Joslin placed a folded piece of lined paper in my hand and whispered “this is the best thing you’ve ever tasted” while maintaining I’m-really-not-messing-around eye contact. I unfolded the paper to find Norman Rene’s (the legend himself…take my word for it) recipe for pumpkin bread. I carried the little gem in my wallet, was reminded of its presence throughout the past few weeks, but was juggling a busy schedule and could not find time to bake. Rough, I know.

But then yesterday rolled around. My dysfunctional morning turned into a dysfunctional day and by 6pm I was anxious and stressed and exhausted and just…blah. After a rough day at work there is nothing I want more than to rush home, slip into my Wicked Goods, and bake. This is most likely an attempt to prove that I can indeed produce something of worth, despite a series of events that tried to prove otherwise. And so, I hopped off the bus, hurried up the three flights to my apartment, changed into pjs and slippers, and made myself comfortable in the kitchen. I opened a bottle of red wine, took a big sip, let out a big sigh, and began to measure out my sugar. I had a stroke of genius halfway through cracking the eggs and popped Look Who’s Talking into my laptop so I could occasionally gaze at John Travolta for another reminder that life is actually worth living. While the mini muffins and mini loaves (because everything is better when its miniature…ponies are another great example, see fall-themed Saucy post below) were cooling, I popped a goat cheese, caramelized onion, and asparagus (gently placed on the surface in a star-ish shape) quiche in the oven that would be ready just in time for…drum roll….CHRISTINA’S ARRIVAL. Could my night get any better? Yes! It did!! A roomie reunion at Gin Mill commenced at 9pm. Needless to say, I have learned a valuable lesson: all I need to lift my spirits is pumpkin bread, red wine, John Travolta, quiche, Christina, Cuddlegan, and a few Jack and ginger ales…nbd, right?

Now it’s Friday night and I am celebrating the end of the week by fluffing my pillows, getting under covers, playing Cuddlegan’s “Power Women” playlist and beginning my two new books with a slice of pumpkin bread and a cup of mint tea in hand. Finally, some time to breathe. 🙂

Recent Happenings

homemade brownie topped with homemade mint ice cream

brunch at Spring Mill – perfect brioche

Tuesday dinner – baked eggs with tomato, spinach, and herbed goat cheese

fresh asparagus…staying fresh

Wednesday dinner – orecchiette with sauteed shallots, asparagus, green beans, spinach and topped with shaved parmesean

Chez Michele

The Spring Mill Cafe in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania is one of my favorite restaurants. I always try to go there with my mom and a bottle of champagne for brunch when I’m home for the weekend. The old house-turned-restaurant on the side of the road oozes french countryside dining. When I was there for brunch back in September with my mom and Dana, I read about the Julia Child Series Cooking Demonstration that was going to be happening over the course of the next few weeks. Though Christina’s birthday was rapidly approaching, I had yet to find the perfect Saucy gift…until then. I immediately reserved a spot for two on the evening of November 11th. On the menu? A vegetable tart, sole meuniere, and chocolate mousse.

It seemed like a long time, but November 11th definitely crept up on me and before I knew it I was on an Ardmore-bound Amtrak. Christina picked me up with a bottle of wine in tow and we headed for the Cafe. We grabbed two seats up front and popped the wine open as the small dining room quickly filled up. Michele soon emerged from the kitchen and after a brief introduction she began her demonstration on quiche dough. After running through the steps, she asked for a volunteer…she got two. Saucy threw butter and flour into the food processor like such pros, adding just enough water and oil, but not too much, and we soon had a perfectly formed ball of dough that was passed around and ooh-ed and ahh-ed at. Michele then briefly explained the recipe for her “winter-touille” tart that was being brought out from the kitchen to soothe our grumbling tummies. It was the simple quiche dough we had just made, with a thin later of parsley and almond pesto along the bottom topped with some favorite winter vegetables.

Once our plates were cleared and the Winter-touille murmur died down, Michele began the demonstration of Sole Meuniere. She lightly floured the fish fillet while butter heated up on a hot plate. The fish was placed on the pan just as the butter began to brown and cooked for a quick 2-3 minutes on each side. After the fish was removed, lemon juice was added to the pan, combining with the excess butter to form a steaming sauce that was poured over the fish. A sprinkle of parsley topped the dish and a few sauteed green beans added color to the plates. According to her writings, sole meuniere is the first dish that Julia Child had upon her arrival in France, causing her to fall in love with food and France simultaneously. After our first bite it isn’t hard to believe!

Despite the fact that the departure time for my New York-bound train was rapidly approaching, Saucy was not about to leave without our fair share of chocolate mousse. It was brought out in wine glasses and topped with fresh whipped cream just in time. We scooped our glasses clean, gave bisous to Michele and rushed out the door. Four days later, still on a natural high from our Wednesday night meal, we returned to Spring Mill for brunch with Kimmy and momma V. Chez Michele did it again.

Settling In

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I recently moved into a new apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. My bedroom is small, missing some key furniture items, and currently in a state of disarray. Unlike my bedroom, the kitchen is enormous, houses my new (old) KitchenAid standing mixer (!), and is generally pretty spick and span. So naturally, that’s where I’ve been liking to spend my time. And what better reason to spend time in the kitchen than having to a) play with your new KitchenAid, b) bake sweet treats for new friends and old friends and housewarmings, and c) eat baked goodies for dessert (and breakfast…)

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The first recipe I wanted to introduce to Mr. KitchenAid was my standard chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, since he and they will likely be spending lots of time together. I am happy to announce that they got along perfectly and my arms were more than happy to not have to cream butter and sugar and incorporate oats into the sticky dough, which can end up being quite a work out. Mr. KitchenAid simply sat there, mixing away, humming a bit and within minutes I had perfectly mixed and consistent cookie dough. LIfe changing, really.

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A few days later I made my first autumn 2009 batch of pumpkin bread. Mr. KA impressed me yet again. The pumpkin bread was moist and filled with spices, and oh-so fally. Wrapped in a plastic bag and paired with a stack of cookies, it made a perfect housewarming gift for Cuddleganners Emily and Jona.

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And yesterday another important addition was brought into my new home: Baking Illustrated, the baking cookbook of all baking cookbooks, written by the authors of Cooks’ Illustrated magazine. I paged through the book when I got home and was soon whipping up a batch of brownies that ended up being as perfect as the book claimed: dense and gooey with a flaky top layer, requiring a glass of milk to finish them off. I had two for breakfast this morning.

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