Manda Cooks: Chicken Pot Pie

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Chicken pot pie might just my favorite comfort food. When the February issue of Food & Wine arrived at my door with chicken pot pie on the cover, I quickly added it to my to-do list. I ended up using a different crust recipe, because I didn’t feel like hunting down schmaltz (aka “rendered chicken fat”… um no thanks). I also used just a pound of skin-on, bone-in chicken, and substituted chicken breast for the second pound – was less work and still delicious. The finished product was so good right out of the oven and made perfect leftovers for lunch and dinner the next day.

Pie recipe here and Crust recipe here!

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also, side note, the pie crust recipe also makes perfect “blankets” for pigs in a blanket… just saying 😉

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Manda’s… Getting Married!

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Last Thursday Brett (and Moose) proposed to me in Gramercy Park! We celebrated that night with my sister, Pico and (too much) champagne. The next day Brett and I flew to Paris for a surprise celebration weekend. It was overwhelming and over the top in the best way. I’m not a fan of romance or surprises, but I’d repeat last weekend over and over again if I could.

Paris in January was perfect – who knew? It rained a bit each day (the perfect excuse to nap or duck into a cafe for a glass of wine), but in between rain showers the skies were blue! We ate and drank and shopped and then ate some more. We stayed in the best hotel with cute french wallpaper, a marble tiled floor in the bathroom, and views of the Eiffel Tower from the bedroom and the bathtub. Plus, it had the first champagne bar in Paris in its lobby, which obviously called for a champagne tasting on our first night.

We walked underneath the Eiffel Tower, visited the Musee d’Orsay and hiked up to the Sacre Couer.

Coincidentally, a few friends of ours also happened to be in Paris! We had champagne with my friend Sharon, and then dinner and drinks with four friends from London – such fun, unexpected treats on top of the surprise trip!

Although you can’t really go wrong in Paris, some of our favorites are below 🙂

Oysters at Le Stella (which was filled with very chic French people – we felt out of place in the best way)

Croque Madame at Le PoinCare (I still can’t stop thinking about it…)

Literally everything at Frenchie Wine Bar

Cocktails at Les Justes – I had one that tasted like a chocolate covered cherry

Brett bought the cutest (euro) coat at Bilabaris

We loved walking through Fleux – a cool home/accessories store

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Manda Marches: Women’s March On Washington

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When the Women’s March was announced on November 9th, my mom almost immediately booked hotel rooms and marked our calendars. It was amazing to march alongside my mom and sister and be part of the movement. The march definitely forced me out of my comfort zone (see introvert sign below!) but was so, so worth it. Some of my favorite signs are here, along with some links below on how to get (or stay) involved.

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(all images my own except for introverts, from Susan Kaufman)

The organizers of the march are launching a new campaign: 10 Actions for the First 100 Days, which I’m going to try to do!

And a few more ideas, from Cup of Jo:

Check out the Indivisible Guide, for ideas on how to have impact

Support journalism and the press by subscribing! (I’m thinking about signing up for the Sunday Times)

Support organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, through donations

Oh, Meryl

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“This instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kinda gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”
– Meryl Streep

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New Year, Same Me

2016 wasn’t quite as bad for me as all the memes made it out to be, but I’m happy to move on. Not that a change in year means moving on from the challenges of 2016… but sometimes it’s nice to be forced to refresh a bit 🙂

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My resolutions last year were to (1) actually blog more, (2) volunteer, and (3) learn how to cook meat. Obviously I failed miserably at (1), so we can add that to the list again. I didn’t do a great job at (2) either, but did volunteer with my family at a shelter in Philly on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve Eve and really enjoyed it — going to add (2) to the list again as well. I think I actually did a good job at (3) – woohoo, go me! I tackled a few different meatballs and made brisket twice. Still some room for improvement here, but I’ll consider it a (mild) success.

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So it’s a New Year, but I’m pretty much going to be the same me with similar goals. Fitness and nutrition goals aren’t really my jam (see below) so looking forward to 2017, I resolve to: (1) actually really blog more, (2) volunteer, (3) work with a dog trainer for Moose, (4) bring my coffee, breakfast, and lunch to work more often [rather than buying it] and (5) learn how to better manage my various anxieties [#toopersonal?!] I also want to continue to cook a lot, and am toying with the idea of cooking my way through this nacho cookbook I bought myself…

My office is closed between Christmas and New Years and I always enjoy the stay-cation. This year, Brett and I got to spend time with all of our parents, four of our eight collective siblings, and lots of friends. We took a trip to the Guggenheim with our toddler nieces, attended an amazing Christmas Eve mass in Philly (with musical guest Kathy Sledge!), lit the menorah *almost* every night (7/8!), ate at a great new (for us) restaurant – Xixa – in Williamsburg, ate at my favorite old (for me) restaurant – Pisticci, and made a quick visit to Columbia’s campus to see the lights — one of my favorite winter traditions. We spent New Year’s Eve playing Scrabble and making pizza. On New Year’s Day, I made Croque Madames (yum) and a Cacio e Pepe Cake (really yum). We slept a lot, ate a lot, and drank a lot of wine. It was lovely. But now, back to work tomorrow and onto 2017!

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Manda Cooks: Rugelach

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Rugelach are my favorite cookie. I made them last year and couldn’t find the recipe for the life of me. So, when in doubt, use Smitten Kitchen’s. They turned out perfectly. When made correctly (::wink::), rugelach have everything you need in a cookie — dough that’s buttery and a little salty, cinnamon and sugar inside AND out, sticky and sweet jam, crunchy nuts and, of course, chocolate. And somehow they work just as well for breakfast as they do for dessert! It’s a miracle, really.

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Thanksgiving!

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Thanksgiving just might be my favorite holiday, so it’s not a huge surprise that I find a way to celebrate it multiple times. Brett and I kicked things off with Friendsgiving two weeks ago. On Thanksgiving we volunteered with my family at a shelter in Philadelphia. We were in charge of mac ‘n’ cheese (used this recipe from last year) and decorations – two of my favorite things! It was a nice change of pace from the traditional Thanksgiving at home, and it felt good to give back. The next day, Friday, we made the usual Thanksgiving feast at home. I made corn pudding and a brussels sprouts salad — the salad is apparently a much modified version of tabbouleh from Michael Solomonov’s Zahav cookbook. It was so simple but so good, and provided a nice, fresh crunch on an otherwise buttery and cheesey (and delicious) plate. On Saturday Brett and I went to his sister’s for a “siblings-giving” potluck. We made roasted carrots and potatoes, but nothing compared to the rack of lamb his brother-in-law cooked up. Still thinking about it. And finally, on Sunday, we had “Italians-giving” at my dad’s house – chicken parm and penne alla vodka!

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Most years I make a little list of things I am thankful for. So, to keep tradition alive, here we go:

Brett, my family and friends (especially my three (!!) 91 year old grandmas and “my” nieces and nephews), Brett, Facetime, cookbooks, nail polish and lipstick, Chanel mascara, PJs, New York City, flannel sheets, fireplaces, paperback books, naps, whiskey, wine, taxi cabs, the Obamas, pop music, Liberty of London florals, elevators, fresh ricotta, pepperoni, pizza (and pepperoni pizza), Muji pens, airplanes, Italy, Maui, ribbon, Bread’s Bakery, iced coffee with almond milk, fresh flowers, J.Crew, online shopping, sprinkles, good olive oil, ruffles, wall paper, fresh herbs, rain boots and sunglasses, This American Life, gchat, magazines (I still subscribe to three!), cheetah print, animal shelters, and all dogs and cats but especially my most precious babies – Pico and Moose

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Manda Cooks: Orange Bourbon Cranberry Sauce

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When Friendsgiving rolls around, I always sign up for Cranberry Sauce because it’s so easy to make and use. This year I made Orange Bourbon Cranberry Sauce – it was tangy and sweet, with a little smokey kick from the bourbon. It was more interesting than a traditional Cranberry Sauce, but still paired perfectly with everything on the menu. I also put it on top of crackers with brie for an easy appetizer.

You’ll Need:

1 bag cranberries, rinsed and picked through
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
Juice and zest from 1 orange
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon bourbon

Combine everything in a saucepan and cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, until most of liquid is absorbed and cranberries have popped.

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Manda Travels: A Long Weekend in SF + Napa

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A few weeks ago Brett had meetings in San Francisco on a Thursday and the following Tuesday — the perfect excuse for me to fly out and meet him in between for a long weekend in Northern CA! We spent two days in San Francisco with one of my best friends Emily and her boyfriend Robbie. Thankfully their priorities align perfectly with ours (food first, activity second, sleeping a close third). We ate really, really well. After two days in SF, we spent two days in Napa, where we continued to eat really, really well. And drink really good wine, of course. Some highlights from the trip below!

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EAT

Coqueta: On our first night we went to Coqueta for dinner. Although the portions were a bit small, the food was incredible. I’m still thinking about the Suckling Pig (!) and the Patatas Bravas.
Don Pistos: We went to Don Pistos on Saturday night. We had three different meat dishes (I think the pork chop, pollo asado and a pulled pork special) and it was some of the best meat I’ve ever had. (And yes, I know I went 15 years without meat but trust me). The restaurant was loud and dark, but the vibe worked well on a Saturday night.
Ferry Building Farmer’s Market: We walked through the Farmer’s Market and grabbed lunch before we drove out to Land’s End. Emily and I had open faced smoked salmon toast, and Brett and Robbie had chorizo and egg sandwiches. Insanely good all around.
The Girl & The Fig: I love the atmosphere and food here, it’s a must if you are in Sonoma. I had eaten here four years ago, and everything was as great the second time as it had been the first. We sat outside on the patio and shared a brussels sprouts salad and mussels, among other things.
Redd Wood: Brett and I ate here on our last night in Napa. We’re spoiled by pizza in New York, but Redd Wood held its own. The chicken wings that showed up at our table compliments of our server were a highlight. As was my jack & diet after a day of wine 😉
Oxbow Public Market: Our hotel was a two minute walk from here, thank goodness. We had amazing breakfast tacos from C Casa, and some of the best oysters we’ve had from Hog Island Oyster Co. I also picked up some fun flavored salts from Whole Spice.

DRINK

Copain: Our favorite winery that we visited! Amazing views.
Dark Horse: Definitely more of a fun/more energetic vibe here, we each did the sparkling wine tasting.
Hope & Grace: Brett and I did the full wine and cheese tasting at this tasting room in Yountville. Really friend staff and some of the best red wine we’ve had.
Scribe: A young, hipster winery recommended by a friend. The vineyard was actually closed so we went to a pop-up tasting in downtown Napa – great wine, and apparently a very chill vineyard to visit. We’ll add it to our list for next time.

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Manda Travels: Positano

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[view from our airbnb!]

 

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Brett and I spent 5 days in Positano back in May and it was perfection. We stayed in a fantastic airbnb with a giant terrace and an outdoor shower that overlooked the sea. Per usual, we outlined our days around meals and explored or relaxed in between. The food was so, so, so good. We ate just about every type of seafood imaginable — mussels, clams, shrimp, octopus, squid and, of course, fish! We also ate our weight in fresh mozzarella, and had our fair share of prosciutto and melon. The region is known for lemons and we finished each meal with a (complimentary!) glass of limoncello — a custom I wouldn’t mind adopting back home. We took thousands of steps each day, so meal after meal of pasta felt well deserved. And to top it all off, the wine is almost cheaper than water! Some of our specific favorites below, plus photos that don’t even get close to doing any of it justice!

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[the first of many, many limoncello cheers]

Our favorite restaurant was Da Adolfo – it’s only accessible by boat, and located on a small private beach. It was really the most special place. We had grilled mozzarella in lemon leaves (one of their signatures), prosciutto and melon, and a whole grilled orata fish (below!) After we ate, we relocated to the beach chairs with aperol spritzes.

Speaking of aperol spritzes… we became obsessed. We make them at home all the time now, but drinking them on our roof is not quite the same as having them on the beach in Italy (just a tad different).

The best pasta we had was the lemon pasta at Hotel Santa Caterina. Made our day trip to Amalfi 100% worth it (but aside from the pasta, we mostly just missed Positano because we became attached after just 24 hours). The hotel itself was beautiful — it is built straight down the cliff, has an incredible pool right on the ocean and its own lemon orchard. The pasta was the perfect balance of tart and creamy – I still dream about it. After lunch, we snuck into the hotel pool to digest, naturally.

Despite my best efforts to stay in bed and miss the ferry “by accident”, I’m so glad Brett forced us to take a day trip to Capri. I had some amazing sort of coffee milkshake (“cafe freddo”) at a cafe in the main square (“piazzeta”). We walked through the Augustus Gardens, where some of the best views of the island are. And we spent about two hours in the afternoon at Fontelina Beach Club – one of the highlights of the trip! Funny enough, the photographer Gray Malin posted a photo of the beach club on his instagram earlier that day and we somehow ended up there. You have to pay a fee just for chairs, which was annoying at first but worth it. We shared a bottle of prosecco for lunch (because, vacation.)

On our second to last day, we discovered Casa e Bottega and fell in love. It’s a cafe/juice bar/shop that really hit the spot after days of pizza and pasta. Don’t worry, I ordered cake for breakfast (picture below), but had one of their juices on the side. They sold the prettiest ceramics and pillows – we got a little ceramic fish as a souvenir!

Other bests (but really, you can’t go wrong):

Best meat: braised beef pasta at Da Vincenzo

Best mozzarella: from a tiny family-run cheese and wine shop, Latteria

Best mussels: Il Pirata in the neighboring town, Praiano (*we took the public bus there and ended up standing on the street for 90 minutes waiting for a bus back, only to later find out they had stopped running for the night… next time we’ll look at the schedule!)

Best view & best house wine: Lo Guarracino, which is located on the walkway between the two beaches in Positano.

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[Capri’s Marina Grande]

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 [Da Adolfo!]

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[Leftovers from lunch]

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[Lemon Pasta from Hotel Santa Caterina… don’t get me started on the dishware]

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[Lemon Ricotta cake for breakfast at Casa e Bottega]

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[Fontelina Beach Club]

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