Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Quick Update: Happy New Year from A Peek into the Pantry!

Happy New Year's Eve, everyone! I realize it's been a bit of time since I've done anything around these parts and wanted to pop in for a quick update. Things have been busy around here so there hasn't been much time for creative cooking, which means this isn't exactly a food related post, but I got a really neat gift for the blog that I've been very excited to share with people, so I thought I'd do a quick unboxing post to tide people over until we've got our next actual meal in the works.

To help out with the unboxing, we've got two new members of the Peek Into the Pantry gang. I was kept very in the dark about who my next doll might be - partially at my insistence, because I honestly couldn't pick who I wanted next since each new character would bring something different and exciting to our future recipe choices - so I was very surprised to discover...

Julie and Ivy! Both girls are from the 1970's in San Francisco: Ivy is a Chinese American girl who loves gymnastics, while Julie is a child of divorce who petitions her school to allow her to play basketball with the boys, as there is no girl's team offered at her new school. I'm really excited to delve into 1970's food - there's a spam casserole my uncle used to love that sounds particularly horrifying - and I'm equally excited to try my hand at Chinese dishes, as it's a cuisine I've never explored beyond just consuming it at restaurants and friend's houses.

But Julie and Ivy aren't the focus of this post - they'll get their time to shine later next month! - so let's move along to the actual unboxing.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Molly's Seven Little Pies

Happy 76th anniversary, Snow White!

As anyone who has known me for more than five minutes can attest to, I am a huge Disney fan. Now, when I say that, some people are probably assuming that this means that I like the movies and might even go to the parks more than once in my lifetime, but I can very safely say you're greatly underestimating what I mean by huge. I have yet to be beaten at Disney trivia, my room is stuffed to bursting with Disney memorabilia, and I've even been acknowledged in an official Disney publication as being a crazy fan. My dream job is to one day work for their Imagineering department (my second dream job is being allowed to design a historical character for AG, but considering how tight they have that stuff locked down, I'm not exactly holding my breath), and it's not just me: there isn't a room in my house that doesn't have at least one Disney thing prominently displayed in it, and it's really my family's fault I'm so hooked on it anyway. Although my tumblr might be chock full of X-Men: First Class gifsets and links to my blog, my one true love is and always has been Disney, and I will happily talk your ear off about the company's history, upcoming projects, how I've watched Victory Through Air Power way too many times thanks to a massive term paper about the film, and why you're really misinformed in saying Walt Disney was a Nazi sympathizer. (As I've said before, World War II is still one of my favorite eras to study, even in entertainment history.)

Needless to say, I couldn't let today just pass by without finding a way to acknowledge the anniversary of the company's first full length feature film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which premiered at the Cathay Circle theater on December 21, 1937. It later had a nationwide release on February 4th, 1938. Kit and Ruthie would have been fourteen upon the film's initial release, and Molly would only have been three years old, but as it was re-released in 1944 to help raise money for the studio during World War II, she definitely would have seen it at least once during the course of her central series. Because of that, she's going to be hosting this post!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Molly's Peppermint Hot Chocolate

A great way to keep warm when things start getting chilly!

And last but not least on our historical holiday features is Molly! Unlike most of the other original historical characters (or at least through Julie, anyway), Molly didn't really have a focus in her holiday collection on a particular sweet she would have enjoyed. She did, however, have a candy cane tucked into her Christmas stocking, so I decided to use that as inspiration for picking a recipe to feature with her. While making home made candy canes sounds interesting, it also sounds like it might be really hard and very easily end in disaster, and I'm virtually certain I don't really have the right equipment to do it.

Peppermint hot chocolate is a pretty decent substitute for home made candy canes. Hot chocolate is definitely my beverage of choice in the colder months of the year, so I would not be too shocked if this is the first of many variations on it that appear on this blog! This one was simple, tasty and a nice alternative to going to the store if you're in the mood for something a little fancier than Swiss Miss.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Samantha's Gingerbread Cakes

Although really, this post should probably be called Samantha and L. Frank Baum's Gingerbread Cakes!

Although only a few members of my immediate actually like eating gingerbread, it's definitely one of the most iconic desserts traditionally served at Christmas, and was a pretty obvious choice to feature for Samantha. A gingerbread house is a prominent plot point in Samantha's Surprise, and while I don't think I've ever met anyone who builds gingerbread houses to eat them (even though whenever I bring friends home when we have one on the island, it's the first question they ask even if it's been sitting out for the better part of a month), it still gave me a great jumping off point 

Gingerbread houses date back to the early 1800's in Germany, but gingerbread itself - both in the hard cookie form and the softer cake - goes back even farther, with history dating back to the middle ages. There are recipes for it available in Samantha's Cookbook and Samantha's Cooking Studio, but since I don't own copies of either of those yet, the recipe I made has some really cool history of its own, and comes from the family of one of the most prominent authors of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Addy's Sweet Potato Pudding

A super tasty historic dish that you've definitely got to try!

Next up on our holiday adventure is Addy! Like most of the other original (or at least, pre-2011) historicals, Addy has a well defined holiday story and an easily identified dish to prepare, and I have to say, hers was the one I was most curious to try.

I don't make puddings often unless it's the kind from a box, and the last pudding I made wasn't exactly tasty. I was also curious to see if it would taste anything like the sweet potato pies I made a few weeks ago, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that not only was this not a terrible failure, but also was incredibly tasty without just tasting like the pie without a crust. I'd definitely recommend giving it a shot if you're looking for something super tasty that doesn't often make its way onto modern tables or menus, and it's easy enough to make that I feel very confident in saying this is an official American Girl recipe that's a real winner.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Kirsten's St. Lucia Buns

A tasty breakfast snack!

As I mentioned in an older post, although I'm not Swedish, St. Lucia Day is something that thanks to Kirsten and American Girl has been a part of my life from the time I was very small. Picking a recipe to feature for Kirsten was incredibly easy, and it's been one of the ones I've been most looking forward to doing. According to my mom, I've actually had Lucia buns before thanks to my kindergarten teacher (who was apparently the one to suggest that I represent Sweden during our children around the world concert), but I can't remember eating them, so I was definitely excited to see how these would taste.

The recipe comes from Kirsten's Cookbook and is the first one I've ever tried to make from it. Historically speaking, I'm not a huge fan of Swedish food - I remember being horribly disappointed by Swedish meatballs at a historic farm in Massachusetts that was hosting a Kirsten themed event - but I'm always willing to try new things in the name of the blog, so expect to see us working our way through the rest of the recipes listed in here sometime in the future!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Cécile's Chocolate Truffles

Totally addicting chocolate treats!

On to our final stage of our two part adventure into treats our favorite girls from 1853 New Orleans might have enjoyed during Christmas! Last time, I explained that because Marie-Grace and Cécile's books don't really focus on how they would have celebrated Christmas, I had to get a little creative in coming up with desserts they might have eaten during holiday celebrations. While I picked the bread pudding for Marie-Grace because it was something practical and tasty, I wanted to do something simple and decadent for Cécile to reflect something she and her family might have enjoyed at a fancier party or get together during the holiday season.

After a lot of consideration, we decided to try out this recipe for homemade chocolate truffles, and boy, they were not a disappointment. This was definitely a winner, and I would imagine it's going to be added into the regular rotation for any parties we host at our house!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Marie-Grace's Bourbon Bread Pudding

Bringing a taste of New Orleans to the holiday season!

Now, I will be the first to tell you that I enjoyed Marie-Grace and Cécile's books quite a bit, and I definitely don't think the series should be overlooked just because American Girl picked a pretty obscure point in history to focus on. However, when it came to picking out what to feature with them for the holidays, I found myself shaking my fist in frustration that they didn't have a book focusing on how people in 1853 New Orleans celebrated Christmas. Meet Cécile starts at the end of the Christmas season, with Cécile and her mother taking down their Christmas tree and Cécile commenting on some of the things she looks forward to and enjoys during the holiday season, and Cécile's Gift ends in mid December, and there isn't much focus on what the two girls' families are doing to prepare for Christmas because they're all much more focused on finding ways to help people affected by the Yellow Fever epidemic. Obviously, this is a more important topic for the series itself, but when you compare it to the other girls having books that very clearly detail how their families celebrate winter holidays and traditions, it was sort of a bummer to not be able to immediately turn to the book or the collection and find lots and lots of inspiration there.

Obviously, that doesn't mean I gave up. After a lot of consideration, I decided to make a bread pudding for Marie-Grace, and a very different, equally tasty treat for Cécile, which you'll hopefully hear about tomorrow! I'd never even had bread pudding before making this recipe, and I was very pleasantly surprised by what we ended up with.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Felicity's Shrewsbury Cakes

Unusual flavor and super simple to make.

Next on our list of holiday recipes to cover are Shewsbury cakes! Back when each doll had very similarly organized collections (i.e., everyone had a school desk, writing set, lunch box, school dress, etc.), the holiday sets often featured a sweet treat they got to enjoy during December. Felicity had a kit including cookie cutters and a real cone of sugar to make your own Shrewsbury cakes, so picking what to feature with her was incredibly easy.

I've made a couple different colonial and colonial inspired cookie recipes before (and I've featured one on A Peek Into the Pantry before), so I was definitely interested to try this one out. Not only is it a pretty traditional cookie, but it's got unusual flavor, and I was very excited to get started.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Rebecca's Latkes and Applesauce

Happy Hanukkah!

I survived Black Friday! Thanks to everyone for their well wishes, it actually wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. That said, I'm pretty sure I've confirmed that running a cash register is not my calling in life, and I'm (semi) patiently waiting for something better to come up.

Anyway, as I'm sure all of you know thanks to the increased publicity this year, Thanksgiving was also the first night of Hanukkah! There was absolutely no way I was letting this holiday pass me by, no matter how busy I was at work, so I made sure to set aside some time this week to do a feature about one of my favorite holidays. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Kit's Curried Pumpkin Soup

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year, Thanksgiving is going to be a little different for me. Like a lot of other unfortunate people in America, I'm falling prey to the new practice of "Black Friday actually starts on Thursday", and so I'm missing out on dinner, hanging out with my family, and generally having a stress free holiday. Honestly, I'm pretty bummed out about it.

But I didn't want the holiday to pass by without doing something for it for the blog, and since I didn't have a ton of time to devote to cooking today, this recipe I borrowed from the same best friend who brought you the brisket we made for Rosh Hashanah and the chicken soup we made just because turned out to be the perfect solution to getting some Thanksgiving in my day, even if I'm missing out on turkey and stuffing.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Kaya's Hazelnut Berry Chocolate Bark

Quick, tasty and easily customizable!

My mom suggested making this recipe to bring along to a talk given at the historical society I used to intern at. We needed to bring some snacks for after the talk was over, and since I hadn't had a chance to feature Kaya in a while, we figured we might as well revisit a favorite recipe of my mom's and try and put a twist on it.

It was flexible, easy to make and is definitely a nice thing to have on hand if you're ever looking for a sort of quick treat to give people as a gift, and I'd highly recommend giving it a shot for yourself if you're ever in a spot where you need to make a quick dessert to bring somewhere. Read on to find out more!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Felicity's Pumpkin Pudding

An easy, authentic dish with a pretty unusual texture!

I'm taking advantage of my free time this week to get as many recipes in as I can before next week. Between Thanksgiving and the fact that I will probably be working on Black Friday, I seriously doubt I'm going to have a lot of time to spend on the blog. One dish I knew I wanted to make before November was over was pumpkin pudding, with a recipe straight from Felicity's Cook Book! 

While pumpkins ripen in fall and historically could keep in cellars throughout the winter, lately, it seems like pumpkin is the flavor of late September through November, and then is quickly replaced by peppermint. Seriously, it's a little bit frightening how many pumpkin and peppermint themed things people have come up with. Anyway, I figured in keeping with recent tradition, I should try to get this in before the end of the month, and fortunately, I did!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Addy's (Mini) Sweet Potato Pies

An awesome alternative to pumpkin pie!

I know I said in my first post for Marie-Grace and Cécile that I probably wouldn't get another doll until I got a decent job, but once again providence intervened in my favor, so I probably should just stop saying this is the last one, I swear! I've been impatiently awaiting Addy's arrival, and started looking for something worthy of being her first post on the blog since right after I placed the order, but thanks to work wiping me out and bad timing by the post office, today was the first day I had a chance to sit down and cook in almost a week.

Some of my more eagle eyed readers might notice a familiar book sitting next to Addy, and might be wondering why I didn't look for a recipe somewhere else, after our last adventure with the Party Book didn't exactly go well. Honestly, even with the issue I had making the jam tart cookies, there are still a lot of recipes in the Party Book I want to try! And I'm happy to report that this turned out to be a lot more successful, and overall was a pretty easy dish to make.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Samantha's Jam Tart Cookies

Deceptively frustrating cookies to make, but they sure are tasty!

I was almost too embarrassed to document this recipe with a blog post, which probably goes to show just how badly things looked like they were going to turn out considering I have shared quite a few flubs in the history of this blog thus far. I still have no idea what went wrong, and honestly, I'm not sure I'm interested enough to try and work it out. There are lots of tasty cookie recipes out there that cause a lot less frustration!

That said, if you're more devoted to the idea of a jam tart cookie than I am, I definitely would be interested to hear how things worked out for you! Read on to hear about the worst disaster - thus far - to ever happen to A Peek Into the Pantry.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Rebecca's Chicken Soup

A cure for a cold, and a gloomy November day!

It's getting to be that time of year where everything is getting cold and gray and decidedly less festive than September and October, unless you're in any major retailer right now, considering according to them, Christmas apparently started before Halloween this year. November isn't really my favorite month, and I'm actually not a big fan of Thanksgiving, either, but since I didn't get to do a lot of my more fall-themed recipe ideas, I'm looking forward to trying to fit a few in that I didn't get to in October.

And while this isn't necessarily a uniquely fall recipe, it's something I've been wanting to do on the blog for a while, and I don't think anyone will try and make the argument that chicken soup isn't the perfect thing for a chilly fall day. Chicken soup has become something of a joke between me and my best friend (she knows why), and when I asked her if she had a family recipe she'd be up for sharing with me, she was happy to oblige! It's one that her mom learned from her grandma, and I was really excited to try making a dish that's been passed down through a family for so many years.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Josefina's Beef Mole Tamale Pie

Feliz Día de los Muertos! (Two days late.)

November 2nd was the last day of the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. While my family doesn't celebrate it, and this is by no means an attempt at celebrating it, when a family friend mentioned that I was welcome to borrow her daughter's Josefina if I ever wanted to feature her on the blog, I figured this would be a good chance to reference and discuss this important cultural tradition in a way that would hopefully educate people who are just familiar with it because of the iconic art style used in decorations for the event.

Unfortunately, as I was sort of busy and burnt out this weekend from my mind numbingly boring yet oddly stressful new job, the post kind of fell by the wayside, so I'm getting it up a few days late. But better late than never, right?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Trick or Treat Cookies with Molly

Happy Halloween!

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays, mostly just because I love an excuse to dress up in a costume without people thinking I've totally lost my mind. Despite being busy today, I absolutely didn't want to let it pass me by without doing something for it, and when I stumbled upon the recipe for trick or treat cookies from Not Martha.org, I knew I had my winner.

This definitely isn't a historical recipe, but it's still a lot of fun if you're looking for a creative way to serve sugar cookies, and can easily be adapted to fit any holiday or celebration's theme!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cracker Jacks with Kailey

So let's root, root, root for the Red Sox...

I have mentioned before that I'm from New England, so it probably shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who pays attention to sports at all to know that I probably at least distantly care about the World Series. To be honest, while I haven't been a religious follower of baseball since the Sox traded my favorite player back in 2004, I've been a member of the Church of Boston since infancy. My dad seriously considered naming me "Wade" if I was a boy after the Red Sox's then third baseman Wade Boggs, and apparently, the first baseball game I ever watched as an infant was a Red Sox versus Yankees game, and I started crying once the Yankees came out on the field.

There was a lot of debate over what I should make in honor of the Red Sox making it to the World Series for the third time in my lifetime, and although we talked about nachos and clam chowder and trying to recreate the sausage sandwiches my dad like getting when we're at Fenway, eventually, we decided to go with Cracker Jacks.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Marie-Grace and Cécile's Jambalaya

A wildly anticipated dinner from some surprising new additions!

I had thought that Rebecca would be the last doll I added to my collection for quite a while, unless by some miracle, I found a high paying job that let me have enough flexibility to grab an Addy, or I stumbled upon one at a thrift store, or inherited one from someone who didn't want to keep theirs anymore, for whatever reason. So when my mom informed me that she'd sort of had an impulse purchase "for the sake of the blog", I assumed she meant she'd bought a crazy new piece of kitchen equipment. Imagine my surprise when she revealed that she had managed to snag a Marie-Grace and Cécile at an incredibly good price thanks to a deal from the TODAY Show! They got here a few weeks ago, and we've all been eagerly awaiting a good time to feature them on the blog.

This isn't because we were struggling to come up with something to feature with them, but just because scheduling kind of prevented us from being able to do what we wanted. As soon as we knew they were coming, my dad and I wanted to make jambalaya, and this was the first weekend everyone was around to do it.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Emily's Shepherd's Pie

Another good dish to feed a crowd!

Tonight's dinner developed in an interesting way. Originally, I thought I was just making dinner for my family and a friend, and then my brother took me up on my semi-serious offer to invite one of his friends over, so she and her mom came while my original guest unfortunately had to cancel. I'm always nervous when I make something new for people I've never fed before or haven't seen in a while - I figure my immediate family and the usual suspects of the extended crowd will be more forgiving if it turns out to be a disaster.

Fortunately, things went more or less smoothly, partially because I had a very helpful sous chef and a guest photographer for a couple of the shots. There was still a bit of a slip up, but nothing that made the dish irredeemably bad. In fact, I'm looking forward to having some of the left overs for lunch tomorrow, and passing the rest along to my grandparents!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Felicity and Molly

A timeless American classic!

I love homemade macaroni and cheese. It's hands down my favorite thing to eat, and was always something I requested my mom make when I was home from school on break. Recently, I discovered how to make it myself, and thus it was only a matter of time before it wound up on the blog. The first time I tried it, it was a rousing success, and since I was free and my mom didn't have anything in particular planned, I decided to make it for dinner last night. Unfortunately, this time around there were quite a few more speed bumps, but ultimately, much to my relief, things did turn out alright.

Now, your first question is probably why is this a dish presented by Molly and Felicity of all people? Shouldn't it just be Molly, or Kit, or maybe even Julie taking charge here? Read on to find out what's going on!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Kirsten's Fall Spiced Apple Oatmeal

Be careful not to burn yourself!

You know those days where after everything slows down, you sort of just feel like you've been hit by a truck? I have had one of those days. Equal parts stressful and fun (okay... a lot more fun than stressful, but still busy!), I was ready to kick back and take it easy instead of coming up with something complicated for dinner.

So, while this is definitely a breakfast dish, it might have been my dinner tonight.

And by "might have", I mean it definitely was. No regrets.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Kaya's Bison Burgers, with a Berry and Pine Nut Salad

A simple, tasty and healthy meal!

Kaya has been my most difficult doll to find recipes and recipe ideas for, mostly because most of the foods she eats are native to the Pacific Northwest, and I live on the other side of the country. The other issue is that while the Nez Perce diet in 1764 was very restricted by location, there's less possible authentic historic variation, and a limited number of ways you can interpret the dishes in a more modern way, if only because there are simply less ingredients to work with compared to say Rebecca or Felicity, as they both came from cultures that relied more heavily on trade and urban centers for ingredients, and Kaya's doesn't. This isn't to say that there was no trade going on between the Nez Perce and other cultural groups, but it's obviously easier to transport food quickly with things like railroads and more modern ships.

This has meant that finding ways to get her represented on the blog have required a little more creativity and brainpower than some of my other dolls, which is fine by me. It's kind of fun to work without a recipe, or to find ones that have a connection to Kaya without being immediately obvious. Each part of this dinner has some connection to the foods she would have eaten, while putting an East Coast, modern spin on it, because there's just no way I'd be able to get my hands on some of the authentic ingredients.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Felicity's Brunswick Stew, Spoon Bread and Apple Pie, straight from Colonial Williamsburg!

A great fall meal that will definitely feed a crowd!

One of the things that's really encouraged me to keep up with this blog and make sure I'm doing a couple posts a month is how enthusiastic my friends and family have been in wanting to try out another cool new recipe. Case in point, my aunt and uncle were stopping by for the day on their way back home, and when I asked if they were interested in trying something that would be featured on the blog, they responded with an enthusiastic yes! As it turned out, we were also joined by my grandparents, my mother's brother and his family, plus my cousin's friend, so I had a full house to feed and have been cooking almost all day. I definitely have a greater appreciation for how difficult it is to organize a big dinner after starting this blog!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Rebecca's Homemade Bagels

Or, the reason why we might never eat store bought bagels again.

I've been asked a couple times why I decided to feature bagels on my blog this week. Honestly, it's a good question. October is one of the best months for coming up with really creative and fun treats with a Halloween theme, and it's the first month I really consider it legitimate to eat pumpkin flavored everything. I've already found a lot of other recipes I want to try to cram in, and add in the fact that I still want to try to represent everyone equally, finding a chance to fit everything I want to do into 31 days is a little difficult.

But I went with bagels because - aside from being the main course in Rebecca's school lunch set - I was really just curious to see if they were easy to make at home. I like bagels, but I'm not always in the mood to get one while I'm out running errands, and I don't love the store bought frozen ones you pop in the toaster and reheat. I figured I might as well see how difficult they were to make from scratch, because if I could come up with something better, maybe I'd have a better way to enjoy eating them at home.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Emily's Lemon Tart

Happy (belated) birthday, Emily!

As I mentioned in my snickerdoodle post, September 29th was Emily Bennett's 80th birthday. Emily has been one of my favorite American Girl characters for quite some time, and even though I couldn't do anything for her earlier in the week, I didn't want her birthday to slip by unnoticed, especially considering (as anyone who's read Happy Birthday, Molly! knows) thanks to war shortages, she hasn't been able to really celebrate her birthday with a proper party since she was five years old. Molly offers to let her share her birthday, which they decide should be a proper English tea party, and promptly gets annoyed when she finds out that a proper English tea party isn't much like an American birthday party at all.

When the topic of what the main treat would be during a tea party, Emily suggests a lemon tart, which Molly turns down in favor of the chocolate cake she's been wanting all year. Since this is Emily's birthday, and I don't have war rations to work with, we're making a lemon tart in her honor.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Kit's Afternoon Luncheon: Recipes from Kit's Cooking Studio!

Two great sandwiches, cookies and a milkshake to finish it off!

When I was in elementary school, we discovered that a new house was being built right next door to ours - although I should point out that where I grew up, "right next too" really means "several yards through the woods". My mom told me that one of the people living there would be a girl who was a few years older than me, and as soon as I heard that, I really hoped we could be friends. I got very lucky, and we've been friends basically since the day we met.

When we were younger, we'd often get together and play with our American Girl dolls, and she's got a daughter who got her first doll two years ago. I thought they'd be fun people to invite over to try out some new blog recipes, and they came over yesterday for lunch! Dolly - the kiddo's American Girl Doll - came too and got to hang out with my cousin's Kit. We all had a really nice time, and had a chance to try out a bunch of new recipes that I can definitely recommend trying out for yourself.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Samantha's Snickerdoodle Cookies

An unusually named cookie with an unusual story!

My sister started college about a week before I got the idea for making this blog, and so she's been trapped far away from home listening to everyone talk about all the fun stuff we've gotten to eat without her. I've promised I'll do something nice for her when she's home on break, but since she asked my mom for some stuff she wanted from home to be shipped to her, I decided hey, why wait until Thanksgiving to make her something? And while I was at school, getting baked goods in the mail was always, always a fun thing.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Kirsten's Fried Pork Chops with Gravy, Biscuits and Root Vegetables

Scene stealing gravy and biscuits!

I've mentioned before here that I am absolutely not a fan of frying things. Don't get me wrong, I love to eat fried things! But hot oil and I have not been friends in the past, and it wasn't exactly something I was excited to try again after my last attempt ended in a smoky house and burns on my hands.

But as I've said time and time again on this blog, I'm trying to get more confident in the kitchen, and that requires doing some things I never thought I'd want to do again. So, without further ado, here's our latest pioneer themed post.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Felicity's Spice Cakes with Lemon Glaze

Easily one of the best from scratch cookies I've ever made!

This weekend was my hometown's town fair. It's been a tradition for over a hundred and fifty years, and it's basically the biggest event that goes on all year. Town fairs have been a tradition that goes back pretty much to the dawn of civilization in one form or another, but considering they're almost always a big deal for small towns like mine, I felt like I had to do something in honor of it being fair weekend.

These cakes (what we know as cookies!) turned out to be the best possible way to bring a little bit of festivity and history into the weekend, and are definitely going to be added into the regular rotation.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Kaya's Blackberry Chocolate Cake

Making the best of the end of blackberry season!

I discovered this recipe largely by accident, and have been impatiently waiting for a chance to make it for a little over two weeks now. I knew I needed to get it done before October, because blackberries are usually pretty sour and nasty after that point, but when I went shopping for supplies yesterday, it turns out I was probably smart to do it now instead of waiting another week. There were no blackberries at all at the grocery store, and there were only six containers left at the farmer's market.

I might have bought all of them.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Felicity's Barley Soup

Or, the meal that was almost an utter disaster, but ended up working out okay.

My parents were out of town tonight, which meant my brother and I were left to our own devices for dinner. I decided instead of eating some frozen dinners or something similarly easy, I felt confident enough in the kitchen to think no, I'm going to do something different. I'm going to make a healthy, delicious dinner without anyone else helping me out in the kitchen, and no one and nothing is going to stop me!

Read on to discover how I thought my overconfidence would end in disaster.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Emily's Roast Beef Tea Sandwiches, Cheddar Scones and Short Bread Cookies

A great excuse to break out the china!

My grandmother loves tea. Actually, she really loves a lot of British - and specifically English - things, but tea is probably her favorite, so when I decided I wanted to do a tea for Emily's first feature on the blog, my mom suggested that we invite her and a couple other people over to try out the recipes with us.

This also means that this post features our first official guest appearance! Read on to hear what we decided to do.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Felicity's Chicken the French Way

Disappointing sauce, but overall, not a bad meal!

Felicity is probably the character I probably have the most cookbooks and recipe ideas for, so when it came down to actually picking something, I sort of had a bit of an over saturation issue. I couldn't decide what we should make, or where I should even start looking for something, really, which made deciding what I should pick to feature colonial America kind of difficult.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Steak and Potatoes with Kaya

 Practice makes perfect!

After a discouraging day of job searching, I was tasked with making dinner for myself and my younger brother. Initially, I was very discouraged to hear that my mother had purchased steak, considering the last time I made it, I managed to burn myself pretty badly, flooded the entire downstairs with smoke and charred the meat so badly that it was almost inedible.

But if anyone understands what it's like to make a mistake and try to redeem yourself for it anyway instead of just accepting people's scorn, it's Kaya, and that encouraged me to give it a try.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Rebecca's Rosh Hashanah Dinner: Brisket, Kugel and Apple Cake to Celebrate the New Year!

Shanah Tovah from Rebecca!
In what is probably going to be one of the more ambitious meals featured on this blog (at least for a little while!), I decided to try and tackle a meal for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I was pleasantly surprised to discover although I spent most of the day cooking, the results were a delicious and festive meal and not a tale of woe and disaster. Read on for the full story!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Kirsten's One-Pan Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie

The perfect thing for a campfire, or a cold, rainy Labor Day cook "out"

When it came time to pick the first recipe for the blog, I thought it was only fair to let Kirsten go first. I've had her the longest, and warm, comforting pioneer food seemed like a good idea for a cold, rainy Labor Day. Since we were also having people over for a cook out, it seemed like a good idea to find something that would make enough for a lot of people.


The creative team, hard at work.

What is this Blog?
One part food blog, one part history blog, and one part American Girl enthusiast blog... or maybe half of the last part since I won't be reviewing outfits or accessory sets. The important thing is, I cook food either from or inspired by different periods in American history or in the history of the cultures that make America America.

Who are you?
A recent college graduate who goes by Gwen, who was looking for something to do with her history degree after graduating from college. Learning how to cook while learning about the history of food seemed like a good idea, and here we are. I’m a New Englander who went to school in Boston, and my favorite areas of study are the history of the Jamestown settlement and World War II.

Where did you get your recipes?
All sorts of places! I’ll always specify in the post itself, and link to the original source if possible. Some of them are family recipes, or suggestions from friends, but some of them are coming from the American Girl cook books and cooking studios, other cook books, and others were recipes found on the internet.

Can I submit a suggestion for a recipe?
Sure! As long as you don’t mind that I might not decide to do it. Leave a comment on one of my posts, or shoot an email to intothepantry@gmail.com, and if it’s feasible and sounds like something I’d like eating, I’ll try to give it a shot.

What’s your job?
Currently, I'm a clerk at an insurance company.

What is your favorite time period to study/cook from?
My answer to both is definitely World War II! I'm particularly interested in Americans in the Pacific theater, but I like reading about just about anything from just about any perspective. Food from World War II doesn't sound too appealing, but I've actually really enjoyed most of the recipes we've featured from that period and enjoy researching more recipes to try. My close second favorite period is early colonial America, specifically Jamestown. I like it so much, I created a custom character to represent the foodways of this period, since American Girl doesn't seem to have any plans to make one of their own. I also enjoy studying the Revolutionary period, the Civil War, westward expansionism and immigration at the turn of the century.

How did you get into American Girl?
I got Kirsten from my grandmother when I was about five years old. This was back when there were only five historical dolls, and I picked Kirsten because she came with cats. I was never much of a doll person, and to be honest, at first I really just wanted those cats and could care less about the doll (who I was also terrified to play with initially because I knew she was expensive!), but when I was old enough to have the books read to me and then read them by myself, I got hooked, and the rest is pretty much – if you’ll pardon the slight play on words – history. (And Kirsten did eventually get played with, although I’ve always tried to take very good care of her and the others.)

Which dolls do you have and how/when did you get them?
- Kirsten, who was given to me by my grandparents in 1996. Since she's the oldest and has been my favorite since I got her, she's definitely the most spoiled in terms of having a near complete collection. Because Kirsten is starting to show her age and I worry about taking her places, she'll also be represented by her stunt double Andra, who is an eBay rescue Mattel Kirsten doll.
- Felicity, a birthday present from my parents in 2000. We happened to have a copy of Felicity Learns a Lesson on our shelf, and I gave it a read probably a year or so before I got the doll and was completely hooked. It happened to coincide with our social studies unit about colonial America, and I absolutely fell in love with Felicity and the time period. I wanted to try saving money for her myself, but was always terrible at budgeting and saving money when I was little so I was super surprised to discover she was my gift that year!
- Kaya, a Christmas gift from my parents in 2003. Kaya came out around the time my enthusiasm for collecting AG started to wane, but I was so unbelievably excited that they'd finally made a Native American doll and that she was from the tribe I had done extensive research on as part of our fourth grade curriculum that even though I felt like I was starting to outgrow AG a little bit, I still really wanted to add her to my group. I'm really glad I did, because I prefer a lot of the early versions of her accessories and outfits to the ones available from AG now.
- Emily, a college graduation present in 2013 and the doll that got me back into American Girl. After squirreling away most of the money people had given me for graduation, I realized I had some left over I wanted to spend on something fun for myself. Most other college graduates might have gotten an iPad or jewelry or a new video game console, but I didn't want any of those things and thought it would be fun to find something that referenced my new degree. I hemmed and hawed between Emily, Rebecca, Addy and Caroline, but ultimately went with Emily because World War II had been such a major focus of my studies. While I hesitate to say I have favorites in my collection or in general, Emily is definitely one I'm quite attached to.
- Rebecca, a belated birthday gift to myself in 2013. Rebecca was Emily's serious competition in terms of who was going to come home with me after graduation, and she's probably my overall favorite character AG has introduced since I fell out of touch with the company around Julie's introduction. I can't believe it took them so long to make a Jewish historical character!
- Marie Grace and Cécile, thanks to the 2013 Jill's Steals and Deals offer on the TODAY Show. They probably have the craziest origin story because I honestly wasn't expecting to add them to my group this early, or maybe even at all if it wasn't for this blog. I wasn't especially interested in their time period or their clothes (although I did want to steal Cécile's holiday outfit for Addy when I got her), but they brought in fun potential for tasty food none of the other girls could represent, so they were on the table, but definitely not a priority. Then my mom happened to be watching the TODAY Show when they announced the deal and for the sake of the blog snapped up both of them with their holiday outfits. I was so surprised and very excited, and I have to admit, I've grown quite fond of both of them, even if I'm still disappointed that Cécile isn't the main character.
- Addy, who was paid for with a gift card I won from AG in 2013. They held a contest on the website promising that if you wrote reviews of products you'd purchased, you would be entered to win a $100 gift card and I won! I decided to put it towards a doll, and chose Addy because her series was a favorite of mine as a kid and had been my intended next doll after Rebecca.
- Julie and Ivy, both Christmas Gifts from my parents in 2013. My parents have been super supportive and enthusiastic about the blog, and so my mom made it pretty clear that I was going to be getting a doll for Christmas. Whether that was going to be Josefina, Caroline, Julie, Ivy or Kit was totally up in the air, but I was honestly only expecting one, and figured it would probably be Caroline or Julie based on a few hints I'd stumbled across. I was so surprised to open the package and discover Julie and Ivy! My mom likes to joke that Julie is basically the hipper, brown eyed version of her as a child, and I have totally fallen head over heels for Ivy.
- Josefina, picked up from AG Place NYC in January 2014. I've found some evidence that Josefina was the doll I wanted next before Kaya came out, and I know I had always coveted her horno and kitchen set. While I'm sad a lot of the accessory sets I wanted have been retired, I'm glad I waited for a Mattel version of the doll, because I don't actually love the Pleasant Company Josefina facemold. It's really incredible to have all six of the characters I loved as a kid in my house, because it's something I'd never thought would actually happen when I was younger!
- Nellie, who was adopted from eBay in 2014. While I always loved Nellie the character, I first really fell in love with Nellie the doll when I was babysitting my old boss' Nellie who had uh. Had a bit of an accident during our summer camp which resulted in a temporarily severed leg. Nellie is the only doll that comes remotely close to representing my family's heritage and I'd been waiting for months to find one I really loved who was also a price I felt comfortable paying. My patience finally paid off!
- Kit, who was picked up with the help of my first pay check from my first real job!
- Caroline, who was a 23rd birthday present.
- Mia, a Girl of the Year Mia St. Clair doll who I've turned into an original character from the 1940's. As a custom character, she likely won't be making many appearances on the blog. She is one of the Cousins of AGC.
- Essie, a Truly Me #41 who is an original character from the 1940's and Mia's best friend. She also might not be making many appearances.
- Grace, Girl of the Year 2015 and a baker! I picked up Grace in person at AGPNY and she's my first (and likely last) modern character. 
Jane, a Truly Me #55 who is an original character from 1614. Although she's from Jamestown, Virginia, she's going to be representing pretty much anything colonial that hasn't been covered by American Girl's canon characters because it's one of my favorite time periods to study.
- Maryellen, who was picked up at AG Place NYC on a trip with my grandma!

Who are the other dolls, and who do they belong to?
My younger sister received Samantha when she turned five, and then bought Molly with her own money when she was about nine, and got Kailey for Christmas in 2003. She has kindly given me permission to borrow them when I want to do a focus on their historical periods, and I couldn’t just leave Kailey out.

There have also been guest appearances by my cousin's Kit and Kristen (a MAG #20), my childhood friend's daughter's doll Dolly, and a family friend's Josefina.

Can I buy your dolls/their clothes/their accessories?
Sorry, but nothing featured on this blog is for sale! Although if there’s something you’re curious about, I’d be happy to direct you to the American Girl Wiki or eBay to help find and identify it.

What else do you collect/enjoy?
I’m also very, very into Disney, and also enjoy Star Trek, James Bond, Indiana Jones, DC and Marvel Comics. I actually like collecting plush and action figures more than anything else, but I do have a couple Disney dolls of my favorite characters. My favorite book is The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman, and my favorite movie is either Raiders of the Lost Ark, Treasure Planet or Captain America: The Winter Soldier.