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, 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.

An Introduction to A Peek Into the Pantry!

Welcome to the blog from Kaya, Felicity, Kirsten and Emily!

So I have a confession to make: although I like baking, I’m not a very good cook. In fact, I used to kind of hate cooking. Anything that was more complicated than heating something up in the oven was often an involved, messy and sometimes dangerous process, and let’s just say I wasn’t too enthusiastic to try anything new when it seemed like I might actually set the house on fire one day.

But then I had an idea. I might not know much about cooking, but I do know a lot about American history, which is definitely partially because of my early affinity for a certain historical doll line. I thought what if I combined these interests with cooking and used the dolls, their cultures and their points in history to encourage me to try new recipes, and hopefully learn a little bit in the process?

Thus, A Peek Into the Pantry was born! In each post, I’ll:
- Pick a recipe (or a few I suppose, if I’m feeling particularly ambitious) that has something – no matter how obscure – to do with one of my American Girl Dolls
- Give a bit of historical background into the dish if I can find something about it
- Show work in progress pictures and the final result of the recipe
- And finally, a review on how it tastes!

Of course, not every dish is going to be historical, and the ones that are and come from a pre-electricity period aren’t going to be cooked the traditional way – I don’t have a baking oven in my fireplace to cook pies! But I’ll try to get as close to authentic as possible, and I’ll explain the differences as best I can if and when they come up. I’ll also try to cook recipes from the American Girl cookbooks and cooking studios when I can get my hands on them, but that’s definitely not all that’s going to go on here.

If you've got any questions or suggestions, feel free to comment on one of the posts, or email me at, and I will try to get back to you as soon as possible!

- Gwen