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.