Friday, January 31, 2014

Ivy's Nian Gao

Happy New Year, everyone!

I hinted that another Ivy post was on the way, and here it is! Today marks the start of the Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year, and celebrations will be going on until February 15th. Chinese New Year starts on the first day of the Chinese calendar - which is lunisolar - and ends on the 15th day of the first month. This year is the year of the Horse, which I'm sure Kaya and Felicity are thrilled about, and while we don't celebrate the holiday in this household, it's very culturally important to one of the American Girls so there was no way we were going to pass this by.

Nian gao is also known as year cake, or Chinese New Year cake, and I will admit, the recipe sounded super intimidating at first! It turns out as long as you're willing to make the time commitment (and it is a big one!), it's totally feasible and can make you feel like a real culinary MacGuyver!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Josefina and Kirsten make Steak Sandwiches with Brie

A super fast way to spice up lunchtime!

Sometimes I'll come across a recipe or be told I should try something out that doesn't really fit any of the AG characters I've got at my disposal unless I really stretch the connection. I'm definitely not above doing that - I have, for example, considered letting Rebecca host some Italian or German recipes because Rebecca represents the time period, if not the culture of when some of my relatives came to the United States - and of course I've always got Kailey to host anything that just flat out doesn't make sense for a historical character to be the host of. Really, this sandwich probably should have been given to Kailey, because there's nothing much about it that says Kirsten or Josefina, and it's not like they're from similar cultures or parts of the world.

But there is a reason I picked these specific characters to be the hosts here, and that reason is...

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Ivy's Pan Fried Pork and Shrimp Potstickers

The recipe that almost killed A Peek into the Pantry...

Finally, the long awaited Ivy post is here! I'm sorry it ended up taking so long. There were a couple bumps in the road on the way to getting this on the table, which didn't end once I actually had all the ingredients on hand!

By now, you're probably wondering what on Earth I mean by this recipe almost killing the blog, and I promise, it's safe and I want to keep doing it. This cooking adventure just kind of developed into one of those "a million other things are bothering me, but this one trivial thing is what's going to push me over the edge" incidents, and it wasn't exactly pretty. I actually waited a while to do this post - the potstickers were actually an accompaniment to dinner last night, but I was so frustrated by the end of the experience that I thought it might be for the best to sit on it for a while and cool off before jumping into a post that was all about how awful I felt while making these.

 For the record, most of my complaints are directed at myself, and the recipe was sort of just the unfortunate target of my frustration. Now that some time's gone by and I've cooled off a bit, I can say that while very labor intensive, these were actually super tasty and I wish I'd made more of them. Fortunately, we saved the filling we didn't end up using, so I might make a couple more for dinner tonight, too!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Kirsten's Baked Potato Soup

Super filling, super tasty soup you will definitely want seconds of!

It's been snowing almost all day, and the temperature has started to drop back down to that zone where I don't even want to walk outside to get the mail, let alone do anything but stay snug and warm at home. There's talk of canceling school tomorrow, and I'm sure the roads are going to be a pain to travel on for a day or two depending on how long the weather keeps up, so I'm not exactly looking forward to venturing out until my little car is going to be able to actually handle whatever's out there. Of course, you still have to feed yourself on days like today, and I had just the recipe to try for a day when it's cold and wet outside.

Now, I'm going to say right off the bat that this is far from the healthiest thing I've ever featured on this blog, but I'm firmly of the mind that as long as you're not planning on eating like this every single day, it's more than alright to treat yourself and this is definitely worth giving a shot. Don't let the high calorie count totally freak you out!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Josefina's Chicken Enchiladas

Super tasty, but beware the corn tortillas!

Now I know I owe you guys an Ivy feature, and I promise I'm working on it. We have a (hopefully) really good recipe planned, but are hitting a snag in being able to find dumpling wrappers, since apparently our local supermarkets have severely downsized their Asian section. This means we need to head down to the big ("big") city on an expedition to an Asian market, and unfortunately, that meant we needed to reshuffle our schedule of upcoming recipes a little.

But honestly, I'm not too bothered. We would have had to head down there anyway to get an ingredient for another treat I'm hoping to feature at the end of the month. What is it? You'll just have to wait and see!

In the meantime, we're going to be doing a feature with the stowaway we picked up from our recent trip to American Girl Place New York! Her identity isn't much of a surprise - the header image and title of the post definitely give it away... - but I'm still very excited to reintroduce you guys to...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Rebecca's Borscht

Even if you're not sure about beets, give this soup a try!

I am bad at eating vegetables. There are maybe four I actually enjoy eating, maybe ten or so if you really press me, but I'm one of those people who would much rather eat a cookie than celery sticks for a snack, and venturing outside of my vegetable comfort zone isn't something I do very often.

So basically, I was pretty content to not eat beets, just walk right by them at salad bars and such because they weren't something I'd tried or really wanted to try, just like how most kids assume they're going to hate brussel sprouts before they give them a fighting chance. (Which, yes, I don't like brussel sprouts either.) When my mom suggested making borscht for a Rebecca themed dinner this week, I was skeptical at best, and prepared to hate it at worst, but figured hey, might as well give it a shot. I mean, it doesn't get more Russian cuisine than borscht, right?

I am pleased to report that while I'm still probably going to be avoiding the beets at the salad bar, this soup was actually really tasty! It's sweet and sour, can be served hot or cold, and while I think I prefer it warm, it definitely tastes good chilled, too. Don't let the beets scare you! I promise this is actually a deceptively simple soup to make and might even convince you that this weird root vegetable isn't such a bad thing after all.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Felicity's Spiced Cider Punch and Providence Cake

A tasty tea bread and hot apple cider to keep warm during any other polar vortexes!

It probably won't come as a surprise to most of you when I say I'm a pretty nostalgic sort of person. I mean, this blog is pretty much all about my affection for American Girl dolls, something I was introduced to at age five and have pretty much always loved, even with all their various flaws. I've really enjoyed reminiscing with friends about their favorite characters and which books they liked best, or what hairstyle horrors they accidentally put their dolls through, and it's been a lot of fun for me to get both new and old fans thinking about what kind of food their favorite characters would have enjoyed.

Today I had the pleasure of having an old friend over the house for a late lunch, and since Felicity was her childhood doll, I went around trying to find a good recipe to go with the beef pasties. I ended up finding an archive of a lot of interesting recipes that I'm definitely keeping on file for future post ideas, and I'm very excited to share it with you guys.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Emily's Beef Pasties

Not quite sandwich, not quite pie.

Although I'm not sure I can say I'm a huge fan of meat pies - I don't think I've eaten nearly enough of them to really consider myself an expert, anyway - I do really enjoy things like chicken or turkey pot pies, and have always been quite interested in the concept of savory pies, and especially hand pies. They're not that common in the United States, but they're quite popular in other countries, especially those with a history of English occupation. I've often wondered why that is, and I've also been enthusiastic about making one for myself.

This recipe turned out to be extremely tasty, and I've already got a lot of requests to make them again. While it turned out to be a pretty time consuming dish to make, I can't say that was enough of a turn off to turn down those requests! Read on to hear more!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Kaya's Lewis and Clark Adventure: Beaten Biscuits and Fresh Peas with Mint-Butter Sauce

The first chapter of many exciting recipes to come!

I don't think it's going to come as a surprise to any of you that it's not exactly easy to find recipes to feature for Kaya, especially authentic ones. So many of the foods her family enjoyed just aren't really native to my neck of the woods, and a lot of them aren't available to be imported either, which makes it difficult to make truly authentic 1764 Nez Perce foods. A lot of people have suggested that I just start featuring recipes from other Native groups and explain that it's still not something Kaya would have eaten, but I feel a little reluctant to tackle something like that because it seems to me like that would be perpetuating the stereotype that all Native groups were or are exactly the same, or were or are part of some united culture that spanned from coast to coast. The last thing I want to do is offend someone by making it seem like I'm supporting that entirely incorrect assumption, but I also want to make sure that Kaya and her history are featured equally alongside the other characters instead of getting shoved off to the side.

I think I've found a pretty good solution that should help fill in the gaps and flesh out Kaya's portfolio on the blog, and I'm really excited to introduce the idea to all of you. Let's get to it!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Julie's Beef Stroganoff Casserole

A tasty twist on a classic dish!

After all that hinting, no, we are not featuring spam casserole yet. I wanted my first foray into the world of casseroles to be a little less potentially horrifying, and I wasn't sure I'd really emotionally prepared myself for making anything involving spam just yet. I guess I'm not really being fair - I can't say I've ever had spam, so maybe I won't hate it as much as I think I'm going to, but in any case, we're going with something that seemed a little tamer for our first 1970's recipe.

We all like to joke that Julie is basically who my mom wanted to be as a kid growing up in the 70's (she has often lamented that Julie comes wearing a pair of sandals she always wanted as a child), so it seemed only fitting to ask her opinion on what to feature on the blog first. Fortunately, we had a really fun source to turn to to help us find inspiration!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Ice Cream Snowballs with Kailey

A two ingredient recipe that's tasty and easy to make!

We're starting the New Year off with a pretty simple recipe that is - nevertheless - one of my favorite treats to eat in the wintertime. Admittedly, it's something you can eat at any time of the year, but it's something I've always associated with Christmas, and I was actually planning on including it in our posts for last month. Unfortunately, time got away from me and so we're sneaking it in at the beginning of this month to make sure it gets a spot in the sunshine!

Or cloudy gray snowy day, as the case may be.