Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Merry Little Christmas

For those of you celebrating Christmas, I hope Santa was as good to you as he was to me. I got a monogrammed casserole carrier! I am either five years old or eighty.

The mother and I are about to take off on a little trip here: 

Those of you on twitter can follow our adventures @pantryprep but I'll be sure to share some good stories here when I return. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah! May you all be enjoying the joys of the season!

Friday, December 23, 2011

But As For Me and Grandpa, We Believed

I spent the day finishing up my Christmas shopping and listening to Christmas carols while driving around suburban New Jersey in the green machine:

I thought I'd share with you a few of my favorites in case you are in need of a few new holiday tunes to get you through that final shift of gift wrapping!

(In no particular order)

Merry Christmas, Darling by The Carpenters- I do a mean impression of Karen Carpenter singing this song at holiday parties. 

Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses- Such a great, cheeky story about holiday romance, plus the ending takes place in a grocery store. I have a thing for songs that take place in grocery stores.

Same Old Lang Syne by Dan Fogelberg- Speaking of songs that take place in grocery stores, this is arguably the lamest song on this list (though Merry Christmas, Darling runs a close second) but it reminds me of being home for the holidays and running into old friends. I think this song really speaks to anyone who's dated someone they loved in their past that just wasn't "the one". It's bittersweet, but I like it. 

Step into Christmas by Elton John- Elton John actually welcomes you to his Christmas song. How can you not love this one?

Hard Candy Christmas by Dolly Parton- This song is terribly sad. Yet the hopefulness in Dolly's voice is what makes me love this song so much. Whenever you are feeling blue, just put on some Dolly, she won't let "sorrow bring you down". 

Feliz Navidad by Jose Feliciano- I took French for eight years. These are the only Spanish words I know. 

Last Christmas by Wham!- Is there anyone out there that really doesn't like this song? I could listen to it on repeat all. day. long. 

Dominick the Donkey by Lou Monte- Until I went to college, love it or hate it, I thought EVERYONE knew this song. Little did I know it was a holiday hit that was really only popular in the New York metropolitan area. My roommate from New Orleans thought I made this song up when I started singing it one day my junior year. If you've never heard it, do yourself a favor and have a listen. It will invoke feelings of sitting on a plastic covered sofa at nannie's house on Christmas eve eating meatballs and gravy somewhere in North Jersey. 

What Are You Doing New Years, New Years Eve by Various Artists- Any version of this song will always remind me of one of my college BFF's asking me the very same question, year after year after year. 

Mele Kalikimaka by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters- For most people, this song reminds them of Christmas Vacation but for me, it signifies my ultimate Christmas wish: spending the holidays in Hawaii. I may or may not have a choreographed dance that goes with this song. No big deal. 

Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band- Please note, the Bruce version is the ONLY acceptable version in my book. I am from New Jersey after all. When I was a kid, I listened very carefully to the words "you better be good, for goodness sake". I think I took it so seriously not because it dictated the rules of gifts from Santa, but because Bruce was saying them. He is The Boss after all. (Okay, he and Tony Danza.)

The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole-Is there a song out there that makes you picture Christmas more perfectly than this? Okay, maybe Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer ;)

What are your favorite holiday songs?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Lights on My Tree, I Wish You Could See

Hello Everyone!

I hope everyone is ready for the holidays! I'm spending the day packing up to make the 30 minute drive to my parent's house for Christmas. I gotta tell ya, I love having my parents live close by, but there is something SO annoying about having to pack so much stuff to make such a short trip. That, combined with the traffic, they might as well live across the country rather than just across the river. But I digress...

Before I head out, I'd love to share a few photos of my tiny NYC apartment decked out for the holidays!

Stockings (okay, just one stocking) hung by the chimney with care. I have been using the same pink and green decorations from when I lived with my roommate that I spoke about in my holiday brunch post. I find it's much easier to stick with a theme when decorating for the holidays. 

PS. I made that magazine rack next to the fireplace in middle school shop class. With talents like that it's amazing I'm still single. 

My Charlie Brown tree, complete with a NY Junior League ornament, a flamingo ornament, and a couple ornaments made by a very talented co-worker.

And yes, that IS Brad Pitt looking over my Christmas tree. I have no doubt he will watch over my apartment while I'm out of town. He's such a peach, isn't he?

I hope everyone enjoys their holidays. Lighting menorahs, carving a ham with family, napping under the Christmas lights, popping Champagne for the new year. And if things get too stressful, remember that's what alcohol is for. Ha. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rum-Raisin Cinnamon Roll Bake

This is one of the delicious dishes I made for my holiday brunch. It's tasty, it's easy, and best of all you make it the night before you serve and the next day you just pop it in the oven before your guests arrive. Make this on Christmas morning or better yet, tomorrow morning!

Please bear with my photos. I'm still working on my photography skills, but I'm pretty sure you'll get the idea. 
Open up two cans of refrigerated cinnamon rolls. 

C'mon, don't pretend like you've NEVER had these before. And don't pretend like you've never eaten the entire can of icing before you put it on the rolls either. On that note, don't forget to set the icing aside, refrigerated and covered. 

While your at it, soak some raisins in rum. You don't have to use rum and can instead just add the raisins dry. But I like booze, so I'm going to add it. 
Place the cinnamon rolls in a round baking dish. I prefer a glass pie plate, partially because I find they don't burn as easily, and mostly because I have an excessive amount of them. Use whatever you have, but most importantly bake the rolls according to the package directions. 

Let them cool. If you eat one, I won't tell. Promise. 
Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, yolks, milk, heavy cream, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. This is some real diet food, right here. 

Drain the raisins you soaked in rum and set the raisins aside. Add the rum to the egg mixture and whisk to combine. If you omitted the rum, whisk in a tablespoon of vanilla extract at this point as well. 

Tear the cinnamon rolls into small pieces and place in a baking dish. Scatter raisins over top.

Pour your creamy egg/milk/cream mixture over top.

Cover with foil and transfer to your refrigerator overnight.

Pantry Tip: When prepping food in advance for a party, I like to stick a little Post-It on top with the baking time and temperature. That way, come party time, I don't have to pull out all my cookbooks to figure out how to back or reheat the item. It makes for a much more organized workspace.
Bake and drizzle with reserved icing. It makes it easier if you transfer the icing to a pastry bag, but I just dabbed it on top and let it melt into gooey oblivion. 

Serve to you friends and family and they will make you throw a brunch party every year. Every weekend, if you're not careful. 

Here is the full recipe:
Rum-Raisin Cinnamon Roll Bake
Serves 8 to 10

1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup dark rum
Unsalted butter, for baking dishes
2 (12.6-ounce) packages refrigerated cinnamon rolls with icing
6 large eggs
6 large egg yolks
2 cups milk
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Place raisins in a small bowl. Add rum and stir to combine; set aside. 

2. Butter two 9-inch round baking dishes. Bake cinnamon rolls according to package directions, reserving icing. Remove rolls from oven and let cool completely.

3. Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, yolks, milk, heavy cream, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Drain raisins, reserving rum. Whisk rum into egg mixture. 

4. Butter a 9-by 13-inch baking dish. Tear cinnamon rolls into small pieces and place in baking dish. Scatter raisins over top. Pour egg mixture over cinnamon roll pieces. Cover dish and transfer to refrigerator at least 8 hours and up to overnight. 

5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove baking dish from the refrigerator; uncover and let stand until dish comes to room temperature. 

6. Transfer baking dish to oven and bake until golden and slightly puffed, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Drizzle with reserved icing and serve. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Annual Holiday Brunch

Two weekends ago, I reluctantly hosted my annual "Preppy in the Pantry" holiday brunch, an event that started looooong before Preppy in the Pantry ever became a blog. In fact, I've been doing it for so long I've had too many mimosas to count the years this party has been happening. 

My former roommate and I lived in a duplex apartment in Hoboken, NJ with an awesome banister staircase that came into the center of our living room, which was naturally the perfect place to hang evergreen garland and twinkle lights. To cut costs, we decided to buy a bunch of pink grosgrain ribbon to tie around the garland, rather than purchase ornaments which we would then have to find a place to store. And thus, our preppy-themed Christmas was born. 

In order to showcase our decorative talents, we decide to host the preppiest holiday party we could think of: brunch. We mixed bloody mary's and mimosas. Fried lots and lots of bacon. And baked these egg cups which, ahem, some people may have eaten more than there fair share of (I won't name names but you know who you are). My roommate and I have since parted ways, but still remain close. She bought a place of her own and adopted a pup and I moved myself (okay, my parents and movers helped) across the river to the big city but decided to continue the holiday brunch tradition. The menu has changed over the years, along with the guest list, and I'm sure in the future the location will change once again. But to think that I almost didn't throw the party due to the busy nature of this particular holiday season is something, well...I just don't even want to think about! 

I decided to host this party on a Sunday rather than my usual Saturday affairs. This ensured that people wouldn't stay so long that they slept over (yes, it's happened before. At a BRUNCH party no less) and also gave me a little more time to prep. However, hosting it on a Sunday meant I would have to pull it off while weathering the effects of the holiday party hopping I had done the night before. Aside from a nasty burn on my stomach (don't cook in your underpinnings or this will happen. I, uh, heard this from a friend) the careful planning I had done beforehand ensured an enjoyable and successful party for both me and my guests. Here are a few snapshots from the affair:

I used my sink to set up a bloody Mary and mimosa bar. In tiny NYC apartments, you have to get creative with your use of space.

A "make you own" coffee and liqueur bar, a necessary evil for those feeling equally as weary as I was that morning. I actually bought a Starbucks traveler pouch of coffee from my neighborhood Starbs since I don't drink all that much coffee and I don't keep anything more than a small French press in my home. The traveler pouch kept the coffee hot for almost the entire party. Starbucks didn't ask me to say that, I just thought you'd want to know. 

I served the brunch buffet style from pink and green serving dishes. Here you see rum-spiked fruit salad and these little beauties from the Pioneer Woman. Which are so tasty I will probably make them for Christmas. And then again for New Year's. And then again for...the Ides of March? No? Well, you get the idea. The poinsettia was a hostess gift from The W's. Surprisingly, I've managed to keep it alive for over a week now. 

I'm pretty sure the smile on (the real) Ari Gold(en)'s face indicates he knows the Giants are going to beat the Cowboys later that evening. Either that or he just enjoyed some bacon-wrapped sausage. Tough to tell. 

Mrs. W is busy grilling Ari for great guy gift ideas for Mr. W, who is not pictured and just happens to be sitting across from them. And people say there are no surprises anymore!

My high school pals who traveled in from the suburbs (and one from Scotland!) and never pass up the chance for egg cups!

Sidebar: These photos have made me realize that maybe after three years of living in the same apartment it might be time to stop living like a gypsy and hang a picture or two on the walls. It's just an idea I'm going to throw out there. Not going to make any big commitments just yet. 

Many of the recipes I didn't link to came from Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publication "Holiday Recipes: 202 New & Traditional Recipes". If you see one on your newsstand be sure to snatch it up. It has some many wonderful holiday recipes and tips! Hopefully I'll have time in the next day or two to post the recipe for my Rum-Raisin Cinnamon Roll Bake just in time for the holidays!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Preppy in the Pantry

Welcome to Preppy in the Pantry. 

I've been inspired by so many amazing bloggers out there I thought I'd finally take the plunge into the blog pool myself. The concept for Preppy in the Pantry originally started out as a venue to post my collection of recipes for friends who were asking for them. I thought a blog would be a neat and tidy place for long distance pals to look up their favorite dishes and maybe keep up with my life in the process. 

For the past 6 years I've worked in the food industry (and for those of you who know where I currently work, I'd prefer you keep that information to yourself. Thanks!) and prior to that I spent six months completing culinary school. Naturally, much of my life revolves around food: eating it, styling it, writing about it, and most of all, cooking it. While my passion for food and cooking will never go away, over the past few months I have come to realize I am much more than the recipes I write and the food I make. I am an only child and a best friend. I'm an avid skier and a Phillies fan. I'm a bad dancer and my driving skills are debatable. I'm a Taurus and I live on a boat in the summertime. I'm a Junior League volunteer and a comedienne. I am always overdressed. The point being, it just didn't seem right for me to limit my blog to only recipes. 

Preppy in the Pantry won't be for everyone and it might not end up being for anyone but myself, but if you decide to stick with it, please bear with me while I work out the kinks of blogging and I figure out how to fit it into my crazy, fun, and hectic life. I promise I'll try to make it worth your while.