Caramel Apple Recipe and Tutorial: How to Make Caramel Apples

October 16th, 2014

Can you believe we’re halfway through October? Just two weeks until Halloween. What are you dressing up as? Scroll to the VERY bottom of this post to check out the owner of our company in his costume. ANYWAY, one of my favorite things about this time of year is all the special treats, especially things made with apples. They’re SO good right now being as they’re in season. I can’t get enough apple cider, apple fritters, apple pie, apple cider doughnuts, and especially, caramel apples. They’ve been a favorite since I was a kid and I used to buy them all the time. Now that I know how to make caramel apples at home, they’re a favorite party treat, especially in the mini size shown here; what a perfect serving size! If you’re looking for a Halloween party food, a dessert buffet idea or just a fun lunchbox treat, consider making caramel apples!  Read on for the caramel apple recipe and some tricks and tips, such as how to make the caramel stay on your apple!

Ingredients:

  • 8 large apples or 16 small lady apples (shown)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 large pinch sea salt.

Optional Ingredients for toppings:

  • Sea salt
  • Chopped peanuts or almonds, toasted
  • Minced candied ginger
  • Sprinkles
  • Finely chopped chocolate

Special Equipment:

  • Craft Sticks, strong wooden skewers or other sticks for handles
  • Heavy Bottomed non-reactive saucepan
  • Candy Thermometer
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Bowls large and deep enough to submerge the apples in (to roll toppings)

Instructions:

  1. It’s honestly incredibly easy to make candy apples with the right ingredients, a little patience, and a little know-how. Really, it’s all in the prep. One of the most common pitfalls is making your beautiful caramel and having it slide off the apples. Why does caramel fall off your apples? Simple – most commercially available apples are lightly coated in wax.  To remove the wax, either scuff the surface of the apple with sandpaper or submerge apples in boiling water for about 30 seconds. Like magic, your caramel will stick.
  2. Dry each apple completely and put a stick into the stem end, making sure the stick is solid and secure. Hot caramel burns and you don’t want to be fishing your apples out with your fingers. Craft sticks work better on larger apples, but on our lady apples, wood skewers cut in half did the trick!
  3. Arrange your toppings in bowls. Fill them half to 3/4 of the way full with the toppings of your choice. Chopped peanuts are a classic candy apple topping but my favorite is diced candied ginger. SO spicy and nice for the fall. Also, prepare a tray lined with a piece of parchment paper or greased wax paper. This is where your finished apples will hang out to dry.
  4. Time to make the caramel! Add  your corn syrup, half your heavy cream, your sugar and your butter to a saucepan, making sure the pan is half full at most. Cook over high heat until it is a rich golden color and measures 250 degrees on your candy thermometer.
  5. Remove from the heat and add the rest of the heavy cream, vanilla and sea salt, stirring to combine. The mixture will spatter and foam up. That’s normal, and that’s the reason you gave yourself extra room in the pot. Once all the cream and vanilla is incorporated, it’s time to dip.
  6. Dip and turn your wax-less apples in the caramel to coat completely. You may need to tilt the pan to get all the way up on the sides. Hold the apples over the pan and twirl them on their sticks, letting the excess caramel drip off, and back into the pan.
  7. While the caramel is still warm, roll in the topping of your choice and set on the parchment to cool completely. Keep going until you’ve run out of apples or caramel. If you end up with extra caramel, just spoon it into a Kilner jar and pop it in the fridge. Rewarmed, it’ll be amazing over ice cream or your morning yogurt.
How to do the caramel apple dip

Items Shown: Delicious Caramel Apples!

See? Not too hard. And those pictures are making your mouth water, right? This time of the year, there are so many types of apples available, and they all make pretty good caramel apples. But, in my (totally awesome) opinion, the best kind of apple for caramel apples is either granny smith (that sour apple/sweet caramel contrast is amazing), golden delicious, or little tiny lady apples like the ones pictured above.  If you’re serving bigger apples at a party (especially to kids with loose teeth) consider slicing them up for ease. The little ones are easy to bite into so you can skip slicing. And remember, these make a fantastic party favor. Put them in a cellophane bag and tie a ribbon around the stick for instant cuteness.

Oh yeah, I promised a picture of Bruce, President of Pacific Merchants, dressed up for Halloween. Because I ALWAYS keep my promises, here you go!  He takes Halloween very seriously. Can you blame him? It’s the best.

mr peanut

Celebrating National Pizza Month: Fall Pizza Recipe

October 9th, 2014

October is National Pizza Month. I mentioned it last year, but it’s been 12 whole months, and something as important as pizza shouldn’t go unmentioned. I mean, it’s pretty much the perfect food. Carbs, Dairy, Vegetables, Protein all in one easy-to-eat, delightfully delicious package.  Now, this recipe is fine-tuned to taste like fall. If you want a more traditional pizza recipe, or if you’re looking for our signature pizza crust recipe, click on back to last October’s pizza post.  That post also has some really good pizza tricks and tips if you’re looking to make an artisan pizza at home.  It’s good to know. While pizza may seem like a plan B, homemade pizza is an AMAZING date night idea.  Nothing brings people together like making something delicious together.

Are you as psyched to make this pizza as I am? I thought so.  OK. Here’s what you need.

Ingredients – Makes 1 full sized, 2 personal, or 4 mini pizzas:

  • 1 Batch of Pizza Dough (store bought, or our recipe here)
  • 3 cups butternut squash, cubed
  • 2 onions, sliced thinly
  • 6 strips of bacon
  • 8 oz soft goat cheese
  • 1 bunch of sage
  • Good olive oil, for garnish
  • Honey, for garnish
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

As you can see, it doesn’t take a lot of ingredients to make this festive fall pizza.  Sure, it’s a little non-traditional. If you want something closer to the pizza you grew up with, you can always do a thin swipe of marinara and sub out the goat cheese for mozzarella. You’ll still have the fall flavors of the squash, but with a more traditional flavor profile.

Instructions.

  1. Figure out what size pizza you’re going to make. For this post, we made mini pizzas. If I’m serving this as an appetizer, I make one large pizza and cut it into small squares for my guests. If I’m trying to  put together an impressive date at home, I set out an array of toppings and we each do personal pizzas. Pick your pizza size and divide the dough accordingly.  Split in half for personal pizzas or in quarters for minis.  When you’re sure of your portions and the dough is cut, cover it in plastic wrap and let it rest. And remember. . .
  2. While that dough is resting (trust me – leave it alone)  prep your veggies.  Begin by caramelizing your sliced onions. Throw some oil in a pan, and when it’s warm, add the onions and a pinch of salt.  Cook, stirring regularly, until onions are a beautiful rich brown, not unlike the color of our Acaciaware®.  Meanwhile, cook up that butternut squash. You can roast it, steam it, or saute it. Just make sure it’s cooked until tender.
  3. Now is also a fantastic time to cook your bacon.  You’ll be finishing your pizza in the oven, so you don’t want to cook your bacon until crispy right now, but cook it until the edges begin to crisp and the center turns opaque. You’re going for floppy, half done bacon.  When it’s cooked, chop it up into small pieces.
  4. Heat your oven to 450.  Lay out all your ingredients. The French call this mise en place, which literally means “everything in place.” I use an assortment of bowls and plates to hold everything within easy reach – a small bowl filled with sage leaves,  medium bowls for onions, softened goat cheese, and squash, a plate for the bacon, etc.
  5.  Time to make your pizza. Roll or stretch your dough to the desired thickness. Since you’ve let your dough rest, it should be pliant and not springy.  Here’s a great tutorial on dough shaping from our friends at The Kitchn.  Remember that since the dough is made with yeast, it’ll rise in the oven and will always be a little thicker than you roll it. Make sure there’s parchment or a ton of cornmeal between the crust and your baking sheet.
  6. Assemble your pizzas. Here’s how I like to do mine: Smear of goat cheese on the bottom, then a  sprinkling of the squash (making sure there are pieces in every bite.)  Next, scatter the caramelized onions over the pizza and drizzle with a hint of honey, a sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Add on the bacon, and maybe a few more dollops of bacon and some freshly torn sage leaves.
  7. Bake until done. I know that sounds vague, but let me break it down: The mini pizzas took about 10 minutes in my oven. A personal pizza takes about 15, and a full sized pizza takes between 20-25.  But mostly I go by sight. If the cheese is brown around the edges, and the bottom of the crust is golden brown all the way across, and there’s slight charring on top, I’m happy.

Annnnnd there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Now you know how to make pizza. And not just any pizza, but a festive fall pizza that’ll make your tastebuds party. It’s a fantastic food if you’re throwing a Halloween bash, makes for a beautiful Thanksgiving appetizer, and is a pretty perfect weeknight meal, especially if you buy pre-made dough.  Check back in all month for more delicious fall foods and festive autumn ideas.  We’re covering everything from pumpkin bread (shown in the background of the above image) to caramel apples.

Oh! If you make any of these foods, or any other delicious fall treats, don’t forget to enter our #pmtcFallTable contest. Just snap a photo, post it to your favorite social media site and tag us. Or, if you want to enter but don’t want to cook, repost the photo below.  For more details, click here! You’ve got until October 16 to enter!

pmtcFallTable

Items Shown: Square Hardwood Plates, Laguna Placemats, Kilner Preserve Jars, Fall Deco Leaves

Comforting Fall Soup – Apple and Butternut Squash Soup

October 2nd, 2014

I can’t believe it’s already October, which according to NPR is peak decorative gourd month.  Also, Halloween!!! Since we’re celebrating the gourds in all forms, decorative and delicious, we figured we’d kick off the month with a delicious and hearty soup recipe – our butternut squash soup with apples. It seriously tastes like autumn in a bowl.  Plus, it’s a totally festive orange soup – perfect for this time of the year.  If you’d rather, you can substitute the butternut squash with  pumpkin to make a pumpkin soup. Still festive. Still delicious. Just look for a small sugar pumpkin, not the one you’d be using for a jack-o-lantern. More flavor.  Now, unless you’re just on our blog looking for deals (in which case, click here) let’s get cooking – I’m gonna teach you how to make soup that’ll knock your festive fall socks off!

First up, gather your ingredients! As you’ll see, this is a vegetarian soup, but if you’d prefer, you can make it with chicken stock. I just know I’m always on the quest for great, hearty vegetarian dishes this time of the year, and this is a great one.

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (approximately 2 medium squash)
  • 1 white onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 3 apples, diced  (I prefer Fuji or Granny Smith)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter (or olive oil if you’d prefer)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 5-6 large leaves sage, minced, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4-5 cups vegetable stock (or chicken stock if you’d prefer.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Green onion, for garnish, optional
  • Sour cream, for garnish, optional

If you use those garnishes, it’s gonna look a little like this – I skipped the green onion but went crazy with the sage:

Instructions

  1.  In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium high heat.  When it’s melted, add the onion and a pinch of salt.  Cook until the onion begins to get transparent, then add the carrot, celery and onion.  Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables just begin to get tender. Add garlic and saute 30 seconds more.
  2. Turn the heat to medium and add the butternut squash, apples, brown sugar and herbs. At this point, consider adding an additional small pinch of salt, especially if you like your food salty. I’m a bit of a salt fiend.
  3. Cook over medium for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add about 3/4 of the stock (chicken or veggie, your choice.)   Cover the pot, reduce heat to medium low, and leave it alone until the vegetables and fruits are completely tender. There’s a good chance they’ll absorb a lot of the liquid as well.
  5. Time to puree the soup. I use an immersion blender, but you can also puree in a blender, in small batches. When it’s all blended and smooth, put the soup back in your soup pot and taste it. Does it need salt? Pepper? A tiny dash of hot sauce? Add it.  Now’s also the time to take a look at the texture. If it’s too thick, add more of your stock, bit by bit. Keep tasting and adjusting the flavor. If the stock makes it too salty, add a bit of water, or even orange juice. If it’s too thin, let it cook a little longer. Some of the water will evaporate.
  6. At this point, it’s time to serve the soup. Get out your favorite soup bowls (we’re partial to acacia) and keep them handy. If you want a crispy sage garnish like we have above, simply fry your sage in a small pan with a bit of oil or butter. Set on a paper towel and it’ll crisp right up.  If you’re using sour cream, a little dollop goes a long way. If using chives or green onions, simply mince them up.  Put the soup in the bowl, garnish at will, and enjoy!

Some serving notes: If you’re wondering what to serve with butternut squash soup, I’d suggest going the *not to be named Italian restaurant*  way and doing soup, salad and bread(sticks.)  This is a hearty, super filling vegetarian soup (or not vegetarian, if you’d prefer) and it doesn’t need much. I love it with crusty, lightly buttered bread and a simple salad.   It’s also delightful with grilled cheese – like tomato soup with grilled cheese, but with this unmistakably fall flavor. For dinner parties, this is great in tiny bowls, little jars, or even shot glasses as an appetizer.   If you want to make a huge batch and make it last longer, here’s how to freeze soups like this butternut squash soup:  Put it in freezer-safe containers (I use 1/2 liter jars – they’re the perfect lunchtime serving size) leaving about an inch of head space.  Since this soup has a lot of water in it, it’ll expand.  Freeze for up to 3 months (I’ll admit, I’ve gone as long as 6 to no ill-effects.) If you freeze in serving sized containers, rather than in one giant vat, it’ll be super-easy to only defrost just what you need when you need it…especially if you need a last minute lunch.

Cheers to fall, everyone! What’s your absolute favorite fall recipe? Are you a soup junky as well?  Don’t forget to take pictures of anything you make from now until October 16 and hashtag it with #pmtcFallTable – you could win a $100 gift certificate to our site! You can also re-post the picture below to win! Details here.

Fall Table and Fall Food Photography Contest

October 1st, 2014
pmtcFallTable
Dear Fans,

We are SO excited that autumn is here! To celebrate YOU, the fall season, and our love for bringing people together at the table we’re hosting a #pmtcFallTable contest for a chance to win a $100 gift certificate to our store. Here’s how to enter:

1. Visit any of our social networks (links in header) and #regram the Pacific Merchants fall table photo pictured above.

2. Tag @pacificmerchant in the photo.

3. Want a better chance at winning? Hashtag all your fall food and table photos with #pmtcFallTable to earn an extra contest entry.

It’s time to get creative with your fall food and table photography! We can’t wait to see what you come up with. Contest runs October 1st through October 16th 2014. We’ll #regram our favorites, and announce a winner October 17th. Winner will be chosen at random.
Also, October 1st through the 16th, eat up our super sale prices with 20% off retail purchases on our Acacia Hardwood Plates and our Place Mat collection. Coupon Code FallTable at checkout.
Let the #pmtcFallTable games begin!

Sweaters, pie, and pumpkin spice lattes,
Team PMTC

*Both Fall Table Contest and sale valid for retail customers only. Customers may not combine sale with other offers. Contest closes October 16th 2014 11:59PM. Please note that any entries submitted through a private social media account will not be seen by us, and thus will not count as an entry.

How To Make Apple Pie Filling – And How to Can it!

September 25th, 2014

Have you noticed how good apples are right now? It’s because they’re actually in season. The rest of the year, those fresh apples you’re eating were actually picked ages ago, kept chilled and under-ripe, and gassed to ripeness, which is why you’re more likely to get a mealy, sour or bland apples in the spring or early summer. Since apples are SO crazy good right now, I try to take advantage of the season. I go apple picking or hit up my farmer’s market for the freshest, ripest, most flavorful apples. I buy bushels of them and preserve as many as possible. I make applesauce, reduce apple cider to syrup, apple butter, shred apples in with my sauerkraut  (it’s crazy good), pickle them, preserve them in syrup, make jam, and, most importantly make liter after liter of apple pie filling. Why? Homemade apple pie is amazing, and when you make it with apples at their peak it’s a magical and beyond flavorful experience. It’s worth canning gallons of apple pie filling even if you just make 2 or 3 pies a year. It’s great on vanilla ice cream as a quick dessert, good swirled into yogurt or oatmeal as breakfast, and SO good as an accompaniment on a cheese plate. Brie and apple pie filling on baguette? Pure, unadulterated bliss.

If canning is still a little intimidating, check out our basic canning tutorial – We made really delicious jam and talked you through it step by step.  You can also check out the fantastic Food in Jars blog – SO much good stuff.  Whether you’re a complete canning newbie or an old pro, I think you’re gonna like this recipe – It’s crazy easy, quick, and delicious. Plus, it multiplies and divides well so you can make as much or as little apple pie filling as you want.  Ready to make pie filling? Ready to become obsessed with canning and convert that spare closet into a canning cellar? Let’s go!

Ingredients – Recipe makes 3 quarts – enough for 3 Apple pies!

  • 10 cups peeled and sliced apples
  • 4 1/2 cups apple juice
  • 6 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown  sugar
  • 3/4 cup Clear Jel (a cornstarch-derived thickener)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 Teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Peel, Core and slice those apples, then toss them in half the lemon juice and water to keep them from browning.
  2. Prepare 3 1-liter jars or 6 1/2 liter jars by sterilizing them.
  3. In a large pot, combine the apple juice and the rest of the lemon juice. Bring to a simmer.
  4. While it heats, whisk the Clear Jel, sugar, cinnamon, allspice and salt together.
  5. When the juice mix is simmering, gradually stream the sugar mixture (step 4) into the pot, whisking constantly to avoid lumps.
  6. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens.
  7. When the mixture thickens, add your apples, tossing to combine.
  8. Fill the jars, leaving about a generous inch of headspace (this filling expands.)
  9. Wipe the rims, apply the lids, and process in boiling water for 25 minutes.
  10. Remove the pot from the heat and let jars sit in water an additional 10 minutes.
  11. After 10 minutes, remove the jars and let cool! Check the seals. If sealed, these keep up t0 6 months in your cabinet, or 3 weeks open in the fridge. Like it’ll last that long. . .

Some tips

  • Whatever you do, don’t use red delicious apples for pie. Them’s eating apples. I have the best luck using a variety of apples in my pie. I use a mix of granny smith, pink lady, braeburn, and golden delicious for a super-appley, complex tasting filling. Yummmm.
  • If you can’t find Clear Jel, don’t use thickener. Just whisk in cornstarch right before making the pie.
  • Wanna peel an apple quickly? This guy has a brilliant idea. Alternately, peeling top to bottom is more efficient than going in circles

    Peeling Apples fast

    There you have it. Apple pie filling that you can make while apples are in season and enjoy all year long.  Or, if you feel like giving the gift of pie (because seriously, everyone likes pie)  Consider wrapping these up with pretty labels and ribbons and giving them as gifts!  They make a great Christmas gift, or a Thanksgiving hostess gift. Plus, if you make it yourself, I hear the calories don’t count!

More Football Food: 2 Fantastic Dip Recipes

September 18th, 2014

If you checked in last week, you may have noticed some delicious looking dips in the background of our chicken wings post. Today we’re gonna talk about them. In my mind, chips and dip are pretty much the perfect football food, but a lot of the time I opt for veggies with my dip for a healthier option.  For our football food fest we did a little of both and it worked beautifully.  Whether you’re hunting down chip and dip recipes for game day, for a pot luck, or just for fun, our recipes for caramelized onion dip and green goddess avocado dip are SO good.  You’ll find yourself  making them for years to come.

Let’s start with our Green Goddess Avocado Dip recipe. With a food processor, blender, or immersion blender, it’s shockingly easy to make, and it’s always fun to have something to do with avocado besides guacamole – though if you want a great guacamole recipe, we’ve got one of those too.  So let’s get started on what may be my all time favorite dip for vegetables. I’ve been eating it as an afternoon snack all week.  As a bonus, I make this one with yogurt rather than sour cream, so it’s super creamy, nice and flavorful, and a really healthy snack.

Ingredients:

  • 3 ripe avocados, cut in half, pits removed
  • 2 cups greek yogurt
  • 6 green onions, green part only (you can actually re-plant those roots)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/3 cup fresh tarragon leaves
  • 2-6 cloves garlic (depends on your taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. In the bowl of your food processor (or a separate large bowl) crush the avocado with some salt and pepper. It blends better if it’s not chunky.
  2. Add all other ingredients to food processor or blender.
  3. Pulse until combined. You may find yourself needing to add a tiny bit of water if you’re working in a blender, which is why I prefer a food processor.
  4. Once your dip is well combined, taste it. Does it need any salt? Any pepper? More garlic? I sometimes even add a jalapeno to this; I like my food spicy and garlicky.
  5. Really, it’s that easy. You’re officially done. Serve with some chips, pita chips, or cut up veggies. Or just eat with a spoon.

In the immortal words of Chandler Bing, “Could that be any easier?”  I think not.  Which is why you need to make a second dip. They’re both super easy to make, they complement each other beautifully, and your guests will be wowed when they find out you made this from scratch. So on to our caramelized onion dip.  True story: I figured out how to make this because I became addicted to the pre-made version at Trader Joe’s. Homemade onion dip is super easy and crazy delicious. Let’s go.

Ingredients:

  • 4 onions, white or brown, sliced thin
  • 3 cups sour cream
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, pulled from stem
  • 1 tbsp fresh sage leaves, minced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1.  In a large saute pan, heat the butter.
  2. When it’s melted, add the onions and turn heat to medium.
  3. Let onions cook , stirring occasionally to keep them from burning. Depending on your stove, the moisture level of your onions, etc, this could take anywhere from 10-30 minutes.
  4. When onions are beginning to brown, add a sprinkle of salt, the garlic, the sage, and the thyme. You’ll have to pay close attention to keep the garlic from burning. Bitter garlic is gross.
  5. Lower the heat slightly and continue to cook until onions are a rich golden brown.
  6. Once onions are beautifully brown all the way through (they should be just lighter than an acacia wood tray)  spread them on a sheet pan to cool them quickly.
  7. When onion mixture is at room temperature, place in a large bowl. Add sour cream and stir to combine.
  8. Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed.

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen – Two super-simple dips to make at your next football party, pot luck, barbecue, PTA meeting, or whatever the next event may be. Be sure to bookmark this page  – that caramelized onion dip is a total crowd pleaser around the holidays, and an easy distraction if you’re trying to keep folks out of the kitchen. But remember, friends – Use good manners when eating your chips (or veggies) and dip. Don’t double dip.

Great Football Food: Sticky Spicy Korean Chicken Wings

September 11th, 2014

A little more than a year ago we taught you how to cook hot wings, and they were delicious. After spending a solid chunk of this past Sunday watching football at a restaurant that *gasp* did not serve wings, I was left with a serious crunchy, saucy chicken craving. I was thinking about wings so hard that I’m shocked I didn’t sprout a pair of my own. Naturally, after the game I dug up the recipe from last year, but then I thought “how do you make hot wings a little differently?” The answer? I turned to a favorite restaurant for inspiration and came away with some sweet, spicy, seriously flavorful Korean-style baked chicken wings. They’re definitely going on the Sunday Football food menu.

Ready? It’s a shockingly simple recipe. These are oven baked chicken wings, but you can also grill them or even fry the chicken wings, then toss them in the addictively sweet-spicy sauce. You can even make these ahead of time and reheat them before serving if you’re trying to save time on game day.

Equipment Needed:

  • Large Bowl
  • Baking Sheet
  • Foil
  • Whisk
  • Saucepan
  • Knife
  • Cutting Board

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs chicken wings
  • 1/4 cup Korean Gochujang Chile Paste or Sambal Chile paste
  • 12 oz apricot jam
  • 1 Tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 3 Tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup roasted peanuts (optional)
  • 1/4 cup green onions (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a saucepan, combine the oil, minced garlic, minced ginger, jam, chile paste and soy sauce.
  3. Heat over medium heat, whisking occasionally until well combined and slightly thickened (8-10 minutes.)
  4. Pour 1/3 of the sauce into a large bowl. Add the chicken wings, tossing to combine.
  5. Spread the wings on a foil-lined baking tray, extra sauce and all.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes, then turn over, brush with some (but not all) of the additional sauce, and bake for another 12-15 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven, toss the chicken wings in about half the remaining sauce, and return to sheet tray.
  8. Turn your oven to broil, and add the chicken, keeping a close eye on it. You want a slight char in places but no burning throughout. Ours took about 3-5 minutes per side.)
  9. When one side is done to your liking, flip and broil the other side of your chicken wings.
  10. Remove from oven, toss in remaining sauce and arrange on a plate.
  11. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, peanuts, and green onions as a flavorful garnish.

Just check out that closeup. Clearly, these are some delicious baked chicken wings.  Sure, there are a few steps involved in making these Asian chicken wings, but the process goes quickly and the end results are SO delicious.  If you’re not sure what to serve with chicken wings, you could go with a traditional football food spread of chips, dips and beer, or you can try to keep everything in theme – pair these with some Korean BBQ tacos, kimchi and rice for a satisfying, delicious, totally unexpected touchdown of a meal. Check back next week for more football food – some of our absolute favorite dips for veggies or chips. Spoiler alert: they’re almost as addictive as these wings.

Simple Sauerkraut Recipe – Just in Time for Oktoberfest!

September 4th, 2014

So, you know we’ve got these fermenting crocks, and you know we think they’re awesome. You can see them in action in our kimchi and our pickles post. Of course, what good is a truckload of fermentation crocks without a killer sauerkraut recipe. Bonus: If you start your kraut now, you’ll have a fresh batch of sauerkraut for Oktoberfest. Because what’s beer and brats without sauerkraut?

Before we start, let’s break it down: What is sauerkraut and how do you make sauerkraut that tastes awesome? Simply put, sauerkraut is fermented cabbage. Now, I know you’re thinking “eeew, fermented food is gross,” but you would be wrong. Other fermented foods that you probably know are: Kimchi, Pickles, Sourdough, Cheese, Coffee, Chocolate, Yogurt, Beer, Wine, Vinegar, and Miso. I’ve yet to meet a single person who doesn’t like at least one of those things. So get ready to be a home-fermenting convert.

Supplies You’ll need:

Ingredients You’ll Need:

  • 2 heads of cabbage – Ideally organic – sometimes pesticides impede bacterial growth. Great for farmers, terrible for fermenting.
  • 3 tablespoons seas salt

Seriously. That’s it. All that punchy, funky flavor comes from the fermenting process. Here’s how to make sauerkraut in just a few simple steps. It really is a basic sauerkraut recipe.

  1. Shred or finely slice your cabbage. You can see in our photos that we did a coarser shred, but the finer the shred, the quicker to ferment.
  2. In a large mixing bowl (or the crock itself)  toss the salt with the cabbage, kneading the salt into cabbage. Note: If you have cuts on your hands, this will sting. I learned the hard way.
  3. Once the cabbage has been thoroughly massaged and starts releasing liquid, pack it tightly into a crock. Use a plate, the stones, or a kraut pounder to pack it down.
  4. Once all of your cabbage is packed into the crock, pour any liquid remaining in the bowl into the crock.  The crock should have released a more liquid during the packing process and be submerged or close to submerged in liquid.
  5. Put weights on the cabbage.  The stone weights should be submerged in liquid by about an inch. If they’re not, mix a cup of water with a tablespoon of sea salt and pour enough to cover the weights.
  6. Once your weights are submerged and your massaged, salt-scrubbed cabbage (it’s like a veggie spa day) is packed in place and weighted, pop a lid on that crock.
  7. If you’re using a Crock with a water well seal (recommended), fill the water well. If you’re using a pickle pot or storage canister style crock, just pop the lid on. If you’re using an open crock, cover the opening in a couple layers of cheesecloth.***At this point, the hard part is done. Promise***

  8. Move the crock to a cool shady place and leave it alone.
  9. At this point, your only job is checking every few days to make sure the kraut is still submerged. If not, repeat step 5. as needed.
  10. It can take between a month and 6 months for your kraut to ferment. I can’t imagine what 6-month fermented sauerkraut tastes like. Our Sauerkraut recipe was pretty perfect after 1 month.
  11. Once you hit about 4 weeks, start tasting your sauerkraut every 3 or 4 days. I like mine crisper, so 4 weeks was perfect, but the longer you keep going the softer and more pungent your kraut will become.

A few notes:  Sometimes you’ll see a little scum floating on your brine. Simply skim it off with a slotted spoon. Once your sauerkraut is done, there are a few ways to preserve it. Either pack it into kilner jars and keep in the fridge for up to a year or you can go about actually canning sauerkraut. We added 4 cloves of crushed garlic, a teaspoon of ground pepper and a teaspoon of sugar to one of our cans to experiment with flavoring–truly delightful! Try it out if you want some added flavoring.

To can your sauerkraut, simply pack your kraut with brine into clean, sanitized Kilner jars. Leave 1/2 inch at the top of each jar, making sure brine covers the cabbage completely. Measure your head space from the top of the brine.  Once your jars are packed, put the covers on. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and process the jars of sauerkraut for 25 minutes in boiling water (start marking time when the water comes BACK to a boil after adding the jars.)  Remove from heat, allow jars to cool, check seals, and boom! Shelf stable sauerkraut.

See? That simple.

S’Mores Ideas and a Labor Day Sale

August 28th, 2014

It’s hard to believe that it’s the last week of August and summer is drawing to a close.  We thought that the perfect way to celebrate the end of summer would be to celebrate with some gooey, melty s’mores. Fair warning – we haven’t mastered the art of taking perfect pictures of massively messy concoctions, so brace yourselves – this gets gooey. But MAN, if you’re throwing a Labor Day Barbecue or a beach bonfire, consider setting out the fixings for s’mores. They’re a great picnic food idea – with the right mix of ingredients and options, everyone can customize their own.  If you’re only here to find out about our Labor Day Sale, scroll down to the bottom of the entry.

As you can see, we have a bit more than the traditional fixings on the table. But I always do start with traditional s’mores ingredients – milk chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers. No matter how many delicious fixings you have, someone in your crowd will be a purist. And that’s totally fine.

For those of you who don’t know, here’s how to make smores (and also, how to make s’mores in the oven, in case you don’t have access to a bonfire.)

  1. Toast your marshmallow. Either toast on a stick over a fire, or lay on half a graham cracker and broil in the oven.
  2. Layer your s’more.  You’re making a sandwich here, with the graham crackers as bread. 1 cracker, then the chocolate, then a hot marshmallow (for maximum meltiness) then the second graham cracker.
  3. Enjoy. It’s really that simple, and it works for pretty much everyone.

So, you’ve got the basics down and want to know how to make a s’more that’s a little more gourmet? The only thing that really needs to stay constant is a marshmallow.  Beyond that, listed below are some flavorful twists we’ve created to switch it up. Also, for fun, some ideas from other bloggers we love!

Gooey, Melty, Delicious S'mores

Items Shown: 7 Inch square plate

  • Add something salty. We did a layer of potato chips between the chocolate and the marshmallow for that super-trendy sweet and salty thing. I’ve also used pretzels or even a sprinkle of salt.
  • Change up the chocolate. As you can see above, we love our peanut butter cups in s’mores. I’ve also swapped the milk chocolate for dark, used favorite candy bars (make sure they’ll melt all the way through – Heath bars don’t work.)
  • Use fancy marshmallows. I recently came across some DELICIOUS coffee flavored marshmallows at a gourmet store. SO good in s’mores. Check gourmet websites and stores for interesting flavors.
  • Change out the cookies. Graham crackers are traditional, but as long as your cookies are big enough to contain the deliciousness of a s’more, you’re good.  Chocolate chip cookies work, gingersnaps are delicious. Also, ritz crackers and mini marshmallows are insanely good for s’mores. YUM!
  • Add sliced fruit. Thin sliced strawberries, crushed raspberries or slices of orange work so well with chocolate, marshmallows and the smokiness from a fire. It’ll add something addictive and unexpected!
  • Get saucy – add nutella, peanut butter or even caramel sauce for a little something unexpected!

And from some of our favorite bloggers, even more fantastic s’mores ideas.

 delicious smores, bacon smores, lime smores

smores are delicious

From Left to Right: (Top) Bourbon Bacon S’mores from Beyond Frosting, Key Lime S’mores from The Kitchn, Roasted Berry S’Mores from Jelly Toast Blog. (Bottom) Peach and White Chocolate S’Mores from  Peanut Butter and Julie, Dark Chocolate Passionfruit S’mores from Blogging Over Thyme. See how many amazing options there are?  Also, if anyone wants to give us some tips on photographing s’mores, we’d be interested. Clearly, it is possible.

Annnnd, Last but certainly not least, let’s talk about the sale.  We’re doing a labor day weekend Placemat and Wood extravaganza! Our placemat line and our Acaciaware wood line are beautiful transitional pieces – they work both outdoors and indoors, so whether you’re out on your patio enjoying the end of summer or dining indoors, they’ll look lovely.  Enter “LaborDay” at checkout for 25% off all retail orders of our placemats and our wood products.  Good stuff, right?

Happy Labor Day, friends! Enjoy your holiday. You’ve earned it.

 

 

Picnic Food Ideas – Just in Time for a Labor Day Picnic!

August 21st, 2014

It’s hard to believe that Labor Day is just around the corner!  Where has the summer gone?  With schools starting earlier and earlier, Labor Day is no longer as big of a deal, but it’s still the perfect 3 day weekend to enjoy time with friends and family.  One of my favorite ways to celebrate is to really harness the awesome summer weather and have a picnic. Whether it’s at a park, at the beach, or just in my own backyard; there’s something about eating outside, enjoying nature and playing games that’s just so darn fun!  Want to throw the best picnic ever? Keep reading for tips on how to throw a picnic that’ll blow everyone’s mind. Or, if you’re just here for the recipes, scroll to the end of the post for a killer chicken sandwich recipe that’s picnic (or lunchbox) perfect!

Pacific Merchant’s Guide to the Perfect Picnic – Food, Gear and More!

  1. Pick the perfect place: it could be a picnic area in a park, a beach,  your favorite hiking trail, or even your backyard. What matters is that YOU and your guests are outdoors, having fun. Consider a late-afternoon picnic rather than lunch to avoid being out in the worst of the sun’s rays.
  2. Fend off pests: if you’re putting together a picnic somewhere prone to bugs, consider one (or more) of the following: Keep food in covered containers, bring citrus peels and mint (bugs hate those,)  light citronella candles, or distract bugs by placing a saucer of sugar water a few yards away from your picnic spot!
  3. Find the perfect picnic blanket: (or DIY it)  I’ve used everything from a flannel sheet to an old blanket to a dedicated picnic blanket. To keep the blanket (and our behinds) dry, I lay down a tarp or a cheap shower curtain under the actual picnic blanket.
  4. Chose dishes wisely: Sure, you can absolutely use disposable dishes, but consider lightweight, re-useable options as well.  I love bringing our wood plates to picnics – they’re lightweight and re-usable and totally beautiful.

  5. Plan a simple, hearty menu and know how to pack it for transport: I use Kilner clip top jars for things like pasta salad and fruit salad. I’ll sometimes even pack dessert parfaits in smaller jars. For sandwiches, I wrap them in paper (or occasionally doilies or cheese leaves if I want something prettier.) For wine, I use the incomparable Martha Stewart’s method of wrapping bottles in a blanket (often my picnic blanket.)  For things that need to be packed flat (like last week’s deviled eggs), I actually use egg cartons. Anything can be picnic food, if  you pack it right!
  6. Bring Clear Drinking Glasses: True story: When I was about 10, I was at a picnic and took a big swig from a bottle of delicious root beer. Turns out, yellow jackets also like root beer, and I ended up with a very angry bee in my mouth.  You can guess what happened next. To avoid any bug-related mishaps, I pack clear Kilner jars to drink from. I also pack their lids for people to use if they’re playing a game, taking a hike, or just not in the mood to sip. Anything to keep the bugs out.

    Peach iced tea in jars

    Items Shown: Kilner Jars

  7. The perfect picnic basket isn’t always a basket: I normally  bring 2: One large, soft-sided cooler where I stash ice, anything with meat, eggs, dairy, etc and a large canvas tote bag for non-perishables, dishes, etc.
  8. Bring Garbage Bags: A lot of designated picnic areas have trash bins, but no matter where you picnic, it’s nice to have a trash bag handy. I hang one off the end of a picnic table or keep one just a few feet away from the picnic to encourage folks to throw out trash BEFORE the wind takes it away.
  9. Plan for the end of the event: Bring zip top bags to pack any leftovers you want to keep, extra napkins, and baby wipes – the unscented kind so you don’t attract bugs. It’ll make clean up of sticky hands, plates, and more a breeze!
  10. Delegate: Let’s say you’re planning a picnic with friends – ask one person to bring drinks, one to bring chips, etc. Giving everyone something to bring (and carry in, if you’re hiking to a picnic spot) makes your job easier!
  11. Make it lovely: Picnics are casual, but there’s no reason they shouldn’t be beautiful. Bring a bouquet of flowers (marigolds give off natural bug repellant,) portable battery operated lights, some music, some games, and beautiful, colorful food. Really make the most of the beautiful weather and enjoy your party!

  12. Don’t forget utensils: I’ve done that a couple of time, and it stinks. Bring serving utensils if you’ll need them, and plenty of forks, spoons and knives! I always keep some in an outside pocket of my picnic cooler after forgetting one too many times. I also always pack a small chopping board and a utility knife. They’re good for serving cheese, cutting fruit into smaller pieces for kids, and more!

Ready to throw that picnic? I sure am.  If you’re having a Labor Day Picnic, tag pictures with #PacMerchantPicnic on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter. We’d love to check out what you do! You may even win a gift certificate to our site! Now on to that recipe.

Summertime Chicken Caprese BLT

One of my favorite things about summertime is fresh, ripe tomatoes. I just can’t get enough. When thinking up this recipe I realized that I could combine two of my favorite tomato dishes into one delightful sandwich. Voila-the super addictive BLT/Caprese salad mashup was born. And oh, I added some chicken for fun.

Ingredients (Makes 2 sandwiches):

  • 1/2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and thinly sliced
  • 4 strips bacon, cooked until crispy
  • 1 ripe tomato, thinly sliced
  • Butter lettuce
  • 2 tablespoons mayo
  • 5 large fresh basil leaves, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 of your favorite sandwich rolls, split in half (I used sliced baguette for the pictures)
  • Salt and Pepper

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the mayo, basil, and garlic.
  2. Smear onto both slices of bread.
  3. On the bottom of sandwich, lay a butter lettuce leaf. If it’s too big, tear it into a smaller piece.
  4. Next add the tomatoes. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper.
  5. Top seasoned tomatoes with thinly sliced chicken.
  6. Add the bacon, then close sandwich with the top of the bun.

To pack these sandwiches for a picnic, wrap them tightly in foil, butcher paper, or cheese leaves and tie with baker’s twine. I love using our large banana leaves for this. They’re big enough to really keep the sandwich wrapped tight so that transporting and eating them is a mess-free experience!

Delicious sandwiches

Items Shown: Banana Cheese Leaves, Round Doilies

Happy Labor Day, folks! Enjoy this last 3-day weekend in summer!


As Seen In ACEBristol FarmsDean & DelucaSur La TableWhole FoodsWilliams SonomaWynn Las Vegas
© 2014 Pacific Merchants Trading Company. All Rights Reserved.