How to Make Pickles: A Tutorial

April 17th, 2014

make your own fermented pickles


Cucumbers are growing like weeds around here, and our local markets are selling them cheap.  We stocked up on cucumbers just so we could teach you how to pickle them and how to make homemade pickles! We’re nice like that.  This recipe for pickles is an old-fashioned fermented pickle recipe. These delicious pickles take about 10 days to 3 weeks to ferment.  If you start now you’ll be enjoying tangy, crunchy pickles before May! Since they’re the perfect side for burgers at summer barbecues, we suggest making a bunch and canning them so you and your guests can enjoy homemade pickles all summer long. We’ve even put together an awesome DIY Pickle Starter Kit if you want to have everything you need in one place!

Ready? Let’s ferment! It’s more appetizing than it sounds.

How to can pickles tutorial

Ingredients. – As you’ll see above, it doesn’t take many ingredients to make great pickles. I keep mine pretty simple.  This recipe doubles, triples, or even quadruples nicely.

  • 1 lb of pickling cucumbers, washed
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup sea salt
  • 1/4 cups white vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp pickling spice (optional)
  • 1 head dill (optional)

Equipment

Making Pickles from scratch

Once you’ve gathered your equipment, begin by prepping the cucumbers. To do this, make sure they’re still crisp with no soft spots. Scrub them well, then slice off the blossom end of each cucumber, like you see me doing above. If you’re not sure, it’s the end opposite the stem. You can leave the stem, just snip off a tiny bit of that blossom end. It helps the pickles stay crisp.

how I make pickles

Next, throw some of your salt, any spices you’re using, and about half of the garlic in a clean pickle pot or fermenting crock. You’ll notice I’m using one of our storage crocks in this picture – I wanted to see if it was as good for pickling as it is for storage. And, if you’re wondering, it totally worked!

what is in pickling spice? I don't know.

Once that’s taken care of, add in your cucumbers. Literally, cram as many as you can fit  right on in there. You’ll still have room for the brine and stuff. While you’re at it, add the rest of the garlic as well. Also, if you’re adding dill (that’s how to make dill pickles, folks,) add it now. Once you’ve got all of that in there, it’s time to add the components of the brine: White vinegar and water (or, if you’ve got it, leftover pickle brine and water.) Either works.

How to make pickles, step by stepOnce you’ve added all that brine (I told you there was room,) make sure the cucumbers are covered completely (add more water if they aren’t) and pop a lid on the crock. If you’re using one of our open crocks, cover with a piece of cheesecloth or a muslin square, then top off with a plate to keep it airtight. You’re done for now. Seriously, that easy. Put the whole thing in a place where the temperature is between 70 and 75 degrees and leave it alone.  Every day or two, give it a peek. Skim any mold off the top of the brine (it’ll happen and it’s no big deal) and check that the pickles don’t feel mushy or slimy.  After about 10 days, start checking them for done-ness (they should look translucent all the way through. Cut one open. Taste it. Your homemade pickles are done when you’re happy with them.

Pickles in a Kilner jarOnce your pickles taste to your liking,  keep whatever you want to eat right away in your fridge. If you made a big batch, or if you want to save them for later in the season/give them as gifts, it’s the perfect time to can them.  Just pack the pickles into Kilner jars (our 1 liter jars fit pickles beautifully.)  Top them off with the brine. Pop the seals on the jars, then tighten down the rings until almost tight. Bring a big pot of water to a boil and process the jars in boiling water for 20 minutes. Let ‘em cool, check the seals, and BOOM, you’ve got perfectly canned pickles that’ll keep at room temperature for 6 months. Not that they’ll last that long.

Pickling tutorial

Perfect Spring Cocktail Recipe: Lemon Lime Margarita

April 11th, 2014

Lemon Lime Margarita in Kilner glasses

As we were photographing our brand new, spring gift sets for our blog, we realized that our Cinco de Mayo gift set was the perfect excuse to whip up some margaritas no matter what the date.  And as we sipped our margaritas in the afternoon sun (we were shooting outside) we realized – we just HAD to share our recipe for you! It’s the perfect drink for a warm spring evening.

Now, I have serious love for a classic, all lime margarita, but if you’ve been to the store lately (or if you listen to NPR) you know that limes recently got EXPENSIVE!  So, to help make my dollar go further, I came up with a truly sensational lemon-lime margarita recipe. It still tastes like spring and sunshine in a glass, but if you’re throwing a cocktail party, you won’t spend your whole budget on limes.  Plus, this recipe has 2 easy variations, a firly classic margarita recipe, and a spicy margarita variation.  With just a couple of simple ingredients, you’re getting 2 drinks for the work of 1!

Perfect Margarita recipe for Cinco de mayo

Here’s what you’ll need to make 4 cocktails:

  • 4 half Liter Kilner preserve jars.  I love that the threaded rims hold onto the salt on the edges really well.
  • A large pitcher
  • 2 small shallow bowls (I like to use these Acaciaware® bowls)
  • 2 oz lime juice (fresh squeezed is best)
  • 4 oz lemon juice (fresh squeezed)
  • 6 oz tequila
  • 3 oz  Triple Sec
  • Agave Nectar
  • Ice
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 fresh Jalapeno (optional)
  • Cayenne pepper (optional)

how to put salt on the edge of a margarita glass

Instructions

  1. Figure out how many of your guests want spicy margaritas and how many want mild.
  2. Pour salt into your shallow bowl.
  3. Using a slice of lemon or lime, moisten the edge of your Kilner jar drinking glasses.
  4. Dip the moistened rims of the  glasses for the non-spicy margaritas in salt. Tap once and flip over.
  5. Now, add cayenne pepper to your salt. I do about a 50/50 mix.
  6. Moisten the edges of the glasses for your spicy margarita drinkers.
  7. Dip glasses in the cayenne/salt mixture. Tap once and flip right side up.
  8. Add a healthy pinch of salt/cayenne mixture and a slice of fresh jalapeno to the spicy glasses.
  9. In a pitcher, combine the tequila, lemon juice, lime juice and triple sec.
  10. Taste and add agave nectar to sweeten to your taste. (You can also use sugar, but agave tastes better and is better for you!)
  11. Put some ice cubes in each glass and pour your Margarita mix in carefully, so you don’t mess up those pretty salted rims.
  12. Drink and enjoy!!  Add some chips and guacamole  and some great music and you’ve got yourself a party!!

Fiesta set

If you want to turn your perfect springtime margarita into a full-blown fiesta, we suggest some brightly colored decorations, a stunning chip and dip tray for those chips and guacamole, and some lively placemats, just to brighten things up.  If you want all the guesswork taken out, consider our Cinco De Mayo Cocktail party set and a coordinating set of 4  Laguna Placemats.  The Cinco De Mayo set includes a 3-sectioned tray that’s perfect for chips and dip, 4 plates, a set of brightly colored Deco Leaves© (just for fun!) and 4 Kilner drinking glasses! The placemats (check out that awesome GIF below!) come separately.  We’ve got SO many colors available!

gif maker

Let us know what your favorite cocktails are in the comments, or share pictures with our page on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #PacificMerchants. We’d love to see what’s inspiring you this spring (especially now that a seemingly endless winter is over)!

Pacific Merchants Presents: DecoLeaves Cheese leaves

March 27th, 2014

Leaves for food presentation. Foodsafe cheese leaves parchment leaves french leaves

We’ve got exciting changes afoot here at Pacific Merchants! If you’re a regular on our website, you may have noticed a few new items, and even a few new categories!  Over the next week or so, we’re going to be featuring a ton of new items, so get ready!  First up, we’re thrilled to introduce our new line of DecoLeaves - totally food safe parchment leaves to amp up your food presentation.  Whether you’re decorating a table or lining a cheese board, these beautiful, detailed leaves and flowers will add color and visual interest to your table! Plus, they’re made and packaged right here in the USA!

leaves for cheese, food, table decorations

We’ve got leaves (and flowers, too!) for all seasons.  If you want to deck a spring table in roses  and sunflowers, we’d love to help you. If you’re putting together a wine and cheese tasting, we’ve got the perfect grapes and grape leaves to compliment your spread. If you’re already planning that perfect summer luau, we’ve got banana leaves and tropical leaves to help you decorate. Bonus: our leaves and flowers compliment our acacia wood trays SO perfectly. If you’re putting out a cheese board or a tray of appetizers, look into acacia (if you haven’t already!) We’ve even got leaves for holiday decor, though we know that’s a long way off.

foodsafe parchment leaves decoleaves euroquest leaves, french leaves

No matter what kind of gathering you’re planning this spring/summer, make sure to invite decoLeaves! They’re an easy way to add a splash of color to even the most casual barbecue or picnic, and they’re a beautiful way to bring a touch of whimsy to more formal affairs! We’ve even seen them incorporated into gift wrapping or used for crafts!

party supply leaves, party decor, decorations, cheese leaves

 

 

Visit Pacific Merchants at the IHA Show in Chicago

March 14th, 2014

Where to find us at IHAAre you going to the IHA show in Chicago this year? If you are, make sure to come by our booth – S1667 in the South Building of McCormick Place- to meet the team, check out loads of new products, and maybe even get a special treat!

Once you find us, make sure to track down one of our incredibly  helpful employees or reps and ask about our lines. We’ve brought Kilner canning jars and accessories, Mason Cash mixing bowls and bakeware, Acaciaware® bowls, plates, and serving trays, Price and Kensington teapots, our beautiful placemats, and more!

While you’re at our booth, Make sure to ask about our new products – There’s something new in every single line, so it’s a really exciting time to visit. Also make sure to ask about the special surprise announcement we’re making at the show! You won’t want to miss our exciting news!

Again, we’re exhibiting at the IHA show so make sure to pop on by our booth- we’re in the South Building, booth 1667 – The one highlighted in green on the map. We’ll be there for the whole show: March 15-18, and we’re looking forward to meeting you!

 

When is Spring Cleaning? Right Now! – Spring Cleaning tips, Tricks and Sale!

March 7th, 2014

Check out our spring sale!Here at Pacific Merchants we’re big believers in getting organized, simplifying, and enjoying the simple pleasures of life. One of the ways we’re doing that is throwing an epic Spring Cleaning sale. That’s right, some of our best-selling items are up to 50% off.  Make sure to check out our sale page to see how we do spring cleaning, and how awesome it’ll be for you!  Everything from Acacia to Placemats to Teapots are on sale, so make sure to check them out!

If you’re here to get some cleaning tips, we’re happy to help you out! We’re going to give you our top tips on how to organize a pantry, how to spring clean, and how to clean your house fast. We’ll even give you a truly helpful checklist to help you get organized at home?  Ready? Bookmark that sale page (it’s running through March 19 and we’re gonna put new stuff up all the time) and let’s clean!

somerwhere to put all your stuff1 – Create a landing strip. No, your home isn’t an airport, but it’s amazing to have somewhere to throw all your odds and ends when you walk through the door. I was particularly inspired by this little nook I saw on Apartment Therapy. Check out that big wood bowl for mail. I immediately went home and did something similar with our oval bowl -  it’s the perfect size and shape to hold my mail, but just small enough that I actually go through the mail regularly.  If you’ve got a large space, consider dedicating an small room or closet , but if you’re in a smaller apartment, something as simple as a small cabinet, a shoe rack, and a couple of hooks will suffice.   I suggest 2 hooks per per person (coat, bag/purse) and enough room for a couple of pairs of shoes each, plus a catch-all for odds and ends, whether it’s a big bowl, a sectioned tray or even a Kilner jar. Trust me, it may seem a little dumb, but having a place to dump your stuff when you walk in the door helps if you’re trying to keep your home clean.

Getting organized using Kilner jars2- Pull things off the shelves. You know those cabinets/closets/pantry shelves that are just full to the brim of disorganized odds and ends? Pull EVERYTHING out of those cluttered cabinets. Clean them (trust me, start with a clean slate) and put things back in a neat, orderly fashion. Stack dishes  by size and put them back.  Organize odds and ends in that junk drawer – I use small Kilner jars and label the lids. They’re short enough to sit in a drawer and the labels mean I can easily find those spare keys, rubber bands, loose change, or push pins.

3. Consolidate. This is another great time to break out the Kilner jars. Whenever I go through my pantry and cabinets, I find 3 half-used bags of sugar, the occasional extra bag of flour, and 5 or 6 half-used bags of chocolate chips I forgot I had.  I’ve recently begun combining all these half-used bags in large clip top jars rather than trying to put them back. The stuff I use frequently – cereal, coffee, sugar, pretzels – goes on the counter for easy access since Kilner jars are just so pretty. The stuff that I don’t use as much still gets combined, but goes in the pantry or in my cabinets.  And once you’ve consolidated, you’ll find yourself with more space for sure!

4. Throw stuff out. While you’re organizing your closets, pantries and cabinets, you’ll come across things you forgot you had, like that  sweater that just doesn’t fit or that bundt pan you’ve never used. Time to get critical: If you’ve had it longer than 6 months and haven’t used it, consider donating it – with the exception of seasonal things you actually DO break out every year.  If it’s broken, time to either repair or discard. If that pan hasn’t had a handle for months, it’s just been taking up space.  This is another great way to free up some storage space. kilner storage jars - perfect for organizing!

5. Put everything away. Use this strategy: If you use it all the time, make it the easiest to reach. If it’s one of those things you break out once a year, that highly inconvenient cabinet above the refrigerator is perfect.   If it’s something you use semi-regularly but not daily or even weekly – stand mixer, food processor, spare sheets, consider a less convenient shelf.  Once everything is put away, you’ll be happily surprised by all the newfound space you’ve got!

6. Put away anything that didn’t have a home.  You’ve got room now!

7. Dust and wash surfaces. This won’t be as hard as it sometimes is, since you cleaned those shelves and cabinets when you were organizing. Right??  Right.  Go over everything with a dustcloth first – make sure to pick things up and get under them. Once everything is dusted, give them a wipe down with a damp cloth or some windex and paper towels (where appropriate) until all your surfaces are sparkling!

8. Once you’ve got clean surfaces, move on to the floors. Vacuum where needed. Mop where needed. Make sure to run over your baseboards with a damp cloth.

9. Do your laundry. I always put this off until last since I make laundry the whole way through – All the rags, microfiber cloths and mop heads I own go in the laundry. Wash, fold and put away.

10. Holy crap! Your home is clean!  Kick back, enjoy, and check out that spring sale you bookmarked. Chances are, you’ve cleared off a perfect home for that teapot you’ve been coveting, and magic – it’s 50% off!

 

 

How To Make Jam: A Canning Tutorial

February 26th, 2014

Blood Orange Strawberry Jam

As our readers know, we spend a lot of time working with our awesome Kilner canning jars around here, but we haven’t posted a lot of canning recipes.  We figured it was time to change that.   Back in April we featured a post on how to make strawberry jam.  It was a basic recipe on how to make jam without pectin. This time, we took our awesome strawberry jam and made it even more delicious by adding juice from some delicious, seasonal, local produce: Southern California Blood Oranges!  The best thing about this recipe is that you can taste the blood oranges and the strawberries equally, and they go really well together.  So let’s get started. This post will teach you how to make your own jam in just a few easy steps.

Sanitizing jam jars

First, let’s start with the basics: How to sterilize canning jars.  No matter which way you choose to sanitize canning jars, you start the same way: Giving them a wash with soap and water.  Inspect them, and hold any chipped, cracked or otherwise damaged jars to the side. Those jars are great for craft projects, but lousy for canning. Next you either boil the Kilner jars, lids and bands in a big pot of boiling water (lined with a towel or a canning jar rack to keep the jars from chipping) or run them through your dishwasher on a sanitize cycle.  You just need to make sure that you time your cycle so that you’re pulling the jars out and filling them when they’re still hot.  I’m lucky to have a really nice sanitize cycle on my dishwasher that actually counts down the minutes, so I can have everything ready at just the right moment.

Strawberry Jam Ingredients

While the Jars are sanitizing, it’s time to make your jam.  We were making this jam for the IHA Show 2014 in Chicago (come visit us at Booth 1667 in the South building!) so we made a TON of jam. Think 35lbs worth of strawberries worth. The ingredients you see above would make a pint or two at most.  For the jam, you’ll need:

how to make jam- step by step

  • 2 10-0z packages of frozen, sliced, unsweetened strawberries OR 20 oz fresh strawberries, trimmed and sliced.
  • 1 3/4 oz powdered fruit pectin – 2 oz if you’re using frozen strawberries
  • zest of 2  blood oranges
  • 1/2 cup blood orange juice*
  • 3 1/2 cups granulated sugar

* Once I zested my blood oranges, I put them through a juicer, pith and all. It made for a slightly  bitter juice, but in the end, the flavor is balanced by the sweet strawberries and sugar whether you hand squeeze the oranges or juice them in a machine.

To make the jam, get out a big pot or a jam pan. Make sure it’s a non-reactive pan to get the most beautiful jam possible. Add the strawberries, the blood orange juice and zest, and the pectin to the pot. Heat, stirring constantly with a large spoon or spatula until the pectin is dissolved. Once everything is dissolved, bring the mixture to a rolling boil, stirring constantly.

Strawberries, orange juice, orange zest, pectin

After the jam has boiled for a few moments, add the sugar, and allow the mixture to come back to a boil. Continue to stir it constantly. It is very important not to add the sugar until the pectin is dissolved or you’ll end up with a delicious jam that won’t thicken. Frustrating, yes? This is one of the most important things my mother taught me when I was first learning how to do canning at home, and when I mix up my order, things go truly wrong. Once the jam mixture has come to a boil, it’ll begin to foam. Skim off the foam with a very fine mesh strainer or even a slotted spoon. It’ll ruin the texture of the jam.  At this point, let it boil around 5 minutes more, skimming as needed and you’re ready to can. At this point, bring another large pot of water to a boil.

how to make homemade jam

At this point, you’re going to need:

  • Sanitized jars, lids and rings
  • Jam tongs (hold these in boiling water a few minutes to sanitize)
  • A funnel that fits your jars (this should also be sanitized along with the jars)
  • Some sort of big spoon or ladle
  • A rag or paper towel to wipe your jar mouths

Pull your jars out of the dishwasher or pot of boiling water and make sure they’re completely empty.  Use funnel to pour hot jam into hot, sanitized Kilner jars neatly, leaving 1/2 inch of headroom for each jar.  Wipe the mouths of the jars clean (the most important thing to remember when we talk about how to seal a canning jar) and place the seals squarely on each jar.  Screw on each band until just tight, then unscrew each one a quarter turn.  Once all the jars are closed, it’s time to process the jars.  Boiling jars for canning not only helps the jars seal but it’s a good way to help making canned food last a long time.

how to prepare canning jars    photo 8

Remember that pot of water you brought to a boil? Time to use it.  Now that the jars are full and closed, it’s time to process those Kilner jars.  When I talk to people about canning, the most common questions I get are “how long do you boil jars for canning?” and “how long does canning food last?”  Time to answer the first of those questions: Once the jars are full, process them at a rolling boil for 5 minutes.  When I say process, I mean put the jars in boiling water for 5 minutes. Make sure the water covers the jars by at least an inch (I prefer 2) and let boil.

how canning works

If your canning goes anything like mine, as you add the jars to the water, the boiling will stop (see above, and pardon the jam-spattered cooktop.)  Don’t start timing the 5 minutes until the water is back at a rolling boil.    The jam may appear to loosen up a little and become more liquid, but don’t worry, it’ll set up as it cools.  After 5 minutes at a rolling boil, remove your delicious homemade strawberry jam with blood orange from the pot (use your tongs, these jars are hot!) and set on a heat-proof surface.  I just put a towel down on my butcher block and lay the jars out on that.

You’ll hear little pings and pops as the jars seal. That’s a good thing.  Let the jars cool overnight, then test the seal of each jar by pushing the center of the lid. If there’s any give to it, it hasn’t processed correctly, and your jar isn’t sealed. I got lucky in that all of my jars sealed. If they don’t seal, don’t worry, all is not lost. You cannot reuse canning lids (I’ve had a lot of people come to our booth at shows asking “can you  reuse canning lids?”) but you can get a spare pack of lids and re-seal your jars. Just wipe the mouths of the jars really clean, and process in boiling water for a little longer this time. Try about 8 minutes and it should do the trick. Once the jars hold a seal, you’re good. The jam should last 6 months at room temperature!

how to make orange jam

I hope that our little tutorial has you inspired to break out some Kilner jars and start canning. It may seem daunting at first, but it’s a really wonderful way to preserve awesome flavors at the height of the season!  Check out our little canning movie on Instagram! If you want to know more about canning with Kilner jars, come visit us at IHA in Chicago in just a couple of weeks. We’re in the South Building at booth 1667 and we’re happy to tell you all about Kilner jars, canning, and, if you’re lucky, let you try some of this totally delicious jam.

 

 

 

How To Make a DIY Pincushion

February 9th, 2014

Dear readers,

I hope you are all having a fabulous Sunday! This weekend has been a busy one for Pacific Merchants Trading Company as we have a photo shoot tomorrow and a few huge trade shows coming up.  Today I stained wood for tomorrow’s photo shoot, and I also made a #DIY #KilnerJar pincushion and sewing storage kit.

Kilner Jar Crafting DIY Pincushion

This simple project requires all that you see here plus scissors.  So easy, fun, inexpensive and practical!  Makes for a great gift or personal item.  We suggest using our .25L Kilner Preserve Jars, but the .5L Kilner Preserve Jars also work, especially if you want more storage room. For a full tutorial, visit Take Courage Blog.

Kilner Jar Pincushion  Klner DIY Crafting

I had so much fun with this project today.  Did you do anything fun this Sunday?  Talk to us in the comments, and find more photos at the Pacific Merchants Instagram (@PacificMerchant) and Pinterest.

 

How to Cook a Romantic Meal For Valentine’s Day

February 2nd, 2014

SMALL Heart T&SValentine’s Day is right around the corner, so naturally there are diamond ads on TV, specials on long-stemmed roses, and boxes of chocolate everywhere! If you’re trying to figure out what to do for valentines day,  avoid some of the obvious cliches and pull together an unforgettable night for someone you love! We’re going to teach you how to make a romantic dinner that won’t overwhelm you! It’s even good enough to turn those people who claim they hate Valentine’s day into hopeless, mushy romantics. Ready? OK!

First, we’re going to start with some basics to teach you how to make dinner without making a mess of your kitchen and your clothes. It breaks down to a few simple steps.

 

 

  1. Prep in advance. Chefs call this mise en place, which means “everything in place.” Cut your veggies, season your meat, and even make bread or dessert in advance. Just store all your prepped food in little bowls in the fridge until you’re ready to go.
  2. Consider a 1-pot meal. You’ll have less cleanup later, your house will smell amazing, and you’ll have time to do other important things, like shower.
  3. Set the table in advance. Use pretty dishes. Trust us, you don’t want to be rushing around at the last second. Light some candles.
  4. Do what you’re comfortable with.  You’re creating a special night. You don’t want your date to show up and find you frazzled because the souffle you’ve never made before won’t rise or the suckling pig isn’t done.

With those simple tips, a little kitchen know how, the right tools, and some foolproof, delightful recipes for romantic meals, we promise you, you’re going to have a blast.

I love serving warm bread with dinner, and our Heart Shaped Mason Cash Tear and Share make it as romantic as it is delicious.  We’ve got a big tear and share if you’re cooking for a crowd lady-and-the-tramp(say, Valentine’s Day for a family) or a little one that’s the perfect size for two. The nice thing about bread baking is you can get it done in advance (even a couple days before) and just throw it in the oven at the last minute. Plus, the Tear and Share bread forms come with some truly delicious recipes. Of course, if you’re super busy and need to cook a romantic meal quickly, you could even get pizza dough at the store, roll it into balls (stuff with cheese and sauce for extra points) and just bake that. Even less mess, and just as delicious.  And nothing says “welcome, I love you” like fresh, hot bread!

Second, throw together an entree that’s easy, delicious, and beautiful.  It doesn’t have to be complicated. Personally, I think Lady and the Tramp got it right. It can be as simple as spaghetti, but if you’re with the right person, it’s perfect.  So whip out a big salad bowl (I love serving spaghetti in the Acaciaware Deep bowl) and a set of pasta servers, and go to town.  If you need a recipe for swoon-worthy meatballs, scroll on down to the bottom of this page.  Serve with your favorite pasta sauce and some extra long spaghetti!

Acacia bowl saladOf course, one can’t live on spaghetti alone, so it’s worth serving a side salad, or maybe some grilled vegetables.  I’m partial to a classic Caesar salad (chicken is absolutely  optional) with my spaghetti.  It reminds me of old movies and just feels (and tastes) classic and romantic!  And isn’t that what you’re going for on Valentine’s day?

Of course, bread, salad, and a beautiful spaghetti and meatballs are just one person’s interpretation of a classic, unforgettable romantic meal for Valentine’s day.  But seriously, it’s the simple, intimate meals that are responsible for creating tender memories; consider classic recipes, done perfectly.  To all the ladies out there trying to figure out what to get a guy for Valentine’s day: skip the lines, cook a nice dinner. To all the guys: women love a man who can cook. To all the couples: Try cooking dinner together. It’s a great way to have fun and unwind, especially if you take a moment to open a bottle of wine and toast to your mutual awesomeness while cooking.

And now, without further ado, that meatball recipe I promised you.  I opt for a beef meatball, since I love the way it stays moist, and the way it stands up to a flavorful tomato sauce (see our blog post here if you want to make your own tomato sauce.) You can use whatever protein you’d like. Pork, sausage, turkey and even chicken work pretty well.

Ingredients meatballs -raw

  • 1 pound 80/20 ground beef

  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs

  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced.
  • 1 egg, beaten

  • 1 tbsp milk

spaghetti and meatbalssInstructions – Can be made a day in advance, saving you a mess on Valentine’s Day.

Throw all the meatball ingredients in a bowl. Ideally a Mason Cash bowl that you chilled in the freezer for 10 minutes.

With your hands (they really are the best tool)  mix all the ingredients until they’re well combined. be careful to mix rather than squish things to get perfectly fluffy, most meatballs and not crumbly meatloaf.

Once everything is combined, shape into balls You shouldn’t be pressing them together hard, just rolling them between your hands until they’re barely holding together. We’re going for meatballs, not meatloaf. This mixture makes 12 golf-ball sized meatballs or more small ones. I suggest doing small meatballs for a romantic meal. They’re easier to eat (one biters always are) and they’re darn cute. Plus you’re making this ahead (right?) so you don’t need to worry about rushing.  Just store them in a covered casserole dish in the fridge til you’re ready to use them.

When it’s time to cook,  Make some sauce (or buy a bottle of really good quality sauce, if you must.) And heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add a few tablespoons of vegetable oil to the pan, let it heat and coat the pan, then add the meatballs in a single layer.  Let cook for 4 minutes before turning.  Let cook an additional 4 minutes, then add the tomato sauce to the saucepan.  Simmer for about 20 minutes, which, coincidentally enough, is time enough to boil water and make pasta.  Add the pasta to your serving bowl, with the sauce, tossing to combine.  Top with meatballs, a sprinkling of fresh grated Parmesan (avoid the green can, please!) and a sprinkle of basil. Serve with that amazing warm bread and a salad you made (but didn’t dress) before even starting to cook and you’re good to go!  Have a happy Valentine’s Day!

Lots of Love,

Pacific Merchants

 

 

 

How To Throw A Superbowl Party They’ll Never Forget

January 14th, 2014

With this year’s Superbowl tickets costing upwards of $2,500 a pop (if you can find one.)  There’s a pretty good chance that you’re watching the game from on aSuperbowl XLVIII TV somewhere. And there’s a really good chance that your friends are going to be watching the big game (or just the awesome commercials) as well. So why not take the time and host an awesome Superbowl party?  To help you out, we’ve put together some delicious Superbowl food ideas, some awesome party planning tips, and some party ideas that are so creative, you’ll be glad to be home in front of the TV instead of freezing your tail off in NJ. As an added bonus, you can recycle a lot of these ideas a week later and throw a killer Olympic kickoff party! Two parties in one post? Winning!

Best Deviled Eggs on Acaciaware plateFirst, figure out what you want to serve.  I suggest keeping it easy to make, easy to eat, and delicious.  For the Superbowl, finger foods are always a good, safe way to go. They’re something that can be enjoyed with no mess, even if your guests are holding drinks. Some of my favorite game day snacks are Hot Wings, Deviled eggs, Chips (with salsa, guacamole, and dip, naturally,) sliders, cheese and cold cuts, and tacos.

If you need Superbowl Party Food ideas for bigger meals or entrees, consider ribs, steak, burgers, chili (either meat or vegetarian) and even a baked potato bar.  All of these are universal crowd-pleasers, they’re all relatively easy to make, and, in the rare event that you have leftovers, they all reheat nicely the next day!

Once you’ve got your menu worked out,  it’s time to figure out where you’re putting all the food. Do you have a table big enough, or are you going to have to improvise? I seriously suggest putting the food a little ways away from the TV, so that folks who want to nibble and chat aren’t disrupting the people who want to watch the game. Put out some food near the TV too, be it a big bowl of chips or snack mix, or a large tray of finger food so that people have the chance to munch without getting up as well.  Superbowl food on a table, superbowl foods

Along with figuring out where to stage your meal, make sure you have the right serving trays and dishes, and enough plates to go around.  You can definitely serve on paper plates if you want, but make sure they’re thick enough that they’ll hold up to a plate of food. Better yet, get some unique, reusable plates. I love this set of oval wood plates.  They’re the perfect size for a meal of finger food, they’re durable (even if you have clumsy guests who drop dishes) and they’re beyond easy to care for. I got a set for a small dinner party, and they come out pretty much every time I have company.

Along with checking out your plate situation, consider what you’re serving each dish in. When I’m doing something like hot wings with Blue Cheese dipping sauce, I love this deep, almost bowl like sectioned tray. It’s perfect for containing all the saucy, messiness of wings!  When I’m serving chips and dips, I use a chip and dip tray for the coffee table in front of the TV and set out bigger bowls of chips and dips with the rest of the food.  I find that sectioned trays not only look nice, but really make people feel like they’ve got plenty of options, even if I’m only serving ruffles and onion dip.

Kilner Jars and Lemonade

Of course, if you’re serving food at your Superbowl party, you’re going to need some super drinks as well.  I suggest making cocktails well in advance (just skip the ice) and putting them in Kilner jars in a cooler. I even do this for lemonade and fruit infused water. People can just grab a jar and sip, and you can enjoy the game instead of bartending.

Last but not least, have one solid Superbowl party food recipe that you can fall back on, even if everything else is going wrong. For me, it’s Guacamole.  It’s vegetarian, healthy party food that goes equally well on chips, veggies and burgers.  Having at least one fall-back recipe means that even if your ribs are burned and your deviled eggs fall to pieces, you’re good to go.

Here’s how to make the best guacamole recipe from scratch. It’s simple to make and easy to customize If you like more heat, add a chopped up jalapeno.  If you like more tang, add more lime.  This serves 4-6 people and is the perfect amount for the large Mason Cash Mortar and Pestle.

  • 3 avocadosguacamole acaciaware
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • ½ tsp whole cumin
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ cup chopped red onion
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. In the bottom of your mortar and pestle, crush together the garlic, cilantro and cumin until they form a paste
  2. Add the lime juice and half the avocado
  3. With the pestle, grind until very smooth. Add the other half of the avocado, the onion, and the tomato
  4. Combine with pestle (you may also need to use a fork) until thoroughly combined
  5. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Serve right in the mortar and pestle!

If you want to make a bigger batch, the recipe doubles or even triples really nicely.  Just grind up the cumin, mince the garlic and cilantro, and make the whole thing in an Acaciaware bowl. Just like when you serve in the mortar and pestle, there’s one less dish to clean, since your serving dish is also your prep bowl

Happy New Year!

December 31st, 2013

As 2013 winds down, we’re taking a quick look at some of our favorite products from the last 12 months.  It’s been an exciting year, and we’re psyched to share some of that excitement with you
DSC_9815 DSC_9989 Full assortment of Kilner jars, bottles, and canning accessories

We were thrilled to bring in a new line this year, and we couldn’t have asked for something more exciting than Kilner! We’ve had a lot of fun canning, preserving, and pickling this year, but we’ve had just as much fun trying to figure out other fun uses for all the beautiful Kilner jars, bottles and accessories.  We’ve crafted with Kilner, baked in the jars, and even used them in place of tupperware for lunches.  But we quickly found out that one of our absolute favorite uses for Kilner jars is for storage.  The larger clip top jars are perfect for pantry organization.  All our jars proved to be awesome for organizing small items, from hardware in sheds to markers and craft supplies to sprinkles and spices!

Beautiful Mason Cash in the forest mixing bowls. Mason Cash counter grip bowl

It wasn’t just a good year for canning and preserving – it was an amazing year for baking.  Mason Cash not only brought back the incomparable counter bowl, which tilts as you mix, but a set of four stunning Forest bowls. Whether your style reflects the whimsy of the forest bowls (stunning stoneware embossed with sweet woodland creatures) or you’re more about a bowl that’ll become a workhorse in your kitchen, Mason Cash has you covered.

Mason Cash Bread Baking set Mason Cash Tear and share Bread Form

2013 was also an awesome year for all things terracotta.  Not only did we use our clay cooker and tagines constantly, but we introduced some really cool new terracotta pieces that were designed with the baker in mind.  Our Bread Baking Set features a mixing bowl with a lid that doubles as a baking stone! This year, I’ve used mine for everything from brioche to pizza and each loaf has come out with a perfectly crisp crust and absolutely tender crumb. We also released some Mason Cash Terracotta Tear-and-Share bread forms that really went a long way to adding some charm to my holiday meals this year.  Plus, the unglazed terracotta bread forms really make sure that each roll has a terrific crust and is perfectly, evenly baked.

strawberry salad in pacific merchants acaciaware bowl. cobb salad in bowl.

Acaciaware® really got the chance to shine in 2013. Not only were our beautiful acaciaware® bowls and salad serving sets featured on some top notch blogs and food websites, from The Domestic man to Apartment Therapy (see images above) but we got the chance to expand our line and bring in some new items (see below.) Whether you’re looking for a classic round serving bowl or organically shaped dishes, our acaciaware® line has what you need.

New Acacia images

This was also the year we really got to see just how versatile our new line of Laguna placemats can be. We’ve set dozens of tables with brightly colored Laguna mats and no matter what the occasion, the brightly colored, neatly bordered placemats really tied the whole table together. Check out both a Christmas shot and a Cinco De Mayo themed shot below to see just how nicely our placemats bring things together, whether set traditionally, scattered haphazardly for a pop of color or laid out neatly as a table runner!

Laguna Mats for Christmas Fiesta laguna mats

As you can see, we’ve had quite the year here at Pacific Merchants, and we’re going to spend tonight celebrating 2013 and getting excited for all the awesome things that 2014 has in store for us!  Cheers to a happy, healthy, exciting new year!