Happy Holidays! Here’s Our Favorite Sugar Cookie Recipe.

December 18th, 2014

With just a week until Christmas, isn’t it time that you have a foolproof sugar cookie recipe?  This recipe makes fantastic cutout sugar cookies that hold their shape and don’t need to chill first – a huge bonus if you’ve got impatient kids, or if you’re just busy. ‘Tis the season of busy, after all.  Read on for a fantastic Christmas cookie recipe that we hear Santa loves! We’re also going to link you to some of our favorite cookie baking and decorating tips from around the web. Huge bonus – even if you’ve got ZERO time to go Christmas shopping, everyone loves a box (or Kilner jar) of cookies. And these are not only super easy to make and highly delicious, but they’re inexpensive – a great way to save some money during this expensive time.

How to make Christmas Cookies, How to make sugar cookies

Items Shown: Acacia Wood Plate

Of course, if you want to buy a gift, we’ve got options, and as long as you place your order by December 23rd, there’s a way to get it to you for Christmas (Call us or Live Chat us for details – Ground shipping WILL NOT necessarily do the trick, depending on where you’re located.)  Check out our Odds-and-Ends section for really cool one-off pieces up to 50% off, or take a look at our Holiday section for gifts and table decor. Or, you know, feel free to browse our entire site. We’ve got some INCREDIBLE gift ideas. Got a baker on the list? We’ve got cake stands.  A holiday junkie? Consider a Mason Cash Christmas bowl. A tea drinker?  Give them a beautiful new teapot!

But enough talk. Let’s bake instead! What makes these cookies extra special? You don’t have to chill the dough before baking. You can freeze the cookies OR the dough. They hold their shape without being too hard. They bake quickly. But most importantly, they’re super-tasty.

Our signature christmas cookie recipe

Items Shown: Holly Leaves, Wood Plate

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 egg
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • zest of one tangerine or small orange
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 (unless you’re making and freezing the dough.)
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a mixer (or with a hand mixer if you want)  cream together the butter, lemon zest, tangerine zest and sugar until the mixture is well combined.
  4. Add the egg, scrape the bowl, and then add the vanilla extract.
  5. Add flour mixture and beat until just combined. Don’t over mix or you’ll ruin the texture,  but scrape bowl to make sure everything is incorporated.
  6. Once dough is barely incorporated (It’ll still be crumbly, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead it lightly with your hands to combine, then roll to about 1/4 inch thick.
  7. Cut into shapes and put on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  8. Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown, or freeze flat with parchment between cookies.
  9. Decorate as you see fit! I use a quick royal icing (powdered sugar, lemon juice, egg white) to ice my cookies. Sometimes I go crazy with the sprinkles.

See below for more cookie baking, decorating and gifting tips!

decorated christmas cookie ideas, PLUS christmas cookie decorating tips, tricks, and recipes

Photo Credit: Bake at 350. Check it out – she’s ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE!

Need some cookie decorating inspiration?  The Brilliant Bridget over at Bake at 350 (hello, alliteration!) has a killer holiday cooking guide – everything from recipes to tips to decorating ideas all in one place. Click here to be absolutely wowed!

Invisible Outline with Royal Icing_3

Photo Credit: Sweet Sugar Belle!

How about some flawless icing?  This post (and hello, video tutorial) over at Sweet Sugar Belle will have you making professional looking iced cookies in no time!

Toasted_Oatmeal_PB_Sandwich_Cookies_8

Photo Credit: We are Not Martha

Need a pretty cookie that packs? We are Not Martha suggests these sandwich cookies – Check them out at the end of the post, packed in cute holiday gift boxes!

Photo Credit: The Purl Bee via The Kitchn

Need more cookie-wrapping inspiration? Check out this post over on The Kitchn. Everything from jars (hello, Kilner) to take out containers to brown lunch bags can be made into beautiful gift containers with a little ingenuity.

So there you have it, folks. It’s not too late to make (and give) a fabulous holiday gift – I mean really, can you think of anyone who doesn’t like cookies? Whether you’re making our cookies or favorite recipes of yours, whoever is on the receiving end is going to be one lucky friend! And, since it’s a week away, Merry Christmas. If that’s not your thing, Happy Holidays, happy winter, happy day!

 

 

The Twelve Day Of Christmas Sale: Details, Rules and More

December 9th, 2014

As you may have seen, We’re running a 12 Days of Christmas Sale. One item, every day for 12 days. Here’s how it works: Every day for 12 days, we’re putting an item on exceptional discount. To get up to date emails describing each item BEFORE they go on sale, sign up for our email list.   People on that list get a heads up about what’s going on sale.

Now here are the rules of the 12 Days of Christmas sale:

1. You can’t use any other coupons with the sale. This includes the “FreeShipping” code and the Newsletter sign up code. Please save those for another time.

2. Each item is only on sale for a day. Once that day is over, the sale ends. The sales run 12:00 am to 11:59pm EST.

3. The same deal will not be offered twice. Every day is Unique!

4. The specials are for retail customers only. If you’re a wholesale or commercial account, we can’t apply these sales to your order.

5. The sale discounts are automatic- no coupon code to enter. They’ll automatically be applied at checkout.

6. The sale item each day will be featured in the rotating banner at the top of our page, as well as in our email.

If you’ve got any questions, please give us a call, reach us via livechat, or email [email protected]

Happy Holidays, everyone, and happy shopping!

Potato Pancakes – Our Hanukkah Latke Recipe

December 4th, 2014

Here at Pacific Merchants we love the holidays, and we’re pretty equal opportunity when it comes to celebrating. Why? Because we’re a pretty diverse group and learning about each others’ customs is a blast. So we figured, before we dig in on Christmas-mania, early December would be a good time to share our favorite Hanukkah recipe: a simple recipe for latkes that is beyond delicious.  Plus, we’ve scoured the net for some other delicious variations on  potato pancakes. Because nothing says good times like fried carbs, fascinating traditions, bright lights, miraculously efficient oil lamps, and great friends.

I’m sure you know that latkes are traditionally served at Hanukkah, but I’ve served them at parties all year long. When made on the smaller side and topped with a bit of sour cream and a slice of smoked salmon, you’ve got a beautiful, and totally crowd-pleasing appetizer. Some other favorite toppings include: Traditional sour cream and applesauce, brie and cranberry sauce, sour cream and bacon (clearly not for those who keep kosher,) fried eggs and chives, and even peanut butter and jelly. I’ve occasionally even used hem in place of an English muffin in eggs Benedict. SO good. But suppose you want to keep it traditional and serve latkes for Hanukkah? Well, first, when is Hannukah? Unlike Christmas, it changes every year. Hanukkah 2014 is December 16-December 24. Now that you know the dates, it’s as easy as whipping up a batch of these tasty treats.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 Pounds of Russet potatoes
  • 1 small white or yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 2+ Tablespoons of flour (you can sub out matzoh meal for Passover or coconut flour to make it gluten free.)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Oil, chicken fat, or butter for frying. I’d suggest bacon fat, but that’s not kosher.

Instructions

  1. Peel your potatoes and your onion. Either in a food processor or by hand with a box grater, grate your potatoes. If you’re using a box grater, be wary of your knuckles.  I wasn’t, and I regretted it.
  2. Line a wire mesh strainer with cheesecloth or a clean dishtowel. Put all your potato and onion mixture into the dishtowel.
  3. Twist the cloth to squeeze moisture from the potato mixture, and let sit for 15 minutes to drain.
  4. Transfer the drained potatoes into a bowl and add the garlic, eggs, 2 Tablespoons of flour, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.  If the mixture seems too wet, add more flour (you can always do this after cooking a test latke.)
  5. Latkes are best when eaten fresh, so about 14 mintues before you’re ready to eat, pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees, and heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add about 1/4 inch of oil to your skillet.
  6. Drop heaping spoonfuls of the mixture into the oil.  It should spread out, so  leave room between latkes.
  7. Cook the potato pancakes 3-4 minutes on each side. Both sides should be golden and crisp.
  8. Eat right away or keep warm in the oven.

There you have it – a delicious treat for the eight nights of Hanukkah in eight easy steps. Now that you know how to make potato pancakes from scratch, something tells me you’re going to be doing it all year. It’s super-easy, after all, and incredibly delicious.  But let’s just say you wanna try a different recipe. . .

 

These sweet potato latkes are from our blog – we posted them last year when looking for a sweet potato recipe for Thanksgiving, which just happened to fall on the first night of Hanukkah.

These rainbow latkes from What Jew Wanna Eat – Not only are they incredibly fun to look at, but they’re a great way to get an extra serving of veggies in. Each one is made from different produce, and is naturally colorful.

These Gluten Free Carrot Scallion Latkes from Elana’s Pantry. We love that Elana thought to make a paleo-friendly version of a latke, and we love the way the scallions and carrots taste together. A perfect combination!

These super-flavorful Zucchini and Green Garlic Latkes from Sassy Radish – I’m a little obsessed with green garlic, and I always seem to have a surplus of zucchini, so to me, this is the perfect latke recipe.

 

Apple Latkes - Photo Credit: Smitten Kitchen

Apple Latkes – Photo Credit: Smitten Kitchen

If you want to make it sweet, these Apple Latkes from Smitten Kitchen are AMAZING, especially with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. What a nice way to end a meal.

Have a happy Hannukah, Friends. I hope you enjoy it!

The Black Friday Sale – 11/27 Through 12/1

November 26th, 2014

Hello again, and happy almost-giving! We’re psyched to announce that our Black Friday sale * is going to be running Thanksgiving day (11/27) through Cyber Monday (12/1) to give you optimal time to enjoy your holiday and shop. That’s right, it’s not one or the other with us! We want you to cherish the time with your family and still get in on the great deals.  Plus, with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday (we definitely qualify) and Cyber Monday, how can we not keep the sale going all weekend long.

shipping copy

First of all, Free Shipping!  That’s right, all retail orders placed 11/27 through 12/1 qualify for free GROUND shipping. If you want it there faster, you’re going to have to pay. But you’ve got PLENTY of time until Christmas! Ground should be fine! Excludes Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Sorry Guys!

Gift Card copy

Second, free money!  No, we’re not going to mail you cash with your order, but with every $150 retail order placed between 11/27 and 12/1, you’ll get a free $20 gift certificate to apply to any order placed after 12/2.  We’ll email you the gift certificate codes by 12/2 at the latest, so you’ll have them in plenty of time to do additional Christmas shopping.  Plus, they make great gifts!

pmats

Third, All our top-selling Acaciaware® is 20% off. The unique, hand carved wood pieces are great for gifting and for serving, so buy some for you and some for a friend. You’ll end up with beautiful serveware for the holidays and  your friend will get a gift they’ll cherish for years to come! Plus, a sale this good on Acaciaware® only comes around once a year!

aca

Fourth, our Placemats are also 20% off – we want to make setting a beautiful table fun and affordable! All of our Laguna and designer mats are on sale so that you can chose your favorite color and style.

Last – We’re extending our pre-Thanksgiving sales through 12/1! That means that our Tagines are still on sale,  our bread baking set is exceptionally priced, and you’ll get a free pack of snowflake leaves with every order of decoleaves. It also means that our bakeware is 25% off, so if your Thanksgiving meal taught you that you just don’t have quite enough bakeware, now’s your chance to stock up!

We hope that you all have fun, happy and safe holidays, and that you enjoy your time with loved ones. We’re thankful to each and every one of you for being such devoted customers. Happy Thanksgiving!

*These deals are for retail customers only and are not combinable with other offers including our Newsletter Sign Up Coupon Code and blogger discount codes. Save that 15% discount for another time! Wholesale and commercial accounts do not qualify. If you order online and receive free shipping or free items, we WILL charge you for the shipping and we will NOT include those items on your purchase. Thanks for your understanding. Any questions? Call us at (888) 207-8999 or email [email protected]

Black Friday Preview and Pre-Thanksgiving Sale!

November 20th, 2014

Sing it with me, folks. “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”  Christmas sales, that is! I know, I know, it’s before Thanksgiving, but we wanted to put some things on sale now, just to tell all of our customers how thankful we are for them. Plus, we figured you could get some of your shopping out of the way now and take Thanksgiving to enjoy time with family – that’s what it’s really all about.

So, what do we have on sale now, and what do you have to look forward to?  Let’s start with our Pre-Thanksgiving sale* – First up, Free gift with purchase with every order of Deco Leaves!

Deco Leaves Cheese Leaves

Offer: One pack of Snowflake Deco Leaves with Each Retail Purchase of Deco Leaves

You read that right -with each order of Deco Leaves cheese leaves (any style!)  you’ll get a free pack of snowflake cheese leaves ($11.95 Value.) They’re great for holiday decorating and a beautiful way to bring some wintry weather indoors, without bringing the cold in.  Whether you’re using the cheese leaves to accent a cheese plate at Christmas, line your platter of latkes at Chanukah, or line a dessert tray, you’ll get a ton of use out of these food-safe parchment leaves. Plus, they come in a resealable package, so you can use half now, and save half for a Christmas in July type party!

DecoLeaves

Each Pack of Snowflake Leaves contains 4 patterns – 20 pieces total

Next on the Pre-Thanksgiving sale sale rundown: Our Mason Cash Tagines!  Whether you’re shopping for a gift for an adventurous cook or for an addition to your own bakeware collection, these beautiful stoneware pieces are a fantastic idea.  For the sale, we’ve got them marked down to $49.95, and we’ll even ship them for free via UPS ground.  So, if you’ve got a foodie on your list, consider the gift of a beautiful Tagine. They’re the traditional cooking vessel of Morocco and are fantastic for cooking richly flavorful braised meats and stews.

Buy Mason Cash Tagines - Holiday Gift Idea!

Tagines are just $49.95

If you’ve got a baker on your list, consider our bread baking set – it comes in a beautiful gift box and is a fantastic addition to a baker’s kitchen.  The set includes a generously sized mixing bowl made of signature Mason Cash stoneware. The bowl doubles as a proofing bowl and comes with a stoneware lid that, when turned upside down, works as a baking stone – the unglazed surface actually helps homemade bread get that crisp crust and tender crumb that makes bread so delicious! The set comes with recipes and is marked down a whopping $20.00!

MC Terracotta Bread set A

What else is on sale? Bakeware.  Our Mason Cash Terracotta and Enamour Bakeware lines are both marked down 25% so when you discover that you just don’t have enough oven-to-table bakeware at Thanksgiving, you’ve got plenty of time to stock up before Christmas.  The pieces in both lines are classic and go beautifully from your oven to table, so they make wonderful gifts as well as being great additions to your own kitchen! Enamour on Special Holiday Sale

Pre-Thanksgiving Sale - Black Friday Event

Both Terracotta and Enamour are on special holiday sale!

As you can see, our Pre-Thanksgiving sale is definitely something to give thanks for. But what can you look forward to for Black Friday Weekend?  Well for starters, a whole different set of items on sale, so keep checking back. Second, we’ll be running our sale Thanksgiving day through Cyber Monday (December 1.) to give you plenty of changes to figure out what you want and put in those orders!  There may even be some free gifts going on – because everyone likes free stuff.

But that’s not all (do I sound like an infomercial yet?)  From December 3-December 15, we’ll be doing a “12 Days of Christmas” sale event.  1 item per day on super sale. If you want to get email notifications, sign up for our mailing list (popup in the corner.)  You can’t use the 15% off code on the super sale items, but you can save it to use another time.  And rumor has it, Mason Cash bowls may be back!**

Are you psyched for the holidays yet? We sure are!

*Special offers apply to retail customers only. Re-sellers and commercial accounts cannot take advantage of these deals.  Unless otherwise specified, deals are not combinable with other offers, including our newsletter signup coupon code and free shipping code. Please call us at (888) 207-8999 or reach out on livechat with any question.

**For Retail orders only.

Our Signature Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipe

November 13th, 2014

Every time I look at the Calendar, I’m amazed at how fast time is flying. Thanksgiving is only two weeks away! Last week, we covered the veggies, but this week, we’re all about everyone’s favorite side dish, stuffing.  Since I cook for a huge crowd, I always do two versions of stuffing, a cornbread stuffing with sausage, and this vegetarian stuffing recipe. I love having a little something for everyone! If you’re looking for something a little different this year, scroll on down to the bottom of this post where we’ve compiled some of our favorite dressing recipes from all over the internet.  But before we start, I’ve got an important question: Stuffing or Dressing?  Is one more correct than the other?

Anyway, on to the recipe.  As we mentioned, this is a vegetarian recipe, but if you want to carnivore it up, saute some sage sausage with the carrots, celery and onions, and chicken stock instead of vegetable stock. Boom- sausage stuffing.  You can even stuff it into your bird, though I never do – I love the crispy texture the top of my stuffing gets when I bake it in a terracotta dish. It’s kind of like the edges of brownies – I just can’t get enough. Plus, you don’t have to worry about overcooking the bird while you’re waiting on the stuffing to get hot enough to kill off salmonella and that’s definitely a double win. Crispy edged stuffing and a moist, juicy bird! Let’s go.

Ingredients

  • 1 large loaf of challah or brioche (about 1 pound) cut into small cubes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 apple, diced
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8-10 sprigs thyme, minced
  • 1 sprig rosemary, minced
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 1/4 cup minced sage
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • salt

Instructions

  1. The night before, spread the bread out on a sheet tray  and leave it uncovered and out of reach of pets and small children. You want it slightly stale.
  2. Add half the butter to a saute pan. When melted, add the carrots, celery, onions, garlic, apple and herbs over medium heat until they are tender and fragrant.  Taste the mixture and add salt, leaving it slightly underseasoned.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the bread, sauteed vegetables, and cranberries. Let rest until the mixture is room temperature.
  4. Add the rest of the butter and the vegetable stock and mix until well combined. Taste for seasoning – add salt or pepper as needed.
  5. Once you love the way it tastes, add the egg and pack the mixture into a baking dish – I love cooking in terracotta since it gives me nice crusty edges while keeping the dressing moist in the middle – the perfect combination!
  6. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 20-25 minutes until the surface is crisp.  Serve alongside all your favorite Thanksgiving dishes (or with a roast chicken for a perfect Sunday supper.)

Ok, so there are a lot of ingredients, but as you can see, It’s pretty easy to make homemade stuffing. Once you have the basic stuffing recipe down, you can play with it – I’ve done cornbread instead of challah, added sausage, pecans, mushrooms and roasted garlic over the years, and even oysters for a traditional oyster stuffing – no matter what, the basic formula stays the same and the dressing turns out beautifully. That’s the magic of having a great basic recipe- all the variations are so exciting.

Now, I promised you some of my other favorite stuffing recipes. Here we go, from all corners of the interwebs!

This wild rice stuffing from Tidy Mom is not only delicious, it’s gluten free! It’s got the traditional flavors of a bread stuffing, but with nutty, flavorful wild rice, pecans, and a hint of smokiness from bacon. And really who can go wrong with bacon? It’s awesome.

Want something a little different? Try this chorizo and cornbread stuffing we found on Table for Two.  I love the addition of mushrooms and the combination of sourdough for stability with super-flavorful cornbread. It’s a totally well-rounded stuffing that’s pretty delicious on its own as well as being a great addition to your Thanksgiving table.

If you want to go the whole wheat route, that’s pretty easy with stuffing as well. Our friends over at Love and Lemons have this beautiful Kale and Shiitake stuffing recipe made with whole grain bread. Super bonus – it’s completely vegan. I know how hard it can be to accomodate everyone’s diet at Thanksgiving, so having a great vegan Thanksgiving recipe or two never hurts.  And admittedly, I’ve made this one just for myself, for dinner a number of times. There’s kale and mushrooms, so totally healthy, right?

There you have it, folks. Whether you’re a carnivore or a vegan, a bread lover or keeping it gluten free, stuffing is one of the most versatile thanksgiving recipes out there. So versatile, in fact that it goes by two names. Stuffing or dressing, it’s delicious!

Thanksgiving Recipes 2014: Our Favorite Green Bean Recipes

November 6th, 2014

So, you know that classic dish, the green beans, with the can of soup and the crispy onions? It’s the one dish that is always leftover after my family’s Thanksgiving meal. This year, I’m throwing out the classic green bean recipe because I’ve figured out how to cook green beans in a way that everyone will love – it’s a colorful, flavorful seasonal recipe that plays with the other flavors of the holiday meal wonderfully!  Bonus for anyone contending with allergies or dietary restrictions: This recipe for fresh green beans is a vegan, gluten free thanksgiving recipe that even the most traditional eaters will enjoy! It’s a twist on the classic green beans almondine that really brings a lot of color to the table – just look at how pretty it looks here! Want even more green bean recipes? Scroll on down past the recipes for a taste of some of our other favorites from around the web!

How to Cook Fresh Green Beans

Items Shown: Acacia Wood Tray

Let’s get cooking. Here’s our Thanksgiving recipe for green beans with almonds, pomegranates and oranges.  It’s a little sweet, a little salty, and SO flavorful that I almost prefer it to turkey. No joke, it’s that good. Plus, it only takes one pan and one burner to make – huge bonus on a holiday when burner space is harder to get than Superbowl Tickets.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds of green beans, ends trimmed
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • two oranges
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil.
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • salt, to taste

Instructions

Thanksgiving Sides: Garlic Green Beans with Seasonal Fruit

Items Shown: Oval Serving Tray

  1. Prepare your oranges.  This recipe uses pretty much every part of the orange, so zest them, set the zest aside, cut out the sections from between the membranes, (video here) and squeeze the juice from the membranes into a bowl.
  2. Prepare your pomegranate. Here’s our video on how to get the seeds out. Remove the seeds and set them aside. They’re the last thing you’ll use.
  3. Heat your largest skillet to medium heat. Add half of your olive oil, the garlic, and the almonds, stirring  regularly until they’re golden brown but not burnt. Pay extra attention to this step, as it’s extremely easy to burn almonds and garlic, and they’ll make the whole dish taste bitter.  Once they’re done, remove to a small bowl and set aside.
  4. Adjust the heat on your skillet to medium high. When hot (a drop of water should sizzle) add the rest of your olive oil and your green beans. Add salt at this point, as well.
  5. Toss your green beans every couple of minutes. The color should change from dull to bright green and the beans should begin to shrivel or even char a little. You’re building flavor
  6. Once the beans are tender, add in the orange zest, orange juice and orange segments.  The juice will sizzle and steam a lot.
  7. Turn pan to medium low and add pepper. Taste and add salt as needed.  Toss beans in orange segments and juice until they’re well coated, then turn onto a serving platter
  8. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and your almond/garlic mixture and serve!

 

There you have it,  A stunning, vibrant part of any holiday meal. This is the perfect fresh, bright, healthy thanksgiving side to serve along with some of the heavier dishes. It’s also quick to make, so it doubles as a wonderful weeknight option – it’s great with roast chicken!

Now I know we promised you some other favorite Thanksgiving vegetable dishes. Here are a few, from some of our favorite bloggers!

Fried Brussels Sprouts

Photo Credit: Hilah Cooking

Brussels sprouts are trendy and delicious! These Fried Brussels sprouts from Hilah Cooking are beyond delicious. With the fish sauce and rice vinegar, they have a bit of Asian flare, but are traditional and subtle enough to pair with a more basic Thanksgiving menu. We’re pretty impressed, and addicted.

Photo Credit: What’s Gaby Cooking

Another dish that we’re bringing to our Thanksgiving table this year is this insane recipe for Thyme and Honey Roasted Carrots from Whats Gaby Cooking – the fact that they’re easy to make AND super flavorful makes them a delightful Thanksgiving option.  Plus, I love carrots and easily go through a pound a week. How can I NOT have carrots on my Thanksgiving table?

Salad? For Thanksgiving dinner?  Absolutely. Not only do I have awesome salad bowls to put it in, but I love having something fresh to contrast all the heavy, carb-filled foods of the season. This salad from Two Peas and Their Pod is studded with pecans and dried cranberries. I always make a huge batch – unlike traditional lettuces, the greens in this salad don’t wilt, so it stays beautiful for leftovers the next day, and is great with sliced turkey!

 

What are you making for Thanksgiving this year? If you need more inspiration, keep checking our  blog  and our social media pages – we’ll be posting Thanksgiving recipes, tips and tricks until Thanksgiving day! Make sure to tag #PMTCHolidayTable for a chance to win a gift card to our site, too!

Adventures in Canning: How to Cure Olives

October 30th, 2014

Ever since we brought in our line of fermenting crocks, we’ve been absolutely obsessing over curing our own olives.  Why? Because olives are delicious and versatile. They’re great on cheese plates, amazing in cocktails, and SO good on their own as a snack.  Plus, they’re high in antioxidants and vitamin E. Can’t hurt, right? So when olives finally came into season here, we bought ourselves a ton of raw, uncured olives and got to experimenting.

Here’s a little thing about olives: when they’re uncured, they don’t taste good at all. In fact, they taste downright nasty. I think that cured olives had to be born out of desperation, since no one in their right mind would bite into and uncured olive and go, “Oh hey, let’s eat this.”  They’re bitter.  Another thing about olives: green and black olives can come from the same plant.  The green olives are unripe and the black olives are ripe. As you can see, we used green olives in our experiment, and we took a slightly unorthodox approach – we cured the olives like we’ve cured cabbage for sauerkraut in the past.  Put it in a crock packed with salt and seasoning and let it lacto-ferment. It seemed like a logical choice – less labor intensive than brine curing and less potential for chemical burns than lye curing. Ready for the details? Let’s learn how to cure olives.

Stuff You’ll Need

  • A fermenting crock or large, covered food-safe container
  • Sharp knife

Ingredients (this recipe can be multiplied as needed):

  • 5 lbs olives
  • 1 lb salt
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • zest of one orange
  • 5 sprigs rosemary
  • filtered water, as needed
Curing Olives in Brine

Items Shown: Fermenting Crock

Instructions

  1. Prep your olives. Pit them or cut a slit in the side of each to help them absorb the brine. Some recipes even suggest hitting them with a hammer. However you break them up, make sure you drop them right in a container of water or the spot that’s cut will oxidize, as some of ours did in the photo. This isn’t a bad thing flavorwise, but it’s not pretty.
  2. Prep your seasoning. Crush the peppercorns and garlic with a mortar and pestle or the back of a frying pan (put them in a bag first to keep them from scattering all over your kitchen.) Zest your orange in large strips using a peeler. If you’re not into the garlic/orange/rosemary thing, use whatever spices you like. Pickling spices work beautifully. So does lemon zest, thyme, and pink peppercorns. Really any mixture of hearty herbs (read: not basil or mint) works well here.)
  3. Toss your seasonings in with your salt. Get your hands in there and really rub everything together. You’ll have a crazy aromatic salt mixture, and you’ll find yourself very aware of any little cuts, nicks or scrapes on your hands. They’ll seriously burn.
  4. Add some of the salt mixture to the bottom of your crock and begin packing in the olives as tightly as possible. Once you’ve packed in about 1/4 of the olives, sprinkle about 1/4 of the remaining salt mixture. Repeat until all the olives and salt are in the crock.
  5. Pop the stones on top of your olives. Fill the water well seal and leave them alone, in a cool place, for a day. After 24 hours, check to see how much brine they’ve made (by naturally releasing juice.)  If the brine is covering the olives, leave them alone. If not, and it probably won’t be quite there, add filtered water until it covers the olives and the stones by at least a couple inches.
  6. Leave your crock in a cool dark place where it can sit for a couple of months. That’s right, you’re in it for the long haul.  Check the brine level every week to make sure they’re still covered. After about 3 weeks, open the crock, taste the olives (chances are they’ll still be bitter.)  If they’re not to your liking yet, simply check the water level on your olives to keep the fruit and the stones covered, and leave them alone. Check every week or so. Ours have been in the crock about 8 weeks and they’re FINALLY getting good!

  7. Once you’re happy with the way the olives taste, it’s time to transfer them into canning jars. You could store them for up to a year in their brine in a cool dark place. You can also can them in jars with fresh brine (1/4 cup salt to every quart of water.)  If you’re doing that, make sure to leave about an inch of head room in the jars for any gas that may try to escape.  My favorite way to store fresh cured olives is to pack them into large jars and submerge them in hot, fresh olive oil. I use lower quality olive oil for this, heat it, and pour it straight on top of the olives, leaving about an inch of headroom. The olives, which wrinkle slightly during the curing process seem to plump back up, and at the end of the day I also have this amazingly flavored olive oil to use. It’s great in a salad dressing or as a dip for bread. I also love it in my pesto.  Once these olives have cooled, I either store them in a cool, dark place for up to a month or my fridge. Or I give them as gifts.
How to Make Olives

A Jar of Cured Olives!

Well, there you have it. You’ve learned how to cure olives. Like so many things, it’s more time consuming than it is difficult. But the finished product is SO worth it!  Plus, you can actually say you made them yourself. Who makes their own olives, seriously?

A Pumpkin Bread Recipe You’ll Fall in Love With!

October 23rd, 2014

At this time of year, pumpkin is king! You see it in your ice cream, cookies, cakes, soup, salad and even your coffee.  One of our favorite pumpkin treats is pumpkin bread. While it’s delicious, I’m not talking about the pumpkin bread that reminds me a little of banana bread and is readily available in a certain chain coffee shop. I’m talking about this subtle, spiced, yeasted pumpkin bread recipe. When shaped into rolls, they’re perfect for Thanksgiving (especially if baked in one of our tear and shares, naturally) but I sometimes braid this bread like challah or even shape it like a rustic loaf. On its own, this is a fantastic vegan pumpkin bread recipe, but if you want to push it a little over the top, you can fill each roll with a bit of cream cheese for a tangy surprise.

Ok. Are you as psyched as I am? Let’s get baking. Get ready for your entire home to smell like heaven.  Seriously. This pumpkin cream cheese bread recipe is BEYOND delicious, with or without the cream cheese. Made into a loaf, it’s heavenly for turkey sandwiches. . . especially those great Thanksgiving leftover sandwiches. Full disclosure: This recipe is loosely based on a recipe by King Arthur Flour. The proportions are theirs, the tweaks are all ours.  Suggestions for making this recipe vegan are in italics.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons instant or active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm milk (or orange juice)
  • 2 large eggs (or just increase the pumpkin puree to 1 3/4 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups puréed pumpkin, either fresh or canned
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 1/2 cups  Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • zest of 2 oranges, divided in half
  • 1/2 lb cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp sugar

Instructions

  1. Ok, that may look like a ton of ingredients, but it’s easy, I promise. Even easier, this first step is only if you want cream cheese filled rolls. In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, half the orange zest and the teaspoon of sugar.  Just mix it together well, and when combined, transfer to saran wrap. Roll it into a snake (it’s like Kindergarten art class folks) about an inch thick and stash the whole thing in the fridge. You won’t need it for a while.
  2. In a large bowl (I seriously suggest breaking out our bread baking set or a Mason Cash bowl if you’ve got them) add the milk or oj, checking that it’s not too hot – should be just around body temperature or a little higher. Add in the maple syrup and the yeast and stir well to combine.  Leave the mixture alone for 5 or so minutes. If you see it foaming, you’re good. If not, your yeast is dead and you should buy fresh and start over. You can’t make happy bread with sad yeast.
  3. Once you’ve double checked that your yeast is alive (see image above) It’s time to make that bread dough. Whisk the eggs (if using,) pumpkin puree, and vegetable oil into the yeast mixture until completely combined. Add the spices and orange zest (but not the salt.)  It’ll look less than beautiful, but trust me, it all comes together in the end. Plus, it smells totally awesome, doesn’t it?
  4. At this point, add in about 4 cups of the flour,  mixing with a spoon or your well-floured hands.  When it’s combined, and probably still a hot mess, pour a generous amount of flour on a cutting board or counter top and turn the dough out.
  5. Flour your hands even more, then add the salt and about a cup of flour to the dough and begin kneading (here’s how.) If the dough begins to come together as a smooth, soft dough (it should still be sticky, but not too sticky to handle) then you’ve got enough flour. If not, add more, kneading between additions. Just don’t add more than the 6 1/2 cups the recipe calls for, or you’ll get a disappointingly dry dough. Once your dough is well kneaded (here’s one good way to check) place it in an oiled bowl. Cover with a lid (see bread baking set) or a damp cloth and let it rise in a warm place until its volume has doubled. It’ll take a little over an hour – the perfect time to re-watch your favorite episode of Game of Thrones. . . or whatever.
  6. Gently deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly oiled work surface.  Break it in half and decide how you’re going to shape it.  This recipe will either make two loaves, a loaf and a tear and share, or a large batch of rolls. Shape as desired.  If you want to put that cream cheese mix from step one in the rolls, now is the perfect time. Simply divide the dough into rolls, flatten each roll, place a chunk of the cream cheese inside it (no larger than about 1″ x 1″ and shape the roll around the cheese, double-checking that it’s sealed well. If you’re skipping that step, just shape the bread. A bread form for loaves works, as does shaping a rustic round loaf, or even braiding it. If you’re doing rolls, I suggest baking them in a tear and share or casserole dish for crisp tops and super moist sides. Just place them about an inch apart.

  7. Once your bread is shaped, cover the pans and set it aside to rise until almost doubled in size. This will take between 35-45 minutes, so preheat the oven to 350 and use this time to wash the dishes. Unfortunately, this isn’t Beauty and the Beast. They’re not going to wash themselves.
  8. Bake the bread about 30-35 minutes (20 minutes for the rolls)   until it sounds hollow when tapped, is nice and crusty on top, pulls away from the pan a little, and a digital thermometer inserted into the center registers about 190°F. At that point, let your bread cool. This will be the most difficult part. It’s going to smell absolutely amazing but you can’t touch it until it’s just a little warmer than room temperature or the whole loaf will fall apart, and that would be sad. Once it’s cool, enjoy. If you’re serving it to guests, make sure you grab a piece before serving – the whole loaf will be gone in a blink of an eye. It’s that good!

Well, friends. There you have it. An easy pumpkin bread recipe that you’ll find yourself totally addicted to. It’s the perfect thing to serve with a holiday meal, or to grab a thick, buttered slice of at 2 in the morning. It’s also super-delicious on a cheese plate with cheddar or brie! Enjoy! I know I did.

 

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


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