Archive for April, 2011

Royal Wedding Craziness!! What to give the couple who has everything!

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

What to give the couple who has everything? Finding just the right wedding gift can be a royal conundrum, and while Prince William and Kate Middleton, who are to be married on April 29, have admirably asked well wishers to make donations to one of several causes they support, in lieu of gifts, we at Pacific Merchants still stubbornly wish to send a little something special to them in addition to our charitable contribution.  Having never purchased a gift for a prince of the realm, we conducted a little research into past royal wedding gifts. It certainly gave us food for thought…

Jewels seem to be a safe bet. Strands of pearls, diamond necklaces, ruby earrings and elaborate tiaras were bestowed on Queen Elizabeth II (then Princess Elizabeth) when she married Prince Philip in 1947. In turn, Queen Elizabeth gave Lady Diana Spencer a rather lovely pearl and diamond tiara when she married Prince Charles in 1984.
But maybe those gifts are too personal. What about a little something for the home?
China is ubiquitous, such as the two hundred piece Chinese porcelain dinner service President Chiang Kai Shek presented to Queen Elizabeth. But no, the freight charges on something like that would be frightful. Perhaps a small knick knack, like the three million dollar, gem-encrusted gold model of an Arab boat the Emir of Bahrain presented to the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1984. Wouldn’t that look smashing in the Balmoral curio cabinet!

But safe bets aren’t always the best bets, which is why we were intrigued by the idea of presenting the royal couple with a racehorse similar to the one the Aga Khan sent Queen Elizabeth, or perhaps something a bit boho chic, like the piece of crocheted cotton lace personally made for the self same monarch by Mahatma Gandhi – and which then Queen Mary mistook for a loin cloth! Loin cloth or not, how sick an antimacassar would that be for the royal Lazy-Boy recliner!
Beginning to feel overwhelmed by a plethora of potential presents, we turned to the larder for ideas. What about five hundred cases of tinned pineapple, such as the government of New Zealand sent to –yes, her again!- Queen Elizabeth II, or a 1000 lb. wheel of Cheddar cheese, just like the one Queen Victoria and Prince Albert logged as a wedding gift in 1840? You’re right of course, it’s probably still sitting in the royal kitchen.

And then it dawned on us. Kitchen. Of course! The best gift not only honors its recipient, but reflects the best of its giver. We at Pacific Merchants pride ourselves on our wide range of Mason Cash products: mixing bowls, pudding basins, kitchen accessories, and bakeware. Why not send the royal couple a set of our very own Mason Cash mixing bowls! The” Rolls Royce” of mixing bowls; they have been a kitchen fundamental in British homes for over two hundred years! (And did we mention that our Mason Cash pudding basins are given out as gifts by the British Royal Household to this very day!)

Indeed! A set of Mason Cash mixing bowls is just the thing: a family heirloom Will and Kate will no doubt hand down to the bevy of royal rascals they produce. Along with a tiara or two. Can’t make the royal wedding? Get a flair of Britain in your own home with Mason Cash pudding basins used by the Royal Household are wonderful as mixing bowls, cereal & ice cream. Design fits in both traditional and modern kitchens.

The Queen uses Mason Cash pudding basins for Christmas gifts of her secret pudding recipe!
Mason Cash Pudding Basin With Queen of Englan seal.

Lift Me Up!

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Spring is in full flower, and with it comes a blossoming sense of renewal. As we take in the glory of flora and fauna in all their youthful vigor, our thoughts turn to celebration. Menus showcase the bounty of the season: simply roasted lamb and veal, a salad of minty green peas and haricot verts, slender stalks of steamed asparagus, a bowl of ruby red strawberries tossed with balsamic vinegar. As the thought of these delightful dishes waft through our collective unconscious here at Pacific Merchants, they bring to mind a perfect dessert to accent spring entertaining: Tiramisu.
Tiramisu is an ethereal dessert composed of lady fingers, marscapone cheese, chocolate, and rum. Both delicate and complex, it literally means “lift me up” in Italian – and this recipe is guaranteed to do just that.! Tiramisu is not only a delightful foil for your delectable spring recipes, it is also easy to make in advance. All the better if you want to clock some serious nap time in your garden hammock, or better yet, engage in a little youthful vigor of your own! It’s also easy to prepare, and ideal to spring on friends.

Terrific Tiramisu
Ingredients
• 6 egg yolks
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• 1 pound mascarpone cheese
• 1 1/2 cups strong espresso, cooled
• 2 teaspoons dark rum
• 24 packaged ladyfingers
• 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate shavings, for garnish
Directions
In a large Mason Cash mixing bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale, (About 5 minutes with an electric mixer, longer by hand!). Add mascarpone cheese and beat until smooth. Add 1 tablespoon of espresso and mix thoroughly.
In a small Mason Cash pudding basin, add remaining espresso and rum. Roll each ladyfinger in espresso for 5 seconds only! Any longer will make the lady fingers dissolve into an unseemly mess. Place your tipsy ladyfingers on the bottom of a 11 1/2” x 8 1/2′” Mason Cash baker, breaking them up as needed to fit the bottom snugly.
Spread evenly 1/2 of the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers. Arrange another layer of soaked ladyfingers and top with remaining mascarpone mixture.
Cover tiramisu with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, and up to 8 hours.
Before serving, sprinkle with chocolate shavings. Mason Cash mixing bowls are terrific for making tiramisu!

Bake Paska- Ukrainian Easter Bread

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Ukranian Easter Bread

Paska is a very popular, slightly sweet egg bread, consumed throughout Eastern Europe in countries such as Ukraine, Russia, and Poland as part of Easter celebrations. Each country’s recipe differs slightly from the recipes used in other countries, but the symbolism associated with the bread tends to remain the same.

Not only is Paska baked throughout Eastern Europe, but those who enjoy it also decorate the top by arranging pieces of dough into designs prior to baking. Detail ranges from braiding, rosettes, and crosses, to more ornate styles. Try out our recipe for Ukranian Paska, and have fun decorating the top however you like!

Braided Paska

Paska Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Cup Sugar plus 1/2 Teaspoon Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Lukewarm Water
  • 1 Package active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 Cups milk
  • 2 1/2 Cups plus 5 cups all purpose-flour
  • 3 Large eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 Cup melted butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Directions:

  • Scald the milk and set aside so that it can cool to a lukewarm temperature. Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon sugar in water and sprinkle yeast over it. Mix and let stand 10 minutes.
  • Combine the yeast mixture with scalded milk and 2 1/2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Cover and let rise until light and bubbly
  • Add eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, melted butter, salt and 4 1/2 to 5 cups flour to make a dough that is not too stiff nor too slack. Knead until dough no longer sticks to the hand and is smooth and satiny (approximately seven minutes in a mixer, but longer if done by hand). Place in a greased mixing bowl, turn to grease both sides. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise until doubled. Punch down and let rise again.
  • Reserve 1/3 of the dough for decorating. Shape the rest into a round loaf and place in a 10- to 12-inch greased round pan. Now shape the reserved dough into decorations of choice (swirls, rosettes, braiding, etc.). Cover the pan with greased plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled.
  • Heat oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Brush bread with 1 large egg beaten with 2 tablespoons of water. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F. and bake an additional 40 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer registers 190° F. If necessary, cover the top of the bread with aluminum foil to prevent the bread from over browning. Remove from oven and turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.

CeeCee’s “Secret” Brisket Recipe

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Brisket is one of the mainstays of any Passover meal, and traditional family recipes are often guarded with the vigilance of Fort Knox gold, or emergency nuclear codes.  So try and keep this one a secret, okay?

Try our Brisket recipe this Passover! Yum Yum!

CeeCee’s Barbecued Brisket

Ingredients:

  • 4 to 5 pound brisket, trimmed
  • Garlic cloves
  • Beef stock, to taste
  • 3 large onions, two sliced, one diced
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • ½  teaspoon onion powder
  • ½  teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ½  cup chili sauce
  • ½ teaspoon liquid smoke
  • ½  cup brown sugar
  • 1 California bay leaf

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 475° F.
  2. Heat Dutch oven on stove top and add olive oil. When oil begins to sizzle, add brisket and brown on all sides, turning with tongs to ensure an even seal to meat that will retain juices during roasting. When brisket is browned, remove to a plate and set aside. Add garlic to Dutch oven and sauté until golden brown. Add 2 sliced onions and sauté until translucent.
  3. While onions and garlic sauté, combine ketchup, chili sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, liquid smoke, bay leaf, and brown sugar in medium sized mixing bowl to make barbecue sauce.
  4. Return brisket to Dutch oven and set atop onion and garlic mixture. Cover the brisket completely with barbecue sauce.  Place cooking vessel in oven and reduce oven temperature immediately to 300°. Cover and cook for 2 hours, checking occasionally to make sure there is sufficient liquid in the cooking vessel.  There should be about ½ an inch of liquid at all times, to keep the meat moist. Add beef stock, to increase liquid content as needed.  Remove brisket from oven after two hours and let roasted meat cool for ½ hour on a cutting board or rack lightly tented with foil.
  5. While brisket is cooling, sauté diced onion until lightly golden. Set aside. Remove sautéed vegetables from Dutch oven and strain remaining cooking liquid into a degreasing cup. Clean out Dutch oven, and prepare for re-use.
  6. After brisket has rested for ½ hour and is cool enough to handle, carve into thin slices while maintaining shape of roast. Return to cooking vessel, cover roast with freshly sautéed onions, and degreased barbecue sauce. Return to oven and bake until very tender but not falling apart, another 2 to 3 hours.

It’s Strawberry Season!

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

The Rise of Strawberry Popularity

First bred in Brittany, France in approximately 1740, strawberries are one of the world’s most popular fruits, and are especially popular in the United States. Used around the world in preserves, juices and pies, the United States is first in strawberry growth, growing 1.1 million tons of the fruit in 2008 (Mexico was a distant second with 207,485 tons).

Strawberries and Your Health

According to a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, strawberries are third only to blueberries and walnuts in terms of antioxidant capacity. Strawberries are also a very healthy way to indulge a sweet tooth, as one cup (144 grams) of strawberries contains only 45 calories (on average) and is high in Vitamin C and flavonoids (which give strawberries some of their antioxidant properties).

Strawberry Shortcake Recipe

Thanks to the California Strawberry Commission for this wonderful recipe for their “Fresh Strawberry Buttermilk Shortcake,” you can visit their website for more information about this wonderful fruit!

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups of Flour
  • 1/4 Cup of Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/4 Tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Butter
  • 1/2 Cup Buttermilk
  • 1 Tsp. Grated Lemon Peel
  • 2 Eggs, Divided
  • 2 Pint Baskets of Fresh Strawberries (Stemmed and sliced)
  • 1 Cup Whipping Cream (we recommend fresh whipping cream), whipped and sweetened

Directions:

  • In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
  • In a small mixing bowl blend buttermilk, lemon peel, one whole egg and one egg yolk. Stir into the flour mixture to make a soft dough. Divide dough into six equal portions.
  • On a floured board, pat each portion of dough into a three-inch circle, and place on greased baking sheet. Brush generously with the remaining egg white, beaten. Sprinkle generously with additional sugar.
  • Bake in 450° Fahrenheit oven for 10-12 minutes (until golden). Remove from pan and cool on rack.
  • Sweeten strawberries, to taste (*author’s note: you may want to macerate your strawberries, depending on your preferences).
  • Slice each shortcake in half horizontally with a sharp knife. Fill and garnish with strawberries and whipped cream.

This recipe yields six servings.

Enter This Week’s Tea Set Giveaway Contest!

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Freebies and contests can be lots of fun for those who enter, and even more fun for those who win. This week, Pacific Merchants is going to give away another of our beautiful Price & Kensington five piece tea sets to one lucky winner!

You could win this tea set (or one like it)!

Win a Tea Set!

This week, we’re asking our facebook fans to write on our wall and let us know how they like their tea: iced or hot? Earl Grey, Green, or another variety entirely? Do you add any sweetener, or do you prefer your tea ‘au natural?’

About the Tea Set

Our winner will get to pick any color of our five piece Price & Kensington tea sets. Each of these tea sets include one 16 ounce (two cup) teapot, two tea mugs, and two over sized teapot-shaped tea caddies. There are eight colors to choose from: cobalt blue, white, yellow, orange, red, blue, purple and green.

We’ll choose our winner on Friday, April 8th, so be sure to get your entry in so that you can win, and watch our Facebook wall for the announcement of our selection!

Bake Hot Cross Buns this Easter!

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Hot Cross Buns have traditionally been eaten at Easter by Anglo Saxons for hundreds of years. Although the first recorded use of the term “Hot Cross Buns” dates back to 1733, many believe that the buns actually pre-date Christianity.

The Saxons, Eostre and Hot Cross Buns

While Easter is synonymous with the coming of Spring, baby animals, and (everyone’s favorite) egg hunts, Easter actually gets its name and from the German Goddess Eostre. Historians believe that Eostre was the German goddess of the dawn, and in some cases, was considered a “Spring-like fertility goddess.” Traditionally, Germans would celebrate Eostre by feasting throughout the month we now know as April. It is believed that Saxons ate Hot Cross Buns during these feasts, which were meant to symbolize the four quarters of the moon.

Eventually, the buns became highly popular throughout England, specifically during the Easter season. Protestant monarchs attempted to ban them due to an alleged tie to the Catholic church, but were unsuccessful due to their incredible popularity.

Superstitions Surrounding Hot Cross Buns

There are many superstitions that surround Hot Cross Buns. An English superstition states that buns that are baked and served on Good Friday won’t spoil or become moldy during the coming year, while another states that giving a bun to someone who is sick will help them to get better.

Legend also has it that by sharing a hot cross bun, two friends will be ensured friendship in the coming year as long as they say “Half for you, half for me, between us two shall goodwill be” while consuming the bun. Ships that carry Hot Cross Buns are supposed to ensure safety against shipwreck when carried on a boat, and kitchens that have a Hot Cross Bun hanging within them are supposedly protected against fires and ensured a perfect result when breads are baked (the hanging bun is supposed to be replaced annually).

Hot Cross Buns Recipe

Bun Ingredients:

  • 2 Tsp. Active Dry Yeast
  • 1/2 Cup 2% Milk (110-115º Fahrenheit)
  • 1 Tbsp Softened Butter
  • 1 Egg
  • 4 Tsp. Sugar
  • 1/4 Tsp. Salt
  • 1 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 Tbsp. Raisins
  • 2 Tbsp. Dried Currants
  • 1/4 Tsp. Ground Cinnamon
  • A dash of ground Allspice
  • 1 Egg Yolk
  • 1 Tbsp. Water

Icing Ingredients:

  • 1/4 Cup Confectioners’ Sugar
  • 1/8 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 3/4 Tsp. 2% Milk

Directions:

  • In a small mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk. Stir in softened butter, egg, sugar and salt. Combine 3/4 cup of flour, currants, raisins, allspice and cinnamon; add to the yeast mixture and mix well. Stir in enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough.
  • Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about four to six minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once in order to grease the top. Cover and let dough rise in a warm space until doubled– about one hour.
  • Punch dough down; shape into six two inch balls. Place balls two inches apart on a baking sheet coasted with nonstick cooking spray. Using a sharp knife, cut a cross on top of each bun. Cover and allow to rise until doubled– about 30 minutes.
  • Beat egg yolk and water; brush over buns. Bake buns at 375° Fahrenheit for 13-15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks. Combine icing ingredients and pipe over buns.