Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Say Cheese: How to Make a Cheese Plate

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

Now I know what you’re thinking: Cheese Plates are easy. Put some cheese on a plate and BOOM! But really, a beautiful cheese plate makes an easy party appetizer or even a simple dinner. I love arranging cheese platters for dinner parties or large gatherings because with a little planning and a teeny bit of work, you’ve got a crowd pleasing appetizer folks can nosh on while you’re still frantically cooking dinner, mopping up spills, and trying to frost a cake…or maybe that’s just my dinner parties.  I always try to over-achieve.

How to make a perfect cheese plate
Here’s how to assemble the perfect cheese plate in 8 easy steps. Believe me, it’s insanely easy.

  1. Figure out how much you need.  Anticipate needing about 3-5 ounces per person, unless your friends go crazy for chevre, bonkers for brie, or psycho for Parmesan. Ultimately, if you like your selection, it’s not the end of the world if you have leftovers. Cheese lasts a bit, and it’s good on everything from sandwiches to eggs to salad. . . but then, I don’t need to tell you that!
  2. Pick your cheeses. Try to include a variety of textures and flavors.  I normally do 3-5 cheeses on a plate. Most cheese belongs to one of four basic categories:  soft, firm, semi-firm, or blue.  Try to pick at least one that fits into each category. I also make an effort to pick some cows milk cheeses, some goats milk cheese, and occasionally some sheep’s milk cheese.  If you’re not sure what you’re getting into, talk to someone at a local cheese shop (list here) or your grocery store cheese counter.  Remember that particularly pungent cheeses will overpower a cheese plate, no matter how delicious they are. Here are some ideas, but by no means the only cheeses out there.- Soft: Brie, Chevre, Camembert, Brillat-Savarin, Humboldt Fog, Manouri
    – Firm: Manchego, Parmagiano, Pecorino Romano, Asiago,
    – Semi-Firm: Cheddar, Comte, Edam, Emmental, Fontina, Gruyere,
    – Blue: Cabrales, Gorganzola, Fourme d’Ambert, Maytag Bleu, Roquefort, StiltonBlue cheese on cheese plate
  3. Pick some accompaniments. A great cheese plate is more than just cheese – you’re going to need a cheese delivery system (think bread or crackers) and some delicious accompaniments.  Consider textures and flavors, and make sure you get something crunchy, something salty, something sweet.  I normally serve at least one kind of cracker, some sliced baguette, fruit (dried or fresh,) nuts, and either jam or honey (often both) with my cheese plate.  Below are some of my favorites- Crackers: Raisin Rosemary, Black Pepper, Gluten Free rice crackers
    – Jam: Fig Jam, Spiced Blueberry Jam, Peach Jam, plum compote, quince paste
    – Bread: Sliced seeded baguette, toasted brioche, raisin challah
    – Fruit: Grapes, Sliced strawberries, dried apricots, fresh plums, raisins
    – Honey: Thyme-infused honey, orange blossom honey, truffle honey
    – Nuts: Candied pecans, salted roasted almonds, chile lime cashews
    – Etc: Olives, Cured meat, breadsticks, artichoke hearts, pickles
  4. Pick your cheese board or cheese plate.  As you see in these pictures, I often use a few smaller plates rather than one big plate.  Why? Less mess, and it allows people who aren’t as comfortable with funky blue cheeses to steer clear entirely. Plus, placing a few different boards at different heights adds visual interest to a table. Occasionally I’ll use a huge platter or a large plank for my cheese board, but I still find myself using tiny bowls for accompaniments, a separate plate for  my soft, spreadable cheeses, and jars for honeys and jams.  Check out my top five cheese dishes here, here, here, here and here and my favorite little bowls here.Beautifully Plated Brie Cheese
  5. Line your plates or boards. If you’re using acacia wood dishes or another super-resinous wood, or if you’re using a non-porous material, this step isn’t absolutely necessary, but it’s still nice. You can use parchment paper, but I love the look of cheese leaves. They add a bit of visual interest to the plate, they’re food safe, and they help minimze the mess from gooey cheeses and drippy honey. If your dishes are porous (many wood types, slate) lining your plate with cheese leaves will keep the flavor and scent of your cheese from seeping into the dishes. As good as that cheese is, I’m sure you don’t want to be tasting it next week with your chocolate cake.
  6. If you bought cheese ahead of time and stored it in your refrigerator, remove it 2 hours ahead of time.  You want to serve cheese at room temperature to really show off the full flavor and texture of the cheese. After all, if your brie is so cold that it’s hard, it’s not going to give you the creamy, rich experience you’re hoping for.
  7. Arrange your cheese plate(s).  I do this about half an hour before the party is supposed to start. When serving wheels of brie or other creamy cheeses, I leave them whole but supply spreaders. With harder cheeses, I cut some slices and put out cheese slicers or knives for my guests to cut the rest. People are more likely to eat the cheese if they’re not the first one to slice from a wedge, so I make it easy by cutting some slices.  I also put out smaller wedges rather than massive, daunting ones. I hold the rest in the kitchen so that I can replenish the plate as needed. By keeping my cheese plate(s) a little sparse-er, it gives people room to maneuver. When considering how to arrange my cheese plate, I also consider my accompaniments and utensils. Fruit can be grabbed with fingers or tongs, but jam needs spoons, spreaders or knives.  If your guests are prone to food allergies, it may be smart to put nuts and any gluten free bread items on separate plates. If you’re serving on multiple plates, do what we have here and divide some accompaniments among the plates or even top off some of your cheeses, such as our thyme-honey topped goat Brie above.pre-slicing cheese
  8. Last, but not least, enjoy, and enjoy the extra time your cheese plate just bought you.  You may be in the kitchen doing the last few dishes, topping off those cupcakes or plating the chicken, but you can rest assured knowing that your guests are enjoying, and you will too!

Easy Snacks: Pita Chips and Hummus Recipe

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

Pita Chips and Hummus are snacks I can actually eat every day, all year round, and never get bored. However, I find myself making hummus the most in the summer – I just whip up a big batch on Sunday and bring it to work for snack (in jars with carrot sticks), use instead of mayo on sandwiches, and serve it plated elegantly when guests come over. Making hummus from scratch is super-easy, and I love having a healthy, protein-rich treat I can grab and go whenever I’m hungry.

The Best Hummus Recipe on the Planet

What is hummus? Simply put, a delicious spread with chickpeas, garlic and tahini. I’m going to avoid getting into the history of hummus but I will say this: There are a BUNCH of countries in the middle east that all claim hummus as their own, so in an effort to stay neutral (just call me Switzerland) I’m not picking a side. I’m just going to say that wherever it’s from, it’s delicious! Personally, my favorite way to eat hummus is with pita chips.  At times, I buy chips in the store,  but it’s so easy to make my own, and it’s the perfect use for any slightly stale pita you may have lying around.  Without further ado, I give you our best hummus recipe as well as a bonus recipe for super simple, extremely flavorful baked pita chips.  If you plate these beautifully on a chip and dip tray or a couple of platters, you’ve got an instant appetizer. It’s a gluten free, vegan appetizer that even die-hard carnivores will go nuts for!

Ingredients for hummus, ingredients for tzatziki

Pacific Merchants’ Best Hummus Recipe

  • 30 oz cooked chickpeas*
  • 4 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup tahini**
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons ice cold water
  • 4 oz sundried tomatoes, drained (optional)
  • salt (to taste)
  • Olive oil, paprika and cumin, for garnish

*You can either use 2 15-oz cans of chickpeas/garbanzo beans that you drain and rinse, or you can cook dried chickpeas until tender. Both work. If you use canned chickpeas, you’ll probably need to add less salt than if you use fresh.

**Tahini is ground sesame paste. You should be able to find it in the international section of your local grocery store. If presented with the option, go for a light roast tahini. If you can’t find any and/or want to make your own, here’s a recipe. And here are a few more things to do with tahini, since it comes in a big jar.

blending garbanzo beans for hummus

Instructions: If you want to get really technical, you should pinch the skins off each chickpea. It’s tedious work, but it leads to the smoothest, creamiest hummus ever. If you’re fine with a more rustic texture, you can skip this step.

Put everything except for the salt and the garnish in the bowl of a food processor (or a powerful blender.)  Pulse it until mostly combined, then blend until smooth. Taste and add salt as needed.  The beautiful thing about this recipe for hummus is that it’s totally customizable. Add more garlic and you’ve got garlic hummus. Add roasted peppers and you’ve got a red pepper hummus. Throw in a jalapeno for a spicy hummus.  We added the sun dried tomatoes listed above along with some beautiful basil for a tomato-basil hummus.   If you’d like your hummus a little creamier, add a bit more water or blend in some plain yogurt.  I occasionally mix mine almost 50/50 with yogurt to create a really good, creamy dip.

Once your hummus is flavored to your liking, Scoop into the dip portion of a chip and dip plate or mound onto a platter. Garnish hummus by drizzling it with good-quality olive oil and sprinkling with paprika and cumin.  Serve with pita chips (recipe below) or veggie sticks and you’ve got a really easy, crowd pleasing appetizer or snack.

how to make pita chips at home

How To Make Pita Chips From Scratch

My favorite pita chips at the grocery store aren’t cheap, but the pita at my local middle eastern market is, so I took a day and figured out how to make really nice, richly flavorful pita chips. Of course, you can always serve your hummus with soft pita or with veggies, but everybody loves chips, so when I’m cooking for a gathering, I make these every time.

  • 4 rounds pita, cut into wedges
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp za’atar (optional)*

*Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend. It generally consists of sesame, sumac, and  thyme, with other herbs, and sometimes salt. I got hooked on it as a kid in Israel, where we’d get grilled flatbread sprinkled with za’atar and olive oil from street vendors for snacks. SO delicious, but these chips are delicious without, if you can’t find it.

Instructions: Preheat the oven to 375.  In a large bowl, combine the oil and seasonings.  I sometimes need a little more oil than this recipe calls for, but most of the time, this is plenty. Toss the bread in the oil/seasoning mixture until thoroughly coated.  Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until tops are crisp and golden brown (5-10 minutes.)  Flip over and bake other sides (another 5 minutes) until chips are crisp.  Remove from heat and serve.

Now, if you want to get really fancy,  you can do what we did and create cute little plated appetizers. Simply pipe some hummus onto a chip and garnish and arrange them on a nice plate. We did a little preserved lemon peel, some herbs, and sun-dried tomatoes. It was awesome! You can also serve up the hummus and dip along side some totally cooling tzatziki. Check back next week and we’ll teach you how to make this classic Greek yogurt based sauce!

easy appetizers, easy vegan appetizers

 

 

 

How to Make Deviled Eggs: 2 in 1 Deviled Eggs Recipe!

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

Whenever I throw a dinner party, backyard barbecue or picnic, I always, ALWAYS make deviled eggs. They’re a a ridiculously easy, ridiculously delicious bite sized snack. As a bonus, they’re a cheap party food – When I’m cooking for a crowd I buy a flat of eggs at my local bulk store, where I can get 60 eggs for under 10 bucks. Most addictive, budget friendly appetizer on the planet! Seriously – unless you’re serving vegans.

While I’m always happy to make basic deviled eggs, sometimes it’s fun to switch things up a little bit.  This deviled eggs recipe is going to give you a really solid base to work from (or eat, if you like them plain) and two killer variations that’ll knock your guests’ socks off. Whether you’re looking for a classic deviled eggs recipe or something with a little more punch, keep reading.  But first, what the devil are deviled eggs, and what does Satan have to do with them?

Short answer: Other than being diabolically delicious and addictive, deviled eggs have absolutely nothing to do with the underworld. The term “deviled” is an 18th century term for food that’s seasoned in a zesty, spicy or zippy way. And with their mustardy kick, even the basic version of these deviled eggs is indeed zesty.  Random history note: Deviled eggs were a traditional first course in ancient Roman times. If they were good enough for the Romans. . .

Anyway, here’s how to make deviled eggs. It’s a pretty basic recipe to start, but just you wait. We’re gonna spice things up. So whip out your favorite serving platter and a bunch of prep bowls. We’re gonna cook!

Basic Deviled Eggs (Deviled Eggs Base)

Ingredients – this recipe is for 12 eggs. I normally make 12-24 at a time. Just multiply the recipe as needed

  • 12 large eggs, hard boiled – Here’s how.
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 pinch of pepper

See? Simple ingredient list so far. Ingredients for our variations below:

Horseradish Deviled Eggs (for 6 whole eggs)

  • 2 teaspoons grated horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Potato chip to garnish (optional)

Curry Deviled Eggs (for 6 whole eggs)

  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon minced parsley
  • Parsley leaves for garnish (optional)

Ok, so you’ve gathered your ingredients, right?  Here are the instructions!

  1. First, peel the hard boiled eggs. The simplest way I’ve found is to drain those piping hot eggs, put a bit of cold water in the pot with them, and shake them up so the eggs are cracked all over. Add more cold water, let sit until the eggs are easy to handle, and peel. The peels should slip right off with very little fuss.
  2. Cut the eggs in half the long way and pop out the yolks. Every now and then, you may get a yolk that’s a little close to the edge of the white, and the white may break. That’s ok.

  3. Arrange your whites on a serving platter. I LOVE arranging them in a flower shape on a big round plate. It’s ok if there’s a little yolk still clinging to the whites. It’ll still taste delicious. I promise.
  4. In a separate bowl, mash up your egg yolks, mayo, mustard, salt and pepper until pretty well combined. It may still be a little chunky.  At this point, if you want to make one (or both) of our variations, skip to step 6.
  5. Skip this step if you’re making the horseradish or curried deviled eggs:If you want classic deviled eggs, it’s time to add the mixture to a gallon sized zip top bag. Mush it with your hands (through the bag, no need to get messy) until the mixture is creamy and smooth (no chunks,) snip off a corner from the bag, and pipe the mix into the little egg white cups. Sprinkle with paprika and serve.

    Eggs are delcious

    Items Shown: 10 Inch Round Plate

  6. To make the variations, divide the egg mixture in half into two smaller mixing bowls. They complement each other really well, so I suggest making both variations, or you can keep half plain (see step 5 for the plain instructions).
  7. For Horseradish Deviled Eggs: Combine grated horseradish and paprika with the basic egg yolk mixture. When it’s well combined but still a touch chunky, scrape into a gallon sized zip top bag. Mush the contents with your hands (through the bag) until the mixture is smooth and creamy.  Snip off a corner of your piping bag and pipe into the egg whites.  When serving multiple kinds of deviled eggs, I alternate. It makes for a cool presentation.
  8. Garnish with shards of ruffled potato chips for a really cool salty, crunchy texture.
  9. For the Curried Deviled Eggs: Combine curry powder and finely minced parsley with the basic egg yolk mixture.  When it’s well combined, but still a touch chunky, scrape into a gallon sized zip top bag. Mush the contents with your hands (through the bag) until the mixture is smooth and creamy.  Snip off a corner of your piping bag and pipe into the egg whites.  Garnish with whole parsley leaves for a fresh looking, fresh tasting garnish.
devil eggs

Items Shown: 10 Inch Round Plate

BOOM. Three easy deviled eggs recipes for the price of one. Whether you’re combining one or all three, you’re about to make (and eat) the absolute hit of the party. No matter what else I make at dinner parties (or even Thanksgiving Dinner)  I never EVER have leftover deviled eggs, which is kind of a bummer. I like them for breakfast.

Want some other ideas? Does this recipe for deviled eggs just not cut it? Consider the following deviled eggs variations – just mix the seasonings with the basic recipe to taste. Really, the possibilities are endless. Get creative!

  1. Truffled Deviled Eggs – truffle salt, truffle infused mustard.
  2. Sriracha Deviled Eggs – Add 2 teaspoons of sriracha to the mix.
  3. Bacon Deviled Eggs – Mince up some crispy bacon and mix it with the yolk mixture. Garnish with slivers of crispy bacon.
  4. Pickle Devil Eggs – Add some pickle relish to your deviled egg mixture. Garnish with pickled onions.

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

Tuesday, 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!

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

Wednesday, 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!

Thursday, 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.

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

Thursday, 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

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

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

Ingredients:

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

Optional Ingredients for toppings:

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

Special Equipment:

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

Instructions:

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

Items Shown: Delicious Caramel Apples!

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

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

mr peanut

Celebrating National Pizza Month: Fall Pizza Recipe

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Instructions.

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

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

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

pmtcFallTable

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

Great Football Food: Sticky Spicy Korean Chicken Wings

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

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

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

Equipment Needed:

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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

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


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