Archive for the ‘Pacific Merchants’ Category

Say Cheese: How to Make a Cheese Plate

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

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, Stilton

    Blue 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!

How to Have a Spa Day at Home: Homemade Sugar Scrub and Avocado Honey Face Mask

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Coconut Lime Sugar Scrub

It’s time to start your home spa journey. Are you ready? Deep breath in! *hyyouuuuuuuuuuuuuuu* Deep breath out *haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa*. Now we’re talking. It’s time to get luxurious in the comfort of your own home.

Whether you’re throwing a spa party for a small group of friends, or enjoying a day off of work and some alone time, you can never go wrong with a spa day. We’re really excited to share both our Homemade Sugar Scrub Recipe, and our delightful Organic Avocado Honey Face Mask. They both take ten minutes or less to prepare, make a great gift for friends and family, and save you tons of money on skincare. I guarantee–if you use this scrub 2-4 times a week and follow your scrub sesh with the avocado and honey face mask application, your skin will feel softer and more hydrated than it has in years. I gave a sample to my mom last week and she is absolutely in love! This is a woman who does not cheap out on her skincare regimen, and who I’ve been trying to convince for years that she doesn’t need anything fancy to upkeep her -already- beautiful skin. Last week she finally used some of this magic scrub, and her mind totally changed:

Mom Sugar Scrub Screen Shot

Mom approved! #Score #ImDoingSomethingRight

The benefits of avocado and coconut oil for skin are endless. If you’re looking for a cheap, easy and healthy way to cleanse and hydrate your skin, look no further.

Sugar Scrub Ingredients

Featured Items: Kilner Blue Top Jars (Made in the UK!), Acacia Wood Round Calabash Bowl, Acacia Wood 12″ Square Plate

Hydrating Coconut Lime Sugar Scrub

What You’ll Need:

-1 cup white sugar (you may use brown, but I like to use white for citrus scents.)

-1/3 cup coconut oil (found at most local grocery stores these days! People also use coconut oil for hair maintenance, butter substitution in baking and cooking, etc.)

-Zest of 1 lime (may substitute with 1/2 grapefruit rind if you would like a noticeably sweeter scent or like this scent better. It will also color the white sugar a lovely coral color.)

-5-15 drops lemon or lime essential oil (lemon is easier to find.)

-5-10 drops coconut essential oil (optional)

Sugar and Coconut Oil

1. Combine sugar and coconut oil. If it’s too dry for your taste, add more coconut oil and if it’s too oily add some more sugar! The consistency is totally up to you. The nice thing about coconut oil is that it’s almost entirely unscented, so it won’t make a difference in the scent if you add more or choose to dilute it with additional sugar.

Lime Zest

Featured Item: Acacia Wood Round Calabash Bowl

2. Add the grated lime zest to the sugar coconut oil mixture. We actually chopped up our lime peel to make it more chunky, but zesting is recommended and preferred. You can also add lime juice, or even lemon juice/zest. The goal of this scrub is to be generally citrus-y, so if there’s one citrus fruit you prefer, this recipe is definitely flexible! The benefits of lemon and lime include preservational qualities and natural antiseptic properties. By adding a little bit of lemon or lime juice to this scrub we are not only extending its shelf life, but also providing the benefit of a deep, thorough skin cleanse that will kill off many unwanted “germs”. Pretty awesome that this is a natural attribute of the fruit!

3. Add your essential oil drops, and stir thoroughly. If you actually want to smell any coconut you’ll have to add a coconut essential oil. Otherwise, as mentioned above, the coconut oil is basically scentless. This allows you to add as little or as much scent as you want according to personal preference! Brilliant.

Coconut Lime Sugar Scrub

4. Pack your Kilner Jars full of your homemade sugar scrub, and voila! Gift, or keep for yourself. This is a great party favor or group activity for a spa party, wedding shower, or craft day. It’s also entirely edible, so it’s safe to make both around and for kids! If you skip on the coconut oil, this also makes a great “rim sugar” for beverages. Our adorable Blue Top Kilner Jars come in a vast array of shapes and sizes, from a sample size to a more hefty pot of scrub.

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Honey Avocado Face Mask Ingredients

Avocado Honey Face Mask

What You’ll Need:

-1 medium to large avocado, preferably ripened

-1/3 cup honey

-1/2 a lemon or lime (to squeeze!)

-1 Kilner .25L Preserve Jar

Scooping Avocado

1. Scoop the avocado into an Acaciaware Bowl from its shell. This recipe makes 1 small jar of face mask, which is good for personal use. If you’re making a larger batch, simply multiply the ingredients by the number of jars you’d like to make.

Add Honey to Face Mask Mix

2. Add the honey. At this point it’s also time to add that squeeze of lemon or lime; this will keep the mix green/fresh for a longer time due to the acidic properties of the juice.

Mash the Avocados for Face Mask

3. Mash the avocado honey mixture with a spoon or with your hands! This part is fun. How easy is this?! If you’re looking for an extremely smooth avocado face mask, put the mixture into a glass or metal mixing bowl and use an immersion blender to smooth out/puree the avocado honey mix.

Finished Honey Avocado Face Mask

4. Apply liberally to your face after using the coconut lime sugar scrub. That’s literally it! The face mask has a shelf life of about 3-5 days in the fridge. Sometimes it even lasts a little longer. We’d love to know how you like both the sugar scrub and this face mask: please tell us in the comments, or shoot us an email at social(at)pacificmerchants.com!

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Last but not least, no home spa day is complete without hydration. Staying hydrated is a great way to make your skin truly glow, and your body function at its full capacity. Your body works so much better when it has water! Sometimes drinking plain water can be boring though, so we decided to try out a flavored water recipe.

Flavored Water

Featured Items: Kilner Vintage Clip Top Bottles, Kilner .5L Preserve Jars, and our Acacia Wood Baguette Tray.

Strawberry Water

Featured Item: .5L Kilner Preserve Jar

Simply add quartered strawberries and sliced lime to your water for a lovely and naturally sweet-sour flavor, or a combo of basil and cucumber for a crisp, savory flavoring. Do this in a Kilner Bottle, and keep refrigerated for a few hours before serving so the fruit has a chance to more greatly flavor the water. Serve in our adorable .5L Kilner Preserve Jars, and garnish for insane cuteness. I am seriously obsessed with jars, it’s a problem. #JarHoarder

Me (warning: this is terrifying):

Jar Hoarder

Feeling a bit more relaxed? We hope so. Hopefully the above photo didn’t jar you too much on this day of relaxation (get it, get it?).

Let us know how your projects turn out, and if there’s anything you tried that you liked better! Also tag your photos on Instagram with #pacificmerchants to show us what you’re up to. Remember people…it’s all about enjoying the simple pleasures of life. Everything else falls into place.

Love,

Pacific Merchants

Korean Recipes: How to Make Korean Barbecue Steak and More!

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Last week we mentioned that we were looking for awesome Father’s Day ideas and decided  that one of the best ways to honor the amazing dads in our life is to cook an amazing meal.  Steak for Father’s Day is pretty standard, so we figured we’d spice things up a little and make a really killer Korean barbecue recipe. The brilliance of this marinade is that it works on anything – you can marinate chicken, beef, short ribs, pork, and even extra-firm tofu in this mixture, grill it, and you end up with culinary magic!

Korean Barbecue Beef on an Acacia plateKeep reading. Not only are we talking how to make the best Korean Barbecue Marinade, we’ll also talk about some other dishes to complement this killer steak, so you can cook your dad (or whoever) an awesome meal! From cocktails and appetizers to dessert, we’ve got you taken care of.  Added bonus: With a little planning ahead (marinate your protein overnight) this is a really quick, easy dish to cook. You can make it as a quick weeknight dinner recipe or as a special occasion meal.  Let’s get cooking!

A few ingredients. Learn how to make korean barbecue

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2/3 cup fresh guava or pineapple juice
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1 1/2 inch piece of ginger root, grated
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 2-3 lbs protein of your choice, sliced 1/2 inch thick (steak, extra-firm tofu, shrimp, pork loin, short ribs, chicken breast)

Ingredients for Korean Barbecue Layout

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients except for protein in a jar or a bowl and shake/mix well to combine. I used a Kilner jar and it worked like a charm.
  2. Pour marinade over the protein of your choice. I spread mine out on a serving tray for pictures, but a bowl works too.
  3. Massage with your hands to combine.
  4. Cover and set aside for at least 4 hours or as long as overnight.
  5. When ready to cook, preheat a grill to medium high heat. A pre-heated grill is your best friend if you want a nice char and rich flavor.
  6. Grill ingredients for 3 minutes per side.
  7. Remove from grill and serve.

Marinade in Jar Pour that marinade

Ingredients 1 Meatporn closeup

It’s honestly that simple. Nothing to it.  The only hard part is figuring out what else to serve, because meat alone doesn’t make up a meal.  I’m sure your dad told you to eat your veggies.  Here’s our suggested menu, if you want a fancy, multi-course meal. If you want it simple, you could always go the way we did and just serve kimchi, rice and meat, along with a nice green salad, or you can take it that extra step and make a highly fabulous Korean-inspired feast!

Cocktail: We Love this plum-basil cocktail from Saveur.  The ingredients aren’t traditionally Korean by any stretch, but the fruity, herbaceous flavors of the drink really work beautifully with our menu.

Soup: Traditional at New Years, this Korean Rice Cake Soup recipe from The Kitchn is a delicious, warming vegetarian soup filled with rice cakes, herbs, and a hint of seaweed. SO comforting. If rice cake isn’t your thing, consider their Korean noodle soup recipe. Also vegetarian, also delightful!

If it’s a little warm for soup, consider this awesome salad in its place: Spicy Bean Sprout Salad from Beyond Kimchee, an amazing blog with a focus on Korean food. Bookmark it. Read it. Love it.

It’s pretty traditional to serve Kimchi with Korean Barbecue and (humblebrag alert) our Kimchi recipe is excellent. Give it a shot. You may like it. Also, check out our Kimchi Kit.

Let’s move on to Dessert. Coffee and donuts are a pretty perfect pairing. We figured that tea and donuts would be equally good, and this pairing of a warm cinnamon tea (recipe from Aeri’s Kitchen) with sweet potato rice donuts (also from Beyond Kimchee) is the best way to end a meal. Soothing, comforting, and damn delicious!

Marinating MeatWhether you’re thinking about making a steak for Father’s day, looking for an epic menu, or just trying to figure out what to make for dinner tomorrow night, we hope this menu helped. I know we’re excited to have it again this Sunday, June 15 for Father’s Day!

One last thing – To all the dads out there, HAPPY FATHER’S DAY (yes, we’re yelling it!)   You rock. Thank you.

 

Summer Cocktail Recipe: Kentucky Sunset

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Remember when you were 5 years old and summer break was a thing?  Whole months in the summer to play, relax and enjoy every moment of every day?  In an effort to reclaim that relaxed spirit of summer in adulthood, we sat down on one unseasonably hot afternoon and created this craft cocktail.  The plan:  with just one sip, the day melts away, you can relax and feel like a kid on summer break all over again.  We’re pretty proud of the way it turned out.   This drink is sweet with fresh squeezed strawberry juice, tangy from grapefruits and just the right amount of bitter.  The bourbon adds a rich note, bringing the whole thing together beautifully.  Ready?  Break out your bottles, or your summer cocktail set, if that’s more your style, and get ready to drink in summer. Literally.

cocktail with strawberries, served in jars

This recipe makes 4 bourbon cocktails. – a perfect summer cocktail recipe for sharing with friends or neighbors by the pool.  When we throw parties, we love putting our fresh squeezed juices, garnishes and bourbon out on the table in Kilner bottles so guests can mix their drinks to their own liking, kids can drink just juice, and everyone can pick the perfect umbrella to go with their outfit.  Because what’s an electric-pink drink without a cocktail umbrella anyway?

How to make a perfect Bourbon cocktail from scratchIngredients

  • 12 oz high-quality Kentucky Bourbon.  Maker’s Mark works beautifully.
  • 8 oz grapefruit juice
  • 12 oz strawberry juice.
  • Angostura Bitters (1 healthy dash per drink)
  • 1 liter club soda, tonic(if you want a sweeter drink) or champagne (if you want a stronger drink)
  • Ice
  • Fruit for Garnish – I like small strawberries and chunks of pineapple.
  • Festive umbrellas.

how to make a summertime cocktail

Instructions

  • Like so many craft bartenders, we make our own juices for this drink.  If you’d like to take a shortcut, buy good-quality, fresh squeezed juices at your local grocery store. If you’re making juices, feel free to do them ahead of time, transfer the juice into bottles, and take time to chill it. It’s summer – you want that drink to be as refreshing as a dip in the pool.
  • Add Ice to 4 glasses (I love the rustic look of Kilner mason jars for bourbon cocktails).
  • Quickly add 3 oz of bourbon to each glass. Yes, they’re strong drinks. Please remember that before getting in the car.
  • Add 2 oz of grapefruit juice and 3 oz of strawberry juice to each glass.  Throw in a healthy dash of bitters and give each drink a stir with a cocktail spoon.
  • Top off with an assortment of fresh fruit (ideally speared on a vividly colored cocktail umbrella.)
  • Kick off your shoes, relax, and enjoy your summer break. Remember, it’s a state of mind.

classic summery cocktail Fruit in Kilner jars - for garnish how to garnish drinks enjoying drinks in Kilner jars poolside

Shameless self-promotion time: All the glassware pictured above is included in our summer cocktail set.  It includes the 3 bottles, 9 jars (6 for drinking, 2 for garnish) and even a funnel to fill those bottles easily.  Basically, if you’re looking to stock a bar cart (for summer cocktails or for making and garnishing the perfect martini recipe.) The umbrellas are not included, but believe me, they’re pretty easy to find and TOTALLY worth having.

Spanish Tapas Recipes Worth Trying: Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp with Garlic)

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

Shrimp with garlic recipe

It has been said that Gambas al Ajillo is the world’s most perfect tapa, and every time I try this killer tapas recipe I seriously have to agree. Shrimp. Garlic. Olive Oil. Salt. A hint of parsley. A touch of Paprika. Really, it’s that simple. 6 ingredients total and you have a full-on perfect bite of food.  Now, if you don’t like garlic, or you’re not big on seafood, this probably won’t rock your world.  But for the rest of you, believe me. This is one of those tapas recipes you’ll try once and end up  making a million times, over and over again. You’ll look for any excuse to make it, because it’s that easy and that delicious.

How to make Spanish Food

Want the perfect excuse?  Throw a summer tapas party. Pull together some of your favorite recipes for small, shareable bites (that’s what tapas are, after all) and invite a few good friends. Break out a bottle of Spanish Cava or Rioja (or a lovely, fruity summer cocktail) and enjoy the easiest dinner party you’ve ever thrown. If you need more tapas ideas, click here for last week’s patatas bravas recipe.  Or bounce on over here for some meatballs.  Or head on over to this post for a watermelon salad that, when served in small bowls makes for a refreshing, flavorful bite.

Tapas tasting set spread

But enough talk. Let’s make some shrimp. I’m sure you want to see what the best tapas recipe ever is all about.  This recipe serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb shrimp, shelled and de-veined. I often buy mine frozen. It works and it’s cheaper.
  • 10 cloves garlic, sliced. It may seem like a lot, but it’s delicious. Don’t skimp.
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil (Go for Spanish if you’ve got it.)
  • 1 pinch of salt, plus more to taste
  • 1.5 tsp hot smoked Spanish Paprika
  • 3 Tbsp minced fresh parsley.

Instructions

  1. Make sure your shrimp are thawed (if frozen) and peeled. make sure your garlic is sliced and your parsley is minced. This will go quickly.
  2. Throw olive oil, a pinch of salt and garlic into a large saucepan.  Gradually bring to medium high heat, stirring frequently in order to keep garlic from burning.
  3. When garlic is golden brown and your entire kitchen smells amazing, remove garlic from pan with slotted spoon and set aside.
  4. Add shrimp and paprika to the hot oil. Give it a stir to combine the ingredients. It may spatter. Prepare yourself.
  5. Cook over medium high heat until cooked through, tossing occasionally. If you used fresh shrimp, they’ll most likely be cooked through 3-4 minutes – They’ll be done a minute or two after they turn pink.
  6. Add garlic back in with shrimp, tossing to combine.
  7. Taste a shrimp (chef’s privilege, y’all) and decide if it needs anything. Add salt, additional paprika. Consider a squeeze of lemon.
  8. Transfer from pan into a terracotta dish.
  9. Serve with crusty bread to sop up all that garlic-oil deliciousness. #carbs

tapas restaurant style gambas al ajillo

There you have it, folks. In less than 10 steps, and WAY less than 10 ingredients, you’ve got the best tapa recipe in the world. So break out your tapas serving dishes (don’t have any? let us fix that!) and call up your friends. You could be rolling in the shrimp and the awesome conversation in less time than it takes to get one of those fancy, $12 cocktails at your local upscale watering hole. Seriously though. Since when does it take 20 minutes to get an old-fashioned?

Restaurant style tapas at home

Mother’s Day Breakfast: How to Make Pancakes from Scratch

Friday, April 25th, 2014

Mother’s Day already? Yep, Mother’s day is on Sunday, May 11 – Just 2 weeks away. If you need help figuring out how to plan a great Mother’s day, we’re ready to help you out. Our trick: Start the day right!

Easy Pancake Recipe to wow your mom

If your mom is anything like mine, she taught you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So help your mom start her day off right with a stunning, easy to make breakfast: homemade pancakes, made with love.  We’ve even put together a pancake breakfast kit so you can make mom’s breakfast as beautiful as it is tasty.  So let’s get cooking.

Whether you’re an experienced cook or just learning how to make pancakes from scratch, this buttermilk pancakes recipe is as simple as it is delicious.  As is, it’s the perfect basic pancake recipe, and with a few tweaks (see suggestions at the end of the recipe) it can become a unique, unexpected, highly delicious breakfast experience.

Make Pancakes for Mother's Day!

 

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted plus extra for griddle
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar (either white or brown
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 Teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1.5 to 2 cups buttermilk
  • Optional ingredients: vanilla extract, lemon zest, orange zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, almond extract, blueberries, chocolate chips*

Buttermilk pancakes, Blueberry Pancakes, from scratch pancake recipe

Instructions:

  1. Get ready for an easy pancake recipe. Very few ingredients, very simple process, great results. It may seem like a lot of steps, but trust me. each step is easy!
  2. In a large bowl, like the Counter Grip Bowl from our Pancake Breakfast Set, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt until thoroughly combined.
  3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the buttermilk and eggs. Whisk to combine.
  4. Add the butter and whisk, or stir until just combined. Some lumps are good – DON’T whisk til smooth. If it seems too thick (like mine above) add more buttermilk.
  5. Heat an electric griddle to 375 or a pan to medium high heat.
  6. When skillet or griddle is hot, add butter. Let it melt and bubble.
  7. Add a drop of pancake batter to the pan. If it sizzles, it’s hot enough.
  8. Using a ladle, pour pancake batter into the pan. You can make your pancakes as big or small as you want, but I find that 5″ – 6″ diameter pancakes both cook evenly and are easy to flip.
  9. Leave the pancakes alone for 1-2 minutes. Seriously, don’t mess with them.
  10. When to flip pancakes: Flip the pancakes when they appear set around the edges and bubbles are rising to the surface throughout.
  11. How to flip pancakes:  Grease your spatula. Wiggling it a little, slide it under the pancake all the way. Lift and turn over quickly.
  12. Let cook another 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat.
  13. Serve immediately, drizzled with maple syrup or keep warm in the oven. No one likes cold pancakes.  We suggest a stack of 2-3 pancakes per person, served with a side of sliced fruit.

How to make pancakes for breakfast

*  About the optional ingredients: Consider amping up the flavor of your pancakes to make them extra special for mom.  Play with flavor combinations and think about what your mom likes. My mom’s favorite pancakes have orange zest and nutmeg in them.  Vanilla and lemon zest is also great as is cinnamon and almond extract.  With any herbs, spices, extract or zest, add them to the pancake batter with  your liquid ingredients.  I like letting my citrus zest sit in my melted butter. I think it gives a stronger flavor.   For bigger add-ins like blueberries, fresh bananas or chocolate chips, add them in when the first side of the pancakes are almost set – RIGHT before the flip.

There you have it. Delicious pancakes that are perfect way to kick off a beautiful Mother’s Day.  This recipe is literally the best pancake recipe. It is adaptable if you want to make blueberry pancakes from scratch, great for chocolate chip pancakes, and super-easy.  If you plan it right, these pancakes are the perfect breakfast in bed entree: Easy to cut and eat with a fork, comforting, and delicious.  Sure, you run the risk of getting syrup on the sheets,  but if mom loves breakfast in bed, it’s totally worth it.

Learn How to make Pancakes from Scratch!

How to Make Pickles: A Tutorial on How To Pickle Like a Pro!

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

make your own fermented pickles


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

Ready? Let’s ferment! It’s more appetizing than it sounds and is the simplest way to learn how to make pickles.

How to can pickles tutorial

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

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

Equipment

Making Pickles from scratch

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

how I make pickles

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

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

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

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

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

Pickling tutorialBoom! Now you know how to make pickles.

Perfect Spring Cocktail Recipe: Lemon Lime Margarita

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Lemon Lime Margarita in Kilner glasses

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

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

Perfect Margarita recipe for Cinco de mayo

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

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

how to put salt on the edge of a margarita glass

Instructions

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

Fiesta set

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

gif maker

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

Pacific Merchants Presents: DecoLeaves Cheese leaves

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

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

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

leaves for cheese, food, table decorations

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

foodsafe parchment leaves decoleaves euroquest leaves, french leaves

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

party supply leaves, party decor, decorations, cheese leaves

 

 

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

Friday, March 7th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 


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