Archive for the ‘Pacific Merchants’ Category

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

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

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

How to make Christmas Cookies, How to make sugar cookies

Items Shown: Acacia Wood Plate

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

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

Our signature christmas cookie recipe

Items Shown: Holly Leaves, Wood Plate

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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

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

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

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

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

Invisible Outline with Royal Icing_3

Photo Credit: Sweet Sugar Belle!

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

Toasted_Oatmeal_PB_Sandwich_Cookies_8

Photo Credit: We are Not Martha

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

Photo Credit: The Purl Bee via The Kitchn

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

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

 

 

The 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.

Fall Table and Fall Food Photography Contest

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
pmtcFallTable
Dear Fans,

We are SO excited that autumn is here! To celebrate YOU, the fall season, and our love for bringing people together at the table we’re hosting a #pmtcFallTable contest for a chance to win a $100 gift certificate to our store. Here’s how to enter:

1. Visit any of our social networks (links in header) and #regram the Pacific Merchants fall table photo pictured above.

2. Tag @pacificmerchant in the photo.

3. Want a better chance at winning? Hashtag all your fall food and table photos with #pmtcFallTable to earn an extra contest entry.

It’s time to get creative with your fall food and table photography! We can’t wait to see what you come up with. Contest runs October 1st through October 16th 2014. We’ll #regram our favorites, and announce a winner October 17th. Winner will be chosen at random.
Also, October 1st through the 16th, eat up our super sale prices with 20% off retail purchases on our Acacia Hardwood Plates and our Place Mat collection. Coupon Code FallTable at checkout.
Let the #pmtcFallTable games begin!

Sweaters, pie, and pumpkin spice lattes,
Team PMTC

*Both Fall Table Contest and sale valid for retail customers only. Customers may not combine sale with other offers. Contest closes October 16th 2014 11:59PM. Please note that any entries submitted through a private social media account will not be seen by us, and thus will not count as an entry.

How To Make Apple Pie Filling – And How to Can it!

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Have you noticed how good apples are right now? It’s because they’re actually in season. The rest of the year, those fresh apples you’re eating were actually picked ages ago, kept chilled and under-ripe, and gassed to ripeness, which is why you’re more likely to get a mealy, sour or bland apples in the spring or early summer. Since apples are SO crazy good right now, I try to take advantage of the season. I go apple picking or hit up my farmer’s market for the freshest, ripest, most flavorful apples. I buy bushels of them and preserve as many as possible. I make applesauce, reduce apple cider to syrup, apple butter, shred apples in with my sauerkraut  (it’s crazy good), pickle them, preserve them in syrup, make jam, and, most importantly make liter after liter of apple pie filling. Why? Homemade apple pie is amazing, and when you make it with apples at their peak it’s a magical and beyond flavorful experience. It’s worth canning gallons of apple pie filling even if you just make 2 or 3 pies a year. It’s great on vanilla ice cream as a quick dessert, good swirled into yogurt or oatmeal as breakfast, and SO good as an accompaniment on a cheese plate. Brie and apple pie filling on baguette? Pure, unadulterated bliss.

If canning is still a little intimidating, check out our basic canning tutorial – We made really delicious jam and talked you through it step by step.  You can also check out the fantastic Food in Jars blog – SO much good stuff.  Whether you’re a complete canning newbie or an old pro, I think you’re gonna like this recipe – It’s crazy easy, quick, and delicious. Plus, it multiplies and divides well so you can make as much or as little apple pie filling as you want.  Ready to make pie filling? Ready to become obsessed with canning and convert that spare closet into a canning cellar? Let’s go!

Ingredients – Recipe makes 3 quarts – enough for 3 Apple pies!

  • 10 cups peeled and sliced apples
  • 4 1/2 cups apple juice
  • 6 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown  sugar
  • 3/4 cup Clear Jel (a cornstarch-derived thickener)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 Teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Peel, Core and slice those apples, then toss them in half the lemon juice and water to keep them from browning.
  2. Prepare 3 1-liter jars or 6 1/2 liter jars by sterilizing them.
  3. In a large pot, combine the apple juice and the rest of the lemon juice. Bring to a simmer.
  4. While it heats, whisk the Clear Jel, sugar, cinnamon, allspice and salt together.
  5. When the juice mix is simmering, gradually stream the sugar mixture (step 4) into the pot, whisking constantly to avoid lumps.
  6. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens.
  7. When the mixture thickens, add your apples, tossing to combine.
  8. Fill the jars, leaving about a generous inch of headspace (this filling expands.)
  9. Wipe the rims, apply the lids, and process in boiling water for 25 minutes.
  10. Remove the pot from the heat and let jars sit in water an additional 10 minutes.
  11. After 10 minutes, remove the jars and let cool! Check the seals. If sealed, these keep up t0 6 months in your cabinet, or 3 weeks open in the fridge. Like it’ll last that long. . .

Some tips

  • Whatever you do, don’t use red delicious apples for pie. Them’s eating apples. I have the best luck using a variety of apples in my pie. I use a mix of granny smith, pink lady, braeburn, and golden delicious for a super-appley, complex tasting filling. Yummmm.
  • If you can’t find Clear Jel, don’t use thickener. Just whisk in cornstarch right before making the pie.
  • Wanna peel an apple quickly? This guy has a brilliant idea. Alternately, peeling top to bottom is more efficient than going in circles

    Peeling Apples fast

    There you have it. Apple pie filling that you can make while apples are in season and enjoy all year long.  Or, if you feel like giving the gift of pie (because seriously, everyone likes pie)  Consider wrapping these up with pretty labels and ribbons and giving them as gifts!  They make a great Christmas gift, or a Thanksgiving hostess gift. Plus, if you make it yourself, I hear the calories don’t count!

More Football Food: 2 Fantastic Dip Recipes

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

If you checked in last week, you may have noticed some delicious looking dips in the background of our chicken wings post. Today we’re gonna talk about them. In my mind, chips and dip are pretty much the perfect football food, but a lot of the time I opt for veggies with my dip for a healthier option.  For our football food fest we did a little of both and it worked beautifully.  Whether you’re hunting down chip and dip recipes for game day, for a pot luck, or just for fun, our recipes for caramelized onion dip and green goddess avocado dip are SO good.  You’ll find yourself  making them for years to come.

Let’s start with our Green Goddess Avocado Dip recipe. With a food processor, blender, or immersion blender, it’s shockingly easy to make, and it’s always fun to have something to do with avocado besides guacamole – though if you want a great guacamole recipe, we’ve got one of those too.  So let’s get started on what may be my all time favorite dip for vegetables. I’ve been eating it as an afternoon snack all week.  As a bonus, I make this one with yogurt rather than sour cream, so it’s super creamy, nice and flavorful, and a really healthy snack.

Ingredients:

  • 3 ripe avocados, cut in half, pits removed
  • 2 cups greek yogurt
  • 6 green onions, green part only (you can actually re-plant those roots)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/3 cup fresh tarragon leaves
  • 2-6 cloves garlic (depends on your taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. In the bowl of your food processor (or a separate large bowl) crush the avocado with some salt and pepper. It blends better if it’s not chunky.
  2. Add all other ingredients to food processor or blender.
  3. Pulse until combined. You may find yourself needing to add a tiny bit of water if you’re working in a blender, which is why I prefer a food processor.
  4. Once your dip is well combined, taste it. Does it need any salt? Any pepper? More garlic? I sometimes even add a jalapeno to this; I like my food spicy and garlicky.
  5. Really, it’s that easy. You’re officially done. Serve with some chips, pita chips, or cut up veggies. Or just eat with a spoon.

In the immortal words of Chandler Bing, “Could that be any easier?”  I think not.  Which is why you need to make a second dip. They’re both super easy to make, they complement each other beautifully, and your guests will be wowed when they find out you made this from scratch. So on to our caramelized onion dip.  True story: I figured out how to make this because I became addicted to the pre-made version at Trader Joe’s. Homemade onion dip is super easy and crazy delicious. Let’s go.

Ingredients:

  • 4 onions, white or brown, sliced thin
  • 3 cups sour cream
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, pulled from stem
  • 1 tbsp fresh sage leaves, minced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1.  In a large saute pan, heat the butter.
  2. When it’s melted, add the onions and turn heat to medium.
  3. Let onions cook , stirring occasionally to keep them from burning. Depending on your stove, the moisture level of your onions, etc, this could take anywhere from 10-30 minutes.
  4. When onions are beginning to brown, add a sprinkle of salt, the garlic, the sage, and the thyme. You’ll have to pay close attention to keep the garlic from burning. Bitter garlic is gross.
  5. Lower the heat slightly and continue to cook until onions are a rich golden brown.
  6. Once onions are beautifully brown all the way through (they should be just lighter than an acacia wood tray)  spread them on a sheet pan to cool them quickly.
  7. When onion mixture is at room temperature, place in a large bowl. Add sour cream and stir to combine.
  8. Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed.

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen – Two super-simple dips to make at your next football party, pot luck, barbecue, PTA meeting, or whatever the next event may be. Be sure to bookmark this page  – that caramelized onion dip is a total crowd pleaser around the holidays, and an easy distraction if you’re trying to keep folks out of the kitchen. But remember, friends – Use good manners when eating your chips (or veggies) and dip. Don’t double dip.

Simple Sauerkraut Recipe – Just in Time for Oktoberfest!

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

So, you know we’ve got these fermenting crocks, and you know we think they’re awesome. You can see them in action in our kimchi and our pickles post. Of course, what good is a truckload of fermentation crocks without a killer sauerkraut recipe. Bonus: If you start your kraut now, you’ll have a fresh batch of sauerkraut for Oktoberfest. Because what’s beer and brats without sauerkraut?

Before we start, let’s break it down: What is sauerkraut and how do you make sauerkraut that tastes awesome? Simply put, sauerkraut is fermented cabbage. Now, I know you’re thinking “eeew, fermented food is gross,” but you would be wrong. Other fermented foods that you probably know are: Kimchi, Pickles, Sourdough, Cheese, Coffee, Chocolate, Yogurt, Beer, Wine, Vinegar, and Miso. I’ve yet to meet a single person who doesn’t like at least one of those things. So get ready to be a home-fermenting convert.

Supplies You’ll need:

Ingredients You’ll Need:

  • 2 heads of cabbage – Ideally organic – sometimes pesticides impede bacterial growth. Great for farmers, terrible for fermenting.
  • 3 tablespoons seas salt

Seriously. That’s it. All that punchy, funky flavor comes from the fermenting process. Here’s how to make sauerkraut in just a few simple steps. It really is a basic sauerkraut recipe.

  1. Shred or finely slice your cabbage. You can see in our photos that we did a coarser shred, but the finer the shred, the quicker to ferment.
  2. In a large mixing bowl (or the crock itself)  toss the salt with the cabbage, kneading the salt into cabbage. Note: If you have cuts on your hands, this will sting. I learned the hard way.
  3. Once the cabbage has been thoroughly massaged and starts releasing liquid, pack it tightly into a crock. Use a plate, the stones, or a kraut pounder to pack it down.
  4. Once all of your cabbage is packed into the crock, pour any liquid remaining in the bowl into the crock.  The crock should have released a more liquid during the packing process and be submerged or close to submerged in liquid.
  5. Put weights on the cabbage.  The stone weights should be submerged in liquid by about an inch. If they’re not, mix a cup of water with a tablespoon of sea salt and pour enough to cover the weights.
  6. Once your weights are submerged and your massaged, salt-scrubbed cabbage (it’s like a veggie spa day) is packed in place and weighted, pop a lid on that crock.
  7. If you’re using a Crock with a water well seal (recommended), fill the water well. If you’re using a pickle pot or storage canister style crock, just pop the lid on. If you’re using an open crock, cover the opening in a couple layers of cheesecloth.***At this point, the hard part is done. Promise***

  8. Move the crock to a cool shady place and leave it alone.
  9. At this point, your only job is checking every few days to make sure the kraut is still submerged. If not, repeat step 5. as needed.
  10. It can take between a month and 6 months for your kraut to ferment. I can’t imagine what 6-month fermented sauerkraut tastes like. Our Sauerkraut recipe was pretty perfect after 1 month.
  11. Once you hit about 4 weeks, start tasting your sauerkraut every 3 or 4 days. I like mine crisper, so 4 weeks was perfect, but the longer you keep going the softer and more pungent your kraut will become.

A few notes:  Sometimes you’ll see a little scum floating on your brine. Simply skim it off with a slotted spoon. Once your sauerkraut is done, there are a few ways to preserve it. Either pack it into kilner jars and keep in the fridge for up to a year or you can go about actually canning sauerkraut. We added 4 cloves of crushed garlic, a teaspoon of ground pepper and a teaspoon of sugar to one of our cans to experiment with flavoring–truly delightful! Try it out if you want some added flavoring.

To can your sauerkraut, simply pack your kraut with brine into clean, sanitized Kilner jars. Leave 1/2 inch at the top of each jar, making sure brine covers the cabbage completely. Measure your head space from the top of the brine.  Once your jars are packed, put the covers on. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and process the jars of sauerkraut for 25 minutes in boiling water (start marking time when the water comes BACK to a boil after adding the jars.)  Remove from heat, allow jars to cool, check seals, and boom! Shelf stable sauerkraut.

See? That simple.

S’Mores Ideas and a Labor Day Sale

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

It’s hard to believe that it’s the last week of August and summer is drawing to a close.  We thought that the perfect way to celebrate the end of summer would be to celebrate with some gooey, melty s’mores. Fair warning – we haven’t mastered the art of taking perfect pictures of massively messy concoctions, so brace yourselves – this gets gooey. But MAN, if you’re throwing a Labor Day Barbecue or a beach bonfire, consider setting out the fixings for s’mores. They’re a great picnic food idea – with the right mix of ingredients and options, everyone can customize their own.  If you’re only here to find out about our Labor Day Sale, scroll down to the bottom of the entry.

As you can see, we have a bit more than the traditional fixings on the table. But I always do start with traditional s’mores ingredients – milk chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers. No matter how many delicious fixings you have, someone in your crowd will be a purist. And that’s totally fine.

For those of you who don’t know, here’s how to make smores (and also, how to make s’mores in the oven, in case you don’t have access to a bonfire.)

  1. Toast your marshmallow. Either toast on a stick over a fire, or lay on half a graham cracker and broil in the oven.
  2. Layer your s’more.  You’re making a sandwich here, with the graham crackers as bread. 1 cracker, then the chocolate, then a hot marshmallow (for maximum meltiness) then the second graham cracker.
  3. Enjoy. It’s really that simple, and it works for pretty much everyone.

So, you’ve got the basics down and want to know how to make a s’more that’s a little more gourmet? The only thing that really needs to stay constant is a marshmallow.  Beyond that, listed below are some flavorful twists we’ve created to switch it up. Also, for fun, some ideas from other bloggers we love!

Gooey, Melty, Delicious S'mores

Items Shown: 7 Inch square plate

  • Add something salty. We did a layer of potato chips between the chocolate and the marshmallow for that super-trendy sweet and salty thing. I’ve also used pretzels or even a sprinkle of salt.
  • Change up the chocolate. As you can see above, we love our peanut butter cups in s’mores. I’ve also swapped the milk chocolate for dark, used favorite candy bars (make sure they’ll melt all the way through – Heath bars don’t work.)
  • Use fancy marshmallows. I recently came across some DELICIOUS coffee flavored marshmallows at a gourmet store. SO good in s’mores. Check gourmet websites and stores for interesting flavors.
  • Change out the cookies. Graham crackers are traditional, but as long as your cookies are big enough to contain the deliciousness of a s’more, you’re good.  Chocolate chip cookies work, gingersnaps are delicious. Also, ritz crackers and mini marshmallows are insanely good for s’mores. YUM!
  • Add sliced fruit. Thin sliced strawberries, crushed raspberries or slices of orange work so well with chocolate, marshmallows and the smokiness from a fire. It’ll add something addictive and unexpected!
  • Get saucy – add nutella, peanut butter or even caramel sauce for a little something unexpected!

And from some of our favorite bloggers, even more fantastic s’mores ideas.

 delicious smores, bacon smores, lime smores

smores are delicious

From Left to Right: (Top) Bourbon Bacon S’mores from Beyond Frosting, Key Lime S’mores from The Kitchn, Roasted Berry S’Mores from Jelly Toast Blog. (Bottom) Peach and White Chocolate S’Mores from  Peanut Butter and Julie, Dark Chocolate Passionfruit S’mores from Blogging Over Thyme. See how many amazing options there are?  Also, if anyone wants to give us some tips on photographing s’mores, we’d be interested. Clearly, it is possible.

Annnnd, Last but certainly not least, let’s talk about the sale.  We’re doing a labor day weekend Placemat and Wood extravaganza! Our placemat line and our Acaciaware wood line are beautiful transitional pieces – they work both outdoors and indoors, so whether you’re out on your patio enjoying the end of summer or dining indoors, they’ll look lovely.  Enter “LaborDay” at checkout for 25% off all retail orders of our placemats and our wood products.  Good stuff, right?

Happy Labor Day, friends! Enjoy your holiday. You’ve earned it.

 

 

Picnic Food Ideas – Just in Time for a Labor Day Picnic!

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

It’s hard to believe that Labor Day is just around the corner!  Where has the summer gone?  With schools starting earlier and earlier, Labor Day is no longer as big of a deal, but it’s still the perfect 3 day weekend to enjoy time with friends and family.  One of my favorite ways to celebrate is to really harness the awesome summer weather and have a picnic. Whether it’s at a park, at the beach, or just in my own backyard; there’s something about eating outside, enjoying nature and playing games that’s just so darn fun!  Want to throw the best picnic ever? Keep reading for tips on how to throw a picnic that’ll blow everyone’s mind. Or, if you’re just here for the recipes, scroll to the end of the post for a killer chicken sandwich recipe that’s picnic (or lunchbox) perfect!

Pacific Merchant’s Guide to the Perfect Picnic – Food, Gear and More!

  1. Pick the perfect place: it could be a picnic area in a park, a beach,  your favorite hiking trail, or even your backyard. What matters is that YOU and your guests are outdoors, having fun. Consider a late-afternoon picnic rather than lunch to avoid being out in the worst of the sun’s rays.
  2. Fend off pests: if you’re putting together a picnic somewhere prone to bugs, consider one (or more) of the following: Keep food in covered containers, bring citrus peels and mint (bugs hate those,)  light citronella candles, or distract bugs by placing a saucer of sugar water a few yards away from your picnic spot!
  3. Find the perfect picnic blanket: (or DIY it)  I’ve used everything from a flannel sheet to an old blanket to a dedicated picnic blanket. To keep the blanket (and our behinds) dry, I lay down a tarp or a cheap shower curtain under the actual picnic blanket.
  4. Chose dishes wisely: Sure, you can absolutely use disposable dishes, but consider lightweight, re-useable options as well.  I love bringing our wood plates to picnics – they’re lightweight and re-usable and totally beautiful.

  5. Plan a simple, hearty menu and know how to pack it for transport: I use Kilner clip top jars for things like pasta salad and fruit salad. I’ll sometimes even pack dessert parfaits in smaller jars. For sandwiches, I wrap them in paper (or occasionally doilies or cheese leaves if I want something prettier.) For wine, I use the incomparable Martha Stewart’s method of wrapping bottles in a blanket (often my picnic blanket.)  For things that need to be packed flat (like last week’s deviled eggs), I actually use egg cartons. Anything can be picnic food, if  you pack it right!
  6. Bring Clear Drinking Glasses: True story: When I was about 10, I was at a picnic and took a big swig from a bottle of delicious root beer. Turns out, yellow jackets also like root beer, and I ended up with a very angry bee in my mouth.  You can guess what happened next. To avoid any bug-related mishaps, I pack clear Kilner jars to drink from. I also pack their lids for people to use if they’re playing a game, taking a hike, or just not in the mood to sip. Anything to keep the bugs out.

    Peach iced tea in jars

    Items Shown: Kilner Jars

  7. The perfect picnic basket isn’t always a basket: I normally  bring 2: One large, soft-sided cooler where I stash ice, anything with meat, eggs, dairy, etc and a large canvas tote bag for non-perishables, dishes, etc.
  8. Bring Garbage Bags: A lot of designated picnic areas have trash bins, but no matter where you picnic, it’s nice to have a trash bag handy. I hang one off the end of a picnic table or keep one just a few feet away from the picnic to encourage folks to throw out trash BEFORE the wind takes it away.
  9. Plan for the end of the event: Bring zip top bags to pack any leftovers you want to keep, extra napkins, and baby wipes – the unscented kind so you don’t attract bugs. It’ll make clean up of sticky hands, plates, and more a breeze!
  10. Delegate: Let’s say you’re planning a picnic with friends – ask one person to bring drinks, one to bring chips, etc. Giving everyone something to bring (and carry in, if you’re hiking to a picnic spot) makes your job easier!
  11. Make it lovely: Picnics are casual, but there’s no reason they shouldn’t be beautiful. Bring a bouquet of flowers (marigolds give off natural bug repellant,) portable battery operated lights, some music, some games, and beautiful, colorful food. Really make the most of the beautiful weather and enjoy your party!

  12. Don’t forget utensils: I’ve done that a couple of time, and it stinks. Bring serving utensils if you’ll need them, and plenty of forks, spoons and knives! I always keep some in an outside pocket of my picnic cooler after forgetting one too many times. I also always pack a small chopping board and a utility knife. They’re good for serving cheese, cutting fruit into smaller pieces for kids, and more!

Ready to throw that picnic? I sure am.  If you’re having a Labor Day Picnic, tag pictures with #PacMerchantPicnic on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter. We’d love to check out what you do! You may even win a gift certificate to our site! Now on to that recipe.

Summertime Chicken Caprese BLT

One of my favorite things about summertime is fresh, ripe tomatoes. I just can’t get enough. When thinking up this recipe I realized that I could combine two of my favorite tomato dishes into one delightful sandwich. Voila-the super addictive BLT/Caprese salad mashup was born. And oh, I added some chicken for fun.

Ingredients (Makes 2 sandwiches):

  • 1/2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and thinly sliced
  • 4 strips bacon, cooked until crispy
  • 1 ripe tomato, thinly sliced
  • Butter lettuce
  • 2 tablespoons mayo
  • 5 large fresh basil leaves, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 of your favorite sandwich rolls, split in half (I used sliced baguette for the pictures)
  • Salt and Pepper

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the mayo, basil, and garlic.
  2. Smear onto both slices of bread.
  3. On the bottom of sandwich, lay a butter lettuce leaf. If it’s too big, tear it into a smaller piece.
  4. Next add the tomatoes. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper.
  5. Top seasoned tomatoes with thinly sliced chicken.
  6. Add the bacon, then close sandwich with the top of the bun.

To pack these sandwiches for a picnic, wrap them tightly in foil, butcher paper, or cheese leaves and tie with baker’s twine. I love using our large banana leaves for this. They’re big enough to really keep the sandwich wrapped tight so that transporting and eating them is a mess-free experience!

Delicious sandwiches

Items Shown: Banana Cheese Leaves, Round Doilies

Happy Labor Day, folks! Enjoy this last 3-day weekend in summer!

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!


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