Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

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 firly classic margarita recipe, and a spicy margarita variation.  With just a couple of simple ingredients, you’re getting 2 drinks 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! The placemats (check out that awesome GIF below!) come separately.  We’ve got SO many colors available!

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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)!

How to Cook a Romantic Meal For Valentine’s Day

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

SMALL Heart T&SValentine’s Day is right around the corner, so naturally there are diamond ads on TV, specials on long-stemmed roses, and boxes of chocolate everywhere! If you’re trying to figure out what to do for valentines day,  avoid some of the obvious cliches and pull together an unforgettable night for someone you love! We’re going to teach you how to make a romantic dinner that won’t overwhelm you! It’s even good enough to turn those people who claim they hate Valentine’s day into hopeless, mushy romantics. Ready? OK!

First, we’re going to start with some basics to teach you how to make dinner without making a mess of your kitchen and your clothes. It breaks down to a few simple steps.

 

 

  1. Prep in advance. Chefs call this mise en place, which means “everything in place.” Cut your veggies, season your meat, and even make bread or dessert in advance. Just store all your prepped food in little bowls in the fridge until you’re ready to go.
  2. Consider a 1-pot meal. You’ll have less cleanup later, your house will smell amazing, and you’ll have time to do other important things, like shower.
  3. Set the table in advance. Use pretty dishes. Trust us, you don’t want to be rushing around at the last second. Light some candles.
  4. Do what you’re comfortable with.  You’re creating a special night. You don’t want your date to show up and find you frazzled because the souffle you’ve never made before won’t rise or the suckling pig isn’t done.

With those simple tips, a little kitchen know how, the right tools, and some foolproof, delightful recipes for romantic meals, we promise you, you’re going to have a blast.

I love serving warm bread with dinner, and our Heart Shaped Mason Cash Tear and Share make it as romantic as it is delicious.  We’ve got a big tear and share if you’re cooking for a crowd lady-and-the-tramp(say, Valentine’s Day for a family) or a little one that’s the perfect size for two. The nice thing about bread baking is you can get it done in advance (even a couple days before) and just throw it in the oven at the last minute. Plus, the Tear and Share bread forms come with some truly delicious recipes. Of course, if you’re super busy and need to cook a romantic meal quickly, you could even get pizza dough at the store, roll it into balls (stuff with cheese and sauce for extra points) and just bake that. Even less mess, and just as delicious.  And nothing says “welcome, I love you” like fresh, hot bread!

Second, throw together an entree that’s easy, delicious, and beautiful.  It doesn’t have to be complicated. Personally, I think Lady and the Tramp got it right. It can be as simple as spaghetti, but if you’re with the right person, it’s perfect.  So whip out a big salad bowl (I love serving spaghetti in the Acaciaware Deep bowl) and a set of pasta servers, and go to town.  If you need a recipe for swoon-worthy meatballs, scroll on down to the bottom of this page.  Serve with your favorite pasta sauce and some extra long spaghetti!

Acacia bowl saladOf course, one can’t live on spaghetti alone, so it’s worth serving a side salad, or maybe some grilled vegetables.  I’m partial to a classic Caesar salad (chicken is absolutely  optional) with my spaghetti.  It reminds me of old movies and just feels (and tastes) classic and romantic!  And isn’t that what you’re going for on Valentine’s day?

Of course, bread, salad, and a beautiful spaghetti and meatballs are just one person’s interpretation of a classic, unforgettable romantic meal for Valentine’s day.  But seriously, it’s the simple, intimate meals that are responsible for creating tender memories; consider classic recipes, done perfectly.  To all the ladies out there trying to figure out what to get a guy for Valentine’s day: skip the lines, cook a nice dinner. To all the guys: women love a man who can cook. To all the couples: Try cooking dinner together. It’s a great way to have fun and unwind, especially if you take a moment to open a bottle of wine and toast to your mutual awesomeness while cooking.

And now, without further ado, that meatball recipe I promised you.  I opt for a beef meatball, since I love the way it stays moist, and the way it stands up to a flavorful tomato sauce (see our blog post here if you want to make your own tomato sauce.) You can use whatever protein you’d like. Pork, sausage, turkey and even chicken work pretty well.

Ingredients meatballs -raw

  • 1 pound 80/20 ground beef

  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs

  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced.
  • 1 egg, beaten

  • 1 tbsp milk

spaghetti and meatbalssInstructions – Can be made a day in advance, saving you a mess on Valentine’s Day.

Throw all the meatball ingredients in a bowl. Ideally a Mason Cash bowl that you chilled in the freezer for 10 minutes.

With your hands (they really are the best tool)  mix all the ingredients until they’re well combined. be careful to mix rather than squish things to get perfectly fluffy, most meatballs and not crumbly meatloaf.

Once everything is combined, shape into balls You shouldn’t be pressing them together hard, just rolling them between your hands until they’re barely holding together. We’re going for meatballs, not meatloaf. This mixture makes 12 golf-ball sized meatballs or more small ones. I suggest doing small meatballs for a romantic meal. They’re easier to eat (one biters always are) and they’re darn cute. Plus you’re making this ahead (right?) so you don’t need to worry about rushing.  Just store them in a covered casserole dish in the fridge til you’re ready to use them.

When it’s time to cook,  Make some sauce (or buy a bottle of really good quality sauce, if you must.) And heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add a few tablespoons of vegetable oil to the pan, let it heat and coat the pan, then add the meatballs in a single layer.  Let cook for 4 minutes before turning.  Let cook an additional 4 minutes, then add the tomato sauce to the saucepan.  Simmer for about 20 minutes, which, coincidentally enough, is time enough to boil water and make pasta.  Add the pasta to your serving bowl, with the sauce, tossing to combine.  Top with meatballs, a sprinkling of fresh grated Parmesan (avoid the green can, please!) and a sprinkle of basil. Serve with that amazing warm bread and a salad you made (but didn’t dress) before even starting to cook and you’re good to go!  Have a happy Valentine’s Day!

Lots of Love,

Pacific Merchants

 

 

 

How To Throw A Superbowl Party They’ll Never Forget

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

With this year’s Superbowl tickets costing upwards of $2,500 a pop (if you can find one.)  There’s a pretty good chance that you’re watching the game from on aSuperbowl XLVIII TV somewhere. And there’s a really good chance that your friends are going to be watching the big game (or just the awesome commercials) as well. So why not take the time and host an awesome Superbowl party?  To help you out, we’ve put together some delicious Superbowl food ideas, some awesome party planning tips, and some party ideas that are so creative, you’ll be glad to be home in front of the TV instead of freezing your tail off in NJ. As an added bonus, you can recycle a lot of these ideas a week later and throw a killer Olympic kickoff party! Two parties in one post? Winning!

Best Deviled Eggs on Acaciaware plateFirst, figure out what you want to serve.  I suggest keeping it easy to make, easy to eat, and delicious.  For the Superbowl, finger foods are always a good, safe way to go. They’re something that can be enjoyed with no mess, even if your guests are holding drinks. Some of my favorite game day snacks are Hot Wings, Deviled eggs, Chips (with salsa, guacamole, and dip, naturally,) sliders, cheese and cold cuts, and tacos.

If you need Superbowl Party Food ideas for bigger meals or entrees, consider ribs, steak, burgers, chili (either meat or vegetarian) and even a baked potato bar.  All of these are universal crowd-pleasers, they’re all relatively easy to make, and, in the rare event that you have leftovers, they all reheat nicely the next day!

Once you’ve got your menu worked out,  it’s time to figure out where you’re putting all the food. Do you have a table big enough, or are you going to have to improvise? I seriously suggest putting the food a little ways away from the TV, so that folks who want to nibble and chat aren’t disrupting the people who want to watch the game. Put out some food near the TV too, be it a big bowl of chips or snack mix, or a large tray of finger food so that people have the chance to munch without getting up as well.  Superbowl food on a table, superbowl foods

Along with figuring out where to stage your meal, make sure you have the right serving trays and dishes, and enough plates to go around.  You can definitely serve on paper plates if you want, but make sure they’re thick enough that they’ll hold up to a plate of food. Better yet, get some unique, reusable plates. I love this set of oval wood plates.  They’re the perfect size for a meal of finger food, they’re durable (even if you have clumsy guests who drop dishes) and they’re beyond easy to care for. I got a set for a small dinner party, and they come out pretty much every time I have company.

Along with checking out your plate situation, consider what you’re serving each dish in. When I’m doing something like hot wings with Blue Cheese dipping sauce, I love this deep, almost bowl like sectioned tray. It’s perfect for containing all the saucy, messiness of wings!  When I’m serving chips and dips, I use a chip and dip tray for the coffee table in front of the TV and set out bigger bowls of chips and dips with the rest of the food.  I find that sectioned trays not only look nice, but really make people feel like they’ve got plenty of options, even if I’m only serving ruffles and onion dip.

Kilner Jars and Lemonade

Of course, if you’re serving food at your Superbowl party, you’re going to need some super drinks as well.  I suggest making cocktails well in advance (just skip the ice) and putting them in Kilner jars in a cooler. I even do this for lemonade and fruit infused water. People can just grab a jar and sip, and you can enjoy the game instead of bartending.

Last but not least, have one solid Superbowl party food recipe that you can fall back on, even if everything else is going wrong. For me, it’s Guacamole.  It’s vegetarian, healthy party food that goes equally well on chips, veggies and burgers.  Having at least one fall-back recipe means that even if your ribs are burned and your deviled eggs fall to pieces, you’re good to go.

Here’s how to make the best guacamole recipe from scratch. It’s simple to make and easy to customize If you like more heat, add a chopped up jalapeno.  If you like more tang, add more lime.  This serves 4-6 people and is the perfect amount for the large Mason Cash Mortar and Pestle.

  • 3 avocadosguacamole acaciaware
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • ½ tsp whole cumin
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ cup chopped red onion
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. In the bottom of your mortar and pestle, crush together the garlic, cilantro and cumin until they form a paste
  2. Add the lime juice and half the avocado
  3. With the pestle, grind until very smooth. Add the other half of the avocado, the onion, and the tomato
  4. Combine with pestle (you may also need to use a fork) until thoroughly combined
  5. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Serve right in the mortar and pestle!

If you want to make a bigger batch, the recipe doubles or even triples really nicely.  Just grind up the cumin, mince the garlic and cilantro, and make the whole thing in an Acaciaware bowl. Just like when you serve in the mortar and pestle, there’s one less dish to clean, since your serving dish is also your prep bowl

A Very Homemade Christmas – Christmas Feast, and the Best Mashed Potatoes Ever!

Monday, December 16th, 2013

Well, we’ve talked sweets, we’ve decked the halls, made the gifts and generally gotten you ready for Christmas. But what Christmas would be complete without a really awesome Christmas dinner?  Whether you’re stuck in a rut, ready to spice up some classics, or hosting for the very first time, we’ve got some insanely delicious options for you.  So break out your serving platters and mixing bowls. We’re going to make dinner!

Mushroom Soup for Christmas

I love to start my holiday meal with soup. I make it the day  before and reheat it, so it doesn’t take much time.  My family absolutely adores this mushroom soup recipe from Food and Wine! It’s easy to make vegetarian (swap the chicken stock for veggie and you’re there,) is hearty and warming, and compliments the rest of the meal perfectly. It’s a rich soup, so I don’t serve massive bowls of it. Instead, I serve it in cheery red tea cups. Everyone loves the presentation and I love using dishes that can go through the dishwasher for a big meal.  We often end up serving the soup in the kitchen while everyone puts finishing touches on their dishes, so using handled mugs makes for really easy eating. Plus, they’re perfect for little hands.

Holiday Roasts

Whatever your dietary preference, consider doing a roast as the Christmas entree. I got sucked into this article on the New York Times site this weekend that reminded me how universally crowd pleasing roast meat is, and how easy it is to serve a crowd without a ton of work. We always serve a standing rib roast for Christmas, with a second entree for vegetarians (see below.)  I love putting my rib roast on a big acaciaware serving platter and garnishing it with fragrant fresh rosemary, roast onions, and caramelized lady apples. So elegant.  So easy.

Pot Pie

For my vegetarians, I’m doing a vegetarian pot pie. I may make individual pot pies in pudding basins or tea cups, or I may whip out a beautiful baking dish and make a huge one to share. It all depends on the final guest count (plus, the meat eaters love this dish as well!).   I love this recipe from A beautiful  mess. It works with pretty much any vegetable, and using pre-made puff pastry as the crust really saves time.  I just weave the puff dough into a lattice for a more polished look.  I change up the veggies based on what’s in season. Sometimes it’s butternut squash and mushrooms, sometimes the classic potato and carrot. This year, I’m going root vegetables with carrots, potatoes and turnips. YUM!

sprouts

I do try to vary my sides so I’m not having Thanksgiving side dishes twice in just under a month. Sure, I keep the mashed potatoes (see my insanely rich recipe at the end of the post,) but everything else is different. I replace my Green Bean Casserole with a big serving bowl of The Pioneer Woman’s Brussels sprouts with balsamic and cranberries. They’ve got this awesome sweet/salty tangy balance that I can’t seem to resist, so I don’t.

roast onions

I swap out my mom’s creamed onions for a really stunning roast onion recipe from Martha Stewart.  I  make triple what I think I’ll need, use some to decorate my roast platter and there’s never anything left at the end of the meal, which, in my mind, is the mark of a perfect dish. Even the pickiest eaters at our table wolf this one down.

apple-thyme-wild-rice-stuffing

To update my stuffing recipe, I swap out the Thanksgiving cornbread for wild rice and rock this recipe from Fork Spoon Bacon. There’s something about the combination of apples and thyme that really compliments my Christmas menu. I bake it in the biggest baking dish I have and my family pretty much devours it all.

Sweet Potato Latkes

One thing I’m not nixing from my Thanksgiving menu is the Sweet Potato Latkes I made this year. Everyone LOVED them, they were easy, and they’re a great alternative to that over-done sweet potato casserole.  Kids loved them, adults loved them, and the leftovers are really good in a sandwich.

So there you have it. A pretty-simple, super easy Christmas menu that’s absolutely a crowd pleaser.  I find that by keeping all the side dishes vegetarian, it’s really easy to put together a meal that fits with a variety of dietary restrictions! And, since I promised, here’s my incredibly easy, incredibly rich Mashed Potato recipe.  I make it the day before and reheat it in a slow cooker on Christmas day so I have more time to spend with my family.

Kate’s Mashed Potatoes (serves 8)

  • 3 1/2 pounds yukon gold or russet potatoes
  • 4 oz sour cream
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 3/4 cups half an half
  • salt and pepper
  1. Place potatoes (whole, skins on) and a tablespoon of salt in a large pot. Cover completely with cold water.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and let simmer for 30-35 minutes, until potatoes are tender.
  2. Drain, and let potatoes cool until you can handle them. Rub off the skins (they should come off pretty easily) and cut the potatoes into quarters. Return them to the pot.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine butter, half and half and sour cream. Heat over medium heat until just warm, then add to the potatoes.
  4. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher. I use a cheap one from the grocery store. Sometimes it doesn’t need to be fancy to do the job.
  5. Stir constantly until smooth and heated through. Add salt and pepper, tasting as you go.  Transfer into a big bowl and serve immediately or reheat the next day (just add a little extra liquid before re-heating.)

We hope you have an especially Merry Christmas this year! If you’re stuck on desserts to go with your Christmas feast, check out our Sweets post, or go the extremely classic route and make a Bouche de Noel (yule log) cake!

A Very Homemade Christmas – Decor and Crafts

Monday, December 9th, 2013

We’re obviously big into baking and crafting around here. Anyone who happens across our blog knows that. And this time of the year, it seems that crafts and treats are absolutely everywhere! Instead of getting overwhelmed by the over-abundance of craftiness, we decided to pare things down a little and put together some of our favorites in an easy little roundup.  Merry Christmas!

This post will cover Christmas crafts and decor, from easy crafts you can do in an hour to crafts that take an entire day. If you check back in later in the week, we’ll be posting a homemade gift roundup and a Christmas treat roundup, so keep checking back.

snowglobes in jars

I absolutely love snow globes. Sure, I don’t have as many as I used to, thanks largely to the TSA not being so fond of me carrying them on the plane, but around this time of the year, I make my own christmas-y snow globes to decorate my home.  I follow this really simple tutorial from the incomparable Martha Stewart and I always get great results.  I use everything from big, half liter preserve jars for detailed scenes to our tiniest blue top jars for snow globes that double as ornaments – Just hot glue a ribbon to the top!

icey luminaries

I’m based out of LA and I totally miss the snow and ice.  To bring a little winter into my holiday decor, I got inspired by this post on Epsom salt luminaries. The effect looks just icy enough to bring a little winter into my apartment without requiring any actual defrosting.  I love doing this with my 0.25 liter Kilner jars. They’re just the right size for tea lights and they look really beautiful with the pine boughs on my mantle.

Sweater-Candles

Now, if you love the idea of luminaries, but hate the idea of bringing even pretend ice into your house, consider a cozier approach, like the folks from Brit & Co did – Sweater luminaries. Lately, Everything from christmas ornaments to pillows have been bundled up in sweater-style knits, so why to create luminaries that do just that?

GlitterMasonJars2

If you’re looking for a festive vase for flowers, evergreen branches or holly, consider a glitter dipped jar, like these stunners from Lilyshop (tutorial here.)  They’re perfectly festive this time of year, look awesome at new years, and really serve as a lively accent all year round!

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Also worth considering is a stunning floral arrangement. We’ve got an easy tutorial for making bountiful flower arrangements work in any sized bowl. Whether you use one of our Mason Cash christmas tree bowls, a large wood bowl, or even a traditional mixing bowl as the base for your arrangement. Pick flowers and foliage that screams Christmas to you (red berries and roses, white lilies, freesia and baby’s breath, evergreen and eucalyptus are a good place to start.) Add in elements of interest, from fruit to christmas ornaments to little bells. Arrange and enjoy, all season long.

We hope that this list gives you some great ideas for decking your halls. If you’ve got any inspired ideas we should feature or if you just want us to share your christmas crafts, email social@pacificmerchants.com.  This time of the year, we’re all about the sharing.   Check back in a couple days to see our homemade gift idea roundup! There are so many great ones!

If you’re looking for more ideas, you can always take a cute from our festive Halloween Painted jars.  Switch out spooky colors for festive ones and jack – o -lantern faces for holiday motifs and you’ve got instant decor!

Celebrating National Pizza Month with Perfect Pizza Dough

Friday, October 4th, 2013

indexgaegOctober is National Pizza Month!  If you’re anything like us, you don’t really need an excuse to grab a slice, but having a whole month to celebrate one of the most delicious foods in the world is a great reason to get in the kitchen, roll up our sleeves and make pizza from scratch!index6at

While there are a lot of components to homemade pizza, it’s actually pretty easy to make.  We start with a simple dough recipe, featured below, add on our favorite sauce, whatever toppings we happen to have on hand, some great cheese, and we’re good to go. The hardest part is making the dough, but with a little planning, even that comes together easily.

Here’s our favorite dough recipe. It makes enough for one small, thin crust pizza for 2 – the perfect size to bake on our Mason Cash Baking stone.  If you’re making more pizzas, or like a thicker crust, go ahead and double or even triple the recipe.  Another nice thing about this recipe is that it only uses one bowl, so you’ll have fewer dishes to do later!

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flourmyo_Pizzaalt1
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon active dry yeast – This is about half a packet
  • ½ cup lukewarm water. You may need a tiny bit more
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, including the yeast. Stir in the olive oil and water with a wooden spoon or spatula, trying to get the mixture as combined as possible. I love using a Mason Cash Mixing Bowl for this recipe (and all bread-dough recipes, really) since the bowls are roomy enough to knead in and glazed to make cleanup easy.

Knead the dough right in the bowl until it is completely combined and uniform, then knead an additional two minutes.

Lightly oil the bowl, cover it in plastic wrap, a damp towel, or your baking stone, and let the dough sit in a warm place for an hour or two, until doubled in size.  If you want to make this the morning before, let the dough double in the refrigerator instead of in a warm place. Heat just speeds things up.

unnamedOnce the mixture is doubled in size, gently press the air out of the dough with the palms of your hands. Shape the dough into a ball and let it sit, covered for 10-20 more minutes (the perfect time to slice any veggies you’ll want as a topping!)

Sprinkle your baking stone or a baking sheet (it’ll work, but the crust won’t get as crisp) with cornmeal, put it in the oven, and heat your oven as high as it will go. Mine tops out at about 525 degrees.  Roll out the pizza on a floured countertop, making sure it doesn’t stick to the counter.

Top your pizza with your favorite toppings. If you’re using a lot of toppings, make sure they’re sliced very thinly. Meats should be pre-cooked, but vegetables can normally be put on your pizza raw.

Using a large spatula, the back of a cookie sheet or a pizza peel, gently transfer your pizza to the hot baking stone.  Bake for 10 minutes, or until slightly blistered and very melt-y. 16546_1_zpsd5a1b5e1

If you’re worried about transferring your pizza from the hot counter to a hot baking stone, go ahead and shape your pizza right on your stone, and put the whole thing in the oven. The crust won’t get quite as crisp at the bottom, but you’ll still have an incredible homemade pizza.

We hope you have a fantastic time celebrating National Pizza Month, and we really hope that you take the time to make pizza from scratch. It’s a lot of fun, the pizza is outstanding, and it’s something the whole family can do together!

DIY Pumpkin Spice Latte

Friday, September 27th, 2013

Now that it’s officially fall, pumpkin flavored treats are everywhere.  From pumpkin pies at your local bakery to pumpkin-scented soap, to the drink that may have gotten the pumpkin trend started: Nice-pumpkin-collection-2-13dede-sxcThe pumpkin spice latte.  It’s delicious, comforting and tastes like fall. We’re  totally addicted.

pumpkin-spice-latte-sign-7854631If you can’t afford the $4 a cup price tag, prefer to keep your drink vegan (the one at Starbucks is not), or if you’d just prefer to make your coffee from scratch, we’ve got an amazing pumpkin spice syrup recipe that’s delicious in lattes, as sweetener in tea, mixed in to cocktails, and even drizzled over vanilla ice cream.

When bottled in Kilner preserve bottles, this syrup makes a perfect hostess gift, birthday gift, or even holiday gift. If you’ve got a Pumpkin Spice Latte lover in your life, this is a great way to make sure they get to enjoy their favorite drink, even after they take it off the menu for another year.  I find that a 0.25 liter preserve bottle full of this syrup is the perfect size for both gift giving and at home.  This recipe makes enough so you can both keep some for yourself and give some away.  Each bottle holds enough syrup for 20-50 cups of coffee, depending on how sweet you like it.

Ingredients:image_ 072

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½  teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ cup pumpkin puree (canned is fine, just make sure it’s 100 percent pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling)a6f392e9c6ae4527b712bb86e88be6f4

Instructions:

  • Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.
  •  Stir together over medium heat until the sugars have dissolved.
  • Continue cooking over low heat for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not allow the mixture to come to a boil.
  • Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer, triple layered cheesecloth, or muslin square.
  • Funnel into Kilner bottles OR Kilner preserve or clip top jars.
  • Syrup can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days, or in a refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.  Syrup can be kept fresh longer by hot water processing it.*

To make your pumpkin spice latte, brew 2oz of espresso or very strong coffee in a large coffee mug.  Combine 2 teaspoons of syrup and 8oz of milk, soy milk, almond milk, etc. Mix well and steam (if you aren’t able to steam your milk, simply heating it will work, flavor wise.)  Pour the milk and syrup mixture into the coffee, top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon (if you like it) and enjoy!

*To preserve the syrup, process the jars or bottles as you would jars for jam or jelly (see our strawberry jam tutorial here.)  Add the syrup to the jars or bottles while hot, and close. If you’re using a preserve jar, keep the screw band ¼ turn lose. If using a clip top jar or bottle, close and latch the jars. Submerge in boiling water and boil for 10 minutes. Remove with jam tongs and let jars cool completely.  Once you’re sure they’re sealed, they’re ready to be stored for up to 3 months.

 

Enjoy, and let us know what you think in the comments below!

Football Season is Finally Kicking Off!

Friday, September 6th, 2013

It’s the end of the first weekend in September, and that means football season is upon us! If you’re thinking about hosting game day at your house, here are some great ideas that will keep your guests content from kickoff through the post-game show.  Make sure to bookmark this page for your Superbowl party as well!

First, time your party well. Double check what time the game starts and what channel it’s on. Make sure you’ve got that channel ready to go, and start your party about an hour before the game. That gives guests plenty of time to socialize, snack and get comfortable before the game starts.

 

Second, set up two areas for food. One should be on a coffee table, side table or somewhere within easy reach of the couch. One should be away away from the game. Consider putting down easy-to-clean placemats in your favorite team’s colors to make cleanup simple.  

Third, think small. Small food, that is.  Easy finger foods and bite-sized snacks are perfect for football parties. They’re easy to prepare and fun to eat. Here are some delicious options to consider: Small sandwiches, Meatballs,  Dumplings, chips and dip (or see our guacamole recipe from last week), tacos, and wings.  Put out an assortment of dipping sauces in small bowls and all your guests can get creative with their food while you enjoy the game!

If you want to get really into the spirit, consider doing themed food – Crab cakes if the Baltimore Ravens are playing, Chicago Style Hot dogs if the Bears are playing. You get the idea.   One of the first games this weekend is New England against Buffalo, so naturally, you’re going to want to make Buffalo Wings. Here’s our recipe for easy buffalo chicken wings. They’re baked rather than deep fried to keep it healthy, and they’re a classic football food.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds chicken wings, rinsed and pat dry
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ¾  cup hot sauce (we prefer Frank’s Red Hot, it’s classic!)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cloves minced garlic.
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • blue cheese or ranch dressing for dipping
  • carrots and celery sticks (optional)

Directions

  1. Toss the wings in the oil, salt and pepper, place them on a rack, in an enamel baking dish or a foil lined baking sheet and bake in a preheated 400F oven until golden brown and crispy, about 45-50 minutes.
  2. Put the hot sauce, garlic, soy sauce, sugar and butter in a microwave-safe Mason Cash bowl.
  3. Microwave on medium power until butter is melted.
  4. Toss with chicken wings in a large bowl.
  5. Serve while warm with blue cheese or ranch dressing for dipping and optionally with carrots and celery sticks. We love to set out the dressing, vegetables and wings in an Acaciaware serving  tray with a separate bowl for the sauce.

Win or lose, we hope you have a fantastic football season!