Archive for the ‘Recipes’ 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!

 

 

Potato Pancakes – Our Hanukkah Latke Recipe

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Here at Pacific Merchants we love the holidays, and we’re pretty equal opportunity when it comes to celebrating. Why? Because we’re a pretty diverse group and learning about each others’ customs is a blast. So we figured, before we dig in on Christmas-mania, early December would be a good time to share our favorite Hanukkah recipe: a simple recipe for latkes that is beyond delicious.  Plus, we’ve scoured the net for some other delicious variations on  potato pancakes. Because nothing says good times like fried carbs, fascinating traditions, bright lights, miraculously efficient oil lamps, and great friends.

I’m sure you know that latkes are traditionally served at Hanukkah, but I’ve served them at parties all year long. When made on the smaller side and topped with a bit of sour cream and a slice of smoked salmon, you’ve got a beautiful, and totally crowd-pleasing appetizer. Some other favorite toppings include: Traditional sour cream and applesauce, brie and cranberry sauce, sour cream and bacon (clearly not for those who keep kosher,) fried eggs and chives, and even peanut butter and jelly. I’ve occasionally even used hem in place of an English muffin in eggs Benedict. SO good. But suppose you want to keep it traditional and serve latkes for Hanukkah? Well, first, when is Hannukah? Unlike Christmas, it changes every year. Hanukkah 2014 is December 16-December 24. Now that you know the dates, it’s as easy as whipping up a batch of these tasty treats.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 Pounds of Russet potatoes
  • 1 small white or yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 2+ Tablespoons of flour (you can sub out matzoh meal for Passover or coconut flour to make it gluten free.)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Oil, chicken fat, or butter for frying. I’d suggest bacon fat, but that’s not kosher.

Instructions

  1. Peel your potatoes and your onion. Either in a food processor or by hand with a box grater, grate your potatoes. If you’re using a box grater, be wary of your knuckles.  I wasn’t, and I regretted it.
  2. Line a wire mesh strainer with cheesecloth or a clean dishtowel. Put all your potato and onion mixture into the dishtowel.
  3. Twist the cloth to squeeze moisture from the potato mixture, and let sit for 15 minutes to drain.
  4. Transfer the drained potatoes into a bowl and add the garlic, eggs, 2 Tablespoons of flour, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.  If the mixture seems too wet, add more flour (you can always do this after cooking a test latke.)
  5. Latkes are best when eaten fresh, so about 14 mintues before you’re ready to eat, pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees, and heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add about 1/4 inch of oil to your skillet.
  6. Drop heaping spoonfuls of the mixture into the oil.  It should spread out, so  leave room between latkes.
  7. Cook the potato pancakes 3-4 minutes on each side. Both sides should be golden and crisp.
  8. Eat right away or keep warm in the oven.

There you have it – a delicious treat for the eight nights of Hanukkah in eight easy steps. Now that you know how to make potato pancakes from scratch, something tells me you’re going to be doing it all year. It’s super-easy, after all, and incredibly delicious.  But let’s just say you wanna try a different recipe. . .

 

These sweet potato latkes are from our blog – we posted them last year when looking for a sweet potato recipe for Thanksgiving, which just happened to fall on the first night of Hanukkah.

These rainbow latkes from What Jew Wanna Eat – Not only are they incredibly fun to look at, but they’re a great way to get an extra serving of veggies in. Each one is made from different produce, and is naturally colorful.

These Gluten Free Carrot Scallion Latkes from Elana’s Pantry. We love that Elana thought to make a paleo-friendly version of a latke, and we love the way the scallions and carrots taste together. A perfect combination!

These super-flavorful Zucchini and Green Garlic Latkes from Sassy Radish – I’m a little obsessed with green garlic, and I always seem to have a surplus of zucchini, so to me, this is the perfect latke recipe.

 

Apple Latkes - Photo Credit: Smitten Kitchen

Apple Latkes – Photo Credit: Smitten Kitchen

If you want to make it sweet, these Apple Latkes from Smitten Kitchen are AMAZING, especially with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. What a nice way to end a meal.

Have a happy Hannukah, Friends. I hope you enjoy it!

Our Signature Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipe

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

Every time I look at the Calendar, I’m amazed at how fast time is flying. Thanksgiving is only two weeks away! Last week, we covered the veggies, but this week, we’re all about everyone’s favorite side dish, stuffing.  Since I cook for a huge crowd, I always do two versions of stuffing, a cornbread stuffing with sausage, and this vegetarian stuffing recipe. I love having a little something for everyone! If you’re looking for something a little different this year, scroll on down to the bottom of this post where we’ve compiled some of our favorite dressing recipes from all over the internet.  But before we start, I’ve got an important question: Stuffing or Dressing?  Is one more correct than the other?

Anyway, on to the recipe.  As we mentioned, this is a vegetarian recipe, but if you want to carnivore it up, saute some sage sausage with the carrots, celery and onions, and chicken stock instead of vegetable stock. Boom- sausage stuffing.  You can even stuff it into your bird, though I never do – I love the crispy texture the top of my stuffing gets when I bake it in a terracotta dish. It’s kind of like the edges of brownies – I just can’t get enough. Plus, you don’t have to worry about overcooking the bird while you’re waiting on the stuffing to get hot enough to kill off salmonella and that’s definitely a double win. Crispy edged stuffing and a moist, juicy bird! Let’s go.

Ingredients

  • 1 large loaf of challah or brioche (about 1 pound) cut into small cubes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 apple, diced
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8-10 sprigs thyme, minced
  • 1 sprig rosemary, minced
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 1/4 cup minced sage
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • salt

Instructions

  1. The night before, spread the bread out on a sheet tray  and leave it uncovered and out of reach of pets and small children. You want it slightly stale.
  2. Add half the butter to a saute pan. When melted, add the carrots, celery, onions, garlic, apple and herbs over medium heat until they are tender and fragrant.  Taste the mixture and add salt, leaving it slightly underseasoned.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the bread, sauteed vegetables, and cranberries. Let rest until the mixture is room temperature.
  4. Add the rest of the butter and the vegetable stock and mix until well combined. Taste for seasoning – add salt or pepper as needed.
  5. Once you love the way it tastes, add the egg and pack the mixture into a baking dish – I love cooking in terracotta since it gives me nice crusty edges while keeping the dressing moist in the middle – the perfect combination!
  6. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 20-25 minutes until the surface is crisp.  Serve alongside all your favorite Thanksgiving dishes (or with a roast chicken for a perfect Sunday supper.)

Ok, so there are a lot of ingredients, but as you can see, It’s pretty easy to make homemade stuffing. Once you have the basic stuffing recipe down, you can play with it – I’ve done cornbread instead of challah, added sausage, pecans, mushrooms and roasted garlic over the years, and even oysters for a traditional oyster stuffing – no matter what, the basic formula stays the same and the dressing turns out beautifully. That’s the magic of having a great basic recipe- all the variations are so exciting.

Now, I promised you some of my other favorite stuffing recipes. Here we go, from all corners of the interwebs!

This wild rice stuffing from Tidy Mom is not only delicious, it’s gluten free! It’s got the traditional flavors of a bread stuffing, but with nutty, flavorful wild rice, pecans, and a hint of smokiness from bacon. And really who can go wrong with bacon? It’s awesome.

Want something a little different? Try this chorizo and cornbread stuffing we found on Table for Two.  I love the addition of mushrooms and the combination of sourdough for stability with super-flavorful cornbread. It’s a totally well-rounded stuffing that’s pretty delicious on its own as well as being a great addition to your Thanksgiving table.

If you want to go the whole wheat route, that’s pretty easy with stuffing as well. Our friends over at Love and Lemons have this beautiful Kale and Shiitake stuffing recipe made with whole grain bread. Super bonus – it’s completely vegan. I know how hard it can be to accomodate everyone’s diet at Thanksgiving, so having a great vegan Thanksgiving recipe or two never hurts.  And admittedly, I’ve made this one just for myself, for dinner a number of times. There’s kale and mushrooms, so totally healthy, right?

There you have it, folks. Whether you’re a carnivore or a vegan, a bread lover or keeping it gluten free, stuffing is one of the most versatile thanksgiving recipes out there. So versatile, in fact that it goes by two names. Stuffing or dressing, it’s delicious!

Thanksgiving Recipes 2014: Our Favorite Green Bean Recipes

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

So, you know that classic dish, the green beans, with the can of soup and the crispy onions? It’s the one dish that is always leftover after my family’s Thanksgiving meal. This year, I’m throwing out the classic green bean recipe because I’ve figured out how to cook green beans in a way that everyone will love – it’s a colorful, flavorful seasonal recipe that plays with the other flavors of the holiday meal wonderfully!  Bonus for anyone contending with allergies or dietary restrictions: This recipe for fresh green beans is a vegan, gluten free thanksgiving recipe that even the most traditional eaters will enjoy! It’s a twist on the classic green beans almondine that really brings a lot of color to the table – just look at how pretty it looks here! Want even more green bean recipes? Scroll on down past the recipes for a taste of some of our other favorites from around the web!

How to Cook Fresh Green Beans

Items Shown: Acacia Wood Tray

Let’s get cooking. Here’s our Thanksgiving recipe for green beans with almonds, pomegranates and oranges.  It’s a little sweet, a little salty, and SO flavorful that I almost prefer it to turkey. No joke, it’s that good. Plus, it only takes one pan and one burner to make – huge bonus on a holiday when burner space is harder to get than Superbowl Tickets.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds of green beans, ends trimmed
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • two oranges
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil.
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • salt, to taste

Instructions

Thanksgiving Sides: Garlic Green Beans with Seasonal Fruit

Items Shown: Oval Serving Tray

  1. Prepare your oranges.  This recipe uses pretty much every part of the orange, so zest them, set the zest aside, cut out the sections from between the membranes, (video here) and squeeze the juice from the membranes into a bowl.
  2. Prepare your pomegranate. Here’s our video on how to get the seeds out. Remove the seeds and set them aside. They’re the last thing you’ll use.
  3. Heat your largest skillet to medium heat. Add half of your olive oil, the garlic, and the almonds, stirring  regularly until they’re golden brown but not burnt. Pay extra attention to this step, as it’s extremely easy to burn almonds and garlic, and they’ll make the whole dish taste bitter.  Once they’re done, remove to a small bowl and set aside.
  4. Adjust the heat on your skillet to medium high. When hot (a drop of water should sizzle) add the rest of your olive oil and your green beans. Add salt at this point, as well.
  5. Toss your green beans every couple of minutes. The color should change from dull to bright green and the beans should begin to shrivel or even char a little. You’re building flavor
  6. Once the beans are tender, add in the orange zest, orange juice and orange segments.  The juice will sizzle and steam a lot.
  7. Turn pan to medium low and add pepper. Taste and add salt as needed.  Toss beans in orange segments and juice until they’re well coated, then turn onto a serving platter
  8. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and your almond/garlic mixture and serve!

 

There you have it,  A stunning, vibrant part of any holiday meal. This is the perfect fresh, bright, healthy thanksgiving side to serve along with some of the heavier dishes. It’s also quick to make, so it doubles as a wonderful weeknight option – it’s great with roast chicken!

Now I know we promised you some other favorite Thanksgiving vegetable dishes. Here are a few, from some of our favorite bloggers!

Fried Brussels Sprouts

Photo Credit: Hilah Cooking

Brussels sprouts are trendy and delicious! These Fried Brussels sprouts from Hilah Cooking are beyond delicious. With the fish sauce and rice vinegar, they have a bit of Asian flare, but are traditional and subtle enough to pair with a more basic Thanksgiving menu. We’re pretty impressed, and addicted.

Photo Credit: What’s Gaby Cooking

Another dish that we’re bringing to our Thanksgiving table this year is this insane recipe for Thyme and Honey Roasted Carrots from Whats Gaby Cooking – the fact that they’re easy to make AND super flavorful makes them a delightful Thanksgiving option.  Plus, I love carrots and easily go through a pound a week. How can I NOT have carrots on my Thanksgiving table?

Salad? For Thanksgiving dinner?  Absolutely. Not only do I have awesome salad bowls to put it in, but I love having something fresh to contrast all the heavy, carb-filled foods of the season. This salad from Two Peas and Their Pod is studded with pecans and dried cranberries. I always make a huge batch – unlike traditional lettuces, the greens in this salad don’t wilt, so it stays beautiful for leftovers the next day, and is great with sliced turkey!

 

What are you making for Thanksgiving this year? If you need more inspiration, keep checking our  blog  and our social media pages – we’ll be posting Thanksgiving recipes, tips and tricks until Thanksgiving day! Make sure to tag #PMTCHolidayTable for a chance to win a gift card to our site, too!

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

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

At this time of year, pumpkin is king! You see it in your ice cream, cookies, cakes, soup, salad and even your coffee.  One of our favorite pumpkin treats is pumpkin bread. While it’s delicious, I’m not talking about the pumpkin bread that reminds me a little of banana bread and is readily available in a certain chain coffee shop. I’m talking about this subtle, spiced, yeasted pumpkin bread recipe. When shaped into rolls, they’re perfect for Thanksgiving (especially if baked in one of our tear and shares, naturally) but I sometimes braid this bread like challah or even shape it like a rustic loaf. On its own, this is a fantastic vegan pumpkin bread recipe, but if you want to push it a little over the top, you can fill each roll with a bit of cream cheese for a tangy surprise.

Ok. Are you as psyched as I am? Let’s get baking. Get ready for your entire home to smell like heaven.  Seriously. This pumpkin cream cheese bread recipe is BEYOND delicious, with or without the cream cheese. Made into a loaf, it’s heavenly for turkey sandwiches. . . especially those great Thanksgiving leftover sandwiches. Full disclosure: This recipe is loosely based on a recipe by King Arthur Flour. The proportions are theirs, the tweaks are all ours.  Suggestions for making this recipe vegan are in italics.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons instant or active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm milk (or orange juice)
  • 2 large eggs (or just increase the pumpkin puree to 1 3/4 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups puréed pumpkin, either fresh or canned
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 1/2 cups  Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • zest of 2 oranges, divided in half
  • 1/2 lb cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp sugar

Instructions

  1. Ok, that may look like a ton of ingredients, but it’s easy, I promise. Even easier, this first step is only if you want cream cheese filled rolls. In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, half the orange zest and the teaspoon of sugar.  Just mix it together well, and when combined, transfer to saran wrap. Roll it into a snake (it’s like Kindergarten art class folks) about an inch thick and stash the whole thing in the fridge. You won’t need it for a while.
  2. In a large bowl (I seriously suggest breaking out our bread baking set or a Mason Cash bowl if you’ve got them) add the milk or oj, checking that it’s not too hot – should be just around body temperature or a little higher. Add in the maple syrup and the yeast and stir well to combine.  Leave the mixture alone for 5 or so minutes. If you see it foaming, you’re good. If not, your yeast is dead and you should buy fresh and start over. You can’t make happy bread with sad yeast.
  3. Once you’ve double checked that your yeast is alive (see image above) It’s time to make that bread dough. Whisk the eggs (if using,) pumpkin puree, and vegetable oil into the yeast mixture until completely combined. Add the spices and orange zest (but not the salt.)  It’ll look less than beautiful, but trust me, it all comes together in the end. Plus, it smells totally awesome, doesn’t it?
  4. At this point, add in about 4 cups of the flour,  mixing with a spoon or your well-floured hands.  When it’s combined, and probably still a hot mess, pour a generous amount of flour on a cutting board or counter top and turn the dough out.
  5. Flour your hands even more, then add the salt and about a cup of flour to the dough and begin kneading (here’s how.) If the dough begins to come together as a smooth, soft dough (it should still be sticky, but not too sticky to handle) then you’ve got enough flour. If not, add more, kneading between additions. Just don’t add more than the 6 1/2 cups the recipe calls for, or you’ll get a disappointingly dry dough. Once your dough is well kneaded (here’s one good way to check) place it in an oiled bowl. Cover with a lid (see bread baking set) or a damp cloth and let it rise in a warm place until its volume has doubled. It’ll take a little over an hour – the perfect time to re-watch your favorite episode of Game of Thrones. . . or whatever.
  6. Gently deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly oiled work surface.  Break it in half and decide how you’re going to shape it.  This recipe will either make two loaves, a loaf and a tear and share, or a large batch of rolls. Shape as desired.  If you want to put that cream cheese mix from step one in the rolls, now is the perfect time. Simply divide the dough into rolls, flatten each roll, place a chunk of the cream cheese inside it (no larger than about 1″ x 1″ and shape the roll around the cheese, double-checking that it’s sealed well. If you’re skipping that step, just shape the bread. A bread form for loaves works, as does shaping a rustic round loaf, or even braiding it. If you’re doing rolls, I suggest baking them in a tear and share or casserole dish for crisp tops and super moist sides. Just place them about an inch apart.

  7. Once your bread is shaped, cover the pans and set it aside to rise until almost doubled in size. This will take between 35-45 minutes, so preheat the oven to 350 and use this time to wash the dishes. Unfortunately, this isn’t Beauty and the Beast. They’re not going to wash themselves.
  8. Bake the bread about 30-35 minutes (20 minutes for the rolls)   until it sounds hollow when tapped, is nice and crusty on top, pulls away from the pan a little, and a digital thermometer inserted into the center registers about 190°F. At that point, let your bread cool. This will be the most difficult part. It’s going to smell absolutely amazing but you can’t touch it until it’s just a little warmer than room temperature or the whole loaf will fall apart, and that would be sad. Once it’s cool, enjoy. If you’re serving it to guests, make sure you grab a piece before serving – the whole loaf will be gone in a blink of an eye. It’s that good!

Well, friends. There you have it. An easy pumpkin bread recipe that you’ll find yourself totally addicted to. It’s the perfect thing to serve with a holiday meal, or to grab a thick, buttered slice of at 2 in the morning. It’s also super-delicious on a cheese plate with cheddar or brie! Enjoy! I know I did.

 

Caramel Apple Recipe and Tutorial: How to Make Caramel Apples

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

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

Ingredients:

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

Optional Ingredients for toppings:

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

Special Equipment:

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

Instructions:

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

Items Shown: Delicious Caramel Apples!

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

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

mr peanut

Comforting Fall Soup – Apple and Butternut Squash Soup

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

I can’t believe it’s already October, which according to NPR is peak decorative gourd month.  Also, Halloween!!! Since we’re celebrating the gourds in all forms, decorative and delicious, we figured we’d kick off the month with a delicious and hearty soup recipe – our butternut squash soup with apples. It seriously tastes like autumn in a bowl.  Plus, it’s a totally festive orange soup – perfect for this time of the year.  If you’d rather, you can substitute the butternut squash with  pumpkin to make a pumpkin soup. Still festive. Still delicious. Just look for a small sugar pumpkin, not the one you’d be using for a jack-o-lantern. More flavor.  Now, unless you’re just on our blog looking for deals (in which case, click here) let’s get cooking – I’m gonna teach you how to make soup that’ll knock your festive fall socks off!

First up, gather your ingredients! As you’ll see, this is a vegetarian soup, but if you’d prefer, you can make it with chicken stock. I just know I’m always on the quest for great, hearty vegetarian dishes this time of the year, and this is a great one.

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (approximately 2 medium squash)
  • 1 white onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 3 apples, diced  (I prefer Fuji or Granny Smith)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter (or olive oil if you’d prefer)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 5-6 large leaves sage, minced, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4-5 cups vegetable stock (or chicken stock if you’d prefer.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Green onion, for garnish, optional
  • Sour cream, for garnish, optional

If you use those garnishes, it’s gonna look a little like this – I skipped the green onion but went crazy with the sage:

Instructions

  1.  In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium high heat.  When it’s melted, add the onion and a pinch of salt.  Cook until the onion begins to get transparent, then add the carrot, celery and onion.  Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables just begin to get tender. Add garlic and saute 30 seconds more.
  2. Turn the heat to medium and add the butternut squash, apples, brown sugar and herbs. At this point, consider adding an additional small pinch of salt, especially if you like your food salty. I’m a bit of a salt fiend.
  3. Cook over medium for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add about 3/4 of the stock (chicken or veggie, your choice.)   Cover the pot, reduce heat to medium low, and leave it alone until the vegetables and fruits are completely tender. There’s a good chance they’ll absorb a lot of the liquid as well.
  5. Time to puree the soup. I use an immersion blender, but you can also puree in a blender, in small batches. When it’s all blended and smooth, put the soup back in your soup pot and taste it. Does it need salt? Pepper? A tiny dash of hot sauce? Add it.  Now’s also the time to take a look at the texture. If it’s too thick, add more of your stock, bit by bit. Keep tasting and adjusting the flavor. If the stock makes it too salty, add a bit of water, or even orange juice. If it’s too thin, let it cook a little longer. Some of the water will evaporate.
  6. At this point, it’s time to serve the soup. Get out your favorite soup bowls (we’re partial to acacia) and keep them handy. If you want a crispy sage garnish like we have above, simply fry your sage in a small pan with a bit of oil or butter. Set on a paper towel and it’ll crisp right up.  If you’re using sour cream, a little dollop goes a long way. If using chives or green onions, simply mince them up.  Put the soup in the bowl, garnish at will, and enjoy!

Some serving notes: If you’re wondering what to serve with butternut squash soup, I’d suggest going the *not to be named Italian restaurant*  way and doing soup, salad and bread(sticks.)  This is a hearty, super filling vegetarian soup (or not vegetarian, if you’d prefer) and it doesn’t need much. I love it with crusty, lightly buttered bread and a simple salad.   It’s also delightful with grilled cheese – like tomato soup with grilled cheese, but with this unmistakably fall flavor. For dinner parties, this is great in tiny bowls, little jars, or even shot glasses as an appetizer.   If you want to make a huge batch and make it last longer, here’s how to freeze soups like this butternut squash soup:  Put it in freezer-safe containers (I use 1/2 liter jars – they’re the perfect lunchtime serving size) leaving about an inch of head space.  Since this soup has a lot of water in it, it’ll expand.  Freeze for up to 3 months (I’ll admit, I’ve gone as long as 6 to no ill-effects.) If you freeze in serving sized containers, rather than in one giant vat, it’ll be super-easy to only defrost just what you need when you need it…especially if you need a last minute lunch.

Cheers to fall, everyone! What’s your absolute favorite fall recipe? Are you a soup junky as well?  Don’t forget to take pictures of anything you make from now until October 16 and hashtag it with #pmtcFallTable – you could win a $100 gift certificate to our site! You can also re-post the picture below to win! Details here.

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.

Great Football Food: Sticky Spicy Korean Chicken Wings

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

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

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

Equipment Needed:

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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

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


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