Archive for June, 2013

Tips for a Great Fourth of July Barbecue!

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

US-flag-Florida-BridgeCan you believe that Independence Day is just around the corner?  That’s right, July 4th is almost here! Naturally, we’re getting ready for a big family barbecue with all the trimmings, from Red and Blue placemats to all-American apple pies to an incredible spread of food laid out on our eco-friendly Acaciaware serving dishes.  They come in a huge range of shapes and sizes ,  from baguette traysto bread boards to chip and dip

Acaciaware

Acaciaware® Salad Bowl

trays and they’re  perfect for serving a crowd. They’re durable and don’t shatter when dropped.

If you want to get in on the Acaciaware action this summer, enter code FIREWORKS at checkout! You’ll receive a FREE salad serving set with every 10” or larger salad bowl. After all, no one wants to serve a fruit salad with their hands.

We’ve actually already published a couple of recipes on this blog that would be absolutely great for your Fourth of July gathering.  Check out our National Burger Month post for a perfect, foolproof burger recipe. If you’re a ribs lover (and how could you not love ribs?) check out our Father’s Day dry rub recipe. Of course, one cannot live on meat alone – unless you’re a shark or lion – so today we’re going to feature a great vegetarian recipe to help you balance out your barbecue.

Before we get to that recipe, we’ve got our top five entertaining tips to share with you. We want to make sure that you can throw America a great birthday bash and still enjoy time with friends and family, instead of manning the grill all night.

Tip 1: Make as much of possible ahead of time. This seems like absolutely common sense, but it’s easy to forget. If I’m making burgers, I slice my tomatoes and onions the night before the party and put them in a sectioned serving tray like the Acaciaware tray featured below.   I also make all my salads and sides ahead of time and put them in the refrigerator in their serving bowls, so on the day of the party I can just pull them out, stick some serving spoons in them, and be done.  To keep salads fresh, I don’t add the dressing until the last minute – I make it separately and store it in jars, but beyond that, ¾ of my party foods are made ahead so I’m not running around like a chicken with its head cut off as guests start to arrive.

     Acacia Wood Deep Bowl, 12" x 12" x 6" Kilner Preserve Jar, 1.0 Liter/34 fl ozAcacia Wood Fork & Spoon Serving Set, 12"

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Tip 2: Keep it simple.  I’ve thrown parties where I’ve overdone it on the food and forgotten to enjoy the guests. You’re throwing a Fourth of July bash. Burgers, a simple salad and a dessert , like our strawberry shortcake should be plenty. By making no more than one entrée, 2 sides, and a dessert, you’ll spend less time fussing and more time having fun.

Tip 3: Get help. There’s no rule that says that you have to make everything just because you’re hosting. Buy something (or a few things) pre-made at the store.  Most grocery stores have great vegetable trays, cookies, chips and dips, and so much more. If you want a consistent look, put them on your own dishes. Your guests won’t know the difference! We’ve got Acaciware serving solutions that are perfect for veggies and dips, chips and dips, and even big platters for appetizers and desserts.

Tip 4: Don’t try too many new recipes at once.  Maybe make a new entrée, or a new side dish, but don’t overwhelm yourself with new recipes unless you’re 100% sure they’ll work out.  You’ll be stressed by the time the food is served.  Adventurous eating is awesome, but it’s always good to have at least one dish you can make in your sleep, whether it’s burgers,  pulled pork, or guacamole.  You’ll know it’s good without trying it, your guests will love it, and it’s one thing you won’t need to worry about.

Tip 5: Fire extinguisher. It’s the Fourth of July, which means that there’s a grill going, fireworks, and children running around with sparklers. We’re not saying there’s going to be a fire, but it’s better for your peace of mind to have an extinguisher handy. Like my mother always says, “better safe than sorry.”

And now, on to the recipe:  Mom’s Black Bean and Mango Salad. With the protein from the beans and the sweet tang of mangoes, this salad is hearty enough that it can be a meal on its own. It’s also a great side that everyone seems to love, and it’s amazing on tacos. It can be made up to 4 days ahead, which is great: July 4 is on a Thursday this year, but you can get the prep out of the way on the weekend. Just add the avocado at the last minute or it’ll get brown and mushy.

 

This colorful salad looks particularly beautiful in an Acaciaware salad bowl. The natural wood tones really make colors pop! I l especially love the way it looks in a flared bowl.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups cooked black beans (Canned and drained or cooked and drained)
  • 3 cups corn (canned and drained, frozen and thawed, fresh and lightly steamed)
  • 2 red peppers, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 3 ripe mangoes, diced
  • 3 avocados, diced right before serving
  • 1/2 cup minced cilantro
  • ¼ cup minced mint
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice (more to taste)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients except avocados in a large serving bowl.
  • Toss to combine.
  • Taste and season with salt and pepper
  • Add avocado right before serving.
  • Serve on own, as a topping for tacos, or as a side salad.

We hope that this simple recipe and our helpful hints keep your Fourth of July barbecue as fun and stress free as possible. And remember, no one wants to serve that delicious salad with their hands, so enter FIREWORKS at checkout to get a set of free salad servers with any bowl 10 inches or larger.

Happy 4th, everybody!

Summer Strawberry Shortcake

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Last week wasNational Strawberry Shortcake Day! For us here at Pacific Merchants, even if we’re late, it’s just a great excuse to get out our Mason Cash baking supplies and bake up a storm!

To make strawberry shortcake, you’re going to need a few bowls in a few different sizes: one for making the fruit filling, one for whipping the cream, and one for mixing up the dough.  Naturally, this was a perfect excuse for us to whip out our Mason Cash strawberry mixing bowls. They come in four sizes, so I used the littlest one to eat out of, the next  up for the whipped cream, the 2 quart for the strawberries, and the large mixing bowl to make the dough!

Mason Cash bowls are perfect for strawberry shortcake because both the bowls and the desserts are classics with a long history. Strawberry shortcakes were actually mentioned in Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor, so we felt it was natural to make a British heritage dessert in bowls from a British heritage company.  And while Mason Cash isn’t Shakespeare old, it does date back to the early 1800’s.  So let’s get cooking

You can use anything from angel food cake to pound cake to biscuits for your shortcake dough. Personally, I love this scone-inspired dough. It’s not too sweet,  it’s sturdy enough to hold up to juicy strawberries, and it comes together easily with just a little work and very little equipment, just a large mixing bowl, a couple of butter knives, and a wooden spoon.

 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup cold unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg,
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup half and half

 

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and place rack in middle of oven.
  •  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
  • Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs.
  • Whisk together the egg, half and half, lemon zest and vanilla extract and add to the flour mixture, mixing just until the dough comes together. Do not over mix the dough.
  • Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead dough gently four or five times and then pat or roll the dough into a 7 inch round.
  • With a 3 inch round cookie cutter or an overturned drinking glass, cut out rounds and place the scones on the baking sheet. Brush the tops of the scones with a little cream.
  •  Bake for about 15 – 20 minutes or until nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of a scone comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

 

Once those scones are cooling, start on the strawberry filling. Because strawberries are so good this time of year, they don’t need much, just a little sugar, some orange zest, maybe a splash of vanilla and (if you’re serving adults) a dash of bourbon, which really highlights the sweetness of the berries.  This mixture fits perfectly into a medium Mason Cash bowl, or you can use your large strawberry mixing bowl again.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh strawberries
  • ¼ cup granulated white sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • Zest of one orange
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons good bourbon, optional (if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t use it)

Instructions

  • Wash, hull and quarter the strawberries.
  • Toss strawberries with the sugar, citrus zest, vanilla extract and bourbon
  • Let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour before using

Next, use a small bowl to whip up some cream. You can use a larger bowl and more cream if you want more whipped cream, but 1 cup of cream is plenty for me (probably because I put ice cream on my shortcake as well.  Do this right before serving or your whipped cream will fall flat.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Combine cream, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl
  • Whisk until medium peaks are formed
  • Serve!

Now, assemble your shortcake!

  • Split each scone in half.
  • Put a few strawberries on the bottom of the scone.
  • Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream
  • Put a generous helping of strawberries over the top of the ice cream
  • Top with the second half of the scone
  • Top with whipped cream and more strawberries.
  • Enjoy

Wedding Bells Are Ringing: The PMTC Wedding Gift Guide!

Friday, June 7th, 2013