Archive for December, 2013

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

As 2013 winds down, we’re taking a quick look at some of our favorite products from the last 12 months.  It’s been an exciting year, and we’re psyched to share some of that excitement with you
DSC_9815 DSC_9989 Full assortment of Kilner jars, bottles, and canning accessories

We were thrilled to bring in a new line this year, and we couldn’t have asked for something more exciting than Kilner! We’ve had a lot of fun canning, preserving, and pickling this year, but we’ve had just as much fun trying to figure out other fun uses for all the beautiful Kilner jars, bottles and accessories.  We’ve crafted with Kilner, baked in the jars, and even used them in place of tupperware for lunches.  But we quickly found out that one of our absolute favorite uses for Kilner jars is for storage.  The larger clip top jars are perfect for pantry organization.  All our jars proved to be awesome for organizing small items, from hardware in sheds to markers and craft supplies to sprinkles and spices!

Beautiful Mason Cash in the forest mixing bowls. Mason Cash counter grip bowl

It wasn’t just a good year for canning and preserving – it was an amazing year for baking.  Mason Cash not only brought back the incomparable counter bowl, which tilts as you mix, but a set of four stunning Forest bowls. Whether your style reflects the whimsy of the forest bowls (stunning stoneware embossed with sweet woodland creatures) or you’re more about a bowl that’ll become a workhorse in your kitchen, Mason Cash has you covered.

Mason Cash Bread Baking set Mason Cash Tear and share Bread Form

2013 was also an awesome year for all things terracotta.  Not only did we use our clay cooker and tagines constantly, but we introduced some really cool new terracotta pieces that were designed with the baker in mind.  Our Bread Baking Set features a mixing bowl with a lid that doubles as a baking stone! This year, I’ve used mine for everything from brioche to pizza and each loaf has come out with a perfectly crisp crust and absolutely tender crumb. We also released some Mason Cash Terracotta Tear-and-Share bread forms that really went a long way to adding some charm to my holiday meals this year.  Plus, the unglazed terracotta bread forms really make sure that each roll has a terrific crust and is perfectly, evenly baked.

strawberry salad in pacific merchants acaciaware bowl. cobb salad in bowl.

Acaciaware® really got the chance to shine in 2013. Not only were our beautiful acaciaware® bowls and salad serving sets featured on some top notch blogs and food websites, from The Domestic man to Apartment Therapy (see images above) but we got the chance to expand our line and bring in some new items (see below.) Whether you’re looking for a classic round serving bowl or organically shaped dishes, our acaciaware® line has what you need.

New Acacia images

This was also the year we really got to see just how versatile our new line of Laguna placemats can be. We’ve set dozens of tables with brightly colored Laguna mats and no matter what the occasion, the brightly colored, neatly bordered placemats really tied the whole table together. Check out both a Christmas shot and a Cinco De Mayo themed shot below to see just how nicely our placemats bring things together, whether set traditionally, scattered haphazardly for a pop of color or laid out neatly as a table runner!

Laguna Mats for Christmas Fiesta laguna mats

As you can see, we’ve had quite the year here at Pacific Merchants, and we’re going to spend tonight celebrating 2013 and getting excited for all the awesome things that 2014 has in store for us!  Cheers to a happy, healthy, exciting new year! Have a Happy New year, Everyone!

 

Happy Holidays From Pacific Merchants

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

We hope that you have an absolutely beautiful holiday season! Happy Holidays! Enjoy Yourself!

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The Pacific Merchants Guide to Gift Wrapping: Gift Wrapping Ideas that Pop!

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Sure, putting a bow on it may not be quite as hip as, say, putting a bird on it, but creative wrapping sure makes gifts stand out! Now that we’re stocked up on carefully chosen, lovingly made ornaments, we’re all about putting as much care into the wrapping as the gift itself. It really is an art form, so we scoured the internet looking for great gift wrapping ideas!

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First up, gift wrap doesn’t have to be pricey to be beautiful. Check out these totally recycled, totally free ideas from Martha Stewart. Wrap in maps (free at a lot of tourist information centers,) newspaper, and even brown paper bags. When packed with a pop of colorful ribbon, a contrasting gift tag, or even a little twine, they look SO unique.

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Of course, a gift doesn’t even have to be all wrapped up to be wrapped. A beautiful, re-usable container, like a cookie tin or Kilner jar, a pop of colorful ribbon, and a pretty gift tag are all it takes to turn a gift festive. And you can pack anything, from cookies to tiny toys in jars. I mean come on, who doesn’t want a big jar full of hot wheels?

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Gotta wrap a gift at the office? At home without ribbon? Substitute colored paper. This super-cool idea from Real Simple Magazine features plain white paper and a contrasting paper “ribbon” that’s simply a strip of colored paper with holes punched in it. Could it BE any easier?

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One of our favorite blogs, Garland of Grace, featured one these oh-so-classic “brown paper packages tied up with strings” recently. I love the perky addition of gold paint and fresh greens to wrapping so traditional it’s immortalized in song.  Plus, you can do this with brown paper bags, making it a recyclable idea. I wonder if Julie Andrews has a song about recycling.

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Another one of my absolute favorites, Styling My Everyday, featured this chalkboard inspired paper.  I’m loving the chalkboard trend right now (stay tuned for some chalkboard-inspired products in the new year) They used black kraft paper, and a white paint marker to create some totally unique gifts – And check out the way the ribbon pops against the black and white!

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Last but not least, another one of our faves, How About Orange featured these snowflake-adorned parcels. Still not quite as hip as putting  a bird on it (HUGE Portlandia fan here,) but in sun-soaked California, these snowflakes are a welcome addition to an otherwise green and sunny Christmas!

What are some of your favorite ways of wrapping gifts? Let us know in the comments! I’m always looking for beautiful ideas!

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.  They’re the best mashed potatoes. 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) – They’re the best mashed potatoes ever!

  • 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 – Christmas Sweets and Treats

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Let’s get to the heart of it.  The best part of the holidays (aside from time with loved ones, of course) is the food! On today’s Homemade Christmas Roundup, we’re talking cookies and caramels and SO much more. That’s right – it’s Christmas Sweets time!  Below you’ll find some of our absolute favorite holiday recipes to give as gifts, and some of the knockouts we serve for Christmas dessert. Get ready to drool, folks.

Smitten Kitchen Apple Cider Caramels

First up, Apple Cider Caramels from Smitten Kitchen (photo above is hers as well.)   These are the perfect little treat to tuck into stockings, to place in small bowls throughout the house, or to give jars of as gifts. The apple cider adds a richness and a tang, the recipe includes a hint of saltiness and the lush, buttery caramels are beyond perfect. Plus, they’re simple to make.  Check out the blog post over on Smitten Kitchen, break out your jars and labels, and get cooking. Trust me. You DO NOT want to miss this one.

Bake Christmas Cookies

Next up, Christmas Cookies! Whether your go-to is a sugar cookie, gingerbread men, chocolate peppermint cookie, or something else entirely, break out your mixing bowls, measuring cups, and cookie cutters and go wild! Half the fun is decorating them yourself.  Gelow are my top 10 Christmas cookies (though I don’t like to limit myself.) All of the recipes below have been tried and tested by yours truly, hence the extra time at the gym this week.

Molasses spice cookies with orange sugarLinzer cookiesChocolate Espresso SnowcapsGlittering Lemon Sandwich CookiesCitrus Sugar CookiesGingerbread CutoutsPecan PralinesPeppermint Bark BrowniesChocolate Chip Cranberry CookiesToffee Squares

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Another absolute favorite of mine is Cinnamon Rolls. We always serve them on Christmas morning, and they make the whole house smell heavenly.  I use this killer recipe from Minimalist Baker to make the simplest, most delicious cinnamon rolls ever. I bake mine in a flower shaped tear and share pan, which not only looks super-festive, but helps the rolls cook evenly and helps create a nice crispy bottom crust.

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I’m an absolute hot chocolate addict, and there’s nothing I like more with my hot chocolate than big, fluffy homemade-style marshmallows. Once I bought the Little Flower Cookbook and was able to make my favorite marshmallows at home, there’s been no stopping me.  The folks at LA Weekly were kind enough to publish this recipe from the bakery so you can make the marshmallows that I’m addicted to. This time of year, I find myself putting peppermint extract in the mix in place of Vanilla for some really rich peppermint hot chocolate.  Making marshmallows is shockingly easy Once you try, you’ll never go back to jet puffed.

Chocolate+Gingerbread+Fudge+02

I absolutely love fudge. It’s one of those perfect, little goes a long way desserts.  This chocolate gingerbread fudge from Cupcake Project is the perfect way to incorporate those fragrant, spicy seasonal flavors in unexpected ways. I mean you bite into fudge expecting a burst of chocolate, and with this stuff, you get that chocolatey flavor along with ginger, cloves and cinnamon. It’s really perfect for the holidays I know I can’t stop at one little square.

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OK, so this is going to be a new tradition. This year I became madly addicted to  the chocolate covered potato chips at Trader Joes, so when I stumbled across this chocolate potato chip bark from Brit + Co, I pounced. I’ve been through an entire batch this week (with some help) and I’m definitely mailing it out with my holiday cookie boxes this weekend!  It’s a totally perfect sweet and salty balance, with a hint of spice.  I love breaking it into long narrow pieces that fit upright in a jar and giving jars of it!

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If you want to put together a treat that absolutely looks like a Christmas ornament, consider fruit jellies. They glow and sparkle like ornaments, are easy to make in bright colors, and taste really darn good.  Plus, they look darling stacked in a jar and tied with a bow! I love this recipe for pear-cranberry jellies from epicurious. So perfect for this time of the year, so festive tasting.

Now that I’ve got you drooling, I’m going to my kitchen and bake up a mess of cookies to send to my family.   Check back next week for some more treats, sweets, decor, and Christmas Merriment!  And let me know: What’s your favorite Christmas sweet of all time?

A Very Homemade Christmas – Homemade Christmas Gifts

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

There’s just 2 weeks to Christmas. If you’re anything like me, you’re not quite done (or haven’t even started) Christmas shopping. Maybe the easy to buy for folks on the list are taken care of, but those hard to shop for loved ones are still sitting out there, confusing you. If you’re stuck, I suggest making your own gifts.  Nothing says “I love you, you’re awesome” quite like a gift made with love.  This week, we scoured the internet to find some awesome homemade christmas gifts that’ll thrill even the trickiest folks on your list. So break out your Kilner jars and put those crafting hats on!

Kilner jar candle

First, one of my favorites, candles. It’s actually super-easy to make candles, as this tutorial from Martha Stewart explains, and you can get all of the materials online or at a craft store relatively cheaply. Martha makes hers in a teacup, but you can really use anything from a uniquely shaped acacia bowl to a Kilner jar (see image above) to a pudding basin!  With the right scents and colors, these will look good in anyone’s home. Just match your colors to the colors in their home and you’ve got a beautiful, custom gift!

bathfizzies_msliving

Also from the wonderful Martha Stewart, consider bath fizzies. They’re the perfect treat for anyone who likes to kick back and relax in the bath. If you want to get really creative, do a candle with a complementary scent. As seen above, Bath fizzies stored in large jars not only  make a really visually striking gift, but it keeps the fizzies from fizzing from the humidity in the air, instead of in the tub!  Learn how to make them Here, and find the perfect jar to wrap them in here! If you’re feeling like REALLY spoiling someone, you could take it a step further and put together an entire spa in a jar!

 

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Another great gift (inspired by My Baking Addiction)  is a homemade cocoa mix. If you’ve got someone on your list who is either a hot chocolate or a mocha drinker, consider putting together a Kilner jar full of custom hot cocoa. You can do everything from a spicy hot cocoa to a peppermint hot chocolate or you can make an assortment and give a small Kilner jar of each. Bonus points if you stack the jars and decorate them like a snowman.

 

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If one of your loved ones lives somewhere cold, consider giving the gift of comfort. And by that,  naturally, I mean soup. Now I’m not saying to wrap a steaming hot pot and put a bow on it, but create some really warming soup mixes in jars. I love the curried lentil soup pictured above. It makes even the chilliest days feel warm, and isn’t that what you want in a soup? If you’re feeling generous (and who isn’t this time of the year?) give the soup mixes with some beautiful soup bowls.

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Next up? Cookies in jars.  This is an especially great gift for people with kids, or folks who love cookies but don’t necessarily want to do all the hard stuff, like measure!  We did a whole post on Cookies in Jars just a few short weeks ago, so check it out, get some ideas, whip out those Kilner jars and create your own festive mix. Some of my favorite very merry add ins include: Crushed peppermint candies, red and green M&Ms, Festive sprinkles,  Dried cherries, candied ginger, and white chocolate chips.  But use your imagination. Go wild.

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Our friends over at Real Simple gave us this idea, which we think is an inspired use of Kilner Bottles  and a fun way to beat the holiday stress – Infuse your own liquor (both to drink and to give as gifts.)  They use vodka (see tutorial) but you can use whatever you’d like. Pack ingredients and your liquor of choice into a beautiful bottle  (I’m partial to our Kilner bottles, obviously) and rock out. Some of my favorite combos are tequila with pineapple, gin with lemongrass, vodka with vanilla beans, and bourbon with cocoa nibs, but the possibilities are seriously endless.

As you can see, there are a TON of killer gift ideas out there, and you don’t even have to spend a ton of money to make great gifts. As a bonus, these gifts are so unique that even the man who has everything doesn’t have them. After all, they were  made with love!

Check back in on Friday to get some great, foolproof, crowd pleasing holiday recipes, both to give as gifts (hello apple cider caramels!) and to serve at your Christmas dinner.

A Very Homemade Christmas – Christmas Crafts and Decor

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?

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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 [email protected]  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!


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