Archive for September, 2016

#Betterbreakfastmonth Round Two: The Vegan Cranberry Orange Breakfast Loaf

Saturday, September 24th, 2016

 

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Fall is upon us! Well sort of- I want to believe it’s fall, but it’s still 100+ degrees here in Southern California so I’m fabricating fall smells in my kitchen while I pretend to be back on the East Coast with all its cool weather and changing leaves.

There’s something about fall that always inspires me to spend more time in the kitchen. I think it brings back a lot of nostalgic feelings surrounding my Mom, and my parents’ home back on the East Coast. I remember being young and having zero interest in learning to cook, but there was something magical about watching my mom in the kitchen. Some might call it observing her in her element, but knowing what I know now- it was more than that. My Mother is an amazing cook and baker, and spent most of my younger years cooking for an entire neighborhood (you laugh, but there were at least 15 extra kids at my house every night). Baking for my Mom was her way of showing those around her she loved and cared for them, and that act of service is something that has always stuck with me. Now don’t get me wrong- she cooked her butt off year round, but fall was really when she pulled out the big guns. Every day after school my friends would express their jealousy at the delicious smell of home baked cookies wafting from our little apartment (I’m talking oatmeal cookies, chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies…this is just one afternoon y’all). People would randomly drop by during that time, as it was pretty well known in the area that if you came by Janie’s house you were leaving with a huge bag of baked goods, a hug, and likely some extra groceries to tie you over until payday (yea my Mom and Dad are the bee’s knees). So when I started putting together a recipe for this week I thought about a breakfast dish that you could easily share with loved ones, or co-workers, or friends that was comforting but still healthy. I decided I would borrow an old fall favorite, Vegan Cranberry Orange Loaf from Jennifer at the NeuroticMommy blog. She took out the eggs, the processed sugar, and milk, really knocking the calorie count down (and made it more restrictive diet friendly (I’m looking at my fellow lactose intolerant friends!) The recipe is incredibly simple and easy to share! I encourage you readers to whip up your own breakfast loaf and share it with the people you love, and in this case I got to share it with my super sweet co-workers!

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I whipped up this super tasty recipe using Pacific Merchants’ French wood utensils, which are fabulous not just because each utensil is unique (each utensil is hand crafted and therefore each one is like a little snowflake), but since they are made of wood you don’t get any plastic-y taste from the kitchenware. Plus since we have numerous cancer survivors in my family, we don’t have to worry about any plastic based carcinogens that may contaminate the food. I’ve plated the loaf on Pacific Merchants’ responsibly forested 16” x 7” acacia serving tray (so my wonderful coworkers don’t have to fight to get a “slice” of the action), and decorated our table with the Red Tone Fall Deco Parchment leaves so my co-worker’s get the full Fall experience (they may think I’m slightly insane in this 100 degree weather, but oh well- haha!)

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Vegan Cranberry Orange Breakfast Loaf
(Many thank yous to www.neuroticmommy.com)

Ingredients
1 ½ cups cake flour or GF whole wheat flour
1 tsp of Baking Powder
1 cup of organic sugar or ¾ cup of honey (Grade B)  (if you use the honey decrease the liquid in the recipe by 3 tbsp)
Zest of ½ an orange
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
¾ cup unsweetened Almond Milk (or any nut milk)
½ cup organic safflower oil
1 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup fresh cranberries

Orange Glaze (optional)
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp orange juice

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350F and lightly spray standard loaf pan with coconut oil or nonstick cooking spray
2. In a large bowl sift together dry ingredients, flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and orange zest. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together all wet ingredients, almond milk, safflower oil, applesauce, orange juice, and vanilla extract.
4. Slowly mix in wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Stir until just combined then fold in the fresh cranberries.
5.  Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes. The original recipe calls for 70-75 minutes but because of the ingredient switches, the time varies. Mine loaves were done at an hour and 20 minutes. 6. At the hour mark, just keep an eye on it from there. If you want to keep it in longer but don’t want the top to brown too much, lower the heat and keep it in longer. And of course do the whole tooth pick inserted check.Once done remove from oven and let cool in pan 15 minutes. After that transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before icing (if using).
7. Make the glaze by whisking both juice and sugar together until completely smooth and no sugar clumps are left.
8. Drizzle that yumminess like crazy on top of your loaf cake. Cut, serve and Enjoy!


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Healthy Pancake Variations for #BetterBreakfastMonth

Friday, September 16th, 2016

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One thing I look forward to every weekend is the ability to actually cook a real meal for breakfast instead of my usual instant oatmeal or cereal during the week. Due to the monotonous nature of my workweek eating habits, when Saturday morning rolls around I try my best to test out new exciting recipes (often to my husband’s dismay). One morning in particular we were trying to decide what kind of pancakes we wanted, and after a very rousing 15 minutes of ‘No you choose!’ I had a brilliant idea. Why not just make a healthy base and then we could divide it and add all the fun ingredients after? That way each person could have exactly what they want, or at the very least we would have a multitude of pancake options (what a sweet predicament to be in!) Not only was this a great option for us (no more WHAT DO YOU WANT TO EAT pep talks before coffee-hah!), but I thought about how great this would be for families with picky eaters (or with multiple kids who all want different things). What’s also great is that both variations I’m sharing are gluten-free and low calorie, AND you can refrigerate the batter and use it to make a quick healthy breakfast during the week!
Presentation is also big for me on weekends, since during the week my breakfasts are generally of the ‘to-go’ variety. I like each meal to feel as though we just stepped into the fanciest boutique brunch restaurant (minus the hefty price tag!) These acacia plates from Pacific Merchants are always a great touch, and since there is sticky syrup involved I love using our poly vinyl placemats (super great for not only protecting your table, but also are incredibly easy to clean). It seems like a little overkill, but after 15 years together with my husband, I love every opportunity I can find to create a special date experience for both of us. Plus when you’re on a budget, eating out every weekend is just not an option. And thanks to Pacific Merchant’s products, I’m able to really give my spouse the ‘fine dining’ experience at home (which is not only cute, but practical). Check out the gear I used for this post:
The Acacia Serving tray
The Acacia Round Plates
Our Laguna Linen Placemat
The Into the Woods Deco Parchment Leaves
…and try hosting your own fancy brunch-date at home with the people you love!
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Healthy Pancake Batter

2 cups Oat flour (or you can ground your own oats!)
2 tsp Baking Powder
½ cup organic unsweetened applesauce
1 cup unsweetened Almond Milk
1 egg
Coconut oil for pan

Method

1. Combine all dry ingredients in one bowl, and wet ingredients in another. Slowly add the combined wet ingredients to the dry mixing as you go.
2. Decide how you want to customize them! Today I’m making Lemon Poppy Seed for myself, and mixed berry cereal pancakes for the husband!

Lemon Poppy Seed Variation

1 tbsp Organic Poppy seeds
3 tsp Lemon Juice (Fresh or pre-bottled)
1. Half the batter you just made and set one half aside.
2. Add the organic poppy seeds and the lemon juice, and stir into batter until combined.
3. Add a spoonful of coconut oil to pan (do so before pouring each pancake)
4. Ladle a small amount of batter onto the pan and let cook for roughly 2-3 minutes each side (or until brown). Repeat until you finish batter.
5. Add some organic maple syrup and these bad boys are ready to eat!

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The Arnold’s Mixed Berry and Cereal Variation

½ cup organic blackberries
1 cup of any cereal (today we are using Honey Bunches of Oats)

1. Add a spoonful of coconut oil to skillet (do so before pouring each pancake)
2. Take the other half of the untouched batter and ladle it onto your pan.
3. Sprinkle a couple berries and a pinch of cereal on top of the pancake. Ladle more batter on top (lightly- you still want to see bits of berry and cereal poking through)
4. Once the pancake begins to bubble, flip it over. (Each side should take roughly 2-3 minutes to cook through). Repeat until you finish batter.
5. Add some organic maple syrup and voila!

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Side notes if you’ve never made pancakes before!
*keep pancakes relatively thin and small when you pour them onto the skillet. It allows them to cook more evenly, and you don’t have to worry about an uncooked middle section.
* If you feel like your pancake batter is too thick you can always add more almond milk. BUT if you do add some to it, add it in small increments or the batter will become too runny. You do want the batter to be relatively thick, and if it becomes too runny you’ll have something more akin to crepes!
* The best way to tell if your pancake is ready to flip is to watch the top of the pancake for bubbles. These usually come after 2-3 min on medium heat.
* Don’t crank your burner up to full blast! It’s always better to cook at a lower heat as it will save you from burning your pancakes.
* Fun fact- if you just add the berries and cereal to the batter, the ingredients will come out soggy! Be sure to follow the steps for some delicious crunchy pancakes!

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A Trip to the Past: Pacific Merchants Visits Historical French Factory

Friday, September 9th, 2016

A Trip To The Past: Pacific Merchants visits 150 year old olive wood factory in France.  Hand made and artisan techniques handed down generation to generation.

Bonjour mes amis! — That’s French for “Hey there, my friends!” Why are we speaking French, you might ask?  Well, Pacific Merchants just got back from one heck of a factory visit in the South of France! We went right to the source and saw for ourselves where our beautiful olivewood and beechwood utensils are handcrafted: to experience this craftsmanship of our products firsthand was quite an experience!

We landed in Paris in the morning, and decided to grab a late breakfast at the famous Champs Elysses. From our first croissant and double espresso, we were hooked, and immerse ourselves fully in the French cuisine and culture

We had just begun to adjust to the time change, when we were whisked away by our friend and business associate, Alain. Together, we set off on a six-hour journey to the South of France near the Switzerland border where we would visit the factory and really get to know our products and the people who create them.
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En route to the factory, we made a pit stop for lunch in Saint-Nazaire-En-Royan at the Hotel Restaurant Rome where we enjoyed a local delicacy, “ravioles aux champignons,” a French verison of small, delicate raviolis with gorgeous morel mushrooms. The portions were much larger than the delicate servings we had just began to get accustomed to in Paris. When we mentioned this to Alain, he merely chuckled.
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Nestled in the lush greenery and rolling hills of the beautiful French countryside was our destination.  The factory’s owner Henri was there to greet us with a smile, and he graciously took us on a tour of the factory that’s been in his family for several generations. Henri informed us that while there was once a time where 50-60 cottage wood industries existed in France, today Henri’s factory is among a handful left that produces olivewood and beechwood utensils in France. We feel truly honored to be the factory’s exclusive importer to the United States—especially knowing these were the same tools used by legendary chefs such as Julia Child!

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During the tour, Henri took us to a small room behind the factory, and showed us a collection of wooden mechanical factory parts. These parts were over a hundred years old, impeccably preserved, and had been passed down from generation to generation. You could really feel the heart of the factory come to life when looking at these antiques, and as a visitor from a country which idolizes what is new and trendy, it was incredibly moving to be in the presence of something so timeless and historical. The more we saw, the more we understood the rich history behind our products, and the extensive amount of handcraftsmanship that goes towards their production.
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While at the factory, we observed the production of our olive wood spoons from start to finish. First, the raw materials come into the factory and are cut down into individual blocks of wood. The blocks are then loaded into a hand-run wood router to create shaped pieces which are turned to create a handle and the shape of the head of the spoon. From there, the spoons are individually hand finished, which includes creating the spoon bowl by hand in a press-like machine. After that, the finished spoon is hand polished and covered with a signature oil and wax. Voila!
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Click here to see a 90 second video on the process I just described!  It’s worth seeing.
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It was a long and exciting day at the factory learning about our French woodenware utensils, so we spent the night in a cozy little country inn where we got a much needed night’s rest. We woke up early the next morning and set off for the factory for morning meetings to discuss product development with our business partner and the factory owners.

We were led up a narrow flight of stairs into the meeting room which overlooked the entire factory. We were so excited to see all that the company had to offer, but even more thrilled to develop new ideas with Henri, and see how we could work together to improve our products for our customers. The meeting was very successful, and we shook hands with Henri and parted, feeling optimistic about what was in store for the future of our two companies!  Merci’!

Bruce Mannis & Samantha Mannis

Buying & Video Team

 

Labor Day Vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip

Friday, September 2nd, 2016


Summer is finally coming to a close this weekend, which is no surprise for anyone- what with grocery stores and coffee shops already pushing pumpkin – flavored everything in our faces. But before we jump onto the ‘I heart fall’ bandwagon, let’s pump the breaks and get you ready for your Labor Day BBQ.

Labor Day is actually one of the best holidays in the US if for nothing else than the country takes a single day to honor all of its hard workers. The idea being that we are supposed to take the holiday and treat ourselves to some relaxation and fun, whether it is extra family time or a cookout (or heck a mid-day nap!). Now if there’s anything we love at Pacific Merchants it’s a good BBQ, and if there is anything we love more than that it would likely be guilt free snacking. BBQ fare is notorious for junk-food items and over-indulgence, but it doesn’t have to be! You can still over-indulge (now sans guilt) with this Vegan Gluten-Free Spinach Artichoke dip. Not only is it creamy and delicious, but a normal order of spinach artichoke dip comes in at a whopping 1,600 calories per order – whereas its vegan counterpart clocks in at roughly 83 calories per cup (WHICH IS A LOT OF DANG DIP FOR UNDER 100 calories). Plus (and this is from experience here) if you don’t tell anyone it’s vegan…NO ONE WILL KNOW- Which is especially helpful if you come from a family like mine, who thinks the word vegan is a synonym for bland.

Now aside from the fact that this recipe is incredibly healthy, it’s also super easy to make! And if you’ve been vegan for long you know how rare it is for those two things to go together. So here we go.

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Vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip

Ingredients:

1 Jar marinated artichoke hearts
3 cups of frozen chopped spinach (you’re welcome to use fresh)
1 cup frozen chopped onions
1 brick of Jalapeño Havarti Almond Cheese
1 brick of Soy Mozzarella
1 cup Almond milk
2 tsp of Olive Oil (or coconut)
1 tsp of garlic powder
Salt & pepper to taste
Assorted Veggies & multigrain whole wheat pita chips (for dipping)

Method

– Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
– Prep a medium sized casserole dish (I spray mine with coconut oil for easy cleanup)
– Cube the 2 bricks of cheese and set in a large bowl
– Dice the artichoke hearts and set in the same bowl as the cheese
– Pour in the spinach and onions
– Add spices and oil to the bowl (I also toss in about 2 tsp of whatever the artichoke hearts were marinating in)
– Toss all ingredients together to mix everything up
– Pour bowl continents into your casserole dish
– Pour the cup of almond milk over the spread evenly (can add more later if you feel like your dip is too thick)
– Set casserole dish in the oven, cook for ten minutes, stir dip, and then cook for another ten minutes (so 20 min total). This is also the point to add more milk to the mixture if you want a runnier consistency.
– Once fully cooked, you can brown the top of the dip by switching the oven to broil for 2-3 minutes. Be sure to check on it frequently so it doesn’t burn (it browns up super quick!)
-Let cool for 5 minutes, and then plate the dip in your beautiful acacia 7 part flower tray from Pacific Merchants! I chose to use an assortment of veggies and whole grain pita for dipping (to keep this dish as healthy as possible). However, I will occasionally serve this with a nice bread (whole wheat challah or sourdough is my favorite).

Get your own Pacific Merchants Acaciaware serving tray here.

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