Archive for the ‘Do It Yourself’ Category

Top 10 Creative Holiday Gifts

Friday, December 2nd, 2016
  1. These Whimsical Parchment Cheese Leaves

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    For your fanciful loved one we have these adorable and food friendly parchment leaves. Whether you gift the leaves themselves or use them to construct one of the centerpieces above, these table decorations give any holiday table a festive aesthetic without being too “campy”. I use mine to serve appetizers to guests, but there are a ton of creative crafts you can use them for as well as decorating your table (without having to actually use dead leaves – yuck!)

    2. This Rustic Acacia wood Cheese Paddle Set

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    The holidays are a time for family, friends, and appetizers. When I hosted my first holiday dinner I had poured my all into the menu, without giving any thought to how I was going to actually going to serve my delicious dishes. Save your new host/hostess from scrambling around the kitchen with this live edge cheese paddle, that is sure to give your holiday cheese log that festive country-chic vibe.

    3. This Acacia Wood Condiment Set

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    These are perfect for the person in your life that is obsessed with that ‘food blog’ look (or like me just can’t stand to see plastic bottles on a beautifully set table). Get them all set up for an Instagram worthy table top with these guys.

    4. This Mortar & Pestle with a Potted Fresh Herb

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    Fresh ground herbs are a gift in themselves (fresh ground mint in green tea is one of my favorite things on this planet), but I also love the action of grinding my own herbs. Mostly because I enjoy pretending I’m on chopped as soon as I step into my kitchen, but also because it makes the herb brighter in whatever dish you add it to (at least in this poster’s humble opinion). Pair one of our mortar & pestle sets with an herb of your choosing (I always suggest mint or basil), to help your host/hostess discover their inner Chopped contestant this holiday season.

    5. This new Fusion Wood Serving tray

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    If your friend has a family like mine, then you spend your holidays with about 50 plus people. When the bird comes out everyone makes a mad dash for the aluminum tray (that inevitably ends up leaking from all the knives/forks stabbing into the bottom) and results in a cleaning nightmare that not even Martha Stewart would want to deal with. Save your loved one the hassle with this beautiful Fusion Wood (blend of Black Walnut, Oak, Ash, Hard Maple, Acacia, Sapele & Teak) serving tray, perfect for this holiday’s main entrée.

    6. These 4 section Acacia wood serving trays : Get the first one Here, and the second Here.

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    Does your loved one have kids who are picky eaters? Are they themselves picky eaters? This tray is perfect for them! Aside from being the perfect snack tray, it’s a great way to pile on your dinner feast without any of the foods touching each other. Or if you’re like me and can never decide between salsa, guacamole, or queso now you can have all three (ITS LIKE GROWN UP LUNCHABLE NACHOS- You’re WELCOME).

    7. The Movie Night Bowl “basket”

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    Let’s face it, going to the movies is now more expensive for two people than tickets to Disneyland (ok-slight exaggeration but I miss the old days of $5 movie tickets). I love doing movie night at home, and what better surprise for your newly married friends or your parents (or friends with kids even) than with their own home movie night! Get a big ‘Popcorn’ bowl, throw in their favorite movie (or if you want it holiday themed hit the $5 dollar movie bin for some seasonal favorites for cheap), some popcorn & snacks, and maybe a bottle of wine. Then poof! You’ve got your very own adult movie night set (side-note you probably shouldn’t share the wine with the kids- but hey you do you). 😉

    8. Guys Night Out Bowl

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    My husband used to get together with his buddies for poker night once a week when we all used to live closer, and his game nights are the main inspiration for this “basket”. For this gift stuff the bowl with the mixings for some good Dark ‘N’ Stormy’s (one bottle of dark rum & ginger beer), a deck of cards (or Risk), poker chips, chips dip and other assorted snacks, a few cigars if that’s your bag, and follow it up with a Die Hard DVD (in my opinion the best Christmas movie ever made). The men in your life will thank you, I promise.

 

  1. Girls Night Bowlk0475 9509632741_d8e4c32522_b

    This is gift is all about treating yourself. Stuff our Acaciaware ‘popcorn’ bowl with snacks, movies, a massage coupon, and a mandala coloring book and your girlie best friend will be in heaven! Throw in one of our mortar and pestle sets so she can make her very own face masks from scratch. Give her the ultimate night of relaxation and self-care, I bet she deserves it!

#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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Guacamole and Other Backyard BBQ Dips

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

 

The word “barbeque” conjures up scenes of summer evening get-togethers. Kids at play, the hum of pleasant chatter occasionally pierced by a boisterous uncle’s laugh, the sizzle of delectable meats and vegetables, faint woodsmoke wafting through the air, carrying tantalizing scents of a glorious meal (and food coma) to come…

With the Fourth of July quickly approaching, you’ll want an equally quick backyard BBQ dip to free up more time for celebrating with family and friends. Now, maybe freeing up more time from the kitchen isn’t quite on the same level as when Congress freed our nation from Britain all those years ago…but it’s pretty close.

By the way Britain, no hard feelings. We still love you and your television, royalty, and puddings.

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Earth Day Açaí Bowls

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

This Friday is Earth Day, and we here at Pacific Merchants are celebrating with our responsibly forested Acaciaware® – the perfect display for these gorgeous and healthy açaí bowls.  

Earth Day is a day to celebrate and respect the beauty of our planet – and this fruity açaí bowl definitely shows off some of mother nature’s finest treasures! The açaí berry is not only incredibly rich in antioxidants – it also tastes wonderful blended into a thick frozen yogurt-like smoothie (…two of the many reasons açaí bowls have become so trendy as of late!)
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Learning to make açaí bowls at home will not only save you a few bucks, but will also be the perfect activity to celebrate Earth Day this year – especially if using fresh fruits from the farmer’s market! Plus, with the weather heating up, these frozen treats make for an undeniably refreshing and oh-so sweet afternoon pick-me-up.
 PMTC Acai Bowls
PMTC Acai Bowl prep
PMTC Acai Bowl
PMTC Acai

Earth Day Açaí Bowls

Serves 1.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pouch of frozen açaí purée
  • 1/4 cup frozen pineapple chunks
  • 1/4 cup frozen mango chunks
  • 1 frozen ripe banana
  • 5 fresh strawberries
  • A splash of apple juice

top with:

  • Hemp seed granola
  • Almonds
  • Goji berries
  • Coconut flakes
  • Fresh fruit
  • A drizzle of honey

 

3 SIMPLE STEPS:

  1. Place the frozen açaí purée, pineapple chunks, mango chunks, banana, and strawberries into a blender. Pulse until the frozen fruit is broken down slightly.
  2. Slowly add in a splash or two of apple juice, just until the mixture comes together. *Be careful not to add too much! Blend until smooth.
  1. Pour the smooth and creamy blended açaí into an Acaciaware® bowl, decorate with your favorite toppings, and enjoy!

* (The key to a perfect açaí bowl is thickness: the blended açaí mixture should be thick enough to eat with a spoon!)

 

Oh, and Happy Earth Day!

 

Fall Into the Woods: Trail Mix Recipe

Monday, August 31st, 2015

National Eat Outside Day falls on the last day of August. And speaking of fall, autumn is rapidly approaching. If you want to get specific, the fall equinox this year lands on September 23rd at precisely 4:21 a.m.
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Happy Bastille Day, Have a (Healthy) Crêpe!

Monday, July 13th, 2015
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Photo source: DCAfter5

July 14 marks La Fête nationale, or more commonly known to us in the United States as Bastille Day!

What is Bastille Day, you might ask? No, it’s not just the day you get to troll Instagram, fuming at all the amazing firework photos posted by your friends abroad. Bastille Day commemorates the beginning of the French Revolution, and the storming of the Bastille, on July 14, 1789. This holiday celebrates the unity and culmination of the French people as a nation.
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National Ice Cream Month: Banana “Nice” Cream Recipe

Monday, July 6th, 2015
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Peanut butter and plain banana ice cream. Item shown: Dipping Bowl 4″

It’s the quintessential summer staple. Cold. Creamy. Customizable. I’m talking about ice cream. From the humble ice cream truck you chased as a child (or adult, no judgment here) to decadent concoctions from the local parlor, it’s plain to see that ice cream is a crucial component of a happy, healthy life.

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Easy Snacks: Pita Chips and Hummus Recipe

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

Pita Chips and Hummus are snacks I can actually eat every day, all year round, and never get bored. However, I find myself making hummus the most in the summer – I just whip up a big batch on Sunday and bring it to work for snack (in jars with carrot sticks), use instead of mayo on sandwiches, and serve it plated elegantly when guests come over. Making hummus from scratch is super-easy, and I love having a healthy, protein-rich treat I can grab and go whenever I’m hungry.

The Best Hummus Recipe on the Planet (more…)

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!

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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!

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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!

 

 

Adventures in Canning: How to Cure Olives

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Ever since we brought in our line of fermenting crocks, we’ve been absolutely obsessing over curing our own olives.  Why? Because olives are delicious and versatile. They’re great on cheese plates, amazing in cocktails, and SO good on their own as a snack.  Plus, they’re high in antioxidants and vitamin E. Can’t hurt, right? So when olives finally came into season here, we bought ourselves a ton of raw, uncured olives and got to experimenting.

Here’s a little thing about olives: when they’re uncured, they don’t taste good at all. In fact, they taste downright nasty. I think that cured olives had to be born out of desperation, since no one in their right mind would bite into and uncured olive and go, “Oh hey, let’s eat this.”  They’re bitter.  Another thing about olives: green and black olives can come from the same plant.  The green olives are unripe and the black olives are ripe. As you can see, we used green olives in our experiment, and we took a slightly unorthodox approach – we cured the olives like we’ve cured cabbage for sauerkraut in the past.  Put it in a crock packed with salt and seasoning and let it lacto-ferment. It seemed like a logical choice – less labor intensive than brine curing and less potential for chemical burns than lye curing. Ready for the details? Let’s learn how to cure olives.

Stuff You’ll Need

  • A fermenting crock or large, covered food-safe container
  • Sharp knife

Ingredients (this recipe can be multiplied as needed):

  • 5 lbs olives
  • 1 lb salt
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • zest of one orange
  • 5 sprigs rosemary
  • filtered water, as needed
Curing Olives in Brine

Items Shown: Fermenting Crock

Instructions

  1. Prep your olives. Pit them or cut a slit in the side of each to help them absorb the brine. Some recipes even suggest hitting them with a hammer. However you break them up, make sure you drop them right in a container of water or the spot that’s cut will oxidize, as some of ours did in the photo. This isn’t a bad thing flavorwise, but it’s not pretty.
  2. Prep your seasoning. Crush the peppercorns and garlic with a mortar and pestle or the back of a frying pan (put them in a bag first to keep them from scattering all over your kitchen.) Zest your orange in large strips using a peeler. If you’re not into the garlic/orange/rosemary thing, use whatever spices you like. Pickling spices work beautifully. So does lemon zest, thyme, and pink peppercorns. Really any mixture of hearty herbs (read: not basil or mint) works well here.)
  3. Toss your seasonings in with your salt. Get your hands in there and really rub everything together. You’ll have a crazy aromatic salt mixture, and you’ll find yourself very aware of any little cuts, nicks or scrapes on your hands. They’ll seriously burn.
  4. Add some of the salt mixture to the bottom of your crock and begin packing in the olives as tightly as possible. Once you’ve packed in about 1/4 of the olives, sprinkle about 1/4 of the remaining salt mixture. Repeat until all the olives and salt are in the crock.
  5. Pop the stones on top of your olives. Fill the water well seal and leave them alone, in a cool place, for a day. After 24 hours, check to see how much brine they’ve made (by naturally releasing juice.)  If the brine is covering the olives, leave them alone. If not, and it probably won’t be quite there, add filtered water until it covers the olives and the stones by at least a couple inches.
  6. Leave your crock in a cool dark place where it can sit for a couple of months. That’s right, you’re in it for the long haul.  Check the brine level every week to make sure they’re still covered. After about 3 weeks, open the crock, taste the olives (chances are they’ll still be bitter.)  If they’re not to your liking yet, simply check the water level on your olives to keep the fruit and the stones covered, and leave them alone. Check every week or so. Ours have been in the crock about 8 weeks and they’re FINALLY getting good!

  7. Once you’re happy with the way the olives taste, it’s time to transfer them into canning jars. You could store them for up to a year in their brine in a cool dark place. You can also can them in jars with fresh brine (1/4 cup salt to every quart of water.)  If you’re doing that, make sure to leave about an inch of head room in the jars for any gas that may try to escape.  My favorite way to store fresh cured olives is to pack them into large jars and submerge them in hot, fresh olive oil. I use lower quality olive oil for this, heat it, and pour it straight on top of the olives, leaving about an inch of headroom. The olives, which wrinkle slightly during the curing process seem to plump back up, and at the end of the day I also have this amazingly flavored olive oil to use. It’s great in a salad dressing or as a dip for bread. I also love it in my pesto.  Once these olives have cooled, I either store them in a cool, dark place for up to a month or my fridge. Or I give them as gifts.
How to Make Olives

A Jar of Cured Olives!

Well, there you have it. You’ve learned how to cure olives. Like so many things, it’s more time consuming than it is difficult. But the finished product is SO worth it!  Plus, you can actually say you made them yourself. Who makes their own olives, seriously?


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