Posts Tagged ‘holiday’

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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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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Guilt-free Holiday Stuffing

Monday, November 23rd, 2015
Guilt Free Stuffing Recipe

Delicious and guilt free holiday stuffing recipe served in our acacia wood bowl is a sure winner.

 

 

The holidays can still be warm, indulgent and scrumptious, even without gluten and dairy.  A simple twist on this classic, holiday stuffing recipe does not sacrifice deliciousness for health consciousness. Serve your stuffing in natural Acaciaware® wood products for a simply beautiful presentation.  These eco-friendly, specialty wood items make a decadent Thanksgiving easy.

 

This recipe was a huge success—the light sweetness of the carrots and kick of flavor from the thyme completes this dish.  For the most wholesome, authentic taste, I would use Kitchen Basics® Chicken Stock or, better yet, boil a hen for a few hours. The jus from the chicken hen, with a touch of salt, can enhance the richness tenfold.  My grandma’s two famous tricks for making the most flavorful stuffing are 1) using homemade jus and, of course, 2) choosing a quality cornbread mix. Choose your favorite cornbread mix, and if you are cooking for gluten-intolerant guests, ensure there is no enriched wheat flour in the blend.  I use Bob’s Red Mill ® Gluten Free Cornbread Mix.

 

When preparing the cornbread, the Olive Wood spoon is perfect for folding the mixture.  Use an 8×8 dark-colored baking pan and bake it for 25 minutes—do not overcook.  Allow the bread to be partially undercooked in the center because it will be baked again in the 11×7-baking dish (with the vegetable mixture). The final stuffing should come out just right: not too dry, not too mushy, with crusty edges.  It crumbles and melts in your mouth!

 

What are you thankful for this holiday season?

 

 

Preheat: 375°F                                                | |                     Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 package of gluten-free cornbread mix (about 6 cups of cooked cornbread)
  • 1/3 c coconut oil (or canola oil)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ c coconut milk for mix
  • ½ c sweet onion
  • 1 c celery, chopped
  • 1 c carrots, diced
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 c Kitchen Basics® chicken broth
  • ½ c dry white wine
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½-1 tsp black pepper (I like it peppery)

 

If you are feeling playful, add 3/4 c dried cranberries and ½ c pecans to the batter before baking a second time.

 

Cornbread:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F, grease 8×8 pan with some melted coconut oil or coconut oil spray
  2. Melt 1/3 c coconut oil 1 minute in the microwave
  3. Combine eggs, coconut oil, and milk. Mix thoroughly with a Beech Wood spoon or use an electric mixer.
  4. Spread batter evenly in pan and bake for 25 minutes

 

Stuffing Vegetables:

  1. Wash and cut celery, carrots, sweet onion, thyme, and sage
  2. Heat 3 tbsp of coconut oil on low
  3. Add veggies, let simmer on low for 3-5 minutes
  4. Add salt and pepper
  5. Let simmer with 1 c Kitchen Basics® chicken broth, taste test
  6. Add ½ c dry white wine, simmer until reduced by half, stirring often (about 5-7 minutes, may need to increase heat)

 

Crumble baked cornbread in a large mixing bowl and add vegetable mix. Stir well, folding with a Beech Wood spoon, and bake in an 11×7 baking dish at 325°F for 30 minutes or until golden brown on top.

 

Serve and enjoy with cranberry sauce.

 

– Sophie Wix


 

Shown in Image: Acacia Wood Round Calabash Salad Bowl and Basic Olive Wood Tool Set

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!

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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!

 

 

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 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?

GlitterMasonJars2

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!

Behind the Scenes at the Pacific Merchants Holiday Photo Shoot

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Good afternoon, readers!

You may be noticing some new photos popping up on our site lately. Here’s why! Last week at Pacific Merchants headquarters we had a super fun, exciting and productive photo shoot in preparation for the holiday season. We shot tons of new products, holiday specials, and some easy DIY holiday flower arrangement techniques.  Check out our Mason Cash Fall Floral Arrangement post for detailed instructions, and enjoy the images below for some serious inspiration! I know we’re excited!

Take a look at some of the behind the scenes shots (and finished shots) that we captured last week. I love that these images (especially the first one) really capture the spirit of holiday entertaining without being too over the top Christmasy.  Every time I flip through them I get a bit more inspired for my own holiday decorating. Sure, it’s a week before Thanksgiving, but I love the idea of using fresh fruit to deck my halls, and am absolutely inspired by some of our holiday gift ideas. I mean, seriously, who wouldn’t want to unwrap a big, beautiful salad bowl on Christmas morning?

Holiday Spread, Mason Cash, Acaciaware, Kilner Jars

Mason Cash Enamour Pie Dish, Grey Pie Bird

Mason Cash Cane Mixing Bowls Holiday Special

Mason Cash Pudding Basins

Pudding Basin Set

Acaciaware, Calabash Bowl

DIY Winter Floral Arrangement

Winter Floral Arrangement, Acacia Bowl Acaciaware, Placemats, DIY Flower Arranging

DIY Winter Floral Arrangement, Pacific Merchants

DIY Flower Arrangement

DIY Holiday Centerpiece

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!


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