Posts Tagged ‘Pacific Merchants Blog’

The Intricacies of British Tea Time

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Price & Kensington's Cobalt Teapot

In honor of January, America’s “National Hot Tea Month,” we at Pacific Merchants would like to take an opportunity to educate our readers with a little history lesson centered around the background of England’s love affair with “tea time.”

Before the British began taking ‘tea’ in the afternoon, they really had only two meals daily- breakfast and a very heavy dinner. While we in America often refer to an afternoon teatime as “high tea,” that is actually an incorrect usage of the term. High tea, also known as “meat tea,” is actually dinner. An afternoon tea is widely known as “low tea,” due to the fact that it is often served in a sitting room, around low tables (tables that most people would call coffee tables).

Tea can be served in three different sizes- the lightest meal being “cream tea,” which includes tea and scones, “light tea,” which offers just a little more with tea, scones, and sweets, and “full tea,” which is essentially an entire meal and includes tea, savories (little sandwiches or appetizers), scones, and sweets.

A few historical events contributed largely to the development of tea culture within England. First, in 1600, Queen Elizabeth the First granted permission to the John Company to develop trade routes with India, the Far East, and Asia. Although tea trade didn’t become very large until 1670, it was the development of these trade routes that eventually helped build up England’s consumption of tea.

Secondly, in 1662 King Charles the II married Infanta Catherine de Braganza. While most modern people may not know this, Catherine came with the largest dowry on record, giving King Charles (and England) posession of Tangiers, Morocco, and Bombay, as well as use of all Portuguese ports worldwide. Use of the Portuguese ports opened up England’s trading abilities unlike ever before.

It also didn’t hurt that both Charles and Catherine were tea lovers; bringing this “foreign” tradition to England had a direct effect on the upper classes, as everyone strived to be as much like royalty as possible.

When Queen Anne chose tea as her breakfast accompaniment (rather than ale), the public took notice, again causing interest in tea to skyrocket. The creation of an afternoon tea time, however, would be credited to one of Queen Anne’s ladies-in-waiting, Anna Maria Stanhope. Stanhope, the Duchess of Bedford, began taking tea in the afternoon (around four o’clock) as she had experienced a “sinking feeling” in her stomach. Initially, she had her servants sneak a pot of tea along with small amounts of food to her, but over time, she began to invite friends to partake in this very “European” approach to tea.

Over time, this afternoon tea time would become a well-loved custom, one that still stands to this date with many Brits. Pacific Merchants’ Price & Kensington line of Tea Pots, tea (and coffee) mugs and cups, and other tea accessories are the perfect addition to any tea time– morning or afternoon. Stop by our e-store and check it out for yourself!

Make Our Broccoli Casserole this Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

This Christmas, make yourself a delicious side dish that’s sure to delight your tastebuds. A family tradition, our Account Executive Jill’s aunt has been making her Broccoli Casserole for years, and has graciously shared it with us for our blog!

This recipe is just the perfect size for our 9×9 square cane baker, which is sure to look great on any Christmas dinner table.

Ingredients

  • 1 small package frozen Broccoli
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese
  • 1/2 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 well beaten egg
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp. chopped onion
  • 15 Butter Crackers
  • 2 tbsp. butter

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (Farenheit). Bring a pot of water to a boil, cook broccoli for two minutes and then drain. Mix all ingredients, save crackers and butter, together. Transfer mix to casserole dish.

Place crackers in a sealed plastic bag, and gently smash them, making sure not to break them up too much. Sprinkle mixture on top of casserole dish, and place small pieces of butter around the top as well. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes, do not cover dish.

We hope you enjoy this Broccoli Casserole Recipe as much as Jill has over the years!

Warm Yourself with our Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Pacific Merchants' Mason Cash Large Rectangle Baker

It’s freezing cold in most places north of the equator right now, the kind of weather that makes you want to curl up under a blanket and hide until March. We can think of no better way of heating yourself up a little than with some good old fashioned comfort food!

Warm yourself up by making some fantastic baked Macaroni and Cheese in our 11.5 x 8.5 Mason Cash Cane Rectangle Baker (which holds about one and a half quarts). This casserole dish, along with the rest of our Mason Cash Cane Bakeware, is dishwasher, microwave, freezer and even oven safe (up to 400 degrees farenheit).

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 Cups Elbow Macaroni or Rotini Pasta Noodles
  • 3 Tbsp. Butter
  • 3 Tbsp. All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 Cups whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • Dash of Pepper
  • 2 Cups Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Bring 6-8 cups of water to a rapid boil, and add salt. We recommend using Kosher salt for this portion, and you shouldn’t add the salt until the water is at a boil so that you avoid damaging your pots. Once the salt is added, your water should somewhat resemble sea water. Add pasta and cook until tender; drain.

In a seperate pot, melt your butter and blend in flour, then mix in 2 cups whole milk. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring until ingredients are blended. Add 1/2 teaspoon table salt, pepper to taste, and cheese; stir until cheese is melted. Mix sauce with your pasta, and then transfer to a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes or until bubbly and slightly browned on top.

Recipe adapted from cooks.com

Make Your own Pesto With Mortar and Pestle!

Monday, December 13th, 2010

Here at Pacific Merchants, we’re really big on doing things the right way when it comes to cooking. Whether it be hand-kneading your own pizza dough or making your own pasta sauces out of fresh tomatoes and basil from your garden, we know hard work in the kitchen makes for the most delicious meals. With that in mind, we’re excited to share our very favorite pesto recipe with you, as long as it’s made by hand, of course.

Pacific Merchants’ Favorite Pesto

Pesto is a great ingredient to have on-hand for those instances when you don’t have much time for cooking. Since pesto can last for quite some time, we recommend always having a jar of it in your fridge ready to go; it can definitely come in handy on those nights when you’re starving but just don’t know what to make. Add pesto to any pasta or throw it on some pizza dough with fresh mozarella and tomato slices and you’ll be eating dinner in no time!

While many cooks of late have been cutting corners (so to speak) by using a food processor in order to save time while making their pesto, we highly recommend that our readers use a mortar and pestle in order to keep the mixture from becoming discolored or over worked. Simply put, pesto should be somewhat coarse, rather than pulvarized into a liquid; by using a mortar and pestle, cooks will be able to have better control over the consistency.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. pine nuts
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 heaping cup of fresh basil leaves (about 9 ounces)
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Toast pine nuts in clean, dry pan, and allow to cool. Lightly crush along with a pinch of salt using your Mason Cash Mortar & Pestle. Working quickly, add and crush the basil leaves a few at a time until you have a semi-thick paste. Add parmesan and oil, while keeping a little oil to the side. Transfer mixture to a jar, covering the top with the remaining oil. Refrigerate until use.

Finding the Mortar and Pestle of Your Dreams

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Mason Cash's Mortar and Pestle Set

Mortar and Pestle sets have long been used to help chefs, gourmands and foodies alike create the recipes of their dreams! Whether creating guacamole for your next fiesta or perhaps the perfect pesto for a night of pasta with friends, a good mortar and pestle has many practical applications in any kitchen.

Keeping that in mind, we at Pacific Merchants have looked far and wide for the best mortar and pestle. We scoured every cooking store, trade show, and manufacturer and one day, we finally found it!  Mason Cash is known for mixing bowls, pudding basins and bakeware… but the real gourmet cook knows that they make the finest (and we do mean THE FINEST) mortar and pestle in the world.

Mason Cash’s mortar and pestle were not available in the United States for years, but we at Pacific Merchants knew we had to bring it back to the States one we came across it. Sure, there are a lot of mortar and pestle collectors out there, and perhaps they have a few varieties to their name, but we feel that no collection is complete without a set from Mason Cash. Durable, made of the highest quality stoneware, and including a pouring lip and glazed external finish, the Mason Cash mortar and pestle is perfect to add to your collection.

Christmas is Coming… and Guess Who’s Getting Fat?

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

The Royal Christmas Pudding Basin by Mason Cash

The British Royal Christmas Pudding

Christmas Pudding is a big deal in Great Britain, even for the British Royal Household. For the past several years, Queen Elizabeth II has gifted hundreds of her loyal subjects, family and friends with Christmas Puddings prepared and presented in none other than Mason Cash pudding basins! We are proud to offer a brief and fascinating history of Christmas Pudding in the English tradition, and a tremendously long and deliciously overwrought recipe for same.

Happy Holidays!

Family recipes for Christmas Pudding are often closely guarded secrets, handed down from generation to generation. Many are based on the Royal family’s Sandringham recipe – rich with dried fruit and spices, some include nuts, grated apple or carrot – harking back to years when sugar was scarce.

The first Sunday in December is ‘Stir-up’ Sunday, the day when the best puddings are begun. It’s already time to roll up your sleeves and think about making the Christmas pudding. Some cooks go so far as to prepare it six months to a year in advance. In the old days, it was traditional for everyone in the house to come into the kitchen and give the batter a stir while making a wish. The puddings are cooked, cooled and tucked away in a dry place to wait for their final steaming on Christmas Day when they will be turned out onto a handsome dish, decorated with a sprig of holly and wreathed in blue flames from a generous dousing of warmed spirit.

It seems as if all of Fortnum and Mason’s stock goes into the recipe: currants, raisins, sultanas, almonds, candied fruit, ginger…. There may also be cherries and citron, or one of the two, or neither, depending on the recipe. Some chefs add to the mixture a diced russet apple and a grated carrot.

Tradition dictates that six objects be found in the pudding: two rings to bring love, a sixpence as a sign of prosperity, a trouser button for the bachelor, a thimble for the spinster, and a little pig who will determine the glutton at the table. The tradition of hiding silver coins in the pudding is a link to earlier days in English and Scottish courts when the leader of the Christmas revels was chosen on Twelfth Night by finding a bean hidden in the pudding

At the end of Christmas Day, after having listened to the Queen’s Christmas Message, the plum pudding is brought out to be enjoyed for tea on the stroke of five, as one raises a drop of port to toast the Queen!

The presentation is a festive affair. Dickens describes the arrival of the Christmas pudding in “A Christmas Carol”:

“Mrs. Cratchit entered, her face crimson, but smiling proudly, with the pudding resembling a cannon ball, all speckled, very firm, sprinkled with brandy in flames, and decorated with a sprig of holly stuck in the centre. Oh! The marvelous pudding!”

All guests receive a slice with a little dancing flame so that they can make a wish before it goes out.

Countrywide, brandy butter is served with the pudding alongside cream or custard, it’s a tradition that originated in Cumbria – where the best brandy butter is still made today, a delicious blend of butter, sugar and spirit with a hint of spice.

Ingredients

– 250 g (9 oz.) sultanas
– 250 g (9 oz.) seedless raisins
– 250 g (9 oz.) currants
– 10 g (2 tsp.) candied lemon zest
– 10 g (2 tsp.) candied grapefruit zest
– 20 g (4 tsp.) candied orange zest
– 20 g (4 tsp.) candied citron
– 125 g (4 oz.) candied cherries
– 60 g (2 oz.) blanched almonds
– 60 g (2 oz.) chopped almonds
– 500 g (18 oz.) chopped suet
– 250 g (8 oz.) rye bread crumbs
– 125 g (4 oz.) brown sugar
– 1/2 tsp. powdered cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
– 1/2 tsp. ginger
– A pinch of salt
– 4 tbsp. brandy
– 250 ml (1 cup) milk
– 30 g (2 tbsp.) butter
– 6 large eggs, lightly beaten
– 125 g (4 oz.) flour
– 2 tbsp. baking powder

Brandy butter

– 250 g (9 oz.) unsalted butter
– 250 g (9 oz.) icing sugar
– 50 ml (2 oz.) brandy
– Grated zest of 1 orange (optional)

Method

Quick method (only 7 hours!)
1. Chop the raisins, currants, cherries, candied fruit and peel;
2. Place all the dry ingredients into a large non-reactive bowl and combine; add the other ingredients and mix until thoroughly blended;
3. Line a Mason Cash pudding basin with a large piece of cloth that has been buttered and floured on each side; pour the mixture into the basin and enclose by folding in the four corners of the cloth; top with a piece of buttered parchment; cover;
4. Place the pudding in the oven in a pan half-filled with water or in a steamer on the stove top; cook for 6 hours at a bare simmer, checking the water level from time to time;
5. Remove the pudding from the pan and let cool;
6. Cover with a fresh cloth and parchment; replace the cover or wrap in aluminum foil and let ripen in a cool spot (not refrigerated) for at least one month. It will be even better if it ages longer!
7. On Christmas Day, return the pudding to the oven or steamer (as described in step 4) for 3 to 4 hours; unmould;
8. Flambé with brandy or cognac and serve hot with brandy butter.

Longer method… 216 hours! (7 days macerating time)

1. Chop the raisins, currants, cherries, candied fruit and peel; pour 1 litre (4 c.) of rum over top and let sit for 48 hours; drain, reserving the rum;
2. Combine all the ingredients except the eggs; add 200 ml (generous 3/4 cup) of the reserved macerating rum and the juice of an orange and a lemon; cover the bowl with a cloth moistened with rum and let sit 7 days. Stir the batter once a day, adding a little rum if necessary to keep the batter soft;
3. If the batter becomes too stiff, thin it with a small glass of old ale; if the batter is too thin, add a little flour and mix gently; continue with the recipe (above). As adapted from worldwidegourmet.com

Pacific Merchants Gives Back with the Vista Inspire Program!

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

VIP Participants and Inspired Teens Using Mason Cash!

Recently, Pacific Merchants Trading Company became involved with the Vista Inspire Program at Vista del Mar Family and Child Services right here in Los Angeles. Founded by Elaine Hall, aka “Coach E,” Vista Inspire provides opportunities for children with special needs, including Autism.

The Vista Inspire Program was founded using the principles of the Miracle Project, which helps develop new skills and amplify individual abilities within perceived disabilities. Synergistic and life-affirming curriculum is made available for families and children with disabilities, giving them the opportunity to learn dance, theater, music, visual arts, sports and recreation, Jewish education and healthy lifestyle fundamentals. Furthermore, VIP offers integrated social events for those with disabilities, increasing their opportunities to interact with the world around them.

Vista del Mar is also home to the “Inspired Teens” program, which fundraises, hosts events and is involved with different VIP programs in order to raise awareness within the community and connect teens of all abilities. All of the work completed by the Inspired Teens program aims to positively influence and enrich the lives of special needs kids in one way or another.

VIP Participants Making Aprons

Pacific Merchants Trading Company was recently able to partner with Vista del Mar and their Vista Inspire Program to help offer a new cooking class.  Not only did Pacific Merchants supply several Mason Cash mixing and serving bowls for the cooking class, but Vista del Mar’s “Inspired Teens” group was also involved with this wonderful organization and spent one-on-one time impacting the lives of the participants in the VIP program.  During the summer cooking program, campers were able to prepare different recipes daily, learn vital kitchen skills, and even decorate their own apron! Pacific Merchants is proud to partner with such an revolutionary program and we can’t wait for next summer!

Endless Summer!

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Summer may officially begin on June 21, but unofficially, I like to keep it going all year round. Of course it helps to live in Southern California, where it’s not uncommon to celebrate Christmas at the beach or Valentine’s Day sunning with your sweetheart at the park. I can prime and fire up a grill with drill sergeant precision, conduct a picnic dinner at the Hollywood Bowl with symphonic grace, and throw together a softball tailgate party with the awesome speed and power of a line drive. And I do it twelve months a year!

Yeah, I’ve got game. But I like to think my “endless summer” is something anyone can enjoy, whether they live in Minneapolis or Maui. It’s simply a state of mind. And seeing as summer is strongly oriented towards entertaining (read: eating) there is one item from Pacific Merchants you simply can’t do without: The Cutting Edge Flex Mat™.

What is The Cutting Edge Flex Mat™? I’m so glad you asked. It’s a flexible cutting surface and placemat rolled into one. Perfect for prepping foods at the aforementioned picnics, and tailgate parties, it’s also great for the home grill or bar, and an outstanding choice for kitchens where the bulk and weight of a heavy cutting board is problematic. Cutting Edge Flex Mats™ come in 12 beautiful, vibrant archival photographic images that bring summer to your culinary pursuits any time of year. These designs are so attractive that most of our customers use Cutting Edge Flex Mats ™ on both their tables and counters. Made in the USA and designed of FDA approved polypropylene plastic, Cutting Edge Flex Mats™ won’t dull knives and are so flexible they can be used to funnel chopped foodstuffs straight from mat to bowl or pan. Unlike any other flexible cutting board on the market, Cutting Edge Flex Mats™ are dishwasher safe.

So, now that the season is upon us, pull out your Cutting Edge Flex Mats™, and let your endless summer begin!

Every Day is Mother’s Day!

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

I’m a little perverse when it comes to certain holidays. Every year I beg my husband not to buy me flowers or candy, or take me to a fancy restaurant on Mother’s Day. The flowers are marked up to astronomic levels, the candy goes straight to my hips, and the restaurants are overcrowded and impersonal. It makes me crazy that utterly contrived holidays, created solely to boost sales of consumer goods, have been indelibly imprinted on the guilt and obligation strands of our collective DNA. It’s not that I don’t mind a little appreciation on occasion, but hey— every day should be Mother’s Day! And Father’s Day, for that matter!!

Instead, I beg the kids to whip up a handmade card that I can decorate my office with, or perhaps serve me breakfast in bed. Last year was poached eggs, lemon crepes, and a yummy yogurt parfait! I ask my husband to barbecue for dinner. He is only too happy to select the perfect tri-tip and grill it to perfection, accompanied by my favorite pink bubbly. Yes, all I want for the holidays is a little family time, a soupcon of harmony, and good eats! And I have to say, I’m blessed. That’s just what I get!

In honor of Mothers everywhere – and every day! – 20% off our Mason Cash Batter Bowl, through May. Hint: perfect for lemon crepes, or plain old pancakes! Also, check out our comprehensive line of Mason Cash bake ware, mixing bowls, pudding basins and pet bowls, as well as our adorable Price & Kensington tea-for-one teapots –because “I love you” is a year round holiday!

— Celeste
(A special thank you to my wonderful husband, for letting me take his blog over this month.)

Lemon Crepes

Prep Time: 25 min
Inactive Prep Time: 1 hr 0 min
Cook Time: 25 min
Skill Level: Intermediate
Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients

• 12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
• 1/2 cup sour cream
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 1/4 cup powdered sugar
• Juice of eight lemons
• 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 12 medium crepes
• 1/4 cup butter
• Splash of Cognac

Directions

Using a hand-held blender, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sour cream, 1/4 cup sugar, powdered sugar, juice of two lemons, 1 tablespoon of the lemon zest, and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Fill each crepe with 3 tablespoons of the filling. Roll the crepes up tightly and place in the refrigerator. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
In a large saute pan, over medium heat, melt the butter with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Add the remaining juice of six lemons and 1 tablespoon of lemon zest. Stir to mix thoroughly. Add the crepes to the mixture. Remove the pan from the heat and add the cognac. Carefully place the pan, back over the heat and flame the mixture, shaking the pan back and fourth several times. Continue to shake until the flame dies out. Lay three crepes in the center of each plate. Spoon the sauce over the top and serve.

Crepes:

• 3 eggs
• 1 1/4 cups milk
• 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
• 1 cup sifted flour
• Salt and white pepper

For crepes, combine the whole eggs, milk, butter, flour until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Heat a 7 1/2-inch crepe pan. Lightly oil the pan. Pour 2 tablespoons of the batter in the center of the pan. Tilt pan from left to right to cover entire surface. Cook the crepe until the edges begin to brown and flip cook until done. Remove from the pan.

Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse


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