Recipe of the Month:
Grilled Dessert Pizza

Looking for a new and different idea for this year’s Labor Day celebration? While the grill is still hot, throw on a Grilled Dessert Pizza for a sweet ending to your cookout. Smokey, fruity, flakey, nutty, and chocolaty..a winning combination for any family gathering. For a fun family activity, let the kids help place the fruit toppings in step 4. But you might want to have a little extra on hand, in case they’re tempted to sample while they work!

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces white chocolate, chopped
  • 1 pound pizza dough, thawed if frozen
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1 cup drained canned mandarin orange segments
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted, optional

Preparation

1. Preheat grill to medium. Lightly mist a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and dust with flour. Place white chocolate in a bowl and set over a small pan of simmering water (do not let bottom of bowl touch water). Cook, stirring often, until white chocolate has melted.

2. Press and stretch dough to form a 14- to 15-inch round. Place dough on prepared sheet, place on grill, cover and cook for about 5 minutes, until crust is puffed and golden. Using tongs, flip dough over and cook for about 3 minutes longer.

3. Sprinkle dough evenly with chocolate chips, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Cover grill and cook 2 minutes, until chocolate chips have melted. Using an offset spatula or butter knife, spread chocolate evenly over dough. Using tongs or spatula, transfer pizza to a large cutting board.

4. Scatter berries and orange segments over pizza. Sprinkle with almonds, if desired. Dip a fork into bowl with melted white chocolate and drizzle over pizza.

Photo: Kate Sears; Styling: Susan Vajaranant (courtesy Time Inc.)

Using Walls to Create Intimacy

Whether working with a large open space or a diminutive courtyard, creating a sense of intimacy in outdoor design can often be illusive due to the inherent openness of the outdoors. However, through the use of dimensional design elements, such as Belgard retaining and freestanding walls, an intimate outdoor nook can be merely a garden wall away.

Belair Wall® was used as a retaining wall for erosion control on this sloping landscape, but also provided an element of privacy and a backdrop for a cozy outdoor living room. Wall sconces were affixed to the wall in a random pattern to soften the look of the stone and awash the conversation area in candlelight.

Create a Feeling of Closeness

Adding walls to an outdoor design, whether an 18 inch seat wall or an 8 foot retaining wall, will help to develop a feeling of closeness, which is the first step to creating an intimate nook. It works well to design with walls around 18-20 inches in height. This size wall offers multiple uses and can define an area without creating a boxed-in feel, while at the same time offering additional seating for large gatherings.

BergeracCeltikSunkenKitchen

Celtik® Wall provides the structure for this sunken kitchen that was installed below the water table of the adjacent in-ground swimming pool. The wooden arbor adds an organic feel, affording both shade for the sitting area and open venting for the fireplace and grill.

The Organic Rule of Thumb

If an outdoor space looks cold and uninviting, odds are there are not enough organic materials mixed into the design. Elements like wooden arbors or various levels of vegetation can add texture, provide shade, soften the space, and add to the feeling of closeness. Wood, either painted or natural, makes a space more inviting. Stone adds richness, but organic materials add comfort.

The ultimate in organic design includes incorporating the elements of water or fire. There’s nothing more intimate than a fire pit. It touches people of all ages. Place a 6-year-old girl, a teenage boy, and a 70-year-old man around a fire pit, and they’ll sit and tell stories to each other for hours. And in the summer, you can add a plastic liner, fill the pit with ice, and use it as a drink station. No matter what time of year, it will be everyone’s favorite spot.

Use Elevation and Dimension to Your Advantage

A sloping landscape, although attractive, can typically be unusable space. Belgard products can be used to create a terracing effect. By combining steps, pavers, planters, and retaining walls, you can create a series of planes at various elevations that now become areas of usable space with walls that can be used as a backdrop for an intimate nook. And, you can do all of this without concrete footers, which eliminates a lot of the costs, code issues, and headaches of masonry.

Even consider how pattern integration in your paver design can complete the look. By varying color, texture, or pattern, pavers can further define the perimeter of the nook or create a rug-like design to add to the cozy feel.

By adding a Brighton Elements outdoor fireplace with water features to this bare wall, a nondescript patio became an intimate outdoor living room. Laying the Bergerac® and Urbana Stone® pavers in a rug configuration added to the cozy feel of the room.

Lighting is Key

Whether your intimate nook is next to the back door or at a destination location across the property, proper lighting is a key component to completing the design. Lighting should be bright enough to allow for visual comfort in the darkness without overpowering the space and ruining the mood.

Texture creates intimacy, and proper lighting will enhance texture at night. If you uplight a stone wall, the texture is incredible. It gives a warm feel and draws you out into the space. But, even some low voltage lighting can be too intense if placed improperly. You want to bathe the space in gentle light without blowing it out.

By enclosing this exposed firepit with a Weston Stone wall,

Enclosing the exposed firepit with a Weston Stone® wall created a sense of intimacy for this remote space. Low voltage hardscape and landscape lighting adds ambiance and safely leads guests to the fire nook.

Benefits of Pavers for Poolscapes

ArbelStoneMegaLafitt

Products: Arbel® and Mega-Lafitt™ pavers

When designing a pool, the options often seem endless. Pool decking can be done with any number of materials — poured slab, tile, natural stone, brick, wood — so why choose pavers?

Durability

There is no pool decking material that is more durable than pavers. Wood will fade and splinter, slabs will crack, brick will shift and crack, and natural stone can splinter or break. Belgard pavers have a lifetime warranty and are highly resistant to cracking or deterioration caused by exposure to foot traffic, sun, pool chemicals, or salt. On the odd chance that a paver does get damaged, it is easily replaced.

Safety

Bare feet on a wet surface can quickly become a dangerous scenario. Tile and natural stone often get slippery when wet. Belgard pavers have a slip-resistant surface, no matter how wet they get.

Products: Dublin Cobble® pavers, Celtik® Wall

Design Flexibility

Pavers are incredibly beautiful and allow for a variety of design options. Whether trying to create a natural look that blends into lush landscaping, or seeking a tailored look to coordinate with an ultra-modern architectural style, there is a paver to fit the bill. Pavers also work well with other hardscapes to develop a cohesive design. By blending pavers with retaining walls, a design can include steps, garden walls, and an outdoor kitchen that all blend together as one functional outdoor living design.

Overlay Options

Belgard offers a number of thinner profile pavers that can overlay an existing concrete pool deck to bring new life to an old pool for considerably less cost than removing and replacing the decking. Click on the image below to see how this rundown pool was transformed by overlaying the deck with Lafitt™ Rustic Slab.

PoolOverlayVideoFor more inspiration on paver poolscapes, visit our poolscape Pinterest board or the Belgard Design Studio. To find an authorized contractor or dealer near you, click here.

Backyard Transformation

BEL-1462_preview

With the help of Belgard, the Stolnacke family transformed both their backyard and their lives.

Stolnacke Before

The Stolnacke backyard before Belgard.

Jennifer and Carl Stolnacke lived on five acres of rugged terrain that sloped down to a pond on the back of the property. Their backyard was basically unusable, except for a small concrete patio. With this blank slate, they carved out their own personal backyard oasis. After living in their northern California home for a couple of years with their two dogs, Maverick and Goose, Jennifer and Carl were ready to create a permanent, more useable outdoor living space that fit with their lifestyle. They enjoyed walking the grounds and especially enjoyed looking at the pond, but with the exception of a couple of lawn chairs and a small concrete slab behind the house, their space was not ideal for backyard gatherings

“We love to barbecue with friends, but the dirt and leaves just were not conducive to that. When friends came over, it seemed more like a camp out,” Jennifer explained.

With the help of the experts at The Paver Company, the Stolnackes now have an expansive multi-level outdoor living space that incorporates multiple gathering areas – including a pool, outdoor fireplace, fire pit, and brick oven – that are all tied together with walkways and garden walls that work together to create a harmonious, cohesive look.

Working with the existing elements.

Outdoor enthusiasts, the Stolnackes wanted to keep the pond as the focal point of the yard, without blocking their scenic view, and incorporate natural design elements to keep the setting rustic and earthy. They also wanted to make use of the existing concrete slabs on the back porch and driveway, but desired a way tie everything together without having these elements clash with each other.

The final cohesive design flanked out to the sides with the fireplace and brick oven acting as visual anchors on either side, with a terraced patio that led down to the fire pit and pool in the center, overlooking the pond. The design incorporated natural boulders, as well as Belgard Hardscapes that mimic those natural textures. Patio areas were paved with Mega-Lafitt™ pavers, which offer the look and feel of natural cut flagstone, with Bergerac® pavers adding a hand-cobbled look to the borders and walkways. Garden walls were built with the Tandem™ Wall retaining wall system, which creates the appearance of large blocks of chiseled stone.

“By skirting the existing concrete pads and fire pit with the Bergerac pavers used in the walkway, we were able to tie the whole design together and make everything work,” said installation contractor John Brightenstine of The Paver Company.

How life has changed for the Stolnackes.

Jennifer loves the fact that she can now walk around the perimeter of her backyard barefoot or in slippers. Her favorite pastime is relaxing on the upper patio, just taking in the view. With their wonderful new entertaining space, the couple now regularly holds gatherings of all kinds.

“The multiple patio areas are great for entertaining; we have so many options,” Jennifer said. “We’ll have pizza parties by the brick oven, where everyone makes their own pizza, or we’ll sit around the fire pit or fireplace and roast marshmallows or just catch up and talk. We now use the outside of our house more than the inside of our house.”

To anyone contemplating their own backyard makeover, Jennifer says, “The most important thing is to know your space. Know how you use it now and how you envision using it afterwards.”

Watch the Backyard Transformation Video

Entertaining Ideas for the
End-of-Summer Bash

As the lazy days of summer begin to come to an end, it’s time to plan for the end-of-summer bash. Here are a few of our favorite decorations and accessories for the occasion.

LanternsFestive Lighting

Lanterns add character, ambiance and illumination to outdoor living spaces. These lanterns from Restoration Hardware can either be placed on a flat surface or hung from tree limbs or porch rafters. For safety reasons, consider choosing flameless candles for your lanterns. Just remember not to leave flameless candles where rain can get to them and destroy the electronics.

Outdoor FanKeeping it Cool

This remote controlled oscillating fan provides both an attractive accent piece and additional comfort to summer outdoor living. Built-in lighting enhances the comfort for evening gatherings. The space-saving tower design and quiet motor allows for optimal placement near sitting areas. In addition to cooling things down, the air movement also helps keep bugs away from your party guests.

Mobile Brick OvenNow, That’s Hot!

Turn your outdoor space into a gourmet outdoor kitchen with this powerful, yet economical, brick oven. Available in either domed or pyramid styles in either bronze or silver vein, the mobile version of Belgard’s brick oven offers the flavor of wood-fired cooking with a small footprint and is available in classic wood-burning and hybrid wood/gas models. The movable cart allows you reposition your outdoor kitchen to suit your party’s needs.

Yummy Goodness

Nothing ensures the success of a party like simple and tasty appetizers. This cast iron cheese baking dish from Crate & Barrel allows you to bake brie and other cheeses on the grill, where they can be infused with smoke to add additional flavor. The heavy duty two-piece baker can also accommodate savory or sweet sauces to enhance the decadence.

Teardrop Beverage ContainerElegant Refreshments

What makes a party festive? Why festive drinks, of course. This teardrop shaped beverage dispenser with solid wood pine lid provides an elegant container for your party cocktails and brings distinguished formal beauty to your outdoor space. For ideas on how to fill this 2.5 gallon container with festive liquid refreshment, check out our crisp summer cocktail blog.

Eye-Catching Accessories

If you’re looking for a unique way to serve hors d’oeuvres or dinner rolls, then look no further. This playful ocean-themed Pottery Barn bowl attaches to any patio umbrella pole to provide a serving spot for either a bowl or loose rolls without taking up counter or table space.

Keeping it Cool with
Crisp Summer Cocktails

As the temperature gauge continues to creep up, here are a few simple and refreshing ways to cool down.

mimosas-cl-389743-xHoneydew Mimosas

A traditional breakfast fruit, honeydew melon is used as the base for this frosty brunch cocktail.

  • 1/2 medium honeydew melon (about 4 cups cubed)
  • 1 cup crushed ice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 (750 ml) bottle chilled sparkling wine
  • Garnish: Lime wedges

Preparation

Combine the first three ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Pour mixture into a large pitcher, and add sparkling wine. Pour into glasses and garnish.

•  •  •

mojitos-sl-1194648-xTequila Mojitos

This recipe uses tequila instead of rum for a new take on a classic mojito.

  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup fresh mint sprigs
  • 2 cups chilled lemon-lime soft drink
  • 1 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • Garnish: lime slices and additional fresh mint sprigs

Preparation

1. Bring water and sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring often, until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat; add mint sprigs, and let stand 2 hours or until mixture is completely cool.

2. Pour mixture through a wire-mesh strainer into a pitcher, discarding mint. Stir in lemon-lime soft drink, lime juice, and tequila. Serve over ice and garnish.

•  •  •

sangria-su-523029-xQuick & Easy Sangria

All the flavor and refreshment of traditional sangria without the wait.

  • 1 cup vanilla-flavor syrup
  • 2 oranges, thinly sliced
  • 1 lime, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 bottles (750 ml) dry red wine
  • ice cubes

Preparation

1. In a large pitcher (at least 3-qt. size), combine syrup, orange slices, lime slices and orange juice.

2. Add wine to the pitcher, mix, and pour into ice-filled glasses.

•  •  •

pimms-cup-ck-686196-xPimm’s Cup

A light a refreshing drink made with a gin-based liqueur and garnished with cucumber. To infuse more cucumber flavor, muddle cucumber slices in the bottom of each glass.

  • 3/4 cup Pimm’s No. 1
  • 2 cups chilled ginger ale
  • 1 1/3 chilled cups sparkling water
  • 4 lemon slices
  • 1 medium cucumber, cut into spears

Preparation

Pour 3 tablespoons of Pimm’s into each glass. Pour 1/2 cup ginger ale and 1/3 cup sparkling water into each glass; stir to combine. Garnish with lemon and cucumber and serve immediately.

Images courtesy of time, inc.