Top 10 Outdoor Living Design Trends

This outdoor living design incorporates several of the most popular trends this year: permeable pavers, fire pit,

This outdoor living design showcases several of the most popular trends this year: low-maintenance landscaping, Subterra® Stone permeable pavers, a fire pit, low-voltage lighting, and a built-in cooking area with ample seating and counter-top space. A permeable system can be designed to incorporate rainwater harvesting to be used for irrigation to create the ultimate eco-friendly patio.

In the annual national survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), landscape design professionals are polled regarding the outdoor living project types and individual design elements that have the highest demand. The results of this year’s survey are in, and for the third consecutive year, eco-friendly projects dominate the top 10 project list. And although it’s no surprise, internet connectivity made its way into the must-have list this year. In terms of individual design elements, the overwhelming majority of the design items have to do with making outdoor areas more livable. For the third consecutive year, fire pits and fireplaces top the list of most popular design elements.

RANKING PROJECT TYPES DESIGN ELEMENTS
1 Drought-tolerant plants Fire pits and fireplaces
2 Native plants Wireless/internet connectivity
3 Low-maintenance landscapes Lighting
4 Edible gardens Outdoor furniture
5 Permeable paving Seating/dining
6 Reduced lawn areas Built-in grills
7 Fire pits and fireplaces Planters, sculptures, garden accessories
8 Water-efficient irrigation Counter space
9 Wireless/internet connectivity Outdoor heaters
10 Rainwater/graywater harvesting Stereo systems
This outdoor kitchen design incorporates drought-tolerant plants,

This outdoor kitchen design incorporates the popular items of drought-tolerant plants, festive overhead lighting, ample prep and serving space, a large seating area, and a wood-burning fireplace. The kitchen, fireplace, and built-in wood boxes are all constructed with Celtik® Wall to create a coordinated look.

This outdoor kitchen is fully connected

This highly livable outdoor kitchen is fully appointed with all of the modern conveniences of the indoors, including the must-have elements of internet connectivity, dining space, multiple outdoor cooking surfaces, ample counter space, and both ambient and overhead lighting. Tandem® Modular Grid was used to construct the kitchen base and a partial wall to house and protect the television from sun and weather for ultimate game-day viewing.

Planning an Outdoor Thanksgiving

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Incorporating your outdoor living areas into your Thanksgiving Day plans can help multiply the space you have available for entertaining and provide additional activities to help keep your guests entertained. Depending upon the weather in your part of the country, your outdoor living spaces can be used in a number of creative ways.

outdoor-kitchen-prepOutdoor Cooking

Much of the country is expecting unseasonable mild temperatures this Thanksgiving, offering a rare opportunity for outdoor dining and cooking. By either smoking or frying your turkey outdoors, you free up the inside oven for cooking side dishes or keeping prepared dishes warm. You can also use the grill for a variety of side dishes or appetizers — like roasted veggies or grilled stuffed jalapeño peppers.

The “Enclosed” Porch

If the temperature prohibits outdoor dining and entertaining, you can create additional heated space by temporarily enclosing a screened-in or open porch with heavy gauge clear vinyl sheeting. The sheeting will eliminated wind and hold in heat. The enclosed space can be heated with space heaters, but be sure to keep them a safe distance from the sheeting or anything flammable.

S’mores Bar — Yes, Please!!

Let’s face it…how many kids really like pumpkin pie? Not many. And how many like s’mores? Just about all of them. No matter what the temperature, people of all ages will love heading outdoors to roast some marshmallows after the big meal. If you want to really have some fun, take your s’mores experience to the next level by setting up a s’mores bar with some new and interesting ingredients. Here are a few ideas to get your started.

  • regular and pumpkin-flavored marshmallows
  • graham crackers
  • Ritz crackers
  • Vanilla wafers
  • milk, dark, and white chocolate bars
  • strawberry slices
  • Peppermint Patties
  • Grated coconut
  • peanut butter
  • Nutella

roasting-marshmallows

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

How to Cook a Cajun-Style Deep-Fried Turkey

Before we get started, don’t be intimidated by the word “Cajun” in reference to food. Many people have the mistaken impression that Cajun cooking is all about seeing how high you can get on the Scoville heat scale. That is inherently untrue. Although some dishes, like sauce piquante and boiled crawfish, will definitely leave your mouth tingly, the overwhelming majority of Cajun and Creole cooking is more about intense flavor versus intense heat. When talking about a Cajun-style deep-fried turkey, the description is more about the cooking method than the seasoning. In fact, this blogger lives in south Louisiana and regularly fries turkeys for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and we like to try different flavor profiles. A family favorite is one we call the “Casian” Turkey (which is Cajun-fried, but marinated and rubbed with Asian flavors).

The Equipment

setup

You will need a 30-quart fryer, a propane burner, a meat thermometer, a turkey rack (which goes inside the bird), and a turkey lifter (which hooks to the rack to lift it). You can buy the full setup online from Academy, Walmart, or other big-box stores. Next you will need about 3 gallons of peanut oil, which is the best choice for frying turkey because it has a high flash point (less likely to catch fire), high smoke point (ensures good flavor), and can be used multiple times before disposal — in case you’re frying more than one. In Louisiana, neighbors often like to get together and take turns using the oil. Basically, men love to cook when there’s danger involved, and there’s an excuse to get together and drink a little beer. If you’re making an event out of it and frying multiple turkeys, you may need a little extra oil.

The Bird

Your turkey should be no more than 14 lbs. If you have a lot of people to feed, you can fry more than one and can even experiment with different flavor profiles for each. Make sure every turkey is completely thawed. This is very important. Frying a frozen turkey is VERY dangerous. The ice reacts with the hot oil in an explosive manner. Once thawed, a turkey is completely safe to fry. Just be sure to remove the neck and giblets from the inside of the turkey.

The Fill Line

Remember that the turkey will displace the oil when you place it into the fryer. Do not overfill the pot with oil. You want enough oil so that it will cover the bird once submerged, but not overflow the pot and catch on fire. Many turkey fryers come with a max fill line, but you can determine the exact amount you will need by placing your thawed turkey in the empty pot and filling it with water until the top of the turkey is barely covered. Remove the turkey, allowing the water to completely drain out of the turkey and back into the pot, then measure and mark the water line.

The Marinadecajun-injector-creole-butter-injector

The flavor profile is completely up to you, but you will need to generously inject your marinade into the meat of the entire bird. The recommendation is 2 oz. of marinade per pound of meat. You can create your own marinade, or for a variety of marinade flavors that each come with an injector, visit the Cajun Injector website. For our “Casian” turkey, we add a little dry sherry to a basic teriyaki marinade.

The Rub

Insert the turkey rack through the cavity of the turkey (neck side down), pat the skin of the turkey dry with paper towels, then generously rub the bird with your favorite seasonings. For our “Casian” turkey, we make a rub with salt, pepper, garlic powder, ginger, and a little bit of curry powder. Too much curry will take over, but you can be generous with the garlic and ginger.

The Fun Partslhcb_04_fry_174d

Set up your frying station OUTSIDE on a flat surface, a safe distance from structures and wooden decks. To avoid oil stains, do not place the fryer on top of concrete pavers. Heat the oil to 350° F. You can actually begin heating the oil while preparing the bird, but don’t leave the pot unattended. Hook the lifting tool to the turkey rack and slowly lower the bird into the oil. Cook the turkey about 3 to 4 minutes per pound, until the dark meat has an internal temperature of 175-180° F and the white meat has an internal temp of 165-170° F. It takes about 45-60 minutes to fry a 13-14 lb. turkey. When the turkey is done, slowly lift it from the pot and place it in a pan on paper towels to drain. Let the turkey stand for 15 minutes before carving it.

Turkey photos by Oxmoor House, courtesy of Time, Inc.

It’s Pizza Grilling Time!

Alison Miksch - Photogapher / Heather Chadduck Hillegas- Prop Stylist / Erin Merhar - Food Stylist

Grilled pineapple dessert pizza. (Photo: Alison Miksch – Photogapher / Heather Chadduck Hillegas- Prop Stylist / Erin Merhar – Food Stylist)

October is National Pizza Month…as if we need a reason to eat pizza! Whether you’re talking about flatbread with caramelized onions and shiitake mushrooms, grilled fruit dessert pizza, or just a good old-fashioned pepperoni and cheese, once you try making pizza on the grill, you’ll never want to cook pizza indoors again.

If you’re in a rush, you can actually place a store-bought frozen pizza on a hot grill for around the same length of time you would cook it in the oven. Be sure and rotate it occasionally so that it cooks evenly, and keep an eye on it so that the crust doesn’t burn. Whether you’re using gas or charcoal, it will create a nice crispy crust and will be much more flavorful than if cooked in a standard oven. Using charcoal or wood chips will help give it a gourmet smokey flavor.

If you have a few extra minutes, creating your own grilled pizzas is so much more fun! Everyone can be involved in the prep process and enjoy experimenting with combinations of their favorite ingredients. You can go low-tech by buying pre-baked pizza crusts, get a little more adventurous with store-bought pizza dough, or go full-on gourmet by making your own dough at home. If you’re using raw dough, be sure and spray the grill with cooking spray to keep it from sticking and cook the dough for 3 to 4 minutes prior to adding your toppings.

Smoked sausace, corn, and sweet onion grilled pizza. (Photo: Alison Miksch - Photogapher / Heather Chadduck Hillegas- Prop Stylist / Erin Merhar - Food Stylist)

Grilled smoked sausage, corn, and sweet onion pizza. (Photo: Alison Miksch – Photogapher / Heather Chadduck Hillegas- Prop Stylist / Erin Merhar – Food Stylist)

If you’re making an afternoon of it, you may want to considering pre-grilling some toppings to put on your pizzas. Grill-worthy toppings include chicken, ham, shrimp, pineapple, smoked sausage, corn, and garden vegetables. In addition to any pre-grilled toppings, other topping ideas can include artichoke hearts, spinach, banana peppers, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, kalamata olives, and fresh herbs. Of course, don’t forget the pepperoni, or the kids may revolt.

For a fun family activity, create a “pizza bar” prep station where each person can create his or her own fabulous pizza. For sauces, you can offer traditional pizza sauce, pesto, olive oil, BBQ sauce, and buffalo wing sauce. For cheeses, offer mozzarella, goat cheese, feta cheese, and crumbled blue cheese. If you want to finish off your pizza-palooza with a yummy dessert pizza, check out our recipe for grilled dessert pizza.

Happy grilling!

Grilled pizza photos courtesy Time, Inc.

Wood-Fired Cooking is Catching on Like Wildfire

Some Italian restaurants like Chicago’s legendary Spiaggia have been cooking with wood for decades. Why? Because that’s the way it’s done in the old country. And if you want that authentic old-world taste, cooking with wood is the way to go. It infuses each dish with a flavor you just can’t get any other way.

In more recent years, chefs across the country have embraced wood-fired cooking for anything from roasted root vegetables to grilled calamari. And brick oven pizza joints seem to be popping up all over town. You can smell the wood-fired ovens for blocks, drawing people in with the enticing aromas. With the continued trend of gourmet cooking at home, it was only a matter of time before wood-fired cooking would become the next outdoor living phenomenon. Enter the residential brick oven.

Several years ago, Belgard anticipated this trend and partnered with Chicago Brick Oven to create a line of brick ovens clad in Belgard hardscape products that would blend seamlessly with other Belgard product lines to create fabulous outdoor kitchens with the added option of a matching wood-fired brick oven.

SRA_STOCKTON_RES_BEL2015_Patio_OutdoorKitchen_MegaLafitt_BristolPizzaOven_001B_previewBristol Brick Oven

Constructed with Weston Stone® wall block and accents of Urbana® Stone pavers, the Bristol Brick Oven makes a statement and adds major flair to wood-fired cooking. With a built-in wood box and large capacity oven, the Bristol oven is the outdoor chef’s dream and coordinates with other pieces from the Belgard Elements Bristol Series, including a grill island, fireplace, and various modular outdoor bar and kitchen pieces. Color options include the warm tones of Gascony Tan (shown) and cool gray tones of Cotswold Mist.

NFD_E_RES_BEL2015_Patios_Steps_Walls_OutdoorKitchens_Urbana_MegaArbel_Bullnose_Celtik_MegaBergerac_BordeauxElements_MidnightCopingBordeaux Brick Oven

The Bordeaux Series of the Belgard Elements line offers a smaller footprint and is clad with the contemporary stacked-stone look of Lamina® Stone veneer. The Bordeaux Brick Oven also includes a built-in wood box and is trimmed with accents of polished Cordova Stone™, available in either the Midnight (shown) or Buff trim options. Other coordinating pieces from the Bordeaux Series include a grill island and a fireplace with optional matching wood boxes. Both the Bristol and Bordeaux ovens can include optional low-voltage hardscape lighting.

MLR_RES_BEL2014_Patios_OutdoorKitchens_Urbana_WestonWall_AnchorHighlandWall_BullnoseCoping_ChicagoBrickOven_001_previewCounter Top and Mobile Ovens

With four versions to choose from, the counter top brick oven can easily turn any outdoor kitchen into a gourmet cooking space without the time and expense of a full custom installation. The counter top oven is available in copper or silver finish with either a dome (shown) or pyramid roof line. Durable steel carts are also available to convert the counter top model into a portable oven that can be re-positioned as needed around your outdoor living space. Hybrid models are also available that allow cooking with either gas, wood, or a combination of both heat sources simultaneously.

TailgaterHero-e1412618458661Tailgater Brick Oven

Take your passion for wood-fired cooking on the road with Belgard’s towable Tailgater package, making it possible to take the unmatched experience of wood-fired cooking and entertaining to collegiate and professional football games, motorsport events, music concerts, festivals, and more. The Tailgater brick oven is available in both the wood-burning model and the hybrid gas/wood model .

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For more information, contact a local dealer or installer or visit the brick oven page on Belgard.com.

Rise of the Outdoor Chef

Remember the days when outdoor cooking basically referred to your father grilling up a few burgers? Perhaps he went the fancier route and threw some steaks on the grill, or even a tuna steak if he wanted to get really fancy. The rest of the family prepared the sides inside or just waited patiently for the ole’ man to finish. Well it’s 2016 now, and while some traditionalists choose to keep their sacred bygone grilling rituals intact, the rest of us are moving forward into a new generation of gourmet outdoor cooking. With outdoor kitchens gaining in popularity, it’s no longer just dad out there by himself. Meal preparation has become a community event with a team of chefs prepping, grilling, or just hanging out to enjoy a glass of wine and camaraderie. Yes, outdoor cooking has become a team sport, and why shouldn’t it be? Everyone likes a good party, and this year, you can be the envy of the neighborhood with some exciting cooking techniques you can use in 2016.

cedar-planked-salmon-ck-x

Photo: Johnny Autry; Styling: Mary Clayton Carl (Courtesy Time, Inc.)

YOU WOOD NOT BELIEVE

Puns aside, if you have never grilled with a wood plank, you’re missing out. Paul Bunyon should have been a chef. He would have been a great addition to your All-Star grilling team. At your next gathering, enhance the flavor of your favorite meats by grilling them on top of a wood plank made of hickory or maple. If you truly want an unforgettable experience, try grilling a fillet of redfish or salmon on top of a cedar plank. It may become your favorite meal. However, feel free to experiment with different seasonings and wood planks to find your next signature dish. Make it your own, or check out this recipe for Cedar Plank Salmon with Mango Kiwi Salsa to get you started.

HIMALAYAN VACATION

While it may be impractical to pop over to Tibet, you can bring the taste of Himalayan minerals to your next party by purchasing yourself a Himalayan salt block. This is another easy tool you can use to show off to that neighbor who always wants to one-up you. All you do is place the salt block on your grill, let it heat up to the desired temperature, and throw your food on top. Your meal will come out with a hint of salt that goes well with so many different foods. Let’s see Susan top that.

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Photo: SOS Shells

CHARGRILLIN’ TIME

While raw oysters may not be everyone’s cup of tea, chargrilled oysters are amazing. Made famous in New Orleans, it can be a real pain to chargrill your own oysters on the half shell. Luckily, thanks to SOS Shells, you and your new team of outdoor chefs can channel your inner Cajun. These reusable, stainless steel shells are perfect for chargrilling oysters, shrimp, scallops, vegetables or more. They are extremely easy to use and are great gadget to break out at your next grill party. For more information on chargrilling, check out our chargrilling blog.

GADGETS GALORE

While we’re on the gadget subject, in order to truly become a gourmet outdoor chef, you’re going to need to invest in some additional tools of the trade. It’s hard to make smoked almond and honey brie without a cast iron brie baker. And if you’re going to make bacon-wrapped goat cheese-stuffed jalapeno peppers, it’s a whole lot easier with a chili pepper grill rack and pepper corer. You can certainly use foil to cook both of those gourmet appetizers, but it gets a little messy. Luckily, there are no shortage of companies that offer great gadgets for the outdoor chef. For a plethora of gourmet outdoor cooking gadgets, check out Sur La Table or Crate & Barrel.