Fireside Memories & S’mores Recipes

Last month, we reached out to our audience and asked them to share their fireside memories and favorite s’mores recipes with us as part of our National S’mores Day Fire Pit Giveway. We had an incredible response and received nearly 1,500 stories and over 600 recipes from all across the nation. It’s clear that spending time with loved ones around a fire is a heartwarming activity for people from all walks of life. Below are some of our favorite submissions. For more stories and recipes, be sure to visit the Outdoor Living by Belgard Facebook page, where we’ll be sharing more of these throughout the month.

Fireside Memories

The only time we got with my dad when we were children was camping. Being around the campfire making s’mores and telling stories was the best because we got a sweet treat, and we got my dad’s undivided attention finally. And mine were always the gooiest!   – Douglasville, GA

Sitting around a fire is one of the few great things I can still remember about my childhood with my grandparents.   -Algonquin, IL

I remember the kids being little and me running around to make sure they didn’t poke anyone or create little fireballs. Kids, now adults, still have fun making fireside s’mores, and I STILL run around trying to make sure they don’t poke each other and create little fireballs!  -Reston, VA

We made s’mores with my grandson on a makeshift fire pit just before my husband was diagnosed with cancer. My grandson’s response was so amazing. He was three.  It was really special to have that first experience with him.  -Trinity, FL

Every year we have a family reunion at our home. Family members fly in from all around the United States for a one-week event where we have a few nights of cookouts in our backyard. And s’mores are part of that on our homemade fire pit.    -North Oaks, MN

My first s’mores experience was when I was nine years old. I was camping with friends and was introduced by my friend’s family. I’ll never forget the incredible taste and experience. It is something that I plan to one day pass on to my children as well.   -Joliet, IL

My favorite memory is making s’mores around the campfire as a Camp Fire Girl, fifty years ago. S’mores have been the best campfire treat for a long long time. So glad they get a special day each year. Now that’s getting your just desserts.  -Pleasant Valley, OR

Our family was in the backyard, around our store-bought fire pit, making s’mores. Our youngest son decided he had enough and told us that he was “going home.” In his mind, we were on a grand adventure, even though we were just in our backyard.   -Jacksonville, FL

S’mores Recipes

A lot of folks suggested augmenting a classic s’more by trading out the milk chocolate bar for other candy bars: Andes® mints, peanut butter cups, Heath® bars, Mr. Goodbar®, et cetera — all of which sound delicious! But here were some recipes that had a little extra creativity.

This is a Trader Joe’s s’more! Take a large marshmallow, carve a small hole and put in these items from Trader Joe’s (whatever amount fits): choc chunks, dried blueberries, dried coconut chips. After toasting that, put between two graham crackers or lemon shortbread cookies.    -Cumberland, ME

This is an adult s’mores recipe that I created and is amazing: Grand Marnier® marshmallows, milk chocolate bar, waffle cookies. The combination makes wonderful s’mores that are not overly sweet.     -N.Mandelke,  Los Gatos, CA

Vanilla graham crackers, chocolate, peanut butter and marshmallow. -Cary, IL

We line up four vanilla wafers on a plate, add a small Heath® bar and two toasted marshmallows. We then top it with four more vanilla wafers and press down. Delish!!  –T. Karnowski, Andover, MN

Shortbread cookies, dark chocolate squares, raspberries and marshmallows!  -Grandville, MI

We like to make s’mores cones — Ingredients: Sugar cones, mini marshmallows, crumbled graham crackers, chocolate chips. Directions: fill cones with remainder of ingredients to the top. Wrap in foil and lay on grate above coals for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool.  -S. Miller, Homer, LA

Our favorite way to make s’mores is with chewy ginger cookies instead of graham crackers. Two chewy ginger cookies (homemade or store bought) with a little Nutella® then add a toasted marshmallow. A delicious classic with a little extra ginger twist.  -Ventura, CA

Enjoy!

Next week’s blog: Come back to the blog next week to learn about using columns as an accent in outdoor living design.

Grilled Watermelon and Shrimp Skewers

With watermelon season coming to a close, it seems only fitting to put some melon on the grill for one last hurrah on Labor Day. Grilling watermelon adds a smokey note to the fruit and gives it a slightly meaty texture that matches well with shrimp. This also gives you an opportunity to utilize any fresh herbs you’ve grown this summer. Cooking this dish only takes a couple of minutes, which makes it the perfect appetizer. Before you get started, you’ll need twelve 12-inch metal skewers or eighteen 8-inch skewers. If you use bamboo, be sure to soak them in water for 30 minutes prior to using them, which will keep them from igniting on the grill.

Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (for marinade), plus 1 ½ Tbsp (for brushing)
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 3 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint (marinade), plus ¼ cup torn mint leaves (garnish)
  • ½ tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • ¼ to ½ tsp. red chile flakes
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 lb. jumbo peeled and deveined shrimp (21-26 per pound), thawed if frozen
  • ½ small seedless watermelon (about 2 lbs.), cut into 1″ cubes
directions

Step 1:  In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup oil, the lime zest and juice, chopped mint, thyme, chile flakes, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour half into a small bowl and set aside to use as a drizzle later.

Step 2: Add shrimp to remaining marinade mixture in medium bowl and chill, covered, about 1 hour.

Step 3: Heat grill to very high (550º to 650º).

Step 4: Thread watermelon cubes onto half of the skewers so that pieces lie flat. Brush both sides with remaining 1 ½ Tbsp oil. Thread shrimp onto the remaining skewers, piercing each through its top and bottom to form a C (so shrimp lies flat).

Step 5: Grill watermelon on one side only until grill marks appear (about 1 minute). Transfer to a platter. Grill shrimp, turning once, just until pink (1.5 to 2 minutes total). Transfer to the platter.

Step 6: Drizzle plated skewers with reserved marinade and sprinkle with the torn mint.

Recipe/photo courtesy Time Inc. (photo: Iain Bagwell)

In Honor of National S’mores Day, We’re Giving Away a Belgard Fire Pit!

Today is National S’mores Day, so get ready for some ooey, gooey, chocolatey goodness. In honor of this delectable treat, we picked today to kick off our contest to win a fabulous Belgard Fire Pit!

Fire pits have become one of the fastest growing trends in outdoor living design, and with good reason. They appeal to people of all ages and instantly become everyone’s favorite gathering spot. Fire pits have the magical ability to break down generational barriers as everyone gathers around the flames, sharing remembrances while creating new ones. It just so happens that many of those memories include roasting marshmallows, which is why we chose to celebrate National S’mores Day with a fire pit giveaway.

As part of the fire pit giveaway contest, we’re collecting s’mores recipes and fireside memories from people around the nation to share with our blog readers. We all know the classic s’mores recipe of a roasted marshmallow sandwiched with milk chocolate and graham crackers, but maybe your family has come up with a new twist — like using Andes mint chocolates or peppermint bark. If you’ve tried a fun variation, we’d love to hear about it. We’d also love to share some of those fireside memories that make gathering around a fire such a meaningful pastime.

The contest ends August 31, so click the link below to enter today!

Enter Now for Your Chance to Win!

 

Coming up next week:

Come back next week to get a sneak peek at the outdoor living spaces of the 2017 Coastal Living Idea House in Newport, Rhode Island.

Tips for Planning the ‘Phased’ Project

Sometimes, it’s just not feasible to build your dream outdoor living space all at once. When building one phase at a time, proper upfront planning can save time, money and headaches.

Tip #1:  Choose a qualified design/build contractor

A large outdoor living build-out is an important investment in your home. Don’t trust that investment to just anyone. With a smaller job, an installation contractor is fine, but in order to properly plan a job that will be built in phases, you’ll need someone with design skills. For more information, read our Tips for Choosing a Hardscape Contractor blog.

Tip #2:  Design your complete dream outdoor space upfront

You can always scale it back, but it can be much less costly to design something that is never built than to retrofit a space later. This is especially true if future footings or underground utilities will be required. Many contractors will charge a fee for the design, but often credit that back to you when the work is done. For a realistic vision of how your dream space would look in your backyard, Belgard Authorized Contractors can utilize the Belgard Design Studio to import architectural plans or photos of your home to create 3-D renderings of their outdoor living designs that include furniture placement and potential landscaping. Fly-through animation will allow you to virtually walk through the design so you can truly get a feel for how you would live in that space. This can help you catch potential issues with the layout prior to construction.

Sample Belgard Design Studio 3-D rendering of an outdoor living area that could be built out in phases.

Tip#3:  Preplan for future phases

When you’re planning an outdoor living space, think of what you would plan for an indoor living space. Think lighting, music, televisions, cooking needs, and gas or electric appliances. Consider your local climate and think about ways of keeping warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Running utilities all at once, including those that you won’t need until later, can be a huge cost savings in the end.  And if you plan to install heavy elements in a later phase, such as a pavilion or an outdoor fireplace, be sure to plan where any footings will be needed and install them prior to laying any hardscapes in those areas.

Tip #4:  Consider your lifestyle

When planning out the phases, discuss your lifestyle with your contractor so that you can plan the phases that will work best with your budget and how you would like to live in the space. A typical scenario would be to install the flat surfaces first, then build up, then embellish. For example, if a design includes a patio with an outdoor kitchen, a fireplace, and seat walls, the phases of the plan may look like this:  1) patio  2) kitchen  3) fireplace  4) seat walls, lighting, and sound.  However, depending upon your lifestyle, you may want to rearrange the order of the phases or build in sections instead.

Tip #5:  Look for opportunities to reduce the number of phases

Construction economies can be achieved by building in fewer phases. Many Belgard Authorized Contractors offer the Belgard Preferred Payment program, which can help you build more at one time and spread the cost out over several months with same-as-cash financing options for loan amounts up to $55,000 that can include labor, materials, furniture, appliance, landscaping and more.

Coming up next week:

National S’mores Day is Thursday, August 10. Come back to the Outdoor Living Blog next week to learn how you can submit your favorite s’mores memory or recipe for a chance to win a Belgard fire pit!

Installing the Proper Base for Concrete or Porcelain Paver Projects

As the saying goes, if you want something to last, be sure to start with a solid foundation. This definitely holds true for paver patios, walkways and driveways. We’ve all seen paver installations that are uneven and cracking. In most cases, the fault lies with an improperly installed base. Although soil conditions can certainly be a factor, the information below can help those do-it-yourselfers looking for insight on installing concrete or porcelain paver installations that can remain beautiful for years to come.

Standard Concrete Paver Base Installation

Step 1 – Excavation:  Excavate all the topsoil off the area where the project will be installed.  It’s imperative to dig down to the clay or subsoil.  If the subsoil in your project area has recently been filled (i.e. as a result of new construction), it’s a good idea to compact it with a large walk-behind compactor before adding the gravel.  Otherwise, if it hasn’t recently been filled or disturbed, you can begin adding the aggregate layer. When calculating the depth of the excavation, you will need to add the thickness of the paver itself, 1” of bedding sand, and the necessary gravel recommended for the type of project you are installing.

Step 2 – Aggregate Layer:  Typically, this layer consists of crushed gravel that will vary in size from  3/4” down to dust. For walkways and patios, you will need to add 4-6” of this material. For driveways, you will add 8-12”.  If you have heavy clay subsoil, it’s also a good idea to add a geotextile underlayment. This woven layer of fabric will prevent aggregate from mixing with the soil below. This is especially important in driveway applications. In colder climates, it may be necessary to add more aggregate base material to allow for the freeze/thaw conditions present there. It doesn’t hurt to add more base material if you are unsure. Once the material has been placed, you will want to rake it off evenly.  It’s critical at this phase that the gravel be pitched away from the house to allow for water runoff.  Typically that slope will be between 1/8” and 1/4” of drop per linear foot (or more for driveways, depending on the location).

Step 3 – Compaction:  For this, you will need to rent a plate compactor with a minimum of 5,000 lbs. of force.  Most local rental companies will carry this piece of equipment.  Ideally you will want to compact in lifts (layers of gravel) no greater than 4”-6” at a time.  Doing more than that will result in an improperly compacted base.

Step 4 – Bedding Layer:  Next, you will add and level 1” of bedding sand.  The easiest way to level the sand is to purchase two pieces of 1” metal or plastic electrical pipe conduit.  Place the two pieces of conduit down, and using a 2 x 4 board, screed the sand smooth.  Keep moving the tubes down as you go, making sure to fill the voids where the tubes were by smoothing the surface with a trowel.  You are now ready to lay the pavers.

For additional or site-specific design, consult your local Belgard representative or a civil/geotechnical engineer experienced with flexible segmental pavement design.

 

Overlays – Installing Pavers over Existing Concrete

Thin concrete pavers or Belgard Porcelain Pavers may be placed over an existing concrete slab or a new concrete slab (4,000 psi  and 4” thickness minimum) on a sand or DriBond setting bed. DriBond will actually adhere the pavers directly to the concrete slab, similar to how thinset adhesive works for tile. It goes on as a thin dry powder (3/8” thick max). Once the pavers are installed, simply soak the pavers with water to activate it. If just using sand, you will want to install an edging restraint as shown in the above diagram.  Prior to installation, verify that the distance from the top of slab to the doorsill will accommodate the proposed paver and setting bed thickness. If the concrete won’t allow for the thickness of the new overlay material, many rental companies will rent small grinding equipment. As long as you are left with a minimum of 4”, you can remove some of the top layer of the existing concrete. The other option would be to cut and remove the concrete near the transition and re-pour it at a lower height. If the site is located in a freeze-thaw zone, consider any heave movement in your height calculation. Thickness of the concrete slab should be 4”-6” with consideration given to heavier loading (RV, travel trailers, trucks, etc.) to determine the correct depth of concrete base and any internal reinforcement.

For additional or site-specific design, consult your local Belgard representative or a civil/geotechnical engineer experienced with rigid segmental pavement design.

Optional Bases for Porcelain Pavers

Porcelain pavers have the option to be installed over a standard base, permeable base, sand, grass, concrete or pedestals. For additional information on installation of porcelain pavers on these various bases, and for special instructions regarding accommodating vehicular loads, download the Belgard Porcelain Paver Installation Guide.

Grilled Chicken Tequila Burgers

grilled-chicken-tequila-burgers-sl-xThis “dad-approved” sandwich has a nice little kick. Picture a juicy chicken burger, nestled under tender bell peppers and onions, dressed with cool Cilantro-Lime Mayonnaise — it will become your new favorite summer dish. (Yield: 5 servings)

Heat up the grill, break out the tequila, and get ready for some mouth-tingling yumminess. Consider pairing it with a Mexican beer, margarita or a refreshing watermelon cocktail.

CILANTRO-LIME MAYO INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • 1 tsp fresh lime juice

Preparation:

Stir all ingredients together and refrigerate.

BURGER INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb ground chicken breast
  • 3 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 seeded and chopped jalapeño pepper
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 2 Tbs tequila
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp soy sauce
  • sliced bell peppers
  • sliced onions
  • your favorite buns

Preparation:

  1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat (350-400°)
  2. Pulse ground chicken, cilantro, garlic and jalapeño pepper in a food processor 3 or 4 times until combined
  3. Add panko, tequila, lime zest, salt, pepper and soy sauce; pulse until combined
  4. Shape into patties
  5. Grill, covered with grill lid 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest portion registers 165°
  6. Remove from grill and keep warm
  7. Reduce grill temperature to medium heat (300-350°)
  8. Grill sliced bell peppers and onions 4 minutes on each side or unit tender
  9. Serve burgers, bell peppers and onions on buns with Cilantro-Lime Mayonnaise

Recipe by Cara Lyons, courtesy of Southern Living Magazine and Time, Inc.; Photo: Becky Iuigart-Stayner; Styling: Buffy Hargett