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)

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

Snuggle Up with 3-D Hot Chocolate

Looking for an indulgent reason to snuggle around the fire pit? Look no further than this delectable recipe. Yes, this hot chocolate is dark, decadent, and delicious, but it actually gets its name from three “D” ingredients: dark chocolate, dulce de leche, and Drambuie liqueur (scotch whiskey flavored with honey and spices). Using half-and-half instead of milk makes the hot chocolate extra creamy and rich. Adults will love this grown up, not-too-sweet take on hot chocolate, but it’s also great (and kid-friendly) without the Drambuie. Make this hot chocolate truly over-the-top with a dollop of whipped cream, a drizzle of dulce de leche, and a few crunchy chocolate rolled wafer cookies on the side. Yield: 4 servings.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup canned or jarred dulce de leche, extra for topping
  • 8 ounces chopped dark chocolate, extra for topping
  • 1/3 cup Drambuie
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • chocolate rolled wafer cookies (such as Pirouette)

How to Make

  1. Whisk together 4 cups half-and-half and 1/2 cup canned or jarred dulce de leche in a medium saucepan. Simmer over medium, stirring constantly, until heated through, about 10 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat, and whisk in 8 ounces chopped dark chocolate, 1/3 cup of Drambuie, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Next, beat 1 cup of cold heavy cream in a cold bowl with an electric mixer on high until stiff peaks form, about 1 minute.
  4. Pour hot chocolate mixture into 4 serving cups. Top each with whipped cream, a drizzle of dulce de leche, and chopped or shaved dark chocolate. Serve with chocolate rolled wafer cookies (such as Pirouette).

If prepping the recipe in advance, prepare the hot chocolate mixture as instructed but omit the alcohol and store the mixture in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to two days. Reheat the hot chocolate mixture gently, then add the alcohol once the mixture is heated through. Do not boil the mixture, or the alcohol will burn off.

Recipe and photo courtesy Southern Living and Time, Inc. Photo by Greg DuPree.

Champagne Cocktails
to Ring in the New Year

The countdown is on, and it’s time for a new and refreshing way to ring in the New Year. At this year’s gathering, try one (or all) of these specialty champagne cocktails. To reduce or eliminate the alcohol content, you can always substitute with sparkling cider instead of sparkling wine.

Corduroy Jacket

1 fresh orange slice
1 brown sugar cube
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1/4 cup cognac
6 tablespoons chilled sparkling wine
1 (3.5-inch) strip orange peel
Fresh thyme sprig

Preparation: (1 serving)

  1. Muddle orange slice, brown sugar cube, and Angostura bitters in a cocktail shaker to release flavors.
  2. Fill shaker with ice cubes, and add cognac; cover with lid, and shake vigorously until thoroughly chilled (about 30 seconds). Strain into a stemmed 10-oz. glass.
  3. Top with sparkling wine or sparkling apple cider. Garnish with orange peel and fresh thyme sprig.

•   •   •

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Pomegranate Champagne Cocktail

1 turbinado sugar cube*
2 tablespoons pomegranate juice
1/2 cup chilled sparkling wine
*1 rock candy stirrer or granulated sugar cube may be substituted.

Preparation: (1 serving)

Place sugar cube in a Champagne flute; add 2 tablespoons pomegranate juice and 1/2 cup Champagne. Serve immediately.
•   •   •

 

Black Currant Champagne

Chilled sparkling wine
Chilled black currant nectar*
Garnish: fresh blackberries
*Other fruit nectars — such as peach, mango, tropical, or pear — may be substituted.

Preparation: (1 serving)

Fill a Champagne flute or tall glass with equal parts chilled sparkling wine and fruit nectar. Garnish, if desired.

•   •   •

 

Mint-Champagne Shrub

1 1/2 cups loosely packed fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup superfine sugar
1/2 cup elderflower liqueur
1/3 cup Champagne vinegar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Chilled sparkling wine
Garnish: fresh mint leaves

Preparation:(8 servings)

  1. Muddle first 2 ingredients in a cocktail shaker to release flavors.
  2. Add elderflower liqueur and next 3 ingredients. Fill shaker with ice; cover with lid, and shake vigorously until thoroughly chilled (about 30 seconds).
  3. Strain into 8 (8-oz.) glasses; top with sparkling wine.

•   •   •

Berry Bubbly Punch

3/4 cup raspberry syrup
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
3/4 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 (750 ml) chilled bottles sparkling wine
Garnishes: fresh, halved strawberries and blueberries

Preparation: (makes 2.5 quarts)

  1. Combine raspberry syrup, orange juice, pineapple juice, and lemon juice in a medium bowl, stirring until blended.
  2. Cover and chill 2 to 3 hours.
  3. Pour mixture into a punch bowl, and top with chilled sparkling wine.

•   •   •

Remember to drink responsibly, and have a safe and prosperous New Year!

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.