Holiday Toddies

If you’re planning an outdoor gathering during the cooler months, it’s always a good idea to have some hot toddy recipes on hand. With the holiday season ahead, we’ve pulled together some special toddy recipes that will not only help keep your guests warm, but will add to the festive atmosphere.

SPIKED PEPPERMINT HOT CHOCOLATE

Photo: Christopher Testani, Prop styling: Kaitlyn Duross, Food Styling: Chris Lanier

Think of this as more of a dessert than a beverage, but with a little peppermint schnapps to add some holiday cheer. Coconut milk adds an extra splurge of indulgence that pairs nicely with the chocolate and mint.

Ingredients
  • 2 (13.5 oz.) cans light coconut milk
  • 2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • dash of kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup peppermint schnapps
  • Optional garnish: peppermint sticks and miniature marshmallows
Preparation
  1. Whisk together the first 7 ingredients in a large saucepan. Heat over medium until very warm.
  2. Remove from heat; stir in schnapps.
  3. Garnish with peppermint sticks and marshmallows, if desired.

APPLE-CRANBERRY WASSAIL

Photo: Jennifer Causey, Styling: Missie Neville Crawford, Claire Spollen

For those who like to go a-wassailing, this festive holiday beverage calls for dark rum but works equally well with bourbon. Or, omit the alcohol altogether for a kid-friendly version that can be enjoyed by the whole family.

Ingredients
  • 2 quarts apple cider
  • 1 quart cranberry juice cocktail
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 18 whole allspice
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 4 (4-inch) cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 3 (1-inch wide) strips orange rind
  • 3 (1-inch wide) strips lemon rind
  • 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons dark rum
PREPARATION
  1. Combine cider, cranberry juice and honey in a 6-quart electric slow cooker.
  2. Place allspice, cloves and cinnamon sticks on a double layer of cheesecloth. Gather edges of cheesecloth together, tie securely, and place in the slow cooker.
  3. Add vanilla bean and citrus rinds; cover and cook on LOW for 5 hours.
  4. Remove sachet, vanilla bean and citrus rinds from the slow cooker; discard. Pour in rum and reduce temperature to WARM. Cover and serve directly from the slow cooker.

LEMON-PEAR TODDY

Photo: Greg Dupree. Styling: Ginny Branch Stelling.

This hot toddy is on the lighter side and comes together in a flash, thanks to the microwave. A little fresh lemon juice adds a bright top note and balances the sweet pear flavor by adding a light tang.

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup pear vodka
  • 1/4 cup brandy or cognac
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional garnish: thinly sliced pear
Preparation
  1. Combine water, sugar and salt in a small microwave-safe bowl; microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes or until boiling. Stir to dissolve sugar and water completely.
  2. Stir in vodka, brandy, juice and vanilla. Garnish glasses with pear slices, if desired. Serve warm.

SMUGGLER’S COFFEE

Photo: Fredrika Stjarne

Or, maybe it should be called Snuggler’s Coffee, since this double-rum beverage is perfect for snuggling by the fire pit. But the addition of cinnamon and orange zest also adds that holiday twist that makes it work equally well for holiday gatherings.

Ingredients (single serving)
  • 1/2 cup hot coffee, strong
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 once gold rum
  • 1 once dark rum
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 1 long strip of orange zest
  • Optional garnish: finely grated orange zest, canned sweetened whipped cream, grated Mexican chocolate
preparation
  1. In a heatproof glass, stir the coffee and sugar until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Stir in both rums, and add the cinnamon stick and strip of orange zest.
  3. If desired, garnish with whipped cream, grated Mexican chocolate and grated orange zest.

Images courtesy of Time, Inc.

How to Smoke Barbecue Brisket

(photo courtesy Southern Living magazine)

Brisket is a lean cut of beef that presents a way to inexpensively feed a crowd, making it an ideal choice for tailgating season. Because it is a tough cut of meat, it requires extended cooking (about 6 hours) — which is perfect for an all-day tailgating session. You can also do some precooking in an oven, if you need to reduce the amount of grill time. For perfect brisket every time, follow these steps.

Step 1: Trimming the meat

Buy a brisket between 10 and 12 pounds. If possible, have the butcher trim off any excess fat. If not, trim it yourself. Leave any marbling that is within the muscle itself. Marbling will add flavor and moisture to the meat. But there’s typically a patch of fat that runs the length of one side of the cut, and you’ll want to remove that.

Step 2: the marinade

Marinade your brisket overnight in your favorite marinade. If you don’t have a favorite, try a simple marinade of Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and red wine, topped with a liberal coating of garlic powder and onion powder. Cover with foil and refrigerate for 12-24 hours.

Step 3: The smoke

Select your favorite wood (this blogger prefers cherry), and soak the chunks in water prior to cooking. The key is to cook the brisket over indirect heat. Never put your meat directly over the coals. Keep the temperature of the pit around 225 degrees for about 6 hours. Aim for an internal meat temp of 195 degrees. Try to avoid unnecessarily opening the lid while it’s cooking, or you’ll cause the temperature to fluctuate too much.

Step 4: Enjoy!

Let the finished meat rest for 10 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute. For that typical sliced brisket look, slice on the bias in the direction of the muscle grain. Have some barbecue sauce ready, for those who like to dip. To make your brisket feed more people, serve with slider buns.

NEXT WEEK:  Now that you have part of the menu planned, come back to the blog next week for ideas on hosting the ultimate backyard tailgate party.

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.