Outdoor Entertaining Tip: Making Cold Weather Work for You and Yours

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The weather outside may be frightfully cold for many of you, but what about a delightfully bold, crackling fire outside? It’s a terrible thing to feel like you can’t enjoy the outdoors without worrying about frostbite. That’s why we’re spotlighting our fireplaces and fire pits along with ideas for entertaining outside! Don’t let the weather keep you cooped up with cabin fever. Here are some tips:

Plan something that coincides with the hottest part of the day. Depending on where you live, that still might be pretty cold! But there’s no rule that says it’s only appropriate to use a fire pit at night to roast s’mores and tell spooky stories. Fireplaces are for light and heat!

Invite some friends, neighbors or family members over for a mini-camping experience. Everyone brings a blanket and curls up in a chair around the fire to play a game. There are plenty of games you can play without sacrificing the comfort of heat. Try charades, or the endlessly amusing “who am I?” game. If you’ve never played it before, it’s easy and always a scream. Pick a famous person (alive or dead, real or fictitious) and write their name on a post-it, then stick it onto the forehead of the person to your left. Now guess, one question at a time, moving clockwise, who you are!

Have hot drinks and snacks ready, and don’t forget to remind everyone to bundle up. Check out our mulled wine recipe or whip up some hot apple cider. Or, if you happen to be an always-on-the-go type, let people pick their own drinks from a single-serve coffee/tea/cocoa maker. You could even set out pre-stuck marshmallow roasting sticks, warmly welcoming everyone the moment they set foot into your backyard.

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Now let the quality time and fun begin!

Outdoor Entertaining Tip of the Month: Orange-Scented Mulled Wine

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Don’t let the cold weather discourage you from enjoying your outdoor space this winter — all you need is a few blankets and a tasty beverage to keep you warm. This Mulled Wine recipe is one of our favorite remedies for frosty nights. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 large orange
  • Seeds from 8 cardamom pods
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 3 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
  • 8 to 9 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 2 bottles (750 ml. each) dry red wine
  • ¼ cup orange-flavored liqueur (optional)
  • Thin orange slices (optional)

Preparation

  1. With a vegetable peeler, pare 8 thin strips zest (4 in. by ½ in.) from orange. Juice orange, and reserve juice.
  2. Wrap cardamom, coriander seeds and ginger in a piece of cheesecloth and tie with kitchen twine.
  3. In a nonreactive saucepan, crush orange zest and 7 tablespoons sugar with a wooden spoon to release oils from zest. Add reserved orange juice, wine, and spice packet. Cover and bring to a simmer over high heat, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand covered for 30 minutes. Discard spice packet and orange zest.
  4. To serve, heat wine, covered, over medium heat just until steaming. If you like, stir in liqueur and more sugar to taste. Ladle into heatproof glasses. Garnish with thin orange slices.

From Sunset 2009

 

Outdoor Entertaining Tip of the Month: Holiday Pears

As friends and family begin filtering in for the holiday season, or as you travel to their homes, we invite you to indulge in this recipe for Holiday Pears that will awaken your taste buds. With a decadent mix of spices, this dish will surely become a staple in your holiday traditions.


Ingredients
1 cup fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
4 firm-ripe pears such as d’Anjou or Bosc (about 2 1/2 lb. total)
1/2 rinsed lemon (about 2 oz. total), thinly sliced (ends discarded)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Preparation
1. Sort cranberries and discard stems and any bruised or decayed fruit. Rinse and drain berries. Peel pears; cut in half and core. In a 2- to 2 1/2-quart baking dish, combine cranberries, pears, and lemon slices.

2. In a 1- to 2-quart pan over medium-high heat, stir sugar, vinegar, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and 1/2 cup water until mixture boils and sugar is dissolved. Pour over fruit. Cover dish tightly with foil.

3. Bake in a 350° regular or convection oven until pears are tender when pierced, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature.

From Sunset December 2001

Outdoor Entertaining Tip of the Month: Popular Outdoor Products for Fall

With the changing colors of the leaves and more tolerable temperatures, fall is a wonderful time to get outside and enjoy your outdoor space. Here are some of our favorite outdoor products for fall:

A good mug is essential for sipping down a hot beverage in cooler temperatures. We love this Barkaris Olive Mug from Pier 1 (1).

This Selamat Reo Lounge Chair from Wayfair (2) makes a cozy spot for long conversations into the night with friends.

A brick oven from the Belgard Elements Collection (3) is the perfect accessory for dinner and dessert; fire up some tasty pizzas with all your favorite toppings and then break out the s’mores for a treat that’s sure to please.

Nothing makes an outdoor space feel more like the indoors than soft, fluffy pillows and throws, plus they brighten up your patio with seasonal colors. We’re fans of the Tuscan and Brittany Papaya pillows and Canyon Chenille throw from Frontgate (4) because they’re made using Sunbrella which means they can withstand mother nature.

A rug is the foundation for making an outdoor space a room, defining the space and creating a focal area. We like the fall colors in this Red Floor Tile Rug from World Market (5).

Ready for a s’mores upgrade? Try this S’mores Party Maker from Bed, Bath and Beyond (6) and make up to three s’mores at once with one tool. Plus, if you want a twist on the classic s’more, try these exciting flavors in the 5-Piece Chocolate Bar Gift Set from Crate & Barrel (6) – toffee brittle, milk chocolate, malted milkshake, s’mores and peanut butter cup, yum!

Outdoor Entertaining Tip of the Month: Enjoying Fall Outdoors

Fall is one of our favorite times of the year – daytime temperatures have cooled enough to enjoy outdoor spaces without summer’s heat and in the nighttime we are comforted by the warmth and glow of a roaring fire.

Here are some ways to enjoy fall outdoors with your friends and family:

  • Start an annual flag football game – boys against girls, generation against generation, whatever it may be.
  • Enjoy a staycation in your own backyard by pitching a tent and camping outside. Don’t forget to bring the marshmallows for some late night s’mores!
  • Create the ultimate tailgate by firing up the grill and setting up the TV outdoors. We prefer outdoor cooking in the fall when the temperatures are more tolerable to standing over a hot flame
  • Enjoy the quiet moments. Take your morning cup of coffee to the patio and listen to nature’s music.
  • Have a date night at home. Enjoy a romantic evening with a glass of wine by the fireplace or fire pit.

How do you enjoy fall outdoors? Let us know in the comments section!

Outdoor Entertaining Tip of the Month: Grilled Beer-Cooked Sausages

This quick and easy recipe packs a lot of punch. We love these sausages smeared with coarse-grain mustard on crusty rolls. The onions take on a lot of the ale’s flavor, including its slight bitterness. We recommend leaving them off your sausage if you’re sensitive to bitter flavors.


Ingredients
6 bottles (12 oz. each) medium- to heavy-bodied ale (9 cups)
12 bratwurst
1 large onion, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise

Preparation
1. Bring beer to a boil in a large, wide pot. Add sausages and onions and simmer 15 minutes. Cover, remove from heat, and let sit until ready to grill.

2. Heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium (you can hold your hand 1 to 2 in. above the cooking grate only 4 to 5 seconds). Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer sausages to the grill. Cook sausages, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, drain onions and set aside. Serve sausages hot or warm, with onions if you like.

Note: You can add up to 8 more sausages without increasing the amount of beer or onion.

From Sunset October 2007