Yummy Holiday Cocktails

Looking for something new and different to serve at this year’s party? Here are a couple of holiday cocktail ideas that will have your guests singing your praises, in addition to carols.

gingerbread-martini-sl-xGingerbread Martini

Ingredients
Ginger liquer (for rim)
Crushed gingersnaps (for rim)
2 tablespoons ginger liqueur
2 tablespoons vanilla-citrus liqueur
1 1/2 tablespoons coffee-flavored rum
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons whipping cream
1 cup ice cubes
Garnish: partially split vanilla bean brushed with liqueur and rolled in sugar (optional)
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Preparation
Dip glass rims in ginger liqueur and crushed gingersnaps. Store glasses in freezer up to 2 days. Stir together ginger liqueur, vanilla-citrus liqueur, coffee-flavored rum, honey, and whipping cream in a cocktail shaker. Add ice cubes; cover with lid, and shake vigorously until thoroughly chilled (about 30 seconds). Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish, if desired.

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merry-berry-sl-xBerry Christmas “Mocktail”

Ingredients
5 fresh raspberries
4 fresh blueberries
2 fresh blackberries
1 1/2 tablespoons light agave nectar
5 fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 cup crushed ice
6 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons ginger ale
Garnish: halved fresh raspberries and blackberries (optional)
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Preparation
Muddle 5 fresh raspberries, blueberries, 2 fresh blackberries, light agave nectar, mint leaves, and lime juice in a cocktail shaker. Stir in crushed ice and water. Cover with lid, and shake vigorously until thoroughly chilled (7 to 10 seconds). Pour mixture into a 16-oz. glass, and top with ginger ale. Garnish, if desired.

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hot-buttered-rye-sl-xHot Buttered Rye

Ingredients
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup rye whiskey
6 tablespoons hot water
2 tablespoons ginger liqueur
Freshly grated nutmeg
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Preparation
Beat heavy cream and maple syrup with an electric mixer at medium speed 2 minutes or until consistency of softened butter. Cover and chill 1 to 24 hours. Pour rye whiskey, hot water, and ginger liqueur into a 6-oz. heatproof cup. Top with about 1/4 cup maple-cream mixture and freshly grated nutmeg.
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Recipes and photos courtesy of Time, Inc.

Contractor’s Corner:
What’s on Your Holiday Equipment Wish List?

Sometimes it’s that one piece of equipment that puts you ahead of your competitors. This month’s Contractor’s Corner blog looks at some of our favorite must-haves for the residential hardscape contractor preparing for 2016.

Aerial Video Drone

Aerial DroneIt’s not just a totally cool piece of equipment, it’s also an awesome selling tool. Don’t just take photos of your completed projects, bring them to life with fly-through videos that you can add to your company website or Facebook page. Showing videos to homeowners on an iPad will allow them to virtually walk through a design and see it from every angle, potentially visualizing how they would live in that space at their own home. Inexpensive drones are available just about everywhere, but if you’re a serious shopper, read PC Magazine’s Best Drones of 2015.

Paver Slab Vacuum Installer

Mammoth Vacuum EquipmentLarger format pavers are widely popular right now, but installing them can be a tedious and strenuous process. Speed installation of large pieces and minimize worker fatigue with vacuum installation equipment specifically designed for paver slabs. Check out the Mammoth VH from Pave Tech®, which comes with two different handle sets: one for single workers, and one for lifting by two workers.

Paver Placer™ Installers

model2--300I know what you’re thinking…Now that I have a more efficient way to install the big pieces, what about the smaller ones? Have no fear, PaveMor™ is here. They offer a line of hand-held paver installation machines that hook up to a standard air compressor to speed installation and reduce workplace injuries. The model pictured here can be used to pick up one standard sized paver or two smaller units at once.

iQ Dustless Saw

HERO-WishListAnyone in the paver industry knows that cutting pavers or wall block creates a cloud of dust. Overexposure to silica dust can cause serious health problems, but wearing a respirator can be a pain — not to mention the cleanup required from the dust and slurry. If you want to see the difference a dustless saw can make, click to view this video.

Belgard Welcomes U.S. Troops Home with $100,000 Donation

Ribbon Cutting

Soldier Roasting SmoresIn a giving initiative to support transitioning programs for U.S. servicemen and women, Belgard conducted a nationwide “Welcome Home” campaign that began in March and culminated on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. To celebrate Welcome Home’s success, Belgard held a check presentation ceremony at Fort Carson, an army base in Colorado Springs, on Nov. 21.

In addition to cash donations, Belgard also installed a fire pit in the USO Colorado Springs at Fort Carson outdoor common space for service members to enjoy a touch of home with their loved ones. The new fire pit was dedicated during the presentation celebration, and attendees enjoyed gathering around the fire to enjoy refreshments from the s’mores and hot chocolate bars.

In total, Belgard raised $100,000 as part of our Welcome Home giving initiative for the USO, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting, connecting and comforting American service members and their families throughout every step of their military journey.

“We knew we had lofty goals in trying to raise this amount by Veterans Day, but we were confident our employees, customers and stakeholders shared our commitment to honoring the servicemen and women of this country,” said Erica Breazeale, consumer marketing manager for Belgard. “We are honored to have a partnership with such a significant organization and look forward to continuing to work with the USO to express our gratitude for those who have given so much for our nation.”

As part of the Welcome Home initiative conducted over the past eight months, Belgard has made individual donations in amounts ranging from $100 to $500 for every paver project installed during this time, as well as donations made for other trade partner actions. These funds will support USO programs focused on supporting service members as they transition from military to civilian life. These programs provide services ranging from helping troops create a strong resume to networking with employers to creating a more functional home environment.

“When service members and military families embark on transitioning into civilian life, it is important they know that America supports them,” said Michael Hoar, USO vice president of corporate alliances. “Partners like Belgard help the USO provide our nation’s military community with the resources they need to successfully reintegrate into civilian life.”

Belgard would like to extend a special thanks to local contractors Sunflower Landscapes and  DBC Irrigation for installing the USO fire pit and helping to organize the dedication celebration.

Team photo

For more information on the Welcome Home initiative, visit www.belgard.com/home.

Holiday Outdoor Entertaining

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Baby, it’s cold outside..but don’t let that stop you from enjoying your outdoor living spaces with family and friends this holiday season. Here are some tips for entertaining outdoors in colder weather that embrace the holiday spirit.

The Fire is So Delightful

There’s a reason that outdoor fireplaces and fire pits are one of the fastest growing trends in outdoor living: there’s just something universal about sitting around a fire. The dancing flames, the smokey aroma, the gentle crackle…fire’s are mesmerizing! This holiday season, it’s time to invest in that fire feature you’ve been wanting. And, be sure and stock up on wood and marshmallows.

All is Calm, All is Bright

Festive lighting is essential to any holiday gathering. String lights and candles will not only create a holiday atmosphere, they provide lighting that’s softer and more intimate than standard overhead lights. For creative ideas on outdoor lighting, check out our lighting ideas blog.

Jingle Bells. Jingle Bells.

What’s a party without music? A boring party, that’s what. If you don’t have a sound system in your outdoor space, don’t fret. There are a number of inexpensive bluetooth speakers on the market that will allow you and your friends to take turns showcasing your holiday playlists. Or set your iPad on a Pandora or Spotify station, link it to the speaker, and you’re good to go. When you’re ready to install something more permanent, look into the Sonos wi-fi system, which will allow you to link together your indoor sound system, desktop computer, any number of devices, and an outdoor speaker system that can all be operated together or in separate zones, all from a smart phone or other device.

Here We Come A-Wassailing

Sometimes it helps to warm your guests from the inside out. Be sure and have warm drinks available, like traditional English wassail, hot buttered rum, or peppermint cocoa. But to make sure they’re warm on the outside, too, it’s probably a good idea to keep lots of throws handy. You may want to consider investing in some tabletop and full-size butane heaters, which are available in a number of attractive styles, shapes and sizes from just about every hardware store. Just remember to keep extra fuel tanks on hand.

Oh, Bring Us Some Figgy Pudding

No holiday entertaining blog would be complete without a mention of food. You might want to skip the figgy pudding, though. It’s not that great. Stick to small bites like cocktail meatballs and goat cheese crostinis. The primary issue with outdoor holiday entertaining is keeping food warm in the cold. You may want to keep the food station indoors or use covered warming trays outdoors.

Outdoor Living Holiday Gift Guide

For many people, outdoor living has become so much a way of life, they spend more time on their back patio than in their interior living room. For those outdoor living enthusiasts in your life, here are some of our favorite gift ideas this holiday season.

imageRain-Drum Accent Table

Rain drums, named for the pleasing sound they make when hit by raindrops, have existed in Asian cultures for thousands of years. This cast-aluminum version from Pottery Barn adds old world charm to an outdoor living room and works well as a coffee table, side table or accent table.

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imageColorful Hanging Lanterns

Decorative outdoor lighting adds ambiance to any outdoor living area. This colorful tabletop display of hanging globe lanterns from Pier 1 uses either standard wax or battery-operated tea lights to add a festive glow to any outdoor kitchen or living room. The decorative handcrafted set includes a sturdy iron base and handblown glass globes.

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imageCountertop Brick Oven

With four versions to choose from, the countertop Belgard brick oven can easily turn any outdoor kitchen into a gourmet cooking space without the time and expense of a full custom brick oven installation. The countertop oven is available in copper or silver finish with either a pyramid (shown) or dome roof line.

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imageCajun Turkey Fryer

Cajun cooking is all the rage, and no Cajun holiday is complete without a marinated fried turkey, crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside. This whole-turkey deep fryer package from Home Depot has the tools to turn the average homeowner into an outdoor Cajun chef, including pot, stand, propane regulator, turkey stand, and meat thermometer.

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imageCajun Injector Kit

Either the perfect complement to the turkey fryer or a gift idea on its own, the Cajun Injector Marinade Kit includes four different marinade flavors, a marinade injector, dry seasonings and a recipe booklet. Injecting the marinade into the meat ensures that every bite is loaded with flavor.

Cherry-Smoked Turkey
on the Grill

Thanksgiving feast

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner; Styling: Lydia Pursell

Believe it or not, it’s already time to start talking turkey. If you’re looking for a new Thanksgiving tradition this year, here’s a recipe that’s worth the time and effort. If your turkey is frozen, give yourself time to thaw it in advance. This recipe calls for a 12 lb. turkey, which should take 2 to 3 days to defrost in the refrigerator, plus an extra day to marinate per the recipe below. Please adjust defrost and cooking times as needed for a larger bird. Also, please note that the bird will need to stand at room temperature for 1 hour prior to placing on the pit, which will add to your prep time.

INGREDIENTS

3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons dried sage
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 (12-pound) turkey
2 cups cherry wood chips, divided
Cooking spray
.  .  .

preparation

1. Whisk together the dry seasonings (first 5 ingredients) in a small bowl. Trim excess fat from turkey. Remove giblets; set aside for another use. Loosen skin from breast by inserting fingers and gently pushing between skin and meat. Rub dry seasoning mixture evenly under and over skin. Place turkey on a pan and refrigerate, uncovered, 8 hours or overnight.

2. After the marination period, remove turkey from refrigerator; let stand at room temperature 1 hour.  Meanwhile, soak wood chips in water 1 hour; drain well.

3. Light one side of grill, heating to medium heat (350°); leave other side unlit. Place 1 cup wood chips in an aluminum foil packet, and place over charcoal or heating element. Place a disposable aluminum foil pan under grill rack on unlit side. Pour 2 cups water in pan. Coat grill rack with cooking spray, and place turkey on unlit side of grill.

4. Grill turkey, covered with grill lid, 2 hours and 30 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 165°, turning turkey and adding remaining 1 cup wood chips halfway through cooking time. Remove turkey from grill; let stand 30 minutes before slicing.

Photo and recipe courtesy of time, inc.