Memorial Day Grilling Tips & Ideas

The first thing that comes to mind when planning a Memorial Day get-together is the age-old query, “what are we going to eat?” Typical Memorial Day fare includes hamburgers and hot dogs fresh off the grill. This year, feel free to break tradition and grill up something new with some of these ideas:

Kebabs

Kebabs are a staple of grilling events, but have you tried any unconventional combinations of foods on your skewers? Here are some that are sure to deliver on flavor:

  • Peaches, pork, pineapple and sweet Vidalia onion
  • Pineapple, red bell pepper, chicken, and shredded coconut
  • Curry-marinated beef, zucchini, cherry tomato and potato
  • Eggplant, lemongrass tofu, yellow squash and cherry tomato

To make the most of your meats and vegetarian equivalents, you’ll need a good seasoning or rub to anchor the flavor so you don’t end up with a bunch of tasteless food sticks. For a good chicken and pork rub, try Rufus Teague’s Meat Rub. For any and everything, try Konriko’s Greek seasoning. There’s a world of flavor out there and there’s likely to be someone local with an online spice apothecary – and being able to buy local is always a plus.

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Burgers

There’s a world of possibility out there when it comes to burgers. Entire restaurants have been dedicated to serving up dozens of types of burgers with a wide array of flavor infusions. To create something memorable this year, fold in a little bit of brown sugar to create a sweet and rich flavor. For a richer flavor, fold in minced garlic. Don’t go buck wild loading your burger with a lot of junk unless you want meatloaf.

Whatever you do, season your burger liberally and don’t add salt until the patties are formed. And once they’re on the grill, flip them as often as you’d like. It helps them cook faster and distribute flavor evenly. And once they’re done, be sure to have plenty of toppings set out so everyone can deck out their burger.

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Grilling Tips

You can use gas or charcoal to grill. Gas burns cleaner, but some people prefer the smoky flavor you get from grilling with charcoal. If you’re trying to stay environmentally friendly while entertaining, go with gas. If you want to be kind to the earth and still get that smoky flavor, you can just use additive-free lump charcoal (AKA charred wood), and don’t use lighter fluid.

Preheat your grill 15 to 25 minutes before you start cooking to make sure it reaches the right temperature (and to kill any lingering bacteria). If your grill is heated properly, it will sear foods on contact without drying it up or causing it to stick to the grill. Searing may not seal in the juices of whatever you put on the grill, but it causes them to caramelize, making the flavor rich and decadent. To reduce sticking, oil the grill rack when it’s hot with a vegetable oil-soaked paper towel.

Now for the fun part: cooking the marinated the meat. Marinades will drop some serious flavor bombs into your food. You need to make sure that the marinades are soaked in before you toss the meat on the grill or else you’ll get some fiery Pompeii-esque backsplash. Once they start to look done, use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature to make sure the meat is ready. If you are making kebabs and are worried about some of the pieces falling off the skewers and into the grill, put a grill basket below the grill rack to catch any runaway foods.

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For safety, keep a squirt bottle of water nearby to douse the flames of any flare-ups, since flare-ups resulting from dripping fats can compromise the flavor of the meats and also be a general nuisance.

When the meat is ready, let it sit on a platter for about ten minutes so the juice can distribute evenly and so you don’t burn your palette!

Party Time!

Now you’re ready to grill. Be sure to share some of your favorite foods to grill and let us know how your grilling adventures turn out!

Product Spotlight: Mega-Tandem Wall

Part of our transitional collection, Mega-Tandem is designed to give the timeless appearance of chiseled stone to complement any hardscape. It’s a recent addition to our products that’s only been around since last spring. Mega-Tandem is one of our more versatile walls because it has such a natural appearance, making it perfect for anyone who wants a subtle addition to their home or business.

The texture of Mega-Tandem feels like natural stone, so if you’re looking for a hardscape wall that blends naturally into your surroundings, you’ve found it. It’s great for homes as well as commercial use, as its earthy appearance has the perfect balance of aestheticism and functionality without being ostentatious. It looks so much like it belongs there that you’ll find yourself wondering if it’s actually been there all along.

Mega-Tandem can be used to create curved or straight retaining and freestanding walls. If you’re looking for a stately look, try a straight retaining or freestanding wall…

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…but if you’re in the market for something less austere and more inviting, go for a curved wall:

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Belgard is the only hardscape manufacturer to be granted the Good Housekeeping Seal, so you can rest assured that you’re getting the best and will be taken care of should you have any concerns. Our products are designed with sustainability, beauty and functionality in mind because you deserve a product that’s eye-catching as well as enduring – not to mention something eco-friendly that you can feel good about.

If you are interested in putting up a retaining or freestanding wall for your home or business, let us know! We are happy to help you assess your aesthetic and practical needs to ensure that you end up with the best hardscape possible.

Cinco de Mayo Skinny Margarita Recipe

Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone!

We all know it’s hard to unwind completely with a margarita when you’re thinking about those empty calories from sugar. So we’ve got a guilt-free margarita recipe for you (not that you should feel guilty for enjoying a treat, for goodness’ sake). Unwind without spiking your blood sugar level with this easy, delicious recipe:

  • 3 ½ cups of strawberries
  • 2 ½ cups of crushed ice
  • ½ cup of tequila
  • ½ cup of fresh lime juice
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp. Cointreau (orange-flavored liqueur)
  • Lime or orange wedges (optional for garnishing)

Combine strawberries, ice, tequila, lime juice, sugar and liqueur in blender and process until smooth. Pour into four large glasses and serve immediately (185 calories per serving).

margarita

Photo courtesy of Last Shred of Sanity

Tip: If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of squeezing a half-cup’s worth of juice out of fresh limes, try Nellie and Joe’s Key West Lime Juice. It’s delicious and a close second to freshly squeezed citrus.

No margarita recipe is set in stone, so feel free to improvise and use this recipe as a jumping off point! Use peaches instead of strawberries, lemon juice instead of lime, or get wild and toss some fresh grated ginger in there. Using fresh (or frozen) whole ingredients helps reduce the need for sugar and artificially-flavored syrup. Because who needs strawberry-flavored syrup when you’ve got the real deal? And with summer right around the bend, it’s the perfect time to take advantage of fresh produce.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy some leisure time this Cinco de Mayo with some special people.

And if you’re serious about healthy outdoor living, don’t forget to enter our sweepstakes, where you could win a $10,000 outdoor yoga studio, basketball court, or other addition to your backyard!

Gardening Tips to Beautify Your Hardscape

We hope you’ve all enjoyed the first official month of spring! Regardless of how the weather has behaved in your area so far, you can rest assured that sunshine is on its way – and with it, plenty of time to relax and entertain in the yard.

But first, we all have work to do to get our outdoor living areas ready for extended use. Time to wipe down the tables and chairs, sweep off the patio and most importantly, whip your garden into shape so you can blow away your guests.

This year, consider taking a fresh approach to your garden; one that works in tandem with the design of your hardscape to create a truly unbelievable getaway.

Here are a few tips to help you knock off the winter rust and beautify your outdoor living space with some natural beauty.

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Bring walkways to life. Pleasant walkways are one of the key elements of the perfect hardscape. Not only do they provide a safe and comfortable walking path for you and your guests, they also guide the eye toward your yard’s best features and add visual interest to the landscape. This year, make your walkways even more magical by surrounding them with Irish mosh or thyme. This type of greenery will add character to your pavers and make your yard feel more a part of the natural environment.

Add vertical interest. Is your hardscape feeling a little one-dimensional lately? Try giving it a more robust and enchanting flavor with some clever layering. Make us of both short and tall greenery. Use ground level flowerbeds as well as elevated platforms and pots to create the illusion of a more diverse landscape. Consider adding a sunken garden that can serve as a little hidden getaway for you on warm summer evenings.

Make the most of your surroundings. If you have beautiful naturally occurring bushes or trees in your yard, use them as focal points rather than trying to fight against them. After all, the point of outdoor living is to bring you closer to nature in a way that gives you all the comfort and convenience of being indoors — not to isolate you from its beauty.

Make your garden pop with neutral pavers. If you want to draw visitors’ eyes to your meticulously manicured garden, try a more unassuming color stone in your hardscape so as not to distract. Our Lafitt pavers come in natural-looking stone colors that allow your gardening skills to shine and embellish the design of your hardscape.

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Keep it fresh. Change up your look with seasonal updates so you never get bored of your outdoor living space! Try pansies, bloodroot or lilacs in the spring. Switch things up deeper in the summer with fresh aster, daisies or dahlia.

Smart gardening can do wonders for the mood of your hardscape. Depending on your style, you can use flowers, bushes, trees and other plants to give your outdoor living space a bright, airy feel, or a secluded, mysterious one. Whatever your personal preference, use these tips to spur your creativity and don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

Happy Gardening!

How to Host a Great Easter Egg Hunt

Flowers are blooming, the trees are gearing up to provide us with shade and both spring and summer holidays are right around the corner. As you’re preparing for outdoor celebrations, don’t overlook Easter as a great opportunity to invite guests over for an afternoon Easter Egg hunt!

Here’s a tip: after you figure out how many little hunters you’ll have, multiply that number by ten or twelve. That will give the kids plenty of treats to feast upon as well as trinkets to play with (especially for those concerned about inadvertently creating a legion of sugar-crazed children, substitute small toys or coins for candy).

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Now for the actual hunt. Here are some fun alternatives to the traditional egg hunt:

Make it feel like a mission. Have each participating kid find one or two of each color egg and once they complete their mission, they can turn in their eggs to the host for a prize, like a sweet 401k (just kidding, go for something like a coloring book and some markers or crayons, or a fun game that they can play with their whole family).

Along with candy, trinkets and coins, feel free to put messages with something inspirational or kind written on them! If you want to tailor the notes to specific kids, assign each kid a specific color. Or, if you’re feeling ambitious, use different colors of yarn for each kid to weave a treasure map around the yard. That way, they’ll get exactly what they’re meant to and each kid will feel as important as they truly are (and there won’t be any brawls over who found the egg first).

Who says kids get to have all of the fun? Have an adult team up with each kid (it can be a parent, aunt, uncle, cousin or older sibling) and search together. Hide some of the eggs in hard-to-reach places and when the little ones spot a bright color in a strange spot, their grownup sidekick can put the kid on their shoulders so they can reach it. Plus, they get to feel like they’re seven feet tall for a few seconds, which is nothing short of exhilarating.

Great news: you don’t have to break the bank to have a successful, thoroughly enjoyable hunt in your outdoor living space. When it comes to having fun, kids are certified professionals, and with fun adults to facilitate these kinds of adventures, they’re bound to have an unforgettable time.

 

Product Spotlight: Country Manor Wall

The castle estate aesthetic isn’t just for nobility and royalty anymore. If you’ve ever wished to live in a regal manor on the rolling hills of the English countryside, we have a solution that will meet you where are.

Country Manor is one of our eight styles of retaining wall stone that comes in a wide range of shapes and colors. It’s perfect for freestanding landscape walls, columns and moderately tall reinforced retaining walls. Country Manor stone makes a stunning addition as a fireplace…

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…an enclosure for an outdoor dining area…

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…or a walkway fit for royalty.

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Country Manor uses patented pin technology, giving your fireplace or column extra strength – and it’s easy to install, too! If you have a vision for your home, we can make it a reality without any hassle.

The possibilities are endless. Be sure to scan through the Belgard Idea Books tailored to your region and check out the combinations of Country Manor and pavers like Dublin or London Cobble. Once you find something you want, give us a call and we’ll be happy to help you figure out how to give your home some rustic old world flavor.