Yummy Summer Slider Bar

An American classic: Beef sliders with American cheese on a sesame seed bun.
An American classic: Beef sliders with American cheese on a sesame seed bun.

Summer is a time for living and entertaining outdoors. Whether it’s the Fourth of July or just an average Monday in July, we Americans tend to spend the day focused on what we are known for: eating. Nothing like celebrating our independence by eating like the free men, women and children that we are. This year, maximize your freedom of food choice by setting up a slider bar. Sliders are smaller than regular burgers, which will allow you to try a few different kinds at once. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Nice Buns
The most underrated part of the burger: the bun. A bun can either make or break your burger. While the sesame seed bun is probably the most iconic bun out there, there are also several other types of buns. From Kaiser rolls to English muffins to croissants, be courageous with your bun choices. An excellent option is King’s Hawaiian sweet rolls, which are the perfect size for sliders and add a little extra sweetness to every bite.

Kicking it up a notch: Ground beef and pork with arugula, tomato, caramelized onions and blue cheese on a grilled bun.
Kicking it up a notch: Ground beef and pork with arugula, tomato, caramelized onions and creamy blue cheese on a grilled bun.

To Beef or Not to Beef
Ah, the heart of the burger, the meat. You could go traditional with ground beef, or you could even try chicken, turkey, or pork — or all of the above. When you’re going with a non-traditional slider, you can either grill cuts of meat or ask your butcher to grind the meat. Another option is to make pulled pork by cooking a Boston butt in the crockpot. Simply season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, brown sugar and apple juice, then cook it until the meat pulls apart. Is so easy, yet so good! There are also plenty of vegetarian options. You could try a portobello mushroom cap in lieu of meat, or you could pick up black bean burgers from the frozen food section of the grocery. Who knows, you may even have your meat-lover friends trying to swipe your veggie burger away from you.

It Actually IS Easy Being Cheesy
For those of us who require cheese on our burgers, make sure to have plenty of cheese options for your slider bar. American is always a classic, especially on the Fourth of July. But feel free to experiment a little. Excellent choices include pepper jack, Swiss, feta, blue cheese, goat cheese, and Havarti. If you want to be really adventurous, check out the gourmet cheese section of your grocery store and look for something interesting, like a Melkbus with black truffles. Mmmmm.

Now we're talking gourmet: Pulled pork sliders with kale-slaw on a ciabatta roll.
Now we’re talking gourmet: Pulled pork sliders with zesty kale-slaw on a ciabatta roll.

Veggie Tales
A good burger always has its fair share of veggies on it. Sure you could do the ole lettuce and tomato, but we’re trying to provide freedom of slider choices here. Try also providing an assortment of options like sprouts, arugula, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, and roasted red peppers. Grilled fruits (like pineapple or mango) also make a great addition.

To Top it Off
No burger is complete without that special sauce. Ketchup and mustard are fine, but if you haven’t caught on yet, we’re trying to be a little different. On your sliders, try topping them with sauces such as sriracha, creole mustard, cilantro mayonnaise, hummus, any of the different flavors provided by Tabasco, or just doctor up some “secret sauce” in the kitchen.

Would You Like Some Fries with That?
Finally, we need a side dish or two to round out those slider options. Since a burger bar can be pretty labor-intensive, you may want to try and keep the sides easy. In fact, whatever you can do to prep ahead of time will keep you from spending the day chopping while everyone else is having fun. So keep it simple when it comes to the sides. Grill some corn on the cob, heat up some baked beans, grab a bag of coleslaw, or just throw some frozen fries in the oven. Honestly, no one is going to care about the side dishes because they’ll be filling up on yummy sliders.

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.

Preparing for Football Season – Proper Lawn & Paver Maintenance

Preparing for Football Season_ Proper Lawn & Paver Maintenance

With football season ramping up and fall’s cooler temperatures and falling leaves, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about preparing for autumn with proper lawn and paver maintenance. You can do more now to impact how your lawn will look next year than at any other time of the year.

Fertilize your lawn with a winterizer fertilizer before the first heavy freeze to encourage strong, vigorous root development. This step allows grass to get off to a better start in the spring and increases resistance to disease and insects.

While nobody likes to rake leaves, it’s an important step in autumn lawn maintenance. If you have a lot of leaves, mulch them and apply them to your lawn where they act like a second fertilizer application for the grass.

Luckily, with Belgard pavers on your patio, walkway and driveway your job is easy. Our pavers require very little maintenance. Thanks to a manufacturing process that ensures quality, colorfastness and weather resistance, our unique Colorgard technology evenly disperses colors throughout each and every paver, wall, and curb unit we make. Belgard products resist UV rays, maintain their original color year after year, and hold up to stressful weather extremes.

Additionally, stained or broken pavers can be easily replaced without patches. Ants and weeds in joints can be prevented with sealers or herbicides.

You can still enjoy your outdoor space even during upkeep – involve the whole family and make it a fun activity. The chores will get done faster, and you can get back to watching the game on your beautiful, leaf-free Belgard patio.