Outdoor Entertaining Tip of the Month: Ancho-Marinated Skirt Steak with Warm Black Bean Salad

This ancho-marinated skirt steak with warm bean salad is the perfect meal to transition to cooler weather. The deep beefy flavor of skirt steak paired with red wine and the texture of black beans makes your taste buds dance. Enjoy cooking this meal in your outdoor kitchen and savor the last warm nights of summer.

1/2 cup Syrah or other dry red wine
1/2 cup red wine vinegar, divided
About 6 tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons minced garlic, divided
1 tablespoon plus 1 tsp. pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 tablespoon ground dried ancho chiles or chili powder
1 skirt steak (about 1 1/2 lbs.)
2 fresh poblano chiles (sometimes labeled pasilla)
1 large sweet onion, chopped
3 cans black beans (15 oz. each), drained and rinsed
1 large red pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-in. chunks
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
About 3 green onions, sliced (including green tops)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Combine wine, 1/4 cup each vinegar and oil, 1 tbsp. each garlic and pepper, 1 tsp. each salt and cumin, the oregano, and ground chiles in a large, resealable plastic food bag. If steak is in 1 long piece, cut in half crosswise; rinse, add to bag, seal, and turn to coat. Chill at least 4 hours or up to 1 day.

2. Preheat broiler. Halve, stem, and seed the poblanos. Lay skin side up on a baking sheet and broil 4 inches from heat until well charred, 6 to 7 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes, then peel and coarsely chop.

3. Heat grill to high (450° to 550°). In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, sauté onion and remaining 1 tbsp. garlic in 2 tbsp. oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in beans and remaining 1/4 cup vinegar and 1 tsp. each pepper, salt, and cumin; turn heat to low.

4. Oil cooking grate well. Lift steak from marinade (discard marinade) and grill, turning once, until browned on both sides but still pink in the center (cut to test), 7 to 10 minutes total. Transfer to a board and let rest at least 5 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, add poblanos, red pepper, tomatoes, 3 green onions, and cilantro to bean mixture, and stir occasionally until warm. Slice steak on the diagonal across the grain and serve on warm bean salad. Garnish with more green onions if you like.

From Sunset October 2011

Contractor’s Corner: Optimizing The Off Season

Contractors play a pivotal role in helping homeowners bring their outdoor living visions to life. Each month, we’ll offer a Contractor’s Corner post to share tips to help our contractor partners offer even more to homeowners and their landscapes.

As cooler weather moves in, homeowners will begin to think less about outdoor entertaining and more about bundling up indoors. The off season presents a challenge to landscape contractors because jobs are few and far between. This month, we’ll explore one way to optimize the off season and use your free time to build your business and convert sales.

Fall and winter present the perfect opportunity to focus on building your business. Following up with your past customers is one of the best ways to conjure repeat business.

Let’s say your team installed a walkway for a homeowner a few months ago. The homeowner was happy with the result and the quality of your work. Since you already have an established relationship, contact the homeowner to see if they are ready to update their driveway or extend their living space with a patio. They have worked with you in the past and, if they are a satisfied customer, you will be at the top of their list when they have other projects. With your breadth of experience, you can educate them on solutions and inspire them with possibilities.

There are lots of additions you can suggest to your clients. Consider your previous work with the homeowner and what would be a good addition to their space. If they’ve recently had a new patio installed, they might be ready to introduce a fire feature; fireplaces and fire pits are much easier for a homeowner to imagine as the weather starts to change. Did your team recently install a paver driveway for a family that also has a pool in the backyard? Perhaps a new pool deck in complementing pavers will help transition the front of the home to the backyard and create the outdoor oasis of their dreams. Work during the off-season will have it ready for them to enjoy when the weather warms again.

Follow up is an easy way to build your business during the quieter months. Even if your customers aren’t quite ready for their next project, you’ll be the first to come to mind when their friends and family are looking for recommendations.

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Outdoor Entertaining Tip of the Month: Poolside Favorites

It’s the height of the summer season and August’s sweltering temperatures have homeowners diving headfirst into their pools to cool off. This week, we’ve gathered a few of our poolside favorites for enjoying the dog days of summer:

This NEWave Arctic Chill Floating Cooler (1) from Bed, Bath and Beyond is the perfect way to keep refreshing drinks cold and within reach.

We love these Vertical Rugby Stripe Beach Towels (2) from Land’s End. They come in five colors and monogramming is available so you always know whose towel is whose.

Set up a table under this TUUCI Manta Shade (3) from Design Within Reach and enjoy a shady lunchtime retreat.

These Floating White Blossom Lights (4) from Target light up the night for evening swimming.

The Villano Double Chaise (5) from Summer Classics is great for soaking in the sun next to your loved one while still being able to control your personal lounging angle.

Lastly, the perfect pool isn’t complete without a beautiful, smooth paver deck. We love Catalina Stone (6) which offers the eco-advantages of permeability, reducing run-off and pollution.

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4th of July Party Planning Tips

Independence Day is the perfect holiday to get together with friends, family and neighbors for a cook-out and celebration. Here are some tips for making your 4th of July holiday stylish outdoors:

  • Decorate your outdoor space with patriotic shades of red, white and blue in the tablecloths, napkins, flowers, table toppers, and more. Add a unique touch by making American flag chair covers that you can reuse year after year.
  • Whether you’re spending time on land or on water, don’t forget to use a water and sweat resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Purchase several pairs of cheap sunglasses and hats from your local dollar store for forgetful guests.
  • The 4th of July wouldn’t be complete without a cook-out on the grill. Fire up All-American favorites like hotdogs and hamburgers in your outdoor kitchen. It’s the perfect gathering place so you can continue to entertain your guests as you tantalize their senses.
  • Whip up a refreshing dessert like this Rosy Strawberry Sorbet. Your guests will love a cold tasty treat on a hot day, and it’s the perfect hue for the holiday!
  • Extended periods of time in the sun can cause fatigue. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Freeze BPA-free water bottles overnight and bring them outside to melt in the sun during the celebration. The ice will melt while you’re busy having fun and a revitalizing cold drink will await you.
  • Plan games or activities to keep your guests of all ages entertained. Lawn games like a bean bag toss or croquet are fun for both children and adults.
  • End the evening with everyone gathered around the fire pit for marshmallow roasting, s’mores making and storytelling.

For more party planning tips, check out our blog post on the Top 10 Tips for Hosting an Outdoor Get-Together.

Chip’s Tips: Chip Wade Answers Your Questions About Outdoor Living Areas

Belgard has partnered with home expert and TV host, Chip Wade. Throughout the year, we will be collecting your questions for Chip so he can answer your queries on your own outdoor projects.

Chip is excited to help our readers with their own projects. If you don’t see your question below, keep checking back as Chip continues to answer homeowner questions throughout the year. Here are his tips:

We have a one-story brick ranch home with a wooden deck, and we’ve always wanted to build a patio out from the deck to give us more outdoor living area and space for a Jacuzzi. I retired last month and finally have the time to enjoy this space, but I’m concerned about mixing brick with brick and the wooden deck. How do you think those two go together, and do you have any recommendations for what we should do to get started?
– Catherine W.

A wood deck can be nice, but it takes a lot of maintenance, especially if you are not using premium exotic hardwoods, which can be extremely expensive and still require maintenance.  You can stain the wood to match the deck, again that is that maintenance issue that will come up every year to protect your investment.  Putting in a hardscape with pavers might give you a little more peace of mind in the maintenance category.  Pavers outlast any decking, and Belgard offers a variety of natural tones to complement any existing color scheme, even brick.

We recently put an addition on our house to expand our kitchen. In order to free up space for that, we pulled up the old patio. Now we are going to lay a new patio. I’d like to reuse the bricks from the old one if we can. Is that a good idea? If so, is there anything we can do to keep the grass and weeds from growing up between the bricks like they did in our old patio?
– Kara W.

This can be a good idea if the bricks are in good shape, if there are enough of them, and if they are thick enough. I would recommend using the bricks potentially as an accent, and use another material that is more suited to last in a paver form that is more cost effective to install. If you properly prepare your grade and pavers with the right base, there are only a few types of plants that can successfully root in the sand. These plants are easily kept at bay with the bimonthly spray of weed killer.

Three years ago we bought a home on Florida’s west coast. It had a concrete lanai with a small concrete patio outside, and we added large concrete pavers to make the patio area larger. The concrete lanai has a design in it and there are several cracks, so it needs a facelift. What we’d like to do is put smaller pavers over the entire area. Can we do this, even though there are two different bases? And, can we use an adhesive instead of sand? I don’t want sand inside my lanai, and I’d like the interior and exterior living spaces to be the same.
– Elaine S.

As long as the concrete is not displaced, meaning it has big cracks with the concrete being left very uneven, you can go right over the top.  You can do a crush and sand base over the concrete or you can clean the concrete thoroughly and add a bonding catalyst, then you can mortar the pavers right down to the surface. This can be a very effective way of using what is already there.

How accurate is the Belair retaining wall stone in height when you mix the three inch and the six inch block together? I am assuming the two threes match the six inch brick in height otherwise you would have a wave in the wall, correct?
– David K.

Great question. The 6” and the 3” Belair are compatible to work in combination with each other as a multi height retaining or free standing wall structure. Belair is designed to be easy-to-use and to give design flexibility. Belair Wall can be used for free standing walls or columns as well as retaining walls and even sweeping curves. It’s also a great product for terraces, raised patios and steps. Belgard has some good information and laying patterns for combination Belair Wall on their website.

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Dad: Master of the Grill, Keeper of the Lawn and Devourer of Deliciousness – it’s no wonder all of these outdoor living goodies and gadgets made our Father’s Day Gift Guide list. If you’re still looking for that perfect something for the special father in your life, check out our picks for Father’s Day giving.

1.    These BBQ sauces from Williams-Sonoma are unexpected and delicious! Dad is sure to love the flavor combinations of Jalapeño Peach, Cherry Chipotle, Spicy Root Beer, Sweet Onion Apple Wood, Bourbon and Black Pepper, and Maple Mesquite.
2.    What grill master doesn’t love the Big Green Egg? Customize dad’s grill station with Belgard pavers surrounding your prized egg and creating a prep station for meats.
3.    We love this Kabob Set by Weber – it’s perfect for adding a little char to veggies and seafood.
4.    Your old man would love nothing more than to spend some quality time with you on Father’s Day. How about tossing around this Rawlings ST5 Game Football from Dick’s Sporting Goods in the backyard?
5.    After all that exercise in the summer sun, Dad will need a cold, refreshing beer to cool off. Why not serve it to him in one of these glasses from the Craft Brew 12 Piece Set from Target – he’ll love having just the right glass for all his favorite varieties.
6.    The Lexington Bar Set from Wicker Patio Furniture and More would be a beautiful addition to dad’s patio. It’s the perfect height for entertaining – sitting or standing, guests can take their pick.