Category Archives: Home & Garden

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Yummy Red, White and Blue Celebration Recipes

We’re in the celebration months of the year when it comes to patriotic parties, outdoor barbecues and fun get-togethers. I think we’re all suckers for a fun-filled themed party, so here are a few ideas to bring the patriotic theme of true American red, white and blue into your recipes. Have fun and let’s celebrate an All-American summer!


Serves 8

For the crust:
2 c. natural granola (make sure it’s gluten free if you are on a gluten free diet)
1/2 c. walnut pieces
4 Tbsp. melted coconut oil
1 Tbsp. agave syrup

For the filling;
1 qt. vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt, softened to spreadable consistency

For the berry topping:
6 oz. fresh raspberries (about 1 1/4 c.)
6 oz. fresh blueberries (about 1 1/4 c.)
2 Tbsp. agave syrup
2 Tbsp. water
1 lemon
1 tsp. cornstarch

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a food processor, pulse crust ingredients until combined and granola is ground to crumbs. Lightly coat a 9-inch pie dish with cooking spray and press crust into bottom of dish and up the sides. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool completely.

In a small saucepan over medium high heat, stir together raspberries, 1 tablespoon agave syrup, 1 tablespoon water, juice of 1/2 the lemon, and 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch.

In another small saucepan over medium heat, stir together blueberries, 1 tablespoon agave syrup, 1 tablespoon water, juice of the other 1/2 of the lemon, and the other 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch. Simmer both saucepans of berries until berries have broken down and sauce has thickened, stirring occasionally with a whisk, about 10 minutes. Cool and pour each sauce separately through a fine mesh sieve into small separate bowls. Let sauces cool completely.

Pour sauces into re-sealable sandwich bags. Snip a tiny amount off one of the corners of the bags. Alternating bags, pipe circles about 2-inches apart over the pie starting in the center and working outward. Drag a toothpick from the center of pie outward to the crust so that the berry sauces are pulled upward. Drag toothpick back in the other direction (from crust to center) about 2-inches away from the first line. Continue around the pie. Freeze uncovered at least 3 hours. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to serve. Serve with additional berries and any remaining sauces.

 

Blue Cheese Red Potato Salad

8 c. red potatoes, boiled and cubed
1/2 c. green onions, chopped
1/2 c. celery, chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 c. slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 tsp. celery seed
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 c. crumbled blue cheese
2 c. sour cream
1/4 c. white wine vinegar

Combine potatoes, onions, celery, parsley, almonds, celery seed, salt and pepper in a large serving bowl; set aside. Mix together blue cheese, sour cream and vinegar in a small mixing bowl. Pour over potatoes, tossing to coat. Chill overnight and then enjoy as a side dish at your next barbecue.

All-American Apple Pie

Cinnamon-Pecan Crust
3 c. all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ c. pecans, finely ground
½ c. butter-flavor solid vegetable shortening
7-8 Tbsp. ice water

Filling
2 large Rome Beauty apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 c. sugar
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. cinnamon
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 c. heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Streusel
⅓ c. sugar
¼ c. light brown sugar
½ c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
½ c. cold butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
½ c. walnuts, chopped

Instructions
To make crust, whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon and pecans in a large mixing bowl.
Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and toss the mixture with a fork. Roll in a circle ¼-inch thick. Line a 10-inch deep-dish pie pan with dough; set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the filling, toss apples with sugar, flour and cinnamon in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, combine egg and cream until smooth. Stir in vanilla. Place apples in prepared crust. Gently pour cream mixture over apple mixture. Bake pie in the lower one-third of oven for 20 minutes.

To make the streusel, combine sugar, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg in the bowl of a food processor. Process until well combined. With processor running, add the cold butter one piece at a time and process until crumbly. Toss in pecans. Remove pie from oven and shield crust with foil. Sprinkle prepared streusel over pie. Return to oven, and bake 45 minutes or until pie puffs.

chickenButtermilk Brined Fried Chicken
Serves 4-6

8 pieces of chicken
Brine
1 qt. buttermilk (I used Cruze Farm’s, if you can get it, I recommend it)
1 c. water
1/8 c. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning
1 Tbsp. Frank’s Hot Sauce (or other vinegar based hot sauce)
1 Tbsp. Sriracha hot sauce
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 c. honey
Cayenne or hot Hungarian paprika to taste (optional)
A few sprigs of thyme (optional)

Coating
3 c. flour
3 tsp. baking powder
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1-2 tsp. kosher salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp. freshly grated black pepper
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/4 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 c. buttermilk
Oil for frying (you need enough to come about 1/3 of the way up the pot or 2 inches)
Kosher salt for sprinkling

For the brine: Combine all the ingredients for the brine except buttermilk in a small pot and heat over medium, dissolving all the salt and honey. Remove from heat and cool by adding ice cubes and stirring. In a large mixing bowl combine buttermilk and cooled seasoned water. Rinse chicken and pat dry. Divide all pieces of chicken between two large Ziplock bags. Pour half of buttermilk brine in each, close, and place in the refrigerator overnight (or up to 12 hours).
1-2 hours before you fry, rinse the chicken under cold water and pat dry. Let the chicken come to room temperature, half an hour to one and a half hours, on a parchment lined baking sheet covered with paper towels. Preheat oven to 350°.

Mix all of the ingredients for the coating together in a large bowl, transferring half to a second bowl. Fill a third bowl with the 2 cups of buttermilk. The easiest way to coat the chicken is to have a line set up: uncoated chicken, flour coating, buttermilk, 2nd bowl of flour coating, wax paper-lined baking sheet for the coated chicken.

Pour the oil into your pot. It should come at least two inches and no more than 1/3 of the way up the side of the pot. Turn the heat to low, clipping a frying/candy thermometer to the side of your pot.

Dredge each piece in the coating, dust off all excess, dip into the buttermilk, and then into the second bowl of coating, letting the second coating be clumpier, but still patting to get rid of excess that might fall off in the oil. Place coated chicken on the wax paper lined tray.

Turn the oil up to high and let it come to about 350° F. When it reaches temperature, very carefully place 4 pieces of chicken at a time in the hot oil and fry, adjusting the temperature as needed to maintain a frying temperature between 310° -325° F. Fry dark meat first, as it takes longer. Fry the chicken for about 13-20 minutes, moving the chicken gently (you don’t want to knock the coating off!) after the first five minutes to prevent sticking and burning on the bottom. Be careful to monitor your chicken, watching the oil temperature closely and not letting the chicken get too dark.

Remove chicken from the oil with a spider or slotted metal spoon when it is golden brown, and place it on a cooling rack over a paper towel lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Check the internal temperature with an instant read thermometer. Fully cooked chicken will read 160 degrees and can be served then if desired. If the temperature is lower than that, it must be finished in the oven.

Fry the second batch and then place it on the rack. Place the rack in the oven for ten minutes. Check the internal temperature to make sure the chicken is cooked through, let rest 10 minutes, and serve hot. If all the chicken is cooked through and you want to keep it hot, you can hold it in a 250 degree oven.

Maple-Mustard Grilled Corn with Bacon

12 ears corn, husked
Olive oil for grilling
1/4 c. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 pinch allspice
6 slices bacon

Brush 12 husked ears with olive oil. Grill on medium-high until tender, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup maple syrup, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, and a pinch of allspice. Cook 6 slices of bacon until crisp, about 6 minutes; drain on paper towels. Finely chop bacon and set aside on a platter. During the last 3 minutes of grilling, baste corn with maple-mustard glaze. Roll corn in bacon. Serve immediately.

Water-Conservation

The 101 on H20

Although it’s been several years since we have experienced a severe draught in this area, that doesn’t mean we can be wasteful with our water usage during the heat of summer.  The amount of water homeowners use to keep their lawns green or gardens lush spikes in the summer—two to four times as much water than they use the rest of the year!  With a few of these easy tips, you can save water while still having a beautiful garden and lawn.

Irrigate at night or early morning:  Watering your lawn at night or during the early morning hours can reduce evaporation up to 30 percent or more, depending on your location.

Avoid High Wind Watering:  High winds can evaporate water or blow it away from the target zone. This causes wastewater and lowers your sprinkler’s efficiency.

lawn-wateringDon’t Overwater Your Lawn:  Your yard only needs about an inch of water per week to stay healthy. Established gardens require a little less.  Watering infrequently but deeply will encourage deep root growth, keeping your lawn viable for years to come.  Over watering has been linked to pesticide and fertilizers being introduced into streams and rivers so avoidance is the best practice all around.

Keep It Within the Root System Area: Don’t soak the plant’s foliage as it does little good. And don’t apply water outside a shrub’s or a perennial’s root zone. A shrub’s root zone is roughly one to three times the diameter of its canopy, and keeping the water inside this radius will allow it to soak down to where the plant’s roots can reach it.

Frequency Rules: With your lawn and perennials, it’s better to give them larger amounts of water at longer intervals than it is to apply small amounts of water frequently. That’s because shallow watering encourages shallow rooting. In very hot weather, a ballpark range for watering is every other day for perennials and every three to four days for shrubs.

Consider Xeriscaping:  The main goal of xeriscaping is to design a garden with plants that thrive in the local climate and care is taken to avoid water loss due to evaporation and runoff.

rainbarrelUse Rain Barrels:  Capture the naturally occurring rain and store it for use in your garden or yard.  Many systems can be hooked right up to your sprinklers using solar or traditional powered pumps.

Don’t Water the Street:  Thousands of gallons of water are wasted each day in neighborhoods and homes that have improperly setup sprinkler heads.  The street and sidewalk don’t need watering, so take special care to make sure your sprinkler heads and hoses put the water where it is really needed.

Painted Pot Birdbath

Jazzing up the Garden

Most of us are already well on our way to our summer vegetable gardens and flower beds. Just because we’ve reached the summer months doesn’t mean that the fun and joy of getting out in the dirt is over — and we’re not talking about weeding the garden. Enjoying your outdoor area can mean adding some extra decorations and creative flare to any outdoor space.

hammockThe Hammock Oasis
Some gardens or outdoor areas are accompanied by a hammock. Hammocks come in all different types, but instead of just hanging a hammock to the nearest tree, try making the hanging hammock an oasis retreat. All you need is a hammock and mosquito net. Simply attach the mosquito net to a center support above the hammock. Then drape the netting around the hammock. Accessorize with updated decorative pillows and you have transitioned your basic hammock to a serene oasis where you can kick back and relax!

 

Tomato Cage Plant Standsplant-stand
Many of us have potted plants lining our patios, decks and porches. To add some height and take them to a new level, all you need are a few tomato cages. That’s right! The basic tomato cage that you can purchase at any local home goods store is perfect. If you want to keep the cost down, purchase the basic metal stand which is very inexpensive. Pick out your favorite spray paint color at the store while you’re there. You’ll also need a sturdy pair of wire cutters. With the wire cutters, remove the spikes of wire at the smallest portion of the cage. This will make your stand shorter, but will provide necessary stability. If you want to keep the height, you can always roll the wire spikes down to create a rounded end as well. Spray paint the cage your favorite color and don’t be scared to add a pop of color as these are great accent pieces for any outdoor space. Then flip the cage upside down (wide circle on the bottom) and place your potted plant inside the smaller circle at the top.

Mailbox Planters
Metal mailboxes are unique items that can create a decorative touch to your outdoor area. If you have a few lying around the garage or find some cheap at a local store, they can be painted to match your personal decorative touch. Before you fill the mailboxes, paint them any color you wish. Make sure they are fully dry before moving to the next step. Flip the mailbox on its end (opening door on the top) and fill with potting soil. If you want to use less soil, fill the bottom with scrap cardboard or plastic bottles to fill in more space. Then plant your favorite annuals, herbs or greenery. If you’re mounting these mailboxes on a fence or vertical wall, make sure to drill the holes and mount the mailboxes before filling them.

Birdbath Trifecta
Giving Nature a reason to visit your garden is a wonderful way to enjoy your outdoor space. Birdbaths can be an expensive accessory, but with a few simple steps you can have a unique and colorful birdbath without a lot of work. To begin, buy three large plant pots and a large flat pan. Terracotta works great, but if you have others lying around, feel free to use whatever you might already have on hand. For the pan, you can purchase a large plant pot base that is used to collect water. Make sure this base/pan does not have a hole in the middle. The key to making this birdbath is the size of the pots. You’ll need three different sizes ranging from large to small. You’ll be stacking these pots on top of each other to form the base, so make sure they are able to fit securely on top of each other without falling down. Once you’ve collected or purchased your pots, you’ll want to select a color or several colors of paint that you want to use on the pots. Make sure you paint each pot separately and wait until each is fully dry before stacking the pots on top of each other. For the final touch, add the pan/tray to the top of the base. For a more secure birdbath you might want to glue the pots together to ensure they don’t separate and come apart. The other thing to remember is it’s best to assemble the birdbath in the location where you want it to remain. With all the moving parts, it could be difficult to move as one piece after it’s assembled. Once it’s in the perfect spot, fill the top pan/tray with water and wait for a fluttering friend to come visit.

Bottle Cap Wind Chime
The sound of a wind chime can be very soothing as the summer breeze blows. Here’s an inexpensive way to make your own at home. You’ll need a good collection of bottle caps, so as you are enjoying your summer beverages, hold on to the bottle caps for this nifty project. You’ll also need an empty aluminum can. Depending on the size you want the wind chime to be, select the size of the can accordingly. For small wind chimes use a 16 oz. can and go larger from there. Remember, the larger the aluminum can, the more bottle caps you’ll need. As you collect your bottle caps, you’ll need to create a small hole in each one. You can affix jewelry connectors to join the caps together, or even tie each one to the next with fishing line. The more metal you use on the chime, the more sound it will produce, so, it’s recommended to use jewelry connectors as seen in the photo below. Punch holes around the edge of the top (open part) of the can. Flip the can upside down (holes towards the ground) and attach strings of bottle caps to the can. Hang the can nearby and enjoy the sounds of the wind.

DIY

DIY – Outdoor Lighting

The summer is all about spending time outdoors and soaking up the warm weather. There’s nothing better than spending an evening with friends and family outside during a barbecue or social gathering, but it’s no fun if you have to sit in the dark. Lighting an outdoor area can sometimes be challenging and expensive, depending on the type of lighting you need for the area. We’ve found some great cost efficient ways to dress up the outdoors by adding a little ray of light without digging deep into your pockets.


wine-glass-table-lampsWine Glass Tabletop Lighting:

This might be one of the quickest and easiest ways to add lighting to tables on your deck and patio. You’ll need:
Wine glasses (number depends on the amount of area you need to cover)
LED or tea lights (one per wine glass)
Craft paper or Vellum (8.5” x 11”)
Lamp Shade Pattern (optional)
Hot glue gun

Directions: This is so simple! All you need to do is to cut the craft paper or vellum based on the size of your wine glass. If you don’t feel comfortable cutting the shade freehand, you can do a simple online search for lampshade patterns and all different kinds will show up. You can also cut the shade with decorative scissors to add an extra touch to the look of your lampshade. Then simply connect the two ends of the paper and attach together with glue. Let dry and simply place over a wineglass. You can either use tea lights or LED battery operated tea lights. Arrange on the table or sitting area and you have a unique lighting display all your friends will love.

Floating Pool Lanterns
If you’re gathered outside around the pool and need a little extra light or want a decorative pop, you can do this simple lighting project that everyone from kids to adults will enjoy! You’ll need:

Balloons (any size, shape and color)
Glow sticks or battery operated LED tea lights

Directions: Activate the glow sticks or turn on the LED lights and insert into the balloons. Blow up the balloons to desired size and tie to secure balloon closed. You can place these balloons in a pool where they will float or scatter them around your outdoor space for a fun pop of color and a sure conversation piece. Tip: If using as floating balloons in a pool, you can add a slight amount of water to each balloon to help it stay in the pool. If the wind blows, keep in mind you’ll need a little extra weight to keep the balloons from flying around. If adding water to the balloon, make sure to use waterproof battery operated LED lights or glow sticks for this project.

bottle_torchesBottle Tiki Torch
Save your old glass wine bottles or glass beverage bottles for this project. Then sit back and relax while staying bug free at the same time! You’ll need:
1/2″ x 3/8″ copper coupling
Tiki replacement wick
Nylon thread seal tape
Recycled wine bottle or beer bottle

Directions: Wrap the pipe wrap around the copper reducer many times. The opening on a wine bottle usually requires about 15 times around so that it will stick and you can actually insert the smaller 3/8″ side into the bottle as the 1/2″ side didn’t fit. You may also want to try it in beer bottles for smaller torches to place around the yard, but you’ll need to adjust your coupling size and the thickness of the wick accordingly. Insert the wick into the reducer. Fill the bottle with Citronella and insert wick. Let the oil be absorbed into the wick before lighting. Now enjoy! For a touch of decoration, you can purchase glass colored rocks from a dollar store and add them to the bottom of the bottles. Make sure that you use clear glass bottles if using decorative items in the bottom.

Garden Globes
This is an interesting way to add a pop of color to garden areas or lawn space. This project is perfect for dark landscaped areas around your home. You’ll need:

Light globes (the kind from bathroom light bars or old ceiling fans)
Battery operated Christmas light strands (50-light small strands work best)

Directions: Take the empty light globes and add the string lights to the inside of each. Make sure you keep the on/off battery box near the opening for ease of turning the globes off and on. Now arrange them throughout the outdoor space and enjoy! Using both large and small globes looks great. If you want to add some color, you can paint the globes a light acrylic paint color that will illuminate when the lights are turned on.

Solar Lamp Reno
Turn your outdoor seating area into an inviting evening seating space for you and your friends.
You’ll need:

Scissors
Solar landscaping light
Lamp base (about $5 at Goodwill)
Lamp shade with socket frame

Directions: Snip off the electric cord at the base of the lamp. Unscrew the socket and pull out the remaining cord. Cut off the cord at the base of the socket. Remove the metal bracket and screw the socket back on the threaded post. Place the shade down over the socket. Make sure the wire shade frame is snug on the socket. Remove the plastic spike from a landscaping solar light. Place the top of the solar light (with the small solar panel facing up) snugly into the socket. My light fit pretty well into the socket, but if yours is wobbly, try using some padding in the socket around the light base. A folded-up piece of scrap fabric, foam or even florist’s putty would work well. Now, sit back and enjoy!

With these great outdoor lighting ideas you can turn any space into an inviting area for all to enjoy this summer. Share your DIY projects with us on Facebook.com/ReadFocusMagazine or simply comment below.