Author Archives: Garden Decor

crescentdogs

Fire Pit Cook Top Recipes!

An easy and fun way to cook on your  fire pit cook top is to use the “foil pack” method. You can prepare them at home, freeze them for transportation, and then keep them in the cooler until you’re ready to cook. Try this easy foil pack recipe via AllRecipes.com:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast meat – cubed
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1 (8 ounce) package sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 4 small potatoes, cubed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced

DIRECTIONS:

1. In a large bowl, or a large zip-top bag, combine the chicken, onion, mushrooms, yellow pepper, red pepper, garlic, and potatoes. Pour in the olive oil and lemon juice, then mix well.
2. Evenly divide the mixture between 4 large sheets of aluminum foil. Top each with another sheet of foil, and roll up the edges tightly. Wrap each packet again, securely in another sheet of foil to double wrap.
3. Cook in the hot coals of a CobraCo™ Fire Pit until the chicken is opaque and the potatoes are tender, around 40 minutes.

Breakfast lovers will appreciate this simple donut recipe via ThoreausDaughter.com!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 can of buttermilk biscuits
  • vegetable oil for frying pan
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Heat about two inches of oil in a large pot.  Separate the biscuits on a cutting board and cut a hole from the center of each.
  2. Fry the dough in about two inches of oil.
  3. Flip with tongs after a minute or two.
  4. Place the cooked donuts in a paper bag with cinnamon and toss for a tasty and sweet covering
  5. Serve with coffee

Campfire Crescent Dogs are a quick way to satisfy your kids hunger while dining in the great outdoors! This recipe from Tablespoon is simple and easy!

Ingredients:

  1. One tube Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
  2. 8 hot dogs
  3. Ketchup & mustard

Directions

  1. On a flat surface, open the tube of crescent rolls and unroll dough. Separate into triangles along perforations.
  2. Place the hot dog on the edge of the crescent roll and begin rolling so the majority of hot dog is covered by the crescent dough. Make sure the crescent dough overlaps at the end, otherwise it will fall apart.
  3. Skewer your crescent dog on a CobraCo® S’mores Fork and roast it over the fire until golden brown. (Tip: Roasting away from the flames, but in a spot that is still quite hot, gives a nice even roasting.)
  4. Serve immediately with ketchup and mustard as desired.
skillets

Cast Iron Skillet Campfire Cooking

Go “old-school” and use a cast iron skillet to cook on your outdoor fire this summer! There are a few basics to know for better cast iron skillet cooking and they are cleaning and seasoning.

Seasoning your cast iron skillet forms its nonstick surface. Coat the skillet with cooking oil and bake it in a 350 degree oven for an hour. After removing the skillet, dry it with paper towels. Season your cast iron skillet as often as you’d like to reinforce its nonstick surface.

To keep your skillet performing for years you’ll need to employ the proper cleaning techniques. Immediately after cooking you should rinse your skillet with hot water. To remove stuck-on food, grease, etc., use a non-abrasive treatment like course salt and a non-metal brush. Sparingly use a few drops of mild dishwashing soap.  Before storing, dry thoroughly with paper towels, apply a light coating of cooking oil, and cover with a paper towel to protect from dust.

With all this work to maintain a cast iron skillet you may wonder why we suggest using one. Cast iron skillets, although they take longer to heat up, retain heat very well and disperse it very evenly, which is ideal in an uneven cooking surface like live fires. Food’s iron content is increased when cooking with a cast iron skillet.

Next time you’re cooking outdoors, stretch your capabilities by bringing along a cast iron skillet and the ingredients needed for this easy recipe!

Campfire Breakfast Potatoes:

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 lbs (about 6) russet potatoes, cubed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper, to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Coat the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of olive oil, about 2 tablespoons, and place the pan over the coals of your campfire, on a grate.
  2. Add the onion and cook until just tender, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the potatoes, peppers, and another 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir to coat.
  4. Stir occasionally for about 10 minutes, until potatoes start to brown.
  5. Add a few tablespoons of water, and cover with foil to steam for about 5 minutes.
  6. Add seasonings, continue to stir occasionally until fully browned, crispy, and tender in the middle.
  7. Serve alongside your favorite other breakfast items.
BurgerMeatThermometer

Outdoor Food Safety Tips to Avoid Foodborne Illness

Protecting your family from food-borne illness is crucial when cooking outdoors. Warmer temperatures and limited chilling resources create obstacles for cooking outside, although the right steps and precautions can make these situations manageable.

Transport your food properly. Until you begin cooking you’ll want to place cold foods on ice or frozen gel packs to be chilled at 40 degrees or below. Meat can be transported frozen so it thaws over time and stays colder longer. Keep meats wrapped separately and make sure their juices don’t leak to other foods. Cross-contamination is one of the quickest ways to spread food-borne illness.

If you’re marinating your food for grilling, make sure to do so in a refrigerated environment. Do not reuse marinade for flavoring cooked foods. Reserve a portion of the marinade before adding to the meat and use the separated amount later in cooking.

Cooking temperatures and thorough cooking greatly reduce the risk of food-borne illness. Keep a food thermometer on hand to make sure grilled foods reach their proper temperatures. The FDA suggests the following temperatures for your foods:

Food Temperature
Steaks and roasts 145°F
Fish 145°F
Pork 145°F
Ground beef 160°F
Egg dishes 160°F
Chicken breasts 165°F
Whole poultry 165°F
Shrimp, lobster, and crabs cook until pearly and opaque
Clams, oysters, and mussels cook until the shells are open

When it comes to serving your food your focus should be maintaining the proper temperature. The FDA urges that “the key is to never let your picnic food remain in the “Danger Zone” – between 40° F and 140° F – for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour if outdoor temperatures are above 90° F. This is when bacteria in food can multiply rapidly, and lead to foodborne illness.”

Using these FDA appointed guidelines will help you to have an enjoyable and fun outdoor dining experience without the side effects associated with poor food preparation.

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Turn Your Fire Pit into a Cook Top

Take your fire pit experience to the next level by using it as a cooking station! Follow these simple steps to create a cook top for your fire pit!

  1. Take accurate measurements of your CobraCo™ Fire Pit and head to your local hardware store.
  2. Purchase steel mesh with about a quarter to a half-inch fabrication to allow enough heat access to cook your food. Typically this is sold in sheets, so you may have to purchase more than one to fully cover your fire pit.
  3. Lay the sheets over your fire pit and trace the fire pit’s circumference. You’ll want the mesh to extend about an inch outside the fire pit. Using wire cutters and gloves, carefully cut the mesh.
  4. If you need to use two pieces to expand the width of the fire pit you can overlap the two pieces by a half inch. Using steel wire you’ll wrap the two pieces together for the length of the overlap.
  5. When cooking, you’ll want to place two steel rods across the cook top and then place the mesh over. This will support the center of the cook top when food has been placed on it.

Just like that, you’ve got an open flame cook top where you and your family can grill up a ton of delicious meals and create a ton of fantastic memories!

Aerating lawn

Aeration and Your Lawn

If you notice your lawn is not accepting water as well as it used to it may be time to aerate it. Aeration bores holes into the lawn that allows for water and air circulation. If you’re not sure whether your lawn needs aeration you can cut a section of grass out to determine.  Cut the patch about 5-6 inches deep. If the grass roots do not exceed growth of two inches then your lawn should be aerated.

In the few days leading up to lawn aeration you should heavily water your lawn – about 1 inch of water should be applied.

There are a few ways that you can aerate – one is manually and one is mechanically. Manual aerators are available in various forms – spikes that can be applied to the wheels of a tractor, lawn aerator shoes, or even a pitchfork. Mechanically there are expensive machines that are able to aerate your lawn by physically removing portions (plugs of about two inches deep and a quarter inch wide) of the lawn. Aeration machines are available for rent from a local hardware store on an hourly basis.

We recommend aerating your lawn in two passes to ensure enough perforations are made. Once you are finished aerating your lawn you can apply moisture and fertilizer to the lawn.

Fertilizer

Fertilizer and Your Lawn

Fertilizer applied to your lawn allows the soil to feed the grass and create a healthy, lush green covering. There are two schools of thought for fertilizing – synthetic and organic. Synthetic fertilizer feeds the grass while stripping the soil of its nutrients. Organic fertilizer feeds the soil but takes longer to work because it employs from the bottom up, unlike synthetic, which works from the top down.

Most lawns need to be fed at least 4 times per year – April, late May, August, and October. Use an organic fertilizer, like Ringer® Lawn Restore® Fertilizer to work with your soil and grass to create a thick, lush lawn that is drought and disease resistant. A fertilizer like this will feed your lawn only when needed and treats it without using synthetic chemical that disrupts the natural growth process of your lawn.

To learn more about fertilizing your lawn check out this Love Your Yard blog post!

Lawn Pests and Diseases

Throughout the season you may notice that areas of your lawn are not as vibrant as others. You may be experiencing an issue where insects or disease are affecting your grass and its ecosystem. The following are pests and diseases you should watch for:

Grubs – grubs are the larval stage of beetles and feed on grass roots. One of the first signs of a grub problem is an influx of birds and sometimes lawn or garden damage from rooting or tunneling of skunks, raccoons, opossums, moles and other animals. Safer® Brand Grub Killer can be applied to your lawn and will quickly resolve your grub issue.

Rust – there are over 5,000 known species of rust that can affect plants and lawn and is typically brownish-yellow to bright orange in color. Rust is comprised of spores that spread easily from one area of your lawn to another. Safer® Brand Garden Fungicide alleviates a rust issue.

Powdery Mildew –a white or grey substance that, if left untreated, can take over a large area of your lawn. Safer® Brand Garden Fungicide can be applied to problem areas for treatment.

Anthracnose – a fungal blight that causes reddish-brown areas on your lawn ranging from 2 inches to 10 feet in width. Using a product such as Safer® Brand Garden Fungicide will prevent further spread and eliminate the leaf spot all together.

Monitoring how much water your lawn is receiving will help you with issues related to mold – anthracnose, powdery mildew, rust, and more. Although we cannot determine how much rain the lawn will get we do need to be cognizant of watering habits. Make sure your lawn does not take more than 1 inch of manually applied water weekly to help avoid a breeding ground for bacteria.

Grass

Grass Varieties to Try!

Think grass is just grass? Think again! We’ve gathered up a few of our favorite grass varieties that we think you should try!

Generally speaking, there are two categories of grass – cool-season grass and warm-season grass. Cool-season grass is adapted to northern climates where peak growing occurs in the spring and fall but turn brown in hot summers. Most often cool-season grass seed is sold as a mixture of varieties in the event that one type doesn’t root well another will.

Warm-season grasses grow best in Southern hot summers while the spring and fall create a dormant environment for them. This grass type is more dense than its cool-season counterparts and is mostly laid as a sod rather than grown from seeds.

Depending on where you live there are certain grasses that will fare better than others. Here are a few of our favorite varieties:

Bluegrass – a cooler northern area favorite, bluegrass thrives on sunlight, good soil and a regular water supply.

St. Augustine – warm climates featuring sandy soil grow this blue-green variety well.

Bermuda – highly weed resistant and draught tolerant, the Bermuda variety can serve well in the winter when overseeded with rye.

Buffalo – a native to North America, this grass is draught-resistant.

Thatch

Your Lawn’s Soil Health

Your lawn’s soil health is key. If your lawn is suffering from brown patches, sparse or irregular growth, or pale grass there are a few things you can do to help encourage a healthier developing process. The soil beneath your grass creates an ecosystem for your lawn to grow and when you do too little, or too much, to that ecosystem you can cause an imbalance.

An unhealthy lawn can often be contributed to thatch, or the layer of dead grass and grass roots that has accumulated on top of the soil surface, generally a result of over-fertilizing. A thick layer of thatch blocks airflow, nutrient movement, and moisture retention, but it isn’t necessary to remove all thatch. A thin layer provides protection to the healthy grass’s roots while a thick layer cuts off the roots’ lifeline.

If your lawn has a thin layer of thatch there is an easy do-it-yourself remedy. Using a steel-tine rake you can rake your lawn vigorously to reduce the thatch accumulation. A lawn with a dense layer of thatch will benefit best from using a dethatching machine. Your local lawn service or hardware store can help you determine which is best for your situation. After dethatching you will want to decrease the number of fertilizing treatments you apply to your lawn.

Mint

Consider These Ground Covers!

Get creative this gardening season by mixing up your choice of ground covers. Ivy may be a classic, as are pachysandra and clover, but mixing it up by adding an unexpected touch of mint, strawberries, or winter wheat could give your garden a whole new feel!

Mint – Plant mint in the spring or fall when the fear of frost is over. There are two planting options generally used for mint – one to contain the plant while the other allows it to expand. When planting you will want to select an area with partial shade or full sun, and plant with a fertile, composted soil.

Strawberries – Strawberry plants are low maintenance, but do like lots of sunshine. Plant your strawberry plants about two feet apart. When plants reproduce they do so with “runners,” or a vine growing from the plant that takes hold in the soil. Because strawberries bear a huge harvest you will want to continuously pick the fruits and be able to do so easily, so consider ease of access to these plants.

Winter Wheat – Winter wheat is a crop planted in the fall that sprouts before freezing occurs and then remains dormant until soil warms in early spring. This time frame allows for good root development: plant too early and your plants could be susceptible to late summer insects, plant too late and the plants may not overwinter well.

Winter wheat can be planted in rows like crops and should be rototilled into the soil about 2.5 inches deep. The heads of the wheat stalks will become heavy with grains and will lean toward the ground when they are full.

To see if they are ready to harvest you can test a few grains yourself. Chew a few grains from your plant to see what their consistency is. Soft and doughy grains are premature and need more time to mature. Continually check the grains until they are firm and crunchy at which time you can harvest your crops. To harvest your winter wheat simply cut off the heads of the stems.