Recipes For the Big Green Egg!

Scott JacksonComment

Ray’s Herb Butter Prime Rib

"This is a big-time crowd pleaser! It pairs just as well with a beer as it does with a big red wine. Serve it in thick slabs or slice it thin for sandwiches. You can cook any size roast to fit the size of your crowd as long as you use an instant read thermometer and you take it out when it reaches an internal temp of 125°. Only the time will vary and don’t forget to rest it for 15 minutes no matter the size. As for the herbs, use what you like or have around. These are just my favorites. Add some extra garlic if you wish and a little cayenne to the mix if you like it spicy." – Ray Lampe, Dr. BBQ


  • 5 pound boneless ribeye roast
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper, coarse ground
  • 2 sticks of butter, at room temperature
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh tarragon leaves
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Au Jus and Horseradish Sauce for serving


Set the EGG for indirect cooking with the convEGGtor at 325°F/163°C. Season the roast liberally with the salt and pepper. In a medium bowl, mix together the butter, garlic, and herbs. Spread the herb butter evenly all over the roast. Place roast on the cooking grid. Cook it until it reaches an internal temperature of 125°F/52°C in the center for medium rare. This will take
about 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove to a platter and tent loosely with foil. Let rest for 15 minutes. Slice thick for prime rib type slabs or thin for a roast beef presentation.
Makes 6-8 servings


Cherry Pie on the Big Green Egg

"Add more flavor to your cherry pie by baking it in your EGG. Cherry pie is a great treat for Pi Day or any day!"


  • Pie crust of your choice premade or from scratch
  • 5 cups cherries, pitted (if frozen, bring to room temperature)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract


Set your EGG for indirect cooking, using the convEGGtor and stabilize at 375°F/191°C.

Combine pitted cherries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and salt in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Set aside.
Remove dough from refrigerator and allow to warm slightly until workable. Roll out dough on a floured surface until it is approximately 13 inches in diameter, or large enough to fit into 9-inch glass pie dish. Transfer dough to pie dish; keep overhang for now.
Fill unbaked shell with cherry filling and dot with remaining butter.
Roll out second disc, approximately 13 inches in diameter. May use as is and cover pie, or cut into approximately 1-inch strips to create lattice design. (If not using lattice design, make sure to cut ventilation slices in your top crust).
Using a knife, cut off excess dough overhang to about ½ inch. Fold edges over and use fork or fingers to crimp the edges.
Brush top of pie (not edges) with egg wash. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar.
Grill pie until golden brown about 45 minutes.
Cool before serving.
Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.


Whether You Have a Large or Small Grill, You Should Read This!

Scott JacksonComment

As the weather breaks and the warm breezes of spring take over the chill of the past winter, we uncover our patio furniture, power wash the patio or deck and find the perfect plants for our backyard. However, we often forget to check on the barbeque grill, our partner in making great things happen. The barbeque grill is the only household appliance that is exposed to a vast amount of outdoor elements. It is left in the freezing cold during the winter and heated to temperatures in excess of 600 degrees during the summer. It’s snowed on, rained on, baked by the sun day after day, sometimes visited by all manner of insects, pests and animals. Yet it is still expected to work and last like any appliance in the kitchen.

Here’s a few tips to make your outdoor grilling season much more enjoyable:

A good clean: A good cleaning will help your grill operate like it should and reveal any parts that are in need of replacement. You should always refer to your owner’s manual as a guide for cleaning.

a. Check the parts: Take internal parts out of the grill like cooking grates, heat shields over burners or briquettes and the rack they sit on.

b. Degrease: Spray all metal parts other than burners down with a grill degreaser, rinse with clean water and let dry.

c. Flip the lid: Clean the inside of the lid with degreaser. Gas Appliance Service notes that many customers often call to say that the paint is peeling on the inside of their grill. This is not paint, it is a grease layer that is drying out and has the appearance of peeling paint. A simple brushing will fix this issue.

d. It’s a sweep: Vacuum out the bottom of the grill to remove crumbs and ash. A shop vacuum is best for this.

e. Watch for webs: Before reinstalling parts, clean burners with a stiff wire brush and check for spider webs by inserting a pipe cleaner or a Venturi brush into the tube to remove any webs if any are present. Spider webs can actually cause what is called a “flashback” which will burn the ignitor, wires, control panel, knobs and valves. This is not covered by any kind of a warranty and can be a very costly repair. Avoid this by knowing how to verify and ensure that the burners are fully lit. If you hear rushing gas and a burner isn’t lit, turn the unlit burner off immediately and check the burner Venturi tube(s) for spider webs and make sure the burner’s Venturi tube(s) is connected correctly to the valve.

f. Assemble: Re-assemble grill and wipe down outside with stainless polish if you have a stainless finish or use a mild soap and water to restore luster to exterior.

g. Fire it up: Now it’s time to fire up the grill. It is important to make sure the ignitor is working. You should know where the spark electrodes are on the burners and be able to see if there is a good spark to ignite the gas before you turn it on. Always make sure all control knobs are in the off position and your lid is open before attempting to ignite your grill.

h. Gas up: Many calls come from someone who says the grill lights but has very little flame. A safety feature in propane tanks allows very little gas to flow if it senses a leak or an open valve, so again make sure all your burners are turned off. To reset this safety feature in the tank, turn off all the valves on the grill, turn off the valve on the tank, unhook the grill hose and regulator from the tank, then rehook tank back up to grill, open tank valve slowly, then try lighting grill one burner at a time. This should resolve the gas flow problem. Propane tanks should always be turned off when the grill is not in use.

i. Frequency: Clean your grill at least a couple times a year to keep everything operating smoothly.

If you need parts, always have the brand and model of your grill. There are numerous makes and models of grills and many of the parts are not interchangeable. If you do not have a brand and model number, Gas Appliance Service suggests you bring the old part to their showroom and they will see if they can match it.

To have your grills operation professionally checked, call a grill service company,such as Gas Appliance Service or the Fireplace and Grill Center.They will visit your home to do an inspection and check the operation of the grill.It is well worth the $95 to check the parts that make your grill work.If you have a portable grill,drop it off at Gas Appliance Service for in-shop service for $45.For the doit- yourself crowd,the Fireplace and Grill Center as well as Gas Appliance Service has numerous tools,cleaners and parts to help get your grill ready for grilling not to mention they have many sauces,spices and rubs to enhance your grilling experience.Now it’s time to fire up the grill!

Prepare Firewood Now To Save Money, Burn Cleaner, Protect Air Quality

Scott JacksonComment

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) says that now is the time to collect and properly store your firewood so it is dry enough to burn efficiently during the colder months. Burning clean, dry, seasoned firewood to heat your home saves money, ignites easily, and lessens the impact on local air quality. When people have trouble with wood-burning systems, the problem is most often that the wood is not dry enough. Wet firewood is hard to ignite, slow to burn, and hisses and sizzles in the firebox. It also creates excessive smoke, which can lead to health and air quality issues. 

“Next winter you gotta have that seasonal wood or your stove just inst going to work right. There is not a species of firewood in North Idaho that doesn’t require at least a six month seasoning period, so its really important to go out there and cut your fire wood, split it now, stack it, and cover it.” - Dan Smith, West Silver Valley Airshed Project Coordinator  

Whether you get your firewood on your property, on public lands, or from an independent firewood seller or retailer, it needs to be seasoned and tested. Seasoned wood has been split and air dried for at least six months (longer for hardwoods). It tends to be dark in color, cracked on the ends, is lightweight, and its bark is easily broken or peeled.

Smith explains that this is especially important to those in the Silver Valley who burn. “We have an air quality issue so it makes it very much our job to be responsible for our own air.” 

The DEQ office at 1005 West McKinley Avenue in Kellogg has wood moisture meters available for check out so that residents can test the moisture levels of their firewood.

“It probably isn't so important right now, but as the summer goes on its good to start looking at that. Its also especially important next fall when you are thinking that your wood is perfectly seasoned, go on out and test it.” - Smith

The DEQ offers these tips to make your fire burn hotter and keep local air cleaner:

1. Wait at least 6 months and up to 12 months for dry firewood depending on type of wood. Hardwoods like oak and maple dry more slowly than soft woods like pine and spruce. To ensure dry firewood, wait at least 12 months before burning. To test, bang two pieces together; dry wood sounds hollow, wet wood sounds dull.

2. Cut wood to the right length. The wood should fit easily in your wood stove or fireplace. Make sure it is about three inches shorter than the firebox width or length.

3. Split wood before stacking. Split the wood to the right width, no more than six inches in diameter. Splitting the wood before stacking increases exposure to air, which improves the drying process.

4. Stack wood in alternate directions. This improves circulation and further reduces moisture.

5. Store firewood off the ground. Build a woodshed to keep firewood six inches or more off the ground to protect the wood pile from moisture.

6. Cover the top of the wood pile, but leave the sides exposed. A structure with a roof is ideal, but you can also use a tarp. Remove the tarp to speed up drying in the warm summer months.

For additional information about firewood preparation, visit

Maryland Program Invests in Market's Cleanest Pellet, Wood Stoves

Scott JacksonComment

A Maryland renewable energy rebate program established in 2012 has provided assistance to nearly 3,000 residences to purchase and install cleaner, modern wood and pellet stoves.  The program was designed to help rural families, who were least likely to benefit from solar and other renewable energy programs. The state has invested $1.88 million dollars, or an average of $664 per home.  The average purchase and installation costs of a stove is often around $3,800, so the state would be providing less than 20 percent of the price tag for a significant reduction in a home's annual fossil fuel footprint.

The Maryland Energy Administration, which manages a suite of renewable energy incentives, runs the program.  With this program, the MEA cannot exactly track the amount of fossil fuel that the program has reduced, which hinders the ability of regulators to track data as they can with the solar and other rebate programs.  Of the 2,845 stoves purchased through the program, 2,425 or 85 percent were pellet stoves. To be eligible, pellet stoves have to emit 2 grams an hour or less, and wood stoves 3 grams an hour or less, well below the federal EPA limit of 4.5 grams an hour.  Pellet stoves are eligible for a $700 grant and wood stoves $500. 

“We are pleased that this program steers so many people towards pellet stoves and ensures that the installation is done professionally,” - John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat

Only residents who do not have access to natural gas are eligible for the grant, which as a result helps families in rural areas who rely on more expensive fossil heating fuels.  New York also adopted this innovative approach, and only provides incentives to homes that are not on the natural gas grid.  A 2013 analysis of the program by the Alliance for Green Heat found that it was helping less affluent families to reduce fossil fuel use.

The program does not require residents to turn in an old, uncertified wood stove to participate in the program.  However, some retailers report that nearly half of their customers who use this program turn in an old stove that is recycled. During 2015, the program experienced its highest participation rates, providing grants for 1,036 stoves, 904 of which were pellet stoves.

“A $3,000 pellet stove installation can reduce fossil fuel usage by as much as a $15,000 array of solar panels, and increasingly, we see families who have solar panels also installing pellet stoves so that they can use renewable energy for both their electric and heating needs,” - John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat

Fire Pits, Bonfires and Your Lungs: 7 Safety Tips

Scott JacksonComment

How to make your next fire safer

Planning to gather friends or family around a crackling bonfire or cozy fire pit? Absorb the atmosphere — but not the smoke.

Wood smoke contains millions of tiny particles. When you breathe in smoke, the particles can get deep into your respiratory system. You’ve likely experienced the results — stinging eyes, runny nose and coughing. These symptoms are short-term for most people. But for those with underlying respiratory illnesses, inhaling smoke is dangerous.

Here’s how to protect your lungs and make your next fire safer, says Pulmonary Function Lab Director Bohdan Pichurko, MD.

Fires and your health

Most people can enjoy an outdoor fire safely by not sitting too close to a fire and not breathing in the smoke. But it’s a different story for the nearly 40 million Americans with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema, says Dr. Pichurko.

“If you have an underlying respiratory disease, inhaling smoke from wood, even briefly, can cause a chain of airway tightening that can land you in the emergency room. If you have asthma or COPD, take extra precautions. Sit as far from the fire as possible, and pay attention to which way the wind is blowing at all times.” - Dr. Pichurko.

Your lungs can’t take the heat

Smoke isn’t the only health hazard you should avoid. The heat itself is harmful.

“Inhaling air that is consistently at a higher temperature than the surrounding air can cause more damage to the lining of your lower respiratory tract than smoke inhalation.” - Dr. Pichurko

If you feel intense heat on your hands or face, that clearly signals the air you’re breathing is too hot. You need to move back from the fire.

Building fires: 7 safety tips

If you’re like most people, you may not give much thought to constructing your fires, but you should. Here are his seven best tips for building safer fires outdoors:

  1. Use only untreated hardwood - It’s best to use wood that has been well-seasoned (for six months to a year) and kept dry. This can reduce the amount of smoke your fire produces. Pressure-treated lumber, railroad ties and wood from construction sites can contain toxic chemicals such as arsenic. They aren’t safe to burn.
  2. Play it safe with manufactured logs - Manufactured logs are typically made of sawdust and wax or similar materials. They may produce less smoke than traditional firewood, but that doesn’t make the smoke any safer, Dr. Pichurko says. They can contain many ingredients and it’s impossible to predict how your lungs will react, he says. Also, if you plan to cook anything over a fire of manufactured logs, find a brand approved for cooking (most aren’t).
  3. Choose a calm day - If winds are blowing at more than 20 miles per hour, it’s probably a good idea to build your fire another day.
  4. Keep both fire and logs small - Smaller fires burn hotter, more completely and with less smoke. For best results, choose firewood that’s less than 6 inches in diameter.
  5. Instruct children on fire safety - Children need adult guidance and close supervision around outdoor fires. Teach them to keep their distance from fires, and limit their exposure to wood smoke. Their respiratory systems are still developing, says Dr. Pichurko.
  6. Don’t use gasoline or other accelerants to start your fire - Accelerants, such as gasoline, can cause fires to flare up or rage out of control quickly. They also can release toxins into the air. Opt for small sticks or cubes approved for starting fires more safely.
  7. Keep a bucket of water or a hose nearby - Having a source of water near your fire will ensure that you are ready to act if the flames spread or get out of control. It’s a good idea to keep the potential for respiratory damage in mind and to protect yourself accordingly.

So don’t say goodbye to toasted marshmallows! Follow the tips outlined above, and you’re on your way to enjoying outdoor fires safely.

Carnivores Rejoice, Steaks and Burgers Are Cheap for Grilling!

Scott JacksonComment

Go ahead, throw another T-bone on the grill!

Thanks to a boom in beef production, steaks and burgers will finally be cheap enough this summer to rival pork and chicken. The surge in output means the U.S. is headed for a meat bonanza. Americans will eat 8 percent more red meat and poultry per capita this year compared with three years earlier -- a record jump in government data going back to 1970. Beef, in particular, is expected to see increased consumer demand as prices in grocery stores drop, making the meat more competitive. 

Retailers and restaurants are loading up on beef supplies, signaling that customers will enjoy summer promotions. Adding to the demand outlook is recent news that the U.S. may be getting closer to restarting trade with China, the world’s second-biggest beef buyer, opening a market that’s been shut since 2003. The brightening picture is drawing the attention of hedge funds, who have the most bullish holding on cattle futures since June 2014.

“If you lower prices enough, you can get products sold not just in the near term, but for the next three to five months. For two or three years we were in a situation where beef went up and up, and it became difficult to run full promotions. Suddenly, the market switched and allowed more operators to do that.” - Altin Kalo, an analyst at Manchester, New Hampshire-based Steiner Consulting Group

Rising beef consumption is sparking a rally for cattle prices, as traders anticipate that meat packers will need a steady stream of the animals. June futures climbed 2.6 percent to $1.147 a pound last week on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, after reaching $1.15525, the highest since the contract started trading in February 2016. They rose again Tuesday, gaining 0.4 percent at 8:41 a.m. in Chicago. 

Net-Long Wagers

Money managers are gearing up for more gains. The cattle net-long position, or the difference between bets on a price increase and wagers on a decline, climbed 1.9 percent to 123,372 futures and options in the week ended April 11, according to U.S. Commodity Futures and Trading Commission data released three days later.

"Demand is picking up as retailers have responded to better wholesale pricing with aggressive beef promotions. Beef is seeing its highest share of total advertisements for the three main meats, including chicken and pork, in seven years" - CoBank, analysts at Greenwood Village, Colorado

Ground beef in grocery stores has dropped about 9 percent from a year ago, the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show. Steaks are down 6.6 percent. While pork and chicken are typically less expensive than beef, the gap between the prices is narrowing. Steak’s premium over pork chops is down 6.5 percent from a year ago.

Above-average temperatures, favorable to grilling, and strengthening consumer confidence are also helping demand. As of April 7, the four-week average of beef sales for delivery between 22 and 60 days out was 34 percent more than a year earlier, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data compiled by Steiner Consulting. The trend of higher sales has persisted all this year. 

‘Big Prize’

Optimism that China will soon buy U.S. beef is also fueling bulls. President Donald Trump’s administration called it a “big prize” after he and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to expand American shipments to the country during a meeting this month. China lifted its 2003 ban in September, but difficulties negotiating conditions attached to the re-opening of trade have held up sales. Even without China, beef exports have chipped away at bigger domestic supplies, with volumes in the first two months of the year up 13 percent, according to the latest government data compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

An expanding herd and robust slaughter numbers are also deceptive -- supplies are actually tight when looking at market-ready cattle, or those that have been fattening up for months in feedlots and are ready to be bought and processed. The number of animals on feed for more than 120 days was 16 percent lower on March 1 and may be down as much as 12 percent for April 1, according to Kalo of Steiner Consulting. Even with booming demand and near-term supply tightness, the futures curve signals price declines in the longer-term. Contracts through the end of the year are trading at a discount to June futures.

"Output will catch up with demand, and production of other meats will continue to expand, pressuring prices. I don’t think there’s so much bullishness going into the end of the year. There’s going to be some herd expansion, and there’s the realization that there’s going to be larger pork and poultry supplies. That’s why the bullishness is only near term.” - Donald Selkin, the New York-based chief market strategist at Newbridge Securities

Hot Fireplace Design Ideas

Scott JacksonComment

With local temps finally starting to warm up, it may seem like a strange time to write a piece on fireplace design, but great ideas and inspiration don't discriminate with the seasons.

My clients are building, no matter the time of year, and a common design feature in almost every new home it seems is a killer fireplace feature wall. Thinking of building, or revamping what you've got?

Read on for a few top-notch eye-catching ideas...

The Linear Looker

Sleek - Modern - Simple

A linear fireplace is a feature on its own, regardless of the materials you choose to clad it with. If you have a large wall, you plan to build this into, you may need to consider framing out a linear structure to help elongate the scale of the unit. Think offset mantel, or a series of floating shelves, otherwise you may end up with a puny looking (but savvy, nonetheless) feature wall.

The Metal Maven

Forget tile! Why not think sheet metal, custom cut into cubist panels or offset bands to finish off a facade in need of something stunning and unique. Talk to a metal fabricator, someone who can measure on site and install afterwards... you likely don't want to tackle a finicky project like this on your own.

The Stone Stunner

Perfect for more rustic retreats, or homes needing a heavy dose of organic texture, cladding your fireplace surround floor to ceiling in rough cut stone or natural slate is always a stunning finish. Do away with a mantel and decoration above your fireplace, and follow the stone up the wall... an uncluttered approach is best for a bold statement.

The Peek-A-Boo

Kill two birds with one stone by installing a see-through unit, giving both a living and dining room, or kitchen and family area the benefits of ambient warmth and shimmer. For closed in spaces, the visual from one space through to the next by way of fireplace will help to expand your spaces and make them more interconnected.

And then there are three-sided fireplaces; cap off an end wall or divide a wide open space with one of these beauties and create a super chic atmosphere in the process.

The Fortress

When you think of concrete, you may not immediately envision a fireplace wall. However, using the minimalist material in horizontal bands on a large feature wall may be just what the modern doctor ordered for your contemporary spaces.

The Library Lover

What's cozier than a chair to curl up in, when nestled in beside a roaring fire, flanked by a collection of your favorite books, trinkets, and keepsakes? For spaces needing a softer, less contemporary feel, a fireplace built into a nook or wall with shelving stacked and styled with literary bits and pieces truly helps to create a warm and inviting area to settle down in during long winter nights or lazy Sunday afternoons.

It’s Warm Outside, Enjoy Your Outdoor Space!

Scott JacksonComment

My patio furniture will probably make it about one more year. Unfortunately, I didn’t spend a great deal of money or time shopping around, and after only a few years, it’s beginning to show it. I’ve learned a few things about the quality of outdoor furniture and knowing a little more would have prevented me from having to purchase it again so soon.

Before you go shopping, do your homework. See if your retailer offers a variety of manufacturers for outdoor seating groups, lounge chairs and tables in materials such as wood, wrought iron, cast aluminum, casual aluminum and rattan wicker.

Woods For Outdoor Furniture

  • Teak or Ipe wood are the best and most durable woods for outdoor furniture use. It weathers extremely well and looks great over time. Teak wood is a very dense wood and ipe wood is a darker wood (known as iron wood), which is stronger and denser than teak.

Metals For Outdoor Furniture

  • Wrought iron is known for its strength and durability, but be sure you like the style, because you will probably keep this one for a lifetime. It is a very heavy iron and will rust a little over time. A little spot sanding and touch up paint will keep it looking great for years.
  • Cast aluminum will never rust and requires very little maintenance. It can be very ornate in design, since it is poured into decorative castings and then welded together.
  • Casual aluminum has a simpler design. It uses less aluminum, which makes it lighter than the cast aluminum version and tends to be less expensive.


  • Rattan wicker is an outdoor wicker, made from resin. This all-weather material looks very realistic and holds up in the most extreme weather. Many of the better manufacturers provide aluminum framing underneath that will not rust. Beware of those manufacturers that take wicker furniture and add an outdoor coating. These do not last very long and will start peeling and chipping over time.

With all outdoor furniture, ask your professional about poolside placement and yearlong care instructions. One of the best fabric manufacturers is Sunbrella, which is known for its durability and fade resistant colors. If you see that your cushions, pillows and umbrellas are made from this material, you are getting great outdoor quality.

The outdoor furniture styles are endless and to add to it, you can order different fabrics, umbrellas, fire side tables and accessories. The outside of your home can be just as beautiful and comfortable as the inside of your home. With a little homework, and yes, a little more expense, you can have a long lasting outdoor entertaining area that you will be proud of for many years to come. Don’t be like myself and many others, going back just after a few years, doing it all over again!

Smithfield Sets World Record for Largest Grilling Lesson

Scott JacksonComment

Smithfield Foods brought together barbecue enthusiasts to set a Guinness World Record on April 27. Gathered at the Kansas City Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium, over 350 participants took part in the World's Largest Grilling Lesson. Led by world champion pitmaster Chris Lilly, Weber grillmaster Kevin Kolman and Kansas City Chiefs’ Defensive End Chris Jones, the record breaking crowd learned the tricks to cooking ribs and pork chops on a charcoal grill. 

“If I wasn’t playing football, I’d be grilling,” said Jones. A barbecue fan and self-proclaimed “home-champion griller,” Jones talked about his grilling preferences and the Chiefs. "We know Chris (Lilly) from the barbecue circuit so we came to support Chris and this event," said Paul Kirk, the Baron of Barbecue and Barbecue Hall of Famer

"This is our first time breaking a world record! We really wanted to kick of our summer grilling season in a big way. May is obviously National Grilling Month and we wanted to really inspire Americans to get out there and get grilling fresh pork." -  Emily Detwiler, Smithfield Director of Marketing

The event was the kickoff for Smithfield's summer grilling campaign, Get Grilling America. Overseen by a representative from the Guinness Book of World Records, the grilling lesson had to last at least 30 minutes, with a minimum of 250 people. Participants had to be focused on the event and prove they learned something by answering questions from the Guinness representative. 

Sponsors for the grilling lesson included Kingsford Charcoal and Weber Grills.

Invest Wisely In Your Outdoor Space

Scott JacksonComment

An outdoor kitchen is more than just a barbecue surrounded by wood or stone

Do you ever have one of those ‘what’s next’ moments?

I have one of those moments all the time when it comes to my outdoor space. All winter long I read the magazines, watch the shows and follow feeds on social media about what is new for the backyard. Now don’t get me wrong — I have a list that is a mile long of things that seem like they would be a good idea for my own space, but when it comes to getting it done, I get stuck about where to start and what is going to work best. I hear from readers who are in the same boat, sometimes without the list of what they should even do.

Before you stick a shovel in the ground, go back inside. I always ask homeowners — what don’t you have indoors? -  Is your kitchen big enough? - Do you have an island or a spot to eat breakfast? - What about your living room? - Can you host guests there or has the family taken it over? - Maybe you’d like a fireplace but with the TV and the couches, there isn’t a free wall for it. All of these things can easily be done outdoors, and because you don’t have them inside your home, you’ll actually use them outside.

An outdoor kitchen is more than just a barbecue surrounded by wood or stone. An outdoor kitchen now includes appliances designed to handle our climate with things like a refrigerator or even a warming tray. Outdoor kitchens also can give you cooking options that you can’t use indoors — like a grill that sears a steak in seven seconds or a wood-burning smoker that will slow cook a pork brisket for six hours.

The starting cost for an outdoor kitchen is $6,500, but most homeowners spend closer to $15,000. Now this might seem like a big investment, but think about the cost of a kitchen renovation?

"The 2017 average kitchen renovation was more the $21,000." -

Outdoor fireplaces are also a great investment because they extend your outdoor season by adding warmth to your backyard. Before you invest, just make sure to check your municipal zoning. Most areas allow some sort of real fire options provided they have a grill for cooking.

If you happen to be in an area where real fire is prohibited, consider going the propane or gel-flame option. Both of these are cleaner options that require less work, creating outdoor ambience at the flick of a switch.

Invest wisely in your outdoor space. Start with items that you know you are going to get use out of instead of being distracted by what is new or trendy.

Recipes For The Grill

Scott JacksonComment

Grilled Beef Bourguignon Kabobs


8 (10-inch) bamboo or metal skewers

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup dry red wine (Pinot Noir)

2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 lb fresh mushrooms, halved

1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1-inch wedges

1 1/2 lb beef boneless top sirloin steak, cut into 16 cubes (about 1 1/4 inch)

12 (2-inch) pieces thick-cut bacon (about 2 slices)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage leaves


  • 1

    Heat gas or charcoal grill. If using bamboo skewers, soak in water 10 minutes; drain. In small bowl, mix vinegar and honey. Beat in olive oil in thin stream; set aside.

  • 2

    In medium bowl, mix wine, melted butter, garlic and salt. Add mushrooms and onion wedges; toss to coat. On each of 4 skewers, alternately thread mushrooms and onion. Add beef to wine mixture; toss to coat. On remaining 4 skewers, alternately thread beef and bacon, leaving space between each piece, starting and ending with beef. Discard any remaining wine mixture.

  • 3

    Place kabobs on grill over medium heat. Cover grill; cook 5 minutes. Carefully brush skewers with vinaigrette; turn, and brush other sides with vinaigrette. Cook 5 to 10 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender and beef is cooked to desired doneness (160°F for medium). Sprinkle with parsley, thyme and sage. Enjoy!

Expert Tips

- Experiment with different types of mushrooms, such as cremini or shiitake.

- While Pinot Noir is the standard wine for beef Bourguignon, feel free to use any dry red wine.

- Metal skewers can be used instead of bamboo. Bamboo skewers are soaked in water so they're less likely to burn; there is no need to soak if you use metal skewers.

Mantelpiece Makeover Ideas To Get Your Fireplace Looking Great For Winter

Scott JacksonComment

With the cooler weather creeping in more eyes will be turned to the fireplace - and, by default, to what's sitting on on top of it. Rearranging your mantelpiece collection is an easy way to freshen up your living room.

So how do you create a mantelpiece display that works with your room?  Think of your mantelpiece as furniture (similar to a console or sideboard) rather than an architectural detail, say the experts. When you want to change the feel of your room, change your display.  

"Before you begin selecting items to display, consider the character and design of your fireplace. Try and select items that will tie in with both the aesthetic of your fireplace and home." - Kelly Evans of the Home Scene Journal

Size Matters

As in all design, balance and proportion are key factors in styling a mantelpiece. Evans says "create an impact by selecting one item as your statement piece and arrange smaller objects around or nearby."  

"Too many small objects, for example trinkets, books and candles, can look messy, so it is always a good idea to balance large items with small items. Starting with a large item such as a poster and building items of varying sizes around it (such as stacks of books or maybe even a bust) would be the way I would go about it," says stuff columnist and interior design student Henry Tuck. 

Mirror, Mirror

A mantelpiece is often a great place, and usually an appropriate height, for a mirror to sit. Additionally, a mirror makes a statement piece on a mantel. If there's one dominant feature over the mantelpiece, use smaller, less conspicuous items to complete the look. Because it makes such an impact, the style of the mirror can often set the tone for the style of the room.

An oversized, gilt-framed mirror says romantic and traditional, for example. Tuck suggests, "consider the relationship between between the frame of the mirror and the style of your mantelpiece. Frameless mirrors are guaranteed to work, although the contrast between a modern mirror and a traditional fireplace, and equally the contrast between an antique mirror and a modern fireplace, can look amazing." 

"A mirror on the mantelpiece is a great way to add light to a room, but ensure it's not too small. If you're using it as the statement, make sure it's not overwhelmed by the other items on the mantel." - Tuck

Curate A Collection

Run out of storage for your ceramics? A mantelpiece offers the perfect spot to show off a growing collection. "Don't overwhelm the space," warns Evans, "too many items will often result in a cluttered look." 
Mix pieces according to colour, shape, size and texture. "Don't be afraid to play around," says Tuck., "I end up changing the display on my mantelpiece every month as it freshens up the room and means I can take turns showing lots of my favourite objects off." 

Art On Display

A great idea, especially for those renting or with little wall space, is to use the mantelpiece as a picture ledge. Layer prints and art by just leaning them against the wall to showcase an evolving collection. Tuck says, "if you're going to style only with art, create depth by placing smaller works in front and compose rhythm by varying the heights of the works along the length of the mantel." 

Not Just Art and Mirrors

Evans says there are a multitude of options when it comes to styling a mantelpiece, it doesn't just stop at mirrors, art and ceramics. Candles, vases with fresh or dried flowers and branches, vertical or horizontal stacks of books and shadow boxes holding a favourite item will all make for an interesting and eye-catching mantel. 

"If you have more of a collector's feel in your home then special travel souvenirs, books, and artworks may work atop your mantelpiece better, I would suggest being a bit ruthless here however. Pick souvenirs to display based off the look of them rather than the memories they hold for you. Don't throw other souvenirs away, but curate the ones that work with the colour scheme of your room and its atmosphere." - Tuck

Backyard Barbecue Hacks Every Grill Fan Needs To Know

Scott JacksonComment

You can smell it in the air. If you’re lucky, you can even taste it.What is it? It is the start of grilling season! Colemans and Kenmores are being brought out of hibernation, as barbecue fans across the country scramble to find their favorite tongs, while butchers get busy prepping ribs, steaks and more. Yes, backyard cooking can imply a lot of work, but it doesn’t have to be as time consuming as it’s been in the past.

Thanks to chefs and barbecue pros willing to share their tricks and tips, there are dozens of ways to cut corners at your next cookout. Here are 10 of them.

1. Trim the Fat and Use It

Even though you may not eat the fat on your steaks, you’re still paying for it so you may as well use it. Chef Troy Guard at TAG Restaurant Group uses the fat he trims off his steaks to clean his grill. “I get my grill really hot and then use the leftover fat to clean, and then add flavor, to the grill,” says Guard. “In turn, you’re using the entire cut purposefully, so there’s no waste!”

2. Clean with What You Have on Hand

To battle heavy grease without buying expensive products or spending hours scrubbing, just use coffee says Lauren Haynes. The cleaning expert at Star Domestic Cleaners recommends soaking a filthy grill gate in a sink filled with freshly brewed coffee. “Let it sit for an hour and then give it a quick scrub. Rinse with warm water, and it will be as clean as new.” Another trick, according to Ray Lampe, is to use crumpled up aluminum foil or half an onion as a grill brush. “Just be sure to always heat up the grill before you clean it,” says Lampe, a.k.a. Dr. BBQ

3. The Shortcut is in the Cut

Forget filet mignon if you want to save money and time on your steaks. “I suggest bigger cuts of steak such as skirt steaks and flank steaks,” says Andre Natera, executive chef at Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa in Austin, Texas. “Not only are these cuts typically less expensive, you also don’t have as many pieces to man on the grill. Just slice it up nicely when it’s done!”

4. Prep as Much as Possible

If you’re throwing a backyard party and want to spend less time manning the grill and more time with your guests, then do as much as you can in advance. “I like to pre-bake my wings and/or chicken quarters ahead of time and then just touch them to the grill to finish,” says Leland Avellino, executive chef of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. “Also, make all sauces and sides well ahead of time.”

5. Consider Pre-Made Patties

For the vegetarians and vegans at your cookout, don’t feel obligated to make time-consuming homemade veggie burger patties. In the age of the flexitarian, it’s easy to find wholesome veggie burgers that come grill-ready. For example, Sweet Earth Foods, which took home the best meat alternative award at Expo West 2017, offers a variety of refrigerated veggie and vegan burgers-- with half the fat of ground beef.

6. Skip the Smoker, Sprinkle with Smoked Paprika

Don’t have a smoker? Or do you just not want to take the time to heat yours up? No problem. To achieve a smoky flavor in seconds, add smoked paprika to your meat. Chef Doug Psaltis, chef and partner of Chicago’s Bub City, creates his favorite meat rub using paprika, salt, brown sugar (great for caramelization), onion, chili and garlic powders and a pinch of cayenne. To make a sauce from the rub, add water, a little oil or melted butter and use it to baste the meat three-quarters of the way through grilling.

7. Enlist the Help of Technology

Lowe’s Home Improvement sells more grills than any other retailer in the country. They also have plenty of high tech accessories including the Grillbot ($77). This battery-powered robot is basically a Roomba for your grill. It comes with three run-time settings and works on hot or cold grills. Another popular item is a Wi-Fi enabled smoker ($284) which connects to your smartphone so you can monitor chamber and meat temperature without constantly walking over to check the grill.

8. Add a Pie Tin to Your Tool Kit

If your grilling tool kit is missing a pie tin, you’re probably missing out. Pit master Jayna Todisco uses a pie tin for cooking things like asparagus that tend to fall through the grates and for covering meat to create more consistent cooking times. She also uses them to vary smokiness.

“If you’re looking for a smoky flavor on your chicken breast, add several wood chips to a particular spot on the coals and add the pie tin cover, this helps keep smoke concentrated on the chicken and gives you the freedom to cook other things such as vegetables that you may not want so smoky.” - Jayna Todisco 

9. Let Delivery on Demand do the Shopping

The point of having a cookout is to spend time in your backyard, eating food-- not wasting time battling some kitchen disaster. To minimize or eliminate grocery store runs, use goPuff. This free app, available in major cities and currently expanding, delivers picnic supplies like paper plates, plastic silverware, red SOLO cups and even beer in some markets. Place the order through the app and have the supplies at your door in 30 minutes or less. This quick turnaround time is feasible because goPuff has its own local warehouses. Delivery is $1.95 but the fee is waived for orders over $49.

10. Make a Mashed Kiwi Marinade

Did you know kiwifruit can cut your marinade time in half? It's loaded with a natural enzyme called actinidin, which can quickly break down proteins in meat and tenderize it much faster than traditional methods. “Use kiwifruit as a base in your marinade for 10 to 15 minutes before tossing your beef, chicken, lamb, prawns or fish on the grill,” says Rebecca Scritchfield, a registered dietitian and author of "Body Kindness." “You can make your own marinade with two mashed green kiwifruit, two tablespoons olive oil, one teaspoon apple cider vinegar and a dash of salt and pepper.”

Update your Outdoor Space with these Quick and Easy Steps

Scott JacksonComment

Spring has sprung on Cape Cod. The weather is warmer, the days are longer, and everything looks just that little big greener. After being cooped up all winter, we can’t wait to start dining al fresco and enjoying the nicer weather We’ve teamed up with Paine’s Patio in Bourne to bring you a few quick and easy tips and tricks to update your outdoor area.

  • FIRE PITS – Fire Pits are the hot new trend in outdoor living spaces and with good reason. Doug Shearer, owner of Paine’s Patio in Bourne says, “Fire pits would be my first choice. A fire pit will add to the length of your outdoor season” So even when the nights are a bit chilly you can still stay outside enjoying the stars.


  • PILLOWS – Gone are the days of having only having waterproof furnishings outdoors. “Throw pillows will add a splash of color and comfort to existing furniture at a small expense,” says Shearer,” Also, new cushions for the furniture can make an old sofa look new.” Here’s another good tip from Paine’s Patio: Never get rid of old cushions until you have the new in hand. Measurements maybe needed from the old cushions to order new ones as there are thousands of different sizes for outdoor chairs!


  • ACCESSORIZE – Inexpensive small touches can make a big difference. Twinkling lights or tiki torches, throw rugs, or dividers can spruce up your area without breaking the bank. Your accessories can be of the living kind as well. Keep it green by adding potted plants on decks or creating a vertical garden with climbing plants.


  • FURNITURE – If you’ve looked around and thought there’s no helping my tired old patio furniture or you’ve just outgrown the small set you have, new furniture is the best way to make a big impact. “There are new looks coming out every day. From a small space to large commercial project you can find just the right piece or pieces to make the space yours,” says Shearer.


  • SHADY DAYS – Umbrellas are another great way to bring in color and create a new outdoor setting. Doug Shearer says, “There are new looks, sizes, and materials out there for umbrellas. With hundreds of Sunbrella fabric choice there are color options to fit any decor.”

With these easy tips, you’re sure to have the most popular patio on your street or a perfect oasis of peace!

How to Get Your Grill Ready for a Great Season of Outdoor Cooking

Scott JacksonComment

Paul Stermer has spent a career staying up to date on gas and charcoal grills, learning the ins and outs of cooking on both gas and charcoal. So you could assume that Stermer, of Stermer Brothers Stoves & Spas in Lancaster, would have a grill in his backyard. You’d be wrong. He doesn’t have a grill. He has several grills. Just a handful of them now, actually, down from a time when he owned almost a dozen.

But in addition to selling and servicing the devices, Stermer loves cooking on grills year-round. Some are portable for camping; some are gas and others are charcoal; and he has his eye on a sweet Napoleon grill that includes an infrared side grill for immediate searing: rare steaks, perfectly cooked. Stermer is an expert on prepping for grilling season. Here’s what he says you need to know:

Three things you should always check before firing up the grill for the season.

The most important thing with a gas grill is to make sure you don’t have any gas leaks. So check you have gas in the tank. Then it’s pretty simple: You mix up a little liquid dish-washing detergent in water and spray it on the connections. If you see it bubble up, you’ve got a leak. So turn things off and find out why. Also, if you think you smell gas and things are turned off, don’t ignore it. They put a very specific odor in gas (propane gas has no odor on its own. Propane companies add a harmless chemical called mercaptan ... “it’s very stinky, like rotten eggs.”)


Check your ignitor; make sure it’s functioning correctly. Take action to fix it if you need to.


Too many people ignore cleaning their grill. Clean the cooking grids; a layer down, clean the flavorizer bars (that direct drippings away from burner tubes); clean out the drip-catching area. That’s commonly missed and if they overflow it makes the inside of the grill very nasty.

Wouldn’t trapped grease attract critters, too?

It does. They’ll try to get in to what they think is food, so they can chew up your cover and the inside of the grill.

That’s not all that can get in there.

Get the spider webs out of it, because spiders are one of your worst enemies when it comes to grills. They will put nests inside the burners. And everybody thinks their control panel’s on fire, but what that usually is, is a spider got in the burner. So instead of the gas coming out the burner, it’s coming out the the air mixer. It ignites there, behind the control panel.

What if you use your gas grill year-round? How often should you give it a once-over?

I use my grill all year, and check it over, probably, twice a season. I’ll check for leaks, I’ll start at the top and work my way down from the carbon buildup on the lid, knock that down with a cleaning brush, clean the cooking grids. I like to run a brush across the burners, make sure all the little holes are open. They get clogged very frequently. You’ll get hot spots on your grill, and a lot of times that’s because the (burners) got blocked. If they’re not all open, get in there with a little brush, a pin or small nail — whatever fits correctly; don’t make them any bigger than they already are. Be careful. Then I scrape out all the muck that’s in the bottom at that point, all the leftover food particles and grease and whatever else.

Do you use a special tool for cleaning the cooking grids?

I often use a scraping tool that’s a little different than a brush. It’s a piece of metal that’s shaped the way the cooking grids are, like a rounded curve around each (grate). Wire brushes are the standard, but they don’t last forever. When (it gets) all filled up with grease and nasty stuff, throw it away and go get a new one. It’s 10 bucks; go buy one.

What about a charcoal grill?

Wipe it down, get the ash out of it — you don’t want to leave the ash sit in there forever. It is a lye, and it can, if it’s not an enameled bowl or stainless steel bowl, cause rust.

What are some common troubleshooting issues people get into with their gas grills?

Ignitors that don’t work, or a burner that won’t light because something’s blocked up. And it’s not for everyone — if you’re not experienced or have some mechanical ability, try not to disassemble your grill. You are playing with gas, so it’s gotta be done right.

Is there a quick fix for an ignitor that’s not working?

Most grills will provide a hole where you can stick a long stick lighter and light the grill. The trick to that is to put the lighter in the hole and light the lighter first, then turn the gas on. If you turn the gas on first and then stick the lighter in, things can light up very violently. So always, always put the lighter in first.

Safety first

You never want to light your grill under a carport or roof of any kind. People do it all the time, and it of course darkens the ceiling and/or melts it. Keep your grill away from combustible surfaces. The siding on your house will melt if you get the grill too close. You can catch a railing on fire on your deck if the grill’s too close. All manuals have clearances listed in them — but, another common thing, nobody reads their manuals, so they ignore that.

What are some top-of-the-line gas grill bells and whistles?

Rotisserie burners, which is a burner located in the back wall of the grill. You can also get side burners. And iGrill has come out, it’s an app for your phone. There are several versions of it; it actually is pretty slick. There are probes that you put in, kind of like a wireless thermometer, but it goes beyond that. You can watch the temperature of the food and add alarms to it to know when things are done. You can have up to four probes, so if people want their food done to different temperatures, well, you can do all that.

How do you start your gas grill for a cooking session?

I start by checking and smelling for leaks. I’ll start the grill, get it good and hot — I want it to be sanitary, right, so I’m shooting for 450 (degrees), 500; I have a thermometer on it. I knock off the remaining food particles if there are any, and then I’ll set the temperature. Let’s call it for chicken, 375; I pretend it’s an oven. Then you’re set to go.

What’s your grilling specialty?

On gas, chicken quarters, chicken wings. On charcoal, I like doing ribs. You can cook it low and slow, and I’m after that smoky flavor. You get more of that from charcoal.

Smoke in the Air: Helping Your Customers Barbecue Better

Scott JacksonComment

May Means National Barbecue Month

The weather is growing warmer, and lovers of the backyards all over North America are starting to crack their patio doors. Greeting them will be (or should be) a slightly smoky vista flavored with hickory, mesquite and other amazing varieties of woods that can impart barbecue with great depth of flavor.

With the month of May being National Barbecue Month, it’s time for retailers to put their best outdoor cooking products front and center. There will be plenty of consumers looking for the best in offset smokers, wood supplies and recipe books, and if a store is able to carry these specialized tools, it should. Yet that leaves out a far larger demographic.

What about the vast majority of consumers who want to try out a new barbecue recipe but are more familiar with traditional, high-heat grilling techniques? A retailer should have the products, and the basic knowledge, at hand to help these backyard cooks put out a feast no matter what equipment they’re working with.

What Can Make Barbecue

Smokers in all varieties offer great options in imparting smoky goodness to meats, vegetables and anything else needed for proper barbecue. The low heat and longer cooking times necessary to create this kind of barbecue lend themselves to these culinary beasts, but their specialized nature and prices put them out of the range for a large number of consumers.

With a little knowledge and a few tools, most gas and charcoal grills can be converted into smokers ready to take on any recipe. Key factors include size for these grills, with larger equipment offering a better chance of creating a key ingredient to smoking: indirect heat.

No Direct Path

Indirect heat is the key to low and slow cooking, the kind that can let a slab of ribs cook for hours while remaining moist and soaking in the smoke’s flavor. For larger charcoal grills, this can be accomplished by letting the charcoal ignite in a chimney, then piling the charcoal on one side of the grill. For grills with enough space, two piles can be made on each side of the grill, with a space in the middle. Either way, place the meat being smoked so it isn’t directly on top of the coals. Wood chips, after being soaked and drained, can be placed directly on the coals to produce the smoke.

For gas grills, the method of generating indirect heat is dependent on the number of burners. Four is ideal to maintain the right temperature, but a three-burner grill can do the job. Turning the burner furthest to one side to high and the next closest to the center to low can provide a nice area to the opposite of the heat for the barbecue to go. For smaller grills with two burners, another method is to place disposable roasting pans filled part way with water on top of the burners, with the grill placed over the pans and the meat placed on the grill. The water helps absorb the direct heat from the burners, and the low temperature of barbecue won’t boil the water and introduce steam, which will interfere with the smoking.

Gas grills sometimes come equipped with built-in wood delivery systems, often a drawer or a box that can be filled with wood chips or pellets. Consumers hoping to use a gas grill to smoke meats can often be directed to these grills, or wood boxes that are designed to fit with multiple grill styles can be stocked and ready for a new barbecue enthusiast.

One Stop Shop

Whether it’s stocking a full smoking setup worthy of the best barbecue competitions or finding a way to expand the capabilities of the basic charcoal grill, a retailer serious about backyard entertaining can be ready. Make sure your well stocked in the necessary consumables such as charcoal (both lump and briquettes), wood in varieties of flavors and types (the most common being logs, chips and pellets) and propane tanks. Be ready with dedicated products for smoking and barbecuing as well as the add-on items that can expand normal grills to accomplish the task.

With a little help from an independent hardware retailer, any barbecue challenge in May can be met.

What's The Best Electric Fireplace For My Home?

Scott JacksonComment

Many people spend a lot of time and money honing a particular style for their homes and furnishings. If you choose to install an electric fireplace in your home, you likely want the fireplace to complement the style you’ve worked hard to create. How do you determine the best electric fireplace style for your taste?


Electric fireplaces can be standalone, have a built-in look, or even be mounted on a wall. Any installation type can have many designs. Some go all the way to the floor, while others hang like a picture on the wall.


Standalone electric fireplaces can be put near the center of a room to disperse heat throughout that room. They often have a cast-iron-style exterior reminiscent of an antique fireplace. Some standalone fireplaces are modern cubes that go perfectly with a modern interior.


Some electric fireplaces that look built in fit inside the wall cavity, which requires a more involved installation process than simply plugging the unit into an outlet. If you don’t want to undertake a renovation, or if you live in an apartment, a built-in-looking electric fireplace can sit on the floor or be installed in a corner.

Some electric fireplaces that are meant to look built in have elaborate mantels, and can even come with a set of bookcases on either side. This style might fit best in a house that’s traditionally styled. Fireplaces with a stone surround, could be the best electric fireplace design because meshes well with any number of interior design styles.

Other electric fireplaces are made to look like furniture, and can be designed to hold a television on top. This style of fireplace is perfect if you envision moving the fireplace to different locations in the house.


Wall mounted electric fireplaces are designed to suit a more modern aesthetic. They usually have a simple glass border that fits with a more minimalist design sensibility. Wall mounted electric fireplaces are able to fit into smaller, less conventionally shaped spaces where a more traditional-looking fireplace might be too big.

No matter your design tastes, the best electric fireplace style is the one that you’re drawn to. From antique to minimalist, manufacturers today make electric fireplaces that appeal to a wide variety of individuals.

Save Money With A Low Energy LED Fireplace

Scott JacksonComment

Autumn is just around the corner and with it comes the perfect weather for cuddling around the warm glow of a fireplace. But did you know you can save money and have a healthier home by replacing your traditional wood-burning fireplace with an energy efficient LED fireplace? Plus, you can spread the crackling cheer of a fire through many rooms in your home for considerably less expense than a wood-burning fireplace.

LED Fireplaces are Incredibly Efficient

The design of an electric fireplace ensures that all of the energy produced is converted into heat, which is then directed into your room instead of out a chimney. A traditional fireplace, whether gas or wood-burning, can lose up to 60% of the energy they produce into the atmosphere. Plus, when not in use, they are often a source of cold air in a room! But, with an electric LED fireplace every dollar spent, is converted into usable heat.

Electric Fireplaces Help Reduce Heating Expenses

The smart placement of LED fireplaces, allows you to take advantage of zone heating. Effectively, this means you only need to comfortably heat rooms in active use. The central air can then be turned down to a more modest, less expensive level for the rest of the house. These fireplaces cost very little to run, averaging about 8 to 12 pennies an hour or roughly $25 a year. A gas fireplace, by comparison, runs about $60 a year and wood can burn up roughly $190 for the same amount of generated heat.

Lower Initial Cost

If your home doesn’t have an existing gas or wood fireplace, you can expect to pay as much as 7,000 dollars to have the flue, chimney, firewall, and mantle installed safely. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of regular maintenance – an uncleaned chimney is a fire hazard! Further, any home with a chimney is a home with a hole in its insulation. Even with the flue closed, the heated air inside your home escapes and leaves a chilly draft in the room with the fireplace.

An electric, LED fireplace is much less expensive and is self-contained, with no chimney to leak air from! Best of all, most can be purchased for only a few hundred dollars! So get an LED fireplace today and save.

Can a house where wood is burned for heat really be called green?

Scott JacksonComment

After writing From the straw bale wrap to the lime plaster finishes, this cottage is as green as it gets there was a huge pushback from commenters who complained about the use of wood for heating.

" green as it gets"? I would like to respectfully disagree. It's unfortunate that "renewable" is now equated with "clean", "green", "healthy", and "good-for-the-planet".Yes, wood is renewable, but burning it as fuel has none of these positive attributes.

And that was the one respectfully disagreeing. TreeHugger has never been in the “renewable is green” camp, complaining forever about biofuels and yes, biomass heating. But this is different.

It is an issue we have looked at in TreeHugger before, asking Is burning wood for heat really green?, where I concluded that it really isn’t. Yet lots of very green people do, including Alex Wilson, founder of BuildingGreen, who knows more about the subject than anyone I know. So let’s look at the issue in terms of this particular house.

  • The house is designed for efficiency first. It is almost passive, meaning that it doesn’t need much heat at all. So unlike those houses in Fairbanks Alaska, where they are piling wood into giant boilers and the air quality is worse than in Beijing, this is a tiny wood stove. Just look at in the photo.
  • There are very few neighbours and extremely low population density. As noted in my previous post, wood doesn’t scale, it is not a suitable solution for a lot of people living close together. But a single house, used part time, in the middle of a forest?
  • The alternatives aren’t pretty either. Some commenters suggested an electric powered air source heat pump. A heat pump is an air conditioner running backwards in winter, but this is in cottage country and you do not want air conditioning. So it is just for heating. The average winter night-time temperature is 0°F, at which point heat pump efficiency drops way off. The alternatives are bottled propane (an expensive fossil fuel) or electric resistance heating. But the electricity supply is erratic; lines are often downed by storms and trees falling. You cannot rely on it.

A few years back it was a standard argument that wood, being renewable, was a greener source of energy than fossil fuels. Environmental writer Mark Gunther called it A renewable energy technology that gets no respect. He called it " a "green" technology that appeals to poor and working class people. And, because gathering and distributing wood is labor intensive, it's generates economic activity."

But that was before we began to realize what a big problem particulate pollution really is. The very impressive Families for Clean Air website spells out the dangers, particularly in urban areas. Sam Harris is pretty convincing too. They are not alone in complaining; Government sources like the Province of Quebec note that wood burning is the single biggest source of fine particles emissions, and how dangerous they can be:

Among all particles emitted by wood heating, the ones whose aerodynamic diameter is equal to or less than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5) are of most concern for health. These suspended particles are so small that when inhaled, they cover the surface of the pulmonary alveoli and impair gas exchange, which impacts the respiratory and cardiovascular system by, for example, aggravating symptoms of asthma through the irritation and inflammation of the bronchi. Winter smog, of which residential wood heating is a contributing factor, is mainly comprised of fine particles

It is recognized as a health hazard, and as I noted in my earlier post, wood heating doesn't scale, and we shouldn't burn too much of it. But the Lake of Bays area is not San Francisco Bay area, where the Families For Clean Air people are located. It is a different world.

I remain convinced here, as I do with net zero energy projects, that what source people use for energy is far less important than how much they use. When you design a house that is almost passive, the amount of fuel used for heating is negligible. As the architect, Terrell Wong notes, " Reducing your need for heating 90%.------Then occasionally having a fire in an uber efficient German boiler is not a bad thing." Every fuel has a carbon and a health footprint, either at the source or at the point of use.

Given the location, the climate and the alternatives, I believe there is a plausible case for wood.

It's not too late — easy ways to style your tiny patio

Scott JacksonComment

If you've ever moved into an apartment with a balcony, you know the initial excitement that comes with daydreams of long summer nights spent outdoors, visions of morning coffees under the sun, and aspirations of neighborly cocktail parties at sunset. The initial intention is always to create an outdoor space to rival the greatest landscape artists, so why does our outdoor decor always seem to become an afterthought?

Even though outdoor spaces can't always be used year-round, it's no excuse to leave them undecorated. If you've reached August and your balcony is still a sad empty space - or if you've haphazardly purchased an outdoor set at the local hardware store and called it a day - it's not too late to make your alfresco space Insta-worthy. With a few simple tricks, you can whip your balcony into shape and even extend it into the fall months. Wait no more - the time to transform your balcony is now.

Start with plants. An outdoor area should never be without greenery. Flower boxes and potted plants are an easy, low-cost way to infuse greens into your outdoor space, no heavy lifting required.

Ground it with a rug. Outdoor rugs are prettier than ever, and companies like Dash & Albert are coming up with hundreds of fun and weather-resistant patterns. You ground your living room with a rug, so why not do the same with your balcony?

Embrace the bistro table. Nothing is more satisfying than having breakfast outside and basking in the sun before a long workday. When space is limited, all you need are a couple of chairs and a smaller bistro table.

When in doubt, do stripes. Outdoor stripes are quintessential summer decorating. If you're upholstering furniture, purchasing outdoor pillows, or shopping for an umbrella, always look at thick stripes in bold colors to bring life to your space.

Plant a vertical garden. The easiest way to hide unsightly neighboring balconies is to block the view with a vertical garden. Simply install a trellis, and hang away. Just make sure your building approves it before making significant changes.

Throw in pillows. Don't think you're limited to the pillows that came with your outdoor sofa. Just as outdoor rugs are now more varied than ever, so are their pillow counterparts. This means you can infuse the same decor personality indoors and out!

Consider lighting. Hanging out on your balcony on a balmy summer night is a luxury - as long as you can see around you. If your balcony is covered, consider hanging string lights to create a starry nighttime effect. If it isn't, wall sconces or even candle-filled hurricanes are great alternatives.

Put in the finishing touches. Add final decorating touches with vases, candles and other accents to finish off the space. Treat your balcony as you would any other room in your house to get a layered decor effect.

Warm it up for fall. When temperatures start cooling down in September, extend the season by furnishing your space with throws and sheepskin rugs that will keep you and your guests cozy.

Get the latest on home decor trends, design ideas, shopping guides and food news, and take a look inside your favorite celebrity homes