Using What You Grow at Home: 5 Ways to Use Squash

photo of crook neck squash and zucchini squash

With a variety of types to choose from — like these crookneck and zucchini squashes — you can use squash in many dishes. Photo via Milk Lady Farmers’ Markets.

By Julia West

It’s officially autumn! While the weather is glorious and the holidays are exciting, nothing beats the cozy foods that come with the season. Autumn foods are not limited to pumpkin-spice lattés and apple pie — cozy can be healthy too!

It’s time to adjust your summer garden into a fall garden to ensure a supply of delicious vegetables for the whole season. A great veggie for the fall gardening season is squash. Squash is very easy to grow and comes in many varieties. Yellow squash, butternut squash and zucchini — you name it and you can grow it! Here are five ways to use squash in your autumn cooking:

Soup

Squash_SoupSoups are a great dish to serve up once the weather gets cooler and they are easy to make! What could be harder than cutting and blending up vegetables and throwing them into a pot? Butternut squash soup is a classic recipe that you can easily make from scratch. Here is a simple recipe for this great autumn dish:

  • 1 (2- to 3-pound) butternut squash, peeled and seeded
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Optional:

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • Nutmeg to taste

Simply blend pieces of squash in a blender to make a puree. Mix the squash with the other ingredients in a pot. Let the mixture simmer over the stove for about 40 minutes and serve. Courtesy of BBC Food.

Pasta

Squash_PastaSquash is a great choice when it comes to filling out a pasta dish. Because it has a mild taste, it won’t overpower your dishes, so you can put it in just about any recipe. One benefit is that you’ll lower the calorie count of your dish by sneaking in servings of vegetables without anyone noticing. For example, you can replace half of the pasta that you would typically use in a dish with some squash.

If you are feeling a little more creative, you could cut the squash long ways to get slices that resemble lasagna. Assemble in layers alternating between pasta, ricotta cheese, sauce and, of course, the squash. If you want to go for a low-carb option, replace all pasta with any kind of squash you like. (Yellow squash goes great with Italian flavors!) Photo Courtesy of Good Housekeeping.

Side Dish

Squash_Side DishThe easiest ways to prepare squash is to broil or sauté it and serve it as a side dish. You can dress up the squash with butter, salt and pepper or a sauce of your choice. For some extra flavor, grill the squash so that you get a smoky taste that will go great with your main dish. If you want to really indulge, try breading and deep-frying some squash and serving it with a marinara sauce. Photo Courtesy of Our Life In Food.

 

 

Casserole

Squash_CasseroleA great casserole just has a cozy feeling to it, making it a great choice for fall cooking. Casseroles are also great because you can throw just about anything into one — including squash. Here is a great squash casserole recipe:

  • 6 cups large diced yellow squash or zucchini
  • 1 cup crushed butter crackers, like Ritz crackers
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup black pepper
  • 1/4 cup garlic powder

Sauté the vegetables over a medium-low heat for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the pan and mix it in with the other ingredients (except the cracker crumbs). Pour the mixture into a buttered casserole dish and top with cracker crumbs and then bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Voilà! Photo Courtesy of Allrecipes.

Baking

Squash_BakingSquash can be used in baking recipes because of their mild flavor. Squash can be used to add moisture to bread and cakes without an overwhelming squash flavor. Because of this, other spices and flavors get a chance to shine through.

Squash can also reduce the fat you use in a recipe. A healthier dessert? Yes, please! You can add squash, such as zucchini, to desserts like chocolate cake for a fab chocolate zucchini cake. Photo Courtesy of The Kitchn.

 

Just because summer is over doesn’t mean you have to stop gardening! You can still have a fabulous garden with vegetables that are perfect for autumn. There’s a wide variety of squash to easily grow at home. So, get gardening and get cooking!

Julia West is a contributor to NewHomeSource. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in Gardening | Leave a comment

App of the Month: BrightNest

BrightNest App

Explore various topics in home maintenance, cleanliness and organization, all tailored to your lifestyle with the BrightNest app.

By Ashley Steel

One of the many perks of newly built homes is the reduced maintenance they require. With brand new parts subject to technological advancements and increased efficiency, new homeowners are free to lounge in their pajamas with the Sunday paper while their family and friends toil and sweat to repair leaking pipes, replace faulty appliances and fix any number of problems that come with an aging home.

But like anything shiny and new, regular maintenance and tune-ups are required to ensure that your home remains a well-oiled machine. But how can you keep track of what to do, how to do it and when? That’s where our App of the Month, BrightNest, comes into play.

How does it work?

When you sign up with BrightNest, you fill out a user profile and answer questions about your home needs and interests. For example: Do you have kids or pets? Do you have carpet or wood flooring in your home? Are you interested in green living? Etc., etc.

From this user profile, BrightNest develops a customized newsfeed of home maintenance tasks, home projects and ideas that span eight categories including: healthy, green, savvy, curious, clean, handy, creative and hungry.

Save articles to revisit projects and tips for later or schedule tasks and receive notifications that it’s time to check the smoke detectors.

Learn to maintain your appliances, recycle old home products and maintain your home’s interior, exterior, landscaping and other major components. Explore tasks from reducing indoor allergens, watering your lawn more efficiently, making eco-friendly pesticides and cleaning products and removing scratches from wood furniture.

Stay organized with to-do lists and check off completed items for that hard-earned sense of satisfaction. Available for free on both the iPhone and iPad, BrightNest makes home maintenance easy, manageable and even fun.

Tell us: What handy home-related app should we name as our October App of the Month? Leave us a comment below with a review of an innovative home app you can’t live without. Tell us why you love it and it might be featured in our October App of the Month article!

Ashley Steel is staff writer/editor for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in Buying a New Home | Leave a comment

Love Comic Books? Bring Them Home With These Comic Book Décor Ideas

Natural wood table in the shape of letters that spell out shazam

Comic books are one way to bring out your style personality with unique pieces. Photo via Comic Book Daily; Glentruan Furniture Ltd.

By Patricia L. Garcia

Happy National Comic Book Day (it’s today and not to be confused with Free Comic Book Day in May)!

To celebrate heroes (and some loveable sidekicks) on this day, we’re here to show you how to incorporate comic books into your home décor. Done wrong, you’ve got some bad manga on your hands. But, done the right way, comic book décor can have the right impact. Here’s how to get that heroic look without getting too cartoony:

SHAZAM! POW! PUNCH!

When incorporating comic books into your home décor, you want it to have just the right amount of impact. Too little and what’s the point? Too much and you risk having a room that looks tacky or juvenile (which isn’t so bad if you’re decorating a kid’s room, I suppose).

The key to creating the right effect is to add just a dash of comic book touches into a room. If the curtains and the couch and the wall paint are similar, your room will look too matchy-matchy and the heroic impact will be lost.

I Need a Hero … Or Maybe Just a Wall Mural

While most comic books tend to have a dark backdrop to them, that doesn’t mean you have to have an equally dark room to celebrate a comic book’s true spirit. A subtle Thor wall mural in an otherwise muted living room is so cool you’ll never be labeled a nerd for your fab style. A wall mural is a great way to add some artwork in your home sans big bulky frames.

Be Brave

I know, we warned you not to get too comic book crazy, but like all super heroes, sometimes you need to be brave. Don’t be afraid to go bold with a large wall mural or other focal piece such as a piece of furniture with comic book prints on them (or even a whole table that celebrates onomatopoeia!). A whole-wall mural placed in the right spot, say a bright, airy modern kitchen, or a chair with black-and-white comic strips can do wonders for any room, while not overpowering it. Look for that fine line between Bruce Banner and The Hulk here.

Less Is More

Is your style a little more muted? That’s OK. A few comic book-inspired pieces can still save the day. Look for a comic book light switch plate with your favorite character or a comic strip light shade that will subtly blend in with your other furniture and décor. Or find ways to sneak in comic books into functional pieces, like a Captain America-coated coat hanger.

Whatever your style, have fun bringing the world of comic books to your nest. Your passion and love for all things comic books should shine through in a way that’s both fearless and elegant. Check out the slideshow below for just a few examples of how to bring the power of comic books home:

SHAZAM! Table
SHAZAM! Table

Photo via Comic Book Daily; Glentruan Furniture Ltd.

Comic Book-Inspired Wall Mural
Comic Book-Inspired Wall Mural

Photo via Decoist.

Baby Room Decked Out In Heroes
Baby Room Decked Out In Heroes

Photo via Decosee.

Comic Strip Lampshade
Comic Strip Lampshade

Photo via SpookyShades Etsy shop.

Hulk Light Switch Plate
Hulk Light Switch Plate

Photo via Wanelo and PastePotPrefects.

Captain America Coat Rack
Captain America Coat Rack

Photo via Junksy Etsy shop.

Moda Comic Chair
Moda Comic Chair

Photo via Uropa Design.

Thor Wall Mural
Thor Wall Mural

Photo via Myriam Payne Interior Designers & Decorators.

 

Patricia L. Garcia is content manager for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in Interior Design | Leave a comment

Easy-to-Eat Party Foods

easy to eat party foods

Pre-dipped party foods that are served on a toothpick are easy-to-eat and mess-free. Photo courtesy of Babble.

By Ashley Steel

Fall is officially here and whatever the reason for the season, we all find ourselves celebrating.

Whether you’re ringing in the fall with apple cider and pumpkin spice cupcakes at a bridal shower, you’re passing the wings and dip around the couch for football season or simply celebrating moving into your newly built home, food is at the core of all entertaining. And when it comes to food, there’s nothing more frustrating for a party host — or more awkward for a party guest — than sloppy, messy foods. (And now that you’ve moved into your new home, you want to keep it clean!)

This fall, celebrate in style with these easy-to-eat party foods. From casual to fancy, we’ll explore the world of mess-free morsels.

Keeping It Clean

“One of my favorite things,” says Stephanie Berge, a certified wedding planner for event planning service Memoreys by Morey’s Piers & Resorts in Wildwood, N.J., “is different options served on edible spoons and cones, crostini and baguettes.”

While this leaves a party host with limitless serving possibilities from spreads to sandwiches, bruschettas and ice creams, you can also vary toppings for further variety. The best part about using an edible base is that “there’s nothing in your hands when you’re finished eating them,” says Berge. Clean-up complete!

If messy items like chicken wings are a must-have at your party, try buffalo bites served on a toothpick instead, says Berge. Not only trendy, anything served on a toothpick or skewer or served in a small cup will enable guests to keep their hands and faces clean. However, she warns that toothpicks are the trickiest to clean up because they’re small and people often throw them on the ground.

Foods such as chips and dip and chocolates produce lots of crumbs and smears. To get around this, Berge suggests pre-spreading chips with dip but providing a finger-hold for guests. The same goes for items such as chocolate-dipped cookies or strawberries.

Variety and Dietary Restrictions

“Nowadays there are so many different types of allergies and requests for guests’ dietary restrictions that you can go mad trying to accommodate everyone,” says Berge. No matter what you’re serving, she recommends offering at least one vegetarian appetizer and entrée, and, if the opportunity is available, a gluten-free option as well.

If you’re having a sit-down meal with entrees such as beef and chicken, then make sure to offer seafood in the appetizers or vice versa, says Berge. Pastas are a great vegetarian option and meat-carving stations are great for buffet-style parties.

Utensils

As a party host, you should provide whatever utensils are necessary. Toothpicks, skewers and cups may eliminate the need for the traditional knife, fork and spoon, but it never hurts to keep a small stash on hand.

In most cases, a small salad or dessert place will suffice for snacking, but consider your audience and how much they will be eating. For fancier parties, Berge recommends plastic china serving ware. Elegant, lightweight and durable, she says, “you’d be surprised, most guests can’t even tell the difference until they go to pick them up.”

Remember, even the best attempt at serving mess-free foods will generate some cleanup. Leaving stacks of napkins and trash bags or bins in a variety of easy-to-reach, convenient places will increase the likelihood of guests disposing of their own debris and will keep your new home looking new for years to come.

Ashley Steel is staff writer/editor for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in Buying a New Home | Leave a comment

Gadget of the Month: Haiku Smart Fan

Media room with Haiku smart fan

The Haiku ceiling fan from Big Ass Fans is a game changer. Both stylish and “smart,” the Haiku is a must for any home. Image via Gizmag.

By Patricia L. Garcia

Ceiling fans are not sexy. They certainly keep you cool (or warm, depending on the season), but there aren’t many times when you bring someone into your new home and brag on the ceiling fans.

Until now. The Haiku smart fan from Big Ass Fans (stop chuckling!) is changing the game. Not only is it pretty, oh so pretty, but it also brings the ceiling fan into the 21st century with its smart technology. Its minimalist design make it an easy fit in a trendy condo or hip modern home and comes in five finishes and either sustainable bamboo or a glass-infused composite material.

What’s So Smart About It?

Let’s face it, when things turn on and off without you having to do anything more than simply walk in or out of a room, that’s pretty neat. It’s not like you can’t turn the switch yourself, but it’s still nice. The Haiku fan has SenseMe technology, which means it detects when you enter or leave a room and turns on or shuts down accordingly. And, much like the Nest thermostat, the Haiku fan learns your habits and adjusts for you. Been leaving that fan on medium speed, not high? The Haiku’s got you.

The Haiku has 10 settings, including a Whoosh mode that simulates natural breezes (wha??? I know!). What’s better than that? The fact that this ceiling fan monitors a room’s conditions — temperature and humidity — and adjusts itself. For example, if you open a window to let a cool breeze in, the Haiku will sense that and reduce the fan’s speed.

Like many other ceiling fans, you can light up a room with a Haiku ceiling fan. Unlike other ceiling fans, Haiku has a digital dimmer that offer 16 brightness settings and uses LED lighting to save you on energy costs. Speaking of energy costs, the Haiku exceeds Energy Star performance standards by 450 percent.

Another pro of the Haiku smart fan is that it’s meant to be quiet for a comfortable experience, whether you’re simply sleeping or hanging out in the media room, and it is balanced by hand so you don’t have to deal with wobbling.

Patricia L. Garcia is content manager for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in Home Decor/Furniture, Interior Design, Opinion | Leave a comment

Everything You Need to Know When Shopping for a New Bed

photo of owner's suite with with walls, beige fabric headboard and plush bed

The right bed, like the one in this owner’s suite, and the right environment means the difference between a sleepless night and a restful night. The Sanibel plan, a new home by GL Homes at Seven Bridges. Delray Beach, FL.

By Patricia L. Garcia

Now that you’re building your new home, there’s no doubt you’re ready for some new furniture, including a new bed. There are so many beds to choose from — memory foam, plush, pillowtop, oh my! — that it can be downright confusing trying to find the right one.

When it comes to choosing the right bed, it comes down to personal preference. Some like a firm bed, while others prefer falling into what feels like a soft, fluffy cloud.

“Determining the right bed for you is a very personal matter and one that must take in account several different factors,” says Erick Arbé, founder of Fohm, a memory foam pillow company. He says to ask yourself these questions before shopping for a new bed:

  • What type of sleeper are you (back, side, stomach)?
  • What type of firmness do you prefer? Soft, medium firmness, extra firm?
  • Do your pets sleep with you?
  • Do you have any physical ailments (back or neck issues)?
  • What is your budget?

Know Your Mattress Types

Now that you’ve accounted for what you want from your bed and presumably how big it should be, it’s time to do a little research on the type of mattress you should get. According to mattress company Beautyrest, there are five basic types of mattresses:

  • innerspring mattresses: traditional mattress that incorporates a system of open coils or metal springs between padding;
  • encased spring mattresses: innerspring beds where springs or coils are individually wrapped in fabric, which allows each spring to adjust to your body. Those with high coil counts are higher quality;
  • memory foam mattresses: mattresses made of viscoelastic polyurethane foam that conforms to the body to reduce pressure points and to provide proper support;
  • hybrid mattresses: these mattresses utilize two technologies — memory foam for comfort and encased springs for support; and
  • air mattresses: these mattresses use air chambers as their primary support and can be inflated or deflated to change the bed’s firmness.

While we’re on the subject of materials, it’s important to consider eco beds. “Does it matter to you that the materials are environmentally friendly?” asks Ricky Joshi, co-founder of Saatva, an online-only mattress brand. “Many mattresses use cheaper chemicals such as formaldehyde as a flame retardant, while green beds should use much healthier natural alternatives. Also, green beds have much lower VOCs (air pollutants) and won’t usually off-gas.”

Do your research on which material will be the most logical — and comfortable — for your needs.

How Does It Feel?

Even after all of the research you’ve done, what it all comes down to is how a mattress feels. Now comes the fun part of your research — test driving some mattresses that seem like possible winners.

“Nothing compares, however, to actually lying down on the mattress to best understand your preference,” says Beautyrest. “Focus on support and comfort and remember you can’t get one without the other. If you suffer from back problems caused by a poor mattress, spinal alignment and support may be the key. Research, feel and see the difference that the latest bedding technology offers before you buy. Go to a local retailer armed with questions. Test-run all the models, and then test them again.”

Keep Your Bed In Good Shape

“With proper care, a good mattress should last you 10 to 15 years,” Joshi says. “Rotating your mattress twice a year (especially if it’s a pillowtop type) will assist with evenly distributing the applied weight on the mattress, allowing it to last longer. If young children or pets are sleeping on the mattress, investing in a mattress cover/protector is a great option.”

Aside from those suggestions, change the sheets every one to two weeks, says Arbé. “The more frequent, the better,” he says. “Sheets that are changed more often don’t let sweat and dead skin cells penetrate through to the mattress.”

A Restful Retreat

Once you find the perfect mattress for you, it’s time to create a restful retreat to make your bed — and bedroom — a place where you can easily find rest. First thing to do is make your home a tech-free space. It’s hard to sleep or relax when you’re texting, working on a laptop or tablet or watching TV, so keep all of those electronics out. Invest in an alarm, rather than using your phone, to wake you.

Also use peaceful colors in your room and on your bed to help you get rest. “Your bedroom, more specifically your bed, should be your haven,” Joshi says. “Your peaceful retreat where you experience your greatest dreams during your deepest sleep. Decorate your bed with colors that relax you, so you can’t wait to lie down on it.

“If you’ve got a fancy style, accessorize with comfy decorative pillows,” he says. “If you’re more the neat and modern type, go for a minimalist approach with a simple yet sophisticated bedspread. And though it may seem like a chore, try to make your bed every morning so that it welcomes you each evening!”

Patricia L. Garcia is content manager for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in Home Decor/Furniture | Comments Off

Mexican Home Design and Décor

Photo os outdoor pation with pool

Looking for Mexican design inspiration? Look no further — here are some stylish examples.

By Ashley Steel

As our neighbors to the south celebrate their independence (Sept. 16 is Mexican Independence Day), we’re celebrating the bold style commonly found in Mexican homes.

Mexico is a place with home design and décor as rich and varied as its storied past. From ultra-modern to rustic — and everything in between — there’s a wealth of inspiration to be found in the Mexican home.

Here’s a look at some of the top trends in Mexican home design and décor that you can incorporate into your own home:

Exterior & Structure
Though home design is by no means uniform across the country, there are some common themes that appear time and again. Adobe and stucco exteriors make a frequent appearance in both muted, tan hues and bold, vibrant colors. Roofs of red Spanish tiles are exceedingly common, lending rich character and texture to homes, except in the case that the roof is a bare, flat top.

Despite the relatively sharp, boxy shape of many homes in Mexico, many bear arched entryways both indoors and out. Often supported by pillars, these arches lend themselves to an open, airy layout. Exposed wood beams reveal the architectural integrity of the home, as well as lending a natural look complemented by sizeable windows and ample natural light.

Outdoor Living

A common feature in Mexican homes, outdoor living is ubiquitous and conducive to gatherings. Patios and courtyards abound here. Alive with foliage and adorned with fountains, these outdoor spaces often bear the signature arched entryways, peachy walls and tiled floors. At other times, a rectangular pool takes the place of a more traditional patio. Sometimes enclosed by curtains, these outdoor spaces are inviting and casual.

Decorative Tiles & Prints
Going as far back as the pre-Colonial era, Mexico has been renowned for its bold patterns, commonly attributed to the Aztecs. Available in everything from fabrics to tiles, these decorative prints are often a design focal point. These prints can serve as wall tapestries, rugs, throws pillows and bedding.

Hand-painted “Talavera” tiles are also a common source of décor inspiration in Mexico and are found everywhere from backsplashes to bathrooms. Their patterns and sheen can breathe life into in even the smallest of spaces.

Modernity
Mexico City has long been a haven for modern architecture. Here, some of the most futuristic buildings are produced. Made from geometric shapes adjoined at interesting angles, these homes often have seamlessly integrated windows and a lavish backyard pool.

Exterior & Structure
Exterior & Structure

Photo courtesy of New Homes Designs Latest

Exterior & Structure
Exterior & Structure

Photo courtesy of Harvest House Craftsmen

Exterior & Structure
Exterior & Structure

Photo courtesy of Usual House

Exterior & Structure
Exterior & Structure

Photo courtesy of Realtor.com

Outdoor Living
Outdoor Living

Photo courtesy of Architectural Digest

Outdoor Living
Outdoor Living

Photo courtesy of Trek Earth

Outdoor Living
Outdoor Living

Photo courtesy of Architectural Digest

Decorative Tiles & Prints
Decorative Tiles & Prints

Photo courtesy of Consign 2 Design

Decorative Tiles & Prints
Decorative Tiles & Prints

Photo courtesy of Paul Bardagjy Photography

Decorative Tiles & Prints
Decorative Tiles & Prints

Photo courtesy of PizaTella

Decorative Tiles & Prints
Decorative Tiles & Prints

Photo courtesy of images 4 you

Decorative Tiles & Prints
Decorative Tiles & Prints

Photo courtesy of HGTV

Modernity
Modernity

Photo courtesy of Hi Consumption

Modernity
Modernity

Photo courtesy of Treeinggear

Modernity
Modernity

Photo courtesy of Freshome

 

Ashley Steel is staff writer/editor for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in Home Decor/Furniture, New Home Design | Comments Off