Monthly Archives: May 2016

Best Evah Bar-B-Que Sauce

Why buy store-bought when you can impress your guests with this homemade sauce packed full of flavor? Make up a batch of this ahead of time to let the flavors meld together. It’ll keep in a jar in the fridge for about a month.

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1 ½ cup honey

1 cup ketchup

1 6oz. can tomato paste

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tbsp. cocoa powder

1 tbsp. curry powder

1 tbsp. paprika

1 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp. Tabasco sauce

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Makes about 3 cups.

Cajun Shrimp Skewers

It couldn’t be easier to infuse your grilled shrimp with tons of flavor with this easy marinade. Your backyard entertaining just got kicked up a notch!

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2 lbs. shrimp, uncooked, deveined, with tails on

Large resealable plastic bag

1 onion, finely chopped

1 cup peanut oil

2 tbsp. Cajun seasoning

1 tbsp. garlic, minced

2 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. rosemary

1 tsp. thyme

Wood skewers, soaked in water

 

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Place shrimp in the plastic bag and pour marinade over. Refrigerate for 2 hours or so. Bring the grill to medium heat. Thread shrimp on wooden skewers and grill 5 to 7 minutes, turning and basting frequently with the rest of the marinade.  Serve with Cajun butter for dipping.

 

Cajun Butter

½ lb. melted butter

1 tsp. basil

1 tsp. tarragon

1 tsp. Cajun seasoning

½ tsp. garlic powder

2 to 3 drops Tabasco sauce

Jade and Ivory Pasta Salad

Tired of serving the traditional macaroni salad at your backyard bar-be-que, this classic from Pasta and Co. is a brilliant deviation. Make ahead and keep in the fridge the day before if you’re short on time.

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Ingredients:

1 cup olive oil

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 cloves garlic, peeled and run through a press

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

20 grinds of fresh pepper- preferably green peppercorns

3 tablespoons whipping cream

1 pound fresh pasta

1/3 cup Myzithra cheese, grated

¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1 cup chives or green onions, finely minced

½ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

2 cups frozen peas, thawed and drained

2 cups blanched asparagus tips, cut no longer than 2 inches

Additional green onions sliced on the diagonal for garnish

 

Directions:

In a large bowl, mix together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, red pepper flakes and ground pepper, and whipping cream. Set aside.

Cook pasta al dente in salted boiling water. Drain and rinse with cold water. Toss the pasta in the dressing and allow to cool at room temperature. Gently fold in the remaining ingredients and serve with additional green onions for garnish.

Spicy Pulled Pork

Always a crowd pleaser, pulled pork can be prepared the day before and warmed on the stove top or in a crock pot before serving. Use hoagie rolls for full sandwiches, King’s Hawaiian dinner rolls for excellent sliders, or, as the Pioneer Woman suggests in this recipe, serve with tortillas and lime wedges.

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Ingredients:

  • One 5-7 pound pork shoulder
  • 1 whole onion, cut into quarters
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons salt, or to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
  2. In a food processor, combine the onion, chili powder, brown sugar, garlic, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, olive oil, and vinegar. Pulse until totally combined.
  3. Pour the mixture over the pork and rub it in well, covering every accessible part.
  4. Place the pork into a roasting pan or Dutch oven and add 2 cups water. Cover tightly and roast for 6 or 7 hours, turning once every hour.
  5. Check to make sure it’s fork-tender. Increase the heat to 425 and roast uncovered for 20 minutes or until the skin gets crispy. Remove from the oven and allow the pork to rest for 15 minutes.
  6. Shred the meat, using two forks to pull it apart. Place the shredded meat on a large platter lined with lime wedges.
  7. Pour the pan juices over the shredded meat. This will ensure that the meat stays extra tender.
  8. Serve with warm tortillas

Vacation Homes for Every Family

Building your custom house is not only for those seeking a new primary residence. For any number of factors people will continue to choose to live in urban areas, or in housing developments in which the homeowner’s level of control is managed by a larger organization. Maybe a condominium is perfect for you right now, with its lack of yard maintenance and convenient locations. These can all be very functional living arrangements for many. But the dream of building a unique living space infects us all, and vacation homes offer a viable option.

Smaller house plans with features designed for comfort and convenience are very popular on our site these days. The requirements for a vacation home are often different from those of a permanent residence, but no less inventive. Typically boasting open floor plans, ample storage and closet space, and gathering spaces, these house plans are all about bringing people together. Smaller square footage and simple roof designs can keep the cost of building a vacation home economical, while easily adaptable custom features make for a uniquely functional space. Also with these smaller house plans comes a greater adaptability in terms of lot choice.

While packing up the car this weekend with all the accouterments a camping trip requires, allow yourself to imagine for a moment how easy it would be to spend the long weekend at your vacation home. Rather than mounting the kayak to the top of the car, its waiting in the garage of your lakeside cabin. Instead of eating out for the duration of your trip, you stock your kitchen with the necessary ingredients and cookware. Rather than struggling with a sleeping bag on uneven ground, you rest in a bedroom that opens onto a screened-in porch for that open air feeling. Whether your vacation home is a cabin in the woods, a beach house on the coast, a log cabin by the side of a lake, or an A-frame up in the mountains, the options are truly limitless.

Upgrade Your Entertaining With a Grilling Porch

Memorial Day weekend is often seen as the opening of the summer season. Bar-be-ques are brought out and dusted off, last year’s grime is scraped away from the grill.  Many families will be either hosting or attending some kind of backyard gathering in the next few days, and sharing an outside meal with friends and family.

As anyone with a grill knows, finding a proper place for outdoor cooking can be something of a challenge. With this in mind, house plans with built-in grilling porches are soaring in popularity. They are stunning additions to the outside space of your home, designed with both aesthetics and function in mind. Often located at the back of the house, grilling porches are usually connected to the kitchen, making cooking a cinch and movement between food preparation areas as easy as can be. Unique features can be added as well, like windows that open onto counter space for pass-through simplicity, dutch doors between kitchen and grilling porch, and either fully enclosed or partially open porches under full cover from the elements.

From a safety standpoint, a built in grilling porch is also a safe and efficient way to enable cooking outdoors. With a house plan that includes a grilling porch the standards set forth by the International Code Council governing fire safety in cooking appliances are met to the highest degree. For many people, the benefit of having a professional designer ensure the utmost in safety for outside cooking practices offers enormous peace of mind.

Between the aesthetic benefits and the built-in safety considerations, a grilling porch is a must-have for anyone who enjoys cooking out in the open air. Whether hosting large gatherings or simply moving family dinners out of the dining room on a pleasant evening, having someplace designed especially to accommodate a fresh air meal is an affordable luxury and an enviable feature on any dream home project.

We Honor With Our Thanks

Memorial Day weekend is seen by many as a cause for jubilant celebration: the first three-day weekend of the year, the opening of the summer season, a social history of bar-be-ques and garden parties, and a good chance to get out of town for camping and other outdoor activities. Friends and family gather together and it’s an all-around good time for many.

As a designer of dream homes, what better way to celebrate building your custom home than to be able to host gatherings of loved ones there? I would never begrudge anyone for having a party this weekend, but I would suggest that we all interject a little thoughtfulness into our celebrations. There is, as we all well know, a patriotic element to this weekend that sometimes goes under-recognized. At its inception, Memorial Day was called Decoration Day, and families would decorate the headstones of the many men lost during the Civil War. Over the years the holiday has evolved to include those lost in all wars while serving in the United States’ Armed Forces, and now is often barely a mention amidst the fervor of the long weekend.

Decorated graves of U.S. soldiers

Decorated graves of U.S. soldiers

Take a few moments to remember those you have known and lost to the unthinkable horrors of war. Consider the incredible blessings bestowed upon us by our constitution, when so many people in this world do not enjoy such privilege. Offer a moment of gratitude for the simple joy of having your friends and family around you and, in this season of political mayhem, relish the opportunity we all have to formulate and share a unique opinion. Thank the heroes in your life for their service and, if they are willing, listen to their stories.

Bravery | Courage | Service

Bravery | Courage | Service

There is so much to be grateful for in this world, even in the face of difficulty and uncertainty. No matter how you choose to celebrate this weekend, make a little space to be thankful for the good things in your life, and tell the people close to you that you love them. Believe me, it makes all the difference.

Finding ways to give back for all the goodness I receive is a foundational issue for me. In honor of Memorial Day, MonsterHousePlans.com will donate $50 to the Gary Sinise Foundation for every house plan sold between now and Flag Day, June 14th. We are honored and privileged to offer our small support of this wonderful organization, and are excited to share the power of this donation with all of you as well.

Be safe and well this weekend, and we look forward to all the exciting projects we will share with you in the future!

We honor with our thanks.

We honor with our thanks.

Save Money With Solar Panels

Save Money with Solar Panels

Building a home can be an expensive endeavor, and most people preparing to embark on this project are on the lookout for ways to save money- both in the construction phase and in the future years of living in your dream house. The decision to go with alternative energy sources is one that is best made early-on as you browse for floor plans, as the house plan you choose to build from will impact your options for alternative energy sources.

Solar panels have been on the commercial market now since the 1950’s and recent developments in technology have greatly improved the efficiency and storage capacity of solar panels. Versions of this technology are available in hundreds of smaller products, in everything from landscaping lighting options to solar cell phone and tablet chargers. But solar panels on the roof of your new home can save you hundreds of dollars each year in utilities and reduce your dependence on traditional sources of electricity.

Forbes magazine estimates that installing solar panels of your roof can reduce your family’s carbon footprint by as much as 35,180 pounds of carbon dioxide each year, doing the work of 88 trees. For those interested in green structures and efficient houses, this is an impressive statistic. And with so many people interested in this option, there are now several ways to go about it.

Many companies will lease solar panels and include installation in the overall cost of the agreement. The benefit of this arrangement is mostly financial, as the company who leases the equipment stores the electricity and sells it back to the consumer, often at a lower rate than the electrical company.

For some, installing permanent solar panels will be the best option. There is an initial cost investment in the materials and the skilled labor required to install them, but you can expect to begin recouping that investment right away. Electricity can be harnessed to power lights, heat, hot water heaters, swimming pools and hot tubs, and any other electricity-based appliance. Solar panels are also estimated to increase the resale value of your home by as much as 20%, so for many home builders it is a worthy venture.

Fenced In

Fenced In

It was Robert Frost who intoned over 100 years ago: good fences make good neighbors. A visible boundary around one piece of property to separate it from the next one, a fence is called upon to serve many purposes. But when considering building your dream house on a new lot, the decision to include a fence can be based on several factors.

Security

At its most basic level, a fence is a safety feature. Designed to protect your yard and your home from unwanted attention, security fences can be anything from solid wood to chain link. Highly security-conscious consumers can set up electrical fencing as part of an alarm system to warn of intruders and dissuade against the impulse to violate the boundary.

Property Division

Fences are often used to mark out the boundaries of one parcel of land. These can be as simple as occasional markers stuck in the ground to denote a property line or a single wire strung between posts at the corners of the lot. In older pieces of land, the property line can sometimes be marked by naturally occurring divisions, such as a change in landscape or a line of trees or shrubbery.

Aesthetics

A fence is also often used as a decorative touch to the overall vision of your dream house. The ever-popular picket fence is just one example among many of this kind of addition. Ornamental fencing can complete the overall look of your home and can be either quite affordable or very expensive, depending on the materials you use. Because the intention of this kind of fencing is aesthetic, the options are unlimited and can be easily matched to the style of home you are planning to build.

As you put the finishing touches on your vision for your dream home, consider the reasons for building a fence as you choose how to proceed. And with house plans that feature wrap around front porches or verandas, some will choose not to build a fence at all, creating an open feel to the yard and enabling the porch railings to serve double-duty as a protective boundary around the home.

In Praise of the Small House

Too often the dream of building a custom home is catered to those with a growing family. Spaces for children and/or aging parents and in-laws dominate ads and idea boards, and the vision of home owners is guided to a bigger-is-better mentality.

But the dream of building a custom home is suited for everyone, no matter the size of your family, the lot you purchase, or the location you choose. Smaller homes make sense in areas with dense populations and high property taxes. For the working professional, or the retiring couple, or the investor interested in long term returns, building a small house can be approachable, efficient, and lucrative.

Modern small houses are marvels of clever creativity. There are a million ways, it seems, to maximize space and visually expand it so you can have the best of both worlds: a collection of rooms magnified for airiness and light, yet without the burden of superfluous space. Function drives the vehicle of decision-making but not at the expense of aesthetics. For many, then, sometimes the preferred solution is to limit available space to only that which is required. This forces a thoughtful discretion when purchasing items for the home, and urges a careful vision when designing the space.

By considering building your dream home in subtle proportions, possibilities are opened up that are difficult to manifest with larger homes, like the option of building on lots in urban spaces, already perked, and zoned for residential construction A larger home requires a larger lot and, with today’s exponentially growing populations, this will often relegate your property purchasing options to the periphery of a large city. And while the suburbs are wonderful areas for families, there are many who would build their dream home much closer to the epicenter of activity.

As you sift through house plans and imagine the home you will someday build, try to remember that there is room in this process for every vision. Whether you seek to build a large home or a smaller one, you will find unique floor plans and advice from architects for dream homes of every size.