Save time, energy and frustration by using smart home tech the next time you host family and friends for a holiday meal!
Guest post by June Lawrence
Whether your holiday entertaining features casual cocktail parties, full-fare, sit-down meals, or an open house for friends and neighbors – you can save time, energy and frustration with the latest home tech solutions that make holiday hosting easy. Smart home automation trends have made steady inroads in domestic consumer goods, home automation, and wireless entertainment market sectors, with expectations to surge beyond $3 billion in 2017.
Basic smart home tech starts with voice-controlled devices, wireless sensors, and semi-artificial intelligence platforms changing the way we entertain, work, and interact. These can reduce and help with chores that eat up your time and energy when hosting during the holidays. Whether you are menu planning, grocery shopping, stocking the bar, notifying attendees, or cleaning, there’s an app – or smart gadget to the rescue.
Holiday Shopping Helpers
Holiday menu shopping has never been simpler with The Shopping Button. As you scrutinize the pantry, use the voice recognition and recording features to create your holiday grocery list on-the-go. If this year’s holiday feast and lavish delicacies are a budget-buster, use this gadget to save money by scanning barcodes at your local, premium marketplace. Then connect and download your selections online for price comparisons and fast order placement.
New low-profile robotic vacuum cleaners include many updated features. Precise control directly from your smartphone takes care of last-minute clean-up or tidying between guest functions. Not only can you clean low-pile carpet or hardwood floors with a preprogrammed, recurring schedule, these labor-saving vacuums also dock and clean themselves.
Preparing the Kitchen
Smart home and kitchen automation systems are possibly the greatest application of smart technology for worry-free holiday hosting. Kitchen appliances that mate with a wide array of on-demand applications monitor and provide continuous feedback while preparing holiday dishes and desserts.
Smart kitchen appliances equipped with on-board intelligence, high-powered thermometers, and digital sensors tell you when to stir, flip, or add ingredients – like the pantelligent. Cook fast or slow, but cook smart with pressure cookers and crock pots monitored and controlled via smartphone.
For those with a bigger budget, consider swapping outdated kitchen appliances for new, connected cooking versions. A smart home hub provides seamless connectivity for multiple appliances; such as refrigerators that automatically send restock messages and smart ovens for perfect holiday pies. According to HomeAdvisor, the national average cost for a home automation system is about $1,200.
Cooking the Main Dish
Presenting the perfect Thanksgiving turkey or a succulent Christmas ham can be worrisome. Consider a smart thermometer with presets for all types of meats and weights to take the anxiety out of over or undercooking the holiday bird. You’ll always know the temperature of your food and exactly when it’s done. The key is a Bluetooth connection to your phone and easy-to-use, icon-based apps.
Large parties, especially those held at an off-site venue, often require the same planning and coordination as small corporate events. Consider party planning appsthat feature automated email invitations; interactive, step-by-step mixology videos, and helpful reminders at every stage of your event planning timeline.
And not to worry, you can always keep the holiday cheer pouring with an Internet-connected wine cooler. Within 30 seconds, internal cameras will scan wine labels to correctly identify and chill each bottle independently and at the perfect temperature.
Even sensor-driven kitchen fixtures lend a helping hand with liquid refreshments. Taps that deliver steaming hot water on command or touchless faucets that turn off and on with hand gestures are quick plumbing installations that cost between $90 – $500.
For the perfect finishing touch to a great holiday party complete the holiday ambiance with lighting. Consider installing the Phillips Smart Hue line of wireless and smart lightbulbs. Go from warm white exposure for casual conversation to a holiday-inspired scene for singing, dancing, and drinks. Smart lighting is also a great way to establish different moods throughout the home for an array of holiday entertaining or age groups.
Why spend the holidays frantically keeping up with all there is to do when smart home tech can lend an extra set of eyes, ears, and hands for trouble-free holiday hosting!
Source: CB Blue Matter Blog
For some sports fans, there’s more to the game day experience than the game itself. Sure, it’s great to cheer on your favorite team through a white-knuckle competition, but it’s just as fun to explore the smorgasbord of delicious food that every stadium and arena across America has to offer. Food is a big part of the stadium experience, whether you’re sharing a snack with friends or chowing down on a full meal from the comfort of the stands.
Nachos, chili cheese dogs, cotton candy and pretzels are just some of the classic foods you’ll find spectators noshing on—and don’t forget liquid accompaniments ranging from lemonade to beer. But as tasty as they are, these treats can do a number on your waistline. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to replicate your favorite game day snacks at home—and with creative and healthy twists—no matter which team you root for.
America’s pastime isn’t complete without a ballpark frank—and that goes double for Chicago Cubs fans, who gobble down Chicago-style hot dogs by the thousands each season. Topped with a garden of veggies—including tomato slices, white onion, pickle relish, sport peppers and a pickle spear—a Chicago dog is a much smarter choice than a chili cheese dog. And with a few simple substitutions—like chicken sausage instead of beef, organic veggies, and whole wheat buns—you won’t feel guilty going back for seconds. Or thirds.
Buffalo, New York is most famous for three things: the Buffalo Bills, the Buffalo Sabres, and the tangy, spicy, bright orange sauce that works so perfectly on chicken wings. Traditionally, buffalo wings should be fried, but grilling is a healthy and delicious alternative (and baking works just as well). Make sure you have a big stack of napkins for this snack, and don’t forget the celery and bleu cheese.
Peanuts are the perfect handheld snack that can feed tons of sports fans with very little effort. Rich in protein, they can be sweet, spicy, salty or sometimes all three. Southern sports fans have a penchant for boiled peanuts, which can be whipped up in a crock pot, while roasted peanuts have universal appeal.
If you’re making fries at home, you might as well kick it up a notch. Northern California is famous for its garlic and, as a result, its garlic fries. So it comes as no surprise that the dish is one of the most popular menu items at San Francisco’s AT&T Stadium, home of the Giants. If you follow this recipe, you won’t even need a deep fryer.
If there’s one thing New York Yankees and New York Mets fans can agree on, it’s that a baseball game isn’t complete without a soft pretzel and a side of spicy mustard. But if you’re gluten intolerant, you often miss out on this handheld treat. Luckily, pretzels are surprisingly easy to make at home—even without the wheat.
Stadium nachos are notorious for their neon yellow cheese sauce and a few other suspicious toppings. At home, you can load up your tortilla chips with whatever you want. Miami fans swear by Cuban-style nachos, which add a Caribbean twist to the traditional recipe by topping gluten-free tortilla chips with slow-cooked pork, ham and a light Swiss cheese sauce.
By the time the seventh-inning stretch rolls around, you’re going to be craving something sweet—that’s the real reason Cracker Jacks are prominently featured in “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” By substituting sugar with maple syrup, you can make caramel corn that’s as good as the Cracker Jacks you remember from childhood baseball games—but without all the calories (or, sadly, the toy surprise).
After all the hot dogs, peanuts and other snacks, you’re going to need something to quench your thirst. With just three ingredients—lemons, water, and honey—you can make ballpark-park quality lemonade at a fraction of the price.
Once you’ve gathered your snacks and turned on the game, it’s easy to recreate the stadium experience at home. Just gather your favorite sports fans, sit back and dig in.
Source: CB Blue Matter Blog
Come check out CBKG’s guide to the BEST 4th of July Celebrations in our area.
Lots of fun to had here people! Let’s Get out there and Celebrate!
Suisun City Independence Day Spectacular
|Picnic in the Park and Fireworks
Where: Benicia, Benicia City Park
When: July 4, noon – 7 p.m., Fireworks at 9 p.m.
Six Flags Discovery Harbor July 4th Fest
|Vacaville 4th of July Fireworks & Creekside Concert
Where: Vacaville, Andrews Park
When: July 4, 6:30 p.m., Fireworks at dusk
Fairfield Independence Day Parade
|Napa County Fair & Fireworks
Where: Calistoga, Napa County Fairgrounds
When: July 4, 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m., Parade at 11:00 a.m. Fireworks at 9:30 p.m.
Watch A’s Fireworks From the Field
|Celebrate Concord 4th of July
Where: Downtown Concord, Todos Santos Plaza
When: July 4, 8 a.m. – 10 p.m.; 5K/Kids run at 8 a.m., parade at 10 a.m., festival at 4 p.m. and fireworks at 9 p.m.
Alameda County Fair 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular
|Vallejo 4th of July Parade
Where: Vallejo, Downtown Vallejo
When: July 4, 12:00 a.m.
American Canyon 4th of July Festivities
|Dixon’s Family 4th of July in Hall Park
Where: Dixon, Hall Park
When: July 4, 8:00 p.m., Fireworks at dusk
Antioch’s An Old Fashioned Hometown 4th of July
|West Sacramento Fourth on the Field
Where: West Sacramento, Rayley Field
When: July 4, 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m..
Pleasant Hill Fourth of July Celebration
|Napa 4th of July Festival & Fireworks
Where: Napa, Downtown Napa & Oxbow Commons & Veterans Park
When: July 4, 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. Parade at 10:00 a.m., Festival at 1:00 p.m., Fireworks at 9:30 p.m.
Folsom Pro Rodeo
|Sacramento Independence Day Celebration
Where: Sacramento, Cal Expo
When: July 4, 5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. Gates open at 5:00 p.m., Fireworks at 9:30 p.m.
Ahhhhh, the sweet smells of summer BBQ! Nothing beats grilling and chilling!
There’s nothing better than the flavor and presentation of food cooked on a grill. The slightly smoky flavor and ease of preparation makes grilling one of the top cooking methods any time of the year. Even when there is a chill in the air, stepping outside to grill a meal is quick and easy.
Now that summer is around the corner, many of us are dining al fresco, and that often includes a grilled dish. Almost any food can be grilled, from steak to Portobello mushrooms, and occasionally a food that you wouldn’t imagine, such as thickly cut Greek cheese (Halloumi), which grills perfectly.
For those who don’t have access to an outdoor grill, I’ve had success with cast-iron indoor grilling pans. Indoor grilling pans, which can be found in any cookware store, add a depth of flavor similar to outdoor gas grilling. I own two square ones that fit over a burner and can accommodate two servings of protein or four pieces of fresh corn or sliced eggplant.
Here are some of my tips to make the most of your grilling.
What to Grill
Most important, you need to know which foods are best grilled. Any cut of meat or chicken is ideal for grilling.
For dark-meat chicken, I recommend cooking it first in the oven to get it about three quarters done and then finishing it on the grill to avoid overly dark or blackened skin. Chicken breasts cook quickly about three minutes per side. I recommend you pound the chicken to an even thickness to assure perfect doneness.
Fish is best if you choose steak fish (such as tuna, salmon, swordfish or shark) or whole fish (such as snapper or bass). Shellfish, including shrimp, scallops, clams and lobster, are wonderful on the grill and can be served room temperature or as part of a salad. I tend to avoid thin fish fillets for grilling as they are too delicate for the high heat and difficult to move off the grill.
All kinds of grilled vegetables are wonderful. My personal favorites are asparagus, mushrooms, onions, peppers, zucchini, eggplant, cauliflower, unripe tomatoes and corn. Consider buying a grill basket for smaller veggies to avoid them falling into the grill. For the vegetarians among us, both tofu and tempeh are delicious in their grilled form, especially paired with a flavorful marinade.
Get the Grill Ready
To prepare the grill, heat is of utmost importance for a guaranteed non-stick surface. If your food is not ready to turn easily, simply leave it another minute to ensure the proper sear. If you are grilling something with little to no marinade, be sure to spray the grill lightly with vegetable cooking spray or brush lightly with olive oil.
My favorite element in grilling is the marinade. A marinade can be as simple as vinaigrette with a few fresh herbs mixed in, and sauces such as salsas, pestos and reserved boiled marinades add a ton of flavor to just about any grilled food.
Because there’s no sauce or fat in the pan, and most grilled foods cook fairly quickly, a marinade not only tenderizes, but adds flavor. I usually marinate dishes for at least two hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator, depending on what you’re preparing.
I recommend reserving the leftover marinade and bringing it to a boil in a small saucepan for four or five minutes, to kill any bacteria, along with a little red wine, if desired, and you have an amazing sauce to drizzle over your grilled dish.
There’s the Rub
Fish is one exception where the marinade can actually cook the fish, so don’t marinate fish and shellfish for more than an hour. This is where a spice rub can be the perfect flavor enhancer. I often use spice rubs for tuna, salmon or shrimp.
Simply toast a few of your favorite spices, such as cumin, mustard seeds, peppercorns and coriander. Grind them in a coffee or spice grinder, coat the fish lightly with olive oil, then sprinkle the spices and a pinch of sea salt. You’ve now elevated your fish to another level.
I love the taste of grilled bread and often serve it lightly brushed with extra virgin olive oil and rubbed with a cut clove of garlic, as you might enjoy in Tuscany. Grill the bread for three or four minutes on each side and serve with chopped tomatoes, olives and mushrooms, or, serve it plain, with a few shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano. I often make hummus or a spread, such as a white bean puree, to serve guests while they are having a chilled glass of wine.