Beautiful backyard: Making the most of your outdoor space

We’re talking beautifying the backyard, refreshing salads and inflatable floats.

GET KEEN on a trampoline. (photo credit: FLAVIUS LES AND MARTIN MAGNEMYR/UNSPLASH)
GET KEEN on a trampoline.
(photo credit: FLAVIUS LES AND MARTIN MAGNEMYR/UNSPLASH)
 After spending more than a year cooped up indoors, we’re all ready to bust loose and enjoy the outdoors. Whether you’re lucky enough to have a sprawling backyard or patio or you live in a shoe-box apartment and your only access to the outdoors is opening a window, we’ve rounded up some fantastic summer recipes to cool down as the temperatures heat up. 
We also have expert-backed tips for making the most out of your outdoor space without spending major shekels. 
Don’t forget that if your home isn’t equipped with space for water balloons and Stomp Rockets, you can always take the party outside, as Jerusalem offers a long list of forests, national parks and botanical gardens including the famed Wohl Rose Garden, Independence Park and Gan Sacher, perfect for picnics and other outdoor activities.
Read on for some inspiration to get the summer fun started. 

OUTDOOR TOYS

From oversized floats and inflatable pools to water guns and trampolines, Max Stock has a long list of affordable options to entertain the kids and cool down adults. Do note that inflating a pool and filling it with water (and then emptying it) is no small task, so plan accordingly – or at least make sure there’s a hose with strong water pressure nearby. Ace is another worthy place to look for outdoor pools and accessories – both large ones that you can keep set up for months and disposable ones. 
Israeli favorite Paletas (natural gourmet popsicles made of fresh fruit and other ingredients), which you can shop for in-store or order online, go great for an added cooling-down effect. 
BREAK OUT a couple of beanbag chairs or cushions to create a fun hang-out space. (Photo credit: Mike Gifford/Flickr)BREAK OUT a couple of beanbag chairs or cushions to create a fun hang-out space. (Photo credit: Mike Gifford/Flickr) 

MAXIMIZING YOUR OUTDOOR SPACE

If you’re lucky enough to have a balcony or backyard, it likely isn’t very big given the rising cost of living in Jerusalem. But don’t fret – there’s plenty you can do with even a patch of grass. 
“Making the most out of your outdoor space doesn’t need to be complicated or cost a lot of money,” says interior designer and host of HGTV’s hit show Bargain Mansions Tamara Day.
“One of my favorite ways to enjoy hanging with my family outdoors is creating a fun hang-out space to lounge around. I’ll pull out an old quilt from my grandmother or an old tablecloth and lay it out alongside a couple of beanbags or cushions to lean on. Then, add a little entertainment with a stack of playing cards and a portable speaker to play some fun tunes. 
“I also love to create my own picnic. I like to let the kids help pack a picnic by letting everybody pick one item that’s healthy one item that’s fun, either right from the refrigerator or pantry, or with a quick run to the market. They have a blast and I don’t have to clean up the kitchen – it’s a win-win!”
Day goes on to underline that having a backyard playground doesn’t have to be expensive either. 
“We recently created our own DIY jungle gym in the backyard by using items right from the garage. Instead of having a big chunky playground in the yard, we utilized the space right under the deck to make it more intimate for fun activities and hanging out. We hung a couple of ropes under the deck creating some swings and a rope wall for climbing. It was super inexpensive and all the neighborhood kids just love it.”
 For those balmy nights, fire pits are all the rage these days. An easy and inexpensive way of creating one is to use cinder blocks. 
“Stack them out two or three high in a square or round formation with gravel or sand in the middle, and you’ve got a safe spot to throw some logs in and makes s’mores,” says Day. “If you want to get a little fancier, you could tile around the edges of the cinderblocks to make it look a bit more finished, but either way will work perfectly.”
It doesn’t end there. There are plenty more family-friendly ideas to liven up your outdoor space. 
“Make flower centerpieces with greenery and flowers from your backyard and use vases and drinking glasses to hold them,” says designer Deborah DiMare. “You can also make a swing using an old tire and rope or a piece of wood and rope and hang on a tree or place pillows and towels under a shady tree and do yoga and meditate. Other fun activities – especially with kids – including drawing (just grab a pad and pencil and sketch the beautiful nature around you), making a teepee with large strong branches and blankets or making a bird bath and feeder with a large bowl and cups.”
DiMare goes on to suggest thinking of your outdoor space as an extension of your family room. 
“Use every inch of the outdoor area. Corners can be used for nooks for reading, planting or painting. There should be a gathering area with chairs, floor pillows or hammocks or a dining table and chairs. Whatever you do indoors, you should be able to do the majority of it in your outdoor area. If you like puzzles, make sure there is an area to do them. The goal is to create an environment for hanging out in. A shade to protect from the sun or rain is ideal. Seating should be comfy for adults. Chalk, games, etc. should be available to children. It should be its own mini-family room.”

REFRESHING SUMMER BITES

For inspiration beyond the run-of-the-mill hot dog/burger/steak setup, we reached out to food and beverage experts and asked them to share with us their favorite picks for spring/summer 2021. 
RAINBOW SUMMER salad – pretty and tasty. (Photo credit: Natty Seeff)RAINBOW SUMMER salad – pretty and tasty. (Photo credit: Natty Seeff)

Rainbow summer salad 

By Natty Seeff of Natflat Super Club 
(Serves 6-8)
“I love this colorful and simple salad as an accompaniment to any daytime or evening social gathering. It’s easy to put together, pretty to look at, super healthy, fresh, tasty and full of flavor – a crowd-pleaser every time!”
- Israeli cucumbers
- 4 medium-sized carrots
- 4 cups firm white mushrooms
- 4 cups cherry tomatoes
- 2 whole romaine lettuces (chopped small)
- ½ purple cabbage (thinly shredded)
- 1 kohlrabi chopped small
- 2 red peppers chopped small
- 4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
- 3 cups sweet corn kernels
Handful of parsley, mint and edible flowers (can be found at Carmella.co.il)
Chop and mix all ingredients before topping with the below dressing. 
Honey and mustard vinaigrette dressing 
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
- ¼ tsp. sumac
- 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. clear runny honey
- 2 Tbsp. French Dijon mustard 
- Juice of 2 lemons 

Thai fried egg salad 

By chef Leah Cohen, author of Lemongrass & Lime 
(Serves 2-4)
“Like all Southeast Asian salads, this isn’t a typical salad and it isn’t like our egg salad, which is dressed in mayonnaise. The egg is cooked at high heat in oil to get crunchy edges and traditionally eaten with rice – but it goes great on toast as well.”
- ½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- ¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
- 2 Tbsp. palm sugar
- 1 red Thai chili, thinly sliced
- 1 green Thai chili, thinly sliced
- ½ cup canola oil
- 8 large eggs, room temperature
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
- White pepper
- ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
To make the dressing whisk together the lime juice, fish sauce and palm sugar until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the chilies and let sit at room temperature while you prepare the eggs. The dressing can be made in advance and stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator. In a skillet, heat the oil over high heat until almost smoking. Add the eggs, 2 or 3 at a time, and cook for about a minute, until the white is crispy around the edges but the yolk is still runny. Transfer to a plate, pour a few heaping tablespoons of the dressing over the eggs, and garnish the top with a few slices of the garlic, shallot, a pinch of white pepper, and some of the cilantro leaves.

Hearts of palm and red grapefruit salad 

By chef Guy Vaknin, owner of Willow Vegan 
(Serves 2) 
“When I think of summer, I think of vibrant, fresh flavors and lighter meals that won’t weigh you down. This salad is the perfect combination of fresh citrus, herbs and seasonal vegetables that will satisfy any palette.”
- 1 ripe avocado 
- ½ cup of thinly sliced hearts of palm
- ½ cup of green bean slivers 
- 1 shallot, finely diced 
- 1 red grapefruit cut into segments
- 2 baby radishes finely sliced 
- 1 Tbsp. finely sliced mint
- 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
- ¼ of red chilli finely chopped 
- 6 oz cooked black forbidden rice 
- 3 cilantro sprigs
Dressing 
- 1 Tbsp. agave 
- 2 Tbsp. lime juice  
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- Salt and pepper to taste 
Cut avocado into slices and position on plate, then place cooked rice on top. In a separate bowl, gently mix all other ingredients and dressing except grapefruit and adjust taste with salt and pepper. Add mixed salad over the rice and garnish with grapefruit segments and cilantro.

Cooling cocktails

A fun summer activity – especially for those short on outdoor space – is putting together your own cocktail, which is made easier with a kit. NIJ & BIJ, a project that started during COVID, delivers all kinds of different cocktail kits right to your doorstep – from already mixed cocktail ones to DIY ones with all the bar accessories, so you can feel like a true bartender. 
The cocktails are made using premium products/brands including Patron, Grey Goose, freshly squeezed lemon, fresh fruit and herbs, etc. Prices range from NIS 120 to NIS 270 and they can deliver almost anywhere in Israel within a day or two. Call 050-898-9990. If you’re looking to gather the ingredients yourself, checkout the below expert developed recipes. 

Coconut water coladas 

By Andrea Correale, founder of Elegant Affairs 
(Serves 1)
- 2 ounces coconut vodka
- 2 ounces coconut water
- 2 ounces coconut milk
- Fresh coconut, with top cut off
- Fresh flower garnish
Combine vodka, coconut water and coconut milk, shake with ice and pour into fresh coconut with fresh flower as garnish.

Watermelon vodkarita 

By Pernod Ricard (serves 1)
- 2 parts watermelon vodka 
- 1½ parts fresh watermelon puree 
- ¾ parts lime juice
- ¾ parts simple syrup
- ¼ parts orange liqueur
Add all ingredients with ice. Shake and strain into rocks glass with a half salt rim. Garnish with watermelon slide and lime wedge. 

KIDDIE TREATS 

Keep the kids happily hydrated and fed with these unique summer recipe ideas. 

Cucumber-Melon Margarita Mocktail 

By Haylie Pomroy, celebrity nutritionist 
(Serves 2)
“This thirst-quenching and energizing mocktail is a perfect drink to enjoy this summer. Packed with B vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber, it will keep you satisfied and hydrated.”
- 2 cups cantaloupe chunks
- ½ large seedless cucumber, peeled and chopped
- 14 drops liquid stevia
- 2 cups ice
Place cantaloupe chunks, cucumber and stevia in a blender. Blend until pureed. Add ice and continue blending until smooth. 

Cherry pie fries 

By Andrea Correale, founder of Elegant Affairs
(Serves 4-5)
This quick and easy recipe is great when served with cherry pie filling, jam or even melted chocolate. 
- Pie crust dough
- Cinnamon
- Sugar
Preheat oven to 200ºC; line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and grease. Slice dough into strips about a half-inch wide and two inches long. Arrange fries onto the cookie sheet and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Bake for 15 minutes. 

Berry banana sorbet 

By Patty Mastracco 
(Serves 4)
“Bananas give this fruity sorbet a nice creamy texture. You’ll find frozen sliced bananas in the freezer section, or spread sliced fresh bananas in a single layer on a waxed paper or plastic wrap lined baking sheet and freeze until firm.”
- 4 cups frozen sliced bananas
- 2 cups slightly heaping frozen mixed berries
Partially thaw fruits then puree in a blender until very smooth. Transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze until firm. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving to soften slightly. Variations: Stir in 1 teaspoon lemon extract for a fresh tangy flavor. Pour into Popsicle molds with a stick and freeze. Scoop between two frozen waffles, freeze and enjoy cut in quarters.

PB banana bites 

By David Trotta, Chef and Owner, Whealth Kitchen
(Serves 2)
“Not only are these easy and delicious but you can make them with you kids. You can also make it allergy friendly by replacing the peanut butter with your favorite nut butter.”
- 3 ripe bananas 
- 2 Tbsp. peanut butter 
- 1 Tbsp. chia seed 
- ½ cup chocolate chips 
- Preheat oven to 170ºC. Smash bananas, mix in peanut butter until incorporated, add chia and chocolate chips. Mix well. Grease mini muffin pan fill to the top. Bake 20-30 minutes.