How cheese can take your grilling from average to amazing


The sun is shining and the smell of charcoal is in the air – it’s officially grilling season. Eighty-five percent of consumers will take to the tongs for some outdoor grilling this summer, according to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association. So what’s on the menu?

 
The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) has developed a host of smokin’ tips and juicy recipes that will make you say “cheese please” at your next backyard feast.

 
Savor the real California Cheese flavor 

 
Did you know certain varieties of cheese can be grilled alone for a tasty treat? For optimal grilling results, avoid having the cheese on direct heat or for the grill to be too hot. Wrap the cheese in edible leaves that have been soaked in liquid (fruit juice, olive oil, wine) or put in a ramekin and place over indirect flames and on the cooler parts of the grill. If the temperature is too hot, the moisture from the cheese will evaporate, leaving you with a grainy texture.

 
Different textures of Real California Cheeses will respond differently to the dry heat of a grill. For example:

 
* Soft/fresh and semi-soft/mold-ripened – A category of cheeses that are typically creamy in texture, such as Brie, Ricotta and Mascarpone, are best contained in a ramekin or wrapped up in an edible leaf. 

 
* Semi-hard /cooking, melting – These include cheeses such as Monterey Jack and Cheddar and are best incorporated into a dish, in or on a burger. 

 
* Hard/grating – Generally describes any cheese aged sufficiently to become firm enough to grate, such as Dry Jack and several Hispanic-style cheeses, such as Cotija Anejo and Enchilado, which are dry, crumble easily and are used as a grating cheese in many Mexican dishes. These cheeses should only be used as an ingredient. 

 
* Blue – Best incorporated into a dish, in or on a burger.
Avoid the burn

 
To check if the cheese is done and warmed through, it should have a pillowy or supple texture depending on the type of cheese. Higher moisture cheeses will be softer and firmer cheeses will have a more supple texture. Cook 10 to 15 minutes depending on cheese variety, size and how hot your grill is.

 
Perfectly grilled meals using real California Cheese
The grill isn’t only for preparing burgers, chicken and fish. Expand your grilling horizons and next time you are firing up the barbecue try:

 
1. Pizza – Prepare dough and grill both sides until toasted but not entirely cooked – take off of grill and build your own pizza from a buffet of Real California Cheeses and other favorite pizza toppings.
2. Quesadillas – Make quesadillas on the grill using large tortillas and your favorite Real California Queso. Place shredded Queso on half the tortilla and fold. You can add anything from chicken and salsa to grilled vegetables.
3. Grilled cheese sandwich – Prepare your sandwiches on the grill by using hearty artisan bread that has a dense texture – you don’t want to lose any cheese into the fire. Brush the exterior of bread with butter and fill with a favorite cheddar (or any other semi-hard cheese) that has been shredded and mixed with chopped green onions and thinly sliced shallots.

 
With these simple tips, you are ready to impress family and friends with tasty flavors and pairings for any occasion. Just look for the Real California Cheese seal to guarantee you’re getting products made with 100 percent California milk. For more delicious ideas, recipes, and information visit RealCaliforniaMilk.com, like the company on Facebook at Facebook.com/RealCaliforniaMilk or follow on Twitter at Twitter.com/RealCalifMilk and Pinterest at Pinterest.com/RealCalifMilk.

 
Porter Beer Burger with Real California Gouda Cheese, Crispy Bacon and Caramelized Onions
Yield: Serves 4
Ingredients:
1 pound ground beef chuck 
4 ounces bacon, cooked until crisp, crumbled
1 cup yellow onion, diced
4 ounces porter beer
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 
4 ounces Real California Gouda cheese, sliced  
4 potato buns, toasted, for serving 
Stone ground mustard
Red leaf lettuce

 
Directions:
1. Place a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add bacon, cook until crisp then remove from pan. Add the onion to the bacon drippings in the pan and season with salt, cook until golden brown and caramelized. Add the porter to the pan and cook until the liquid has evaporated, remove from the pan and cool. Combine the beef, onions, crumbled bacon, and salt and pepper in a bowl, and mix to combine. Form the mixture into 4 patties, each about 3 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick.

 
2. Preheat the grill and brush the grill grate with oil. Add the burgers and grill for about 3 minutes for rare, 4 minutes for medium-rare meat. Turn them over and grill for another 3 or 4 minutes, topping the burgers with the cheese in the last minute of cooking. (Or panfry the burgers in the pan you cooked the bacon in, over medium heat for 3 minutes per side for rare meat, adding the cheese as described above.)

 
3. Place the burgers on the toasted bread, and top with the red leaf lettuce, mustard. Serve immediately.

Going gluten free may not be enough to manage celiac disease

Contrary to popular belief, celiac disease is more than just an upset stomach. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that can impair the ability of the body to absorb necessary nutrients which can lead to other health problems like anemia, weight loss, depression, osteoporosis, infertility, lymphoma and dental issues.

It is often difficult to diagnose, because the symptoms can be similar to those caused by irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, intestinal infections, lactose intolerance and depression, and each person experiences symptoms in a different way. Blood tests are the first step in a diagnosis of celiac disease.

The Food and Drug Administration established regulations in August that defines “gluten-free” for product manufacturers. The label “gluten-free” can be placed on any products that contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten.

However, even those who carefully choose their foods based on gluten-free labels also need to be aware of cross-contamination dangers, both at home and in the community. For example, if a cutting board is used to chop bread and vegetables without a thorough washing in-between, a person with celiac disease eating the vegetables could eat enough gluten to cause symptoms and/or injury to the small intestine.

For many people, completely eliminating gluten from their diet isn’t enough to alleviate all of their celiac disease symptoms or allow for complete healing of the intestinal damage caused by small amounts of gluten in the diet. About 60 percent of patients still experience moderate to severe symptoms of their disease while following a gluten-free diet, according to a recent study. The CeliAction Study is a clinical research study that will determine if an investigational drug is able to improve the damage in the lining of the intestine caused by even the smallest trace of gluten. The study will also evaluate whether the investigational drug improves any symptoms of celiac disease. Patients randomized into the study will not purposefully be exposed to gluten during the study. To learn more and to see if you qualify, call 855-3333-ACT or visit CeliActionStudy.com.

Patients can differ in the severity of their symptoms, and how those symptoms are managed. A lot of information is available both online and through health centers, providing patients and their families with knowledge about living on a gluten-free diet, including shopping tips and recipes.

Declaring energy independence for a brighter future

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries – OPEC – has a stranglehold on the United States’ fuel supply. In fact, the United States spends more than $1 million per minute on foreign oil – adding up to more than $450 billion per year, making this the largest wealth transfer in history. This situation is not only unsustainable; it leaves the U.S. indebted to the 12 OPEC member nations, including Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. 
For the first time in decades, the United States has the resources for energy independence. The discovery of abundant reserves of shale-based oil and natural gas, combined with new drilling technology needed to produce those resources, has given the United States a long-term source of homegrown energy. The U.S. has enough oil and natural gas to power 65 million cars for 60 years and heat 60 million households for 160 years, according to the American Petroleum Institute (API). By 2030, 100 percent of U.S. liquid fuel needs could be met by resources found in North America.  
Energy independence is within reach, and its benefits extend beyond enhanced national security. Increasing domestic oil and natural gas production does the following:
* Creates jobs: Oil and natural gas companies currently support 9.2 million U.S. jobs and are among the nation’s largest employers, according to API. Increasing domestic oil and natural gas development could create more than 1.4 million additional jobs. These jobs are both direct – energy company employees – and indirect – vendors and others who support the energy industry. The increase in domestic oil and natural gas development boosts other industries as well, including steel and manufacturing. 
Declaring%20energy%20independence* Revitalizes communities: Last year, the industry contributed $476 billion in direct support to a struggling economy. Domestic oil and natural gas are produced across the country, and wherever drilling takes place, local residents benefit from royalty payments and good-paying jobs. In fact, last year oil and natural gas companies paid more than $176 billion in wages and benefits and payments to oil and natural gas leaseholders. The oil and natural gas industry also provides an influx of tax dollars, paying $86 million per day to the federal government. County and state taxes paid by energy companies contribute to schools, roads and infrastructures.
* Promotes a healthier environment: Domestic energy – particularly natural gas – offers a cleaner energy future by helping reduce air pollution in communities around the country. As an electricity source and a viable transportation fuel, natural gas emits fewer pollutants and no mercury, according to the Energy Information Administration. 
Energy independence is no longer campaign rhetoric; it is reality. If you support fueling our country from within, declare your energy independence at http://www.chk.com/independence. 

HARP changes put refinancing in reach of more homeowners

(BPT) – When the federal Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP), millions took advantage, but many other homeowners found they couldn’t qualify to refinance their underwater mortgages. Today, significant enhancements have made the program more accessible for homeowners and a great opportunity to lower payments or build equity faster.

If you owe as much or more on your home than its current value, you’re considered “underwater” or “upside-down” on your mortgage. For some homeowners, the situation has led to foreclosure. Others, however, have stayed current on their mortgage payments, and those are the people HARP is intended to help.

You may be eligible for HARP if:

* You are current on your mortgage.

* Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac backs or owns your mortgage, and they acquired your mortgage on or before May 31, 2009. Use Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s online tools to find out.

* The mortgage is for your primary home, a single-family second home or a one- to four-unit investment property.

If you’re underwater but still able to afford your current mortgage payment, you may wonder why you would want to refinance. Refinancing a higher interest rate mortgage is a great way to obtain a lower rate that saves you money over the life of the loan. Unfortunately, traditional refinances are not designed to help people whose current home debt exceeds their home’s value. For underwater homeowners, qualifying for refinancing is virtually impossible without HARP.

When you refinance through HARP, you’ll likely end up with a lower monthly payment, a shorter-loan term or you can even refinance an adjustable rate mortgage into a 30-year fixed rate mortgage. You can invest those savings in other areas, such as home improvements, retirement savings or college funds. Home improvements, in particular, can be a great investment because they can increase your home’s value, even as you continue to pay down how much you owe on it.

With mortgage interest rates still historically low – but likely to rise – and the changes to HARP, it’s a good time for underwater homeowners to consider applying for the refinancing program. More homeowners will qualify under the new provisions, and some who were previously declined for the program may now be able to qualify for it.

Key HARP changes include:

* No underwater limits – Borrowers will now be able to-refinance-regardless of how far their homes have fallen in value. Previous loan-to-value limits were set at 125 percent. For example, if your home value was $100,000, your mortgage couldn’t exceed $125,000 in order for you to qualify for HARP. That limit has been lifted, so now you may qualify even if you owe much more than your home is worth.

* No appraisals or underwriting – Most homeowners will not have to get an appraisal or have their loan underwritten, making their refinance process smoother and faster.

* Modified fees – Certain risk-based fees have been reduced or eliminated altogether for borrowers who refinance into shorter-term loans.

* Less paperwork – Lenders have the option of qualifying a borrower by documenting that the borrower has at least 12 months of mortgage payments in reserve.

Perhaps most important, the deadline to apply for refinancing through HARP has been extended. Homeowners now have until Dec. 31, 2015 to apply, but take advantage of current low mortgage rates. To learn more about the new HARP and if you may be eligible to participate, visit http://www.HARP.gov.

Courtesy of BPT

Secrets to super steaks: Great grilling tips and techniques


Why is it that a steak from a restaurant just seems to taste better than what you make at home? Often, it’s because the chefs in the restaurant know the secrets of great grilling.

 
“Steak is a summer staple for many home cooks when the weather permits, but things can go awry if you’re not clued in to the secrets of how to prepare a great steak,” says John Li, senior vice president of research and development for Outback Steakhouse. “As veritable steak experts, and with summer grilling season upon us, we want to help people preparing to try their hands at grilling steak. 
Li offers some advice for grilling successful steak meals this summer:

 
* Start with the right steak. Build a relationship with your local butcher – either at your grocery store or, if you’re lucky enough to have one in your neighborhood, the area butcher shop. Learn where they source their meat, if it’s aged and for how long. Many cuts lend themselves to grilling, but sirloin, filet, strip and rib eye remain the most popular. Sirloin and strip steak are usually the best options  if you’re feeding a large group, as they provide abundant flavor and are usually less expensive than other cuts.

 
* Prep the grill properly. Once you’ve got the right meat, ensure your grill is ready to cook it to perfection. Start with a well-cleaned grill and preheat it. If you’re using a charcoal grill, wait until the coals are white. For gas grills, use a thermometer. Many newer models have built-in gauges on the lids that indicate when the grill is hot enough to use. 

 
* Add some seasoning. While the grill is preheating, prep the steak by patting it dry. Removing moisture allows for optimum surface contact with the grill and creates a wonderful seared flavor. Rub with the seasoning of your choice; there are many, but keep in mind simple salt and pepper works well if you’re starting with an already flavorful cut.

 
* Get grilling. Once the grill and steak are ready, place the meat on the grill. You can achieve a fancy diamond-shaped grill pattern by rotating the meat 45 degrees when you turn it, but the meat will taste just as good without it. Cooking time will vary depending on the cut of meat and the grill itself. Generally, thinner steaks (about 1 inch thick) will need about four minutes per side to be rare, five for medium and seven for well done. Thicker steaks (2 inches or more) will need about six minutes per side for rare, eight to 10 for medium and 12 for well done. 

 
* Let it rest. Overcooking is a sure-fire way to dry out steak. As soon as the steak has reached your desired level of wellness, remove it from the grill and let it rest for about five minutes before you serve or cut it. This allows the juices to set well in the meat before you dig in.

 
Not sure where to start? Try this recipe from Outback Steakhouse:
Ingredients:

 
4 rib eye steaks, 12 to 14 ounces each
4 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

 
Directions:
Evenly season each steak with a teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Coat each steak with a half tablespoon of vegetable oil. This may be done up to three hours prior to grilling, storing in the refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before grilling.
Start the grill. Place seasoned steaks over the hottest portion of the grill and cook on the first side about four to five minutes, rotating 90 degrees after three minutes to achieve restaurant-style “cross marks.” Turn steaks over and cook for an additional three to four minutes to achieve a medium-rare doneness. Remove from grill and allow to rest for five minutes before topping and serving.

 
Of course, even in summer there are times when you just won’t feel like cooking your own steak. Whether it’s a special night out, a family celebration or you’re just in the mood to sink your teeth into something you didn’t have to cook and won’t have to clean up afterward, restaurant steaks are still a good option. At Outback Steakhouse, for example, guests can enjoy a variety of cuts and preparations that allow for a custom experience, without any of the hassle.

Simple ways to give meals a boost of flavor

(BPT) – Flavor is a top priority whether you’re cooking for a gathering or simply putting food on the table for a weeknight meal. Great tasting food can do a lot: turn a party into a success, make guests rave and even get the kids to clean their plates. Luckily, you don’t have to be a five-star chef to give your meals a flavorful boost that everyone will love.

You can easily turn standard dishes into outstanding ones with some savvy cooking secrets. In fact, putting a subtle spin on the classics can surprise everyone at the table. They might not expect more than the average beverage, snack or burger, but with the right ingredients, you’ll hear a chorus of “wows” after the first bite.

To add some extra flavor to your meals and gatherings, keep these tips close at hand in the kitchen:

* Behind-the-scenes burger ingredients. Ground beef can only go so far – it’s up to you to give it the extra edge. Luckily, options to jazz up the average burger are virtually unlimited. Work in spices like cumin or chili pepper, and herbs like basil or oregano. Flavored soup mixes, such as onion, are a great choice as well. Another option for a palate-pleasing surprise is to press two thin patties around your choice of cheese, before grilling to a safe temperature.

* Set out flavor-packed snacks. As the outdoor entertaining season kicks off, having snacks on hand is essential so that guests can graze. Fill serving bowls with something a little out of the ordinary, or a new take on a classic, like Snyder’s of Hanover’s Flavored Pretzel Pieces, which come in an array of flavors like Hot Buffalo Wing, Jalapeno, and Bacon Cheddar. You can also use these tasty treats for creating out-of-this-world chicken fingers – simply crush them up and use them as breading.

* Fill drinks with extra flavor. A cooling beverage is a sublime thing on a hot day, but a basic glass of water just won’t cut it. One tasty – and pretty – way to upgrade tap water is to add flavor-infused ice cubes. To make the cubes, mix water and your chosen ingredients (fruits, herbs and juices all work well) in a blender, pour into cube trays, freeze and pop into your drinks when ready.

* Blend up an unexpected salsa. Whether you scoop it with chips or pour it over grilled meats, a flavorful salsa can earn you some bragging rights. Black beans and olives can bring zest to tomato salsa, and adding chopped avocado to blended tomatillos is a perfect meeting point between salsa and guacamole. Many fruits stand up well in a sweet-and-spicy salsa – try peach, pineapple or mango for a tropical twist that’s bright in color and flavor.

* Spice up your salads. A tossed salad can be a perfect addition to a summertime meal. They tend to be light and nutritious for any guests who watch their waistlines during bathing suit season. It is important to add exciting ingredients to your salad to prevent it from falling flat. Try using Pretzel Pieces flavors like Buttermilk Ranch or Honey Mustard and Onion as croutons to pack an unexpected punch. Find this recipe and more at http://www.snydersofhanover.com.

Making your meals memorable doesn’t require any special culinary expertise – just a few tips and some creativity. Use these ideas, put your own spin on a dish and you’ll have a table full of happy diners.

Dress your home to impress buyers this summer

(BPT) – Your home is a place to kick off your shoes, relax and enjoy precious time with friends and family. Nothing quite tops the feeling you get when you walk through your foyer, close the door behind you and forget the day’s troubles. But as families expand, promotions require unexpected relocations or a coveted residence down the street goes up for sale, you might find yourself looking for a new oasis to call home.

Your tastes and personal style have created a beautiful setting for your home until now. But as you prepare for house hunters visiting the space, it might be time to let go of emotional attachment and transform your home into a stunning showpiece that any potential buyer would love.

A touch of color

If your walls need painting, applying a neutral color is usually recommended. But don’t be afraid to have some fun with a color that will leave a lasting impression on people searching for the perfect, stand-out home. A bold color like Azalea married with the soft subtle hue of Chiffon and Swiss Coffee, all from Pratt & Lambert Paints, can create an energetic atmosphere while still giving your home a comfortable and relaxing vibe. Apply the bolder colors to an accent wall or on minor architectural elements throughout the home, to breathe fresh life into otherwise dull walls.

Painting is a small project that can create the most impact when selling your home. But if your home is large and the thought of taking on a painting project seems overwhelming, never fear. Skilled painting contractors in your area can offer the talent and know-how to get any painting project done quickly, without sacrificing on quality. Ask a family member or friend for a reference, or visit an online resource like AngiesList.com for a verified list of professionals who can turn your vision into a reality.

Take your space from aged to staged

Another way to inspire potential buyers is by showing off a beautifully decorated and elegantly styled home. To get an expertly polished palace, hire an accredited staging professional, who will assess the space and plan a design that will have homebuyers stopping in their tracks. In fact, homes that are professionally staged spend 83 percent less time on the market, according to a survey conducted by The International Association of Home Staging Professionals and StagedHomes.com.

The first thing the stager will do is de-clutter your home. Prospective buyers don’t want to be reminded of the home’s current owners, so removing personal photographs, over-the-top decorative items or over-sized furniture is an essential part of the process. They might also reconfigure furniture to improve the home’s flow and function.

Lighting is an important factor when showing a home, as well. Stagers will find a way to warm up the space and highlight focal points of the room using strategic light sources, creating an unforgettable space. And since more than 90 percent of potential buyers are searching online prior to visiting a home in person, professionally staged spaces are better able to communicate through photographs than generic shots.

If you’ve already moved out of your house and into your new home, the stager will bring in key furniture and accessories to help house hunters envision themselves living there. Just like a too-cluttered home might turn off some buyers, a blank ho-hum look can give off a lackluster vibe, so staging an empty house can help any buyer see its true potential.

By investing some time and money into the right kind of home improvement and staging projects, you can be confident knowing you’re a step ahead of the competition and a step closer to giving a new homebuyer the home of his or her dreams.

Courtesy of BPT

Business loans – spruce up your business



With this kind of loan, you can buy raw materials, equipment or office furniture to stay ahead in this highly competitive business world, where various businesses of the same nature crop-up every other day. These loans are a sure-shot way to survive here and emerge as winners. In addition to this, you can hire more employees to offer quality customer service to all clients and promote your business like you always desired. Whether it is cash that a borrower need desperately or you simply wish to spruce up your current business, these loans can do it for you without delay.

More often than not, a young business entrepreneur approaches either money-lending firms or banks for a loan needed to start a business. However, in this day and age, you can apply for it from the comfort of your home. It is the online mode of application that has enabled a large number of people to fetch instant funds. The Internet is just the right tool to search for such loans. Ever mounting competition midst online money-lenders has proven beneficial for borrowers, for they have a range of options to choose from. You can choose the one that fits your existing business needs and is available at reasonable interest rates.

Even those who have a faltering credit background can finance their new business with these loans. Obtaining this financial assistance is not at all an easy job if you are living with tags like insolvency, county court judgments, arrears, foreclosures, non payments or late payments, individual voluntary arrangements or defaults. However, with these loans even they can grab funds without giving a second thought.

Business loans tend to carry a high rate of interest. It is, therefore, suggested that you only get this loan after conducting the proper research. Make sure that you spend the acquired amount carefully so that you have sufficient funds at the later stage. Compare online quotes before making any decision. Funds to start a new business are just a few clicks away.

by: James Addevsen

Family-friendly tips to save energy at home.


Saving money and reducing your home’s energy usage are a priority for many homeowners these days. Some energy-saving actions such as switching off lights when leaving a room and turning off the water while brushing your teeth or washing your hands are simple and cost effective.

 
This summer, try a few of the following energy saving tips to save your family some money while keeping the environment in mind:

 
* Only run dishwashers, washing machines and clothing dryers when they are full. Running two half-loads uses double the amount of water, and only half the clothes get cleaned.

 
* Wash your clothes with cold water. Washing laundry with hot water means the heater has to run, accounting for up to 80 percent of the energy used per wash load, according to the Alliance to Save Energy. If a household switched to cold-water washing for a year, enough energy would be saved to watch TV for 1,363 hours or charge an iPhone 4S 30,861 times. So by switching to cold water washing, you can cut down on household energy use and save money while doing something good for the environment. On a larger scale, if everyone in the United States switched to cold-water washing, the energy saved could power the streetlights of New York City for 71 years. Tide Coldwater detergent is specially formulated to provide a deep clean in cold water conditions while helping families save up to 50 percent of energy per wash cycle.

 
* Keep cool this summer by closing curtains to block out the hot sun during the day. Blocking the sun will help protect your flooring and furniture from fading due to UV rays. Also try setting your thermostat a few degrees warmer. Run ceiling and standing fans to keep the air circulating to help family members stay comfortable. If nobody is home during the day, turn your air conditioner off, and have it timed to restart when family members return.

 
* When shopping for new appliances like a refrigerator, stove and oven, dishwasher, washer or dryer, look for models with an ENERGY STAR label. Adding just one of these energy-efficient appliances to your home can help you live a more energy-conscious life.

 
* Evaluate your light bulbs. Technology has improved light bulbs so more energy is used toward making light, not heat. Finding the appropriate bulb for each socket in your home can save your family between $50 and $100 a year, according to the Alliance to Save Energy.

 
With just a few simple lifestyle changes, your family can make your home more energy and save you money. Get your family started today with these quick energy savings tips and watch the savings add up.

Four hot, new-home trends that can work for your remodel

(BPT) – Builders are back in business, and new-home construction is up in areas across the country. So is remodeling, as plenty of Americans choose to stay put and upgrade their current homes rather than tackle the challenge of buying and moving into something new.

If you’re planning to renovate your home, you can tap some of the hottest trends showing up in new-home designs. Here are four new-home trends that offer strong returns on your time and money:

1. Creating a view – Americans continue to embrace all things green and that trend is showing up in new home construction in a number of ways, including an emphasis on energy-efficient windows that bring the outdoors inside with a great view.

If your home has older windows, they’re likely not as energy efficient as newer options, so replacing them can improve your heating and cooling efficiency. Window replacements typically provide a high return on investment at the time or resale, too – more than 73 percent for wood windows and 71 percent-plus for vinyl, according to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report.

While you’re replacing your windows, you also have the opportunity to open up your home more to outdoor views. Work with your architect or designer and contractor to determine where the best views are, and how much additional glass you can incorporate into your renovation to capitalize on those views.

2. Adding a bathroom – When it comes to renovations that improve resale value and enhance a home’s usability, adding a bathroom is at the top of the list for many homeowners. While today’s new smaller homes often have less square footage, demand for multiple bathrooms has not changed.

In existing homes, adding a bathroom can sometimes pose plumbing challenges. Up-flush plumbing can solve a lot of them. Up-flush systems pump waste and water from a toilet, sink or bathtub up and out, instead of into a below-floor sewage pit.

Up-flush toilets enable homeowners to easily and cost-effectively install a bathroom virtually anywhere without breaking through the floors – a special advantage when those floors are made of concrete. That means adding a basement bathroom doesn’t require cutting into a home’s concrete foundation, and you can easily add an attic bathroom without tearing up the first-floor ceiling. According to Saniflo, makers of up-flush plumbing products, adding a bathroom using this type of plumbing can cost about $5,000 less than one that uses conventional plumbing.

3. Defining the kitchen – Kitchens are another popular renovation that pays off in a number of ways. Architects are fine-tuning the popular wide-open floor plan concept, and the change is showing up in the kitchen. Favored designs now open the kitchen on one side to an adjoining room, such as the family room, but enclose the other three walls to create a more defined space, as well as more storage and cabinet options.

This trend works particularly well in older homes where you frequently find a completely separate kitchen. Now, rather than ripping out three walls to create an entirely open flow, you can tap the latest kitchen design trend by opening up just a single wall in the kitchen. This leaves the space well-defined, but also adds the open, social feeling that is so appealing in many new home designs.

4. Maximizing every inch of space – With smaller floor plans gaining popularity, making the most of every inch of space is vital. New-home design employs entertaining nooks, breakfast alcoves, built-ins, pocket doors and other tricks to use every inch of space wisely.

It’s a trend that also works well in older homes that may have smaller rooms and less square footage than the McMansions popular a few years ago. For example, it’s easier to add a built-in desk to a spare corner and create an office alcove than it is to add an entire office to your floor plan.

If you crave a fresh environment and the latest home design trends, you don’t have to give up your old home and tackle the hassles of moving into something new. With some planning and creativity, it’s possible to translate some of the hottest new-home design trends into your renovation project.

Courtesy of BPT