Pool & Spa Outdoor Blog

Pool & Spa Outdoor's 2013 Buyers' Guide

Explore Company Profiles in Pool & Spa Outdoor's New 2013 Buyers' Guide

Coral Stone USA pool decking tilePool & Spa Outdoor has come out with its 2013 Buyers' Guide online. We are your best resource for buying tips, company information, website listings, and photo ideas for everything in your backyard.

Our annual Buyers' Guide includes over 30 categories of outdoor products and provides a list of builders and manufacturers of swimming pools, custom spas, pool covers, cleaners, decking companies, and more!

With a new design for easy navigation, you can find everything from inground pool builders and pool maintenance products to hot tubs, waterslides, and stone decking. Check out the photo galleries, videos, testimonials, and pricing from our featured company profiles.


To get photo ideas and product info for all the latest backyard products, visit Pool & Spa Outdoor's 2013 Buyers' Guide


Photo courtesy of CoralStoneUSA.com

2013 APSP Award-Winning Swimming Pools Photo Gallery

Get Inspired with Award-Winning Pool Photos from APSP

APSP Naturescapes award winning swimming pool deck backyardIf chilly weather has you wishing for summer, now is the time to start collecting ideas for your own backyard swimming pool. Will this year be the year you become a proud pool owner? Or maybe you plan to renovate your existing pool… or makeover your entire backyard into an at-home resort.

If you are looking for beautiful swimming pool photos and ideas to design your own backyard resort and outdoor living space, check out the winners of The International Awards of Excellence presented by the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP). Every year, APSP honors talented pool builders and pool designers for their amazing projects and water features.


Click through the entire gallery of award-winning swimming pool photos, waterfalls, water features, spas, stone decks, and more. Choose your favorites to inspire your own backyard pool design or outdoor living space. See pool photos >>


"Photo courtesy of APSP; Naturescapes, Overland Park, Kansas (Natural Setting, Silver)

10 Chocolate Dessert Recipes for Valentine’s Day

Delicious Desserts for Valentine's Day

Treat your sweetheart (and yourself) to one of the delicious Valentine’s Day dessert recipes below. From cupcakes to cookies to brownies, each of these desserts features the classic combination of rich, bittersweet chocolate and sweet, juicy cherries—a perfect match for your taste buds!

Cherry Chocolate Cupcakes

Cherry Chocolate Cupcakes
Servings: 1 dozen

8 ounces butter at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup milk
1 1/3 cups pitted cherries, halved


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cream together the butter and sugar using a wooden spoon or an electric mixer 4 to 5 minutes, until fluffy and light. Slowly beat in the eggs.

In a bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa. Add this to the egg mixture along with the milk and mix just long enough to blend the ingredients, no more than 20 seconds.

Fold in the halved cherries, no more than another 10 seconds. Let rest 10 minutes, then fill greased muffin cups to the brim with the batter.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove and let cool 10 minutes before unmolding.

Recipe and photo courtesy of California Cherry Board

Croissant French Toast with Fresh Bing Cherry Sauce

Croissant French Toast with Cherry Sauce
Servings: 4

1/2 cup orange marmalade
2 cups pitted fresh cherries
Four croissants, ok if day-old
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon canola oil
2 cups fresh whipped cream
1/2 cup chocolate sauce


Heat orange marmalade in small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add cherries and cook for five minutes stirring frequently. Remove from flame.

Slice croissants in half lengthwise, as if to make a sandwich. Whisk eggs, milk, cream in flat-bottomed baking dish. Lay croissant pieces in egg mixture, flipping several times as liquid is absorbed.

Add canola oil to griddle and heat on medium flame. Cook croissant slices until golden brown on each side.

Place bottom croissant slices on serving plates. Top with ½ cup cherry mixture. Top with croissant tops, add a dollop of whipped cream and finish with a pour of chocolate sauce.

Recipe and photo courtesy of California Cherry Board

Chocolate-Dipped Cherry Treats

Chocolate Dipped Cherry TreatsIngredients
1 to 2 pounds fresh California Bing cherries
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips


1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

2. Heat chocolate over medium heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon until melted, about five minutes. (Note: Use a double boiler. Or fill a saucepan half full with water and place chocolate in a small, deep heatproof bowl that fits snugly on the saucepan, but does not touch the water. )

3. Wash cherries with stems on and let dry. Optional pitting instructions: Using a cherry pitting device, carefully remove the pit going through the cherry cross-ways rather than from top to bottom. This will allow the stem to remain intact. The hole in the middle of the cherry will be covered with chocolate when dipped.

4. Carefully pick cherries up by the stem and dip just over half-way into the melted chocolate. Let excess chocolate drip back into the pan or bowl.

5. Place on aluminum-lined cookie sheet and set in the refrigerator until the chocolate has set, about 15 minutes.

6. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Recipe and photo courtesy of California Cherry Board


Cherry-Misu RecipeServings: 9

2 jars (10 oz. each) maraschino cherries
2 cartons (8 oz. each) Mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. Amaretto or brandy
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup water
42 crisp ladyfinger cookies
2 milk chocolate candy bars (1.55 oz. each), grated Chocolate curls


Drain cherries, reserving juice and 9 cherries; set aside. Chop remaining cherries.

In a large bowl, combine the cheese, sugar, Amaretto, vanilla and 1 Tbsp. cherry juice. In another bowl, beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form; gently fold into cheese mixture.

Combine water and remaining cherry juice. Arrange 14 ladyfingers in an ungreased 9-in. square pan. Brush with 3/4 cup cherry juice mixture. Spread 1-1/3 cups cheese mixture over ladyfingers. Sprinkle with half of the chopped cherries and grated chocolate. Repeat layers.

Top with remaining ladyfingers and cheese mixture. Garnish with chocolate curls and reserved cherries. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

Editor’s Note: This recipe was prepared with Alessi brand crisp ladyfinger cookies.

Recipe and photo courtesy of National Cherry Growers & Industries Foundation

Chocolate Cherry Bombs

Chocolate Cherry Bombs
Servings: Makes 16 (1 1/2-inch) cherry bombs

1 (10-ounce) jar maraschino cherries with stems
2 cups vanilla ice cream, softened
1 (7.25-ounce) bottle chocolate shell topping


Drain cherries. Remove stems and save them to complete the recipe.

Place cherries and 1 cup ice cream in electric blender. Pulse to combine. Combine cherry mixture with remaining 1 cup ice cream in a medium bowl; mix with a spoon. Divide between 2 small (8-ounce) bowls. Cover and freeze overnight or until firm.

Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Shake chocolate shell topping 30 seconds; divide between 2 custard cups or small bowls. Remove 1 container of ice cream from freezer. Using a small ice cream scoop, scoop 1 (1-inch) ball; place on fork. Spoon chocolate shell topping over ball while holding over custard cup. Place on baking sheet; quickly insert 1 reserved cherry stem in top. (To remove ball from fork, push off gently at base with knife).

Repeat with remaining ice cream. Work quickly so ice cream does not get too soft. Place cherry bombs in freezer. Repeat procedure with remaining bowl of ice cream. Freeze until ready to serve.

Tip: If blender is unavailable, finely chop cherries and stir into ice cream.

Recipe and photo courtesy of National Cherry Growers & Industries Foundation

Chocolate Covered Cherry Brownie Jumble

Chocolate Covered Cherry Brownie Jumble
Servings: Makes 16 brownies

1 box (21 oz) fudge brownie mix
2 eggs
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
16 chocolate cookie wafers, broken into large halves
1 (10-12 oz) jar maraschino cherries, drained and halved
1/2 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped walnutes (optional)
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix brownie mix, eggs, water and oil in a large bowl until well blended. Spread batter in a 13"x19" greased pan.

Scatter top of batter with cookies, cherries, chocolate chips and walnuts. Drizzle with condensed milk.

Bake for about 35 minutes or until topping is golden. Let cool and then cut 4x4 into 16 pieces.

Cook's Note: If using a glass baking pan, increase cooking time to 40 minutes.

Recipe and photo by Kathy Casey Food Studios® for the National Cherry Foundation

Black Forest Cupcakes-Gluten Free

Black Forest Cupcakes-Gluten Free
Servings: Makes 24 gluten-free cupcakes

½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups gluten-free flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
1½ cups milk
1 (14.5) ounce can red tart cherries, drained
1 (10 ounce) jar maraschino cherries, drained and liquid reserved, use divided.

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Grated dark chocolate for garnish


CUPCAKES: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Insert paper liners into the cups of 2 standard muffin pans.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Turn mixer to low and add the eggs, one at a time until each egg is fully mixed in, scrapping down the sides of the bowl with each addition. Add the vanilla extract and mix well. In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.

With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture and milk to the creamed butter, starting with 1/3 of the flour mixture, then half the milk, half the remaining flour mixture, the rest of the milk and the rest of the flour mixture. Mix until just combined. Remove bowl from mixer and scrap the sides and bottom of the bowl well with a large spatula.

Spoon 2 tablespoons of batter into each prepared muffin cup, add 3 of the red tart cherries to each cup then top with 2 more tablespoons of batter. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until springy on the top. Allow to cool in pan for about 5 minutes.

With a toothpick, poke 6 or 8 holes in each cupcake. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of reserved maraschino cherry liquid onto each cupcake and let it soak in. Remove cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

TOPPING: Whip cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and 1 tablespoon of reserved maraschino cherry juice. Beat until stiff.

Frost cupcakes and garnish with a maraschino cherry and some grated chocolate.

Recipe and photo courtesy of National Cherry Growers & Industries Foundation. Recipe developed by Carol Kicinski

Maraschino Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

Maraschino Chocolate Thumbprint CookiesIngredients
2 jars (10 ounces each) maraschino cherries without stems
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons 2% milk
Baker's Joy No-Stick Baking Spray


Drain maraschino cherries, reserving 1 teaspoon juice. Combine flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl; mix well.

Put butter and sugar in medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed 3 to 4 minutes, or until well blended. Add egg and vanilla; mix well. Add flour mixture; mix well.

Put chocolate chips and milk in a small saucepan. Stir constantly over low heat until chocolate melts. Stir in reserved maraschino cherry juice. Let cool slightly.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place on baking pan prepared with Baker's Joy. Push in centers with thumb; spoon 1 teaspoon chocolate mixture into each thumbprint and top with a cherry.

Bake in 350 degree oven 10 to 12 minutes, or until cookies are firm. Remove to wire racks. Let cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Recipe and photo courtesy of National Cherry Growers & Industries Foundation

Chocolate Cherry Cookies

Chocolate Cherry CookiesServings: Makes about 4 1/2 dozen cookies

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 egg
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate melted and cooled
1/3 cup buttermilk, milk or water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour or whole wheat flour*
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
2 cups cut up maraschino cherries (4 10 oz. jars stem-less)

2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 tablespoons margarine or butter
3 tablespoons water
1+ cup powdered sugar
Note: If using self-rising flour, omit baking soda and salt.


Heat oven to 400 degrees.

COOKIES: Mix sugar, margarine/butter, egg, chocolate, buttermilk and vanilla. Stir in flour, baking soda, salt and cherries.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes or until almost no indentation remains when touched; cool.

Frost with Chocolate Frosting or Dust with Powdered Sugar.

CHOCOLATE FROSTING: Heat chocolate and margarine over low heat until melted; remove from heat. Stir in water. Gradually add powdered sugar until smooth.

Recipe and photo courtesy of National Cherry Growers & Industries Foundation

Easy Chocolate Covered Cherries

Easy Chocolate Covered CherriesServings: Makes about 5 dozen

2 jars (10 ounces each) maraschino cherries with stems
1 package (12 ounce) semisweet chocolate chips


Drain cherries; discard juice. Put cherries on paper towels to drain completely.

Put chocolate chips in a medium saucepan with a heavy bottom. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted. Do not let chocolate get too hot. Remove from heat.

Dip cherries into chocolate; swirl to coat completely. Place on baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Refrigerate until set.

Recipe and photo courtesy of National Cherry Growers & Industries Foundation

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