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The Year’s Easiest Halloween Decorating Idea

For this year’s Halloween party, brew up some tabletop fun: Spray-paint plastic trick-or-treat buckets black, inside and out (flat-finish paint looks spookiest), to transform them into cauldrons. Coat flat-top wooden candle holders (available unfinished at craft stores) with the same paint and attach the cauldrons to their tops with hot glue. Now all that’s left to do is choose witch, er, which snacks to serve. (Not recommended: eye of newt.)

 

 

 

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Should You Spend $40 On an Immersion Blender?

The answer is yes! Find out why you should definitely splurge on this life-saving kitchen tool.

 

 

It’s small, but mighty.

Think of it as a blender or food processor on a stick: just as powerful but way more nimble and easier to store. Use it to turn cooked veggies into bisques, to blend herbs and nuts into pestos or to smooth out gravy right in the pan. Unlike those stationary blades on traditional blenders and food processors, an immersion blender can reach into the depths and edges of your pots, pans and even tall glasses, leaving no chunks behind and allowing you full control over texture. Just point and pulverize.

 

It reduces mess.

Forget transferring batches of hot soup from pot to blender and back to pot (yikes!). Immersion blenders do it all right in your cooking vessel, no matter how much you’re making, saving you a step–and the time it takes to do the dishes!

 

 

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Win Everything You Need for an Organized Kitchen from OXO

Today’s Love Your Kitchen Challenge is to clear the clutter! That means donate or toss out two kitchen tools you haven’t used in the past six months. Trust us: If you’re not sure what it does, you don’t need it! But that’s not all. Once you’ve de-cluttered your kitchen, enter to win $250 worth of products from OXO — which basically covers anything and everything you could possibly need to organize your kitchen. All you have to do is tag your pic on Instagram using the #OXOsweepstakes hashtag and you’ll be entered to win all of the products below. Totally worth cleaning, right?

Expandable Utensil Holder

Read more

Support No Kid Hungry with Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi’s Caring Cooler!

 

Between picnicking, tailgating and lounging on the beach, it isn’t summer without outdoor eating (and drinking). This year, you can add some personality to your party with the bright orange Caring Cooler! This limited-edition cooler from Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi isn’t just adorable, it also supports a good cause. One hundred percent of the proceeds from Caring Cooler sales will go to support Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, which strives to end childhood hunger in America through education and awareness.

The cooler features a stain- and odor-resistant liner, and can hold up to four bottles of wine (or a ton of snacks!). It’s on sale this week through September, which is National Hunger Awareness Month, so be sure to pick one up soon to get your outdoor party started!

 

Click here to purchase your own Caring Cooler.

 

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Money Talk with Danny Seo

Your money has never looked greener! “Making a few changes to end our wasteful habits can mean big savings. No more money in the trash, down the drain or out the window,” says Danny Seo, author of the syndicated column “Do Just One Thing.” Check out his top tips to greenify your house and fattify your wallet—to the tune of $1,000 or more a year! Plus, enter to win our Danny-approved Eco-Friendly Gadgets Giveaway!

 

 

1. Pop Star

Twenty-five percent of your heat could be going right out the windows—if they’re poorly insulated. Double your windows’ heat efficiency with an easy trick used by top plant nursery owners: Each winter spray your windows with water, then stick sheets of bubble wrap (or heavy-duty plastic) onto the glass. Savings: $166 a year, if you spend the U.S. household average heating cost of $665 each winter

 

2. Chimney Sweep

“Letting heat escape can cause a huge money loss,” Seo says. A big part of the blame goes to leaky chimneys, which can suck up about 8 percent of the warmth you’re paying for. Trap it inside with a no-cost chimney plug. Cut a piece of cardboard or foam core to fit snugly inside the flue. Just remember to take it out before you light a fire. Savings: $53 a year, if you spend $665 on heating

 

3. Finishing Touch

The next time you paint a room, pick semigloss or satin-finish paint instead of flat. The sheen on those paints reflects more light so you can use fewer lamps. And while you’re at it, make sure bulbs have had a good dusting: Dirt dims light, and clean bulbs can increase brightness by 50 percent. Savings: $48 a year, if you use five fewer lamps and clean your bulbs

 

4. Black Out

It’s simple but bears repeating: Turning off the lights can put easy money in your pocket. Turn off lights you’d usually keep on all day long and you can save up to 5 cents per bulb, per day. So next time you leave the house for the day, hit the switch. Savings: $37 a year for every two bulbs you turn off for eight hours or longer

 

5. Wash In

Doing more laundry may not be high on your fun list, but adding to the pile can save you serious cash. Check your clothing labels carefully: A label that says “dry clean only” means a trip to the cleaners, but if it says simply “dry clean,” like many do, wash at home on the delicate cycle and hang or lay flat to dry. Savings: Up to $150 a year, what the average American household spends on dry cleaning annually

 

6. Freshen Up

Ease up on the laundry detergent! High-efficiency washing machines use less water, yet most of us still pour in the same amount of detergent—on average, double what we actually need. Not only is that wasteful, but that extra detergent leaves clothes stiff and faded— and can even create mold in your washer. Savings: Up to $62 a year when you wash 300 loads (the annual U.S. average)

 

7. Hot Stuff

We love a good hot shower, but most water heaters are automatically set higher than they need to be, at 140°. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, lowering yours to 120°—a temperature difference your family won’t even notice—will save you $5 a month on your electric bill. Savings: Up to $60 a year

 

8. Tire-Less

Ditch your spare tire— even car manufacturers are doing it! Carrying that extra weight (an average of 50 pounds for the tire and tools to change it) can reduce your car’s fuel efficiency; losing it saves you about 3 cents a gallon. “Keep a can of tire inflator in the trunk instead,” Seo says. Savings: $26 a year, if you spend $2,900 annually (the U.S. average) at the pump

 

9. Cruise Around

Use cruise control when you’re driving long distances. Setting your speed means no more gas-wasting acceleration surges. Staying at an even speed between 55 to 70 mph will improve fuel economy by up to 15 percent. With current gas prices averaging $3.30 per gallon, that’s up to 50 cents off a gallon! Savings: Up to $200 according to the Center for Automotive Research

 

10. Curb Appeal

Mulching your yard or garden can cost you a pretty penny. Instead of buying mulch at the store (which costs about $4 per bag), get it for free from your local parks or roads departments, which regularly haul away fallen trees and limbs and grind them into mulch that’s free for the taking. Savings: $48 for a 24-by-12-foot garden with a 2-inch layer of mulch

Designer Dish Soap: Is It Worth It?

At first we thought, no way, but the proof is in the sudsing! We put our editors to the test with a blind scrub-off of soaps, from popular supermarket brands to the fancy stuff, to see if their hands and noses could tell the difference. And it turns out, they can! Our priciest pick, Caldrea, at $9 per 16 ounces, won with triple the votes of any other soap. But you don’t always need to spend that much–most upscale brands deliver soothing, complex scents (Basil Blue Sage? Yes, please!), a richer, silkier lather and softer skin. In our book, anything that could make you look forward to washing the dishes is worth a few extra bucks!

 

 

 

Left: Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Lavender Dish Soap ($4 for 16 oz.; mrsmeyers.com)

Middle: Method Sea Minerals Dish Soap ($4 for 18 oz.; methodhome.com)

Right: Caldrea Mandarin Vetiver Dish Soap ($9 for 16 oz.; caldrea.com)

 

 

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Egg Separator: Is It Worth It?

We think not! Here’s the thing: Separating an egg doesn’t require any kind of gadget at all. Try one of our test kitchen’s two recommended methods instead, and you’ll be glad not to have another tool hogging precious drawer space.

 

 

For cooks with good hand-eye coordination:

Crack an egg in half, then slide the yolk back and forth between the halved shells, letting the whites drip into a bowl. A tip: Make sure to crack your egg with a firm tap on the rim of the bowl to avoid jagged edges that can piece the yolk.

 

For those who want an easier, if messier, way:

Crack the egg into your hand and let the white drain through your fingers into a bowl. You’ll need a good hand-washing afterward, but what you won’t have to wash is another tool!

 

BTW: If you’re still gung ho about buying an egg separator, feel free to spend $5, not $15: Plastic models work as well as pricier stainless steal ones.

 

 

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Our Issue in Action!

Nothing makes us happier than seeing our ideas in YOUR homes! Two very special readers put our November issue to the test this Thanksgiving holiday and we were wowed the by results. Check is out!

 

Jaime Hollander, Every Day with Rachael Ray merchandising director, made all six of our gravy wheel recipes and turned them into a full on gravy bar. She completed the spread with a chalkboard platter that’s both informational and super cute (you know how much we love chalkboards!).

 

The Spivak family from Potomac, MD used two ideas from our “15 Holiday Table Tricks from the Pros” story: David Stark’s apple centerpeiece and Alison Caporimo’s kids’ tablecloth. We think it was a smashing success!

 

Be sure to tag your photos of our recipes and crafts on Twitter and Instagram (@rachaelraymag) for a chance to be featured on our blog!

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Pack Your Freezer Like a Pro

During the holidays, nothing is more guaranteed than leftovers. Don’t let these goodies go to waste! There are plenty of items you can freeze and store for later in the year, but only if you pack them properly. Here are our best freezing techniques and tips to keep freezer burn at bay.

 

 

Use Heavy Duty Foil

To wrap foods already wrapped in plastic or parchment to add extra protection. Why? It’s less porous and much thicker than regular foil, and less prone to snagging and tears.

 

Use Freezer Paper

To prevent air exposure and moisture loss. The goal is to wrap tightly to keep air out. Why? The paper is thick and durable and has an air-resistant coating on one side that keeps food from drying out.

 

Use Freezer Bags

But make sure to leave an inch free at the top so you can press out the air when sealing. Why? Resealable plastic freezer bags are thicker and often have sturdier seals than regular storage bags.

 

Layer Up

Separate individual portions of foods like burgers, sausage or fish fillets with parchment paper before freezing so you can remove and thaw only what you need.

 

No More UFO’s

Ban Unidentified Frozen Objects by noting the contents and freeze date on labels or tape with a permanent marker.

 

Written by Cheryl Slocum

 

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The Gift that Keeps on Giving

As the holidays approach, we know how essential it is to have the perfect hostess gift. But why settle for the usual flower bouquet or box of chocolates when you can give something truly special and personalized? Personal Wine is a company that will let you do just that.

 

 

Ranging from custom labels to etched wine accessories and more, Personal Wine will help you send the perfect message for any occasion. First, choose from a wide range of red, white or sparkling wines. Then pick out a label or engraving with a special message, and you’ll be well on your way to winning Dinner Guest of the Year.

 

 

 

But the holiday cheer doesn’t stop there; now through December 10th, you can enter the promo code RAY15 for a 15% discount off your entire purchase! Now, can gift giving get any better than that?!

 

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