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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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Electric Wine Opener: Is It Worth It?

If you’ve broken off one too many corks in the necks of wine bottles, a high-speed, push-button, supposedly-error-free electric corkscrew probably sounds appealing. But after testing a variety of models, we’re electing not to go electric (and save up to $30). Here’s why:

 

 

 

They’re space suckers

You have to devote counter space and an outlet to the charging dock. And if you forget to juice it up before party time, you’re right back to corkscrewing by hand. Plus, electric ones are bulky. A manual corkscrew fits in your silverware drawer; one of these guys–as big as 10 inches high and 3 inches wide–needs a permanent home on the countertop docking station or space in a cabinet.

 

There’s plenty of room for operator error

To uncork a bottle, you line up the electric opener over the cork, then press down while you turn on the motor. To pull the cork out, you switch the power button into reverse. But be warned: If you don’t have a good grip on the bottle or the right amount of pressure on the opener, your wine bottle could start shaking or, worse, spin out of your hands. And, sorry to say, you may not have seen the end of decapitated corks. Misalign the “worm” (the pointy spiral part) and the cork won’t just break, it will become lodged in the device, and to get it out, you’ll have to putt apart the protectice plastic shield. Good luck putting that back together again.

 

The wine world is going screw-top anyway

(Or at least the wine in our world is! Check out all of these great screw-top sippers.)

 

By Lambeth Hochwald; Photograph by Levi Brown

 

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Be a Pampered Chef

Whether you need a pre- or post-Thanksgiving moment of Zen, take advantage of our exclusive spa deals, or go the DIY route with luxe tub treats.

 

1. The Body Shop Honeymania Moisture Bubble Bath Melt

…creates extra-creamy suds. ($14, thebodyshop.com)

 

2. Lush’s Enchanter Bomb

…is citrus-spiked and fizzes and froths as it dissolves. ($6.25, lushusa.com)

 

3. Le Couvent des Minimes Orange Blossom Foaming Bath

…creates sublimely scented bubbles. ($25, usa.lecouventdesminimes.com)

 

4. Carol’s Daughter Almond Cookie Bath & Body Oil

…yields silky, sweet-smelling skin. ($20, sephora.com)

 

5. h2o+ Sea Salt Skin Smoother

…will take care of any rough patches. ($27, h20plus.com)

 

Special Service!

 

Sign yourself up for a fab 50-minute Swedish Massage at any Elizabeth Arden Red Door spa between now and December 31, mention “Rachael Ray 13″ when booking, and pay $99 for a service that normally costs $125-ish. (reddoorspas.com)

If you need a megadose of de-stressing, go for Bliss Spa’s 24-Heaven body treatment at a location with a wet room. First comes an oatmeal mask with a heated wrap, then a Vichy shower (you’re hotizontal under a bunch of nozzles) and for the grand finale, a body blam rubdown. The service regularly costs $155, but present this page at checkout to get 20% off between now and December 31. (blissworld.com)

 

by Abbie Kozolchyk

 

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Big Fun with Little Spaces

Petite Pad? Live large anyway with hosting tips form Jenna Mahoney, author of the new Small Apartment Hacks, 101 Ingenious DIY Solutions for Living, Organizing and Entertaining.

1. Turn your ironing board into a buffet.

Throw a pretty, floor-length cloth over that bad boy, push one side against a wall and you’ve got the world’s slimmest serving surface.

 

2. Use a rolling rack.

You can find cheapies at Target and Kmart and hang a few “starter jackets” to encourage guests to follow suit. (Even better if, as the rack fills up, it hides a workspace or cluttered corner.) Afterward, the rack folds up and slides easily under your bed.

 

3. Create small centerpieces with serious impact.

Turn juice glasses into vases (almost no surface area required)! The arrangements couldn’t be easier: Snip Gerbera daisies, peonies or other bold flowers just below the blossoms, and add one to three to each glass. P.S. The trick works just as well for mantelpieces.

 

By Abbie Kozolchyk

 

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French Press: Is It Worth It?

Whether you’re out for brunch or enjoying a lazy Sunday at home with friends, the French press has made its way to coffee tables and counters across America. But, is it really worth $20? Read on to see why we say: YES!

You can be your own barista

A French press uses water that’s at the boiling point (a temperature many electric machines can’t reach), which extracts more flavor from the coffee. Plus, you can customize how light or dark your joe turns out simply by adjusting the time the grounds steep.

 

You can take it anywhere

Without pesky plugs and not-so-eco-friendly filters in your way, this baby can easily travel with you on a camping trip or to a hotel — or it can sit on your desk so you don’t waste a single second between refills!

 

It’s not just for coffee!

Use a French press to brew loose leaf tea, make vinaigrettes (let herbs steep in the vinaigrette for a few hours, then plunge to strain) — or even press the lumps out of gravy!

 

Written by Lambeth Hochwald; Photography by David Lewis Taylor

 

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A Life in Pictures

When Hurricane Sandy crashed into Evette Ríos’ parents’ home, everything was destroyed. For the next few days, her family channeled all of their energy into saving their old photos. Here are her best tricks to rescue and restore photos, in case yours ever fall victim to water.

 

- Photos separate best when wet, so before they dry, pull them apart slowly and carefully.

 

- Don’t let them dry faster than you can separate them: Put them into freezer bags, with some air space so the bag doesn’t make contact with the pictures, and freeze them. Defrost once you’re ready to continue separating.

 

- For the shots you can’t get to before they dry, dampening and warming them with a blow-dryer on medium is a decent emergency measure.

 

- To prevent future picture panic, invest in a photo and negative scanner (we found a $150 one online). Four thousand images later, we have a digital photo vault. And now we know exactly how much that means.

 

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