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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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Over My Dead Body…

Eight Long Months

Rebuilding Together

 

Over My Dead Body…

…Is what my mom said when Patty Smyth—the singer/songwriter aptly known for “Goodbye to You”—attempted to repo our stove.

 

You see, the coastal Brooklyn house my mom bought in 1976 had long been a second home to Patty, whose stepmother, Cookie, had grown up there. The stove that came with the place was indeed a beauty: the same vintage Chambers model Rach used to have on her set, except ours was powder blue, not yellow.

 

Every once in a while Patty would swing by the house to see how the stove was doing. Well, to say hi to the family, too, but mostly to make sure her cherished heirloom was still around.

 

Once, when I was in college, my mom called me and said, “John is here and wants the stove.”

Me: “John who?”

Mom: “Johnny Mac.”

Me: “MacEnroe?”

Mom: “Yeah—and I told him over my dead body.”

 

Yes, she summarily shot down the era’s most famous tennis player—who also happened to be Patty’s husband.

 

My mother loved that stove. Never mind that we had to light the burners with a match. Or that the oven wasn’t spacious enough to hold a decent turkey (sort of crucial when you host Thanksgiving every year). Or that the merest breeze would kill the pilot light along with the burners, and we’d have to wait at least 30 minutes before turning the gas back on—or risk getting blown off our feet by a gas surge (believe me, I know from personal experience).

 

Our beloved stove

 

Despite all the stove’s shortcomings, her love for it was unflinching, no matter how much her culinary-minded children pleaded for an upgrade.  After all, this stove had been her trusty sidekick throughout her adult life. Those burners heated the first meal she made as a homeowner—and the water for my first bottle.  That oven helped us celebrate every conceivable family milestone—and achievement, big or small.

 

But after this 36-year love affair, everything changed in an instant: The night Sandy hit, five feet of water swallowed the stove whole.

 

You know the rest of this story by now—about the devastation and loss that reached far and wide. And while the household essentials were comparatively minor casualties, my mother couldn’t bear to part with the stove. She often said it had a soul; the prospect of discarding such a beloved being broke her heart.

 

Our kitchen post Sandy

 

Now, even after her herculean mold-, rust-, grime- and debris-removal efforts, the poor thing is still “resting” outside while we search for ever more advanced resurrection methods.

 

In its place sits a shiny new oven big enough to hold a 40-pound turkey—much to her children’s delight. But somehow, mom hasn’t quite gotten used to the idea that knobs alone can fire up burners.  No matches required.

 

Our new kitchen

Patty did stop by the house after Sandy to make sure we were okay. And of course, to check on the Chambers. She was saddened by its streaks and corroded innards, but relieved it was still there.

I’ve urged my mother to pay it…backward and relinquish the stove to Patty. And you know what? Mom’s almost there. But I have a feeling that “almost” could last for a while.

 

Written by Chris Jette, Meredith senior marketing manager

 

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Hot Plates!

You’ll be dying to make the hot new casserole recipes—from green chile chilaquiles to mu shu pork—in our exclusive October issue tear out booklet. But before you hit the kitchen, grab one (or all!) of these great bake-and-serve casserole platters for  your table.

 

1. Go retro with a two-tone 1.5 quart family style dish. Corningware Etched Green, $21, target.com

2. Breakfast casseroles, like our booklet’s Hash Brown Bake with Eggs & Smoked Salmon, belong in the morning bird. Revol Happy Cuisine Poultry Dish, $70, bloomingdales.com

3. This heavy duty dish makes casseroles and doubles as a dutch oven for stocks, stews and chili. Calphalon Simply Cast Enamel, $100, wayfair.com

4. Serve up individual portions of our booklet’s Shrimp & Pasta Mini-Bakes in individual-sized (8-oz.) cocottes. Mini Cocotte in Red, $50, fab.com

5. Go classic with Rach’s easy-to-grip 4.25 quart Casseroval, available in 8 colors. Casseroval, $50, rachaelraystore.com

6. This pumpkin doesn’t turn into a carriage—it turns into a delish casserole! Add the single-portion dish to your table for some seasonal fun. Petite Pumpkin Cocotte, $30, lecreuset.com

7. Fill up the crowd with these traditional minis. Available in green, blue, red, orange and white. Omniware 5 oz. Cocottes, $35 for 4 piece set, macys.com

8. Make them quack up with this woodsie serving piece. Also available with a rabbit or chicken top. Apilco Duck Casserole Dish, $120, williams-sonoma.com

9. You’ll be surprised how fast the food disappears from these 12″x8.5″ dishes, buy two to make seconds! Italian Onda Bakers, $30, surlatable.com

 

Still hungry for more casseroles? Try these recipes:

Summer Picnic Essentials

If you can’t stand the heat in the kitchen—get out of the house and host a picnic! We’ve got the best gear for a summer day in the park, at the beach or on the lawn—all you have to do is provide the food. Check out our fave products:

1. Forget schlepping around a bulky, boxy basket—this insulated picnic tote holds everything you need and keeps food at the right temp! $42, macys.com

2. Easily carry this large picnic mat to whatever spot you choose—the waterproof bottom means you can lay it wherever you want! Plus, store extra essentials in the hidden pocket. $32 and up, picnicfun.com Special note: 10% of all pink mat purchases will go to breast cancer research.

3. Keep food safe from bugs while you play with these hand-painted food domes. $30 and up for set of three, depending on size, worldmarket.com

4. Just because you’re outside doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style! You’d never guess these servers, with intricate rope detailing on the bottoms, are melamine. Available in three colors. $18.50, potterybarn.com

5. Need inspiration? Look no further than Tori Finch’s “A Perfect Day for A Picnic” loaded with tons of decorating and recipe ideas for your outdoor party. $17, amazon.com

6. Don’t forget the wine! This three-bottle-tote ensures the vino keeps flowing all day long! $30, builtny.com

7. These bright, printed melamine plates will survive the trip outside—and impress your company! $4.50 each, westelm.com

Pair your picnic gear with these delish just-for-summer recipes:

 

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