7 Kitchen Items You Really Need for Thanksgiving: Do You Have Them All?

Nobody wants unnecessary kitchen clutter. Marie Kondo and Alton Brownhave drilled it into our heads that our artfully arranged kitchen storage spaces should be stocked (never stuffed) only with multipurpose, untrendy, chef-style kitchen gear; leave the Spiralyzer for somebody else’s yard sale! And yet, if you’re planning to host a classic turkey-and-fixin’s Thanksgiving dinner every year, there are a few specialty items that you’re better off investing in. And yes, some of them are even (gasp) uni-taskers.

We talked to Kristen Miglore, creative director at Food52.com, to reveal some kitchen gear you actually need for Thanksgiving dinner.

1. A roasting pan with nonstick rack

Classic stainless-steel roasting pan with nonstick rack from Mauvielfood52.com

The most essential piece: a place to cook that bird. Sure, you could wrestle a disposable foil roasting pan on top of a cookie sheet, but it takes only one wrong move with those flimsy things and your precious bird is all over the floor.

“A sturdy roasting pan with a nonstick rack will make your life so much easier on Turkey Day,” says Miglore. It’s a pan you can actually use year-round for roasting chickens, big cuts of beef, fish, or even veggies. “I just used mine to braise a couple of bunches of collard greens last week—the pan was stuffed!”

This Mauviel version (above) includes a rack and flavor injector ($170, Food52.com). A more budget-friendly choice is available as an Amazon special ($30.56, Amazon.com).

2. A fat separator

A fat separator makes making gravy a snap.oxo.com

“A fat separator is a one-off, but they’re inexpensive, and by that point in the day, you’ll be very glad you have it,” says Miglore. Fat separators make it easy to extract the meat drippings from the fat by allowing the fat to rise to the top. The spout pulls from the bottom of the cup, so that you get only the lean juices.

This Oxo version ($14.99, Oxo.com) has a 4-cup capacity, stopper, and strainer cap on the top to catch little pieces of vegetables or spices that fall in with your drippings as you pour off the pan. If your family is like mine, good gravy is perhaps the most essential part of the holiday meal, but getting it right can be tricky, especially if you make it only once a year. Treat yourself to a fat separator, and make that last-minute task stress-free.

3. A long, sharp carving knife

Dansk Classic Fjord teak-handled carving setfood52.com

A sharp chef’s knife can work in a pinch, but if you’re going to do it right, a carving set is the way to go.

According to Miglore, a proper carving set should include the stabilizing fork that makes carving much easier. And when the pressure is on, you should probably take every advantage you can get. Nobody wants to see the looks of horror on their guests’ faces as they destroy an innocent roast turkey in front of them.

If you want to splurge, this teak-handled set above ($79, Food52.com) is perfect for special occasion roasts. The reviewers at Wirecutter suggest a more affordable set from Messermeister ($48.95, Amazon.com) for its “good looks, wallet-friendly price, and high performance.”

4. A meat thermometer

The Lavatools meat thermometer keeps overcooked turkey at bay.amazon.com

Gone are the days of waiting for a button timer to pop up on the turkey and calling it done. Inaccurate cooking results in dry, overcooked turkey breasts and/or dangerously undercooked thighs. There are a host of techniques for producing the perfect, juicy, delicious bird, but all involve a meat thermometer.

“I pull out my meat thermometer not just on Thanksgiving, but to be more confident every time I roast a chicken or sear a steak,” explains Miglore.

If you want a basic model, the Lavatools PT12 above ($24.99, Amazon.com) is recommended by Wired for its fast readings and Thermapen-style folding probe. If you prefer to read the temperature from afar without having to open the oven, the ThermoPro TP07 is a best-seller ($35.99, Amazon.com) and has a 300-foot range, pre-set meat temperatures, and programmable temperature alert options.

5. A big carving board with a moat

A cutting board with a moat is ideal for juicy turkeys.food52.com

“A big carving board with a moat will save you from having juices escape onto your counter,” explains Miglore.

Great for cutting anything with juice, from turkey to watermelon, a cutting board with a moat is the rare kitchen tool that is incredibly practical but also beautiful and special for the holiday.

Food52 sells this eco-friendly 24-by-18-inch model ($130, Food52.com). For smaller kitchens, Kohl’s has a 16-by-12-inch model ($37.99, Kohls.com).

6. A large, rimmed serving platter

This huge, rimmed platter is the perfect turkey presentation device.Fishseddy.com

“A large serving platter with a good rim is handy for passing at the table,” says Miglore.

If you’re not planning to carve the turkey at the table, it’s also the perfect vessel for getting your turkey from the kitchen to the table. Without a rim on your platter, it’s easy to spill turkey juice over the side—especially if the person bearing the platter has been indulging in predinner cocktails. It’s best to play it safe. This 20-inch platter from Fishs Eddy is what I use ($42.95, Fishseddy.com). It doubles in the summer as a gigantic salad platter.

7. Quality pie pans

Having decent pie pans is so worth it.Amazon.com

Pie can be a fiddly thing to make. The crust can be fussy: It has to be browned but not burned, and baked just right so the filling is set but not dry. My first few years hosting Thanksgiving, I used disposable pie pans, but they broke the crust if you let them bend at all while moving them. The next year, I cheaped out and got glass pie pans at the dollar store. I paid the price because one of them split in half in the heat of the oven, ruining that pie and flooding the oven floor with uncooked filling.

The lesson I learned, twice, was to pony up for decent pie pans, even if you use them only once a year. They’re easy to store and just might motivate you to bake a peach pie this summer. This Pyrex three-pack from Amazon has nice handles and is extremely affordable ($13.17, Amazon.com).

 

Posted by Audrey Ference on realtor.com

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6 Things You Need for the Best Friendsgiving Ever

Thanksgiving is just a few days away (which, first off, how?!) and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s such a lovely time of year, what with the copious amounts of food and family time. In fact, I love Thanksgiving so much that celebrating it once just isn’t enough. That’s why I’m so jazzed that Friendsgiving has become such a trend, especially since I live in New York City and travel home to Ohio for the holidays. It’s a real treat to get to celebrate Thanksgiving with my city friends before we head back to our respective hometowns. Plus, I will never turn down an opportunity to eat mashed potatoes.

If you’re looking to throw your own Friendsgiving, these six special touches can really make it a next level bash. Now let’s get ready to give thanks!

1: DIY Banner

Get your guests into the Thanksgiving mood with this glittery banner.

Make This: Glittered Thanksgiving Banner

2: A Photo Booth

A gathering of close friends is the perfect time to capture those mems — millennial for memories — so customizing a photo booth for the occasion is sure to excite everyone in attendance and guarantee some amazing Instagram posts.

3: Unexpected Place Settings

Jason Kisner, Copyright 2013, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Jason Kisner, Copyright 2013, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Surprise your guests by eschewing the expected turkeys and cornucopias and whip up these DIY white pumpkin succulent holders. They’re minimal, stylish and your guests will be able to take them home, what could be better?

4: The Perfect Side Dish

Your Thanksgiving dinner will be all about the main dish, but most Friendsgivings are pot luck-style, so side dishes get their chance to shine. This take on Brussels sprouts includes cranberries, orange juice, pine nuts and plenty of garlic…yum!

5: A Signature Cocktail

Sam Henderson

Sam Henderson

Of course, you’ll want to have plenty of non-alcoholic options as well as beer and wine on hand, but serving up one speciality drink is s fun way to add personality to your get together. You could go with one of these seasonal apple cider sips, or get creative with this this hot cranberry mule, an autumnal take on a summer classic.

Make This: Hot Cranberry Mule

6. A Crowd-Pleasing Dessert

To cap off your top-notch Friendsgiving, all you need is a delicious sweet treat. And sure, you could go with apple pie or pumpkin pie, but sometimes it’s a little more fun to try something new. These pumpkin mousse and ginger parfaits scream fall, look pretty and they come pre-portioned!

Make This: Pumpkin Mousse and Ginger Parfaits

Posted by Bridget Mallon on hgtv.com

 

5 Home Repairs to Make Before You Host a Holiday Gathering

This is no time for major updates, so stick with simple tasks to make for a festive celebration.

Hosting a holiday gathering can be a lot of fun, but perhaps a bit intimidating, too. You want your house to look its best, but now isn’t the time to undertake any major updates.

Chances are, you’re busy enough just preparing for the event. So, focus on just the areas of your house where your guests will spend time.

Whether you’re a first-time party host with a few jitters, or an old pro looking for some new ideas, these tips will help you ensure that your home is ready for any gathering.

Light the way

The sun sets early this time of year, so it’s important to make sure the entrance to your home is clean and well-lit.

Courtesy of Bill Fry

If you have a large front yard, try to focus on just the front entryway and the path leading up to it. Install porch lights, or replace the bulbs on existing lighting. Cut back any shrubbery that is obstructing the walkway.

On the day of your party, open the blinds on the front windows so your guests can see into your warm, festive-looking home as they approach. It’s a great way to create a sense of welcoming anticipation.

Pro tip: The easiest possible way to create instant lighting for walkways and paths is with the solar lights that you just stick into the ground. The sun does the rest of the work!

Take care of the bottom line

Our mothers used to say this, and it’s true: If your floors are spotless, they make your whole house look cleaner.

Even if you’re unable to do an in-depth house cleaning before your gathering, you will certainly want to make sure that all floors have been cleaned before that first guest steps over the threshold.

Pro tip: If you have carpeting, clean the carpets a minimum of three days ahead of your affair to make sure they have dried fully.

Brighten up your bathroom

If you’re bothered by grimy-looking grout in your bathroom, try this easy, inexpensive, and non-toxic method to get rid of it nearly instantly: Just spray on some full-strength hydrogen peroxide, let it sit for 10 minutes, and then wipe clean. That’s it!

Next, add some flowers, holiday decorations, or pictures on the wall to further spiff up your powder room, and it will be ready for your guests.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Pro tip: Instantly de-clog a slow-moving sink drain with a Zip-It. This inexpensive tool looks like a giant zip-tie. You just work it down into the drain to pull up hair clogs — all the other gunky stuff will come up with it.

Tune up kitchen appliances

Your kitchen appliances will be the workhorses of your holiday party, whether you’re hosting a full family dinner or a cocktail party. You want them to be fully functioning and ready for action.

Make sure all stove burners are working. Now’s the time to clean the oven if you haven’t done that for a while.

Clean out the refrigerator, and make sure that both the fridge and freezer are running at their optimal temperatures.

Make sure your dishwasher is in good working order. You can clean it easily with a dishwasher cleaner that you run through a cycle.

Pro tip: Sharp knives will make easy work of preparing the big meal. Make sure all your kitchen knives are newly sharpened, and also check the batteries in your electric carving knife, if you have one.

Make your space kid-friendly

If you make your home welcoming for children, you will ensure that their parents have a great time as well.

If you happen to have kids that are the same ages as your young guests, you’re in luck. But if not, consider adding some considerate touches that will make parents more comfortable, and alleviate kid boredom.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Turn a spare room or an upstairs bedroom into a private nursing/changing area for a new mom.
  • Toddlers and younger children will want to be near their parents, so a good idea for them is to set up a corner of your living or dining room with toys, books, a tablet for watching cartoons, and some comfy pillows or throws.
  • One of our favorite strategies for older kids is to turn the dessert course into an activity. For instance, you could bake a huge batch of sugar cookies in holiday shapes, and then put out different colors of icing to let kids (and adults) go to town with decorating their own cookies.

Pro tip: If you don’t already have children, or if yours are older, don’t forget to kid-proof your space. Put away anything expensive, breakable, or unstable. Do some baby-proofing, if necessary. This way you and the parents can relax and not have to worry about safety hazards.

Hopefully these ideas will take some of the worry out of holiday entertaining, and ensure that you and your guests can relax and enjoy each other’s company this season.

Posted by See Jane Drill on Zillow

Savvy Shopping for Black Friday Deals

Set your alarm (or just charge up your laptop). Black Friday is almost here, and the deals on household goods are unbeatable!

Thanks for your purchase. Cropped image of a customer paying to shop assistant by a credit card at the cash desk; Shutterstock ID 252655090; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post

Thanks for your purchase. Cropped image of a customer paying to shop assistant by a credit card at the cash desk; Shutterstock ID 252655090; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post

With the holiday shopping season already under way (earlier than ever!), you may be thinking Black Friday is the time to buy that HDTV or budget laptop you’ve been eyeing. After all, the prices are so attractive. Just $150 for a name brand TV? Prices on bargain model laptops starting at only $99? The deals are pretty hard to resist.

Don’t just fixate on electronics, though. Consider purchasing items for your home, too. Sure, these purchases may not be as sexy as a sleek new phone, but there are plenty of great deals on items you’ll use year-round.

Large appliances

This is the time of year when you see retailers bundle sets — like washers and dryers, for example — and sell them at a discount. And the savings can be significant — up to several hundred dollars off, plus free local delivery and haul away. Special financing may also be available.

Don’t need a set? Don’t worry — individual appliance deals are impressive, too.

Oh, and if you have your heart set on that pricey, but oh-so-worth-it, Dyson vacuum cleaner, now is a good time to buy one.

Kitchen items

Need a new blender? Coffee maker? Microwave? It’s an ideal time to purchase these types of items as well, as the deals are better than average, according to dealnews.com.

And there’s no time like the present to complete your dream kitchen. Keep an eye out for normally expensive brands which may now be affordable, once you consider the rebate.

Tools and hardware

Whether you’re in the market for a storage cabinet, mechanic’s tool set, generator, lawn and garden gadgets, or snow blower, you’ll find it available at prices that won’t break the bank.

Tabletop essentials

You’ll see savings on everything from holiday collectibles to ornaments and figurines — just in time for the rapidly approaching holiday season. Whether you’re hosting relatives, entertaining guests, or just feeling festive, Black Friday is a good day to shop for tabletop essentials that can help set the mood.

Posted by Vera Gibbons on Zillow

8 Hacks for Hosting Thanksgiving at Home

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is almost here. Harder still: the concept of having to host the holiday at your own home. Even if you love opening your home to friends and family, hosting on turkey day can induce stress in even the most experienced home entertainers. To help out, we’ve collected some tricks that make cooking faster, clean up easier, and the whole event less expensive. Bonus: You won’t lose your sanity and snap at a guest (at least not more than once).

mediaphotos/iStock

1. Stop grocery shopping now

One typical source of holiday stress is lack of space—you need room in your cupboards, fridge, and freezer to accommodate all the ingredients and finished dishes that will soon be filling them.

“Start clearing out the cupboards two weeks before you do your Thanksgiving shopping,” says Beth Hirsch, an instructor at The Cooking Coach 101. Bonus: By eating up your pantry items instead of shopping, you’ll save money to splurge on holiday gifts, or yourself!

2. Go full rental

For a little bit of money, a party rental company can make your holiday a lot easier.

“Even if your dining table is large enough to host a party of 12 or more, the dining chairs may be so wide that it limits how many can pull up to the table,” says Rebecca West, design psychologist and blogger of Happy Starts at Home. “Consider stashing the big upholstered chairs in the garage and renting folding chairs.”

Other things to consider renting: extra glasses, flatware, linens—that way you can laugh off the inevitable red wine and cranberry sauce stains—and a coat rack to keep outerwear from forming an unruly Everest in the guest room.

3. Spend less on table decor

Dressing up a table with fresh flowers gets pricey fast. Instead, buy fewer flowers and break them up into mini arrangements in mirrored bud vases (Wholesale Flowers and Supplies offers an assortment).

“Mirrored vases reflect candlelight and the beauty of the table,” says Bronwen Smith, owner of B Floral. Another idea for affordable table decor: “Spray-paint small pumpkins gold to jazz up your Thanksgiving tablescape.”

4. Fast-track your food

Instead of cooking the turkey for six semitraumatic hours—worrying all the while that it’s drying out or cooking unevenly—try spatchcocking the bird. This involves cutting the backbone out of the turkey and laying the bird flat, so that all the skin is face up.

“It slashes hours off the cooking time, and the turkey will have crispy browned skin on the outside and be moist and tender on the inside,” says Hirsch. Martha Stewart has step-by-step visuals. (God bless you, Martha!)

Another food shortcut is the mashed potatoes. “Potatoes done the usual way [boiled] take a lot of time, so instead I wrap them in damp towels and microwave them,” says Hirsch. “After that, they’re easy to peel and mash.” Note: This works only with thick-skinned russets, which produce a fluffy finished product.

5. Break out your summer cooler

If you’re hosting a group of drinkers that your ice bucket can’t accommodate, fill a large cooler with ice and chill the drinks in it: white wine, beer, bottled water, even milk or juice for the kids. You can also set the cooler in the dining area, which will keep guests out of the kitchen during food prep.

6. Have guests pitch in outside of the kitchen

People will want to help you with the meal, but unless you are game to host a true potluck, it might be easier to take on the main meal yourself and assign guests to bring wine and dessert.

“Making desserts is time-consuming and wine is expensive, so passing off those duties saves you both money and stress,” Hirsch points out. You can also ask guests to bring apps that don’t need to be heated, such as crudités, cheese, and cured meats. Request that they bring food contributions plated and ready to serve, so you’re not fishing around for dishes. This also keeps guests out of your kitchen, which means your sister-in-law won’t try to put her green bean casserole in the oven right as you’re basting the turkey.

7. Occupy the little guests

Since kids don’t like to linger over dinner, keep them seated at the kids table with an activity. For example, lay out crayons and paper and ask them to write their holiday gift wish lists. This can keep them busy for a surprisingly long time.

8. End the night with a next-day buffet

Many people love a fridge that’s full of Thanksgiving leftovers, but if you’re not one of these people, send your guests home with extra food. Set up a sandwich bar, which can be as simple as placing sliced bread on one end and waxed paper sandwich bags on the other, with the turkey, cranberry sauce, and other fixings in between. Have restaurant takeout containers handy so guests can take home individual portions.

Posted by Celeste Perron on realtor.com

Kitchen Organization Prep Steps for Turkey Day

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, you’ll want to prep your kitchen for the work ahead. Don’t wait until the day before to get everything cleaned and organized. Here are some tips from HomeAdvisor to make sure your kitchen’s ready for the big day:

Turkey DayClean, Clean, Clean!
Clear and clean your countertops, butcher blocks and dining tables to ready them for the slew of groceries, dishes and ingredients to come. Store unnecessary items somewhere out of the way. If you have a countertop microwave that you won’t be using for the holiday, consider moving it to make more room. Also move blenders, drying racks and any other non-essentials that might free up space. Next, wipe surfaces down with a washcloth dipped in soapy water. If you have harsh stains, break out the sponge to scrub them off.

Make Sure Your Equipment is in Working Order
Make sure that any equipment you’ll be using is in working order. This includes everything from your range hood, stovetop, dishwasher and oven to your can opener, electric mixer and corkscrew. If you’re the adventurous type, it might even include your grill. It’s a good idea to perform this exercise even if your appliances are in good condition — just to avoid any last-minute holiday disasters. If you find that any of your appliances are in need of repair or maintenance, you’ll need to call a repair service to see if they can fit you in on short notice.

Pay special attention to items like your sink and garbage disposal, which will get heavy use on Thanksgiving. Run the disposal a few times before the holiday to make sure it is working properly. If it begins to clog, assess whether its one of the few issues you can fix yourself or a major issue that requires plumbing assistance, such as a complete disposal replacement.

Purge Your Storage Areas
If you’ll need additional cabinet or shelving space during the holiday, consider rearranging or purging your storage areas. This is a good opportunity to discard or donate anything you no longer have use for. If you’re making room in the pantry, it’s a chance to get rid of food past its expiration date — or to donate spices and non-perishables you’ll never use to a charity or a local shelter. If an item is useful but will be in your way, find temporary space in a closet or a different room.

Organize Your Fridge
You’ll need to make room in your refrigerator for all the food you’ll have to store before and after Thanksgiving. To make sure your fridge is holiday-ready, empty out the entire refrigerator and repeat the process you used with the cabinets and shelves. Anything that’s expired should go in the trash. What’s left should be placed back as succinctly as possible.

Pro tip: Condiments, produce and dairy products should be kept in the drawers or door of your refrigerator to save room on the shelves. Try to fit beverage cans and bottles in the door on the bottom rack. Leave extra room on the bottom shelf for your turkey.

Get Your Dining Table Ready
Once you’ve prepped the kitchen and freed some space on the countertops, you’ll need to clear the dining table to set it for dinner. Clear off any leftover groceries or dishes and move them to the kitchen. Then clean the table and chairs — and run tablecloths, pillows and cushions through the wash as necessary. Next, you can set your table to impress your guests and showcase all of your hard work.

Conclusion
Preparing the Thanksgiving feast can be stressful. And waiting until the last minute to get your kitchen in order can make it even more stressful. Take some time to prep your kitchen in advance of the holiday so you’re ready to tackle the big job without any surprises or disasters. That way, you can cook the meal and enjoy the holiday with your family without a hitch!

This story was written by Andrea Davis and originally appeared on HuffingtonPost.com.

How to Create a Standout Fall Centerpiece

Elements from nature and items you may already have on hand work together to create a beautiful fall centerpiece.

1

Fall encourages us to spend more time at home with friends and family — which undoubtedly leads to gatherings around the table. Luckily, a little fall foliage can make it easy to update your table’s centerpiece without investing in new dishes and linens.

Look to nature and items you may already have on hand. Here are some simple elements to create a standout seasonal centerpiece.

Collected

Shop in your own backyard or even on your next nature walk. Look for leaves, branches and acorns. Bare branches can be accented with small votives or air plants, as a more sculptural centerpiece for a rectangular table. Collected feathers can look striking in a simple glass vase while providing texture and interest to the tablescape, too.

Local

Visit your weekly local farmers market and look for more substantial items like persimmons, pomegranates, berries, squash and interesting foliage for an arrangement that will last for weeks. For a more modern aesthetic, grab a few pumpkins, spray paint them white and line them up down the center of the table. Fresh flowers are an expected centerpiece and last only a week, where these finds can last anywhere from one month to a whole season.

Unexpected

Embrace the season by making your seating the center of the show. Consider painting a single bench or the wooden head chairs of your table red, persimmon orange or yellow. If you have fabric chairs, consider a patterned slipcover or throw pillow reflecting a harvest palette. It’s easy to swap these items out at the end of the season.

In-house

Think beyond standard vases and planters for centerpieces. Pitchers, plate stands, mason jars, teacups, coffee mugs, serving platters, trays and soup terrines can all make wonderful containers for seasonal flowers, fruit and candles. You may even wrap some in burlap for a textural effect. Have some pretty herbs or flowers growing at home? Grab those, too.

Functional

Display silverware and monogrammed napkins in a galvanized bucket for a more functional and approachable centerpiece. Keep ready-to-eat fruit on a pedestal or cake stand when guests are visiting and kids are between activities. If the containers you choose don’t coordinate, give them a fresh look with a coat of seasonal paint to complement your decor.

This post was originally published by Kerrie Kelly on Zillow Blog. See it here. See dining room designs for all seasons on Zillow Digs.