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Chowhound Blog

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Chowhound Christmas Gift Guide 2020: Vegan-Friendly Food Treats

best vegan food gifts 2019
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Giving edible Christmas gifts is a no-brainer, unless you’re gifting to a vegan. Then things get a tad more complicated. But we got you. Below, the best edible vegan gifts out there that are so good they’ll probably work for the omnivore on your list, too.

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10 Clever Ways to Use Dryer Sheets That Don’t Involve Laundry

dryer sheet use hacks besides laundry: clean pans, fight static, keep bugs away, and more
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Did you know you can use dryer sheets for a lot more than laundry?

It’s well-known that dryer sheets help soften clothes and keep them free of static. However, these handy household items are capable of so much more. Most dryer sheets are made from a nonwoven polyester material coated with a softening agent. Once it goes through a dry cycle, the softening agent melts away and you’re left with a durable cloth that has a multitude of uses. Instead of tossing them into the trash, try one of these unexpected uses for used dryer sheets and one use for a new one.

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How to Clean & Maintain Your Wooden Cutting Board without Ruining It

how to clean wooden cutting board
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Home chefs love wood cutting boards because they are durable and reliable. Wood boards are attractive, won’t dull your knives, and they do not easily contaminate or harbor harmful bacteria. The biggest misconception about wooden boards is that they are hard to clean and maintain. Sure, you shouldn’t put them in the dishwasher, but cleaning a wood cutting board isn’t hard at all. Learn how to clean a wooden cutting board and make it last a lifetime with these easy methods.

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8 Easy Ways to Make Boxed Mac & Cheese Taste Like You Made It from Scratch

This is a safe space where a person may freely admit that they still have room in their hearts and mouths for the boxed macaroni and cheese of their youth. And it isn’t just nostalgia—there’s something truly appealing about the squidgy blend of noodles, milk, butter, and the enigmatic sauce packet when it comes together to make its weird magic in a pot. It may not entirely taste like cheese, per se, and we’re a little suspicious about shelf-stable dairy in general, but the buttery, salty porridge feel of boxed macaroni and cheese can be best summarized by a quote from a native Italian I made it for once: “Why is it so terrible, but so good?”

That being said, with any degree of culinary know-how, it’s easy to use any boxed mac and cheese kit as a blank slate to propel it toward actual epicurean greatness. Try any or a combination of the following eight hacks or add-ins for improving the outcome of boxed macaroni and cheese.

Add Actual Cheese…or American Cheese

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One need only look to pizza to understand how something already made with cheese benefits from extra cheese. Improve both the taste and texture of boxed mac and cheese by adding some actual cheese to the mix: Mozzarella makes it stretchy, gruyere adds sweet and savory notes, cheddar keeps it classic, and even parmesan adds depth and additional saltiness. Or frankly—even though it doesn’t qualify as actual cheese—a couple of slices of American cheese does wonders for instant ramen noodles, so why not for mac and cheese?

Upgrade the Noodles

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Most mac and cheese kits rely on tiny macaroni noodles or shells to decrease the necessary boiling time—and therefore the time between when the craving hits and when the craving is satisfied. Smaller noodles are easier to overcook, as anyone who semi-fondly recalls the frayed look that boxed macaroni and cheese can sometimes achieve. Aim for al dente and save the macaroni for some killer art project. Upgrade the texture with any sturdier, short-cut noodle like rotini, penne, or campanelle.

Substitute the Milk

milk for cream

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The milk in macaroni and cheese kits is merely acting as a liquid to help the butter and sauce mixture combine. Low fat milk does help keep it on the safer side nutritionally, but you’ve already committed to macaroni and cheese, so how much does that matter? You can enrich the situation with fuller-fat dairy options like whole milk, or—gasps—heavy cream. Add a little tang with your richness with sour cream or cream cheese.

Mix in Veggies

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Does anyone else always take their mac and cheese with a side of vegetables or salad in order to achieve some sense of “balance” in the meal? Yes? Macaroni and cheese and broccoli are almost as ubiquitous a matchup as peas and carrots. A low-maintenance way to add sturdy veggies right into your mac and cheese is to toss in a handful to the boiling water for the last minute or two before draining. Sautéed or roasted vegetables will add even more flavor if you have the wherewithal for an extra pot or pan. Other green vegetables besides broccoli like spinach, Brussels sprouts, or asparagus are easy bedfellows, but cauliflower, roasted peppers, or even butternut squash are also equal to the task.

Add Herbs

istetiana / Getty Images

Herbs add massive flavor and color to any dish without adding much in the way of volume or caloric impact, and macaroni and cheese is no exception. Experiment with usual suspects like parsley or basil; you could even put a few spoonfuls of pesto in for an herb and garlic boost. Or go out of your usual bounds and add intrigue to your pantry staple with herbs such as a tarragon or chervil, or even blends such as herbes de Provence.

Top It with Breadcrumbs

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The quickest way to tease baked mac and cheese texture out of a stovetop mac and cheese process is with a smattering of toasted breadcrumbs. Needless to say you can add extra cheese and breadcrumbs and finish the thing in the oven for even more of a casserole outcome, but even a quick saute of panko breadcrumbs and olive oil tips boxed mac and cheese into a meal worth actually sitting at the table for.

Add Aromatics

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Caramelize an onion while you’re waiting for your pasta water to boil and now your kitchen even smells like you’re up to something extremely sophisticated. White cheddar mac and cheese plus garlic equals a cheap and cheerful alfredo. Or if you’ve been regenerating scallions in your kitchen window, macaroni and cheese is yet another place that benefits from their everyday piquancy.

Finish with Hot Sauce

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I mean, you’re probably doing this anyway, but let’s go ahead and point out that different hot sauces have different salient characteristics, so if you’ve been dallying only with Tabasco or Frank’s your whole life, consider the transformative qualities of sriracha, Valentina, gochujang, chili crisp, etc.

Boost It with Bacon (& Other Proteins)

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Bacon makes everything taste better…full stop. Riff on that same theme for a fast fix with other cooked proteins like ground beef, sausage, or rotisserie chicken. Start combining proteins with some of the hacks above for creations that start to resemble meals in their own right more than just boxed macaroni and cheese: pizza mac with sausage, basil, plum tomatoes, and mozzarella; chili mac with ground beef, cilantro, corn, and pepper Jack; or buffalo chicken mac with rotisserie chicken, blue cheese, scallions, and hot sauce.

Related Video: 7 Rules for Perfect Mac and Cheese from Scratch


Why Is Natural Wine Such a Big Deal?

natural wine, organic wine, and responsible wine drinking

Natural wine, including biodynamic and organic wine, is well worth seeking out, especially if you’re interested in being a responsible wine drinker. Here’s what you should know.

In the age of wellness Instagram influencers and food bloggers, and the prevalence of cleanses and detoxes, consumers are much more mindful about what they’re putting in their bodies than ever before. That shouldn’t stop with the wine they bring home.

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An Ode to 5 Thanksgiving Foods That Are Better from the Package

canned cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving table
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Nostalgia is a factor not to be discounted when it comes to food, and these five holiday staples sometimes seem even better from the box (or can). If you disagree, though, don’t worry; we’ve got you covered with homemade alternatives.

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Better-Than-Homemade Goodies That Can Be Ordered Online

best mail order cookies, cake, pie, and ice cream for holiday dessert
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Mail order cookies, cakes, pies, and other sweet treats are better (and more prolific) than ever, and that’s a good thing this holiday season. We rounded up some of the best desserts you can order online, whether you’re looking for a delicious gift or an easy way to end your holiday dinner.

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How to Care for Enameled Cast Iron So It Lasts a Lifetime

how to clean enameled cast iron from Dutch ovens to braisers
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You’ve sprung for a gorgeous piece of enameled cast iron cookware; protect your investment by cleaning and caring for it the right way.

From Dutch ovens and braisers to stock pots and saucepans, enameled cast iron cookware already has a few things going for it that traditional cast iron pans do not. Enameled cast iron doesn’t require seasoning either initially or after each use, it can be easily washed with soap and warm water, and it’s even dishwasher-safe. And, its shiny glaze not only looks beautiful but means food is way less likely to stick than what your grandmother or great-grandmother was used to in the kitchen.

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Wine & Sulfites: What You Need to Know

wine sulfites: what are they, are they harmful, and how do you get rid of them
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You’ve likely heard something about wine sulfites before, but what exactly are they and are they cause for concern? Here’s what every wine drinker needs to know.

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Chefs’ Favorite Caribbean Pantry Staples You Can Order Online

best Caribbean food ingredients to order online
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If you want to cook Caribbean food at home, stock up on these chef-approved pantry staples.

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7 Doughnuts from Around the World That’ll Make You Want to Put a Ring on It

best donuts around the world
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Doughnuts (or donuts) are one of the most popular fried snacks that unites cultures around the world. Doughnuts come in all sizes and shapes: rings, holes, spheres, twists, and balls. It’s hard to argue that everyone enjoys fried dough no matter what shape or form it is served in. As long as it’s hot, fresh, and fried crisp!

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19 Great Thanksgiving Desserts That Aren’t Pie

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When the usual pie lineup feels boring and uninspired for your dessert repertoire, you’ve got to make a change. We’re not saying eliminate the classics like Thanksgiving pies altogether, but consider tossing in a wild card. Sometimes you’ve got to branch out and try something new. If you’re looking for an alternative to pie, here are some highly recommended Thanksgiving dessert recipes you haven’t tried yet.

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The 20 Best ALDI Finds for November Are All About Cookies & Thanksgiving

The leaves have transformed from green to yellow and red, pumpkin spice has infiltrated all our favorite baked goods, and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. It’s true: Fall is here and well along its way. That can only mean that ALDI, the beloved German grocery store, has welcomed in plenty of new, seasonally inspired items. We’re talking every kind of cookie imaginable, all the Thanksgiving essentials, and plenty of treats that’ll help you stay warm as the cold weather sets in. 

Related Reading: The Best Food & Drink Advent Calendars for 2020 Read the rest of this entry »

Everything You Need to Know About Pepperoni, Pizza’s BFF

pepperoni 101: where it came from, how it's made, and why cup and char is so superior to flat pepperoni
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Pepperoni is a perennial favorite, but do you know where it came from, how it’s made, or what makes it Buffalo style? Read on to find out.

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How to Store & Defrost Frozen Bananas for Baking

how to bake with frozen banana, plus the best way to freeze and defrost them
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If you’ve got ripe bananas and no immediate plans to eat them, you can let them rot away on your counter, whip up some banana bread on the spot, or throw them in the freezer for later.

There are many ways to use frozen bananas, but some of the best uses are baking. Read on to learn how to freeze and defrost bananas – and the best ways to use frozen bananas in baking (and beyond).

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The Ultimate Guide to Pomegranate, ‘The Jewel of Winter’

pomegranate guide: how to pick, cut, prepare, juice, and cook with pomegranate
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Mystic, beautiful, decorative, lucky, nutritious, superfood—these are some of the words used to describe a pomegranate fruit. Here’s everything you need to know about choosing and using pomegranate.

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Tired of Pumpkin? This Genoise Cake with Cranberry Curd Filling Is the Move

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Let’s get one thing on the record: Cakes may be easy to bake, but they’re certainly tough to decorate. There’s a simple reason why we spend money on cakes from bakeries, after all.  Those trusted bakers are often far superior at frosting and piping than us home cooks could ever be. 

Related Reading: If You Cut Cake in Wedges, You’re Doing It All Wrong
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Fish Sauce vs Oyster Sauce: Do You Know the Difference?

fish sauce and oyster sauce: what is the difference and can you use them interchangeably
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They’re both complex, potent seasonings that are staples of Asian cuisine, with nautical creature namesakes to boot. But that’s about the extent of the commonalities between oyster sauce and fish sauce. Using one instead of the other will have drastic and disastrous effects on the outcome of your recipe. Let’s examine what makes them so different.

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Marzipan & Almond Paste: What Exactly Is the Difference?

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As holiday baking season approaches, one question on everyone’s mind is: Are marzipan and almond paste the same thing? OK, maybe that’s not a universal wonder, but the heady scent of ground almonds is especially prevalent during the holidays, where it graces many baked goods from cookies, to cakes, to croissants and other pastries.

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Birria Red Tacos Prove Soaking Your Tortillas Is a Genius Move

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Learn how to make birria tacos at home and you’ll never go back to your usual naked tortilla.

A taco isn’t truly complete without a few accoutrements—a sprinkle of cilantro and diced onions along with a splash of salsa offer the perfect final touch. But while the focus tends to be on the toppings, when it comes to the red taco (a longtime Mexican favorite and recent sensation in the Los Angeles culinary scene) it’s the tortilla itself which takes center stage, dipped in a fiery oil bath and then fried for a flavorful and eye-popping finish.

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9 Clever Ways to Use Your French Press Besides Making Coffee

how to use french press besides coffee
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A French press is a handy tool for making coffee, but there’s a lot else you can do with it too, from frothing milk to making cocktails.

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