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Easy tips to take holiday season from ‘ho hum’ to happy, healthy

PHILADELPHIA – For many, the holiday season comes with family, friends and lots of food. As part of the Healthy for Life 20 by 20 initiative, to improve the health of Americans, Aramark and the American Heart Association tapped into their experts to assemble a list of healthy tips and tricks to help navigate the holiday season, without sacrificing the flavor or fun of celebrating.

Aramark, the largest food service provider in the United States and one of the largest employers of registered dietitians in the world, and the American Heart Association, the leading voluntary health organization devoted to a world of longer, healthier lives, have teamed up to empower and inspire individuals and families to make better food choices every day, including the holiday season.

Whether it’s cooking for a crowd or making smart kitchen swaps, Aramark and the American Heart Association will help you put together a winning holiday game plan.

COOKING FOR A CROWD

Aramark chefs serve two billion meals a year, so they’re used to cooking for a crowd every day of the week. Whether for a cocktail party, weekend brunch or holiday dinner, these easy tips will make cooking for a crowd a lot less daunting.


Ask around. Before you get too far with your planning, note anyone who has a food preference, allergy, intolerance or any other dietary needs or restrictions. While some guests may follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, plenty of people are thinking more plant-forward in general. Come up with a mix of meat, poultry, seafood and plant-forward offerings so every guest has a selection of dishes to enjoy. It’s a good idea to have at least one meatless main dish for guests who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet.

Plan ahead. Think about what you can take care of in the days leading up to your event. Shopping is a no-brainer. Review all your recipes and check your pantry to compile one master shopping list before you even set foot in the grocery store. Buying in-season produce will help you save money, as will buying in bulk, which large parties often require anyway. Once home, take stock of your cookware and serving dishes, laying them out with sticky notes so you know which food will go in which dish.

Welcome helping hands (big and small). If someone offers to help in the kitchen or contribute something, take that person up on it! Even kids can get in on the game: Let them toss a salad, set the table or handle washing the pots and pans. It’s one less thing for you to do as the host and one more way to inspire their love of healthy home cooking.

SMART KITCHEN SWAPS

There are plenty of healthy baking swaps to lighten up your favorite holiday treats.

– One cup of unsweetened applesauce can be swapped out for one cup of sugar.

– One cup of mashed bananas can be used to replace one cup of melted butter or oil.

– Greek yogurt can be used to swap out for different ingredients such as sour cream, butter, oil and heavy cream, but the ratios can vary.


– Instead of a fruit pie, try making a fruit crisp for the holidays; it has fewer calories.

– Try replacing cream in recipes with regular or low-fat milk.

– Use herbs and spices, like rosemary and cloves, to flavor dishes, instead of salt or butter.

EAT WELL, BE WELL TIPS

You can eat well and be well this holiday season with these tasty treats, party tricks and simple strategies from the experts at the American Heart Association.

Include lots of seasonal, colorful fruits and vegetables. Do you decorate for the holidays with a lot of color? Treat your plate the same way. Fruits and vegetables will add flavor, color and nutrients to holiday favorites. And they help you feel fuller longer so you can avoid the temptation to overeat.

Navigate holiday parties like a boss. From the obligatory workplace parties to family get-togethers, your calendar may be bursting with opportunities to eat and drink outside of your regular routine. Make a plan that will help you resist plowing through the buffet table, like having a healthy snack beforehand.

Sprinkle in opportunities to be active. Keep the inevitable indulgences in check by staying active. Enjoy some winter sports, for a change of pace, or schedule in a quick walk or workout before you head to the next party. Remember, every little bit helps you get closer to the recommended amount of physical activity.


HOLIDAY HEALTH AND SAFETY

These tips from Aramark’s safety experts will keep safety top of mind when preparing a holiday feast.

Wash your hands. Hands must be washed after using the restroom, coughing, sneezing and handling raw foods and garbage. Always wash your hands before starting to prepare food and in between tasks. Handwashing is critical to preparing safe food.

Thaw frozen food properly. It is recommended that a refrigerator is used to thaw frozen food, so plan ahead. For every 5 pounds of large frozen food, allow 24 hours of refrigerator thawing time. Place the food in a tray or container deep enough to collect any draining fluids to prevent contamination of other foods in the refrigerator.

Use proper cooking temperatures. Cook raw meat products to the minimum internal temperatures as stated on the product packaging. Insert a thermometer (digital is preferred) at several spots including the thickest part of the meat. Achieving the proper internal minimum cooking temperature is critical to preparing safe food.

Store and reheat leftovers safely. Leftovers must be cooled to below 70 F within 2 hours and then to 41 F or below within 4 hours. Large items should be broken down into smaller items by either physically breaking items apart or placing the item in multiple small shallow containers. Keep refrigerated leftovers for 3 days from initial cooking or freeze for longer storage, and reheat leftover food once to 165 F for 15 seconds.

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Gifts for the food, drink and coffee lover in your life – Tribune

Updated 8 hours ago

For the foodie on your holiday list — or just people who might appreciate a good tequila or pie pan — we offer a gift guide.

It’s got coffee machines, books, chocolate truffles and a fabulous tote to carry it all away.

For the entertainers

Opinel Cheese Knife
and Fork Set, $45

Opinel is an iconic French knife maker. They are recognized and famous for their picnic “pocket” knife which is made the same way today as it was in 1890 when Joseph Opinel invented it. This compact set of an interlocking fork and cheese knife is made from stainless steel and a blond beechwood handle. The set of two is perfect for anyone who entertains and loves cheese—which pretty much means all of us.

JK Adams Cherry Cheese Server with Double Handles, $75 plus

If you are a fan of cheese and charcuterie boards, this JK Adams Cherry Cheese Server is a must have. JK Adams is located in Dorset, Vt., and has been making high-quality wood products for 72 years. The cheese server is beautifully made from a solid piece of cherry wood and sports handles on either side for easy transport. The burnished edges give it a more finished look and the teak oil finish brings out the natural beauty of the wood. A gift giving plus is that the board can be personalized with either initials or a custom message for a small upcharge. This is a great holiday gift and a special way to commemorate a milestone.

Lodge Heat-Treated Mini Triangle Server, $16 each

The best thing about these triangle mini-server cast iron dishes from Lodge is that they are pre-seasoned and—hold your hat—dishwasher safe! But besides that, I love the triangular shape that lets you fit this dish into small spaces on a table. Finally, you can have lots of little dishes filled with nibbles and not be concerned that your dishes are too big for your bar or coffee table. They are also oven-safe as all cast iron is, and you can bake the cutest individual wedges of cornbread, cobblers, pie, pot pies or cornbread-topped chili. Because each dish is triangular, you can bake the individual portions and present them in all kinds of shapes.

Cristel Tulipe 8-Piece Saucepan Set with 1 Long Black Handle, $299 for the set

Cristel, made in France and designed by a former Peugeot car engineer, is sleek and functional. The heavy-duty stainless steel cookware is tailor-made for conserving space and small kitchens with detachable handles, and pots and pans that nest inside each other. The handles are removable, and also come in fun colors (those are sold separately). More importantly, Cristel performs masterfully. The bottom of every piece has a thick base of heat-conducting metal that works on any stove including induction. This is the best stainless steel cookware that I have used. You would think all this comes with a steep price tag. And you would be right, except that now Cristel is making a new collection exclusively for Home Depot. The collection is charmingly called “Tulipe” referring to the slight outer curve on the bottom of the pan.

FOR THE SPIRTS LOVER

Herradura Selection Suprema Extra Anejo Tequila, 750 ml bottle $295-$412

First introduced in 1995, Selection Suprema is reported to be the first extra anejo or “extra aged” tequila in the industry. It is distilled twice and aged in American white oak barrels for four years before being bottled. When you pour the extra anejo into the glass, you first notice the deep amber color that is produced naturally—no caramel coloring is added. Next, you smell a floral freshness and caramelized sugars from the cooked agave. Finally, you taste the soft, round, rich flavors of vanilla and dried fruit with a spicy finish. This complex extra-aged tequila will appeal to any fan of smooth high-end brown spirits.

Paradiso by El Tesoro, 750 mL bottle $119.99

Paradiso is a mash up of Mexican tequila production and French cognac blending. The herbal nose gives way to scents of caramel and butterscotch, and the flavor is sweet and oaky with a smooth elegant finish that you would expect from tequila that has been aged for five years in cognac barrels. This is a tequila that you want to sip on after dinner or on a cozy day when time is on your side.

Volcan De Mi Tierra Blanco,
750 mL bottle $45

Volcan De Mi Tierra (a.k.a. land of volcano) is one of the newest members of the super-premium tequila club. Born at the foot of the Tequila volcano, the volcanic land provides rich soil and a sense of history for this new brand. The distillery combines old-world traditions with contemporary technique and mixes
75 percent slow-roasted lowlands agave with 25 percent highlands agave. The mixture is distilled twice, once in a copper still, and once in a stainless steel still where it rests for a month before being bottled. All that is to say, that the result is a perfectly balanced, fresh, fruity, clean and slightly floral spirit that you can sip on all night long.

Riedel Ouverture Tequila Glasses,
$29 for a pair

If you are a fan of wine and spirits, you know that George Riedel has devoted his life to creating glassware that enhances the wine and spirit. The glass is reminiscent of a champagne flute and it does make a difference both in the taste and the enjoyment of sipping tequila. This is the perfect glass to use with any sipping tequilas, or any others that you like to sip neat — no ice allowed.

FOR THE READER

“The Best Cook in the World: Tales from my Momma’s Table,” by Rick Bragg ($28.95)

“Good food always has a good story and a recipe is a story like anything else,” writes Rick Bragg. And, he has captured the essence of his family’s story and the food on their table in this food memoir with recipes. The central character of the book is Rick’s momma, Margaret. The story is like peeking through the window into his family history. This is a book that will be a welcome gift for fans of Rick Bragg, working-class Southern food, and for those interested in the way life used to be when you grew and caught much of your own food.

“At the Table with an American
Original ,” Edna Lewis, $28

Edna Lewis (1916-2006) is an almost mythical food figure and had always seemed somewhat intangible to me. Described as elegant by everyone who knew her, she was born and raised in Freetown, Va., in a self-sustaining farming community of emancipated slaves—this is the food and the life that is reflected in her most acclaimed books. This book of essays helps to anchor her contributions to American, and more specifically regional southern foodways. The book, compiled and edited by Sara B. Franklin, provides stories and insights from people who knew her and/or people who have been captivated by her writing and researched her.

FOR THE BAKER

Baking Steel, $89

Pretty much everyone loves pie, and this is the season for pie. But many pies need to be baked twice and that is a deterrent for even the most patient bakers. Blind-baking pre-bakes the crust so that it is not a mushy mess in the bottom of the pan, under the filling. But now, you can bake pies on the Baking Steel and eliminate the need to pre-bake your crust. Made from low-carbon steel, Andris Lagsdin created the baking steel because he wanted to make a better pizza without building a wood-fire oven.

You preheat the oven with the steel inside for an hour before baking and then place your pie plate directly on the Baking Steel— if you are baking a fruit pie or a pie that might overflow while baking, I would put a piece of parchment paper or foil on the Baking Steel just to make the clean-up easier. You can also bake pizza and bread directly on the Baking Steel and, you can use it on your grill as well.

Revol Les Naturals Soft-Cream
Pie Pan, $59.99

If you bake, you probably collect baking pans. Many of my favorite pans are made by Revol. Revol is the creator of the original French porcelain and makes bakeware, serving pieces and even coffee cups that are both beautiful, functional and easy to clean. This 9-inch porcelain pie dish from Revol is the perfect pie-pan upgrade for your favorite baker. This is a perfect pie pan because it is 9 inches wide and a perfect 1.5 inches deep. The cream-colored culinary porcelain pie dish comes in a gift box that is so durable that I use it to store my pie pan.

Heirloom Wrap Food Carriers
from Millie/Lottie Totes, $40-$56

Jan Hammock created the pie/cake/food carriers in honor of her southern mother Millie and her aunt Lottie—thus the name of the company. She carried food all of her life to dinners, potlucks and the like and finally in 2015 made a better food carrier for herself. She combined the southern tradition of wrapping food in a tea towel with the prettier ornamental tradition of Japanese Furoshiki, the centuries-old tradition of wrapping objects in fabric. It is a beautiful way to present a gift or carry food. It is also an easy “bag” to keep in your car or purse for trips to the farmers market and other shopping excursions. The fabric also conforms to the shape of the dish instead of the other way around.

FOR THE CHOCOLATE LOVER

Hebel Co. Chocolate Halva,
$12 for a 6.3 ounce

Hebel Co.’s chocolate halva is created with chocolate lovers in mind and it fully compliments the tahini. Robust 70 percent cocoa chocolate ribbons through the tahini base and is so full of flavor that you taste chocolate first and sesame second. My favorite thing about the candy is that before it melts into a creamy confection, there is a whisper of a crunch as you bite into it and that flakiness gives you an appealing texture before it melts in your mouth and ends with the most delicious, almost savory flavor. It is the definition of balance—sweet, savory, full of texture. Just right.

La Madison du Chocolat “Bien Etre” Wellness Vegan Chocolate Gift Box, $34

If anyone could make a delicious vegan chocolate that didn’t trade down in any respect to quality, flavor or texture, it is La Maison du Chocolat. The box comes with a beautiful color brochure that guides you through each fruit-infused chocolate as you sample them. The “Grenade” pomegranate literally tastes like pomegranate seeds bursting with fresh juice ending with a tart finish. The Mango Curcuma mixes mango and turmeric in a softer way with hints of mango, and turmeric but more dark chocolate forward. Other flavors in the box are Praline Squash Seeds, Green Apple Aloe Vera and Peach Propolis—and all are pure luxury. The chocolates are all gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free.

Milene Jardine Chocolates
“Live by Love” 5-piece Chocolate Truffle Collection, $18

The flavors of Milene Jardine Chocolates are each influenced by a favorite place visited by its creator, for whom the chocolate company is named. The truffles are delicate and well-designed with the silkiest center textures. The combination of flavors tell a story but even if you don’t know the story, you will enjoy the chocolates. The 5-piece collection is a great gift and a nice way to be introduced to Milene Jardine. When you open the box, you first encounter a folded paper program that explains the flavors, their origins and their inspirations. For example, the Harvey Wallbanger flavor is a tribute to her grandfather’s Harvey Wallbanger cake, and their home in New York City.

FOR THE COFFEE LOVER

Illy X1 iperEspresso Anniversary
1935 Machine, $595

Years ago, espresso machines were cumbersome and messy but that all changed with the coffee pod, or capsules as Illy calls them. In honor of the 20th anniversary of the Francis Francis X1 machine, a special edition multi-beverage machine was designed. Now you can make espresso, cappuccino, regular coffee and lattes at home with one machine. Two types of capsules are available for the machine; one for espresso and one for brewed coffee. Both capsules comes in medium roast and dark roast. Espresso is also available in decaf, long espresso and three single origin varietals.

Cuisinart Cold Brew Machine, $99.95

These days, cold brew is better known as the ultimate iced coffee and loved because it is less acidic, and has a sweeter more citrusy quality. It also never tastes burnt. There are a lot of cold brew gadgets out there but most of them address the filtering process and don’t cut down on the time it takes to make. The Cuisinart Cold Brew Machine is an exception. In
45 minutes, it extracts all the flavor from the ground coffee and you have iced coffee ready when you are. If you like a lighter coffee, it will take even less time. For comparison, the refrigerator method generally takes 12-24 hours. The machine looks like a traditional coffee maker, and has three separate filters which reduce the mess and the grittiness of the old-fashioned method.

Elizabeth Karmel is a barbecue and Southern foods expert. She is the chef and pit master at online retailer CarolinaCueToGo.com and the author of three books, including “Taming the Flame.”

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Key ingredient? Puerto Rico pride

LOWELL — Dolores Cruzado is restless. It’s late Thursday morning and she’s been up for hours. There are still a few steps left to finish making her latest batch of Christmas pasteles.

The 73-year-old stands in her kitchen — a hodgepodge of cookware, houseplants and owl figurines — and walks to the stove. She lifts the lid of an aluminum pot of pulled pork and digs a large spoon into it. She turns the meat over several times.

“These are ready,” Dolores says in Spanish. “These are ready to begin the pasteles.”

The Lowell resident has pieced together the Puerto Rican holiday dish for decades at home, like many others raised on the island.

Often described as a kind of tamale, pasteles are made with pork, typically encased in green banana masa, and fully wrapped in banana or plantain leaves before being wrapped again in parchment paper. Making pasteles is a labor-intensive process and homemade batches vary in their ingredients and taste.

“If you don’t have pasteles for Christmas, it doesn’t feel right. That’s how we see it,” Dolores says. “This is a Christmas tradition.”

***

If you ask Dolores how long she’s been making pasteles around the holiday season, she’ll say “toda la vida.” All her life.

She said she was 7 when her parents and grandparents taught her the art of pastel-making in their hometown of Vega Alta, on the northern coast of Puerto Rico.

Her maternal grandfather, Jose Crespo, showed her how to kill a pig. She learned to cook pork, grate the starchy vegetables that make the masa, and fold banana leaves expertly with her hands.

Making pasteles keeps the now-retired factory worker happy. Dolores sells some, gives away some, and sets aside plenty for family gatherings. Recently, dozens of pasteles Dolores made were stolen from her freezer. She doesn’t know who did it and is still upset about it, but hasn’t given up her labor of love.

“This keeps me busy,” Dolores says. “I don’t think about anything else.”

Dolores began her process early in the week, when she picked up a bulk of the ingredients from a supermarket in Lawrence. On Wednesday afternoon, she and her daughter, Ruth Martinez, cooked the pork in two large pots. Dolores had already chopped up plantains, green bananas, and rough fibrous roots like yuca and yautia that will later be dropped into a food processor for the masa.

When she’s not picking up a call on her Bluetooth headset, Dolores is receiving a visitor at her apartment. Wilnelia Perez, who lives a floor above Dolores, stops by on Wednesday to check in. Wilnelia says her favorite kind of pastel by Dolores is one made from yuca masa.

“It’s delicious,” Wilnelia says in Spanish, her eyes widening. “It’s a taste you can’t even describe.”

Wilnelia glances at her older neighbor.

“She is the most loved around here,” she says of Dolores, who smiles timidly. “Everyone loves her. We call her Abuelita.”

***

“She doesn’t let anyone help her.”

Ruth says this on Thursday as her mother gets one of her food processors from a corner of the cramped living room. House plants now cover much of the floor because Dolores had to move them out of the kitchen to make space for her pastel-making.

“I do this fast,” Dolores insists, her tiny frame picking up the processor and placing it on a chair by the kitchen counter.

She wipes the processor clean and places a blue bucket on the floor. In the processor go chopped green bananas, yuca, plantains, and more. The machine whirs loudly and the mixture begins to fall in lumps into the bucket, which Dolores will then add pork fat to for added flavor.

More visitors stop by at different times throughout the morning, including family friend Germarie Nieves, who brings Dolores ice cream, and the youngest of Dolores’ five adult children, Leasiv Martinez-Cruzado. Both smile when they see Dolores working on her pasteles.

“She loves doing this,” says Martinez-Cruzado, 42. “I don’t eat pasteles from nobody else. Just from her.”

Later, when it’s shortly after noon, Dolores sets up a station on a glass table in her kitchen. With a spoon, she coats a green banana leaf with a mixture of ground achiote and oil. She spreads a layer of masa on the leaf, and then with a fork adds the shredded pork. She folds the leaf over the pastel and wraps it in paper.

She then brings the pastel over to the kitchen counter where her daughter ties pairs of them with string. This cycle will be repeated until about 7 p.m. Thursday. Dolores’ weeklong labor will build neat stacks of pasteles in the freezer, ready to be boiled at a later time and savored on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

By now, she’s exhausted but happy.

And tomorrow, she’ll finally get some rest.

Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.

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Cyber Monday deals: Best Amazon UK offers on Dyson, Le Creuset and Philips

The Amazon  Cyber Monday sale is the gift that keeps on giving.

The online retailer kicked off the mega discount early this year, beginning the sales extravaganza on November 16.

Since then, there has been a whole host of daily and lightening deals where you are bound to find whatever you are searching for at heavily reduced price tags.

From electronics and homeware, to fashion and beauty, there has been discounts of up to 90% on some of the biggest and most sought-after label out there, including Le Creuset and Tefal as well as the reatiler’s own-brand, Amazon Basics.

Whether you are looking to update your appliances or drastically improve your sleep with electric blankets and comfy pillows, Amazon has got you covered this Cyber Monday.

Bedding

Pillows

Never underestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep and with Amazon’s impressive reductions of up to 40 per cent on bedroom essentials, you can shop electric blankets, duvets, mattress protectors and pillows with up to 40 per cent off. 

Duvet

Mattress Protector

Blankets

Lighting

Just in time for the festive season, step up your lighting game a few notches with smart lightbulbs that can truly set the party ambiance. Save over 50% on the Philips Hue bulbs that allow you to control the lights from the app.

Kitchen Accessories

Some of the most sought-after kitchenware brands have been given the Cyber Monday treatment over on Amazon so you can upgrade your cooking essentials in a major way. On the discount day, you can shop glasses and tableware with up to 20 per off, cookware from the likes of Tefal, Le Creuset and Joseph Joseph with up to 30 per cent discounts off and even up to 40 per cent off exclusive Le Creuset cast iron casserole dishes.

Small Appliances

Is it time to upgrade your home appliances? Invest in a new iron, vacuum cleaner, steamer and more on Cyber Monday with state of the art products from the like of Dyson, Shark and Miele with massive savings. Amazon is offering up to 50 per cent off robot vacuums including options from Neato, iRobot and Ecovacs as well as up to 40 per cent off floorcare including Shark, Hoover and Miele. There are even Dyson products available at lower price tags.

Vacuum Cleaners

Kitchen Appliances

Cyber Monday offers the perfect opportunity to finally invest in those kitchen appliances that you have been dreaming off. Make barista-quality brews with up to 40 per cent off coffee machines from the likes of De’Longhi and Nespresso and bake like a pro with up to 40% off kitchen and home appliances including options from Instant Pot, Tefal and up to 30 per cent off VonChef appliances. 

Coffee Machines

Cooking Appliances

Kettles

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The Best Deals of the Week

Welcome to Deals of the Week, where Gear Patrol captures all the best deals that are still going strong. You can also follow all our deal posts in the Deals section. Comments or concerns? We’d love to hear from you at deals@gearpatrol.com.

MONDAY, DECEMBER 10



Backcountry Camping and Climbing Sale
Save 20%If you’re struggling to find the perfect gift for the camp lover in your life, right now is an excellent time to make a purchase. At Backcountry, you can save 20 percent off one full priced item that will get you camping and climbing faster. Some of our favorite picks include one of the best camp chairs, one of our favorite cooler brands and more. Use code TAKE20CC at checkout to get 20 percent off one full priced item. And now is a good time to remind you that there are only ten more shipping days until the holidays. — Meg Lappe



L.L.Bean Canvas Tote
Save 25%: If you’ve recently been to a farmer’s market or urban downtown area, then you know this: tote bags are trendy. They’re replacing backpacks and briefcases as the go-to carrier for errand-running and commuting; they’ve become stand-ins for plastic and paper shopping bags at upscale stores; they come with magazine subscriptions. But the bag that popularized the tote wasn’t made to carry laptops or groceries — it was meant to haul ice and wood, and L.L.Bean created it in 1944.

That bag is still around today, and it’s called the Boat and Tote. It’s made in Maine from rugged 24-ounce cotton canvas just as it was all those decades ago when it was known as the Ice Carrier, and even though it’s more likely to transport supplies for a weekend at a cabin than firewood or block ice, it can still support loads that weigh up to 500 pounds. L.L.Bean’s design for the tote actually hasn’t changed much at all beyond the addition of colored handles and trim. It’s still the original rugged tote, and today you can pick one up in any of its four available sizes for 25 percent off by entering the code GIFT25 at checkout. — Tanner Bowden



Lodge Cast-Iron Skillets
Save $12 Lodge was making skillets similar to the competition back then (all of which are highly collectible today) — near-perfectly smooth cooking surfaces, light seasoning layers and lighter weights. But a reckoning came at the turn of the mid-century, as the rise of stainless steel cookware forced every major name in cast-iron cookware to fold or consolidate. Lodge was the only manufacturer to make it out alive, and it did so by making the most resource-efficient cast iron ever.

The company shifted from handcrafting each and every piece to making heavier, more easily replicable pots and pans. Instead of machining the surfaces, they left them as-cast — this is when the gritty hand feel comes from. Instead of casting thinner iron and risking chips and breaks during production, today’s Lodge’s are thicker and heavier — a tradeoff that’s still hotly debated in the cast-iron collecting world.

Most importantly, though, Lodge made its pans affordable to everyone, and in doing so made cast iron democratic. Today, a host of its American-made skillets are discounted on Amazon– including an 8-inch skillet for a whopping $7. —Will Price



Dyson Pure Hot + Cool Link Purifier
Save 40% After conquering the world of floor cleanliness, Dyson turned its gaze to air cleanliness. Among its lineup of sci-fi-looking air treatment products is the Pure Hot + Cool Link, a purifier that sucks in a room’s air, cycles it through a HEPA filter and pushes it back into the room at whatever temperature you want, all while feeding you a real-time report of your home’s air quality (via Dyson’s Link smartphone app).

Today, the machine is discounted 40 percent off on Amazon — its cheapest price ever. —Will Price



Anker Charging Accessories
Save Up to 40%: One of today’s featured “Deals of the Day” on Amazon is on a bunch of Anker’s latest and greatest charging accessories — all up to 40 percent off. While “charging accessories” might not be the sexiest of topics, there’s actually a bunch of practical items on sale, from power strips to portable power banks.


TUESDAY, DECEMBER 11



Peak Design Camera Bags and Accessories
Save 10%: It sounds hyperbolic to say that Peak Design makes the best damn photography accessories available, but it’s true. The brand marked itself apart in 2011 when it launched a unique tool called Capture that lets photographers mount their cameras to backpack straps, belts or wherever the little clamp fits. Then it doubled down on its success with a line of thoughtful straps that are incredibly easy to adjust, can support more than your camera will ever weigh and use a distinct anchor mounting system that makes it easy to transfer them from camera to camera (or to bags — you can use these as shoulder straps too).

Peak Design also produces a collection of bags and pouches, the most recent of which is designed for travel and optimized — but not solely created for — photography. Along with that bag, the company made camera cubes, a tech pouch and a very impressive Dopp kit. All of these items are united by the brand’s unmatched capability to marry minimalism with functionality so seamlessly that the results come off as obvious. At the moment, they’re all also 10 percent off when you enter the code FRIENDS at checkout. — Tanner Bowden



Finex Cast-Iron Skillets
Save 20% As odd as this sounds, Finex’s cast-iron skillets and greater cookware line are probably the most divisive pans in the cooking world right now. The bulky coil handle and the wealth of corners make sure of that. But one thing is certain: the people who like their Finex pans, really, really like them.

Other than the more obvious design idiosyncrasies, Finex’s pots and pans are exceptionally thick in the base, which means they will take longer to heat through than a thinner iron. The machined cooking surface also allows for easier food release right out of the box.

Today, you can nab however many you want for 20 percent off on Kaufmann Mercantile’s site using code GIFT20 at checkout. —Will Price



Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC Wireless
Save $65: Released last year, the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC Wireless are wireless noise-canceling headphones that currently cost $150 on Best Buy and Jet.com. Obviously, these aren’t Sennheiser’s high-end noise-canceling headphones, the HD1 Wireless, that cost between $250 and $300, and there are some noticeable differences. The HD 4.50 BTNC Wireless aren’t made with the same premium materials, and they’re arguably not quite as comfortable – but they still deliver premium sound and very good noise-cancellation. Also, they have an excellent 20-hour battery life. They’re also cheap right now, going for just $85 on eBay.


WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 12

Everyone needs a trusty duffel bag. One you can toss in the back of the car for that weekend trip or bring with you on an international flight. The Mountain Duffel 40L from Topo Designs checks all of the boxes.

An ideal utilitarian haul bag, the Mountain Duffel is made of a 1680D ballistic nylon base for standing up to the rigors of use wherever you bring it. The padded base and sides keep your belongings protected while multiple internal and external pockets organize your smaller items. The best part is, Topo Designs is offering the Mountain Duffel at 50-percent off to Gear Patrol readers when you use the discount code GPDUFFEL50 at checkout (valid only Dec. 12).



Citizen Promaster Diver
Save $190: We’ve extolled the virtues of Citizen’s Promaster Divers in the past, but the takeaway is this: with a solar-charged quartz movement, big-time depth ratings and chunky cases, they’re great all-around watches for active individuals who want an analog watch but don’t want to get too deep into the weeds with mechanical watches. They also come at bargain prices. This particular version, for example, is water-resistant to 200 meters, has a dial loaded with lume and comes affixed to a comfortable rubber strap, which is perfect for the water. While the watch retails for $350, Massdrop has it marked down to just $160 right now, or $190 on a steel bracelet.

If you prefer the look of the BN0150 or NB0151 on rubber, the primary deal on this page is for this model in either blue or black for $140 (scroll down to the middle of the Massdrop page for the different watches available). — Oren Hartov



Just in Time for the Holidays
Take 30% Off Everything on Levi.com Levi’s is offering 30 percent off everything on its website — including clothing, shoes and accessories that are already discounted. The sale ends December 16. Just be sure to use the code HOL30 at checkout to take advantage of the deal.— Justin Fenner



Kershaw Brawler Pocket Knife
Save 63%: Above all else, an EDC pocket knife should be practical. It should be easy to hold, easy to open and easy to wield. It doesn’t matter how affordable a knife is if it can’t maintain a sharp edge against the common tasks it might come up against, like opening boxes. And it doesn’t matter how pretty or well-made it is if those same factors make you reluctant to use it for the prying, cutting and scraping that knives are designed for. That’s why Kershaw’s Brawler is a good everyday blade — it’s practical.

The Brawler’s three-inch blade is made of 8Cr13MoV stainless steel, which is also used often by Spyderco and SOG and is known as a quality yet affordable material. Kershaw added a black oxide finish to give the knife a stealthy aesthetic that, combined with the tanto blade shape, adds to the Brawler’s overall tactical appearance. The blade can be deployed with a thumb stud or a flipper, and it includes Kershaw’s SpeedSafe technology, which kicks into action to speed up deployment as you unfold the blade. — Tanner Bowden



Houseplants on Amazon
Save Up to 40% As dumb as you feel opening an Amazon box with plants in it, Amazon and Costa Farms have entry-level greenery nailed down. The flora selection is basic; but it’s all cheap, hard to kill and accomplishes the ultimate goal of making a better home.

Today, a handful of the most popular starter houseplants you can buy are up to 40 percent off on Amazon. Notable among those on sale are a 3-foot rubber tree for $30, an unkillable snake plant for $27 and a potted peace lily for $28. —Will Price


THURSDAY, DECEMBER 13

Outerknown’s 24 Hour Sale
Save 30% on These World-Saving Jeans Outerknown’s sustainable S.E.A line includes three truly great looking pairs of jeans in a variety of colors, and all of them are built from earth-friendly materials in a construction that’s made to last. For the next 24 hours, you can take 30 percent off a pair of jeans that just might help save the world. All you have to do is enter the code JEANS30 at checkout to take advantage of the deal.PIECE— Justin Fenner

J.Crew’s Extremely Affordable Cashmere
From Under $100 to Under $60 J.Crew’s Everyday Cashmere Sweater is a bargain at its full price of $98, but right now Nordstrom has marked it down by 40 percent.— Justin Fenner



Titleist Golf Balls
Save $8 Among the hundreds of deals and price drops associated with Amazon’s sports-themed Deal of the Day today, a diamond of a deal lies hidden in the rough. That diamond is actually a dozen diamonds, and it’s Titleist golf balls. The V1 and the V1x sets (the only difference is softness) are down a paltry $8, but seeing as that’s the lowest price either set has ever been on Amazon, the drop is welcome all the same. It’s likely this will be the easiest stocking stuffer decision of the year. —Will Price



Winter Vacation Clothing
Save up to 79%:If you’re using the winter holiday to escape to a warmer climate, it’s worth picking up some new clothes suitable for your trip. Though most retailers are still hocking cool-weather garb, a couple stores are selling beach-ready clothing at steep discounts. Head over to Todd Snyder for Los Angeles-made polos and swing by Nordstrom Rack to score some understated trunks — you’ll save up to 68 percent. — John Zientek


FRIDAY, DECEMBER 14



Huckberry Backpacks Sale
Save 30% Right now, you can pick up a new bag at Huckberry where pretty much all bags are 30 percent off. You’ll also find travel bags, duffels and survival get out bags. Shop today and get ready to walk into 2019 with a brand new bag.
— Meg Lappe



Reebok CrossFit Nano 7 Sale
Save 60%If you’re looking for a way to get a head start on your 2019 resolutions (or want to feel better about yourself) a new pair of gym sneakers is just the gift you need. While your bank account might be in a sorry state thanks to holiday gifting, the best news of all is that Reebok’s top-performing sneakers are just $65 today. The CrossFit Nano 7 is a fantastic all-around gym show that shines outside of just CrossFit classes. If you’re looking for a gym sneaker to lift weights in, this supportive and breathable sneaker is for you. The Nano 7 will eat HIIT workouts for breakfast thanks to a high abrasion outsole that lets you quickly stop, pivot, jump and move in a variety of directions at a speed that might trip you up in other clunkier shoes. Pick up a pair for $60 off today. — Meg Lappe



Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Sleeping Bag
Save up to $115: It isn’t uncommon that a brand will adapt a well-received product into a full collection. This year, Patagonia did that with it’s award-winning Micro Puff Jacket, by giving it a waterproof shell and The North Face expanded its Ventrix insulation into a full collection that includes jackets, pullovers and a pair of shorts. It makes sense to transfigure a jacket into other pieces of clothing, but Mountain Hardwear went a step further this year by turning its popular Ghost Whisperer jacket into a sleeping bag.

Mountain Hardwear debuted the Ghost Whisperer in 2012. The ultralight down jacket that weighs 7.8 ounces was the product of a collaboration with Swiss mountaineer Ueli Steck, who was an advocate for the fast-and-light approach to mountaineering. Despite its lightness, the jacket is windproof and water-resistant. These same characteristics went into the Ghost Whisperer Sleeping Bag, which Mountain Hardwear released this year in 20- and 40-degree versions. The bags are stuffed with water-resistant Q.Shield 900-fill down and feature super-light Whisperer exterior fabric, cinching mummy-style hoods and specially-designed no-snag zippers.

Both are currently available at Mountain Steals at a discount — $90 off the 40-degree bag and $115 off the 20-degree bag. — Tanner Bowden

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Red Wing Engineer Boots
Save up to 50%:Minnesota-based bootmaker Red Wing has been making hardwearing footwear since 1905. The range of styles it produces are distinctly American: Moc-toe work boots with non-marking outsoles for factory workers , hefty oxfords designed for the postal service, pull-on roper boots appropriate for the ranch. It also makes a range of engineer boots which are now primarily sold in the Japanese and European markets.

Originally, engineer boots were designed to protect the feet of men who fed coals into steam engines. The silhouette melded the tall pull-on style of horse riding boots with the supportive arch and sole of a work boot. A buckled ankle strap makes the style instantly recognizable. After WWII, engineer boots became a favorite of motorcycle riders across America and the style saw an increase in popularity in the ’50s and ’60s.

While engineer boots aren’t as prominent today as they once were, they’re no less rugged or functional. If you want to pick up a pair for yourself, head over to Nordstrom Rack, where a bunch of Red Wing engineer boots are half off right now. That means for as little as $160, you can add this distinctly American boot to your own wardrobe. — John Zientek



J.Crew Clothing and Accessories
Save 50%:If you’ve still got holiday shopping to do, head over to J.Crew today. When you use the code FRIDAY, you can save 50 percent on your entire purchase including things for men, women and children. It’s a great opportunity to get some bigger ticket items like cashmere, denim or suiting — but act fast, this discount is available today only. — John Zientek
The 100 Best Products of 2018, Now in Print

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Best Black Friday 2018 sales: Roomba, iPad, Instant Pot, Fitbit, Bose, Apple Watch, Dyson, AncestryDNA

Here it is. The moment we’ve been training for. Black Friday is finally here.

If you’ve been tearing through every Black Friday ad possible, making a list (and checking it twice) of all the best deals, and putting your wallets on lockdown until the discounts go live, then it’s time to celebrate. Your patience has been worth it, young grasshopper.

Drum roll, please: Our 2018 master list of Black Friday deals is our most comprehensive yet. 

We’ve pulled the best of the best deals from those 50-page ads (and hidden clearance sections) to compare prices and save you a headache — because shopping online should not be as stressful as shopping in-store. You can shop by retailer: Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Amazon, Macy’s, and more are outlined below — or you can shop by category: TVs, laptops and tablets, gaming consoles, Instant Pots, KitchenAid mixers, Fitbits, and more are organized in case you’re looking for something specific.

More coverage: Black Friday 2018

We’re not sweating, you’re sweating.

So sit back, laugh at your relatives bundling up to go fight to the death in the stores, and save some damn money from the comfort of your favorite recliner (or office chair, if you’re less lucky).

Best deals on this year’s most-searched items

Xbox One X deals

PlayStation 4 deals

See all of the best Black Friday gaming deals here.

TV deals

See all of the best Black Friday TV deals here.

Laptop and tablet deals

See all of the best Black Friday laptop deals here.


SPONSORED BY HP


Instant Pot deals

See our guide to which Instant Pot is right for you here.

Apple Watch and Fitbit deals


SPONSORED BY EIGHT SLEEP


Headphone deals

DNA testing kit deals

See our guide to which DNA kit is right for you here.

Shop by retailer

Walmart

Image: mike mozart

TVs and accessories

Laptops, tablets, and printers

Gaming

Headphones and speakers

Instant Pot

Fitbits

Toys

Target

Image: mike mozart

TVs and accessories

iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, and other smartphone deals

  • iPhone XS and XS Max — Free $250 Target gift card with purchase and activation with Verizon, ATT, or Sprint

  • iPhone 8, 8 Plus, or X — Free $150 Target gift card with purchase and activation with Verizon, ATT, or Sprint

  • Samsung Galaxy Note9 — Free $300 Target gift card with purchase and activation with Verizon, ATT, or Sprint

  • Google Pixel 3 or 3 XL — Free $200 Target gift card with purchase and activation with Verizon, ATT, or Sprint

Apple Watches, Fitbits, and smart watches

Laptops, tablets, and printers

Gaming

Instant Pots

Small appliances: KitchenAid, Keurig, and more

Headphones

Smart home

Other home tech: Vacuums, electric toothbrushes, and more

Cameras

DNA Kits 

  • 23andMe — $59.99 (list price $99.99)

Toys

Best Buy

Image: mike mozart/flicker

TVs and accessories

Laptops, desktops, monitors, and tablets

Gaming devices and gaming laptops

Small appliances: KitchenAid, CrockPot, and more

Vacuums

Fitbits

Smart home and security

Toys

Amazon

Image: amazon

Amazon devices

Smart home security: Ring, Blink, and more

Laptops, monitors, and tablets

Gaming

DNA kits

Vacuums

Toys

Macy’s

Image: mike mozart/flickr

Instant Pot

Mixers, blenders, and small appliances: KitchenAid, Vitamix, and more

Cookware, bakeware, and silverware sets: Calphalon, Cuisinart, and more

Upright and robot vacuums: Dyson, Roomba, and more

Bedding and bath

Mattresses

Smart home, headphones, and more tech

Luggage

Lighting, furniture, and holiday decor

Kohl’s

Image: Mike Mozart / FLICKR

Take an extra 15% off with code JOY though Nov. 23 and get $15 in Kohl’s cash for every $50 you spend through Nov. 23. It doesn’t work on everything, but it works on pretty much everything.

TVs

Instant Pot

Small appliances: KitchenAid, Nespresso, and more

Electric toothbrushes and razors

Vacuums 

Smart home

Fitbits and smartwatches

Gaming

Cameras and printers

Toys 

Overstock

Image: overstock

KitchenAid mixers, vacuums, and more home stuff

Furniture, mattresses, bedding, and more

Microsoft Store

Image: adam rosenberg/mashable

Image: microsoft

Jet.com

Image: jet

TVs and accessories

Laptops and tablets

Small appliances: KitchenAid, Nespresso, and more

Gaming

Headphones and speakers

Fitbits and smartwatches

Smart home

Vacuums

Toys

Samsung Store

Image: samsung

4K TVs

Mobile

Mobile accessories

Major appliances

Laptops

GameStop.com

Image: Mike Mozart/Flickr

Xbox One

PlayStation 4

Nintendo Switch

PC Gaming and Universal Accessories

Clothing: Urban Outfitters, Macy’s, Lord Taylor, and more

Image: nordstrom

Free People

  • Take 50% off best selling styles including dresses, totes, and lots out great coats and jackets.

Some of our favorites:

Macy’s

Take an extra 20% off the Macy’s Black Friday sale with the promo code BLKFR through Nov. 24.Shop the full sale here.

Noteworthy deals: 

Urban Outfitters 

  • BOGO everything online and in stores is buy 1 get 1 50% off — mix and match, no exclusions.

Lord Taylor

  • Extra 40% off clearance the week of Nov. 20-25 

  • 25% off sitewide + free shipping on Cyber Monday

Forever 21

Gap  

  • 50% off everything, no exclusions with code BLKFRIDAY

Banana Republic

  • 50% off all regularly priced items with no BR exclusions

Lucky Brand

  • Take 50% off sitewite for Black Friday and 60% off sitewide on Monday, Nov. 24.

Kate Spade

  • Get 30 percent off everything sitewide when you use the code GIVECHEER now through 11/25.

Saks Fifth Avenue 

  • Take up to 60% off designer fashions from brands like Balenciaga, Chloe, Theory, Givenchy and more. 

Some top designer steals:

Subscription boxes: Boxycharm, HelloFresh, Cratejoy, and more

Image: hellofresh

Image: boxycharm

HelloFresh

Boxycharm

Cratejoy

  • Use code CJBLACKFRIDAY to save on over 500 subscription boxes sitewide including sock, makeup, candy, and candle subscriptions 

 More coverage:

More coverage: Black Friday 2018

Black Friday 2018 deals by store

Black Friday 2018 deals by category

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Restaurant supply stores offer good holiday shopping

There are lots of places where you can find gifts for the cooking enthusiast on your Christmas list.

Perhaps the best place to look is where the pros go for their gear, a restaurant supply store.

Richard’s Supply in Houma and Delta Restaurant Supply in Schriever are two such places, both locally owned.

Both do the bulk of their business with professional cooks, which is what makes them a solid choice for the home shopper, holiday or not.

Ryan Richard, president of Richard’s Supply, said he sees between 25-30 transactions every day from non-restaurant customers.

“People do walk in and shop,” Richard said. “We’d like it to be more.”

Perhaps the best thing about shopping in a restaurant supply store is that everything they have is geared toward one thing: Cooking as well and efficiently as possible, since that’s what the restaurant business demands.

Sure, you can find high-quality cookware and utensils at the big outlet stores. But you will often have to wade through aisles of pearl-handled garlic presses and as-seen-on-TV ripoffs to find the right gift.

David Caillouet, general manager of Delta Restaurant Supply, said he has seen a recent drop in sales to non-professional customers.

“Right now, with what’s happening in this economy, nothing has been usual for about the last four-and-a-half years,” Caillouet said. “It’s not a large part (of the business), but we do get some. Stainless-steel stockpots, commercial fry pans, stainless-steel boiling paddles, things like that.”

Restaurant supply stores are all about the cooking, and not about selling you something fancy. Both Richard and Delta have large, retail-friendly showrooms stocked with goods at essentially wholesale prices.

“It’s higher-quality, professional-grade cooking and kitchen supplies,” Richard said. “Anything from better-quality knives and spatulas to thicker-bottomed, commercial-grade pots that people can use in their homes.”

Richard’s Supply also offers gift cards, to give the gift of shopping to the cook on your list.

Both stores have a history in the community, as well.

Delta was started in 1945 by Able A. Caillouet Sr. After returning from World War II, he began by taking orders from customers and driving to New Orleans to pick up merchandise from established dealers there. The business now operates out of a 7,000-square-foot showroom and warehouse.

Richard Supply was founded in 1977 focusing on the restaurant market in Houma but quickly found a niche market in ship’s galleys. That is still reflected in the company’s website, galley.com.

Delta Restaurant supply is located at 200 N. Main Project Road in Schriever.

Richard Supply is at 235 S. Hollywood Road in Houma.

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