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Home Hack

Kitchen Gadgets Worth Owning

OUR BEST KITCHEN FINDS!

Over the years we have bought or have been gifted our fair share of kitchen gadgets. In truth, 80% of them are nonsense space hogs. You know the ones, they either didn’t work as advertised, or sit on the counter or in a cabinet taking up space for YEARS with no use. However, today we are sharing our absolute FAVORITE kitchen gadgets that were well worth the money for how often we use them and how great of quality they are! The best part: we found all of them are available on Amazon! Three cheers for one-stop shopping!

The Prepdeck

prepdeck meal prep

This is a life saver if you cook a lot, and especially handy if you have a meal service or follow written recipes. This self-storing stylish cubby is a cutting board, ingredient sorter, tool hub, and even holds the the stems and ends you cut off from your produce, so you’re not combating the trash while you cook. You can even add on an attachment to hold an ipad for your recipes if that’s how you roll. It’s pricey but comes with a bunch of tools, bins, and a magnetic removable cutting board. The whole thing stores away in a sleek and minimalist manner, so it will look cute on the counter too!

Cuisinart “ICE” line of ice cream makers

CuisinArt ice cream and frozen yogurt maker

This is THE BEST ice cream maker we have ever used. If you are venturing into home made ice cream, this one is a must! Don’t get fancy or be fooled by bells and whistles, the “ICE” line is a simple machine and is the absolute best at churning out delicious ice cream /frozen yogurt/ sorbet. (Ours is a Cuisinart ICE-20.) It’s worth noting: This machine even won in a crowd and chef-based test among several competitor brands and more expensive models on The American Test Kitchen!

pizza peelAluminum Pizza Peels

If you make pizza often, frozen, fresh, or from scratch – a pizza peel is a must! A thin (but sturdy) metal peel transfers items to and from the oven with ease. We use it for pizza, calzones, breads, and anything else that bakes straight on the rack. We even use a peel to retrieve cooked pies.

PRO TIP: Make sure you pick one with a solid handle, none of those collapsing, folding, and/or bolting handles – pizzas can get heavy so you want one solid wood piece for the handle.

Pizza Stones

pizza stone

Do you make your own pizza? A REAL (thick) pizza stone will make it bake evenly every time. No more mystery moistness in the under crust. It will be crisp and perfect.

Teak and Wooden Spoons

wooden kitchen utensils

We are firm believers in the power of baking and cooking with wooden utensils. It magically makes things feel more special and they look great arranged in a vase on the counter.

make veggie noodlesZucchini Spiralizer

If you have ever thought of cutting back on your traditional pasta intake, or wanted to incorporate more vegetables into your diet, a vegetable spiralizer is the way to go! They make fancy expensive ones, attachments for Kitchenaid mixers, but my go-to is the “as seen on tv” “Veggetti” version. It takes up hardly any space, is inexpensive, and allows me to make “zoodles” at a moment’s notice, with no prep at all. One end makes thin noodles and the other makes thicker. You just stick the vegetable in one side and turn it like you’re sharpening a pencil.

Pyrex Bakeware and Storage Sets

pyrex

It can be pricey for a good set, but you will buy it once and use it for YEARS! Our Pyrex is 20 years old and still going strong! These glass dishes are great for storing left overs, cooking in, and serving too. It’s also an environmentally friendly storage option because it’s reusable and made from glass. NOTE: If you ever happen upon the vented lid versions – those lids have all lasted the 20 years and are still going strong. The plain lids bit the dust after 10 years or so – but that’s still a good run for the money!

PRO TIP: Tomato sauces and plastic lids (or bowls) are not friends. Keep lids stain-free by simply spraying the lids with cooking spray before you cover any tomato-based dishes and it will resist staining.

And now for a whole section of KitchenAid. My motto is when in doubt, choose the KitchenAid! It’s never let me down.

KitchenAid Stand Mixer

kitchenaid mixer

There’s a reason you see these everywhere. They really work, and work well. They look cute on the counter too!

KitchenAid Blender

kitchenaid blender

I was torn between this and another top brand, and I am SO glad I chose this one. It blends consistently, is reliable, and doesn’t have a million blades to clean.

KitchenAid Mini Food Processor

kitchenaid mini

This thing is great for making small-batch dressings, dips, or mincing vegetables, I’ve even used it for chopping nuts!

What are your favorite kitchen gadgets? Let us know your kitchen and cooking related must-haves in the comments on our social media:

@DeAnnaAndCompany on Instagram and Facebook

Recipes

Oven Roasted Potato Wedges

potato wedges

These potato wedges are PERFECT for backyard barbecues, or even as a quick side for weekday dinners, or as an alternative to hash browns for breakfast.

Ingredients

  • 5* small Yukon Gold Potatoes. Red Potatoes work too. *This is a good potion for two people, if you’re cooking for a crowd estimate about 2.5 potatoes per person.
  • Salt and Pepper Mills (Fresh cracked tastes better.)
  • Olive Oil

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425
  • Rinse potatoes, then cut into 1/2” wedges leaving the skin on.
  • In a bowl, add a large drizzle of Olive Oil, add potatoes, and 1 turn of salt* to 5 turns of pepper*. Mix to coat.
  • Spread wedges into a single layer on a baking sheet, and bake on middle rack for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown.
  • Let individuals salt and pepper their portions to their tastes.

Note: *If salt and pepper isn’t your thing, you could try fry seasoning, no-salt or low sodium alternatives, rosemary, garlic… experiment with your favorite potato spices!

Curb Appeal

Flowers, Flowers, Everywhere!

If you’ve ever bought flowers and never gotten around to actually planting them, we have a feeling it’s because planting can be intimidating. We’re here to share our best tips for a successful transplant.

flowers

STEP-BY-STEP

  1. Use the plants in their containers to arrange and plan your garden.

  2. Plan for how big the plant will be, not how big it is when you buy it.

  3. Dig holes twice as big as the container they come in.

  4. Plant with a gentle hand.

  5. Use good soil and good plant food.

  6. WATER, WATER, WATER!

Step 1: Place your store-bought plant containers, where you plan to plant them. This can help you map out your ideas and measure. It’s also a good time to double check the labels for light needs. Shift shade loving plants from bright areas, and sun-loving plants from shade areas.

Step 2: Ask a store associate or check the label for what size the plant will be when it is full grown. For example, if a plant will measure 3 feet wide when full grown, you want to plant them at LEAST 4 feet apart – or further if you want space in between. Just because the plants you buy are small at first doesn’t mean you should plant them close together. They are going to be BIG in no time at all!

gardening

Step 3: Make sure the holes you dig are deep enough for the plant. You can look up specifics of individual plants online, or ask a specialist at the nursery. We find a good rule of thumb is to dig a hole that is about twice the size of the container you purchase them in. Too shallow of a hole will make the plant struggle in the heat and cold because the roots will be more exposed to the elements. Too deep of a hole will make it harder for the roots to get water and nutrients. It’s the happy median you’re looking for.

Step 4: Plants are delicate and the transplanting process can be hard on them, so handle your new plants with a gentle hand to minimize the shock of the transplanting process. To transfer plants from container to the ground – gently grasp the plant around the base, turn the container to the side, and squeeze the container to help loosen it while you shimmy the plant free from the container. Be sure to gently separate the roots by using your fingers to loosen the roots underneath from the middle out. This encourages the roots to spread out which should help get it established quicker. Place the plant in the middle of the hole and cover with good soil.

plants

Step 5: Most nurseries have their own potting mix, and the ones with cedar in the mix have worked well for us here in Central Florida. We typically put the “good soil” on the top so that when we water the plants the nutrients trickle down into the roots. Pack down the dirt around the plant so that the plant is supported and the roots are protected. Finally, sprinkle a slow release food, like Osmocote, around the base of the plant.

Step 6: WATER is so important for establishing your new plants. After you have planted and sprinkled with food, immediately water generously at the base of the plant. (Ideally, using a garden hose with “shower” setting.) Be sure to water new plants every day for at least the first week. Here in Central Florida, SUN and HEAT are a factor – so only water in the early morning before the sun OR after the heat and sun of the day (dusk) as to not burn your plant/leaves. PRO TIP: Water new and established plants at the base. The roots are what distributes the water and nutrients. The leaves and stems do not. Wet leaves in the sun and heat can burn/kill your plants.

garden hose

Click here to read our previous article for ground care tips, including the easiest way to keep weeds out of your beautiful new flower bed!

Do you have other garden tips? Have a favorite place to buy flowers and plants in Central Florida? We want to hear! Let us know in the comment section of our social media. @DeAnnaAndCompany on Instagram and Facebook.

Home Hack

Spring Clean: Organize the Refrigerator

Ease into Spring cleaning by starting with the fridge. Begin by emptying anything perishable into coolers and work fast to wipe down the shelves, drawers, and doors. To deep clean drawers or shelves, a little regular dish soap and water works great. Food prep surface wipes have also been our favorite tool for cleaning up in a flash. The wipes were even durable enough to work on a full bottle of barbecue sauce that had somehow exploded in the night. Just make sure the wipes you are using are “food safe” and not a bunch of harsh chemicals that will linger in your fridge and possibly contaminate your open fruits and vegetables.

What storage is best for what groceries?

clear storage for fridge

Clear containers are the BEST way to organize the refrigerator. They come in refrigerator-safe carousels, mini drawers, pint boxes, stackable boxes, beverage dispensers and more. These clear bins are very trendy right now, so they can be pricy. Shop around for the best deals/bundles and buy ones that will work for your grocery habits. Start by taking an assessment of what groceries you repeatedly purchase, then purchase storage best suited for those specific items. We found all of the options shown in this article on Amazon.

clear storage for fridge

Stackable boxes are great for fruits and vegetables. Narrow open boxes are great for snacks or other items you buy in bulk like individual yogurt, fruit cups, cheeses, etc.

PRO TIP: When storing leafy greens, pop a few paper towels in with it to help keep them fresher for longer. Works in bagged or clamshell container lettuce and spinach too.

clear fridge drawers stackable

Mini drawers are great for dividing up larger open shelves with go-to items. Try dedicating a whole drawer to things that you like to access a lot, or are bulky, or roll around. (This would be grapes, tangerines, and apples for us.)

condiment carousel

 

Carousels are perfect for high-traffic condiments, dressings, and jarred items.

Create your “store.”

fridge storage map

 

Organize your fridge for how you actually live. Place perishable items in places you see straight away so you don’t forget about them. Stock like items together to make things easier to find. For example, dedicate a drawer, bin, or space to vegetables, meats, fruits, dairy, snacks, beverages, etc.

When it comes to jars, separate the sweet things from the savory things. (Jams on one side, pickles on another.) Categorize the condiments so all the dressings are together, all the sandwich making things are together, all of your most-used sauces are together, etc.

Labels the bins, ditch the tins.

decorative food labels

Labels are great for keeping things in their assigned places. Labels can be especially helpful with little ones or adults that get confused about what goes where.

Toss bulky packaging on items that you can use a labeled open bin for. For example, my husband’s Reeses cups get stacked into a narrow open container instead of staying in bags. Makes them easier to grab and go and easier to refill too.

No bins? Use a bag!

reusable food bags

Freezer bags are a great way to start organizing on a budget. Take-out condiment packets, snack assortments for individuals, meats, cheeses, meal prep… all fit perfectly into gallon bags and keep loose items from slipping and sliding around.

Don’t get overwhelmed – ANY level of organization is progress. Start small if you need to.

Recipes

Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

Hard boiled eggs can be tricky because we can’t see the inside to know when they are done. Use this method for eggs that will be great for dying, peeling, deviling… all of the hard egg things!

hard boiled eggsIngredients:

  • Eggs
  • Water
  • Salt (optional)
  • Ice

Directions:

  1. Place whole eggs in a single layer in the bottom of a pot and fill with water until the water is about 1” above the eggs. Add a dash of salt to the pot (optional).
  2. Heat on high until the water begins to boil. When the water comes to a full boil, turn off the heat and let eggs cook in the water for 10 minutes.
  3. Carefully drain the hot water.
  4. Fill the pot again with cold water and ice and let eggs chill until they are no longer warm to the touch.
  5. Remove eggs from cold bath and place on towel.
  6. Gently tap while rolling eggs on counter or hard surface to micro crack the eggshell all over until the shells fall off. (Don’t forget to crack the point and bottom too.)

OR check out these hard boiled egg helping products we found on Amazon.

make hardboiled eggs

For cooking: If you’re someone who enjoys hardboiled eggs more than once a year, try a countertop egg cooker. It makes them perfect every time.

For peeling: Try an egg knife, or egg jar to peel like a pro.

Deviled Eggs

deviled eggs

Ingredients:

  • Eggs
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Ice
  • Mayonnaise
  • Fresh Cracked Pepper
  • Garlic Powder
  • Celery (optional) or Bread and Butter Pickles (optional)
  • Celery Salt or Plain Salt
  • Paprika
  • Jalapeño Slices (optional)

Directions:

  1. Cook and cool hard boiled eggs.
  2. De-shell eggs and gently rinse or wipe with a wet paper towel to ensure there are no shell pieces left behind. Place the eggs on paper towels.
  3. Cut eggs in half length wise and scoop the yolks into large bowl. Arrange the hollow egg white halves on a serving tray.
  4. Since egg yolks can vary in size along with the quantity of deviled eggs you’d like to create, creating the deviled egg filling is best done in increments. You can always add more of anything. Start with a few tablespoons of mayonnaise and incorporate more until the egg yolks are smooth but firm.
  5. Finely chop one rib of celery and two mini gherkin pickles (or a few Bread and Butter pickle chips) and add to the mix. Again, these quantities are “to-taste” so if you have a lot of yolks add more, fewer yolks, add less.
  6. Pepper, garlic powder, and celery salt to taste.
  7. Scoop the yolk mixture into the hollow egg halves. Top deviled eggs with a dash of paprika.
  8. Optional – add a jalapeño slice to the top if you’d like some eggs with a little kick. (It sounds strange, but we got this idea at a brunch where it was a big hit!)
Curb Appeal

Hedge Trimmers and Edgers: Which is Best?

Electric vs Gas vs Battery Hedgers/Edgers/Trimmers – Which is Best? 

When it comes to buying new landscaping and lawn equipment, we always find ourselves at a crossroads. From plug-in electric, to rechargeable batteries, to gas powered – so many options make it nearly impossible to choose which is best with any certainty. Fear not! We recently upgraded our tools and are here to share our experience.

After owning the plug-in corded and manual landscaping tools over the years, using gas-powered ones, and then recently purchasing the electric rechargeable battery kinds, we feel confident in recommending this particular brand.

E-GO, purchased at Lowes Home Improvement.

lawn equipment

We choose this brand and could not be happier with our purchase. Our lawn (edging) is small, but we have a lot of bushes and plants and find these rechargeable electric (battery/cordless) products perfect for our needs.

The Pros:

  • We can trim without re-charging the battery at least 2 to 3 times.
  • The batteries are compatible with multiple E-GO tools, so you can swap them between tools with ease.
  • More powerful and reliable than our plug-in corded models.
  • Performed just as well as the gas powered options we’ve tried.

The Cons:

  • If the battery dies during use, you have to wait while the batteries charge.
  • The battery charging fan has a funny smell when charging, so we don’t feel comfortable charging them inside the house.

electric landscaping tools

These are literally the only cons we can come up with. We think our E-GO is awesome! The performance is honestly better than all of our previous plug-in electric models. The cuts are clean and it’s rare (if ever?) that this E-GO hedger/trimmer has gotten stuck in the branches of hedges while trimming.

rechargeable battery for lawn equipment

The battery system is pretty straight forward. Slide it on the charger to charge it, it has a light indicator to show when it’s fully charged. Then you slide it on to whatever E-GO tool you want to use and go! I usually find myself needing to charge it after every third use.

Most of the tools have an option to buy with the battery at a BIG savings versus buying the battery and charger alone. We have one battery for two E-GO tools. I swap the battery between the hedger and the edger with no problems. If you have more than one person working on tool – related yard tasks you may want to opt for more batteries.

Do you have any landscaping tools that make your life easier? We want to hear about it! Share your finds with us in the comments of our social media posts about this article. @DeAnnaAndCompany on Instagram and Facebook.

Note: This is not a paid endorsement or ad. We actually researched and purchased these items all on our own.

Home Hack

How Can You Secure a Home in the Hot Real Estate Market?

Yes, the market is tough for Buyers right now. Inventory is low but demand is high. It is not uncommon for homes to sell for well over asking price. Buyers often find themselves in bidding wars and competing against all-cash offers.

How can you secure a home in the hot real estate market? You’ll need a great strategy and a lot of LUCK! Here are our best tips:

FIND A GOOD REAL ESTATE AGENT

Finding the right real estate team can be a huge advantage in a competitive market. You want someone who knows your local area and will alert you to listings as soon as they hit the market, if not before. A good buyer’s agent will know how to make your offer stand out. Interview more than one agent and ask for references from recent clients. A good fit is key.

CHOOSE A LENDER WITH LOCAL RELATIONSHIPS

A local loan officer can help you win a bidding war. Real estate agents know local loan officers and will remember prior transactions with them that went smoothly.  A local lender will provide a dedicated loan officer that will be accessible and guide you through the process. A local lender will have contacts with inspectors, title agents and appraisers that know your market.   A national lender may not prioritize your application and may not understand the unique needs of lending in your area.

CONSIDER THESE SUGGESTIONS:

  • Focus only on homes that meet your criteria. Don’t put in offers on every home just because you haven’t gotten an offer accepted.
  • Provide a strong conditional approval. Having a fully documented and underwritten loan approval shows you’re a serious buyer and allows for a speedy closing.
  • Consider waiving contingencies. Fewer contingencies can make your offer more competitive. Consider removing financing, appraisal, or inspection contingencies.
  • Include an escalation clause.  An escalation clause says that you will offer “X” amount over any higher offers that are presented.  This allows you to always present your “highest and best” offer.  Be sure to put a cap on your escalation.
  • Offer a higher earnest money deposit.  An earnest money deposit (EMD) shows the seller you’re a good faith buyer, a higher EMD shows your serious about their home.
  • Accommodate the seller’s closing time.  Some sellers already have another home they are purchasing or a job transfer and require a fast closing.  Other sellers may be waiting for a new home build or to finish a school year.  Being flexible with your closing time can give you an edge.
  • Ask your agent or lender to reach out to the listing agent.  Establishing rapport and a strong relationship can put your offer on top.
  • Write a love letter to the seller.  Let the seller know what you love about their home and why you’re making an offer.  This may be controversial but puts a face to the offer and can make a difference to the current homeowner.

Keep LUCK on your side of the table!

We’re here to help. Give us a call.

Recipes

Corned Beef and Cabbage (in the Slow Cooker)

Crock Pot Corned Beef and Cabbage (St Patrick’s Day)

This dish is basically like an Irish pot roast. Slow cooked veggies and corned beef makes a hearty dish with wonderful Irish-inspired flavors.

Ingredients:

1 Corned Beef Brisket

1 Cabbage

3-4 Carrots -and/or- Parsnips

5 Red Potatoes or 1 mesh bag of small potatoes like Baby Dutch, Jewels, Fingerling, etc.

1 small Onion -or- 3/4 cup Frozen Pearl Onions

2 tablespoons Brown Sugar (optional)

1 Guinness

1.5 cups Beef Broth or Water

Salt and Pepper (to taste) 

Directions:

We’ve found that cooking this lower for longer makes the meat more tender. We also like to keep our veggies from becoming mush by adding them in stages. If you’re a crock pot pro, feel free to adjust things as you see fit.

  1. Trim the fat off of the brisket then place meat in the bottom of slow cooker.
  2. Add one Guinness, the seasoning packet from the corned beef, and 1.5 cups of beef broth or water. (Alternative: instead of Guinness, use seasoning packet with 3 cups of beef broth OR water with the seasoning packet.) Cover and cook on low for 5 hours.
  3. Peel and chop carrots and parsnips into 1/2” slices and carefully layer on top of corned beef. (The thinner the carrot the faster the cooking.)
  4. Add in the small potatoes whole, or cut large potatoes into 3/4” wedges and place in slow cooker.
  5. Add thinly sliced onions (or use frozen pearl onions). Top with a little fresh cracked salt and pepper.
  6. Cover and raise temperature to high and cook for 2 more hours.
  7. Chop cabbage into 2” wedges. Remove lid and stir the brown sugar into the liquid, leaving the meat on the bottom. Add cabbage to slow cooker.
  8. Cover and continue to cook on high until cabbage and veggies are tender and beef is thoroughly cooked, about 1 to 2 hours longer. Total time is typically about 8 to 10 hours, depending on the size of your brisket.

We like to pair ours with a fresh parsley sauce, by making a simple peppered gravy (like you have with biscuits) but adding in a small bunch of chopped fresh parsley at the end, and using some of the cooked juices from the crock pot to make it thinner.

You will need: Unsalted Butter, Flour, Fresh Garlic, Milk, Fresh Parsley, Juices from the finished meat in the slow cooker, Salt and Pepper

Make it:

  1. Start by measuring 2.5 cups of milk and setting it aside.
  2. Melt 1/4 cup unsalted butter in a pan over medium/medium low heat, add in flour and stir with a whisk until it makes a lump-free smooth paste.
  3. Slowly add the milk and stir with whisk until mixture begins to thicken. Turn off heat.
  4. Stir in 1 bunch of chopped fresh parsley and 1 clove of finely chopped fresh garlic.
  5. Add in small amounts of the fully cooked juices from the slow cooker to thin out the gravy until it is the thickness of a thick syrup or drizzle. Salt and pepper to taste.