Archive for Lily Alig

16 must-haves to create a DIY ice cream sundae bar at home

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Six different tubs of ice cream on the counter with 3 of the Zeroll Ice Cream Scoops in different flavors

An ice cream sundae bar is the best kind of overwhelming; how can you possibly choose between chocolate or vanilla, crushed Hershey bars or gummy worms, and hot fudge or salted caramel sauce? Planning a sundae bar may not be as fun as eating at one, but we've rounded up 16 products to guide you through the process.

I'm no stranger to ice cream parties. My grandfather sold ice cream toppings to hotels and restaurants, and my aunt and uncle ran a wholesale ice cream business in the Hudson Valley for 30 years. I know how to appreciate a pint of creamy, frozen deliciousness.

Beyond the sweets, there are practical items like tablecloths and napkins that will make your sundae bar a hopefully less sticky success. And for the snacks, try to have something for everyone, whether they like salty with their sweet or just want to pile on the sugar.

Here are 16 practical and delicious products for your ice cream sundae bar.

A warming ice cream scoop
The Zeroll Ice Cream Scoop sitting on a wood table

Zeroll Ice Cream Scoop

Ice Cream Scoop (button)

Scooping ice cream is a workout, but having a sturdy, body-heat-activated scoop makes it easier. The Zeroll Ice Cream Scoop's handle is filled with heat conductive liquid, which absorbs warmth from your hand to help soften the ice cream.

A set of durable dessert bowls
Ice cream bowls with matching ice cream cone spoons are perfect for kids.

GreenCo 12 Ice Cream Bowls and Spoons

12 Ice Cream Bowls and Spoons (button)

DOWAN 6 Porcelain Small Bowls

6 Porcelain Small Bowls (button)

The GreenCo's ice cream bowls are durable and perfect for kids, and the matching waffle-cone-shaped spoons are a playful touch. If you're looking for something a bit less literal, we're fans of Dowan's porcelain snack bowls with their bold mixed prints — use them as ice cream bowls or set them out to hold toppings.

An array of sauces
Two jars of Williams Sonoma dessert sauces, hot fudge on the left and salted caramel on the right

Williams Sonoma Dessert Sauces

Hot Fudge & Caramel Sauce Set (button)

Ghirardelli Chocolate Sauce Squeeze Bottles

Chocolate Sauce Squeeze Bottles (button)

Hot fudge is a must at any ice cream sundae bar, but it isn't the only sauce out there. Salted caramel and white chocolate are equally as delicious. We like the 17-ounce jars at Williams Sonoma for rich flavor, and the Ghirardelli Squeeze Bottles because they make it easy for everyone to serve themselves.

Candy toppings
A bag filled with a variety of different mini chocolate candies on a table

Mars Minis Chocolate Favorites Variety Pack

Minis Chocolate Favorites Variety Pack (button)

You don't have to wait for Halloween to get a big bag of candy. These variety packs are perfect for people who like their ice cream sundae to be equal parts ice cream and candy. Unwrap and chop up the chocolate bars, or leave everything out whole like a sundae bar grab bag. If you want to add another flavor layer, check out the SweeTARTS, Nerds, Laffy Taffy, and Gobstopper Variety pack also available at Target.

On-theme napkins
MU Kitchen Cool Treats Kitchen Towels on a white background

Ice Cream Cone Napkins

Ice Cream Napkins (button)

MU Kitchen Cool Treats Kitchen Towels

Cool Treats Kitchen Towels (button)

Dessert can be a messy business, so it's a good idea to have napkins on hand. The 25 paper napkins from Etsy are shaped like ice cream cones, and the fun design may encourage little ones to actually wipe their hands. For reusable cloths, the cotton hand towels from MU Kitchen have a sweet ice cream print and are machine washable.

Flavored marshmallows
Two women holding up different bags of Smashmallow flavors covering up their faces

S'more Better Variety Pack by Smashmallow

S'more Better Variety Pack (button)

Take regular marshmallows up a notch with a Smashmallow Variety Pack, all soy, gluten, and dairy free. These are delicious enough to be an appetizer to the ice cream, or throw them on the scoops for extra flavor. The five-pack includes mint chocolate chip, cinnamon churro, toasted vanilla, cookie dough, and strawberries and cream.

Safe-to-eat cookie dough
A bunch of different flavors of Doughp edible cookie dough circled around a bowl filled with the cookie dough, all on a mustard yellow background

Doughp Edible Cookie Dough Bestseller

Edible Cookie Dough Bestseller (button)

For many people, eating raw cookie dough is a bit of a guilty pleasure. Doughp makes cookie dough that is meant to be eaten straight from the container, and you can bake it into cookies too! This pack of best selling flavors is perfect for turning every ice cream into cookies and cream.

A sampler of fancy sprinkles
A colorful pile of different shapes and sizes of Sweetapolita sprinkles

Sweetapolita Summer Lovin Sprinkle Sampler Pack

Summer Lovin Sprinkle Sampler Pack (button)

Sweetapolita goes beyond chocolate and rainbow sprinkles with sparkles, different shapes, and even matte coatings. The Summer Lovin Sampler Pack contains five sprinkle medleys that you can buy in full size bottles if you fall in love. The colorful mixtures are made of traditional pressed sugar sprinkles coated in candy shells. 

A waffle bowl maker
The Dash Waffle Bowl maker with a waffle being made on a gray background

Dash Waffle Bowl Maker

Waffle Bowl Maker (button)

Maybe you'll forgo the cups altogether and serve the ice cream in waffle bowls. Dash offers several novelty waffle makers, including this bowl-shaped iron. The recipe book will guide you to a crispy and evenly browned waffle, perfect for a few scoops of ice cream. At under six inches wide, this is easy to store when not in use.

A water resistant tablecloth
The Summer Stripe Indoor/Outdoor Tablecloth on a deck outside with a tray of lemonade sitting on the table

Summer Stripe Indoor/Outdoor Tablecloth

Summer Stripe Indoor/Outdoor Tablecloth (button)

You can always pick up a pack of disposable tablecloths at a party store, but a reusable version is a sturdier alternative. Outdoor tablecloths are water repellent and often more durable than indoor linen ones. If a tablecloth can survive a rainstorm, it can handle melting ice cream and spilled hot fudge.

For DIY ice cream
Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker

Cuisinart Pure Indulgence 2-Quart Ice Cream Maker

Pure Indulgence Frozen Yogurt, Sorbet and Ice Cream Maker (2-Quart) (button)

If you want to take your ice cream party to the next level, make the ice cream yourself with a home ice cream maker. Our favorite is the Cuisinart Pure Indulgence because it produces up to two quarts at a time and is only $100. This is a frozen bowl machine, meaning you'll have to freeze the bowl 12 hours before using it, but if you're planning a whole party, that won't be a problem.

A topping for ice cream or cocktails
A jar of Luxardo Maraschino Cherries sitting ona. table next to a bowl of cherries and a plate of mint leaves

Peninsula Premium Cocktail Cherries

Premium Cocktail Cherries (button)

Luxardo Maraschino Cherries

Maraschino Cherries (button)

Maraschino cherries go with everything from ice cream to cocktails, vanilla to cookie dough. Leave out a few jars of these tart and sweet treats for your guests to be creative with. A root beer float topped with a cherry or two sounds like a dream.

Individual ice cream tubs
4 of the Williams Sonoma Individual Ice cream containers on a table, two of them open and filled with different ice cream with the other two closed

Individual Ice Cream Storage Containers

Individual Ice Cream Storage Containers (button)

You can use these individual ice cream tubs for personal ice cream cups or for to-go sundaes. Each BPA-free plastic tub holds approximately six ounces, a perfect size for your guests to take on their way if they have to leave the party early.

A box of cones
A box of Joy Jump Cup Cake Cones on a white background

Joy Regular Cake Cones

Regular Cake Cones (button)

Konery Artisanal Waffle Cones Birthday Cake

Birthday Cake (button)

Everyone has a favorite cone, whether it's waffle, sugar, or wafer. Play it safe and get a box of each, but make sure to seal the box tight if you don't use all the cones; a stale cone is not pleasant to eat. Keebler Sugar Cones and Joy Wafer Cones are widely available at grocery stores, or you can treat yourself to an artisanal Konery Waffle Cone with flavors like toasted coconut and birthday cake.

A selection of savory treats
A bag of Ruffles on a white background

Bacon bits

Real Bacon Bits Mega Pack (button)

Potato chips

Original Flavor Party Size Ridged Potato Chips (button)

Combining salty and sweet is an easy way to bump up the flavors at a dessert bar. Bacon bits might be an unexpected addition, but put them on vanilla or even a maple flavor for a breakfast-as-dessert experience. Similarly, crushed potato chips add texture and salt to a sweet and smooth dessert.

Chocolate covered crunchies/candies
3 different bags of chocolate covered nuts from Harry and David behind bowls filled with the nuts

Dylan's Candy Bar Chocolate Tackle Box

Chocolate Tackle Box (button)

Harry and David Choose-Your-Own Chocolate and Nuts

Choose-Your-Own Chocolate and Nuts (button)

Be sure to have plenty of treats for the chocolate lovers in your party. The Dylan's Candy Bar Chocolate Tackle Box has two compartments each of six different candies, from chocolate covered almonds to white chocolate nonpareils. Harry and David offers a gourmet, choose-your-own bundle. There are nine different candies that are all delicious, so you can't go wrong!

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 3 best baking sheets and cookie sheets we tested in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
  • Baking sheets are multi-purpose items, used for everything from baking cookies to roasting wings.
  • Our top pick is the Nordic WareNaturals Half Sheet, made of uncoated aluminum.
  • It did not warp at high roasting temperatures, and was the easiest to use.

Baking sheets are incredibly versatile pieces of cookware; they can be vessels for everything from one-pan meals and cookies to grandma-style pizza and loaded nachos.

A quality baking sheet doesn't have hot spots, is easy to clean, keeps its shape, and evenly browns your food. Full-size sheet pans don't fit in most home ovens, so a half sheet measuring 13 by 18 inches is the largest option appropriate for home cooks, according to Kristy Greenwood Bortz of Victory Love + Cookies. Check our FAQ section for a brief rundown of the four most common sheet pan types and their dimensions.

In this guide, we use the term "baking sheet" to refer to all of the products, while "cookie sheet" specifically means a flat pan with only one elevated edge. According to Beth and Maddie Barnett of Eat Me Cookies, cookie sheets' unique structure allows you to slide baked goods on and off without having to lift them over a rim. That's something to consider when choosing the best baking sheet for your particular needs.

In order to select our top three picks, we consulted food industry experts and ran each baking sheet through a series of tests. We baked butter cookies, roasted potatoes, and noted how each sheet handled being rotated in an oven. We also considered the sheets' capacities and cooling times, as well as how difficult it was to scrub away burnt food.

Here are the best baking sheets of 2021:

The best baking sheet overall
Best Baking Sheets of 2021 Best Overall Nordic Ware
We baked a batch of roll-and-cut butter cookies on every sheet we tested, including the Nordic Ware Naturals Half Sheet, above. The half-moon shape made it easy to evaluate spread and color.

The Nordic Ware Naturals Half Sheet delivers an even bake, wipes clean easily, and food slides off with little effort.

Pros: Conducts heat evenly, cookies release easily

Cons: Shows wear and tear after first use

The Nordic Ware Naturals half sheet is our top pick because it's simple, effective, and affordable. When I roasted potatoes on this sheet, a coat of olive oil prevented most of the sticking, and any burnt pieces were easily scrubbed off with a scouring pad. In our bake test, the uncoated aluminum sheet baked the butter cookies in the time suggested by the recipe, as opposed to the nonstick sheets, which baked cookies faster than expected. Though there was slight resistance, the cookies came off without breaking. 

As someone who uses a baking sheet on an almost daily basis, it's important that I don't have to take my sheet's limitations into account before I bake. It can be frustrating if you have to remember to position your cauliflower away from your baking sheet's warped spot, or risk charring the bottoms of your cookies if you don't take them out five minutes early. Using the Nordic Ware sheet requires little thought; it bakes evenly and keeps its shape. 

Here I should mention that this sheet will show wear and tear after the first use. I've already noticed scratches and slight discoloration from acidic foods, but the decline in appearance has had no effect on its performance.

The best cookie sheet
Best baking sheets of 2021 best cookie sheet Williams Sonoma
The butter cookies came out crisp, but not burnt, on the Williams Sonoma Cookie Sheet.

The Williams Sonoma Goldtouch Pro Cookie Sheet's excellent heat conductivity and flat edges work to prevent underdone or broken cookies.

Pros: Sturdy, even browning, easy to maneuver 

Cons: Requires adjusted baking time or temperature

Cookie sheets can feel flimsy because they don't have the structure of wire-reinforced rims. The Goldtouch Pro sheet felt sturdy and when I held it using the one raised edge, I didn't feel like it was going to tip out of my hands. When rotating it in the oven, I could lift the sheet with two hands on one of the rimless edges. 

My experience with this pan is that it bakes evenly browned cookies in a faster than usual bake time. 

There was no resistance between the butter cookies and the surface of the sheet. I could pick them up with my hands and didn't even need a spatula. The sheet didn't warp in an oven heated to 400 degrees and cooled down quickly.

The best baking sheet for roasting
Best Baking Sheets of 2021 Best for Roasting OXO Good Grips
Even the burnt onion pieces came off the OXO baking sheet easily with soap and a little scrubbing.

Oil and burnt food slide off the OXO Good Grips Half Sheet with ease, making it perfect for roasting vegetables, meat, and more.

Pros: Easy to clean, texture does not transfer to food, sturdy

Cons: Speeds up bake time, can't clean it with steel wool

One of the OXO Half Sheet's main selling points is its textured diamond pattern, which is designed to limit direct food-to-sheet contact and thus increase airflow. While I didn't see evidence of those benefits on the cookies I made, the pattern seemed to be a plus for roasting potatoes. 

I found that the burnt bits of potato and oil came off the OXO sheet much easier and with less scrubbing than the smooth sheets. And, the sheet is sturdy and balanced, so walking from the counter to the oven with a full, heavy pan of vegetables was easy. 

As with the other nonstick sheets I tested, the butter cookies baked in a shorter amount of time than the recipe indicated. While I expected the diamond texture to imprint on the cookies, that wasn't the case.

Our methodology
Best baking sheets of 2020 Testing Methodology
The cookies in the above photo were cooked at the same temperature for the same length of time, just on different sheets.

Baking test: We baked 12 butter cookies on all test products, baking one sheet at a time and rotating the sheet once during baking. We evaluated the browning on the bottom of the cookies, comparing cookies on the edges of the sheets versus the ones in the center. We did not use parchment paper. 

Roasting test: We roasted potatoes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes to evaluate how much they stuck to the sheet. We also noted the sheet's capacity, and how well it handled the weight of the potatoes. 

Cleaning test: After baking, we washed the sheets according to manufacturer instructions. Dishwasher-safe sheets were washed in a dishwasher and then examined for surface damage. If a sheet was hand-wash only, it was cleaned with a non-abrasive sponge. We noted how difficult it was to scrub away burnt food by hand. 

Ease of use: During baking, we noted how it felt to handle the sheets and how easy it was to rotate them in the oven. After baking, we noted how long it took before we could hold the sheet without a pot holder.

Experts: We consulted three experts on their professional experiences with different types of baking sheets: Kristy Greenwood Bortz, owner of Victory Love + Cookies, and Beth and Maddie Barnett, founders of Eat Me Cookies. Their input informed our own testing methodology and the answers to our FAQs.

What else we tested
Best baking sheets of 2021 What else we tested
We roasted potatoes coated in olive and salt on all rimmed baking sheets.

NUCU Gold-Coated Aluminum Cookie Sheet: The NUCU cookie sheet baked cookies faster than any other sheet we tested, requiring even more significant adjustments to time and temperature. 

Williams Sonoma Goldtouch Half Sheet: The Goldtouch Half Sheet baked cookies faster than the Nordic Ware and was slightly more difficult to clean than the OXO.  

Nordic Ware Naturals Quarter Sheet: This product performed just as well as the half sheet size, but can only fit small batches.

What we look forward to testing

Great Jones Holy Sheet ($35): This brand is a favorite of the reviews team for its accessible, high-end cookware. We're a fan of the unconventional colors (emerald green and cobalt blue), and are curious to see if the Holy Sheet's ceramic nonstick coating affects the bake on butter cookies. 

USA Pan Warp-Resistant Nonstick Cookie Sheet ($17.38): We plan on testing more textured options for future updates, and are curious to try a textured cookie sheet. This one has a PTFE, PFOA, and BPA-free silicone based nonstick coating.

Farberware® Insulated Nonstick Cookie Sheet ($12.99-$14.99): This nonstick Farberware cookie sheet is light gray, and we want to compare it to the gold cookie sheets we tested to see if its lighter color slows the bake time.

FAQs
Best baking sheets methodology
We tested six sheets from four different brands and in two different styles.

What are the standard baking sheet sizes?


What is the difference between a baking sheet and a cookie sheet? 

In this guide, we use "baking sheet" as a general term for all sheet pans. "Cookie sheet" refers specifically to a flat, rimless sheet pan with one raised edge to hold it by. The structure of a cookie sheet allows you to slide cookies on and off without having to lift them over a rim, thus preserving their shape and structure.

All cookie sheets are baking sheets, but not all baking sheets are cookie sheets.


Does the color of the baking sheet matter?

Like all bakeware, a baking sheet's color affects its heat retention. "Darker pans absorb heat and can cause the bottoms of cookies to burn," said Maddie Barnett. 

If you use your baking sheets often, you'll learn how to adjust baking times and temperatures, but it may require some trial and error. Remember that you can bake an underdone cookie more, but an overbaked cookie can't go back in time. "You can always pull a cookie a little early and then put it back in the oven to finish baking if you determine that the center is still raw," said Greenwood Bortz.

PFOA and PTFE

If you've shopped for baking sheets online, you've probably noticed the acronyms PFOA and PTFE in product descriptions. Here's what you need to know about each:

PTFE stands for polytetrafluoroethylene, and is more commonly known by its brand name: Teflon. There have been concerns over the health effects of PTFE and PFOA, although studies have been mostly inconclusive.

PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, was originally used in the production of Teflon, which was invented in the 1970s. Most of the PFOA burns off during the manufacturing process, although trace elements remain in the cookware. These elements are then released if the cookware is overheated to temperatures of 570 degrees Fahrenheit or above. However, since 2010, the EPA has put programs and regulations in place to phase out the use of PFOAs in American manufacturing. The majority of cookware made in the United States since 2015 is PFOA-free, and so are all of our top picks. 

International standards are not the same as American ones, so PFOA may still be used in products from other countries.

Check out our other great baking guides
best cake pan overall 2021 kitchenaid
Read the original article on Business Insider

The 3 best baking sheets and cookie sheets we tested in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
  • Baking sheets are multi-purpose items, used for everything from baking cookies to roasting wings.
  • Our top pick is the Nordic WareNaturals Half Sheet, made of uncoated aluminum.
  • It did not warp at high roasting temperatures, and was the easiest to use.

Baking sheets are incredibly versatile pieces of cookware; they can be vessels for everything from one-pan meals and cookies to grandma-style pizza and loaded nachos.

A quality baking sheet doesn't have hot spots, is easy to clean, keeps its shape, and evenly browns your food. Full-size sheet pans don't fit in most home ovens, so a half sheet measuring 13 by 18 inches is the largest option appropriate for home cooks, according to Kristy Greenwood Bortz of Victory Love + Cookies. Check our FAQ section for a brief rundown of the four most common sheet pan types and their dimensions.

In this guide, we use the term "baking sheet" to refer to all of the products, while "cookie sheet" specifically means a flat pan with only one elevated edge. According to Beth and Maddie Barnett of Eat Me Cookies, cookie sheets' unique structure allows you to slide baked goods on and off without having to lift them over a rim. That's something to consider when choosing the best baking sheet for your particular needs.

In order to select our top three picks, we consulted food industry experts and ran each baking sheet through a series of tests. We baked butter cookies, roasted potatoes, and noted how each sheet handled being rotated in an oven. We also considered the sheets' capacities and cooling times, as well as how difficult it was to scrub away burnt food.

Here are the best baking sheets of 2021:

The best baking sheet overall
Best Baking Sheets of 2021 Best Overall Nordic Ware
We baked a batch of roll-and-cut butter cookies on every sheet we tested, including the Nordic Ware Naturals Half Sheet, above. The half-moon shape made it easy to evaluate spread and color.

The Nordic Ware Naturals Half Sheet delivers an even bake, wipes clean easily, and food slides off with little effort.

Pros: Conducts heat evenly, cookies release easily

Cons: Shows wear and tear after first use

The Nordic Ware Naturals half sheet is our top pick because it's simple, effective, and affordable. When I roasted potatoes on this sheet, a coat of olive oil prevented most of the sticking, and any burnt pieces were easily scrubbed off with a scouring pad. In our bake test, the uncoated aluminum sheet baked the butter cookies in the time suggested by the recipe, as opposed to the nonstick sheets, which baked cookies faster than expected. Though there was slight resistance, the cookies came off without breaking. 

As someone who uses a baking sheet on an almost daily basis, it's important that I don't have to take my sheet's limitations into account before I bake. It can be frustrating if you have to remember to position your cauliflower away from your baking sheet's warped spot, or risk charring the bottoms of your cookies if you don't take them out five minutes early. Using the Nordic Ware sheet requires little thought; it bakes evenly and keeps its shape. 

Here I should mention that this sheet will show wear and tear after the first use. I've already noticed scratches and slight discoloration from acidic foods, but the decline in appearance has had no effect on its performance.

The best cookie sheet
Best baking sheets of 2021 best cookie sheet Williams Sonoma
The butter cookies came out crisp, but not burnt, on the Williams Sonoma Cookie Sheet.

The Williams Sonoma Goldtouch Pro Cookie Sheet's excellent heat conductivity and flat edges work to prevent underdone or broken cookies.

Pros: Sturdy, even browning, easy to maneuver 

Cons: Requires adjusted baking time or temperature

Cookie sheets can feel flimsy because they don't have the structure of wire-reinforced rims. The Goldtouch Pro sheet felt sturdy and when I held it using the one raised edge, I didn't feel like it was going to tip out of my hands. When rotating it in the oven, I could lift the sheet with two hands on one of the rimless edges. 

My experience with this pan is that it bakes evenly browned cookies in a faster than usual bake time. 

There was no resistance between the butter cookies and the surface of the sheet. I could pick them up with my hands and didn't even need a spatula. The sheet didn't warp in an oven heated to 400 degrees and cooled down quickly.

The best baking sheet for roasting
Best Baking Sheets of 2021 Best for Roasting OXO Good Grips
Even the burnt onion pieces came off the OXO baking sheet easily with soap and a little scrubbing.

Oil and burnt food slide off the OXO Good Grips Half Sheet with ease, making it perfect for roasting vegetables, meat, and more.

Pros: Easy to clean, texture does not transfer to food, sturdy

Cons: Speeds up bake time, can't clean it with steel wool

One of the OXO Half Sheet's main selling points is its textured diamond pattern, which is designed to limit direct food-to-sheet contact and thus increase airflow. While I didn't see evidence of those benefits on the cookies I made, the pattern seemed to be a plus for roasting potatoes. 

I found that the burnt bits of potato and oil came off the OXO sheet much easier and with less scrubbing than the smooth sheets. And, the sheet is sturdy and balanced, so walking from the counter to the oven with a full, heavy pan of vegetables was easy. 

As with the other nonstick sheets I tested, the butter cookies baked in a shorter amount of time than the recipe indicated. While I expected the diamond texture to imprint on the cookies, that wasn't the case.

Our methodology
Best baking sheets of 2020 Testing Methodology
The cookies in the above photo were cooked at the same temperature for the same length of time, just on different sheets.

Baking test: We baked 12 butter cookies on all test products, baking one sheet at a time and rotating the sheet once during baking. We evaluated the browning on the bottom of the cookies, comparing cookies on the edges of the sheets versus the ones in the center. We did not use parchment paper. 

Roasting test: We roasted potatoes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes to evaluate how much they stuck to the sheet. We also noted the sheet's capacity, and how well it handled the weight of the potatoes. 

Cleaning test: After baking, we washed the sheets according to manufacturer instructions. Dishwasher-safe sheets were washed in a dishwasher and then examined for surface damage. If a sheet was hand-wash only, it was cleaned with a non-abrasive sponge. We noted how difficult it was to scrub away burnt food by hand. 

Ease of use: During baking, we noted how it felt to handle the sheets and how easy it was to rotate them in the oven. After baking, we noted how long it took before we could hold the sheet without a pot holder.

Experts: We consulted three experts on their professional experiences with different types of baking sheets: Kristy Greenwood Bortz, owner of Victory Love + Cookies, and Beth and Maddie Barnett, founders of Eat Me Cookies. Their input informed our own testing methodology and the answers to our FAQs.

What else we tested
Best baking sheets of 2021 What else we tested
We roasted potatoes coated in olive and salt on all rimmed baking sheets.

NUCU Gold-Coated Aluminum Cookie Sheet: The NUCU cookie sheet baked cookies faster than any other sheet we tested, requiring even more significant adjustments to time and temperature. 

Williams Sonoma Goldtouch Half Sheet: The Goldtouch Half Sheet baked cookies faster than the Nordic Ware and was slightly more difficult to clean than the OXO.  

Nordic Ware Naturals Quarter Sheet: This product performed just as well as the half sheet size, but can only fit small batches.

What we look forward to testing

Great Jones Holy Sheet ($35): This brand is a favorite of the reviews team for its accessible, high-end cookware. We're a fan of the unconventional colors (emerald green and cobalt blue), and are curious to see if the Holy Sheet's ceramic nonstick coating affects the bake on butter cookies. 

USA Pan Warp-Resistant Nonstick Cookie Sheet ($17.38): We plan on testing more textured options for future updates, and are curious to try a textured cookie sheet. This one has a PTFE, PFOA, and BPA-free silicone based nonstick coating.

Farberware® Insulated Nonstick Cookie Sheet ($12.99-$14.99): This nonstick Farberware cookie sheet is light gray, and we want to compare it to the gold cookie sheets we tested to see if its lighter color slows the bake time.

FAQs
Best baking sheets methodology
We tested six sheets from four different brands and in two different styles.

What are the standard baking sheet sizes?


What is the difference between a baking sheet and a cookie sheet? 

In this guide, we use "baking sheet" as a general term for all sheet pans. "Cookie sheet" refers specifically to a flat, rimless sheet pan with one raised edge to hold it by. The structure of a cookie sheet allows you to slide cookies on and off without having to lift them over a rim, thus preserving their shape and structure.

All cookie sheets are baking sheets, but not all baking sheets are cookie sheets.


Does the color of the baking sheet matter?

Like all bakeware, a baking sheet's color affects its heat retention. "Darker pans absorb heat and can cause the bottoms of cookies to burn," said Maddie Barnett. 

If you use your baking sheets often, you'll learn how to adjust baking times and temperatures, but it may require some trial and error. Remember that you can bake an underdone cookie more, but an overbaked cookie can't go back in time. "You can always pull a cookie a little early and then put it back in the oven to finish baking if you determine that the center is still raw," said Greenwood Bortz.

PFOA and PTFE

If you've shopped for baking sheets online, you've probably noticed the acronyms PFOA and PTFE in product descriptions. Here's what you need to know about each:

PTFE stands for polytetrafluoroethylene, and is more commonly known by its brand name: Teflon. There have been concerns over the health effects of PTFE and PFOA, although studies have been mostly inconclusive.

PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, was originally used in the production of Teflon, which was invented in the 1970s. Most of the PFOA burns off during the manufacturing process, although trace elements remain in the cookware. These elements are then released if the cookware is overheated to temperatures of 570 degrees Fahrenheit or above. However, since 2010, the EPA has put programs and regulations in place to phase out the use of PFOAs in American manufacturing. The majority of cookware made in the United States since 2015 is PFOA-free, and so are all of our top picks. 

International standards are not the same as American ones, so PFOA may still be used in products from other countries.

Check out our other great baking guides
best cake pan overall 2021 kitchenaid
Read the original article on Business Insider

The 5 best hard-anodized cookware sets in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
  • A carefully selected cookware set can be the finishing touch on a new kitchen or refresh an old one.
  • Hard-anodized cookware has the high heat conductivity of aluminum with a safe nonstick surface.
  • The best hard-anodized cookware set on for value and durability is the GreenPan Prime Midnight 11-Piece Set.

Buying a cookware set can be overwhelming because of the sheer volume of brands, materials, and types of included pieces. While stainless steel, copper, and traditional nonstick are the most popular options for cookware sets and each have their benefits, another lesser-known cookware material can offer some of the best value, durability, and conductivity: hard-anodized aluminum.

Raw aluminum is inexpensive and offers excellent conductivity for cooking, but it's prone to discoloring your food. Hard-anodized aluminum has undergone a natural chemical process to oxidize the cooking surface of the pan so it's more durable, nonstick, and doesn't discolor the food. While hard-anodized cookware is plenty nonstick in its own right, many hard-anodized pieces have additional nonstick coatings. For more information on the technical aspects of the material, see our FAQs.

We think hard-anodized cookware sets are a great option for folks who want to outfit their kitchen on a budget, and are looking for a set that is easy to cook with, care for, and maintain. Below we've outlined our top picks for hard-anodized sets.

While durability, cooking, and ease of use and cleaning were top of mind when making our selections, we also looked for sets with useful pieces and no superfluous items. The most important pieces in any cookware set are a stockpot or Dutch oven, a 12-inch skillet, and a 4-quart saucepan, all with lids. We used this blueprint to narrow down the choices in this guide.

When looking at sets, remember that retailers often list lids as pieces, so a 10-piece set is more likely five pans with matching lids instead of 10 separate pieces. If you're looking for a specific piece, consider purchasing individual items, as a large cookware set is likely to have more than you need.

Here are the best hard-anodized cookware sets in 2021

The best overall
Best Overall Hard Anodized Cookware Set_GreenPan_Amazon

The GreenPan Prime Midnight set is our top pick because it features 11 basic cookware pieces that have safe ceramic nonstick coatings and are oven-safe to 600 degrees Fahrenheit, all for about $200.

Pros: Oven-safe to 600 degrees F, metal utensil safe, durable ceramic nonstick coating, lots of useful pieces, both PTFE- and PFOA-free

Cons: Saucepans are on the small side, no 12-inch skillet (though sauté pan can be used in its place)

With six pans, four lids, and a steamer, the Prime Midnight cookware set has everything you need to switch between stovetop and oven cooking. The hard-anodized bodies and stainless steel handles are durable, scratch resistant, and oven-safe up to 600 degrees F. The glass lids allow you to see what you're cooking without releasing steam or heat (but keep in mind that the lids are only oven-safe to 425 degrees F).

GreenPan uses a ceramic nonstick coating derived from sand particles, which is as durable and effective as traditional coatings, but free from PTFE, PFOA, and lead. The Prime Midnight set is also dishwasher and metal utensil safe for easier clean up and better durability.

Best on a budget
Best Budget Hard Anodized Cookware_Rachel Ray_Amazon

The Rachael Ray Cucina set features dishwasher safe and durable cookware basics, making it an ideal set for starting fresh in the kitchen on a budget.

Pros: Dishwasher safe, comes in three different cookware colors, large variety of pot and pan types

Cons: Only oven-safe to 400 degrees F, no large frying pan, saucepans are a bit on the small side

The Rachael Ray Cucina Hard-Anodized Set offers valuable basics in materials known for durability. The hard-anodized aluminum exterior is scratch-resistant, and the tempered glass lids are bordered by a stainless steel rim. The nonstick interior is PFOA free, but not metal utensil safe. 

Instead of a third saucepan or skillet, the set includes a 3-quart sauté pan as a piece with more volume and versatility. The serving utensils (a slotted spoon and spatula) are a great addition for a starter cookware set. You can choose from three colors for the serving utensils and the silicone grips that wrap around stainless steel handles.

Best high-end
Best High End Hard Anodized Cookware_Williams Sonoma_Williams Sonoma

The Thermo-Clad cookware set features details that make cooking easier, from the heat-encapsulating stainless steel lids to the metal utensil safe nonstick coating.

Pros: Induction compatible, heat-sealing lids, includes a large stockpot 

Cons: Fewer pieces than less expensive sets, no large skillet

Instead of glass, this set features stainless steel lids with double wall insulation to keep food warm. While this means you can't see the food while it's cooking, it's useful for making items ahead of time and keeping food warm for serving. The entire set is oven-safe to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Thermo-Clad line features a tri-ply stainless steel base, designed to limit hot spots by covering the bottom of the pan edge to edge. The nonstick coating is metal utensil safe, though the brand recommends avoiding abrasive cleaners like steel wool. The unique item in this set is the 6-quart "essential pan," which is nearly identical in design to a traditional saucier. With a wide base and high, rounded sides, this pan is great for one pot meals.

Best space-saving
Best Space Saving Hard Anodized Cookware of 2021_Calphalon_Target

The Calphalon Stackable Set includes every necessary piece to start a cookware collection and it all stacks neatly for easy storage in small kitchens.

Pros: Stacks compactly for storage, lids fit on multiple pieces

Cons: No large skillet, only oven-safe to 400 degrees F, not safe for metal utensils

This set is organized by diameter, so that all 8-inch wide pieces fit in a stack that can nest within the 10-inch wide stack. Interlocking plates on the pans' outside edges stabilize the stacks. Because of the common diameters, the lids are interchangeable among pieces. 

Silicone grips keep the handles cool to the touch, but limit the oven-safe temperature to 400 degrees F. The nonstick interior is also not safe for metal utensils. The highlight of this set is a stackable Dutch oven, giving you the versatility of the piece without taking up too much space.

Best for induction
Best Induction Hard Anodized Cookware_Ninja Foodi lifestyle_Best Buy

The Ninja Foodi NeverStick cookware set works on all range types, including induction, and is constructed for maximum durability and heat retention with heavy-gauge aluminum and a stainless steel base.

Pros: Proprietary nonstick coating, metal utensil safe, induction compatible

Cons: No large skillet (though sauté pan can perform similar functions)

Ninja's NeverStick technology is based on heating the particles used in the nonstick coating to higher temperatures than other brands do for their coatings. This promises a more durable nonstick surface that isn't prone to chipping or flaking and is metal utensil safe. 

The NeverStick line is available in a hard-anodized set that comes with 10 pieces and can be used on all range types, including induction. Though it lacks a large skillet, it comes with a generously-sized stockpot for making soups, stews, and one pot meals. The pieces are also safe to 500 degrees F for easy transition from stovetop to oven.

Our methodology
Best overall hard anodized cookware set 2021 methodology

We identified the best hard-anodized cookware sets through research and our own extensive experience with cookware. We developed baseline criteria, such as necessary pieces and safety requirements, and evaluated sets based on these elements and other factors like value for price. We plan on testing these sets in the future and updating this guide accordingly. 

FAQs
Best Induction Hard Anodized Cookware_Ninja Foodi lifestyle_Best Buy_1

What is hard-anodized aluminum?

Aluminum is a common material used in bakeware and cookware because it's lightweight and has great heat conductivity. The main issue with aluminum is that it will oxidize when exposed to acidic food, leaving dark marks on the surface that can transfer to light colored foods. To prevent this, most modern aluminum pans are coated in a ceramic layer or "anodized," an electrochemical process that uses controlled oxidation to create a protective layer. 

The unique element of this process is that the anodized layer isn't applied to the surface, but created out of the molecules within the metal. Therefore, the anodized protective layer cannot chip or peel off. It can wear down, but if cared for properly, it lasts longer than applied coatings.


What utensils are safe to use on hard-anodized cookware?

The hard-anodized layer isn't a coating, so a hard-anodized pan can be used with any material utensil. However, nonstick coatings are often applied to hard-anodized cookware, so we recommend checking the information provided by the manufacturer before using metal utensils. Single or double layer nonstick coatings can be scratched by metal utensils.


Can hard-anodized cookware be used on induction stovetops? 

This depends on the set and will be listed in the manufacturer's description of the product.


Can hard-anodized cookware go in the oven?

While you should always consult the manufacturer's instructions, most hard-anodized cookware is oven-safe to some degree. The exact oven-safe temperature will be listed by the manufacturer on the packaging. The lids may have a different oven-safe temperature depending on the material.


Is hard-anodized cookware dishwasher safe?

Consult the manufacturer's instructions on using the dishwasher or hand-washing your cookware. If the cookware has a nonstick coating, it is always recommended to use non-abrasive cleaners and avoid steel wool or other harsh sponges.

PFOA and PTFE

The acronyms PFOA and PTFE are everywhere in cookware descriptions. Here's what you need to know about each:

PTFE stands for polytetrafluoroethylene, and is more commonly known by its brand name: Teflon. There have been concerns over the health effects of PTFE and PFOA, and while studies have been mostly inconclusive, PFOA was isolated as the more dangerous chemical. 

PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, was used in the production of PTFE since Teflon was invented in the 1970s. In the manufacturing process, most of the PFOA burns off and only trace elements remain in the cookware. These elements are then only released if the cookware is overheated to temperatures of 570 degrees F. However, since 2010, the EPA has put programs and regulations in place to phase out the use of PFOAs in American manufacturing. The majority of cookware made in the United States since 2015 is PFOA-free, and so are all of our top picks. 

International standards are not the same as American ones, so PFOA may still be used in products from other countries. 

See more great cookware buying guides
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15 online retailers to shop for unique holiday gifts

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unique gifts

Choosing the perfect gift can be challenging, and the multitude of options available online can be more overwhelming than helpful. While big retailers like Amazon and Target have plenty of interesting finds, you may have to go off the beaten path to ensure your gift isn't a repeat. 

To speed up your search, we found 15 stores that offer interesting holiday presents. Show your loved ones how special they are with unique gifts they won't get from anyone else. 

Some stores are offering expedited shipping to ensure delivery by Christmas but not all, so be mindful of shipping dates and potential delays. But with cool gifts from such inique shops, we bet they won't mind.

The best online stores for unique gifts:

Uncommon Goods
unique gifts

Shop all Uncommon Goods here

The products available from Uncommon Goods are hard to categorize. Browsing the pages and gifts guides is an exciting and inspiring adventure. You can start with a personalized bedtime story, take a left at a set of BBQ rubs and spices, and finish with a shattered glass ceiling necklace. 

With expedited shipping, you can place your order as late as December 20 for arrival by Christmas Eve, though we never recommend waiting until the last minute. Most of these gifts are so cool, though, we're sure the recipient won't mind if it's a little late.

Leon and George
Leon_and_George

Shop all Leon and George here

We're stuck indoors more than usual this year, so give a low maintenance piece of the outdoors with Leon and George. This online plant shop is one of our favorites because of its multiple shipping options and online plant care resources. Choose from helpful categories like pet-friendly and low light plants, or browse plant care tools and accessories for someone with a green thumb. 

Standard shipping starts at $9 per order.

*Gifts may arrive after Christmas.

GlobeIn
GlobeIn_Handblown_Wine_Glasses

Shop all GlobeIn here

The lifestyle goods available at GlobeIn are handmade by female artisans in ethical working conditions and paid fair wages. On each product page, you can read about the artisans responsible for items such as a recycled silk travel bag or a handwoven clutch by artisans in India. Shopping at GlobeIn supports female creators, a gift for the world and your loved ones.

Plan for five to 10 days for shipping and handling, which you still have!

*Gifts may arrive after Christmas.

Food52
Food52 tea kettle

Shop all Food52 here

Thanks to its collaborations with home cooks in the design process, Food52's line of cookware has an answer to almost every kitchen need no matter how small. When we tested its Five Two products, we were impressed by the useful details in each product, like lipped rims on the stoneware bowls and corner potholders on the ultimate apron. 

Beyond the kitchen, the Five Two Shop carries home goods with the same quirky and well-made style. While there is a standard $9 shipping fee, delivery times differ between products, so make sure to check each page when ordering. 

*Gifts may arrive after Christmas.

Etsy
Etsy_Pressed_Flower_Necklaces

Shop all Etsy here

One of the best places to shop small, Etsy is home to thousands of independent artisans selling everything under the sun. If you're truly stuck in your search for the perfect gift, try browsing the Etsy listings for an unusual piece of jewelry or a unique item of pop culture merchandise. 

Shipping times and costs vary at each Etsy shop, but we've pulled together a list of shops offering free shipping to narrow down the options.

*Gifts may arrive after Christmas.

ModCloth
ModCloth_4_by_3

Shop all ModCloth here

Quirky is ModCloth's MO, and their selection of gifts embraces that aesthetic. Clothing ranges from solid color joggers to festive dinosaur print sweaters, wide enough to appeal to everyone's tastes. ModCloth's unique gift guide is a curated collection of its most unusually fun products, like a Jeff Goldblum graphic tee. 

When purchasing, factor into the listed shipping time that ModCloth does not ship on the weekends. For express or expedited shipping, your order needs to be in by 10 am EST.

*Gifts may arrive after Christmas.

Society6
Society6n_Wall_Art

Shop all Society6 here

Art comes in many forms, and Society6 features almost all of them. Independent artists upload and sell their print work, or receive a commission on products printed with their designs and produced by Society6. Finally, the mushroom superfan on your gift list can wear leggings and gaze upon a canvas print both featuring a mushroom heart design. 

With standard shipping, you must have placed your order by December 14 for Christmas delivery. The cutoff date for rush shipping is as late as December 20, but will not be covered by any free shipping promotions.

Artifact Uprising
artifact uprising

Shop all Artifact Uprising here

Celebrate the sentimentality of the holidays with photo books, framed prints, and personalized calendars from Artifact Uprising. Its helpful guides point you towards the best gifts for whoever is lucky enough to receive one, whether it's a modern wall calendar for a dedicated teacher or a baby board book for new parents. 

Consult its holiday delivery guide for Christmas shipping options and rates.

*Gifts may arrive after Christmas.

The Happy Planner
Daily_To_Dos_Stickers The_Happy_Planner

Shop all The Happy Planner here

The colorful and whimsical designs at the Happy Planner turn everyday items into pieces of art. Give someone a work from home refresh with printed office supplies and planners designed by Black artists. Practical gifts can be just as fun as silly ones, especially when uniquely designed and thoughtfully purchased. 

Shipping can take up to a week and may be impacted by restrictions due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

*Gifts may arrive after Christmas.

MoMA Design Store
MoMA_Design_Store_

Shop all MoMA Design Store here

You don't have to be a modern art aficionado to love the MoMA Design Store's catalog. There are many different gifts, both creative innovations like a knife that turns butter into spreadable ribbons and modern art products like Andy Warhol banana bookends. Even the selection for kids embraces the fun and colorful aesthetics of modern art. 

Express delivery is particularly pricy at $25 per package, but the standard shipping is an $8 flat rate and delivers most in-stock merchandise within five days.

Maisonette
Tretorn_Kids_Raincoat Maisonette

Shop all Maisonette here

Bringing a boutique experience to the masses, Maisonette is the spot for hundreds of children's boutique and luxury brands like Meri Meri and O8 Lifestyle. The tasteful toys, apparel, and accessories are from both brands carried at major department stores and lesser-known start-ups. Treat them to an iridescent jacket or a doll that represents their identity.

Ordering early is best, but purchases made by December 17 will arrive in time for Christmas with express delivery for a fee depending on the brand. 

*Gifts may arrive after Christmas.

Crown and Paw
Crown & Paw Pet Canvas Art

Shop all Crown and Paw here

Pet owners everywhere will love the comical and adorable products for Crown and Paw. Turn a friend's beloved dog, cat, micro-pig, rabbit, or any other pet into a renaissance portrait, Marvel superhero, and more. Beyond canvas portraits, images can be printed on blankets, mugs, phone cases, and throw pillows, featuring up to four furry friends. 

Gifts will no longer be delivered by Christmas due to extended production times, but if you're not in a rush to exchange gifts on Christmas eve or day, this is a great option for animal lovers.

*Gifts may arrive after Christmas.

Urban Outfitters
Urban Outfitters gifts Beanie

Shop all Urban Outfitters here

Among the cropped cardigans and chenille beanies, Urban Outfitters has a surprising array of funky lifestyle and home goods. Urban Outfitters is like a big box department store with a modern boho flair, featuring constellation pie plates and velvet floor cushions. It may be a well-known brand, but a gift from Urban is unlikely to be found elsewhere. 

Orders placed by 3 am EST on December 19 will arrive by Christmas day and is a flat $5 for purchases under $50.

b.Yellowtail
b.Yellowtail Gifts_Under_100

Shop all b.Yellowtail here

Native American-owned brand and retailer b.Yellowtail embraces storytelling through art and design. The b.Yellowtail collective supports indigenous artists by providing a platform to sell their work. The platform carries beauty products, like this Bison Star lavender set, and a wide range of apparel, from turquoise bracelets to suit blazers

Order by December 16 for delivery by Christmas. 

*Gifts may arrive after Christmas.

Jungalow
Jungalow_New_Arrivals

Shop all Jungalow here

Anyone who loves color and plants will love Jungalow's bohemian home decor. Two trees are planted for each purchase, and everything is designed and curated by blogger-turned-businesswoman Justina Blakeney with sustainability and good vibes in mind.  

Jungalow does not offer expedited shipping, and it can take up to two weeks for delivery. While Christmas delivery is not guaranteed, Jungalow offers online gift cards and, of course, quality gifts that are worth it no matter when they arrive. 

*Gifts may arrive after Christmas.

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The 6 best gingerbread kits you can still get in time for the holidays

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Gingerbread House

Building a gingerbread house is part of many families' holiday traditions. Kids and adults love to eat the candy and sneak a spare cookie while spending time in the kitchen together. If you're not a baker, there are plenty of gingerbread house kits that will give you all the decorating fun with none of the baking fuss.

We consulted with two gingerbread experts to inform our recommendations: John Cook, Executive Pastry Chef at The Omni Grove Park Inn and a judge of the National Gingerbread House Competition, and Melissa Redell, owner of The Solvang Bakery in Solvang, California. They take gingerbread very seriously, and so do we.

They gave us a few tips to ensure we were recommending gingerbread houses that would bring success to any level of builder like using an A-frame design and strong royal icing - no shoddy construction here. For their full advice, click here or scroll to the bottom of this article.

Our favorite kits, selected with the experts' advice in mind are below.

These are the best gingerbread house kits:

A classically designed structure
williams sonoma gingerbread house

Pre-Baked Gingerbread House Kit, available at Williams Sonoma, $29.95

This kit contains pre-cut pieces to be assembled into a six by seven-inch A-frame house. With red, white, and green icing, you'll have plenty to glue the cookies together and decorate the surface. The kit also provides multicolored gumdrops, as well as red and green candies.

A blank and pre-assembled canvas
Pre Assembled Gingerbread House

Wilton Pre-Assembled Gingerbread House Kit, available at Amazon, $35.99

You can skip the building stress and go straight to the gumdrop fun with a pre-built gingerbread house kit. This A-frame house comes sturdily assembled, ready for decorating with the included multicolored gumdrops, candy canes, and candy balls. Sort the candy into the provided cups, snip off the icing bag tip, and get going on your masterpiece.  

A kit for candy lovers
Tootsie Roll Gingerbread Kit

Tootsie Roll Gingerbread Cottage Kit, available at Target and Oriental Trading, from $10.99

The gingerbread comes second to the array of Tootsie candies in this kit. Try to resist the Dots and Fruit Chews while you're linking the gingerbread panels together and securing them with white icing. Then, you can go wild decorating with Double Bubble, Tootsie Rolls, and the rest of your Tootsie favorites. The kit even includes a recipe for additional royal icing.

A house with fondant decoration
Build It Yourself Sweet and Petite House Kit

Build It Yourself Sweet and Petite House Kit, available at Wilton, $10.39

A small stage for big ideas, this kit is a great middle-ground between beginner and more advanced gingerbread builders. After you assemble the A-frame house with the included royal icing, you can decorate with green fondant and three different candies, including rainbow candy canes. Essentially a moldable sugar icing, fondant is the unique addition here.

An Oreo cookie house
OREO Holiday Chocolate Cookie House

Oreo Holiday Chocolate Cookie House, available at Bed Bath and Beyond and Michael's, from $14.99

If you've ever wanted to surround yourself with cookies, this Oreo Cookie House may be the closest you can get. Glue together the pre-baked chocolate cookie pieces with white royal icing, and then decorate with regular and mini-size Oreos. The kit also includes rainbow gummies and candy jewels, but for the all-Oreo look, there are holiday-themed and even gingerbread-flavored Oreos to purchase separately.

Chocolate Cookie House (button, Preferred: Michael's) An edible model doghouse
Build it Yourself Christmas Gingerbread Doghouse Ki

Build it Yourself Christmas Gingerbread Doghouse Kit, available at Joann Stores, $5.99

Celebrate the Rudolph in your life by building a gingerbread doghouse. This kit includes pre-baked pieces, red and white icing, sprinkles shaped like dog bones, and an icing dog figure. The theme of this kit is sweet, unique, and features a sturdy A-frame structure.

Build it Yourself Christmas Gingerbread Doghouse Kit (button, Preferred: Joann Stores) A gingerbread house alternative
Gingerbread Cookie DIY Kit

Gingerbread Cookie Decorating Kit, available at Target, $4.95

Gingerbread Cookie DIY Kit, available at Williams Sonoma, $39.95

If you need a break from baked goods engineering, you can decorate gingerbread cookies as a stand-alone activity or an addition to your winter scene. Target offers an affordable, all-inclusive kit with four cookies, two types of icing, and multicolored sprinkles. For a more substantial activity, the cookie kit from Williams Sonoma has six cookies and a wider array of decorations, including gumdrops, multicolored sprinkles, and decorating sugars in four colors.

Don't hold back with the extra decorations
Best gingerbread houses Wilton

While most kits come with decorative candies, you can never have too many. The gingerbread house itself is just the beginning. Crush peppermint candies to sprinkle on top or treat yourself to artisanal peppermint snow. Complete the scene with a family of sugar gingerbread men and snowman-shaped marshmallows

Redell recommends making extra goodies at home: "To supplement the kits I would recommend baking extra gingerbread architectural features, maybe some gingerbread stones or planters, and of course gingerbread cookies to eat while you decorate!" For extra gingerbread sweets, we like the King Arthur Flour cake and cookie mix.

Extra treats to consider for decorating:

 

What to keep in mind when shopping for a gingerbread house kit
Spode® Christmas Tree 2020 Annual Dessert Tray in White

After talking to our gingerbread experts, we determined three of the most important things to keep in mind for at-home gingerbread house makers. 

The A-frame house

Both of our experts recommended the A-frame house as the sturdiest basic shape. Chef Cook said, "The most popular and straight forward gingerbread house design would have to be a simple A-frame, which is a square frame with a pitched roof." Similarly, Redell said of the A-frame that "it is functional and leads to a fun holiday design."

The icing

Icing is the glue that holds a gingerbread house together, but it is also a great decorating tool. The key is to use royal icing for construction, "a really solid, almost concrete-like Royal Icing to hold everything together" according to Cook. Most gingerbread kits come with royal icing, but having extra on hand is useful, especially when assembling the houses yourself.

Icing can also be used purely for visual effect. "Some of the most unique houses are created when people use the icing in creative and decorative ways," Redell said.

Consider the ultimate destination of your gingerbread masterpiece.

You'll need different equipment if it's going to be displayed, submitted to a contest, or eaten immediately. Cook advises, "Don't forget a supportive base to build your house on. In all likelihood, you will want to move the house from the location where it was originally built." A holiday serving tray can be an accent piece all season long, even after the gingerbread is eaten. We like this one:

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L.L.Bean’s Cyber Monday sale includes 15% off our favorite bedsheets, moccasin slippers, and the iconic Bean Boots

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L.L.Bean Women's Wicked Good Moccasins

L.L.Bean is a classic American brand known for its rugged outdoor gear and cozy home essentials. Just in time for holiday activities and gift-shopping season, it's holding a sitewide sale on full-price products. 

Now through December 1, you can use code "THANKS15" at checkout to take 15% off everything from soft, fleece-lined moccasins to versatile men's fleece pullovers

The quality and construction of L.L.Bean products are top-notch — we're fans of the tote bags, and they've been featured in many of our guides, including the best bed sheets, flannel sheets, throw blankets, and women's slippers.

Since the brand only runs sitewide sales a few times a year, you won't want to miss out on this Cyber Monday sale opportunity. 

The best L.L.Bean Cyber Monday 2020 deals:

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7 online stores that will ship live Christmas trees to your home: The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Target, and more

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Fraser Fir Trees
  • During the holiday season, Christmas trees are often the centerpiece for family celebrations.
  • We rounded up a list of stores that sell and deliver live trees, so you can get started on your holiday decorating.
  • Read on for where you can buy real Christmas trees and what each store offers in terms of selection and shipping.

Going to pick out a Christmas tree is a beloved family tradition for many, but this year it may look a little different. In the best of times, it can be hard to find time to go get a tree, and the coronavirus pandemic makes it even more challenging. Thankfully, many stores are selling real Christmas trees that you buy online and pick up or have delivered to your home.

The earlier you order your tree, the better. Check the retailer's shipping information to find out the last day for delivery by Christmas. Additionally, though the price of the trees may qualify you for free shipping, there is often a weight restriction that means you'll have to pay extra for shipping.

If you're looking to keep the holiday festivities low-fuss, artificial trees have become so convincing that their beauty matches their convenience. Check out our guide to the best artificial Christmas trees for a variety of options at different price points. We've also collected the best places to buy Christmas decorations, ornaments, and holiday lights as well as our favorite items. 

Here are 7 online stores where you can buy live Christmas trees:

A Tree to Your Door: A Tree to Your Door offers a detailed overview of all four types of trees they sell, though two are currently sold out. Right now, choose from Balsam fir and white pine in sizes ranging from 3 to 8.5 feet. You can use the rating system to determine whether the low branch strength of the white pine or the high fragrance of the balsam fir is the right for you. Trees ship out three times a week, but stock is limited so you'll need to order soon. Shipping costs vary by tree and your location.

Harry & David: For a smaller, though pricier, tree, Harry & David offers three living, prepotted trees from $80 to $130. The Whimsical Tree is an Alberta spruce that comes with felt ornaments and a fabric gnome, while the Make a Memory Tree is a blue spruce that can be replanted outdoors. Shipping costs depend on the presale price of the tree, but between December 11 and 24, a holiday season surcharge of $1.99 will be added.  

The Home Depot: Most of the fresh trees at The Home Depot fall into the price range of $50 to $200 depending on tree height and species. From a 7.5-foot Fraser fir grown in Oregon to a 5-foot Douglas fir out of Michigan, you are sure to find a tree that suits your home. Since the trees come from third-party sellers, like the National Plant Company and Online Orchards, shipping costs vary by the retailer. Some trees are currently backordered, but The Home Depot won't charge you until the tree ships and plenty are still available. 

L.L.Bean: Bring the aroma of Christmas into your home with a live tree or wreath from L.L.Bean. Its tabletop trees and hanging wreaths are made of fir and balsam and adorned in a variety of decorations. Orders take approximately 3 to 7 days to ship and purchases of $50 or more get free standard shipping.

Lowe's: The variety of species and prices ($29 to $169) at Lowe's are major selling points, but be sure to enter your zip code to find which trees are actually available in your area. The selection includes trees at nurseries in local The Home Depot stores offering curbside pick-up. Most trees also qualify for free delivery. 

Target: Choose from 5 fresh trees at Target this year, including scotch pine and Douglas fir, all between 3.5 to 7 feet. All of the trees are under $120, have free standard shipping, and come from the National Plant Network.

Walmart: Walmart entered the holiday market strong this year with the launch of its free tree delivery and Christmas light-hanging services. Though its trees only go up to 7 feet, they have Fraser fir, douglas fir, and scotch pine trees available. At checkout, you can see when your tree will arrive with standard shipping or pay extra for faster options. 

For the rest of your holiday decorating, check out these buying guide recommendations:

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40 of the best gifts for kids of all ages

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Best gifts and toys for kids in 2020

It can be overwhelming to find the best gifts for the kids in your life. They often have long wish lists around the holidays and they're always in the know about all of the new toys.

We rounded up 40 toys for kids, from affordable, popular offerings like new Lego sets and Mandalorian plushies to award-winning educational toys like building sets and coding kits. 

The top 5 gifts for kids:

1. A Mickey and Friends shape sorter ($19.99)

2. A musical race track ($19.88)

3. An airfort ($49.95)

4. A digital camera just for kids ($44.97)

5. A fossil and gemstones dig kit ($24.99)

This list includes a Sponsored Product that has been suggested by Crocs. It also meets our editorial criteria in terms of quality and value.

Check out the 40 best gifts for kids in 2020:

Best Kids Gifts and Toys for Kids 4 to 7
A colorful sensory toy
dimpl toy

Fat Brain Toys Dimpl, available at Amazon, Target, and Fat Brain Toys, from $9.64

Give curious babies something to poke and prod with five brightly colored bubbles that can be popped and grabbed. This sensory toy keeps little ones entertained as they develop fine motor skills.

Recommended ages: 10 months to 3 years

A teether for Taco Tuesdays
loulou lollipop taco teether

Loulou Lollipop Taco Silicone Teether, available at Crate & Barrel and Buy Buy Baby, from $13.99

This taco provides teething — and comic — relief. Loulou Lollipop makes some of our favorite whimsical teethers, swaddles, and pacifier clips. Its silicone teethers are free of BPA, phthalates, lead, and cadmium.

Recommended ages: 3 months and up

A Mickey and friends shape sorter
green toys disney shape sorter

Green Toys Disney Baby Mickey Mouse and Friends Shape Sorter, available at Amazon, $19.99

This rendition of Green Toys' classic shape sorter features Mickey and his best friends Minnie, Donald Duck, and Goofy. The BPA-free set is made of 100% recycled milk jugs and is dishwasher safe.

Recommended ages: 6 months and up

A stuffed elephant that comes to life
gund flappy the elephant

Baby Gund Flappy the Elephant, available at Amazon, Nordstrom*, and Buy Buy Baby, from $28.90

This cuddly interactive elephant sings "Do Your Ears Hang Low?" and invites babies to play a game of peek-a-boo. Older babies and toddlers can make Flappy's ears moves and play songs by squeezing its feet. 

Recommended ages: newborn and up

*currently sold out

A play kit curated by developmental experts
Lovevery play kits

Lovevery Play Kit Subscription, available at Lovevery, from $36/month

These eco-friendly kits are filled with Montessori-inspired toys designed to stimulate baby's development. We love that the accompanying expert-created guides illustrate how to introduce children to each toy and teach parents about developmental stages and milestones.

Recommended ages: newborn and up

Best Kids Gifts and Toys Banner for Toddlers
An introduction to the World of Eric Carle
My First Puzzle Pairs Brown Bear

Mudpuppy My First Puzzle Pairs "Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?" available at Amazon and The Tot, from $12.67

Toddlers can match their favorite animals with their names with this two-piece puzzle. The box set includes 10 colorful puzzles featuring an animal on one piece and its name on the other. It's a great way to introduce reading during playtime.

Recommended ages: 2 years and up

Pixar Cars Crocs
Kids’ Crocs Fun Lab Disney and Pixar Cars Clog

Kids' Crocs Fun Lab Disney and Pixar Cars Clog, available at Crocs, $34.99

With these Lighting McQueen Crocs, kids can float like a Cadillac and sting like a Beemer. Toddlers will have no problem putting these shoes on themselves and their comfort and breathability means they'll keep them on, too. Parents will love how easy they are to clean after hours of play.

*Sponsored by Crocs

A subscription box of educational toys
kiwico panda crate

KiwiCo Panda Crate, available at KiwiCo, from $19.95

KiwiCo's Panda Crate engages toddlers in STEM-based learning with activities for specific developmental stages. The crates are separated into five age ranges from newborn to 2 years old and include a wide range of toys to keep toddlers interested long after the box arrives.

Recommended ages: 0 to 2 years

A musical race track
vtech go go smart wheels corkscrew race track

Vtech Smart Wheels Ultimate Corkscrew Tower, available at Target, Walmart, and Amazon*, from $19.88

Go big with this 3-foot-high spiral race track that is sure to be a toddler favorite. It plays songs, melodies, sounds, and phrases when vehicles pass over special points on the track. Kids can also press a button on the included race car to play different songs and melodies. Connect other Smart Wheels sets for endless racing fun.

Recommended ages: 1 to 5 years

*currently only available through third party sellers

A Lego set for learning the alphabet
lego duplo alphabet truck

Lego Duplo My First Alphabet Truck, available at AmazonTargetWalmart, and Lego Store, from $19.99

Learning the alphabet has never been more fun than with this Lego truck loaded with letter bricks and figures. Practice matching with the included alphabet poster, build words on the truck's bed, and incorporate the letter blocks in other Lego Duplo sets.

Recommended ages: 18 months and up

A classic spinning toy
sit n spin lead

Playskool Sit 'n Spin Activity Toy, available at Amazon, $35.99

Toddlers will love spinning around and getting dizzy with this toy many adults recall from their own childhood. The Sit 'n Spin lets kids practice balance and coordination as they push and pull the center wheel to control their spinning speed. 

Recommended ages: 18 months and up

An endlessly stimulating activity cube
battat farm animals activity cube

Battat Wooden Activity Cube, available at Amazon, $59.95

There are interactive elements on every surface of this farmyard-themed activity cube. With doors to open, gears to turn, and beads to spin, this toy promises enduring fun and stimulation for toddlers.

Recommended ages: 1 year and up

A truck that celebrates nature
go green cozy truck

Little Tikes Go Green Truck with Trailer and Garden Tools, available at Amazon and Target, $119.99

Little Tikes recently released this eco-friendly ride-on truck made of 100% recycled plastic. It includes a shovel, rake, and trailer to inspire kids to engage with nature. The floorboard is removable so kids can scoot themselves or be pushed along with the handle.

Recommended ages: 18 months to 5 years

A ball pit for indoor fun
toddler ball pit

Toddler Pop-Up Ball Pit, available at Crate & Barrel, $159

There's no place more popular at a play center than the ball pit, and kids can experience the same excitement at home with this set. At 38-inches wide and 16-inches tall, the pit is sturdy, portable, and cushioned for safe indoor play

Recommended ages: 1 year and up

Best Kids Gifts and Toys Banner Preschoolers
A Lego set for a city under the sea
lego ocean city mini submarine

Lego City Ocean Mini-Submarine Playset, available at Amazon, Target, Walmart, and Lego Store, from $9.99

Introduce preschoolers to Lego with an ocean explorer set featuring special starter bricks and digital instructions. Kids will love to imagine underwater scenes with a minifigure and a hammerhead shark. Each piece has moveable features, like the submarine with an accessible cockpit and treasure chest with hidden gems inside.

Recommended ages: 4 years and up

A puzzle that celebrates diversity
dinosaur valley puzzle

Dinosaur Valley Puzzle, available at Puzzle Huddle, $16.95

Add diverse representation to a toy room with a puzzle that features Black children in beautiful themed illustrations. This 15-piece dinosaur puzzle is great for small hands and developing fine motor skills. Puzzle Huddle has sets in four sizes, featuring themes and professions that promote positivity and affirmation.

Recommended ages: 3 to 4 years

A cuddly Baby Yoda
mattell_baby_yoda_plushie

Mattel Star Wars The Child Plush, available at Amazon, $12.99

Give a young Star Wars fan a Baby Yoda toy to snuggle up with. With a soft body and bean-filled base, this unbelievably adorable plushie can be cuddled or displayed. Yoda may loom large in our hearts, but at 11 inches, this doll is just the right size for little kids.

Recommended ages: 3 years and up

A Paw Patrol rescue vehicle
paw patrol dino rescue

Paw Patrol Dino Rescue Deluxe Rev Up Vehicle with Mystery Dinosaur Figure, available at Amazon and Kohl's, $14.99

Pick their favorite Paw Patrol character and get them ready to rescue some dinosaurs. Toddlers will love imaginary play with their rescue pup, matching rev-up vehicle, a working tool, and a mystery dinosaur.

Recommended ages: 3 years and up

An eco-friendly Mr. Potato Head
mr potato head go green

Mr. Potato Head Goes Green, available at Amazon, $14.99

Introduce them to Mr. Potato Head with this version made from plant-based plastics. This environmentally friendly take on a classic toy features 15 pieces to mix and match, including a worm, flowerpot, and sprout.

Recommended ages: 3 years and up

A set of Mario Kart Hot Wheels
hot wheels mario kart

Hot Wheels Mario Kart Diecast 4-Car Pack, available at Amazon, Target and Walmart, from $19.95

Welcome to Mario Kart, Hot Wheels style. Bring Mario Kart racing to life with four cars featuring Mario, Luigi, Bowser, and Yoshi. Kids can race and compete along any Hot Wheels track or really get into the game with the Hot Wheels Mario Kart Circuit Track.

Recommended ages: 3 years and up

A unicorn surprise
rainbocorns wild heart surprise

Rainbocorns Wild Heart Surprise Series, available at Amazon, $24.99

The joy of unwrapping presents never has to end with this surprise toy. Hatch the egg to reveal the mystery plush and matching collectibles, such as nail decals and a sequin heart. Choose from elephant, tiger, toucan, and zebra. 

Recommended ages: 3 years and up

A Disney story time projector
moonlite disney gift pack

Moonlite Special Edition Disney Storybook Projector, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, from $23.30

Take story time up a notch with a special edition Moonlite Storybook Projector featuring five Disney stories. Snap the projector onto a smartphone and bring the storybook to life on the ceiling or wall with sound effects and background music.

Recommended ages: 3 years and up

An inflatable fort
original air fort

Airfort, available at Amazon, from $49.95

Spare the couch cushions and put the box fan to work with the inflatable Airfort. Within 30 seconds, the fort inflates to 6 feet wide and 4 feet tall and can deflate just as quickly to pack into the compact carrying bag.

Recommended ages: 3 years and up

Best Kids Gifts and Toys Banner for 5 to 7
A melodic monster
my_singing_musical_monsters

My Singing Monsters Entbrat, available at Walmart and Amazon, from $12.99

Kids don't have to know the "My Singing Monsters" video game to love Entbrat, a musical monster with movable arms, legs, and horns. There are five other collectible monsters — pair two or more together and they will sing in harmony.

Recommended ages: 6 years and up

A Lego storage box to decorate
bygglek ikea lego

201-Piece Lego Set, available at IKEA, $14.99

Small Lego Boxes, set of 3, available at IKEA, $9.99

Medium Lego Box, available at IKEA, $12.99

Large Lego Box, available at IKEA, $14.99

Storage and play combine with these Lego boxes from Ikea. Kids can stash Lego inside the boxes and build scenes on the lids and sides. The 201-piece set comes with Lego bricks, figures, and accessories, plus one brick separator.

Recommended ages: 5 years and up

A collaborative family mystery game
Outfoxed

Outfoxed! A Cooperative Whodunit Board Game, available at Amazon, $19.99

We love Outfoxed! for family game night because all players are on the same team, keeping the competition cool. Two to four players can join together to catch a pot pie thief. There are different suspects in each game, so there is high replay value.

Recommended ages: 5 years and up

A tangibly satisfying sand kit
kinetic sand kit

Kinetic Sand Sandisfying Set, available at Amazon, Target, and Walmart, $14.97

Build sandcastles and make magic like never before with two pounds of kinetic sand and 10 creative tools. Kids can even turn their sand creations into movie stars with the included play space, video backdrop, and smartphone holder to record video.  

Recommended ages: 4 years and up

A balloon dog that does tricks
squeakee balloon dog

Moose Toys Squeakee the Balloon Dog, available at AmazonWalmart, and Target, from $44.99

A unique spin on a kids' interactive dog toy, Squeakee responds to voice commands, does tricks, and loves a good belly rub. He comes with a squeaker toy, a pin to "deflate" him, and a pump to "re-inflate" and feed him.

Recommended ages: 5 years and up

A real camera for kids
vtech kidizoom camera

Vtech Kidizoom Duo Selfie Camera, available at Amazon, from $56.67

Kids can create their own memories with a real camera designed to withstand drops. The rear-facing camera makes it easy to take selfies, and the camera includes five games, giggle-inducing photo effects, and a micro-USB cable for uploading photos to a computer.

Recommended ages: 3 to 9 years

A Star Wars figure that moves with the Force
star wars the child animatronic doll

Star Wars The Child Animatronic Edition, available at Amazon, Walmart, Target, and shopDisney, from $59

Bring the Force home with an animatronic The Child, which has a realistic movable head, ears, and ears. Among the more than 25 sound and movement combinations, the Force activation and Force nap actions are sure to be favorites.

Recommended ages: 4 years and up

A buildable Super Mario course
lego_super_mario_starter_course

Lego Super Mario Adventures Starter Course, available at Amazon, Lego Store, and Target, from $59.95

This screen-free Super Mario game can be built with 231 Lego pieces. It includes Bowser Jr., Goomba, and Mario himself, who features instant reactions and sounds to lead gameplay. The course can be rearranged for more challenges or paired with a Super Mario expansion pack.

Recommended ages: 6 years and up

A starter kit for young coders
osmo coding kit set

Osmo Coding Starter Kit for iPad, available at Amazon and Target, $99.99

Osmo Coding Starter Kit for Fire, available at Amazon, $99.99

Introduce coding and logic skills in a fun-filled environment with an Osmo starter kit. Kids build commands with the coding blocks to control the character Awbie through three games of increasing difficulty. The genius of this kit is how it combines physical pieces with a tablet for an immersive learning experience.

Recommended ages: 5 years and up

A set of building tiles
magnatiles educational toys

Magna-Tiles 100-Piece Clear Colors Set, available at Amazon and Target, from $109.97

The building and educational possibilities are endless when Magna-Tiles enter the picture. With this 100-piece set, the triangles and squares can click together into thousands of combinations, prompting creativity and innovation.

Recommended ages: 3 years and up

Best Kids Gifts and Toys Banner for Tweens
A buildable and displayable Star Wars set
lego brickheadz star wars the child

Lego BrickHeadz The Mandalorian & Child, available at Amazon, Target, Walmart, and Lego Store, from $19.95

Kids can build the now-iconic Mandalorian and Child with this 295-piece Lego set. Both figures stand 3 inches high and can be displayed and admired.

Recommended ages: 10 years and up

An excavation kit
national_geographic_mega_fossil_gemstone_dig_kit

National Geographic Mega Fossil and Gemstone Dig Kits, available at Amazon, $24.99

Budding geologists can excavate 20 genuine gemstones and fossils from a dig brick. Along with three excavating tools, the educational kit contains a learning guide to classify each uncovered treasure.

Recommended ages: 8 years and up

Harry Potter's Forbidden Forest
lego harry potter forbidden forest

Lego Harry Potter Forbidden Forest: Umbridge's Encounter, available at Amazon, Target, and Lego Store, from $23.99

A memorable Harry Potter scene can be recreated and expanded upon with the three minifigures, two centaurs, and giant in this Lego set. The magical tree opens to reveal surprises and enable even more imagination.

Recommended ages: 8 years and up

A battle of bursting spin tops
beyblade burst rise hypersphere

Beyblade Burst Hypersphere Vortex Battle Set, available at Amazon, Best Buy, Target, and Walmart, from $29.99

Bring a competitive arena home with a Beystadium battle set, including two right-spin battling tops and launchers. The top level of the stadium can be removed when the first level is mastered by top bursting champions. Use the included code to unlock the same Beystadium in the Beyblade app.

Recommended ages: 8 years and up

A funky version of Halloween Town
funkoverse night before christmas game

Funkoverse: The Nightmare Before Christmas Board Game, available at Amazon, $37.74

Take Jack Skellington, Sally, Oogie Boogie, and Dr. Finkelstein around the Halloween Town board in this Funkoverse strategy game. There are two free-for-all game modes for four players, and the whole game can be combined with other Funkoverse sets for even more game play.

Recommended ages: 10 years old and up

A virtual reality baking set
professor maxwell's vr junior chef

Professor Maxwell's VR Junior Chef, available at Amazon and Target, from $49.99

Beginner chefs can practice their craft and learn the science behind it with the virtual and augmented reality experiences of Junior Chef. The set includes kitchen utensils to make perfect banana pancakes and avocado toast, plus a 64-page book of simple recipes.

Recommended ages: 8 to 12 years

A Kindle bundle for young readers
kindle kids

Kindle Kids Edition Essentials Bundle, available at Amazon, $127.97

A Kindle, and a library card, are passports to the entire world. With no games, ads, or videos, the Kindle Kids Edition is a distraction-free reading zone. This bundle includes a 10th generation Kindle, one year of Amazon Kids+, a Kindle cover, two-year warranty, screen protector, and power adapter. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

The best deals on Keurig coffee makers and K-Cups for Prime Day 2020, from Amazon and competing retailers

When you buy through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more.

Amazon Prime Day 2020: Get up to 44% off Keurig single-serve coffee makers
The Keurig K-Mini brews a single cup of coffee, and it's $45 as an Amazon Prime Day 2020 deal.

Keurig thought of everything with the compact K-Mini. The single-serve pod machine is energy efficient with an auto-off feature that powers down 90 seconds after brewing, making it safe to keep on a desktop. Just pop in your favorite K-Cup and choose a brew from 6 to 12 ounces. Amazon's $35 discount on the K-Mini coffee maker extends to the black, oasis, and studio gray models, while Target is offering $30 off Jonathan Adler's limited-edition patterned version

If you're a year-round iced coffee drinker, Keurig's K-Elite, which features hot and cold brewing capabilities, is also 31% off at Target. And Walmart is currently running a 20% off deal on the K-Duo, which can brew a K-Cup and a carafe of coffee simultaneously. 

The best Keurig deals:

Read the original article on Business Insider