Greetings from American Community Management
It’s not always easy to slow down and appreciate November. The holidays are approaching, and, with them, the hustle and bustle associated with buying gifts, preparing meals, and scheduling time with family. However, this issue of American Lifestyle encourages you to look at the month through a different lens, with home safety solutions, two tasty fall treat recipes, a list of must-have kitchen tools, and easy garage upgrades.
If there is any time of year to prioritize the safety of your home, it’s the holiday season. From securing electric outlets to weatherproofing windows to replacing batteries in your smoke detectors, there’s a lot to remember, but the enclosed tips can help you manage it all.
When it comes to fall desserts, abundant spices and belly-warming baked goods are the names of the game. Two simple recipes from the Petite Patisserie cookbook, single-serve chocolate mug cakes, and decadent spiced apples, make for the perfect autumn-themed treats.
Speaking of cooking, you can make your time in the kitchen so much easier by investing in the right tools. Check out the list of must-have products inside, including the best pots, pans, and time-saving gadgets, so you can perfect your favorite recipes.
If you have a garage, you know how easily this space can become a storage spot for loose odds and ends that don’t fit anywhere else in your home. Learn ways to transform this valuable area into a place your family will actually enjoy using.
Be sure to make time for what matters most this month. As always, it’s a pleasure to send you this magazine.
The holiday season can be a busy time, making it hard to prioritize the safety of your home. But if you take the right precautions now, you can make the most of your time celebrating with loved ones. If you’re planning on staying home and hosting guests this holiday season, the tips below can help you check your safety list twice and feel at ease.
Cooking and baking are a central part of any holiday celebration, but food preparation can also be the source of multiple safety hazards. Before you stir, bake, or fry your favorites, consider the following precautions.
It should go without saying, but you must maintain your smoke detectors year-round. It’s especially important to replace the batteries before your holiday cooking commences. Many people try intricate, unfamiliar recipes during the holidays, and it only takes a moment for flames to start in your kitchen while you walk away to use the bathroom or turn your back to prepare something else.
Use a bit of elbow grease to refresh the interiors and exteriors of your appliances to reduce the risk of fire from leftover grease or crumbs. However, before you do, check that your cleaner is safe for the surfaces of your appliances. Some common agents in all-purpose cleaners are not safe when heated and should be avoided in hot spaces. To play it safe and help your wallet, make a homemade cleaner, such as a solution of water and white vinegar.
Food safety never takes a holiday! Check the ingredient lists on new foods or recipes for allergens that members of your household or your guests might have adverse reactions to. When you’re ready to cook, it’s wise to invest in gadgets like a meat thermometer to ensure your food is ready to serve. Additionally, after your meal, promptly put any leftovers in the fridge or freezer so they don’t spoil.
Many people love to go all out with lights, a tree, and candles to bring home the holiday spirit—all of which can be safety hazards if they aren’t set up and maintained correctly. Spend a few extra minutes during your decorating to keep your pieces from becoming a danger to your home.
The warmth, light, and scent of candles bring joy, and, because of that, they are a decorative staple for the holidays. However, at this time of year there are more than twice as many candle fire calls across America. To mitigate this risk, invest in sturdy holders, use clear surfaces, and never leave candles burning while you’re sleeping or away from the room. If you prefer candles for the ambience over their scent, consider flameless candles, which provide the same glow without the fire hazard.
A Christmas tree can be a central point of decor that you look forward to dressing up with your loved ones. But you can take a few steps to ensure your tree looks its best without ruining your holiday. For example, keep your tree well-watered. A well-watered tree is less likely to catch fire, and you can prevent a tree fire by positioning it away from any heat sources and by unplugging lights at the end of the night and while you’re sleeping or out of the house. Lastly, try not to overload your tree with too many lights and ornaments.
Do not attempt to cram all your plugs into one outlet. Plan your decoration placement to strategize where you’ll need extension cords. Check that your lights and other electric decor are a proper wattage for your outlets. It’s better to have less decor to avoid tripping a circuit or worse. The best way to mitigate the jumbled look and safety hazard of crowded outlets is to use pieces with rechargeable batteries wherever possible.
Winter can be full of unexpected weather that can force you to change plans and make the roads near your home unsafe, and holiday events can add stress to the mix. Make sure you’re prepared in case bad weather strikes.
The best way to prepare for a snowstorm or extreme weather is to stock up on necessary supplies. Items like salt, shovels, and a generator can ensure your holiday guests aren’t stranded or left in the dark.
Have your chimney professionally inspected and cleaned before you use it for the first time this season. If you plan to use space heaters, be sure to keep them away from flammable objects. They should also be set to oscillate, if possible, to distribute the heat evenly.
Take the time to check the seals on your home’s windows and doors. If you can fix the seal yourself, do so before you decorate to avoid having to redecorate. Consider hiring a professional to check for and repair any cracks, and invest in draft stoppers so your heating bill doesn’t ruin the holiday spirit.
As the days grow shorter and the holiday season approaches, nothing beats indulging in a warm, decadent treat while enjoying the coziness of home.
That’s exactly what this pair of recipes from the cookbook Petite Patisserie provide. Featuring unique twists on a classic fall fruit and everyone’s favorite sweet, they’re sure to tantalize the taste buds of friends and family alike.
The only thing better than curling up with a mug of hot chocolate is digging into every bite of these gooey mini cakes.
This dish features a potpourri of fall flavors, as warm apples are immersed in a mixture of nutmeg, cinnamon, and honey.
Excerpted from © Petite Patisserie by Christophe Felder and Camille Lesecq, Rizzoli New York, 2020. Photography © Laurent Fau.
recipe by christophe felder and camille lesecq
photos by laurent fau
Serves 2 to 3 hungry chocolate lovers
recipe by christophe felder and camille lesecq
photos by laurent fau
Whether you’re a master chef or still working on perfecting pancakes, having the right tools in the kitchen can dramatically improve your experience. Like any craft, good tools can help you create the best possible end product, and you’d be amazed by how much time and effort you can save with the proper arsenal of devices by your side.
Consider the list below to help you improve your skills in the kitchen. As a bonus, these items will also make for fantastic gifts this holiday season!
A good set of high-quality cookware is one of the most important investments you can make for your kitchen. These tools are some of the best options to get you started.
If you’re intimidated by the thought of cooking with cast iron, never fear. Cast-iron skillets are fantastic pieces of equipment to own. They can be heated to extremely high temperatures, which makes them perfect for searing meat, and they are far more durable than the average ceramic pan. The Field Company has a line of highly rated skillets (all produced in the United States) that range in price from $76–$215.
Cooking for a crowd? A Dutch oven is a versatile tool you can use to prepare a wide variety of dishes, from stews to soups to roasts. It’s a great alternative to the electric slow cooker, as it allows for browning and slow-roasting meats all in the same pot. Le Creuset Dutch ovens have been a favorite for decades; however, in 2021, Food & Wine gave the more affordable Lodge enameled round Dutch oven top marks.
Saucepots are among the most frequently used items in the kitchen. You can use them for melting, boiling, sautéing, and a host of other preparation needs. While you can find pots in a handful of different materials, stainless steel is your best bet for durability and even heat distribution. Good Housekeeping rated the Anolon 12-piece stainless-steel cookware set the best option for beginners.
Proper cooking utensils are critical for food preparation as well as kitchen safety. The following items are must-haves for anyone who wants to save time and create high-quality dishes.
Although investing in ultra-sharp knives might sound like an accident waiting to happen for inexperienced cooks, sharper knives can actually help prevent accidents—dull knives make it harder to cut through tough veggies and meats, meaning the blade is more likely to slip. The knife set you choose should have a chef’s knife, a serrated knife, and a utility knife—like this top-rated set from Wüsthof.
There’s a reason your grandmother preferred her wooden spoon to a plastic one. While wood can wear over time and is more likely to absorb food odors, it’s gentler on pots and pans than metal or hard-plastic utensils. You’ll need a few different kinds of utensils to tackle different jobs in the kitchen, but it’s good to start with the basics: a slotted spoon, a flat spatula, and a curved spatula. This olive-wood set from Tramanto is a fan favorite on Amazon for its aesthetically pleasing look and its sturdiness.
You should consider investing in different cutting boards for different uses. For example, reserve one cutting board for cutting meats and another for cutting produce to prevent cross-contamination. Cutting boards not only protect your countertops but also make the process of transferring cut foods onto pans and baking sheets so much easier. This inexpensive starter set even has small graphics to help you differentiate what each board is for.
Once you’ve invested in proper cookware and utensils, it’s time to have some fun with gadgets. There are so many kitchen devices out there, with more entering the market all the time, so your options are virtually endless. However, the selections below are ideal for their multipurpose uses.
Over the past few years, the air fryer has risen to the top of every home chef’s must-have list, and for good reason. Unlike a traditional deep fryer, the air fryer keeps food crisp and delicious without soaking it in grease. In fact, most models use roughly 95 percent less oil than deep fryers. The Instant Vortex—from the same company that makes the Instant Pot—is loved for its size (it can cook a four-pound chicken!), as well as its array of customizable settings.
If you’re looking for a kitchen gadget you’ll be able to pass down to your grandchildren, and possibly even to their children, then the KitchenAid mixer is for you. KitchenAid has been a trusted name for home chefs for over one hundred years. The stand mixer is KitchenAid’s flagship product, but it’s so much more than just a mixer. The company sells dozens of accessories and attachments, such as dough hooks, vegetable peelers, pasta makers, and meat grinders—essentially turning the mixer into any device you could ever need. You can also customize your mixer and bowl so you can find the perfect color match for your kitchen.
It can be hard to gauge the temperature of food while you’re cooking it, especially the internal temperature of meats, which is essential to ensure it’s safe to eat. A food thermometer is the best way to test the temperature of everything from roast turkey to grilled ribs to freshly baked bread so you can make sure no one eats undercooked food ever again. The New York Times gave this thermometer from ThermoWorks top ranks for its instant-read functionality.
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out on your culinary journey, these essentials can make your time spent in the kitchen much more enjoyable.
A garage is an asset to any home, but the space doesn’t often reach its full potential. Sure, you may use it for parking your car and storing tools and toys, but wouldn’t it be nice if your garage were more functional? Use these organization and renovation ideas to help you get more use out of your garage.
Your garage can easily become a home for a horde of items such as toys, sporting equipment, holiday decorations, and tools. Here are a few solutions to keep it in order:
Although your garage can be a great place for storing most things, there are some items you should never leave in your garage, including:
By focusing on a few renovations, you can make your garage a little more habitable and create another room for your household to enjoy.
One of the best ways to make your garage a more usable space is to add insulation. This will help keep it warm in winter and cool in summer. Insulation also helps keep sensitive items in storage safe and can prevent pipes from freezing in the walls during very cold temperatures.
First, air-seal your garage by filling in gaps or cracks with expanding spray foam. Once you’re ready to install insulation, two of the most popular options are:
Don’t forget about your garage door when insulating, as improper insulation around the door can greatly affect the garage’s temperature. Buy a rigid foam insulation kit from your local home improvement store. If your garage door is outdated or in disrepair, consider having it replaced. According to HomeAdvisor, a new garage door has a return on investment (ROI) of 97.5 percent. As an added layer of protection, you can add weatherstripping to the bottom of the garage door and along windows and doorframes.
If you’re looking to expand the living space of your home, you may consider transforming your garage into a bedroom or living room. This is a good option if you want to avoid losing some of your yard; plus, the frame of the room is already in place. You may even be able to get up to an 80 percent ROI on a converted garage when selling your home, according to HomeAdvisor.
The only limits when converting your garage into a living space are the size of your garage, your budget, and your imagination. Whether you want to create a family room, home office, or secondary suite, there are a few common updates you should make, including:
Your garage can be an underutilized part of your home, but by using some of these tips, it can become so much more than a parking space.
Share these garage upgrade ideas with friends and family.