Mel’s Holiday Gift Guide: Games!
Is this the best day of the year or what ??? This holiday game gift guide is one that I look forward to all year round!If you're new to these gift guides, here are some thoughts:* Game gift guides from a few years ago (2015-2018) include many great recommendations for young players.FYI: The comment threads […]

Is this the best day of the year or what ??? This holiday game gift guide is one that I look forward to all year round!

If you're new to these gift guides, here are some thoughts:

* Game gift guides from a few years ago (2015-2018) include many great recommendations for young players.

FYI: The comment threads for all of these gift guides are amazing and filled with so many more game recommendations!

2. Dungeon Mayhem: aff. link my cousin and their awesome family brought this game when they visited, and it very quickly became the kids' favorite (Brian and I love it too). We have the original game (2-4 players) plus the two expansion packs aff. link (this one is the box that can hold all the cards - super handy), which just means you can play with more people and / or have more options when choosing a character to play. It's easy to learn and surprisingly strategic and really, really fun even if you really don't know the ins and outs of Dungeons and Dragons (ahem, me).

3. Decrypt: aff. link a fabulous MKC reader, Jessie emailed me about this game, and when she said it was like CodeNames aff. link (an all time favorite) with a twist I knew we had to try it. LOVE. I love this game. We took it to a family reunion and played and played and played. It's a great game for adults or older teens (although our younger kids get in on the action as well, although they're a bit more obvious with their clues).

Otrio le, cockroach poker, technical skills

4. Cockroach Poker: aff. link ok i hate cockroaches after a few traumatic experiences in my youth in oklahoma and texas (also are cockroaches ever traumatic ??), but i love this bluff game. It's extremely quick to learn and great for kids, tweens, teens, and adults.

5. Otrio Le: aff. link this game is like tic tac toe on steroids, and while it hurts my brain (come on, Mel, THINK, ANTICIPATE!) it's a favorite of Cam (she's 8) and we play it a lot . The only downside is that there are a few small parts and it is difficult to find replacements. So yeah, we've got some replacement pegs for the two little pieces we lost in the vent playing this in the semi-darkness while watching The Mandalorian. Oops.

6. Brainbox: aff. link this is where I repeat that my brain hurts a lot when I play games (uh, or maybe I'm getting old ??). This memorizing game drives me crazy because I wish my kids didn't beat me every time, but I'm a punishment fanatic because it's the game I often choose to play with the family. There are a ton of different themes. We have the world box and the animal box.

quilting game, dutch blitz, qwirkle

seven. Patchwork: aff. link by far this is my favorite two player game that we own. One of you recommended it a few years ago, and I hesitated because, while I love quilting, I wasn't sure if a quilting set would capture our interest. I was wrong. Quilting games forever. This could be one of my all time favorites. I love to play one-on-one with my children. And I win sometimes, so yes.

8. Dutch blitz: aff. link simple card games can't be beat, and it's a great game. It's quick, easy to learn, and good to toss in a bag on trips or take out for a quick family game night.

9. Qwirkle: aff. link we've had this game for years but I neglected to mention it on a gift guide. Shame on me! It's simple, easy to learn and play, and still gets played a lot by the whole family. It's also a great classic game to play with people (ahem, maybe grandparents) who don't like super strategy and fast paced games. It reminds me of Rummikub or Scrabble but with shapes and colors.

skillmatics, go gater disc slam, miles borne

ten. Skillmatics Guess in 10: aff. link a game on the old game of 20 questions (but with 10 questions), this game proves that our family loves trivia type games, especially when it comes to animals. This is a fantastic game to take on a road trip or play for a few minutes if you are in line or need to waste time.

11. Gater Jam: aff. link the only outdoor game to make the list this year, it's Brian's favorite backyard game right now. We took it with us on our social RV road trip this summer, and we play it frequently on Sunday nights. There are many versions - we tried the Disc Slam but it was fragile and fell apart. This one has been robust and Brian likes it better than the official KanJam (although we don't use the scoring tab on the sides - it doesn't work very well).

12. Thousand mile stones: aff. link another great card game, this one takes a little longer to learn, but it's really fun! And apparently it's a classic! It's new to us this year, but we packed it for a few road trips, and I play it a lot with my two youngest children (8 and 11).

farkle, monopoly agreement, reverse

13. Farkle: aff. link another great classic, i grew up playing this game with random dice found on the floor of our play closet. You really don't need an official play box, but it's a fun gift ! This game of risk and quick addition never gets old. It's a big favorite (and while hard to find, the spicy farkle game is also a lot of fun).

14. Monopoly agreement: aff. link Hope I don't lose friends when I say this: but I hate the board game, Monopoly. This is a bit the worst (I'm really sorry). So when someone recommended Monopoly Deal, the fast card game, I resisted. But after hearing over and over again how amazing it was, we took the $ 7 risk and off we went. Yes, we can now add our 5 star rating to the other 12,000 because this quick, quick and easy Monopoly card game is the only type of Monopoly I ever need to play. We like it.

15. Opposite side: aff. link a bit like Bop It with a Rubik's cube atmosphere, my children love this game. I don't play a lot because my reflexes aren't what they used to be, but we gave it to a lot of friends and cousins ​​because it's so popular here.

lcr game, trivial chase, azul game

16. LCR: aff. link Another super fast and fun game, LCR is simple yet surprisingly fierce. Ha. At least in our family. It's a great game to play with a crowd (no limit on numbers), and it's really easy to learn.

17. Trivial Pursuit family: aff. link we received it as a family gift last Christmas, and it's still a hit a year later. We play it a lot - it's a 6 player game, so we usually team up or have one person as the card reader (it's actually the most coveted job). You can play with children and adults - there is a separate question card set for younger and older players. Usually when we're done, we sit down and have a contest that can get the most questions on a single card (I always beg them to read the kids cards to me, no shame).

18. Azul: aff. link Cam wants me to specially mention that this is his all-time favorite game in all-time history. She chooses him each the moment when the choice of game is left to him. There is strategy and chance mixed in a beautiful and intelligent game, and since it is different each time, it does not get old. I have my eyes on the summer pavilion version now!

wig game, karma, pandemic game

19. Wig: aff. link so easy, so fast, so quick, so silly, this is an awesome game for young kids (but fun enough for family to play). We really love this one! The only downside is that you can pile up a lot of cards in your hand, which can be difficult for some kids to stay organized, but it's still very playable and fun. It can also be a two player game.

20: Karma: aff. link Simple card games should be the theme for this year. This one is really a lot of fun. I love that it can be played with a small group… or up to 6 players (I think you can combine two decks and play with 12 players too). There are some unexpected elements that make this game exciting, and it helps that cards that require special action have it detailed right on the map. Thanks to anyone above watching over me on this one.

21: Pandemic: aff. link Either you really like cooperative games… or you don't. And either you really want to play a game called Pandemic is a smart move in 2020 ... or you don't. We had this game while I was recovering from gum surgery, and we played it a lot. There is a short learning curve, but when you understand that, it's a great game that requires speaking strategically and working together to win. I highly recommend this one!

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If you’re a regular cook, you’ll know the “eureka” feeling when you discover a way to cut an everyday kitchen task in half. As our cookery team has spent so many hours writing and triple-testing recipes, they’ve picked up a fair few tricks and tips along the way, so we asked them to impart their wisdom…

You probably already know that adding a dash of vinegar to egg poaching water helps coagulate the white. But did you know that adding a dash of vinegar to the water when boiling eggs helps the shell peel off more easily ? Say goodbye to piles of tiny egg shell shards. Test this tip out with one of our egg recipes.

A pizza blade can be wheeled through a sheet of pastry or bread dough with ease, saving you the expense of buying shaped cutters, or having to fiddle around, twizzling the point of a knife into strange angles.

‘Hard’ herbs like rosemary and thyme can be frozen whole. When you come to use them, they’ll naturally crumble into pieces, bypassing the mezzaluna completely. Try this recipe for lemon, pancetta

If your brown sugar has clumped into pieces, place a piece of soft white bread in the packet and the sugar will break back down into sandy granules in a few hours. to stop it happening again, make sure the storage space is nice and dry.

Save yourself the disappointment of an un-squeezy lemon by microwaving it whole for around 20-30 seconds on high. It’s just enough time to release the juices, but be careful not to go overboard and dry the flesh out. Try one of our zesty lemon recipes.

If you have plain flour in the cupboard, you always have bread on hand. Just take one mug of plain flour combined with 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil per person, then slowly add cold water until it’s a soft, smooth dough which leaves the bowl clean. Divide the dough into balls, roll out to a 2mm thickness then dry fry in a non-stick pan. They’ll only take a few instants and are ready when both sides have golden brown patches all over.

While the hard rind of cheese such parmesan, pecorino and Grana Padano is difficult to grate, it’s a shame to waste such an expensive byproduct. But there’s no need to. Add the rind whole when you’re sweating onions in the first stage of making a risotto or sauce. It will impart lots of its flavour but save you taking to it with a chainsaw. Don’t forget to remove it before serving though…Try using cheese rind in a risotto recipe.

Make your own dried breadcrumbs by grating stale bread on the coarse side of a grater, then spread the crumbs in a thin layer over a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes at 140C, giving them a good shake halfway through. The golden, crispy crumbs will last in a sealed conteneur for up to two weeks. Try our wild garlic chicken Kiev recipe made with panko breadcrumbs.

If you need your meat injected with a short, sharp burst of flavour, choose marinade ingredients wisely. Red wine quickly penetrates meat, giving it a deep colour, while citrus zest and juice tenderises it rapidly.

Not enough space for your party loot ? Save space for food by putting drinks into big tubs, buckets and bowls filled with salted ice water – the salt will cause the temperature to drop, giving you icy cold drinks in seconds. Browse our cocktail recipes for drinks inspiration.

Spruce up a shop-bought block of shortcrust by popping it into a food processor with a flavouring like herbs, vanilla, cheese, cocoa powder, honey or spice. All great additons to give your pastry an edge.

Bypass pencil outlines and fiddly scissors when lining a springform cake tin ( that’s one with a clippable ring and removeable base ). Lay the parchment onto the flat base of the tin, then press down and clamp the ring into place on top of it, leaving the edges around the outside to easily tear off. Try the clamping technique with this showstopping courgette, lemon

We love a stripy rainbow cake, but it’s perhaps one for an experienced baker to take on. If you want your sponge to sing with Technicolor joy but need an easier route to success, pick up a tub of multi-coloured hundreds and thousands. Mix some through your sponge batter ( not too many ) and when you cut a slice of your finished cake, you’ll have beautiful polka dots.

to peel a kiwi, just chop off the top and bottom, then push a dessertspoon in between the fruit and the skin. Turn the kiwi until all the skin falls off the back of the spoon.

When you cut the avocado in half, twist into two pieces, then use a spoon to scoop out the flesh from the side without the stone for immediate use. Return the empty skin to the other half, which still contains the stone, using the skin to cover it over. Keeping the stone in and covering with the skin helps retain colour and freshness until the following day.

Make this comforting ham hock colcannon, topped with a fried egg. ' /> Make this comforting ham hock colcannon, topped with a fried egg. ' /> Achieve the perfect set white and runny yolk with a few splashes of water. Fry the eggs in a non-stick pan and when the whites are almost cooked, put a few drops of water into the pan, quickly cover it with a lid and turn the heat down low, or off completely, and leave for a minute or two to finish cooking. The effect will be a perfect semi-poach. >Make this comforting ham hock colcannon, topped with a fried egg.

As soon as you buy herb plants from the supermarket or greengrocer, remove the plastic wrapping and trim the top leaves quickly to use in your cooking. By trimming off the top leaves first you’ll help the plant shoot out from lower down the stem making it stronger. Water every other day or according to the directives on the pack.

Nutty brown rice can take a long time to cook until tender, so speed up the process by soaking it in water overnight, as you would hard pulses like lentils. It’ll cook far quicker as a result. Try a recipe with brown rice.

Making a roux from flour and butter isn’t too difficult a process, but if time is of the essence, it might be easier to reach into the fridge. A tub of cream cheese watered down until the same consistency as béchamel makes a super simple alternative. If you want to boost the flavour, add a grating of nutmeg. Alternatively, use crème fraîche and grated cheese.

Garlic cloves are one of the trickiest items to prepare, and if you find it frustrating, invest in a sturdy garlic press, and voilà – the whole clove can be passed through it with the skin intact. It may take a bit of pushing, but once through, the flesh is passed through the holes while the skin is left in the press to be easily removed. Watch this scène for tips on how to crush garlic.

Don’t just stick with salt and pepper, experiment with other storecupboard seasonings. Try sprinkling a crushed chicken stock cube over a whole chicken before roasting, or add a splash of soy sauce or wine to boost the flavour of your gravy.

Plastic bags of washed and ready-to-eat salad leaves are really convenient but don’t seem to last very long at all, even in the fridge. If you find yourself with leftover leaves, that are starting to lose their crispness, ensure they don’t go to waste. Instead, pop them in a pan with a little olive oil or butter, garlic and seasoning and wilt down as you would for spinach. This works particularly well with leaves like watercress and rocket. Learn how to build the perfect salad with our handy infographic.

Stir a few extra ingredients through your favourite shop-bought hummus and everyone will think you’ve made it yourself. Add a dash of lemon juice, chopped fresh coriander, some ground cumin, smoked paprika or a smidge of harissa paste to give it a kick. Alternatively add a few whole chickpeas and a drizzle of olive oil to make it look homemade.


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