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Best new cookbooks to hunker down with

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(CNN) — Mastering the art of home cooking — to riff on the title of the beloved Julia Child cookbook — has been a primary occupation during coronavirus lockdown. While preparing meals for friends and family is inextricably linked with life in general, it has taken on a new significance during the pandemic.
One tradition that Covid-19 has not been successful at wiping out — though it has had its toll in terms of delays — is the annual October release of new cookbooks. The diversity of cuisines, chefs and restaurants demonstrates the thoughtful, global perspective that has taken hold in the food world.

Whether it’s classic Thai cooking, a fusion of the flavors of southern Indian cuisine with the cooking in the US South, or a meditation on the history and impact of Black cooking, these tomes bring home cooks more than ideas about what to serve. They offer an opportunity to think about food, its central role in our lives and how its main purpose is to gather families and friends around a table to connect with one another.

If you choose to buy any of these fine cookbooks, we’ve included a link in the header to a independent bookstore finder or to a specific place to patronize in the hope that we can support small businesses during the pandemic.

Jamie Oliver and his team peeked into our shopping baskets and wrote

Jamie Oliver and his team peeked into our shopping baskets and wrote “7 Ways: Easy Ideas for Every Day of the Week” around what he calls are 18 hero ingredients

Levon Biss/Flatiron Books

The result, Oliver writes, is “the most reader-focused cookbook I’ve ever written.” It’s a twist on the popular formula behind the affable British chef’s “5 Ingredients.” Each hero is its own chapter, with seven ways listed for the star ingredient to be cooked.

As home cooks, sometimes our brains don’t organize this way, so he follows that impressive chapter list of 18 hero ingredients with a thematic grouping: one-pan wonders, simple pastas, tray bakes or sheet pan dinners, soups and sandwiches. Oh Jamie, I feel seen.

“7 Ways” also reads as a lifestyle guide, with Oliver emphasizing nutrition as a concurrent priority to the ease and flavor behind each dish. Each dish’s nutritional value accompanies each recipe. Ingredients are photographed individually and laid along a vertical border on the left, alongside the traditional listing of ingredients. This layout lets you scan your kitchen to know if cauliflower cheese pasta can be on tonight’s menu.

Ingredients are photographed individually in each recipe in Jamie Oliver's

Ingredients are photographed individually in each recipe in Jamie Oliver’s “7 Ways.”

On that cauliflower, that is one of the 18 hero ingredients. It’s a delight to see Oliver present the hero ingredient as a risotto with parmesan cheese and prosciutto, among others.

Though data practicality drove the vision behind “7 Ways,” its clear instructions from Oliver on best practices for fish buying, ingredient selection and ratio of vegetables/dairy/fish allows me to write “it’s also healthy” at the end of this review. — Margaret Dawson

'Chi Spacca' take you beyond charred meats into the world of veggies.

‘Chi Spacca’ take you beyond charred meats into the world of veggies.

Courtesy Alfred A. Knopf

This hallowed restaurant is a temple of meat in Los Angeles. It’s helmed by Nancy Silverton, who has had the run of the “Mozza corner” of Highland and Melrose since opening Pizzeria Mozza in 2006.

Osteria Mozza followed the next year and in 2013, Silverton opened Chi Spacca. A year later, she won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef. She also appeared alongside Julia Child on the PBS program, “Baking with Julia” in 1997, serving a brioche tart to the legendary Child, who literally cried after eating it.

For her latest cookbook, Silverton pulls back the curtain of the kitchen at Chi Spacca.

Written with Ryan DeNicola, Chi Spacca’s executive chef, and Carolynn Carreño, the cookbook really gets going with DeNicola’s deep-dive chapter, “Grilling Class.” For anyone who’s been wary of cooking meat on the grill, or cooking, this is essential reading.

Lest you think this cookbook is only about charred flesh, it isn’t.

The recipe for the restaurant’s most requested menu item, focaccia di Recco, is a game-changer, especially if you’re tired with futzing with a sourdough starter and want to step it up to dough stretching. Silverton writes, “… you may have no idea what focaccia di Recco is. Also called focaccia col formaggio (focaccia with cheese), this is nothing like any other focaccia you’ve ever tasted.” Truth.

I also learned to make aoli by hand, which goes with basically everything and is now a staple of my diet as the bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado salad with which it’s served.

The main event in this cookbook is the carne, recipes for the aformentioned bisteca, along with lamb, veal as well fish and vegetable sides (contorini), which in many households make for a fantastic dinner on their own: recipes for whole roasted cauliflower, sweet potatoes, eggplant are all standout and standalone meals.

But then there are the squash blossoms — by far my favorite contorini. Roasted and stuffed with ricotta, it will make you cry it’s so good. — Brekke Fletcher

“Milk Street: Cookish: Throw It Together” somehow read my working-mom mind in a cookbook that asks you to invest in a power pantry then delivers recipes that boast ease, flavor, and variety

Connie Miller/Voracious Books

“Historically, I’ve had little love for cookbooks that promise meals in minutes or sport titles along the lines of 5-Ingredient Cookbook!”

Opposite this opening to Christopher Kimball’s “Milk Street: Cookish: Throw It Together” is a photograph of the bow-tied, bespectacled author, arms crossed over a spotless Milk Street apron. I thought, “Wow, so JUDGEY.” In fact, I read those words a few bites in to one of the first five-ish ingredient recipes I memorized — Lidia Bastianich’s pasta alla vodka — when Kimball made an unexpected turn. To my delight, “Cookish” seems to have been written just for me.
Charred corn with coconut chilies and lime from

Charred corn with coconut chilies and lime from “Milk Street: Cookish: Throw it Together” were added to our family’s weekly taco night.

Margaret Dawson/CNN

Kimball says when he founded the Milk Street empire from which this latest cookbook was born, he seized onto a more global view of cooking — that it’s the ingredients that matter most.

Here he makes a compelling case for what he deems is a “powerhouse supermarket pantry” — miso, garam masala, harissa and ground turmeric to name a few — and delivers on the promise the investment brings.

This is a recipe collection bursting with ease, allowing a handful of key ingredients to orient a dish. Into weekly taco night, I tried his charred corn with coconut chilies and lime, the simplicity of which checked every box: speed, practicality, ease, flavor.

We had his maple and soy-glazed chicken skewers, paired with his roasted carrots with turmeric-honey. Kimball peppers the book with four options for the food item to rotate into weekly menus as you wish: recipes that present Brussels sprouts or green beans or whole cauliflower four ways — and that’s just the section on vegetables.

There were so many Post-It notes marking the “Cookish” recipes I wanted to try it felt like what started out as a bad first date blossomed into a successful relationship. — Margaret Dawson

“I Cook in Color” blends the best of South India and the US South.

Evan Sung/Running Press

Kerala-born, Atlanta-based chef and author Asha Gomez has reunited with her co-author, Martha Hall Foose, for a new culinary tome, “I Cook in Color.” Their 2016 cookbook, “My Two Souths: Blending the Flavors of India into a Southern Kitchen,” was nominated for a James Beard Award.

Gomez, who was born in Southern India and has been in the United States for most of her life, has made her career fusing the flavors of her South India birthplace with those of her US Southern home.

Gomez’s latest work puts an emphasis on spices — but most importantly being a curious and adventurous eater with a mind towards nutrition and healthy dishes. The recipes all cohere around Gomez’s life, her stories, her travels, her family and friends.

For example, her love of the Caribbean and the flavors of St. Croix, Jamaica, Antigua inspired recipes for Caribbean Fried Snapper and Crucian Curry Chicken.

Her years working in New York City and eating spicy shrimp marinara over linguine at a restaurant on Mulberry Street in Little Italy inspired her Spicy Garlic Shrimp with Capers.

A Queens, New York, noodle take-out spot was a go-to for Gomez over 15 years ago, and now her iteration of Singapore noodles.

Her teenage son, Ethan, clearly inspires Gomez as much as any of her past exploits and travels do, and her dedication and love for him drips from nearly every page.

“I Cook in Color” is a testimonial of love, through food and friends, passed on from generation to generation, from continent to continent. — Brekke Fletcher

“In Bibi’s Kitchen” is a bright and beautiful homage to the recipes and stories from eight African countries: Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya, Tanazania, Mozambique, South Africa, Madagascar and Comoros.

Penguin Randomhouse

More than a book of recipes, “In Bibi’s Kitchen” is a bright and beautiful homage to the recipes and stories from eight African countries: Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, Madagascar and Comoros. In each section, bibis (grandmothers in Swahili) from the Indian-Ocean bordering countries share thoughts on cooking, food traditions and more.

Xawaash, a Yemeni spice blend, is an ingredient in the Somali dish Beef Suqaar, and it's worth making for the heady scent of cinnamon, cumin, coriander, cloves and cardamom that fills the kitchen.

Xawaash, a Yemeni spice blend, is an ingredient in the Somali dish Beef Suqaar, and it’s worth making for the heady scent of cinnamon, cumin, coriander, cloves and cardamom that fills the kitchen.

Stacey Lastoe/CNN

Most of the recipes in the thoughtfully laid out book are approachable, their list of ingredients are ones found in most home cooks’ pantries. Some, like Ma Halima’s Beef Suqaar, a rich beef and tomato-based dish referred to as Somali stir-fry, require a bit of legwork.

The key ingredient is xawaash, a Yemeni spice blend, and it’s worth making for heady scent of cinnamon, cumin, coriander, cloves and cardamom that fills the kitchen.

Written by Hawa Hassan and Julia Turshen, friends with a belief that “grandmothers hold the world’s most important stories,” this collection of stories and recipes is rich and rooted and bound to become a kitchen staple. — Stacey Lastoe

IFor the novice or even the above-average home cook, the recipes contained in

IFor the novice or even the above-average home cook, the recipes contained in “Kiin” may be more than a bit daunting, but they are more than rewarding.

Penguin Canada

Chef and restaurateur Nuit Regular, who grew up in Thailand, calls northern Thai cooking a journey. Indeed, for the novice or even the above-average home cook, the recipes contained in Kiin may be more than a bit daunting. Most recipes call for 10 or more ingredients and include arguably arduous steps.

For the more ambitious or veteran cooks seeking a challenge, however, “Kiin” may be just the right speed.

The rewards — not to mention the flavor payoff — of a dish such as Stir-Fried Flat Rice Noodles with Gravy (Lad Nha) are not insignificant. Regular’s dishes exemplify the best of Thai food — that sour, sweet, salty and spicy combination we take for granted when ordering from our local Thai restaurant.

Several of the book’s recipes do offer a store-bought option for an ingredient here or there, and there are often a few optional ingredients in the arms-long lists. too. In spite of these helpful shortcuts, “Kiin” tends toward more complicated than not. And to follow a recipe to a tee, you may find yourself chasing down items such as pandan leaves or magrud lime leaves. Still, there’s a lot to love about this big, beautiful book, and a rainy day waiting for its big moment. — Stacey Lastoe

Ina Garten's

Ina Garten’s “Modern Comfort Food” elevates classic comfort food dishes, including specific ingredients or brands easy-to-find at your local grocery store

Quentin Bacon/Clarkson Potter

Comfort food in the time of coronavirus by the Barefoot Contessa. It’s a brilliantly timed combination, with Ina Garten reflecting on the necessity of one because of the other. “Modern Comfort Food” is Garten’s 12th cookbook, and in it, she offers doable upgrades to familiar classics.

The cookbook features endearing practicalities throughout. She channels us all who despair at recipes that call for hard-to-find ingredients by providing helpful recommendations on specific brands.

To wit: “2 cups beef broth, such as College Inn, ¾ cup fine cornmeal, such as Indian Head, Citterio makes a 4-ounce package of perfectly diced, 4 sandwich potato rolls, such as Martin’s.” She includes details like these on nearly every page, items easy to find in an average American grocery store.

Seasoned home cooks also know that we can’t be Contessa in the kitchen every night so meal shortcuts are crucial. Arriving at the puff pastry croutons recipe, she recommends to serve with her chicken pot pie soup, I stopped. Did she really include a recipe that’s practically the directions on the box?

Her chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches are, essentially: buy a box of chocolate chip cookies (“crisp…such as Tate’s”), scoop ice cream between two of them and roll some chopped toffee on the outer edges. Oh my God, I love her.

Ina Garten's creamy tomato bisque transformed me into a (lower case) barefoot contessa.

Ina Garten’s creamy tomato bisque transformed me into a (lower case) barefoot contessa.

Quentin Bacon/Clarkson Potter

Appealing shortcuts aside, the stars of “Modern Comfort Food” are her kitchen-tested, comfort food upgrades: a creamy tomato bisque earned a rare word of approval from my child’s nanny. An upscale tuna melt helped me overcome my reproach of sandwiches.

Given the timing of “Modern Comfort Food,” the cookbook itself is a keeper. — Margaret Dawson

“Ottolenghi Flavor” is broken up into unique-sounding sections — process, pairing, produce — each with the intention of maximizing flavor using certain cooking methods and pairing techniques

Ten Speed Press

There are curry fries, and then there are Yotam Ottolenghi curry fries. The Israeli-English chef, restaurateur and food writer is back with another flavor-boasting cookbook, along with cook and recipe tester Ixta Belfrage.

The gorgeous cookbook is broken up into unique-sounding sections — process, pairing, produce — each with the intention of maximizing flavor using certain cooking methods and pairing techniques.

While Ottolenghi isn’t necessarily trying to convince the reader to go vegetarian tomorrow, he is rather hellbent on demonstrating the myriad ways vegetables can be utilized to ultimately deliver dishes as delicious as the richest meat-based ones.

The aforementioned curry fries are not, of course, meant to be served as a meal but as a side that goes above and beyond ordinary flavor profiles.

The work involved in this dish isn’t insignificant: The oil for the homemade mayonnaise must be infused and curry leaves procured. There’s straining and waiting and fry-turning. But the result — salty lime russets, perfectly crisped dipped in a from-scratch mayo oozing with umami, bite and creamy fat — may just ruin you for all other (oven) fries.

At the very least, this book will get you to not only eat your vegetables but to look for every opportunity to do so. — Stacey Lastoe

Octopus Publishing Group

Sabrina Ghayour offers an array of flavors so unfamiliar to my taste buds that some seemed a tad strange at first. I’d never combined 3 inches of raw, fresh ginger with tomatoes and tamarind until I tried making her tomato and peanut salad. The flavor combinations are unfamiliar, and that’s what makes them intriguing.

In “Simply: Easy Everyday Dishes,” you’ll find sticky harissa and sesame chicken along with orange, turmeric and coconut rice pudding. I quickly learned that a little spice-tempering fit my taste buds best, and when I cut down the ginger in that tamarind and tomato salad, it was devoured by my friends at my last barbecue.

I had to send everyone the recipe. I realized the delights of turmeric in sweet dishes and am now making tamarind a part of my regular repertoire. Tamarind chutney was all I could find but still worked in the recipes. The book suggests an open mind and the delicious photos offer encouragement. — Channon Hodge

By Sharma's equation, emotion + sight + sound + mouthfeel + aroma + taste = flavor. And that's what this cookbook is all about.

By Sharma’s equation, emotion + sight + sound + mouthfeel + aroma + taste = flavor. And that’s what this cookbook is all about.

Nik Sharma

Nik Sharma’s dedication to breaking down the science of great cooking and flavor-packed food reminds me a little of Samin Nosrat’s “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat.” Though it is uniquely organized, at its core, it’s about understanding how different techniques and ingredients work to produce the most flavorful dishes.

In Sharma’s second cookbook, the food writer and recipe developer suggests that emotions play a big role in flavor. By Sharma’s equation, emotion + sight + sound + mouthfeel + aroma + taste = flavor.

Science is an inherent part of the cooking process and while the early part of the book takes a fairly intricate look at its role in the kitchen, it lends understanding and background you’ll appreciate once you roll up your sleeves and get cooking.

Take the Spareribs in Malt Vinegar + Mashed Potatoes recipe, filed under the chapter called Brightness. The ribs are cooked with a decent amount of vinegar and white wine, both acidic ingredients, but they’re also bathed in sweet and spicy liquid, thanks to brown sugar, fennel and peppercorns. The result is fall-off-the-bone tender meat, its richness balanced by the bright acid and further smoothed out with the mashed potatoes.

There’s a lot to absorb here (pun intended), but Sharma is a very fine teacher. Stacey Lastoe

The cookbook is an encyclopedia of Black cooking and includes recommendations for restaurants, resources and other cookbooks to dive into.

The cookbook is an encyclopedia of Black cooking and includes recommendations for restaurants, resources and other cookbooks to dive into.

Voracious Books

“Black is not a taste. Or is it?”

This is how chef Marcus Samuelsson begins his book, “Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food” written with Yewande Komolafe and Tamie Cook. The book challenges the notion that Black cooking has one monochromatic definition and puts the chefs who create it on their proper pedestal. The authors argue that there is no American food without Black food and offer over 150 recipes to prove their point.

You'll find seafood dishes in

You’ll find seafood dishes in “The Rise.”

Angie Mosier/Voracious Books

The dishes were crafted as dedications to Black chefs, activists and famous personalities and their bios are throughout the book.

There’s chicken liver mousse dedicated to Eric Gestel, the lesser known ‘Black Eric’ of Le Bernardin. Citrus cured shrimp is for Mariya Russell, the first Black woman to helm a restaurant that won a Michelin star. I tried out the coconut-flavored rice and peas recipe created for Tavel Bristol-Joseph, a star pastry Guyanese chef in Texas.

It’s shameful I’ve never tried cooking something as simple and filling as rice and peas (learning also that peas’ actually means red beans in this traditional dish.) Sad, too, that I’d never heard of most of these chefs, but “The Rise” offers help for the ignorant like me with easy-to-follow recipes combined. — Channon Hodge

Vegetables are the star in

Vegetables are the star in “Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes”

I used to write “no vegans” on all my dating profiles.

Now here I am eager to try out this book, “Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes” by Bryant Terry because, let’s face it, we’re killing the planet. Scientists I’ve talked to told me eating more vegetables is the easiest thing we can do to slash our carbon footprint.

Terry’s recipes are complex. You’ll want to read them far enough ahead to soak cashews overnight or marinate tofu in jerk sauce. I had to google a picture of a sunchoke to find it later at the grocery store. Stick with Terry’s advice, however, and you will find yourself in all-new food territory.

Lime, orange juice and garlic brings acidic joy to this fennel recipe from

Lime, orange juice and garlic brings acidic joy to this fennel recipe from “Vegetable Kingdom”

Channon Hodge/CNN

I now have an easy plantain, pecan and millet salad that will be my go-to cookout contribution. Parsley went from boring to brilliant, and I’ve now memorized Terry’s fresh sweet parsley vinaigrette recipe. When I made his citrus and garlic-herb braised fennel, I realized the sharp, acidic joy that comes from combining lime and orange juice with garlic. Each recipe is a flavor festival, and the party is worth the prep. — Channon Hodge

The Xi'an Famous Foods restaurant chain started with a location in a basement food mall in Queens.

The Xi’an Famous Foods restaurant chain started with a location in a basement food mall in Queens.

Jenny Huang

I gave a big ‘heck, yes!’ when my friend Bree suggested we start a pandemic cookbook exchange. Any of my 29 cookbooks will be up for grabs except “Xi’an Famous Foods,” which will have to be pried from my cold, dead hands.

This book, written by Xi’an CEO Jason Wang, offers basic cooking skills for noodle-freaks like me who are adept at ordering Western Chinese food but completely inept at cooking it. I’m a devoted customer at the Xi’an noodle shops but never imagined those chewy spiced dishes were easy to make at home.

Sure, you’ll need a decent Asian food section at your grocery store (or just access to the internet) but most of the ingredients for the stews, skewered meats and sauces are now easy to find.
Get your noodle fix with

Get your noodle fix with “Xi’an Famous Foods.”

Jenny Huang

Their famous noodles and dumplings are made with all-purpose regular flour, salt and water — that’s it! Granted, I couldn’t quite “pull” them despite Wang’s patient and meticulous directions. So I ended up simply rolling and slicing them with a knife before boiling and adding to a pan of savory cumin lamb. I can’t wait to keep practicing (and slurping.) — Channon Hodge

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World

All the products we found to be the best during our testing this year

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(CNN) —  

Throughout the year, CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — be it coffee makers or headphones — to find the absolute best in each respective category.

Our testing process is rigorous, consisting of hours of research (consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings) to find the top products in each category. Once we settle on a testing pool, we spend weeks — if not months — testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings. All this in an effort to settle on the absolute best products.

So, as we enter peak gifting season, if you’re on the hunt for the perfect gift, we know you’ll find something on this list that they (or you!) will absolutely love.

Coffee

Best burr coffee grinder: Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder With Digital Timer Display ($249; amazon.com or walmart.com)

Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder
Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder

Beginner baristas and coffee connoisseurs alike will be pleased with the Baratza Virtuoso+, a conical burr grinder with 40 settings for grind size, from super fine (espresso) to super coarse (French press). The best coffee grinder we tested, this sleek look and simple, intuitive controls, including a digital timer, allow for a consistent grind every time — as well as optimal convenience.

Read more from our testing of coffee grinders here.

Best drip coffee maker: Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker ($79.95; amazon.com)

Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker
Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker

During our testing of drip coffee makers, we found the Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker made a consistently delicious, hot cup of coffee, brewed efficiently and cleanly, from sleek, relatively compact hardware that is turnkey to operate, and all for a reasonable price.

Read more from our testing of drip coffee makers here.

Best single-serve coffee maker: Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus ($165; originally $179.95; amazon.com)

Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus
Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus

Among all single-serve coffee makers we tested, the Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus, which uses pods that deliver both espresso and “regular” coffee, could simply not be beat for its convenience. Intuitive and a snap to use right out of the box, it looks sleek on the counter, contains a detached 60-ounce water reservoir so you don’t have to refill it with each use and delivers perfectly hot, delicious coffee with a simple tap of a lever and press of a button.

Read more from our testing of single-serve coffee makers here.

Best coffee subscription: Blue Bottle (starting at $11 per shipment; bluebottlecoffee.com)

Blue Bottle coffee subscription
Blue Bottle coffee subscription

Blue Bottle’s coffee subscription won us over with its balance of variety, customizability and, most importantly, taste. We sampled both the single-origin and blend assortments and loved the flavor of nearly every single cup we made. The flavors are complex and bold but unmistakably delicious. Beyond its coffee, Blue Bottle’s subscription is simple and easy to use, with tons of options to tailor to your caffeine needs.

Read more from our testing of coffee subscriptions here.

Best cold brewer coffee maker: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot ($25; amazon.com)

Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot
Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot

This sleek, sophisticated and streamlined carafe produces 1 liter (about 4 1/4 cups) of rich, robust brew in just eight hours. It was among the simplest to assemble, it executed an exemplary brew in about the shortest time span, and it looked snazzy doing it. Plus, it rang up as the second-most affordable of our inventory.

Read more from our testing of cold brew makers here.

Kitchen essentials

Best nonstick pan: T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid ($39.97; amazon.com)

T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid
T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid

If you’re a minimalist and prefer to have just a single pan in your kitchen, you’d be set with the T-fal E76597. This pan’s depth gives it multipurpose functionality: It cooks standard frying-pan foods like eggs and meats, and its 2 1/2-inch sides are tall enough to prepare recipes you’d usually reserve for pots, like rices and stews. It’s a high-quality and affordable pan that outperformed some of the more expensive ones in our testing field.

Read more from our testing of nonstick pans here.

Best blender: Breville Super Q ($499.95; breville.com)

Breville Super Q
Breville Super Q

With 1,800 watts of motor power, the Breville Super Q features a slew of preset buttons, comes in multiple colors, includes key accessories and is touted for being quieter than other models. At $500, it does carry a steep price tag, but for those who can’t imagine a smoothie-less morning, what breaks down to about $1.30 a day over a year seems like a bargain.

Read more from our testing of blenders here.

Best knife set: Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set ($119.74; amazon.com)

Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set
Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set

The Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set sets you up to easily take on almost any cutting job and is a heck of a steal at just $119.97. Not only did the core knives included (chef’s, paring, utility and serrated) perform admirably, but the set included a bevy of extras, including a full set of steak knives. We were blown away by their solid construction and reliable execution for such an incredible value. The knives stayed sharp through our multitude of tests, and we were big fans of the cushion-grip handles that kept them from slipping, as well as the classic look of the chestnut-stained wood block. If you’re looking for a complete knife set you’ll be proud of at a price that won’t put a dent in your savings account, this is the clear winner.

Read more from our testing of knife sets here.

Audio

Best true wireless earbuds: AirPods Pro ($199, originally $249; amazon.com)

Apple AirPods Pro
Apple AirPods Pro

Apple’s AirPods Pro hit all the marks. They deliver a wide soundstage, thanks to on-the-fly equalizing tech that produces playback that seemingly brings you inside the studio with the artist. They have the best noise-canceling ability of all the earbuds we tested, which, aside from stiff-arming distractions, creates a truly immersive experience. To sum it up, you’re getting a comfortable design, a wide soundstage, easy connectivity and long battery life.

Read more from our testing of true wireless earbuds here.

Best noise-canceling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 ($278, originally $349.99; amazon.com)

Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony WH-1000XM4

Not only do the WH-1000XM4s boast class-leading sound, but phenomenal noise-canceling ability. So much so that they ousted our former top overall pick, the Beats Solo Pros, in terms of ANC quality, as the over-ear XM4s better seal the ear from outside noise. Whether it was a noise from a dryer, loud neighbors down the hall or high-pitched sirens, the XM4s proved impenetrable. This is a feat that other headphones, notably the Solo Pros, could not compete with — which is to be expected considering their $348 price tag.

Read more from our testing of noise-canceling headphones here.

Best on-ear headphones: Beats Solo 3 ($119.95, originally $199.95; amazon.com)

Beats Solo 3
Beats Solo 3

The Beats Solo 3s are a phenomenal pair of on-ear headphones. Their sound quality was among the top of those we tested, pumping out particularly clear vocals and instrumentals alike. We enjoyed the control scheme too, taking the form of buttons in a circular configuration that blend seamlessly into the left ear cup design. They are also light, comfortable and are no slouch in the looks department — more than you’d expect given their reasonable $199.95 price tag.

Read more from our testing of on-ear headphones here.

Beauty

Best matte lipstick: Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick ($11, originally $22; amazon.com or $22; nordstrom.com and stilacosmetics.com)

Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick
Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick

The Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick has thousands of 5-star ratings across the internet, and it’s easy to see why. True to its name, this product clings to your lips for hours upon hours, burritos and messy breakfast sandwiches be damned. It’s also surprisingly moisturizing for such a superior stay-put formula, a combo that’s rare to come by.

Read more from our testing of matte lipsticks here.

Best everyday liquid liner: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner ($22; stilacosmetics.com or macys.com)

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner
Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner

The Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner is a longtime customer favorite — hence its nearly 7,500 5-star reviews on Sephora — and for good reason. We found it requires little to no effort to create a precise wing, the liner has superior staying power and it didn’t irritate those of us with sensitive skin after full days of wear. As an added bonus, it’s available in a whopping 12 shades.

Read more from our testing of liquid eyeliners here.

Work-from-home essentials

Best office chair: Steelcase Series 1 (starting at $381.60; amazon.com or $415, wayfair.com)

Steelcase Series 1
Steelcase Series 1

The Steelcase Series 1 scored among the highest overall, standing out as one of the most customizable, high-quality, comfortable office chairs on the market. At $415, the Steelcase Series 1 beat out most of its pricier competitors across testing categories, scoring less than a single point lower than our highest-rated chair, the $1,036 Steelcase Leap, easily making it the best bang for the buck and a clear winner for our best office chair overall.

Read more from our testing of office chairs here.

Best ergonomic keyboard: Logitech Ergo K860 ($129.99; logitech.com)

Logitech Ergo K860
Logitech Ergo K860

We found the Logitech Ergo K860 to be a phenomenally comfortable keyboard. Its build, featuring a split keyboard (meaning there’s a triangular gap down the middle) coupled with a wave-like curvature across the body, allows both your shoulders and hands to rest in a more natural position that eases the tension that can often accompany hours spent in front of a regular keyboard. Add the cozy palm rest along the bottom edge and you’ll find yourself sitting pretty comfortably.

Read more from our testing of ergonomic keyboards here.

Best ergonomic mouse: Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99; logitech.com)

Logitech MX Master 3
Logitech MX Master 3

The Logitech MX Master 3 is an unequivocally comfortable mouse. It’s shaped to perfection, with special attention to the fingers that do the clicking. Using it felt like our fingers were lounging — with a sculpted ergonomic groove for nearly every finger.

Read more from our testing of ergonomic mice here.

Best ring light: Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light ($25.99; amazon.com)

Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light
Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light

The Emart 10-Inch Standing Ring Light comes with a tripod that’s fully adjustable — from 19 inches to 50 inches — making it a great option whether you’re setting it atop your desk for video calls or need some overhead lighting so no weird shadows creep into your photos. Its three light modes (warm, cool and a nice mix of the two), along with 11 brightness levels (among the most settings on any of the lights we tested), ensure you’re always framed in the right light. And at a relatively cheap $35.40, this light combines usability and affordability better than any of the other options we tested.

Read more from our testing of ring lights here.

Home

Best linen sheets: Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachute.com)

Parachute Linen Sheets
Parachute Linen Sheets

Well made, luxurious to the touch and with the most versatile shopping options (six sizes, nine colors and the ability to order individual sheets), the linen sheets from Parachute were, by a narrow margin, our favorite set. From the satisfying unboxing to a sumptuous sleep, with a la carte availability, Parachute set the gold standard in linen luxury.

Read more from our testing of linen sheets here.

Best shower head: Kohler Forte Shower Head (starting at $74.44; amazon.com)

Kohler Forte Shower Head
Kohler Forte Shower Head

Hands down, the Kohler Forte Shower Head provides the best overall shower experience, offering three distinct settings. Backstory: Lots of shower heads out there feature myriad “settings” that, when tested, are pretty much indecipherable. The Forte’s three sprays, however, are each incredibly different and equally successful. There’s the drenching, full-coverage rain shower, the pulsating massage and the “silk spray” setting that is basically a super-dense mist. The Forte manages to achieve all of this while using only 1.75 gallons per minute (GPM), making it a great option for those looking to conserve water.

Read more from our testing of shower heads here.

Best humidifier: TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier (starting at $49.99; amazon.com)

TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier
TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier

The TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier ramped up the humidity in a room in about an hour, which was quicker than most of the options we tested. More importantly, though, it sustained those humidity levels over the longest period of time — 24 hours, to be exact. The levels were easy to check with the built-in reader (and we cross-checked that reading with an external reader to confirm accuracy). We also loved how easy this humidifier was to clean, and the nighttime mode for the LED reader eliminated any bright lights in the bedroom.

Read more from our testing of humidifiers here.

Video

Best TV: TCL 6-Series (starting at $579.99; bestbuy.com)

TCL 6-Series
TCL 6-Series

With models starting at $599.99 for a 55-inch, the TCL 6-Series might give you reverse sticker shock considering everything you get for that relatively small price tag. But can a 4K smart TV with so many specification standards really deliver a good picture for $500? The short answer: a resounding yes. The TCL 6-Series produces a vibrant picture with flexible customization options and handles both HDR and Dolby Vision, optimization standards that improve the content you’re watching by adding depth to details and expanding the color spectrum.

Read more from our testing of TVs here.

Best streaming device: Roku Ultra ($99.99; amazon.com)

Roku Ultra
Roku Ultra

Roku recently updated its Ultra streaming box and the 2020 version is faster, thanks to a new quad-core processor. The newest Ultra retains all of the features we loved and enjoyed about the 2019 model, like almost zero lag time between waking it up and streaming content, leading to a hiccup-free streaming experience. On top of that, the Roku Ultra can upscale content to deliver the best picture possible on your TV — even on older-model TVs that don’t offer the latest and greatest picture quality — and supports everything from HD to 4K.

Read more from our testing of streaming devices here.

Travel

Best carry-on luggage: Away Carry-On ($225; away.com)

Away Carry-On
Away Carry-On

The Away Carry-On scored high marks across all our tests and has the best combination of features for the average traveler. Compared with higher-end brands like Rimowa, which retail for hundreds more, you’re getting the same durable materials, an excellent internal compression system and eye-catching style. Add in smart charging capabilities and a lifetime warranty, and this was the bag to beat.

Read more from our testing of carry-on luggage here.

Best portable charger: Anker PowerCore 13000 (starting at $31.99; amazon.com)

Anker PowerCore 13000
Anker PowerCore 13000

The Anker PowerCore 13000 shone most was in terms of charging capacity. It boasts 13,000 mAh (maH is a measure of how much power a device puts out over time), which is enough to fully charge an iPhone 11 two and a half times. Plus, it has two fast-charging USB Type-A ports so you can juice a pair of devices simultaneously. While not at the peak in terms of charging capacity, at just $31.99, it’s a serious bargain for so many mAhs.

Read more from our testing of portable chargers here.

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Trump’s misleading tweet about changing your vote, briefly explained

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Searches for changing one’s vote did not trend following the recent presidential debate, and just a few states appear to have processes for changing an early vote. But that didn’t stop President Trump from wrongly saying otherwise on Tuesday.

In early morning posts, the president falsely claimed on Twitter and Facebook that many people had Googled “Can I change my vote?” after the second presidential debate and said those searching wanted to change their vote over to him. Trump also wrongly claimed that most states have a mechanism for changing one’s vote. Actually, just a few states appear to have the ability, and it’s rarely used.

Twitter did not attach a label to Trump’s recent tweet.
Twitter

Trump’s claim about what was trending on Google after the debate doesn’t hold up. Searches for changing one’s vote were not among Google’s top trending searches for the day of the debate (October 22) or the day after. Searches for “Can I change my vote?” did increase slightly around the time of the debate, but there is no way to know whether the bump was related to the debate or whether the people searching were doing so in support of Trump.

It was only after Trump’s posts that searches about changing your vote spiked significantly. It’s worth noting that people were also searching for “Can I change my vote?” during a similar period before the 2016 presidential election.

Google declined to comment on the accuracy of Trump’s post.

Trump also claimed that these results indicate that most of the people who were searching for how to change their vote support him. But the Google Trends tool for the searches he mentioned does not provide that specific information.

Perhaps the most egregiously false claim in Trump’s recent posts is about “most states” having processes for changing your early vote. In fact, only a few states have such processes, and they can come with certain conditions. For instance, in Michigan, voters who vote absentee can ask for a new ballot by mail or in person until the day before the election.

The Center for Election Innovation’s David Becker told the Associated Press that changing one’s vote is “extremely rare.” Becker explained, “It’s hard enough to get people to vote once — it’s highly unlikely anybody will go through this process twice.”

Trump’s post on Facebook was accompanied by a link to Facebook’s Voting Information Center.
Facebook

At the time of publication, Trump’s false claims had drawn about 84,000 and 187,000 “Likes” on Twitter and Facebook, respectively. Trump’s posts accelerated searches about changing your vote in places like the swing state of Florida, where changing one’s vote after casting it is not possible. Those numbers are a reminder of the president’s capacity to spread misinformation quickly.

On Facebook, the president’s post came with a label directing people to Facebook’s Voting Information Center, but no fact-checking label. Twitter had no annotation on the president’s post. Neither company responded to a request for comment.

That Trump is willing to spread misinformation to benefit himself and his campaign isn’t a surprise. He does that a lot. Still, just days before a presidential election in which millions have already voted, this latest episode demonstrates that the president has no qualms about using false claims about voting to cause confusion and sow doubt in the electoral process.

Open Sourced is made possible by Omidyar Network. All Open Sourced content is editorially independent and produced by our journalists.


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Nearly 6,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan so far this year

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From January to September, 5,939 civilians – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded – were casualties of the fighting, the UN says.

Nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first nine months of the year as heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters rages on despite efforts to find peace, the United Nations has said.

From January to September, there were 5,939 civilian casualties in the fighting – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a quarterly report on Tuesday.

“High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” the report said.

Civilian casualties were 30 percent lower than in the same period last year but UNAMA said violence has failed to slow since the beginning of talks between government negotiators and the Taliban that began in Qatar’s capital, Doha, last month.

An injured girl receives treatment at a hospital after an attack in Khost province [Anwarullah/Reuters]

The Taliban was responsible for 45 percent of civilian casualties while government troops caused 23 percent, it said. United States-led international forces were responsible for two percent.

Most of the remainder occurred in crossfire, or were caused by ISIL (ISIS) or “undetermined” anti-government or pro-government elements, according to the report.

Ground fighting caused the most casualties followed by suicide and roadside bomb attacks, targeted killings by the Taliban and air raids by Afghan troops, the UN mission said.

Fighting has sharply increased in several parts of the country in recent weeks as government negotiators and the Taliban have failed to make progress in the peace talks.

At least 24 people , mostly teens, were killed in a suicide bomb attack at an education centre in Kabul [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

The Taliban has been fighting the Afghan government since it was toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.

Washington blamed the then-Taliban rulers for harbouring al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda was accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.

Calls for urgent reduction of violence

Meanwhile, the US envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Tuesday that the level of violence in the country was still too high and the Kabul government and Taliban fighters must work harder towards forging a ceasefire at the Doha talks.

Khalilzad made the comments before heading to the Qatari capital to hold meetings with the two sides.

“I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” he said in a tweet.

There needs to be “an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”, added Khalilzad.

A deal in February between the US and the Taliban paved the way for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to sit with the Afghan government to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula.

But progress at the intra-Afghan talks has been slow since their start in mid-September and diplomats and officials have warned that rising violence back home is sapping trust.

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