Yep, I Went Back Down the Rabbit Hole–My Air Fryer Review and What You Need to Know Before You Buy

Oh y’all…..The Instant Pot suckered me in, and as such, I somehow convinced myself that if the IP was that cool, surely the air fryers everyone was talking about would be a good investment. After Christmas, I finally caved and bought one, and after playing with it for a week, I’m ready to tell ya what I think of these doo-dads. To clarify, I wanted a way to still give my family agreeable foods that also err on the healthier side. I am trying to get back on my wellness goals, and I figured that, if this thing worked, it would be worth the investment.

The above picture shows the air fryer I bought, but with so many brands and sizes, I encourage you to do your research, because these things can range from $70 to $300 bucks.

Here’s a basic rundown on my pros and cons:

Cons

  • Appliance size. These are fairly large, but I have room in a cabinet to store it. If you are limited on space and don’t want this thing sitting on your counter, consider storage options before you buy. The only appliances I let sit out are my husband’s coffee maker, Cuisinart food processer, and my professional KitchenAid mixer. The space footprint on this model is about that of an average stockpot/Dutch oven to give you a reference.
  • Small cooking volume. With a family of five, three of which are hungry men, the cooking capacity of mine is on the small size (I think 4.2 quarts is what this is). When I do use it, I have to cook in batches if I’m cooking for all of us. You can’t crowd it too much or you won’t get the desired result. However, for smaller families or couples, this would work. I don’t mind doing batch cooking on some things, but if I could go back, I would invest in the largest capacity I could find. So, understand the size of your prospective model, and go big if you can.
  • It has limitations, and if you are one of those people who thinks the IP should be able to cook alllllll the things at once like a magician, you might need to adjust your expectations. This is not a substitute for deep-fryer perfection results (especially for super-wet stuff), but with some exceptions, you can get good results for many things. You have to use some cooking commonsense when it comes to managing your expectations.

Pros

  • It works! (assuming you managed those expectations) When used correctly, I’ve been able to achieve results 100 times better than “oven” frying. While I would not make my Mom’s fried chicken in this thing, I am able to achieve crispy foods with great texture depending on the recipe.
  • I’m able to use just a few pumps of olive oil spray, so definitely calorie savings all around, which is exactly what I hoped.
  • It’s fast to preheat and cook. I think there is a learning curve to these if you aren’t on confident cook. That’s ok, though. You can check the food as you cook, without much disruption to the process.
  • Superior performance, taste, and texture when it comes to frozen fries and snacks when compared to oven baking. Additionally, my own experiments produced good results.

So, the first time I used it, I made the Pickle-Brined Chicken Tenders from the Skinny Taste website. I didn’t get a picture, but I prepared the recipe as directed and sprayed them with a few pumps of Pam olive oil spray. They were delicious, crispy, and perfectly acceptable to both me and the kids. That will definitely make it into the rotation. Next, I tossed in half a bag of Alexa sweet potato fries:

I sprayed them with a few pumps of the olive oil spray, cooked them at 390 for 8 minutes, gave the basket a good shake, and cooked for about 5-6 more minutes. The result was perfect for my taste, and I ate the whole plate (then promptly ran out and bought more).

Next, I didn’t get a pic, but I cooked a bag of frozen Crab Rangoon, which also turned out well as far as texture and time, which has me already scheming for Super Bowl possibilities. Additionally, I have teenage boys and the prospect of making mozzarella sticks or other snacks fast and with good results makes me happy.

Finally, I decided to test Brussels Sprouts. I just halved them, added few sprays of olive oil, salt, then 8 minutes on 360. I gave the basket a good shake to toss, then cooked 3 more minutes:

So, final thoughts. This thing definitely was worth the investment, but I also knew what I was getting into based on my research. I am already thinking about Asian hot wings, roasted sweet potatoes, and many more experiments on the horizon. I also think this will give me options to prepare for myself faster and lighter portions of traditional dinners that are for the hubs and the Heathens. Overall, though the size of my model is the biggest con, I am happy I bought an air fryer.

**Remember, my opinions and reviews are all my own. No one solicited me or gave me free stuff, because I’m just not that cool, y’all. There are no affiliate links on my blog, and if you see an ad, that comes from WordPress, not me, because my blog is from their free-hosting plan.**

Husband-Friendly Soup…I Promise

My husband has some pretty definitive ideas about what makes a meal. I often say he eats like a hobbit…lunch, elevensies, dinner, second-dinner and so on.

Well, not really, but when he does eat a meal, he wants a full, substantial meal, or he will be rummaging in the kitchen shortly thereafter. I don’t know why that annoys me, but it sure does…blame the OCD, I guess.

As a working girl, a mom and a sane person, I sometimes just don’t have it in me to dirty up every dang dish in my kitchen on a weeknight meal. That’s when my fall-back one-pot meals come in handy. This recipe is just one of those…it’s technically soup and a one-pot meal, but trust me, it’s hearty enough that even my hobbit considers it a full-on meal, and not just an appetizer to his later pantry-scavenging.

Chicken Fajita Chowder

Notes

  • 3 T. all-purpose flour
  • 1 envelope fajita seasoning, divided
  • 3 or 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 4 T. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 15-1/4 oz. can Fiesta Corn
  • 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 14-1/2 oz. can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes, undrained
  • 4-1/2 oz. can chopped green chiles
  • 3 c. chicken broth
  • 1 c. instant brown rice, uncooked
  • 10-3/4 oz. nacho cheese soup
Garnish: sour cream, shredded cheese, crushed tortilla chips, green onions
1) Combine flour and 2 tablespoons of the fajita seasoning in a large zip-loc bag:
2) Add cubed chicken, seal bag and shake to coat:
3) Heat oil in a large pot over med-high heat. Add chicken and cook about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the outside of the chicken turns golden brown. At this point, you will have all kinds of good browned bits of chicken and seasoning sticking to the bottom of your pan. Don't panic! We'll fix that in a second:
4) Toss in the onion and garlic, and sauté 4 to 5 minutes, or until onions appear to soften:
5) Add the chicken broth to the pot. Turn the heat up to high if necessary, and start scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon or spatula to loosen all those yummy browned bits. If you are fancy-schmancy, we'll call this deglazing. Once you've scraped as best you can, turn the heat back down to med-high, and it should look like this:
6) Add the remaining fajita seasoning, fiesta corn, black beans, green chiles, stewed tomatoes and brown rice. I try to cut the stewed tomatoes with the kitchen shears before adding them to the pot, because too-large tomato pieces would scare the heathens away:
7) Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to med-low, cover and simmer 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, get your toppings set up. My husband is morally opposed to green onions, so we only had some shredded pepper jack, crushed tortilla chips and sour cream:
8) Once the soup is done, it will look like this:
9) Dish it up,  top chowder as desired:
And bask in the fact that your kitchen has not been demolished in a dirty-pan siege. Besides, the troops are much more inclined to do the dishes when there are less dishes to do.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

It’s Machiavelli…Mom-style!

Dinner + Picky Eaters + Stubborn Mama = Mexican Stand-Off

Meal planning at my house is very similar to Cold War disarmament negotiations.

My husband is a picky eater. He will not eat a variety of things, including but not limited to green onions, under-cooked yellow onions, purple onions, squash, zucchini, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cooked carrots, spinach, most shrimp etc. The few vegetables he does eat, he prefers cooked nearly to death, preferably with some form of pork for flavor.

My boys are excessively picky eaters who are genuinely flabbergasted that I will not alternate between chicken nuggets, pancakes and macaroni and cheese for every meal. What can I say? I am the meanest Mom ever.

I, on the other hand, am a stubborn-ass who continues to try and make well-balanced, diverse meals, with the theory that they don’t have to like it, but they dang sure better try it. (Except the squash…my husband put his foot down on that, and said he would not punish his children in such a cruel manner….*sigh*)

As such, at least one, if not all these guys are less than enthusiastic come dinner time. I’ve accepted this fact…in a grumbly, passive-aggressive, eye-rolling kind of way.

I did have one meal experiment this week that was a definite victory in the husband department. I made this recipe from this month’s Better Homes & Gardens:

It is Chicken Enchilada Pasta. The recipe looked a little weird, and of course I had to tweak it for Captain Picky, but it definitely impressed my husband. After all, it is a meal of chicken, beans, pasta, well-hidden vegetables and a liberal sprinkling of Doritos. What’s not to like? Here’s the recipe:

Chicken Enchilada Pasta

Notes

Ingredients
  • 1  12-oz. pkg.  dried jumbo shell macaroni
  • 3  large  green and/or red sweet peppers, chopped
  • 1-1/2  cups  chopped red onion (I used yellow onions)
  • 1    fresh jalapeño chile pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2  Tbsp.  vegetable oil
  • 2  cups  chopped cooked chicken (I used the grilled chicken breasts strips from the deli…it was a weeknight after all)
  • 1  16-oz. can  refried beans
  • 1/2  of a 1.25 oz. envelope  taco seasoning mix (3 Tbsp.)
  • 2  10-oz. cans  enchilada sauce
  • 1  8-oz. pkg.  shredded Mexican-style four-cheese blend
  • 1  cup  sliced green onions (Obviously left these out)
  • 2  cups  nacho cheese-flavored tortilla chips, crushed (2 oz.) (I used Baked Doritos in an effort to convince myself it was more healthy)
  •     Avocado dip and/or sour cream
Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Rinse; drain and set aside.
2. In skillet cook sweet peppers, onion, jalapeño, and 1/4 tsp. salt in hot oil over medium heat for 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in chicken, beans, taco seasoning mix, and 1/2 cup enchilada sauce. Cook and stir 5 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup each of the cheese and green onions.
3. Divide filling among shells. Spread 1 cup of the remaining enchilada sauce in 3-quart rectangular baking dish. Arrange shells atop sauce. Drizzle with remaining enchilada sauce.
4. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 5 minutes more or until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with chips and remaining green onions. Serve with avocado dip and/or sour cream. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

As I said, my husband loved this meal. As for my kids?

Well, I can’t win them all, I guess.

Silencing My Inner-Jew

I was born a picky eater, to a woman whose cooking is revered locally. Those years of homesick cure-all cooking in Los Angeles made my mother the best cook I know. Don’t take my word for it. She’s since had a restaurant and a catering business, and regularly receives marriage proposals from strange men, including my stepdad’s friends. Yep, her food is that good. Just ask my back-side.

Despite her culinary flair, my mom got stuck with me, the world’s pickiest eater. While I eventually grew out of my pickiness, I remember many a night during my childhood when my mother warned me that one day, I would have a child just like me. And then I would apologize to her for my picky-eater theatrics. “You just wait…” she would hiss at me. Little did I know my mom has some crazy voodoo going on, and her warning became a prophetic curse. I got stuck with TWO picky eaters, and my mom gets to laugh her behind off regularly as I beg, threaten and finally force feed my children something other than chicken tenders.

While I did grow out of most of my picky-eating tendencies, my aversion to all things pork seemed permanent. I’ve been told that I should have been Jewish, instead of a Louisiana Catholic, because of my constant refusal to eat anything that once oinked. Me and the “other white meat” were the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s as far as I was concerned. When I worked as a counselor at a Jewish summer camp up in Yankee-land, the directors worried that a Louisiana girl would struggle with keeping kosher. I assured them that it would be no problem for me. I almost starved to death that summer anyway, because I guess I did not understand the full concept of kosher, and only Matzo ball soup stood between me and emaciation. (Ok, maybe that is as slight exaggeration, but I did get off the plane that fall begging my mama to feed me quick)

My husband eventually coaxed me into a relationship with bacon by making bacon –cheese fries. However, I still avoided cooking any kind of pork if I could help it.

That is, until I finally found a pork chop recipe that silenced my pork-hating ways. It came from Taste of Home magazine many moons ago, and I guarantee it will make any husband happy…unless his taste buds are disabled…then you’re on your own.

Pork Chops in Mustard Cream Sauce

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 10 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 4 bone-in pork loin chops
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 pound sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary

Sauce

  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp flour
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard

Instructions
 

  • In a large resealable plastic bag, combine 1/4 cup flour, salt and pepper. Add pork chops, one at a time, and shake to coat.
  • In a large skillet, brown chops in oil over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove and set aside. In the same skillet, sauté mushrooms and garlic for 3 minutes. Add broth and rosemary; bring to a boil. reduce heat; to low; return pork to pan
  • Cover and simmer for 1 hour or until meat is very tender. Remove pork and keep warm. In a small bowl, combine the half-and-half, sour cream, mustard and remaining flour until smooth. Pour into skillet. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Serve over pork chops.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

_____________

While me and pork are still getting to know each other, my husband is simply happy to have some meat diversity in our menu, and my kids actually eat this without half the histrionics of other meals.

Oink, Oink.

Germ Warfare and Italian Food

School is out my friends, which of course means my kids are sick. Don’t ask me how they managed to catch a cold exactly 2 seconds after school was over, but they did. Between them coughing all night, and acting like yahoos all day, this week hasn’t exactly been the best start to summer vacation. I am pretty tired, more than a little loopy, and I am out of kids’ cough medicine. And did I mention that I woke up today with their cold? Yippy bleeping skippy.

However, I did get to try out a new recipe from Southern Living, which Husband loved. And you should really try it too…Because it was yummy, easier than it looks, and I definitely racked up some Mom points for cranking this out on a weeknight with two sick kids.

cannelloni-sl-366560-l

Chicken Cannelloni with Roasted Red Bell Pepper Sauce

This is a family favorite in our house.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 30 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 1 8-ounce package cannelloni or manicotti shells
  • 4 cups finely chopped cooked chicken
  • 2 8-ounce containers chive-and-onion cream cheese
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach thawed and drained
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 tsp. garlic salt
  • 1 tsp. seasoned salt

Sauce

  • 2 7-ounce jars roasted red peppers drained
  • 1 16-ounce jar Alfredo sauce
  • 3 ounces shredded parmesan cheese

Instructions
 

  • Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.
  • Stir together chicken and next 6 ingredients.
  • Cut pasta shells lengthwise through the other side. Spoon about 1/2 cup chicken mixture into each shell, gently pressing cut sides together. Place, cut sides down, in 2 lightly greased 11- x 7-inch baking dishes.
  • To make Roasted Red Pepper sauce, combine Alfredo sauce, roasted red peppers and Parmesan cheese in a food processor. Pulse until smooth.
  • Pour Roasted Red Bell Pepper Sauce evenly over shells. Bake, covered, at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Garnish, if desired
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Even the kids ate it. Wonder of wonders….

Fake It Till Ya Make It–Dinner Rescue

Living deep in the heart of BFE (and if you don’t know what that means, google it), I cannot just run to the grocery store on a whim.  Every time I need to go anywhere, I can bank on at least on a 30 minute drive…one way. It’s my lot in life, the bane of my existence and a constant source of road rage on two-lane highways from hell.  Add in this oh-so-fun event back in November:

057

and I find driving around town stressful to say the least, but that’s a story for another day.

When I do shop for groceries, I have to plan meals in two week blocks, so I can minimize extra trips to the store. We only have one car, so even if I was willing to burn an hour’s worth of gas and drive time, I hardly ever have the actual car to do so. If you really want to make Bayou Husband snarly, ask him to stop at the store on the way home…it’s a riot.

This shopping plan has worked thus far, but I’ve also learned to expect the I unexpected. For those two week blocks, I may have planned  gorgeous, delightful homemade meals from scratch, but inevitably, I’ll have one day that blows even the best laid plans out of the water. It may be a child with a fever, or an exploding hot water heater, or even those fun times when our po-dunk town randomly shuts off the neighborhood’s water with no warning…oh good times. Every mom has those days when we just can’t seem to get things to stay on track, but we still have a family depending on us for dinner.

These days are why I always plan “the back-up meal.” This is a meal you can get on the table in less than 30 minutes, and unlike some food network chef, it will not dirty up every dang dish in your kitchen (why call it 30 minute meals, when it is 30 minutes of cooking but 1 hour of clean up?). The back-up meal is one that you plan for, you buy for, and you save it for that day when all hell breaks loose. You’ll know that day when it comes…it will be right about the time Mom goes to DEF-CON 2, and you are in danger of launching the missiles.

But most importantly, the back-up meal has to be something that the family will actually eat. I could probably toss together a quick soup and sandwich, but after Bayou Husband quit laughing, he would hand me the phone and tell me to call for pizza (well, not really, but he would give me that pitiful look like he is going to starve to death). And let’s not even talk about what the kids would do, it makes me queasy just to think about it because it would start with something like this:

noah-hand

No, the back-up meal is only a good plan if it means you still get Mom-Credit for cooking dinner.

The following dish, One Pot Pasta, is definitely a good back-up meal. Only one pot to wash? Who wouldn’t like that? I sure do. I’ve been known to throw out dishes I don’t want to wash. Once, when Bayou Husband and I lived in a tiny apartment, I forgot about some Thanksgiving leftovers hiding in the back of the fridge….for a month and a half. Needless to say, that went into the garbage, tupperware and all.

So, a meal that takes less than 30 minutes and only one pot? That is an essential in any Mom’s bag of tricks.  Pick up the stuff for this dish next time you hit the store, and wait for that inner-voice to tell you it’s time for a back-up plan. Pick up some wine while you are at it, so you can also enjoy a restorative cocktail while you whip up a home-cooked meal, even in the center of chaos.

one-pot-pasta

One Pot Pasta

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 20 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 8-ounce package sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 26-ounce jars tomato-basil pasta sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 20-ounce package refrigerated four-cheese ravioli
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Instructions
 

  • Cook ground beef in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring until it crumbles and is no longer pink; drain. Wipe Dutch oven clean.
  • Sauté onion and mushrooms in hot oil over medium-high heat 8 minutes or until tender. Add garlic, and sauté 1 minute. Stir in beef, pasta sauce, 1 cup water, and next 3 ingredients.
  • Bring sauce to a boil; add ravioli. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes or until pasta is done. Stir in cheese. Serve immediately.
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If you do have that kind of day, just keep a nice back-up plan handy so that you can fake your domestic mastery. There’s always time to be Supermom for real tomorrow.