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.**

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Finished Knit–21 Color Slouch Hat

So, after seeing the kit for this hat pop up on my Facebook feed like a bagillion times, I finally caved and bought the kit from WEBS. It was my selfish, post-Christmas knit, and while I had some issues with the kit, it turned out fine. Because the skeins are so small, I decided to hand-wind them rather than break out the swift and winder. So, I just started at the beginning and as I progressed, I made the Heathens take turns being a human swift while I wound the colors as I came to them. They learned quick to hide when I hollered one of their names. Lazy on my part? Maybe, but we’ll just call it a character-building exercise for them, shall we? Additionally, my attempts at jogless stripes were an epic fail, but what’evs.

Pattern: 21 Color Slouch Hat (pattern available for purchase individually on Ravelry, but you really want to order the yarn/pattern kit on this deal. Retailers other than WEBS offer it, so you can find it online with a quick search).

Yarn: Blue Sky Fibers Wookstok (I’ll spare you the list of the 21 colorways…ain’t nobody got time for that)

Needles: US 6 and US 7

Notes and Mods: Ran out of Spring Ice so I doubled Spun Gold row. Ran out of Rusted Roof so did three rows Driftwood instead. Not enough Earth Ivy left for the last row of that colorway, so subbed Cranberry Compote.

This kit is a little frustrating because there really isn’t enough yarn for some colors. I was diligent about not doing too-long yarn tails and my gauge is good. Even if these two factors were not perfect, I was short two full rows of Rusted Roof, and an inch or two of a too-long yarn tail still does not cause such a shortage. Substitutions with remaining colorways, however, are easy enough if you don’t mind that fact.
However, I am pleased with the finished hat because I have a very large head and this sits slouchy-perfect on me. I was worried that other projects I snooped seemed more fitted, so I was sure it would not fit me as intended. But it did! (ok, so maybe my gauge ended up a tiny bit looser than anticipated, but yarn shortage is still a thing here so you may need to improvise like I did).
Finally, I confess that, since this is for me, I could not fathom weaving in all those ends. It was a knot-tying extravaganza! No shame!

Overall, this is a comfortable, very wearable hat that fits my large melon well. Now, if I could just convince myself to slog through the never-ending shawl that’s left on my needles, I can focus on the Ravellenics next month and start knitting down my stash before I lose my closet to the yarn.

Black-Eyed Peas in the Instant Pot

I made black-eyed peas in the Instant Pot for the traditional New Year celebration. It super easy, and much faster than the usual stovetop method. I did soak the peas in water several hours before cooking them because this little boogers absorb a lot of liquid. The end results were delicious perfection, and plenty to feed a crowd.


Black-Eyed Peas in the Instant Pot

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Ingredients

  • 4 TBS butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 pounds dried black-eyed peas, soaked for several hours
  • 7 cups chicken broth
  • 1 ham hock
  • salt and pepper to taste (I’d start with a TBS of salt then add more later of needed)
  • cayenne pepper to taste
  • 2 TBS White vinegar

Procedure

    1. Set the Instant Pot to the saute setting and let it get hot. Add the butter, and when melted, add the onion, celery, and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until soft (about 4-5 minutes). Add garlic and cook for an additional minute.
    2. Add the peas, chicken broth, ham hock, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Switch the Instant Pot to manual, add the lid and check that the value is correctly positioned for sealing. Set time for 20 minutes on Manual mode. (Note–with this much stuff in the IP, it will take about 20 minutes to come to pressure).
    3. When the timer is up and the IP beeps, let the pressure release naturally for 20 minutes, then do a quick pressure release if the pin hasn’t dropped already.
    4. Remove IP lid and stir in vinegar. Check for seasonings and enjoy!

Finished Holiday Knits

Alrighty, now that the holidays have passed, I can post the few last-minute gifts I whipped up in the days leading up to Christmas. I swore not to do any gift knits this year, but finally decided that it just would not be December if I wasn’t knitting a gift or two. All of these were fast projects (at least as far as “fast” applies in knitting terms), and with stash yarn

Pattern: Polku Messy Bun Hat (available for purchase on Ravelry)

Yarn: Caron Simply Soft in Country Blue colorway (I held the yarn double for this project/gauge)

Needles: US 10 and 10-1/2

Notes and Mods: Made this for my Mother-In-Law, who requested a hat that allowed for a ponytail. I went up a size to ensure the gauge and yarn would work.

Pattern: Man Hat (available for free on Ravelry)

Yarn: Loops and Threads Charisma in Deep Woods Colorway

Needles: US 8 (wish I had used a 9 or 10)

Notes and Mods: Made this for my sister’s very knit-worthy boyfriend from stash yarn. He has a big head so I think I should have gone up a needle size or two. His son loves it so much, I’ll be knitting him one after I finish up my current WIPs.

Pattern: Man Hat (available for free on Ravelry)

Yarn: I Love This Yarn in Camo colorway

Needles: US 8 (though I used a US 10 just for the cast-on to prevent a too-tight edge).

Notes and Mods: CO 88 stitches to make up for smaller gauge. I have used this crappy yarn before and the color pooling never makes sense. For example, I knit this hat with the yarn in the exact same pattern and stitch count and there was no significant color pooling. The recipient is a big camo guy, so hopefully it’s not too crazy for him.

Pattern: Little Red Riding Slippers

Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick and Quick in Constellation colorway

Needles: US 10

Notes and Mods–Made these for my sister who is not a fan of knits, but loves Ugg boots so I took a chance on Ugg-inspired slippers. I screwed up on attaching the cuffs so the seam isn’t going the way I prefer, but I was not willing to rip it out at that point. If I make these again, I will pick a yard that gives better stitch definition at this gauge. She’s actually worn them, so I’ll count that as a win.

Now it’s back to WIP wrangling…sigh.

Super-Easy Petite Cheese Cakes

We had a nice, relaxed family get-together yesterday, and I wanted an easy dessert that I was pretty sure *most* of us would like. These little cakes are so stupid-easy, and for something so simple, they still taste like delicious indulgence.

Petite Cheesecakes

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Ingredients

  • 2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 TBS fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 18 vanilla wafers
  • jam of your choice for topping, if desired

Procedure
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line cupcake pans with 18 paper baking cups. Place a vanilla wafer in the bottom of each cup. Beat cream cheese, sugar, eggs, lemon juice, and vanilla extract together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with cream cheese mixture and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until set. Cool 15 minutes on a rack, then refrigerate until ready to serve. Top with jam, if desired.

How easy is that?!?

Blog Update for the Recipe Page

Hey Y’all. I’ve been trying to update the recipes page to include a comprehensive link list, while also going back and coding the recipes into a printable format within the posts. While a few recipes/posts got voted off the island, most should be on the Recipes page now. Please note, formatting on some may vary, because I just added the code, rather than rewrite post after post. This just means some recipes will have a running-ton of pictures in the procedure sections.

Remember, I’m just a chick with a free-hosted blog that I tinker with on my laptop…when I’m not hiding in the bathroom with wine hoping my kids won’t find me. If you encounter an incorrect link, a problem, or some other kooky hiccup, please let me know.

See that pic? Those are the Chocolate Cake Cookies, which would be perfect for Santa. I’m just saying is all…

Guess where you can find that recipe? Oh yeah, that page thingy I just talked about.

Easy Gingerbread Cutout Cookies

School is out, which means we are in the final countdown toward Christmas. I’m making cookies with the kids, which is equal parts fun and frustrating as they argue about who gets to use which cookie cutter first. My kids could fight about what air tastes like if given the opportunity.

We are on to sugar cookies today, but ended up making Gingerbread Cookies last weekend. The recipe I use is pretty easy to work with and forgiving, so it’s great if you really want to get into decorated cutouts. If you need to distract restless kids, I highly recommend baking up a batch, and investing in a few dollar tubes of icing from the store so they can decorate and be distracted from arguing about that whole air thing.

Gingerbread Cutout Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder

Procedure

    1. In a large mixing bowl, cream shortening and sugar. Add molasses and egg, mixing well to combine.
    2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, salt, and making powder, stirring well.
    3. Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture, mixing to form a soft dough. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for a couple of hours.
    4. On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out cookies with desired cutters and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes until edges are firm. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely. Decorate as desired.

Braised Beef Brisket in the Instant Pot

I am all about comfort food lately, but between shopping, baking, running 1000000000 errands, wrapping gifts, etc., I haven’t had a whole lot of time to enjoy extended cooking sessions. So, I got creative this week and adapted my favorite braised brisket from Guy Fieri’s cookbook for the Instant Pot so I could have what is typically a Sunday dinner on a weeknight. Here’s how I did it:

I seasoned the brisket and browned it with the Instant Pot set on the Sauté setting. It took a little maneuvering, but it worked:

Next, I chopped up some shallots, carrots, onions, celery, and leeks, and put them on top of the brisket:

I combined a bottle of chili sauce with some beef broth and poured it over the top:

Then, I closed the pot, and set it to 60 minutes on Manual. When it was done, I did a quick pressure release. I turned the brisket over, and added a bottle of Shiner Bock beer to the pot, being sure to baste the meat with the sauce and veggies. I closed the pot and set it to 30 minutes on Manual. When it was done, I let it the pressure release naturally for 20 minutes, then did a quick pressure release (however, if you have time, I would let the pressure release naturally and let the brisket rest for another 20 minutes in the pot thereafter for best results. This isn’t necessary per se, but I think braised brisket could always use a healthy rest period).

So, this is what it looked like. I removed the brisket to a cutting board and set aside. I broke out the immersion blender, and blended the juice/sauce/veggies in the Instant Pot until combined into saucy deliciousness. After slicing the brisket, I returned it to the pot for a quick sauce bath, then served with more sauce spooned over the top:

It was dang tasty, and nearly effortless.

Braised Beef Brisket in the Instant Pot

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Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 to 5 pounds beef brisket
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 yellow onions, cut into 1- inch rings
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and cut into thirds
  • 2 shallots, quartered
  • 1 carrot, cut in half lengthwise, then into 1- inch chunks
  • 4 celery stalks, cut into thirds
  • 1 bottle chili sauce
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 12-ounce beer, at room temperature ( I like Shiner Bock or Amber Bock)

Season brisket with salt and pepper. Set Instant Pot to the Sauté setting and when hot, add canola oil. Brown brisket on all sides as best you can. Top brisket with onions, leeks, shallots, carrot, and celery. In a small bowl, whisk together chili sauce and beef broth, and pour over brisket. Secure lid on Instant Pot and set to Manual for 60 minutes. When cycle is complete, do a quick pressure release. Turn brisket over, add beer to Instant Pot, and baste brisket with liquid and veggies. Place lid back on pot, and set to Manual for 30 minutes. Let pressure release naturally for 20 minutes then do a quick pressure release.** Remove brisket to cutting board and slice. Using an immersion blender, blend the liquid and veggies in the Instant Pot until smooth. Return brisket to the Instant Pot, cover with sauce, then serve, topping with more sauce if desired.

**If you have the time, let pressure release naturally and let brisket rest another 20 minutes or so after the pin drops**

 

Finished Kint–Amy Scarf

I had my very first Yarnbox lingering in my stash, and when this pattern popped up on Ravelry, I knew I finally found the right match it to go with this delectable yarn.

The pattern is super easy, and this yarn is absolutely awesome. It’s a mix of fine merino and baby alpaca, and one that I will definitely be ordering again.

Pattern: Amy Scarf (available for purchase on Ravelry)

Yarn: Big Bad Wool’s Pea Weepaca in the Teal, Tree Frog, Night Owl, Leaf, and Water colorways. (It’s fingering weight, by the way)

Needles: US size 4

Notes and Mods: The original pattern called for more colors, so I added rows to make up for only using 5. I also just kind of played fast and loose with it. I discovered that, after knitting the first five color sections, repeating them all would make the scarf too long (especially since wet blocking would add length). So, I just tacked on an additional section of the first two colors (switching them so the scarf would start and end with the same color. Ultimately, I lost at yarn chicken, so the last section is a few rows shy of what I planned, but it’s not noticeable when wearing the scarf. Since this is for me, I wasn’t that concerned about it.

8 Gift Ideas for Knitters, and What You Should Not Buy Without Actionable Intel

After spending an inordinate amount of time shopping online yesterday, I was ready to hit the ground running today and spend some money locally. Not 15 minutes after dropping the kids off, the school called and Bean is sick again…sigh. We had to take her to the ER a couple of weeks ago, so the fact that she is sick again so soon is frustrating.

Anyway, if I can’t get my Christmas shopping on, I can have a cocktail and give you some gift ideas for the knitter or fiber enthusiast in your life:

  1. A yarn club subscription. I recently posted about my love of Yarnbox, but there are dozens of suppliers to choose from. This makes a great gift because most knitters are yarn-obsessed and who doesn’t like a treat in the mail? These can be on the more expensive side, but they are definitely a thoughtful gift that all but the Grinchiest knitter will love.2. Knitter’s Pride Knit Blockers. These things are the bomb, and most knitters would love it set or two. They help save time and create more even edges. I have a set, and I swear by them. Good prices too for a mid-range gift. I think one set will set you back about 25 bucks.3. Cute knitting-themed shirts or mugs. These can be easy stocking stuffers, or a super-affordable gift if you are in a situation where you need to spend under a certain amount, like an office gift exchange. You can find these at places like Knit Picks, Café Press, and Etsy.4. Cute stitch markers. I go through a lot of stitch markers, and I am always in need of more. Etsy is definitely the place to look for a fun selection, and you will be supporting handcrafters as well. These are usually affordable, and can be a great individual gift or an add-on.5. A handmade yarn bowl. Again, Etsy would be the place to look for these. They come in so many styles, which means you can find one to fit even the most eccentric knitter’s personality. 6. Personalized tags for knitters. I love adding a personal touch to my gift knitting (for those who have not been booted off the knit-worthy island), and these are not something that most people will splurge on consistently. As a southern girl, I love all things personalized and would monogram alllllllll the things if my expendable income allowed such.7. Along those lines, these types of knitting tags offer a cute way to alert people of the fiber content and washing instructions. Mighty handy, and again, just not something many knitters have lying around.8. As always, a gift certificate to your local yarn store is never a miss. If you don’t have a local yarn store in your area, look at online options, especially hand-dyers. Just avoid certificates to big-box stores because their selection is rather limited for a real fiber enthusiast.

Now, for the cautionary part. Most knitters always have their eye on new needle sets, knitting bags, spinning wheels, yarn kits, or other high-dollar accessories. Trust me, every knitter out there has a wish list in the back of their minds. However, like most people who are passionate about our hobby, we are also VERY PICKY about our core tools. While these make great gifts if they are on your knitter’s wish list, you need to be sure that you know exactly what they want while shopping. For example, I cannot stand knitting with bamboo needles, so brand new expensive set of bamboo interchangeable needles would totally miss the mark. So, if you can get your hands on intel about what they specifically want, go for it! Otherwise, play it safe. If you do want to invest in a big-ticket wish list item, you want to be sure that it’s right, which makes you awesome-sauce!

**Remember, these ideas are mine and mine alone. No one pays me or gives me crap, because I’m just not that cool. There’s no links or affiliate business going on up in here. Also, if you do see an ad on my blog, that’s from WordPress, not me and I have no control over that deal**

 

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