When the calendar turns and the days become shorter and cooler it is certainly an enjoyable time to take in the surrounding scenery. Late summer blooms are beautiful, wildlife is abundant and leaves begin to change colors to welcome the crisp coolness of fall. I have always enjoyed this time of year for the fair weather and the transition from the lighter meals of summer to the hearty, comforting meals welcomed by cooler months.
As a family with a pretty hectic schedule, I'm constantly looking for ways to cut down some of the time I spend cooking on a weekly basis. My duties as a youth sports coach keep me pretty busy most afternoons and evenings, and I often need dinnertime solutions that don't take hours to prepare and are still healthy and well loved by my family.
The availability of local garden-fresh ingredients starts to dwindle and opportunities for grilling become less frequent this time of year. I find myself turning to household kitchen gadgets for cooking that can be used indoors and can provide the time savings I need to keep everyone fed and happy. There are a couple of gadgets that are top of mind for home cooks these days, and they sure can help get a decent meal on the table in a limited amount of time. The air fryer and electric pressure cooker have been at the top of most "best gift ideas" lists for a while now and they are worth a try, if you're willing.
The air fryer is the latest and greatest of all kitchen gadgets in my opinion. Air fryers are miniature convection ovens that circulate hot air around food to cook it. This results in crisp foods with great texture prepared in a shorter amount of time than traditional methods. Foods prepared in an air fryer are seen as a healthier alternative to their traditionally fried counterparts, because of the limited amount of oil needed for cooking.
The air fryer has many other uses than making "fried-favorites" and can be a great partner in cooking and roasting healthful foods as well. Many people tend to utilize the convenience of the slow-cooker in the cooler months, and that familiar kitchen standby yields delicious soups and stews and a host of other comforting favorites. What usually isn't found in traditional slow cooked recipes is texture, which is where the air fryer really delivers. So if you like a bit more texture to your food, you may want to give it a try.
Burgers, pork chops and steaks are easily made in the air fryer. Season and brush them with a small amount of oil. The mess stays inside of the air fryer rather than the countertop or stovetop, where it can be found after pan frying various cuts of meat.
Air fried foods still need a thin coating of oil to cook with best results. The hot circulating air in the air fryer unit heats the oil around the food, allowing the coating to cook evenly and brown nicely. If oil is not used on breaded item in an air fryer, the breading will be quite dry and likely burnt in places. Similar results can be expected for any item that is cooked in the air fryer without a light coating of oil.
Toss fall vegetables in a bit of Italian dressing and roast them in the air fryer. This yields vegetables with lots of flavor and texture! Cut vegetables to sizes based upon cooking time, ie: cut vegetables with longer cook times smaller in size and those with shorter cooking times a little larger in size to ensure even cooking.
For air fryer units that have a "basket" design, make a foil sling and insert it into the basket with your food placed on top. Upon the completion of cooking, removing delicate foods from the fryer basket is a cinch! Try this recipe for breaded pork tenderloin strips in the air fryer. The kids will love it!
Now more than ever, families with jam-packed schedules are looking for ways to save time in any part of the day they can. New fangled kitchen gadgets may steal a bit of joy from the process of cooking, but deliver just as much in return with time savings and delicious results.
Air Fryer Breaded Pork Tenderloin Strips
Or Air Fryer Pork Tenders
Makes 18 strips, serves 4-6
6 - 4 oz boneless pork chops, tenderized
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon Lawry's seasoned salt
1 cup crushed Chicken in a Biskit crackers
1 cup panko bread crumbs
3 tablespoons milk
Spray oil, (canola, olive, vegetable)
Slice tenderized pork tenders lengthwise into thirds. In a shallow baking dish, combine flour, cornstarch and seasoned salt. Dredge all 18 pieces of pork into flour mixture, one at a time, shaking off excess. Lay flour coated pork tenders out on a sheet tray or a layer of parchment paper. In a separate shallow baking dish, add egg and milk and whisk well. To the remaining flour/cornstarch dredge mixture, add cracker crumbs and panko breadcrumbs. Dip each flour coated piece of pork into egg and milk mixture, letting excess drip off. Then take egg dipped pork pieces and coat them in the flour/cracker mixture. Set cracker coated pork pieces on the air fryer cooking tray (this recipe makes enough to fit two air fryer trays in a large unit), in a single layer, not touching. Lightly mist both sides of pork tenders with canola or extra light olive oil spray. Air Fry at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 7 minutes, then flip pieces over, and air fry for an additional 7 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm with honey mustard sauce for dipping.