Brunch, anyone?

Wikipedia says: “Brunch is a combination of breakfast and lunch, and regularly has some form of alcoholic drink served with it. It is usually served anytime before 3 o’clock in the afternoon. The word is a portmanteau of breakfast and lunch.”

I’ll just say that a weekend brunch is one of my favorite things to do. It’s fun to mix it up a bit and get family and friends together to enjoy a meal during the day, rather than a later dinner.

This recipe is my version of a pretty basic breakfast casserole that my Mom used to make. It’s eggy, bready, cheesy and the best part is, you can pretty much throw as many add-ins as you want and it still turns out delicious!

Breakfast Casserole | Serves 6

Start to finish: about an hour

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf white bread, chopped
  • 9 large eggs
  • 6 Tbsp melted unsalted butter
  • 3 Cups milk (I used 1%)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 package frozen Brown & Serve breakfast sausages
  • Additional add-ins (if desired): frozen chopped spinach (defrosted and squeezed dry), cooked sliced mushrooms, chopped tomatoes, or cooked chopped bacon or ham.
  • Serve with maple syrup or ketchup.

How to:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 9×13 pan with nonstick spray.
  2. Mix up eggs, milk, salt, pepper and melted butter in a bowl.
  3. Place a layer of chopped bread into your baking dish. Top with meat and cheese, repeat until your ingredients are used up and your casserole is piled high.
  4. Gently pour egg mixture over bread/cheese/meat. Let sit 15 mins to soak in.
  5. Bake for 45-55 mins or until casserole is golden brown and puffed.
  6. Top with maple syrup or ketchup and serve.

Air Fryer Banana Bread

Yes, you read that right! Moist and delicious banana bread IS possible in an air fryer. I’ll include links below to the exact air fryer and pan I used, but this should work with any air fryer, and any round cake pan that fits into yours!

My banana bread mix is the same I use if I were to bake it in the oven – filled with ripe, sweet, bananas, chocolate chips, vanilla and a touch of cinnamon – except in the air fryer, it takes 35 minutes instead of an hour!

Air Fryer Banana Bread
Makes one 7″ Cake Pan (or small loaf pan)

• 3 TBS Unsalted Butter, softened
• 1/2 C White Sugar
• 3 Ripe Bananas
• 2 Large Eggs
• 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
• 1 C Flour
• 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
• 1/4 tsp Ground Cinnamon
• 1/2 tsp Salt
• 1/2 C Chocolate Chips (optional, but recommended!)

How To:

  1. Preheat air fryer to 300 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together eggs, bananas, butter, sugar and vanilla (by hand, stand mixer or electric mixer).
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture and gently blend until combined.
  5. If using, fold in chocolate chips.
  6. Spray cake pan with nonstick spray and pour batter into pan. Place in air fryer basket, close and cook at 300 degrees F for 35 minutes.
  7. Remove from fryer and flip to release from pan. Let cool completely before serving.

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Links to products I used (I have no affiliation with these, just passing on items I have had success with!):

Tomatoes from… tomatoes!

One of the easiest ways to grow tomatoes is, well, with tomatoes! This fun hack gets started right in a paper or plastic cup, and once your seedlings are nice and tall, transfer them to a pot outside to continue growing!

I did this trick last spring and we got a nice bunch of tomatoes by the end of the summer. Give it a shot and let me know how yours grow!

Step 1: Pick your favorite tomatoes and slice into 1/2 inch thick slices; prepare a cup filled half way with garden soil (I use organic Miracle Grow).
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Step 2: Place tomato slices into soil and press down about 1/4 inch. Cover with about a 1/2 inch of soil and pierce hole in the base of cup to allow for drainage.

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Step 3: Water lightly and cover with plastic wrap. Place in a sunny spot inside or outdoors.
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Photo #1 was taken FOUR DAYS LATER! Photo #2 was taken 8 days after planting!
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Happy Growing! I’ll update as my plants keep growing 🙂

Burrito Casserole

If you’re tired of taco Tuesdays and want to mix it up a bit, this Burrito Casserole gives you the same flavor – and it’s great for feeding a crowd (think that big Football Party…). What I love most is that you can sneak lots of veggies in for some extra nutrition and they’re disguised by that great taco flavor (the kids won’t suspect a thing!).

Basically this recipe contains all the same elements of a burrito, without the mess of wrapping and rolling. I served mine with tortilla chips, sour cream and avocado and everyone loved it!


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Burrito Casserole
Serves 4-6
Start to finish: about 30 mins

What you’ll need:

  • 1lb ground turkey (or beef, or chicken)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 3/4 Cup water
  • 1 Can Rotel (8oz, or 1 Cup of your favorite pre-made salsa)
  • 1 Cup frozen corn
  • 1 Can (8oz) Black Beans
  • 4 Cups of cooked white or brown rice
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Sour Cream, Avocado, and Tortilla Chips for serving (optional, but YUMMY!)

How To:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9″ x 13″ baking dish with nonstick spray.
  2. Prepare rice as directed on package. While rice is cooking, brown your ground meat with the chopped onion.
  3. Once meat is browned, add in: taco seasoning, water, Rotel, black beans, and corn.
  4. Stir all together until combined.
  5. Layer in baking dish: rice, then meat mixture, top with shredded cheese.
  6. Bake in oven for about 15 mins or until cheese is melted.
  7. Serve with sour cream, avocado, chips, etc.

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Crispy Air Fried Chicken Drumsticks

Getting right to the recipe with this one because you need to add these drumsticks to your meal rotation stat! Super easy, and all done in about 30 mins. Crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside!

Crispy Air Fried Chicken Drumsticks

Serves: 3-4

Start to finish: 35 mins

What you’ll need:

  • 6 chicken drumsticks
  • Seasoning of choice (I use Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning on everything)
  • Nonstick spray

How to:

  1. Spray fryer basket with nonstick spray.
  2. Place chicken in basket, season, and cook at 400°F for 15 minutes (I also hit the chicken button on my Cosori air fryer).
  3. Flip and cook another 15 minutes or until crispy and internal temp reaches 165°F.
  4. Remove at coat with with your favorite sauce – we did buffalo and bbq!

Air Fried (Fresh) Chicken Breast Strips

While I do love the occasional air fried batch of processed/frozen, super-breaded chicken strips and nuggets, the whole purpose of this air fryer craze is to try and cook at least a little bit healthier, right?

I made some chicken strips for dinner last night that turned out really good! Super simple – just 3 ingredients – a quick prep, and they came out fully cooked and moist inside and really crispy outside. My breadcrumb of choice is always Panko (here’s a great article about what Panko is from Chowhound) when I want my coating to be crunchy. The little flakes crisp up so much more nicely than standard breadcrumbs, and it’s available everywhere now. I buy the seasoned store brand for 99 cents!

Follow along and try these for yourself, they’re pretty hard to mess up! 🙂

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Pro tip #1: I never flour my chicken when breading – just pull out of the package and dry with a paper towel – it helps the egg stick better! 
Pro tip #2: Use tongs to do your dipping and breading process – keeps your fingers clean!

 

Easy Air Fried Fresh Chicken Breast Strips
Serves: 3-4 with sides
(we had peas and rice!)
Start to Finish: about 30 minutes

Here’s what you’ll need, and note the cooking time can be altered depending on your preferred crispness and how many you’re making at once:

  • 1 – 1.5 lb of fresh chicken breast strips
  • 4 eggs
  • 2-1/2 cups Seasoned Panko breadcrumbs (I did not test with regular breadcrumbs, so if you do, let me know how they come out!)
  • Salt and pepper to taste; cooking spray

How To:

  1. Preheat air fryer to 360 degrees F for 5 minutes.
  2. Remove chicken strips from package and pat dry; set up two bowls and one plate.
  3. In one bowl add 4 eggs and whisk to combine. In second bowl, add bread crumbs, salt and pepper.
  4. One by one, dip chicken strips into beaten egg and then drop into bread crumbs, pressing in as needed and shaking off any excess. Transfer to plate and pile up.
  5. Open air fryer and spray bottom of basket with nonstick cooking spray (I use Olive Oil Pam). Place chicken strips in but do not over crowd or layer on top of each other. I fit almost the whole 1.5lb pack in mine.
  6. Spray tops of chicken lightly with nonstick spray (this helps the browning!) and close air fryer.
  7. Cook at 360 degrees for 17 minutes. No need to shake or turn over chicken – just set it, make your sides, and enjoy! Increase time if you like it crispier.

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I use the Cosori 5.8qt Air Fryer, and love it!

Easy Slow Cooker Beef Stew

This is literally a “set it and forget it” meal! What’s better than cooking an entire meal all at once and having it ready before you even get home??

The best part about beef stew in the slow cooker is that it’s very forgiving. You can add more or less of the meat and veggies, and even throw in some extras like mushrooms or celery. Follow my steps below for a great beef stew.

This little packet is my go-to secret when I make beef stew or pot roast. I use the same flavor pack for both because the pot roast version just has a great meaty, savory flavor that I haven’t been able to replicate with my own blend of herbs and broth, so don’t judge! 

Prep veggies and place into the pot. Add the meat and mix together. Then, pour seasoning mix over the top – that’s seriously it!

Easy Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Serves 4-6 (more if you serve a side like egg noodles or bread. To make less, just cut down on the quantity of ingredients, same cooking time).

Start to Finish: 8.5 hours

What you’ll need:

  • 2-3 lbs stew beef
  • 2 large russet potatoes (or 3-4 red potatoes), chopped into even chunks
  • 3-4 carrots peeled and chopped
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 cup water
  • Crock Pot seasoning (or herbs/spices of choice)

How to:

  1. Clean and prep veggies, place in empty slow cooker.
  2. Add stew meat to the slow cooker.
  3. Pour water/herb/spice mixture over meat and veggies, stir well.
  4. Set slow cooker to 8 hours on low and give it a good stir when done. Enjoy!

Air Fried French Fries!

“They won’t be the same!”, they said.
“They won’t be as crunchy!”, they said.

Well “they’ were wrong! French Fries are a favorite in our house and I’m always looking for healthier ways to cook them. While I never truly “fried” them in a vat of oil, I did bake my fries in the past and they always came out not quite right – either overcooked or undercooked and I never got that crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside like a good, satisfying fry should be.

When I got my air fryer, I really didn’t expect anything spectacular, but I gave it a shot and was pleasantly surprised! One of the most common misconceptions about air frying is that there’s no oil involved. Lies! Some recipes do call for oil, but the quantity is so minute, especially in this recipe, that it’s truly just there for crisping purposes and a bit of flavor.

Follow my tips below and comment if you try my recipe!

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The most important step! Do not skip soaking your fries – it makes all the difference!

Perfect Air-Fried French Fries
Serves 2-3
Start to Finish: about 45 minutes

• 2-3 large russet (baking) potatoes
• Cold water for soaking potatoes
• 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
• 1 Teaspoon garlic powder
• Salt and pepper to taste

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How To:

• Clean and dry potatoes; cut into 1/2 inch strips
• Place potato strips into a bowl and soak in cold water for 10 minutes (NOTE: this is possibly the most important part of the how-to! Soaking will make the potatoes “less slimy” and aids in the crisping process, don’t skip this step!)
• After 15 minutes, rinse potatoes and pat dry with a paper towel
• Preheat air fryer to 380 degrees F
• Place potatoes in a bowl and toss with olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper until evenly coated
• When fryer is ready, place potatoes in basket gently piling but not packing them in and cook* at 380 degrees for about 28 minutes, shaking the basket half way through cooking.
• For crispier fries, cook a little longer!

*If you’re using the Cosori Air Fryer 5.8qt (my fryer!) – once preheated, add potatoes to basket and hit the “french fry” button and set for 28 minutes. It will automatically pause and remind you to shake half way through.

 

 

Air Fried Frozen Chicken Strips

One of our new air fryer favorites! While it’s just as easy to bake these, it’s really nice not heating up a whole oven, especially when we’ve had some really warm weather. What made this even easier as an air-frying newbie was that Perdue printed air fryer instructions right on the bag (THANK YOU)!

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I use the Cosori 5.8qt Air Fryer, and I was able to fit the whole bag in the basket – perfect for a family meal! I only increased the time by 2-3 minutes to accommodate more chicken and they did not disappoint. The outside was super crispy and the inside was perfectly cooked. I would imagine you can use this guide for any brand of chicken strips, so if you test any out, let me know in the comments!

Follow the how-to below:

Air Fried Chicken Breast Strips

  • Preheat air fryer to 350 degrees F
  • Once preheated, place frozen chicken strips into basket in one layer (or overlap gently for a larger amount). No cooking spray needed!
  • Cook at 350 degrees F for 10-13 minutes.

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Burn Baby Burn!

Ah, the Instant Pot. Love it or hate it, it seems it’s here to stay and I honestly love cooking with mine all the time. But… there are those frustrating BURN moments that I just can’t get past!

Imagine this: You read through all of the recipe steps in advance – it’s got great reviews and you get all excited for your meal at the end of the day. You follow your recipe precisely. And then this happens:

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Thankfully, a BURN error isn’t a regular occurrence for me, but when it happens, I feel as if I’ve failed, because I know that my meal is just never going to be right after that. It’s actually become a joke in our house that if the Instant Pot burns, we order take out! In fact, one night, my daughter wasn’t happy about what was for dinner, so she printed out the BURN warning and stuck it to my pot!

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Don’t be afraid of the burn. The Instant Pot is just protecting itself! 

According to Instant Pot, “The temperature sensor will trigger the Overheat Protection if the inner pot reaches too high a temperature, shut off the heat, and the cooker will display the warning message. Once things cool down enough, the heating element will turn back on and the Instant Pot will try to complete its cooking program. If the temperature gets too hot again, it will trigger the Overheat Protection again.”

I tried making a Pot Roast the other night and the burn came on about 10 minutes into the warm-up. I think my issue was that I added the liquid last instead of first (I still can’t get Instant Pot and Slow Cooker rules straight!). I opened my pot, gave everything a good stir and it functioned normally after that, however my post roast turned out more like overcooked roast beef. The meat was tough and waiting more than an hour just got me out of the mood, but we ate it and it was ok. Not great, but ok. See some tips from Instant Pot below to avoid the burn.

Ways to avoid the burn:

  • Ensure there is enough liquid. The single best way to prevent overheating is to have enough water-based liquid. Without water, the cooker cannot pressurize properly and may overheat. 
  • Ensure the steam release is sealed. Your Instant Pot cannot reach pressure if the steam release is not sealed, but it will continue to heat as the steam escapes. This could lead to overheating. 
  • Ensure the sealing ring is working properly. If the sealing ring is damaged or placed incorrectly steam will escape and prevent pressurization, potentially leading to overheating. 
  • Ensure the float valve is clean and moves freely. Food residue can cause the float valve to stick, which can also allow steam to escape. 
  • Layer ingredients. (THIS WAS MY MISTAKE!) Put liquids into the inner pot first, then add the other ingredients. Do not stir or mix. This helps keep things that might scorch from touching the bottom.

For complete burn details and more tips, visit https://instantpot.com/instant-pots-overheat-burn-protection/.