Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Superbowl Snack: Air Fryer Buffalo Wings

I got an air fryer two years ago and for the most part, I bring it out when I want to cook frozen food fast - frozen fries, corn dogs, or veggies.

But I've been trying to use it more.  It's been hit or miss.  It took several different recipes and variations before we finally found a chicken tender recipe that got them nice and crispy (hint: the secret is adding the oil to the panko before breading instead of spraying or drizzling oil on the breaded chicken.)

So far the most successful air frying has been buffalo wings.  Which is perfect, since this weekend is the Superbowl and I'm willing to bet it's the day with the highest buffalo wing consumption of the year.  (Feel free to check me on that)  I know that we always have wings on our Superbowl menu.

The thing I love about making buffalo wings in the air fryer is that you don't need any additional oil to get them nice and crispy.  Part of this is due to the fact that chicken wings are already a bit fatty because of the skin to meat ratio.  Which is the other nice thing about the air fryer - that fat, drips right off an into the bottom of the fryer, which means your wings aren't sitting in a bed of grease while they cook.  So they come out perfectly crispy and dry!

I've been playing around with the sauce on these, and finally hit upon a declared winner last night.  You are free to use whatever hot sauce you prefer, but after experimentation, we decided our favorite was the classic Franks Buffalo sauce.  You'll also notice this recipe uses ghee in place of butter, which, combined with the Frank's sauce, gives the wings a really great buttery flavor to make up for the fact they're not dripping in oil.

Air Fryer Buffalo Wings
1 lb chicken wings (separated into drums and flats if necessary)
1/8 cup ghee
1/4 cup Franks Red Hot Buffalo Sauce
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  1. Place chicken wings in air fryer.  Depending on size of your air fryer you may need to do this in 2 batches.
  2. Cook at 375 for 15 minutes.  Flip the wings over and cook for an additional 12 minutes.
  3. While the chicken is cooking combine ghee, buffalo sauce, and apple cider vinegar in a large bowl.
  4. Toss the cooked chicken wings in the sauce and serve.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Groundhog Doughnuts

It's time for my favorite regional nonsense holiday - Groundhog's Day!  Next week marks the date on which all weather persons and scientists eagerly await so they can give accurate predictions about the upcoming seasonal changes.

Look, between you and I, I'm well aware that groundhogs can't actually predict when spring will come, but when you live in a place where the weather is pretty miserable from October to April, and you're facing the post-holiday doldrums, sometimes a little nonsense holiday is exactly what you need.

So we go all out on the nonsense here - we're 3 hours behind Punxsutawney PA where the official groundhog shadow watch takes place - so I record it to watch with the boys when they get up.  ANd we have some sort of crazy groundhog breakfast while we watch - groundhogs made of chocolate bars, or pancakes, or graham crackers.  This is one of the boys' favorites because it involves doughnuts.  We're very very rarely doughnuts for breakfast in this house, so that makes the day even more special for them!

Groundhog doughnuts
2 doughnuts (I like mine "dirt" colored, so chocolate or cinnamon, or old fashioned)
3 mini brownies
1 tootsie roll
royal frosting
1 pink starburst
candy eyeballs
  1.  Take 2 of the mini brownies and roll them each into a small ball.  Shape the ball so that it is slightly narrower at top, like an egg.
  2. Place each of these brownies in the hole of the doughnut.  Crumble the third brownie and use it to simulate dirt on the plate.
  3. Cut the tootsie roll into 5 pieces.  Flatten 4 of the pieces and cut lines on one end to simulate toes and place on the doughnut.
  4. Cut the last piece of tootsie roll into 4 pieces and place them as ears on each of the brownie balls.
  5. Cut off a corner of the starbust and cut that corner into two pieces.  Roll each piece into a small ball.
  6. Use royal frosting to stick the starburst in the middle of the "face" for a nose, and then use the royal frosting to place the candy eyeballs above the nose.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Sunday Runday: Jingle Bell Run

This year's Jingle Bell Run was our wettest!

It didn't start out that way.  It had been raining for days, but the morning of the run was dry.

They kept delaying the start, waiting for those who had waited on the weather to decide whether to register.  I started getting nervous because the longer we waited, the more likely it was to rain.

The usual suspects were there.  I love coming back year and year and seeing others do the same!

And of course, moments before they started the race, the skies opened up.  It wasn't pouring, but it was the consistent drip which makes you feel wet, cold and fairly miserable.  And a lot of the course was through some pretty muddy trails.  Thatkid and I decided to do a lot more walking that usual just to be safe and not slip.

The cold wet weather meant we had some really beautiful fall foliage to look at though.

When Thatkid and I finished the race, we went in search of some towels to dry ourselves off - and dry off poor, wet, Thatdog who was even wetter and more miserable than we were.

Thatboy and Thatbaby cut off part of the course because of the rain, so we didn't have to wait too long before they joined us.

And as soon as they did finish, we headed right over to the warm and dry car, and back to our warm and dry house!

Last race of 2019 in the books!

Friday, January 10, 2020

Chicken Noodle Soup

It's chicken noodle soup weather, first because it's finally cold out here after the summer that felt like it would never end.   But more importantly, is everyone you know in your life sick?  Because my life is filled with sick people!

My brother's whole family came home from their Christmas travels sick, last week our friends cancelled on us because the kids were vomiting all night, and this week another friend's son was diagnosed with the flu.

I'm sure it's a combo of changes in weather, winter germs, and immune system crashes after the holiday excitement, but it seems like the New Year always brings illness.  So what better time to enjoy a mom's penicillin?  

Like all my soup recipes, this one makes use of whatever I've got handy in the fridge and freezer, so feel free to substitute in whatever vegetables are convenient to your kitchen.

And bonus!  Because this chicken soup is made by cooking a whole chicken in water, you end up with cooked chicken to use in other dinners for the week.  

Chicken Noodle Soup
1 whole chicken, giblets removed, but saved
3 qts water
1 onion, studded with 2 whole cloves
1 leek
2 carrots
10 peppercorn
1 Tbsp salt
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup green beans, finely chopped
1 cup peas
4 oz egg noodles
  1. Place the chicken and giblets in a large pot with water, onion, leek, 1 of the carrots, peppercorn, and salt.  Bring to a boil.
  2. Skim any scum that rises to the surface and lower the heat to a simmer.  Let simmer for 2 hours.
  3. Remove the chicken and vegetables, and skim the fat off the surface of the broth.  Adjust seasoning as necessary.
  4. Finely chop the remaining carrot and add it into the broth with the chopped onion and green beans.  
  5. Shred the meat from the chicken legs and thighs (reserving breasts for another use) and add to the pot.  Bring to a boil and boil for another 5 minutes.
  6. Add in peas and noodles and cook for about 7 minutes.  Serve in warm bowls.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Surviving Holiday Travel with Kids

Thatboy and I both agree that our best Christmases ever were the two that we spent at home after each of our boys were born.  Holidays where you can just cuddle at home with your family are our favorite.

But long before we had children, and long before we were married, we agreed that we would always spend Christmas with his family, because for him, Christmas wasn't about the religious elements, or even the tree and lights, Christmas was about family, and he wanted to spend it with his.

This has never been easy, but it's been increasingly harder after we had children of our own.  There's such an age difference between Thatboy and his brother that they are over the whole "magic of Christmas" with their own kids and don't have a desire to re-institute it with ours.  So there's no waking up and digging into presents, there's no Christmas music, no lights, no Christmas activities, no Christmas meals.  It doesn't feel much different than any other time of the year.  

Most of the holiday travel issues are unique to us alone, but over the years I've definitely found some things that can be useful to all parents who aren't home at this time of year.

Getting Around

While not doable for every family, we always drive for this holiday trip.  It gives us a little more flexibility by giving us our own form of transportation when we're there.  It also lets us deal with the presents - both the ones we give and the ones we get.  This is especially important because many times Chanukah falls during the period we're there, so we've got both Christmas and Chanukah presents to transport.

But we don't live close enough for this to be easy.  This year we hit a record both coming and going - only 8 hours to get there!  Our fastest time ever!  And on the way home?  14.5 hours!  Our longest time ever!  

So my travel tip for anyone who similarly finds themselves on a long car ride over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house is to find some stopping points along the way for everyone to get out and stretch their legs.  One of my friends maps out cool playgrounds between her two destinations for her children to burn some energy.   We usually do a stop for breakfast and another for lunch to break it up a bit. 

Thatboy and I have been making this trip for 19 years, so we're pretty well acquainted with some fun places to stop.  Last year we took the kids on a walking tour of the Danish village, Solvang.  This year we stopped at a brewery with a large outdoor space for the kids to run around, play cornhole and build things with a giant jenga set.

Where to Stay

I'm not going to lie.  There's definitely a romantic picture of Christmas, waking up and heading to the living room/family room/tree room in your pajamas, mug of something warm in your hand, watching your kids dive into presents under a tree.   And if you can have this staying with your family, then DO IT!  The idea of the whole family under one roof seems really magical.  It's just not the reality we deal with, and if it's not feasible for you, I'm here to let you know that it can be just as wonderful to stay in a hotel.  For us, it's even better.

Hotels are gloriously decorated for the holidays.

Santa still comes to hotels.  So you can still have that moment in your pajamas watching kids open presents.  And since my inlaws don't do the present opening until almost lunchtime, staying in a hotel and having those presents is the only thing that keeps my children from going stir crazy as we wait for the rest of the family to wake up, eat their breakfast, and finally deem its okay for my kids to open gifts. 

Also, staying a hotel allows us to cater to my inlaws a bit.  If you have young children, there's a good chance they are early risers.  (Especially on Christmas morning!).  My kids get up hours before we're allowed over at the inlaws.  Staying at a hotel means them being up early doesn't mean my inlaws have to get up early!  And this also means we can try to sneak in some activity for the boys before heading over.  Santa even drops off Christmas cereal for the boys on Christmas morning because there's no food before 10 or 11 am otherwise.

Keeping Kids Busy

Holiday travel is especially hard for us with two rambunctious boys because Thatboy's family isn't interested in going out or doing anything.  And we obviously want to spend time with them while we're up there, since that's the whole point of the trip, so we don't want to go off and do activities on our own.

And not that we rely solely on screen time, but they don't use it at all.  Which means the kids are either stuck in a single room in TMIL's house with nothing to do, or a single room in TBIL's house with nothing to do between those long hours stuck in a car.

And let me tell you how much fun it is to take two kids to sit for a church service after they've been cooped up for days.

Hopefully your holidays aren't quite as cooped up, but in discussions with friends who also travel during the holidays, one thing that is universal is that kids are not on their best behavior during these trips.  There's so much excitement in the air, schedules are all over the place, and hot chocolate and Christmas treats can make even the most mellow kid a little ball of energy during this time period. 

Our solution?  Early morning playground sessions!

Last year we found a playground between our hotel and the inlaws homes.  So now, when the kids are up earlier than the inlaws, we just bring them to the playground and let them run around and play until we get the all clear that everyone is up.  This way we don't miss out on any family time, and they get a little less stir crazy because they've run, jumped, and climbed their little hearts out.

It's also a good idea to keep some ideas and activities in your pocket for unexpected free time.  Both last year and this year Thatboy's family decided to make plans without us while we were up there.  Last year we had enough notice to plan a museum day.

But this year we were completely surprised to pull up to the house and find TMIL gone.  Luckily we remembered a fun place that wasn't too far away we could take the kids for our last day there.

Keeping Kids Fed

If you're a parent, you know kids are waaaaaay harder to control when they're hungry or tired.  And since schedules are usually off during holiday travel, it's especially important to find solutions that avoid both of those situations.  For us, this means not waiting until we get to the inlaws to eat. (this is especially true in our situation where there isn't any food to eat once we get there).  

Along with stopping at a playground on the way over to the inlaws, we also stop and grab breakfast.  That way we can guarantee the kids arrive in the best mood possible - full tummies and tired legs.  

We also usually bring something with us for lunch, again to guarantee that there's something the kids will eat.  Because a fed kid, is a happy kid!

Even with all these tips and tricks, our holiday travels are hard, but like I said, that's unique to our situation.  So for the rest of you traveling with kids, instituting these little tricks might be the difference between a stressful holiday and one that's a little more peaceful!