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Becoming A Pot Head

This year, on Black Friday, approximately a quarter million Instant Pots were sold.

A quarter million!!

(If you don’t know what an Instant Pot is you can see my previous post by clicking here.)

Cookware companies are attempting to copy the Instant Pot as fast as they can, but Instant Pot continues to be the most popular brand.

My arm surgery was just three weeks ago so cooking is nearly impossible for me right now.

But, yesterday I cooked a few “staples” in my Instant Pot to help me get through the next week.

First, I cooked a batch of steel cut oats.  (1 cup steel cut oats, 3 cups water – 10 minutes high pressure, NR.)

I don’t *always* have steel cut oats in the fridge, but it’s nice to have a batch of them made fairly frequently.

It’s so easy to add some milk, warm them up in the microwave, and get out of the house quickly in the morning.

It doesn’t take any “arm power” and it’s a healthy meal.

Yesterday, I also made “perfect” hard boiled eggs to keep handy for snacks, salads, egg salad sandwiches, deviled eggs – whatever.

(Perfect hard boiled eggs: As many large eggs as you want in a steaming basket and/or on a trivet.  1 cup water, 2 minutes HP, 10 minutes NR, followed by ice bath.  Eggs will be “ringless” and peel easier than any hard boiled egg you’ve ever peeled.  Time may vary based on altitude.)

After the eggs, I cooked a whole chicken.  (Yesterday, I cooked mine in wine, but I’ve also used beer, chicken broth, water, etc.  (6 minutes per pound plus 2 additional minutes, HP, NR)

I like to cook whole chickens because I can shred the chicken for tacos, burritos, use it cubed in stir fries, salads, etc., etc.

I also have two Newfies who coming running when they see I’m cooking a whole chicken.

They get some of it mixed in with their food.  (Spoiled!)

I’ve been very limited lately because I can’t use my arm to chop, stir, etc.

But, here are ten other things I’ve made (so easily!) in my Instant Pot!

  1.  Macaroni and Cheese – This isn’t something I normally cook, but I made it when my family was here for the holidays.  It was so easy and fast. You can dress it up or down depending on the cheese/s you use and/or what you decide to add into it.  Once it was done, I topped it with some panko bread crumbs and put it under the broiler for 1-2 minutes …. delicious!
  2. Soup – I’m The Queen of Soup.  I love making soups in the fall and winter. I always, always, use homemade stock which is the key to excellent soup. Making stock/broth/bone broth is SO much easier and faster with an Instant Pot.  And, I can make a big pot of it, divide it into individual portions and freeze them for later use.  Long day?  Just reheat some homemade soup at the end of the day!  Honestly, I can throw stuff in my Instant Pot and come back later.  It’s ideal.
  3. Cheesecake – Yes, I really did make an Oreo cheesecake in my Instant Pot over the holidays.  My family is still raving about it.  It was so easy, came out perfectly, and you know what I really loved?  It was a small cheesecake.  I used a 7 inch pan so it would fit in the Instant Pot.  Once it was gone, it was gone … no tempting leftovers and I didn’t end up having to throw away half of a cheesecake because there was so much leftover.  The key to a successful cheesecake?  Letting the ingredients get to room temperature …. and that means leaving them out of the fridge for several hours before blending them.
  4. Yogurt – Okay, I thought this was a weird one until I made it myself.  Why were all the Pot Heads raving about making their own yogurt?  Yogurt is not very expensive to buy and there are several excellent brands on the market.  Making your own yogurt only saves you a few pennies per serving, so why all the fuss?  It’s because homemade yogurt is so much better than even the best store bought yogurt.  And, you can control the tanginess.  If you’re cutting calories and want to substitute yogurt for sour cream you can make yogurt that is creamy in texture but with almost no yogurt “tang.” Likewise, if you love tangy yogurt – you can make it to taste.  I’ve made greek yogurt without any toppings, but it would be super easy to make a fresh fruit compote if you desire it.
  5. Rice, Potatoes, Squash – all done perfectly in a fraction of the “normal” cooking time.  (It’s easy to mash the squash/potatoes after cooking, too!)
  6. Perfect Artichokes – in 14 minutes.  (And, I do mean perfect!)
  7. Lobster/Crab/Shellfish – I made a shellfish medley while my son was home. So easy, so fast – and perfectly cooked.
  8. “Baked” apples/pears – Sprinkled with cinnamon and perhaps a pinch of brown sugar, served as dessert. (8 min HP, NR)
  9. Teriyaki Salmon – This might be my family’s favorite dish so far.  The salmon came out so tender, so moist … and it only took 7 minutes to make.
  10. Beef Stew – My boys love beef stew but it has to cook for hours (so long!) for the meat to get the falling-apart-tenderness it needs.  In my Instant Pot, it only took 45 minutes and it was just as good … probably better, than if I’d made it in a traditional way.

Clearly, I’m very enthusiastic about my Instant Pot.

As my arm heals, and gets stronger, I’ll be able to become more adventurous with my Instant Pot cooking.

Do you have an Instant Pot yet?

And if so, what is your favorite dish to cook in it?

Or, if you have several favorites, what are they?

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January 19, 2017

As you’re reading this, I’m hunkered down in what is expected to be a gigantic storm.

I realize a “gigantic storm” in Southern California is probably not *that big* of a storm for most parts of the world.

But, we aren’t really set up for weather here.

When we do get storms they’re A BIG DEAL.

Storms with Fred and Frank are … interesting.

Newfs LOVE cold, wet, stormy weather.

It’s impossible to get them to stay inside because their hearts are filled with glee when we have rain.

They run around in the backyard, in the pouring rain, playing happily.

When they get tired, they want to just lay down with the rain pouring on them.

I put large beach towels down inside my backdoor to absorb some of the rain water they bring in with them.

I keep other beach towels handy for drying them.

(Newfies have water resistant coats so rain doesn’t soak through to their skin.  Once they’re toweled off they’re almost completely dry.)

The house does smell of wet dogs though, so I light candles in an effort to disguise The Wet Dog Smell.

I tried to get a lot of errands done prior to the storm’s arrival.

Today, I’ll be doing “house things” like organizing some of my new Penzeys spices, and “batch cooking” a few things in my Instant Pot.

(I love Penzeys, by the way!)

I’ll have candles burning, a cup of tea, a fire in the fireplace, soaking wet Newfies playing in the rain ….

A cozy day.

I hope to get a little time to paint, too.

I recently purchased the most ginormous watercolor palette I’ve ever seen.

It’s on a lazy susan type carousel.

Currently, I have my various watercolors in different tins and palettes which makes it very difficult to see exactly what I have.

It may take me forever to get my new palette set up, but I expect it to make painting much simpler once it’s done.

Guess what?

A woman saw me sketching in a journal/art book the other day and stopped to inquire what I was doing.

I was embarrassed, but she was very persistent and requested to see more of my drawings.

I was, quite honestly, fairly humiliated as I turned a few pages in my book.

I play with art because it’s fun – I’m NOT an artist.

BUT AFTER LOOKING AT MY BOOK, SHE ASKED IF SHE COULD COMMISSION ME TO DO A SET OF “GIRLS” FOR HER HOME.

Say WHAT??

Isn’t that the craziest thing ever?

(Yes, yes it is!!)

Oh, and by “girls” she meant my girl faces.

Lately, I’ve been making them with “Orange County lips” which the Inquiring Woman loved.

Here’s a Lip Girl I painted rather quickly one night … she has one collaged on eye.

A hastily drawn Lip Girl.

Inquiring Woman said she’d like a set of four girls for her home.

(Of course, I will paint them on much better quality paper than the above sketchbook.  Also, they will not be as haphazard as the above sketch.)

MY LIFE IS CRAZILY ABSURD SOMETIMES!!

P.S.  In anticipation of the storm, I bought Fred and Frank HUGE (buffalo) marrow bones. I’m going to let them have them later today – they’ll be so surprised and so happy!

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January 17, 2017

Sorry I’ve been MIA …

I’ve been having some technical problems with my blog, but I think/hope I finally figured out how to fix it.

I’m definitely not good with computer coding.

Today marks three weeks since Surgery #12 and I’m beginning to feel more human.

Last week was a little rough.

In typical Suzanne fashion, I tried to carry on like Super Woman and my newly sliced-open arm did not like it.

(I think I had a strong case of denial regarding this latest surgery.  I was determined to pretend it didn’t happen.)

But, enough pain will make anyone stop in their tracks, even me.

(Also, a scolding from Paul Newman!!)

Anyway, I think I learned my lesson.

I’ve backed off of doing everything and anything I can avoid doing.

And, I’ve committed to continue doing as little as possible –

At least until I hit the six week post-surgery point.

I got good news and bad news when I saw the surgeon last week.

Everything went well with the surgery and he expects it to be a successful final surgery for my arm.

The bad news is:

  • He did more “bone work” than anticipated and that causes more pain the first few weeks.
  • I’m not allowed to shoot until I hit the 5 month point.
  • If I should fall anytime in the next year, I’m at high risk of blowing out the entire surgery – and they would most likely not be able to repair the damage.

I’ll wait a few weeks and then check back with the doc and see if maybe I can use one of my smaller cameras sometime soon.

It never hurts to ask …!

(I think I can hear Paul Newman’s exasperation through the airwaves right now??)

My youngest son has returned to college so I’m now left with just my two, lovable, giant, Newfs.

Fred is (as always!) my constant, loyal, companion and caretaker.

Frank is getting much sweeter and slightly less mischievous as he matures.

(At nine months old, Frank learned to push the ice maker on my refrigerator door. He loves ice cubes, and now makes ice for himself whenever he wants it.)

Yesterday, prior to PT, I finally had time to make Christmas gift exchanges/returns.

(Don’t judge …. I’m using the surgery as my excuse!)

It was such a little thing, but it was so nice to step back into real life.

I have a million things I want to do right now, but I’m trying to focus on what I CAN do.

Each day, I’ll hopefully be able to take on just a little bit more.

Technology willing, I’ll get an updated Instant Pot post up this week.

I’ve had several people make inquiries about mine and/or about recipe ideas for Instant Pots they’ve purchased since reading my post.

Well, that’s all I’m going to write for now.

I’ll schedule this to publish, cross my fingers and hope my blog repairs worked, and hopefully have more posts for you very soon.

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January 9th 2017

I’m in L.A. today for my post-op visit.

I’m looking forward to getting my stitches out and finding out from my surgeon what I’m allowed to do (or not do?) in upcoming weeks.

My arm still hurts quite a bit.

Hopefully, that will begin lessening soon since tomorrow will mark two weeks since the surgery.

Weather reports were saying today will be the worst storm in a decade for California.

Southern California freeways don’t move even if there’s a SLIGHT rain shower.

I imagine it might be a 12 hour round trip to and from L.A. today if weather predictions are accurate?

Ugh!

My college-aged son will be home for one more week on break.

He’s been a great help post-surgery.

In case you missed it on social media, here’s a photo of 10 month old puppy Frank trying to be a lap dog.

Puppy Frank is looking towards me as I tell him he’s too big to sit on laps.

Frank is quite a bit smaller than Fred.

Neither of the Newfs have any idea of their own size.

Both Fred and Frank have been very sweet during my recovery.

They make me laugh several times a day, and laughter truly is the best medicine.

My life continues to be slow paced as I “recover” from surgery.

My son has been helping me do a lot of cooking.

(He pushes the grocery cart, helps chop, lift, stir, and other arm-intensive activities.)

Our weather has been much cooler than normal SoCal winters.

Cooler weather makes me feel like cooking.

It’s been a fun activity to do with my son, and it’s great because what 20 year old male doesn’t love to eat?

I’ve signed up for three online art classes.

I’m sure they’ll keep me entertained until I can be more active.

(I already take an ongoing course through Courtney Diaz’s patreon account – I just love her!)

I’ll probably begin the other classes this week, but I don’t think I’ll spend much time on them until after my son departs.

I’m expecting a return to physical therapy this week also.

I’m pretty sure I’ve spent more time at physical therapy than any other ONE place over the last ten years.

Oh well, everyone needs a second home …. right?

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Hello 2017!

Hello, hello!

I hope everyone had a nice holiday season.

Most of my family and guests departed yesterday.

I’m one week out from Surgery #12.

I’m so glad I got the surgery over with in 2016, because it just feels better going into a new year knowing it’s over and done with.

I think (?) I’m six days away from my post-op visit when I should be cleared to re-enter real life.

(That means I’m about eight days away from returning to PT.)

I have a three inch incision in my elbow and what looks to be a zillion stitches putting me back together.

My surgeon confirmed I had a really messed up elbow.

(It’s amazing how I knew that without ever seeing inside my arm???)

I’m not taking any pain pills but yes, it does hurt.

My life is fairly boring right now …

I drove my car yesterday for the first time since my surgery.

I only took pain meds for the first two days so I figured it was safe to drive.

But, the vibration/jostling of the car hurt quite a bit, so I’ll probably try to drive as little as possible for as long as possible.

The day prior to my surgery I went to see Cavalia.

I went in with an expectation of what I thought the show would be like, and it was very different from what I expected.

I enjoyed it, it was beautiful … but, I think making the show a bit shorter would enhance it.

(I felt like a few parts were redundant and/or a bit too slow paced.)

Overall, however, I was glad I had the opportunity to go.

I’ve been very busy with a house full of people.

I did SO MUCH cooking prior to my surgery.

(I can’t even express how much I love my Instant Pot.  It has made life so much easier!)

In fact, I’ve already returned to cooking in it post-surgery …. but, so far I’ve just made very easy not-arm-intensive stuff …. two minute hard boiled eggs, seven minute steel cut oats, a whole chicken in 24 minutes, etc., etc.

Like most people, I fell off the healthy-eating-bandwagon for a few days over the holidays.

But, I’m back to eating very healthy foods with the hope good nutrition will help me heal faster.

I’ve watched several movies at home in the evenings lately … if you have any movie suggestions I’d love to hear them.

(Most recently I’ve watched Boyhood, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (my son had never seen it), Sully, The Accountant, all episodes of West World.)

I also read A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron – a gift I received for Christmas.

(It made me cry … more than once.  My family laughed at me!)

One night, a friend brought over a board game called Secret Hitler.

I did my best to stay awake until Hitler had been assassinated.

(I’ve been sleeping a lot since Surgery #12 …!)

We’re having an unusually cold winter here.

It’s been in the 50-60’s F.   (12-20C)

I guess it was a good time to have surgery …. I can just hunker down until I get cleared for a little more activity.

I’ve signed up for a few online art classes so I don’t lose my mind from boredom.

I’m not sure how long it will be until I’m allowed to hold my camera again ….?

Thank goodness my twelfth surgery is my last.

(I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence?  My life is so not normal!!)

I can’t wait to get a semblance of a real life back again!!

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Surgery #12

Update:

I had Surgery #12 on Tuesday.

I opted NOT to spend the night in the hospital.

My arm is in a soft cast type thing and it’s very big.

I can’t use my right hand at all which sucks because I’m right handed.

My pain level is very high, but that should get better each day?

I’m sleeping a lot because DRUGS.

I’ll update again when I can.

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December 14, 2016

Hello, hello!

I’m completely failing at year-end blogging.

I apologize, but with family visiting, the holiday rush, etc., I keep finding myself a few hours short each day.

Beautiful Maui, Hawaii sunset.

I stopped in today primarily just to let everyone know I’m FINE.

I will try to pop in with a post or photo now and then before 2017 arrives,

But, at the same time, NO PROMISES.

Christmas is in 11 days and my surgery is in 13.

Family is visiting … and more and more guests will be arriving/visiting all the way through mid-January.

(!!!!)

When/if I get a break in the action I’ll try to find some alone time to write.

But, if I don’t show up here, I want to wish you all a great holiday season.

As you know, 2016 was The Worst Year Ever for me.

Seriously, 2016 kicked my ass.

I’m so glad it will soon be behind me.

I don’t know how soon I’ll be able to post after Surgery #12.

I’ll probably dictate a post to my laptop to let you know I’m back home and recovering.

(I don’t think I’ll be able to type/write/use my hand/arm for quite awhile.)

Paul Newman tells me it’s a “big surgery” and I know, like many tendon surgeries, it will be a long, slow, recovery.

BUT …

2017 will be a much better year – I just KNOW it.

Also, I’m working on some goals for 2017 and being a much better blogger is definitely one of them.

I appreciate every single reader who has stuck with me through the challenges I’ve had this last year.

I hope all of you have a beautiful, wonderful, special holiday season.

Much love always …. Suzanne  xo

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December 9, 2016

There are, approximately, two more weeks until Christmas.

My family begins arriving at the beginning of next week. (!!!)

I’ve been running around like a mad woman trying to get as much done as possible before I have extra bodies in the house.

(Speaking of “the house” …  my house is a MESS!)

Frank and Fred are fed up with the decrease in my attention lately.

“Really, Mom?  You’re leaving us for errands AGAIN?”  Frank the Newf (10 months), Fred the Newf (2 years)

They’ll be spoiled soon (and for many weeks!) with lots of extra people here to play with them.

I’m starting to freak out about Surgery #12 which is now only eighteen days away.

I’ve done a pretty good job of putting thoughts of the surgery away in a box in my brain (a Brain Box?) and refusing to think about it.

(It’s called compartmentalizing, Suzanne!!)

But, the closer the surgery gets, the more often I feel flashes of panic and sheer terror hit me at odd and unpredictable times.

(Yes, I know.  I definitely have PTSD from all the surgeries.)

There are no words for the jumble of emotions I’m trying to suppress.

I keep trying to shove the fear, and panic, and terror, back into my Brain Box and slam the lid shut.)

Most of the time, I’m glad I’m busy with holidays and family because distraction helps.

On the other hand, I’ll only have one day after Christmas to catch my breath before the surgery ….

And, even then, I’ll still have family visiting.

In the meantime, I have pre-op tests, and visits, to squeeze into an insanely busy schedule.

I also have a few more gifts to purchase, a tree to decorate, lots of presents to wrap, a ton of cooking and baking to do, etc., etc.

But, along with all the chaos, I keep reminding myself how far I’ve come in the last twelve months.

A year ago at Christmas, I couldn’t do ANYTHING with my arm and I was in terrible pain.

I’ve progressed by leaps and bounds.

I know the next six months will *feel like* I’m going backwards ….

With pain, with the loss of function … with an increase in PT visits and doctor’s visits.

But, hopefully, when it’s all said and done I’ll (finally!) be able to have a fresh start to my life.

And, in the meantime …?

There’s a gigantic Christmas tree standing in my living room just waiting to be decorated.

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Instant Pot!

Last week, I wrote a post about the air fryer I’ve recently begun “learning” how to cook with.

I like to share information about products around the holiday season in case you’re thinking of making a purchase.

Today, I want to tell you about my Instant Pot pressure cooker, because I honestly think it’s the best kitchen gadget in the world.

But, before I get started, I wanted to add one last thing regarding my Air Fryer post last week.

Right after writing that post, I attempted cooking fries again.

I used one large russet potato cut into half inch strips, one teaspoon of olive oil, and some seasoning.

The fries came out GREAT and they were very crispy.  (See?  I’m learning!)

One large russet potato made plenty as a side dish for two people.

(It was probably enough for three people, but … yum yum!!)

Okay, now back to the Instant Pot.

instantpot

An Instant Pot is a modern, very updated, pressure cooker but it’s also so much more.

I remember my mom cooking with a pressure cooker (on the stove) and worrying about whether it might blow up.

Instant Pot is electric and has ten (!) built in safety features.

Isn’t everything so much better when you don’t blow up the kitchen??

It really is SO EASY to use.

(I’ll admit, when I first took it out of the box I was a bit intimidated – but that didn’t last long.)

I did the manufacturer’s recommended “water test,” and then I began cooking.

I can make steel cut oats in less than ten minutes.

I can hard “boil” ten eggs in 2-3 minutes.

Homemade soup is a breeze.

Ribs are melt in your mouth tender!

Butternut and/or acorn squash … easy-peasy!

(Seriously, I don’t even cut a huge butternut squash before cooking it! I put it into the Instant Pot whole.  Cutting a raw butternut squash is difficult for most people and impossible for me with my bum arm.  Fifteen minutes of pressure cooking and it’s done!)

Whole artichokes?  Never tasted better!

The Instant Pot has a saute feature so you can brown a piece of meat prior to turning on the pressure feature.

The meat comes out beautifully browned, and falling off the bone tender.

It even has a feature so it can be used as a slow cooker, and another feature so it can be used as a rice cooker.

Yes, that’s right, you can get rid of your crock pot and rice maker and have ONE device that does almost everything.

There are several preset options on it, and there’s also a manual button which gives you a lot of flexibility.

When something is done cooking, the Instant Pot switches into “Keep Warm” mode.

It’s a great feature which allows me to prepare something, walk away, and not have to worry about it.

Lots and lots of people make yogurt in their Instant Pots also.

I haven’t tried it yet, because for some reason, the very thought intimidates me.

But, I’ve been told it’s VERY easy so I’ll gather my courage and try it sometime soon.

Afterall, I love Greek yogurt, so why not make my own?

Cheesecake made in an Instant Pot is also very popular.

(Again, this isn’t something I’ve tried myself yet.  I might try it at Christmas.)

Instant Pot comes in a few different models and sizes.

I purchased the newest version in the six quart, most versatile, size.  (Instant Pot IP DUO60)

It stays on my kitchen counter all the time because I use it so frequently.

They also make an eight quart size for those of you who cook for a lot of people … and have the counter space for it.

(I’ve heard many people like their Instant Pot so much they end up with multiples!)

Honestly, I really, really, LOVE my Instant Pot!

I purchased mine on a one-day sale via Amazon – for less than half price.

They’re also available at WalMart and via the Instant Pot website.

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Air Fryer!

A few weeks ago, I purchased a GoWise Air Fryer.

One of my friends has been raving about his air fryer (the same model I bought) for over a year and it made me curious.

As soon as mine arrived, I began cooking/experimenting.

 

airfryer

GoWise 5.8 qt AirFryer

As background, I normally never fry food.

All I knew about air fryers was that they’re supposed to be convenient to use, a healthy way to cook, and create a “crispiness” similar to what you get if you fry food.

wing-suzanne-haggerty-2016-w

Crispy Chicken Wing – Cooked in my Air Fryer

I also have to tell you, I’m by no means an expert at using my air fryer.

I’m very much a beginner, but I wanted to share with you my initial thoughts.

So far, what I like most about my air fryer is the convenience.

Most foods cook much faster than they would in a conventional oven.

It’s also extremely easy to use and easy to clean after using.

(The basket the food cooks in is nonstick and dishwasher safe.)

I find myself using my air fryer a lot when I need to fix a meal just for myself.

Why heat up my conventional oven, dirty pans, etc., when you can cook a piece of chicken in 20 minutes with nearly no mess?

Also, most foods require NO oil, a spritz of oil from a mister, or (at most) a tablespoon of oil.

Using an air fryer really is a healthy way to cook.

But, I’m also definitely experiencing a beginner’s learning curve.

Knowing how long to cook things has been my biggest challenge.

The first time I cooked chicken breasts, I followed an air fryer recipe.

The chicken breasts came out dry and overcooked.

Now that I’ve done it a few times, they come out great … but I had to experiment a little before I got it right.

While I had guests here, I “air fried” a very large batch of sweet potato fries.

They tasted great, but they weren’t very crispy.

I was disappointed with the lack of crispiness.

I did some research afterward, and I *think* the problem was that I cooked too large of a batch?

An air fryer cooks by circulating hot air around the food.

Small batches of food seem to cook better than large batches.

One of my favorite things, so far, is to toss a medley of vegetables into the air fryer with a light spritzing of olive oil.

Five minutes later I have perfectly “roasted” vegetables.

It’s easy, fast, healthy, and tasty too.

I’m going to cook a whole chicken in it sometime soon.

I also plan to attempt fries again next week.

I think cooking some foods in small batches might be a hassle for people cooking for big families.

But, on the other hand, if you’re cooking for just a few people, an air fryer might be perfect for you.