Cooking with Susie

April 20, 2018 11:58 am

My mother in-law and I have a lot in common, which is one of the reasons we get along so well. I always talk about how my husband managed to marry a woman that is somehow simultaneously so similar to, and the exact opposite of his mother. For example, we both made our wedding dresses. Another thing that we have in common is cooking.

When I was in the service, my main job for over three years was in the kitchen. First as a line cook, then shift leader and baker. I love cooking. I can put out a four-course meal for six people in less than an hour. I can host holidays or wine and tapas for a bunch of friends alfresco. My mother in-law once trusted me with brunch for her sister and her husband, and I nailed it. This year, I’m hosting Mother’s Day Brunch for about fifteen adults and five kids. I have put out hot meals out of trucks and I have fed twelve hundred people for lunch. I can crack an egg with one hand. I know my way around a kitchen.

For years my mother in-law worked as a culinary instructor for a non-profit organization whose main objective is to gather food and other essentials to meet the needs of the under privileged in our community. Basically, they take donations and people can just walk in and ask for food, milk, baby formula, diapers and even toilet paper all for free! Their students cook lunch that they sell at a very reasonable price.

The students that she instructed were mostly under-privileged youth trying to build a better life for themselves, and a bunch of them went on to get fancy cooking jobs in fancy restaurants. I think one of them even got a really fancy restaurant in New York City, because she was that good. When the mother in-law couldn’t cook all day anymore, she went to help on the administration side. And when that became too much, she joined the board of directors. She’s the President now.

Are you guys seeing the similarities yet?

I call her when I have questions. And she calls me when she’s found a new kitchen gadget. Whether by video chatting or texting, this is normally how the conversation goes:

“Hey…mother in-law…,” I’ll say.

“Susie, have you heard of this new thing?” she’ll ask.

“No, I have not, but I will look into it,” I’ll answer.

“Well, let me know if you need one, because I hear they’re great,” she’ll say.

“Yes, I need it,” I’ll say.

While this might be a simplification, it could be applied to a lot of our kitchen gadget conversations. About a week later I have a new toy to play with and 2kicks and I get to the cooking!

A good gadget that we have is the vegetable spiralizer. We make zucchini noodle pad Thai and curly fries. The noodles are important because I don’t eat any pasta of any kind, ever. Another good one is the avocado pit remover and guacamole maker. It’s a metal stick. One end has a pit remover and there is a smasher on the other end. It also works for melons, pumpkins, squashes, peppers, and a bunch of other good stuff, which makes life easier for someone who only eats fruits and vegetables. I recently got the Instant Pot which is amaze-balls! I made the weird, chewy, brown rice in twenty-two minutes and even 2kicks ate it (the mother in-law hates brown rice, it doesn’t have any flavor, she says). But me, even when I did eat everything, I only liked brown rice. The Instant Pot can make chicken broth in a little over an hour, which is a process that would normally take me eight hours!

However, anyone that has talked to me for more than a few minutes, knows that the all-time favorite by far, is the Air Fryer. I love it and use it so much, that I have two. They live side by side in their own kitchen area. It’s so useful that we don’t have a toaster, or microwave, or toaster oven, and unless it’s a large pizza, I hardly ever turn on my oven. It even has a keep warm setting.

What’s so amazing about it? Well, it doesn’t cook with heat, it cooks with forced heated air. Just like frying with oil, which is what gives it its name, the hot air gets everywhere pretty much at the same time, cooking evenly, faster and crunchier. And by using a lot less oil and fat, it’s just healthier. Plus, my house is super old with no insulation. If I turn the oven on in the summer, the temperature won’t come down past 85 degrees, even with the AC at full blast. The air fryer helps me keep my house cool.

I love fried chicken. I always have. When I was younger, KFC was my chain restaurant of choice. As I got older, like many other things, I can’t eat that anymore. But what I can do is air fry a whole chicken in less than an hour, and it is delicious! I can’t have French Fries, because duh! But I can have air fried potato wedges and sweet potato fries. And those zucchini noodles I mentioned earlier, wholly molly are they good air fried! Crunchy and salty tossed with a little garlic and crushed cashew nuts. The husband loves brussel sprouts with onions and mushrooms, a little salt and pepper, air fried with a little avocado oil. We only get to eat avocado oil, grape seed oil, and coconut oil. We eat olive oil, but only raw. If you know anything about those oils, it’s that they are not cheap. But with the air fryer, we use so little of them, that we get to stay in our budget, have a healthy diet and still have all the fried naughtiness pretty much every day.

2kicks loves ketchup. I have no idea how this happened, because the husband doesn’t care for it, and I straight up hate it. But the mother in-law loves it! (There’s another one of the opposites). And one of my sisters and a nephew also love it. They put that on everything! So, it might be genetic, who knows. Either way, I now have to buy ketchup. But she can’t just have french fries and dino chicken nuggets every single meal, every single day, so I had to come up with some new food for her to dip. Costco has a five-pound bag of organic baby carrots for less than four dollars. It is like a match made in healthy gadget heaven. I came up with this recipe, and they are very good.

Please remember that cooking is an art and that all of these measurements are adaptable to your needs and except for the actual carrots, all ingredients are interchangeable.

Air Fried Baby Carrots


Baby carrots, enough to fill the air fryer just half.

Garlic, crushed, a tablespoon, but we love garlic.

Grape seed oil, no more than a tablespoon

Salt, not too much. Add some in the water and then when putting the carrots in the air fryer.


Basil, I use this on everything. It is known that Cleopatra used to bathe in it to clear her mind….


Rosemary, a must for me. It gives the carrots a more potato taste.

In a medium pot, put the carrots with salt in cold water and bring to a boil for a combined time of twelve to fifteen minutes. That about does it for me. You want the carrots to be al dente, not cooked. They should be a bit hard to put a fork through them. At the same time, make sure you heat up the air fryer for ten minutes at 400 degrees before the carrots are put in there, otherwise they don’t come out right. Drain them and put them back in the same pot, and add all the other ingredients. Mix well. Put everything in the air fryer. Fry for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Shake well, and fry for another five to ten minutes. And voila! Fully cooked on the inside, crunchy on the outside! Super healthy Carrot French Fries! 2kicks will eat the whole bag if I let her.

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