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In a world of chaos, I find my happy place in the kitchen


Chicken, potatoes and green beans prepared in an air fryer – simple fare and not too shabby!

By Murray Schulman

I have been thinking about the fact that we are already a few months into the new year. Time seems to be flying by. The grandchildren are entering or are well into their teens, and my little granddaughter will soon celebrate her fist birthday.

The family dynamic is changing. The world at large is strange and chaotic. I do my best to cling to the familiar whenever possible. What could be more familiar than food?

We all know that last year and even so far this year, we have all been on the lookout for connections and interactions that will hold our interests and occupy our minds. I decided to join two groups online. One group is named “I love All Things Italian.” I’ll bet you can’t guess what this group is about. Yes, it is about all things Italian. We post pictures and talk about Italian food, Italian art, Italian style architecture and our favorite spots in Italy. There is always something interesting in this group.

My favorite group by far is just a fun group with a name that may give you a moment’s pause. This group is called “Food Porn.” Don’t panic; let me explain. The founders of the group were looking for a catchy name for this group of foodies. After all, food is sexy. In this group, we post pictures and talk about just one thing: Food! The group is 1,500 members strong and we self-enforce our rules. Our topic here is strictly food. Cooking food, eating food, showing off food and talking about food. The best part of being part of these groups is that it is pure distraction from everything around us. No politics, no griping, no complaining, no profanity. Group members can just stay on topic or find another place to pontificate about whatever they want.

I find these groups to be fun and entertaining. After all, food is one of my favorite topics. Yet, as my readers will attest, I am not a food snob. One can be a foodie without being a food snob. The two do not have to go hand in hand. Let me show you what I mean: For Liz’s birthday, we invited the kids along with our grands. Basically, the family bubble. I made a very nice spread including Caesar salad, hand-made tagliatelle with Bolognese, hand-rolled meatballs, good bread and a beautiful hand-shredded 12-year old Reggiano Parmesan.

OK, this dinner was on the fancy side. It looked amazing and tasted even better. On another night, it was just the two of us. We both had been working on our own projects and I hadn’t really given much thought to dinner. Eventually, a deep grumbling in my stomach suggested that I may want to address the topic. My immediate inclination was to order a pizza and some wings. Not much thought or effort required, and they deliver.  Liz reminded me in her gentle way that we have been eating way too much “junk food.” I started to argue that pizza is not “junk food, “but a complete, well rounded meal consisting of all the food groups. I won’t elaborate as you can just imagine how that discussion went.

I wisely decided that I had better check out the refrigerator to see what I could find. I discovered a nice package of boneless chicken breast, some tavern ham, cheese, a few potatoes and a package of whole green beans. I also had a bottle of honey mustard and a jar of white horseradish.

I breaded up the chicken and cut up the potatoes. After seasoning the potatoes, I popped the chicken and potatoes into our brand new Power XL air fryer. While that was cooking, I prepared the green beans with just a pinch of salt and pepper and a spritz of olive oil. When the last 10 minutes was indicated on the fryer, I paused the cycle. I had already mixed the horseradish with the honey mustard. I spread a generous layer of this mixture evenly on the top surface of the chicken. I covered the mustard horseradish coating with a couple of slices of ham and topped it all with the cheese. I closed the air fryer and resumed the cycle. While the chicken and potatoes finished, I sauteed the green beans. As the beans hit the perfect color and texture, the cycle timer beeped and I was ready to serve.

This was not too shabby for a throw-together meal. Plus, it had plenty of flavor. That air fryer does a great job producing a crispy finish on the chicken and perfectly cooked roasted potatoes. This is a nifty kitchen device that actually works well. The presets that are built into the device make life easy by minimizing the guess work.

I shared the photo with my friends in the Food Porn group and got lots of oohs and ahhs.

In today’s world, it is up to each of us to find something fun and enjoyable to do. Keep your bubble tight, wear a mask, wash your hands and do some cooking. Be creative and innovative. Food doesn’t need to be fancy to be delicious. Stay safe.

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