For many people fall includes visiting an orchard to pick or buy apples. Maybe throw in a few donuts while you’re there for your once-a-year fresh cinnamon-sugar treat.
Then there is my family. Fall means running our small, eighty tree apple orchard. We step outside and pick apples on a daily basis for a month straight. We love chatting with friends, family, and new faces that visit to pick no-spray apples and get a little taste of life in the country. It truly is the highlight of our year, and my kids are doing an amazing job learning to run a small business.
This year we decided to add a u-pick pumpkin patch to our orchard. Since there was some extra room we planted more squash so we could have some to sell.
Normally I am the one visiting an orchard to stockpile squash. I roast three or four at a time and freeze the flesh to use in soups, casseroles, and muffins. Or to eat plain. We love squash, and always have quite a bit of frozen squash on hand to get through the winter.
So it caught me off guard this year when almost nobody wanted to buy squash.
I realized that not everyone eats squash like we do. It’s more of a few times a year on holidays veggie for most people. Whereas it’s a weekly staple for us.
I can’t say I was sad. No buyers meant more squash for us! And most of it is already in the freezer. But today I want to help turn this no-squash business around. If you think you or your kids don’t like squash, think again. And while we’re at it, I’ll share a secret way to make just about any vegetable appetizing for kids!
RELATED: Cook any squash in the Instant Pot easy peasy!
Kid-Friendly Vegetable: Air Fryer Fries
When air fryers were first gaining popularity a few years ago I wasn’t interested. I don’t really need one more big appliance to haul out and then spend my time washing by hand.
But as luck would have it, my husband won an air fryer in a drawing at work!
If I’ve got one, I might as well put it to use.
The first thing I made was french fries. Just basic, run of the mill fries made from potatoes.
The entire family agreed they were the best fries they’d ever tasted. Better than anything you’d get at a restaurant. Ever since I’ve had to make our homemade fries in the air fryer.
Being a busy homeschooling mom and Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, I never had time to learn how to make much more. But fries are a must with an air fryer!
Are Air Fryers Only for Low-Fat Cooking?
One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to air fryers is that they only for low-fat cooking. Not true.
I add plenty of healthy fats to our air fryer fries. In fact, it’s a great way to get kids to eat healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, tallow, and lard.
It’s really up to you how much or how little fat you want to add to your food. But even in an air fryer, healthy fats make the food taste better.
The other benefit is that you can enjoy foods that taste fried without having to spend a fortune on oil. I can’t afford to deep-fry potatoes in avocado oil. But I certainly can use a couple of tablespoons to cook them in the air fryer. So it’s a great money saver.
Air Fryer Squash Fries
Back to that squash. I have a love-hate relationship with it. I looooove to eat squash, but I haaaate prepping it. They are big and hard. Not to mention your hands get covered in squash and it’s hard to get off.
But I get over it because that love is so much stronger. The same goes for my kids. Our favorite way to eat squash is to peel and cube it, then roast it in the oven. The cubes get sweet and caramelized. It’s almost like candy. We even fight over the leftovers (I make sure to make a huge batch when I roast squash).
Once in awhile I fill the baking pan too full or I don’t have enough time to get them really well done and the squash ends up mushy. So one day I decided to pull out the air fryer and see if it was possible to make air fryer squash fries. The answer? Yes, it is! And they are worth every minute of effort it takes to peel a squash.
My kids fought over the first test batch I made, even though it was only nine in the morning! Air fryer squash fries are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. A healthy sprinkle of Real Salt adds the perfect touch. You don’t even need ketchup.
Just about any variety of squash will do. But our favorites are butternut and buttercup. They are really sweet. Avoid the stringier varieties like spaghetti squash.Print
- 1 large butternut or buttercup squash, or 2 large acorn squash, peeled, seeds removed, and cut into sticks
- 2 Tbsp. , avocado oil, melted tallow, melted lard, melted coconut oil, or melted butter
- to taste
- Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler. Cut in half and remove seeds. Cut the flesh into sticks about 1/2-in. thick.
- In a large bowl, mix the squash sticks with oil and a sprinkling of salt.
- Preheat the air fryer with the insert to 390 degrees F for 3 minutes.
- Add the squash sticks and any extra fat to the air fryer.
- Cook for 20 minutes, pausing to mix half way through.
- Add extra salt and serve immediately.
- You can make veggie fries with the same process using carrots, parsnips, beets, rutabaga, and kohlrabi.
- To make regular fries or sweet potato fries, soak the potato sticks in cold water for at least 30 minutes. Rinse and dry completely before mixing with the oil.
- Do not overfill the air fryer or the bottom fries will not get crispy. You may have to make the fries in two batches if you have a lot of squash. Keep the first batch crisp in a 300-degree F oven.
- Serving Size: 1 cup
- Calories: 60
- Sugar: 4.6g
- Sodium: 299mg
- Fat: 7.2g
- Saturated Fat: 1g
- Carbohydrates: 24.6g
- Fiber: 4.2g
- Protein: 2.1g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
Keywords: kid-friendly, vegetable, root vegetable
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Root Vegetable Air Fryer Fries
We know that regular potatoes and sweet potatoes make great fries. And now we know that squash can be transformed into fries. But what about other root vegetables?
Yes, it does take a little work to peel and chop root veggies. But your kids can handle that task! And they will be even more likely to eat the final product.
If you are making air fryer fries with any kind of potato make sure you soak the potatoes in cold water for at least a half-hour first (after peeling/cutting). Then dry the potatoes completely before mixing them with oil and salt. The soaking removes some of the starch and helps the potatoes get really crispy when cooked. No more soggy sweet potato fries!
Healthy Air Fryer Recipes
You are not limited to fries when it comes to cooking vegetables in the air fryer. And you’re not limited to root veggies. We’ve already talked about squash. But you can also do some of your typical veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts!
Have you ever had crispy Brussels sprouts? It’s a whole new experience than the mushy boiled version you grew up with.
When I work with parents struggling to get their kids to eat vegetables, I often suggest trying roasted veggies. But even that is too big of a hurdle for some kids.
Air fryer veggies are a great way to get those reluctant eaters to try some new vegetables. No mush involved.
How to Get Kids to Eat Vegetables
Of course, for some kids vegetables are non-negotiable. It’s just not happening. But, if they can dip their food, it might be the key to getting them to take a bite.
You can really make it fun by having a whole meal of finger food with dips.
- Homemade lunch meat sticks or homemade chicken nuggets dipped in honey mustard, pesto, or ketchup
- Air fryer veggie fries and potato fries dipped in ketchup, mayo, or hummus
- Fresh fruit dipped in breakfast hummus
Let your kids have fun and play with their food…in a good way! This will especially be great for your Adventurous Eaters. No more screaming about vegetables. Air fryer veggies to the rescue.
You may not want another big appliance in your kitchen. But even if you only use it to cook vegetables, it’s totally worth it if you have kids! Vegetables are always more fun and delicious when they are turned into air fryer veggie fries.