Dear Readers: Here we go ... the air fryer. Do you have one? What do you think of it? How do you use yours?

The air fryer has been around for about 10 years, drawing foodies away from the traditional convection oven, which became standard in homes in the 1940's.

Because the air fryer is a contained, high-pressure, smaller unit, its temperature is easily controlled. An air fryer can heat up to around 500 F and cook foods in a matter of minutes. It typically takes just 5 minutes or so to preheat and, again, because of the small size, a fan circulates this super-concentrated hot air.

Instead of submerging foods in boiling oil to fry them, the air fryer "fries" foods with only a thin coating of oil that you apply.

About that oil: Proper prep is important. Pat foods (chicken, fish, veggies, potatoes, etc.) dry with paper towels. Brush just a tiny bit of oil evenly over food, and the food will brown evenly. Too much oil will result in a soggy product.

As you might deduce, cooking with the air fryer is a healthier way to go because of the smaller quantity of fats and oils. Foods come out crispy, with a lighter, fresh taste and, with accessories included with some air fryers, you may have the option to impart grill marks on foods.

Some air fryers even hold foods and keep them warm, and baking cookies and dehydrating fruits are other options the air fryer can perform. Read that owner's manual.

Air fryers sell for anywhere from just under $100 to $200 or more. — Heloise

Organization nation

Dear Heloise: One of the best ways to start my day is simply to wake up and smile. It sets the tone for the whole day. Your readers should try it! — Elise W. in Ohio

Another brick in the toilet

Dear Heloise: We bought an older home to renovate and found a brick in the toilet tank. What's that about? — Kelsey R. in Minnesota

Kelsey, one word: displacement. Older toilets required tremendous amounts of water to operate — sometimes 3 to 5 gallons of water per flush, compared to just over 1 gallon per flush for newer toilets. Folks would put a brick in the toilet to fill in some of that space in the tank, and therefore needing less water.

With your reno, are you replacing the toilets? If you keep the original toilet, you can keep the brick in there, but wrap it in a plastic bag. The brick can disintegrate and damage your pipes. — Heloise

April Fools' Day

Dear Readers: Today is April 1, traditionally known as a fun and spunky day to pull innovative but harmless pranks on friends and family. Its origin is vague, but it began hundreds of years ago.

April Fools' Day can elicit mixed emotions; some find the tricks silly and ridiculous. Others find humor and stress relief in a good laugh and an amusing practical joke. — Heloise

Send a money-saving or timesaving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, Texas 78279-5001, or you can fax it to 1-210-HELOISE or email it to Heloise@Heloise.com.

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