Friday, October 18, 2013

Chicken Breasts and the Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

Have you noticed that most of the stuff that is on sale is highly processed and full of chemicals and gunk like that? Plain meat, poultry, dairy, fruits and vegetables are much less likely to be on sale. Sigh.

Marsh has Ragu pasta sauces for $1, and family packs of boneless skinless chicken breasts for $2 per pound. Pork steaks and Western Style ribs, both of which come from the shoulder, are $1.99 per pound. Cabbage is 50 cents a pound, and various kinds of leaf lettuce (romaine, green leaf, red leaf and butter lettuce) are $1.25 each. Ketchup and mustard are $1 each. Some frozen vegetables are $1 each for 16 oz packages, which is definitely worth checking out.

Aldi has a bunch of baking things on sale this week. Mostly equipment, but they do have some “Holiday Baking Spices” for $1.69. The ad shows cloves and ginger and says “assorted varieties,” so apparently there are more at that price, too. They also have extracts (the picture is almond extract) for $1.99 each.

On a healthier note, Aldi also has some great buys on fresh veggies. Onions are 3 pounds for 89 cents. Mushrooms are 8 ounces for 89 cents. Zucchini and bell peppers are 99 cents for a three-pack. Milk is $1.69 per gallon, and eggs were $1.29 a dozen when I was there Wednesday. They still had some good sized pumpkins for $1.99 each, though they weren’t on sale so I don’t how much longer they’ll have them.

Kroger has 24 oz cartons of cottage cheese for $1.99, and some cheeses $1.99 for six to eight oz packages. Red or green leaf lettuce is 99 cents a head. Pork chops and spareribs are $1.97 a pound, and so is boneless skinless chicken breast.

A few weeks ago I gave some recipes using the 10 pound bags of chicken leg quarters from Walmart for $5.90 a bag, or 59 cents a pound. They’re a better buy than the boneless skinless chicken breasts that both Marsh and Kroger have, but some people have a strong preference for white meat rather than dark, or they don’t have the time to cut up the leg quarters, or they don’t have a need for a 10 pound bag. Today I’ll give some recipes that call for boneless skinless breast.

Personally, I prefer the dark meat. White meat tends to be dry, at least when I cook it. Which may be because I don’t cook it very often and don’t really know what I’m doing. Because it is leaner than the dark meat, white meat cooks more quickly, and it dries out if it’s overcooked. Sauces may help keep it moist.

The first recipe is for STUFFED CHICKEN BREAST. If you want to get fancy, you can pound them flat, but I just cut them in half cross-wise. There will be lots of pan juices from the butter and the juices from the chicken itself, so be sure there’s something to sop them up. Spaghetti squash would be good, or chopped or pureed broccoli, or pureed cauliflower. In case you’re wondering why I never suggest rice or pasta or potatoes, there are two reasons. First, I don’t think they are good for you. There is a lot of research that says so, though I’ll grant you that there’s research that says that anything and everything is good for and more research saying that it’s not! The other reason is that I said when I started this column that I would present recipes and menus that cost about $1.50 per serving for a whole meal, without using rice or pasta or dried beans or potatoes or bread or noodles or ramen or other “fillers.” So I don’t include them and don’t suggest them.

Using cottage cheese instead of ricotta (it will make a lumpier filling, but it will taste about the same) and parmesan instead of Asiago, it comes to less than $4.00, or less than $1.00 per serving. I got a big spaghetti squash for $3.00 at the Farmers Market a few weeks ago, and it will make at least 6 to 8 cups of “spaghetti.” If it makes 6 cups, that’s 50 cents a cup, which is typically one serving. If it makes more than 6 cups, then you can either have bigger servings or cut the cost per serving. You could buy 2 pounds of broccoli cuts at Walmart for 98 cents each, and serve the chicken over it. 8 ounces per serving would cost 50 cents and keep you below $1.50 per serving. You could probably get generous servings of pureed cauliflower and keep it under $1.50, too.

I don't know how "Mexican" it is (probably not very), but at least QUICK AND EASY MEXICAN CHICKEN is quick and easy. Well, definitely easy, and quick in terms of hands on time, though it does have to bake for 40 minutes. Which should give you plenty of time to make the side dishes and get a load of laundry started while supper is cooking. The total cost for this is about $3.60, or 90 cents per serving. Add a three pack of zucchini from Aldi (99 cents), sliced and lightly sautéed or steamed, and a head of lettuce ($1.09 at Aldi), quartered, with ranch dressing, and it will come to right around $6.00. That’s about $1.50 per serving, depending on how much dressing you use. Or you could use two cans of green beans (49 cents each at Aldi) instead of the zucchini and still stay at about $6.00. The salsa, cheese and sour cream are all at Aldi’s regular prices.

I have stayed away from anything with mushrooms in it, because they are usually pretty pricey. Aldi has them for such a great price this week, though, that I’m going to include a couple of recipes with mushrooms today. The first one is BAKED CHICKEN BREASTS WITH ZUCCHINI AND MUSHROOMS. Unfortunately, I don’t know where I got the recipe. It uses chicken breast, mushrooms, and onion, all of which are on sale this week. If you can get zucchini at the Farmers Market, go for it! Otherwise, you can use the 3-packs of zucchini at Aldi. If you can get a fresh tomato at the Farmers Market, use it. Otherwise, drain a can of diced tomatoes and use them. Save the juice from the tomatoes to drink or to put in soup.

Assuming that you are using one 3-pack of zucchini from Aldi plus one extra zucchini (and using the other 2 zucchini for something else), and a fresh tomato, the total cost of this should be between $5.50 and $6.00, depending on the cost of the tomatoes. Marsh has hydroponic or beefsteak tomatoes for $2 a pound, which I’m guessing is what they would cost at the Farmers Market this late in the season. Half a pound of tomatoes should yield about a cup of chopped tomatoes, which would make it just under $6.00. It would be about $5.50 if you use canned tomatoes. This makes four big servings, so you shouldn’t need anything to go with it. The cost per serving, is right about $1.50.

Finally, my favorite mushroom recipe, SAUTEED MUSHROOMS AND ONION. As far as I know, I pretty much made up the recipe myself, and my guests usually like it. It’s too expensive to make very often if I have to pay full price for the mushrooms, but with them so cheap this week they will definitely be on the menu at my house. This will cost a little under $2.00, and will serve about two people as a side dish, or four people in an omelet, or three or four people if you add some cooked chicken or pork. As a side dish for two, it would run about $1.00 per serving. In an omelet, with 3 eggs and a tablespoon of butter per person (actually, I’d probably make a scramble with it instead of omelet, adding it to scrambled eggs just before they were done – it’s lots easier that way, though not as elegant or fancy), it would run about 90 cents per serving, and it would make a good and filling breakfast or lunch. Or supper, especially if you added a salad. If you added 4 cups of cooked meat from a bag of chicken leg quarters from Walmart, the total cost would be about $4.40, or $1.10 per person for 4 servings. You could serve a pound of frozen broccoli (99 cents at Walmart) as a side dish and still stay under $1.50 per person. Or a couple of cans of green beans (49 cents each at Aldi), or a head of lettuce with dressing.

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