Friday, November 1, 2013

Chicken Thighs and the Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

There are some good prices this week, in both meat and produce. Seems like that doesn’t happen very often. Pumpkins aren’t advertised, but there’s a good chance that there will be some left at the stores and they may be discounted. It’s worth taking a look, anyway.

Marsh has pork combo packs (ribs, chops and a roast) for 98 cents a pound. It all comes from the loin, so it should be pretty lean. Unfortunately, it comes in big packs, around 10 pounds or so, or $10 or more for the pack. There’s a limit of 2, and you have to buy $25 of other things to get the 98 cent price. I didn’t see $25 worth of other stuff in their ads that I want, so I may have to pass this up. It’s a shame, too, because it’s a great price. They also have fresh pork picnic roast, or the shoulder, for $1.29 per pound. The shoulder is my favorite piece of pork, though there’s a great big bone in there that means you get fewer servings per pound than usual. If you back out the cost of the bone that you’re buying with the shoulder roast, you’re probably looking at about $2.00 per pound for the meat itself. But it sure is good eating!

Kroger has chicken drumsticks, thighs or whole fryers for 87 cents a pound. The thighs at that price are probably comparable to the leg quarters at Walmart for 59 cents a pound, since there’s more meat on the thigh than there is on the drumstick or the bit of back that’s on the leg quarters. It depends, too, on how you’re going to be eating them. If you’ve got people who want “a piece” of chicken and are happy with either a drumstick or a thigh, then the leg quarters that you cut into individual pieces are a better deal. But if you’ll be taking the meat off the bone anyway, then the thighs may be better. They’re definitely less work. Kroger also has eggs 4 dozen for $5, and celery for 99 cents. Mini carrots are 99 cents a pound. Cream cheese is $1 for an 8-ounce block, and sour cream is $1 per pint.

As usual, Aldi’s best buys are for produce and dairy. They have sweet potatoes 3 pounds for $1.49, or 50 cents a pound. Multi-colored peppers are $1.49 for a three pack, or 50 cents per pepper. Celery is 89 cents a head, and baby carrots are 89 cents a pound. Red onions are 99 cents for a 2-pound bag, or 50 cents a pound. Broccoli is $1.49 for a 1-pound package, which isn’t a bad price, depending on how much stalk there is and how much of the crowns. Don’t forget to save the stalks. If you peel them, they’re very good. Other than produce, their regular price for butter is back down to $1.99 per pound, and cream cheese is 99 cents for 8 ounces. Canned pumpkin (plain canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling) is 89 cents a can, which is a great price. Ricotta is $1.79 for 15 ounces, and the Aldi brand of condensed cream of celery soup is 59 cents a can. (As far as I’m concerned, you can use cream of celery soup, cream of mushroom soup, and cream of chicken soup interchangeably in casseroles. They’re mostly there to bind the casserole together rather than to add any flavor. But that’s just my opinion.) 

Speaking of condensed CREAM OF WHATEVER SOUP, did you know you can make your own? I don’t know how much a batch of this mix costs, but I’m guessing it’s less than $2. It makes about 3 cups of mix, or about 9 cans of soup substitute. So figure probably about 20 cents per “can,” versus usually a dollar or more if it comes in the red and white cans.

I like the price on chicken thighs (that’s my favorite piece of chicken), so I’ll go with that today for recipes. Check out the chicken and turkey recipes in my previous columns here, here, here, and here. You can use the chicken thighs in any of these recipes.

The first recipe, AFRICAN CHICKEN VEGETABLE SOUP, or MAFE, and the last recipe, CARIBBEANCHICKEN AND SQUASH, both call for skinned chicken thighs. Save the skin to make CHICKEN CHIPS or CHICKEN CRISPS, which is just chicken skin that's been baked to a crispy crunchy treat. If I’m roasting or baking chicken or turkey, I usually leave the skin on. It’s best cooked on the meat. But if I’m cooking chicken or turkey in the crockpot or stewing it on top of the stove, or making something that calls for removing the skin, then I always take it off and make Chicken Chips out of it. Actually, I think I’ll call it by its other name, GRIBENES. It sounds better, doesn’t it? Fancier, more elegant. But don’t knock it till you’ve tried it! Isn’t the crispy skin on fried or roast chicken the best part? Well, here you get just that best part all by itself.

AFRICAN CHICKEN VEGETABLESOUP, or MAFE, uses those thighs that you just yanked the skin off of. Like most soup recipes, it’s pretty flexible. I’m calling for thighs, but you could just as easily use a whole chicken, cut into serving pieces. Or whatever your favorite pieces are. You can vary the vegetables, too, but do use the onion and sweet potatoes. Assuming that your four thighs weighed two pounds, you didn’t use the optional turnip, and you ground your own peanut butter at Bloomingfoods, the total cost of this is about $5.00, or $1.25 per serving. They are big servings, and a bowl of this should be a meal in itself. You could add a green salad if you wanted to. A head of iceberg lettuce has been running between $1.00 and$1.25. Let’s call it $1.20 to make the math easy, and say it’s 20 cents for a sixth of a head. Add a couple of tablespoons of dressing (Have you ever tried peanut butter on lettuce? It’s delish!) and you’re up to about $1.55 per person, for a big bowl of the stew, a good chunk of lettuce, and some salad dressing.

This next recipe, for CHEESE-CRUSTED CHICKENWITH CREAM, is really rich. But scrumptious! It makes four servings for about $3.60, or about 90 cents per serving. Serve it with broccoli, and pour the sauce over the broccoli, too. It will help cut the richness. Two 1-pound bags of broccoli cuts cost $1.96 at Walmart, or 49 cents per serving for an 8 ounce serving, which brings the total to $1.39 per person. You could add a carrot for each person, either raw or cooked, and bring the cost per person to just about exactly $1.50, or less if you cut back on the broccoli.

The final recipe, CARIBBEAN CHICKEN AND SQUASH, uses the butternut squash that Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard has at the moment. I have been making a point of not using foods from the Hub, because not everyone is eligible to shop there, and as sure as I say to use something, they won’t have it anymore. But Kayte said that they have lots of butternut squash, so I’m going to go ahead and include the recipe. This costs about $2.75 for four servings if you use squash from the Hub, or about 70 cents per serving. Serve it with a green salad and some fruit and you can still keep it under $1.50 per person. If you have to buy your own squash, figure an extra 50 cents per serving.

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