Friday, December 27, 2013

Lucky New Year's Foods and the Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! I did. I spent it with my family – Mom, three brothers, and some sisters-in-law and nieces. It was great to see everyone.

There’s really not much going on this week in the way of bargains. At least not bargains in the kind of food I eat and that I talk about in this column.

As usual, Aldi’s best buys are on fresh produce. Avocados are 49 cents each, Cucumbers are three for 99 cents. Baby carrots are 69 cents for a one pound package. Two peppers, one red and one yellow, are $1.49 for the two of them. Grape tomatoes are 99 cents for a pint, and celery is 89 cents a head.

The folks at Kroger have apparently heard of lucky foods for the New Year. They have corned beef for $1.97 a pound, and cabbage 4 pounds for a dollar. (That’s a fabulous price on cabbage! Buy some extra if you can. It keeps a long time in the fridge.) Canned black-eyed peas are 79 cents a can.

IGA in Ellettsville and Bedford has ground beef for $1.99 a pound. Cabbage is 39 cents a pound, which is not a great buy, but is cheaper than usual. Premade meatballs are 99 cents for 14 ounces, with a coupon from their flier. Dips and sour cream are 99 cents a pint (16 ounces).

As I said, not much this week in the way of bargains.

We’ll do something a bit different this week. Instead of concentrating on what’s on sale, this week’s recipes will be for lucky foods to eat on New Year’s Day. You’ve probably heard that it’s lucky to eat Hoppin’ John (a black-eyed pea dish) on New Year’s Day. But did you know that there are lucky foods for the New Year in many cultures? And they’re remarkably consistent, too. Greens, because they look like folding money and because they symbolize life. Pork, because pigs root forward, symbolizing progress. Beans, lentils, and other legumes, because they look like coins and because they swell when cooked, symbolizing increasing abundance. Long noodles, to symbolize long life (but be sure not to break them when cooking!). Cornbread, because it looks like gold. Round fruit, especially grapes, because they look like coins. Fish, because the scales look like coins. And lots of others.

A good place to start is with Southern style HOPPIN’ JOHN, GREENS, and CORNBREAD. You’ll get four lucky foods in that way! The HOPPIN’ JOHN recipe originally called for chicken stock, but I changed it to water, because it’s unlucky to eat chicken on New Year’s Day. That’s because chicken’s scratch backwards, symbolizing lack of progress. The ham hock (pork) and the black eyed peas are both lucky foods. The recipe makes ten servings, which is a lot, but you’re supposed to eat the leftovers on the 2nd as Skippin’ Jenny, to symbolize frugality and even more prosperity in the New Year. A whole recipe of Hoppin’ John will cost between $4.00 and $5.00 and will make ten servings. Let’s call it 50 cents a serving, just to make the math easy.

Collards and kale are the traditional Southern greens to serve on New Year’s Day, but cabbage is the traditional lucky green in Germany and Sweden. And cabbage is on sale this week.  Cole slaw would go well with Hoppin’ John, and would be lucky. But I’ll give Paula Deen’s recipe for COLLARD GREENS, just to keep with the Southern theme. Her recipe calls for another tablespoon of seasoned salt, but that’s too salty for me, especially with the salt in the ham hocks. You can add it if you want to, though I’d wait and add it at the end, if you think it still needs it. 

I didn’t check the price on collards, but I’m guessing that this would cost about $3.00, or about 75 cents a serving. And finally, some cornbread. Just make your own favorite recipe, or use Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix. Add some canned corn if you like. The nuggets of corn look like nuggets of gold, for even more prosperity in 2014! The whole meal, then, of Hoppin’ John (half the recipe – don’t forget to save some for Skippin’ Jenny the day after New Year’s Day), Collard Greens, and cornbread, will cost right around $6.00, or about $1.50 per person. You can add some extra luck by having fruit for dessert. Something round, like an orange (which looks like gold!) or some grapes.

In Italy, the traditional lucky food for New Year’s Day is lentils and pork, as in this recipe for LENTIL-ESCAROLESOUP WITH SAUSAGE. The idea is the same as with Hoppin’ John – pork is lucky because pigs root forward, symbolizing progress, and the lentils look like coins and swell when cooked, symbolizing abundance and prosperity. This soup includes greens, too, for even more good luck! Again, I’ve substituted water for chicken broth, because it’s unlucky to eat chicken on New Year’s Day. A batch of this costs about $4.50. Cornbread would go well with this, too, and of course some round fruit.

Another meal with multiple lucky foods is FISH AND BOK CHOY NOODLE STIR FRY. It includes fish (lucky because the scales look like money and because fish swim around in schools, symbolizing abundance), greens (symbolizing money because they look like folded bills), and noodles (long noodles symbolizing long life). This one dish meal will cost about $5.00, leaving a dollar for some round fruit to finish off the meal.

Of course, you don’t have to eat meat to be lucky in 2014! SPAGHETTI WITH CREAMY SPINACH AND TARRAGON is vegetarian and includes long noodles (spaghetti) for long life and greens (spinach) for prosperity. This is one time when fresh spinach would be better than frozen. A batch of this costs about $4.00. You could add to your luck by also serving a lentil, black-eyed pea or bean salad, some corn bread, and some round fruit and keep the cost under $1.50 per person.

So there you have it. Lucky foods for a lucky start to a healthy and prosperous New Year. And even if you don’t believe that certain foods are lucky, these foods are also good for you and inexpensive, and a great and healthy way to start your New Year’s resolutions to eat healthy and save money in the New Year! 

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