Friday, October 25, 2013

Turkey Breast, and the Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

No one has much in the way of specials this week except Marsh. Marsh has “family packs” (about 5 pounds each) of ground beef for $1.99 a pound, and Perdue split chicken breasts (with the skin and bone) for 99 cents a pound. I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure that boneless skinless chicken breasts are cheaper if you bone and skin them yourself than if you buy them already boned and skinned. And you get the skin to make Chicken Chips out, and the bones to make chicken broth out of. Boning and skinning them is really easy. Assorted pork chops are $1.79 a pound and, Saturday and Sunday only, they have bone-in turkey breast for 99 cents a pound. Nothing special when it comes to veggies, but that’s a nice assortment of meats on sale.

Aldi has milk for $1.69 a gallon, and Kroger has pork loin for $1.99 a pound, but that’s about all in the way of advertised specials. I did find eggs for $1.29 again at Aldi, and pie pumpkins for $1.98 each at Walmart.

Turkey is new here, so let’s go with that. I’ll start by giving a couple of different ways to cook the whole breast, and then a couple of recipes for using the leftovers. Of course, you can use cooked turkey in most recipes that call for cooked chicken.

A turkey breast is a great alternative to a whole turkey if you’ll just be feeding a few people. Figure on about 8 to 10 ounces of turkey, before cooking, per person, if you don’t want any leftovers. Figure about a pound of turkey per person if you’re cooking a whole bird. And don’t limit it to just the holidays. Turkey is good year round.

If you’re looking for a traditional roasted turkey, like for the holidays, try ROAST TURKEY BREAST WITH GRAVY, though of course you don’t need to make the gravy.

Assuming you use homemade chicken broth that you made from chicken bones and carcasses, this should cost about $6.60, and, again, should make about 10 servings. If you don’t want to make gravy, save the vegetables and de-fatted drippings for soup. Save the fat from the drippings to cook with.

The easiest way to cook a turkey breast is in the slow cooker. It doesn’t look as nice as if you roast it in the oven, but it’s easy and usually gives moist meat. SLOW COOKER TURKEY BREAST makes good leftovers for salads, sandwiches, soups, and casseroles. In fact, if you’re like me, you’ll be cooking the turkey more for the leftovers than for the first time around. To make the most of the leftovers, start by cutting off the two big chunks of meat on either side of the breast bone. Try to keep it in two pieces (one from each side) as much as you can. Slice one half across the grain for recipes that call for sliced turkey. Dice the other half in 1/2” to 1” pieces to use in salads and other recipes that call for diced or cubed turkey.

The turkey itself will cost about $6.00, and the soup mix, if you make it yourself, will cost about 25 cents, for a total of about $6.25. It should yield about 10 cups of diced cooked turkey, or about 62 cents per cup, plus some great turkey broth.

So, one way or another, you’ve got the turkey breast cooked. Now what are you going to do with the leftovers? The easiest thing, and something I do quite often, is to make a salad out of it. It can be as basic as TURKEY AND CELERY SALAD or as fancy as TURKEY WALDORF SALAD. Or you could make a Cobb-type salad with it, or a chef-type salad. Or whatever else you can come up with!

This makes four servings, and, to be honest, have no idea how much it costs because I haven’t priced walnuts or raisins lately. Or apples, for that matter. I’m pretty sure, though, that it’s under $6.00, or $1.50 per serving.

One more recipe, for a supper dish this time. I don’t know where I got the recipe that evolved into BROCCOLI, SPINACH AND CHICKEN CASSEROLE, but I do know it’s good and easy. And, of course, it works just as well with turkey as with chicken. In fact, I think it started as a turkey recipe.

This casserole costs about $5.60, and makes 4 servings, at $1.40 each. It’s a good meal by itself, or you could add some carrot and celery sticks for another 25 cents or so. You can make a good soup by thinning leftovers with some chicken broth, or with turkey stock from cooking the turkey breast.

Stay tuned for more recipes using leftover turkey as we get closer to Thanksgiving and Christmas!

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.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sinking our Teeth into Food Justice

After receiving the Harry Chapin Award from WhyHunger, we at Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard have been focused on building our efforts toward stronger food justice advocacy.  We have long offered garden, nutrition and youth garden education for the purpose of building community food security, and we are ready to take our efforts a step further.  Towards that end, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Tucson, Arizona for the “Closing the Hunger Gap” conference.  The conference focused on the important role that emergency food providers and food policy advocates play in building a healthy, just food system.
I was drawn to the conference because over my almost 7 years of working with Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard I have noticed a divide, especially on the national level, between emergency food providers and those working to build a more sustainable food system.  It is not a difficult divide to understand, as the work of providing emergency food is logistically intensive and leaves time for little else.  I have always been honored to be a part of an organization that was founded with a mission that involved so much more than emergency food, and I felt the Hub’s presence and program experiences would fit in well as the conference worked to build an agenda to bridge emergency food providers and food justice advocates.
The conference was hosted by the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, and the first day included tours lead by food bankers.  I chose the Cultivating Resilient Communities tour, which included a soup kitchen with a strong advocacy program, a community farm, a school with an incredible garden and farmer’s market program, and a project of the food bank’s home gardening program.  I was particularly blown away by the extent of food security work the food bank is involved in, from standard food banking to urban farming and connecting folks with assistance programs such as TANF (cash assistance) and SNAP (food stamps).  I particularly enjoyed visiting Las Milipitas, a community farm project associated with the food bank, where neighbors of the farm grow food and youth get involved in farm training apprenticeships.  This tour in particular gave me many ideas to bring back to Bloomington and MHC’s Crestmont Community Garden, which has endless opportunities for community engagement.
The second day was full of moving talks by key players in the food movement such as food policy advocate, author, and professor Jan Poppendieck, and author and professor Gary Paul Nabhan as well as workshops on pressing issues in the food banking and food policy worlds.  My first session discussed “policy partnerships” and what we as emergency food programs can do to influence policy that affects hunger and poverty.  I was blown away by the policy work being done at Gleaners Food Bankin Detroit, and Alameda County Community Food Bank in Oakland.  In Alameda County food bankers build relationships with elected officials, and share advocacy efforts with member agencies.  They also engage in community organizing, and have a client advocacy group, “Community Advocates Against Hunger”.
Next I chose a workshop detailing the Oregon Food Bank’s F.E.A.S.T. program, a successful method for building community around issues of food insecurity and hunger.  FEAST workshops engage community members in facilitated discussions about food security and help community members to build an agenda for taking action.   I was thrilled to bring this information and model back home to share with ourBloomington Food Policy Council, as they work toward building community cohesion around food issues.  My final workshop was Hands-On Food Security Evaluation, which detailed the many different ways to track impact in food programs.  I was particularly excited by the RE-AIM (Reach, Effect, Adoption of Program, Implementation, Maintenance) method, which is a widely accepted evaluation method for public health, and may be a new way MHC can measure the impact of our nutrition and gardening programming.
The conference concluded with a day of keynotes and agenda setting for the next steps needed to begin making deeper change in the food system.  In his keynote, food policy advocate and author Mark Winne called for “fierce, respectful debate” and a mixture of direct service and education toward creation of systemic change in the food system.   I left the conference with a renewed vision for MHC’s education and outreach programming, the first step of which is a community meeting addressing pantry issues with a call out for folks interested in creating a patron council.  The goal of the patron council is to create a space for food pantry patrons to address deeper issues of hunger and poverty.
Are you interested in working with the Hub to create systemic change in the food system?  Contact me, Stephanie, at or call 812-338-5887x.200.

Friday, October 11, 2013

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! and the Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

You’ve eaten pumpkin in pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread, and maybe in pumpkin cookies and those pumpkin latte things from places like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, but did you know it’s also great in savory, non-sweet dishes? I didn’t either, until a few years ago, when I happened to run across a recipe that sounded good. I’ve been cooking with pumpkin ever since.

There are two types of pumpkins – pie pumpkins and field or carving or Halloween pumpkins. (There are also white pumpkins, but that’s another story altogether.) There’s not a lot of difference between pie and field pumpkins. Pie pumpkins tend to be a bit sweeter, and they’re not as big as a lot of field pumpkins, and some people say that they are less stringy, but you can cook with field pumpkins and you can carve pie pumpkins.

Let’s assume for now that you got a big field pumpkin to carve into a Jack-o-Lantern. You get to use it three times. First, you save and roast the seeds. Then you carve it and put it out for Halloween. Then, if it’s only been a day or two since you carved it, you cut it up and either add it raw to soups and casseroles and so forth, or you cook it and mash it and use it like you would canned pumpkin. Or you can freeze it, if there’s more than you can use at one time.

Aldi has pumpkins for $1.99 each this week. The ad doesn’t say it’s a pie pumpkin, so assume it’s a field or carving pumpkin. Last weekend at the Farmers Market they ranged from $1 for little pie pumpkins to about $6 for great big field pumpkins.

First, some PUMPKIN BASICS, like how to store pumpkins whole, how to freeze the flesh (either as chunks of raw pumpkin or as cooked puree), and how to make pumpkin puree in case that's the way you want to go. 

Next, how to roast PUMPKIN SEEDS, or the seeds from any kind of winter squash. Or even watermelon and other melons. You might was well go ahead and eat the seeds, too, you know. You paid for them. Though I always figure they're free, since I'd be tossing them out otherwise.

And now a couple of recipes. The first savory pumpkin recipe I tried was from Jeff Smith (aka the Frugal Gourmet)’s cookbook, The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American. I played around with it and combined it with other recipes and came up with my own PUMPKIN, CABBAGE AND CHICKEN SOUP. (I agree – it sounds very strange, but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!) I call it a soup, and it does need to be eaten out of a bowl, but it’s really thick. This recipe uses raw pumpkin.

Walmart usually has chicken leg quarters (drumstick and thigh with a piece of the back) in 10-pound bags for $5.90 a bag, or 59 cents a pound. The leg quarters average about a pound each. If you cut them up yourself into the drum, the thigh and the back, you get a great price for all of it. Use the thighs for this soup, bake the drumsticks to eat like fried chicken, and use the backs to make chicken stock. Using three pounds of thighs from a 10-bag from Walmart, and half a pumpkin, this whole batch costs about $5.00 for four servings, or about $1.25 per serving. I’ve made it with a can of pumpkin, too, when I didn’t have any fresh, and it worked. It’s better with fresh pumpkin, though.

Another good pumpkin recipe is PUMPKIN WITH PORK, also from The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American, by Jeff Smith. It’s kind of like a stir-fry, except the pumpkin is tender instead of crispy-tender and it doesn’t have any soy sauce or other Oriental flavors. So ok, maybe it isn’t much like a stir-fry after all! But I always think of it that way.

If you make this with pork loin (which is on sale this week at Kroger for $1.87 a pound), this should cost about $3.12 for the whole batch, and it makes about 3 servings. Four, if you serve something with it. Something green would be good – maybe some broccoli or kale. Walmart has one pound bags of frozen broccoli cuts for 99 cents. A batch of Pumpkin with Pork and a bag of frozen broccoli would come to a total of $4.11, and would serve three generously for about $1.40 per serving.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Still Going Strong at the Farmers Market, and Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

Happy October! Are you ready for Halloween yet? I hope not – it’s much too early, though it seems like the stores have been selling Halloween stuff for ages.

The best deal this week seems to be milk. Aldi has it for $1.69 a gallon, Kroger for 88 cents for a half gallon, which comes out to $1.76 per gallon, but is a better deal if you wouldn’t use a whole gallon before it goes bad. Marsh has Egg-Land’s Best Eggs two dozen for $4.00, which is a good price on that brand. When I was at Aldi on Wednesday, they had regular eggs for $1.29 a dozen. Kroger’s ad says that they have 5.3 ounce Greek yogurt for 29 cents each, if you buy four of them. Butter at Kroger is $1.88 a pound, cottage cheese and sour cream are $1.00 a pound (or pint or 16 ounce), and various kinds of cheese are $1.88 for 6 – 8 ounces. It’s a good price for 8 ounces, not so good for 6 ounces. Kroger also has fresh green beans for 99 cents a pound.

Pumpkins are on sale, too, and they’ll keep until Halloween. Until Thanksgiving and probably until Christmas if you don’t carve them. Marsh has pie pumpkins for $1.99. Aldi has regular pumpkins for $1.99 (I have no idea how big they are). And the Kroger store at the corner of Second and College has pumpkins for 99 cents each through Saturday. It’s part of their Grand Re-Opening sale, and it seems to be only at that store.

Not much on sale in the way of meat. Kroger has 73% lean ground beef for $1.97 a pound in three pound chubs, which cost $5.91 each, and pork chops and spareribs for $1.97 in the large value packs. Marsh has boneless skinless chicken breasts for $1.97 a pound in the family size packs.

I’m going to give some more recipes for summer veggies this week. (And by the way, I’ll be serving samples of Moussaka, a Greek dish eggplant casserole) on Friday at the Hub, starting about 4:00 or so. I hope you’ll stop by my tasting table!) Summer veggies won’t last much longer at the Farmers Market. Eggplant was running $1.00 each last Saturday, or sometimes 75 cents each for small ones. I usually get the big ones. The seeds don’t bother me in casseroles. I’m told that the big ones don’t work as well, though, if you’re going to slice the eggplant, like you would for Eggplant Parmesan. Really big zucchini were also $1.00 each, and I could still get the big red bell pepper seconds for 50 cents each. Canning tomatoes were a bit more than they were last week, but still a good price. Check last week’s for more recipes using eggplant and zucchini.

I have tried eggplant over the years, and could never find a recipe that I liked. I kept trying, though, because so many people said it was good. Finally, when I was testing recipes for a cookbook by Judy Barnes Baker, I found a really good recipe. And since then, I’ve found more recipes that I like. Here’s that first “good” recipe, for MOUSSAKA. Moussaka is a traditional Greek casserole made with layers of eggplant and sauce, with a custard over the top. Kind of like lasagna, except it’s Greek instead of Italian, has slices of eggplant instead of noodles, has lots less cheese, and is topped with custard. It's more work than I really want to do most days, what with the slicing and salting and draining and frying of the eggplant and then making multiple alternating layers of the eggplant and the meat sauce. I came up with a SIMPLIFIED MOUSSAKA that has the same great taste but is lots easier and takes lots less time in the kitchen.

A batch of either version of Moussaka should cost about $6.00, and will make six generous servings, at about $1.00 each. Serve it with a salad and or some fresh veggies from the Farmers Market, and you’ve got a complete meal for less than $1.50 per serving.

I think that SAUSAGE SQUASH CASSEROLE is my favorite zucchini recipe. It’s not for calorie counters, but it’s good and it’s inexpensive. And it freezes well, which is important since I like to make lots of squash and eggplant casseroles in the summer and then freeze them. Assuming the sausage is $3.00 and the zucchini is $1.00, this recipe costs about $6.05 and makes six servings at just over $1.00 each. (Aldi’s regular price on mayo is $1.99 for 30 ounces, and their regular price on Cheddar is $1.79 for 8 ounces if you shred your own.) There’s not much texture to it, so you’ll want to add either a salad or some tender-crisp vegetables to it. Another complete meal for under $1.50 per serving.

Do you like Sausage and Peppers? I usually don’t, because the peppers are always way overcooked, at least for my taste. I prefer them tender-crisp, like in a stir-fry. So here are two recipes - ITALIAN SAUSAGE AND PEPPERS for the traditionalists among you who like your peppers really soft, and STIR-FRIED ITALIAN SAUSAGE AND PEPPERS for those like me who like their veggies to still have a bit of bite to them.Take your pick. A lot of people must like the overcooked peppers, because that’s the way most recipes say to cook them! A recipe of either one would cost about $4.50, assuming $3.00 for the Italian sausage. It makes 4 servings, so each serving would be about $1.15. A good sized spaghetti squash is $2.00 at the Farmers Market now and would serve four generously, at 50 cents per serving. The Italian Sausage and Peppers over spaghetti squash would be about $1.65 per serving.

A similar dish from a different part of the world is Fajitas. Since I don’t eat grains, I serve the fajita meat and veggies on a bed of lettuce for FAJITA SALADS, instead of serving it in tortillas. You can add whatever toppings you want. I’ve included the cost for sour cream, shredded cheddar and salsa, but you could also add jalapenos, olives, guacamole, etc. If you’re not going to eat all six servings immediately, put aside the extra meat and veggie mixture before you put it on the lettuce or add the toppings. Then, when you’re ready to eat it, just heat up the meat and veggies, and continue with making the salads. Without the sour cream, etc., this costs about $8.00 for six servings, assuming boneless skinless chicken breasts are $2.00 a pound and allowing $1.00 for all of the seasonings, which is likely quite a bit more than it really is. You could use fajita seasoning instead of all of the individual seasonings, or use taco seasoning instead. Let’s say $1.35 per serving. Two tablespoons each of shredded Cheddar and sour cream would be another 15 cents. Aldi has jars of salsa for (I think – I haven’t checked recently) about $1.20 each, so say another 15 cents for salsa. That would bring the total up to about $1.65 per serving. And these would be BIG servings!