Clean Eating

Crispy Baked Chicken Leg Quarters

With the prices of beef, pork, and chicken all on the rise this year, budget-concious cooks have to try a little harder to keep costs under control. When it comes to chicken, three things can usually save you money: skin, bones, and dark meat. (Buying larger “value packs” can also save money, but food waste can be a bigger issue if you live alone.) Bonus: those cost-saving traits also make for tastier meat.

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I love chicken leg quarters as single-serving, economical main dishes that also taste great. Four quarters costs about $5, regularly priced. For this recipe, I used low-sodium soy sauce, which provides a flavorful foundation. Workhorse seasonings – garlic and onion powder, Lawry’s seasoning, and pepper — go with everything and cost (at most) pennies per meal. Paired with your choice of seasonal vegetables, this entire meal can easily come together for under $10, or $2.50 per serving.

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Crispy Baked Chicken Leg Quarters

4 skin-on, bone-in chicken leg quarters
1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Seasoning salt
Black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9×13 baking dish with foil.

Trim any excess fat from chicken. Use your fingers to separate the skin from the meat, eithout completely detaching it (you will end up with a “flap” of skin). Using a silicone basting brush,  generously brush soy sauce under skin. Season with garlic powder, onion powder, and seasoning salt.

Arrange chicken skin-side up in baking dish. Generously brush with additional soy sauce. Sprinkle with seasoning salt and pepper.

Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour. Increase temperature to 400 degrees; bake an additional 15 minutes until chicken is done and skin is crispy. Let sit 5 minutes before serving. 

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Applejack-Braised Pork

It’s harvest time across America. My favorite childhood memories of the farm involved riding in a combine during corn harvest. It’s mesmerizing. I hit the jackpot last week at work, accompanying a journalist on a harvest ride-along.

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When you grow up in an ag family, fall is just as synonymous with harvest as picking apples or watching football. And when the weather turns chilly, I turn to slow cooking.

This pork goes great with so many things — sauteed apples, root vegetables, roasted cauliflower, or polenta, to name a few.

Happy harvest!

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Applejack-Braised Pork Loin
Serves about 5

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pound boneless pork loin
Salt and pepper
2 shallots, chopped
1/3 cup Applejack or other apple brandy
1 1/2 cups beef stock or broth (or try apple cider)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a 1.5 quart Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Add oil. Season pork with salt and pepper. Sear pork on all sides, about 8-10 minutes. (If necessary, cut meat into 3-4 pieces and work in batches.) Place meat on a platter.

Add shallots to pan; cook 3-5 minutes until soft and translucent. Remove from heat. Deglaze the pan by pouring in brandy and scraping up the browned bits. Return pan to heat. Add pork and stock. The meat will not be completely submerged. Heat to a simmer.

Cover pot with lid and transfer to oven. Cook until fork-tender, about 2 hours, turning meat halfway through. Place meat on a platter. Let sit for 10 minutes. Shred with a fork. Spoon pan sauce over meat.

Turkey-Spinach Meatballs

Two of the most common misperceptions (excuses, maybe?) of everyday healthy cooking is that it takes too much time, and it costs too much. (That, or if it is good for you it tastes like crap.)

These meatballs prove that doesn’t have to be the case. Three servings of vegetables, plus lean protein, from kitchen to table in about 30 minutes.

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First, the time. I try to cook or prep as much food as I can over the weekend. I am really good at coming up with excuses during the week, and I’m especially likely to talk myself out of cooking something that takes more than 30 minutes. My timesavers for this recipe: I roasted and shredded a spaghetti squash Sunday, and I bought  jarred spaghetti sauce. I like homemade sauce, but this saved a lot of time for not a lot of money.

Second, the cost. Here’s a breakout of what I spent (realizing that prices vary by market and brand, and season).

Ground turkey: $4.29
Frozen spinach: $.59 (1/2 box)
Egg: $.16
Onion: $.13 (1/4 of an onion)
Parmesan: $.47
Breadcrumbs $.40
Spaghetti squash: $1.99
Jarred spaghetti sauce: $2.00 (on sale)
Total: $10.03
Cost per serving: $2.52

If you’re looking to cook healthier without breaking the bank, make friends with the frozen food aisle — specifically, frozen vegetables. It’s not unusual to find any number of vegetable varieties on sale for $1 per bag. Unlike canned vegetables, frozen retain their nutritional value. A small amount of cheese adds flavor, as do inexpensive dried seasonings.

Turkey-Spinach Meatballs
Adapted from Bob Appetit

1 1/4 lb lean ground turkey
1 egg, lightly beaten
5 oz. frozen spinach,  thawed and well-drained (1/2 of a 10 oz. box)
1/4 cup diced yellow onion
1/4 cup grated or shredded parmesan, plus more for serving
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Coat a broiling pan or a foil-lined baking sheet with cooking spray. Adjust oven rack to the top one-third.

Combine all ingredients except olive oil in a large bowl. Shape into 12-15 meatballs and arrange on broiling pan. Brush with olive oil. Broil 15-20 minutes until cooked through.

Serve meatballs with spaghetti squash and marinara sauce. Top with additional cheese if desired.