Leg Quarters and What to do with Them

My dad comes from a family of four. By the time I was twelve, all his siblings were married and most had kids. Nearly every weekend most of us gathered at my grandparents house for Sunday "dinner" or Saturday supper. While Sunday was a true dinner of epic southern proportions prepared by a perspiring, busy grandmother and aunts, Saturday nights were the domain of my grandfather (okay, mostly). Many Saturdays, he and my uncles would spend the day fishing and we'd fry quantities of fish that would feed us all with leftovers for the less fortunate in the community. On non-fishing weekends, the meal was almost always grilled leg quarters, baked beans and an assortment of sides. Cold or warm weather, Papaw would stand over the grill, sopping the leg quarters with sauce and visiting with the family who were gathered on the patio. The smell of cheap beer, sprite and bourbon and charcoal take me back there in a heartbeat. 

My grandparents were some of the most hospitable and generous people I know.  My grandmother is still living and I see that quality in her today as well as in my parents. Often, my mom's family would even join the party--how many families can mix in-laws like that, I wonder? 

My grandfather left us many memories that still cause me to chuckle. Once, he was grilling and it was very cold. He started talking about the great head-warmer he'd found in the house. It was my aunt's tube top (hello, eighties). 

So, it is from this legacy, that I share the leg quarter love with you all. I see now that the reason we ate leg quarters all the time was that it was probably the only economical choice for my dad and his brothers--all three had and still have healthy appetites. One of the first times my aunt brought her future husband over, they cooked leg quarters and the family chowed down, as usual. When the meal was done, she leaned back and commented, "I did pretty well tonight, I only ate two pieces of chicken."  "Nancy," he replied, "you really ate four." Now he is in the poultry business and knows his chicken, so although he was absolutely correct and yet perhaps out of line for a first date, she married him anyway. 

Back to the actual cooking. Perhaps you've taken my advice and thunked that huge plastic bag of chicken quarters into your buggy, taken it home  and placed it in the sink. "What have I gotten into?" You may be asking yourself, "It's so yucky and so much skin--gross--and how do I cook it?" No fear. I will not abandon you to poultry paradox. (I'm sure that doesn't make sense, but it was fun to write)

We'll start with a grilling and crockpot marinade. Do this several hours ahead of time.

Assemble your tools:
Grab a good sharp knife or scissors (kitchen or plain), some gallon zipper bags (to store/marinate) and a casserole dish  We usually go ahead and put some soap on the sink so we can clean our hands quickly thereafter. Leave the implements and chicken by the sink while you make the marinade.

The Marinade:
In a food processor, by hand, or in a mini-chopper, mince/puree together: 1 clove of garlic per chicken piece, salt, pepper and sugar (in order of greatest to least). Tuan does this, so I am going to say that the seasonings should be "to taste".  You should not be afraid of the salt and pepper and use less sugar than salt (my husband will never write a cookbook). He says that you want to end up with app. 1 Tbsp of marinade per piece.  This will smell strong--no fear.

Prep and Marinate:
Open up the bag, drain the juice and trim the excess fat/skin off of the chicken piece. Do not remove all the skin! You want to leave the skin that covers the meat, but there is some excess on the sides that should be cut. The skin has some good things in it and does some good things for the chicken. Scissors are great for this. Rub a little marinade all over the front and back of the piece and plop it into your casserole dish. Repeat, repeat, repeat. 

At this point, the smell will be garlicky. If you are pregnant, you may want to delegate this to your spouse. : ) You can put the chicken straight into the fridge or into plastic bags and then into the fridge (we highly recommend this--it contains the odor). Into the fridge go the pieces you plan to cook that day or the next. Into the freezer go the future pieces.

Confession: I've grilled twice in my life. Twice in one week and it was chicken and hot dogs for several hundred each time. So, I am passing this on hearsay as a woman who has not been liberated from the kitchen to the grill and I am okay with that. 

This is what I've pried from Tuan's deep mind. Get your grill hot, but not flaming. Put the leg quarters on and cook them with the lid alternately on and off. You want the grill to stay hot and smoky, and not go out, nor flame up and burn the chicken. This is not one of those quick and speedy things--but, oh, the rewards! At least forty-five minutes on the grill. Move 'em around, flip 'em, just keep opening and closing that lid. 

To check for doneness, examine the joint--no blood, or rawness and check the thick part of a thigh. The meat will be pink-ish even after it's done, but not raw. I guess you could use a thermometer--ha! But that would be too easy. 

The tenderness and yumminess of this chicken is unbelievable. It's a great company meal. The guys can fellowship around the grill while you and your friends watch them work. : ) 

Sunday Chicken in the Crock-Pot:
We made this last weekend and nearly cried when we finished it on Sunday night. It was so good.  Saturday evening around five: Remove a bag of marinated, frozen leg quarters from the freezer and place them in the crockpot. Start off on high heat to get them going. Around two hours later, turn it to low and leave it overnight. Sometime Sunday morning (it was 7:30 for me), add as many cut up potatoes (finger size) as you like, sprinkle with salt, then as many carrots, cut the same length as the potatoes as you can cram on top, with a bit more salt. Pull up one of the pieces and lay it on top, then add just a bit of water to the pot. Leave it, go to worship and come home at lunch to bliss. 

A Cleaner Alternative: 
Some folks don't like dealing with chicken bits in their Sunday dinner. Here is my suggestion: On Sunday morning, pull the chicken from the pot and throw the veggies in. Quickly remove the skin, and if your are feeling especially particular,pull the meat off the bone and throw it back in on top of the veggies. I usually use some tongs and a fork. It leaves less to deal with at lunch and makes it more company friendly.


Q and A

A friend (do you want to remain nameless?) asked for some money-saving tips for feeding a family.

I am so flattered by this, but first must admit that while I am usually frugal with grocery shopping, I make many mistakes and do over-spend. We also eat out too much. Living at a place where others get away to, means that we end up getting-away to Jackson and restaurants, or end up on the road during meal times, thus spending too much money on eating out.

But back to groceries and money-saving tips. These are going to be random and all over the place.

1. Prioritize what's important for your family.  What do you really want to put on your table? Organic milk for the kids and meat for Tuan--that's our thing. We eat meat at nearly every meal. I'm trying to incorporate more and more produce into our meals as well, so that's where our spending priorities are. 

2. Make your own baby-food and look for alternatives to expensive baby foods when you can't make things.

a. unsweetened plain applesauce in a big jar stretches much further than individual servings of applesauce. 

b.For convenience, fruit and vegetable cups from the veggie aisle (GV brand) cost far less than buying the baby food versions.  Do read ingredients though and make sure the peaches aren't floating in sugar or splenda, for example! 

c. I made my own baby cereal. Rolled oats thrown in the clean coffee grinder worked just as well as baby cereal and I only had to buy a box of oatmeal for us and the kids, plus a giant box of oats cost less than a box of baby cereal. 

d. Frozen/fresh vegetables steamed and processed in the food processor, plain yogurt instead of  "'Yo baby"

3. Buy bread at a bakery outlet. At the Sara Lee outlet in Richland, I can get loaves of the multigrain, expensive bread for more than half off. I once got three loaves of the expensive stuff and two packages of English muffins for around five dollars. Keep it in the freezer until you need it.

4. I keep a mental price book in my head of how much things usually cost. Some folks do this in a notebook that they take grocery shopping. I usually shop at kroger and spend less money, but there are a handful of things that are cheaper at Wal-mart and I go there for them. This also helps you know if a sale is really a sale!

5. Don't assume Wal-mart is cheaper. It isn't always!

6. Kroger.com has weekly ads online. When I make time for this, it helps me plan ahead, especially with meat purchases. I also try to hit Kroger in the morning, when the produce is being marked down and/or on Thursday when a lot of things are being marked down. I let the produce mark-downs influence the menu, too.

7. Whenever I'm at a store, I check the clearance area and day-old breads, as well as the fancy cheese/butter area. If something is marked down that we will use, even if not immediately, I'll go ahead and get it. Or, if a high-quality item is marked down to the equivalent of the usual thing I buy, I will stock up. For example, this summer I was at Kroger and organic butter was marked half-off. I bought around eight pounds of it and kept them in the freezer. It cost the same as regular butter, but tasted so much better. That's also where I often find more "indulgent" things, like olives or capers. I bought four two gallon jugs of organic applejuice that was marked down, for example. 

8. Don't be afraid to stock up and freeze stuff. This also means leaving room in the budget for these kinds of purchases. They will pay off in the long run.

9. Shop by unit price rather than package price. For example, Kroger has Boston butt pork roast on sale for .97. It probably won't come in a two pound package, but spending ten dollars on a pork roast that I can divide and freeze pays off later. 

10. I don't usually bother with coupons unless it's something I would have bought anyway. The ones I find are usually for processed food and I come back with all sorts of snack foods I wouldn't have bought otherwise. 

11. Shop the perimeter (dairy, meat, produce) and only duck into the inner aisles for specific things. 

12. Unless the taste is discernable, store brands rock! GV mustard, however is gross.

13. Mix high and low foods to balance things out. One of our meals may involve avocados (I wish every meal did!), but another meal may be egg salad, bread and fruit.

14. Plan menus strategically. For example, if you want to make a snazzy carrot salad, be sure to include carrots on that week's menu again so that you use up the package and don't end up with the same carrots limping around in your fridge two weeks later. Likewise, triage your produce so that the most perishable things get eaten first. (strawberries, bananas, grapes, apples)

15. Buy beans dry, boil a big batch up and freeze what you don't need for later. It is much cheaper to buy dry beans. 

16. Salvage stores. These are great fun and I used to shop at one once a week when we lived in Mt. Olive. If you don't live near one, go in with the intention of buying a lot. This situation is where the mental/written price book comes in. Refried beans and chickpeas for twenty-five cents a can? Absolutely! Canned veggies for .75? nah, not worth it.  I buy only canned, jarred and wrapped things at salvage stores and get some good deals and fun things to try.  This summer, I was at one and found canned salmon for 1.25. I knew that at the grocery it went for around 2.29 a can--that was a substantial savings! I picked up around ten or so cans that day.

17. Cook from scratch when it's worth it. 

18. Go to Sam's with a friend who has a card and shop with a discerning eye. We save so much money buying tea in bulk once or twice a year. The same with a few other things. 

19. Know that some things are worth spending money on. Many processed foods are cheap, but not nutritious. 

I hope this answered your question without seeming super didactic. I drank coffee around eight and am up at 1:30 writing this all out! I'd like to share some menus and recipes with you, but probably should not at this hour, so I'll do that later.! If you have more questions, please ask again!


grocery spending and chicken values

Monday, I took the kids to Kroger armed with a menu plan. When I got into the produce section and found markdowns on all sorts of veggies (including ones I only dream of buying, like orange and yellow bellpeppers), my menu changed a bit. The total bill at checkout was 93.00. ugh. I don't like those high numbers. I began to wonder if it really cost that much to feed our family for a week. 

Some purchases stock the pantry and last more than a week. Others take out a chunk of the budget. Two gallons of organic milk sucked up 11.00. We can't afford many organic things, but we prioritize on organic, whole milk. So that left 82.00.  Coffee and juice and some ground beef for next week reduced the price once more to 66.00 on food. 

This has been in my obssessed pregnant brain all week: how much do our meals cost? I ran the numbers for each meal and because of the produce deals, they were all high fruit, high veggie, ample dairy, low-to-no grain meals.  Over 7 meals this week (including a DiGiorno cop-out) our average cost per meal was 4.84, for a total of 29.57. 

I am ashamed to say we can spend that much on one meal at El Cabrito or Aladdin. There's an intangible benefit to eating out for us (it's our get-away from camp/home), but since Tuan ordered our dining room chairs today, I've felt especially the need to cut back on that and save some money. It's encouraging that we can eat healthy meals for so little. 

Hope this isn't too much information. I love knowing how people save money and what they spend on food. Also, a friend asked us if we really saved money on not eating out. I felt like we did, but wanted some evidence. He felt like shopping for a recipe cost so much money that it was discouraging to shop and why not eat out if a grocery trip costs as much as a meal out?

Keeping a stocked pantry, and having things like spices and oils and vinegars on hand keep individual trips from adding up. Shopping with a menu and entering the store with a flexible attitude seem to help. If I plan a menu full of chicken and carrots, but find beef, broccoli and peppers on sale or markdown, our menu is going to deviate. 

Also, here is a super frugal way to buy chicken--leg quarters. They were .49 a pound and rarely go above .79. They come in five pound-ish bags. A leg quarter is a drum-stick with the thigh attached. You can boil 'em, mash 'em, put 'em in a stew . .  . just kidding about that. However, they cook beautifully in the crockpot, bake wonderfully, stew and make broth and cooked slowly on the grill can't be beat. They're also a great way to feed meat to a crowd. Chicken breasts are expensive and in my opinion they don't taste as good. (Alton Brown wonders why you would even bother with that part of the bird, so I feel a bit validated). So anyway, buy a bag sometime, divide it up and know that when the thigh and leg are attached you can eat two pieces of chicken, but only claim to have eaten one!


Full fridge, an overflowing cup and full plate

I'm so grateful for our life. It definitely has its seasons of busyness and calm. These days the calm seasons seem shorter and fewer, though. (climate change?) In so many ways our cup of blessings is overflowing. Children, home, life, marriage, camp, church--we are so grateful for where God has placed us. 

But right now life is crazy. We are entertaining folks for the next two days, cooking a southern country dinner and a greek meal,  trying to keep the house presentable, going to PT three times a week, Bible Study this am, moving sometime in the next weeks, Tuan's folks are getting married this weekend and every one of us are in the wedding. I feel like Prince Humperdinck--"I'm swamped". Come Monday, much of the craziness will end, but the mess will still be there! Could someone just take my kids on Monday while I sleep? 
[crickets chirping] Didn't think so. : )

At the same time, my fridge is stuffed, bursting. We've cooked a lot lately and have awkward leftovers.  I need to clean it out and we need to eat some things. A full fridge makes me feel like an industrious woman who has planned ahead and at the same time a procratinating over pre-parer of food who didn't quite co-ordinate right.


Bargain Source!

Here is a great new blog that covers Jackson area bargains! The Jackson Frugalista seems like a good place to stop by and visit. I only wish I had more time to bargain shop. Two children in carseats is seriously hindering my "saving". 


More than a Compromise

After a little haggling and looking at manifold tables from pedestal rounds (me), to exotic hardwood slabs (Tuan), we have both decided we like this table! It's from Ballard Designs, but I think Tuan will make it out of hardwood rather than buying it in pine. The pine (according to reviews) is a bit soft and marks up easily.

I really, really love the legs, and how it seats ten. Now I'm not saying I plan to have eight children around the table, but I want to have company to dinner without folks squeezed into awkward corners! I also think the chairs we chose below will go well with it! 

Whoo-hoo! Now we only have to get Tuan well so he can stand up and get to work. : ) 



There is something I feel strongly about, but all around me, people who I know and love are in the opposite pole. Since the opposite pole is more vocal, I have as of late felt just overwhelmed about this issue and desperately want to defend myself and my often-misunderstood position. I don't doubt what I believe at all, because I have seen the results and know that they are good results and truly feel that what I'm standing behind is biblical. 

The reality is that it probably would not be helpful or useful for others or myself for me to argue this right now.  I just need to keep my mouth shut and press on--for right now. Later there will be a time for self-defense and hopefully my heart will be in a humbler, more right place.

Can this be any more abstract? I guess Sonny could have written it! (Love you, Sonny) It does feel good to say this much.