My Story: Dark Meat Chicken

contributed by Mindy

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One of the best dinner time values available now is dark meat chicken. This low-carb meat is still priced under a dollar as "leg quarters" or "legs and thighs." Sometimes, they come frozen or defrosted in large bags.

Leg quarters are perfect for your slow cooker. Dark meat shines in chicken dishes that involve a sauce. The extra moisture in the meat means it will still be succulent and juicy after long simmering, and ready to eat when you walk in the door.

The simplest slow cooker chicken recipe is to wash the chicken pieces, removing any red spongy bits. Separate the quarters into legs and thighs if desired. I like to skin the chicken quarters. Put the chicken in the slow cooker with a can of cream of chicken soup and enough water or chicken broth to just cover the meat. You can add some celery and carrot pieces if desired. Season with a dried bay leaf, black pepper, and thyme leaves. Set your slow cooker to cook on high for an hour to bring the mixture up to safe cooking temperature, then cook on low for several hours. If you do this over your lunch hour, the chicken will be perfect at six o'clock. If you set your slow cooker to cook in the morning, the meat may fall off the bone. Just remove the bones and serve the meat in sauce over rice.

Use this same technique and substitute your favorite canned or homemade Italian tomato sauce for the chicken soup and broth. Add canned mushrooms, zucchini chunks, and frozen pearl onions instead of celery and carrots. You will have delicious Chicken Cacciatore to serve with or without pasta.

Legs and quarters can also be roasted for an easy oven meal. Just place the cleaned quarters on a broiler pan, sprinkle with seasoned salt, and roast at 375 degrees until the chicken is at least 165 degrees, or no pink juice runs from the joints. Roast greased sweet potatoes in the same oven with the chicken. You can even use the same pan. Serve with any green vegetable. Canned Italian green beans with white potatoes work well when microwaved in their serving dish.

Vary your oven meal by brushing the chicken with bottled BBQ sauce halfway through cooking. Bottled sauce usually costs less per serving than homemade. Wrap whole onions in foil and roast along with the chicken. Prepare a scalloped potato mix in the same oven also. Store brand scalloped potato mixes also compare favorably in price with homemade. Canned German potato salad is also tasty and quick, although not as economical as other potato dishes. Choose a vegetable without sweet undertones for this meal; steamed broccoli spears are perfect.

If your family loves fried chicken, you have probably noticed that the oil costs as much as the chicken. Avoid this dilemma by oven frying. Line a pan with aluminum foil for easy clean-up. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and melt a stick of margarine in the pan while the oven preheats. Cut the chicken into separate legs and thighs, then toss in flour. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then roll in the melted butter. Cook the chicken in the oven for about forty five minutes, or until it is heavily browned and has a light crust. Since the oven is on anyway, you can make a broccoli casserole. Microwave chopped broccoli still in the box for three minutes or until it is defrosted. Drain it, and combine with either 1/2 cup of leftover cooked rice or twelve crushed buttery crackers. Stir in 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese, top with dots of butter, and bake during the last half of the chicken's cooking time. Your family probably has their favorite dishes to eat with fried chicken, but frozen whole-kernel corn is a fast, economical favorite at our house.

All you need to get past the "I only like white meat" attitude is some great recipes. Thigh meat makes a superior chicken fajita. Take advantage of dark meat affinity for sauces and save a buck at dinnertime.

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it to

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