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Cheap, Tasty and Lean

Finger licking good. There’s no doubt I loved fried chicken when I was a kid, because I could grab a leg and eat it with my fingers. Comes with a built-in handle, can’t get much easier for a kid to eat. But now that I no longer sit at the kids’ table, I still favor drumsticks—more for their economy than their ergonomics. In my neighborhood, I can typically find either fresh or frozen chicken legs for about .89 cents a pound. That compares with $1.35 for thighs, and $1.96 for chicken breasts.

So, economy may be driving the decision, but flavor is what keeps me coming back. Dark meat chicken with the skin removed comes in at just about 48 calories an ounce and about 1.5 grams of fat. The bone is an integral part of the flavor. The Japanese call this umami. It’s the fifth flavor, added to the map of our tongues. You remember, sweet, salty, sour and bitter? Umami is described as a “savory” or “meaty” flavor. Three groups of compounds have been identified as causing the sensation. This taste is made up of glutamates, inosinates and guanylates.

So, I’m not going to get too technical on you here, but I’ll give you an idea of why “bone in” means more flavor. Chicken meat (sans the bone) has 76 milligrams of naturally occurring inosinate and 1.5 milligrams of glutamate. Chicken bones have another 40 milligrams of glutamate. So, keeping the bone in adds a lot more glutamate to the dish, which translates to a lot more flavor. This is the part of the recipe that’s for you. Kids “can” eat just about anything. They won’t take a bite of chicken and declare, “This is missing umami.” But you know when something tastes great and when it’s just “OK.” Umami is key to flavor. So, keep those bones in. Your taste buds will thank you.

And while the oven is on, use it to keep the economy theme rolling. Bake these fantastic carrot fries. Put the fries on the upper shelf so they will crisp. You’ll want to flip them halfway through. Add a tossed salad or my “deconstructed salad” for the kids. My deconstructed salad is simply dipping veggies, carrots, celery, cucumbers, etc., with a low-fat dressing. Shake, bake, and call it a night.

Click to view recipe

Chris Xaver, Ph.D., is a local TV and radio personality with three children and five grandchildren. Her healthy lifestyle show, The Sweet Life, is airing on public television stations nationwide.


Photo above: Brack Heightchew Photo

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