Monday, January 10, 2011

So Many Stores, So Little Time!

How many grocery stores do you shop in on a regular basis? I was wondering why my shopping day takes so long and it dawned on me that I always go to three or four stores. Now that does include a stop at PetSmart for cat food. But it doesn't include my favorite store for meat because it's in a different direction.

Why do I go to so many stores? The health food store carries a lot of organic items that I like and can't buy elsewhere. Then there's the big chain store with the huge selection of fruits and veggies. In the summer, I have to stop by the farmer's market. And then there's WalMart which happens to carry the brand of milk I like, and while they don't offer a big assortment of organic products, they have one I like a lot for significantly less than the other stores charge. By the time I'm done, most the day is, too!

Some of you are probably thinking I'm silly because there's not much difference between stores. A chicken is a chicken is a chicken. Not exactly. In fact, one of my pet peeves lately is all the added solutions in
meat. They contain salt and preservatives, sometimes even fat. I just want plain meat, please. The store I prefer for meat carries Gerber's Amish Chicken. They tell me that some of their customers drive more than an hour just to buy it. I'm not surprised.

Which leads me to my go-to recipe for busy days. One that we like so much that it's often the go-to recipe for lazy days or cold days, or in the summer, hot days when it's made on the grill -- roast chicken. You'll find a million ways to roast a chicken. I have my way and it's so simple that it's almost not worth a recipe. You can gussy it up with herbs or paprika or garlic if you like, but honestly, we prefer it plain.

One of the best things about it is that it takes one hour to roast,
which means I can do something else for an hour. If I'm in the mood for potatoes, I stick them in the oven wrapped in foil and ignore them for an hour, too. This isn't fancy cooking by any stretch of the imagination, but it's always a favorite at my house -- and is good enough to serve to company, too.

I do use one slightly unusual item -- a vertical
chicken roaster.

This is the original Spanek Vertical Chicken Roaster. You plop the chicken on top of it, fold back the wings and set the whole thing in a pan to catch the drippings. Vertical roasters are not very expen
sive and they make a great chicken.

So here's the very fancy schmancy recipe.

Roast Chicken

1 small to medium chicken (3-4 pounds)
pepper (optional)

Adjust oven rack to lowest level. Preheat oven to 425.

Rinse chicken. Plop onto vertical chicken roaster. Rub chicken with salt and pepper. Place in oven. Set timer for one hour.

Write mystery for one hour.


Whew, that was hard work! I know it sounds so simple that it's hardly worth mentioning, but we all love easy and good, right? The skin is always crispy, the meat is always tender. The legs should move easily when it's taken out of the oven. If you pull
one aside and see red inside, slide it back into the oven for a few minutes. This happens sometimes if the chicken wasn't totally thawed or if it's on the large side. One hour is usually perfect timing.

Good news! The leftovers are wonderful for sandwiches or salad the next day. And when you think that poor old chicken has nothing left to give, pop all those bones (yes, the whole thing) into a stock pot and make soup with it!

~ Krista

Have you entered Julie's
Time is running out!

This one is for all you fast readers out there who devour books
as fast as you get your hands on them!

I want to send one lucky winner a $10 bookstore gift certificate.

How to win it?

Simply email me JulieHyzy (at) gmail (dot) com -- put CHARACTER or CONTEST in the subject. In the body of your email, answer a question (or two):

1) Who is your favorite *new* character in Buffalo West Wing?

2) Why is he/she your favorite of the newbies?

(I really love to know how readers relate to new characters, so this is enormously helpful for me!)

Answer one question, you're entered once. Answer both, you're entered twice.

It's that easy.

There's no right or wrong answer. The winner will be chosen at random. No matter which of the newbies you love (or love to hate), just providing an answer gets you in the running. (BTW, there's one character we haven't seen since book #2. If he's your favorite, that's fine too.)

I will announce the winner sometime on Friday, January 14, 2011

I'll announce a winner a week from today. So many of you have emailed to let me know they've already read it, so I thought this would be a perfect way to pick your brains before I start book #6 (#5, as yet unnamed, is done).

Thanks in advance, and happy reading!


  1. Ha! I like that "write mystery for one hour" part of the recipe!

    I shop at 2 stores each week. Occasionally, I add others to the list. One has better produce. :)

  2. There's only one grocery store within walking distance of my place.

    Love the vertical chicken roaster. Also like that it takes an hour.

  3. I shop 3 grocery stores on a regular basis. Meijer (a Midwestern chain) because they have the best selection and quality of produce, Walmart (a universal chain!) for paper goods, etc., and Sam's Club for other things I need that I can't get (like 90% ground beef for under $2.50/lb). I have to agree, I love plain old roast chicken, nothing fancy but truly hard to beat! Since I can't write a good mystery, I'll substitute "read a mystery for 1 hour". I'll leave the writing to you! Nurse JudyMac

  4. Isn't there something beautiful about the way the chicken comes out.

    OK, you've done the vertical roaster, but have you tried beer butt chicken yet??? Same principle, but you balance the chicken on a beer can. Pop the can open, discard about 1/3rd of the beer (gosh, wonder where to pour the beer). Add some spices (I like a Cajun mix) to the beer. the beer steams the chicken from the inside out, and this will be the tenderest chicken you have ever eaten. It is best to use a temperature prob to tell doneness, as the steam does make it cook faster.

    For a spectacular taste (and an odd look), cut a small lemon in half, put the lemon halves into the skin, each side of the breast meat. The white meat comes out with an amazing roasted lemon chicken taste.

    an odd benefit, if you make a presentation of the chicken before carving, because the lemons have those knobby ends, the skin shrinks a bit to a tight fit, so it looks like the chicken has grown a pair of ... well, you are just going to have to imagine.

    I did a post on Beer butt chicken (with lemons) here...

    As to shopping, I am cheap. I go to 4 stores every week, and always buy what is advertised on the first page of the flyer. That's where the best prices for canned goods (tomatoes for pizza sauce, on sale for 39 cents last week, regularly over a dollar... I bought 6 (the limit) three different days). 5 pounds of flour for 99 cents, etc. Shopping like this, I spend less than $100 a week, but i do eat pretty well.

    And speaking of chickens, can anyone explain why a raw whole chicken costs more than the rotisserie fully cooked chicken sold in the deli department???

  5. How many stores do I shop in? OMG. Thx for giving me a laugh. I was beginning to think I was the only one who schlepped from store to store to store. (For me it's three or more, depending on what we need.) I love this post. Your chicken is gorgeous (mouth duly watering). And your suggestions are always spot-on. I esp. like the sturdy look of this Spanek brand stand and will def. check it out. I just wish I could follow that last instruction with your bird right now. Eat. :)

    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  6. Elizabeth, I thought you would like the write mystery for one hour part! I like that, too. : )

    Dru, walking distance makes a huge difference in city living. But you probably have green grocers, bakeries, and butchers that I don't have out here in the country.

    Nurse Judy, reading a mystery for an hour might even be more important than writing one! I used to buy paper goods at my WalMart, but recently, when they're on sale, the prices at my Kroger beat WalMart by far! I wish we had A Sam's Club. Rumor has it they looked at a space but turned it down.

    ~ Krista

  7. Dave, I *love* beer bottom chicken. It's the very same idea, except on the grill. I find the chicken cooks a little bit faster on the grill, though. It's always so juicy and wonderful. Yum! I've never made it with lemon, will have to try it.

    ~ Krista

  8. Cleo, it's so good for me to know I'm not alone in my trek from store to store. I was beginning to think I was the only one who did that. The results of the poll suggest that a lot of us shop around. That's probably good for the stores in this economy. I just wish it didn't take so long!

    ~ Krista

  9. Krista - I'm sold. I have to get one of those vertical roasters. But Dave brings up a good point (and a humorous image...) - why are the rotisserie chickens cheaper? No idea. But I will definitely try this one. I've had the beer can chicken before, but I've never roasted one vertically myself. This will be fun. I know it! Thanks!

  10. Julie, I don't know why rotisserie chickens are cheaper, either, unless stores have them as loss leaders to draw us into the stores.

    I do know that my Kroger uses better fish in the made-on-site sushi than they sell in their fish department. Isn't that crazy?

    ~ Krista

  11. That vertical roasting idea looks great - I'll bet it moistens the breast nicely. I've wondered about that beer-can chicken; my husband's company even sells a rack that'll hold the beer can. Does the beer flavor the chicken? Wonder what other cans of stuff you could use?

    How many stores? Well, there's the one that delivers (good for heavy things). Whole Foods, for whatever I can afford. Aldi, to assuage my guilt at spending so much at Whole Foods. And there's the farm, where we get our raw milk, cheese, and grassfed beef; does that count as a store? And in season, the farmers' markets. No wonder I enjoy grocery shopping more these days!

  12. My husband and I shop minimum 2 or 3 stores depeding on prices. I have a local store for the day to day stuff like milk, eggs etc so that would be 4 at least.

    My pledge this summer is to shop at the farmer's market at least once every two weeks.

    My dh is the chef in our house but I am going to recommend this roasting method. Our next adventure in roasting a chicken was to try brining it before hand.


  13. Love the vertical roaster. I'm a single-store shopper until it comes to fish or gluten-free things, then I'm back and forth. I try to make a circle whenever I'm shopping. Start here, never double-back.

  14. Laineshots, the beer does not flavor the meat. It adds moisture though, which makes for a deliciously soft meat.

    Whole Foods is my favorite store. Alas, the closest one is hours away. I have to say that my local natural food store does a fairly good job, but they can't begin to carry the selection that one finds at Whole Foods.

    Shirley, I've brined chicken before, but I think it's just not necessary. I have brined a chicken that wasn't thawing fast enough -- the salt water helped it along immensely!

    I always enjoy our farmer's market, too. But it does mean one more stop . . .

    ~ Krista

  15. Alright, I admit I'm crazy, but most of you already know that. My main shopping store is called KOSHER PALACE. It's a supermarket carrying ONLY kosher certified products. The other 3 stores I go to are also Kosher Supermarkets, but the difference is that I use them because they all rotate meat specials from week to week.

    There's a local handout called Torah Times. It has ads from 8-10 stores and kosher butchers. I do a comparison every Wed. when it comes out and based on what I have in the freezer I'll make a meat run.

    Once in a blue moon I'll go to Stop and Shop or Pathmark for larger sizes of items Kosher Palace doesn't stock.

    I'm the queen of the freezer in the family. I make all my soups in 20qt. quantity. Then I freeze it in 1 and 2 qt. containers. Leftovers also get packed for the freezer if they are 2-3 servings in size.

    I love that chicken roaster device and will see if I can get one at one of our local kitchen stores.

    I totally enjoyed Buffalo West Wing and made sure that everyone knows it.

  16. Avery, I try not to double-back, either! It still takes half the day to shop!

    NoraA, you're not crazy! You do what the rest of us are doing. I think you're smart to make big pots of soup and split them up. I use my freezer a lot, too. Just the other day I was glad I had it so I could stock up on meat that was on sale.

    Did you notice what a beautiful bell curve the poll has? Looks like three stores wins!

    I'm so glad you loved Buffalo West Wing. I'm looking forward to reading it!

    ~ Krista

  17. Krista, I've wanted a vertical roaster for ages, and now you've really convinced me to add one to my list of "have-to-have" new kitchen gadgets this year!

    As for grocery shopping, count me in with the average of 3 stores. I live in the country between 2 small towns, one of which has a WalMart and a Super1 large chain,(& recently a Walgreen's)and the smaller and closer town has a Brookshire's with a nicer selection of meat and "gourmet" items, so I check the store circulars every Sunday & Wed. for the best deals and make my driving decisions from there.(I try to only do WalMart once a month, if possible. And just like you, I noticed their paper goods are no longer cheaper than say Super1. Wonder why?) Yep, it does seem like it takes most of the day now to shop! (I do follow bargains and still clip coupons!)

    Dave, I love beer can chicken. Thanks for your pictures with the lemony idea, what a hoot!

    We're snowed in today (schools are closed and so are most of the roads)and a roast chicken sure would be nice, but we're settling for the closest thing tonight, chicken gumbo!