Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sunday #4 - Oinkity oink oink.

Let's start at the end.

Clockwise from the top we have bruschetta, chicken scaloppini with cheese ravioli, garden salad and finally meat ravioli with marinara sauce.

This was my place setting:
We bought a set of dishes and the dinner plates are about an inch bigger than our old salad plates - nine inches- I just measured . This is actually a good thing as people tend to serve themselves less on smaller plates. Proof! (that's actually kind of an interesting site. You should look around. I just found it when I went to go find you some dry and boring information to back up my "smaller plate" claim. You should actually be doing that sort of research yourself when someone makes a claim without backing it up, but I knew you wouldn't. Lazy.)

So, while my plate is, in fact, crammed full, it's not as crammed full as it would look on our old 12/13 inch plates.

Having said that, I will now say this.  We eat too much. WAY too much. That's sort of okay to do for a Sunday Dinner sort of meal, but not when you're oinking it up the rest of the week too.

Just look at what I made! The little plate of bruschetta? Me and Mark had already eaten half of that. What's show in the picture was the soggy stuff we hadn't managed to choke down before it was time to get to the table. I just put it there for presentation!

And, okay, it's not like we ate even half of what was there, but this lets me get into some of the problems I'm having with these Sunday dinners, and what I'll need to do to fix them so I can keep doing these without getting to 300 lbs and going broke in the process.

Let's talk about what we had:

I made two kinds, one meat filled, one cheese filled. I'm mostly only going to talk about the meat one.

Okay, I've made my own pasta. I'm over that now. For one, it was exhausting. The process of making the dough and begging it to stretch at all was just too much for me. For two, it's expensive. At least more expensive than just buying ravioli in the store - even the fresh stuff in refrigerated case would have been cheaper, and certainly less time consuming. The dough didn't even turn out that great. I'm sure that, over time, I could increase my pasta making skills, but eff that.
Oh yeah - The hidden bonus here in discovering that I have no desire to do this again is that I won't be investing in any sort of pasta making machines - I've been eyeing those for a while, but now I realize making your own pasta is just stupid.

So yes, no pasta making for me. However, there is something to be said for making your own filling, particularly when you are having meat filled raviolis.  I won't be making dough again, but I'll be buying eggroll sheets and filling those myself. They don't have the same bite as ravioli pasta, but then they aren't full Mechanically Separated Meat either.

Because, listen people, ground beef from the feedlot is disgusting. It just is. I could go into it but please just go do your own research. Educate yourself about ammoniated beef product and learn how we basically created e. Coli 0157:H7 with the help America's best friend, CORN. Just -go. Learn something.

I try to avoid  the ground stuff  as much as possible (seriously, Ammoniated Beef, [I went and found you a link, see how I enable you?])  it's in virtually all fast food, in the ground beef at the supermarkets, and in school lunch. Even if it doesn't bother you you should still know what you and your kids are eating, dontcha think?

Avoiding the ground stuff became even easier when I got a KitchenAid food grinder attachment in my wedding loot last summer (thanks Jeri!) It's been very exciting. I'm going to post a series of meaty pics now. Don't be afraid!

That's just under a pound of some sort of discount meat. I've discovered I'm way less snotty about stuff in the 30% meat pile since the economy got sucky.
(This meat here is also feedlot beef. Still gross and wrong in so many ways, but it's cheap and accessable, so there you are. At least, I rationalize to myself, it's all from the same cow.)

Mmmm, beef! I was grinding this into a bowl that already had 2 large links of Italian sausage. So much for avoiding factory grossness in it's entirety. To my knowledge though, they aren't ammoniating pink pig slime and putting it in the sausage.

That's on a large grind. I pushed all of that through and then added carrots, green peppers, seasonings and breadcrumbs.

See that! There be veggies in there! I'm so damn clever, I'm going to sneak veggies into Max's dinner. Muahhahahaha!*

And see there! That's after the second grind. That's carrots, peppers, the breadcrumbs, the sausage - can you even see the veggies?  This could just as easily have been loaf, but I filled poorly crafted ravioli with it instead and then cooked up the remaining (there was a lot) for marina sauce to go over the pasta.

I half-cooked it before filling the noodles though. Otherwise I would have been too paranoid and would have let them boil for 20 minutes or something before believing they were really done.

Filling ravioli with smooshy cheeses was a disaster. The next time I have a desire for cheese filled pasta I will definitely be going to store-bought route entirely, and getting them from the freezer or the cold case. Though I will say my cheese filling was pretty fantastic. Ricotta, Parmesan, and minced garlic, shallot and mushrooms plus a small bit of basil. I might make that again for omelets or something.

Chicken with Lemon Sage Sauce:
I didn't get any pictures of doing the chicken. By that point I was really rushing to finish things up. I used This Recipe though. I think I may have squeezed in too much lemon juice, because it was way more lemony that I expected. Also, Mark says if we'd have added capers, it would have been chicken picatta. This is something I'd make again, but there would definitely be changes. It needs to be more savory some how. Hmm - maybe it's just that it's more of a summer dish. That could be it. This might be just perfect in the summer.  

The Salad:
I made a copy cat version of Olive Garden's salad.

Go ahead, keep laughing. Get it all out.

Their dressing is tasty, dammit. And while they use almost nothing but iceberg lettuce in theirs, mine was about 1/3 iceberg bagged salad, and the rest was young mixed greens - nice and dark and leafy.

I do realize how completely hilarious it is that, in trying to get back into the Olde Tyme ways of Sunday cooking, I went and made one of the most recognized restaurant chain staples there is and put it on my table. Oh well, it was good. 

This isn't the exact recipe I used, but it looks pretty close.

What else? Oh yeah,


I love any tomato and basil concoction that relies on fresh, uncooked, tomato. So good.
Most of the recipes I read had you rubbing a clove of garlic on a slice of Italian bread. I have a giant jug of chopped garlic (and I really to prefer the fresh stuff, but when you go a week or two without using garlic, it grows, and that means more trips to the store or less garlic in your cooking) so that didn't really work for me.

So I decided to just use garlic bread butter. My house never gets much above 55 F, so I had to microwave the butter. I pulled it out just before it got soupy enough to cover the bottom of my microwave.

It was still pretty soupy though, once I got it out of the wrapper.
I went through about three slices of bread trying to butter them. Then I realized something.

I could just dip the bread in there.
I used a whole stick of butter on one baguette. I ran out, in fact.

I put those in the oven on 400 for about 5 minutes, then I hit it with the broiler for a couple more.
After that, I piled on a mixture of chopped Roma tomatoes, basil, shallot, that had been seasoned with salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and a splash of balsamic and left in the fridge for a couple of hours to get good and mingled.

Oh yeah, there were also little chunks of mozzarella in there.

I put them back under the broiler to heat the tomato through and get the cheese melty. I burned them, naturally. Thankfully only a little bit of the crust on the outside of those furthest in orbit burned beyond being palatable.

These were awesome. If I'd only known how great they would be I would have had just this for dinner.

This and my box wine, of course.


So let's jump to The Review:

There are problems with this meal that showed up in the last two dinners as well.
  • I make too much food
  • I spend too much money for one meal
  • I am way too ambitious
The first point wouldn't be too bad except for that we, as a family, really need to lessen the tonnage in our household. That's not a self esteem thing there. It's not like I think we're too fat when really we're just not supermodel skinny. No - we're fat. All of us. Three out of four of us qualify as obese. My youngest isn't too bad, but that's because he refuses to eat anything but sugar. A meatless, fatless diet actually works out well for him (for now.)  So really, we need to do better not only in quantity, but in quality.

The second point - I'm excited for making dinner. But making dinner at my house shouldn't cost as much as going out to eat at your typical family restaurant. It shouldn't cost nearly twice that, and I'm pretty sure that last meal did. Now, part of that is that we're buying ingredients that we don't have on hand, but won't be using in their entirety either - herbs/spices, etc. But that far from explains all the spending.

Which brings us to the final point: I'm just way too ambitious. This whole meal started out with us going out to Olive Garden a couple weeks ago and it sucking pretty horribly. So I decided "You know, I could do better! And I will! Fake-o Italian for dinner it is!"

I thought that the chicken recipe I made sounded good. But I thought, "well, Max won't like that, so I'll make ravioli too!" OOh! I could make two kinds!! And really, salad, bruschetta, and  chicken would have been fine. Also - and really the salad and chicken would have been even better.

I spent 9 hours in the kitchen that day, and left it a mess. Wanting to do so much sucked up my whole Sunday, made way too much not-exactly-great food  because I was rushing to get to the next thing,  and I spent way too much money doing it.

From now on I need to get out of gramma mode. ALL of the older people in my family are obsessed with "did you get enough to eat?" Most of my exposure to meal preparation came from my grandma and grampa (both the parents of my mother, but in different households.) My grampa had 8 people to feed when there wasn't company, and my grandmother had spent her whole life feeding his first batch of kids (which was just one short of the new family he made.)

And every time we visited them or anyone else in their age bracket or older it was "are ya hungry? 'ja need somethin' ta eat?" So I suppose that, to a point, I was raised to expect to need to get fed at every turn, and to always make more than enough.

The stupid thing is that I'm not some idjit convincing themselves that Sugar Covered Lumps is the answer to a healthy breakfast. I know nutrition, I know how to tally things up and that, despite what Kraft Foods tells me, refined sugar products have no place in a regular healthy diet.

But I eat and feed my family as if IT MIGHT RUN OUT!
And hey, I'm a fan of dystopian futures, it might run out. But it's not like we're storing it in the storm shelter or anything. Nope we're just storing it on our butts.

So, I don't know what's in store for next Sunday, but my primary goal is to make a meal that is no more than six total meal servings of 600-800 calories. Because this needs to stop. Seriously.

Mmmm, artery clogging.

Oh yeah. You see what's already on Max's plate? (left)
That's all he ate all night. If I could get him to eat some veggies he'd so be on the right track.

"But Denise" I hear you say, "weren't you were going to sneak attack him with veggies in the ravioli? How'd that work out?


He refused to even try it.

*"Muahahahahahah! Who's laughing now, Mom?
Who's laughing now?"

Touché, Max, touché.

I'll post later about that day's adventure with caramel and pie.


  1. Yep, I think you've identified the problem. You made THREE Sunday dinners on one day. Something that I've done on occasion is to make a full recipe of something, split it and freeze half. Makes you feel virtuous as all get out and you don't need to cram it in or get sick of the leftovers hanging around forever.

  2. Thanks for sharing. Excellent mix of serious and funny. :)

    (Trust you to start on the horror that is ammoniated beef product, and end on that awesomely creepy shot of Max. Well played!)

  3. Jeri, I definately need to do more freezing of the leftovers when the ingredients necessitate making such large quantities (roasts, ham, etc.)Otherwise I *just need to make less!* I'm certain I can teach myself this.

    I wasn't feeling the funny much, but that last pic of Max was too much. It went so well with my total failure in the ravioli department.