I had something else planned for dinner tonight. Or no, more accurately, I didn’t really have anything planned for dinner tonight, although I knew I had plenty of good real food in the house and was sure I’d figure something out.
But then we had stopped in at Costco for a couple of things and I found myself nabbing a package of organic spinach and cheese ravioli with the sudden conviction that that was what we should have for dinner. And you know what? I feel perfectly fine about that choice. It might not pass someone’s criteria if they were fanatic and going for 100% perfection in completely un-processed food, but since I’m still a big fan of how the real food needs to fit into real life, I was good.
So, let’s look closer at what we ended up with for dinner. (Remember you can always click on the photos to see a larger view!) At first the ingredient list looks dauntingly long. But then you actually read the full list and you realize that most of the length is due to the inclusion of several different cheeses (each of which requires their own list of ingredients), a bechemel sauce (more ingredients), and pasta (also with several ingredients). The simple fact is that if you made this dish at home — something well within many people’s kitchen skill level — you’d have all those ingredients, too.
About the only item that was really not something you’d likely have in your kitchen — or, more to the point in the determination many folks use of “could a reasonable home cook have made this themselves” — was the xanthan gum. Xanthan gum is actually made of reasonably “natural” ingredients but is clearly “processed” in a procedure that you’d be exceedingly unlikely to ever manage at home. So for a true purist, that alone might knock this out of the running.
Whew, good thing I’m not a true purist! I was incredibly “all right” with the inclusion of a pinch of xanthan gum in the bechemel. (You can see where it falls in the list of ingredients and if you know how to make a bechemel —or white—sauce yourself, you can readily see it’s not a major ingredient!) I’m much more concerned with — that is, pleased with! — the organic eggs, milk, spinach, wheat, and so on that this ravioli is made with.
So, what did I actually fix for dinner? I cooked the ravioli for the necessary few minutes in a large skillet of boiling water (I like to use a skillet for these so they can sit pretty much on their own and not be all piled together in a saucepan or pot) then scooped each one out individually and laid them out on a plate (again, so they didn’t stick together).
After pouring the cooking water out of the skillet, in went some organic chicken broth (from the store; your homemade broth or stock would be even better but store-bought is what I had) to reduce a bit, a couple of good-sized blops of my fresh tomato sauce from the slow-cooker extravaganza the other day, then about three ounces of goat cheese, and a spoonful of pesto for seasoning.
The cheese melted and I had an easy tasty creamy slightly tomato-y sauce into which I reintroduced each ravioli. Turned each one over a time or two to coat in sauce and, voila, our main dish. In the few minutes that it took for the ravioli to cook, I had grabbed the box of organic mixed greens from the fridge and put a little pile of each plate. Then a little sliced onion (from a local farm), a sliced mushroom, and one of my garden ripe tomatoes cut up on top. A dollop of ranch dressing from a local company and there was our side.
Plenty “real-food” enough for me, delish, totally easy, and surprisingly inexpensive. The ravioli double-package was $11.39, we used a bit less than $2’s worth for the two of us and a bit less than $1’s worth of the goat cheese ($6.69 for 21 ounces, we used 3 ounces). Less than a dollar in salad greens, and another dollar all told in salad dressing, chicken broth, onion and such, so just over a couple of bucks per person for the entire dinner. Faster and vastly cheaper than take-out, easy enough so that the entire meal took me around 10 minutes in the kitchen, and food I felt good about serving and eating.
Real food really doesn’t have to be complicated!