It sounded failure proof: "This made a great-tasting sauce with no extra work," read the descriptor for Slow Cooker Italian Chicken Breasts.
My kids like chicken, they like Italian, and doesn't the slow cooker turn everything into a tender, flavourful concoction?
As part of my loving-kindness project, I purchased two more cookbooks to help us eat healthier. One is The Complete Idiot's Guide to The Mediterranean Diet and the other, the one with the Italian chicken, is 500 Low Glycemic Recipes.
All I had to do was dump sliced onion, chicken breasts, tomato paste, some white wine and a bunch of seasonings in a slow cooker and switch it on low for eight hours.
All went well till I came to the tomato paste. The recipe wanted 12 ounces (340 grams) but my cans were measured in millilitres.
"Do you know what mls are in grams?" I shouted downstairs to D'Arcy, who was on the computer. I had two 156 ml cans sitting in front of me.
"A millilitre is a unit of volume and the gram is a unit of mass. They're different measures."
"I have 156 mls and I need the equivalent in grams."
I went on to the other ingredients, then noticed the tomato paste was also listed in ounces —12.
"What about ounces? What's 156 mls in ounces?"
"Thanks." I'll put both cans in, I thought.
I'd never made a recipe that called for two cans of tomato paste. Wasn't that supposed to be something you used sparingly?
I stirred everything up and poured it over the chicken breasts. It didn't look very tasty. It looked like thick, undiluted tomato paste.
"Are you sure about the mls to ounces?"
"That's what it says."
A couple of kids came in and looked at the thick red mush in the slow cooker.
"I'm not telling you, because I know what you'll say and I don't want to hear any criticism."
"Don't worry Mom. It's not like I'm going to eat it! I just wanted to know."
"Well I'm not telling you!"
I was hopeful that as the hours ticked by the slow cooker would do it's magic.
It was too late to eat the meal that night, so I heated it up the next day. Even after eight hours it didn't look very good. The chicken breasts had disintegrated into stringy pieces and the sauce had an overpowering tomato smell.
D'Arcy and I sat down to eat. He'd had a terrible migraine.
I mixed the chicken with rice, trying to tone down the tomato taste, but I wasn't successful. It still tasted like hot tomato paste with overdone chicken.
Ben began to bump down the stairs. "What's for dinner?" he signed.
"Chicken and rice" D'Arcy said, which I knew in Ben's mind would conjure up either a yummy Indian butter chicken dish, or my barbecue sticky chicken.
"Don't tell him that, he'll think it's something else."
I jumped up. I couldn't bring myself to serving Ben the Italian chicken. "Didn't you want some spaghetti?" I said, heading for the leftovers in the fridge.
When I sat down again D'Arcy's face was scrunched up.
"Is your headache really THAT bad?"
"It's not my head," he said.
"What happened? Was it too much tomato paste? What went wrong? I didn't omit anything."
As I was clearing up I put a portion of the "Italian chicken" in a lunch container and threw the rest in the compost. I knew it wouldn't get better with time.
Today I brought it to work. This could be a dramatic means of weight loss, I thought, recognizing I had absolutely no desire to eat.
I later took the container with me downstairs when I went to pick up some printing in the Family Resource Centre. I had to heat it up in the microwave, but I managed to get back to the elevator before I realized I wasn't holding the container anymore.
I had strategically left it at the printer.
I did eventually eat my Italian chicken. A colleague even remarked that it smelled good. "No, it doesn't. Trust me. It's horrible."
Now my kids want dinner and all I have is salmon and cod. And I don't dare try to snap something up with either of those.
"Mom. I hate fish!"