With work being pretty busy the last couple months, a very busy holiday season, taking a week escape from the city, and just overall not having a lot of time, I was on a cooking hiatus. So I make my come back with a story and deliciousness that marks my return to the kitchen and commitment to healthy eating.
Back in university I succumbed to peer pressure, not the usual kind of peer pressure that pops to mind, this involved peer pressure of food. My university room-mate loved cabbage rolls, they were probably her absolute favourite meal. So I gave in, I tried them, I expected to absolutely hate the things. I don't even know where this assumed dislike came from, I'd never had them before, and couldn't even really remember a time they'd be put in front of me as an option to eat, but the sound of them turned me off. Well was I ever surprised after that first bite to find out how delicious they were! Why had my mom never served these delicious things? Or had she tried once and I refused to eat them? Whatever the reason, it didn't matter, cabbage rolls were in frequent rotation at dinner and reluctantly shared leftover item at lunch the following day.
Now a little fact about these cabbage rolls we loved so much is they weren't home made, they were deliciousness found at M&M's meat shop. I still frequently buy myself the individual sized containers from M&M's, but then for some reason this past weekend I got the idea in my head I needed to make them for myself. So as is my habit when I'm making something new, I reviewed a few recipes online, took the pieces of information I thought sounded yummy and set to it.
This post isn't in my usual format of showing the ingredients all laid out first, because it didn't dawn on me to write a post about it until I already started. But here in all its deliciousness is my cabbage roll recipe:
1/2 cup brown rice (1 cup cooked)
1 head of cabbage
1 small onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp italian seasoning
1/2 package of extra lean ground beef
3 Italian sausages
1.5 cans diced or crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup yellow and red peppers
First I started off cooking the rice. While it was cooking I put the cabbage in the biggest pot I own to boil. I tried to cut the core out a bit as you can see to help it along.
Next finely chop up your onion and put it in the bowl, then remove the sausage from its casing, and combine with ground beef, garlic, salt and pepper, and Italian seasoning. Use your hands to combine it really well together like you would to make meatballs. Once the rice is cooked and cooked a bit, add it to the mixture also using your hands (I tried a spoon but it didn't work well enough).
Your cabbage should only need about 8-10 minutes to boil, so should be done around the same time as your rice. Put it in a strainer and run it under cold water. Then start to remove the leaves from the cabbage stems first, if you try to grabs the leaf off the top it will tear. I don't have a picture of this part, water and hot cabbage do not make for a good photo op for this klutzy individual.
Either now, or while your rice is cooking, prepare your sauce. I used dice tomatoes so used an immersion blender to make it smooth, I also added in some yellow and red peppers and blended that in with the tomatoes to give it some extra flavour. I decided since I had so much onion and garlic already in the meat mixture the tomatoes with peppers was probably enough flavour, and it was a good decision.
Next I moved my pan with a bit of tomato covering the bottom, meat mixture, cabbage leafs, and remaining tomatoes to the dining room table to start rolling. Make sure to cut the thick stems out of the cabbage leaves before you roll them, they make it hard to roll and also wouldn't be very easy to eat. I don't have a picture of me rolling, it was trial and error, but is pretty self explanatory once you sit down with everything.
As you can see this recipe made 12 cabbage rolls, I then covered them with the can and a half of tomatoes and then popped them into the oven for an hour and a half at 400. I was out of foil so I cooked mine uncovered, but I would recommend covering them for at least half of the cooking time, the tops of some of mine started to peak out, but still tasted great.
Now I know I said I'm making a commitment to eating healthier, and sausage doesn't exactly fit that, but I figure 3 sausages split between 3 or 4 servings isn't so bad. And home cooking is almost always healthier then picking something up on the walk home from work. And one more and, eating them with a side of salad instead of a big bed of rice makes them healthier too. I would try using ground chicken instead of ground beef next time though.
I'm already looking forward to having left overs for lunch tomorrow!