National Cabbage Day!

When I got Steff Deschenes’ Eat the Year for Christmas I went a little post-it crazy and marked up the whole book (really, the whole book) with all of the days that I wanted to write about. Today is absolutely one of them.

Cabbage is amazing. It is second to only mushrooms as my favorite veg, likely because I grew up eating a lot of cabbage. Cabbage is a staple in Russian and German cooking, which is where I find my heritage. In honor of that heritage, I will celebrate today by sharing my family recipe for halupsi (the rest of my family spells it haloopsi, in case that’s any more familiar for you). Halupsi are cabbage rolls. The name, we think, is a corruption of the Russian word “galupsi,” which is what they call their cabbage rolls. My ancestry is all German, but several of the recent generations were German nationals living in Russia before immigrating to the US (I’m third and fourth generation on my mom’s side; dad’s side goes back to almost pilgrims). The recipe sort of straddles the two cultures, but whichever it is, it is soooo good. I usually make a double batch (leftovers of this are amazing).

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  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 1 lb. of ground beef
  • 1/2 cup of rice, cooked and cooled
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large can of diced tomatoes in the juice
  • 2 small cans of diced tomatoes in the juice
  • 1 tsp. salt and pepper to taste
  • Canola or other vegetable oil

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Soften cabbage leaves by cutting off of head and immersing in boiling water for approximately 2 to 3 minutes and then drain.  Mix the ground beef, rice, chopped onion, part of the diced tomatoes (the large can and part of 1 of the small cans) and salt and pepper together.

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Spoon the mixture into the cabbage leaves, fold the leaves around the filling.  Place in a covered roaster or large frying pan, add approx. 1/4 cup oil (I usually do this on the bottom of the pan) and the rest of the tomatoes.

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Bake in a 350º oven for 1 to 1½ hours until rice is tender (the cabbage may brown a bit, I usually cook them for about 1 hour 15 mins and they’re prefect).  Check for moisture as it is baking and add more tomatoes and juice as needed.

Grandma’s Recipe: Porcupine meatballs

I know, I know. You saw that title and asked, “What the heck is a porcupine meatball?”

Porcupine meatballs

Those are porcupine meatballs (served with broccoli, obviously). They are amazeballs. They also come with a family legacy (at least three generations have made them) and a funny story involving fourth grade me, my mom, and an ill-balanced carrying container.

First, the recipe. Mix together:

  • 1/4 cup tomato soup
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1/4 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 egg (slightly beaten)
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 2 tbsp minced parsley
  • 1 tsp salt

Shape the mix into balls (makes approx. 16). Brown them in 2 tbsp (or less if your ground beef has higher than 7% fat) shortening with a small clove of minced garlic. Once brown, add the rest of the tomato soup and 1 cup of water (though I’d like to try it with vegetable broth), and cover. Simmer for 40 minutes, or until rice is tender, occasionally stirring.

I try to serve it with a green, like broccoli or sautéed cabbage (which is my favorite veg–it’s the German in me).

Now for the funny story. So, from what my mom and I remember, my fourth grade class was doing some sort of bring ethnic family food to class to share thing, and I volunteered to bring these. I loved these as a kid (still do), and they’re bite size so they’re perfect for sharing a batch amongst a class of 20 or so. Because they’re served hot, my mom decided to bring them to my classroom just before I was to give my presentation about them. I have no memory of talking about them, but I do remember that while we were waiting for her to get to the classroom, our room phone rang and it was the front office. I was called up and my mom was on the phone. I think maybe you can see where this is going. While she had been walking through the cafeteria to my classroom, the *glass* bowl of the meatballs had fallen and they had splatted pretty well on the floor (it was a big cement outdoor place, as is common in Southern California). The bowl was in shards and my class was now going to be meatball-less. It was disappointing, but we can laugh about it now.

So I have a warning for you if you make these: use plastic!

Mushrooms and snow peas and onion, oh my!

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This may be the best randomly whipped up side dish I’ve ever made. It was so flippin’ good.

I took:

  • snow peas, trimmed
  • mushrooms, sliced 1/4-1/2 inch thick
  • yellow onion, halved and sliced 1/4-1/2 inch thick
  • granulated garlic
  • s&p
  • soy sauce

I started by sauteing the onion in a little butter and olive oil for a few minutes on med-high heat. Then I added the snow peas and sautéed them for a couple of minutes to start softening them. I sprinkled them with the garlic and s&p to taste, then added the mushrooms. I sautéed the whole thing until the mushrooms started to brown, then I added a few splashes of soy sauce. I let it cook for another minute or so, stirring it, then served it with sticky rice and roast chicken. Delicious!

Peppers and onion and sausage, oh my!

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The other night I cooked up a dinner that could be summed up in one word: YUM! I never use that word. In fact, I have a weird aversion to it, probably because it tends to be overused. But that’s how much I loved what I made. It really all started with a bag of Marie Calendar’s Corn Bread mix that I bought. It was sitting in the pantry, pleading for me to make it. So I decided to follow my Southwest kick and bring in some peppers and sausage to the party.

First, I julienned four bell peppers (two red, one green, one yellow), and sliced up some yellow onion. In a big skillet, I sautéed the onion alone with some butter, garlic and s&p. After a few minutes, I added the bell pepper along with a little thyme, oregano, and a little more salt and garlic. I have a thing about not adding pepper to cooking bell peppers. I don’t know if it makes any sense, but about a year and a half ago I stopped and I like them better with a lower black pepper profile. Then I took a Hillshire Farms smoked turkey sausage and cut it on the bias. I like doing this mostly for the look. Because it was precooked, I didn’t have to worry about it too much. Of course, I am a genius and planned for everything to come out at the same time (which almost never happens the way I want it to–usually something needs longer than I planned or something cooks waaay faster than I thought it would). The two dishes made a delicious plate, and a bit of heartburn the next morning, but I didn’t even care.

One of my favorite fall dishes

I guess it’s not so much a fall dish, considering it relies on some great summer veg, but I like to make it in fall when it’s just starting to get cold out. I don’t really have a name for the dish either. When I want to make it, or others ask me to make it, it’s just “the orzo dish.” Anyways, I thought I’d share it with you guys. It’s full of veg and the chicken and orzo can easily be substituted for your own dietary needs or preferences. Also, I’m cooking for 4-5 people when I make this, so it’s a lot, but even if it’s just for 1 or 2, it’s great as leftovers.

veggie medley

Ingredients (for the veggie portion):

  • 1-2 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow squash, chopped
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed of woody ends and cut into thirds lengthwise
  • 1 medium onion, quartered and sliced in 1/4-1/2 inch wide slices
  • 1-2 red bell peppers, seeds and ribs removed, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • pat butter and 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • sea salt, pepper, granulated garlic, oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary, and savory (enough of the herbs for the veg to be obviously flecked with seasoning)

I start out by sauteing the onion and pepper together in the butter and olive oil until they are slightly softened. I then add all of the other veg, with seasoning, and continue cooking until they are tender but not mushy.

While I cook the veg, in another pan I boil a box of orzo pasta. When it’s al dente, I drain it and cook it for another few minutes in about 3/4 cups of chicken stock or broth, until it is mostly absorbed.

In addition to the veg and orzo, I like to add chicken. I cut up enough skinless, boneless chicken thighs for each person to have two thighs worth of meat. I cut the thighs into meatball size chunks and cook in the same seasoning, plus poultry seasoning, until cooked through.

When all of the components are finished, I combine all three in one pan and stir. It’s a big pot. If you can, let the mix simmer for a couple of minutes to meld the flavors.

What I love most about this is its one-pot feel. While it certainly isn’t cooked that way, it’s a complete meal in one dish, which is always appealing to me. It’s also fairly easy to cook. Most of the work is prepping the veg and that doesn’t take too long or much effort.

Happy cooking!