Monday, March 22, 2010

Food: Simple Recipes for Survival #1

Last week... at some point... I was bemoaning the state of food and cooking education our kids get these days.  Please know, I'm not blaming parents.  Education in all areas is suffering because of Federal funding.  And as the mother of a very opinionated and stubborn child, I know it can be difficult to teach at home.  Sometimes your child needs a neutral third party to teach them, one that hasn't been after them to brush their teeth and get to bed.

Studies show that kids, even truly picky eaters, will be more likely to enjoy and actually eat a food that they've helped prepare.  So get them in the kitchen!  Even if they only grab a spoon and stir a pasta salad, they're learning something.  They're amazing sponges, picking up info from places when you didn't even think they were paying attention.

I know I promised that these recipes would be easy, and something your kids will want to eat.  This particular recipe is kind of "iffy" in that regard, so I'm doing this one first, partly because I know there are also some picky adults who wouldn't eat it (but should) and partly because it is one of the LEAST expensive recipes I know.  In fact, if you cut out the meat you could probably feed four people to the bursting point with it for under a dollar.

And with most of these recipes, I'm going to try to select ones that DON'T need the meat that's in them.  It's there for flavor and additional protein.

There are many variations of this recipe.  My family happens to like it anyway, but over the last couple years I've adjusted this and made it more "my own" so if you want to adjust it to suit your needs feel free.

Skillet "Stuffed" Cabbage

One small head green cabbage, chopped coarsely.
One Yellow Onion, peeled and chopped
One or two cloves garlic, to taste (I personally add more like four)
One pound ground beef (may be substituted with two cups cooked lentils)
One 16oz can petite diced tomatoes, or tomato puree
One teaspoon beef bouillon granules (may be substituted with vegetable bouillon or left out entirely)
Old Bay Seasoning (optional, to taste)
Cooked white or brown rice (half cup uncooked rice per person)

Start your rice first.  Rice takes 20 minutes or more to cook, so have that on its way before starting the skillet because this goes pretty fast.

Brown the ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat.  I use a non-stick chicken frier, which is a four-inch deep skillet, mostly because I spill when I stir if I don't.  Make sure you have a good lid for this pan.  If you're using the lentils option, stir the cooked lentils in a few tablespoons of vegetable oil.  Add onion to the pan.  Once the onions are translucent, add the garlic, and stir it all together briefly. 

Add the cabbage.  It's very important that the cabbage not be over-cooked.  The reason cooked cabbage stinks most of the time is because people cook it until it breaks down.  Cabbage has a lot of sulphur in it.  While sulphur is good for many health benefits, it does smell.  What you want here is a crisp-tender consistency, like with a good stir-fry.  If it goes limp, you've gone too far.

Add the tomatoes and bouillon granules.  Add salt, pepper, and Old Bay seasoning.  Sometimes I will add a bit of red pepper flake at this point to spice it up.  Taste yours and see what you think... remember it's going over rice, which will "dilute" the flavor a bit.  Cover and simmer briefly, just to blend the flavors a bit.

Serve over hot rice.

*End of Recipe*

My husband praises my rice.  He says I always cook it perfect, which (being a picky cook) I have to disagree with.  Sometimes I get it stuck to the bottom of the pan, sometimes I don't think it's sticky enough.

99% of the time, I cook my rice to be like sticky chinese rice, like you get when you order takeout.  A lot of this recipes' success relies on that consistency, because I don't thicken the sauce.  The rice starch does that on the plate.  IF you're using converted rice (the kind that comes out with separate kernels), then you're going to want to thicken your sauce using a starch, either flour or cornstarch, because you DON'T want to cook this until it's naturally thickened.  Remember, mushy cabbage is nobody's friend.

Let me know in the comments whether you want me to share my method for cooking rice.  I'd be happy to do so, and it's really simple.


  1. I'd be in the poorhouse if I ate out even half of the week, so I really dug your previous post on food.

    This is a great recipe and everyone in my house LOVE cabbage, so I'll be adding it to my collection. Thanks.

  2. Oh, yes, I forgot to add too...

    I have "petite diced" tomatoes in this recipe, and it's important not to substitute those with regularly diced tomatoes. Why? The short amount of time that the tomatoes actually cook. The smaller dice helps them cook faster.

    If petite diced tomatoes are not available in your area, or you don't want to use a starch to thicken a tomato puree when using converted rice, then go with tomato sauce instead.

    Heck, sometimes I use this recipe to use up leftover spaghetti sauce and add a little liquid. It changes the flavor, but I love using up leftovers. :D