Hacks from my Happy Place – IX

This post is dedicated to cabbage. Cabbage is something you either like or you don’t. I happen to like it – a lot!

Forty or so years ago, when I was so poor that food had to cost next to nothing, I would brown a pound of hamburger, cut up a potato or two and buy a big head of cabbage. Once the hamburger was browned, I would drain it and put it in my big soup pot with lots of water (I couldn’t afford to buy stock back then), and the potatoes and cut up cabbage and boil it until the potatoes and cabbage were tender. I would easily get four good meals from this, served in a bowl with some salt and pepper. When times were good, I’d make some instant rice and add it, knowing that it would stretch the meal even farther. When times were really good, I’d buy a bag of shredded cheese, heat up a portion then drain off the broth, top it with the shredded cheese and turn it into an au-gratin meal. With those little change-ups of adding rice and then the cheese, I could easily have enough meals to get me through a week for less than $25! And yes, I was that poor!

Nowadays, I still like cabbage, but I’ve added recipes to my repertoire. One of the ones I make that everyone who likes cabbage always ask me for some of is cabbage soup. I’ve traded out the hamburger for cooked chicken, sauté some onions to add to it, use chicken stock, add a can of diced tomatoes and again, cook a big head of cabbage until it is tender. This too stretches into many meals (more if I wouldn’t be giving so much of it away) and can be made au-gratin in the same way – by draining off the broth and adding shredded cheese to the top. For a little more color, I sometimes add sliced carrots.

Whenever I make this, I always save a little bit of the cabbage, chopped up, in a baggie in my freezer. Cabbage is a welcome addition to vegetable soup (vegetarian or with meat) and since it’s going to get cooked anyhow, freezing it doesn’t hurt it!

For a really special treat, I make fried cabbage. This starts with browning some loose sausage and adding sautéed onions, then draining it but using the same pan to cook off bacon. Dice up the bacon, then add the bacon, onions and sausage to a pot with a little bit (just a little bit!) of the bacon grease, and add cabbage. Put a lid on it so the cabbage has a chance to steam soft, then remove the lid and stir occasionally until the cabbage starts to brown.

Last but not least is unstuffed cabbage rolls (my mom called it “Lazy Man’s Cabbage Rolls”). In a large soup pan, put a layer of tomato sauce on the bottom, then some cabbage leaves. Add some meatballs then a layer of cooked rice, another layer of tomato sauce and cabbage. Continue to build the layers, ending with tomato sauce and cabbage. Put a lid on and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is soft and the meatballs are cooked through.

So there are some recipes to try using the ever-budget-friendly head of cabbage! Let me know if you have any recipes using cabbage that I should try! Meanwhile, happy eating!