Photos from my Happy Place

After paying homage to cabbage in my last post from my happy place, I thought I’d share some photos of my recent ‘escapades’ with said item.

Fresh from market

This beauty, which weighed over 4 pounds, came from Shady Maple Market in Lancaster County, PA. Heads of cabbage there, all huge like this one, were only 99 cents each – that’s right, each, not per pound. How could I refuse such a deal?

So, what’s a girl to do with over 4 pounds of cabbage? Make all three of her favorite cabbage recipes, of course!

Batch of cabbage soup

First up was cabbage soup. In case you missed my previous blog, this is just cut-up cooked chicken, a can of diced tomatoes – juice and all – some chicken stock and the star of the show, cabbage. I do add some sauteed onions to start, but that is optional.

Batch of unstuffed cabbage rolls

Next up was unstuffed cabbage rolls. My friend, Deb, told me that she makes this using already browned hamburger and already cooked rice, so I tried that this time. She uses a crockpot, but I’m still more comfortable using my stove top and being able to stir now and then. Honestly, the taste is no different.

Batch of fried cabbage

Now on to fried cabbage. Certainly the most tedious of the recipes because the diced onions, loose sausage and bacon all get sauteed separately and are only combined once the cabbage has been steamed to soften it. Oh, but it is so worth it! With the extra time and work that making fried cabbage takes, it’s the most difficult of the three for me to share a lot of.

Now, as an extra bonus, I want to include some photos of hog maul/pig’s stomach for anyone who heard me talk about it and wondered exactly what it was.

Fully baked hog maul
Insides of the pig’s stomach. I was expecting loose sausage, but it was still yummy!

In closing, the saying is that “a picture’s worth a thousand words”. In that case, I hope you enjoy my 6000+ word post! LOL

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!

Hacks from my Happy Place – V

For our Fourth of July feast, my bestie had what I call a “happy accident”. I use that label to apply when you are cooking and without one of the ingredients, so you substitute something in its place and it turns out even better! One of our entrees was chicken, which was to be cooked on the grill with barbeque sauce. My poor bestie discovered that morning that she didn’t have any barbeque sauce! What she did have was a bottle of steak marinade, so she used it as a marinade for the chicken. It was fabulous! It had some of the sweetness of a barbeque sauce but also some of the smokiness of a beef marinade. I have tried different brands of barbeque sauces, never finding one that was quite the right blend of flavorings to suit me. Well, thanks to that “happy accident”, I’ll be using steak marinade instead in the future. It really WAS that good!

I love cabbage any way you cook it. Cabbage is one of those foods that you either love or hate, and I’m a lover. Years ago, I learned a recipe for fried cabbage, which I make now and again. It’s pretty simple. You fry bacon and set it aside. You fry loose sausage and set it aside. You fry chopped onions and set them aside. Then, in a non-stick Dutch oven, you add chopped cabbage and fry it over medium heat until it has almost completely softened (you’ll want to stir it now and then so you don’t burn it). When it’s just about soft, put the lid on and continue cooking until it’s completely soft. Remove the lid, add in the bacon (crumbled), the sausage and the onions, and stir until combined and everything is hot. Dish up and serve! I can eat this as an entire meal by itself, or it can be a side dish to a main entrée. Either way, it’s yummy! If you really want to make an impression on guests, dish up hot fried cabbage into a casserole, sprinkle with your favorite shredded cheese(s) and pop under the broiler until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown. The fried cabbage will last for up to a week in the fridge!

Did you know that you can brown flour? Flour is often used as a thickening agent for sauces and gravies and such, but using it in a roux (equal parts butter and flour, stirred until completely combined) does tend to lighten the color of whatever you add it to. To keep the rich, dark color of your sauce/gravy/etc., simply put flour in a frying pan and heat over medium heat, stirring about every 5 minutes or so. You will begin to see the flour turn brown. Keep heating and stirring until all of the flour has browned. Now when you use it as a thickener, it will help keep what you add it to from turning light. And, as a bonus, you can make this and keep in an airtight container in your pantry for as long as you’d like, so you don’t have to make it every time you want to use it!

“Brown butter” is a butter sauce you usually only see in Amish or PA Dutch cooking. But yes, you can brown butter. Again, do it in a frying pan, stirring repetitively, until you see the melted butter go from a pale yellow to a golden tone. Once you’ve reached that color, pull it away from the heat immediately. Serve over noodles or, yes, cabbage, or any pasta or vegetable of your choice. Browning butter gives it a subtle nutty taste, but it does, indeed, add taste to your butter! As an appetizer, add spices you would like and serve it with chunks of bread, like they do with oil in those fancy restaurants. Delish!

Well, now I’ve made myself hungry! Hope I’ve made you hungry too! Try some of these simple hacks, and here’s wishing you a “happy accident” in your future!