“Since hunger is the most primitive and permanent of human wants, men always want to eat, but since their wish not to be a mere animal is also profound, they have always attended with special care to the manners which conceal the fact that at the table we are animals feeding.” - John Erskine

15 August 2011

Crock Pot Cabbage Rolls

Have to admit, I kiped the picture for this one off the internet – couldn’t find my camera and by the time I did they were long gone.  My cabbage rolls looked a lot like this, only I think I rolled them a little more tightly.  (Try slitting up the stem about half an inch, it makes rolling a lot easier.)  And I think the recipe is the same, or pretty close.  Heres the link.  (Couldnt figure out how to link the pic...)

This is a great recipe for those days when you know you’re going to be pressed for time, or for when it’s too hot to turn the oven on.  (Hope you’re paying attention Renée!  I chose this recipe just for you!)  But you do need to prepare ahead.  They take 8-10 hours to cook.  Here’s the recipe.

Crock Pot Cabbage Rolls
12 large cabbage leaves
1 pound lean ground beef
½ cup cooked rice
1 (6-oz) can tomato paste
¾ cup water
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon thyme
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Wash cabbage leaves.  Boil 4 cups of water.  Turn off heat.  Soak leaves in water for 5 minutes.  Remove, drain and cool.

Combine ground beef, rice, salt pepper, thyme, nutmeg and cinnamon.  Place 2 tablespoons meat mixture on each leaf and roll firmly.  Stack in crock pot.

Combine tomato paste and water, pour over stuffed cabbage.  Cover.  Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

I really did follow this recipe almost exactly.  Really.  Hey, Im capable of following a recipe!  I started by cooking the rice, since it takes a good 45 minutes for my favorite.  Texmati Brown Rice.  If you haven’t tried – or haven’t liked – brown rice or are just looking for a yummy alternative, I highly recommend this one.  It is so yum!  And it makes your house smell like popcorn while it’s cooking.  No joke, popcorn.  Try it and see.  I’ve had a hard time finding this in Wal-Mart lately, but my mom said she saw some at Smith’s.  I’ll have to go look.  Since our altitude is so high – and I like sticky rice – I always add an extra ¼-½ cup water and a pat of butter to keep it from sticking to my pot.  (I have a rice cooker but I cant stand to clean it and I never like how my rice turns out in it.  If you like it that way, go for it.  Me, Im happy using a pot with a good tight lid.)

Next I washed a head of cabbage fresh from my parents’ garden.  Everything seems to taste better from your own (or your own parents’) garden.  Second to that is my sister-in-law’s farm.  Mmm, fresh veggies.  I could have done without the nest of newly hatched earwigs though.  Ew!  Had 4-6 “baby” earwigs crawl out of the leaves as I was washing.  Not quite grown up but big enough to be creepy.  Quick trip to a party in my disposal for the little bug-ers (pun intended, hehe) but I was freaked out waiting to find another one with each new leaf I pulled off.  Felt creepy crawly all day.

While the cabbage was steaming, I mixed up the filling.  No need to cook the ground beef, it cooks up in the crock pot.  I did a whoopsie though – mixed up my water and tomato paste into the filling.  I made up some extra to pour over the top, but the extra moisture made the filling kind of mealy in my opinion.  Husband and kidlets didn’t complain, but I think I’ll try it the right way next time.  And here’s where I made the change.  Yes, I admit it, I didn’t follow the recipe AGAIN.   Just couldn’t stand the thought of cinnamon in my cabbage rolls.  I was willing to tolerate the nutmeg, since a chef I know recently told me that nutmeg is a secret ingredient in the best potato casseroles, but belongs in sweet breads and cookies in my opinion and my brain didn’t feel like bending on that subject.  I couldn’t reach the nutmeg in my cupboard and didn’t want to have to drag out the step stool so I settled for my old stand-by, season salt.  And onion powder.  Figured I had to replace the flavor somehow.  Tasted pretty good.  (Am I being too predictable?  After all, the point of this project was to try new things... Ok, I promise to be more adventurous next time.)

I made these a day ahead, put them in my crock and put it in the fridge.  Next morning all I had to do was pop it on the warmer and turn it on.  Warm filling meal with no added oven heat.  Big hit with the fam, and this is a one pot meal – meat, vegetables, rice, all in one pot!  How sweet is that?  Of course, the animals were crying for food again in 2 hours, but what else is new?  Next time maybe I should make a hot batch of rolls or some cornbread to go with them, although that would mean turning the oven on.  Quick trip to the bakery...?

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