Stuffed Cabbage Rolls are so old fashioned they’re probably just out fashion, but they make a fantastic, hearty meal on a cold, dreary wet spring day.
My sister suggested Stuffed Cabbage Rolls for a blog post, and yeah, I turned up my nose at the idea at first. Then the idea slowly percolated, and these Stuffed Cabbage Rolls were just the thing this week when I was reluctant to turn on the furnace and hoping the sun would come out. The long, slow braise warmed up my kitchen and the smell wafting through the house was fantastic…
Thanks, Sis, I owe ya one. I was worried about using a recipe with canned soup, but it was the right call. Neither my son or I could stop eating these. We even warmed up a couple for a late night snack. Don’t be tempted to leave out the raisins – just trust me on this one!
The thing with cabbage rolls is that once you prepare the cabbage, you’re basically committed to using the whole head. This recipe makes about 18 or so cabbage rolls, packed in a 9 x 13″ pan. This is the kind of recipe I love, because I divide the cabbage rolls amongst two casseroles, bake them both, then cover one tightly and freeze for a later meal. They freeze beautifully and just need a reheating at a later date.
With careful shopping the Cabbage Rolls cost about $6.26, total, and 1/2 for the meal around $3.14. I added budget sides: Lovely mashed potatoes to sop up the sauce and my favorite Carrots with Parsley Butter. A few mashed potatoes for four runs well under a dollar and the carrots about 60 cents, bringing the meal total to about $4.75.
I’ve started making mashed in smaller quantities and just mash by hand – mostly for health reasons (it really helps to avoid gluttony!) A potato per person and “one for the pot” works out well and with a bit of milk and butter is a dirt cheap side.
Recipe: Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Sweet Sour Sauce, makes about 18 rolls, allow 2 to 3 per person.
- 1 large head cabbage
- 1 cup long grain white rice, uncooked
- 1-1/2 pounds ground beef
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped or grated
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoons pepper
- 1 cup golden raisins (they look better in the dish, but the plain old brown variety is fine, too.)
- 2 cans tomato soup
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons vinegar (plain or flavored)
- scant 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (this is strong – add some, then taste as the strength can vary depending on age.)
- 1 soup cans of water
- Salt to taste
Bring a large stock pot (12 quart) of water to boil. Core the cabbage and place upside down in the boiling water. I put a plate over the cabbage to hold it down. Blanch about 3 – 5 minutes, remove promptly and drain upside down. Separate the leaves carefully, keeping them intact. You should get about 15 to 18 leaves intact. Slice the remainder of the cabbage and scatter it in the bottom a 9 x 11 baking pan.
Meanwhile, mix tomato soup with brown sugar, lemon juice vinegar, allspice, salt and one can of water. Feel free to taste and make sweeter or more sour by adding more sugar or vinegar/lemon. Set aside.
In another small saucepan, bring water to a boil. Pour in rice and raisins and boil for 5 minutes. Drain. Cool slightly.
In a large bow mix rice and raisin mixture with ground beef, onion, eggs, salt and pepper.
Roll mixture in cabbage leaves – one by one, take a cabbage leaf and cut any hard core at the bottom of the leaf out with by making a small triangle. Place about 1/3 cup of the filling on the leaf, and roll and tuck from the top down. Place in rows in the pan, nice side up. If you need to, put two smaller leaves together and roll together as one.
Pour the sauce over the cabbage rolls, cover tightly with foil and bake for two hours at 325 degrees.
I had to take a photo of the cabbage leaves as I laid them down after blanching: Now, I finally understand the beauty of Majolica pottery!
Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:
- Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
- Follow my Strategies – You’ll see them all explained on the upper left tab of every page and how I apply them, below.
- Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
- Read below for additional tips, as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.
Strategies Applied: Cost $6.26 for two meals:
- Time: Divide and Conquer – Bake this in two casseroles (you may need to increase the sauce, depending on the size and shape of the casseroles you use and how much sauce you’d like) and freeze one to eat later. When ready to use it, thaw overnight in the fridge, then bake, covered, at 325 degrees for about 50 minutes.
- Cabbage: Pick the largest cabbage you can find. Mine was almost 4 pounds. Cabbage is always less expensive in the fall/winter and usually there is a great sale around St. Paddy’s day. While you’ll want to pay attention to the sales, per head or per pound, they can often be picked up in my area for very cheap. It makes sense to pick up an extra if you have room in your fridge when you see a rock bottom price and using it for Braised Cabbage or Cole Slaw. Try using the core in a stock or in a green smoothie. I paid 68 cents for mine (17 cents a pound.)
- Ground Beef: I always buy on sale and freeze – I don’t think there is ever a reason to pay full price. If I have a bit left over because the sale price doesn’t allow me to always choose the quantity, I put the remainder in a Ziploc and freeze, noting the weight on the package. I’ll add to it until I get enough to make something. Cost $1.99 a pound, a pound and a half is $2.99
- Rice: I was lucky to pick up Riceland on sale with a coupon through most of last fall, so my cost was free. If you don’t have a coupon, buy in a larger bag. Check in the “ethnic” areas of your store, too, where prices are sometimes lower - a good price if you have to pay is about 8 cents a cup.
- Onion: At 66 a pound, a half an onion is about 12 cents. Store in a dark, cool place away from your potatoes. I keep mine in a paper grocery sack by my kitchen door. Pick them up in quantity when you see them on sale, or if you have an Aldi’s near you, they may be less expensive there.
- Eggs: Stock up on eggs when they’re inexpensive, normally during Holiday weeks. Low prices in my area range from free (often with other purchases) to anywhere from 50 to 88 cents. They last for weeks in the fridge – The date on the container is a ‘buy’ date, and you can expect them to last a good six weeks past that date. If you pick up two or three packages when they’re at their low, you’ll rarely need to pay full price.
- Refrigerate right away and never store in the door; eggs keep best in a colder part of the refrigerator, in their own box. (Then put your partially used vegetables in the door where you’ll see them and remember they need to be used ASAP – the half a bell pepper or onion, etc.) In doubt about an egg? If it floats in water, discard, just to be on the safe side. Cost for 2 at 44 cents a dozen? About 7 cents.
- Raisins: Buy these at Christmas, if possible, when dried fruits and nuts of all kinds go on sale for some of the lowest prices of the year. I keep them in their box, but I put them into a Ziploc so they stay moist for a long time. Cost per pound $1.89 on sale, you’ll seldom see coupons for them. One cup is about 72 cents.
- Tomato Soup: Substitute canned tomatoes pulsed in the blender or food processor if you’d like, but there is something a little magical about the way the smooth, creamy soup makes this sauce. I try to stock up on a few basic canned soups in the fall, and with coupons and sales I often buy them at no cost. My cost was free, but a good sales price with a coupon is about 50 cents, so I’ll count a dollar toward the soup.
- Brown Sugar: Both Brown Sugar and Powdered Sugar go on sale before Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter – just the time there are great coupons out there. You may find lesser sales around other holidays, too. I generally pay between 60 and 99 cents for the two-pound bags – I don’t like to run low because the regular price is around $2.39. Cost for 1/2 cup is 10 cents.
- Lemon Juice: Look for lemons to drop in price from January to April, stock up a bit when the price is really great as they keep for several weeks. If the recipe doesn’t use all the rind, I’ll grate off the rest before I squeeze it and put it in small snack sized Ziplocs in the freezer for another use. To get more juice out of your lemon, press down on it and roll it on your counter, or place in the microwave for just a few seconds to barely warm. Last bought 69 cents for a lemon, I just used the juice of one, which is about 3 tablespoons.
- Vinegar: Buy it now at Easter – often unadvertised, you’ll find both regular and apple cider on sale as well as the fancier varieties - often with a coupon. I used apple cider here, cost negligible.
Put Your own Spin on It:
- As mentioned before, if you don’t wish to use the Tomato Soup, just pulse a like amount of canned tomatoes with some of the juice for a substitute, but you can also use brown rice instead of regular rice.
- You can change-up the meat in this recipe – use all or a combination of any good quality ground turkey, pork or beef.
- I don’t make this recipe often – it takes a LONG time to cook, although the preparation really isn’t as bad as you’d think – so I enjoy it for its plain, simple taste. If you get too fancy, you might find yourself with something like meatloaf, which is fine, but then why not have meatloaf?
- I’ve seen many recipes using sauerkraut on the bottom and top, with a bit of the sauerkraut juices blended in the sauce.
- I’ve also made a fancier version in the past that had a bit of vermouth (about 1/4 cup) in the sauce, then the cabbage rolls were removed, and the sauce was blended with about a 1/4 cup of sour cream. Delicious…
Nutrition per Roll: Cal 193, Cal fat: 83, 44%; Tot fat 9g; Chol 49mg; Sod 192 mg; Pot 211mg; Carb 18g; Fib .82g; Sug 12g; Prot 9g.
Made in March 2012