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Can you believe that it is already March? Next thing you know, Spring is right around the corner. I’m looking forward to the change in season, as Winter hasn’t been too kind to my family this year. I’ve been ill a few times since November and even as of last week had bronchitis. RoRo and RiRi have both been sick the majority of that time too, each of them also having bronchitis and RoRo also having a sinus infection. I thought we were in the clear and finally getting better, but now even today D-Man is sick with a high fever!! I honestly cannot wait for Spring to officially begin, as it’s actually my favorite season of the year, if you take out the terrible seasonal allergies! There’s so much to celebrate during this season, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, my wedding anniversary, RoRo and RiRi both have birthdays, then there’s my birthday and Mr. Harris’ birthday and also Mother’s Day. Not to mention the way plants and flowers come to life in dozens of beautiful colors. The sun stays out a little longer and it’s a reminder that summer is around the corner. Yes, I just love Spring.
I also love the meals that come along with Spring. Since different fruits and vegetables are in season this time of year, it’s fun to play around with a variety of seasonal types of meals. One of my favorites for the time of year is cabbage rolls. March 17th is National Corned Beef and Cabbage Day, as well as St. Patrick’s Day of course, and it’s the time of year I’m looking at cabbage a lot more. I like to use cabbage often in my meals, like using pickled cabbage in other recipes, like my fish tacos, or shredding it up and using it in salads or with pasta. However, I love a good classic meal and cabbage rolls are such a hearty use for cabbage. I make my recipe a little bit different by using brown rice and livening up my filling by adding both ground beef as well as just a bit of sausage for an extra oomph of flavor. I also like to use fire roasted diced tomatoes and even add a few key ingredients to the sauce to mimic my meat loaf sauce that makes it one of a kind (brown sugar and mustard!).
I was browsing around my local Smart & Final store when I got the inspiration for this meal. I like to keep my pantry stocked with tomato sauce, tomato paste, and a variety of diced tomatoes because they are so versatile and as long as you have some meat and starch, you can make a delicious meal every time. Smart & Final’s canned vegetable aisle is just full of their line of products, First Street, and the quality is comparable to the national brands too. I picked up a lot of pantry staples,
and from March 4th through March 31st there will be an “Our Brand, Your Pics” photo contest! Anyone can submit their photos of Smart & Final Private Label Brands to be voted on by the public. The voting period is between March 18th through 31st and there’s a chance to win $1,000, and photos have a chance to be featured in store or on the Smart & Final website! Be sure to follow along on their Facebook and Twitter pages.
The first time I made cabbage rolls I actually used purple cabbage to be different. It does offer a bit of a different taste, so I’d stick with the green cabbage that is a bit more pliable and offers a more subtle flavor. The key to working with the cabbage is to boil it for about 10 minutes, then run it under cool water. Even as it’s boiling, a few leaves will begin to loosen, but I find that working with it while it’s still under (cool) water helps them to come apart from the head without the leaves tearing too much.
This would be a great dish to prepare for a St. Patrick’s Day party or even for Easter, but really it’s great anytime. It’s hearty enough for those cold days that remind you that Winter is still lingering – especially if you’re still fighting those Winter colds like we are, but the bright colors and fresh flavors are so reminiscent of the brightness and fun of Spring. Serve it with some glazed, roasted carrots or some cheesy au gratin potatoes. However you’re celebrating, this could possibly be your new family classic!
Make sure you have a large enough pot to boil your cabbage, then after it’s done boiling you will be putting it under cold water to halt the cooking process. Once done, you can either pull or cut the leaves from the stem, just be careful not to rip any of the leaves because you don’t want the filling to ooze out of them once they’re cooking. Once the process is complete, pat cabbage leaves dry and set aside for now.
Lay your cabbage leaves on a clean surface, and spoon in about 1 tablespoon of cooked brown rice, then add about 1/3 cup of meat mixture. Just eyeball it based on the leaf size, the smaller leaves will obviously hold less filling.
Once you’ve filled the cabbage with the meat and rice mixture, bring the bottom (stem part) up and over the filling. Then you will fold each side in to cover the filling and then roll it up to the top of the leaf. It’s very much like folding an egg roll or spring roll, if you’re familiar. Once folded, place seam side down in a large baking dish.
- 1 medium head of cabbage
- 1 lb. ground beef
- ¼ lb. ground sausage
- ½ onion, chopped
- 2 cups cooked brown rice
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 tablespoon salt
- ½ tablespoon pepper
- 2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ½ onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ tablespoon yellow mustard
- 1.5 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 1 (15 ounce) can diced fire roasted tomatoes, undrained
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- (optional) parsley , for garnish
- Begin by filling a large pot with water, bring to a boil. Add cabbage to the water and let boil with lid on, turning the cabbage once or twice. Boil for 10 minutes.
- Once the cabbage is done, place the pot under cold water and let the hot water cycle out. Gently pull the cabbage leaves from the head, being careful not to rip any. I find it easiest to follow the top leave to the stem, then slowly pull away from the stem.
- Once all the leaves are removed, pat dry with paper towels then place on a plate lined with dry paper towels.
- Clean out the pot, then melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the bottom of the pot over low/medium heat. Add the chopped onions and saute until the onions become slightly transparent. Add the garlic and saute for a minute or two. Then add the brown sugar, continuing to stir until it begins to caramelize.
- Add the tomato paste, slowly mixing it in until it becomes smooth. Then add the mustard. Add the apple cider vinegar, then the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes.
- Stir well, then add seasonings. Mix to combine, then bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer, uncovered, for about 10-15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- While the sauce is simmering, add all the filling ingredients to a large bowl.
- Stir them up with a wooden spoon, although you might need to get your (clean) hands in there to make sure it's all combined properly.
- Lay your cabbage leaves on a clean surface, and spoon in about 1 tablespoon of cooked brown rice, then add about ⅓ cup of meat mixture. Just eyeball it based on the leaf size, the smaller leaves will obviously hold less filling.
- Once you've filled the cabbage with the meat and rice mixture, bring the bottom (stem part) up and over the filling. Then you will fold each side in to cover the filling and then roll it up to the top of the leaf. It's very much like folding an egg roll or spring roll, if you're familiar. Once folded, place seam side down in a large baking dish.
- After the cabbage rolls are filled and the sauce is done, spoon the sauce down the middle of the cabbage rolls.
- Cover the dish tightly with foil, then bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. After 45 minutes, remove the foil and cook the rest of the 15 minutes uncovered.
- Chop up parsley as garnish and sprinkle over the top to serve, once cooled.