Bison stuffed cabbage

Stuffed cabbage was not a part of my childhood growing up – it’s something I sometimes heard other people talk about or maybe even tried once or twice, but it wasn’t until I married my half-Polish husband and had “Galumpkis” at his family’s house in Ohio that I realized what I’d been missing out on. A few years ago I made the traditional Polish Galumpkis recipe and swore I’d never take it on again – it was a three page long recipe that downright exhausted me. But I found myself with an abundance of cabbage recently and decided to give it a go again in my own simplified version and with bison rather than ground beef or pork.

Pastured bison (which is really the only kind of bison you can buy) is leaner and healthier than beef or pork. Pastured animals are free-range, they eat grass and graze on open pasture, which means they move around, develop healthy muscles and fat and because they’re eating what nature intended for them to eat (instead of corn and antibiotics like mass produced beef), their meat is actually healthier and contains WAY more Omega-3’s and less bad (saturated) fats.

I also substituted quinoa for rice. We generally don’t eat rice – I don’t really like it unless there’s raw fish on top of it and there’s just not a lot of nutritional value. Quinoa is a whole grain with a higher fiber content and other nutritional benefits like a particularly high dose of antioxidant phytonutrients…..and other scientific sounding things that I will refrain from diving into.

And cabbage is good for you. Obviously. If it wasn’t, nobody would eat it.

Bison and Quinoa Stuffed Cabbage

rolls

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground bison
  • 1/2 a medium onion, chopped
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes, roughly chopped with juice
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 tsp oregano (dried)
  • 8 medium to large cabbage leaves
  • 1 15oz can of tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • Parmesan, shredded Swiss or Jack cheese (optional)

Method:

  1. In a large skillet, brown the meat and cook the onions – drain off any fat (there won’t be a lot – remember, this is a very lean meat), then stir in the tomatoes with their juice, the water, quinoa, 1/2 tsp oregano, and 1/4 tsp ground black pepper. Bring this up to a boil, then reduce, cover and let simmer about 20 minutes, until the quinoa is cooked (when quinoa is done, the grain sort of “pops” open).
  2. Meanwhile, trim the large veins from the back of the cabbage leaves so they rib is flush with the leaf. Use a small paring knife to do this. Drop the leaves, three or four at a time into a bot of boiling water for just 2-3 minutes or until they are just limp – then quickly drop into a bowl of ice water as you continue with the others. This is “blanching” and it retains texture and color:

    blanched cabbage

    Blanched Cabbage

  3. After all the leaves have been blanched, pull them out of the water and dry them off with a towel. Scoop about 1/3 cup of the meat mixture into the center of the leaf, fold in the sides of the leaf, then start rolling at one of the unfolded ends until its all rolled up nice and neatly and no meat is exposed. Do this to all of the leaves and set to the side.
  4. To make the sauce, combine the tomato sauce, maple syrup*, oregano, cinnamon and salt and pepper to taste in a small mixing bowl. Pour half of the sauce into a 2-quart baking dish. Arrange stuffed leaves on top, then pour the remaining sauce over the rolls. Cover the baking dish and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes. If you want cheese on top (I did a tiny bit of shredded Jack – it honestly made no difference), then top with cheese and bake for a few more minutes until melted, then remove from oven and serve!

rolls with fork

*I use a Virginia made maple syrup that is, without exaggeration, the best maple syrup in the world. It is made by two very special people, Pat and Valerie. If you can’t name the people making your syrup, then get on it (and Aunt Jemima doesn’t count). Now you can. You can purchase it through their Back Creek Farms website – they even did the work for me and tell you all about why maple syrup is actually good for you! While you’re there – check out their adorable cabin, which I have stayed in and can vouch for the fact that it’s one of the most adorable places on the planet.

maple syrup

 

 

 

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Super Food: the case for sardines

We’ve all heard the term “super foods” being thrown around a lot lately – it seems there’s a new one every week. Something exotic, often expensive and difficult to find, but that without incorporating into your daily diet, you will most certainly die of a rare disease by your early 20’s. If you’re older than that, then you are actually already dead for lack of pomegranate seeds.

But today I want to make a case for a super food that’s a little less pedantic: the humble, lowly sardine.

Sardine Superfood

Sardine Superfood

The sardine is a super food for many reasons, but for me the primary reason is its accessibility and cost. A good tin of sardines is available at nearly every grocery store for less than $3. Sardines, which are actually not a type of fish, but rather a way of curing and packing fish, are often brisling – a small, Norwegian fish. These fish are packed full of Omega-3’s, which I’ve talked about before, but to review, Omega-3’s reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation being a major source of illness from high blood pressure to heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s and more.  Omega-3’s are not something our bodies naturally produce – they must be consumed through diet. Yes, you can take a supplement, but remember supplements are meant to do just that – supplement a healthy diet, not replace it. In fact many vitamins and nutrients are not naturally absorbed by our bodies in pill or liquid form, such a calcium, which can only be absorbed if we are taking in the proper amount of Vitamin D through diet and outdoor exercise. I could go on here, but the point is – eat to be healthy, supplement if you must, but understand that food is always the best medicine when taken correctly.

In addition to being chock full of those Omegas, sardines are full of calcium – they are actually one of the highest non-dairy calcium foods around (because of their soft, edible bones, but don’t let that scare you away – I promise you do not notice the bones.) Sardines contain loads of protein, vitamin D and are sustainable (they’re not over-fished) and for those concerned about their fish intake – sardines have a lowest amount of mercury of just about any fish you can buy because they are at the bottom of the food chain. The bigger the fish, the higher the mercury level.

So here’s a great introductory recipe to sardines – Jeremy and I made this for breakfast on Sunday and it kept us full for HOURS. We didn’t eat again until 3pm that afternoon. And just one more note – sardines equal anchovies. Anchovies are smelly, oily and fishy. This doesn’t keep me from loving them, but if it keeps you from loving them, do not be scared of sardines – they are nothing alike except that they both come in a tin. Sardines are actually much more mild, like tuna.

Fisherman’s Breakfast

Fishermen's Breakfast

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 small red potatoes, cut into small cubes
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 small bunch of parsley, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tin of sardines
  • 4 large eggs
  • salt and pepper
  • toast or bread

fisherman breakfast ingredients

Method:

  1. Preheat Oven to 500 degrees. Place an ovenproof dish into the oven for 5 minutes to pre-heat.
  2. Combine the diced potatoes, shallots, garlic, parsley and some salt and pepper in a small bowl, then from the an open tin of sardines, pour a teaspoon or so of the oil the sardines are packed in into the bowl. Mix to combine.
  3. Remove the dish from the oven, carefully, spray with nonstick cooking spray or oil and spread the potato shallot mixture into the bottom of the dish. Top the mixture with the sardines from the tin. Place back into the oven for 6 minutes.
  4. Remove the dish from oven and gently crack and pour all four eggs on top of the mixture. Season with more salt and pepper. Put back in the oven for 6-7 minutes until the white are set, but yolks are still a bit jiggly.
  5. Remove dish from oven and let sit for 2-3 minutes to let the eggs set. Serve with bread or toast and extra pepper.serve with crusty bread or toast

Cookie Culture

Today I am the guest blogger at a fabulous blog, Whisks and Words. Dana (aka – Whisks and Words) asked me to participate in her blog party cookie swap. Super cute idea, unless you’re me and you hate baking and don’t eat sweets. But I love Dana and her blog and writing self-effacing posts, so I did it. Check it out and subscribe to her blog; she’s way better than me about posting on a regular basis, and always has great recipes and reflections. Here’s a teaser of the cookies I made:

apple spiced caramel cookies

apple spiced caramel cookies

That being said, and because I’m sure you’ve gone to the link above and read my cookie post, I present to you another cookie recipe, but this one is baking Rachel style. I found this recipe on Pinterest, (via Six Sister’s Stuff) just like the one in the other post, and also saved it for the purpose of making them for co-workers and others at Christmas. But once I made these cookies and tried them for myself, I actually LIKED them, and made them again. And ate some of them. Shocking. But that’s how good they are. And I’m almost positive I don’t just like them because there are only four ingredients and like three steps. Seriously, this is all you need to make these cookies:

This is my kind of baking

This is my kind of baking

Mint Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of chocolate devil’s food cake mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 bag of andes mints OR mint truffle Hershey kisses

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the first three ingredients together until well combined. Scoop each cookie out with a large spoon or a cookie spoon works best, you want at least a tablespoon of dough for each cookie. Round out each cookie into a ball with your hands, make a small depression on the top of the cookie ball and place 2 inches apart on a parchment lined cookie pan (or use a baking mat).
  2. Bake about 7 or 8 minutes, no longer – you don’t want to overcook these. Take them out of the oven and place your mint kiss or Andes mint on top of each cookie, then put back into the oven for 30 seconds-1 minute. Remove from the oven, and with the back of a spoon or a butter knife, gently spread the mint (which will be melty) over the top of the cookie. Let the cookies cool on the sheet, then transfer the sheet to the fridge and let the mint chocolate glaze set before eating. Or eat them immediately like I did. Whatever.

mint cookies done

These are awesome. Seriously. This is now my go-to cookie. They are headache free. The hardest part was trying to find Andes mints, which are surprisingly scant. But the mint truffle Hershey kisses were actually great here in their place.  The second hardest part was not being able to share them with the dogs.

mint cookies and dog

Not really. These cookies are for me, dogs!

What is your favorite cookie around Christmas-time, or of all-time, for that matter?

The root of it all

I just gave myself an award for the most clever blog title ever.

i ❤ beets

It is a shame, I realized, that this blog’s namesake has never really been examined thoroughly. I think in my very first blog post I may have posted a picture of a beet dish I had done, but I’ve never really delved into this amazing little root that inspired me to make this blog. There are a few reasons that beets are the thing I happen to heart. They are available locally, they are available at several times throughout the year and many people don’t like them. Why is that a reason to make beets the central theme of a blog? Because I think I can change people’s minds. I think a lot of foods out there that deserve our attention but suffer general distaste have just been presented wrong all this time. Like the poor Brussels sprout, which I will post about later . . .

Take, for instance, my husband who insisted he hated beets. So I asked in what format he had experienced beets in the past and he said either canned, pickled or boiled to death. Well, no wonder. He also hated Brussels sprouts for similar reasons. But there is a simple answer to both of these food fears and it is this: roasting. Roasting, which uses dry, indirect and diffused heat (such as an oven) increases flavor by caramelization and the Maillard browning reaction. Essentially, roasting enhances the sugars in foods through a process called pyrolysis, which I will not get into, because I barely passed chemistry. But here is what I do know: it makes food delicious. Especially foods like beets, which already have a high natural sugar content, just waiting to be released.

Beets are also so nutritious. Here are some facts from Nutrition and You about beets:

  • Beets are a rich source of phytochemical compound, glycine betaine. Betaine has the  property of lowering homocysteine levels within the blood. Homocysteine, a highly toxic metabolite, promotes platelet clot as well as atherosclerotic-plaque formation, which, otherwise, can be harmful to blood vessels. High levels of homocysteine in the blood result in the development of coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke and peripheral vascular diseases.
  • They are also a rich source of B-complex vitamins such as niacin (B-3), pantothenic acid (B-5), pyridoxine (B-6) and minerals such as iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium.
  • The root has very good levels of potassium. 100 g fresh root has 325 mg of potassium or 7% of daily requirements. Potassium lowers heart rate and regulates metabolism inside the cells by countering detrimental effects of sodium.

And while us die-hard beet fans can eat a beet canned, pickled, boiled, grilled or anything else, for those skeptics out here, this is my GO-TO beet recipe. I’m not sure where it originated from…I think a friend may have suggested this method and I’ve just sort of made it my own over time, I’m not really sure. My hope is that you will love it enough to make it your own, adding, subtracting and substituting to your liking.

Roasted Beet Salad with Vinaigrette

Ingredients: Beets in vinaigrette

  • One bunch beets (as seen above)
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs vinegar of your choice (balsamiq, red wine, champagne, whatever you like)
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 1 tbs dried herbs (Italian, Herbs de Provence, fresh or powdered garlic or whatever else you’d like)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 Fahrenheit. Cut the beets off their stems and trim off the tops and the “tails” of each beet. Clean each beet so they are free of dirt. Wrap each beet in individually in tin foil and place in the pre-heated oven, directly on the center rack. Roast for 30-40 minutes, or until each beet is easily pierced with a knife. 
  2. While the beets are roasting, create your vinaigrette. The most important thing to remember here is the a vinaigrette dressing always 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. You can use any combination or any measurement (tsp, tbs, cup, etc), as long as you keep that ratio the same. Pour your oil, vinegar, shallots, herbs, salt and pepper into a medium sized bowl and whisk until they are emulsified. Set aside until beets have finished roasting.
  3. When beets are easily pierced with a knife, unwrap from tinfoil and allow to cool. Take an old dishtowel and peel the beet’s skin off with the towel – if it’s roasted to completion, the skin should slide off easily. Do this with each beet.
  4. Cut each beet in half or in quarters, if large, and cut into thin slices. Re-whisk your vinaigrette so it is well blended, then add your beets to the bowl and toss to coat. Plate, then top each serving with a spoonful of feta cheese.
Trim and wash beets

Trim and wash beets

A well emulsified vinaigrette

A well emulsified vinaigrette

Beets

After roasting, remove skin with a dish towel

Served with Greek salad, crusty French bread a Pinot Grigio.

Served with Greek salad, crusty French bread a Pinot Grigio.

If you don’t like beets like this, then I grant you the right to dislike beets. But before you file them away in things that are gross and that you refuse to eat, please try this recipe. Please. Give beets a chance.

Note: these beets were purchased from Westside Produce and Provisions where they were sourced from New Earth Farms in the Pungo area of Virginia Beach, where they use sustainable and organic growing methods.