Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cabbage Rolls like my Mother Used to Make - Vegetarian

When I crave the taste of cabbage rolls,or holubchi,  I make the lazy version - as outlined in an earlier blog. For special occasions I will make the authentic kind - rice actually rolled into cabbage leaves and simmered in a low oven for several hours. This is the kind my late mother used to make. Only hers were dainty and petite and of uniform size. Mine - not!

They are picky and time consuming to make so it is a rare occasion indeed that I deign to make them. On Dec.25th we were going to my nephews home for dinner, so I volunteered to make cabbage rolls to take along.

The pickiest part is preparing the cabbage for rolling. I use the steamer basket of my stock pot to prepare the cabbage. I get an early start so there's plenty of time to get each stage done.
Because the job tends to be messy and wet, I like to spread a nice clean towel on my work surface and get started. I'll be using the towel to separate the cabbage leaves from the head and allow them to cool on it.

Cabbage Rolls

1 med. cabbage
2 cups long grain rice
1 large onion
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cans tomato soup

Stage 1: Preparing the cabbage

1. Cut the hard bottom off the cabbage and make slits around the base of the core. This is to allow steam to get in and make the leaves easier to remove. Remove any imperfect outer leaves and save. Wash thoroughly.

2. Place the cabbage in the steamer basket , core side down, and allow to steam for a good 10 minutes before checking to see if the outer leaves can be easily removed. After 10 minuted, remove steamer basket. You should be able to remove a few of the outer leaves. I got 5 on the first go and that seems to be all I could get per round of steaming.

They must come off the cabbage easily and be removed without tearing. As soon as you feel resistance, it's time to put the cabbage back into the steamer for more steaming. Deepen the slits around the core - being careful not to cut too deep in order not to damage leaves. You may have to cut away a little more at the base of the leaves in order to free it from the cabbage with each removal round.
 Continue with this process until all leaves of a size that will be suitable for rolling have been removed. The closer you get to the inside of the cabbage, the thicker the leaves. Return the loose leaves to the steamer for several minutes to soften. They'll collapse into the steamer and lose stiffness.
Trim the thick center ribs as thin as possible without making a hole in the cabbage.

Stage 2: Preparing the Rice

1. Partially cook the rice. Normally water to rice is a 2:1 ratio. For par-cooking, I use a 1:1.
2. Saute onion in vegetable oil until soft.
3. Combine onion, remaining oil, rice, salt and pepper and allow to cool so that it can be handled.

Stage 3: Rolling, rolling, rolling.....

1. Place a spoonful of rice on each leaf, and roll.Tuck in the side edges as you go.

2. Place into a roasting pan that has been sprayed with vegetable spray and lined with remaining leaves that were too small to use for rolling or with the outer leaves that were removed earlier. (If no leaves are available, not to worry!)
3. Salt and pepper each layer.
4. Dilute 2 cans of tomato soup with 1-1/2 cans of water, mix well, and pour over the cabbage rolls.
5. Cover with foil or remaining leaves and roaster lid and bake for 3 hours at 325°. Check to make sure cabbage is done, and increase cooking time if necessary.

Alas, they were gone too quickly and I neglected to get a picture of the cabbage rolls once cooked.

I'm told that I can save a lot of hassle preparing the leaves if I freeze the head of cabbage, and thaw before rolling. Then I can eliminate the steaming step. I have not tried this, but I will for the next time. It will certainly make the preparation a much quicker process!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

And yet another Bran Muffin Recipe

This is another recipe that originated from the little cookbook "Just Muffins®" compiled by Gaye Hansen. My recipe, however, bears little resemblance to the original which was titled "Delicious Bran Muffins".
Once again, I dip into my frozen banana stash. It also allows me to use up the yogurt (plain or fruit) that is a few days past its prime. I think it's the cinnamon and nutmeg that make these muffins so appealing. They are currently my favorite bran muffins. They smell wonderful while baking and taste yummy warm or cold! To cut back on the sugar, I substitute half of it with Splenda®.

'Bran'ana Muffins

1 cup yogurt (plain or flavored) or 1 cup buttermilk
1 cup natural bran flakes
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar (or 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup Splenda®)
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (or more if you like it.)
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 mashed bananas
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

1. Soak bran in yogurt (or buttermilk) for 15 minutes.

2. Add the oil and eggs and stir well
3. Add the remaining dry ingredients. (Probably best sifted, but I don't usually bother! Maybe that's a mistake!)
4. Stir in the mashed banana.
5. Spoon into muffin pan that has been sprayed with vegetable spray.
6. Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes. Makes 12 moist,delicious muffins.

These muffins don't keep their height once they cool - and I'm not sure why. Perhaps sifting the dry ingredients would help. Any seasoned bakers out there might know the reason and let me know....
Regardless, they quickly disappear.

In terms of WeightWatcher® points, they work out to approx. 3 points per muffin.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Potato Latkes - Definitely not low-fat!

At this time of year, all thoughts of watching calories goes out the window. It's Chanukah - and time to enjoy the annual treat of Potato Latkes. My husband and I are crazy for these - and we can easily eat 5 lb. of potatoes worth between us. BAD!!!  Luckily, it's infrequent.

I don't follow a recipe, and so far I haven't had any failures. I did jot down measurements (sort-of) for the purpose of this blog,

 A few things I have learned over the years of making these (and tasting the latkes made by others).
- They taste just as good if you use the food processor to shred instead of doing it by hand. (It took me at least 10 years to learn this one.)
-  Rinsing the shredded potato helps to eliminate the unsightly "greying" caused by the starch exposure to air.
-  Processing the onion in a mini chopper instead of the processor eliminates big chunks of onion in the mix
-  No amount of onion is too much
- Finishing on cooking parchment on cookie sheet in the oven ensures that the latkes are cooked through - and maintains the crispiness

Potato Latkes

5 lb. russet potatoes
3 med. onions - finely chopped in mini-processor
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup flour
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable oil

1. Peel and shred potatoes in food processor. Coarse or fine shred - your choice.
2. Rinse the starch out of the shredded potato, and press out as much water as possible. I find that this process keeps the potato nice and white. I use the strainer part of my salad spinner, and it works just fine!

3. Process the onions and combine with the potato in a large bowl - big enough to get your hands into for mixing!

4. Add the eggs and flour and mix thoroughly with your hands. (It almost like making bread dough!)

5. Start a couple of large frying pans on med-high heat with a couple tbsp. oil in each. When the oil is hot, make patties out of the potato mixture and gently place in the hot oil to fry. Flatten with a spatula.

Keep an eye on them, and flip when golden. You may have to add a little oil for the second side.
(You also have to keep watch for latke snitchers as the first batch may not make it to the next step.)

6. When golden brown on both sides, transfer the latkes to a cookie sheet lined with cooking parchment and continue by baking in the oven at about 325° while you fry the rest. The timing is not an exact science - and they'll be delicious!

7. Keep on frying until you've used all the potato mixture. You may need more cookie sheets, and employ "FIFO" when serving. (First In - First Out).

8. Enjoy! Serve with sour cream or applesauce. (In my house, ketchup is the condiment of choice).