Meat

Cabbage Rolls (Gołąbki)

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Cabbage Rolls (Gołąbki) are a traditional Polish dish that I grew up eating, amongst many others.  However I’m going to admit – this was my first time ever making this.  I had a craving for it, and although it is a bit time consuming, it was pretty easy to prepare and turned out delicious.  It’s very important to make sure the cabbage is fully cooked – don’t make the same mistake I did and dump out all of the boiling water before checking to see if it’s done! ;)

This recipe makes about 16 cabbage rolls, so if you want to make less, cut the ingredients in half.  This recipe is also very easily adapted for the freezer (instructions below).  Since it is a bit time consuming I prefer to make a large batch and freeze some for later – instant lunch or dinner!  Usually I serve this with ketchup and a heaping scoop of buttered mashed potatoes.  Yum!

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Cabbage Rolls (Gołąbki)

Ingredients

  • 1 head green cabbage
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 2 lbs ground pork
  • 1 ½ cups cooked white rice
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 (8oz) cans of tomato paste

Instructions

  1. Fill a large stockpot with water and about 1 tblsp salt; bring to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, remove core from the cabbage. Once the water is boiling, place the cabbage in the stockpot. Cook for 20 minutes, or until cabbage is softened enough to pull off individual leaves. Drain cabbage and set aside to cool. (You can also rinse with cold water to speed up the cooling process.) When cool enough to handle, gently pull individual leaves apart and set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a kettle as you start the next step.
  4. Mix onion, pork, rice, salt & pepper in a large bowl until well combined. Put about 1/3 to ½ cup of meat mixture on each cabbage leaf. Roll away from you to encase the meat. Flip the right side of the leaf to the middle, then the left side over and roll. Place rolls seam-side down in a large casserole dish (or aluminum pan). Repeat this process until all of the meat mixture is used. Any leftover cabbage can be chopped and put on top of the rolls.
  5. In a bowl combine the 6 cups of boiling water with the tomato paste. Whisk until the paste is fully dissolved into a tomato sauce. Pour the sauce over the cabbage rolls.
  6. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour, or until cabbage is tender and meat is cooked.
  7. Serve topped with sour cream if desired.
  8. Freezer method 1: This dish can be made completely in advance, cooled and then frozen in a casserole dish or as individual servings in containers. Casserole: defrost overnight in the fridge and bake covered at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes until heated through. If not defrosted, bake for about 1.5 to 2 hours until heated through. Individually frozen servings can be simply microwaved on a plate.
  9. Freezer method 2: Prepare the dish, cover with foil, freeze and bake at a later time. It may be convenient to do this in a large aluminum disposable pan (big lasagna size) which will make for easy cleanup. It is best to defrost a day in advance in the refrigerator, then cook at 350 degrees for one hour. If the dish is not defrosted, cook for about 2-2.5 hours until cabbage rolls are well done.

Chili, Soups & Stews

Chicken Vegetable Soup

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Usually I’m done with soups by this time of the year, but it’s been so cold lately I wanted to whip up a huge batch of this chicken vegetable soup to freeze & have for dinner during the week.  I came up with this recipe years ago when trying to use up some veggies – add some chicken & pasta and you’ve got a fantastic one pot meal!  This really is so delicious & makes a TON of soup, so adjust the portions accordingly if you want to make less (or just make a lot & just freeze it!!)  It is also extremely versatile: use any type of small shaped pasta, or even substitute rice or barley, add some kidney beans, spinach, & any type of veggies you have on hand.  This recipe could be made entirely vegetarian by using vegetable broth & omitting the chicken – your options are endless!

I think this soup would be great served with a side salad and some toasted bread or with a grilled sandwich.

You could try my Goat Cheese Bruschetta as a side to this soup:

Slice a loaf of French bread into one-inch slices, place on a baking sheet & brush with olive oil.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 min until slightly golden.  Rub a peeled garlic clove onto the grilled bread (you’ll need about 3 garlic cloves in total).  Then spread goat cheese onto each slice and top with chopped tomatoes and fresh basil.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper if desired.

Chicken Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tblsp olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup diced carrots (about 4-5 carrots)
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced & peeled sweet potato
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup frozen green beans
  • 1 tblsp Italian seasoning mix (I like Penzey’s Pasta Sprinkle)
  • 28 oz can pureed tomatoes
  • 8-10 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup uncooked pasta/rice/barley
  • 2 cups diced cooked chicken
  • Salt & Pepper
  • dash of Cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Parmesan cheese for serving

Instructions

  1. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat and add the olive oil to the pot. Add the onions, carrots, celery, sweet potato and some salt; cook for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add frozen peas, green beans and Italian seasoning; cook for another 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add tomatoes and broth; bring to a boil then lower to medium high heat; cook for about 10 minutes.
  4. Add pasta/rice/barley & cook until done (about another 10 minutes).
  5. Add cooked, diced chicken, salt, pepper and cayenne (if using) – adjust seasonings to your taste.
  6. Pour into bowls & top with Parmesan cheese.
  7. Freezer instructions: Let soup cool to room temperature and then pour into individual plastic freezer containers, label and freeze. Defrost overnight in the fridge, or run the container under hot water for a minute, pop the frozen soup into a bowl and microwave or heat on the stove in a pan until hot.

Tips

Once a Week Cooking Method

This is really the basis of this website – cook ahead so you spend less time in the kitchen later.  For you that may mean just doubling up on recipes, once a week cooking, or even once a month cooking.  Usually I only have enough time and stamina to crank out about 6 meals in one cooking session (and I usually double a few recipes.)

It can be helpful to incorporate a crockpot recipe into your cooking day.  These recipes are usually very simple and should be the first thing you make – let the crockpot do the rest of the work during the day!  I also try to have homemade beans and broth ready in advance if any of my recipes call for these items.  I can really tell the difference in taste (especially with the beans) vs. the canned varieties.  You can make a very simple broth overnight in the crockpot with water, bones from a rotisserie chicken, salt and a couple bay leaves.  Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

The key to having a successful cooking day is to be organized and ready.  These tips will help you get started.  It does take a bit of work and planning, but I think the results of having many meals prepared are well worth the effort.  Plus at the end of the cooking day treat yourself to dinner out with your family!

1. Have a list of recipes you’re going to make.

  • I usually keep a list on the side of the fridge & jot down ideas of recipes that sound good.  I also have a huge binder of recipes I’ve accumulated over the years so I’ll look thru that for inspiration too.
  • Check out your local store’s weekly ads for what’s on sale.  Plan your recipes by buying the sale items.
  • Do an inventory of your pantry and incorporate items that need to be used into your recipes.

2. Go grocery shopping at least a day in advance.

  • Read all of your recipes carefully and be sure to make a detailed list of any items you need to buy.  Make sure to check your pantry to see what you have on hand so you’re not buying unncessary items!
  • Also make sure you have enough freezer containers/bags to freeze all your recipes

3. Write down your list of recipes in the order you will cook them.

  • The first recipes you make should be the ones that take the longest.
  • Next to each recipe list out any ingredients that need to be defrosted, cooked (ex. beans, broth), or chopped.
  • Count how many of each vegetable you need to chop.  Then you can chop the total needed all at once, instead of starting each recipe with chopping.  Chefs call this organizing their ‘mise en place’, which translates from French meaning “everything in place”.   By doing this you will be ready to cook your recipes efficiently. (For example, chop a total of 5 onions at once time, dice 2 red peppers, etc.)

Here’s a pic of my mise en place:

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4. Defrost any necessary items (ground beef, chicken, broth, etc.) the day before.

5. Crank up some tunes on the radio & get cooking first thing in the morning!

  • Start by chopping any ingredients you will need (onions, peppers, garlic, etc) and set aside.
  • Next prepare any crockpot meals you may be making so they can cook throughout the day.
  • Start cooking recipes that will take the longest (ex. soups/stews that need to cook for an hour, etc) and then move onto the easier recipes.  Typically I have 2 dishes going at once (ex: sloppy joes & beef stew were cooking simulatenously)
  • Once the prepared dishes have cooled, place into freezer containers or freezer bags, label, and freeze

6. Go out for dinner – you deserve it!

Here is an example of a recent ‘Once a Week’ cooking day I had.  I did not have time to go to the store in advance and didn’t start cooking until about 1pm, but I still accomplished a lot since I doubled most of the recipes.  After everything cooled I froze all of the meals (except the sloppy joes) in small square plastic containers and labeled them with the date and description.  I froze about 1.5 lbs of the sloppy joes in a large gallon freezer bag and the rest in a plastic container.  I ended up with about 30 meals!  I can’t wait to come home from work and simply pop these meals in the microwave!  By doubling the recipes I will really be able to stretch these meals out over the next few weeks.

Here is what I made:

White Chicken Chili

Sloppy Joes

Beef Stew

Polish Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Gołąbki)

Black Bean Burritos

If you do freeze in plastic containers like the ones I used, you can easily remove the frozen food by running the container under some hot water for a few minutes, then pop it out & transfer the food to a microwave-safe dish and heat.  Or alternatively, heat on the stove if preferred.

 

Here’s a pic of my storage freezer after I was done cooking everything:

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Yes – there’s a turkey in there!!!  (We’re planning on testing out the deep fryer soon one of these weekends…)  And the bottom basket is full of yummy grass-fed beef from a local farm.

Note – you do not need a storage freezer to do once a week/month cooking!  I used to cook in bulk all the time when we lived in our apt. & had a tiny freezer.  You just have to be organized and store your food in stackable containers – you can fit a lot in any freezer!

I hope this post will help you plan your bulk cooking day and please contact me if you have any questions on this cooking method.