Comfort Food is Food that warms the body and the soul. It makes you feel good and satisfied after eating it. I think Comfort Food is different for different cultures and different people but there are variations within the dishes that we call ‘Comfort Food’. The differences are not so much in the main ingredients but in the preparation techniques and the seasonings used.
There are also variations in Winter Weather throughout the world and there are not many days that we can call Winter Weather in Sunny Southern California but this year , January is definitely Winter and Cold it is! Wet and Cold that is! Not complaining as we need the rain and cold can be fun for a little while, but all that aside, what do you eat when it is cold. Our normal Salads and Vegies and light meals don’t work when the weather is cold. We have to resort to old ‘Standbys from Childhood and our Mother’s favorites. One of these in our family is Stuffed Cabbage. Put together Green Cabbage, Seasoned Ground Beef and Tomatoes in a Sweet and Sour Sauce and serve with rice or pasta and you have a delicious bone warming meal.
So this is what I did the other night. I made Stuffed Cabbage but cheated a little bit as I had preformed Meatballs in the freezer. Having raised five sons I have a difficult time cooking small quantities of food for the 2 of us who make up our household now, so I usually make large quantities and freeze what we don’t eat for future use. The Meatballs were frozen in a single layer so as to make it easy to remove them and use them as needed. If I didn’t have the Meatballs I would have made the complete recipe from scratch as per the directions in the recipe itself. http://www.sylveeeskitchen.com/stuffed-cabbage/ Here are the step by step directions and photos for preparing this delicious and ‘heart warming’ dish.
First of all make sure you have all the ingredients. If you have to shop for some of them, check your staples and seasonings before going to the market.
In addition to Ground Beef (or Chicken or Turkey) you will also need Tomato Sauce, Lemons, Brown Sugar and Salt and Pepper. Instead of Tomato Sauce as per the recipe, I used ground Tomatoes which have much more flavor and body. Shown below is one of my favorite tomato products.
If you don’t use the whole can place the leftovers in a covered container and refrigerate until needed. They should keep up until a week depending on how cold your refrigerator is.
In order to roll the meat in the Cabbage Leaves you will have to soften them. The best way to do this is to:
1 – Core the Cabbage and remove any bad outer leaves.
2 – Bring a large pot of water (shown belown) to the boiling. Add the whole head of Cabbage, turn the heat down to simmer and leave the cabbage in the simmering water for about 5 minutes or until the outer leaves soften enough to be able to roll them.
3 – Remove the Cabbage from the hot water (I use a colander for this) and remove as many leaves as have softened or as many as you will need if the whole head has softened.
4 – If need be, return the head to the simmering water and remove as needed.
5 – Place the leaves on a cutting board and cut out the hard part that was closest to the core.
6 – Place a scoop of meat on each leaf and wrap the leaf around the meat mixture. Use clean Kitchen String to tie the rolls so they don’t fall apart in the cooking process.
Coarsely slice some of the remaining cabbage and place in the bottom of the vessel you are going to cook the Cabbage Rolls in. This will serve as a bed for the rolls. Next place the rolls on top of the sliced cabbage and then pour the sauce over all.
Bring to a boil over medium high heat and then turn the heat down to medium. Cook for about 45 minutes or longer, depending on the size of the rolls. Use Kitchen Shears to cut and remove the string before the next step.
I like to add an additional Vegetable and in this case I added sliced Carrots. They only need to cook for about 5 minutes or until they are barely fork tender. The residual heat will continue to cook them once the vessel is removed from the heat. If you use peas or corn, the cooking time will be shorter.
Serve with Rice, Pasta or Couscous. This is a delicious heart-warming and body warming dish that is perfect for winter weather. Vegans can also make by using a Barley or Rice in place of meat in the filling.
Stir Fry is one of my favorite dishes to cook and to eat. You can literally clean out your refrigerator and almost always come up with enough items to make a delicious Stir Fry Dinner. Beef, Pork Chicken or Fish or even Tofu will serve as the Protein. Vegetables such as Cabbage, Celery, Carrots, Onion, Spinach or Broccoli will complement your protein items. Asian Condiments such as Soy Sauce, Bean Sauce, Hoison Sauce and even Oyster Sauce will add the flavor enhancements. A Stir Fry Dish can be served with either Rice or Noodles.
The Noodles that I prefer with Asian Stir Fry are Rice Noodles which only need to be cooked or soaked for a short time. (This will depend on the manufacturer and the directions on the package they come in)
This particular night we had decided that we wanted Stir Fry Shrimp. While I had the Shrimp in the freezer I did have to go out and purchase a few of the Vegetable items for the Stir Fry. The Vegetables that I did have on hand were:
Broccoli Stalks – I love the crunchiness of the stalks – peel the stalks and then slice thinly.
Green Cabbage –
Orange Carrots – Carrots can be had in a variety of colors these days – Red, Yellow, White or even Purple.
Garlic – an absolute necessity when it comes to Stir Fry
Eight Ball Zuchinni – an interesting shape – this is a round zuchinni just about the size of a pool table ball ‘8’ ball.
Ginger Root – adds amazing flavor – a little zing! Cut off the amount you need (usually a piece about the size of a quarter) and peel. This can be done with a teaspoon as the skin has a contrasting texture to the Ginger itself. Then mince before using.
Maitaki Mushrooms – these are also known as Beech Mushrooms which also come in a white variety. They grow together in a cluster which you can cut apart at the base leaving tiny mushrooms on a slender stem.
The Vegetables that I purchased for this dish were:
Bean Sprouts – I usually use Mung Bean Sprouts – just add them at the very end – these also need very little or no cooking
Chinese Pea Pods – wash and remove the strings – they need very little or no cooking
You will want to marinate whatever Meat you are using in your Stir Fry; Shrimp or any other Seafood should not be marinated for more than about 20 minutes. Chicken, Beef Pork or Lam on the other hand can be marinated for several hours or even overnight. For our Stir Fry this night I did use Shrimp. For the Marinade I used:
Hoison Sauce – 1-2 Tbsps.
Black Bean Sauce – 1- 2 Tbsps.
Fish Sauce – 1 Tbsp.
Peanut Oil – 2 Tbsps.
To make your Stir Fry start with the Onion; sauté in a wok or large sauté pan just to soften and then add the Garlic. Next add the Vegetables that would need the most cooking, starting with the Cabbage and then the Carrots and lastly the Zuchinni which needs very little cooking.
Once these Vegetable are almost done (about 2-3 minutes) remove them to a covered dish and then Stir Fry the Shrimp. Stir Fry the Shrimp in the same vessel as the Vegetables were cooked in – Shrimp should take 3-4 minutes to cook. Add the Noodles (if the Noodles have stuck together, just rinse them with some warm water) and combine with the Shrimp Mixture.
Once the Noodles have warmed and been coated with the Sauce, add the cooked Vegetables along with the Pea Pods, Bean Sprouts and the Bell Pepper.
Once everything is combined and hot serve immediately. This is a great one-dish meal or can be served as a second course after a soup or salad starter.
One of the great things about summer is the abundance of fresh produce that is available. If you don’t grow your own, just pay a visit to your local farmer’s market and see what is available. I visited the Camarillo Farmer’s Market which is open from 8-12 on Saturday mornings. In addition to all the other produce that was available, fresh corn was abundant. There is nothing like corn
right off the cob and if the corn is really good, it will taste good without being cooked. I always test the corn before cooking it to see if there is enough sugar content in the kernels. If it doesn’t taste sweet enough, then I will add a teaspoon or two of sugar to the cooking water along with the juice of half a lemon.
Today I was buying corn to make corn relish, a condiment which is especially nice for summer meals. Along with the corn, I also needed to purchase a red and green bell pepper, celery and sweet onions. To make the relish, remove the kernels from the cob. This can be done with a good knife or a special tool that is designed to remove the kernels. Chop the Onions and mince the
Bell Peppers (without the seeds of course). Finely dice the Celery.
In a large pot Cider Vinegar along with Sugar, Salt and Spices are brought to a boil. The vegetables are then added to the liquid and simmered for 20 minutes. The six ears of corn along with the added vegetables will yield 1 quart of relish. I served the relish for dinner along with our barbecued tri-tip, tomato salad and fresh ciabatta bread. For the complete recipe, check our recipe section under condiments.