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Posts Tagged ‘eating on a budget’

Dinner on a Budget- Delicious Cabbage Rolls

A great way to cut back on your grocery bill is to add “Peasant Food” recipes to your menu.

Peasant food is typically very inexpensive to make, and is often quite healthy.  Most peasant food includes lots of vegetables and grains along with smaller amounts of meat.  Some favorite foods are stews and soups, pasties and meat pies, pastas, etc.  Many peasant food recipes are one pot meals… which makes them easy to make and serve.  Peasant foods are regional… so trying different recipes can be like traveling with food.

One peasant dish that has been my favorite since I was a little girl is Cabbage Rolls.

Cabbage rolls could not be less expensive to make for a crowd.  And while the filling isn’t the healthiest, cabbage belongs in the power food category.  It ranks up there with broccoli and brussel sprouts… it’s full of vitamin C, potassium and fiber just for starters.

Cabbage rolls are a peasant dish from Eastern Europe and our recipe came from a family friend.  When my sister put together my mother’s recipes into book, she asked my entire family to name their favorite recipe that my mom makes.  Three of us listed Mom’s cabbage rolls… which is amazing because my mom makes so many delicious foods.

Here’s my old family recipe:

Cabbage Rolls

  • 2 cups uncooked long grain rice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 pound hamburger
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 head of green cabbage
  • 1 can tomato sauce

Cook the rice according to package instructions.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Remove the core of the cabbage with a sharp knife and remove any damages outer leaves.  Add the head of cabbage to the boiling water.  Once the leaves start to soften, use tongs to gently peel away the leaves, trying hard to keep each leaf whole.  Blanch cabbage for about 5 minutes until leaves start to soften. Remove cabbage from the heat and strain in a colander.

To make the filling add olive oil to a large frying pan.  Saute onion over medium high heat about 5 minutes, add garlic and cook for about 1 minute.  Add the hamburger and cook until brown.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Remove from heat and mix hamburger mixture with cooked rice in a large bowl.  The key to this dish is to really add flavor with salt and a generous amount of pepper to taste– don’t undo this step or you will have bland cabbage rolls.

Once the cabbage leaves are cool you can add the filling.  Use as many of the cabbage leaves as possible until you get to the center of the head of cabbage, where the leaves are white and too small to use.  If desired, you can carefully cut away the large center vein from each leaf.  Spoon the filling into each leaf.  Place the rolls touching each other into a 9″ x 13″ casserole dish.  Pour the can of tomato sauce over the top.

Cover tightly with foil.  Place in a 325 degree oven for 2 hours or 300 degrees for 3 hours.

Serve warm.

Makes about 12 rolls.

Click over to Tasty Kitchen for the printable recipe.

Here’s the step by step:

Start by cooking your rice.  I use a rice maker and love it.  It makes perfect rice every time.

Using a sharp knife, remove the core from the cabbage.  Remove any damaged outer leaves.

Add cabbage into a large pot of salted boiling water.

Once the leaves start to soften, use tongs to gently peel away the leaves.  I peel away most of the larger leaves.  It’s a lot easier to peel them once the cabbage starts to wilt a bit, they are less likely to break.  And you need whole leaves to wrap your rolls.

Cook until the leaves start to soften, about 5 minutes total.

Remove to a colander and set aside to cool.

Chop up the onion into small pieces.

And finely mince a large clove of garlic.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a large frying pan, add onion and saute over medium-high heat.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add hamburger.  Salt and pepper then cook until browned…

and well mixed with the onion and garlic.    Remove from heat and drain away any fat.

Add hamburger mixture into a large bowl with the rice and mix.

Next add salt…

and pepper to taste.  Don’t skimp on this step.  This is were the magic happens.  Without generous salt and pepper, your Cabbage Rolls are going to be bland.  I especially love the pepper… it gives it a bit a spice.

Get out your casserole dish… I cook them in my 9″ x 13″ glass Pyrex dish…  and you’re ready to make your rolls.

You can carefully cut away the large center vein at the bottom of your cabbage leaves to make rolling easier if you choose.

Start with a leaf in your hand like above.


Using a large spatula or spoon, put a generous dollop of the filling in the middle of the leaf.

Fold in the bottom of the leaf…

and the sides and last the top.  It’s like wrapping a delicious package.

Place rolls next to each other seam side down in the casserole dish.

And drizzle with a whole 14.5 oz can of tomato sauce.

Cover tightly with foil.

Now into the oven at 325 degrees for 2 hours.  Or like my mom always does and cook them at 300 degrees for about 3 hours.  She puts them in the oven just as she is going out the door for church.  Then they are done by the time they get home.

I’m the first to admit, they’re not that pretty.  But they taste divine.

They are delicious served with a dollop of sour cream.  My mom always served them with a small sausage patty and homemade biscuits.  Oh boy, is it a wonderful meal.

The first bite is for me.

So next time you’re looking to cut back your grocery bill look no further than peasant food.  Those old peasants really knew how to stretch limited ingredients into a a wonderful meal.

What's For Dinner?


One of the best ways I have found to “Make it Do” is to plan my meals a week at time.  I am amazed at how much money I save just by planning ahead.  A good idea is to plan on the day your grocery store ads come out.  Mine come in the mail on Tuesdays.

When I plan ahead I only buy the fresh fruits and vegetables that I need and nothing goes to waste.  And I am able to plan a menu around the sales and based on what I have in my garden.

When I know I have a busy day, I plan a meal that is fast or something I can make ahead of time.  In the past we would go out to eat… which is expensive and usually not as healthy.

Here is my menu for the upcoming week:  All my meat and fish is from my freezer and much of what I am cooking will come from my garden.

  • Tuesday- Chicken Stir Fry with peas and zucchini out of my garden (it’s heating up finally and this is the last harvest of my peas… what we don’t eat I am going to freeze.)
  • Wednesday – Grilled Tilapia with grilled zucchini and a green salad- lettuce and zucchini are from my garden (This is one of my quick easy meals… 20 minutes or less. Since I am helping my mom decorate cupcakes for a wedding that day, I need it to be easy.   I will make the salad, take out the frozen tilapia and put it in the refrigerator to thaw and pick the zucchini… all in the morning before we go.  That way I’m not tempted to pick up dinner on the way home.
  • Thursday- Chicken Milanese with a baguette-  this recipe is so good… I can’t wait to share it!
  • Friday- Cheeseburgers with Macaroni Salad and Cantaloupe slices
  • Saturday- Hot Dogs, left over Macaroni Salad, Watermelon and S’mores – We are heading up the canyon with my 9 year old nephew, Will.  The kids love cooking over an open fire!
  • Dinner at my Mom’s- yeah I don’t have to cook

If planning gives you fits, try having an attractive book or template to plan from.  I found this website with wonderful free templates… all you have to do is email her.  I keep my menu planning in a small cute spiral binder.  Just like the template I write my menu on the left column and my grocery list on the right column.  Then I can throw it in my purse when I go to the store.

Most weeks I plan a left-over night.  I hate to throw away food and this is good way to make sure it all gets eaten.  I also love left-overs for lunch.

I still want to eat really healthy, delicious food even though I am on a budget.  I find that if I am careful to buy what is in season, use what I’ve grown, and buy what’s on sale, I can do exactly that.


Just a little sad story… I know you all don’t want to hear me cry… but my computer hard drive crashed this weekend!  It is such a bummer!

I just want to take a moment to thank Martha Stewart… I won a contest for my Easter Table Runner this Spring from her and received a SeaGate External Hard Drive and have been backing up my computer dutifully ever since… so with any luck my data including photos will be recovered.  It seems amazing to me that we entrust so much to the caprice of technology… which is why I may start double backing up in the future.  I am working on a borrowed machine now (thanks Dad) but without all my photographs for my posts… so bare with me.


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