By Crystal Grobe

In the pursuit of an easy dinner, there have been some weeks when I have the fast meal routine mastered and other weeks when it doesn’t quite come together as I had hoped. As much as I love pizza, tacos and dining out, there’s a personal feeling of accomplishment when I avoid those indulgent food temptations in favor of healthier choices.

One of the meals that makes my life easier are these slow cooker cabbage rolls. Although it takes a bit of effort to prepare the filling and the rolls, I take care of that on the weekend and the slow cooker takes care of the rest. Also, as the weather gets cooler, it’s great to come home to a kitchen filled with the aroma of simmering tomatoes, knowing that dinner is already made.

Since this dish has several preparation steps, I’d suggest assembling the rolls a day or two before to store in the fridge in an airtight container. I’d also suggest making double the amount of barley and lentils and freeze half to make another time this winter. Freezing my beans and grains has been a big timesaver for making weeknight meals. If you’re not into beans, feel free to substitute ground beef, just brown the beef before assembling the cabbage rolls.

I really enjoy this dish and think it pairs well with a nice crusty bread to soak up the extra marinara. My only wish? That slow cookers were really designed to cook in 12-14 hours. Who goes to work and is back within eight hours? Not me. That dilemma aside, this recipes does just fine cooking over the 8-10 hour recommendation if you can switch your slow cooker to warm after the max amount of time.

Slow Cooker Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
From Oh My Veggies
(serves 6)

1 head green savoy cabbage
1 cup cooked brown lentils (about 1/2 cup uncooked)
1 cup cooked long-grain brown rice (about 1/3 cup uncooked)
1/2 cup diced onion (about 1/4 medium onion)
8 ounces baby portobello mushrooms, diced
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced basil
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (24 oz.) jar marinara sauce
1/4 cup water
1 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes, undrained

To prepare the cabbage, cut off the stem end of the cabbage and carefully peel off the leaves. Trim the stem again and continue to remove leaves until you have 12 leaves.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place the cabbage leaves one by one into the boiling water. Let boil for five minutes or until the leaves are bright green and pliable. Drain and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine lentils, rice, onion, mushrooms, almonds, raisins, garlic, basil, olive oil and salt. Stir gently to combine.

To assemble cabbage, rolls, place each cabbage leaf, outer side down, onto a cutting board. Fill with 1/2 cup of the lentil rice mixture. Fold the stem over the filling, fold in the sides, and roll the remaining length of the leaf. Repeat with remaining cabbage leaves and filling. If assembling for future, store in an airtight container for a few days until ready to use.

If cooking immediately, combine marinara sauce and 1/4 cup water in a large slow cooker. Add cabbage rolls, layer if needed, and top with can of tomatoes. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 8-10 hours. Garnish with additional basil if desired.

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