Thursday, May 12, 2011

Lazy cabbage pot dinner

Cabbage and veggie meat: is there a better dish than this?
The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit offers a recipe for a meal it calls “Lazy Cabbage Roll Casserole.” I cooked a modified version I call Lazy Cabbage Pot Dinner. It’s healthier, easier to make, and tastes great.
Lazy cabbage pot dinner

HKPRDHU says its casserole dish is good for you because cabbage is “…a great source of Vitamin C (which helps your body absorb iron in your food), fibre (which helps keep your ‘gut’ healthy) and folate (helps reduce birth defects).”

I say, my cabbage pot dinner is even better for you.

HKPRDHU says the casserole dinner is very simple and easy to make.

I say my Cabbage Pot Dinner is easier to make. I can’t think of a meal that is more nutritious, more economical, easier to make, requires less prep time, and tastes as great as this Lazy Cabbage Pot Dinner. The first time I cooked this, Joan and I agreed that this is one of our regular dinners; we think it’s that good.

Just for the fun of it, let’s compare my pot dinner with the casserole dinner.

First, the casserole dinner.

Ingredients: 1 lb. ground meat (beef, chicken or turkey. 1 medium onion, chopped. 3 Tbsp. rice. 1 can cream of tomato soup or tomato juice. 3 cups chopped cabbage. Salt and pepper.

Directions: 1) Preheat over to 3250 Fahrenheit. 2) In a skillet, brown ground meat with onion, salt and pepper. Drain any excess fat from ground meat. 3) Add rice, cream of tomato soup, one soup can of water. Cook on low for 10 minutes. 4) Place cabbage in greased two-quarter casserole, then pour ground meat over the cabbage. 5) Bake casserole covered for 1.5 hours. Makes five servings.

What’s not to like about this?

First, the salt. The health police keep telling us we are killing ourselves with too much salt—unless you’re about to sweat it out on a 15-mile walk on a hot day. Take a look at the salt content of canned cream of tomato soup or tomato juice. Out of sight. (See my blog “How to Make Tomato Juice Safe,” May 5, 2010). And HKPRDHU says to sprinkle more salt on the ground meat.

Secondly, the ground meat. Again, the health police. They tell us, eat less red meat and poultry, and eat more fish (see my blog A fish story and a disgustingly healthy casserole, March 2). In our house, we eat very little red meat or poultry, except for skinless chicken breasts and “extra lean” ground turkey. We cook that turkey meat in the microwave. It’s amazing how much saturated fat the microwave squeezes out of this extra lean meat (see my blog “The Sight of Saturated Fat,” June 9, 2010). But I doubt that veggie meat cooked in a microwave would work well with this dish.

Finally the rice. Is that white rice in this recipe? White rice is a refined carbohydrate, and if you are serious about a healthy diet, you don’t want to eat refined carbos. Stay away from white sugar, white flour, white rice. Go for brown rice. It’s not just healthier, it tastes much better.

The cabbage roll casserole might be fine for an occasional dinner, but as a regular dish I don’t think it conforms to the advice of the health authorities.

Now let’s look at the recipe for my Lazy Cabbage Pot dinner.

Ingredients: Five cups chopped green cabbage (half a rather small cabbage). Two large cooking onions, chopped. 2 packages (340 grams, 12 ounces each) Yves Veggie Ground Round simulated beef. 1 can, 398 ml “no salt added” tomato sauce. 1.5 cans water. 6 Tbsp. brown rice. ¼ Tsp cumin. ¼ Tsp ground black pepper.

Directions: Combine all in a large pot, mix well. Cover, bring to boil, reduce heat, simmer for one hour. How can any meal be easier than that?

Makes eight servings. As with other busy people, I appreciate the time saved by cooking food in batches. And why not? We cook for two. If you cook for one, you might prefer to half this recipe.

Unlike the casserole, this pot dish contains no unhealthy saturated fat and no cholesterol. It does have a little more salt than we would prefer (270 milligrams per 55 grams in the simulated meat) but less than in the casserole recipe. And the soy-based meat is much healthier, a great source of fibre and exceptionally high in a wide range of minerals and vitamins. “Soy foods are the best food you can put on the table,” according to James Anderson, Virginia Medical Centre and University of Kentucky.

At a time of soaring food prices, many of us are looking for ways to keep our food costs down, especially since the healthiest foods often costs more. The economics of this pot dinner are pretty good, but not as good as the casserole dish, because real meat is cheaper than vegie simulated meat.. I paid $4.49 for each vegie package of 340 grams or 12 ounces. That works out to $6 per pound. The supermarket price I saw for lean ground beef was $4.49 per pound. The cabbage cost me about 35 cents; the two onions, 40 cents; the tomato sauce, $1.79, and the small amount of rice, about 10 cents. That comes to $11.59, or $1.40 for each of eight servings. Not bad.

That said, there are a couple of minor caveats about the cabbage pot dinner.

The first is that cabbages and onions don’t constitute the rainbow of different coloured vegetables we’re urged to eat. That’s very easy to remedy. Before our main course we almost always have a what-have-you tossed salad, thrown together from whatever we can find in the refrigerator: romaine lettuce, red onions, green peppers, grated carrots, tomatoes (in season), broccoli, seeds, nuts or the like. And we serve it with that extra healthy avocado and green tea dressing (see blog “Avocado and Green Tea Dressing”). A great follow-up is  a simple fruit salad, perhaps with a little liquid honey or yogurt.

How could you beat that for a balanced meal?

The other caveat is the concerns that I’ve echoed from some nutrition researchers about possible adverse health effects of eating too much soybean food (see my blog “Will Soy Food Make You Sick?” April 2, 2010). But this needs to be qualified. The risks, such as they are, are related to consuming unfermented soybean food, such as soymilk almost every day, year-round. The simulated meat, however, is based on fermented, not unfermented, soybeans. And good though it is, who wants to eat it every day?

The health police tell us to eat fish at least three times a week; we have skinless chicken breasts once or twice a week; small servings of microwaved extra lean ground turkey meat no more than once a week; red meat only on rare occasions; and fish about three times a week, on average. It varies, because if we have something like this cabbage dinner three or four days in a row, we might follow it with fish three or four days in a row. Vegie meat we average maybe a couple of days a week, in shepherd’s pie, chili, Bolognese sauce dish, and, now, lazy cabbage pot dinner.

Now, if we could find a recipe to make soybean simulated ground beef that tastes as good as the Yves stuff, has less salt, and cost less… I’ll look into that.

TAGS: Cabbage. Soybean food.

No comments:

Post a Comment