Slow Cooking for Comfort

I am a big fan of slow cookers. Most people refer to them as crock pots, but that is actually the brand name of the slow cookers made by Rival. Slow cookers are great because most recipes are fool-proof, it is almost impossible to ruin a meal. Most have just two settings….high and low.

You can cook just about anything in a slow cooker. Soups, roasts, chicken, casseroles, and I have even tried a chocolate cake made by a co-worker. Many traditional recipes can be altered to work in a slow cooker, just by reducing the liquid amounts. But, with the internet a part of daily life, it is so easy to find the perfect recipe for dinner.

What??? You don’t own a slow cooker?? Not to worry….you can pick one up for about $25, and they last forever. I purchased my first one in 1997, and it is still going strong. I currently own about five…all different sizes. Most of them I use for making my handmade soap, but the 3 ½ quart is the one I usually use for preparing food.

One of my favorite slow cooker recipes are cabbage rolls…basically a mixture of ground beef and rice, rolled up in a cabbage leaf and cooked in tomato sauce. The perfect comfort food for the cold days of January.

This recipe is from “The Slow Cooker Ready & Waiting Cookbook” by Rick Rodgers. I have tweaked the recipe a bit to make it my own (and because I like extra sauce!)

1 large head of cabbage
½ cup of rice
1 tbsp of butter
1 medium onion (finely chopped)
1 garlic clove (minced)
1lb lean ground beef
1 egg
1 tsp dried Italian seasonings
2-15oz cans of whole peeled tomatoes
4 tbsp of light brown sugar
4 tbsp lemon juice
Salt/pepper to taste

1. In a mixing bowl, add the ground meat, egg, Italian seasonings, salt/pepper.

2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat & cook the rice for 5 minutes. Rinse the rice w/cold water, drain & add to the mixing bowl.

3. Melt the butter in a skillet, add the onion and garlic and cook over medium heat until they are softened (about 5 mins) then add to the mixing bowl. Mix all of the ingredients together really well (I find it easier to use my hands instead of a spoon) and set the bowl to the side.

4. In a blender, puree the tomatoes (w/juice,) brown sugar, lemon juice and pour the mixture into a 3 ½ quart slow cooker.

5. Now the tricky part…..using a large stockpot, bring some salted water to a boil. Carefully place the whole head of cabbage into the pot and let it cook for about 5 minutes.

6. Take the whole head of cabbage out of the water, and place on a cutting board (keep the water boiling.) Let the cabbage cool a bit, then carefully peel off the outer leaves…taking care not to split the leaf. Take as many leaves off as you can easily, then put the head of cabbage back into the water for another 5 minutes and repeat. Continue to do this until you have btwn 10-15 leaves of cabbage.

7. Take each leaf and cut out the tough center rib, and place a spoonful of the meat mixture in the middle of the leaf, wrap well, and carefully place into the slow cooker. Repeat until you run out of meat, leaves, or your slow cooker is full. I like to make my rolls on the small side, so I just keep rolling and layering in the cooker till I can’t fit anymore inside.

8. Put the lid on the cooker, set on the low setting for 6-7hrs...then walk away. No peeking! Every time you take the lid off a slow cooker, you are releasing the steam and increasing your cooking time!

The rolls will be ready in 6hrs, but they won’t burn if they stay in the cooker a bit longer. Serve the rolls on a heated platter, topped w/the sauce.

Feel free to make substitutions….ground lamb instead of beef, different seasonings for the meat mixture, etc.….have fun & make this recipe your own!

It usually takes me no more than 30 minutes or so to get everything ready for the cooker. I have even prepared everything the night before (stick the slow cooker in the fridge overnight,) and then plugged it in the next morning. The last thing I feel like doing after trudging through the sleet, snow, and bitter cold is preparing dinner. When I get home, a wonderful dinner is ready and waiting!

If you have lots of extras…they freeze well too. Enjoy!

Nordea's Soaperie

Nordea's Soaperie (on etsy)