After hovering around 20°C (68°F) for the past few weeks, winter has decided to return. And with a vengeance, I might add. I’m over the snow and sick of winter cooking. Don’t get me wrong, I love the season and all of what it brings. But after a taste of spring, and for the duration of which we experienced it, I would just like winter to take a flying leap!
So on this cold, chilly March day, I sat thinking about what could we eat that was healthy, hasn’t been repeated a million times in the past few months, and will warm me ol’ belly and my heart towards these snowy days. Obviously, my mind drifted to all sorts of comfort foods.
Comfort foods are universal. They are found in all cultures, in all countries. They’re only differing factors are what ingredients make them “comforting”. They are a warm embrace, keeping you safe and sound. Unfortunately, most comfort food is also loaded with fat and salt because beyond the warmth and security they offer they are usually gooey, chewy, cheesy and typically extremely unhealthy! Well, at least in Canada!
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I eat mainly vegan and raw out of necessity. So you can see what kind of pickle I’m in trying to eat “comforting” while being limited by what I should be eating. But I am pleased to say I have been conjuring up a culinary comfort bonanza! I am no Chef by any means, but I do try to recreate familiar recipes that can be comforting yet fall within the guidelines of my diet. This recipe turned out so good, I just had to share it with you, my reader, to help you through the winter blahs!
May I introduce my Vegan Cabbage Rolls! Can I get a hell ya? There is something about made from scratch, scrumptious dishes that make all the snow melt away (at least in our minds) and cabbage rolls have to be the pinnacle of home cooked meals! And although this recipe is not raw, it is vegan and I would even dare those meat eaters out there to give it a whirl and try not to fall in love with it!
1 cup rice, uncooked
1 head of cabbage
1 small bell pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 TBSP avocado or olive oil
1 1/2 cups of meat*
1 cup walnuts
1 1/4 cup mushrooms
1 TBSP coconut amino (can be substituted with soy sauce yielding a darker “meat”)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
4 celery sticks
1 1/2 tsp each onion and garlic powder
1 tsp salt
4 TBSP coconut amino (use only 2 TBSP if using soy sauce)
- Cook rice according to package directions and set aside.
- Remove core from cabbage and cook whole cabbage in a pot of water. As it cooks, remove leaves and set aside for stuffing.
- Place meat ingredients into food processor and pulse until course like ground beef and set to the side.
- Rough chop sauce ingredients and place in high-powered blender (shout out to Vitamix). Blend until smooth and no chunks remain and set aside.
- Heat oil in a pan and add onion, peppers, and garlic. Sauté until onions are translucent and cooked through. Remove from heat.
- Add rice and meat to onion mixture and season with salt, pepper, and oregano and set aside.
- Take cooked cabbage leaves and remove thick spine from the leaf. Place a couple of spoonfuls of rice/meat/onion mixture in the middle of the leaf. Roll leaf forward to seal rice in, then fold each side in towards the middle and continue rolling the leaf to completely seal its contents.
- Place rolled, stuffed cabbage in a shallow roasting pan.
- Once all leaves have been stuffed, pour sauce mixture over rolls. Cover with remaining leaves to act as a barrier and protect the rolls below.
- Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until heated through and the sauce has solidified a bit.
Note: If oregano is not your thing and thyme is, then use it! Mix it up! I used a red pepper but a green pepper would give it a different flavour. For a Mexican change-up, add jalapeño peppers, cumin, and salsa. For Vegan Paleo dieters, replace the rice with cauliflower “rice”. If you’re lazy like I am most of the time, slice the cooked cabbage into ribbons then mix all ingredients together and pour on the sauce creating a Cabbage Roll casserole. The combinations are endless.
So the next time you need a warm, comfort food without the excess weight gain, guilt, and bloat, give this recipe a try. You might just discover as I have, that you can be comfortable and healthy at the same time!
~ True North Nomad
Do you have a “healthy” version of a comfort food? Tell us in the comments below.
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