Monday, March 22, 2010

Forbidden Rice, Tempeh and Sundried Tomato Stuffed Cabbage (Slow Cooking, Fast Running And Veggie Gardening for The Obsessed)


This stuffed cabbage recipe is one of my all-time faves. Plus, who doesn't love a recipe that includes the word "forbidden" in the title? No forbidden rice on hand? No problem. Use wild rice. Or pick any other rice, it's all good. The parcels combine sweet, sour and bitter for an amazing and delish taste experience. You have your mashers on the side but eating a spoonful of both is mandatory in the consumption of this dish to get the full effect.

Yes, cooking the rice on the side is a bit of a task, but in the end, totally worth it. The FR adds a crunchy texture, too.

See how easily this all fits into the cabbage--tuck the ends in, place in the slow cooker, you're nearly done with the whole prep part of this dish.

Beautiful and so organized. The last thing is to add a mixture of sauerkraut and canned tomatoes over it with some dried herbs, vinegar and sugar blended in--poured over the top and cooked on low or high for about four hours and you have a pot of yum waiting for you!

Lasagna gardening in action! Place about 4-5 layers of newspaper over the spot you wish to garden in this spring. Next, pour some water over the newspaper. Layer with peat moss, then compost, then more peat, (throw in some fresh leaves from the millions that fell from my oaks), add more compost and finally, mulch it. In about two weeks this is going to be prime "planting real estate". I will probably need to add more compost and re-mulch. Every summer this "spot" turns into a brown-ish patch of ick. And best of all, this ick is in the shape of a perfect circle. Yes, like a "crop circle". Oh, Mr. Thyme and I have our theories, we watch plenty of Syfy. To combat the disgust I have with this spot (and have had for the past five years) I've decided to take matters into my own hands. It's getting the "lasagna" treatment--not sure what I'll plant. It's next to my roses (which are behind them--all pruned and ready for spring)--some herbs would be good companions. So would garlic.

When I was at the Missouri Botanical Gardens a few weeks back, I took note of some of the planting shapes. (Really easy to do with everything dormant.) I noticed a lot of soft edges incorporated: half circles and curves vs. right angle corners. I thought about ways to use this in my own garaden--I think it will make a huge difference.

This weekend was a wash out as far as getting any gardening work done. We lost the sixty degree weather and fell back into the forties both Saturday and Sunday. Thankfully, we'll be back in the sixties this week--but still have rain. Call me a sissy, but I deem weekends like this as "cold blasts" because that is exactly what it feels like when you've been spoiled with even a few days of sun and warmth. Cold and dreary weekends that fall out of nowhere on you in spring (grant it, I know this is only the first official weekend of spring) has a propensity to put you back into a winter mindset: stay inside, wear your jammies all day and have pancakes for breakfast, get the slow cooker out, do some knitting and just chill--but try to get a run in at least before Mr. Thyme wakes up!


So I took off Saturday morning for my five mile run in short sleeves and a polar tech vest. My arms were numb before I finished my first mile. I warmed up, but like at mile four for Pete's sake. I've increased my running mileage to try to get 20-25 miles in per week. My longest run last week was an eight-miler. I need to get a ten-miler in before the half marathon--if I in fact decide to run it. We're still signed up--the check's cashed. I just have not really, truly convinced myself I'm ready because of the "incident" and all--you'll be updated as the date approaches. (Plus I really am not a morning person--why can't races begin at noonish instead? So the whole getting there at six a.m. is half the battle if you want the truth.) It's April 11th for anyone counting. I think I'll try to push a nine-miler in this coming week. After my eight-miler though, I was just spent--I felt like I had hit every single hill in my county zip code. I mean, truthfully, this will make me a better runner in competitions (for someone almost fifty), that is. As for confidence, it kills me sometimes. On my long runs, my average time on flat surfaces is a little (or sometimes a lot over) ten minutes per mile--not bad. Then I check my pace on hills, and it drops to eleven or eleven and a half, even, gulp, going up to twelve per mile. I have a HUGE hill I hit right before I arrive back home no matter how I take off out the door--I've now included a diversion route into a rather flat "newer" and nicely "appointed" subdivision where folks now come out wondering who this "strange running person" is? For me, it serves as my "break/rest" before I hit Mt. Fuji, or my final destination--the king of all hills leading back to my house. (It was lovely picking a house out on top of a hill, we just forgot to consider my running!)

I don't know how many of you know this, but it's a good idea to give a new home a year or two for "observing" before making any "landscape" changes--i.e., tree planting, new land renovations. You have to fight the urge. It can be a killer to have to wait--in that instance, use container gardening. Trust me. This will be our sixth summer in this house and I just now feel like I sort of know my land enough to have confidence in "tearing up" spots of the lawn for different uses--like the photo above. So for example, don't go all willy-nilly and have a "landscaper" come out telling you what you want, you let the land tell you what it wants--it will, trust me. Otherwise you will have "landscaper anger" issues. And, one more thing, if you DO feel like you must have a landscaper come out to your home "just for some insight"--girls, you can say "Thanks, but no thanks" and hand them a twenty for their trouble. I've done it. It's not hurting anything. They are in the business to "tear up your land" so take your own sweet time in deciding what and when you'll make any changes. "Haste" and "gardening" don't pair well, trust me.

So in my own pursuit of "land usage" insight, I finally went out and purchased The All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew and also bought The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Edward C. Smith (I used my discount card). *The library is great but when I know my memory for recalling this or that is a bit less than it was say, even five years ago, the I-must-have-that-at-my-fingertips is better for someone like me--a reader and visual learner. Plus, I just like the feeling of having some reference knowledge sitting on my own bookshelf.

I have been riding on a wing and a prayer and gathering veggie planting tidbits here and there from fellow garden club folks and master gardeners for several years now--and I still am no expert. I'll check out good gardening blogs, too. But, I like to dive right in when I have my undies in a bundle over the prospect of starting something new--veggie gardens are always new--you have to crop rotate and stuff (nematodes--ick) and starting over each spring can be a project to really do it right. After some veggie failures and a few successes last summer, I thought I'd take advantage of the cold, cloudy weather this weekend and bone up on my retention level for planting seeds/transplants. . . "the right way" this year. At least the way these two gentelmen authors suggest.

Now, if any of you have absolutely no interest whatsoever in my "veggie garden" obsession, move to the bottom of this post, you'll find the recipe there. For the rest of you--god love you all--here goes my rant on the matter of veggie planting and books about said topic. First of all--there aren't a whole lot of women (other than Martha and a minority of others) publishing veggie gardening books. Here I am--a proponent of all things "women" and I come home with two books, both written by men. (However, my lasagna gardening book was written by a woman.) Men are "problem solvers". Women on the other hand are what I fondly call: "mullers". We mull over things. I know I do. (But not for too long because that would defeat the purpose of my ever-growing wants and desires.) I confront this matter of problem solving vs. mulling on a consistent basis with Mr. Thyme. Say I take a problem or something I'm mulling over to him and instead of getting this "dialogue" full of considerations for possible solutions (now let me give him credit, he occasionally indulges me with longer talk sessions), but most of the time, this is what I get: Here's the solution, problem solved. "But. . . " I say, and he says, "But what--there's your answer." So, I finished reading my SFG book in a day, then flipped open TVGB and what do I find? Two absolutely polar opposite theories about vegetable gardening--thanks problem solvers! So I was left to mull over my gardening plans some more.

I don't much like charts and graphs--this aversion probably dates back to learning venn diagrams, geometry and some economics dribble in school (economic degrees, no offense, but. . . oh please!). Any overwhelming, over-thought-out drawing or pie chart with different colors and I'm lost--it makes me skeptical--like, what's the real skinny here? What are we trying to hide? So after spending a day with SFG and getting to the end of my reading, what do I find? The entire last section with nothing but charts and graphs! Just use bullet points and paragraphs! Call me crazy, but I'll spend time reading the printed instructions--it won't be fast, but I'll spend some time on it and, better yet--it's likely to stick in the memory locker. This always drove me nuts in business meetings--the ubiquitous power point presentations and all those charts and graphs. We've lost touch with words and meanings. We need to get back to writing things out and mulling over things--sorry Twitter fans. I'm not fond of the abbreviated life we've come to embrace. Okay, so you get my point.

Turth be told, I don't know which way I will go for my veggies this year in terms of my "planting"--some SFG, some not. I do know I am now armed with enough veggie planting information to officially classify me as "dangerous" in the garden.

As for yesterday and meal planning, I turned to my most beloved slow cooker. Actually, the meal request was from Mr. Thyme who felt this would be a perfect meal for the cold. He, in his problem solving-way, was right. I have deep respect and admiration for the person who invented the slow cooker. It makes life so less complicated--especially for someone like me who loses track of time and can find herself in her kitchen at five o'clock having a mini anxiety attack over the whole "dinner" planning thingy. This meal tastes best with a pile of mashed potatoes--which is almost mandatory actually. And, best of all--makes an even better leftover. (With a side of "fresh" mashers.)

Forbidden Rice, Tempeh and Sundried Tomato Stuffed Cabbage

*With this recipe, first things first. Prep your cabbage and rice. The rest of the veggie stuff can follow and will make your life easier in getting this into the 6 quart slow cooker. You could use a 4 qt. slow cooker, but I find the 6 qt. works best.

1 medium head of cabbage (cored and set in a steamer basket to soften the leaves)
1/2 cup dried forbidden rice
1/2 cup long grain brown rice
2 cups water
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 package tempeh
1 onion chopped
1 celery stalk chopped
2 medium carrots diced
6-8 sundried tomatoes, chopped (can use the kind in oil or regular sundried)
1 tablespoon Braggs Liquid Aminos or Tamari Sauce
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon dried basil
fresh ground pepper
1 14 oz. can sauerkraut, drained
2 14 oz cans chopped tomatoes or whole tomatoes (just cut whole up in the can with some scissors)
1/4 cup sucanat sugar or light brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

First, prep your cabbage head. Core it, then place the whole head in a steamer basket and allow to steam for about 15 minutes--until the leaves inside the cabbage are good and soft. It may take longer, just check it with a little peek. Then, you need to boil your tempeh in some water to get rid of any "taste" it tends to have if not boiled. As a brilliant short cut, I placed my tempeh in the pan of water where my cabbage was boiling--set the timer for ten minutes and removed the tempeh from there and set it on a plate to cool. Next, start your rice--add two cups of water to a medium sauce pan, bring the water to a boil, then add the rice, stir it in. Cover and reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 30 minutes. The water will turn almost black--don't panic. Rinse the rice off when it's done cooking like this: place cooked rice in a strainer and run under cold water. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the chopped onions, carrots and celery and cook for about ten minutes until the onion is soft. Next, dice up the cooled-off tempeh and add this to the veggies. Next add rice and sundried tomatoes, Braggs and dried seasonings. Cook the veggie mixture for about another five minutes and turn off heat. Allow to cool for about fifteen minutes before trying to stuff into cabbage. While that is cooling, take a large mixing bowl out and add the sauerkraut, canned tomatoes, vinegar and sugar and mix well. Carefully begin to peel the layers of "cooled off" cabbage leaves one at a time and place on a flat surface next to your pan of stuffing. Fill each leaf with just enough to not overfill it (see photo above). Tuck in the sides and place seam side down in the slow cooker (see photo above). Take the sauerkraut mixture and pour over the little stuffed cabbage rolls. Cover and let cook on low for five hours or high for four hours. *Slow cookers have varying cooking times--a newer slow cooker will heat the meal much faster than say the one your mother handed down to you.

1 comment:

  1. You're so lucky to actually have space for a garden, and I love the shape you made! We still are living in an apt. and unfortunately our balcony doesn't get enough sun! We're trying to get creative this year!

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