Tuesday, May 06, 2008

On Food, Cost, and Cabbage--A Gluten-Free Solution for What Ails Us

Several things were swirling around in my head as I decided on this post:

1. My recent entry on the incidental expenses of illness
2. Worldwide strife over food prices and shortages
3. Around the world, May is celiac awareness month

Buying and cooking gluten-free food has always required more creativity, effort, and expense (all well worth it, obviously) but when the price of staples like milk, eggs, and flour make headline news, the gluten-free budget isn’t headed anywhere good either.

Two other things should be noted for their particular relevance to this post:

1. In addition to being dairy and gluten-free, I have the singular focus of an old lady when it comes to nutrition. Fiber? Can’t get enough of it. In fact, if my lunch and dinner don’t revolve around something green, I get a bit twitchy. And sodium? I’m as tenacious about cutting out extra salt as I am about incorporating fiber. I’d like to say it’s because I’m that dedicated to good health, but really I also just hate the way my rings get tight when I eat salty food. (My husband survives this regime by keeping a shaker of salt and a container of parmesan cheese at hand, but let me assure what I lack in salt I make up for with garlic and herbs).

2. I’m mildly obsessed with the culinary drama (more drama than culinary, sometimes) called Top Chef. Last week’s challenge involved cooking a healthy, inexpensive, and easy family meal. Now, I was all about Nikki’s one-pan chicken and veg extravaganza, but some of those recipes looked way too persnickety for a truly easy family meal. I mean, I love to cook and I don’t even have children yet and I think on the average Wednesday night when I want something easy (so, you know, I can go watch Top Chef) I’d lose patience.

So, let’s recap—food is expensive, gluten-free meals even more so, and time and convenience are at a premium. I now humbly submit my entry for an easy, inexpensive, gluten-free meal: Lazyman’s cabbage rolls, an homage to my husband’s Midwestern casserole-rich upbringing. His mother gave us her recipe and we added a few twists. It only takes about 10 minutes to prepare and while it does need to bake, it is a great dish to make ahead of time (let it bake while you watch late-night TV shows) and re-heats really well.

The short version: brown some ground turkey in a pan, add some rice and a large can of (no-salt added) diced tomatoes and one cup of water in with it, then dump the mixture in a baking dish and smother it with 4 cups of shredded cabbage. You can split the cabbage in half and layer the tomato mixture in the middle. Leave it alone for an hour and a half at 425 degrees and then you have a meal plus leftovers. You can use beef, of course. We just like turkey. We use 3 tablespoons of risotto, but regular rice works the same. Few ingredients, less cost, and it’s low in sodium and high in fiber. What’s not to love?

Like any good casserole-inspired dish it looks messy but tastes great:

Before I send you off to the grocery store, two quick updates: Grand Rounds is up at Suture for a Living, so definitely check it out.

Last but not least, the kind editors at Publisher’s Weekly gave Life Disrupted a really great review in their May 5 issue. Click here to read it online!!!


Unknown said...

oh that does sound easy to make. And my husband is polish so he LOVES cabbage rolls. I'll have to try this.

Aviva said...

Hey, I'm from the midwest and I don't think I ever ate a casserole until I got to college! :)

Anyway, I mainly wanted to say congrats on the great review in Publisher's Weekly!! That is SO awesome!!

Anney E.J. Ryan said...

GREAT review! congrats.

And I LOVE cabbage. I'm all over this recipe. Thanks!

Girl, Dislocated said...

Congrats on another great review!

The recipe sounds pretty hard to screw up, but I'll let you know if I find a way. :P

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