These just came out of the oven and I seriously can't believe how amazingly delicious they are. Gluten-free stuffed cabbage rolls with a sweet, tangy sauce that really takes me back to my childhood. On my dad's Polish side they used to call these "pigs in the blanket" or Halupki. When most people think of pigs in the blanket they are referring to a hot dog rolled up with dough. This couldn't be further from that;)
This recipe normally calls for bread crumbs and white rice in the filling. Here I substituted with a mixture of quinoa and brown rice and used almond flour instead of bread crumbs making it overall healthier. There is a bit of sugar in the sauce and even though I used coconut sugar, it's still sugar and honestly, you could probably get away with reducing the amount if you wanted to.
What makes this recipe extra delicious are the fresh herbs. I had a nice combo from my CSA (community supported agriculture) delivery that contained fresh thyme, rosemary, and sage. It made the entire pot of sauce burst open with flavor. When beginning the sauce, I like to use part olive oil and part butter. The butter has a higher smoke point so keeps the fats stable as they begin to welcome the additional ingredients.
The idea of adding sauce to the meat mixture itself came from Ina Garten over at the Barefoot Contessa (I like to pretend we're friends). What a damn great idea! It adds not only extra flavor, but such a moist texture to the meat. I can't wait to serve some to Tommy! Totally toddler-friendly.
For the sauce
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp grass fed butter
2 yellow onions, chopped
2 13 oz boxes (or 1 28 oz can) crushed tomatoes (I use these)
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1/2-¾ cup coconut sugar (more if you like sweeter)
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
Saute olive oil and butter on medium heat in a large sauce pan. Add the onions and cook 6-8 minutes until translucent. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let that baby simmer away uncovered for 30-35 minutes, stirring here and there. Set sauce aside.
1 large head green cabbage
Bring large pot of water to a boil. Remove core from the cabbage and immerse in the hot water for a few minutes or until leaves begin to soften a bit. Carefully move cabbage onto a clean cutting board and with a fork remove leaves one by one. (If the leaves start to fall off in the water, you can use tongues to gently pull the leaves off as well). Once leaves have cooled a bit more, remove the small triangular rib from the base of the cabbage with a small knife. Set leaves aside. PS. The softening process may take a bit longer depending on your cabbage. If you like your cabbage a bit on the softer side, leave in the water a little longer.
For the filling
2 lbs grass fed beef
3 eggs lightly beaten
1 cup sauce from the meat mixture
1 small onion, finely chopped
½ cup almond flour (or gluten-free breadcrumbs)
½ cup uncooked quinoa (or a combo brown rice/quinoa like this)
1 tbsp fresh thyme, rosemary, or oregano (any fresh herbs you have)
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
In large bowl combine all ingredients and mix with spoon or clean hands (even better).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
To assemble, spread one cup of the sauce at the bottom of a large Dutch oven or casserole dish. Place a piece of cabbage onto a clean cutting board or work surface. Add about ¼-⅓ cup of the meat mixture near the bottom (rib edge) of each leaf and roll up toward the outer edge, tucking in the sides as your roll. Place the rolls on top of the sauce and cover with more sauce. Continue until you’ve used up all the cabbage. It should make about 12-14. Cover with lid if using Dutch over or tightly with foil if using a baking dish. Bake for about an hour or until everything looks tender and lovely.
If I have extra meat leftover, I will brown it on the stove for Tommy. You can also place in muffin tins and bake in the oven like mini-meatloaves.
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