Unstuffed Cabbage

I had a really great meal planned for dinner. I was going to make traditional cabbage rolls, something I hadn’t eaten for a long time, probably since my grandmother was alive. I’d found a really nice head of cabbage at the grocery store and had everything planned out for the meal – and then work got in the way. I love working from home, but sometimes work can get crazy with deadlines and tasks that need to be managed. So my wonderfully planned meal went out the window.

But I still had all the makings for cabbage rolls, just not all the time I needed. Cabbage rolls generally take about 2 hours to bake and about 30 minutes or so for the prep work. I was still hungry for the taste of a cabbage roll, so I decided to make unstuffed cabbage in a big skillet instead. It uses all the same ingredients, but dinner can be ready in about half an hour. Win-win for me!

I used Minute Rice in this recipe simply because I was pressed for time in getting something on the table for everyone to eat, but you can definitely use the long-grain rice of your choice. You’ll just need to extend the cooking time to allow the rice to cook. I also added a pint of homemade salsa to my skillet unstuffed cabbage. Salsa isn’t a usual ingredient in traditional cabbage rolls, but it adds a nice spicy flavor when you’re making it on the stove top.

unstuffed cabbage

Unstuffed Cabbage

1 pound ground beef
1/2 an onion, diced
1/2 head green cabbage, chopped
2 15-ounce cans tomato sauce
1 pint salsa (optional)
2 cups Minute Rice (or your favorite long-grain rice but add more cooking time)
2 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, brown ground beef with the onion until the beef is no longer pink. Drain. To the skillet, add the chopped cabbage, and stir to combine. Let it cook for a few minutes to let the cabbage wilt a bit (and make more room in the skillet). Add the tomato sauce, salsa if using, 2 cups of rice and 2 cups of water. Stir to combine everything.

Let cook over medium heat for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the rice has absorbed all the water and the cabbage is tender. If you’re using long-grain rice, the cooking time may be closer to 30 minutes. Stir frequently to avoid anything sticking in the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spinach Lasagna

My family would eat pasta just about every night of the week if that’s what I made. Well, maybe not Kevin so much, as he’s a traditional meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, but my sons would. They frequently ask for lasagna, and when they were little, I used to add fresh spinach to my lasagna to “sneak” in a few more vegetables into their diet – not that they didn’t ever eat their veggies, but it was just one more way to get some greens in them. Now my oldest son requests that I include spinach when I make a lasagna, so I guess my sneaky ingredient somehow became his favorite way to eat lasagna.

To me the best lasagna has a ton of cheese in it, so I use lots of different blends in my recipe. For the ground meat, I’ve used ground venison, ground beef, Italian sausage and a combination of all. My oldest son likes it best when I use a combination of ground beef and ground Italian sausage, so this recipe reflects that.

lasagna in pan



Spinach Lasagna

1 package lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions, cooled
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground Italian sausage
1 small onion, diced
16 ounces diced mushrooms (store-bought canned, fresh or home canned)
2 jars spaghetti sauce (store bought or home canned)
1 8-ounce can tomato paste (I used Italian-seasoned tomato paste)
8 ounces ricotta cheese or small-curd cottage cheese
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon parsley leaves
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package fresh spinach leaves, washed and patted dry
2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
8 ounces sliced Provolone cheese
Freshly grated Asiago cheese
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Cook lasagna noodles per package directions. Set aside.

In a large skillet, brown ground beef and Italian sausage with the diced onions until the meat is no longer pink. Drain grease. In the same skillet, to the browned meat add 1 jar of spaghetti sauce, the tomato paste and the mushrooms. Cook until the mixture thickens.

In a large bowl, combine the ricotta or cottage cheese, egg, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, parsley, Italian seasoning and salt. Stir until well combined.

Combine the 2 cups of Italian shredded cheese and 1 cup of the shredded mozzarella cheese in another bowl.

In a large lasagna pan, layer the bottom with cooked lasagna noodles. Spoon some of the meat mixture on top of the noodles. Add a layer of the sliced Provolone cheese. Add a layer of the ricotta/egg mixture over the sliced Provolone. Add a layer of spinach leaves. Add a layer of the combined shredded cheeses.

Repeat layers, starting with another layer of noodles, and continue until you’ve used all the noodles, meat mixture, ricotta cheese mixture, spinach and combined shredded cheeses.

After you’ve completed all the layers, pour the remaining 1 jar of spaghetti sauce over all the layers. Top the sauce with the remaining 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese and additional freshly grated Asiago and Parmesan cheeses, if desired.

Bake the lasagna in a 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven for about 60 minutes, or until the cheese is browned and the lasagna is bubbly.

Serve with additional grated Parmesan and Asiago cheeses.

Dark Chocolate Kahlua Cheesecake

Years ago I sold cheesecakes for holidays and special occasions, and I even catered a couple of weddings where the bride didn’t want a traditional wedding cake. I’ve tried many different cheesecake recipes, and I have lots of favorites. I haven’t made cheesecake for a while, and my sons were complaining about that fact, so for my birthday I decided it was time to try my hand at baking another cheesecake.

I usually opt for a traditional New York-style cheesecake, but I was hungry for chocolate, so I used my basic cheesecake recipe and tweaked it a bit to incorporate both dark chocolate and Kahlua. I used a basic graham cracker crust, but you could make this a decadent chocolate cheesecake by using chocolate cookie wafers in place of the graham crackers. As cheesecake isn’t a low-calorie dessert, and it’s a treat I don’t make all the time anyway, I don’t worry about using low-cal this or that for my ingredients. I use full-fat cream cheese, real butter, good Mexican vanilla and the best chocolate I can find. I used Ghirardelli intense dark chocolate (86% cacao) for this recipe.

The overall texture of this cheesecake is light and fluffy, not heavy as some cheesecakes can be. Neither the chocolate nor the coffee flavors are overpowering but balance nicely with each other. The boys said this recipe was a definite keeper.

chocolate kahlua cheesecake 2

Dark Chocolate Kahlua Cheesecake

For the Crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted

For the Filling:
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon good vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
3 ounces good dark chocolate, melted
1/4 cup Kahlua liqueur, or other coffee-flavored liqueur
1 pint sour cream

Prepare a 9- or 10-inch springform pan by wrapping the bottom and sides of the pan with foil. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

For the crust, combine graham cracker crumbs, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 cup melted butter. Mix until well combined. Press into the bottom and halfway up the sides of the prepared springform pan. Set aside.

cheesecake crust (1)

For the filling, whip the room-temperature cream cheese until fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add in the 1 1/2 cups sugar, and mix until well combined. Add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add in the vanilla, melted 1/2 cup butter, melted chocolate and Kahlua. Mix on low speed for 1 minute, then mix well on medium-high speed for about 3 minutes. Add the sour cream to the batter, and mix until well combined, about another 2 minutes. The batter should be creamy and fluffy.

Pour the cheesecake batter over the crust in the springform pan. Place the springform pan inside a larger roasting pan or cake pan (I use my large lasagna pan). Pour boiling water into the roasting pan until it is halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

cheesecake in water bath (1)

Bake the cheesecake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour. After 1 hour, turn off the oven, and leave the cheesecake in the oven for an additional hour. This helps keep the top from cracking.

Allow the cheesecake to cool completely in the refrigerator before serving (at least 8 hours or overnight). Top with your choice of fruit toppings (raspberry is awesome) or freshly whipped cream if desired.