Deconstructed Stuffed Cabbage Casserole
Thanks to my friend Dolores for this Deconstructed Stuffed Cabbage Casserole that’s the ultimate in healthy winter comfort food! This recipe is gluten-free, low-glycemic, South Beach Diet Phase Two; use the Diet-Type Index to find more recipes like this one.
Today’s my birthday, and even though this is not a milestone birthday I still like to get as much birthday mileage out of the day as I can, so I’m in San Francisco where I’ll be visiting Karyn and Bobbi. Having a birthday that’s close to the end of the year means a double-dose of reflecting on life every December.
One thing I’ve been thinking for a while now is how ironically it seemed easier to eat healthy meals when I went off to work every day. In those days I had to take a lunch, and when I got home I had to work on the blog, so there wasn’t much time to go out to eat. Being forced to plan ahead for meals meant I always made diet-friendly casseroles or soups on the weekend to make sure my freezer was well-stocked to get me through the week.
That’s a habit I’m going to work on cultivating again, so over the weekend I made this amazing Deconstructed Stuffed Cabbage Casserole and I have six servings of it in the freezer waiting for me at home!
The picture above is how the finished casserole looked just out of the oven. This casserole started with a recipe that my friend Dolores sent me after she’d mentioned it on Facebook, and as soon as I saw her recipe I knew I’d love it.
But I do like to add my own twist to recipes, and although I closely followed her idea for a layered dish with cabbage and a meat-rice-tomato mixture, I used less meat, spiced the meat mixture up a bit, used more cabbage in proportion to the other ingredients (which Dolores recommended), and also added some low-fat cheese on top. The red tomato sauce and cheese made this look like lasagna, but I love the healthy idea of a layered dish made with cabbage. If you like cabbage at all, I promise you’ll love this recipe.
You’ll need two cups of cooked rice, and I used brown rice that I cooked in my much-beloved Zojirishi Rice Cooker. Brown the ground beef in a large frying pan. (If you use lean ground beef like I did, you’ll need a tiny bit of olive oil, even with a non-stick pan.)
Remove the ground beef and then saute the onions in a little olive oil. When onions are starting to brown, add the minced garlic, thyme, and paprika and cook a few minutes more. Then add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, and browned ground beef and let the mixture simmer for 15-20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and fresh ground black pepper.
While that simmers, chop up 1 1/2 heads of green cabbage. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan or dutch oven with high sides, and cook the cabbage until it’s wilted and about half cooked. You’ll need to turn the cabbage over a few times so it all gets wilted and cook about 8-10 minutes. Here’s how it looks when it’s done and seasoned with a little salt and pepper.
When the meat and tomato sauce mixture has cooked 15-20 minutes and thickened a bit, stir in the 2 cups of cooked rice and gently combine. Spray a large glass or crockery casserole dish with nonstick spray and start layering, starting with a layer of the cooked cabbage.
Top that with half the meat-tomato-rice mixture. Repeat with another layer of cabbage topped with the meat-tomato-rice mixture. Cover the casserole tightly with foil and bake at 350F/180C for 40 minutes (or until it’s just starting to bubble on the edges.)
Cheese is completely optional, but at that point I removed the foil, sprinkled over 2 cups of a low-fat cheese blend, and baked uncovered until the cheese was nicely melted. (I used a blend of 80% low-fat mozzarella, 10% low-fat cheddar, and 10% Provolone.) And here’s how the finished casserole looked when it came out of the oven! Thanks Dolores for a recipe idea that I know is going to be a long-term repeater at my house!
More Tasty Casseroles To Try:
Weekend Food Prep:
This recipe has been added to a new category called Weekend Food Prep to help you find recipes you can prep or cook on the weekend and eat during the week!
Deconstructed Stuffed Cabbage Casserole
(Makes 8-10 servings, depending on what else you’re serving it with; recipe adapted from a layered cabbage casserole recipe sent to me by my good friend Dolores.)
1 1/2 T olive oil, divided (more or less, depending on your pan)
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 large onion, chopped small
1 T finely minced garlic
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. sweet Hungarian Paprika (good quality paprika makes a big difference in flavor in a dish like this)
1/2 tsp. sharp Hungarian Paprika (optional; if making for kids I might leave this out)
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste (for seasoning meat mixture and cooked cabbage)
1 1/2 heads green cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 can (14.5 oz.) petite dice tomatoes with juice
1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
1/4 cup water (just enough to rinse out each of the cans)
2 cups cooked rice (I used brown rice)
2 cups low-fat cheese (optional; I used a blend of 80% low-fat mozzarella, 10% low-fat cheddar, and 10% Provolone.)
Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Spray a large glass or crockery casserole dish with non-stick spray. (I used a dish that was 12″ x 10″.)
Heat 1-2 tsp. olive oil in a large frying pan; add ground beef and cook until it’s done and nicely browned, breaking apart as it cooks. (I like to use a potato masher to break the meat apart once it’s partly done.) Remove ground beef to a bowl.
In the same pan, add a little more olive oil if needed, then add chopped onion and cook over medium heat until the onion is translucent and starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic, dried thyme, and paprika and cook about 2 minutes more. Then add the diced tomatoes with juice, tomato sauce, and ground beef. Rinse each of the cans out with a little water (about 1/4 cup total) and add to the pan. Let mixture simmer until it’s hot and slightly thickened, about 15-20 minutes.
While the meat mixture simmers, cut cabbage in half, cut out the core, and remove any wilted outer leaves, and then chop the cabbage coarsely into pieces. (They don’t have to be all the same size. I chopped it into pieces that varied from 1/2 inch to 1 1/2 inches.) Heat about 2 tsp. olive oil in a large frying pan or dutch oven with high sides, add the cabbage and cook over medium-high heat until the cabbage is wilted and about half cooked, turning it over several times so it all wilts and cooks. Season cabbage with salt and fresh-ground black pepper.When the meat and tomato sauce mixture has cooked 15-20 minutes and thickened a bit, stir in the 2 cups of cooked rice and gently combine.
Spray a large glass or crockery casserole dish with non-stick spray and the layer half the cabbage, half the meat mixture, other half of cabbage, and other half of meat mixture. Cover tightly with foil and bake 40 minutes, or until the mixture is just starting to bubble on the edges.
Remove foil and sprinkle on cheese (if using.) Bake uncovered an additional 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and starting to slightly brown. Serve hot.
This freezes well, and I’m looking forward to enjoying it several more times when I eat the portions I have in the freezer. To reheat, I would recommend thawing overnight in the refrigerator and then either microwaving it until hot or heating in the oven in a glass dish covered with foil.
Low-Carb Diet / Low-Glycemic Diet / South Beach Diet Suggestions:
Cabbage is an extremely low-carb vegetable, and since this recipe is half cabbage that goes a long way towards making it a good option for phase 2 or 3 of the South Beach Diet. If you’re making this for South Beach it’s recommended to use low-fat ground beef, low-fat cheese, and brown rice (or a low-glycemic type of white rice like Uncle Bean’s Converted Rice would also work.) I haven’t tried making this without the rice, but for a lower-carb option you could use Cauliflower Rice to replace the rice, or use less rice and more cabbage.
Find More Recipes Like This One:
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