Here I am. I’m still out here.
I’m having trouble keeping up with everything. I’m not writing. In fact, I’ve hardly been cooking. Here is what I HAVE been doing:
- Learning a new job that, most of the time, feels like a different language.
- Planning my sister’s bridal shower, and whoo-hooing or boo-hooing over her upcoming marriage (depending on the day)
- Traveling to Athens to hang out with the folks
- Getting sick while in Athens.
- Being sick for several days.
- Taking significant other to emergency room (while still sick) with kidney stone.
- Getting five cats to the vet for their annual check-ups, all within a 10-day period (and yes, some of this was done while I was still sick, in bad weather to boot)
- Finding out our eldest cat has a mast cell tumor, but luckily it hasn’t spread to his organs. Planning the necessary surgery, which could possibly cost $1000.
- Learning that one of our other cats needs a tooth pulled. That will be another $800 or so.
- Trying not to be completely overcome by the anxiety that can occasionaly reduce a strong, sassy woman to a quivering blob of uselessness.
But although money’s getting scarce again, I just feel fortunate that none of these things happened (1) before I was re-introduced to the work force, (2) before the first paycheck hit, and (3) before the insurance kicked in!
Luckily, I’ve been maintaining a certain sense of frugality on the food front, probably just by force of habit. A couple weeks ago, I made a yummy cabbage soup. I also wrote the following post – and never got around to posting it. Sick. Crazy busy. Kidney stones. Cat issues. You get the picture. (Though unfortunately, with this post, you do NOT get the picture, because that would have been just one more step.)
Read on. Don’t be afraid of the cabbage.
Cabbage is one of those all-around good foods, especially for those on a budget. It’s super-cheap, nutritious, and one small head yields enough for a really big batch of sweet and sour soup.
In fact, for a two-person household, TOO much sweet and sour soup! It was delicious the first night and still pretty darned good the second night. But after three days of eating it for lunch at work, and sneaking it into yet another evening meal, we were both pretty sick of it. Which is a shame, because it’s so very yummy. There will definitely be a “next time”, but it will involve freezing at least half (if not two-thirds) of the soup for really easy meal planning later.
This is a very versatile soup. It’s hearty enough to serve as a meal with your favorite salad and some good crusty bread. But it’s light enough to eat with sandwiches as well.
The Cookbook: 365 Ways To Cook Vegetarian, by Kitty Morse
The Recipe: Sweet and Sour Cabbage Borscht (beet-haters, don’t let the word “borscht” scare you…I’m honestly not sure why it’s called that, but I promise – it has nothing to do with the presence of beets)
Cooking It Up:
Making this soup will devour about 90 minutes of your time, so it’s best for a weekend or, at very least, a night you get home from work early. That said, it’s light on actual labor while long on cooking time, so it doesn’t involve a lot of fussy prep (or brain cells for that matter, of which I usually possess no more than two by the time I get home at night).
I prepared this recipe with minimal adaptations, though I did play around with the brown sugar. I know it’s supposed to be SWEET and sour, but 3/4 cup seemed rather excessive to me. It is soup, after all, not caramel sauce. I recommend starting out with no more than 1/2 cup, and then tasting during the final cooking process to see if you really want more.
I also recommend thinly sliced cabbage, rather than the shredded that was called for in the original recipe. We found ourselves wishing for a bit more cabbage presence, as my food processor shredding blade made the pieces pretty small. If you’d still like to use a food processor, try the slicing blade rather than the shredding blade, as I will do next time around.
Sweet and Sour Cabbage Borscht (adapted from 365 Ways To Cook Vegetarian)
Cut a small head of cabbage into quarters and thinly slice. In a large stock pot, combine the cabbage with 2 or 3 chopped medium onions, a 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes, a 16-oz can of tomato sauce, and 6 cups of vegetable broth (or a water-bouillon combination). Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover and cook until the cabbage is relatively soft, about 30 minutes.
Add 1 cup ketchup, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 2 TB Worcestershire sauce, and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes, allowing the flavors to blend. Taste about half way through to see if you’d like a little more brown sugar. Add as needed. At the end of the cooking process, add 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.
Serve with sour cream for a garnish. The original recipe also suggests lemon wedges, but my version of the soup didn’t need any additional lemon juice. Maybe if I’d used all the sugar, I would have felt differently.
Once any leftover soup has cooled, freeze it in meal-sized containers. You’ll be glad you have it later. I’m betting you could run a little hot water over the bottom of your frozen soup container and dump it directly into the pot for reheating. No planning ahead needed.
Incidentally, I found myself wondering if I should have strayed from the recipe and sauteed the onions and cabbage in some butter or olive oil to add more flavor. After tasting the soup, I decided this step would have been a waste of time, effort, and calories. The soup has such a great, complex flavor that sauteeing the veggies ahead of time is simply not necessary.
Until next time,