If you’re of German or Irish descent, you might have grown up eating cabbage on New Year’s Day for good luck. Cabbage is also an old-timey slang term for the green stuff many of us want this year, U.S. dollars.
Unfortunately, many of us grew up associating cabbage with a cooked into submission until it became a sulfur-smelling sludge or overly sweet and gloppy slaw and are hesitant to eat it to this day. That’s a shame, for while it might not guarantee us good luck, cabbage is one of the best bets for your food dollar, nutritionally speaking. It’s not uncommon to fit it for less than a dollar a pound and it can sometimes be found for as little as 20 cents a pound.
Cabbage is packed full of nutrients and fiber. Plain green cabbage is the most common in American grocery stores and the least expensive choice, but savoy, red cabbage and Napa are also fairly easy to find and not that expensive. Some grocery stores will gladly split a large head in half for singles or small families; however, a cut head of cabbage can last a week or so in the fridge, so don’t let the prospect of having to buy an entire head scare you off.
There are literally thousands of different recipes for using the various kinds of cabbage available online, from slaws and salads, to pilafs and casseroles, to stir fries and soups. Cabbage is a great way to add filling and tasty bulk to a recipe without resorting to adding a lot of empty carbs. Here are a few ideas for incorporating more delicious, nutritious and affordable cabbage into your diet.
1. Try using shredded cabbage instead of iceberg lettuce in tacos, sandwiches and salads. Not only does it stay crisp and crunchy longer, it is offers more nutrients. Cabbage leaves can also be dunked into boiling water to soften a bit and then used as low-carb sandwich wraps.
2. You aren’t limited to just mayonnaise based slaws, try many of the vinaigrette based recipes for a tangy and refreshing change.
3. There is evidence that the probiotic lactobacilli found in fermented cabbage dishes like sauerkraut and kimchi are great for digestion and your immune system. Making your own is a great choice, since many commercially developed brands are pasteurized, which destroys these helpful bacteria.
4. If you are trying to cut back on carbohydrates in your diet, like rice and pasta, try using shredded and lightly sauteed cabbage as a “bed” for your meals. This works particularly well for meals with an Asian or Eastern European flavor profile.
5. Red cabbage contains more anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients than other varieties. Try braising it with apples and a bit of apple cider vinegar for a pleasingly sweet and sour side dish.
6. Combine mashed potatoes and cooked cabbage to make Colcannon, a traditionally Irish dish. This can be a good use for leftover mashed potatoes and combined with a bit of ham, can be a warm, comforting one-dish meal.
7. The cabbage soup diet is fails as a sustainable way of living, but that doesn’t mean that cabbage isn’t a fantastic addition to your vegetable soups and stews. Try adding it towards the end so that it retains a bit of texture and doesn’t overwhelm the dish.
8. Making stuffed cabbage is time-consuming, but there is no reason that you can’t layer the ingredients like a lasagna instead of doing individual rolls. Look for recipes that use lentils for all or part of the meat for a whole lot of nutrition for not a lot of money.
9. Almost every culture has their version of stuffing cooked cabbage into a dough of some sort. From Eastern European runzas to Asian egg rolls. Try making a huge batch, par-cooking and freezing on wax-paper lined baking sheets so that they stay separate. Once frozen solid, they can be transferred to large freezer bags so that you can pull out just enough for a quick supper or lunch.
10. Don’t overlook how delicious and easy plain steamed or sauteed cabbage is for weeknight dinners. With a dab of butter or olive oil and seasonings to compliment your main dish, it’s an affordable, easy choice for weeknight cooking and can easily fit into your regular rotation of vegetable sides.