Do you know the thrill of creating a recipe from scratch? I can’t tell you how tickled I get when I manage something like this (it’s happened only a handful of times in my life). I think it’s pretty cool already that I have become bold enough in the kitchen to mess with other people’s recipes and tweak this and add that. I always think it looks so suave on the cooking shows when they don’t use measuring cups or spoons, but just dump spices into their hands or twirl the oil around the pan. Do you feel like you’re on TV when you do that in your kitchen? (I do. Just don’t tell anyone; it’s not very humble of me.)
This story starts with cabbage. I bought my first head of cabbage this spring after reading about how healthy they are. The timing was great because they are so cheap around St. Patrick’s Day, although they’re one of the best buys in the produce section any time of year. I had always thought before that they were in a category with iceberg lettuce and didn’t have many nutrients. Don’t judge a book by its cover! I had this recipe picked out for the cabbage, but it only needed half the head. What do you do with a half head of cabbage (when you barely knew what to do with the first half)?
Cabbage Recipes on the Computer and Multiple Tabs
Now you have to tell me: does anyone else do this? When I find a recipe or post I find interesting, I just leave it open in a tab. I currently have 11 windows open, each with 3-10 tabs. What?!? My husband thinks I’m crazy. Is this a female thing or just my weird quirk?
So this recipe was up on my computer for over a week, and I would pass it and think, yep, that’s planned for next week. But I never bookmarked it or printed it…and the night I wanted to make the soup, my computer had been acting up and lost all my windows. (Grrrr…) It was off, and I wasn’t in the mood to wrestle with it.
I decided I’d seen the recipe flash past enough times that I could wing it! I don’t have a clue if this is close to the original; I couldn’t remember the seasonings at all, so I think it really is “mine.” Love it! Bragging! Shutting up now – here’s the recipe…
- Olive oil and butter ($0.30)
- 1 large onion, coarsely chopped ($0.25)
- 3-5 stalks celery, sliced ($0.25)
- 3 carrots, sliced ($0.30)
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped ($0.10)
- 1-2 cans great northern beans (or 2-3 cups cooked if using dry) ($0.50-1.50)
- ½ head cabbage, thinly sliced ($0.50-1.50 – varies greatly by time of year)
- 6 cups chicken stock (free if homemade or $2-4.00)
- 1-2 cups pumpkin ($0.40-1.00)
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 1+ tsp cumin
- optional: 8 oz. can tomato sauce ($0.50)
- Melt ~1Tbs butter and 2Tbs olive oil.
- Add the onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and beans in order as you chop them.
- By the time you add the beans, the onions should be soft.
- Add salt, pepper, cumin and stir.
- Add cabbage and cover 5 minutes or so to wilt.
- Add broth, pumpkin (frozen is fine) and optional tomato sauce.
- Bring to a boil and reduce to high simmer.
- Cover and cook 15-30 minutes until carrots and cabbage are tender. Serves 8 – 10.
Super foods: 8 (or 9 with tomato sauce) That is a ridiculous number of super foods! I’m proud of my recipe – can you cram any more nutrients in there? Husband would say “add meat” of course…
Cost: $2.60-$5.70, up close to $10 if you use fancy chicken stock.
I like how this underscores the frugality of doing things yourself and shopping the sales and seasons. Dry beans and homemade chicken stock make a massive difference in price here, and shopping for pumpkin in the fall and cabbage in March really cut down the total cost as well. Under $3 to feed 10 people? Seriously. That’s awesome.
The version with tomato sauce…
The Story of the Secret Ingredient
As I was assembling the ingredients I did some thinking like, “What spices will taste good with cabbage and beans?” which ran quickly into, “What spices does my family love and I’m in the mood for tonight?” After tasting the soup, I must have been pondering orange vegetables. Maybe I was thinking about upcoming Super Foods. Maybe I was thinking about stuff in my freezer that I needed to use up. (I always freeze extras from a can of pumpkin in one-cup portions for muffins, but never make enough muffins…) Maybe I noticed the many cans of pumpkin I have in my basement that I bought in the fall (when they’re on sale and then on clearance after Thanksgiving!) that I need to remember to use more often. Whatever the inspiration, my sneaky little self thought, “Could I put pumpkin in cabbage soup???”
My husband only eats pumpkin in muffins and bread. He won’t do pumpkin pie. He doesn’t do squash soup or sweet potato fries. The man is not picky, but he has a thing against orange fall vegetables, apparently. He also told me that his mom used to serve a tomato-based cabbage soup when he was little that he just loved. I know better: pumpkins aren’t tomatoes. I almost didn’t do it…but a holy kitchen super food boldness stole over me…
I actually put 1 cup of pumpkin in half the soup and 1 cup of tomato sauce in the other half. My husband couldn’t guess what the “secret super food” was until I hinted about pie (practically gave it away). He was surprised to find he liked the pumpkin version better than the tomato, and another friend over for lunch that week concurred. (And she asked for the recipe, the best compliment she could give!)
Once you open the can of pumpkin, what next? Here are 20 Ways to use Leftover Pumpkin.
The Healthy Lunch Box: Sandwich-free Secrets to Packing a Real Food Lunch is loaded with strategies to streamline your packing process, stock your pantry with emergency backups for your backups, and send healthy, delicious food in the lunch box, no matter how old your eater is. Read more and start packing healthier, processed-free lunches today.