What’s low-carb, widely available, tasty, incredibly versatile, seriously nutritious, and always among the cheapest vegetables in your grocery store? Cabbage! Furthermore, cabbage is in season right now, so it’s even cheaper than usual. With the cost of lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, and other summer salad vegetables at their predictable winter high, cabbage makes a lot of sense.
What’s the lowdown on cabbage nutritionally? One cup of green cabbage has 3.8 grams of carbohydrate, with 1.6 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 2.2 grams, and just 17 calories. Cabbage is one of the best sources of the little-known vitamin K, needed for strong bones, blood clotting and proper kidney function. You’ll also get appreciable amounts of vitamin C and potassium, plus a smattering of other vitamins. Go for red cabbage and you’ll get more than pretty color – you’ll get all the vitamins above, plus roughly a day’s worth of vitamin A. (Okay, it’s not really vitamin A. It’s pro-vitamin A – stuff your body can turn into vitamin A. Actual vitamin A is only found in animal foods, one good reason for eating them.)
Just as exciting, many medical studies suggest that sulfur compounds found in vegetables in the cabbage family reduce cancer risk. I found studies citing reductions in breast, prostate, colon, even lung cancers. That’s too good to miss! (Just so you know — the other members of the family include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and kale. All low carb!)
So what to do with your affordable nutritional bonanza?
- Coleslaw is a favorite, but most commercial coleslaw dressing contains a lot of sugar. Mix 1/2 cup each of mayonnaise and sour cream or plain yogurt with 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1 1/2 tablespoons prepared mustard, 1- 2 teaspoons of Splenda (or your sweetener of choice to equal 1-2 teaspoons sugar) and salt to taste. This is enough for a dozen servings of coleslaw, and will add about 1 gram of carb to each serving.
- Serving that slaw to company? Use red cabbage and stir in one grated carrot, and it will be almost too beautiful to eat. Add red cabbage to tossed salads for color and added nutrition.
- Cook red cabbage with a little acid – vinegar, lemon juice, or the like – or it turns blue!
- Napa cabbage, with its distinctive texture and mild flavor, is particularly good in stir fries, and cheaper than snow peas. Good for Asian-style salads, too.
- Cabbage is wonderful sauteed. Try frying a few slices of bacon and sauteing the cabbage in the resulting grease until it has a few brown spots. Then stir in a little vinegar and Splenda, and the bacon, crumbled, and serve.
- Corned beef and cabbage is about as easy as a supper can get. Peel a couple of onions and a few turnips, and cut them in chunks. Put ‘em your slow cooker. Plunk your hunk of corned beef on top, add the seasoning packet that comes with it, and water to cover. Simmer on low all day — 10 hours is good. Then turn the pot up to high, add coarsely chunked cabbage, recover, and cook for another half an hour. Serve with butter for the vegetables and mustard or horseradish for the beef.
- Don’t forget about bagged coleslaw mix. Of course you can use it for slaw and other salads, but it’s great for making quick cabbage soup, too.
- Stuffed cabbage is a perennial favorite, but it’s time consuming and labor intensive. Here’s a recipe that gives you all the flavor of stuffed cabbage at breakneck speed. Do use very lean ground beef for this recipe — it saves you the time needed to drain off the grease.
- 1 1/2 pounds ground round or other very lean ground beef (750 g)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic (5 ml)
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/2 head cabbage, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper (2 ml)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (2 ml)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (2 ml)
- 1 teaspoon salt (5 ml)
- 8 ounce can tomato sauce (250 g)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice (30 ml)
Start the ground beef cooking in a heavy skillet over high heat – spread it out to cover the bottom of the pan so it cooks quicker.
While the ground beef is starting to brown, chop your onion and crush your garlic. Plunk them in the pan with the ground beef, and stir the beef, using a spatula to turn it over and break it up so that it cooks evenly. Cover the pan and let it continue cooking, while you:
Chop your cabbage coarsely. Stir this into the browning beef and onion/garlic mixture, a bit at a time – it will come close to overwhelming your skillet, unless yours is bigger than mine. Again, take care to turn everything over to keep it cooking evenly. Re-cover the pan.
Open your can of tomato sauce. Uncover the pan and stir your meat/cabbage mixture yet again! When the cabbage is starting to wilt, stir in the tomato sauce, lemon juice, and seasonings. Re-cover, and let the whole thing simmer for 5 minutes, then serve.
5 servings, each with 7 grams of carbohydrate and 2 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 5 grams. 25 grams of protein.
(Recipe reprinted from 300 15 Minute Low Carb Recipes by Dana Carpender, copyright 2011, by permission of Fair Winds Press)
© 2012 by Dana Carpender. Used by permission of the author. What do you think? Please send Dana your comments to Dana Carpender.