Babcia’s Gołąbki–The Best Cabbage Rolls Ever!


For me, the easiest way to collect tender leaves suitable for stuffing was to core the cabbage, and  boil the head. Remove when the exterior leaves are tender,peel them off, then return the head to the pot.Continue in this vein. There are other ways, but this way worked best for me.

Disclaimer: This is not a recipe you can whip up in 30 minutes. This is a Polish Grandmother Recipe. And anyone who is a Polish Grandmother, or anyone who has a Polish Grandmother, or anyone (like me) who lives next door to a Polish Grandmother, knows that Polish Grandmother Recipes can’t be completed in less than thirty minutes.

But was my time spent on the following recipe worth it? I thought so. Absolutely. And so did my panel of expert eaters, who demanded the recipe. Here are some tips I learned in dividing up the prep for this recipe into manageable bites.

I made the tomato sauce a few days ahead, and the meat mixture 24 hours in advance. (I’ve also made the stuffed leaves and frozen them before baking. After a six week hiatus in the freezer, I thawed them, baked them and then enjoyed them.)

Cut out the tough center vein before rolling.

Cut out the tough center vein.

The only thing that I found to be a pain in the rear, was peeling off the cabbage leaves as they tenderized in boiling water. That’s a big head of cabbage to keep extracting and plopping back into boiling water. Wear rubber gloves.

My girlfriend, Janet disagrees. Says its easy. While boiling the cabbage, simply flick off the leaves and put them in a pan as they become tender. No need to keep removing the head from the water. I asked my friend if she had actually tried this flick method. She said, no, she saw it on TV. Martha Stewart makes the preparation of Molten Lava Cake look as easy as making a PB&J. You see my point.

Place rolled leaves seam side down in prepared pan.

Place rolled leaves seam side down.

Another Disclaimer: Your Polish Grandmother’s recipe for cabbage rolls may be different than mine. After all, my Polish Grandmother is fictional, a character in my next novel. And she’s passed away, at that. In the book, however, memories of her integrity influence her granddaughters as they struggle to keep their Detroit diner afloat.  I made several different batches of cabbage leaves and decided that this recipe is what my Babcia makes. To my palate, as well as hers and her granddaughters, they are exquisite. 


Before covering in foil and baking.

My next-door neighbor, Krystina, is a non-fiction, flesh and blood, Polish Grandmother who was raised in Poland. Her cabbage leaves are  smaller, more delicate and have less stuffing and ingredients than the recipe below.

Delicious, most assuredly, but they are different. She tsk, tsked my recipe. Said they were too bulky. Hey! It’s a big world! You can’t pick a battle with a fictional Polish Grandmother! Especially one who’s passed away and is not able to defend herself. There’s plenty of room for every Polish Grandmother Recipe for cabbage rolls on the web.

By the way, it’s that time of year. You’ll find my favorite holiday recipes  by clicking the gold holiday ball in the right hand column.

Recipe: Babcia’s Cabbage Rolls


  • 1 large green cabbage*
  • Stuffing (recipe follows)
  • Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)
  • Chopped fresh dill for garnish (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Fill a pot that is large enough to accommodate cabbage head ¾ way full of heavily salted water. Place head in boiling water and cook 10-15 minutes or until outermost cabbage leaves are tender enough to remove. Remove from water and drain head in a colander. Do not pour out water from pot as inner cabbage will likely need more cooking time.
  3. When cool enough to handle, carefully peel away 12-14 of the outermost leaves. (Note that you may have to peel the outer layers first and then return the cabbage to cook if the inner leaves can’t be removed with ease.) With paper towels or a clean cloth, pat leaves dry.
  4. To facilitate rolling the leaf, with a sharp knife, cut out tough vein from the center of leaf. Depending on the size of the leaf, place 1-2 tablespoons of stuffing in the center of each leaf. Beginning at what was once the stem end, tuck in sides of leaf and roll up to completely encase stuffing. Continue in this manner until you’ve filled 12-14 leaves. Any extra filling may be rolled into meatballs and cooked alongside leaves in the sauce. Coarsely chop the remaining cabbage.
  5. Select 1-2 casserole dishes large enough to accommodate the cabbage rolls and sauce. Place chopped cabbage at the bottom of the dishes. (This will keep the bottom of the rolls from burning.) Place cabbage rolls, seam side down, atop cabbage in casserole(s). Ladle prepared tomato sauce over all of the cabbage rolls. Cover with non-stick foil or foil covered with cooking oil spray. This will keep the foil from sticking to the sauce.
  6. Bake on center rack of oven 60-90 minutes or until cabbage rolls can be pierce with the prongs of a fork.
  7. When finished cooking, remove the stuffed cabbage leaves from the pan carefully with a spatula. Top the rolls with the tomato sauce, with grated black pepper and chopped dill, if using. Serve hot. Rolls may be refrigerated for 4 days or frozen and reheated before serving. Delicious served with mashed potatoes.

* You will need 12-16 medium-large intact leaves for the recipe, depending on the size of the leaf. If small cabbages are only available, purchase 2 heads. I found it easier to blanch the cabbage, remove the leaves, and re-blanch the leaves until just tender. I also tried freezing the cabbage to soften the leaves.That method didn’t work so well for me.

Active time: 55 minutes

Baking time: 60-90 minutes

Number of servings (yield): # 6-8 servings (12-16 rolls)

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.



  • 1 large egg
  • ¾ pound ground beef (80/20 grind)
  • ½ pound ground pork
  • 1 cup cooked long grain brown rice
  • ¼ cup minced shallot or onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 3 heaping tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, optional
  • ¾ cup sauerkraut, rinsed, drained and patted dry
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ tablespoon Hungarian paprika
  • 1 teaspoon kosher
  • 1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground pepper


  1.  In a large bowl, beat egg.
  2. With a large spoon or fork, mix in ground meats, cooked rice, minced shallot or onion, chopped dill, fennel, if using, sauerkraut, tomato paste, paprika, salt and pepper. Mixture may be made up to 24 hours in advance.

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.



  • 28 ounce tomato sauce
  • 14 ounces diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2-3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • ½ teaspoon allspice or cinnamon, fresh-grated preferred


  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 tablespoons of the vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar, garlic and allspice. Bring to a low boil and then reduce to simmer.
  2. Simmer twenty to thirty minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with additional vinegar or sugar, if desired. Tomato sauce may be made up to four days in advance.

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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October Apple-Palooza

img_20161020_114220907_hdrA palooza’s defined as the art of throwing an extravagant, bawdy party with a bunch of friends. It’s been a fabulous year for apples  in Northern Michigan–everywhere you turn there’s a roadside stand groaning under their weight.

So I’ve put together a palooza of some of my favorite recipes which incorporate apples–the recipe links may be found beneath the photos.

Baked Apples stuffed with Orange-Scented Sweet Potatoes

Baked Apples stuffed with Orange-Scented Sweet Potatoes

Apple Cider Glazed Chicken Breasts with Apples and Pears

Apple Cider Glazed Chicken Breasts with Apples and Pears

Turkey Cutlets with Apple Cider Sauce

Turkey Cutlets with Apple Cider Sauce

Beer-Braised Brats with Apple Kraut

Beer-Braised Brats with Apple Kraut

Gingered Three Apple Salad

Gingered Three Apple Salad

Harvest Chili

Harvest Chili

Southwest Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Southwest Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Pork Chops with Apples and Chutney

Pork Chops with Apples and Chutney

Buttermilk Pancakes with Apples

Buttermilk Pancakes with Apples

Baked Apples stuffed with Orange-Scented Sweet Potatoes thumbnailApple Cider Glazed Chicken Breasts with Apples and Pears thumbnailTurkey Cutlets with Apple Cider Sauce thumbnailBeer-Braised Brats with Apple Kraut thumbnailGingered Three Apple Salad thumbnailHarvest Chili thumbnail
Southwest Butternut Squash and Apple Soup thumbnailPork Chops with Apples and Chutney thumbnailButtermilk Pancakes with Apples thumbnail

Baked Apples stuffed with Orange-Scented Sweet Potatoes Apple Cider Glazed Chicken Breasts with Apples and Pears • Turkey Cutlets with Apple Cider Sauce • Beer-Braised Brats with Apple Kraut  • Gingered Three Apple Salad Harvest Chili • Southwest Butternut Squash and Apple Soup • Pork Chops with Apples and Chutney • Buttermilk Pancakes with Apples


Tahquamenon Falls, Paradise, Michigan

October’s also about Fall colors and, ugh, the election. I, and several of my cohorts, have developed a pre-election media disorder. After tuning into the latest, our symptoms vary. Some of us become nauseous, others develop a migraine. My neck breaks out in hives. But I can’t resist another peek–a big distraction when I’m trying to work.  So Richard and I took a road trip to the Upper Peninsula to soak up the color and get off the grid.


Jack’s cabin and sauna.

Last week we stated in a friend’s cabin, south of the Cranberry Bog on the Black River. No electricity or running water, a wood-burning stove heated the cabin and fueled the heat for the sauna.  The main attraction: There’s no phone service and it’s a forty-five minute drive away from the first WIFI bar.  No excuses, I could focus on the synopsis for my third novel. (Book 2 is now in review with my publisher.)


Recipe on the back of a box of Trisket.



Of course, there are always distractions, this time  a noisy mouse and the Seafood Tartlet recipe on the back of a box of dill-spiced Triscuits.

I like Triscuits–and these dill and olive oil crackers were fine for munching. It got me thinking about the rich smoked trout and salmon to be had in these parts. I’ve perfected a Smoked Fish Spread that is divine. Perfect, I had imagined, for stuffing into the recipe for the Triscuit tartlet shells. On the way back to civilization, I picked up a smoked trout, the size of child’s tennis raquet.

I made the Triscuit cups according to the recipe on the back of the box, but to my palate, they were not good. The joy to be had with a Triscuit is in the texture and crunch–both lost resulting from the egg wash soak and  bake.

The Triscuit shell looks nice, but....

The Triscuit “tartlet” looks nice, but….

We ended up enjoying the Smoked Fish Spread with crunchy baguette slices, instead. It would also be yummy served in cucumber shells or phyllo cups, the ones that you’d find in the freezer case at a good grocery store. Or the dill-spiced Triscuits, uninterrupted.

Upon returning to the world of Wifi, I leapt into the latest news ravenously,  as a dog would pounce upon a slab of bacon.


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Sylvia’s Heartbreakers: The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie

img_6188There are over a hundred billion stars in our galaxy. Says Google, at least. After perusing chocolate chip cookie recipes on-line this week, I’m guessing there are about that many recipes for chocolate chip cookies. Minimum. So do I really need to burden the web with, yet, another one?

It depends. What’s your taste in cookies? The following list meets my criteria for a superb cookie. If you agree, there’s a valid reason for the following recipe to be added to the chocolate chip cookie stratosphere:

#1. The cookie is fat, not flat, with a crispy crust and unctuous, moist, almost cookie dough filling.

#2.) Cookie is packed with the texture and crunch of walnuts, and a lava flow of creamy, melted chocolate.

#3) Cookie is served warm; precisely 10 minutes out of the oven. (Don’t get me wrong–these cookies are still yummy days out of the oven, but the chocolate chips harden.)

My recipe calls for wrapping the cookie dough balls individually, and then freezing them. Therefore, you can  bake off the cookies on an as need basis, enjoying them hot from the oven every time. Besides, the recipe only works when the cookies are baked in a partially frozen state–one hour out of the freezer. When baking from a thawed state, the cookie falls apart.

img_6198I spent hours last week developing, and then refining, this recipe for my next novel, “The Welcome Home Diner”. It’s a recipe that Samantha, one of the protagonists, created. She wanted her diner to have a signature confection that would be their calling card. Prior to the novel’s opening, she’d worked as a baker at Manhattan’s Levain Bakery, which inspired the following recipe.

Levain is an establishment known for their gigantic, scratch-made, stuff-of-dreams cookies. And there are hoards of food bloggers, such as myself, who’ve spent hours copycatting their masterpieces. I’m pretty sure I got it down. Honestly.  As a side-note, one cookie easily serves two.

By the way, I’ve found the ultimate blog for those who love food-centric books. If you’ve read this far into my blog, it could very well have your name on it . It’s called, Ivory Owl Reviews  Every week, Rhiannan reads a food-centric book, and then posts her review on Friday. This week she reviewed “The Promise Kitchen”. This is very exciting for me since Rhiannan lives in Atlanta, just like Mallory Lakes–my food-blogging protagonist.

Ivory Owl has also hosted a book give-away for “The Promise Kitchen” that ends on Friday. So check it out!

Recipe: Sylvia’s Heartbreakers: Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies


  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cool room temperature*
  • 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/4 cups toasted chopped walnuts


  1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cornstarch. Whisk until ingredients are well incorporated and there are no lumps.
  2. Cut butter into 1-inch pieces. In a stand-up mixer, cream butter and both sugars together and beat on medium-speed until well combined. Add eggs and beat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the batter is combined. In ½ cup increments, add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating between each addition until well-combined into a batter.
  3. With a spatula, scrape batter out of the bowl. With your hands, work the chocolate chips and walnuts evenly into the batter.
  4. On a pastry table, dry work surface or cutting board, and using a large spoon or ice cream scoop, form twelve cookie dough balls. They should weigh about 4 ½ ounces each, and be of uniform size so that they will bake evenly.
  5. Wrap each ball individually in wax paper, place the balls in an extra-large Ziplock or air tight container. Freeze until frozen, about 3 hours, and up to six weeks. Cookies may be baked off as desired.
  6. When ready to bake, thaw 1 hour at room temperature. (Note that if the dough is rock frozen, the inside will be too gooey. If the dough is thawed, the cookie will crumble too easy after it is baked.)
  7. Preheat oven to 375 (convection) degrees. Line large cookie sheet with parchment paper or Silpat. Bake on center rack of oven 22 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet 10 minutes. (This sitting time allows the chocolate to become creamy.  For my palate, 10 minutes out of the oven is the best time to indulge in all of their warm heavenly goodness.)

* * Your finger is able to make a slight indention into the butter, but not much more.

Active time: 40 minutes

Freeze time: At least 2 hours and up to 6 weeks

Baking time: 22 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 1 dozen jumbo cookies

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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