Planning Meals Around your Garden: Stuffed Kale Rolls

Pot full of Stuffed Kale

It is funny. I used to plan meals around what my children ate (which is basically hamburger meat and potatoes).  One night was tacos, other night was hamburger, and perhaps a third night was spaghetti. I was only “allowed” to serve chicken once a week.  Fish, forget about it.  Vegetarian? Not in this man cave house.  Can you spell, “boring” with a capital B? Not too appetizing either.

I have to admit. I don’t love cooking but like to read recipes.  My favorite recipes are ones that use exotic or unusual ingredients. I love root vegetables and could roast them to the cows come home.  Beans are one my favorites.  Give me a lentil soup and I am happy.

In the last three years, my garden has expanded three fold to add squash, lettuce, tomatoes, pepper, watermelon, corn, beans (lentils included!) just to name a few.  In the past, I have frozen my produce as it has ripen.  Some is still in my freezer from last year!  This year, I vowed that as the veggies ripen, I will cook them straight from the vine. I realize that not everything can be eaten at once but I would love to enjoy it right off the vine, so to speak.

Russian Red Kale

One plant that keeps on giving is my Russian Red Kale plant.  You give it a haircut and it rewards you with more locks.  In fact it is a biannual so it flowers the following year and blesses you the following year thereafter with more baby Kales.  Everywhere… no lie.   The plant you see above is really four different plants.

I happen to love how plant grows and have trouble cutting them.  Never fear.  Scissor welding husband to the rescue. The other night, he gave my Kale the haircut of its life.  So, what do I do with all that Kale?  It is too hot to make soup.

Checking out my dogged eared beloved recipe book,  I remembered by old favorite, stuffed cabbage, and thereupon adapted to use Kale instead of cabbage.  I grew up eating “prakas” which is Yiddish for stuffed cabbage. My grandmother used to make it.  Odd for a kid, but I loved the taste of cabbage and still do.  My kids deplore the taste.  I thought they might like the  Russian Red Kale since it does not have a strong taste like cabbage.

What is stuffed cabbage?  It is hamburger wrapped up in a cabbage leave and cooked in a tomato based sauce.  You can make this vegetarian as well.  See a recipe here. I use hamburger meat because of my kids.  You know the ones that don’t get bored of hamburger? I adapted the recipe from one of my beloved cookbooks, “Jewish Cooking Made Slim,” which is a compilation of different recipes which are not necessarily Jewish cuisine but however could be used in a kosher home.

Just a little trip down memory lane, I have had this book ever since I was married and have used many recipes in it. My mother bought it for me since I had absolutely no clue how to cook.  I was given pans as a wedding gift and could only make one chicken dish. It is dogged ear and worn from trying so many of the recipes in it.  If you can get a used copy, I would recommend it.

Russian Kale Leaf

Back to the cabbage recipe:  According to the original recipe, you put the cabbage in the freezer overnight in lieu of boiling it to soften the leaves.   Since Kale is so nimble, I did not need to  use the freezer and just use the leaf seen above.  I tend to pick large leaves since you can put more “meat” in the middle to make into a roll.

Here are the ingredients:
About 20 Kale leaves since they varied in size.
2.5 pounds of hamburger
2 eggs well beaten
2 tablespoons of dehydrated onions
1 tablespoon raw rice
Up to  1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
1/2 cup of ketchup
2/3rd cup of vinegar
1 tablespoon of brown sugar (I used 1 tablespoon Agave instead.)
Sugar, substitute  to equal 1/2 cup of brown sugar.  (I used 1/2 cup of Agave instead)
1 medium onion sliced. (I diced them so my kids would not realize the meat had onions in it.)
1 can of tomatoes  (1 lb).

Making Stuffed Kale

Mix the hamburger with the eggs, dehydrated onions, raw rice, salt, and pepper.   Take a large spoon and plop some meat right into the middle and then fold the leaf on top of the meat.

Stuffed Kale Roll

Then fold the sides of the leaf over the meat as if you are making an envelope.

When you turn it over, it should look like a purse. I put a toothpick in the center to hold it together.  (Does anyone have a greener way?)

Then, I place it in a large pot with its seam towards the bottom. According to the recipe, they suggest using a 3 quart pot. I just use my largest pot.  Continue adding to the pot until all the meat is gone. (See the picture at the beginning of the Article. Note, the red string you see is a chain that I attach to my camera.)

In another pot combine the ketchup, vinegar, agave, raisins and onions.  Drain the tomatoes and reserve the liquid.  Chop up the tomatoes in a food processor and add to the pot.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the sauce to the cabbage rolls and simmer for 2 hours. (I served the Kale rolls at this point since everyone was hungry.  However, the recipe continues.)

Transfer cabbage rolls to a 3 quart casserole dish.  Pour the sauce to a gravy separator and allow to stand for 20 minutes.  Pour off accumulated fat, if you have a gravy separator, or if not skim off the fat with a  spoon.  Then pour the remaining sauce over the rolls as well as the reserved tomato liquid.  You can either cover them and refrigerate them up to 1 hour before serving.  Then cook them at 350 for 30-60 minutes.

Stuffed Kale with Hamburger Meat

The above picture is a plate full of stuffed kale. The rolls actually look better than the picture. I realized I had not taken a picture of the rolls and my son’s second helping plate was my last opportunity to capture what the Kale rolls looked like. Yes, a second helping plate already full of tomato sauce. If I had to redo my tinkering with the recipe, I think I would have put in less Agave.  Maybe more like a 1/3rd cup.  Agave is sweeter than sugar. No one seemed to mind except me.

I served it with millet, which I toasted.  (Very similar to rice) The sauce was very tangy and went well with the millet.  You can easily use potatoes which goes really well with the rolls.  In addition, I made a broccoli/pea/snap bean dish with citrus dressing.    (Cut the broccoli that day too.)

My kids’ verdict? Did they eat the kale?  Some did.  They sure like the hamburger. No surprise there…

Readers, what recipe have you made around your garden? If you have an article from your website which lists the recipe, link it here.

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  1. 2


    Great to hear that you like me, enjoy gardening and reading about recipes. I have an absolute aversion to cooking and now find I do not have to as my children have left home, or rather I left home and enjoy cheap cafe meals. Oh and I still enjoy my garden and cook books.

  2. 4


    I understand this is an old tried and true recipe. I have an old cabbage roll recipe that I’m adapting to use kale as you did. A potentially greener way than the toothpicks and quite frankly less hassle is to use a large roasting pan and layer them in that and cook in the oven the entire time. This eliminates the need to use a toothpick and is one pan friendly. I also use crushed tomatoes instead of messing with a food processor. Just a couple of tips to reduce your work. Thanks for this recipe.

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      Heather, what temperature do you use to cook the rolls and how long. I like your idea since I don’t have to watch my pot.

      BTW, I also used swiss chard too. Just as good. Do you have any create kale recipes? Anna


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