Stuffed Cabbage Saturday!

My mom and I had the fantastic idea to start a monthly cooking series with my aunts. In honor of my Grandma Olga, we decided the January class would be learning how to make my her stuffed cabbage rolls. There are many different ways to make stuffed cabbage, but we are Slovak, so you get a pretty standard tomato based version of ground meat deliciousness.

BTW: Do you like my mom’s new apron? Thanks POM!

Mama LaVecchia’s Version on Grandma Olga’s Recipe for Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (makes approx. 30 rolls):


  • 1 large head of green cabbage
  • 1/2 pound of ground beef
  • 1/4 pound of ground veal
  • 1/4 pound of ground pork
  • 1 large onion  (diced)
  • ¼ bottle of A1 Steak Sauce (added from the original by my mom)
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste
  • 2 large cans of tomato puree
  • 1 large can of diced tomatoes



Bring a large stock pot of water to boil.  Core the head of cabbage, keeping it whole – do not remove the stem completely.

Drop cabbage into water and boil.  As the leaves of cabbage cook and work away from head, remove the leaves from boiling water and place in a pan to drain and cool.  Make sure the leaves are cooked enough to be able to support rolling, but not overcooked where they are falling apart completely.

When cabbage leaves are cool, devein leaves and lay out for easy rolling. Any small or broken leaves can be chopped and used in between layers of cabbage rolls.

While the cabbage is cooking, combine the three types of ground meats into a mixing bowl. Add the onion and season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Mix well with hands and add A1 sauce. Continue to combine but make sure to not overwork the meat.

Cover the bottom of a pot or baking dish with a light layer of tomato puree and scatter chopped cabbage as base.  Season with salt and pepper.

To make your rolls, take a cabbage leaf and lay it flat. Place a handful of meat mix at the bottom of a leaf and begin to roll tightly from the bottom up. Roll the meat once, then fold the sides in, and then finish the roll.

Place completed rolls in rows to cover cooking surface.

With each full row, salt and pepper and add diced tomatoes and chopped cabbage. Continue creating layers of rolls using up meat mixture and cabbage leaves.  Once finished rolling, cover the top with additional chopped cabbage, salt, pepper, remaining tomato puree and diced tomatoes. Cover the baking dish with foil.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1.5 to 2 hours, or cook on stove top for two hours simmering slowly.  Make sure to leave room at the top to prevent spillovers during cooking.

Serve hot with mashed potatoes and vegetables and good rye bread.

You can tell that we ate VERY WELL on Saturday night!  It was a blast to spend the afternoon with my family creating such a great meal. As for February’s Lesson: pierogies, made from scratch!

SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO: Poise in Parma’s first ever giveaway!!!

restaurant review: La Strada

TODAY’S POINT OF BALANCE: Cleveland Independents started their quarterly gift certificate sales this past Tuesday. In case you were not aware of the organization, the mission of Cleveland Independents is “to protect, nurture and promote independent restaurants in northeast Ohio”.  While many of the restaurants have already sold out, there are still a ton of great deals to take advantage of.  I managed to get GC to Light Bistro and La Boca – two places I’ve been dying to get to for dinner. A $50 gift certificate for $35? Or a $25 GC for $17.50? That’s a great deal and you are supporting a local business. LOVE IT. 

In an effort to keep up our date nights, I attempted to schedule the perfect night out: dinner out in downtown Cleveland followed by going to a Cavs game. Sounds like a lovely Saturday night, right?   

I remembered that I purchased a discounted gift certificate to La Strada back during the summer. When I pulled out the GC, I realized that it expired at the end of the month, so our dinner location was SORT OF decided for us. I had gone to La Strada for lunch with my Aunt Kathy and enjoyed that experience. Also knowing that we previously had a nice dinner at La Dolce Vita – which is owned by the same gentleman – I figured we were good to go.   

The restaurant’s website describes itself as “a Mediterranean bistro inspired by Italian, Turkish, Albanian, Moroccan, Spanish and Greek kitchens”.  That is my favorite thing about La Strada: when you walk in the door from East 4th Street, you feel as you have been transported to the Mediterranean. The atmosphere is so environmental, I suddenly have the urge to switch back to my maiden last name!   

Hans started with a Dogfish Head IPA and a few rounds of bread:   

a man, his drink and his bread


I started with much less bread and my new favorite white wine: a Pinot Grigio:   

a girl and her wine


I was seriously craving some Italian Wedding Soup, with “escarole”, “egg drop” and “polpetti”:   

italian wedding soup


Italian Wedding Soup fun facts according to Wikipedia:   

  • “Italian wedding soup is an Italian-American soup consisting of green vegetables and meat. It is popular in the United States, especially northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.”  
  • Also, “the term ‘wedding soup’ is a mistranslation of the Italian language, minestra maritata (‘married soup’), which is a reference to the fact that green vegetables and meats go well together.”   It’s the MARRIAGE of the veggies and meat in the soup, therefore, wedding soup!

I highly enjoyed the components of this wedding soup. I loved the egg drop noodles compared to the usual itty-bitty noodles we’re all used to enjoying.  The meatballs themselves were wonderful and must have been a blend of beef and lamb – always a good thing for me! The broth itself was a bit on the salty side, but overall, I was satisifed and would have ordered another bowl!   

As I didn’t want to overstuff myself, I ordered the “Fungi Griglia” for my main from the appetizer menu, which was described as “portabella, pancetta, hand roasted red pepper, smoked scamorzza”:   

there's a portabello under all that cheese


So here’s the only problem: I don’t know if it was sitting too long at the pass, but the cheese went from ooey and gooey to congealed mess very quickly. Unfortunately, I ended up picking it apart to remove the cheese from the rest of the dish – the wierd cheese consistency was turning me off.  However, the rest of the dish was good, but I wasn’t blown away by this starter.   I should have taken the waiter’s recommendation and got the calamari – you live and learn.   

Hans was much smarter and ordered his standby: Fettuccine Fellini with “pancetta, gorgonzola, tomato cream”.   

fellini sauce = one happy Hans


With that combo, how can you go wrong?!  La Dolce Vita does the same sauce, but over gnocchi, so when Hans saw the sauce on the La Strada menu, he didn’t even look at the rest of the pasta and entrée choices.   Hans demolished the entire plate – with a few bites stolen by me!  The Fellini sauce is pretty much what you expect: heavy, creamy, and tasty.   We did agree that we liked the sauce served over gnocchi instead of over the fettuccine. The gnocchi gave the sauce something to hold on to, compared to the fettuccine’s smooth texture. Also, the fettuccine probably could have been cooked for a tad longer – it was just barely al dente.   

Alright, I’m nit-picking. But gift certificate or not, dining on East 4th Street is not cheap. While I was pleased with the meal we got at La Strada, I have to admit that I probably will only return for Happy Hour. I still have to get back to Lola, Greenhouse Tavern and Saigon, as well as go to Chinato, which just recently opened. We’ll probably stick with La Dolce Vita in Little Italy when Hans needs his Fellini kick.   

When the ticket scalpers wanted $75 for $19 tickets (?!?!?!), we decided to walk back down East 4th Street. We drooled over the food in the window at Chinto, grabbed a cup of coffee to go from Erie Island Coffee Co., and stopped into Chocolate Bar to window shop the dessert options. We ended up watching the Cavaliers win from our couch at home – overall, a successful date night indeed.  

SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO: Stuffed Cabbage Saturday Madness!

La Strada on Urbanspoon

resolutions update

TODAY’S POINT OF BALANCE: Make sure to check out this great giveaway over at The Daily Balance: you can win a beautiful yoga mat from Gaiam!


More than half way thru January (ALREADY?!), I thought to help keep myself accountable for my New Year’s resolutions, an update would be in order. As you may remember:

Become a runner. This is going well due to my two most recent runs. I was starting to get to the mental burnout mode, talking myself out of being able to run for three minutes, then walk one, then doing it all over again for a total of 35 minutes. And then I actually managed to push thru it for the entire workout. Then my next cardio day, I managed to do it again AND shave 40 seconds off of my time from the previous run!  As my new favorite fitness instructor says, “the mind will give out long before the body will”.  Still hoping to be able to jog a 5K in under 35 minutes before that race in mid-March. We’re getting there!

More yoga. I’m completely in love with a Saturday morning class at Nishkama Yoga in Independence. They turn up the heat and get you going. Where else are you doing sun salutations to Jay Z’s Empire State of Mind? I’m sweating BUCKETS by the time this class is done and it’s amazing how fantastic I feel when I walk out of the studio at 11AM.  Spending the money for an unlimited new student pass was the best investment I have made in a long time.

Less kickboxing and elliptical.  Considering I’m accomplishing 50% of this goal, I would technically be failing if I was still in school.  Tonight was the first time I went to kickboxing since November 30, but I’ve been depending on the elliptical when talking myself out of my runs. NO MORE I SAY!  I really enjoyed getting back to kickboxing and think that I’ll be able to supplement the running and yoga with the occasional Monday night class.

Find happiness. I’m loving this new year. Part of it has to do with my new job. I love event planning and know that this new position is a great fit for me at this point in my life.  Also, Hans and I are trying to get out of the house more this year – therefore all the fun dinners out (SIDENOTE: La Strada review to be posted by the end of the week!)

Make my house a home.  I have to give my parents ALL the credit on this one. During the first week of the year, my folks came over and painted my guest room and my full bathroom. They are rockstars – they don’t even tape before they start trimming! They are redecorating machines! They can be hired for your own home BTW – let me know if you need someone to get your house in order!

Drink more water. Going well, but in the last few days, I’m slipping back into drinking too much tea.  And my super awesome manifesto water bottle from Lululemon started chipping – EPIC FAIL.  And I’m also in love with my coffee grinder that my bro-in-law got me for Christmas – Starbucks is SO much better when you grind the coffee beans and brew it at home!  So to get back on track, I broke out my old nalgene bottle and have tried to drink AT LEAST 32oz from it daily. Will work on getting that up to 64oz soon.

Keep blogging. I love keeping this blog, but can’t be dedicated to posting daily like many others. I have a goal of three posts a week, but would be happy with two. I want to start posting more recipes again and work on finding new things here in Cleveland to share with all of you.

Overall, I’m pretty satisfied, if I do say so myself! How are you doing on your resolutions/goals for 2010?

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