When I’m not running, I’m cooking… and tonight’s winner is Cabbage Roll!

Running and cooking as I discover are the perfect pair. The final product of cooking replenish the nutrients needed after running and rewards the soul for the hard work!

On Saturday evening, I decided to make Russian cabbage roll. I called it “Russian” because I tried number of recipes to emulate my mother-in-law’s cabbage roll. After about three tries, according to my husband, it was pretty close to the rolls he remembered.

ImageI’m not a professional cook book writer, so the recipe I share will not have precise measurement. Now I know why when my mom describes a dish, she uses terms like “a pinch” or “a handful”. Cooking when it is done as a creation and sometimes experiment, I enjoy more of the process of creating the dish not so much concerned about the perfection of the final product. There were many times when I just go on the fly, I made something new! This is why I came to love cooking – it’s an expression of the moment.

With my cabbage roll, I used:

ground beef: half pound
cabbage: 1 medium size
onion: 1 medium size
garlic: about 4 cloves
parsley: half bunch
cooked rice (blend of 50/50 white/brown rice): a bowl (probably 1 cup in measurement)


For the broth to cook the rolls in, I used chicken broth, tomato sauce, and bay leaf. The mixture  of the tomato sauce + chicken broth is about 50/50 and depending on the number of the rolls you make, the rule of the thumb is to have enough broth to cover the rolls. I sprinkle 3-4 bay leaves for the aroma.

To make the filling, first diced the onions, minced the garlic, and chopped the parsley. I use coconut oil to cook (however if you never used coconut oil, you can use olive oil). In the pan, on medium heat, I stir fry the onion, garlic, and parsley mixture for about 5 minutes. And then I add the ground beef for another 5-7 minutes to fully cook the beef. Finally, the cooked rice is added. I have a rice cooker and in a Chinese household, there is ALWAYS rice around. To season, i use salt, pepper, and a little bit of paprika.

While the filling is being prepared, I boil another pot of water to cook the cabbage. The idea here is to soften the cabbage so peeling each leaf is easy. Before putting the cabbage into the boiling water, make sure you go to the base of the cabbage and cut out the center. This will enable easy peeling. I leave the cabbage in for about 5 minutes or as soon as the cabbage leaf just easily come off. I use a thong to “peel” each leaf onto a clean plate.

Then, like old-fashion wrapping and rolling a burrito, I put the ground beef filling onto each cabbage leaf and roll it into a roll. Since these rolls are for home only, I’m not too concerned about the prettiness. The key is to not use too much ground beef filling that you have hard time “close the wrap”. As I wrap each roll, I put them into the “broth” pot. I usually make about 6-8 rolls (and that’s enough for 2-3 meals).

Bring the “broth” pot to boil and then turn the stove to small and I let it simmer for about an hour. In half an hour, the kitchen will be filled with lots of wonderful aroma, especially the bay leaf! In the picture, I did not add a scoop of sour cream because I was out of stock. That would be THE authentic way of enjoying a proper Russian cabbage roll. And if you have dill, that’s the icing on the cake so to speak. Sprinkle a pinch of dill on top of that sour cream, it’s a nice touch.

On a wintery night, cabbage rolls are heavenly. It just goes so well after a run! And just like running, cooking is meant to be enjoyed. It took me three tries to get the process down for my cabbage roll. Enjoy the process of experimenting and trying something new, it won’t be long before the cabbage rolls become a regular in your household!



4 thoughts on “When I’m not running, I’m cooking… and tonight’s winner is Cabbage Roll!

  1. OMG! As a true Ukrainian , I LOOOOOOOOOOVE cabbage rolls! In Ukraine they call them ‘golubtzi’. After seeing this post, I honestly can’t wait to go for a visit there this coming spring. You know, grandma’s cooking is always the best! 😀

    Thank you for sharing this recipe!!!


    • Have fun with your trip! My husband’s family lives in Crimean part of Ukraine! I went to visit for the first time in 2012 and tried some amazing cabbage roll, which was how I wanted to recreate the item. Where will you be visiting?

      • Most likely Kyiv and Cherkassy, both in Central Ukraine. I visited Crimea many years ago when I was little, the nature is super beautiful. You should also cook some borsch, your husband will carry you in his hands all day. Haha!

  2. We also visited Kyiv and I loved the city! So much history and culture!! And yes, Crimea is blessed with natural beauty. I must’ve enjoyed 6-7 different kinds of borsch when I visited. It seems like everyone has a slight different twist to it. You have a good recipe I can try?

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