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Comfort Food Made Lighter: Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Comfort food usually isn't terribly expensive, but it can be heavy and artery clogging. Not so these simple cabbage rolls. Although I have a friend who gets together with her father-in-law for an all-day project to make authentic Polish cabbage rolls to accompany their family Thanksgiving meal, the version I'm posting isn't time consuming and focuses on more nutritious ingredients than my friend's recipe. After all, few of us have a full day to devote to making one recipe, and most of us don't need super-rich foods. Nonetheless, the faster, lightened-up version retains the flavors, albeit not the fat and calories of the authentic cabbage rolls. As you'll see in the photo below, at my house the rolls didn't last long in the dish once I pulled them from the oven. Certainly people were hungry, but the aroma of the cabbage rolls baking was enticing, and someone couldn't wait to have some even before the camera came out. To cut fat and lighten up the cabbage rolls, I use ground turkey rather than beef, and to increase the fiber and nutrition, I substitute coarse bulgur for the usual rice in the filling. The saucy cabbage rolls bake up moist, savory-sweet, and satisfying--more comforting, I think, because they actually are good for you.

Light Turkey Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Light Turkey Stuffed Cabbage Rolls -- Makes 8+

8-9 large cabbage leaves, pulled carefully from a green cabbage

1/2 cup of coarse bulgur

1/2 a large onion, chopped (divided)

1 egg

1 teaspoon of salt (divided)

1/4 teaspoon of pepper

2 teaspoons of sweet paprika (divided)

1/2 cup of raisins (divided)

1 pound of ground turkey

1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes (divided)

2 tablespoons of brown sugar

2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce (divided)

1 tablespoon of dried parsley

Place the cabbage leaves in a microwave-safe bowl with a tablespoon or two of water and cover them with plastic wrap. Microwave them for about 5 minutes or until they're wilted and pliable. Let them cool until you can handle them and then cut the thick vein at the bottom of each of the leaves, making a v-shaped cut to remove the tough, fibrous part of the vein (about half an inch should do it). Combine the bulgur and 1 3/4 cups of water in a large bowl and microwave them for 4-5 minutes or until the water is boiling. Remove the bulgur from the microwave and stir in 1/4 cup of the raisins. Cover the bowl and let it sit for at least 20 minutes to absorb the water, stirring the bulgur and raisin mixture periodically. The bulgur and raisins should absorb the water and fluff up to about 2 cups. Coat a large baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. For the filling, in a large bowl, combine the hydrated bulgur and raisins, half of the chopped onion, the egg, 1/2 cup of the crushed tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, 1 teaspoon of paprika, 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, and the ground turkey and mix all the ingredients well. The mixture will appear moist, but that's fine. For the sauce, in another large bowl, mix together well the remainder of the crushed tomatoes, onions, raisins, Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of paprika, and the brown sugar, red wine vinegar, and dried parsley. Pour about 1/3 of the sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. On a piece of waxed paper, spread out the cabbage leaves and divide the meat mixture among them. Starting with the cut edges of the cabbage, fold the sides over the filling and then roll the filling up inside the remainder of the leaves. Place the rolls in the baking dish, seam sides down. Pour the remainder of the sauce evenly over the cabbage rolls and bake the rolls, uncovered, for about an hour or until bubbly and the cabbage leaves are tender.

Light Turkey Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

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