cabbage

broccoli, cabbage, Charlie the dog, chicken tractor, farm entertainment, groundhog, growing like gangbusters, summer squash

Farm News


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Here’s an entry from our Week #2 Newsletter for CSA members. 
Ben and I took our usual Sunday stroll through the garden today and it looks like everything is about to go gangbusters on us! The cabbage is beginning to head up, the squash is fruiting and blooming up a storm, the garlic is producing scapes and the leaves are starting to go yellow/brown (which is an indicator of when it’s ready for picking), the broccoli is full of baby crowns, the potatoes are starting to bloom, and, of course, the plethora of weeds are thriving as well! This week we’ll harvest scallions, tat soi, lettuce, strawberries, arugula, herbs (flat leaf parsley, dill, cilantro, and garlic scapes), kale, chard and beets for y’all. We picked the kale and the chard pretty hard last week, so we’re going to offer you the option of kale, chard, or beets for this week – which we’re calling the “choose 1 option”. Remember, the early bird gets the worm – so if you reallywant one of those things, it’s probably best to come to the pick up site as early as you can. We’re also going to offer the herbs as a “choose 1 option” – you get to pick between cilantro, dill, parsley and garlic scapes (or – if we have enough garlic scapes to give to everyone, it will be an added extra and you pick between the others). 
Last week was a good first week of getting into the swing of spring things. We had a good first market at the Raleigh Downtown Market. We met quite a few nice, new folks. We even met one of our neighbors. We also had a nice time meeting new CSA members this week and catching up with returning members. Everyone’s excitement has been infectious and has given Ben and I a much needed second wind to get more summer crops in the ground and get the cooler under way. Before we know it, it’ll be June! In between harvest, washing, boxing, and delivering to CSA drops and going to markets, we’ve managed to get some more things done on the farm. CSA member, Charlotte came out this week to help us cultivate, hand weed, and transplant tomatoes. I seeded up pumpkins and more tat soi and Ben direct seeded more mesclun and cilantro. Ben spent some time replacing the bearings on the disk harrow and disked up ground for late tomatoes and peppers. Earlier in the week, he got a truck load of compost from the city of Raleigh and spread it and then finish the beds to prep more ground for summer produce. Friday, our friends Tarah, Meredith and Meredith’s friend, Liz came out to the farm to help us harvest for Saturday’s markets and CSA pick up.
This is the chicken tractor for the “tweens”
Life on the farm means we work a lot, but it also means we’re often entertained. The not-so-baby chicks (I think they might be “tweens”) have provided a personal comedy show for us each evening this week. Ben put a few roosts in the chicken tractor and they all try to roost on the highest one. They wind up jumping on each others’ backs and struggling to push each other off the roost and start all over again. Fittingly, it’s kind of like they’re playing chicken. Charlie, our dog, also provides quite a bit of entertainment. He likes to hop in tall grass like a gazelle – and no matter how many times he does it, it makes us laugh. He’s an awfully goofy dog. He also managed to get into it with a ground hog a couple weeks ago. I had no idea ground hogs were so tough – Charlie finally met his match. By the time Ben and I were able to figure out what all the commotion was about, we saw a ground hog attached to Charlie’s face (more specifically, he had Charlie by the nose). There was quite a lot of blood for a couple minutes or so, but the ground hog and the dog left that match relatively unscathed. Charlie may have a scar on his nose and hopefully, he’ll learn his lesson not to mess with wild animals – or ground hogs, at least!
Well, I guess that’s all for now folks! Thanks for taking the time to read this and find out a little bit about what’s going on the farm. Let us know how you’re doing too!
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beet greens, beets, cabbage, csa share, kale, lettuce, scallions, strawberries, turnips and greens

Week 4, CSA share contents


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I’m behind on the posting this week, so I’m gonna give you a quit run down of the CSA contents for the week, without all the jibber jabber.

Here are some beautiful root vegetables (beets, carrots and Hakurei turnips and greens) with strawberries.


broccoli
red oak leaf and green butter crunch lettuces
herbs (dill and parsley – WWFM folks, we’re sorry, we completely forgot to pick the herbs – we’ll make up for it 🙂
red Russian kale (aka ragged Jack)
vates kale

more kale
you can eat the kale stems too. you’ve just got to cook em longer. you can substitute them in recipes that call for celery (unless, of course, you’re going for the distinct celery flavor – but they’re cook and crispy).
spinach
beets

Hakurei turnips
carrots
can you tell I think the veggies are pretty? 😉
so happy to have color variety!

cabbage (above)
the whole shebang!

cabbage, chinese cabbage, eggplant, peppers, planting party, seedlings, summer squash, tat soi, tomatoes

Seedlings Galore!


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Howdy do, folks?! It’s been busy as can be out here at the farm. Ben and I have been making soil blocks, seeding flats, planting seedlings and direct seeding root veggies. Of course, that also means Ben’s been prepping a whole heck of a lot of ground to get it ready so we can plant. I also finally tried my hand at the tiller to till up soil for our newest edition – the flower garden (so pumped!!!).

We’ve had lots of folks stop by since our last planting party to help us out on the farm in one way or another. Beth and the kids have been keeping up with the chickens (the kids LOVE gathering the eggs each morning), our neighbors Andy, Amanda and Duffie have been by to give us furniture (they got a new set) and keep us company, our friend Craig has been dropping off quite a lot of flower bulbs from his garden, Kevin came out to help Ben pot up some of the summer seedlings, and David came out to help Ben and I plant more potatoes (they’re all in!!!) and weed and mulch some. Whew! I think that’s everyone, but please don’t be mad at me if I forgot to mention you.

As you know from our previous post, we’re having a planting party this Sunday the 10th from 1-5pm. We’ve had a few folks email us to let us know they’ll be stopping by to pitch in a hand and have a picnic with us too. Please come out if you’re interested! Many hands make light work! It’s true!

Alrighty. I just wanted to let y’all know we’re gearing up (and have been for quite a while) for a fantastic season and I thought I’d show you some of the seedlings that we’ll be planting in the next couple of weeks or so. Just to warn you, these pictures aren’t very diverse. They’re mostly pictures of a number of different varieties of the same veggies (e.g., multiple varieties of tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, eggplant, squash, brassicas more generally, etc.) – but I thought it might help to demonstrate what we’re doing out here if I bombard y’all with some pictures of everything. Plus, you’ll be able to see the crazy awesome varieties we’re planting this year (and these pictures are not really representative – there’s even more to come!).

Okay. I guess I’ll get to it then. We hope to see you Sunday. And we hope you enjoy the pictures!



beet and feta salad, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, kale, nutty salad vinegairette, planting party, soil blocks

Happy Spring!


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We’re hosting two more planting parties this Sunday (4/10) and next Sunday (4/17). Please come out and join us for some fun times planting and picnicking!  If you think you might be coming for either (or both!) parties, please email us at BensProduceNC@gmail.com (so we can be sure we have more than enough food for folks). 

The planting party on the first day of Spring was a success!!! Fourteen folks came out Sunday. We planted onions, kale, and cabbage. We also cut potatoes for seed. We spent two hours as a group to plant 14 beds of produce. It would have taken Ben and I days to do the same amount of work. True to the phrase, many hands make light work.

And this was truly a planting party.Throughout the day, we not only worked together to plant seedlings, folks were learning about each other, talking to each other. Some of the people here already knew each other, but for the most part folks didn’t really know much about each other, or hadn’t  previously met. In just a couple hours, I learned SO much about what people do with their time, their connections to food, agriculture, health, and we also talked about dogs and life and our jobs.

After we finished planting, we sat together outside for a yummy spread. Candy and Steve brought homemade focaccia, Kim and Andy brought hors devours(collard sushi rolls and spring rolls), and Bradford brought homemade kombucha with raspberries. We made a vegetarian minestrone soup. The tradition of minestrone soup is to use seasonal and available vegetables and other items on hand. That means there’s no set recipe, which you know, makes me happy. We used our vegetables including carrots, kale, turnips (roots and greens) and collards. We also threw in portabella mushrooms, Roman beans, pink beans, tomatoes and onions.

We also had a nice big salad full of various lettuces, arugula, mizuna, and spinach. We used our nutty vinaigrette recipe for the dressing.


  Here’s our friend Liese holding Luella Mae. Liese has been one of our amazing chicken caretakers. She and her partner, Eric, watched Charlie (our farm dog) and the chickens when went out of town for the SSAWG in Chattanooga. Liese and Luella Mae are good friends, as you can see here :0).

We’ve been steadily working to get more seeds in the soil and more plants in the ground since Sunday. Ben and I won’t be going to market this Saturday so we can get more things ready out on the farm. We’ll be tilling the soil for my new flower garden by the barn. I can’t wait to expand and experiment with flowers this Summer season!!!

Here’s a picture of Ben with hen’s bit (the chickens love it – it’s the purple flower bouquet in his arm) and tasting what we think is wild lettuce. I tried some too. It was bitter. The chickens liked it though.

Here’s Ben making soil blocks. This week Ben made tons of soil blocks and I planted tons of seeds. The rest of the pictures are the seedlings from our first round of brassicas. We also have tomato, cucumber, and pepper seedlings (not pictured). 

Well, that’s all folks! Have a fantastic weekend! We’ll see you at market next week. 

cabbage, carrots, hope, musing, planning, tatsoi, turnips

Middle Winter Farmer Musings…


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It has been a dogs age since I (Ben) have posted and it is about time! I made a resolution to post on a regular basis, which will be a challenge along with all the other tasks I attend to. But if Patricia can do it, so can I! I have a tendency to write and re-write and make multiple drafts before I post. It’s my old academic process showing itself, evidence I am not much an off the cuff writer. It takes a few rounds of writing for me to develop and clarify what it is I want to communicate, which naturally takes a bit of time. Time is of the essence in farming and budgeting it is very important. So off come the proverbial gloves! I’m getting down and dirty!

I have been busy planning this years crops over the past few weeks and I am already behind schedule! I should have started back in December but didn’t get started until January because I wanted to wait for a book in the mail, Crop Planning for Organic Vegetable Growers by Frederic Theriault and Daniel Brisebois. It is published by the Canadian Organic Growers Association and is a wonderful book. Come to find out, I have been re-inventing the wheel! I have gone about the process of planning for the year in a slightly different way  but arrive at essentially the same place! I also learned I still have a few things to learn! Imagine that! Anyhow, I am finally catching up and creating schedules for all the major tasks to be done this year with the hope it will help us stay on schedule. Last year, one of our major challenges was getting veggies planted in the proper time frame and our poor planning created gaps in our vegetable availability, such as an inconsistent tomato supply and no winter squash.

I must admit, fleshing out our 2011 crop plan has got me worried. I am apprehensive that we will be behind schedule because we have not ordered seeds yet. The seed order I put together is over $1800! That is just for the spring and summer, not including fall and winter! Nor does it include the $500 we spent on seed potatoes! This year we will be growing over 40 crops and 100 different varieties of veggies, some for fun and experimentation but most for a very diverse and strong selection. Most of the seeds are needed soon for late February  to mid-March planting and it is mid-February already! I have faith that everything will come together as the universe intends and I try to be patient and hopeful. If there is any virtue that farming teaches, it is patience! You can’t make the weather change nor make plants grow faster! I am also comforted by the fact that this is our second year and it will be better than last year. We will take the lessons of last year and make this year better. This thought gives me hope and comfort that this year will be okay, possibly the best yet!

I seeded spring lettuce and scallions into seedling trays last week and brought those down to Sharon Funderburks’ greenhouse in Meadow for growing on. She has been very generous in her assistance to us! Show her some love if you come out to market. I also direct seeded snow peas, radishes, spinach, mesclun and various salad greens into our low tunnels. I also direct seeded 3 beds of carrots and 2 beds of beets and put them under row cover. Here are some pics for you…

This is my desk in the office, planning for the year. As you can see, I like to use some paper and pencil. Call me old fashioned, it works better for me than spreadsheets only. I like to use a combination of the two.

 This is the Planet Jr. seeder I borrow from Tom at Double-T Farm. It is 100 year old technology but works like a charm every time! Originally from NC!

 These are the 5 beds I had just prepped for planting carrots & beets. You can see the low tunnels on the right and how I have ventilated it with a forked stick.

 This is stir-fry I made last night with tatsoi, carrots, turnips and purple cabbage. Yummy!

 Okay, got to get back to work. Check you later! Farmer Ben

bok choy, cabbage, green onions, recipe ideas, tatsoi

tat soi and kale and spinach oh my!


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This is tat soi

It’s a lot like bok choy – it’s an Asian green and you can treat it as you would bok choy.

Here are a few recipes you can use for both (from Farm Fresh Recipes):

Bok Choy (or Tat Soi) Stir Fry

(Makes 4 servings)

2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp water
2 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 bunch bok choi or tat soi
4 green onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp coarsely chopped peanutes
Rice (amount and type are up to you)

1. In a small bowl, miz soy sauce, water and sugar; set aside. 
2. Cut bok choy ribs and leaves crosswise into 2-inch pieces. 
3. In a wok or large, deep skillet, heat canola and sesame oils over medium-high heat. Add bok choy (or tat soi), green onions, garlic, soy sauce mixture and pepper flakes to taste. Stir-fry just until bok choy (or tat soi) is wilted, about 3 minutes. Stir in peanuts and serve immediately over steamed rice.  

Bok Choy (or Tat Soi) Salad

(makes 8 servings)

1/2 c red wine vinegar
1/2 c olive oil
1/2 c sugar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 c margarine
1/4 c slivered almonds
1/4 c sesame seeds
2 (3 ounce) packages ramen noodles
1 medium head bok choy (or tat soi)
3 green onions

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, sugar and soy sauce until sugar dissolves. Set aside. 
2. Melt margarine in small skillet. Crush the ramen noodles while still in their packaging. Discard seasoning packet (or reuse later for broth) and add noodles to the margarine along with almonds and sesame seeds. Saute until golden brown. Remove from heat and drain on paper towel. 
3. Chop the bok choy (or tat soi) and green onions. Place in large bowl. Add noodle mixture and dressing; toss and serve at once. 


We also offered kale this week (Red Russian kale, to be exact). This is what it looks like: 



I also have a few more kale recipes to share (but you can find others in the blog as well by clicking on “recipe ideas” to the right of the screen). 


Spring Greens Risotto

(Makes 6 servings)

3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 c chopped green onions
1 1/2 c Arborio rice
1/2 tsp salt
4 c hot vegetable or chicken broth, divided
4 c coarsely chopped spring greens (spinach, chard, sorrel, kale, bok choi, tat soi, etc. – any combo will do – use what you have or what you like)
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg (optional)
1/2 grated Parmesan cheese

1. Heat oil in heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add onions; cook 3 minutes. Add rice and salt. Cook and stir until rice begins to color. 
2. Add 1/2 c broth; cook and stir until most of the broth is absorbed. Add 1 1/2 c broth; simmer, stirring occasionally, until mostly absorbed, about 10 minutes. Add remaining broth. Simmer 20 minutes. Stirring occasionally. 
3. Place greens on top of rice. Cover and simmer 3 minutes. Stir in greens. Simmer and stir a few minutes more until broth is absorbed and rice is tender but moist. 
4. Remove from heat. Stir in Parmesan and serve. 

Portuguese Kale Stew

(Makes 6 servings)

1/2 lb chorizo sausage, thinly sliced
2 (16 oz) cans great northern beans
1 medium head cabbage (or you can substitute tat soi), chopped
2 bunches kale, stemmed and chopped
5 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 qt water, approximately
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large pot, lightly brown sausage. 
2. Add beans, cabbage (or tat soi), kale, potatoes and enough water to cover.    
3. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.  

Okay folks – that’s it for now. We hope you enjoy your yummy produce and thank y’all for stopping by! 

Patricia & Ben  

cabbage, carrots, cold weather, CSA, kale, recipe ideas, winter

Cold Snaps & Sweet, Sweet Kale…


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Hey Folks,

Hope you’re staying warm through this cold snap. It sure is a cold one. This ain’t nothing for me though. I come from the hills of the north where it’s like this for 7 months a year! On a serious note, it is much warmer down here and the winters are shorter, both aspect of the warmer South that I love. I’m torn because I love yet am averse to the cold, snow, ice, slush, darkness, etc. northern winters. I must admit, southern winters are better suited to winter vegetables. We saw a little bit of snow on our way to Tennessee for the holidays when we drove through the mountains. I am sentimental about snow at this moment. Ahh, the crunch underfoot is satisfying. Perhaps we’ll see the white stuff yet!

We postponed the online store pick up today until Wednesday this week because the high temperature today was about 34 with a fair breeze on the farm. Such conditions have adverse effects on produce post-harvest by accelerated transpiration of moisture. The produce goes limp and shows signs of drying out, especially the skin on carrots. The temperatures look better tomorrow with a high around 40 F mid-afternoon. We hope you all understand we want to provide the best local produce by working with the weather, not against it.

We announced the CSA this past Sunday. See our post from January 3rd for information on our Summer 2010 CSA. We received our first deposit today and we are very excited! Woo-hoo! We’re in business! Plenty of spaces are open, so please consider our CSA for your spring and summer veggies & fruit.

Patricia made us an amazing meal tonight by using fresh red cabbage, carrots and Toscano kale from the farm. It was fried catfish on a bed of red cabbage and carrot coleslaw with mixed southern greens and butter beans on the side. Writing about it is making me salivate. Here’s the run down.

– Battered and pan-fried catfish
– Thinly cut red cabbage and shredded carrots dressed with Italian herb vinegrette & salt.
– Mixed Southern Greens & Bean – (First, Patricia cooked a few bacon strips for the dish. Then she sauteed chopped onion & garlic in the bacon fat, then added 1 bunch of torn Toscano kale, 1 can of drained butter beans, cut cooked bacon, a splash of Texas Pete’s Pepper Vinegar and a splash of water, then simmered until kale was tender.)

I cannot express how sweet the kale was and what a delight it was to eat. The Toscano kale is proof the cold weather helps converts starches to sugars in cold hardy greens. It was unlike any other green I have ever had. It might match our winter carrots in terms of sweetness. Wow! That’s about all I can say. Try them yourself. It might help you see kale in a different light!

Our online store is still operating and will continue to operate until the end of March at the soonest. Next Tuesday, January 12th, we plan to have produce pickup at our house, 604 Sasser St., between 4pm to 7:30pm.

During these cold winter months, please be aware the weather may postpone our harvest of your produce. In response to this, we may postpone pickups by a day or two. We will provide primary notice of pickup changes via email (especially for those of you who place orders) as well as via blog and online store. Thank you for being flexible with us!

Purchase of vegetables is made through our online store www.vendio.com/stores/bensproduce.

Current vegetable availability includes:
baby beets
bok choy
brussels sprout
cabbage
carrots
collards
green onions
kale
lettuce
sweet potatoes
tatsoi

No longer offered:
broccoli
chinese cabbage
mixed greens
mustard greens
radishes
spinach
swiss chard
turnips

Future winter vegetables may include:
arugula
broccoli raab
mixed baby lettuce & greens

We hope y’all had a good holiday season and a happy New Year! We’re thankful for a new year and this opportunity to follow our dream of starting a CSA.

See you soon,
Ben & Patricia

bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, chinese cabbage, collards, CSA, green onions, greens, kale, lettuce, mustard, radishes, recipe ideas, spinach, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, tatsoi, turnips

Holidays! Holidays! Holidays!


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Hello and Welcome!

A big thanks to our new customers from the neighborhood who stopped by Tuesday night to pick up some produce! The holidays are upon us! We’re headed to Tennessee to see Patricia’s family and some friends there. It will be a needed break for us, though I will be working some. I’ll be fine-tuning our farm and CSA plan for the coming year. It’s very exciting, thought provoking and a lot of work! Anyhow, we’ll be announcing the CSA soon!

During these cold winter months, please be aware the weather may postpone our harvest of your produce. In response to this, we may postpone pickups by a day or two. We will provide primary notice of pickup changes via email (especially for those of you who place orders) as well as via blog and online store. Thank you for being flexible with us!

Next Tuesday, December 22nd, we will have produce pickup at our house, 604 Sasser St., between 4pm to 7:30pm. We will not have produce pickup Tuesday, December 29th. We will return with pickup Tuesday, January 5th.

Purchase of vegetables is made through our online store www.vendio.com/stores/bensproduce.

Community Supported Agriculture:
Information coming soon!

Current vegetable availability includes:
bok choy
cabbage
carrots
chinese cabbage
collards
green onions
kale
lettuce
mustard greens
radishes
spinach
sweet potatoes
swiss chard
tatsoi
turnips

No longer offered:
broccoli
mixed greens

Future winter vegetables will also include:
arugula
baby beets
broccoli raab
brussels sprout
mixed baby lettuce & greens

Recipes:

Quick White Bean Stew with Swiss Chard and Tomatoes

– serves 2 to 3 –

Ingredients

2 pounds Swiss chard, larger stems removed, and leaves chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup canned tomatoes, chopped
1 16-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper
Grated Parmesan

Procedure

1. Fill a large pot halfway up with water. Bring to a boil and then toss in the swiss chard leaves. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 8 minutes. Drain the chard in a colander.

2. Wipe out any excess water in the pot. Then pour in the olive oil and turn the heat to medium. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook for 1 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Add the tomatoes, turn the heat to medium-high, and when the mixture comes to a boil add the beans. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring often.

4. Reduce heat to a simmer and add the chard. Cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add some grated Parmesan to finish. Enjoy!

Golumpki’s or Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

We made these the other day with our cabbage, carrots and turnips and they turned out phenomenal! Give these a whirl, you might like them.

– serves 4 –

Ingredients

1Tbsp Olive oil
1 leek or onion
2 med. turnip, cubed small
2 med. carrots, cubed small
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 cup cooked rice
16 oz cooked ground meat
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 eggs
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 Tbsp lemon juice
pinch ground coriander
salt & pepper
1 cabbage head

Sauce:
1 onion finely chopped
1 cup broth or stock
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups crushed tomatoes

1. Brown ground meat.

2. To make the filling, heat the oil in a frying pan over medium low heat. Add leek or onion, turnip, carrots and celery and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, until softened.

3. Remove from heat and stir in meat, rice, bread crumbs, egg, parsley, lemon juice and ground coriander. Season with salt & pepper.

4. Preheat oven to 325 F. Oil a 9×13 baking dish. Cook the whole cabbage in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, until pliable. Drain and rinse under cold water. Peel off whole leaves to stuff. Pat dry.

5. Lay leaves flat and make a pile in the middle of each, about 1/3 to 2/3 cup depending on the size of the leaf. Roll up each leaf, folding the sides to enclose the filling in a neat parcel. Place the rolls, seam side down, in the baking dish. Pour in stock. Bake for 40 – 50 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, heat the oil for the sauce in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. Stir in the crushed tomatoes. Reduce the heat to med-low and simmer about 10 minutes, until slightly thickened.

7. Using slotted spoon, serve stuffed cabbage rolls topped with the tomato sauce. Enjoy!

Happy holidays and many thanks!

Ben & Patricia