2010 Indiana State Winner of the National Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program
Every once-in-a-while, an unusual e-mail arrives because of my job that is really interesting.
Last week, I received information about the National Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program, and how it works here in Indiana.
More than 1.5 million third-graders in 45 states have enjoyed a gardening experience by growing colossal cabbages in hopes to win "best in state" and receive a $1,000 scholarship towards education from Bonnie Plants.
The free program delivers "oversized" cabbage plants directly to participating schools so children can plant them at home. If nurtured and cared for, cabbages can potentially grow bigger than a basketball and tip the scales at nearly 40 pounds in approximately 10-12 weeks.
At the end of the growing season, teachers from each participating class will select the student who has grown the "best" cabbage, based on size and appearance. A picture of the cabbage and the student entry is then submitted to Bonnie Plants by mail or online. That student's name is then entered in a statewide drawing, from which the Commission of Agriculture in each state randomly selects its winner.
Imagine what you could cook with a 40-pound cabbage!
My family enjoys cabbage rolls. However, I rarely have time to make them without making a huge mess. I hate it when the hastily made rolls aren't really rolls anymore. They just become some sloppy mess in a pan.
A quick and tasty solution, is a one-pan solution.
Layered Cabbage Roll Casserole
1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound sausage
olive oil, splash
4-5 sliced button mushrooms
1 cup chopped red onion
1 chopped green bell pepper
1 shredded carrot
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 large can tomato sauce
1 can of diced tomatoes with green chilies
2 14-ounce cans beef broth
1-2 teaspoons each (according to your taste) of salt, pepper and cayenne pepper
3-4 pounds shredded cabbage
2-3 cups of shredded cheese
2 cups cooked white rice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and greased/spray a large casserole pan.
In a large skillet, brown beef and sausage in a splash of olive oil over medium high heat until redness is gone. Drain off excess fat.
Add the next six ingredients in the list and cook the vegetables until tender. Remove from the heat.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, beef broth and seasonings.
At this point you can begin to layer the ingredients like lasagna, starting with cabbage, the meat, rice, cheese and sauce. Repeat until you use all ingredients, making sure to end with a top layer of cheese.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for approximately an hour until done.
Or you can combine all the ingredients (except the sauce) together before pouring mixture into a baking dish. Pour sauce over the meat/vegetable mixture, top with a layer of cheese and bake in the preheated oven, covered for an hour.
For more information about how to sign up for the 2011 program, log online at www.bonnieplants.com. Deadline for participating schools in the northern portion of Indiana is April 15.