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From pantry to plate: Cabbage and Potatoes with Noodles is low in cost, high in flavor

Cabbage and Potatoes with Noodles is a low-cost side dish that's high on flavor. Photo by Sue Doeden

Just like many people these days, I'm being more mindful about how I spend money at the grocery store. My trips through the market take a little more time as I compare prices and decide how I will get the most nutrition and flavor with each dollar I spend.

Along with careful watch over the food budget, many home cooks are making an effort to use what they have in their cupboards, freezers and refrigerators. I know I have several ingredients lurking in my pantry that I purchased for use in a recipe I had planned to try. For one reason or another, I never get around to preparing those recipes, and the special ingredients get pushed to the back of the shelf.

I had a basket full of red potatoes tucked on the shelf under my work island and a pale green head of cabbage sitting pretty in my refrigerator with its skin-tight cloak of clear plastic. Two opened bags of egg noodles were in my pantry, bound snugly with rubber bands. Between the contents of the two bags, I had just a few cups of noodles. These ingredients, along with some bacon slices, would allow me to create a dish I remember my Hungarian grandmother transporting to the table in a large cast-iron skillet.

Although I can't be certain, she probably stored fresh cabbage and potatoes in the cool cellar of her Indiana farmhouse, using them throughout the winter. Combining cabbage and potatoes with her homemade noodles was probably a very economical and healthful way to feed her large family. Cabbage and potatoes are good sources of vitamin C, potassium and fiber.

For some, the combination of Cabbage and Potatoes with Noodles may seem outlandish. For those who are Irish, the mix of cabbage and potatoes may be reminiscent of colcannon, a traditional Irish side dish. For me, it's a dish of comfort. Each bite takes me back to my grandma's kitchen, warmed by a wood-burning stove she used for preparing meals.

When cabbage is sautéed with just a little bit of sugar, it turns the color of caramel, with flavor almost as sweet as that candy. You won't recognize cabbage if you've never tasted it prepared this way. Add leftover mashed potatoes if you have some. Otherwise, cook some chopped potatoes until just tender. Any kind of meat remaining from a meal earlier in the week can be chopped up and added.

If you happen to have some Cabbage and Potatoes with Noodles leftover, put them in a pot and pour some chicken or vegetable broth over the mixture to make a flavorful soup.

After your St. Patrick's Day meal, use remaining corned beef, cabbage and potatoes to create this dish. After frying the bacon and cooking some noodles, just chop up your bits and pieces of meat and vegetables and stir them all together in the pan until they are completely hot.

Cabbage and Potatoes with Noodles is a low-cost dish that will allow you to have money to add a few more food items to your grocery cart. Best of all, it's high on flavor.

Cabbage and Potatoes with Noodles

2 medium-sized red potatoes (about 14 to 16 ounces), skins on, chopped into small chunks

1 1/2 cups uncooked medium egg noodles

4 slices of bacon

3 cups finely chopped cabbage

1 tablespoon sugar

Salt to taste

1 teaspoon, at least, of freshly ground black pepper

Reduced-fat sour cream for garnish

Boil chopped potatoes in a pot of salted water until just tender. Drain and set aside. In a separate pot, boil noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Arrange bacon slices flat in a large, heavy skillet. Fry until crispy. Transfer bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain.

Add cabbage to hot bacon drippings in pan. Sauté for a couple of minutes. Add sugar and continue to cook and stir until cabbage begins to caramelize and turn golden. Cover pan. Continue to cook the cabbage over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it is tender. It will take about 5 minutes.

Remove cover from pan. Stir in potatoes and cook until heated through. Add salt and lots of ground black pepper. Stir in cooked noodles and heat through. Crumble bacon and sprinkle over the top.

Serve immediately, offering sour cream on the side. Makes 4 to 6 side servings.

Tips from the cook

--My grandma didn't have a recipe for this dish. I've shared measurements that work for me. Make the dish your own by using your own proportion of ingredients.

--Go easy on the black pepper. You can always add more. I use lots.

--If you'd rather go meatless, use some butter and olive oil to replace the bacon drippings.