Post-Partum Freezer Meals: Eggplant and Spiced Meat Bake

 

Eggplant and Spiced Meat Bake

The Mediterranean flavors are still on my mind and today’s post I will share with you a delicious casserole dish that is easy to assemble and cook, but tastes like you spent hours putting it together. This is a great addition to your post-partum freezer meal list because it is one of those dishes that tastes even better a day or two later after the flavors have really had a chance to marry, and there are some really great flavors! If you aren’t going to freeze this for later use, please make sure you make enough for leftovers, or you are really missing out!

This recipe is based loosely on Moussaka. It has all the same elements, the tomatoes, the béchamel and the spiced meat. However, I didn’t have any ground lamb, as is traditional, so I used what I did have – buffalo meat. You could use ground beef, lamb or even ground turkey in this dish and it would taste great!

When choosing your eggplant, smaller is always less bitter, yet even so I still salt and drain them before cooking to take any bitterness out. I used graffiti eggplants in this dish, I really like the flavor and they have a great melting quality to them when cooked, which is perfect for this dish. You can easily spot them because they are tear shaped and have variegated coloring of purple and white.

I hope you enjoy this hearty, delicious and simple dish!

INGREDIENTS:

3 medium eggplants, cut into thin rounds
salt
¼ cup olive oil
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound of ground meat
1 tsp of ground cinnamon
1 tsp of Beau Monde (contains, cloves, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, bay leaf and pepper)
2 hand fulls of arugula
1 – 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes

¼ tsp nutmeg
1 cup of organic yogurt (I used homemade goat yogurt)
3 eggs

METHOD: Cut the eggplant into thin rounds, place in a colander and mix with about a tsp of salt. Let rest for 20 minutes. While the eggplant is resting, preheat the oven to 400 F. After 20 minutes, rinse the eggplant and squeeze out any excess moisture. Stir the eggplant in a bowl with 2 TBS of olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

Heat the rest of the oil in a skillet sauté the onion and garlic until translucent, then add the meat and spices and cook until nice and browned. Then add the arugula and the tomatoes. Simmer the sauce for about 20 minutes, or until it gets nice and thick. Salt and pepper to taste.

While the sauce is cooking whisk together the nutmeg, eggs and yogurt. This is in place of a traditional béchamel sauce.

Place a thin layer of eggplant in a large glass baking dish and then put a layer of the meat sauce. Continue to do this until all the ingredients are used up – in the same manner you would make lasagna – end with a layer of eggplant. Then add the yogurt mixture on top.

Place in the oven on the middle rack and bake for about 45- 50 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Let it rest for about 10 minutes before cutting into it.

Serves 6

Post Partum Freezer Meals: Russian Borscht

 

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I loooove borscht. The first time I ever made it I was over run with beets from my CSA. This was in college and we had an agriculture program there and if you lived on campus (or off) your could buy a CSA share. This was the first time I had ever heard of a CSA by the way and I thought it was very cool and it taught me to cook lots of different kinds of produce I wasn’t used to.

So I was in my on campus apartment making dinner for my housemates. Everything in the kitchen was red, including my hands and my shirt. I loved the experience. Ever since then, I have been hooked. In fact during my pregnancy I had a dream while napping of eating borscht, so my husband made it for me. Since I love it so much, I figured it would be a perfect addition to my postpartum menu. I used beets that we had grown in our garden the year before that were roasted and then frozen. Definitely handy for a borscht lover.

This soup is restorative, comforting and deeply nourishing. Since I am such a borscht fanatic, I asked my friend and fellow blogger Sofya, who blogs at A Girl’s Guide to Guns and Butter for her recipe. She is from Azerbaijan and that being a former Soviet republic, I figured she would have a truly authentic recipe. Her recipe begins with making homemade beef bone broth which is the base of the soup. This is truly delicious comfort food.

This borscht is the best! In fact I am eating some right now. Today I served it over mashed potatoes with some fresh sauerkraut on top. In my version I was lazy and I cubed all my veggies instead of grating them. But I guess you can’t blame me for taking a short cut, I was 9 months pregnant when I made it! I hope you make some and enjoy it during the cold, cold days of winter.

Russian Borscht Recipe by Sofya Hunt

Makes approximately 7 to 8 quarts

INGREDIENTS:

For the stock:

2 roasts, such as chuck or arm, 2 to 3 lbs each, or 4 to 6 lbs soup bones (or some combination of both)
2 gallons cold water
1 whole turnip, unpeeled
1 whole large onion, peeled and studded with 10-12 cloves
2 large carrots, unpeeled
1/2 celeriac, peeled
2 large bay leaves
10 dried allspice berries

For the soup:

12 medium beets
1 medium head of cabbage, shredded (do not use the core)
2 small to medium unpeeled turnips, grated
2 medium to large unpeeled parsnips, grated
4-6 unpeeled carrots, grated
1/2 celeriac, peeled and grated
2 large onions, chopped
2 potatoes, cubed
3 sticks of butter, for sauteing the vegetables
2/3 to 1 whole 8-oz can tomato paste
meat reserved from making the stock, cubed
1 whole head of garlic, cloves peeled and minced
organic beef base, or an equivalent
additional water or stock, as needed
lemon juice, to taste
salt and black pepper, to taste
1 bunch parsley, chopped
sour cream and extra parsley, for serving

The Stock

Place meat and vegetables in cold water and bring to a simmer. Skim off the scum that will rise to the top just before the simmering point. Once the stock is simmering, add bay leaf and allspice. Cover partially and simmer for 2 to 3 hours, or until the meat is fork-tender and the liquid had been reduced by at least half. Let cool and strain, reserving the meat and discarding the vegetables and spices. Note that I don’t degrease my stock, but if you’d like to do it, chill it in the fridge overnight and use a slotted spoon to remove solidified fat from the surface in the morning.

The Soup

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Wrap the beets tightly in foil and pierce the packages (the foil and the beets) with a fork in several places to allow some of the steam to escape, thus preventing them from exploding in your oven. Place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast for for 1 to 1.5 hours, or until a knife can be slid easily in and out. Remove from the oven, allow to cool, and unwrap. To peel them easily, hold each beet under warm running water while rubbing it with your hands – the skins will slip right off. Grate cooled beets and set aside.

Melt butter in a large stainless steel saute pan or a dutch oven (don’t be taken aback by the amount of butter – it will all be absorbed by the veggies before you know it). When the butter begins to foam, add grated parsnips, turnips, carrots, celeriac, and chopped onion and saute until the onions are translucent and the root vegetables begin to soften. Reduce the heat to low and stir in tomato paste. Set aside.

Bring strained stock to a boil and add the cabbage and the cubed potatoes. Reduce to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes. Add sauteed root vegetables and 3/4 of grated beets (we’ll be adding the rest towards the end for additional color boost). Continue simmering gently, partially covered, for 40 minutes. If your soup appears too thick at this point, feel free to add more water or extra stock until the consistency is right. If using homemade stock, add beef base (do not add extra salt until you are done adding beef base as it tends to be very salty on its own). Stir in the remaining beets, cubed meat, minced garlic, pepper, lemon juice, and more salt if needed (the exact amount of lemon juice will depend on your taste, but the goal is to strike a perfect balance between sweetness and acidity so your borscht is neither too sour, nor too sweet). Simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the beets are no longer dark-red and the garlic has mellowed out. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley.

Let cool and refrigerate overnight before serving the next day.

Post-Partum Freezer Meals: Split Pea Soup with Ham Hocks

soup_in-bowl

My crockpot became my best friend during the time I was preparing meals for the freezer. I would prep all of the ingredients during the day and then let everything slow cook over night. In the morning, I would let it cool and then package the contents in mason jars. I focused on lots of soups and stews. Meals that were mostly hands off during cooking, could be packed in mason jars, so I didn’t have to give up any of my glassware to sit in the freezer for weeks and because soups and stews are easy to heat up.

One of our favorites was delicious and hearty split pea soup. In fact I had prepared this to serve to the midwives after the birth, but we were all too tired for food, so we ended up enjoying this later.

The first step, as you will see in many of the recipes in this series, is that I first made bone broth, this time from ham hocks we had in the freezer from our last two pigs. I made the bone broth in the crockpot as well, I added water to cover the bones and added about a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and a couple of bay leaves – that is the way I make most of my bone broths. Then I let it cook for about 24 hours.

Once the broth was made, I got all the meat off and reserved it. Then I basically made this soup (of course in this case it was not vegan!)

I put all the ingredients in the crockpot with the reserved meat and let it cook over night.

The thing about freezer meals is that you don’t re-invent the wheel, go through blogs, cookbooks etc. and make things you already know how to make, items that freeze well. This isn’t necessarily the time to experiment with difficult recipes. Here are some of the recipes I made or made similar recipes from recipes I already had on my blog.

Sardinian Purcavru in Agru Durci (sweet and sour pork)

Paleo Pumpkin Muffins

Veal and White Bean Stew 

Post-Partum Freezer Meals Series: Homemade Burgers and Meatballs

meatballs_final

The last post I wrote was my daughter’s birth story and it got me thinking about all the things I did to prepare for her birth. So I decided to start a series on easy Postpartum Meals for the blog. These posts will also be of interest to those who are friends or family of a pregnant woman that would benefit greatly from having meals brought to her family in those first two weeks post-birth. Or for people who just want to nutritious and healthy freezable meals.

In this day and age many new moms and dads are isolated or living far from family and friends. One of the best things I did for myself in late pregnancy was spending a week getting various healthy, nutrient packed meals in the freezer for us, so when the baby came we were all set with good things to eat.

All in all, I was able to freeze a month’s worth of breakfasts, and about a month’s worth of lunches or dinners.  We are still eating from this bounty supplemented with some quick and easy fresh meals as well and now that Alba is over a month old, we are also going out for meals sometimes also.

I have read a lot about preparing for the arrival of your baby and most articles would suggest gathering local take-out menus so that during those first few weeks postpartum where you don’t really have the time or energy for cooking, you can let someone else cook for you.

This is good in theory, but the reality is that what you eat those first few weeks is the first nutrition you will be feeding your baby, if you are breastfeeding. So for me I wanted to be sure that what she was getting was super nutrient dense.  You won’t get that from take-out.

I am going to start the series out with two super easy ideas, pre-made burgers and meatballs. I will also link you to my Pinterest board with other Postpartum meal ideas that gave me inspiration when I came up with my own menu. In the posts to come I will share a variety of soups, stews, breads, muffins, etc.

caramelized-onion_burger_ready-to-eat
Burgers:

Who doesn’t love a nice juicy burger? Especially at a time when your body could use more iron? Burgers are the perfect fix! Making burgers for the freezer is easy! I use 100% grass-fed beef as the base and then I like to add smoked salt and a little barbecue sauce to the meat, mix it with my hands and create the patties. The trick to this is then putting the patties on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet in a single layer and popping it in the freezer until frozen. This way you can package your burgers into 2 serving bundles without the patties sticking together. I used 3 lbs. of ground beef and got 12 patties.

spaghetti-and-meatballs_preparing-meatballs

 

Meatballs:

I made meatballs in the same way. I flavored one batch with Italian seasonings: salt, oregano, basil and thyme and the other with Middle Eastern spices: salt, cumin, coriander, paprika and sumac. I formed the meatballs and then cooked them on cookie sheets in the oven at 350 F for about 15 minutes. After they cooled I put them in a single later on cookie sheets and popped them in the freezer, then bagged them in 2 person serving sizes for the freezer. With the Italian version we had rice pasta with meatballs and with the Middle Eastern meatballs we made Middle East Inspired Meatballs.

Here is my pinterest board with other freezable meals to get your mind and taste buds going.