Monday, April 20, 2015

Eggplant Casserole (and babies!)

Our church is fairly small, so you can imagine our excitement when THREE families in our church announced they were expecting babies in the same month! We filled the time with baby showers and supporting the new moms and dads...

...but none of us expected that two of the babies would be born on the same day!

Palm Sunday was quite exciting. We stayed glued to our emails to hear the big news. And we welcomed Ezra in the afternoon, and Mari a few hours later.

What can be better than babies????

No, that isn't one of the new church babies - that's my dad with his proud daddy back in 1929. I love this picture :)

One thing we always do, and I'm sure you've done this, too, is to take meals to families in the church who need them. And who needs a meal more than new parents?

This casserole has gotten rave reviews among the new moms and dads.

It's low carb, gluten free (or close to it), and can be made either with meat or without.

Eggplant Casserole
serves 8


1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 cup almond meal
salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 large eggplants, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
1 pound ground beef, browned
2 - 15 oz cans diced tomatoes
1 - 4 oz can tomato paste
Basil, oregano and garlic to taste.
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese


Preheat oven to 375°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk the egg and water together in a shallow dish.

Combine 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, almond meal, salt, and ground black pepper in a separate shallow dish.

Dip eggplant slices in egg mixture.

Press slices into the crumbs and tap off excess. Arrange slices on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake eggplant slices in the preheated oven until tops are golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Flip eggplant and bake an additional 20 to 25 minutes. Remove eggplant from the oven and increase temperature to 400°.

Combine the browned ground beef, tomatoes, and tomato paste in a medium sized pan. Bring 
        to a boil, and then simmer for several minutes. Add the basil, oregano and garlic, then salt and pepper to taste.
When the sauce is ready, it's time to start assembling the casserole.

You want to layer this casserole like a lasagna. First, grease your pans - I used two 8"x8" disposable pans for this meal-to-go. If you're fixing this to have at home, use a 9"x13" pan.

Place 1/2 of the eggplant slices on the bottom of the pan. Ladle 1/2 of the tomato sauce over them, then sprinkle 1/2 of the mozzarella and remaining Parmesan cheese on to the tomato sauce.

Repeat all three layers, finishing with a layer of mozzarella/Parmesan cheese.

        At this point you can freeze the casserole, or bake it, uncovered, at 400° for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for about 5 minutes.

All wrapped up and ready to cover with foil (double layer
protection) and freeze.

     I like to take two of these casseroles to our new moms - one for supper that night, and one to stick in the freezer for a couple weeks later. You know, for one of those days when the baby hasn't slept, you're coming down with a cold, and you've just begun to discover the joys of diaper rash. :)

   Speaking of new moms, this is the time of year to look for new wildlife babies. The first bison calf of the season has been spotted...but not by us. We only saw a couple bulls on our last trip to Custer State Park. The cows and calves stay hidden away from the roads this time of year.

But we did see these beauties! It's hard to find the elk in the park. They're very shy, and stay away from the roads. The fence in the picture is around the small airstrip in the park, so I think they were feeling safe. I'm glad my new camera is powerful enough to get a shot from this distance....

      This looked liked a herd of cows and yearlings. No calves, yet.

And still wearing their winter coats, but we still expect snow. It's only April, after all.
      How is spring springing in your part of the world?


  1. Would you believe I've never had eggplant? I don't dislike it; I've just never happened upon any. This sounds really good, though. Might be my time to go shopping for ingredients and experiment on my family. ;)

    1. For me, eggplant really needs the right recipe. Because this one bakes the eggplant before you add the sauce, it stays firm rather than cooking into mush.

      Okay, now I just revealed what I don't like about some eggplant dishes, LOL!

    2. Maybe I've heard subliminal rumours (are there such things?) about mushy eggplant, and that's why I've never tried it. Thanks for the heads-up. I don't have almond meal, but I'm assuming seasoned breadcrumbs would work just as well.

      We have two more great grandchildren on the way -- an early summertime baby boom. I went shopping for some contributions to their layettes. I *love* shopping for babies almost (but not quite) as much as the babies themselves. LOL.

    3. Carol, congrats on the new babies on the way!!

    4. Congratulations, Carol! And yes, shopping for babies is so much fun!

      Oh, and the almond meal is a substitute for bread crumbs, so re-substitute away :)

  2. OOOOh, babies! You know, we're having a baby boom here, too. For a few years, there was nothing happening in our little community and then BOOM. We've got about five families in the last few weeks of waiting. I can't wait to see all the new little faces and smell those little sweet heads!

    1. Mari and Ezra are both so young that their baby faces are still scrunched in sleep most times that I've seen them - - but is there anything more precious than a newborn baby peacefully sleeping in his mother's arms?

  3. Okay, inquiring minds want to know -- in true small church fashion -- is there anyone matchmaking wee little Ezra and Mari? Come on, tell the truth. LOL

    Love this casserole idea. I've never cooked eggplant either. I know, what kind of self-respecting vegetarian am I? I've had it when I've eaten out but never knew what to do with it. Now I do. :-)

    Glad you are enjoying your new camera. And that we get to enjoy the results. Honestly, you live such an exotic life as far as I'm concerned. It boggles this eastern city girl's mind.

    1. Kav, the matchmaking idea has been making the rounds! Right now, though, the farthest anyone is seriously going is to dub them the "birthday twins."

      And you know they're both going to go from best buds in the nursery to "keep your distance" by the time they're eight or nine. We'll see what happens when they turn eighteen!

      And really, you've never cooked eggplant? Last week it was no beans in your salads! I'm glad I can expand your vegetarian palate...I think. You know I'm a carnivore at heart, right? LOL!

      Also, you're right about living in an exotic place, and I love it! I grew up in Michigan, a city girl by necessity but a country girl at heart. Moving here has been a refreshing balm :)

  4. I love eggplant. Do you have to soak the slices in salt water beforehand? That step has always kept me from cooking my own. But I love this recipe and love you for sharing it. I can make GF eggplant parma now!!!!

    And animal babies, you know how I love them!

    1. PS. Love that picture too!!!!!! Such a blessing to have them.

    2. Julie, I make eggplant all the time and have never soaked it.

    3. Now that you mention it, I remember hearing about soaking eggplant. But I never have. Hmmm. I wonder what difference it makes?

      Will you have to adjust this recipe at all, Julie? I forget if you can have almond meal or not. But since it's just the breading on the eggplant, you should be able to substitute easily, right?

  5. Making this will be my low-carb reward for working through a mountain of revisions! Dave doesn't eat egg plant and I love it, so he'll have to make some toast or something, because I love eggplant! I'm so excited that you posted this!!! Happy dancing!

  6. Now to babies: I love 'em! I love surrounding myself with them, they're such fun creatures!!! Mari and Ezra, God bless you and your sweet families! We don't matchmake our babies around here, Kav-a-licious because Dave's family is related to almost everyone which is ridiculous and kinda scary The words "Shallow Gene Pool" are an apt descriptor! But I'm not above match-making on a broader scale! :)

    Mary Virginia, enjoy those babies! I've got Morgan (3 1/2 months) this Saturday, and this baby loves to be held!!! Well, I'm happy to oblige, LOL!

    1. Ruthy, there's a county in Michigan that's the same way with my hubby's family. Everyone has a blood connection somewhere in the last few generations! I guess it comes from large families of farmers never wanting to move away from their roots. :)

      And enjoy this low-carb bit of deliciousness! You can cut the recipe in half if you don't want to scarf down eight servings by yourself.

  7. You had me at eggplant!

    Now, how many people ever say that??? LOL I LOVE it. I will try this! Thanks for sharing, Jan. I know those new moms will appreciate the casseroles. I still remember one I got after having my first child. It was a macaroni, beef and tomato sauce dish. Very simple but delish!

    1. You know, some of my best food memories are from casseroles people brought after we had just had a baby.

      Of course, there's nothing like exhaustion and hunger to make us appreciated comfort food!

  8. I am growing eggplant, Jan. For the first time ever....or maybe for the first time in a long, long time...there's some vague misty memory of eggplant in the past.
    I really need some recipes. THANK YOU!