My girls are both in Vacation Bible School this week, for three hours a day, and it’s the first time I’ve had this much time to myself since my second daughter was born, nearly two years ago. I had so many ideas about how I could use my time. Foregoing the temptation to spend the entirety of it on the couch, I ended up buying groceries to get back into the kitchen and have been spending a little extra time on meal prep. Earlier in the month, we drove to Canada to see my beautiful little sister marry her sweet husband (my little daughters were her flower girls) and we stopped by Yellowstone on the way home. It was good to have that time as a family, but I’ve felt scattered since (I admit, I often feel scattered!) and meals have not been well thought out. While I know phases like this come and go, I am aiming to be intentional about life at home this summer, beginning with nourishing my family.
Seeking guidance, I returned to a set of seasonal meal plans I subscribed to several years ago, from Jenny McGruther of Nourished Kitchen. I’ve mentioned her site several times before, as it is a favorite for wholesome cooking inspiration. It seems she no longer offers the same meal plans that she did several years ago, but many of her recipes are now in the database for Real Plans, which is a meal-planning system I am very intrigued by, as it is based on whole foods and appears to be easy to make adjustments to for any diet.
This moussaka recipe, adapted from Nourished Kitchen, is the poor man’s version. The original recipe calls for ground lamb and wine, which have been substituted with lentils and broth. While the lamb and wine version sounds amazing, I am trying to be thoughtful about the grocery budget and the spices in this recipe make up for the lack of meat. Also, the original recipe called for what I judged to be a copious quantity of eggplant, so I cut back on that and I’m glad I did, as we ended up with plenty, with abundant leftovers. Furthermore, this recipe is made with dried spices, rather than fresh, in order to make it more budget-friendly.
Moussaka is a potato-and-eggplant-based dish of Greek origin and, in this variation, vegetables and lentils are warmed with cinnamon, allspice, and oregano for rich flavor. I posted the tomato and cucumber salad recipe previously, but I will post it again here, as it is a favorite summertime treat. It’s perfect for bringing refreshing, bright flavor to any summer meal.
Adapted from Moussaka by Jenny McGruther of Nourished Kitchen
- Yield: 4-6 servings
- Active Prep Time: 35 minutes
- Baking Time: 45 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
- 2 cups of dried lentils, rinsed, boiled until soft, and drained
- 1 eggplant, peeled and sliced into rounds ½” thick
- 2 russet potatoes
- 2-4 tablespoons butter
- 1 small yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- ½ cup vegetable broth
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- 2 cups crushed tomatoes (the kind I used had basil in it, which complemented the other flavors nicely)
- 1 ½-2 cups freshly grated Parmesan
- sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
- Prepare the lentils, boiling with a teaspoon or two of salt, until soft. Beware, lentils boil over if given half a chance and are messy to clean up! Do not leave unattended.
- Sprinkle eggplant slices with salt and place in a colander to rest, in order to drain any excess water.
- Meanwhile, bring a kettle of water to boil. Pour the water over the unpeeled russet potatoes in a pot, over the stove. Boil until just tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the water and peel, if desired. Slice into ¼” rounds. Salt lightly and set aside with the eggplant.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Melt the butter in a skillet and sauté onion and garlic until fragrant and soft. Add lentils, broth, parsley, cinnamon, allspice and oregano and cook until broth is reduced. Salt and pepper to taste.
- In a large baking dish, layer eggplant, potato, lentils and tomato sauce until are ingredients are in the dish, with the last layer being tomato sauce. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and bake at 400 F for 45 minutes.
Tomato Cucumber Salad
Adapted from Tomato & Cucumber Salad by Jenny McGruther of Nourished Kitchen
- Yield: 4–6 servings
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- 4 vine-ripened tomatoes or two cups of cherry tomatoes
- ½ red onion
- 1 medium cucumber
- large handful of curly parsley
- juice of 1 lemon
- ¼ cup olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Chop the tomatoes, according to preference.
- Finely dice the red onion.
- Chop the parsley.
- Combine the vegetables and parsley in a bowl.
- Pour the oil over the vegetables.
- Pour the juice over the vegetables.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Stir to combine.
- Serve immediately.