A few years ago I went to my friend Amanda’s house for dinner. Amanda is known for being good at just about everything, cooking is no exception, however, when she informed me she had just made Moussaka, the only visual my mind could come up with was poor little Toula Portokalos and her lunch that the bratty blonde girl made fun of in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
The blonde girl behind her “What’s that?”. Toula: “It’s Mousska.” Blonde girl: “Moose kaka?!” I felt so bad for sweet Toula. What was in that green tuperware container anyway, my mind was fearful yet curious . . .
I’d like to report that Toula and Amanda had it right all along, I would trade all the wonder bread sandwiches in the world for one serving of Moussaka! Amanda’s made my mouth water and I wanted more, but it seemed quite the feat for a casserole. Despite many a internet search every recipe I found had about 15 steps and three different sauces and an ingredient list that was over my tolerable limit. Yet, in these times of seemingly unlimited time (I’m still unemployed . . . cue the sad face) I figured I could conquer this incredible casserole.
So, what is moussaka, you might ask? Well, although there are MANY variations GREEK moussaka is a layered casserole made with eggplant, ground meat (traditionally lamb), potatoes topped with Béchamel sauce and parmesan. The meat sauce is tomato based, but instead of Italian seasoning (Parsley, basil, oregano) it has cinnamon and nutmeg in it. Layers of potato, meat sauce and eggplant are common along with other vegetables.
If this sounds very odd, stay with me, it did to me too, I couldn’t really fathom enjoying meat with cinnamon in it, but somehow the cinnamon and the tomato sauce melds together in the most delicious way.
It can easily be made GLUTEN FREE, however I did not prepare my Béchamel sauce without flour. I like the fact that moussaka is a “one pot meal”, complete with veggies, potatoes and meat. It is packed full of flavor, so much so that I actually didn’t add any hot sauce to the recipe (can you believe it?). And it is better the next day! I read that Greek moussaka is traditionally served luke warm, and although this sets off my highly sensative former-dietary-manager-food-safety-alarm, I think they are right. It’s even good cold!
Time to layer it all together
Why on earth did I think this was hard? This was just as easy as lasagna (if not more so), and the Bechamel sauce took 10 minutes flat. Next time I make this and I know exactly what I’m doing, it shouldn’t take more than an hour. I made this in the afternoon and refrigerated it before cooking, it took about 90 minutes to cook in an 350degree oven! And it freezes very well, so I’m using some leftovers as happy hubby meals!
1.3 lbs ground turkey
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp salt
1 small can (4oz) tomato paste
1 12oz can diced tomatoes
1 onion, halved and sliced
In a large skillet cook ground turkey on medium high heat until no longer pink (4-6 minutes), drain excess oil, add cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, salt, tomato paste, diced tomatoes and onion to skillet, turn to medium heat, stir and cover, allowing onions to soften and flavors to meld. Cook for 10 minutes stiring frequently, so meat sauce doesn’t burn, it will be thick and mostly turkey.
8 medium-small eggplants (the huge ones in the grocery store, you probably do not need more than 2)
2 TB salt
3 TB olive oil
Preheat broiler to high. Thinly slice eggplant, toss with salt in a colander over sink, allow for salt to pull the excess liquid out of the eggplant, let sit for 20 minutes. Once done, rinse the eggplant (yes this seems counter-productive, but this technique really takes the bitter edge off and brings out the natural flavor of the eggplant). Place eggplant on a sprayed, non-stick pan, drizzle with olive oil and broil until edges brown, 5-6 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
10 small red potatoes, sliced thin
In a large casserole dish (sprayed with non-stick coating) place one layer of sliced potatoes in bottom, top potatoes with HALF of the turkey sauce, follow with a layer of eggplant (I used ALL the eggplant in one layer) follow with the other half of the turkey sauce. Top this with another layer of potatoes, let sit while making the béchamel sauce.
1 12oz can evaporated milk + regular milk to make 2 cups
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup butter (half stick)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Heat milk in small sauce pan just until boiling, take off heat immediately allow to cool slightly. In small pan mix butter and flour together on medium heat to form a roux, once butter and flour are incorporated add milk slowly while whisking quickly to ensure the sauce does not become lumpy. Add 1/2 tsp nutmeg and 1 tsp salt, allow sauce to cool slightly and pour evenly on top of final potato layer.
Top with shredded parmesan cheese
Bake in a 350degree oven for about 90 minutes, béchamel sauce should have a nice brown color to it. Your kitchen should smell so awesome your mouth is watering.
Next time I’ll incorporate green peppers, mushrooms and zucchini into the layers. This was truly incredible. And although the béchamel sauce is far from healthy it is actually lower in calories than cheese, next time I’ll try one of the yogurt based béchamel sauces that are so popular on pinterest, I’m sure it’ll be AMAZING!
This is the second recipe in my “Happy Hubby Meals” series. Great, easy freezable meals for Matt for lunch.
I still have a half a box of peaches despite eating them all week long. So, naturally I had to figure out a way to incorporate them into Matt’s lunch meals. This recipe turned out to be incredible! I didn’t want it to be too sweet, but despite the peaches the flavors of the teriyaki sauce and chicken were in the savory, pleasantly sweet range without tasting sugary.
I knew I wanted to slow-cook it, and yet again Betty Crocker to the rescue. The inspiration recipe, had ginger and canned peaches neither of which I wanted.
After the chicken cooked I ladled out about 2/3 cup of the incredible spicy/savory/peachy sauce onto about 1 cup of basmati rice, already portioned into the pyrex bowls. I then topped that with chopped broccoli florets and a sprinkle of sliced almonds and there you go!
Peach Chicken with Broccoli
12 peaches, sliced
1 onion, sautéed until translucent
4 chicken breasts
2 TB fish sauce
1/2 cup teriyaki marinade (like Soy Vay or whatever you have)
1 cup water
1 TB teriyaki Sauce
2 TB Sriracha
1/2 jar cranberry sauce
1/4 cup cornstarch
8 cups cooked basmati rice (about 3 cups dry made this)
3 large broccoli crowns, chopped
Layer chicken breasts into slow cooker, top with onion and peaches. In small bowl mix teriyaki marinade, water, sriracha, cranberry sauce and cornstarch together, pour on top of chicken, onion and peaches. Cook on high for 4 hours. Pull chicken breasts out and divide sauce onto 8 4-cup pyrex bowls. Shred chicken and divide into bowls. Top with broccoli and sprinkle with almonds.
I’ve been freezing Matt work lunches since last fall, I started with Tamales, freezing 2-3 of them in their husks wrapped in foil. I then made Burritos. He has a microwave at his work (doesn’t just about everybody?) It’s easy for him to reheat them.
However, his favorite meals have been soups, stews or rice based meals in bowls. I froze a few in the plastic lidded tupperware items I had around, but I hated it. This leads me to my confession: I absolutely loathe plastic dining ware, of every sort. It gets easily stained, smelly and lost. I’m sure when we have kids we’ll have to do SOME plastic, I just don’t like it. I don’t like drinking out of plastic, I’m convinced that it taints the taste of the water.
Wow, when did I become this deserving little prude, can I say developed world problems or what. Good grief. Geez, I should be thankful for bowls and cups, no matter what the type.
Anyway, all this to say that I was hesitant to freeze lunches for Matt in plastic, just for him to reheat it again, it kind of grossed me out. So after some sticker shock at the local walmart I finally gave in and invested in some glass pyrex 4 cup containers with lids (the lids are plastic, I know, but they are removed before microwaving). I’ve been slowly collecting them on sale, $7.99 is the going rate usually but I’ve purchased most of mine from $5-6, by watching for sales and looking for coupons.
I’ve been perfecting “Happy Hubby Meals” at Matt affectionately calls them, and I’ll start sharing the successes here (there have been many unsuccessful ones as well that I’ll keep to myself)
My latest one was a spin on a recipe I got from the Betty Crocker site, Chicken Curry. 4 chicken breasts made 6 good meals, I had some snap peas and cashews that I topped each meal with.
Chicken Curry (slow cooker version)
4 Chicken breasts
2 cups water
1 jar Trader Joe’s Mango Chutney
2 TB cornstarch
1 TB yellow curry powder
2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground black pepper
1 TB Sriracha Sauce or Rooster Sauce (optional if you like spicy)
2 cans drained, rinsed garbanzo beans
2 onions chopped and sautéed until translucent
2 cups basmati rice, uncooked
2 cups snap peas, sharp ends chopped off
3/4 cup chopped cashews
Lay chicken breasts in slow cooker. In small bowl mix water, mango chutney, cornstarch, curry powder, salt, pepper and sriracha until blended, pour on top of chicken. layer onions on top. Cover and allow to cook on high for 3 hours, add drained rinsed garbanzo beans for last hour of cooking. Fork chicken apart gently. Do a quick taste test, add more spice or salt if desired.
Cook 2 cups of white basmati rice in rice cooker or on stove according to manufactures directions.
Divide rice into 6 bowls, top with chicken curry mixture, spoon chicken garbanzo mixture and sauce on top of rice. Top with cashews, dried red pepper flake (for more spice) and snap peas. Allow everything to cool a little before lidding up and freezing.
The cornstarch gave a great consistency to the curry that covered the rice well.
Often I freeze leftovers, but this meal fit so perfectly into the pyrex, I just froze the whole lot. I received a text from Matt today
“Curry lunch was awesome!!!!! I win!”
I consider that a success.