We have been getting the cutest little eggplants from our CSA lately, and fortunately, there are a lot of great ways to cook eggplant.  I made this recipe up a few weeks ago when we had some thawed ground beef from a local farm to use up, as well as some zucchini that I didn’t want to go bad.  Eric was really nervous as he watched me chopping the zucchini and eggplant up, but as they roasted in the oven and I started cooking the meat with onions and garlic, his mouth began to water from the aromas wafting out of the kitchen.

This is such a great recipe for getting picky eaters to eat vegetables, the zucchini and eggplant have a meaty texture the tomato sauce and cheese make you forget how healthy it is!  I like making a large batch because the leftovers are great for lunch throughout the week.  There are a few steps to making this dish, but it’s only 10 minutes of actual work time and about half an hour of cook time in the oven, trust me it’s worth it!  A key to make cooking fast and easy is to prep your ingredients ahead of time.  I do ALL my chopping before I start any cooking, it saves time and stress in the long run.

The ground beef we used is from the same farm we do our CSA with.  They were so generous in giving us a good sized hunk of frozen beef to try out when we expressed interest in purchasing 1/4 a cow from them.

Did you even know you can purchase anywhere from 1/4 to a whole cow from a local farmer to get HUGE savings on beef?  Meat is so expensive, and this is a great way to make it more affordable.  We first heard about it a little over a year ago, and got so excited but couldn’t afford it.  This year, we worked it into our budget (you may need to save up a little since you pay for a year’s worth of meat up front).  You can also consider splitting it with other families to save on cost and freezer space.  We’re splitting our 1/4 cow with my parents, we also have a shelf in Eric’s parents garage freezer to have more room to store the beef (as well as corn, berries, soups and other things I’ve been freezing from our CSA this summer).  We are going to eat so well this winter!

If you’re interested in buying beef directly from a farm, start researching for farms near you.  Farmers (or ranchers) aren’t necessarily going to have a website, you’ll probably need to make some phone calls, but trust me it’s worth it.  Sites like Local Harvest are also a great resource.  I’ll have  a whole long post on beef soon, with some video and photos of our recent artisan steak tasting with Carrie Oliver.  What an event!

Roasted Zucchini, Eggplant and Tomato Casserole

serves 6-8

Ingredients

1 medium zucchini
3 small or one medium to large eggplant
1/2 red onion
3 plum sized tomatoes
3-4 cloves garlic
3 TBS olive oil
1 tsp sea or kosher salt
1/4 pound ground beef
12 onces of your favorite tomato sauce
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Roughly chop all your vegetables into 1/2 inch chunks and mince the garlic nice and small.  Place the zucchini, eggplant and half of the chopped onion into a large casserole dish.  Drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and mix to coat the vegetables.  Place in the oven.

In a large frying pan, crumble and brown the ground beef.  Once it’s browned, add the garlic and rest of the onion and mix well.  Let cook a couple minutes until the onion is softening and the smell makes your mouth water!
Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, and the leaves from 3 of the thyme sprigs.  Mix well.

Remove the casserole dish from the oven, and pour the tomato hamburger mixture over the vegetables.  Sprinkle with the feta cheese over the top and return to the oven.  Cook for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and let sit 3-5 minutes before serving.  Garnish with segments of the remaining sprig of thyme.

Approximate cost/serving: If you have a side dish or two, this can make 8 servings.  It uses only a little ground beef which totally cuts costs.  Our beef was free and all the veggies were from the CSA, but if you bought everything in the grocery store, it would cost around $5.50 to make, so about 69 cents a serving.

Vegetarian/gluten free: This is still delicious without the meat and can even be vegan if you skip the cheese.  Totally gluten free as well.


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