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Warming Foods for the Winter Months

Food For Thought

By Sandy McCall

There are two casserole-type dishes that are my favorites in the cooler weather: Eggplant Parmesan and Purple Shepherd’s Pie with Brown-Butter Corn. They are also favorites with many of my friends, and often requested for shared and potluck meals. My dear, foodie-friend, Sam Sutker, had a special love for my eggplant parmesan. Every time I made it he would tell me, “This is undoubtedly the best eggplant parmesan you’ve ever made.” I would always thank him and offer a chuckle. Over the years, I made it for him and his wife, Sandi, many times, but recently I was able to joyfully make it for him one last time just before he passed on. This one is for you Sam.

close up of eggplant parmesan showing layers cheese baked
Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan

These amounts are estimated for an 8’’ x 10’’ casserole dish. I use organic ingredients. It’s difficult to determine the amounts in this recipe, and you may have to adjust by adding another egg or by making more breading mix.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

2 medium eggplants

2 cups almond flour, divided (you can substitute with sorghum or wheat flour, but I find that almond flour gives the best flavor and texture)

2 tablespoons dried Herbes De Provence, divided

Sea salt & freshly ground pepper

2(+) eggs, beaten

16(+)-oz marinara sauce (homemade or bottled)

1(+) cup grated Parmesan cheese

1(+) cup grated Mozzarella cheese

Olive, avocado or melted coconut oil to drizzle


In one pie plate, whisk the eggs with a fork. In a second pie plate, combine half of the flour, herbs, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

Prepare a large baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper. Then drizzle with your favorite oil.

Wash and dry eggplant. With a peeler or knife, peel the skin the long way leaving strips of skin in between the peeled the areas—the zebra look. Slice the eggplant, the short or long way, into slices about 1/2” thick. After slicing, work quickly to avoid having the eggplant turn brown.

Dip each eggplant slice into the egg mixture, then the flour mixture. Place onto oiled baking sheet. If you run out of egg or flour mixtures, simply make a little more. When all pieces are breaded and arranged on the baking sheet, drizzle the tops of the eggplant slices with more oil.

Bake the eggplant for 15-20 minutes, remove from oven and flip each piece over. If the pieces are not lightly browned, you can increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the slices are lightly browned.

Lightly oil the casserole dish. Pour a small layer of marinara sauce into the bottom of your baking dish and spread evenly. Add one layer of eggplant, then add thin layers each of marinara, Parmesan and Mozzarella cheese. Continue layering until you have used all of the eggplant (3-5 layers) ending with Mozzarella cheese.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until the cheese is completely melted and casserole is slightly browned around edges. Remove from oven and allow to sit for about 15 minutes. Slice into squares to serve.

Purple Shepherd’s Pie with Brown-Butter Corn

My shepards pie is not traditional, but it is beautiful on the table and oh-so-good to eat. It’s made with ground turkey, although you can substitute ground beef or chicken.

I love the fresh, brown-butter corn layer. The other thing that makes it different is the use of purple or blue potatoes. You can substitute white potatoes if you prefer.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Bottom Layer

1 pound ground turkey, chicken or beef

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh herbs of your choice or 1 tablespoon Herbes De Provence

Salt & pepper to taste

Top Layer

1 pound purple, blue, or white potatoes: unpeeled, trimmed, and chopped

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup coconut or dairy milk

Salt & pepper to taste

Trim and chop unpeeled potatoes into chunks. Cover with salted water. Boil until tender, drain. Place into a large bowl and add butter. Whip with an immersion blender or hand mixer. Add milk and continue to whip until smooth and potato skins are completely combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Middle Layer

2 ears fresh corn, husked and kernels trimmed from cobs (or canned corn)

2 tablespoons butter, browned

While potatoes are cooking, and if you want a one-pan casserole, heat a large cast iron skillet. Melt and cook butter until slightly browned. Add corn kernels, stir and cook slightly. Pour corn into covered bowl while preparing bottom layer.

Bottom Layer

In the same skillet where brown-butter corn was made, now add the oil and sauté the onions; add the garlic. Push garlic and onions to the edge of pan. Add oil in center of pan if using meat without fat. Add ground meat and cook until slightly browned. Stir garlic and onions back into meat. Add herbs, salt, and pepper. Stir.


Spread meat mixture evenly in the skillet. Add corn layer evenly over meat layer and spread whipped potatoes evenly over the top of corn. Dot potatoes with remaining butter.

Bake for about 30 minutes until slightly browned. Set aside for about 10 minutes before serving.

Sandy McCall’s day job is working as the Broker/Owner of Southern Life Realty. When she’s not being the“mad scientist” in the kitchen or loving-up her cat, dogs or chickens, she enjoys being a Food Writer …

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