Quick & frugal, unpackaged & non-toxic, I love homemade playdough {a recipe}
Getting ready for the Crunchy Betty Honey Challenge

A frugal vegetarian meal fit for sharing {big batch lentil loaf recipe}

On any given night, I imagine there are dozens of families in my immediate neighbourhood frantically trying to cook and serve a wholesome home cooked meal. There must be an easier way!

I love the idea of meal sharing. Every now and then we'll share a mid-week meal with another full-time working family and on occasion I'll cook a double batch of something and drop half off at a friend's house. This week I was even lucky enough to have a friend drop off a delicious casserole as part of a barter. I took photos of her gorgeous baby and in exchange she dropped off a hot healthy home-cooked meal ready to serve. Win win!

Meal sharing schemes

I've noticed a few formal meal sharing schemes lately.

One of my readers told me about Mama Bake. MamaBake is group, big batch cookery where local Mums get together once a week and cook one big batch recipe each.  The batch then gets divvied up amongst all the Mums at the end of the session and everyone goes home with a few nights worth of homecooked dinners, ready to go for their families. I LOVE this idea! Anyone tried it? It would be a great way to have a few freezer meals ready for busy nights.

I also recently discovered mealTrain when I signed up to cook a meal for a friend who's daughter is in and out of hospital at the moment. mealTrain allows us to select a night we'd like to cook for the family and we can see what others are cooking so we don't all cook the same thing.

Do you know of any other meal sharing schemes?

Big Batch Red Lentil Loaf

For my mealTrain meal I cooked a bulk batch of red lentil loaf. This is a regular meal in our household and is one of my favourite meals for entertaining or sharing because it's easy to cook in bulk, delicious, economical, can be served in a range of ways, kids love it, and meat-eaters love it as much as vegetarians.

The recipe is modified from my all-time-favourite vegetarian cookbook: Alison Holst's Meals Without Meat. It's good served as a meat loaf would be served, with mashed potatoes or baked vegetables, seasonal greens and a fresh tomato sauce or gravy.

Big batch lentil loaf 1

Ingredients for a bulk batch*:

Makes the equivalent of four loaves and serves 24-32. I often dish it out as three loaves and around 8-10 muffin-sized mini-loaves (perfect for lunch boxes). You can also cook it in a casserole dish and serve from this, without unmoulding.

1 kg red lentils
10 cups water
3 bay leaves
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
6 onions, sliced
75 g butter
6 eggs
6 cups grated cheese
810 g tinned chopped tomatoes or 3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
9 slices wholemeal bread, crumbled (I save crusts in the freezer and crumb them in a food processor).
4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 1/2 cups chopped parsley (i often leave this out if there's no parsley in the garden and it's still delicious).

*To un-bulk and make one loaf only, serving only 6 - 8, reduce the lentils to two cups, water to three cups, and all other ingredients to 1 /3.

Simmer the lentils gently with the water, bay leaves and garlic until they are tender and the water is absorbed. You will need a LARGE saucepan. Boil away any excess water.

Meanwhile, saute the onions in the butter until transparent.

Once the lentils are thoroughly cooked remove the bay leaves and add the cooked onions and the remaining ingredients. Stir thoroughly then spoon into well-greased or baking paper-lined loaf tins or muffin moulds. You can also pour into a casserole dish and serve from this, without unmoulding.

Bake at 180 degrees celsius for about 45 minutes (slightly less for muffin sized mini loaves), or until firm in the middle. 

We ate this meal three nights in a row this week without tiring of it.

Big batch lentol loaf 3

I even managed to serve it as left-overs for lunch on two days....

Big batch lentil loaf 2

... and on a sandwich for Little Eco.

Why not make a bulk batch and drop a loaf off to a family or two, gifting them a cooking-free night.

I'm not yet sure how the loaf freezes, but I've got one in the freezer at the moment as a tester so will update this space once I know.  The loaf freezes really well. I've almost always got a lentil loaf in the freezer waiting for a night when I don't have time to cook. 

Coincidentally Kate of Purple Pear Organics shared her similar (yet different) Lentil Roast recipe this week (along with some great tips on cooking vegetarian meals).

Do you cook big batch meals? Anyone else eat the same meal multiple times a week? Or do you meal share?