Kugel with Raisins, Orange Zest, and Cinnamon, aka Noodle Pudding

This is how my brain works: you say Jesse’s birthday, I think carrot cake. You say Easter, I think Mom’s Roasted Lamb with Herb and Goat Cheese Topping.  For Christmas, it is Mamanika’s “S” cookies, and for Hanukkah, it’s kugel and latkes.

Holidays for me are about the joy of cooking and remembering my favorite relatives through the recipes, songs, and traditions I now share with my family (and friends!). Talking on the phone with family and close friends about what we are each cooking for a special meal or for dinner that night is one of the dearest joys of life. Each year, about a week before Thanksgiving, my mother would always call and ask me to email her copies of The Recipes. She could never keep up with her boundless collection. JudysChickens.org was started as a way to store those time-tested recipes for my brothers, sons, and nieces and nephews.

So what is kugel? It is a  sweet, baked noodle pudding often made with raisins and spices and served as a side dish at Jewish holiday meals.

I was fortunate to grow up in a blended family long before there was a name for families who came together after a divorce. In our case, our religious practices were blended, too. How many times did my stepfather light a menorah on a table close to my Italian grandfather’s creamy white ceramic nativity set? Kugel was one of the foods that became part of our blended holiday meals.

This is an old photo of my two youngest brothers.

Choosing a recipe for kugel is a lot like choosing one for Thanksgiving dressing (or stuffing) — people want these dishes to taste the way their mother, grandmother or great aunt prepared them. I love that. It shows how deep the connection between holidays, the people present at the table, and the foods served are connected in our memory and ultimately become the traditions we yearn for when family and friends come together.

For Mom’s kugel recipe, at first glance, and every glance really, there are a lot of calories from fat and sugar; that is the way this side dish rolls. In the end, after trying to make the recipe with fewer calories, I found I was only able to dial back the sugar by a quarter of a cup. Woohoo.  I love this dish!

Yield: Serves 8-12

Ingredients:

1  8-ounce package egg noodles (about 4½ cups cooked)
1 cup raisins
1  8-ounce can crushed pineapples with juice
½ navel orange, grate the peel and scoop up the juicy pulp
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt, plus more to salt the water for cooking the noodles
1 pound (almost 2 cups) sour cream
2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar: ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1½ teaspoons sugar

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350º.

Bring salted water to a boil, add the dry noodles, and cook until done. Drain. Place noodles into a 9 x 13-inch casserole or a deep-dish casserole, as I like to do. Add the melted butter and stir. Set aside.

Pour raisins into a small bowl. Grate the peel of one-half an orange over the raisins. Squeeze out the orange’s juice over the raisins. Scoop out the pulp, chop it up, and add it to the bowl of raisins. Discard the pith. Add crushed pineapples with their juice. Mix together the raisins, orange zest, fruit, and juice until each is well distributed in the bowl. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, vanilla, sugar, salt, and sour cream until well blended. Set aside.

Pour the fruit mixture over the buttered noodles and stir. Add the egg batter. Stir until well blended. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Bake for sixty minutes until the top is golden brown and crunchy and the eggy part is a little bubbly. If the noodle tips start to burn, cover the casserole with foil for the last ten minutes of cooking. Allow to cool for ten minutes before serving. If you want a creamier interior texture, cook it for only 50 minutes. I think the flavors are more intense when it is cooked for the full sixty minutes.

Happy Hanukkah to my family and friends!

Here are lots of recipes, like these Brie Bites, to get you through special meals from now until New Year’s Day.

Meanwhile, I would love a good recipe for latkes. I have never made them but sure have enjoyed eating them.

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

A Thanksgiving Letter from the Neighborhood Squirrels

I am grateful for my friend, Carol Fike, who sent me an anonymous (at the time) Thanksgiving letter from the neighborhood squirrels who reside in my backyard. The squirrels ate every tomato (24 plants worth) in my garden while they were all still green. My frustration was well-documented on Instagram. When they finished with the tomatoes, they got started on and ate the starchy, green, cotton bolls.

Trying to figure out who sent this lovely, funny, thoughtful, letter, with a gift attached (from the squirrels), was the highlight of my week. Everyone needs a Carol in their life. Thanks and love you, Carol.

The squirrels were well-mannered; they carried their food to various tabletops around the yard before eating them.

Wishing all my readers a Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Thanksgiving Day Grace
Bless the food between us,
The home around us,
The family beside us,
and the love between us.

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Remember to always check this website for updated versions of a recipe.  

© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

How to Make Gorgeous Birdhouse Gourds

A few years ago, my Maker friend, Mary Stone, grew climbing squash vines loaded with pear-shaped gourds in her backyard vegetable garden. An idea was percolating in her head. She wanted to use the gourds to make birdhouses to give as hostess gifts to her friends.

Birdhouse, swan, and wide-bottle gourds, collectively known as bottle gourds, are all members of the squash family (Lagenaria siceraria) and were originally cultivated for their container shapes. Once dried, or cured, their shells became hard and were used as bowls, vases, rattles, pipes, and birdhouses. The first time I saw birdhouse gourds, they were strung across a Mennonite farm in Cerulean, Kentucky. Cured and painted by children, the white “martin houses” were used to attract purple martins, a small, darting bird known for its penchant for insects.

Mary’s version of the birdhouse gourd was quite different. The coloration of hers was GORGEOUS. There was no way this birdhouse, with a finish that looked like spalted wood, was going outside!

After her first batch of cured and varnished gourds, Mary made many more, sans holes, for decorative purposes. I have used my collection to grace the fireplace mantle on Thanksgiving Day for years.

One summer, inspired by Mary, I grew bottle gourds in my backyard. I thought I had purchased seeds for pear-shaped gourds, but instead got this lovely bottle-shaped squash.

As instructed by Mary, I harvested the gourds before the first frost and allowed them to dry on a baker’s rack in my screened-in porch. Surprisingly none of them collapsed from rot. Mary dried her crop, over a six-month period, on a rack in her garage. You will know they are fully cured when you can hear the seeds inside rattle when shaken. Think maracas. They will mottle as they dry creating beautiful and desirable markings on the outside.

One afternoon, Mary came over to show me how to prep and varnish them. She used a steel wool pad to lightly sand off the few rough spots on the surface. Then she sanded off some of the black mottlings, but not all of them. With her artist’s eye, she determined how much mottling to preserve and how much to erase.

She then rinsed them with water. We allowed them to dry for about thirty minutes before varnishing.

We tied strings on the stems of each and set up a drying rack.

Mary brushed on the varnish,

and hung them outside to dry. After about an hour, I applied a second layer of varnish.

Here is a before and after photo of the varnished gourds. I love how the varnish brings out the mottling.

Here is my collection of bottle gourds. They are a pleasure to own and behold.

To make a birdhouse, Mary drilled a 1.5-inch entrance hole into the base of the gourd’s neck, two drainage holes on the bottom, and two tiny holes at the top used to run a wire for hanging purposes.

Meanwhile, the Thanksgiving holiday is upon us!

Here are some tried and true recipes to cook for your guests while they visit. The desserts, named for family and friends, are heavenly.  May I suggest a Seventies breakfast favorite, Mom’s Monkey Bread, for a crowd-pleasing sweet treat?

 

 

 

If you are feeding people dinner on the evenings before and after Thanksgiving, consider these crowd pleasers. The Buffalo Chicken Chili is the most popular entrée on the blog and is a quick and easy one-pot meal to make. Bruce’s Gumbo is the most deliciously flavored “stew” you will ever eat. Yes, I speak in superlatives. Be sure to save the turkey carcass to make broth for the gumbo. If you want to sit around the dinner table and listen to people say, “This is good,” try this Italian favorite, Baked Ziti with Eggplant. Some people eliminate the eggplant and add ground beef. Either way, I love the way it drips with mozzarella.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Roasted Rosemary Sweet Potatoes

Every Saturday morning, my husband, the dog and I head over to Richland Farmers Market, a happening and energetic place to shop in Nashville for organic vegetables and locally made food products. I am drawn to this market by both the variety of vegetables offered and the enthusiastic farmers, bakers, butchers, beekeepers, and fromagers who show up every weekend.

Last week, while visiting Corner Spring Farm’s booth, owner Marianne Cameron suggested I try the Japanese sweet potatoes she and her husband had grown. She told me they had a creamy and moist interior when cooked. The potatoes are oblong and have smudgy-red skin and white flesh.

I roasted them with an equal amount of regular sweet potatoes, chopped rosemary, salt, garlic pepper, and olive oil. Marianne was right, the interior of the Japanese potatoes was soooo creamy and delicious. I couldn’t get over the texture. I served them for dinner with Mom’s Meatloaf and blanched thick and meaty green beans — my favorite kind of dinner.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients
1 pound sweet potatoes, unpeeled
1 pound Japanese sweet potatoes, unpeeled
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon McCormick’s California Style Garlic Pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions
Preheat oven to 425º

Scrub potatoes. Do not peel. Cut into 1½-in chunks. Arrange on a parchment-lined rimmed, sheet pan. Strip rosemary leaves from stems and chop. Sprinkle over potatoes. Add olive oil, salt, and garlic pepper. Toss ingredients together until well blended. Roast for 45 minutes on the middle rack of oven.

The Japanese sweet potatoes were so yummy, I went to Whole Foods to look for another popular variety I had been reading about, Stokes Purple Sweet Potatoes. I thought, together, the color combo would be exciting. Stokes Purples look like Japanese sweet potatoes on the outside, but the interior is solid purple. I cooked them using the same recipe as above. The colors were beautiful.

Sadly, I wasn’t as wild about the flavor of the roasted Stokes Purples. With the remaining three pounds of purple potatoes I had bought, I had another idea: make mashed purple sweet potatoes!

They were delicious. I used my recipe for Old-Fashioned Mashed Potatoes, substituting the Stokes Purples for the all-purpose potatoes. The mashed sweet potatoes were sweet, buttery, creamy, and eye-poppingly colorful and would sure look different on the Thanksgiving Day table! Speaking of which, Thanksgiving is eleven days away. Take a look at the list of recipes I’ve put together here!

Today is the fourth anniversary of Judy’s Chickens! It all started here!

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Remember to always check this website for updated versions of a recipe.  

© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.