Saturday, December 28, 2013

Kale Bouquet from My Garden to Yours

Since some of the snow melted today and it was in the 50's, I decided to walk back to my garden to check out my flowering kale. On a nice day like today, I pick a bouquet and freeze it for later use. I always have kale available in my front garden for those times I do not wish to walk in the deep snow to the garden in my backyard.

Below are some photographs of the kale from garden to packaging for the freezer. One need not cut the kale, as once frozen, I merely squeeze it to break it up in as small pieces as I need for any recipe, or to sprinkle into soups, chili, etc.

I picked a bouquet beautiful enough for my dining room table, but the goal was to wash it, dry it a bit on a clean kitchen towel, and get it into freezer bags and into the freezer. Yes, I do nibble some tasty flowering kale as I process it!

If I have time, I run out and pick fresh kale for what I am cooking, but if I am short on time or it is too dark in the winter evening to venture in the backyard, I pick it from my front flower beds or use my frozen kale -- clean and ready for any recipe that calls for spinach. Our favorite is putting kale in smoothies which we have been doing for 1 1/2 years now! Drink up, it is a very healthy drink and you will not taste the kale in a banana, peach, blueberry, cherry, or strawberry smoothie -- the colors can be unusual, but there is nothing like that gorgeous green color in a banana, almond milk, kale drink!

Not Your Grandmother's Traditional Kugel

I decided to make one of my favorites, noodle kugel, but when I checked my raisins, they were clumped together in one big rock! I did not want to add sugar to the recipe, as thought the recipe might be sweet enough using ingredients I already had on hand. Since my husband is allergic to large amounts of dairy, yet I wanted some dairy in my kugel, I thought, "What if I try making kugel substituting nonfat Greek Yogurt and my banana puree for the dairy and sugar in a traditional kugel recipe?" Thus, I would be cutting the traditional amount of diary in a diary noodle kugel by 1/2 and he might tolerate it.

Above you can see the result, my husband and I could not stop eating it! I had pureed two large very sweet bananas until completely smooth.

Since my husband and I are both now on a low fat diet, I shared one tablespoon of butter for greasing my corningware casserole dish and the remainder of the single tablespoon went into my bowl of drained hot noodles.

Herein is the recipe for my low-fat, no sugar added, cranberry noodle kugle:

1 tablespoon of butter
1/2 pound of noodles --cooked and drained well
1 cup of pureed banana (processed to a smooth consistency like that of sour cream, 2 large bananas)
1 cup of plain nonfat Greek Yogurt
1 large flavorful apple diced into tiny pieces in my Ninja processor
2 eggs beaten
1-2 cups of Craisins (sweet, dried cranberries)
1 teaspoon cinnamon

I mixed the above ingredients in the order listed into my drained noodles, placed in a greased
corning ware oven pan, and baked at 350 F for about 40 minutes.

Enjoy! I love using plain nonfat Greek yogurt as almost always have some in my refrigerator.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Fresh Cranberry Relish

A favorite fresh cranberry relish made this time of year includes a bag of washed cranberries, an entire apple cored (not peeled) and a peeled orange. The relish made this way needs much sugar. To make the relish sweet without using sugar, I add a very ripe banana to the mixture and process in my small food processor per the pictures below.

I also process very ripe bananas by themselves and create a smooth, creamy mixture, which I use instead of sugar in recipes including pumpkin pie. Since granulated sugar turns into a liquid on baking,
adding the banana mixture does not add much liquid to a recipe, but I generally count the banana mixture both as a sugar and as a liquid, lowering another liquid in the recipe.

Cranberry relish sweetened only with banana

If the bananas are small, I will use two bananas, as the recipe is not sweet enough for us unless the banana is a very ripe, large banana.

When I have extra ripe bananas, I process a few to form a sweet, creamy liquid which I substitute for granulated sugar in many recipes.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Noodle Kugel

I love having this blog as it is easier for me to find a recipe herein than in any cookbook.

There are many variations on noodle kugel. For those who are familiar with bread pudding, I sometimes think the best way to explain a noodle kugel is that it is something like a bread pudding,
but made with noodles instead of bread.

I am a noodle kugel lover, I love any kind of noodle kugel, but a most wonderful one was made by my new friend in Tulsa. This kugel is so delicious, I took some from Tulsa to Austin in my carry-on baggage. My niece in Austin, Texas, and I ate this wonderful noodle kugel for breakfast the next day -- kugel holds well, can be eaten warm or cold.

I can not promise that kugel will pass TSA per every flight, but the TSA rules say that cakes are allowed, and kugel is not a liquid, but a solid. It is cut in slices, usually squares. Trust me, the kugel recipe below is worth including in your carry-on luggage!

When I make it, I will include a photograph. I was asked if "yogurt" could be substituted for the cottage cheese and sour cream? It would not be traditional, but I would think that Greek Yogurt would work, but I have not actually tried substituting. I plan on making this recipe this week and will also include variations. Per those allergic to dairy, the dairy products can be totally eliminated from the recipe and a non-dairy margarine can be used. The final product will be more dense.

The two Granny Smith apples, peeled and grated, are unique to this kugel recipe and add something special. For those who can not eat apples or raisins, mandarin oranges may be substituted for the apples and the raisins, but I personally prefer the recipe below, sent to me by my new friend in Tulsa:

1/2 lb. noodles (broad noodles are traditional, but I have seen kugel made with all widths)
I stick butter  (could use marg. I like butter)
1/4 cup white sugar (I have used brown sugar for a darker colored kugel, but take care for those   allergic to molasses)
1/2 cup golden raisins (golden raisins are dark raisins which have been lightened, any raisin works)
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and grated
1 cup cottage cheese
1cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Cook noodles, drain and put immediately into a large bowl, which contains the butter. Mix butter and hot noodles. Add sugar and stir again. Add 2 peeled and grated apples. Stir. Add sour cream and cottage cheese. Stir.  Beat 2 eggs lightly, add  the vanilla to the eggs. Stir eggs and vanilla together.
Lastly, pour the eggs & vanilla into the noodle mixture and stir it all well.
Pour mixture into buttered 13x9 Pyrex pan and bake (uncovered ) for 35-38minutes. Cool, cover and refrigerate.
Can be made a day or two ahead of time. When cold, slice in desirable-size pieces, warm slightly and serve.
Travels great!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Spinach Balls

I love spinach balls as can make them ahead and freeze them for later use. The spinach ball recipe that I use is based on the one in the cookbook, Beginning Again. One of these days, I will try the recipe using kale instead of spinach.

I recently visited a new friend in Tulsa, who not only made my favorite foods, from eggplant lasagna to
a variation of my spinach ball recipe, to a fabulous noodle kugel, but we have the same kitchen cabinets, the same kitchen table (not the same as the cabinets), and some of our other furniture is exactly the same! How this is possible is beyond me? I would not have believed it had I not experienced it in person. I feel sorry for the years we lost not knowing each other, but better now than never!

My new friend served a modified version of the spinach ball recipe in a casserole -- it tasted so familiar, yet since I had not made spinach balls in a few years, and when I make them I make a huge batch for last minute company, it took me a few moments to recognize one of my favorite ways to prepare and eat spinach.

I had to modify the spinach ball recipe below for my husband, but herein is the original spinach ball recipe with a slight variation from the recipe in the cookbook, Beginning Again.

2 packages frozen chopped spinach (when I try this with kale, I will use the kale I freeze and crumble)
2 cups Pepperidge Farm Crushed Herb Stuffing Mix (I have never tried it with another mix)
6 eggs beaten (for a casserole, it is possible that the eggs can be deleted, but the eggs helps the ball shape)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (I use 1 cup for company, as I love cheese, but for my husband, I must omit the cheese)
3/4 cup softened butter (I reduce this to 1/2 cup for my husband, and they come out great -- I think that 3/4 cup makes them too greasy for my family's taste as many of our foods are low fat.)

1/2 cup finely chopped onion, I rarely add onion but may try it when I substitute kale for the spinach.
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt (I never use salt, I love garlic powder, but do not use garlic in this recipe as the stuffing mix is "herbed," and this is one of the few recipes I do not want too garlicky).

1. Cook the spinach and drain well == I tear off the paper around the box and microwave it in the
oven, then I squeeze out the all the spinach juice while the spinach is still in the white cardboard box,
I squeeze the box until no more spinach juice exudes.
2. Mix the remaining ingredients with the spinach
3. Shape in to the size of walnuts and place on a greased baking sheet.
4. Freeze the balls until hard and then place them in a plastic storage bag.
5. When ready to bake, no defrosting is necessary, place in preheated oven for 20 minutes at 350 F.

Enjoy, I love to have spinach balls on hand in the freezer for unexpected company!

Kale in December

I promised some pictures of my flowering kale and here it is as it looks today, December 23, 2013. The snow melted and we may get more snow this week. The kale is protected under the snow and when we finish using the kale in our front flower bed, I will walk to the garden and pick more. The flowering kale looks beautiful this time of year when there is nothing in bloom outside in Cleveland, Ohio. Per the Italian Heirloom Kale, I harvested leaves from the bottom and ended up with a very tall plant!

The pinks and purples in the flowering kale are beautiful, and our local market sells this same flowering kale for $2.99 per pound and up! If you plant flowering kale in your garden, make sure it has not been treated, sprayed to be used only as a flower. I buy the flowering kale in the spring when I plant my early vegetables and the tiny sprouts stay green most of the summer, turning their gorgeous purple and pink after the first cold days and frost.

Kale is much healthier than spinach and is promoted in various diets, it flies off the shelves here in Cleveland, but my favorite is the Italian Heirloom, and then the flowering kale. Each kale tastes
different, and I avoid the varieties that have any bitterness.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Growing Kale in Your Garden

Some of the heirloom kale varieties found in organic grocery stores may be a bit pricey, but there is a very simple solution -- grow your favorite kale in your garden!

One may have to do a bit of testing to see which kale variety one prefers and which one grows best (without any of that slight bitter taste) in your area.

Kale loves cool weather, but mine is doing great this summer --- my favorite was flowering kale, until I planted an Italian heirloom kale. I have not noticed any bitterness in our summer heat per the Italian heirloom, but have noticed a slight bitter taste (which disappears after the first frost) in my flowering kale, which is growing very fast and actually started to flower (I picked the flowers off -- the flowers look very much like the ones on related species -- the yellowish flowers on thin stems).

Each day I pick the largest leaves of the Italian heirloom, and the kale continues to grow. I know that the flowering kale will survive until almost January, 2014, under the snow and will be a welcome treat.
I do not know if the Italian heirloom will survive the winter as it is very tall and will probably not be protected by the snows.

My husband and I have a "kale" smoothie almost every evening using the "Italian" heirloom kale.
We strip the leaves from the long stem, add it to the blender set on ice-crushing, add a banana and sometimes whatever berries we might have in the house, and almond milk (my husband is allergic to
dairy), add a few ice cubes sometimes and blend to perfection -- photos to follow. Sometimes
we use bananas we have previously frozen and skip the ice.

Please share any and all recipes for kale on this blog -- keep in touch as photographs are to follow!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Kale Chips

Kale chips are easy to make and take only 10 minutes to bake in the oven.

To make the chips, place some aluminum foil on a cookie sheet and spray the foil with cooking spray.

Wash the kale and strip it from the stems -- do not use the stems for making chips as they are tough and need a longer cooking time, such as in a homemade soup.

Tear the kale into pieces and place on the sprayed aluminum foil. Bake at 350 F for 10 minutes, but watch the kale as just a few minutes longer and the kale will turn brown and be crumbly not crispy!

Enjoy a healthy snack alternative!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

For St. Patrick's Day

A beautiful light green smoothie for everyone on St. Patrick's Day is so easy to make and healthy. 


A few leaves of Kale (washed and torn into pieces)
Banana (1 medium ripe)
Rice, Soy, or Almond Milk (1 cup)

Place all the ingredients in a blender on the highest setting and blend until smooth!


Sunday, January 6, 2013

New Year's Pretzels of the Past

Baking pretzels for the New Year has been a tradition in our family as it was in my mother's family. It is incredible how much better the pretzels look when my mother was at our house to share them with us, compared to when I made them alone, this lonely New Year's Eve without her.

I will never forget her incredibly beautiful smile when we made and shared New Year's pretzels each year.

If you share a tradition with your mother, or even if you don't, enjoy every moment with your Mom,  and take pictures!


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Years Pretzels - Happy New Year 2013!


A family tradition in some parts of Germany is the baking of New Year's pretzels. The pretzels are big, soft on the inside, and chewy on the outside. Some make them a bit sweet and frost them, but the tradition in our family, passed down to me by my mother, Louise, is to make them plain with a bit of egg wash and only enough sugar to make sure the yeast is proofing (alive). The pretzel is more like the big pretzels sold by vendors than the small crunchy pretzels sold in bags. My mother liked the pretzel to have some crunchiness on the bottom.

Below is my modified recipe for those who may not eat dairy and fat as it includes milk and butter, followed by a more traditional recipe. My "no fat, no dairy" pretzels would look prettier if I would brush them with an egg wash, but we do not mind that they do not have the traditional shiny coating as I brush them with a bit of Rice Milk.

I use White Whole Wheat flour today, but in years past I used regular unbleached flour. I have never made them with regular Whole Wheat flour. If I were using only regular Whole Wheat Flour, I would mix the whole wheat with the unbleached at about 50-50.

                                      No Fat, No Dairy Pretzels 

Modified recipe for the above two large pretzels:

1 cup lukewarm Rice Milk (I am sure Almond, Soy milk or water would work too) (250 ml)
2 teaspoons yeast (one packet of yeast is fine at 2 1/4 tsp)
2 teaspoons sugar

I always use the same amount of sugar as yeast, but some prefer "sweet" pretzels and use as much as 1/3 cup sugar (50-60 grams). We prefer our pretzels not to be sweet. I mix the above and allow it to sit about 10 minutes to make sure the mixture smells yeasty and that I see some bubbles after a few minutes, to prove to me that the yeast is alive. I do not use metal utensils and never use a metal bowl when baking with yeast.

Beat one egg and add it to the above yeast mixture
3-4 cups of flour (500 grams) (add a bit at a time until the dough is workable)

Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes and place in a covered bowl to proof until it doubles in height.

After the first proofing, form the dough into a long roll and into a pretzel shape on a greased baking sheet (I use a spray like PAM on my baking sheets, as hate to have the baked dough stick to the sheet and ruin the shape of the pretzels. Parchment paper is good too, but spray the baking sheet before putting down the parchment or the parchment paper might get into the pretzel dough. The spray holds the parchment paper on to the sheet and keeps it from getting into the pretzel).

Let the formed pretzel proof about another hour, brush with Rice Milk and bake for about 30 minutes in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F. (Brushing with an egg yolk makes the most beautiful shiny crust, but my pretzels pictured were brushed only with a bit of Rice Milk).

I proof all of my yeast products in my cold oven as the area has no drafts and is out of the way.

Below is a sweeter and a bit softer recipe in which the dough is more like a Challah (egg) bread,
which is traditional:

1 cup milk (250 ml)
2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast (1 package)
4 Tablespoons melted butter (60 grams)
1/3 cup sugar (50-60 grams)  (this is a lot of sugar for my family and all but 2 tsp can be omitted)

1 egg beaten 
Zest of one lemon
3-4 cups of flour (500 grams) (add a bit at a time until the dough is workable)

1 egg yolk for brushing the pretzels before baking.

In this recipe, dissolve the yeast in the cup of milk and add 2 teaspoons of the total sugar and set
aside for about 15 minutes to make sure the yeast is alive. Add the melted butter being careful not
too add a hot liquid and kill the yeast, sugar, and flour and knead for about 10 minutes as in the
no fat recipe.

Proof the dough twice as in the no fat, no dairy recipe, and brush the pretzel with the egg yolk before placing it in the oven. The egg wash gives this pretzel the most beautiful shiny coat.

I have seen the pretzel braided, reminiscent of a Challah (egg) bread, and shaped in the pretzel shape.

What fascinates me is that Challah bread is baked in a round shape for the Jewish New Year and the New Year's Pretzel is a similar type dough, but eaten for the calendar New Year.

From what I have read, the New Year's pretzel is traditional in the county of Baden, in Bavaria, and in the city of my birth, Karlsruhe, Germany, it is not known in all of Germany!

Thus, although my parents were raised in different faiths as children, the same type of dough was traditional for their respective New Year's celebration! I don't know if anyone has ever made this connection!

The pretzels are traditionally eaten for breakfast on New Year's day which in our house is about one minute into the New Year.

Enjoy the pretzels and as the tile says "Let it Snow." My sweet niece who lives in Texas sent the tile mentioning her baby girl, my great-niece!