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.