(A Slightly Improvisational Take on an Old Standard)

My Amaretto Noodle Kugel, baked fresh last night.


Fat free, or not fat free? That is the question. 

In an effort to meld traditional Jewish cooking with contemporary health concepts, I've been trying to develop a low-fat, cholesterol-free kugel for years. I've used various combinations of yolk-free noodles, nonfat sour cream, fat-free cottage cheese, artificial sweeteners, and Egg Beaters instead of actual fresh eggs. Not to mention countless I can believe it's not butter substitutes, from Smart Balance to Benecol. And you know what? It's just not worth it.

My husband may want to watch his weight and triglycerides, but he clearly doesn't enjoy my health-conscious concoctions. Enjoy them? He won't even put them in his mouth! If I go to the trouble to make two varieties - one lead-free for him, then high-test for everyone else - he invariably fills up only on the real stuff. The low-test goes from buffet table to fridge, then ends up in the garbage can. (Unfortunately, you can't recycle kugel.)

In the age of Lipitor, he'd just as soon enjoy himself. So I'd just as soon save the time.

Thus, I've hit upon a compromise. You may take the high road, but I take the low road whenever possible, choosing reduced (rather than non) fat sour cream and cottage cheese, plus real eggs, sugar and honest to G-d butter. (Low-fat saves on calories somewhat. But nonfat has no flavor.) And let's face it, holidays are no time for self-denial and obsessing about girth. Enjoy yourself today, and relish all that life has to offer... for tomorrow we diet.

1 12-ounce bag wide noodles (I usually use yolk-free)
6 large eggs
1 pint reduced fat sour cream
1 pint low-fat cottage cheese
1 stick (4 oz.) butter or margerine
1/2 cup sugar
6 Tbsp. Amaretto (or other almond-flavored liqueur) or 2 teaspoons vanilla
Pinch of salt
1 cup raisins (optional)
1 teaspoon cinnamon or tablespoon of cinnamon sugar
½ cup slivered almonds
1 extra Tablespoon butter

Cooking spray

Boil noodles for about 7 minutes. Drain thoroughly and allow to cool slightly.

Melt butter or margerine and allow to cool. Beat eggs and stir in sour cream, cottage cheese, sugar, margerine, Amaretto and salt. Mix or blend until smooth. Sir in raisins, if desired. (And if you don't desire them, put ‘em in anyway. Seriously! They add color, texture and fiber. And what's a kugel without raisins?)

Coat casserole dish or 13 x 9 inch baking pan with cooking spray. Add noodles to dish, pour in the rest of the mixture, and stir gently until noodles are evenly distributed. Sprinkle top lightly with cinnamon or cinnamon sugar. Scatter slivered almonds evenly across the top and dot with butter.  Let sit for one hour, if possible.

Bake in 350 degree oven for one hour or until custard is set. Serve warm.
NOTE: Don't worry, the alcohol will bake off.... pretty much. I think. Also, to be honest, this doesn't have a strong flavor of almonds. If you want that, add some almond flavoring... or REALLY pour on the hooch!