FILED IN: Parenting

Bringing Ourselves To The Table

Carrot kugel tastes great with Thanksgiving turkey – and ham. Who knew?

The first year my kids and I shared Thanksgiving with some of our closest friends who are not Jewish like us, it was time to start a new family tradition. In an effort to make it a combined family holiday instead of one where we were the visitors, I knew I wanted to do more than simply clear the table and bring an appetizer. I realized that all my favorite dishes were traditional Jewish foods. So I chose one that was Thanksgiving-ish (in color at least) and generic enough to go with an elaborate spread that contained green bean casserole, candied yams and some insanely delicious rice dish that is my friend’s claim to fame.

Carrot kugel.

Kugel is usually a noodle pudding – sometimes sweet, sometimes savory. But this kugel has no noodles and is very easy to make with even little kids. And that was the point — involving everyone so that my kids and I took ownership of a favorite holiday, even though it wasn’t being celebrated under our roof. Most years my family of three brings my parents and/or friends along to the Thanksgiving feast but knowing that we contribute a special, now anticipated dish is one way it makes it ours.

It is true that the first year we placed the carrot kugel on the buffet we were nervous, yet steadfast in our trust in its deliciousness. The fact that someone put butter on it made us take a step back, but this kugel does come out looking more like a bread or a cake than your run-of-the-mill noodle kugel. Plus, we were the ones adding ethnicity to the day – who were we to say how someone digested it?

And I must say, this carrot kugel tastes mighty good with a pat of butter. But then again, what doesn’t?

My daughter is a burgeoning baker so she’s always in charge of making a dessert. If we show up for Thanksgiving (or Easter or Fourth of July) without an ice cream cake or fruit tarts or brownies or Pilgrim cookies made by her hand, everyone is disappointed.

In a house where meat (or in this case turkey) and potatoes are the mainstay, I was also brave one year when I brought a goat cheese appetizer — but it was a hit. Forever known as “that goat cheese appetizer thing” it is another one of my own epicurean favorites that has enabled others to cross the lines of their traditional taste buds.

It’s important to me that my kids experience holidays in their own home with their own fancy holiday plates and the table dressed up with lots of silver and glassware. And they do… on all the Jewish holy days and festivals when we have family and friends bring themselves to our table, making a holiday once again – not mine or yours – but ours.
Carrot Kugel That Doesn’t Grate On Your Nerves

Serves 12-16 unless you’re Jewish or Italian, then it serves 6
4 jars babyfood carrots
1/2 cup canola oil
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients well, making sure there are no lumps. Pour into 9×13-inch pan and bake for 1 hour. Cool on rack.

This is delicious warm or at room temperature, and yes, even with butter.
That Goat Cheese Appetizer Thing

1 sliced long French baguette
Goat cheese crumbles – or knock yourself out and crumble it yourself
Walnut halves

Lay baguette slices on cookie sheet side by side, top each slice with goat cheese crumbles, a walnut half and some fresh or dried rosemary. Pop into a 350 degree oven until the bread is slightly browned and the cheese is shiny, which means it has softened as it doesn’t really melt. Don’t let those walnuts burn! When it’s out of the oven, warm honey in the microwave and drizzle over each piece liberally.

It’s good right out of the oven, warm or room temperature. Or the next morning for breakfast.