Comfort Casserole: Ham and Cheese Kugel
If you want comfort in a casserole dish, turn to a kugel. Yes, I know, kugels are often sweet, but before cooks added loads of sugar to them, kugels were savory. Kugels originated among the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe and are baked casseroles composed usually of noodles, potatoes, or matzah and eggs and fat. Kugels are traditional at Jewish holidays and events. The kugel I'm offering you today is NOT a Jewish dish. It does include some of the traditional ingredients--egg noodles and cottage cheese--but it's missing the usual butter. Not to worry. The kugel is plenty rich from a generous amount of cheese. So, why add pork, specifically ham to a kugel? The ham adds a smokey flavor to the savory casserole, but, if you'd like, you can substitute turkey ham to avoid the pork. Both are good and will add wonderful flavor to the dish. This version of kugel is quick to prepare and has a short list of ingredients. You can have it in the oven in minutes rather than hours. Definite comfort food!
Ham and Cheese Kugel -- Serves 4+
8 ounces of egg noodles (medium/wide)
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2-3 cups of chopped, cooked ham
1 1/2 - 2 cups of Monterey-Jack cheese, divided
1 cup of low-fat cottage cheese (1percent is fine)
1 cup of low-fat milk
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese
Chopped green onions, optional
Heat 4 cups of water in the microwave until boiling and add the noodles, submerging them in the water as much as possible. Let them sit in the hot water for about 5 minutes, then drain the noodles. Spritz a large casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the onion on the bottom of the casserole dish and microwave it for about a minute or until it has softened. Add the drained noodles, the ham, and half the cheese to the dish with the onion and mix everything well. In the now empty bowl you used to soak the noodles, mix together well the cottage cheese, milk, eggs, pepper, and Parmesan. Stir the wet mixture into the noodle mixture. Smooth the top of the noodle mixture out evenly and sprinkle the green onions (if you're using them) and the remaining cheese over the top of the noodles. Bake the kugel for about 45 minutes or until firm and golden brown. Let the kugel cool for at least 10 minutes for easier serving.