Step Half (featuring Noodle Kugel)

The day that I decided to get sober is still kind of a mystery to me.  I mean, I was so damaged from the previous night’s (month’s… year’s…) debauchery that I could barely see straight.  My dad called in the morning and struggled to tell me how worried he had become.  I cried and screamed and walked like a crazy person through the streets of New York asking myself how I had gotten so out of control.

Then I did the strangest thing of all…

I made a kugel.

I don’t know how the idea of a Jewish noodle pudding got into my head, but somehow it became the backbone of my first month or two of sobriety.  I no longer cared about calories or health issues, I just needed to fill the hole that had been left when I took the booze away.  Kugel filled it.  It’s not like kugel was a regular item in my kitchen either.  I had maybe made one or two kugels in my life.  But when I got sober, I walked to the store like a zombie; filling my basket with wide egg noodles, sour cream, cottage cheese, etc.

During that first couple of weeks, I bet I made five kugels.  It just felt right.  Whenever I had a moment of uncertainty- that terrifying new feeling of “What am I going to do with myself now?”- I just put more water on for the next batch of noodles.  It’s crazy I know, but when people ask me how I got sober, I always want to respond honestly, “I made kugel”.  Before I dealt with reality, before I started talking it out, before anything else: I made kugel.  I call it “step half”.


This past week has been a tough one.  My dog Dexter has been shlumping along at half speed for the past month or two and the vet discovered that he was incredibly anemic and then found a tumor on his spleen.  Dexter has been with me through thick and thin.  He has been my only companion for some of the toughest moments in my life.  His presence makes me present.  I would do anything for him.


When the doctor told me that my best friend’s time is winding down, I felt as though a bell jar had lowered over me.  Numbness, fear, sadness, anger pumped through my system like a transfusion of bewilderment.  When the vet told me Dex would be spending the night alone in the hospital, my zombie brain leaped into a mode it had not been in for 4 ½ years.  Off to the supermarket I trod for wide egg noodles, sour cream, cottage cheese, eggs, butter…

Kugel doesn’t make it all better but it’s just the right combination of sweet, carby, eggy, creamy goodness to distract from the darkest of moments.  Dexter is home now, looking better than he has in months.  We are savoring every second we have together for as long as we have.  I’m hoping that I don’t need to make another kugel any time soon- but it’s nice to know my zombie brain knows how.

Now, I don’t put raisins in my kugel because I think the extra sweetness is unnecessary.  I know this is sacrilege to some – so I say do as you will.  You would add ½ to ¾ cup of raisins to the mix.


Noodle Kugel

Noodle Kugel
Noodle Kugel


  • 12 ounces (1 package) wide egg noodles
  • 16 ounces small curd cottage cheese
  • 16 ounces sour cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 6 eggs, whipped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Bring large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and parboil the noodles for about 5 minutes.  Drain.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the cottage cheese, sour cream, sugar, salt and melted butter.  Add the whipped eggs, vanilla and cinnamon.  Stir in the noodles and then pour mixture into a 13 x 9 inch baking dish.  Bake for 40 minutes, then cover with foil and bake an additional 20 minutes.
  4. Serve warm or at room temperature.



19 thoughts on “Step Half (featuring Noodle Kugel)”

  • You had me at “I don’t put raisins in my kugel”. Nor do I. Dried sour cherries, however, get added to my kugel now and then. Good.

  • ugh. i know this experience well. i cannot think of anything more sad than battling with our familiars illnesses. it is a blessing,is it not,to have some THING to go to when this time in our lives comes about. i feel you. i feel your love for your dexter. may all be peaceful and happy.

    • Judith,
      The response to this post has been overwhelming as it strikes a familiar chord with almost everyone. This common ground is like a blanket I can wrap myself in when the worst moments hit and I am forever grateful for everyone who has reached out. Thank you so much.

  • You already know how I feel about your posts from our short FB chat: genuine…

    I can’t wait to make this after I whip up your creamed spinach this week. Calories are good!

    Thanks for sharing.

  • I can attest to these excellent “KUGELS”!!!! I’m not sure you remember Alison–but you made these for your mom and dad and I was lucky to be part of the “Feast”. My very first “Kugel” exposure and I vividly remember I couldn’t get enough of it. And just to remind everybody “Kugel” is not equal “Kugel”!!! I’m so excited that you are sharing this recipe with us. Molto Grazie!!! Can’t wait to your next blog……

    PS: I still owe you my Veg. Burger recipe. I’ll send it to you soon.

    • Caroline,
      I had completely forgotten that I had made kugel for everyone that year. Ah, kugels of my past. I’m thrilled to share the recipe with you because it’s an important one for the right time (and clients).
      Please share my blog with your other chef friends. I’m trying to spread the word any way I can.
      More delishisness coming soon!

    • Ankeen,
      We’re appreciating every moment we have with him, and all of our friends and family for that matter. Sometimes an illness is the wake up call you needed.
      Thanks for the input!

  • Although not exactly sure how I stumbled onto your blog (probably via Culinary Wasteland), I wanted to leave a comment simply because your writing is refreshingly honest, smart, and engaging. Your story is a “positive” example of how food and our inner-most selves are directly connected.

    I’m a boy from the south, so Kugel was never part of any local definition of comfort food. To be honest, I’ve probably never even tasted the real thing. Did eat something called Budinca de Macaroane once that was made with egg noodles and sweet custard.

    Just by reading your recipe, I can tell that it follows my rubric for good food: no more ingredients, and no more steps in preparation than neccesary. I’m planning to make one tonight!

    Perhaps you’d enjoy reading my blog: “Possibly Meaningful.” Not much there, but a place for me to share with folks like you.

    • Marco,
      Thank you so much for your kind words. Yes, I am a big fan of letting the true colors of the food I cook shine through.
      I checked out your blog and love your writing style too! Really good stuff.
      Thanks for the support. Please check out some of my other posts and subscribe to the email feed if you’d like updates right to your inbox.

  • I love you so much. you are an amazing human being. you have so many gifts, it’s almost unfair! I am so pleased the smiling dex is home again. mmmmm kugel.

    • Thank you angel. My little one is a tough boy. We’re fighting through these days together.
      See you soon,

  • Allison! Wonderful!!!!! Thanks for this(!) and for adding new phrases to my lexicon, ie: “if you keep this up, I’ll have to go kugel.” Or “uh-oh, I feel a kugel coming.” GREAT generous writing, Alison! And big big hugs to Dexter, who we love from afar.

    • JoAnn,
      You can never underestimate the importance of a great kugel! I’m thrilled you liked the post. Thank you so much. I’ll let Dex know you’re pulling for him.
      Love to you and Jim.

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