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Sunday, December 10, 2017

May the Elf Be with You

With a nod to the new Star Wars movie in our title this week, we have three dishes to talk about as we steamroll ahead into the holidays. Two are from the Kathy Hester Slow Cooking for Two cookbook—‘ceptin’ for one of the recipes, we doubled and used our big ole Crockpot.

The other is from a site called Oh My Veggies. And here we were thinkin’ that we’d not been that busy in the Kinky Elfery Kitchen this week!
We have had above average temperatures damn near all of December so getting into the soup mentality has been a struggle. That bein’ said, we always like soup so we pretended it was cold and made some anyway. Some for ourowns-elfs and some to share. We DID have promise of cooler/cold weather in the near future, so that just supported our kitchen and soup activity. By the way, that promise of cooler/cold weather came true in the form of THIS on Friday mornin’.
This is our mannequin, Mail Oder Annie, in the wee hours of Friday morning watching it snow! Can’t you see how excited she is?! If you check the Facebook page of anyone you know from Mississippi, Texas, Alabama and Louisiana, you will see nothing short of a billion pictures and videos. A December snow in the Deep South hardly ever occurs, so we were snappin’ pictures all day. Now, let’s get on with the cookin’. Our first recipe, which we have prepared before, is the delicious and super EASY Spicy Chickpeas and Grits from Kathy Hester.
It’s her vegan response to Shrimp and Grits, a very popular, though initially thought of as odd, pairing. When we first read this recipe, we didn’t ‘cotton’ on to it but when we looked a bit closer, we thought, “Why not?” Well, it’s fabulous. All you do is gather the ingredients and throw them in your slow cooker/Crockpot, turn it on low and BINGO! about 7 to 8 hours later, you have half of your main dish.
While her recipe includes a slow cooker recipe for the grits, we opted for cooking our grits the old fashioned way…in a pot. And, we used a very special type of grits…Brown Rice Grits. You know, a lot of folks don’t care for grits (bless your hearts) but these are quite lovely. They are grown and milled at Two Brooks Farm in the delta of Mississippi.
These rice grits are non-GMO, pesticide and fungicide free as well as gluten free. The grits most folks are familiar with (or hate) are made from corn or from hominy (corn treated with an alkali). Rice grits from Two Brook Farms comes in both white and brown. We opted for the brown because it’s has the whole grain. Who would have ever thought of Brown Rice Grits!!
The final product is so good! You just plop your grits onto your plate, smother it with the spicy chickpeas and dive in. We also had some slaw and a ‘fish’ filet from Gardein to round our meal out.
I mean, this is so very easy and so very’s worth keeping cans of chickpeas and fire-roasted diced tomatoes and a jar of C
ajun spice around. That’s pretty much it. If you are grits aversive (even after you’ve TRIED the rice grits), try it over brown rice.
Cooler weather always has Your Elf thinkin’ about Chili and Potato/Leek soup. Great for a light dinner or for a warm soothing lunch! So, we opted to cook both to have on hand. First off, we found a really good recipe for Potato/Leek soup at a site we’d not found before called Oh My Veggies. We liked the look/sound of this recipe because it had the word “CHEESY” in it AND it was vegan! So, we had to give it a try.
And, it was so worth it with some ‘adjustments’. In fact, since we doubled the recipe, we were able to share with some friends AND have time for a bowl or two for ours-elfs.
We have to admit that Big Solid is not much of a Potato/Leek soup kinda man—all the more for Your Elf! As for our Chili recipe, we finally settled on the Kathy Hester slow cooker recipe titled Wacky Cincinnati Chili.
We had already decided that this recipe would be doubled and possibly tinkered with a bit, so we pulled out the full size Crockpot and commenced to cookin’. One reason we selected this recipe was that it called for Black (Beluga) Lentils which we just happened to have. Black lentils are very small, we’ll share a picture in a minute…but they are very hardy and can stand up to lengthy cooking. So, here you go.
In the top left corner, you’ll see regular ole brown lentils. These are the ones we are most accustomed to cooking, for sure. In the top right corner, you find French or Puy lentils. These are really great too for being able to tolerate a lengthy cooking time without getting mushy. And, of course, the Black lentils are in the middle. You can get an idea of how small they are. No  matter what color or type, lentils are a staple of vegan cookery. Here’s how we ‘tinkered’ with Kathy’s recipe. We did not go the full route of using spaghetti, so it really does disqualify it from being Cincinnati chili. Please feel free to follow the recipe to the letter! We also removed some of the cooked chili that was not very spicy to send to a friend who is not a fan of spicy stuff. Then we added a half teaspoon of the EXTRA HOT Red Pepper we got at Patel’s grocery…and when it says EXTRA HOT, it means just that! We started to go for a whole teaspoon; had we done that, we are pretty sure you could have heard some rather strong words or loud screams emanating from our house. Nonetheless, that half-teaspoon was just what it needed to give Big Solid and Your Elf that kinda kick we like! We defrosted some frozen vegan corn-sticks we’d made a while back and had us a fine little meal. We also had some Firewalker Hot Sauce on hand, just in case the heat wasn't enough. Y'all this is the BEST hot sauce EVER; lots of heat and lots of flavor!
Friday, we had the pleasure of having lunch with Sandi Herring, RDN, LD. Sandi is the Dietitian with the Ornish Program for Reversal of Heart Disease at St. Dominic Hospital in Jackson MS. We had SO much fun talking how plant-based eating can reverse heart disease and her activities with the Ornish Program that TWO HOURS went by like 5 minutes. We have plans to meet again and see how we can join to promote healthy eating. THANKS SANDI!!
Okey-dokey, friends, we are done for this week’s little bloggery. We always seem to wind up with more to write about than we initially think!
So, again and for always, LOOK for the GOOD, be an EXAMPLE of the GOOD, and ACT for the GOOD as HARD as you can, in as MANY WAYS as you can, EVERY DAY that you can.  Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to YOU ALL! Your Elf.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

My Kingdom for an Elf!

As the holiday rush, spirit, and energy begins to really launch into over-drive, it’s time for Your Elf to join in with some foodie stuffs. We are pretty low-key here in the Kinky Elfery Kitchen, so we don’t get into a lot of holiday bakin’. We used to but want to watch the food intake during these food-centered days. We’ll move on to our cookery for the week in just a second BUT FIRST, we wanted to tell you what fun we had last Tuesday speaking to some fellow Plant-based folks who are part of the Dean Ornish program. The group is called The Cohorts and provide such a great support system for Ornish’ers. For those of you unfamiliar, Dean Ornish has been at the forefront of healthy eating (whole food, plant-based, no oil) for decades. His eating regimen has helped literally thousands of people reclaim their health from cardiac disease.
To be totally frank, when one is told that in order to LIVE, dramatic changes need to be made in their eating habits, it’s not an easy row to hoe. For most folks, it’s a dramatic change in what people eat…going from, most likely, high fat, fast food, high calorie to a plant-based, extremely low fat diet. With so many eating/diet options/fads floating around out there, one can become so over-whelmed as to be completely stopped in their food tracks. With a proven record of reversing heart disease, the Ornish Program remains at the top of the list. So Your Elf was tickled pink to be able to speak to this group and offer some ideas, recipes and resources to help along the way. We’d like to thank Sam Vinson for inviting us and we hope to make a return visit soon. We talked so much the next group using our meeting room had to run us out! And, of course, we forgot to take a picture!
 Ok, so let’s get to cookin’ and eatin’… Last week Your Elf’s ‘Movie-Mate’, Terry Woosley, mentioned this awesome Lemon Lentil and Spinach Soup she’d made. So, since we LOVE soup and especially Lentil, we decided to give it a go!!  Well, we did and OH BOY!! We were Elfishly Delighted!! One of the things Terry said about the soup was that she thought she’d cooked it a bit too long, as the lentils got softer than she preferred. With this information in hand, we opted to use French (or Green) lentils, as they are a bit more hardy and stand up to longer cooking times. We searched the recipes and found one that sounded particularly delicious. It’s by Tori Avey and here’s the link.
Since Your Elf has a tendency to jump the preparation gun and rush into a recipe BEFORE reading through it a couple of times, we REALLY did go through it carefully. First to assure that we DID have all the ingredients on hand, to look at the comments from folks who have prepared it for any tips they may have, and to make sure we understood the cooking order of things. We also determined to tinker with the recipe just a bit by adding some sautéed oyster and shiitake mushrooms as well as a little liquid smoke. But HEY!! We are getting ahead of ours-elfs! After chopping and dicing and all that prep stuffs, we finally got underway by sautéing the onions and carrots in EVOO until they were getting soft, then adding the garlic.
Next up we added some tomato paste, cumin, cayenne (which we doubled), salt and freshly ground black pepper. This was sautéed until the aroma indicated the flavors were really beginning to mesh.
Then the recipe calls for the addition of vegetable stock but, as you know Your Elf, we used The Gentle Chef’s Golden Chikun Bouillon.
(Quick digression:  the chikun bouillon recipe is from Chef Skye Michael’s wonderful meat analog cookbook, Seitan and Beyond. It’s a mix of dry ingredients that are blasted into a powder with a high speed blender and transformed into a wonderful stock/broth.) Also added were the lentils.
This cooked for about 30 minutes on a simmer as the lentils and veggies softened. The soup was taken off the heat, the bay leaves removed.
Using a hand-held blender, the soup is then pureed ‘halfway’, meaning the blending stops when the soup has substance but not totally ‘mushed’ and maintains some texture. Then we added the greens…we used a package of power greens which included spinach, baby kale, baby chard and arugula.
Those cooked down pretty quickly at which time we added the mushrooms in a departure from the recipe! In the Kinky Elfery Kitchen, you can never have too many ‘shrooms.
To this we added the juice of two Meyer Lemons…we love the lemony tang and a bit of liquid smoke. The finished product was quite a lovely, thick, tasty, and healthy soup.
You know, as more and more folks become interested, intrigued and/or otherwise curious about plant-based eating, Your Elf fields more questions about ‘how to become plant-based’ or ‘what do/can you eat’. We are only TOO happy to be a resource for folks as they explore changing the way they eat. For instance, we do NOT cook a wonderful recipe every night. We are just like any other person when it comes to preparing meals, only we DO love to cook. But sometimes, the day slips up on us and when it comes time for dinner/supper, we are standing in the KEK (Kinky Elfery Kitchen), staring into the refrigerator saying, “What are we gonna eat tonight?” There are staples that we keep ALL THE TIME for just such an occasion and Wednesday night was ripe for a ‘throw-together’. We cooked some whole wheat pasta…one of the many pastas in the Elfin Pantry; steamed some broccoli florets, another vegetable we keep always at the ready, cooked some Delight Soy Chicken Nuggets and some Gardein Meatless meatballs, and invaded our stash of sautéed mushrooms. In less than 20 minutes, we had a terrific meal.
Instead of a heavy sauce, we grabbed a couple of lemons and the EVOO and drizzled the dish with that combination. Big Solid added some shredded Daiya cheese and the dish was consumed with gusto. And finally last night, we explored how to replicate our favorite salad from a local favorite restaurant, Anjou. Called the Bistro Salad, the restaurant version has bacon and blue cheese (which they know to NOT put on ours), Hearts of Palm, various greens/lettuces, and avocado slices. We also added the Delight Soy chicken nuggets which we LOVE! Thankfully, Anjou allows us to bring them with us when we dine there.
So, this was really easy to replicate using butter lettuces and topping with Susan Voisin’s wonderful Fat Free Balsamic-Raisin Vinaigrette. To get to the Vinaigrette, scroll down as it’s found at the end of the Salad recipe. It is delicious as are the variations you can try.
So, if you are of a mind to explore eating plant-based, BRAVO!! It’s not as hard as you may think and there are so many easy ways to give it a go that offset many of the challenges. And like we said, we are here to help as well. We aren’t credentialed or licensed, but we do know a thing or two we can pass on to help you along the way. And it appears we’ve come to the end of yet another week and as the holiday crush continues to build, keep in mind the following and take every opportunity to practice it. LOOK for the GOOD, be an EXAMPLE of the GOOD, and ACT for the GOOD as HARD as you can, in as MANY WAYS as you can, EVERY DAY that you can.  Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to YOU ALL!

Your Elf

Sunday, November 26, 2017

How The Elf Stole Christmas

With apologies to Dr. Seuss, we just couldn't resist. Well, we hope that Your Elf still knows how to even WRITE a blog after this imposed hiatus. We STILL don’t have closure on the kitchen but have sucked it up and moved ahead in hopes that we will find someone to patch up and finish up what was left undone. We had a MAGNIFICENT Thanksgiving and managed to put together a vegan feast (of sorts) to take to our BFFs, the Dees, on Thanksgiving Day. From left to right, Mary Evelyn, Jesse, Your Elf, and Big Solid.
We found the majority of our recipes on Facebook via the site called Delish and one from of our favorite Plant-based cooker people, Kathy Hester. So now that we are back in the Kinky Elfery Kitchen saddle, let’s get on with it!!
First off, we made a dish we saw on Delish called Cauliflower Stuffing…now anyone who lives below the Mason-Dixon line NEVER says STUFFING (and if we did, it would be ‘STUFFIN’). While we are not into the low-carb trend, we do like cauliflower and all the cool things that one can do with it. So, this was particularly appealing.
A head’s up, you do have to endure a commercial before the recipe video plays. We prepped all our veggies the night before so we wouldn’t be all wrought up with too much to do in one day. And then we commenced to cookin’. First off, we busted out our NEW Cusinart Food Processor to help chop our cauliflower.
We had chopped a combination of shiitake and oyster mushrooms the night before. What  you see here is just a BIG OLE Pan of mushrooms to be sautéed and frozen for future use…we’d already put aside our chopped portion of these and sautéed them.
We then sautéed our onions, celery, and carrots in some vegan butter (Miyoko’s Creamery).
To the sautéed veggies, we added our cauliflower and ‘shrooms
and let those cook a bit to just slightly soften.

Next up was the parsley to sorta pretty it up a bit and add that tangy parsley-ness. We let this cook a wee bit more in some ‘chiken’ bouillon to which we added about a half teaspoon of Gravy Master and let that simmer until most of the liquid was absorbed. EASY PEASY!! And really tasty. The seasonings of the sage and rosemary certainly added that ‘dressin’ taste and the texture was just right! All the flavor and a LOT healthier!
Next up was to prepare a luscious looking (yet not so good sounding) Mashed Potato Crusted Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprouts, and Tofu Pie from Kathy Hester.
The key to this recipe, as so many, is preparation so you're not caught needing to chop, dice, slice or otherwise take time to do when you're into the recipe knee-deep! The first thing we did was to make the 'pie' crust out of cooked diced potatoes that we riced/mashed and combined with nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper. This was pressed into a 9" pie pan
and baked until the crust began to brown. Next up was the veggie part of the filling. We diced butternut squash and baked with a bit of sage, salt and pepper. We have the before
and after pictures.
Then we sautéed the shredded/sliced Brussels sprouts and onion with a bit more sage and EVOO. We plumb forgot to take a picture, though. The Tofu filling was made with silken tofu, chickpea flour, nutritional yeast, olive oil, and water, if too thick. Threw all that in the VitaMix and blasted it until very smooth and creamy. We added the Tofu mixture to the Potato Crust and topped with the veggies. Here you can see some of the fillin' as we began to spread the veggies across it.
And here's the pie just as it was oven-ready.
This was then baked for about 40 minutes until the filling was set.
This looked amazing!! When we bake this again, and we will, we will most likely try a different crust, such as Brown Rice. We'll also combine the pie filling and the veggies instead of using the veggies as a topping, AND we'll 'hot it  up' with some heat like cayenne or other spiciness.

Our final recipe was a dessert offering in the form another Delish recipe. We started out with their Buckeye Pie but realized we’d be better off with making Buckeye Brownies.
We found a ‘store-bought’ brownie mix that was vegan (Duncan Hines is usually a good go-to brand) and just substituted vegan chocolate chips and Calista Coconut/Almond Milk creamer for heavy cream to make the ganache. We baked the brownies using flax egg substitute.
We then made the ‘buckeye topping' with Creamy Peanut Butter, Confectioner’s Sugar, Vanilla, Vegan Butter, and Almond Milk. We topped the cooled Brownies with that and then topped the Buckeye layer with the Ganache made with really hot creamer and vegan chocolate chips
Listen, this stuff was so good and so rich, only very small pieces could be consumed at once.
For our ‘Turkey’ we opted to try the Gardein Cranberry Stuffed Turkey…all we had to do was bake. You can see our vegan offerings along with some of the other great stuff on the buffet.
Left to right, rice and vegetable dish prepared by the Dees (along with a great ratatouille and squash casserole, not pictured), the Cauliflower dressin’, the Sliced Stuffed Gardein Turk’y, the Vegan Gravy that came with it, there’s some real bacon in the middle dish (tempting but a no-no) and the ‘Pie’ at the top. Believe us when we say we did not go home hungry. It was a most magnificent day and we are always and forever thankful for Jesse and MaryEvelyn for sharing their home with us.
So there you have the Return of The Elf! We sure hope to be back in significant action from here on out. In fact, we have some really cool stuffs to share with you soon and a new recipe or two! We also hope that you and yours have had a most marvelous holiday weekend and shopping extravaganza as well.

Now Y'all!  Until next Sunday, we always hope you will Look for the GOOD, be an EXAMPLE of the GOOD, and ACT for the GOOD as HARD as you can, in as MANY WAYS as you can, EVERY DAY that you can.’  Happiest of days to everyone.

Your Elf

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Elf's New Clothes

WELL, Y’all! It’s about time, for sure!! Thanks for your patience during this extended absence from the Kinky Elfery Kitchen. We are not COMPLETELY finished but enough to where we were able to COOK a real recipe yesterday. And it was a recipe worthy of a newly painted kitchen and cabinets! We'll share some pictures later, but right now, we need to COOK!! The recipe we prepared yesterday was REALLY REALLY good! Vegan Wild Rice and Mushroom soup. We first saw it on the Simply Vegan Facebook page
compliments of Andrea Karsch’s post. We are HUGE fans of  both wild rice and mushrooms, so we had to make it. We looked up the original recipe and went from there.
So, we got our ‘mise en place’. Left to right, we had a mixture of coarsely chopped Baby Bella and Shiitake ‘shrooms, chopped carrots, chopped celery, soaked cashews, Thyme, Bay leaves, Cannellini beans, and the ever present chopped onions.
Though the recipe calls for Vegetable stock, we always use The Gentle Chef’s vegan Golden Chicken Bouillon, so that’s what you see here.
After that was nice and hot, we added our vegetables along with the wild rice.
Just a cautionary note here, if you try this recipe, it’s a good idea to read through the instructions a couple of times to make sure you get the order of things. We almost didn’t, so just a head’s up. This cooks, covered, for about 30 minutes. As that thirty minutes is winding down, we prepared our ‘vegan cream’ from drained cannellini beans, soaked cashews (is there anything a cashew can’t do?), and a cup of our ‘chicken’ bouillon. That gets blended to smoothness which takes about 2 minutes.
Next time, and there WILL be one, we’ll blend it a bit longer just to assure additional creaminess, but this worked quite well. The cashew cream mixture is added to the cooking veggies and rice along with the mushrooms.
This cooks for another 15 or so minutes until the rice is done and the soup is nice and smooth. We did tweak things a bit for our tastes. For example, we are not huge fans of an intense thyme flavor and this recipe calls for a TABLESPOON of thyme leaves. We only added 1/2 T and it was ‘perfectly thymed’. We also snuck in a bit of a kick to it by adding (incrementally so as not to explode our mouths) some Scorpion Pepper salt; probably about a teaspoon.
The result was quite a lovely soup. Very creamy, tasty, with great texture and substance.
We have already decided on a couple of new tweaks for the next batch, which will be soon. In addition to the extra time in the VitaMix for the cream mixture, we will use the same mushroom mixture chopped even coarser AND sautéed prior to adding to the soup (which means adding later in the cooking routine since they are already cooked).
We already have them prepared, sautéed with EVOO
and deglazed with Pinot Grigio.
And finally, we are going to go out on an herbal limb and substitute tarragon for the thyme.

Y’all, you have NO IDEA how happy Your Elf was/is to get back in the kitchen. We were like a fish out of water, an Elf without a country, a dog without a bone, and a elephant without a trunk. Completely discombobulated! Not to mention the canine upheaval that occurred with people going in and out all day long. But now we are heading toward normalcy. Take a peak. The stove area,
the other side of the kitchen area,
and a big ole cabinet area.
We even splurged on a new Keurig. It’s actually a gray lavender color that doesn’t quite show up in this picture.
AND, last but not least, even your Elf got a new look!
A GREAT new Elf hat compliments of Angel “Myth Hattie” Trott. She and her husband Toby are ProgDay buddies, so ‘hat’s off to Angel’. Your Elf loves her new ‘clothes’!

So, that does it for today…we apologize for being a day late but will get back on track for next Sunday. Until then, remember always to Look for the GOOD, be an EXAMPLE of the GOOD, and ACT for the GOOD as HARD as you can, in as MANY WAYS as you can, EVERY DAY that you can.’ DO EPIC and evil will never win!

Your Elf