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Sunday, February 11, 2018

All's Well That Ends Elf

This has been an interesting week at the Elf-haus, so let’s jump in with both feets! Our monthly Supper Club with our BFFs, Jesse and MaryEvelyn Dees, was held at Walker’s Drive Inn. Lest you be unaware of Walker’s, it’s a highly respected restaurant in Jackson’s Fondren area that is a Blue Plate Special by day and fine dining by night. We contacted the restaurant to see what vegan options they might concoct for us since the menu is absent any. And, indeed they did prepare a nice vegetable assembly.
The cheese and ‘chicken’ were provided by us since we understand restaurants in this area do not create entrées with meat analogs such as seitan (think Plant and/or Laughing Seed in Asheville NC). In any event, the meal was good but the price was not. And, as most restaurants are these days, it was loud and challenging to have a nice quiet visit. Yet, Walker’s does great business and offers first class entrées for seafood and steak/veal lovers. So, we have come up with an alternative Supper Club option that will meet the needs of us aging baby-boomers who are hearing-challenged as well as have specific food requests. We are going to alternate each other’s homes; we bring/provide OUR food and the Dees do likewise. Jesse thought of this option, so come March’s SC, we are meeting at the Kinky Elfery Kitchen. We will be able to serve our usual appetizer of French Fries from the new Air Fryer as well!!
After publishing last week’s blog, we dove into the KEK to ‘fix’ a variety of some meals for the week. We had our Elfin eye on a recipe shared on Facebook for a Slow Cooker/Crock Pot soup for Super Bowl Sunday evening. Now the recipe link is for the original version which includes hamburger.
We ‘veganized it’ by substituting ‘meatless crumbles’ and our usual Chicken Bouillon. First, we diced the vegetables,
adding the Fire-Roasted crushed tomatoes, (we LOVE Muir Glen Organics)
then added the herbs and bay leaf
and topped with a package of Boca Crumbles
along with the bouillon. Then, all we needed to do was put the top on the CP (Crock Pot), turn it on low and move on to the next dish. The finished product was delicious, though we did have to throw in some additional ‘heat’ and spice to kick up the flavors a bit along with some grated Daiya cheese.
Oh, one more thing, this recipe calls for the use of a six quart CP. Ours is a smaller version (three quarts) so we halved the recipe. One correction or change we will make the next time we prepare this recipe (aside from using a different ‘meat’ such as mushrooms or tempeh) is to not add quite to much pasta AND add about a cup more of the liquid.
Once we got that recipe going, we moved to prepare the PB (Plant-Based) Chicken and Sausage Gumbo to have during the week and to share with some friends. AND, we used the dry roux we talked about in last week’s blog.
It worked GREAT!! The color was a deep rich brown and thickened up nicely. We used our Andouille sausage (The Gentle Chef’s recipe), shown here being browned
and the Delight Soy Chicken Nuggets that we sautéed and shredded. The final version looks, well, looked like this and it was quite delicious!
Speaking of Shredded Chicken, remember our ‘elf-fort gone awry’ with the exploding chicken analog not long ago? We gave it another try this Sunday while Big Solid was at a Golf Tournament so, if it DID explode again, he’d be away and we could get it all cleaned up before he got home! The last batch we made did not explode but it also lacked the texture we want. So, we prepared the dough, processed it by thirds in the Cusinart and TRIPLE-WRAPPED in Heavy Duty foil. Once again, we watched that oven like a HAWK that last 30 minutes and breathed a HUGE sigh of relief when the timer went off and the dough had remained within the confines of the foil. AND, it turned out to be the texture we desired. Here’s the cooked up version.
We use it on baked potatoes along with sautéed mushrooms, broccoli, and the Daiya grated block cheese. We also take it with us to various restaurants to put on salads. We LOVE the Delight Soy Chicken Nuggets as well but they are higher in fat and cost a LOT more (even though we buy at a case discount.)
Monday found us back in the Kinky Elfery Kitchen to prepare Forks Over Knives version of a Mushroom and Pea Risotto. We made this recently and it’s a great comfort food for chilly nights and stomachs that do not need a lot of spice or heat. We usually save out a couple of portions for us and share the rest. One of the things we LOVE about this recipe is that it does NOT require the constant stirring, adding liquid and stirring that the typical Risotto does. The key to this recipe’s creaminess is the use of cashews, soaked and blended. You DO have to stir but not quite as much. The mushroom and pea mixture
is ready to be added to the rice, bouillon, and cashew cream.
Your Elf was such a stupid head to NOT get a final picture. It’s a very soothing dish. That being said, we added some FireWalker Hot Sauce to ours!
We are introducing something a bit new to our little bloggery…'Elfisms'. Those little things that seem to validate that the Universe is really out to get you, or at least Your Elf. So, we present Elfism #1–The Cluster Sink. EVERY TIME we turn on the water in the kitchen sink, all the utensils, cups, bowls and other cookery paraphernalia rush to get under it so the water will be aimed directly at US! This torrent results in not just a little sprinkly bit of wet but an en masse soaking—face, hair, clothing, counters and the floor. Does this ever happen to you?
OK, this next 'reveal' is so embarrassing we almost refuse to publish but in the spirit of Elfin Transparency, we are sucking it up and going for it. Our Air Fryer recipe this week from Kathy Hester’s Vegan Air Fryer cookbook was Air-Fried Seitan and Veggies with Peanut Sauce. AND, we had all the ingredients. Home made Seitan, frozen veggies (the California Blend of carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower), soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ginger, garlic, and Sambal Oelek. In a slight deviation from the original peanut sauce part of the recipe, we used puréed fresh ginger in place of ground AND substituted the Sambal Oelek in place of Sriracha. We also used the powdered peanut butter to cut back on the fat. Well, listen up...the sauce is wonderful. We could lap it up with a spoon (fresh from the Cluster Sink). Our Seitan was cut into chunks, the AF pre-heated and veggies ready to go in. Well, the recipe called for 16 oz of the frozen veggies; our package was 12 oz. We figured that was fine, so tossed them in the AF. What we did NOT consider (but will most certainly in the future) was the cooking time. We cooked the suggested time of 10 minutes, shook the basket and added the Seitan and proceeded to cook another 10. Well, When we pulled the basket after the second cooking, we no longer had carrot slices nicely cooked, we had little carrot marbles AND instead of toasty broccoli, we had broCOALi. The Seitan was pretty toasty and ok. 
We forged ahead and served it over some brown rice with the PEANUT Sauce, which saved the day.
We learned a valuable lesson and will now check on our vegetables more frequently.
This brings us to the end of the week and this little blog. We hope we've brought a smile to your face while showing you that plant-based eating can be a lot of fun and certainly educational. Until next Sunday, 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.
Your Elf

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Call of the Elf

Well, here it is Tuesday again, and we are rockin’ the blog already. Lots to talk about and more to come! So sit back and enjoy…we sure hope the Powers That Be at Facebook will understand that this is not SPAM!! We aim to provide good information about living the plant-based life and share our own journey. We also love to feature people who are much more talented that we are at developing recipes, providing great information and opportunities for growth in plant-based eating.
We are making a concerted elf-fort to EAT MORE SALADS! As a result, we prepared two versions of Susan Voisin’s (FatFree Vegan Kitchen) Balsamic Raisin Vinaigrette:  the regular recipe and one of her suggestions to spice it up a bit using spicy mustard. We know we've included the link before, but just in case, here it is:
For our mustard, we used another local talent’s mustard.
Lauren Rhoades has made quite an impact on the fermented foods community with the introduction of her business, “Sweet and Sauer”.
This  mustard is ‘out of this world’ good and added a great flavor to Susan’s already good salad dressing! In fact, we are meeting Lauren at the local Farmer’s Market Saturday to pick up two quarts of her Preserved Lemons!! We’ll have a great time finding recipes to incorporate them!
In any event, we use a combination of greens and then pile on whatever we can find in the ‘frig that would add substance and nutrients to the salad. We had some green lentils, tomatoes (the great Salad Days hydroponics), topped with the last few slices of our Eggplant Bacon and the Mustardy dressing. It was delicious and didn’t weigh you down.
So, remember a week or so back, we mentioned getting Kathy Hester’s cookbook, Vegan Cooking in your Air Fryer? Well, this week, we knuckled down and selected a recipe to try. We LOVE fried/crispy tofu, so we found her recipe titled “Crispy Tofu with Broccoli and Carrots”. We had the Tofu, we had the Broccoli, so we dove in. What we did NOT have was the carrots. Well, that’s not entirely true, we DID have some carrots but they were in no shape to be utilized in a recipe, so we tossed them in the compost and forged ahead. We found some Cremini mushrooms and Sweet Onion, so decided to go ahead with the recipe and substitute the ‘shrooms and onion. We prepared her stir-fry sauce (the book has the recipe for that as well and it is WELL WORTH MAKING) and got our tofu pressed. We have the BEST tofu press EVER!!
We, thankfully, had everything else, so got our groove on with cutting the Tofu into cubes and dusting with organic cornstarch. In fact, as is the Elf’s penchant, we read the directions wrong and over-dusted with cornstarch. Not to worry, though we DO know next time to use the instructed amount!
We got all our veggies cut up and ready to go as well,
so all we had to do was take a big gulp and fire up the Air Fryer (AF). Gosh! This machine reached the designated temp in like NOTHING FLAT and we tossed the ‘over-dusted’ Tofu cubes in the basket. We also had some Two Brooks Brown Basmati Rice (another great MS find!)
cooking on the stove top. After five minutes, we checked the Tofu and shook the basket to make sure all sides got an equal opportunity at crispiness, returned the basket to the AF, and cooked for another five minutes. Here are our results!
We knew the veggies would not take long to cook, so as soon as the Tofu was done, we started the Stir-Fry. We added the mushrooms and onion first with most of the Stir-Fry Sauce and let that cook a bit.
Then we added the broccoli along with the Tofu and the remainder of the Sauce (to which a bit more cornstarch had been added to thicken with the heat).
IT WAS SO GOOD!! We served it over the Brown Basmati and slurped it right up!!
This will be one of our go-to meals as it’s easy to prepare. All we need do is always have the ingredients on hand (carrots). We almost ALWAYS have fresh broccoli and mushrooms in the there you go!! What a great meal. Here is the link to Kathy’s website where you’ll find all kinds of great plant-based recipes, including AF specific as well as other cookery stuffs, e.g., Slow Cookers, InstaPots. We contacted Kathy via Facebook to ask a couple of questions; listen up, she is totally responsive to messages and we appreciate that oh so much!
Ever since we made the Plant-based Chicken/Sausage Gumbo a few weeks back, Big Solid has been suggesting we do it again. Well, we whipped up some Andouille Sausages and they are now waiting for the opportunity! The hardest part of making gumbo (to Your Elf anyway) is making the roux. Remember that we do a dry roux to cut down on the amount of fat. Well, we found a recipe for a BAKED dry roux…still takes about the same amount of time but one is not chained to the stove stirring constantly.
We selected this recipe (there are several) because it had a good picture to show the color but most of the ‘baked’ roux recipes say the same thing. We decided to half the recipe so if it DID NOT turn out well, we’d have only wasted a cup or so of flour. So, we preheated out oven to 400 degrees and added one cup of all-purpose (King Arthur) flour to our iron skillet.
After about 30 minutes, we pulled it from the oven, gave it a good stir and returned it.
We then began pulling it every 15 minutes until we got as close to the color pictured as possible. We could have probably gone another 10-15 minutes but we chickened out. If we don’t get the rich color like we did before, we’ll know to let it go a bit longer but for now, this will suffice.
From what we understand, you can put this in a glass jar until needed. THAT’S great too!!
Last night, we were eager to get back into the AF! So, we grabbed a beautiful head of cauliflower, 'floretted' it, spritzed it with some EVOO, and threw it in the AF basket. Fifteen minutes later, we pulled the basked, shook it up and returned for another ten. And VOILA!! Crispy Cauliflower!
BUT, we didn’t stop there. We whipped out the Fire Walker “Running with the Reaper” Extra HOT Sauce and sprinkled it over the cauliflower. My goodness it was good!!
While perusing the Farmer's Market after picking up our Preserved Lemons, we ran across THIS!
Fresh and locally grown 
Turmeric! Isn’t this GRAND!
And JUST LIKE THAT—another week has come and gone! We hope you’ve enjoyed our little bloggery (and we hope Facebook doesn’t take this one down like last week).
In the meantime, 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.
Your Elf

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Elf

Y’all, it seems like EVERY WEEK, we go through the same routine. We promise ours-elfs we will write on our little blog DAILY and we NEVER do. This results in a ‘day of s/elf-ridicule and reckoning’ known as Sunday morning when your Elf realizes another week has gone by and NOT A WORD has been written. Then, it’s gather ye wits while you may and write, write, write. Well, today is TUESDAY and we have gotten off to a start. Yesterday, we unpacked our new Air Fryer; the Phillips Air Fryer XL Avance.
It’s a big sucker so we’ll be cookin’ en masse. We haven’t yet tried it out but, hey, it’s still early. Monday, we got busy in the Kinky Elfery Kitchen..we made a batch of seitan and some ‘Eggplant Bacon. For those of you who may not be familiar with seitan, it’s what Chef Skye Michael Conroy calls a meat analog or a plant-based meat. We actually looked up the word ‘analog/analogue’ to understand the usage. The meaning as a noun is ‘a person or thing that is comparable to another’. So, rather than the term ‘fake meat’, it would seem to be a food stuff that is comparable to another food stuff…not the same but comparable. We don’t hear the nut or plant-based milks such as Almond, Soy, Cashew, Hemp (to name a few) referred to as ‘fake’ milk, so why not plant-based meats/meat analogs. In any event, seitan in a dough that is cooked by various means to evolve as sausages, cutlets, shreds, to name a few. We start with dry ingredients, primarily Vital Wheat Gluten and seasonings

to which is added a liquid mix of water and additional seasonings (we are particularly fond of Liquid Smoke).

The liquid is added to the dry, kneaded to form a dough, allowed to rest for a bit and then cut into smaller sections.

These are simmered in a seasoned broth for 90 minutes, being careful to simmer rather than boil.
The finished product really does resemble meat and, if cooked right, has the texture and smoky flavor of beef.
The ‘Eggplant Bacon’ was a bit of a surprise. We’ve made it before and were not particularly excited about it, primarily because it never did ‘crisp’ up in the oven. BUT, we tried it again with the same results, even though we baked it a bit longer. The real culprit was the lack of consistency in the thickness of the slices…some were really thin and some were thicker, so they did not cook evenly. Here they are ready to go into the oven. We had two pans,  but why show two when they look the same!
Each slice is brushed on both sides by a marinade/sauce of maple syrup, liquid smoke, EVOO, smoked paprika, and soy sauce. Here’s the link to the recipe we used, though there are several available.
Though we were tempted to throw the finished product out, we decided to keep the slices and see what we could do with them. Sure enough, we thought we’d make a “EB’LT and see how it tasted. First we toasted a couple of slices of Flax Ezekiel Bread, spread some Just Mayo and topped with a slice of tomato. Then we added the EB (Eggplant Bacon)
covered with some lettuce,
and topped with another slice of toast. Well, y’all, this was absolutely delicious, as you can see!
Now, y’all, we KNOW full well that there is nothing in the world that tastes EXACTLY like bacon but this had just enough of the smokiness and crunch of bacon that we just broke out in a great big old smile! In fact, we have (we hope) solved the slicing issue when we ran across the long dormant and seldom thought of, slicing blades for our Mandoline. Now, we are ready with some really thin slicing blades to try it again. 
Tonight (Saturday), we are having a veganized version of Italian Sausages with Balsamic Glazed Onions and Red Grapes.
We made two batches of plant-based sausages yesterday (Friday) while Big Solid was out playin’ golf. Andouille and Italian, so tonight we are diving into the Italian sausages. We did not prepare the full recipe because we didn’t need that much food. But, here's the 'mise en place' with the red grapes, sliced onions, the WONDERFUL NEW SIGN compliments of of the Elf's Brother Jud and his Sweetie Suzanne, the sausages, and finally the broth/balsamic combo.
First, we browned the sausages in an iron skillet in a wee bit of EVOO
and then transferred them to a plate to rest up.
We then added a little more EVOO, about a cup of thinly sliced onion, and stirred them to a nice light brown.
Next up, we poured in one/fourth cup of The Gentle Chef’s Chikun Bouillon and the Balsamic Vinegar, scraping up any sausage bits and brown bits.
Our flame was reduced to a gentle simmer and we returned the sausages plus the grapes to the skillet,
it with the lid slightly open. This cooked gently until the sausages were thoroughly done. Since there is no animal in the sausages, the cooking time was a lot less, about fifteen minutes. We served it up and dove in. We also chose tonight to make some French Fries in our new Air Fryer.
We used our Mandoline with the quarter inch blades to get an even cut; soaked them in ice water for 30 minutes, then dried them well. We sprayed them with Olive Oil spray (just oil and nothing else) and threw them in the pre-heated machine! They were WAY crispy like Big Solid likes but next time, we’ll cut the ‘fryin’ time a bit. Life is good! Tomorrow will be a very busy day in the Kinky Elfery Kitchen as we are preparing some food to share…which we love to do!
As we leave you with our usual sign-off, we'd like to invite you to the 'new' Elf FB page titled The Movie Elf. We are having fun reviewing movies, especially the Oscar nominees!
We also have Big Solid to thank for today's blog title! Big Solid and the Elf celebrated their 33rd anniversary Friday! Here's a picture of that glorious day 33 years ago. We both squalled like babies and the high temperature was 8 degrees.
So, 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. Your Elf