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Sunday, November 29, 2015

“LOVE LOVE ME ELF”

The Elf and Big Solid’s most FAVORITE holiday has come and gone for yet another year. We LOVE Thanksgiving. We typically spend it on the Redneck Riviera (Gulf Shores or Dauphin Island, AL) having a potluck Thanksgiving at the world famous Roadhouse, The Flora-Bama. Literally thousands of folks gather to celebrate with tons of great food and friendship and while certainly not vegan friendly, we always take plenty of vegan stuffs for us and to share. This year, however, with Marley’s recovery ongoing, we were a) not going to board him and b) not subject him to travel. In his Mama's lap with a warm pack on his incision site.

So, home it was. Enter our BFFs, Jesse and Mary Evelyn Dees, who opened their hearts and home to us. We always have our PJ Christmas dinner with them, but this year we celebrated Thanksgiving as well. Below are (left to right) Jesse, Mary Evelyn, Stonewall Jackson (Boston Terrier), Emmi (Jesse and ME’s daughter photobomb) The Elf and Big Solid.

And it was the PERFECT opportunity to make the FatFree Vegan Kitchen’s recipe of the week, Creamy Broccoli and Brown Rice Casserole.
 We have certainly been on a roll lately with our FFVK recipes but I think this one is one of my favorites. AND, it’s really easy to make! I must admit to being a bit intimidated by the number of ingredients listed in the sauce but when you actually get your ‘mis en place’, it’s a piece of cake. We only have the one final picture to share as we were so occupied making several recipes, we did not even think about ‘picturing’ as we went. We did take Susan’s idea of preparing ahead of time and warming before serving which was most helpful. We cooked a LOT of brown rice, withheld our recipe amount and froze the rest in smaller batches. Fun to have it handy when needed and you don’t have time to cook rice. But we regress--trust me, this is a KILLER recipe. We did adjust the cayenne seasoning from a pinch to a slight ¼ teaspoon which gave it just the snap and fire that we like. And, we took advantage of Susan Voisin’s suggestions of alternate ingredients instead of the chickpeas by adding some sautéed Shredded Chikun pieces.

 The Dees prepared a lovely and delicious Ratatouille seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil as well as some roasted potatoes, seasoned the same.
 

And then the final spread was such a bounty..including stuffed pork loin and turkey for those who wished! You may also note the nearly empty punch bowl that contained a lovely champagne punch for our pre-dinner enjoyment! The Elf was very happy with her dishes and ate like a little elf pig.

 We made an Apple Crisp that was TO DIE for (again, sorry no picture) and topped it with some Almond Milk Snickerdoodle ice cream. The Elf’s rendition of the Apple Crisp turned out JUST like the picture you’ll see on the link. We did have to bake ours a bit longer than the suggested 40 minutes but the taste and the crisp were outstanding.
 AND, Amaretto Freezes were the ‘piece de resistance’ (The Elf’s made with Almond Milk Vanilla Bean). This recipe includes an ounce of cream or half and half, which is certainly not needed.
Now, this is an example of vegan excess at its best (or worst) but, hey, it’s THANKSGIVING!! As usual, the tablescape was gorgeous and the camaraderie even better.

 Here are the MAN-BOYS Big Solid and Jesse with some après dinner clowning around.

It could NOT have been a nicer day.
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So—where do we go from here! Well, for our next FFVK elf-fort, we will make Homestyle Lentil Soup. It’s time to slow down the rush of the Kinky Elfery Kitchen for a week and get back into eating a bit less! We can have this soup and a half grilled vegan cheese sammich and be ‘jes fine!
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A quick word on mis- and pre-conceptions about vegan food…and we know we are singing to the choir here. HOWSOMEVER, a couple of recent conversations and Facebook posts/links have gotten The Elf’s attention. In our Body Pump class the other day, we were talking about our vegan Thanksgiving dishes and the preparation of analogue plant-based meats with a classmate. The response was an immediate “Oh I can’t eat tofu” and that reaction is not an uncommon one. So many people think that in order to be vegan, you have to adjust to really bad tasting foods. And, The Elf is the first to admit that she has tasted some vegan foods that have not been particularly mouthgasm inducing. That being said, MY GOODNESS but do we have delicious foods to offer people and we make it our life’s work now (more or less) to make things that people will taste and say, “DAYUM…this is good”. Sure, we run into recipes that don’t have quite the flavors we enjoy but hell’s bells, we are not going to quit being vegan because we found a recipe that didn’t do it for us. The stakes are too high and there is too much to benefit from eating plant-based. So, if we can continue to cook really good plant based foods to share with people, maybe we can eventually teach/convince/impart/communicate/instill/demonstrate/influence/persuade or otherwise convey that vegan food can be quite delicious! So there…
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And there you have another thrilling and exciting segment of Life in the Kinky Elfery Kitchen. We have some kinda cool stuffs coming up in the near future, if The Elf can figure out how to pull it off. In the meantime, breathe deep, laugh a lot, eat plants, love life and ‘DO EPIC’.
The Elf





Monday, November 23, 2015

I Get By With a Little Help from The Elf


It’s been quite an eventful week at the Elf’s. If you remember from last week’s blog, we were taking Marley the Wayward Poodle to the Veterinary School at MS State for further surgery to repair a broken leg.  Well, the surgery was going to be a complex ‘fix’ with an extended recovery time, during which he would need to be kept subdued and quiet. Marley is a very high strung, reactive and anxious boy, so after painful deliberation, the decision was made to have the leg amputated. He is now home and seems to be doing well, although we’ve had some obvious back-sets in his behavioral issues since he’s still pretty painful. So, we’ve been pretty pre-occupied with him but were able to get some significant cooking in while he was in the hospital.
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Our FatFree Vegan Kitchen dish for the week was Eggplant Parmesan
The Elf LOVES Eggplant Parmesan and has veganized several recipes. However, this recipe also notes that it is soy free and can be gluten free if you utilize gluten free bread for your crumbly topping (which we did not). In any event, we got all our ingredients together for our ‘mis en place’ for both the eggplant

 AND the sauce

As usual, with any elf-fort that occurs in the Kinky Elfery Kitchen, there is always drama. We KNEW we had some brown rice flour SOMEWHERE…had just SEEN it the other day. But could we FIND it when we needed it…NOPE, NOT HAPPENIN’, NADA. Fortunately we DID have whole wheat pastry flour, so that worked just fine.
We did have one question which we fired off to Susan (who’s so responsive and helpful) and that was “would it make a difference if we did not peel the eggplant?” Her response was that sometimes eggplant peel has a tendency to be tough so she peels hers. We chose to be daring and keep the peel.
We made the batter and carefully dipped our eggplant rounds in to coat both sides and baked accordingly turning them after 20 minutes. A word of advice here, since we were cooking on parchment paper, it’s very helpful to give the slices a bit of time to cool slightly before trying to turn them or you wind up with most of the batter still on the paper. This is a bit labor intensive but heck, we were all in.
Then we started the layering with the baked eggplant rounds, a low fat lite pasta sauce, the ‘cheesy’ sauce and a sprinkling of the ‘parmesan’ which finely ground cashews and nutritional yeast.

Now, The Elf got a little worried about the sauce as it was fairly thin but it did thicken up once baked. The final topping of a crumbled slice of whole wheat bread ground with some of the parmesan for a bit of added crunch.


Finally, we were ready for the oven.


And here is the final result. It was DELICIOUS!!

 We will definitely do this again but will most likely skip the batter coating. Poor Big Solid doesn’t know what he’s missing by not being an eggplant fan. However, he DID try a square of it when he got home and said “Pretty good!" which is high praise from someone who is NOT an eggplant kinda guy.

Our FatFree Vegan Kitchen selection for this Thanksgiving week is “TA-DA”—Creamy Vegan Broccoli and Rice Casserole.
 We are spending Thanksgiving with our BFFs, The Dees and it’s always fun to take a good vegan dish. They are so sweet to invite us we don’t want them to go out of their way to make extra stuffs for ‘the vegan’—it’s the least we can do! Plus, chances are they might even LIKE it! And, we will substitute our old standby sautéed Chikun Shreds for the chickpeas. Already looking forward to it!!
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Before Big Solid left, we had one of his favorite dishes and that’s just a plain ole vegetable stir-fry with sautéed ‘chikun’. It’s such a quick and easy meal and so very good. We keep at least two batches of The Gentle Chef’s Chikun Shreds on hand at all times. That stuff is outstanding.

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And last but not least, of course, we had our Vegan Night at Gigi’s last night. Our hostess, Gigi, opened her home, heart and kitchen to us yet again as she and her husband Kevin wind down their lives her in Mississippi. Our loss will be Dallas’ gain in the coming year. We are planning one final hurrah in December. Here’s Gigi in all her glorious self.


The Elf took a big old pan of Cauliflower Fried Rice with, you guess it, those pesky Chikun Shreds, a peanut butter pie and a lime tart. We thought the tart was going to be an EPIC FAIL but we salvaged it from the VitaMix and finished it off in the Cuisinart. We really struggle with our VM…wish someone in town gave lessons! There were about 12 folks gathered to eat good vegan food, make new friends and enjoy the camaraderie.
This is what was left of the Cauliflower Fried Rice


The Peanut Butter pie which was veganized after seeing a recipe on Facebook. The pie itself is vegan but the recipe calls for a chocolate ganache that uses heavy cream. All we did was make a ganache from 16 oz of dairy free chocolate chips, a can of full fat coconut milk (heated and poured over the chips) and a wee bit of vanilla. This picture was taken before all of it was consumed.


And finally, the Lime Tart. Not our favorite but we were sick of it before we even tasted it! Everyone else seemed to like it as there was not a piece left to bring home. The Elf used a combination of recipes for this tart, so rather than confuse folks with all those links, we’ll post the recipe next week. And is The Elf's wont, there is a story behind this tart.

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During this Thanksgiving season, Mail Order Annie (appearing as Locohontas) wishes every one of The Elf’s readers the very best of holidays. We have so much to be thankful for so let’s rejoice in our blessings and DO EPIC!!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

It’s Been a Hard Elf’s Night




Well, y’all, The Elf has just about exhausted movie themed titles for this little blog, so we’re movin’ into song titles. Surely the Beatles will keep us occupied with blog titles for a while. So, as a transition, we have BOTH a movie title and song title. As a child of the ‘60’s, The Beatles were IT. Still are for me. Gosh, we remember sitting in our little bedroom in TN with stars painted on a navy blue ceiling, listening to Dick Biondi from WLS in Chicago wondering who on EARTH were The Beatles.
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This will be an abbreviated blog as we had a serious case of Kinky Elfery Cookery interruptus this week which has required a great deal of unElfinesque energy and focus. However, we WERE able to make and consume the FatFree Vegan Kitchen recipe of the week…Curried Split Pea and Cauliflower soup. And MY OH MY, were we glad! Not only is it an outstanding soup (if you like curry), it has sustained us all week at lunch. The recipe instructions are for folks who have a pressure cooker, which we do not. We wrote to Susan Voisin (the genius person who IS FatFree Vegan Kitchen and has her own Facebook page in addition to FFVK) to see how to prepare the non-pressure cooker way. No big deal..since split peas do not require a long cooking time anyway, all we needed to do was cook them the old-fashioned way. So, armed with all the knowledge we needed, we plowed ahead. While FFVK is very very careful about the use of fat in their recipes (hence the name), we at the Kinky Elfery Kitchen are apt to use olive oil sparingly from time to time. And when we sauté, we use peanut oil so we can get to a higher temperature…again, sparingly. As you can see by our ‘mis en place’ we got all our ingredients together.

This is become such a fun elf-fort, we are making it a habit. It will save The Elf a lot of grief…it already has.  We did use about ½ tsp of peanut oil to sauté the cumin, black mustard and fennel seeds before adding the ginger, garlic and onions. We then added the carrots, split peas, hot water (for the non-pressure cooker version, we used the full 8 cups of water the split pea package called for) and curry powder. If you’ve followed this little blog for a while, you KNOW that The Elf and Big Solid LOVE extra spicy food…so we used a combination of curry powders, Hot Madras Curry and a Maharaja Curry.  And again, differing slightly from Susan, we used green split peas. After simmering for about 45 minutes, we added the cauliflower and let that get crisp tender. Here you have the soup shortly after the cauliflower was added. The colors are lovely and the texture of the soup is nice and thick.

We served it with whole wheat toast that had been drizzled with ½ teaspoon (1/4 tsp per slice) of Butter-infused olive oil from J. Olive. We verified with J. Olive staff that it was indeed vegan before purchasing and, oh boy, is it good!!

So, mission accomplished and successful. In keeping with our tastes leaning toward the extra spicy, every time we would ‘fix’ a bowl for lunch (which was nearly every day), we’d add a different spice to see what it did to add some ‘heat’. We added Harissa which is a North African hot chili pepper paste (we have a powder version), the main ingredients of which are roasted red peppers, serrano peppers and other hot chili peppers and spices and herbs such as garlic paste, coriander seed, or caraway. We added about ½ teaspoon to our serving and it was delicious!! Very spicy and flavorful.

And the next day, we tried one of our most favorite spices, Berbere. It’s premier spice of Ethiopian cuisine and consists typically of chili peppers, garlic, ginger, basil, korarima, rue, ajwain or radhuni, nigella (black sesame seeds), and fenugreek. We are NEVER far away from a bottle of Berbere. Again, we added about ½ teaspoon to our serving and, while it was very good, we think we preferred the Harissa. The Berbere was almost too much of a good thing…guess we could reduce the amount but it wasn’t just that…it was the flavor of the Harissa that was better this time.

Finally, we just busted out the Cayenne to see how hot we could make it and still swallow. Took about ¾ teaspoon and that was just fine. 

For next week’s FFVK rendering, we will pick something that Big Solid does not particularly care for since he will be out of town and The Elf will be pretty home-bound (see below). This was a no-brainer. Big Solid is not a fan of eggplant and The Elf LOVES it. So we are going for the Vegan Eggplant Parmesan – Soy Free. We have all but two of the ingredients (eggplant and oil-free spaghetti sauce), so a big shopping experience is not necessary. YAY!
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Next Sunday is our Vestal Vegan gathering at Gigi’s. Last month, we thought it would be our swan-song to Gigi and Kevin Carter as they will be moving to Dallas. Well, it turns out they will not be leaving until after the holidays, so we have one more NIGHT!! Now, The Elf has to figure out what to prepare…kinda got a couple of things spinning around in the old Elf brain. Stay tuned!!
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Well, then things went to hell in a hand-basket, so to speak. Y’all have been aware of our elf-forts with Marley the Wayward Poodle and his behaviors. He’s made such magnificent progress, especially after we’d identified pain as one of his major issues. With the knee surgery behind us, all the swimming rehab that helped him recover so nicely, we have been training and working with him daily. He responds so well to positive stuffs and wants so much to be a good boy. Well, this Tuesday he suffered a broken leg; he will need further surgery at MS State Veterinary School where we will take him tomorrow. He’s been in a splint and being treated with antibiotics and pain medication as his treatment options  have been determined. Bless his heart…and of course, his behaviors have escalated because he’s in pain. We are practicing all the techniques that we’ve been taught to keep him accountable. In any event, he’s got a long road to recovery so once again, we’ve set up our little hospital ‘room’ in the living room to keep him inactive. Keep this boy in your heart and thoughts. He so deserves to be happy and healthy. Marley outside his ‘room’ and trying to get comfortable.

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And there  you have it…not much in the way of an abundance of dishes but the ONE we did was wonderful. So, until next week, breathe deep, laugh a lot, eat plants, love life and ‘DO EPIC’.
The Elf