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Sunday, August 21, 2016

“Here’s Lookin’ At You, Elf”

You know, every week your Little Ole Elf thinks to hers-elf, “Gosh this week has gone by fast. Seems like we just DID a blog yesterday and here it is…time to do it again.” Well, last Sunday we were out of town and therefore did not blog. We could not WAIT to get back to y’all and to preparing ‘something from Susan’. Of course, Susan being Susan Voisin and her awesome recipes from FatFree Vegan Kitchen.
We’ll get to that in just a bit, but we wanted to share a bit about our trip to Wisconsin last weekend.
We surprised my mentor and former boss, David Zimmerman, on his 70th birthday. Many thanks to his family for including us in the festivities and keeping our visit on the downlow until we walked into the living room at the Hester home in Oconomowoc Friday afternoon. So, to Kate and Shaun Hester, Annie and Jesse Lauchner, and Jeanette Zimmerman, it was a weekend to remember. Pictured are Jeanette, your Elf, and the Birthday Boy hisownself, David.
We have worked together in some capacity since 1990 and full time since your Elf joined Dr. Z at the Center for Health Systems Research and Analysis at the University of Wisconsin/Madison in 1995 and later the Long Term Care Institute also in Madison WI. We have remained in touch since your Elf retired in 2011. And, even though we had not visited since then ('ceptin' by phone), after about 5 minutes of being all together again, those years completely fell away. It was a most wonderful trip! AND, Big Solid and I had lunch at our MOST FAVORITE RESTAURANT, Himal Chuli in downtown Madison. It’s a Nepalese restaurant that is just terrific. It’s been there for YEARS as quality never goes out of style.
OK…now let’s get on with the foodie stuffs! This week, after spending so much time eating and drinking for the WI trip, we needed to get back to a less pound-producing regimen. Actually, Kate and Shaun Hester did an awesome job of making sure the vegan options were available for all appetizers at their home Friday and both Friday and Saturday dinners which was SO APPRECIATED!! In any event, we went carefully through the recipe index on the FatFree Vegan Kitchen website (see link above) and decided on North African Chickpea and Kale Soup.

As we perused the ingredients to make sure of what we had and did not have, we were amazed to find that we had everything BUT the fresh kale and one can of chickpeas. We even had the SAFFRON!! After reviewing the spices, it became apparent that we were in for a treat and that the Moroccan themed soup would be delicious; cumin, paprika (we used smoked Spanish paprika), cayenne, allspice, ground ginger, saffron, bay leaves and a cinnamon stick. Can’t you just smell all those spices in a great vegan broth? Whew! So, we sautéed the onion and carrots, added the garlic for a quick minute. THEN the fun began, we added all those delectable flavors (along with the cinnamon stick and bay leaves) and stirred for a minute to get them all infused with the onions, carrots and garlic. Oh the aroma! We added the chickpeas that we had drained and rinsed thoroughly and stirred them until they were also coated with the spices. Here you have a long shot as well as a close-up. You can almost SMELL the goodness from here! 

In her recipe directions, Susan says that instead of a vegetable broth or stock (as listed in the recipe ingredients) she used a ‘no-chicken’ broth. Well, so did we. Y’all KNOW how much we LOVE The Gentle Chef’s Chikun Bouillon mix from his 'Seitan and Beyond' cookbook…so that’s what we used. It’s a dry mix that you can keep on hand for just such a treat as this soup. After letting the chickpeas simmer in that yummy broth, we added the kale and let it cook down until the soup was ready. Again, we have full and close shots of the soup shortly after the kale was added.
Now, here’s where we kicked it up a notch by adding 1/16th of a teaspoon of Scorpion Pepper salt. The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper is considered the SECOND hottest pepper of 2016!
 The Carolina Reaper is still the #1 hottest pepper and we haven’t been able to find it in a salt…YET! We are here to tell you that just that tiny amount IN THE WHOLE PAN OF SOUP made an impact! AND, since we’d just made a double batch of plant-based Andouille Sausage (again The Gentle Chef), we pan seared a couple of those and threw them in with the soup as it was served.
We lapped this stuff up like it was the first time we’d ever had food. So, we HIGHLY recommend this recipe! Thanks, Susan for once again paving the way for us to enjoy healthy and delicious stuffs!!

As for next week’s recipe, we are not sure yet. How ‘bout we surprise you and Susan! We are eagerly waiting for cooler weather when we can return to the more substantial stews/soups and casseroles that will warm you on a chilly day.
On Saturday, August 27, we will be attending an event called Plant-Based Food Immersion Day. Ramrodded by Alyssa and Matthew Sikora, the day long informational seminar will feature guest speakers from all over the country who will address the benefits of a plant-based eating lifestyle. We are looking forward to this as Gigi Carter (one of the four Veganamigos) will be speaking on being a vegan athlete—and GOODNESS, is she ever!! We will most certainly bring you highlights of that event. AND, Sunday, the Veganamigos will gather to celebrate once again how FUN it is to be plant-based/vegan and enjoy some of the best food EVER! Here is a link to more information from Magnolia Healthy Living (Alyssa Sikora)
So, until we meet again next Sunday, remember to laugh a lot, eat plants, practice kindness, and “DO EPIC”! OH..and we may have a little surprise for you :)

Your Elf

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