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Sunday, August 7, 2016

While The Elf's Away, Who Will Play?

When you live in Mississippi, you know that August is a month to be endured and sweated through. The air is thick, damp and suffocating. H.E.A.V.Y! The heat is ever present and relentless, day after day and night after night. The gardens, trees, flowers, and shrubs that were so effervescently green in April and May are now limp, wilted, and faded by the incessant heat. Even people who say “I love the heat” get testy and gnarly. Those of us who are heat aversive only long to get away to somewhere cooler, like The North Pole or Antarctica. So, as of next week, we will be seeking solace on a mountain top where the air is clear, cool, crisp and breathable. So, just sayin’ The Elf and Big Solid will be basking in rarefied air instead of baking in a humid jungle next week.
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This past week, we had ever so much fun in the Kinky Elfery Kitchen. There were no major foodie mishaps (whew!) and we just kinda enjoyed the heck out of our week. If y’all recall, we had two options for our FatFree Vegan Kitchen recipe for the week. The Creamy Curried Kale and Chickpeas or the Cabbage and Chickpea Soup. We had every intention of actually ‘fixin’ both of them; but time waits for no cook and we wound up selecting The Creamy Curried Kale and Chickpeas.
Now, this recipe calls for the mixture to be served over basmati rice (and remember that your Elf now uses MS Blue Basmati Rice EXCLUSIVELY) which is as it should be. Curries and basmati are like peanut butter and jelly. HOWSOMEVER, Big Solid is not a big rice eater…he LIKES it but he does not like the calories. So, we decided we’d cut the amount of rice and use a pan-seared portobello mushroom as a ‘container’ for about a 1/4 cup rice and the curry. Problem solved! So, here we go!
We got our ‘mis en place’ for the creamy saucy stuffs. We had (left to right, pretty much) nutritional yeast, red pepper flakes, cashew milk, onion, garlic, ginger root, ground coriander, cumin seed, tomato paste, garbanzo beans, turmeric and Susan’s garam masala (the recipe is also included in the overall recipe for this dish).
What you don’t see is the raw cashews but we did have them! For the vegetable broth, we used our Gentle Chef’s dry mix for ‘Chikun' Bouillon. This stuff is so good we use it in place of almost all recipes that call for a vegetable broth.
Then we washed, tore, and salad spun the fresh kale (Kroger had the organic kale on sale) and squoze it dry in a clean towel.

After we got everything all set, we commenced to cookin’. We sautéed our onion, garlic, ginger, cumin seeds according to directions and then added the rest of the spices.

Then we added our lovely luscious kale (damn that stuff is so good), and let it cook down.

As the kale was cooking, we put the cashew milk, nutritional yeast and tomato paste in the VitaMix and blended it to a really smooth consistency.  After the kale cooked down, we let it cool off a bit and then added it to our creamy mixture in the blender and blasted into a really pretty and smooth sauce. Then we poured it back into the skillet where we’d sautéed everything, added the chickpeas that we’d drained and rinsed to get shed of a lot of the salt and let it simmer for the suggested 10 minutes. We tasted along the way and added a bit of freshly ground black pepper and about a pinch of cayenne. You know we like it spicy!!
In the meantime, we cooked our rice and pan-seared the portabello mushroom caps to an ‘al dente’ texture. Sorry, we dropped the camera ball here.
We plated the mushroom cap, placed our rice in as a kinda filling (sorry the picture is so blurry)

and then topped with the curry mixture. This was such a good dish we gobbled it right up and had enough left over to have for lunch the next day. We do realize that not everyone likes curried dishes, but if you do, this is a keeper. We will most definitely do this again! Not only that it’s a very healthy combination that is very low in fat, calories and sodium, has a reasonable protein count. We you add the rice and mushroom, you not only get additional protein but a well-rounded meal with substance and terrific flavor.
We also mentioned last week that we were going to try a couple of the recipes that we see on Facebook in those speeded up videos. And we did…well, we tried ONE of them. AND, we got the ingredients for the other but had a change of heart and we’ll share that with you ‘directly’ (that’s southern for ‘soon’ or ‘anon’).
The recipe we DID put together is the Cauliflower Nacho recipe by Delight that has made the Facebook rounds.
We veganized it by using vegan cheese and MAN OH MAN, it was very very good! We had a couple of issues that we want to try to remedy next time but for a first elf-fort, we thought it damn good. First, we sliced up our REALLY big head of cauliflower and drizzled some good EVOO over it. Then we sprinkled it with some bittersweet smoked paprika, chipotle chili powder, ground cumin, garlic powder and some Himalayan salt.
We baked it at 425º for about 40 minutes, until it browned nicely. And here’s where we had our first issue…nothing major but just throwin’ it out there. The recipe states that the baked cauliflower should be crispy and golden. Well, we did get some nice color, but the crispiness was hit and miss. The edges of the cauliflower got crispy but that was about it. We were afraid that if we cooked it longer, it would become all mushy and that would just not DO! So, suggestions would be helpful. (REMEMBER to e-mail jswearen@gmail.com or message The Elf in the Kitchen oh her FB page…we are still trying to work out the commenting kinks). Then we added our vegan cheese that we had shredded…we used the block Daiya cheese.
Not everybody’s favorite but in the vegan poor stores around here, it’s the only affordable option. In fact, the packaged shredded Daiya is not very good at all, but the block that you can shred is not awful. Anywho, here’s where we had our second issue..the original recipe calls for 1 cup of the cheese. We shredded the whole block, which was way more than a cup and it still wasn’t enough to get that cheesy look that is in the video. We added some guacamole and salsa and dove in. It was really really good and did satisfy that nacho craving in a healthy and lower calorie way!!

The next video recipe we wanted to try, and we actually got all the ingredients, was a summer salad of zucchini noodles, red cabbage, corn, and a bunch of other stuff. It looked delicious.
BUT, as we pondered more and more, we decided the heck with it…we wanted to turn that lovely fresh corn from the Farmer’s Market into that traditional southern ‘fried’ corn. We also had some fresh okra to use up. So, here’s what we did. We fried up that corn in some vegan margarine and coconut oil (about a half tablespoon each) and added a teeny bit of salt and some freshly ground pepper. Made me think of eating around my Grandmother’s table in TN a billion years ago. We’re not talking creamed corn, y’all, this is good ole FRIED in a skillet corn. Mouthgasmly delicious!

We also had some Brussels sprouts that needed to be cooked, so we roasted them with a sriracha/maple glaze.
Next up, roasted okra…nothing spectacular, just washed and dried, placed in a baking pan with some parchment paper, sprayed it with coconut oil Pam and roasted until brown. Nothing slimy about this okra at all…roasted okra is a treat.

Busted open a pack of the Gardein meatless meatballs and cooked them adding some spiralized zucchini noodles to quick cook with a bit of olive oil and lemon. It wasn’t a salad but it was a DANDY meal.
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Your Elf has had a TREMENDOUS week of cookie bakin’. It seems like we take cookies in one day and get a call the next that they are all gone. And that’s a GOOD thing for the Crossroads Café; for the Elf, it’s a lot of bakin’! But, we'd much rather bake more often and offer fresher cookies than load up the cookie case with 'way many' that sit for two or three days. That’s fine by us, we enjoy making stuffs that people like!
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And finally, we leave you with a picture of the Four Veganamigos! Left to Right, Misty Waldrop, Leslie Dunbar, The Elf and Gigi Carter.

We have been sharing an evening of vegan delights with each other each month for a few years now. This was taken at a Cycling Event last Sunday bringing the return of professional cycling to MS. Gigi was the moving force behind the event (Race at the Renaissance) as one of the Nunchuck Bunnies powered by Indian Cycle (a local racing team). We went to watch and help out a bit at the tent..first time event for The Elf and it was something to see. The last race was the men’s Pro 1-2-3 criterium that lasted for 60 minutes. It was amazing to watch these guys bust it around a closed course for an HOUR in the MS HEAT!

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So, there you have another week in the life of your Elf. We’ll be out of pocket next week but back with you with some on the road vegan adventures, no doubt. And then, it will be back to bakin’ and cookin’ and bloggin’ and eatin’ and drinkin'. Until then, DO EPIC, be kind, eat plants and laugh with someone and not at someone.
Your Elf


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