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Sunday, October 16, 2016

"Tangled Up in 'Elf'"

What a cool week it’s been…what a rare mood we’re in. It’s almost like being an Elf. Happy Sunday, Elfsters and welcome to another week in the Kinky Elfery Kitchen. If you haven't already guessed, this week's title honors Nobel Prize winner, Bob Dylan AND  brings back a lot of Elfin memories.

It’s been a strange week as well. After preparing several dishes to have on hand to eat during the week last Sunday, we realized that on Monday, we were having two tooth implants and would not be able to eat any of the things we’d prepared. Oh well…at least Big Solid had plenty of options to eat this week! FORTUNATELY, the recipe we selected from FatFree Vegan Kitchen (Susan Voisin) was SPOT ON for a ‘post-implant’ meal. Portabellas Stuffed with Pesto Mashed Potatoes was absolutely a life saver in terms of having a warm, easy to chew and tasty meal.

We really only have pictures of the final product as the process of this recipe is very easy. Of course, what’s an Elf elf-fort without a screw-up and this was no exception. The directions for preparing the pesto (fat-free) indicate for it to be prepared in a food processor—which your Elf read as VitaMix. Well, the amount of the ingredients is so small, the VM barely got going before all the ingredients were stuck to the side and no amount of using the stopper thingie (tamper) resulted in getting the ingredients toward the blades so they could be pulverized. So, we wound up adding a bit more water and finally got the consistency we needed. NEXT TIME, we’ll use the small food processor that we are supposed to…and YES, there will indeed be a next time. We also chose to stuff large Portabella caps rather than small ones, since we were using this for a meal. So, we had 3 large caps…so large in fact, we microwaved them for 2 minutes to assure that after being stuffed, they would still be cooked all the way through. Sometimes, the larger caps do not bake thoroughly and are too tough if you don’t pre-bake/cook them a bit to release some of the juices and assure a chewy but cooked consistency. We also made a HUGE ‘Kale Madeline’ salad to complete the color palette and make sure all our vegetables were covered. 'Kale Madeline' is a veganized spin-off of 'Broccoli Madeline' made famous by Picadilly Cafeteria. This is the link to the Picadilly recipe, which obviously NOT been veganized.
The one thing we found slightly disconcerting was that the pesto darkens quickly (oxidation, like avocados do). AND, the baking process also contributes to them darkening as well. Nevertheless, we were very happy with the resulting dish, especially your Elf. We were pretty hungry for some ‘real’ food and this hit the spot.
And, you know how we LOVE to kick things up a notch or two with pepper and/or spices. Well, we kept the lid on the cayenne/ghost pepper salt BUT you can rest assured that we will throw it in the next time we fix this recipe. This is a great supper when you add a salad or roasted veggies, so this will become part of our supper repertoire. Keeping fresh basil on hand is the only drawback so a bit of planning is helpful. OR you can keep fresh basil as a window herb during the winter months. We have basil growing outside, so had it handy in the Kinky Elfery garden.
Given the warm temperatures here lately, we may have it for a while yet. However, we’ll be starting an indoor herb garden very soon.

As for next week, we will be in Florida visiting some of Big Solid’s friends so only have Mon-Tues to deliver on our FFVK elf-forts. HOWSOMEVER, since big Solid has joined us as a plant-based eater (and  Dr. McDougall devotee), he’s had a blast re-discovering the joy of potatoes, pasta and other carbohydrates he’s shunned for years. AND that opens the door for further exploration of Susan’s recipes. So, we will be fixin' (preparing) Pasta with Chard and Chickpeas as it looks delicious and has two of our favorite vegetables incorporated.

And, speaking of chickpeas, we jumped into a chickpea adventure this week by making Burmese Tofu. Never in a billion years would your Elf consider herself a Tofu maker but we swear, this recipe looked so good we had to try. The problem is that it makes a TON of tofu, so it’d better be good. Well, we are here to tell you that IT IS!! It is delicious and we can’t wait to see what all we can do with it. We’d never even HEARD of Burmese Tofu until we saw a blurb/you tube video on Facebook the other day. It looked so intriguing AND we had the ingredients on hand.
Indeed, we approached this recipe with trepidation all the way through the preparation, mixing, cooking, stirring, cooling, cutting up, and cooking the final product. But our fears were quickly snuffed out when we tasted it. This stuff is awesome! It’s also really simple to make with the caveat that you really have to pay attention to the directions and that pesky stirring part. But, the results are so worthwhile.  We stirred it into our pot of fully boiling water (VERY IMPORTANT). Now, here’s where we think we made possibly the best decision of all when making this Tofu. The recipe calls for water as the base but also suggests that you can use veggie broth to add flavor. Well, as you know, our GO-TO broth is The Gentle Chef’s Golden Chikun Bouillon (found in Seitan and Beyond by Chef Skye Michael Conroy). We added 1 tsp of that luscious dry mix per cup of water and we are SO glad we did. After stirring/whisking for about 5 minutes, we weren’t quite satisfied with the thickness so we turned up the heat a bit (we have gas burners), put a diffuser under the pot to keep the mixture from clumping up at the hot spots and kept stirring for another couple of minutes.
Then we held our collective Elfin breath and poured it into the parchment paper lined 9"x13" pan. As directed, we let it cool to room temperature and then placed in the refrigerator overnight to firm up.
Then came the showdown…taking it out of the pan, slicing into storable pieces and trying it. It came out of the pan nicely and sliced beautifully into 6 large blocks. We wrapped and froze 4 of them and kept two out to ‘play with’. Just to taste it, we pan fried six relatively thin slices with a small amount of coconut oil until they were crispy. Let them cool and took a bite….then another bite, then another. Before we knew it, 3 slices were gone!
We called Big Solid in for his opinion since he relies a lot on texture for his ultimate endorsement; well, he loved it as well.  Now, we are looking for good recipes to use it in. And, as a matter of fact, we are about to go pan sauté some more with some seasoning to see how that works. IF we have time before we publish this blog, we’ll try baking some as well. Time out for Tofu…of the Burmese persuasion.

OK, we are back from trying out baked Burmese Tofu and so far, that’s our favored method. No oil needed, if you bake on parchment paper and lightly spray with Coconut Oil Spray. We baked it at 425º for 15 minutes on each side which gave a nice brown color and crust.
This too was delicious. And, just as a side note, don't you think they look like little bitty turnovers? The internal consistency is still fairly soft so just be aware of that. All in all, this is a definite keeper. We also defrosted one of the blocks we froze yesterday and will see how that impacts the consistency as well. We know that freezing really changes the consistency of regular soy tofu. Will let you know next week how that turned out!

One of the most difficult parts for many when they switch to plant-based eating is ‘eating out’. Most restaurants are WAY behind the times offering plant-based options, especially entrées—and ESPECIALLY in the DEEP FRIED SOUTH. Howsomever, if you get creative, if you can hang in there, if you are willing to experiment with different ethnic foods and if you CALL AHEAD, you can find all sorts of options.  Last night, we went to one of our regular haunts (a STEAKHOUSE no less) and were able to get a pasta with steamed veggies for Big Solid and a baked mashed potato without all the trimmings (cheese, sour cream and bacon bits). Instead we got a side order of sliced sautéed mushrooms (in a bit of olive oil rather than butter). Soft for the teeth 'wannabes' and delicious to the taste. Over the years, we have established a connection with this restaurant (as we have many in our area) and they will allow us to bring some vegan condiments (cheese, Parmesan cheese, plant-based meats and salad dressings). 
 Another concern when going plant-based is the impact it has on others, especially when visiting. Our friends in Florida are quite worried that they will NOT be able to accommodate our ‘strange eating lifestyle’. We have assured them to 
‘keep calm
and
don't stress about the vegans’
for a number of reasons…baked potatoes and salads are almost always on a menu, we will pack a LOT of our own foods (creamer, milks, cheeses, soups, and plant-based alternatives), and we can more than not find options everywhere. 
Y’all have  great week and remember to smile a lot, laugh out loud, share kindnesses galore, eat plants and DO EPIC.

Your Elf with her new Fairy Hair

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