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Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Miracle on Elf Street

Howdy and Happy Days ahead from your Elf. As you can tell by this week’s title, we may have faced some challenges in the Kinky Elfery Kitchen. We actually wrote Susan Voisin (our FatFree Vegan Kitchen’s guru and all around foodie genius) to share with her the sequence of events that transpired on Tuesday as we began preparation for our FFVK recipe of the week..White Bean Stew with Winter Squash
We were reluctant to even discuss it on the blog BUT Susan encouraged us, so here you go.

The Cluster Elf
You know how we so highly recommend the practice of ‘mise en place’ when making a recipe, ESPECIALLY if it’s the first time it’s been tried. In keeping with that, we reviewed the recipe for the White Bean Stew to MAKE SURE we had all the ingredients either on hand or on our grocery list. We actually decided to prepare this dish prior to to our Farm Pack pickup on Thursday JUST in case the pack did not include the necessary Kale and Winter Squash (which it did not). So, we skimmed over the ingredients and listed what we needed. We only looked at the ingredients and NOT the INSTRUCTIONS. FAIL #1. IN FACT—while we were at the grocery, we ALMOST bought ‘real’ dried navy beans instead of canned but thought, NAH—canned will do fine. FAIL #2. While we did notice that the cooking time was estimated at an hour and 30 minutes, our elfin brain did not register that as an important piece of information until much later. So, we blissfully began our ‘mise en place’ as we read the instructions. The instructions do call for dried beans. There is no mention of substituting canned beans, which, of course, is what we bought. FAIL #3. So, we thought quickly to run back to the store at 4 pm and get the dried beans; scavenge the pantry JUST IN CASE a bag of dried beans was at the ready; substitute black-eyed peas we did have on hand instead of the yellow-eyed beans; or adjust the recipe to accommodate the canned beans. We opted for the canned beans. Well, that meant we would need to adjust for cooking time and the amount of water that a pound of dried beans would need. AND how many cans of beans would make up the volume of a pound of dried beans. We LITERALLY stood paralyzed with what to do for a full two minutes. Do you see the beginning of the Cluster Elf here?
We AT LEAST got the other ingredients taken care of in our preparatory elf-fort…cleaned and prepped a magnificent bunch of kale, chopped our onion, bought ready prepped butternut squash pieces, seeded/diced the jalapeño pepper, chopped the red bell pepper, and sliced up our half-cup of fresh basil.
Got all our spices at the ready to add and then realized that the recipe instructions call for DIVIDED portions of the cumin and oregano…but wait, if we aren’t using dried beans, do we still divide or use them all and risk over-seasoning? Oh Lord.
You do notice to this point, NO PICTURES. We were so overwrought, yes really, that we forgot about ‘pitcher takin’ and concentrated on how to recoup this recipe. We did finally get all the ingredients in the pot only to notice that it was WAY THIN. We’d put in too much ‘chikun broth’. So, we went to our old standby for added thickness.
That did the trick and the stew thickened up, looked awesome and your Elf breathed a big sigh of relief.
We are also convinced that the purchase (THAT VERY DAY) of a Macy wooden soup spoon added to the goodness of the stew. This is a hand-made/carved spoon from reclaimed cypress. It’s a work of art which always makes things taste a wee bit better. We are fools for great wooden spoons and this one will no doubt take its place in our collection.
We had also thawed out some of a Seitan Roast to have a bit of extra protein on hand and some added texture.
 We cubed it and sautéed to add at our discretion. Though the stew did NOT need it, we had in on hand.
 With a huge sigh of relief that this WOULD turn out well, we turned our attention to the vegan cornsticks just wrapping up in the oven.
We plated our stew and cornsticks. Now, would it taste as good as it looked?
Well, the answer is a resounding YESSSS!! This has to be one of the best stews we’ve eaten in a long time AND we are convinced that had we gone about this the RIGHT way, it would have been even better. So you can pretty much bet that the next time we make this, we will have ferreted out the dried yellow-eye beans and commenced to makin’ it CORRECTLY!


Wilma’s Granola
We have been making our own granola almost weekly and having fun with variations on the theme. Well, with permission and attribution, we’d like to share the recipe for Wilma’s Granola and then share a couple of Elf-tweaks and such. Your Elf’s dear friend, Wilma Davis (Memphis TN), shared her recipe with us once when we were visiting and we nearly ate the whole bag of it. It’s so easy, it’s almost ridiculous, so we have started making it for ourownse-lfs. Now that Big Solid has gone totally plant-based, he is eager for new breakfast alternatives that are healthy. For those of you who do not eat fat/oil of any kind, please share any thoughts you have on how to substitute the oil in the granola to make it oil free.
Wilma’s Granola (so easy! Elf tinkerin’ in bold)
Ingredients
~6 cups old fashioned rolled oats (you may use gluten free oats, if needed)
~‘handful’ chopped almonds (1/2 cup pecans, walnuts and/or almonds, chopped)
~1/3 cup vegetable oil (coconut oil)
~1/3 cup water; may dissolved 1T of brown sugar for a bit of sweetness (1/3 c unfiltered apple juice and 2 T dark maple syrup)
Instructions
~Place oats and chopped almonds in a large bowl.
~Add water and oil.
~Toss to coat (or use your clean or gloved hands).
~Spread on a large pan (or two) and bake at 325º for 20 minutes.
~Remove from oven, stir. Return to over and bake another 20 minutes.
~Remove and stir, turn oven off,return to oven and let sit until cool. Bingo!
You may certainly feel free to add any dried fruit such as raisins, cranberries, blueberries, etc. We kinda like it as is.
We have two pictures to show a close-up of the granola as well as both pans before they went into the oven.
It makes a pretty good sized amount, so we felt two pans would be necessary to get it toasted well.
Store in an airtight container or ziploc bag but we can pretty well tell you that it won’t last long.
AND, then we had an Elfin moment where we decided to use the granola in a batch of oatmeal cookies…WHOA!! Awesome! You an see the pecan pieces in the chocolate chip
and the dried cranberries in the, well, cranberry cookies.


Taco Night
Y’all know that we have now designated Sunday night as Taco Night. So last Sunday, we wanted to experiment with tempeh and indeed we did. We didn’t go into a long drawn out recipe as we get pretty laze on Sunday evenin’s and don’t want to cook a complicated dish. So, we opted to steam our tempeh for 10 minutes, let cool and then finely dice. We sautéed in a little bit of coconut oil and then added Simple Truth Meatless Crumbles. We then seasoned with chipotle powder, cumin, a TEENY bit of Ghost pepper salt, ancho chili powder, bittersweet smoked paprika to taste. Easy and delicious. Here’s what the shells looked like just stuffed with the tempeh filling (just ignore that stray piece of Daiya shredded cheese)
and here’s the final product.
This actually made a fairly large amount, so we had it on hand to add to salads, soups, baked potatoes or anything else we had on hand. Here’s where we added it to the FABULOUS Brussels Sprouts salad from last week!! It was so good!!
 As a result, we have decided to make a double batch every Sunday of whatever fillin’ we dream up so it’s an option for lunches all week!

For those of you who are working hard on being more plant-based in your diet, this is a wonderful meal that is tasty, easy and plant-based. So many folks think that plant-based means sticks, seeds and tastelessness; this is a nice way to have a totally plant-based meal that is wonderful and fun to eat. This Sunday (today) will be no exception…we already have our mini-recipe on hand and are excited about a new Taco Night!

Your Elf wishes to thank Rebecca Turner (radio host for SuperTalk MS's Mission Nutrition show and Clarion-Ledger Nutrition columnist) for havin' us on her show. The show will air on Saturday, Christmas Eve, December 24 at 9:00 a.m. In case any of y'all are interested, you can link to SuperTalk Radio and listen in. Just look for
Mission Nutrition and go for it! She's a delightful host and full of energy and great nutritional information.

Since next Sunday is Christmas Day, we will not be publishing our little blog so we can celebrate with our family and friends. We will start the day with a Vegan Christmas Breakfast and Mimosas at the Taylor’s (kids/grands) followed no doubt by a nap and then!!! Yes, we’ll be having our traditional Pajama Christmas Dinner with our BFFs, the Dees. We already have our recipes picked out and will spend this week having so much fun getting ready and preparing them. So, we hope everyone has a wonderful celebration of Christmas, Hanukkah, or Holy Day of your faith. We’ll pick back up on New Year’s Day with more Elfin Adventures and a new FFVK elf-fort!! So, from The Elf and Big Solid, we wish you only the best and look forward to a magnificent plant-based year! Until then, remember to…
Look for the Good, be an example of the Good, and act for the Good as hard as you can as many ways as you can every day that you can. In other words, “DO EPIC”!
Your Elf

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Rockin' Around the Christmas Elf

We had a particularly busy week in the Kinky Elfery Kitchen this week! So without further ado, we’ll jump right in and ‘git ‘er done’!

Our FatFree Vegan Kitchen recipe for the week was Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Dried Cranberries and Cashews.
This is a four part recipe which ostensibly can be a bit intimidating until you read through and see how easy the parts are. First is the preparation of the Pickled Red Onions which turned out quite nicely and was kinda fun to make. We did one thing differently though. Instead of pouring the boiling water over the sliced onions placed in a strainer/sieve, we tossed the onion slices in the water and IMMEDIATELY poured them into the strainer. The remainder of the recipe for the onions is a breeze and the result quite pretty.

The second component of this recipe is the Spicy Cashews. Again, easy peasy and, though seemingly a small amount of Spicy cashews, they do add a considerable amount of flavor to the salad. Susan’s recipe calls for the use of Cajun spice or any other spicy combination that you might wish. We LOVE Harissa, so that’s what we used. The combination of the maple syrup, Harissa and lightly toasted cashew pieces was quite a treat for your taste buds. You’ll see a picture of that shortly. The Maple Mustard Vinaigrette is equally easy and delicious. Fortunately for us, we had just purchased a half gallon of Dark Maple Syrup (formerly a Grade B) so we were more than eager to enjoy it. AND, our Farm Pack from the past week contained a GREAT jar of Sweet and Sauer Fermented Mustard which was PERFECT for this dressing (See Elf Blog 9/19/16).
We THOUGHT we had some balsamic vinegar but when we climbed up into the cabinet, there was none. Damnit. HOWSOMEVER, we DID have some WHITE Balsamic, so that’s what we used. It worked just fine. After those three components were prepared, we were able to turn our little Elfin attention to the Sprouts thems-elfs. Now, let us preface this by saying that not all Brussels’ sprouts are created equal and when we make this recipe again (and we WILL make it again), we will be more selective with our Sprout choice. We figured that since the Sprouts would be shredded, the initial size of them would not be an issue. Well, we were wrong. It’s prudent to select the smaller Sprouts than the larger ones. In the long run, you’ll have more Sprouts to shred/slice but the tough core will not be as much of a factor. We’ll show you what we mean when we get to that particular picture. The  use of the Slicing Blade for a food processor was a new and somewhat intimidating experience while preparing this recipe was using the Slicing Blade of the Cuisinart food processor. We’ve had this machine for at least 10 years and have NEVER used the slicer, so we were a bit tentative about it and looked up some You Tube videos to actually see how to do it correctly. We are hear to tell you, we are now slicing fools!! It was so much fun!! And sure does the trick in a hurry!We washed and cut the ends off the Sprouts and let them air dry for a while. Then we commenced to slicin’. Presto Sprouts-O! All sliced and shredded.
Now HERE’S where the Sprout selection is important. Even though all the Sprouts are slices, it is still necessary to separate out some of those slices that stayed relatively intact, which you can see in the picture above. IF you choose larger Sprouts, you’ll have a much harder time separating from the tougher and larger core. So, some Kinky Elfin advice is to suck it up and select out the smaller Sprouts rather than grabbing a big ole bag of BIG Sprouts. The next very small departure from the original recipe was to very lightly steam the shredded/sliced Sprouts — emphasis on VERY LIGHTLY. We only steamed for 50 seconds. It made the shreds easy to work with while still keeping the crispness. When then added the dressing, the cried cranberries and the pickled onions and tossed away.
We plated, topped with those awesome cashews and dove in.
Big Solid and your Elf initially said, “This is good. Not great but good.” A few minutes later, we said, “You know…this is REALLY GOOD!” And by the time we’d each had another bowl, we knew this was a definite winner. We hardly had room then for the Vegan Minestrone.

Our FFVK recipe for next week will take into consideration the need for a warm and comforting stew to keep the winter chill from seeping into our old bones. And this sounds like a winner. White Bean Stew with Winter Squash and Kale.
We’ll be getting our first renewal FarmPack on Thursday, so we have our fingers crossed that there will be some kale and/or winter squash of some kind in it.

Our Taco night last Sunday night was AWESOME!! We made ‘chicken’ tacos using The Gentle Chef’s Chikun Shreds.
We sautéed them a bit to get some brown crispiness and then simmered in a taco seasoning sauce.
Here's that they looked like as we were building the tacos!
We had two kinds of Daiya cheese on hand to try. The Mozzarella Style Shreds and some grated black Cheddar. Here’s the end result.
We LOVED this Taco Night! Tonight is yet another Taco Night and we’ll bring you the scoop next week. We know what we are going to use for our filling; we just want to season it to knock our own socks off!

In keeping with our Elf-fort to bring you stories of folks who have chosen a plant-based eating regimen and vegan lifestyle, we’d like to introduce you to Our Favorite Vegan—introducing Larry Swearengen (AKA Big Solid) in his own words.
“I became a full time vegan on my birthday, Sept. 20. I have no explanation about why I chose that day to start other then it would be easy for me to remember. It is a journey that I have been contemplating for some time because I was eating vegan about 85 to 90 present of the time anyway and I have read enough research to believe that there is clear evidence that a plant based diet is better for the individual and the environment.  Janne, my wife, has been vegan for four plus years, therefore all my at home meals have been mostly vegan, with the main exceptions being eating egg whites, cheese, and various dishes that I love that are  prepared by friends and shared with me from time to time. In fact, I had a huge test of my new resolve recently when a friend offered me some gumbo. She makes the absolutely best gumbo I have ever tasted. I still think of this lost gumbo from time to time and wondered if the trip is worth it. 

One thing I have found since committing to being a vegan is that there were numerous foods that I liked but ate very seldom for one reason or another but usually based on their calorie density. It turns out that I can eat these foods, rice, pasta, white potatoes, couscous, and wheat bread in fairly liberal quantities without weight gain. In fact, I find that I am losing weight even though I have totally quit counting calories. I admit it have been a great relief not to have to account for all the calories that go into my mouth. I could be quite obsessive about it and spend time entering each ingredient to get a total calorie count.  I have always loved vegetables, legumes, and grains of all kinds so that part of the diet has been easy since there is very little change.   

What do I miss the most? Waffle House Fiesta Omelet and the Southwest Omelet at Crossroads Café. Both are to die for. When I was traveling the first thing I checked when I learned where we were staying was how close there is a Waffle House. Otherwise I can pretty much live with eating vegan. There was a time in my life I would have missed fried chicken, but it has been a long time since that phase. The chickens you see in the store these days with the gigantic breast and thighs look gross. It makes me worry about the multiple injections of who knows what to get this kind of growth. No thanks.

Well, that pretty much sums up the beginning of my vegan journey. I am sure there will be challenges, but most things worthwhile offer challenges. Wish me well."

We actually have a lot more to share but don’t want to wear out our welcome! So we’ll hang onto those stuffs for a rainy day. Wishing you a wonderful week ahead. Remember to eat plants, smile often and…look for the Good, be an example of the Good, and act for the Good as hard as you can as many ways as you can every day. In other words, “DO EPIC”!
Your Elf

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Little Drummer Elf

It surely does appear that we are in full holiday swing in the Kinky Elfery Kitchen. We thought there might be some ‘down’ time after all the Thanksgiving festivities and cookery stuffs, but we’ve managed to come up with some things to keep us at our Elfinest. We have a couple of really cool things to talk about in a bit but FIRST!! Let’s talk TACOS AND FATFREE VEGAN KTICHEN ones at that!! You know we’ve deemed Sunday night Taco Night at the Elf Haus. We LOVE tacos, they are relatively easy to do and oh so much fun to consume! We will be scouring recipes galore to find those vegan fillings that are delicious (or not), fun to make (or not), and will be forever on the taco rotation (or not). So, this past Sunday, we chose Susan Voisin’s Cauliflower Rice and Lentil taco filling.
We’ve made this before and it never disappoints. AND it’s super easy. As always, we try to get our ‘mise en place’ by gathering all the ingredients we need. Here it’s relatively quick. We have our chopped onion, our MOST FAVORITE SMOKED PAPRIKA IN THE WORLD, ground cumin, chipotle chili powder and regular chili powder. We had precooked the lentils so they were already waiting for the skillet!
Then we ‘riced’ our cauliflower. Now, with the popularity of ‘riced’ cauliflower growing, you can find it packaged in the grocery store, so if you’re pushed for time, that’s a good option. However, we kinda like makin’ our own and controlling the degree of ‘riceness’.
So, we sautéed our onion until there was a bit of color showing
added the riced cauliflower and let that cook a bit while stirring a few times.
Then it was time to add the spices, so not only did we start getting some nice color to the skillet, we also got some great aroma!!!
 As that aroma began to make out little Elfin mouth water, we added the lentils. We’d cooked these ‘al dente’ so they wouldn’t go to complete mush when added to the cauliflower. We added a bit of broth to the skillet to help the lentils and cauliflower soak up the seasonings and VOILA!! TACOS!! As you can see, we had some gorgeous late season tomatoes from our Farm Pack CSA as well as some shredded romaine, and Daiya grated cheese.
What you don’t see is a bottle of Chipotle sauce that has a bit of a KICK to it. After we demolished those, we opted for JUST ONE MORE ‘ceptin  we were out of everything but the cheese! Well, we just made do.
And, since this recipe makes a WHOLE LOTTA filling, we had leftover tacos during the week. One day, we just used some romaine leaves as our ‘taco’ and topped with some avocado/smoked paprika. Light and delicious!
We already have tonight’s taco filling picked out so we look forward to sharing it with you next week. As for our next FatFree Vegan Kitchen recipe to prepare this week, we have selected Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad with Dried Cranberries and Cashews http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2013/04/lentil-and-cauliflower-rice-tacos.html 
AND, speaking of Susan Voisin and her FatFree Kitchen site(s), this week, Susan initiated a NEW Facebook group called FatFree Vegan Air Fryers. All you need to do is type in the title of the group into the Facdbook search thingie and you'll find it. From Susan, herownself, “We’re a support group for cooking completely oil-free vegan foods in the air fryer. This means not one drop of oil or packaged foods containing oil. Let's see what we can make!” We in the Kinky Elfery Kitchen are considering one of these Air Fryers and will follow this group to get the best information and reviews.

This week we also made a couple of batches of Granola since it doesn’t seem to stay around very long. The recipe is quite easy and fun to tinker with, which, or course we have. First off, your Elf wants to give credit where it’s due. This original recipe comes from my dear friend, Wilma Davis, in Memphis. She opened the first Wild Birds Unlimited here in Jackson and your Elf used to work there part-time. We sure learned a lot about birds. Anywho, here’s the recipe. Preheat the oven to 325º.
  • Measure out 6 cups of rolled oats (we use organic, naturally) in a large bowl.
  • Add 1/3 cup oil (for those of you who are oil free, skip this). We use virgin coconut oil.
  • Add 1/3 cup water (or coconut water). (For a hint of sweetness, you may dissolve 1 Tablespoon of organic brown sugar or sucanat).
  • Using gloved hands or a big ole wooden spoon, mix this thoroughly.
  • Add about 1/2 cup of chopped almonds (or any nut you may like) and mix in well. Using parchment paper on two large baking sheets, divide the granola evenly. Shake the pans gently to settle the ingredients.
  • Place on two racks in your oven and bake for 20  minutes. Remove, stir, and return to the oven switching racks for even cooking. After another 20 minutes, remove, turn off the oven, stir again and return to the oven as it cools down.
  • When the pans are cool enough to handle, take them out and let cool to room temperature. 
  • Store in a large airtight jar or container of your choice. Enjoy with your favorite non-dairy milk and any fruit/dried fruit you might have on hand.
Here’s another elf-fort of the week, our Ginger, Turmeric, Lemon and Cayenne tonic. Big Solid makes an awful face when he gets his shot glass in the morning but if it’s not on the table, he asks for it. Turmeric has wonderful anti-inflammatory properties and is a blessing for those of us who have arthritis! Here’s our little nutsack at work after we’ve blasted the ingredients with coconut water! There are dozens of recipes out there, so just Google it and see which appeals to you. We use a lime instead of a lemon, quarter it and throw it in the VitaMix peel and all. That’s where the nutsack comes in handy!
Our Upinfarms.com CSA box this week was chock full of goodness. Just LOOK at the menu card!
And here are a couple of pictures of the goodness we got! We LOVE mushrooms and these oyster mushrooms look gorgeous! As well as the greens and other great produce! Preparing great healthy meals with these and some beets we have on hand will make mealtime at the ElfHaus pretty darn easy!
Last night, Big Solid and your Elf went out to eat at one of our favorite haunts...KATHRYN'S STEAKHOUSE! They've alwasy been supportive of our plant-based eating and let us bring plant-based things to supplement what we order from them. See that baked potato that Big Solid is eating? Well, he's topped it with Vegan Pimento Cheese and sautéed Chickun Shreds (compliments of the Gentle Chef) along with sliced mushrooms sautéed in a teeny bit of olive oil instead of the usual butter.
And, your Elf's salad really didn't need anything else, but we managed to snag a couple of Chikun Shreds after this picture was made.

And FINALLY! You know how chance meetings can foster connections? Well, your Elf was in the bank the other day, wearing a sweatshirt that promoted being Vegan. Well, the bank manager said to one of the tellers, “Here’s another vegetarian!” We clarified that we were vegan and the darlling young woman teller said, “OH! I’m so excited to meet you! I want to go vegan and just didn’t know of any around here!” That’s all we needed…we whipped out an Elf in the Kitchen card, handed it to her and commenced to talking about her journey. Her name is Lexie, she’s new to the area and wants to take that leap. In fact—she’s agreed to share her journey with us from time to time, so we’ll just let her do that instead of talking for her. But! Isn’t it fun to be at the right place at the right time for the right reasons with the right person!! She made your Elf’s day with her enthusiasm and passion. YAY for Lexie Senter!

We leave you this week with a picture of part of our daily walk. You can barely make out Big Solid with chihuahua mix Belle. It’s a lovely part of the day; too early for much noise to interfere with a quiet enjoyment of the beauty around us.
So until next week, remember to…Eat Plants and Look for the Good, be an example of the Good, and act for the Good as hard as you can as many ways as you can every day. In other words, “DO EPIC”!


Your Elf