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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Carry On My Wayward Elf


This past week has found your Elf in a mood to be more efficient and organized. It seems that since we retired a few years ago, we have less free time than ever before. It’s like we have to cram everything on earth into each day without regard to how much wasted energy we spend trying to do that. For instance, when we were working and traveling almost every week, we still managed to get Annie (the window mannequin) dressed monthly, read, cook, read, wash clothes, read, go to the grocery store, read, make jewelry, read, knit, read, watch a TON of TV, read, and work. Now that we NO LONGER WORK (paid, that is), we are so busy doin’ stuffs we hardly have time to sit down and enjoy a book. We don’t make jewelry or knit anymore…our little Elfin hands are too arthritic to sustain close work like that. We gave up watching TV after a year without cable taught us that there is indeed life after NCIS. So what in the hell do we do to NOT be able to sit still for a spell, as we say down here. We obviously cook but don’t do it in a very organized and efficient manner. So, we’ve decided to have all of our evening meals for the week planned and prepared by Tuesday. We eat out Friday (date night) and Saturday AND as you know, Sunday night is Taco night. Monday is typically a night we eat a baked potato (sweet or white) with assorted vegetables as toppings. That leaves only Tuesday through Thursday to have supper ‘fixed’. Breakfast and lunch at the Elfin Haus is easy…smoothies, cereal, plant-based sausage biscuits and oatmeal are always on hand. Lunch usually consists of the following selections:  lentils and brown rice with cooked greens from our Farm Pack, some kind of soup, roasted vegetables, or left-overs from previous evening meals, etc. Not a problem to fix. So, dinner/supper meals for 3 nights out of the week should be no problem to accomplish.
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To accomplish our new organization strategy, we chose two FatFree Vegan Kitchen (FFVK) recipes for this week. It was a Susan-palooza! The first one we prepared was Cumin Infused Vegetables over Quinoa. 
We are here to tell you that we’ve really been on a roll with our FFVK recipes of late. This is no exception. We’ll state up front that it’s delicious and so very good for you. For a long time, Big Solid would not entertain eating quinoa…too calorie dense. This was back before he read The Starch Solution by John McDougall and began to move away from counting calories to eating selectively and with smarts. It seems that nearly everything that Dr. Mc says has resonated with Big Solid, so quinoa is now in and enjoyed. And this recipe is indeed one to be savored. It’s easy to prepare as well. In fact, as part of our newly evolving organizational elf-forts, we fixed this recipe on Monday to enjoy on Tuesday night. One cool thing that Susan Voisin, the genius behind FatFree Vegan Kitchen, did with this recipe is to offer two ‘sizes’. The initial recipe makes eight substantial servings. She also included a scaled down recipe that makes four servings which was so much better for us. We started with our ‘mise en place’ of cayenne, smoked paprika, cardamom, turmeric, Harissa, ground cumin, chopped onions, chopped eggplant, cauliflower florets, chopped zucchini, minced garlic, Fire-roasted tomatoes and chickpeas. Just a note, the Harissa is technically on board in the recipe after plating for additional flavor. We added it during cooking to spice it up a bit more rather than over do it with the cayenne, which is our usual bent.
We sautéed all the vegetables in the order and time Susan suggested, allowing them to absorb the wonderful spices and NOT become too soft.
The zucchini was the last to be added since it doesn’t take long to cook. We let it cool, tasted and seasoned a bit more and then stored for the night, letting the flavors develop (marry) even more. We prepared the quinoa using the ‘Golden Chicken Bouillon’ recipe from The Gentle Chef and served it up last night. We especially liked dry toasting the quinoa before adding the bouillon for an added flavor boost. It was delicious…echoed heartily by Big Solid.
Our second recipe was a ‘kinda’ spur of the moment decision that turned out to be both good and not so good. We’ll get to the good in a minute…the not-so-good was a learning experience. The recipe was the Asparagus and Chickpea Casserole. 
We selected it because we loved the ingredients and the ease of a one-dish meal (even though Big Solid is not a particular fan of casseroles). Again, we got our ‘mise en place’ for this dish on Tuesday to have it ready to serve on Wednesday. What you see is sliced mushrooms, chickpeas (which we drained and rinsed), celery, plant-based chicken bouillon, spices and herbs (nutritional yeast, dried basil and oregano), onion to be chopped and cashew milk. Not pictured is the minced garlic.
The seasoning vegetables (onion garlic, celery and mushrooms were sautéed
followed with the addition of the asparagus and a couple of tablespoons of the bouillon. The pan was covered and the ingredients cooked until the asparagus were nice and green.
We whisked a couple of tablespoons of flour to the remaining bouillon and added to the asparagus mixture
and lastly we added the chickpeas.
This simmered for about 5 minutes and then we poured it into a lightly sprayed (Pam Coconut Oil) casserole dish.  We’d grated about 9 ounces of raw potatoes and placed over the top, sprinkling them with some smoked paprika.
It looked delicious!! We baked it for about 30 minutes, checked on the potato status and baked a wee bit longer. THAT’S when we ran into some issues! When we pulled the finished casserole from the oven, the potatoes were NOT nicely browned…they were a dull gray and gooey. No picture here...it wasn't pretty. WTF!! We thought of scraping them off and replaced with the frozen shredded hash browns but that would entail a trip to the store. After a day of thinking, we finally hit on a potential solution and messaged Susan what we were going to do. We know how careful she is about fats in her recipes, so we offered to just not discuss this elf-fort and issues at all. She answered with go right ahead..it’s all part of learning how to make adjustments and still have a good meal. So, we grated a some Daiya vegan cheese (about a half a block) and cooked some Boca crumbles. After ridding ours-elf of those grey potatoes, we added first the cheese and then the crumbles and re-heated the casserole to have Wednesday night. IT WAS DELICIOUS!! We served it with that Brussels Sprouts/Sweet Potato Bake from last week’s blog and had quite the meal.
 We also thought this casserole would go nicely over piece of pumpernickel toast…kinda like a vegan ala king. We have a small amount left, so that just may be lunch today!

We’ll see what next week brings in terms of both staying organized AND our FFVK recipe of the week!!
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Now as you know, Sunday is Taco Night and for this past Sunday night with the playoffs rolling at full blast, we were in quite the quandary. We had prepared plant-based Brats out of respect for the Green Bay Packers (see last week’s blog) with the intention of having them during the day. Well, we just COULD NOT bring ourselves to rush through the Brats in preparation for Taco Night, so we opted to have the Brats on Monday night. Let it be said that NOTHING interferes with Big Solid’s anticipation and enjoyment of Taco Night. So, we focused on ‘Chicken’ Tacos. We used our ‘Chicken’ Shreds (once again, compliments of The Gentle Chef)
and sautéed them up and added the taco flavorings/chopped chilies.
Now REALLY, doesn’t that look good! The final stuffed tacos were inhaled as always and we look forward to another Taco Night tonight!
 As for the Brats, we had not made these in a while, so we were a bit apprehensive. Oh ye Elf of little faith! We tried to prepare them in the typical Wisconsin fashion…pan seared (we gave up our grill a while back) in an iron skillet
 and then boiled/kept warm in beer. 
We enjoyed them with toasted pumpernickel, and Lauren Rhoades' Sweet and Sauer kraut and fermented mustard shown in last week’s blog. HOLY MOLY!! OUTSTANDING!! We really wanted the Cowboys to win (Dak OF COURSE) but we can’t but appreciate the terrific game it was and congratulate the Pack for a job well done.

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Thursday night, we had a return to Burger night so we could use some of our great lettuce, tomatoes from a previous Farm Pack and try out the Gardein meatless patties.
We oven-fried some potatoes and had a pretty nice little night.
For weeks now, we have noticed that the Kroger brand of Simple Truth Meatless Patties and Crumbles have been absent from the freezer. After much inquiry over the past few weeks without an answer, we were told these products had been discontinued. However, today, we learned that they are simple out of stock! YAY! We do not eat much in the way of processed plant-based meats, such as Boca, Gardein and other brands. For the most part, they are far too calorie and fat-laden (for example, Field Roast). Usually we make our own plant-based meat analogues using ingredients we have on hand (vital wheat gluten, nutritional  yeast, tofu, grapeseed oil, spices and herbs) from FFVK or The Gentle Chef’s Seitan and Beyond. By the way, Boca Crumbles have 0 fat grams per serving which is great.
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Our Farm Pack this week brought a bounty of good stuffs! Pictured are Cabbage, the GORGEOUS Oyster Mushrooms, Scuppernong jam (we eschewed the honey and yogurt), BEAUTIFUL carrots, GREAT Collard Greens, BEAUTIFUL Sweet Potatoes, and three heads of AWESOME Salad Days lettuces (Butter lettuce and Curly Red Leaf).
We always look forward to Thursday to see what will appear in our Farm Pack. Thanks go to the folks at UpInFarms for supporting locally grown organic produce.
So, another week has flown by in the Kinky Elfery Kitchen and we so appreciate your support and kind words. We don’t claim to be experts on much of anything and really hope to represent the joys and challenges of living a plant-based life, so until next week, remember to..... 
Look for the GOOD, be an EXAMPLE of the GOOD, and ACT for the GOOD as HARD as you can, in as MANY WAYS as you can, EVERY DAY that you can. In other words, “DO EPIC”!
Your Elf


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