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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Beware the Ides of Elf

My goodness Spring Break week went by so quickly!! Mother Nature reminded us that just when we think we are out of the deep freeze, it returns. For all of you who spent a chilled week at the beach watching your kids plunge into cold waters (pool or otherwise), you’re a braver ‘mon than I am, Gunga Din'.
We have one main feature for you this week and that is the Cuban Lentil Soup we prepared for Anything Can Happen Wednesday. But, let’s recap the week with our other Elfin concoctions which you probably know by heart now.
Sunday March 12 (Grocery Palooza Day) Taco Night — we cooked up a couple of packets of Delight Soy chicken nuggets.

Monday March 13 (Seriously, Already! Day) — this is all veggie night and MAN OH MAN! Did we have some veggies for US! Actually we got kinda carried away but even so, we had veggies for lunch all week! AND the FUNNEST part was that your Elf got all carried away and prepped all the veggie (diced, chopped, cleaned and otherwise did stuff to) the DAY BEFORE!! So all we had to do on Monday was cook them! When we show you the pictures, we’ll show the prepped veggies and then the cookin’ part. We prepared Rainbow Swiss Chard with ‘Shrooms

a Tofu Scramble with peppers, Shiitake Mushrooms, Kalamata Olives, Zucchini, and Onion,

then we had Red and Golden Beets sautéed with a small pat of Miyoko’s vegan butter (and if you haven’t tried it GET SOME!) and finished with a tablespoon of GENUWINE maple surple!

and finally, one of our MOST favorite vegan dishes, the Cumin Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts. Sorry--all we have here is the prepped version...we ate them before we could get a decent picture. 

Tuesday March 14 (Spinnin’ Like a Top Day) — Baked Potato Night. Our baked potato tonight was topped with sautéed fresh Asparagus and Shiitake mushrooms, shredded Daiya Cheese, and Delight Soy Chicken Nuggets. If you’ve never tried these and like plant-based meats, these are damn near impossible to tell apart from the real deal. See the package pictured on Sunday night Taco Night. We find them at Whole Foods. Baked Potato Night is fun because it’s easy, quick and doesn’t require a lot of thinking or preparation. Mostly, you can take whatever you have in the ‘fridge and throw it on a baked potato and it’s good. And, you don’t need to pile on the butter and sour cream!
Wednesday March 15 (Anything Can Happen Day) — Well, this was the day we planned on the Cuban Lentil Soup we saw on Facebook/One Green Planet a few weeks back. We MOST certainly made this soup and will share it with you momentarily. Just want to round out the Elf week before doing so.
Thursday March 16 (A Week of Judge Judy is Enough Day) — Thursday is Taco Salad Night when we take the taco filling from Sunday night, heat it up and throw it on a big ole pile of lettuce, tomatoes and other salad stuffs along with some crumbled up Whole Grain Tostitos. No picture necessary. We will be experimenting with cashew cream as a sour cream replacement for next week’s elf-fort as well as some other ideas. We even talked Bid Solid into alternating Taco Salad Night with Burger Night!!

NOW!! for the pièce de rèsistance!! Cuban Lentil Soup. We LOVE Cuban food and when we came across this recipe on one of our most perused and used resource sites (One Green Planet), we KNEW we had to give it a go. It looked delicious!! So, we read through the recipe and were completely undaunted by the seemingly labor intensive elf-fort that it appeared to be. We had a few questions about some of the ingredients, so we contacted the author of the recipe, Karen Sheer. She was most responsive and helpful in clarifying things for us. She was also eager to hear how our soup turned out. The link to both the recipe on One Green Planet and to Karen’s fun blog site, A Zest for Life, can be found at the end of this ‘show and tell’.

The recipe is divided into five main parts/ingredients. The SOUP itself, chock full of seasoning, vegetables and vegan broth supplemented with orange and lemon juices. The lentils used for this soup are ‘sprouted’ lentils, which are easier on the digestive system. So, we began four days ahead by preparing our sprouted lentils.
We couldn’t find a large glass jar so we had to settle for two pint jars. No big. We changed the water every 12 hours and kept the cheesecloth top secure with the jar screwy top (no lid). That was easy.

The day prior to actually putting the soup together, we prepared the Lemon Crema. We did this JUST in case it went bad on us and we had to resort to store bought vegan sour cream (which we were TEMPTED to do in the first place but THAT would NOT be true to the recipe). In case you have not heard of or don’t know what Lemon Crema is (like us), here’s the definition, from Mother Earth News. “Crema is a zingier cousin of American sour cream. Coming to us from cuisines south of the border, it pairs well with rich, smoky and spicy flavors. A versatile addition to any meal, it shines brightly as a cooling garnish and lends a tangy backbone to simple sauces.” So there ya go. Well, we got our ‘mise en place’ with silken tofu that was lightly pressed to get out as much of the moisture as we could. The Silken Tofu
and in the tofu press.
The remaining ingredients are shown here; fine sea salt, apple cider vinegar, a lemon (which we used for both the zest and juice), ground flax and organic cane sugar.
All of the ingredients were blended/processed until the mixture looked like sour cream. We tasted it and added a bit more lemon juice (you know your Elf is a ‘take-it-to-the-limit’ spicer). Here’s the final product!
We also prepared the Salt-free Sazón seasoning which is a mixture of various spices and herbs for a zesty, salt-free powderlike seasoning. Sazón means ‘seasoning’ in Spanish and Karen’s version requires some extra spices and such to keep the salt out and the flavor in. It’s quite delicious but was the most labor intensive of the whole elf-fort. NOT because it was difficult but we ‘like to never’ found one of the ingredients…annatto seed or the powder of the annatto seed which is called anchiote powder. We spent at least two hours on the road looking for it and finally found the anchiote powder at a small Latino grocery tucked away in a little strip mall that we almost missed. THEN, of course, we found the whole annatto seeds at Whole Foods for a WHOLE LOT OF MONEY and, we would have had to grind them to powder anyway! On Wednesday, we prepared our Roasted Chickpeas. All we have is a picture of the chickpeas prior to baking/roasting.
We combined the Sazón with a bit of avocado oil (since it has a high temperature tolerance) and baked/roasted the chickpeas until they were crispy. 
We could have SWORN we took a picture of the finished chickepeas, but apparently not. Next up was to roast/bake the plantains. A plantain is a member of the banana family. You can eat plantains at several degrees of ripeness…the darker the plantain, the sweeter the flesh (oops, probably shouldn’t say about fruit?) This recipe calls for a ripe plantain but not totally dark. We sliced them, brushed with some coconut oil
and roasted until they were browned.
They were set aside as we FINALLY got to the soup makin’ part! We sauteed our veggies and garlic

added the liquids and lentils and let that come to a boil
Then we lowered the temperature to a simmer, covered and let cook for about 40 minutes until the lentils were really soft. Then we turned the heat off, let the soup cool slightly, took out the bay leaves, pureed about a third of the soup in the VitaMix and put it back in the pot with a good solid stir. We tasted it, added some cayenne and lemon juice for us heat lovin’ folks and dished it up. To serve, we put the soup in a bowl (of course) and then garnished with the roasted chickpeas/plantains and a dollop of the lemon crema.
Then the HOUR of TRUTH was at hand!! What would Big Solid say and would it measure up to the elf-fort? Well, we are here to tell you that this is a MAGNIFICENT soup and since we know what to do now, we will prepare it again. Once you get the nature of the seasonings, ingredients and how to plan it ahead, it is not labor intensive at all. OH…our lentils NEVER sprouted. Next time, we’ll start soaking them earlier. As it turned out, it didn’t really matter as the soup was so good. OK, we promised the links to both the ONE GREEN PLANET recipe (which is the vegan option) and Karen Sheer’s A Zest for Life. Here you go!
There you have it for the week and we hope you had a great St. Patrick’s Day! We did not prepare ANYTHING IRISH this week! Bad Elf! Next week, we have some things in mind to entertain as well as inform. So join us, won’t you. We’ll also be ‘Sweet Potato Queenin’ over the coming weekend, so you might see some very interesting pictures.

So until we meet again, always 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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