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Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Velveteen Elf

Yes, we have been absent for a bit and we apologize. You know, sometimes life intervenes in the best laid plans of mice and Elfs with events planned and events not so planned. On the Events Planned side was last weekend's gathering of the Sweet Potato Queens, led by none other than Her Royal Highness Jill Conner Browne (Jill is the taller woman on the back row). She is pictured with her Queenly court and the Top Notch Security folk. We had so much fun and always look forward to a weekend of laughter and camaraderie.
Rather than try to backtrack y’all through the past, we’ll just pick up with this week (and even ITS been hectic). There area a few dishes we’ll share from the past but a daily accounting is long past it’s prime. So, let’s get on with it!!
Just a few ‘catchin’ up pictures and discussions of meals gone by. We realize that a lot of folks read this little bloggery to get ideas about plant-based meals, so we want to try to accommodate any ideas/thoughts/pictures we may have.
A couple of weeks ago, our good friends (Paul and Betty Matens) invited us to dinner at their home. It was Betty’s initial foray preparing a totally plant based meal. Betty prepared a delicious ratatouille and a fabulous pasta with roasted vegetables as well as a green salad with strawberries. Heck, your Elf could have made a meal off the salad. You can see what a lovely table Betty set.

She even put out real MATCHING china and real glass glasses! We almost didn’t know how to act. We contributed an appetizer and the dessert. The appetizer is one of Big Solid’s favorites…’plant-based’ sausage rolls. They are made from a mixture of walnuts, oats, silken tofu and seasonings rolled up in puff pastry and sliced for baking. Here's what they look like about to go into the oven.
These are absolutely delicious when served with dipping sauces such as a ‘agave’ mustard and/or BBQ.
We are attaching the link to the recipe but noting that we made these rolls to be smaller than the rolls in the recipe. They freeze very well so you can keep a log of them in your freezer and slice for a quick appetizer when needed. In fact, they slice better when still slightly frozen.
Dessert was an ice cream cookie sundae made with our famous GF (Gluten Free) Double Chocolate Chip Cookies and So Delicious' awesome Cashew Cream (Cappuccino). We made a date caramel sauce to put on top but left it in the ‘frig at home…so we pretended it was there. Here’s a pic of what it SHOULD have looked like.
Other fun stuffs we had during our time away was a great sautéed/roasted veggie meal. We had sautéed spinach, kale and mushrooms (pretty much a staple in this house),

roasted cauliflower in Sambal Olek Thai Chile Sauce (very spicy and very tasty),
our go-to Cumin Roasted Brussels sprouts and Sweet Potatoes.
So our plate looked something like this! OMG what a feast!
When we posted this picture on our Elf Facebook page, a friend and journalist of excellence, Susan Marquez, called us out for serving this meal on a paper plate! Said it was too pretty a dish to be relegated to bein' served on paper. And, you know what, she’s ABSOLUTELY right. We are going to make much more of an elf-fort to move away from the wasteful paper plate regimen and to ‘real’ dishes.

The MOST cookin’ fun we had this week was a re-tooling of a Cook’s Country recipe we watched prepared a few nights back. We are HUGE fans of that show even though they rarely IF EVER cook anything vegan. And, we’ve been subscribers to Cook’s Magazine for years. It’s a great cooking magazine and has managed to stay afloat quite nicely without advertising. ANYWAY…the recipe is Pasta in Mushroom Sauce and it aired on Episode 13 of Season 9.
The trick is, to access the Cook’s Country videos and recipes, you have to be a subscriber. We will provide the link with that caveat. There IS a free trial period so, if you aren’t already a subscriber, it’s an option. And, the show airs nightly on Create TV; we rarely miss it. In any event, this recipe caught our attention for two is a combination of two of our favorite foods (pasta and mushrooms) AND it looked to be fairly easy to re-make as vegan. We hit a few bumps along the way and learned some ways to better it for next time but, for a first go, we were more than pleased. We chopped 24 ounces of two types of mushrooms (cremini and white). The recipe calls for using shiitake mushrooms with cremini an acceptable substitute if shiitakes were not available (which they weren’t at a reasonable cost and we didn’t want to drive all the way into town to get them at Mr. Chen’s). Half of the ‘shrooms are quartered and half are chopped finer (not minced but a good coarse chop).
The unsalted butter used in the recipe is easily countered with Miyoko’s Creamery Vegan Butter, which we SWEAR you cannot tell the difference!

AND, Miyoko's Butter is sustainable unlike the environmentally dangerous Earth Balance which is made from palm oil and destroys the habitat of the orangutan. So, we sautéed the mushrooms in half of the butter (the remaining butter is used at the end).
The sauté continued until the mushrooms were a dark brown, this better to draw out the mushroom flavor.
Here you see our ‘mise en place’ for the remainder of the dish..left to right starting with two finely chopped shallots, dry white wine (in the cup above), 1/4 oz (7grams) chopped dried porcini mushrooms, 2 minced garlic cloves (above), and 4 cups of The Gentle Chef’s ‘Chicken Bouillon’.
After the mushrooms had cooked down to a nice dark brown, the shallots were added
then the sage (we did not have fresh so used about 1/2 tsp of dried. We are NOT big fans of sage anyway), chopped dried porcini, and garlic.
This was cooked for about a minute to get the flavors of the spices/herbs released. Then we added the dry white wine and let that cook until the wine had pretty much evaporated (oh, the aroma was awesome).
Next, we added the ‘chicken’ broth, pasta and some salt. The recommended pasta was Campanelle which we were actually able to find at Kroger!!
This was brought to a boil, the heat reduced, Dutch oven covered and allowed to cook with an occasional stir until the pasta was done.
The recipe suggested 12-15 minutes though we feel that checking your pasta texture is a good idea starting at 10 minutes. We let ours cook 12 minutes and removed from the heat. Then, more magic happens when the remaining butter is added along with 3/4 cup of vegan Parmesan cheese and a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. This was stirred vigorously for about a minute to allow the butter/cheese to melt incorporating the added flavors into a really delicious sauce.
Big Solid really wanted some plant-based chicken shreds to accompany the mushroom pasta, so we accommodated without a problem; we always keep a supply on hand.
This really is an easy and excellent dish that we will make even better next time…first by getting the shiitake mushrooms and maybe even a couple of more exotic mushrooms to play with the flavors. Second, we will increase the amount of the mushrooms by using a pound of exotic/shiitake and a pound of white instead of the 12 ounces of each that the recipe indicates. Mushrooms tend to cook down so much that we felt they got lost. Third is the cooking time on the pasta…we could have easily removed ours from the heat at 10 minutes and had a pasta with a little more ‘bite’ (al denté) to it. All in all, the dish turned out quite well and we are looking forward to another round of it soon.
Now, in the “NOTE TO S-ELF” department, here are a couple of things we have to acknowledge to you. Remember our last blog (way back when) walked us through the making of the Vegan Cuban Lentil Soup? Well, we loved it so much, we wanted to do it again. So, we started off prepping our lentils. In our (non)elfin wisdom, we anticipated making a double batch SO that meant a double portion of lentils to soak. We carefully measured out two cups of dried lentils and placed them in a quart glass jar, screwed on the lid and let them sit in the dining room (not in the sun, though). We came home from a nice Thai meal at Fusion to this!

WHAT A MESS!! In our elf-thusiasm, we did NOT remember that the top is not the usual lid but a breathable covering of cheese cloth. Consequently, the buildup of gas made the glass jar go GABLOOEY all over the dining room.

We are very thankful Annie (our dining room mannequin) was not on hand for this catastrophe; she would have indeed been traumatized. It took quite a while to clean this mess up but we are certainly the wiser for it.
And, does this happen to you? We LOVE cilantro and use it often..or at least try to. It seems we buy a beautiful bunch of fresh cilantro at the store
and 15 minutes later (only slight exaggeration) it looks like this. So, our NOTE TO S-ELF is to use this stuff right away or figure out SOME was to keep it from turning into cilantro goo.
The easy remedy for this to to grown your own, which we intend to do. In the meantime, does anyone out there a) understand this dilemma and or b) have a solution? Your Elf wants to know.
 We close with a picture of our little Rememberin’ Tree. This little Ginkgo is now fully clothed in the finest of greenery for the summer and stands at the nexus of our neighborhoods to remind us that seasons change, we change, and we abide (kinda like The Dude) through storms both physical and emotional. And we remember all that is important to us and do good stuffs whenever we can. Thank you, little Rememberin' Tree.

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


  1. I used to be a Sweet Potato Queen. So much fun. JCB is a dear. FYI, America's Test Kitchen is coming out with a vegan cookbook. This week! Also, cilantro bolts. Don't bother planting it. I keep mine in the plastic bag in the fridge. Btw, I love your blog. And Susan Voisin even before I found you.

  2. Thank you SO much for your kind words and for reading and supporting our little blog! Have we perchance met?