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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Elfin Is As Elfin Does

We have such a jam packed blog today, we almost don’t know where to start!! So, best just “git ‘er done”, right? We can title this portion of our bloggeriness as follows: “OH…the Celeriac of it all!!” Look, we here at the Kinky Elfery Kitchen celebrate our propensity for the unusual. Well, Tuesday, we dang near outdid ours-elfs.  A few weeks  back, we happened on yet another recipe from VEGAN BOWLS that looked intriguing—Cajun Tofu and Artichoke Bowl. As we looked through the ingredients, we noticed Celeriac, also known as Celery Root. To give you some idea of our encounter with Celeriac, we shall henceforth refer to it as ‘The Root That Shall Not Be Named’ (Root from here on out). The recipe calls for 2 POUNDS of Root and at $5 a pound, we almost gave up on the recipe right there. In any event, once challenged, never defeated…so we forged ahead with our two pounds of Root without a CLUE how to use it. The instructions indicated that it should be peeled and cut into a 1/2” dice. What the instructions did NOT reveal is that we would need a hatchet and possibly a chain saw to peel and dice it. AND, when we finally DID get it peeled and diced, burning somewhere in the area of 1000 calories, we wound up with…oh, maybe 8 ounces of usable (or so we thought) Root. The ultimate goal was a puree as the base for the bowl. So, into a pot of boiling water went the diced Root where it simmered for 20+ minutes, hopefully by then being ‘fork tender’. NOT. Some of it was and some of it wasn't and actually never would be. Our hatchet wielding elf-forts did not result in ridding Root of all it’s tough skin and pith, so saying that Your Elf was pithed off is an understatement. We squished out as much ‘fork tender’ as we could and tossed the rest in the compost bowl. That left us with about 5 ounces of ‘fork tender’ Root…not NEARLY enough to turn into a substantial puree. So, we improvised by preparing some fork-tender cauliflower. With great resolve, we whipped up the puree as the recipe indicated fully recognizing that we may be tossing it all out. BUT!! WAIT!! What started out as a potential Epic Fail turned into a REALLY lovely puree!! We were then well on our way to completing this recipe. There were actually 3 mise en places and we’ll walk through each as the recipe unfolds. Our mise en place for the Puree: Unsweetened cashew/almond milk, black peppercorns for freshly ground pepper, extra fine sea salt, THE ROOTS, unfiltered EVOO and a healthy amount of water for cooking ‘The Root That Shall Not Be Named’.

It should be noted that the ROOTS pictured had not yet been peeled and diced; truth be told, after all that peeling and dicing, we did not have strength enough to lift the camera. Pictured next is the mise en place for the Grill (the major bowl component). Here we have Smoked Spanish Paprika, Unfiltered EVOO, Cayenne Pepper, Dried Thyme, Dried Turkish Oregano, Black Pepper Grinder, The Gentle Chef’s Chicken Bouillon, and Minced Garlic.
What you don’t see here is the 14 ounce block of Organic Extra Firm Tofu that had been pressed long enough to squish out a fair amount of water and sliced into 8 slices. These ingredients were blended into a marinade for the Tofu slices. We deviated a wee bit from this recipe in that we doubled it to make sure we had enough to coat our tofu thoroughly. Other than that, we stuck to the plan and the marinade turned out beautifully. Here you see the marinade waiting for the slices of tofu.
The tofu as it begins to marinate
and the final complete coverage of the tofu.
Yes, we deviated a wee bit again by leaving the tofu in the marinade for a few hours rather than the 5 minutes indicated in the recipe. We are two people who love strong and intense flavors, so a lengthy marinade was fine for us. For many others, maybe not. The final mise en place was small but comprised the remaining component for the bowl: EVOO, Artichoke Hearts (we used canned and not the oil marinated), and two garlic cloves which were later thinly sliced.
NOW, we were ready to finish it! The warm ROOT/cauliflower puree was layered into the bowls.
We don’t yet have a grill pan but made do with a large skillet which worked just fine to sear/cook our Tofu slices.
We sautéed the artichoke hearts and sliced garlic, which we left halved because these were baby artichoke hearts, in the EVOO to get a nice browning
and topped the Puree with a healthy dose of them.
And finally, we topped those two layers with the grilled Tofu slices.
Your Elf had NO idea how this was going to taste or fly with Big Solid. This picture ought to give you some indication!
This was so damn good we could hardly stand it. The Tofu that we let marinate SO LONG was delicious, the Sautéed Artichoke Hearts were superb and that Puree was absolutely marvelous. So, we are now two for two in this Vegan Bowl cookbook. Highly recommend! For you who may be interested, here is a link to Celeriac: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celeriac

We used some of our time this week to make two batches of The Gentle Chef’s Chickun Shreds and Pulled Porq. Shown wrapped in foil, the bottom two are the Chickun and the top is the Porq (coming up shortly in a recipe).
The other Gentle Chef meat analogue we prepared was Bacun so we could have Bacun and Tomato sandwiches. Summer ain’t summer without them.

Our next recipe was Cuban Black Beans with Cuban Flavored Pulled Porq served over Brown Rice and Sauteed Plantains. We found the recipe for the Cuban Black Beans (Vegan) online. We are not going to share the link because frankly, the beans had NO flavor at all until we started tinkering around after they had cooked. So, while they were cooked in a slow cooker, the recipe is NOT from our Slow Cooker cookbook. Here’s the mise en place for the beans: Black Beans that had been soaked for 3 days (you can see they are beginning to sprout), Cumin, Onion, Oregano, assorted Peppers (jalapeño, poblano and sweet), and minced garlic.
We placed all the ingredients in the slow cooker (lined to keep it clean) with 3 cups of Chickun Bouillon (The Gentle Chef).
This cooked pretty much all day and still did not have that creamy consistency we wanted BUT even ‘worser’, it had NO flavor. So, we added some salt. That helped but not much. There was a flavor we had in our head that we just could NOT figure out how to replicate. We’d pull out a spoonful of beans, try something new, and elfin-frown. FINALLY, we found it!! And you’ll NEVER believe what it was.
Yep! Turkish seasoning. We gotten some at the Penzey’s store in Memphis (along with some other exotic spices we’ll spring on you another time). OK, so we had the Cuban/Turkish Black Beans ready NOW for the Cuban Pulled Porq (The Gentle Chef’s Seitan and Beyond Cookbook). Our mise en place was simple. Minced Garlic, Avocado Oil (our choice, any good oil will be fine), fresh orange and lime juice with orange and lime zest, thinly sliced white onion, and freshly picked oregano.
We sautéed the onion until translucent
added the garlic and stirred in the Porq we had pulled and the fresh oregano that had been minced.
The citrus juices and zests were added and all cooked down until most of the liquid had been absorbed.
Then, we had a brainstorm of sorts and drizzled a bit of J. Olive's Baklouti Pepper Infused Olive Oil over the Porq for an added boost. HOLY TASTEBUD EXTRAVAGANZA!!
Well, we couldn’t stand not knowing how it tasted, so we sampled the Porq mixture and a mouthgasm occurred; it was incredibly good! Next up, the sautéed plantains. We used a bit of Miyoko’s Creamery Vegan Butter for our sauté base and when the plantains got nice and brown, drizzled a bit of dark agave nectar over them.
The final dish was served as seen.
Wonderful!!

Last was our meal from Thursday evening. We used our slow cooker cookbook to prepare what appeared to be a nice all in one meal—Black Pepper Portobello and Baked Potato Dinner. The mise en place was: Black Pepper from the Mill, Agave Nectar, Tomato Paste, Vegan Worcestershire, Water, Potatoes, Portobellos and a Broccoli/Cauliflower medley (we actually cooked this in the microwave, so we could assure ours-elfs of the consistency we like). Behind the Broccoli is a jar or Tamarind Paste.
We prepared the marinade for the mushrooms, poured it over them in the pot, added the potatoes, covered and cranked it up on low.
Big Solid wanted some Chickun Shreds to top the potatoes with (as well as the portobello steak), so we sautéed some of those. We had expected the sauce to thicken and become dark, as pictured in the book but it did not. We are not sure why as the mushrooms were thoroughly cooked. The taste was good but the consistency just didn’t fly…very thin. Nevertheless, we certainly did have a nice big meal out of it with the added chickun, Daiya shredded cheese and vegan sour cream.

Now, we prepare ours-elfs for this coming week in the Kinky Elfery Kitchen as we begin our food adventures with The Green Chef. Our first meals will arrive in time for us to prepare them for three days next week. AND that still gives us time to try at least one recipe (if not two) from our gaggle of cookbooks. We are also tracking our grocery/food spending this week and will go back a few weeks as well to get a weekly average (Holy Moly, what an eye-opener!). This should be a lot of fun!! And not to leave out our pack of rescue dogs, we prepared them some healthy sweet potato bites for treats. They love them.

We cannot let this blog end without acknowledging the recent tragedy experienced in the Mississippi Delta. Sixteen servicemen, fifteen Marines and one Navy sailor, were killed when their plane went down in a Delta field enroute from North Carolina to Arizona. There is an unspeakable grief here and we ache for these men and their families, both civilian and military.  It makes the following passage ever more meaningful. 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”!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Love Your Neighbor as Your Elf

Well y’all…we have a LOT to talk about this week and some interesting glimpses into the future. We prepared several dishes this week that we’d like to share. If you remember, last week we talked about yet ANOTHER cookbook that we’d actually discovered on one of our cookbook shelves. We can’t BELIEVE we had not perused it or tried any of the recipes. Well, those days are over. The cookbook is Vegan Bowls by Zsu Dever. Here’s the link to her site and book.
The recipe we chose to make was Sambal-Glazed Tempeh Bowl. We are big fans of tempeh AND Sambal, so this was clearly our inaugural elf-fort. So, we got our ‘mise en place’.
You see the cookbook along with the Sambal Oelek, Low Sodium Tamari, Rice Wine Vinegar, Organic Sugar, Lime, and Tempeh (we typically use LightLife tempeh as it’s easy to find). What you DON’T see is the primary reason for the ‘mise en place’! The recipe calls for basmati (or long grain white rice). We always use brown rice and COULD HAVE SWORN we had some but did not. And we were not about to drop everything and run to the store. So, we looked for suitable options (quinoa being one and pasta being another). We opted for brown rice pasta (not pictured). Well, a lovely marinade composed of the liquid ingredients and some water is reduced by half and then the sliced tempeh is added to soak it up for a bit.
Heck, we were already in love, having tasted the marinade…really spicy and delicious. The tempeh is then grilled (or sautéed as the case may be here, since we do not have a grill pan…yet).
The second substitution came as the 'green or vegetable' component of the bowl. We had some wonderful baby bok choy on hand so we went with it rather than the broccoli in the original recipe. This was sautéed along with julienned carrots, sesame oil, tamari, and vegetable broth (which to your Elf means The Gentle Chef’s Chicken Bouillon).
A half cup of pumpkin seeds (pepitas) was toasted and seasoned with Chinese 5-Spice ONLY once again, our 5-Spice larder was bare…so we subbed Berbere (the Ethiopian spice we love). We cooked the Brown Rice pasta twirly things and then put the bowl together.
We could not BELIEVE how good this was. Like we posted on our Elf FB page, if we operated a Vegan/Plant-based restaurant, this would be on the menu!

Next up was a recipe from the book we featured last week, Eat Vegan on $4 a Day by Ellen Jaffe Jones…Delectable Lentil Soup. We are soup fanatics and always have at least one soup on hand for a quick lunch of supper meal. This time, we chose to utilize the convenience of the slow cooker AND, of course, we were missing one of the ingredients (the fire-roasted) tomatoes. We said to ours-elfs, ‘what the hell’ and forged ahead tomato-less. We were also a bit short on the lentils, so used split pigeon peas (aka Toor Dal) instead! See?

We threw all the ingredients (carrots, potatoes, onion, celery, garlic,and spices) into the slow cooker, cranked that sucker up and walked away.
At the end of the day, here’s what we had…a lovely lentil soup with lots of flavor, though of course, you know we add cayenne to everything. Served with some crusty toast and a Pinot Grigio, we were good to go!
AND THEN….AND THEN… it was time to start working on our plant-based options to take to our annual Fourth of July at our BFFs, the Dees. Bein’ it’s summer and all, we made the awesomest dessert ever (arguable, of course) called Summer Berry Pudding. We have used Michael Chiarello’s recipe for years and it’s never failed us.
But, if you Google Summer Berry Pudding, you’ll find a plethora of recipes that are available. We have always doubled the recipe for the berry ‘sauce’ or puree used to coat the bread since the bread does soak it up pretty quickly and there’s nothing worse than running out when you’re only half-way done! In any event, the whole or coarsely chopped berries are heated with sugar until juicy
and then the pudding is layered with the coated/soaked bread. Here’s what it looks like just before the final layer of coated bread is placed on top.
A slightly smaller pan is placed over this top and weighted to smush the pudding together (we used heavy cans). We learned the hard way to place the weighted pudding on a lipped cookie sheet before placing it in the ‘frig for an overnight stay. The first time we did this, we were cleaning out the lower part of the ‘frig for few days. Using some non-dairy ice cream (we love So Delicious Cashew Cream in Cappuccino, pictured, or Salted Caramel) just added another level of decadence to this delicious dessert.
Two other dishes we prepared for our Fourth of July evening were a Red Lentil Pasta with sautéed shiitake mushrooms, steamed broccoli, Delight Soy Chicken Nuggets and Plant-based Andouille Sausage (home-made, of course). Tossed with some lemon juice and EVOO, you have a nice meal
AND
a Tofu Scramble with Zucchini, Orange, Red and Green Bell Peppers, Peas, and Kalamata Olives. We added a touch of White Balsamic Vinegar to give it a bit of ZING and served it with Pumpernickel Toast.
So, there you have the week. It was fun and busy.

NOW, for some interesting and hopefully delicious news that happened to coincide with our growing concern over the AMOUNT of money we have been spending on groceries!! We have never been good planners as we tend to cook by impulse. Heck, we may plan out two weeks worth of menus which all go to hell in a hand-basket if something catches our eye or we decide ‘we don’t want that’. A vegan friend of ours, Gigi Carter, sent us information on a Meal Delivery plan from The Green Chef that includes vegan meals. So, we thought we’d sign up for it to see if that would cut down on the amount of food we buy (and ultimately waste) AS WELL AS provide interesting food concoctions that we might not try otherwise. Starting July 14, we will be receiving 3 days worth of entree meals which include all the ingredients portioned our for the recipe. That STILL leaves us 2 days to cook recipes up from the recent cookbooks we’ve been featuring for our supper/dinner as well as lunches and breakfasts. We will run a comparison with the cost of the home delivered meals (and the rest of meals we will prepare) with the previous weeks of shopping expenses. Hope that makes sense. We also want to share our experience with ease of preparation, flavors/taste combinations and menu variations.

Let’s make this now a Vegan Wrap until next week. In the meantime, 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

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Land of the Free and the Elf

Thanks to all y’all (that’s plural for y’all) for reading the little mini-post of last week…Music City Elf. We had a great response to it! So this week, we want to catch you up on three recipes your Elf made from her new cookbook Eat Vegan on $4 a Day by Ellen Jaffe Jones.
So many folks talk about how expensive it is to ‘go vegan’ and truth be told, it can be pricey when exotic and/or hard to find ingredients are listed. So without further babbling on, here we go. There are some really interesting recipes in this book, so we started out with a soup, a breakfast and an entrée. We actually used all of them as a supper meal since we pretty much prepare our own breakfasts and lunch.  Big Solid likes to eat cereal for breakfast and your Elf likes avocado and tomato. We also like to eat at different times, usually depending on gym time and hunger level. You can almost always find a bowl of lentils and a container of brown rice in the refrigerator for a quick, healthy and tasty lunch. So, our first elf-fort was the soup…and the recipe is titled Minestrone with Pasta Shells. We have l earned oh so the hard way to get our ‘mise en place’. Pictured below are the ingredients at the ready.  Dried Kidney and Great Northern beans,

followed by chopped Napa cabbage, The Gentle Chef’s Chicken Bouillon powder (this stuff is the BOMB!), green beans, carrots, onion, garlic, fire-roasted diced tomatoes, celery and whole wheat pasta shells.
After cooking the beans for about an hour, we stirred in the tomatoes,
then the remaining vegetables, bouillon powder and garlic.

We decided to cook the pasta separately after experience has taught us that the pasta will stay al denté if added rather than continuously staying in the soup liquid. We used fresh Italian parsley from our little herb garden and dove in. We really meant to take a picture of this wonderful soup as we enjoyed it at supper but forgot. SOO…here’s a shot of just the soup after we’d eaten all the pasta up. It was delicious although there was one curiosity…minestrone is an Italian soup yet there were none of your typical Italian herbs in the recipe. No basil, no oregano, no thyme or combination thereof. And to be honest, we did add some at the end of the cooking period to boost the already nice flavors.
This soup also freezes well and we have a good meal waiting for us in the freezer. The estimated cost per serving of this soup it $3 per cup (and that’s 12 healthy servings). You can certainly add some crusty rustic bread to make it even more substantial.

The next recipe sounded so good, we jut had to give it a go…the breakfast dish called Chorizo-flavored Scramble. We adore Tex-Mex and all variations on that theme. This recipe has a BUNCH of ingredients it but don’t let that deter you. This dish is outstanding. So, here’s our ‘mise en place’: Onion, Apple Cider Vinegar, Raisins soaked in warm water, Garlic, Cumin, Oregano, Red Pepper Flakes, crumbled Tofu (we always use extra-firm organic), Tamari, Agave, Turmeric, Lightlife Vegan Bacon (a word about this later), and Boca Crumbles.

First, we cooked the vegan bacon
…and we have to tell  you that this is not a particularly exciting and tasty vegan bacon. Seriously…we much prefer (and this recipe gives us the impetus) to make our own vegan bacon using The Gentle Chef’s wonderful recipe. In fact, we devoted nearly a whole blog on a step by step of how to make this Bacon, with Chef Skye Michael’s permission as well!
Anywho, back to the Scramble. After frying up the ‘bacon’, we let it cool off a bit and then crumbled it up. We then sautéed the onion and garlic
and added everything else. Of course, we’d drained the raisins. This was cooked until really heated through and through.
Then we threw in the crumbled bacon and served over crumbled Fritos (or you could use any tortilla chip) topped with shredded Daiya Vegan Cheese (remember that we DO NOT LIKE the Daiya shreds…get the block cheese and shred it yourownself).
The estimated cost of this dish per serving is $.75 (10 servings). Since we added the Fritos and Daiya cheese, the cost would go up slightly. The recipe does suggest to serve with tortillas, which are much cheaper. We are just suckers for Fritos. Oh! And we probably pumped up the red pepper flakes and added some cayenne…you know we like spicey!!

And, the final recipe from Ms Jones book was another winner…Sesame Bok Choy. We typically get the baby Bok Choy at Mr. Chen’s (our go to Oriental Grocery) but this time, we opted for the BIG OLE Bok Choy. This recipe does NOT disappoint. If you’ve never tried Bok Choy, by all means do. It’s good, cooks quickly and is a change of pace from the same old green stuffs. And, being a cruciferous vegetable, it’s very good for you. Check this out.
We chopped our Bok Choy after washing it thoroughly, gave it a whirl or two in the salad spinner thingie, tossed into a large deep pan to sauté along with the carrots, green onions and garlic.  Remember that a little toasted sesame oil goes a long way, so don’t overpower your vegetables with too much…been there, done that.

Bok Choy cooks quickly so keep an eye on it…maybe two to three minutes. See how it cooks down?
We finished it off with some of The Gentle Chef’s Chicken Bouillon powder, soy sauce, minced fresh ginger and agave nectar. The recipe calls for this dish to be served over quinoa or brown rice..we chose pasta.
We also had prepared some Butler Soy Curls with a nice soak in a delicious broth, drained, and then sautéed.
The final dish looked like this.
and it was AWESOME!! Just the Bok Choy recipe with quinoa or rice averages $1.00 per serving (10 servings). So there you have an introduction to some of the recipes from this really cool cookbook. We will try to cook from this book frequently and report out!! AND!! LOOKEE what we just found as we were straightening up the gaggle of vegan cookbooks we have collected over the past 5 years.
As you can see, we’ve already marked a couple of recipes to try—REAL SOON!! And we end this little bloggery with the mention of ONE MORE cookbook. Chef Skye Michael Conroy has a new cookbook out that we just downloaded. He has been working on this for quite a while and we are eager to see if we can even BEGIN to make some of the plant-based seafood inspired recipes he’s developed. Check out this link to see what we are talking about.
So until next week, we wish you a safe and Happy Independence Day! Celebrate this great country with some great vegan food! AND, 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