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Saturday, August 12, 2017

All Good Things Must Come to an Elf

We are submitting an Early Elf today as we prepare for a trip to the mountains. The house/dog-sitter is engaged, the vegan foodstuffs are accumulating to be packed, clothes are being washed, last minute details are also be addressed. We are beyond excited!
So, let’s fill you in on this past week as this will be an all Green Chef Blog. Remember we have been quick to use the meals with the potentially most perishable produce first. So, Sunday night, we prepared the Quinoa Chard Dolmas. Dolmas are typically found in Greek cuisine, better knows as Stuffed Grape Leaves. This recipe put a bit of a spin on it and used Swiss Chard, one of our most favorite vegetables. First we got our mis en place with Nutmeg-Herb Spice Blend, Tofu ‘Feta’, Mint, Kalamata/Beet salad, Parsley, Yellow Onion, Roma Tomato, Roasted Red Peppers,  Cucumber, Swiss Chard (wrapped in paper towels), Lemon Greek Dressing,Whole Wheat Pita,and White Quinoa.
And here is where we made a decision to improvise a bit on the instructions. The chard was a bit torn in several places, so we figured a rolled quinoa-stuffed leaf was out of the question. So, we decided to turn the Pita from a salad ingredient to a sandwich base AND toast some of our own Whole Wheat bread to substitute in the salad, made from the tomato, mint and parsley, cucumber, Kalamata olives and pickled beets. This actually turned out MUCH better than we thought as we used the chard as a vegetable in the pita and stuffed it with the quinoa/onion, red peppers combo. Here’s the final plating. We thoroughly enjoyed this although Big Solid wanted a bit more ‘spice’ in the salad. Actually, the Tofu Feta was quite a nice addition.
Next up on Tuesday was Eggplant Napoleon. Now, y’all know that Eggplant is NOT Big Solid’s idea of an edible entity but he said, “Just go ahead a use it. I’ll deal.” (What a guy!) So we did and you know what, it turned out quite nicely and he ate every bite!! Here was our mis en place:  Parsley, Green Beans, Scallions, Cornstarch, Bulgar Wheat, Green Olives, Cannellini Beans, Thyme Eggplant, Yellow Onion, Garlic, and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce.
One of the things we have really appreciated about the Green Chef menus is their salads. For the Eggplant Napoleon, the salad was outstanding…a Bulgar, green bean, chopped and sautéed eggplant, cannellini bean, green olive and tasty lemon-caper vinaigrette. Unfortunately, we did not get a picture of the final plating of this meal but we can tell you it was pretty darn good. Our final Wednesday night meal was the one your Elf had been waiting for..Jamaican Jerk Tempeh! We love Jerk seasoning and this one looked to be a winner. Our mis en place was Mint, Tempeh, Jamaican Style Jerk Sauce, Mango, diced Sweet Potatoes, Lime, Red Pepper, Scallions, Red Onion, Garlic, and Moroccan Pink Rice.  As predicted, this was our favorite meal of the week. We seared the tempeh slices and then simmered in the Jerk Sauce.
Sautéed the sweet potatoes, onions and garlic,
and prepared the warm rice salad.
The final plating was quite lovely set off with some lime wedges.
In fact, we had enough left over to have for lunch another day. This was the last week of our Green Chef subscription. We decided to end our subscription for several reasons, none of which had to do with any issue with the Green Chef program as they have been most responsive to any questions or concerns we may have had.
First, one of the main reasons we subscribed to Green Chef was to see what impact their weekly fee would be on our grocery expenses. Well, we can truthfully say that the impact was significant. On average, we saved around $125 a WEEK! That’s pretty impressive and it also was a factor in our decision to end the meal subscription (keeping open the possibility of doing it again on occasion or even trying our a competitor at a later date). This past month has taught your Elf to be a better and more savvy shopper. We are the world’s most IMPULSIVE shopper, resulting in way more food being ruined and tossed out than we can even begin to admit.
The second reason, and truth be told, the primary one, was we felt like we had most control of our menu (which we did, so to speak). It was also amazing to open the Green Chef box each Friday to find that we had almost all of the ancillary ingredients (onions, scallions, garlic, fresh herbs, olives, tomatoes, edamame, black beans, to name a few) on hand in our Elfin Pantry.
After some more thought, a third reason has blossomed in our little Elfin brain and that is, as much as we like to try new stuffs, it doesn’t have to be EVERY DAY!  Those of us who love to ‘play’ in the kitchen and experiment with new recipes often feel compelled to do something different every day. Big Solid reminded me that he’s perfectly happy with a couple of nights of baked potatoes with steamed broccoli and other toppings AND some of the more devastatingly delicious recipes we’ve tried recently. But, he said, “You don’t have to be a slave to the kitchen every night and prepare a masterpiece.” Now for folks who are incredibly busy, such as fellow veganista Gigi Carter who is a full time student and competitive cyclist, she said “Green Chef has been a godsend for her”.
'Fourthly', Big Solid and Your Elf have been calorie counters for years to keep our weight under control. The Green Chef meals average significantly higher in calories than we are accustomed to eating (we try to stay in the 1200-1500 calorie per day range). Of the 12 meals we prepared, the calories per serving ranged from 470 to 810. WE KNOW that when we eat a whole-food plant based diet, calories ‘shouldn’t matter’ but they do to us. So, while not a deal-breaker, we did look at ways to eliminate some of the calories during preparation (namely, cutting way back on the amount of oils used by using water or spray oils AND trying not to eat all of a serving at once).
So, as we return from the mountains next week, we will once again be cookin’ on our very own but applying some of the great ideas and ingredients from Green Chef. We are excited to narrow our recipe palette to some of our favorites with occasional forays into more exotic dishes. And we have thrown in a new twist to our eating practice…based on significant research on the benefits of fasting, we will fast two days a week (meaning an intake of no more than 500 - 600 calories per DAY). We have chosen Mondays and Thursdays as our fasting days. It’s not as easy as one would think, especially if you are accustomed to eating three squares a day. We’ll see how this goes for us and report out along the way. It DOES cut down meal preparation to 3 days a week (remember we eat out on Friday and Saturday) so that will also help keep the Kinky Elfery Shopping frenzy under control. Here is the link to the article that goaded us into fasting.
So, we look forward to a week off and will be back with a full report on all the cool vegan food we were able to find and other fun stuffs we did in the mountains.
In the meantime, 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.
Your Elf

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Hot August Elf

With apologies to Neil Diamond, 'Howdy and welcome to HOT AUGUST ELF!!' August in Mississippi is the time when damn near everyone in the state wants to be anywhere else where the temperature is below 90 and the humidity is as well…it is so incredibly hot and humid. We are among those and will talk about that later. So, let’s review the week in the Kinky Elfery Kitchen and our third week of Green Chef meals.
Last Sunday night, we prepared the Chard Wraps..primarily because chard is a vegetable that does not store well (at least the leaves) and needs to be consumed fairly quickly to keep it from becoming wet noodley. So we got our mis en place (remember that everything is organic):  Portobello Mushroom, Black Rice and Farro, Thyme (not one of my favorite herbs), Applewood-Porcini Spice Blend, Snap Peas, Basil-Pine Nut Spread, Chard leaves (stems removed), shredded Carrots, Edamame, White Balsamic Vinaigrette, and Fennel.

A quick word here on how we kept the Chard leaves fairly fresh from Friday’s delivery of the Green Chef box until Sunday supper time preparation. We took the Chard out of its original packaging, wiped it down to dry it off, took out the tough stems, and rolled the remaining leaves in paper towels. This was then placed in a loosely sealed plastic bag and refrigerated with the rest of the ingredients. The recipe was a bit on the complicated side (at least for Your Elf), so we focused more on getting it prepared correctly than taking photographs along the way. The final result was a pretty tasty Black Rice, Farro, Edamame, and roasted Portobello salad, topped with the White Balsamic Vinaigrette. The Chard leaves were filled with a mixture of the shredded raw carrots, thinly sliced fennel, and roughly chopped thyme. They were ok…I’m not a fan of wraps so this was not really my favorite meal. However, Big Solid thought them quite nice. Here’s the final plating.
Monday, we prepped for the Black Lentil and Orzo Salad with Grilled Veggie Skewers. The mis en place looked like this: Yellow Pepper, Vegan Pesto, Grape Tomatoes, Artichoke Hearts, Parsley, Bamboo Skewers (there’s a story here you’ll see later), Pine Nuts, Italian Seasoning, Black Lentils, Orzo, Garlic, Shallot, and Zucchini.
This was also a recipe that took some focus as we broke one of the skewers getting it out of the bag-you can see the 'broke spike' in the picture next to the zucchini. SO, a frenzied search for our old metal shish kebab skewers of old ensued and we found ONE. AND, the matchup of veggies (grape tomatoes, zucchini slices, and pepper squares didn’t quite equal out. We had way more zucchini slices and pepper square thingies than tomatoes…NONETHELESS, we persevered and got the skewers on the grill..only to find that the zucchini slices did not allow for the peppers and tomatoes to touch the surface. So we just rocked on and cooked them a bit longer.
The real winner in this meal was the Black Lentil and Orzo Salad with sautéed artichoke hearts…it was delicious and there was plenty of it to make for a filling supper. Our final plating looked as such…see what we mean about the salad!!
Tuesday night, we had the final GC meal of the week, a Mushroom Tostada. Here’s our mis en place (and once again there’s a side-story): Roma Tomato, Cremini Mushrooms, Frisée (remember, it’s part of the endive family), Yellow Cornmeal Tortillas, Avocado, Ancho-Cumin Spice blend, Lime, Red, Yellow and Green Peppers, Black Beans (stay tuned), Cilantro-Lemon Tahini Sauce and Long Grain Rice.
We diced up the mushrooms and peppers for a sauté…easy peasy.
We substituted our own recently prepared black beans instead of utilizing the can that was sent and here’s why. Big Solid has a bit of an intestinal issue with black beans that have NOT been soaked for at least 36 hours; he has a tender little tummy. So, better safe than sorry…we used our own beans. The directions called for the black beans to heat and then be mashed (ala refried beans) with lime zest.
The final plating looked quite nice with the avocado fan, the frisée salad and rice topped with the cilantro-lemon tahini dressing. The tortilla did not toast well and was tough, so we pulled it and crumbled some Tostitos over the top. It was very, very good!
The rest of the week was spent cooking for some friends who have been in the hospital and others we share food with from time to time. We prepared a REALLY BIG Pasta salad to share using whole wheat and red lentil pasta, broccoli, cremini mushrooms, seared cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, and some Gentle Chef Chik’n Shreds with a light EVOO/lemon dressing.
Also, we 'fixed' a Yellow Lentil Cauliflower and Coconut Curry we have been wanting to try for a while. It is delicious IF you are a coconut and curry fan.
Here is the link as well.
Frankly, we are not as big a fan of the yellow lentil pasta as we are the red lentil…but, heck, you may love it.
And that brings us to the end of the week. We had ‘regular ole’ vegan fare of Baked Potato topped with Broccoli and good stuffs on Wednesday and Taco Salad (Big Solid’s Favorite meal) on Thursday. We also wanted to share Your Elf's FAVORITE breakfast...whole wheat (sugar-free) toast with a half mashed up avocado and fresh tomato, salted and peppered.
Along with a cup of double strength Peet's Major Dickason's Extra Bold coffee and the word puzzles in the mornin' paper, life is good in the Kinky Elfery Kitchen.
Next week’s Blog will be out on Saturday, August 12 as Your Elf and Big Solid will be takin’ to the mountains of Asheville, NC to escape the MS heat. You can bet your sweet Bippy, we will have some great food pics and places to share with you when we return. In the meantime, 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.

Your Elf