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Sunday, January 7, 2018

Happiness is a Warm Elf

WELCOME 2018!! What a wonderful year to continue to be plant-based and vegan or to incorporate plant-based eating into your current food regimen. We are only too happy to share tips, recipes, resources, and links that will make your effort be rewarding. So, let’s begin our year together with the traditional foods of the New Year Day celebrations of parades and, of course, FOOTBALL!! Nothing like a glass of champagne at midnight to welcome the year with all the joys, challenges, opportunities and excitement that we can ferret out!
As is a Southern Tradition, we prepared Black-eyed Peas, Cabbage and Cornbread for our New Year’s Day food extravagance. And, we left out the Ham Hocks/How Jowl. Believe you me, we did not miss the fat at all and had plenty of flavor with good seasoning and some Liquid Smoke. So, we put our Black-eyed Peas in the Crockpot with enough of The Gentle Chef’s ‘Chicken’ Bouillon (with a half teaspoon of Liquid Smoke) to cover, set on high, and let them cook away. We did check on them after about two hours to replenish the liquid that had been absorbed. We used a slow cooker bag to keep the Crock Pot clean. We have mixed feelings about using the bags, mostly because we have a regular sized Crock Pot and the bags are designed for the larger pots that are oval instead of round. Sure do wish they made these cooker bags for the smaller pots.
We removed the thickest part of the cabbage core and cut the cabbage into reasonably sized pieces. We heated a large deep frying pan until it was pretty hot, threw in about a tablespoon of EVOO. It got hot quickly and we added raw cabbage until the pan was about three-quarter full.
We like to get a bit of a sear on the cabbage initially and then turn the heat down, cover until it cooks down a bit and then add the rest of the raw cabbage. It gets a good stir to assure that the newly added cabbage mingles with the more wilted and absorbs some of the seasoning (a bit of white balsamic vinegar and a quarter teaspoon of Liquid Smoke). This is covered and allowed to cook down until tender and well seasoned. If it needs further seasoning prior to eating, we can adjust for taste with more white balsamic, salt and pepper.
Even though we LOVE our Black-eyed Peas and Cabbage, there is nothing ‘eat-wise’ that brings a smile to Big Solid’s face than corn sticks baked in cast iron! We have veganized the recipe with ease and while we put together the batter, we brush the iron corn stick pans with some coconut oil (it sustains a high heat capability), throw them in a 450º oven and let them get really hot. Then, we add the batter and listen to the swizzle that assures we'll have a nice crust!
When the ‘sticks’ are done, it’s time to eat and rest in the knowledge that we will have good luck for the year!
We try to use Miyoko’s Creamery Vegan Butter; it’s delicious and sustainable but VERY expensive. So we keep Earth Balance on hand for baking. We have noticed that ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’ has now come out with a vegan option; of course, we can’t get it here yet but are asking.
Big Solid has been asking Your Elf for some 'chicken and sausage' gumbo, so during the week prior to New Year's Day, we decided to give it a go. We used a combination of two recipes, the Mushroom and Tempeh Gumbo from Susan Voisin's FatFree Vegan Kitchen for the dry roux
http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2013/11/mushroom-and-tempeh-gumbo.html
and a non-vegan recipe for the vegetables and spicing.
http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/louisiana-chicken-and-sausage-gumbo-the-real-stuff-47656
So, first you make a roux, starting with flour and, this time, our cast iron skillet. Of course, the flour initially is white
and gradually undergoes that magical color change that makes a roux
a roux.
Once the flour is a deep enough color, we blended with our ‘go-to’ bouillon and VOILA! A deep, dark roux. We sautéed our mirepoix, (chopped onion, celery and bell pepper) the Holy Trinity of Louisiana cooking, added garlic, Cajun seasoning and then the blended roux. To this we added okra (it IS gumbo) and let that simmer.
To that we added our plant-based Andouille Sausage and a combination of Soy Delight Chicken Nuggets we’d sautéed stovetop and the remaining 'Chickun Shreds' from the exploding dough a while back.
The non-vegan recipe called for the addition of the gumbo staple filé thirty minutes before serving. If you’ve ever doubted that filé makes a difference, take it from Your Elf…IT DOES!! We tried the thickened gumbo prior to adding the filé; Big Solid’s reaction was “This is good but it’s not gumbo.” Broke Your Elf’s heart. THEN we said, OK, let’s add the filé and try it again. “BINGO!” or should we say “GUMBO!” Here’s the final plating.
The final recipe we’d like to share with you this week is one we will make often…it’s THAT good. A Facebook friend, Sharla Bachelder, sent us this link and we knew immediately that we’d like to try it. Mushroom-Spinach Soup with Cinnamon, Coriander, and Cumin. Long title, GREAT SOUP!
https://mobile.nytimes.com/recipes/1017980/mushroom-spinach-soup-with-cinnamon-coriander-and-cumin.html
We share this link with a caveat…this site is not free. You do get a free trial at which point, you may choose to purchase a membership or let it go. It’s a great site but not plant-based. Just so you know. Anywho…here’s the soup! We got our ‘mise en place’ and naturally found ONE ingredient we THOUGHT we had but didn’t. However, we had a decent substitute so we forged ahead. Top row left to right we have Organic Cinnamon, Ground Coriander, Allspice, Ground Cumin, Thyme, Oyster and Shiitake Mushrooms, EVOO, Kosher Salt. Bottom row is Baby Spinach, Tomato Paste, Lime, Earth Balance, Shallots (we did not have enough to make complete the amount, so we added diced onion), Cremini Mushrooms, Black Pepper.
The mushrooms were torn and placed in a soup pan.
This was done in half-portions of mushrooms and shallot/onions, using approximately 10 ounces of mixed mushrooms each round of cooking. They were cooked for about 14-16 minutes for each portion until all their liquid had been rendered and they were a nice deep brown.
All the mushrooms were returned to the pan with all the spices/tomato paste and cooked for about a minute
then we added 5 cups of our chicken bouillon. (The recipe called for water but we always use the bouillon.) The spinach was added only until wilted
and then very coarsely chopped with an immersion blender. We served it with a left-over corn stick!

The first Saturday of each month is celebrated with our BFFs, Jesse and ME Dees. This Saturday we went to a new restaurant for us, Bacchus.
While their menu doesn’t exactly include plant-based eating options, they were very happy to design a couple of options for us when we contacted them ahead of time. Your Elf had a very nice veggie pasta
and Big Solid feasted on a grilled veggie sandwich with fries!It was a very nice evening with very good friends.

So, we close out our first blog of 2018 and already have some fun ideas cooking up for the Kinky Elfery Kitchen!
We leave you as we always do..remember to always 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. DO EPIC!
Your Elf.

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