Friday, October 24, 2014

Cookin’ with Granny

My younger grandchild, Sara Powell, turned 9 a couple of weeks ago…her birthday was on the day celebrated as Columbus Day (Oct. 13). Her Mom asked her what she wanted to do on her day and her request was “to go cook with Kiki” (that’s me). So that’s what we did!! And we had SUCH a GREAT TIME!! We  made two kinds of cookies, two cakes, and pumpernickel bread….all vegan and all fun. What a total JOY she was to have in the kitchen…and yep, we made some mistakes but we didn’t care. In the end, everything turned out just fine; might not have been as pretty as we would have liked, but tasted great.  It was a pleasure to share time, knowledge and experience with her. She asked LOTS of questions about being vegan, which was really cool. I think at 9 she’s not gonna jump into being vegan right away but my suspicion is that when she gets older, she just may give it a go.

See what we did!!

On the left, Sara Powell is doing a great job of lining the pans with sliced apples for the first of two Italian Apple Cakes and on the right is a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  The cakes were ALMOST a disaster as we (meaning forgetful Kiki) forgot a pretty important ingredient (baking soda) while the taste was great, the cakes actually turned out looking more like a pancake than a cake. The chocolate chip cookies were awesome.

Above left were our first effort of the day...two gorgeous loaves of pumpernickel bread.  Sara Powell said, "I'm gonna look at this break tonight when we eat supper and say, 'I MADE this!'" That statement alone made my whole day!! She has such an energy to cook that I know she'll be a great cook. On the right, SP filling the "Little Kiki's" with good stuffs.

Blog Name Change
You can see that we have changed the name of our little blog from “To V or Not To V” to “The Elf in the Kitchen”. It’s easier to say and remember, actually. So spread the word and enjoy. We’ve been away for a couple of weeks but hope to get back into the weekly routine soon.

Stuffs We Tried This Week
I’ve been trying to expand our repertoire of meal selections and weed out those we can live without and those we just went nuts over.

 Two of the BEST dishes we had during the week were these.  On the left is an AWESOME taco recipe from Rhea Parson's The "V" Word--a Portobello Mushroom, Artichoke Heart and Sun-dried Tomato Taco. We used some new cheese we found at Whole Foods but will not use it again. It wasn't that great and way expensive, so we will go back to our standby of Daiya brand cheddar-esque cheese shreds.  The dish on the right is a fabulous Mediterranean tofu scramble, complete with broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, onion and seasoned with tumeric, black salt and a new siracha powder I found. YUMMY!!

ARF Bakin’
Every Wednesday (when I’m not laid up from falling and busting my rear or other catastrophes), I try to go out to the Animal Rescue Fund of MS to walk and commune with some of the over 300 dogs that are at the shelter.  In addition, it’s fun to take some vegan baked goods for folks to sample and occasionally throw in supper for the two folks who have dedicated their lives to saving/rescuing/rehabbing and loving all of the animals there (Elizabeth and Charles Jackson).  As many of you know, ARF/MS is a no kill shelter that grew out of a need to place abandoned/neglected pets following hurricane Katrina. Operating on a shoestring budget, they try to place and adopt out animals to loving and safe homes. The shelter staff works hard to keep the animals fed, watered, cleaned and in a safe/sanitary environment…and believe me, it’s very hard work. So, it just seems right to do something kind back.  This week we took some chocolate chip and some pear/walnut/raisin mini-muffins; and the Mediterranean tofu scramble for supper. 

 Chocolate chip mini-cupcakes ready to cool off and take to the good folks at ARF. 

Last blog, we posted about an all vegan bake sale to be held on October 25....well, we postponed the date until spring. So many of the organizers had so many irons in the fire for the holiday season, we thought it prudent to delay a bit and present middle MS with a KNOCKED-OUT VEGAN BAKE SALE around Easter. Our celebrity chefs are still on board and eager to display their vegan baking expertise.

Today (10/24), we had the honor of being a guest on a SuperTalk MS (97.3 FM) on the Gallo Show, featuring Paul Gallo. We were asked by Dr. Phillip Ley and his wife Linda Allen to participate on the show to discuss the Breast Cancer Walk being held here tomorrow. While the content mostly dealt with the importance of early detection and treatment, yearly mammograms and self-examination, we also got a chance to talk about the impact being vegan has had on my life and health. Now, we want to cook for the kind folks at SuperTalk MS and share with them the delights of vegan cooking. Keep your fingers crossed.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


Well, this week’s blog may not impact those of you who live in a galaxy far, far away but it may stimulate an idea or two.  For the past few weeks, we have been working with the Animal Rescue Fund of MS (ARF/MS) on a fund-raising event. It has the rather cryptic working title of A.B.S.L.N.O.  WTF? you ask yourself.

Almond cookies!
Yep, we are putting together an all vegan bake sale consisting of both savory (breads and such) and sweet (cookies, cakes and such). We are doing this for a couple of reasons…first and foremost, to raise a bit of ‘bread’ (ha!) for the good works that this NO KILL-ALL KINDNESS shelter does AND to raise awareness of just how GOOD vegan foods can be. Since EVERYBODY likes cookies and bread stuffs, we thought that a bake sale (like no other) would be a good place to start. Most people have the notion that being vegan means giving up all the great food in the world and living an ascetic lifestyle of denial and ‘food poverty’. Nothing could be further from the truth, although I will say that there are challenges and an occasional mental lapse into “I could eat a prime rib the size of Texas”.

And vegans range from wannabe to militant with all of the degrees in between.  There are
Whoopee pies!
folks who do not get terribly upset if a molecule of casein (an ingredient found in animal milks) goes down their unsuspecting throat or they find out too late that an ingredient (such as an egg wash) was omitted from a label and some egg was ingested. AND THEN…there are folks who are aghast if a person wears leather or eats honey (bees are indeed animals). We hope to have items at A.B.S.L.N.O. that will appeal to everyone!! Vegans and non-vegans alike. We are not there to proselytize but to offer quality baked goods that are plant-based.

Scattered throughout this weeks blog are pictures of some of the items that will be for sale!!
We will have a Celebrity Chefs Table with baked goods donated by some of the area restaurants chefs.  We are excited at their support and hope that they will challenge themselves to create some really cool vegan items. 

Now, if this goes over well and we are pretty excited about it, we will certainly have another one and possibly expand the items to more than just baked. There are as many opportunities to share the wealth of vegan goodness than just baked stuffs, so stay tuned. We will take pictures on the day of the sale and most definitely blog it.  The kind folks at Renaissance on Colony Parkway have donated a terrific space for us to ply our wares and have been most helpful with suggestions, support and participation. We also want to thank the merchants of Renaissance on Colony Parkway for their participation in the form of donations, items to sell and assisting with publicity. For those of you who are not familiar, Renaissance on Colony Parkway is a beautiful, upscale outdoor mall in Ridgeland MS and hosts many premier events throughout the year.

Hot Mexican Chocolate!
Vegan Milanos and more!!
I turned 68 (HOLY CRAP!!) this week and therefore got to eat out a couple of times.  Had a lovely dinner at City Grille in Madison on Saturday with a fabulous creation by Chef Zack—so fabulous, I inhaled it before taking a picture. Just think several types of mushrooms, heirloom tomatoes and his fabulous knack for a delicious sauce.
And Anjou in Ridgeland where they have a standard item on their menu that is easily veganized.

I am also recovering from a pretty nasty fall (I now know why old people don’t want to fall) so didn’t do much in the way of cooking/baking until earlier this week. We’d make a pretty significant dent in our plant based sausages, so Monday, I made 12 Andouille sausages and Tuesday (yesterday) 12 brats! They freeze great and should last us a month or so.

Sausages fresh from the steamer!

The recipes for these sausages can be found via The Gentle Chef in his fabulous cookbook called, oddly enough, The Gentle Chef Cookbook. I use Chef Skye-Michael’s recipes SO MUCH.  Chef Skye-Michael had an interesting post on his site today about plant based foods that replicate or are alternatives to meats and other non-vegan items. It sorta goes along with our discussion earlier in this blog about the variation in vegans from lax to militant. He gave me permission to post it, so here you go:
I occasionally receive criticisms for promoting meat and egg "imitations", so again I feel it's time to address this issue.

Yes, my recipes focus heavily upon meat and egg imitations (or as I prefer to call them, "alternatives"), and of course there's a percentage of the vegan population who, for their own reasons, shun any foods that resemble meat and eggs (oddly enough, I seldom find that these same people object to milk and cheese alternatives, which I find a bit hypocritical since the dairy industry is just as cruel and exploitative, if not more so than the meat industry).

Maintaining a vegan diet is easy for individuals who have an aversion to animal-based foods. It’s not going to be easy, however, for individuals who enjoy those flavors and textures. The reality is we live in a meat-centric society and many of us grew up on a diet of meat, eggs and dairy. This addiction to animal-based foods is woven into every fiber of our culture. It takes time to rewire our brains into accepting change, especially for those who perhaps never cared for vegetables and “health food” in the first place. More than likely, if you offer bean curd and pea shoots to die-hard carnivores at a football tailgate party, you’re not going to elicit a positive response.

My goal then, is to create foods which will sway the greatest number of people over to compassionate cooking and dining. People thrive on familiarity and if that familiarity can be satisfied, then there is a greater chance of success with this transition.

Both of my current cookbooks and my upcoming cookbook are geared towards replicating dishes that many of us grew up with: foods that are familiar and represent tradition - foods that evoke a feeling of nostalgia. Chikun seitan, for example, is seasoned appropriately to replace chicken in traditional dishes that call for chicken, and the same applies to beaf seitan. These plant-based meats not only provide a psychological trigger, but they're necessary from a culinary perspective in combining the right flavor and texture combinations. Wine would be a very similar comparison - some wines pair better with certain types of food. Even if animal foods had never been consumed by anyone, we would still be shaping and naming our plant proteins for the sake of variety, so we simply shape and name them according to what we're familiar with.

And for the record, I really despise the term "fake meat". There is nothing fake about plant-based proteins; seitan and textured soy protein are foods in their own right. Although plant proteins can imitate some meat-like textures, they do not imitate skin, bones, tendons, blood nor the fear and pain that accompanies the slaughter of an animal.

And so where should we draw the line? Should we abstain from tofu because it resembles egg whites? Do we reject mushrooms because they have an earthy flavor and a chewy texture that can be described as "meaty"? Do we shun a lentil and rice patty because it vaguely resembles a beef hamburger; or avoid soy milk because it resembles dairy milk? To what extreme do we need to go to prove how "evolved" and how vegan we are? I have no desire to ever eat real meat again - it's the combinations of seasonings and sauces that I crave. It's the satisfaction of eating something I can sink my teeth into; hearty foods that fill me up and stick to my ribs; foods that remind of holiday traditions or cookouts or camping trips with friends and family in the Summertime.

As vegans we're very passionate about our ethical beliefs in regards to animals. But meat, egg and dairy replacements are not harming animals; and although there may be some uncanny similarities in names, flavors and textures, there is no cruelty involved. Enjoying these foods does not imply that we actually crave the real thing.

So in closing, if these foods still do not appeal to you, that's fine. Every individual is unique. But it's important to understand that many other vegans can tell the difference in their own minds between a seasoned cutlet of gluten and an actual breast of chicken. The bottom line is, not every form of vegan cuisine is going to please everyone and if you don't care for it, you don't have to eat it. But please, don't criticize it. Thank you.
 And that’s a wrap for this week…make that a vegan wrap. Til next week, y’all, breathe deep, eat plants and love life.
The Elf