Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Expert and The Elf – The Winter of Our Discontent

Even in the South, this has been a tough winter. Seeing pictures of fallen electrical lines, unprecedented cold, and more snow than we usually get in several years has made even the toughest of us cry “ENOUGH ALREADY!”  So far, we have been lucky in mid-Mississippi, though we have had bone-chilling cold. Thus, you can imagine when The Elf selected this week’s recipe from FatFree Vegan Kitchen, it was done with a bent toward something warm and substantial and we were NOT disappointed.  The French Lentil and Portabella Stew was easy to prepare and delicious to consume. Not only that, it’s one of those dishes that seems to get better as it ages a bit (well, not a LONG time but a day or so), when the flavors have had time to marry and develop. And for those of you who track your nutritional status on My Fitness Pal (the program we utilize), almost all of the FFVK recipes are part of the My Fitness Pal database.

For the past week, we followed our regimen as outlined in the blog last Sunday. AND we only went to the grocery ONCE! That in itself has been one of the best parts of this whole idea of cooking from FFVK and planning a menu. At the end of next week, I plan on assessing how (or if) this once weekly grocery experience has made a financial impact.  Now, I have to back-track just a bit and say that there are some items that I CANNOT find at a regular grocery store (such as Kroger, which seems to have a near monopoly in this area) so I HAVE to go to Rainbow Co-op (our locally owned health food grocery and all ‘round great store) or Whole Foods (commonly known as ‘Whole Paycheck’). The trick THEN is to JUST get those few items I need and NOT go hog-wild and buy stuffs I don’t.

So, here’s the report out on the three days of the Elf and the FFVK day on Wednesday:

Sunday (2/15) we had a Mediterranean Tofu Scramble. I just took some of the things that we needed to use and made up the scramble rather than follow a recipe.  The Elf always uses Wildwood SuperFirm Tofu for scrambles as it has such substance and no need for pressing. So here's what I put together: 

  • In the ‘frig, we found large white mushrooms (thickly sliced), some of those pretty baby bell peppers in assorted colors (which were charred and halved), some Sicilian olives (also halved), and sweet onion (thickly sliced and then quartered).
  • Using about a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil, I sauteed the onion and mushrooms, then added the charred peppers.
  • I crumbled the tofu by placing it in a large plastic zip-loc bag and just squishing the heck out of it until it was the consistency that I wanted, leaving some larger chunks of tofu in with the smaller ones.
  • After the veggies were tender, I added the tofu to the large saute/fry pan and then started building the spices/seasonings.
  • The usual suspects of turmeric (always adds such great color), oregano, freshly squeezed Meyer lemon and about a teaspoon of zest, and some cayenne were added along with about ½ cup of water (or you could use veggie broth if wish), stirred well and let simmer until most of the water was absorbed. Cilantro would have been nice but I did not have and and was NOT going to the store!
  • The olives were the last to be added and allowed to heat thoroughly and Voila! It was ready to eat. I guess we made it an international event by toasting some of the freshly baked pumpernickel and it was a most enjoyable supper.  And, since we had a fair amount left over (it’s just The Elf and Big Solid), we were able to have the remaining scramble for  a couple of lunches.

Mediterranean Tofu Scramble
Monday (2/16) was a leftover night.  Before I started this endeavor, I felt like we had to have something ‘new’ every night, which is one of the reasons I would be at the grocery store nearly every day…well, let me amend that…EVERY day.  Now that I’ve given myself permission to be less compulsive about that, I've have found that leftovers can be spruced up and/or a side added to keep things interesting. So, Monday, we had left over soups (Big Solid had left over “10 Spice Soup” and I had left over Crazy Sexy Chili) with a grilled ‘cheese’ (Daiya slices on home-baked White Whole Wheat bread). It may become a staple Monday night meal—easy and enjoyable.

Tuesday (2/17) found us with another meal that has also become one we look forward to and that is also very easy to prepare.  First I select a fairly large potato (9-10 oz) and bake it. While the potato is baking, I lightly steam some broccoli flowerets and then sauté in a wee bit of EVOO and a squeeze of Meyer lemon. Next, I rough chop a serving (3 oz) of The Gentle Chef’s Shredded Chikun and sauté those in a ½ teaspoon of EVOO (or if you wanted a different flavor, you could use toasted sesame oil) and finally, warm some of the leftover ‘no cheese’ sauce.  I halve the potato when it’s done, pile the broccoli and Shredded Chikun on the half and pour about ¼ c of the ‘no cheese’ sauce over it. It’s delicious and filling meal. FFVK has a great 'cheese' sauce recipe using cauliflower:

Shredded Chikun from The Gentle Chef
A quick shout out to The Gentle Chef, who has a FaceBook page by the same name as well as a website worth visiting.  He has some excellent recipes for plant based meat substitutes as well as non-dairy ‘dairy’ dishes such as cheese, sauces and creams.  I don’t know your ‘take’ on plant based meat alternatives, but The Elf household enjoys them.

FATFREE VEGAN KITCHEN WEDNESDAY!! (2/18) is the day The Elf anticipates with eagerness every week. Well, this recipe was no exception as I had chosen the lovely looking (I mean the picture just makes you feel warm on a cold winter day) French Lentil and Portabella Stew (<INSERT LINK>). Well, I thought I would freak totally out when I did my ONE grocery shopping trip (Sunday to begin the week with all ingredients needed for the menu—big woo!) and KROGER did NOT HAVE Portabella caps. NONE, ZIP, NADA—WTF!! However, they had ONE box of Baby Bellas left and I practically snatched it out of someone’s hands (not really, but I might have been tempted). So instead of those luscious looking cap slices that are shown on the FFVK version of this stew; I wound up with quartered Baby Bellas. This recipe is easy and serves up a deliciously warm, tasty and filling stew, is practically fat free, lower sodium (depending on the type of vegetable broth used. I make my own, so very low sodium). Susan’s recipe calls for the optional addition of red wine which I highly recommend AND will second her admonition of choosing a real wine instead of the dreadful cooking wines that are an abomination. I served ours with spicy baked Brussels sprouts and vegan cornsticks. A most satisfying FFVK meal and one that will definitely stay on the rotation! Thanks, Susan!

Just getting started - no lentils yet!

Stew (YUM!) cornsticks and spicy Brussels sprouts

Thursday (2/19) is always ‘burger night’ so I won’t go into great detail. I mean really—Simple Truth meatless patties (not too bad), white whole wheat bread and baked fries. Bi Solid’s favorite!

So-there you have this week’s culinary recitation and blow by blow. Now onward and upward for the coming week. It’s Sunday, we have a freezing rain advisory out so who knows what will head our way. I DO know my one grocery trip is looming so I’d best get going. But NOT without sharing the FFVK recipe for this coming Wednesday.  I selected a recipe that I liked the looks of called Skillet Gardern’s Pie…I mean, anything right now with mashed potatoes on it, in it or around it looks yummy and WARM.
Big Solid will be out of town (unless the roads are impassable), so I’ll snack from leftovers Mon-Tues. He’ll be home for Burger night.

Doing this blog is one of my 5Greats! If you are not familiar with this phrase or concept, please check out the Facebook page 5Greats. It’s been a joy to be a part of as well as complete daily.  When you spend some time every evening (or whenever) thinking of things that have been positives for the day, your mood brightens and things look less dim. And it’s fun. Try it, you’ll like it. 
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

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