Monday, April 20, 2015

Of Elf and Men

Before we dive into the EXPERT recipe for the week, we want to acknowledge that this week’s post is focused on and dedicated to The Elf’s long suffering, patient (well, sometimes), and supportive husband, Larry (aka Big Solid).

From the day The Elf came home from a working trip to North Carolina in 2010 to announce that we were going vegetarian to this very day, he has been sometimes skeptical but willing to let us run amok in this new found passion. The Elf’s decision to become vegetarian was fueled by two things. A commitment to a friend who had also become vegetarian as well as reading two books that changed us forever—EATING ANIMALS by Johnathan Safran Foer and THE CHINA STUDY by T. Colin Campbell.  Well, Big Solid did not particularly wish to read of the wretched treatment of animals in factory farms but he DID read THE CHINA STUDY. And when we say read…we mean R.E.A.D. He inhaled it, pored over it, quoted from it and damn near rolled in it. He was on board and ate the vegetarian dishes we cooked. However, when we went out, he would eat fish and occasionally chicken. On June 30 2013, we both went to hear Dr. Neal Barnard, a prominent physician and founder of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and walked away from his presentation making a 21 day vegan or plant-based pledge. While The Elf remains totally plant-based, Big Solid is plant-based at home and continues to enjoy occasional fish or poultry when we dine out.  Aside from good-natured ribbing, he has never questioned The Elf’s sanity, commitment, passion or intensity. As a result, we’ve had a blast cooking new things, discovering new ways to prepare old foods, including baked goods, plant-based meats, and soups. Thanks Big Solid for being The Man Who Supports The Elf.

So it’s only fitting that The Elf support Big Solid in things HE likes to do and probably Numero Uno on that list is going to Super Bulldog Weekend (that would be Mississippi State University) every spring. It’s a homecoming of sorts for alums and current MSU folk to gather for the football team’s (Bulldogs, duh) spring scrimmage. And since Big Solid PLAYED for the Bulldogs roughly a million years ago (early-mid ‘60’s, once in a game against Alabama, he intercepted a Joe Namath pass and ran it back for a touchdown!), the connection to his teammates is like nothing I’ve ever seen or experienced. Those guys are his mates (not in the Biblical sense, though…that’s me), his brothers, his lifelong friends and a huge chunk of his best memories. To be around them is simultaneously hilarious and poignant. Stories of the Glory Days (this team went to the last Liberty Bowl held in Philadelphia PA in 1963) are told, re-told, told with embellishment, told with eye winks and twinkles and several renditions of the Bulldog fight song “Hail State!”. This year’s group picture included Dan Mullen, current coach of the MS State Bulldogs who led them to their first #1 national ranking in many a year this past season. It was a dream come true for this aging band of brothers and it was EPIC!

Big Solid is the man in the blue shirt on the front row.
As you can imagine, the vegan fare at an event like this is limited to the point of NONE. So, this year, The Elf was totally prepared.

We fixed three plant based meats to either put on a salad, in a sandwich or take to breakfast. Left is Shredded Chikin, then Bacun and lower right is Andouille sausage...all compliments of The Gentle Chef's Cookbook.
We also prepared a DELICIOUS Roman Apple Cake and invited the attendees to the Friday Night Dinner to sample it. People were amazed that they could actually LIKE a VEGAN dish!! This came from a regular recipe that we were able to veganize quite easily.
And finally, for breakfast Sunday morning with the remaining Bulldogs at The Starkville Cafe, The Elf feasted on avocado, tomato, Bacun and whole wheat toast while all around her were eating pancakes, waffles, bacon, sausages, eggs, grits, and stuffs like that. 
This week’s recipes were a lot of fun…a bit different which always adds a degree or two of trepidation. The Elf absolutely doesn’t see how Susan Voisin (the FaTFree Vegan Kitchen genius herownself) develops these recipes, finds the recipes from other vegan sites/people and makes sure they are delicious before recommending and generally sustains a terrific blog on being vegan.
First up, the Hot Layered Hummus was a breeze to prepare. Big Solid did have some skepticism about it being our entrée as it is listed as an appetizer as indicated by, “So this is our supper?” He was assured that if more food was needed, it would be readily available.

This hummus is made slightly differently from the usual in that we added a bit of non-dairy milk to it for a creamier texture. We then baked it until it was nice and warm...again, unusual for hummus. Read on..

The finished product and MAN, was it good!! We took some whole wheat bread and smashed it flat, toasted it and used it for our dipping things. You can also see a small part of the 'vegan sausage rolls' that we added JUST in case we needed more food. We actually didn't but managed to inhale all of those as well.
The second recipe we prepared was the Peach Upside Down Cake and this time it was The Elf that had some reservation. We made one slight deviation from the original recipe by leaving the peach skins on instead of peeling them. We had a huge bag of frozen Chilton County peaches left from last season that we needed to use. If you’ve not had peaches form Chilton County (AL), you’ve missed some good eatin’. Anyway, here you go…

Like we have said, a well seasoned iron skillet makes anything taste great! This is a delicious recipe and turns into a beautiful cake.

Fresh from the oven, it was pretty difficult NOT to dive into it first!

And as you can see, we managed to pretty much destroy the cake at the end of the meal and later on that evening.

We both highly recommend both of these recipes...they go into our KEEPER folder, for sure.

With yet another successful and delicious week of FFVK recipes completed, we look forward to next week when we will prepare two more yummy, if not wildly different, recipes:
Seitan Scaloppine with Lemon Olive Sauce AND Cauliflower Dal with Panch Phoran. The Elf’s one concern with the latter recipe was being able to find the spice mixture called Panch Phoran but Susan was once again on it by telling me that it could be found at a local Indian grocery. Whew! Problem solved.
Two really lovely recipes we also tried out during the week were

Made from tofu cut into the scallop form, marinated and then sprinkled with sea stuffs (dulce, Old Bay and/or kelp flakes)

Sauteed in vegan butter and a bit of EVOO (hide your eyes, Susan)..the key is to not turn them often and let a nice crust form. Then baste with the butter/EVOO a few times and squeeze a bit of lemon juice on them. HOLY TOFU! Good stuff!

We served with a bit of linguine, an asparagus/mushroom saute and some nice white wine. This picture doesn't really do the plate justice because this is one of our most favorite meals.

 THEN, we tried the recipe we'd mentioned last week that we found on One Green Planet's daily newsletter

Once again, we were blown away by this meal.

Alrighty then, folks it would appear we have run our course this go around. We have some catching up to do for next week's blog. When we first started THE EXPERT and THE ELF, we wanted to keep up with how this had changed any of our eating habits, expenses, preparation times and grocery shopping. So, The Elf will have to Elf-Up and report the truth. Til next week, y’all, breathe deep, eat plants and love life.

The Elf

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