Sunday, May 10, 2015

Gone with the Elf

WELL!! What a great week The Elf has had!! We have a couple of things to bring to you today. Namely, our report out on our EXPERT recipes we prepared this week AND a lengthy ‘show and tell’ of The Gentle Chef’s recipe for plant-based Bacun.  If you remember from last week’s blog, we had written to Chef Skye Michael Conroy to ask permission to post some pictures of the Bacun. Well, not only did he give his blessing for that but also gave permission to post the entire recipe. So, ‘let’s get all up in it’!
This week’s EXPERT recipes from Susan Voisin’s Fat Free Vegan Kitchen were
Old Fashioned Tofu Chicken Salad
Brussels sprouts and Shiitake Mushroom Soup
The Old Fashioned Tofu Chicken Salad is a worthy effort at chicken salad and we most definitely enjoyed it on crackers. We THOUGHT we had royally screwed it up, though. When we baked the tofu in the marinade on parchment paper, we watched carefully and made sure it was cooked til the edges were brown-ish. We took it out of the oven and started to remove it from the paper and IT STUCK!! I mean like GLUE! So, I immediately messaged Susan to see if she’d ever run into this…I mean PARCHMENT paper??
Well, she messaged back quickly that she’d not run into that at all and hope that I would be able to salvage enough non-stuck tofu to make the recipe work. As it turns out, The Elf’s enthusiasm for making the recipe got in the way BECAUSE after the ‘stuck-on’ tofu had cooled, it just came right off that paper like it was supposed to. Now, had The Elf WAITED and let the tofu cool, there would have been no sticking!
So, here we have the tofu all sliced up (and I even left a step out of THAT by not reading the recipe all the way through but we survived). The recipe calls for slicing the tofu as you see here and then slicing those 8 slices in half…that’s what we forgot to read.
 Next, you see our ‘stuck on tofu slices…GEEZ, if we had JUST waited a little bit, this would have all been avoided.
 You’ll see the end result of the chicken salad on the last picture and believe when I say it was quite delicious. The rest was a very easy recipe of celery, sweet relish, vegan mayo (or making Susan’s tofu-cashew mayo).
Then we prepared the Brussels sprouts and Shiitake Soup. Some people just naturally love Brussels sprouts and some take their own sweet time to warm up to them. Regardless of how you come to know and love them, when combined with yummy shiitake mushrooms, brown rice and this quite lovely broth, you have a winner. The recipe gives you the option of adding white beans to make a complete meal but we chose not to add them.
We started by sautéing onions (of course!). This is where we took a slight liberty with Susan’s recipe quite serendipitously…we had some Bacun ends that we didn’t know how to use when it dawned on us to throw them in with the onions to add some of that smoky flavor. So we did.

 We then added the Brussels sprouts and sliced shiitake mushrooms
 Let that all simmer in a yummy vegetable broth with thyme and a wee bit of sage (I’m not a big sage fan, so usually add only a microscopic amount)
 And pretty soon, it was soup YET!! Now, The Elf loved it but the true test of this recipe was Big Solid’s comment, “This is awesome soup!” We were so excited, we messaged Susan right away.
 So, our two EXPERT recipes for this week were both very good with the soup being the clear preference. Our recipes for next week offer a similar theme of soup/sandwich. It’s nice to have a lighter supper and not go around the rest of the night feeling AND; looking like a stuffed pillow.
Pav-Bhaji Spicy Mixed Vegetables on Buns
Lentil Soup with Coriander and Cumin
A couple of other cool recipes that we tried this week were a redemptive effort at some lemon cookies after our fiasco and EPIC FAIL from last week and a chance to use one of our favorite kitchen gadgets (the spiralizer). Look ON!
Lemon Thumbprint cookies with raspberry jam. Holy PUCKER-UP, these were good! Next go around, these will be filled with vegan lemon curd and some will be filled with orange marmalade. We found this recipe (which was NOT vegan) and made it vegan by using an egg substitute instead of the large egg, vegan butter, and filled the thumbprints with raspberry jam instead of regular lemon curd. Need we say more!
 And finally, after glancing in the pantry to see if we had an extra jar of pickled red cabbage to fix Seitan Taronja, we were completely dismayed to find out we’d mistaken a jar of pickled beets for the cabbage—so THAT recipe was out. We quickly scrambled for a new supper plan and settled on zucchini noodles with FFVK’s Spicy Peanut Sauce (not the whole recipe but the sauce. We sauteed our noodles with veggies and then added the sauce).
 We always love zucchini noodles and the sauce is to DIE for…we threw in some broccoli and onion and had a delicious light supper.
Zucchini noodles from two zucchinis (WHAT FUN!!)
 An easy and delicious supper
OK…now it’s time for the 'piece d’resistance'…or at least I’d like to think of it that way. We understand that many vegans are not supporters of plant-based meat alternatives. Well, we are and use them frequently. This recipe for the plant-based alternative to the ‘to die for’ taste of bacon follows. If you expect the exact same taste, that ain’t happening BUT if you want a really nice alternative to bacon, this is your option. The Elf would like to support this recipe…and while it looks long (and it is) and labor intensive, it is actually NOT. Once you make it, you understand that Chef Skye’s extensive guidance is not only helpful but absolutely necessary for this to turn out well. We make this recipe weekly and BELIEVE us when we say that IF it was too labor intensive or difficult to make…we would NOT be that invested. The comments noted in parentheses () are The Elf's and not part of the original recipe. The rest of the text IS the original recipe from The Gentle Chef's Cookbook...again reprinted with permission.
Bacon has a flavor and texture that many people miss when they transition to vegan or plant based eating. There are several steps to this recipe, but because this vegan version simulates the appearance and taste of real bacon fairly well, it's worth the extra effort. I think it's actually better than the commercial brands. This recipe really isn't as complicated as it appears, so give it a try. It's wonderful served with tofu scramble at breakfast and especially for BLT sandwiches. For the best texture, you will need to refrigerate the Bacun for a minimum of 8 hours after baking before slicing and browning slices in the skillet; so plan accordingly.
In this recipe you will be making two batches of seitan to create your Bacun. Dough 1 is for the darker marble layer of the bacun. Dough 2 is for the lighter marble layer of the Bacun.
(These are the basic dry ingredients from The Elf's pantry -- yours may differ)
 (and these are the wet ingredients that The Elf used -- again, the brands you have may differ)
Thoroughly stir together the dry ingredients for Dough 1 in a large bowl:
1 cup vital wheat gluten
2 T nutritional yeast
3 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp ground white pepper 
Mix the liquid ingredients for Dough 1 in a bowl or measuring cup:
1/2 cup water
2 T tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos™
2 T real maple syrup
2 T tomato paste
1 T liquid smoke
1 T vegetable oil
 Thoroughly stir together the dry ingredients for Dough 2 in a medium size bowl:
1/3 cup vital wheat gluten
1 T nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Mix the liquid ingredients for Dough 2 in a bowl or measuring cup:
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp smoked sea salt (substitute with sea salt or kosher salt)
1 T liquid smoke
1 T vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 325°F.
Dough 1 Technique:
Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well to incorporate. Divide the dough into 3 pieces. (When the dough was thoroughly mixed, it was weighed in grams to ascertain equal amounts for the three separate layers. The bottom photograph is representative of the three layers of dough 1)
 Dough 2 Technique:
Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well to incorporate. Divide the dough into 2 pieces (same process for the second dough layers)
 Now you will begin the layering process which will create the marbling effect for your Bacun. Take a piece of Dough 1 and flatten and spread the dough on your work surface with the heel of your hand until it is about 1/4-inch thick. You don't need to worry about the shape. Place the flattened piece on a large sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Next, take a piece of Dough 2 and repeat the process. Lay this on top of Dough 1 on your foil. Repeat the process again with another piece of Dough 1, then with a piece of Dough 2 and finally with the remaining piece of Dough 1. If they don't stack perfectly, that's good - if you are too precise, the Bacun will look like it was made by a machine.

With the palms of your hands, shape the dough into a rectangular "slab" about 1 inch thick. Once again, don't worry about being too precise; the dough will expand during baking to conform to the shape of the foil package. Sprinkle with a little black pepper and wrap (don't roll) the slab of bacun in the foil. You want to create a rectangular shaped package. Wrap again in another piece of foil. Place seam side down in a shallow casserole dish and bake for 90 minutes.

Cool the Bacun in the foil at room temperature and then refrigerate for a minimum of 8 hours, or for up to 10 days, before browning in the skillet. You can also store the Bacun in the freezer for up to 3 months. Now unwrap it, slice it thin (but not too thin, or it will tear when trying to turn it in the skillet) and fry in a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil until lightly browned and crisp. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to blot any excess oil. Serve or use on your favorite sandwiches. 
Copyright ©2012 by Skye Michael Conroy
Reprinted by permission
(The Elf's rendition of Bacun--slab and sliced. As instructed, the baked dough was cooled and placed in the refrigerator overnight. This is an important step to assure the best texture for your bacun!! ENJOY! And thanks again to Chef Skye!) 
We have our menu set for next week and have already been to the grocery store on this Mother’s Day. The Elf wishes to thank Big Solid and my step-son Powell for both making donations to the Animal Rescue Fund of MS—that’s the best gift you could have given. And we’d like to close out this week’s blog with a picture of our latest foster dog, Charlie. Charlie has some challenges and demons to conquer but we will work hard to help him do just that. Here he is visiting The Elf in the hammock...he's a character.

Until next Sunday, The Elf wishes all of you a Happy Mother’s Day and a good week ahead. Til then, y’all, breathe deep, eat plants and love life.

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