Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Elf Also Rises

Howdy Elfsters!! Welcome back for another riveting exploration Elfin kinky cookery. Here we are a week after a renewed focus on planning and sticking to a menu. This actually opened up time for other assorted adventures. Read at your leisure and enjoy. We have some cool stuffs planned for the next few weeks as well!!
Monday 4/27/15

So, on Monday…we printed out our menu for the week to make sure we had all the pertinent ingredients. We did (THANK GOODNESS). We had two recipes to make to keep us in the supply of these two incredible plant-based meat alternatives. We eat the heck out of these. That would be Shredded Chikun and Bacun, both from The Gentle Chef’s cookbook.  Here is the link to The Gentle Chef: 

NOW FOR SOMETHING REALLY COOL that will appear in next week’s blog!  Chef Skye Michael Conroy (aka The Gentle Chef) has granted The Elf permission to post his Bacun recipe, complete with pictures of how we do it. Here's a preview of the finished product:
We had actually just written and asked permission to post the pictures of how we did it and he granted THAT AND permission to share the recipe with you. We were so excited!!  We have actually shared the shredded chikun with a local chef who was amazed at the flavor, texture and feel of the shredded chikun (YAY!). We take it with us and add it to a salad for a little somethin' somethin'.
And for supper tonight, we had Atakilt-Wat, which is an Ethiopian Cabbage dish that is TO DIE for. We have had this before but it’s been a while and it is nice to reconnect with a dish that is so easy to prepare yet so alive with flavor. Here it is:
First we added onion, garlic and jalapeno peppers
 Then we added the spices. Fortunately, we had the Berbere spice mixture that is such a taste sensation in your mouth and your nose…the aroma will almost make your swoon and then the taste is a validation of that.
 Following the addition of the spices to the onion/garlic/ginger mixture, there needs to be a couple of minutes for these flavors to absorb a bit before adding the potatoes and veggies. 
After just a few minutes, the cabbage is added to the mix and, covered, allowed to cook and soak up the intensity of the flavors already in the skillet.
 Finally when all the flavors have been absorbed, it’s time to enjoy the meal.
On Tuesday, we had our EXPERT recipes for the week. We actually moved up our preparation of FatFree Vegan Kitchen’s recipes because we wanted to make sure that the kale was prepared and eaten before it had time to wilt. It was on sale at Kroger, so we did not want to take a chance that it would be all limp and lifeless. We chose two recipes this week.
 Healthy Hashbrown Casserole
Roasted Okra Masala
So let’s get on with our prep, cookin’ and eatin’—
First up was the Healthy Hash Brown casserole. If you remember, we said Big Solid was not a big casserole fan, so we went into this with some trepidation. Kale can be a ‘crap shoot’ if you don’t take some time to prepare it properly for cooking. We took the time, got all the thick stems taken care of (and in the compost), washed it, bagged it and kept it in the ‘frig until time for our meal.  The sauce is prepared first. We in the Elfin Kitchen are slowly getting over our phobia of the VitaMix. This sauce helped as it was easy to prepare:
As the sauce waited in the VM, we sautéed some onions
Then added the kale…of course it looks like the kale is going to take over the whole pan but it does wilt down considerably

 The sauce is added
Then the hash browns (Susan recommends the Southern style Hash Browns that have been thawed)
And finally the chickpeas

This is cooked until the sauce begins to thicken and then poured into a 9”x11” pan and placed in a 350 degree oven.

The directions call for the casserole to cook for 40 minutes until the sauce has been absorbed and the center of the casserole appears dry. Our Elfin oven has some heating issues, so we wound up having to cook it a bit longer.
Our second recipe from FFVK was Roasted Okra Masala which is a lovely spin on just plain roasted okra. Okra gets a bad rap but is an awesome vegetable, especially when roasted. This Indian spiced version is delicious. The ingredients, aside from the okra are pretty simple.
We had made FFVK’s recipe for the masala a while back so had some on hand.
We then sautéed onions (lordy, what we wouldn’t do without onions)
 Then we added the spices while waiting for the okra to roast a bit in the oven. When the okra was roasted to a nice toasty roasty, we added it to the spice mixture and let it cook just long enough to take on the masala flavors.
We KNEW the okra recipe would be a hit but we were not quite prepared for how good the Hash Brown Casserole was going to be. We added some extra heat to our final casserole plating as we are aficionados of really spicy food. Fortunately, this casserole was not only delicious at the get-go; it has served us well as a leftover dish for a couple of lunches. It heats up well and does not lose flavor being stored a couple of days.

Wednesday turned out to be a baking day in the Elf’s kitchen this week and we actually kinda like this new arrangement of kinky cookery. We had three batches of cookies to bake…the very popular oatmeal pecan raisin that we shared last week and a new spin on the oatmeal recipe of cherry craisin and hazelnut.
This is the crasin/hazelnut cookie that is as delicious as it is nice looking. Not only is it yummy, these cookies freeze quite nicely. It’s great to be able to make a double batch and have an extra plateful in the freezer at any point in time when you need them.
 As for that THIRD batch of cookies, well, we’ll count that as a dismal failure. The recipe sounded great (Vegan Lemon Cookies) but when we prepared the recipe (and we even went back and scrutinized each ingredient, the amount and order of preparation), it was far from being a dough that could be rolled into a log, it was so crumbly. But we wrapped it in plastic wrap anyway, as directed and THEN shaped into a log. As directed we placed in the ‘frig til it was solid. Then, not only was it impossible to roll that hard dough out, it once again disintegrated into a crumbled mess. We tossed it and found another recipe to try another day! No pics on this one!

Our meal Wednesday night included a recipe we’d been itching to try for a while but could not find the spice (za’atar) locally. Fortunately, a friend had some za’atar in her kitchen and shared it with us, so we were able to put this salad together. The Za’atar Roasted Chickpea Salad recipe came from that awesome site, One Green Planet:
We marinated the chickpeas in the za’atar, olive oil and prior to roasting for about 15-18 minutes
 We added the slightly cooled roasted chickpeas to diced raw zucchini (the original recipe called for diced cucumber, which we were out of) and tomato lightly seasoned with lemon juice, freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste.
 We added a grilled cheese (Daiya cheddar slices) sandwich (you can see someone had actually taken a BITE of the sandwich before the Elf even got to take a picture of it!) and had a lovely light supper of salad and a sandwich. The za’atar salad is to DIE for!!
Thursday night is ‘burger night’ so no big deal. We usually fix the Simple Truth burgers from Kroger as they are pretty good. We also had some of the frozen hash browns from the earlier casserole recipe that needed cooking, so we threw those in a skillet and browned them until crispy. Not an adventuresome meal, but a good one.

Fridays and Saturdays are days out of the kitchen when we usually go out. Friday Night is Date Night At The City Grille down the street here and it’s anybody’s guess where we wind up on Saturday night. This week, Big Solid was out of town so The Elf was on her own. Lots of leftovers, so we pretty much polished off what was in the ‘frig.

We also kinda really LIKED doing the FFVK EXPERT RECIPE on Tuesday so we may just stick to that. So for the coming week, we are going to prepare two recipes again…they really look great:
It’s getting to be the time of year when lighter meals work better in the evening. Although we’ve had a lovely and rather long spring down here (meanin’ Mississippi), it won’t be long until we are all complaining about the HEAT AND HUMIDITY!
One of our little Elf-ventures this week was to try out a way to prevent oxidation of avocados. We eat a half and avocado daily with tomatoes and toast so preventing the second half from turning brown is an issue. We saw a cool little video from where this guy tried several ways to 'prevent the brown'. Here's the link:
Like we said on our The Elf in the Kitchen Facebook page, there's an opening commercial that you can watch, or not. The one method he found to be most successful was to put the remaining half of your avocado on a bed of coarsely chopped onion in a plastic container, cover it and voila! No browning--or at least minimal. So we tried it and here are the results:
This was our avocado half placed on a bed of red onion, which is the onion he used. We'll try another type of onion when this one is done. Placed on Friday (5/2) morning.
 And this is that same half taken from the frig the next morning (Saturday 5/2). Not shabby at all!!
So, try it for yourownself and see if it works for you! We got all excited but then again, it doesn't take much for The Elf!
And speaking of excitement--we certainly had some excitement in these parts last night Saturday 5/2)! Two small earthquakes in an area that rarely EVER has them. Holy Carole King Lyrics! While small in Richter scale measurement, the quakes were shallow and therefore more violent…no damage and no injuries but a lotta WTF’s, social media frenzy and stuffs like that. We can only imagine (or not) the catastrophic impact of the earthquake in Nepal.
In keeping with our revamped commitment to shop ONLY once during the week, we were successful, though tempted. And it does not include items that you can't find at the grocery but only at Rainbow Natural Foods Grocery or Whole Foods (Rainbow first, Whole Foods second). It will be interesting to see the financial impact in a few weeks. Til then…

Y’all take care and remember to breathe deep, eat plants, laugh loud and love life.
The Elf

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