Sunday, June 7, 2015

Me, My-Elf and I

Welcome JUNE!! The month when all sorts of fresh vegetables, fruits and juicy goodness hit farmer’s markets, street vendors, roadside stands and, here in the South, the back of pick- up trucks parked on the side of local highways. So get out there and enjoy the labors of those who grow food for us (local is always best) and look for organically grown produce.  As consumers become more and more savvy about what they put in their bodies, the demand for GMO free and organic foods has grown.  We usually try to find great produce that we can buy in bulk, blanch and freeze to enjoy in those dismal winter months when the blistering heat and suffocating humidity gives way to cloudy, damp and chilly days. Arguably, the QUEEN of summer produce is the TOMATO!! And in growing awareness and quantity, the HEIRLOOM TOMATO!! We had NO IDEA how many varieties of heirloom tomatoes there are in the WORLD!! But, there’s a great site to visit and peruse all the different types, sizes, colors and shapes of heirlooms…it’s called SeedSavers Exchange. From there you can expand your tomato horizons via other seed sites via Google, but this one is a blast.
ALLRIGHTY THEN!! Let’s commence with the IMPORTANT SUTFFS!! Our EXPERT RECIPE OF THE WEEK from Susan Voisin’s excellent site FatFree Vegan Kitchen
This week’s recipe was the exotic sounding Seitan Saltado (Peruvian Stir Fry with Potatoes)
One of the things we are really working hard to accomplish is organizational skills and preparatory work. For this recipe, Susan even recommends that the ingredients be prepared ahead of time so you won’t be runnin’ around the kitchen frantically trying to find that bell pepper you THOUGHT you had or slicing up your potatoes for the fries. So, we first made sure we had EVERYTHING we needed (man, you don’t know HOW many times we have so NOT done that only to be thwarted mid-recipe!) and sliced, chopped and diced. Susan also noted that she used her mandolin to assure evenly sliced potatoes which in turn assures evenly BAKED oven fries. We happen to HAVE a mandolin (not the musical instrument…that’d be so hard to slice stuffs on) and LOVED using it for the potatoes.
So, here you go…we had our stuffs prepared
 Then when the time for the actual cookery came, all we had to do was follow the cookery directions. First, we marinated the seitan. We LOVE seitan, which is a plant-based meat alternative utilizing Vital Wheat Gluten. That, of course, takes it out of play for those with gluten sensitivity but there are gluten-free alternatives that can be found on The V-Word
For this recipe and other uses, we made our own seitan using the recipe found on Bob’s Red Mill VWG with some minor adjustments to tweak our tastes (extra liquid smoke, Gravy Master for deeper color, etc.). We are actually showing two links here...the seitan recipe AND the link to Bob’s Red Mill home page. There are tons of great ideas, recipes and resources for those going plant-based as well as gluten free.
Pictured is our seitan marinating with the garlic, cumin and freshly ground black pepper. And since we love intense flavors, we marinated our seitan four hours.
We think the color that a red onion adds to a dish is just as important as the flavor; we sautéed our red onion
Then added the sliced bell pepper and the diced jalapeno pepper
 Next up was the chopped tomato
 And lastly, the oven fries which we JUST dandily crispy and the sauce made of soy and red wine vinegar!!
 You won’t see a picture of the plated dish because Your ELF is abysmal at taking pictures of plated dishes. In addition, we did not make any rice to serve it over and ate it with some toast instead. Now, for the verdict. As exotic sounding as this recipe is, we were left wishing it was even more. If we make it again, we will adjust the seasonings for more intensity and MAY even try it with The Gentle Chef’s Shredded Chikun. Understanding that when Susan creates a recipe, she does it with ALL potential users in mind and therefore can’t meet the taste buds of those who like fire when so many people don’t. That’s OUR responsibility. What’s fun about making Susan’s recipes is that we have the opportunity to try them as created and then explore ways to make them that take into consideration our preferences for heat and intensity of flavors.
Now, this coming week (June 8th), our FFVK recipe will be a ‘breakfast for dinner’ sorta elf-fort—the Monterey Frittata. Back when we were non-plant based eating, we loved egg frittatas. This will be most fun to make!! 
A couple of other dishes we had this week that we have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy. One of the things Big Solid has mentioned during our EXPERT and THE ELF cookapalooza is “you don’t have to cook something new every night; I’m happy with some of our old standards.” (whew!) So that’s what we had this week! First up, the tried and true tofu scramble. In this one, we used some lovely golden zucchini from our garden, kale, mushrooms, onion and LOTS of smoked paprika, turmeric and cayenne.
 Then, we had one of our new faves..Roasted Cauliflower and Spicy Lentil Tacos. As you can see, ONE OF US who shall remain nameless could not wait for the photograph to be taken and took a plug out of his/her taco!
OK Elfsters, that’s it for the first week of June. We cannot close out our blog this week without a picture of our favorite celebrity mannequin and her latest window reveal. Greet “She Said Yes to the Dress” Annie, currently residing in our dining room window.
 Til next week, remember to breathe deep, eat freshly grown and local plants, laugh a lot and love life.


  1. How is the Bob's Red Mill seitan? I haven't made this recipe. What is the texture like? Is it really chewy? Is it tender?

  2. Thanks for your comment and for reading the Elf!! We usually prepare the seitan in The Gentle Chef's cookbook but gave the BRM a try to see if there was indeed a difference. So much of the texture relates to the amount of kneading you do (we knead only until the dough becomes slightly elastic), the amount of time you let it rest (we let ours rest for 10 minutes) and the method of cooking. For the BRM, it's simmered and maintaining the SLOW simmer is a critical factor in the ultimate texture. If the broth cooks at too high a temperature, it will be mushy. Length of time is also important as is the size of the seitan pieces you are cooking (which of course affects the cooking time). Letting your seitan come to room temp and then placing in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours before using helps enormously with the texture. These guidelines are all from The Gentle Chef and he's on the money. The last few matches of BRM seitan have turned out quite nicely with texture, taste and tenderness. We will keep tweaking the flavoring to get a bit richer taste, using liquid smoke and smoked salt. Hope this at least gives you some food for thought.