Sunday, September 20, 2015

How to Succeed in Elfery Without Really Trying

Hi Y’all! Today is Big Solid’s birthday, so we’ve concocted a good ole Southern birthday supper for my Forever Best Friend. Porq Chops, smashed potatoes, steamed broccoli (not sure how Southern that is but we have some on hand) and a handful of chocolate chip cookies instead of a cake. It’s our first elf-fort at the Porq Chops, so we’ve got our fingers crossed. We made them yesterday as they need at least an overnight to perfect the texture, so now all we have to do is remove them from the marinade and fry ‘em up. Once again, we are exploring the meat analogues from Chef Skye Michael Conroy’s Seitan and Beyond.

This week we made some new friends at J. Olive in Ridgeland and had a great time talking to them about being vegan. The conversations just spurred The Elf’s desire to work hard on the Vegan Primer. So many folks are interested in eating healthier and if we can influence that practice and edge folks toward a plant-based diet, we are excited to do so. We of course left with two great infused olive oils, both of which are delicious! We made a Tofu Scramble and drizzled a Harissa-infused olive oil over to give such burst of flavor!!
The other one is a Baklouti Green Chili Pepper fused olive oil that is delicious brushed over a plant-based burger or drizzled over a baked potato covered in mushrooms and onions. We will make J. Olive a regular on our culinary efforts.

Like we mentioned last week, we would be making vegan Worcestershire sauce and Chikun Bouillon powder to have on hand. Both were easy to make and store easily for future use. Here are the ingredients for the Worcestershire sauce.
The sauce as it begins to cook.
  About half-way finished cooking down to a rich and wonderfully aromatic liquid.
After it had cooked down to the right intensity, we strained it through a double layer of cheesecloth
and smashed down the dregs to get every last drop.
And finally, stored it in a tightly sealed jar ready to add flavor to just about anything you’d want.
And then we have the ingredients for the Chikun Bouillon powder.

We just threw all this in our VitaMix (we’re getting less and less terrified of that machine) and powdered it all up.
So anytime we need a chikun broth, it’s there for the makin’.

A few days ago, we saw a little video on Facebook about how to make some really cool looking Monkey Bread.  Here is what transpired:

Adventures in Monkey Bread Making
Let the Biscuits Fall Where They May

This is the story of how The Elf did everything WRONG when veganizing a REALLY GREAT recipe yet it STILL turned out. We will preface this adventure with apologies to Skye Michael Conroy as well as acknowledging an absolute truth when it comes to cooking. BE PREPARED!

In his newest cookbook, Chef Skye offers a wonderful glossary of terms and explanation of certain ingredients that folks may be unfamiliar with, especially if you are new to the world of vegan cooking or hell, even cooking in general. One of the terms that is defined and explained is a French phrase ‘mise en place’ which translates to “put in place”. It’s one of the most fundamental processes in cooking and one of the things home cooks most often overlook. When you watch a cooking show on TV, you are always amazed that all the ingredients are all ready for the chef to combine to make the perfect dish. Well, that’s not just done for the sake of ‘on air’ efficiency, it’s done because IT’S THE SMART THING TO DO!!

Since most of us don’t have a sous chef to take care of a) making DAMN sure that ALL of the ingredients needed for the said recipe are ON HAND and b) taking care of all the cutting, chopping, slicing, dicing, measuring (which includes finding the right cups, spoons etc), the temptation to ‘cut corners’ is pretty significant and oft occurs.

We have been salivating over a Monkey Bread recipe we saw on Facebook recently from the Tasty page. 
We saw it Initially as an oft-shared video of how to prepare (get this recipe title) Chocolate Cream Cheese Stuffed Monkey Bread.  It looked so easy, so good and so simple to veganize, we just HAD to jump on it. We copied the directions from the video and declared throughout our Facebook universe we were going to make this as a vegan alternative.

Off to the store we went to get biscuits and vegan cream cheese (we prefer Tofutti).  We already had the organic sugars (brown and cane) and vegan ‘butter’ in the form of Earth Balance Buttery Vegan Buttery Sticks, cinnamon, non-dairy chocolate chips, and walnut pieces.
OK—so far, so good. BUT, here’s where things began to unravel and we were WOEFULLY NOT engaged in ‘mise en place. While watching the video, we carefully took down the instructions INSTEAD of looking for a written recipe. So we blissfully carried on with opening the can of biscuits and, failing to observe closely in the video, promptly cut them into fourths. We then opened our package of Tofutti and quickly realized that if we had 10 biscuits cut into fourths, there was no way in hell we’d have enough cream cheese. So, AFTER we had cut almost all of the biscuits into fourths, we decided we’d best go peak at that video again…sure enough. The biscuits were cut in half NOT FOURTHS.

OK..easy enough to remedy. We’d just squish the fourths back into halves. Then we plunked down the cream cheese and the chocolate chips onto the newly squished out halves and rolled them into the balls, JUST like on the video. Then, we realized “UH-OH. We only have enough stuffed balls for, like, HALF of the Bundt pan.” This couldn’t be right unless our Bundt pan was twice the size it should be.

 Well, while writing the instructions, we failed to notice that the video features TWO cans of biscuits. If you will notice, there is one can of biscuits in the ingredients picture. So, once again, we left our kitchen station with 20 stuffed balls at the ready to ONCE AGAIN review the video. AND this time, we actually went to the Tasty Facebook page and found a written recipe to accompany the video. Sure enough, the recipe calls for TWO cans of biscuits.

 There was NOTHING The Elf could do but drop everything and RUN to the store for another can of biscuits. Had we in the Elfin Kitchen not had a real charge on taking this vegan extravaganza (hopefully) to a meeting as a snacky thing, we would have just cooked the half portion and hoped for the best. BUT, instead, we covered the stuffed balls and dashed to the store for a second can of biscuits. Not too much of a lapse…

OK, back in the Elfin Kitchen with that second can of biscuits…ONLY, it wouldn’t open. That little section that peels back to reveal the seam where you bash it against the counter to release the biscuits…well, it didn’t peel. No amount of coercion, scraping it with a knife or ANYTHING would reveal that DAMN seam. So, we just bashed away until the TOP of the biscuit boxy thing flew off, sending biscuits up and out like they’d been shot from a canon.
We scurried about finding them on the counter and gathered them in for bi-sectioning. Then we proceeded with the recipe as planned. The second can of biscuits turned into yet another batch of stuffed balls and away we went with coating them with the cinnamon/sugar, placing them in the Bundt pan, coating with the microwaved caramel (brown sugar and Earth Balance) and so on until all balls were accounted for and scattering walnut pieces all amongst the balls.

Home stretch…placed in the 350 oven and set the timer.  Sure enough, in about 35 minutes, this sucker was READY and smelled awesome. The recipe then states to invert the Bundt pan over a plate to allow the caramel coating stuff (so good!) to drizzle on back down over the balls. So, we were aghast to realize that we did not have a plate big enough handy to invert. So we grabbed a step-stool and vaulted up into the ether of our top cabinet to locate a plate we could use. The cabinet doors were open since we used utensils for the preparation. Well, we found a plate at the BOTTOM of a stack; so, as we reached in to remove a substantial number of smaller plates, our hands found a – raw BISCUIT—that had somehow established escape velocity and landed out of sight and reach.
So we were ultimately shorted by two balls!!

Undaunted, The Elf decided to actually eat a Monkey Bread ball to see if it tasted as good as it smelled and be ultimately deemed ‘share worthy’ for our meeting. OH HOLY HELL!! In spite of the ‘mise UN place’, this stuff was OUTSTANDING.
Now we can’t wait to do it right!!

One HUGE regret we have is that we did not take pictures of the various indiscretions of the ‘mise en place’ adage as we are fairly certain laughter would resound.
So there you have our week of kinky Elfery Cookery. This week will focus on baking LOTS of cookies to sell at Wellsfest on Saturday. Wellsfest is a long running outdoor family-friendly festival with music, food, crafts and just plain ole fun. So, if you’re out and about, come by Wellsfest for great fun and then stroll on over to the ARF/MS tent to buy a cookie and help us help the animals who folks have thrown away.

Til then, as always, remember to remember to breathe deep, laugh a lot, eat plants and love life.
The Elf


  1. Love your Elf-ventures in cooking!

    1. Thanks!! We have fun and sometimes mis-adventures :) Happy you read us.