Sunday, February 28, 2016

"Where Have All The Good Elfs Gone?"

Gosh y’all, it’s been such a long time since our last post, we hardly know where to begin! First of all, mea culpa to Susan Voisin! We completely dropped the FFVK ball by not posting the Superfood Soup. We do have some pictures of the ‘mis en place’ but for some reason, cannot FIND the finished product that we’ll post later. We STILL want to do a ‘Something From Susan’ at The Crossroads Café; we are probably a few weeks away from being able to pull that off on a regular basis. More about that later as well.
The Elf wishes to dedicate this week’s blog to her best friend and college roommate, Mary Opp. We attended Kentucky Southern College in Louisville KY from 1964-1968. In ’65, we decided to become roommates and the rest is history (and hysterical).

Mary died on February 16 after a long and difficult struggle with cancer; one she ultimately took control of and decided that quality of life outweighed the ravages of continuous chemo. It was our honor and privilege not only to surprise her on her 70th birthday (well, the day after anyway) in late January but also to honor her request to speak at her funeral last Saturday. So, ‘Kid’, this one’s for you.
We swear we’ve been so occupied with working at The Crossroads Café; we’ve barely had time to cook supper for Big Solid or do much of anything else! What we CAN say with great glee and amazement is that our E.P.I.C. cookies are selling beyond our wildest dreams! The day before, these two trays were full!
Thankfully, we are able to make the dough at home (John lets us bring the big honkin’ Kitchen Aid mixer home for most of the week). The kitchen at the Café is tight and Joe Moorefield (the totally awesomeness Chef) has his hands full keeping up with demands of his culinary expertise. His food is amazing; he is totally organic and demands only the best ingredients be used. He will NOT order anything that he doesn’t know the origin and quality.

Anywho, we initially started baking on Monday—turning out four dozen Oatmeal Walnut Cherry and four dozen Oatmeal Chocolate Chip. Well, traffic picked up and before we knew it, those 8 dozen cookies were gone the next day. So, now we are baking on Monday, preparing additional dough Tuesday, and baking again on Wednesday and Thursday. This week will be a real test of how we can keep up with the demand.
 It’s very exciting for The Elf and Big Solid is very supportive! Thank goodness he LOVES our ‘late in the kitchen’ standby supper of baked potato, steamed broccoli, Chao cheese and The Gentle Chef’s Chikun Shreds!
Remember the Andouille Sausage we made a few weeks back? Well, we took some to Chef Joe at the Café and he loved their taste and texture. SO he decided to use some in a vegan red bean soup! So many folks came up and said, “This isn’t vegan, it’s got meat in it.” It was so much fun to explain to them the sausage they THOUGHT was meat was plant-based…no different from plant based milk or plant based cheese.

And speakin’ of The Gentle Chef (who has a NEW cookbook coming out soon YAY!), we recently tried one his newest endeavors, Tofu Bacun. It’s a long process but oh so much fun! And the results are pretty darn good. The recipe calls for extra firm tofu to be pressed really dry BUT retain the blocky shape. This is where the FB cooking community is such a blast! Instead of purchasing a $70 tofu-press that keeps the tofu in the right shape, folks have made their own, so that’s what the sneaky Elf did. We kept two empty tofu cartons and got them nice and clean. Then we took an ice pick and poked a bunch of holes in one box, placed our tofu in the holey one, placed a second empty box on top and weighed it down on a wire rack with a pan underneath to catch the water as it oozed out. Took 12 hours but we had a nice, dry block of tofu.

The rest is easy but again long. The recipe calls for the tofu to marinate for 12-48 hours with 24 hours being optimal. So that’s what we did. Then you just fry some up just like the real deal…only there was not an ounce of pig. We understand that Bacon can be a near-religious experience for many but we were very happy to stay animal free and enjoy a really nicely flavored plant-based bacon. It even sounds good! 

Now, back to Susan Voisin’s Superfoods Soup that I dropped the ball on. 
We did prepare it by first cutting the silken firm tofu into cubes, slicing onions and shiitake mushrooms and chopping some really lovely baby bok choy from Mr. Chen’s wonderful grocery.

 We also used The Gentle Chef’s delicious Chikun Bouillon (it’s a dry mix, so you just add boiling water). The result is something similar to a Dashi, a Japanese soup base made from kombu (dried kelp or seaweed) and bonito flakes (dried fish). Susan’s recipe uses water, miso and YUMMY Korean Red Pepper powder, which OF COURSE, The Elf did not have. Susan rescued us by sharing some of her own and we liked it so much, we ordered a big old LOT of it.
It now occurs to The Elf WHY there is no picture of the finished soup…they were way blurry so we deleted them and forgot to get others.  Some comments about this soup…it is very light, calorie friendly and easy to prepare. When we make it again, we will substitute edamame for the tofu…we just didn’t care for the texture/consistency of the silken. AND, we will triple the pepper!
IF we have time to cook in our own kinky Elfery kitchen this week, here’s the FatFree Vegan Kitchen recipe we will be trying. Guacamole Stuffed Potato Skins.
Looks quite fun and delicious. Since we made some plant-based meat analogues today, we can almost use these as a side dish. We’ll see.
So, that brings us up to speed, methinks. Today, we got our Elf on with some Gentle Chef Brats. It’s a fairly easy recipe that comes from his Seitan and Beyond cookbook. You make a dough from Vital Wheat Gluten and specified liquids, let that sit for a bit and then divide into 6 brats. Those steam for 45 minutes and rest overnight in the ‘frig so the texture and consistency is set. Here we have what they look like ‘raw’ about to be wrapped in foil and steamed.

 And fresh from the steamer. Nothing much to see but some foil wrapped stuffs.

AND then we made our FAVORITE, Chikun Shreds. Today, since we had access to the BIG mixer, we prepared a double recipe at once instead of separately like usual. Here we have the tofu based moist ingredients poured on top of the VWG and other dry ingredients (Yep, The Gentle Chef).
That makes a really nice dough that we were able to knead with that awesome mixer thingie. We weighed the final dough (grams for more accuracy) split in half, wrapped in heavy duty foil and baked for two hours. Again, to set the texture and consistency, these two ‘loaves’ will spend the night in the ‘frig.

 OH and then, we made a triple batch of each of our EPIC cookies to bake tomorrow. We have found that letting the dough set in the refrigerator overnight also helps bake a better cookie. If we don’t have time for that or have to make a ‘quickie’ dough, we stick it in the walk-in freezer for a bit before baking. The first picture is the Walnut Cherry and the second is the Chocolate Chip.

  So, bring it on tomorrow!! Body Pump followed by bakin’! What’s an Elf to do but hunker down and enjoy every minute of this!
So, we hope we’ve caught up and are back in the Elfery saddle. We have some more irons in the fire, but that’s for later! Next week, goodness it’ll be MARCH! So, ‘til then, laugh with joy, eat plants, love life and DO EPIC!

Sunday, February 7, 2016


Y’ALL!! What a wonderfully fun, busy and hopefully productive week it’s been for your Elf! As Big Solid predicted, hours at The Crossroads Café expanded in order for us to complete our tasks. In addition to heppin’ at the salad and hot bars, we baked cookies (E.P.I.C.) and made our first vegan soup as part of the ‘Something from Susan’ project to introduce non-plant-based folks to delicious vegan/plant-based dishes.
We had to delay our elf-fort by a day as the supplies came in a bit late in the evening for TE to get it together to make the soup (Smoky Refried Bean Soup) 
 but we DID get it all going to serve on Wednesday.

The recipe suggests serving the soup with a fresh tomato salsa/pico de gallo and baked tortilla chips. While the soup was heating up on Wednesday, waiting for the lunch crowd, we did make the pico de gallo and baked some whole grain tortillas. We were really excited to see that first bowl go out and got a chance to talk to the lovely lady who ordered it. She said that the soup was delicious (YAY!) which gave us a chance to talk to her about Susan Voisin and the FatFree Vegan Kitchen. She and her table mate had no idea of Susan’s notoriety in the national vegan/plant-based community and that she resides RIGHT here in little ole Mississippi!!

It’s pretty obvious right now that ‘Something from Susan’ will continue on a bi-weekly basis until we get our orderin’ and prep times more organized. What THAT allows us to do it find some recipes of Susan’s we haven’t TRIED that would be GREAT additions to The Crossroads Café menu and give us a practice run at getting our ‘mis en place’. So, our next FFVK recipe to practice AND enjoy will be Superfoods Soup. 
This soup looks not only delicious but it’s very low in calories, VERY nutritious and can be changed up a bit each time with some substitutes. Plus it will give The Elf a chance to shop at Mr.Chen’s wonderful Asian grocery store for the baby bok choy and some good tofu.
We also had a nice comment on our E.P.I.C. cookies. A gentleman came in to The Café and ordered lunch earlier in the week. When he got ready to leave, he asked about the cookies and we were able to share with him what they are and how they got their name. So, he got one of each. We got busy doin’ something when we heard, “Miss?” We turned around to see the gentleman who’d ordered the cookies and gestured ‘me?’. He nodded, so we went over to see what he needed. He held a half-eaten Oatmeal Walnut Cherry/Craisin cookie in his hand, grinned and said, “You really got something here.” My goodness, Your Elf damn near cried. He complimented the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookie as well but his biggest grin was for the Walnut/Cherry. We ran right over to Joe Moorefield (our awesomeness chef) to tell him. He’s been such a great mentor as The Elf bumbles around sometimes; we had to share.
Since today is Super Bowl Sunday, we fixed up a variety of stuffs to have. So we’ll do a lot of snacky stuffs instead of a big meal. Big Solid LOVES our little ‘sausage’ rolls and dipping sauce, so those are on tap with some dipping sauces.

 Here’s the link to the sausage recipe but we altered it to make them appetizers. 

Then we made some Asian Guacamole (REALLY GOOD!) and will have that with some Wasabi flavored Rice Crackers.

We encountered this yummy dish at The Mongolian Grill in Memphis a couple of weeks back and decided we had to learn how to make it. We googled the title and sorta put two recipes together. We’ve had jar of Roasted Black Sesame seeds around for a while, so they FINALLY found their way into a recipe! We’ll get the recipe together and post next week. And our final gustatorial endeavor for the Super Bowl (well, besides a martini or two) will be a revised version of the Smoky Refried Bean Soup. We say revised because Big Solid and black beans (used in Susan’s recipe) do NOT agree with each other. So, we stuck with regular pintos. We also made a pico de gallo to add and have some baked tortilla chips as well. We should be set. We hope it’s a good game with all players safe and sound when the clock runs out.

AND, Tuesday February 9th is Mardi Gras! Annie is dressed in her finest Mardi Gras-ness and ready to catch some beads. She wanted two pictures this time…one of her ‘window’ appearance and the other a close-up of her cool purple hat (it lights up!) and her purple streakedy hair.

 Today, we made some plant-based Andouille sausages (from The Gentle Chef’s Seitan and Beyond cookbook). We prepared a double recipe (12 sausages) because these usually go pretty quickly. We weighed the dough so we’d know how much for each sausage (grams works better than ounces), rolled them in foil and steamed them for about 45 minutes.

 The finished picture is an older one as the final sausages won’t be ready until tomorrow, after the steamed dough has been refrigerated overnight. Helps to develop a  more sausagey texture. The Elf LOVES Red Beans and Rice but Big Solid, not so much. So we may just grilled up some sausages and have a sandwich, throw some beads in the air and play some Zydeco.
And finally, we found a really cool example of how Mother Nature DOES EPIC. Twice a day we walk our fur kids (MiniPearl, Belle and Marley, The Wayward Poodle) for about a mile through a couple of neighborhoods. On the way, there is a small hole in the sidewalk where a mini-world has found purchase. Not sure why, but I LOVE this little miracle world and look forward to it every day.

So, until next week, ‘Let the Good Times Roll’, laugh with gusto, eat plants, love life and DO EPIC!