Monday, March 28, 2016

Never Look a Gift Elf in the Mouth

Hey There Elfinistas!! Here’s hoping you had a lovely Easter weekend and celebrated this renewal time of year with friends, family and good times. We had all the intention in the world of kicking back on a rainy Easter Sunday with the Kindle and catching up on some reading. BUT…when your Elf gets something stuck in her head, it’s all over but the doin’. So, we decided to make our weekly double batch of The Gentle Chef’s Chikun (we’d made some sausage the day before). AND THEN, we had cookie makin’ in our head. So, we commenced on that activity around 9 a.m. Toasted up some coconut, then some pecans and wound up making 3 double batches of our E.P.I.C. cookies. We know we could get by with just regular coconut and pecan pieces but, dagnabbit, the toasting just brings out so many flavors! While Annie and Elf-red watched out the window, our dining room was turned into a cookie cooling place; we delivered the cookies just a bit ago!

Our FatFree Vegan Kitchen recipe of the week was another WINNER!! We have really been on a roll lately! We prepared Susan’s Mushroom Barley Soup with Cannellini Beans and Cabbage.
It was easy, it was fun to make and it was delicious. Just hit the supper spot when paired with a vegan pimento cheese ‘sammich’.
After we put our Pearled Barley on to cook, we sautéed up some onion

Then we added the garlic and sliced portabellas until they softened a bit. We salted this lightly and added the thyme and sherry, which always adds such a nice flavor.

Next up was putting all the ingredients together to let the soup become, well, soup. The shredded cabbage went in the pot with the barley and then added the mushroom mixture. A brief word about the smoked paprika; we love various flavors of paprika but our FAVE two are pictured below. We go through at least 2 tins of the Bittersweet a month and keep the hot and sweet on hand as well. It’s not cheap, but when it comes to adding great flavor, it’s worth every penny.

We used canned beans that we’d rinsed thoroughly to remove as much sodium as possible and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.
By then, it was quite nicely done and ready to serve up.

This is a nice lighter soup that pairs with a sandwich or salad and is light on the calories as well. Thanks Susan!!
Our FFVK recipe for this week is another soup…Curried Cauliflower and Sweet Potato. It looks yummy; we are HUGE curry fans, so this will be delightful and we look forward to making and EATING it!
One of the things we are thinking about doing soon it looking back on all the recipes we’ve tried from Susan Voisin’s FatFree Vegan Kitchen and picking our top 10! Maybe in a couple of weeks…that will be fun and we may just have to MAKE a few again to test out their delectableness.
A word or two about the vegetable broth we used. We are HUGE fans of Chef Skye Michael Conroy’s Instant Chikun Bouillon Powder from his cookbook, Seitan and Beyond. It’s a dry mix that keeps forever and is so handy for any kind of broth base you might want. We know it SAYS Chikun, but heck, we use it all the time. In fact, we use it so much, we make fourple recipe so we always have some on hand.
THEN, we have FINALLY discovered a vegan cheese that offers a decent opportunity for a pimento cheese sandwich. While we’ve not been huge fans of Daiya cheese in the past, there is a new mild cheddar in block form that really makes a very nice pimento cheese.

This past Saturday night, we went to a ‘new’ place for dinner. We say new but it isn’t really; it’s been around for a few years, just not a place we frequent. So, Saturday, decided we were in the mood for a new venue, Local 463. We almost always eat in the bar area which is typically not crowded until we are long gone—we eat early (and often). Big Solid got their signature fried chicken, which he loved. The Elf got one of their flatbreads (without the cheese) and a house salad. We ate the flatbread damn near in one bite it was so good, so there is no picture of that BUT, this salad was so GOOD!! The Elf LOVES a chopped salad and this one was awesome!
Plus, we took some of our ‘chikun shreds’ that we’d sautéed up prior to leaving home to put on top. We couldn’t eat it all, so brought about half home with us to keep. Well, about 10 p.m., The Elf had a hunger thrown on her, so that salad was history along with a nice glass of pinot grigio. The Elf had a good sleep!

One of the web sites/resources that The Elf HIGHLY recommends is One Green Planet. 
We subscribe to their daily news letter and find not only great vegan recipes but also some wonderful stories (and also some pretty sad ones) about animals, the environment, health issues, and other issues that reflect a focus on clean, healthy living and social concerns. We have found web sites and blogs that we may never have noticed or located without that One Green Planet gateway.
And finally, we leave you with this most recent Mail Order Annie ‘reveal’. She and Elf-red have teamed up for their Easter paradery finest. We found this AWESOMEST hat for Annie at Goodwill for FIVE DOLLARS!! She’s waited for nearly a YEAR to wear it!!
Elf-red was so excited to wear the bunny ears as well. He loves to accompany Annie in the window!

So, y’all, we wish you a wonderful week ahead. We will be Zippity-Doo-Dahin’ with the fabulous Jill Conner Browne and the Sweet Potato Queens.
We’ll be sure to have some cool pictures to share next blog (we HOPE it will be Sunday, but the Elf MAY need a recovery day). Til then, y’all breathe deep, eat plants, laugh a lot, be kind and DO EPIC!
Your Elf

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Happy First Days of Spring Elfinistas!! After a taste of really warm temps over the past few weeks, we are experiencing what some folks down South call “Cotton Britches Winter”. It’s cool enough for long pants, but you can get away with cotton. Or, in some circles, it’s known as “Blackberry Winter” because the blackberry bushes are blooming. As we are wont to say, “It don’t make me no nevermind”…spring is officially here. Now all we have to do is be patient enough for the soil to warm enough to PLANT TOMATOES!!
Since this little blog of ours is woefully late, we will just ‘git all up in it’ and tell you what a LOVELY meal our FFVK (FatFree Vegan Kitchen) Dublin Coddle with Vegan Irish Sausages was! We actually chose this recipe because of the name…with apologies to Smucker’s, ‘with a name like Coddle, it’s GOT to be good’. And truth be told, it is indeed ‘coddle’ food…comfort food taken to a whole new level.
We made the sausages first and they were really quite easy to put together even though there are lots of ingredients (mostly seasonings). We put all of the herb mixture together to add to the vital wheat gluten and bread crumbs. One thing the Ole Elf learned a LONG time ago was to grate fresh nutmeg. It’s worth the elf-fort. We keep a little teeny grater and whole nutmeg thingies handy at all times.

 We are accustomed to making plant-based sausages and meats, so we were excited to try this new recipe. The addition of the toasted bread crumbs, we think, added a consistency to the sausage that was quite firm.  So firm, in fact, we thought we’d overcooked/steamed it and were worried about it being too firm. However, when we realized the sausages would be cooking (coddling, we guess) in the sauce, we realized they needed the firmness to maintain a good texture and not get too mushy. The dough was easy to work with and easy to manage as ultimately divided and steamed.

We let the sausages relax in the refrigerator overnight before preparing the Coddle on St. Paddy’s Day.
We used Golden Potatoes, sliced about a half inch thick. We sliced and browned 5 of the sausages and held one back to eat at a later time, perhaps with breakfast. Anyway, we layered as per recipe guidance in our cast iron/enamel Dutch oven that’s heavy as lead!
We used The Gentle Chef’s Chikun Bouillon recipe for the broth (that stuff is a godsend for broth needs). We did add a touch more Liquid Smoke (a half teaspoon rather than a fourth) and proceeded to bring to a boil, cover and let simmer til things were tender. Then we added the dark beer, Black Mocha Stout. Your Elf is not a big beer drinker but when she does indulge, it’s always a dark beer. This is one of the best dark beers she’s ever had, so she was only too happy to swill down the remainder of the bottle after the ¾ cup was poured into the Coddle.
 The finished product is absolutely delicious and the sausage consistency was excellent.
We had some nice organic kale that we sautéed which added a touch of green to the meal!
We did not make any Irish Soda Bread but had some vegan biscuits instead. All in all, it was a wonderful Irish meal!! The Elf highly recommends!

Our Susan Voisin/FFVK recipe for this week (since remember, we’re a day late and an elf short) is Mushroom Barley Soup with Cannellini
 One of our favorite meals from the Kinky Elfery Kitchen is also a very easy one…inspired by one of those quickie video things on social media. We LOVE spaghetti squash but hate like crazy to have to cook it. So, we went the microwave route this time and found it to be damn near perfect. We usually cook it too long (oven-wise) and its mush. So, we only microwaved for a minimal time to get the external softness we thought would provide the best results with the actual squash. It’s easier to add time if it doesn’t feel right, for sure. We usually get a smaller squash so nothing goes to waste. The ‘spaghetties’ turned out JUST right…firm and able to handle a quick sauté with some broccoli and precooked Gardein Meatless Meatballs. Though the Elf prefers to make her own plant-based meats, she finds Gardein hard to beat for a quick addition to the overall meal. We opted for a bit of lemon and EVOO instead of a marinara. Enjoyed it immensely and then wished we’d gotten a bigger squash.

We had originally thought to share some pictures of a ‘new featured’ Burger from The Crossroads Café but since this is a vegan blog, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to do it. But we will describe it. Chef Joe Moorefield got TRULY creative a couple of weeks ago and put together the ‘Tribute to Graceland’ Burger. Yep, you guessed it…a burger dressed grilled banana slices, organic peanut butter, raw cheddar cheese and a whole wheat bun. In the meantime, the E.P.I.C. Cookies continue to sell out almost as soon as we can get them in the display. We have introduced a third cookie we call “Nuts For You”—toasted pecan pieces, toasted coconut and raisins. If you are in the area, drop by and have a great salad topped off by a good ole-fashioned E.P.I.C. (vegan) cookie!
So, there we have yet another week behind us. We hope you enjoy our fun little stuffs, meals and pictures. Til next week, celebrate spring, laugh a lot, eat plants, and DO EPIC!
Your Elf