Sunday, May 29, 2016

Don't Hide Your Elf Under a Bushel

Is it just the Elfin passage of time or does this year already seem to be flying by! AND NOW, with summer looming, all of fresh produce in the world is at our finger tips, so we’d best make the most of it. Here at the Kinky Elfery Kitchen, we often buy in bulk and freeze stuffs to enjoy when all the leaves are gone and the world has turned brown.
Our FatFree Vegan Kitchen recipe for this past week was Pasta Fagiole with Cranberry Beans and Kale.
And just as the first time we made it, it did NOT disappoint. This is a hearty soup that is a standalone meal. One thing we did differently this time was to cook the pasta shells separately and add to the soup at serving. This kept the pasta at that al dente status and also allow portion control on the amount of pasta. A LOT for The Elf and a teeny bit for Big Solid. This time, as well, we added more kale. The first time we made it, we underestimated the AMOUNT of kale that 10 ounces is and only had about half of that to add. This time, howsomever, we had the full meal deal on hand. So, your Elf got all set to display the pictures we took of the preparation, etc. AND THERE WERE NONE!! ZIP! NADA! NOTHING! So, the best we can offer in terms of how this lovely soup is made is to show you the picture from the earlier post
and link you to the initial preparation blog from November 8 2015 titled An Elf for All Seasons.
For our FFVK Elfy Winner this week, we’ll be taking advantage of all the fresh produce and preparing the Skillet Gardener’s Pie
We loved this when we had it before and there’s no reason to doubt we’ll love it again.
All of us can finish this old saying, “DON’T FIX IT.” Well, we have learned this once again by trying to fix something that wasn’t really broken. You all know The Elf bakes the vegan cookies for the Crossroads Cafe’. We love it and have been very pleased at the response. WELLLL…in an elf-fort to respond to some thoughts about the amount of sugar (and keep in mind, we use organic evaporated cane sugar and ditto brown sugar), we tried to revise our recipe to include coconut sugar and sucanat. We tried several batches of all three types of cookies. The taste was different; several folks said they tasted more like gingerbread but still tasty. However, the kickers were the texture  and baking process itself. The texture was extremely fragile; heck, when we would move the cookies to a cooling rack, they would fracture or shatter and no amount of cooling would help.  AND, while they were baking, they did not flatten out, so we wound up with a big mound of a cookie OR used a flat glass to press them into a flatter cookie before putting them in the over. We tried all sorts of modifications to address the ‘crumbly-ness’ but nothing worked. We also noticed that the sales had dropped. So, after talking it over with management, we have gone back to our regular recipe…all is much better. Your Elf was SO EXCITED to see a flat cookie come out of the oven! Sales have picked up as well! Any of you vegan bakers out there with advice, have at it!
This week we had some awesome Rainbow Chard with Mushrooms, with PattyPan Squash along with some vegan cornsticks! One of our favorite meals; simple, delicious and healthy.  We cannot tell you how much fun it is to shop the Farmer’s Market on Saturday and visit the Salad Days booth! 

And we also prepared some zucchini noodles with a little mini-spiralizer and had the noodles sautéed in a bit of toasted sesame oil and added baby bellas, onion and edamame! Wasn’t sure how Big Solid would belly up to the table for that, but he loved it! It didn’t hurt that we sautéed some of our favorite Plant-based meat analog, The Gentle Chef’s Chikun Shreds. 

And tonight we will indulge in the glorious Salad Days heirloom tomatoes, either sliced on our Vegan Burger OR in a cucumber and tomato salad. 

And we leave you with one final picture…our lone Calla Lily. There are others still waiting to unfold but this is definitely the Elf’s FAVORITE FLOWER. We LOVE our peonies because they remind us of carefree days at the home of our grandparents in TN. But the Calla is such a lovely example of clean, simple lines that promises that sometimes the best things in life are those that not complex and require nothing more than a look-see. 

Until then, breathe deep, laugh a lot, eat plants and DO EPIC!

Your Elf

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Sllk Elf out of a Sow’s Ear

We apologize for missing last week. We have had such a busy time lately that we have barely been able to breathe. It’s been graduation week and so many of the staff at the Cafe are high school seniors, we’ve been assisting in their absence. That being said, let’s roll for today!  Keep your fingers crossed as we are doing this whole blog on the ElfMac, including pictures and links.
For our return to our FatFree Vegan Kitchen Elfy winning recipes for 2015, we’d selected the Sante Fe Spaghetti Squash Casserole. As Justin Wilson, the famous Cajun chef and down home philosopher, would say, “We’re here to tole you”—that first time was no fluke. It was just as good this go around as last and one we will no doubt revisit yet again.

As before, the only change we made was to substitute pinto beans for black beans as Big Solid’s system doesn’t seem to be able to handle the black bean. We ALMOST made a significant mistake when thinking of substitute beans…we thought we’d try edamame. At the last minute, we chickened out and went with the pinto beans.  We first baked our squash, cooled it and then obtained the ‘spaghetti’. We had such a big squash, we had a half to play with during the week. We then got all our vegetables sautéed in a large skillet

Added the spaghetti squash and seasonings

Stirred it into a casserole and topped it with the cornbread crust. You’ll see a top view where we dusted it with a healthy amount of cayenne pepper and then a little ‘hot’ smoked paprika and into the oven it went. 

Your Elf swears that we could have eaten the WHOLE thing at one sitting, it’s so good. In fact, Big Solid had forgotten that he liked casseroles until we revisited this one. So, we’ll just keep re-affirming this newfound joy.
We are also delighted that Susan Voisin, MS FatFree Vegan Kitchen hers-elf is home safe and sound after a wonderful trip to the British Isles. It was a wonderful time but now she’s home and ready to work more FFVK magic. Our ELFY winning selection for this week is an awesome some…Pasta Fagiole with Cranberry Beans and Kale. It’s a hearty soup that we can have for supper on nights when things are rushed and there is no time to prepare a big meal. And, who needs a big meal at night anyway. Soup and salad or soup and sandwich works nicely. Here’s the link.
Last week, we also tried a bit of an experiment with a cabbage we’d gotten from Salad Days at the local Farmer’s Market. It was a spur of the moment attempted copy-cat of a Sichuan cabbage that Chef Joe prepared at the Crossroads Cafe. We did not have a quality Sriracha sauce BUT did have a really good Sambal. So, we sautéed the cabbage in large pan sprayed with coconut oil spray.
Then we added a small amount of Toasted Sesame Oil, stirred that in well and added the Sambal to taste.
 It was delicious. We also sautéed some of our Gentle Chef Chikun Shreds. 

We were also able to share one of our favorite vegan soups with the patrons of the Cafe. It’s called Tomato and Fennel Soup with Plant-based Italian Sausages.
 It’s from Vegetarian Times a while back but here’s the link.
We used our own home-made Plant-based Sausages made from The Gentle Chef’s awesome cook book Seitan and Beyond. It was nice to see it on the menu and even Chef Joe gave it a big thumbs up! We did have to correct some spelling stuffs, but no matter…the taste was not altered.
And, here’s what we have on tap tonight! Looks at these gorgeous beets, both Golden and Candy Stripe, the Rainbow Swiss Chard and the fun patty-pan squash. We may even have to whip up some of The Elf’s excellent vegan cornsticks!! 

And finally, Elfinistas and Elfinistes, what’s summer without a garden. We are slowly but surely getting some action with our tomatoes and other offerings. The spaghetti squash and cucumbers are blooming, the potatoes are sprouting (second round), the okra is growing nicely and the zucchini looks great. The beets look a bit scraggly but maybe we’ll get a few good beets out of the ground. It’s just SO much fun to watch stuff grow and be able to go outside, pick it and eat it. 

And in the interest of making the most of your grocery shopping experience, we managed to snag a lot of sale items today. We will cook and freeze the mushrooms, clean and halve the peppers, and section the fruit to freeze for smoothies. 
So, until next week, we wish you a happy life, full of energy and laughter. Remember to eat plants, live The Golden Rule and “DO EPIC”!
Your Elf

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mama, Please Let Your Elf Grow Up To Be Vegan

 First and foremost, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all you Moms, wannabe Moms, soon-to-be Moms, StepMoms and otherwise caring Moms. The hand that rocks the cradle (or heart), is the hand that rules the world. We hope you have a special day of rest, relaxation, joy, and love.
We skipped a week; mostly because we just plumb ran out of time to put anything decent together for you AND our EXPERT (Susan Voisin) was out of the country.  We rely on Susan to share our blog and we’ve missed being shared! Hopefully, she’ll be home soon and can see what fun we’ve had with our repeat recipes of the top FatFree Vegan Kitchen recipes. We did indeed prepare the Healthy Hash Brown Casserole. 
It’s an easy recipe, has great ingredients (kale, chickpeas, potatoes) and great flavor. We highly recommend. The sauce makes the dish and once you bake it, you realize it will not last long at the table. The pic we took was of the casserole in progress and ready to throw in the oven.

For the coming week, we will endeavor once again to surprise you with a selection of our top 10-ish recipes.
One of the things your Elf has learned since becoming a part of the great crew at The Crossroads Café is more delectable ways to prepare vegetables and an ever-growing knowledge of great vegetables to prepare. Chef Joe Moorefield always has a selection of four vegetables for customers to choose from to accompany the entrée (which is not vegan but, from what we understand is AWESOME). He’s introduced us to Rainbow Swiss Chard, Lacinato Kale, Kohlrabi, varietal beets such as Candy Stripe as well as variations on ways to cook old favorites such as cauliflower and spinach. That being said, there is a hydroponic farm located nearby that grows supremely beautiful greens and vegetables. Salad Days and Two Dog Farms are located in Flora MS and bring us the most gorgeous of produce. Here are just a few pictures of what they have to offer.
Heirloom tomatoes—at the market and on our table made into a nice salad with cucumber and shallots.

Rainbow Swiss chard again, at the market and on our table sautéed with onion

Yukina (Asian spinach) which we have yet to cook and consume.

And, finally, wonderful Kale at the market and sautéed with mushrooms

We love to shop locally and this time of year offers spectacular choices. More and more farms are becoming organic making a variety of selections available. Why on EARTH would we want to buy vegetables shipped in from somewhere when we can get the real deal right here?
Big Solid and your Elf have been taking a ‘tonic’ daily made from turmeric, ginger, lemon and a wee bit of cayenne. It’s a great anti-inflammatory fighter not to mention digestive aide. Your Elf LOVES it..the taste and fire. Big Solid, on the other hand, has nothing good to say about the taste! He gags it down and swears it needs vodka. However, he does drink it. Thankfully, for him, it’s only a shot! We just throw all the ingredients into the VitaMix (and remember to attached the lid securely) and crank it up. Whip out the old nutsack, strain and drink…as shown in the pictures below!

And finally, let’s check in with the progress of our little bitty gardenin’ elf-fort. We’ve had some pretty cool temps lately (and we’ll remember them fondly in August, whew!) which may have slowed down some growth. Howseomever, things are beginning to take off, so in the next few weeks, we should see some real nice little veggies popping up. And speaking of popping up, we’ve had some potatoes to sprout in the garden. All winter, we threw our organic scraps in the garden and would turn it over from time to time. Consequently, when we prepped the garden to plant this year, we found an abundance of earthworms. Apparently, the potatoes that had been thrown out there after living too long in the pantry decided to grow. Should be fun to see if they ‘make’. We did pull some small tomato sprouts and a zucchini sprout since we already have those planted. Next week, we hope to have some pictures to show off, sorta. 
And what would the month of May be without graduations…including Elf-red. He’s all decked out in his graduation finery. We aren’t quite sure what he’s graduating from or to but we are celebrating nonetheless.
And The Elf got this cool gift from her brother…love it!

So til next week, when we will have maybe a surprise or two, y’all live well, laugh a lot, practice kindness, eat plants and, oh yeah…DO EPIC!