Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Good Elf is Hard to Find

Oh what a week it has been! And we in the Kinky Elfery Kitchen are so excited to have had the MOST hits on our little blog EVER!! We credit so much to Susan Voisin and her FatFree Vegan Kitchen support.
Susan, you have NO idea of your influence and reach and it's so well deserved. We had so much fun with this week's Efly '15 winner, so let's get on with it.
This week's offering of the Elfy winner was the Asparagus and Mushroom Quiche.
We loved it the first time and ditto the second. In fact, we are now thinking of ways to explore other fillings and additional spices. What we DID realize this time around is that this recipe is not NEARLY as labor intensive as we thought it was the first time around. In fact, it is quite easy once you get a clear understanding of how things unfold. Let's show you in pictures...we had the mis en place of all the vegetables for the filling.
Next up was to make the brown rice crust, taking the tofu 'sauce' stuff and making a really nice pie crust with it and the cooked brown rice. We had a slight bit off difficulty with this recipe because stores that ordinarily carry the Silken Tofu (Firm/SuperFirm) did not have it available. We FINALLY found it at the local store (NOT WHOLE FOODS) and were able to complete the magic for this recipe. But we digress...the tofu sauce/filling was made and used to help prepare the crust.
We baked for 8 minutes in a 350 oven but we're not completely sure it was we let it bake about he minute. We think that a good move. In any event, it turned out just fine and we let it cool while we made the rest of the recipe.
Next up, sautéing the vegetables to go into the quiche.
And poured the vegetables into the cooled crust.
With the remaining filling poured over them.
Then we took our asparagus crowns and made a (sorta) pattern with them. Not as pretty as Susan's though.
And then threw in the oven for an hour. Once it was retrieved from the oven, it looked pretty damn good!
The final picture is what it looked like served up. We baked a couple of pounds of baby okra with a bit of toasted sesame oil and some garam masala to have an additional vegetable...guys, it doesn't get much better than this!!
So, we are eager to explore the path that Susan's FFVK has set and see what other options we can entertain with this quiche--artichoke hearts chopped, onions (red, sweet, who knows). We also LOVED the fact that a serving size for this recipe was 1/4 of the pie for only 223 calories!!

That brings us to next week’s Elfy recipe, which is one of Susan’s favorites as well—Spinach and Artichoke Pie.
It’s kinda labor intensive as it works with phyllo dough. Seems we remember really screwing up with the dough last time, so we have looked up ways to work with the thawed dough that doesn’t result in it all sticking together and making a mess. Believe the Elf when we say that we WILL follow the You Tube instructions.
Other than that, it’s really not that hard. When we reviewed the ingredients this morning, we only needed the phyllo dough…we love it when that happens!
We’ve been so busy with reporting out on some of the wonderful FFVK Elfys, we have been rather negligent on some of the other food stuffs we prepare (or as we say in the South—‘fix’), so we just wanted to catch y’all up. With all the glorious produce that is coming in now, we are loathe to purchase vegetables and fruit at a chain grocery store. Take blueberries, for instance, from now till mid-July, blueberries will be at peak. So, we buy a gallon every week..hold out a quart to eat on cereal or plunk a few in a late night glass of Pinot Grigio and freeze the rest. Ditto fresh peaches that are now in abundance.
And we have a smoothie every morning along with some nutritional yeast and hemp hearts. It’s always fun to mix up all kinds of great fruit, some kale or spinach for added nutritional value, add some coconut water or coconut/hemp milk, blast it with VitaMix and slurp it down.
In addition to the fruit bonanza, we have had lots of fresh greens and squash. Plus, The Elf makes a mean vegan cornstick. Like my friends Charles and Pippa Jackson say, ‘we love this better than gravy’. Here are pics of some pattypan squash, rainbow chard, candy stripe beets and those yummy cornsticks.
This past week has also been a great and bittersweet week for us. Y’all know that our BFF of 50 years and college roommate, Mary, died in February after making the decision to discontinue chemo. Her partner, Jo, has kept in close touch and recently decided to adopt two dogs from the Animal Rescue Fund of Mississippi. Well, she drove down Monday from the St. Louis area, picked up her new family on Tuesday (Bonnie and Clyde), spent the rest of the day and night bonding with them and drove back Wednesday. There is no doubt that these two little ones who have been shelter dogs for nearly TWO YEARS!! have won the lottery. They are a bonded pair so had to go together. Here we have a couple of pics…first of Jo and the ‘kids’ getting to know each other at the Home of The Elf and Big Solid and then how they are settling in with their new digs. Bonnie is the little dapple dachshund, recently recovered from heart worm treatment and Clyde is the terrier mix. He looks like a Hamish to the Elf.
So there you have it. We hope to have some really cool stuff to share with you next week along with our report out on the FFVK Spinach and Artichoke Pie. 

OH—we almost forgot. Lauren Rhoades passed her health inspection with flying colors to get approval to operate out of a commercial kitchen. We are so excited for her and hope that her Sweet & Sauer business really takes off!! Way to go, Lauren!
We had so much fun writing about Lauren and her passion for producing fermented foods, we want to develop more stories about foodie folks down this way. Gonna most likely call it ‘Explorin’ with The Elf’.
In the meantime and until next Sunday which is THE FOURTH OF JULY!! remember to laugh a lot, be kind, eat plants and DO EPIC!
Your Elf

Sunday, June 19, 2016

A Little Elf is a Dangerous Thing

Hold onto your hats, Elfinistas/Elfinistes…as Steve Harvey would say “We got a GOOD one for you today!” And by the way, Happy Father’s Day to all Dads out there. Your presence is our lives is loved, appreciated, respected and needed, whether you are with us still or with us in spirit.
First of all, we will be sharing our FatFree Vegan Kitchen elf-fort of the week…an Elfy winner called Spicy Collards and Black-eyed Pea Soup.
Chock FULL of good stuffs, we enjoyed this as much the second time around as the first. You’ll see a pot full o’goodness with our peas, tomatoes, chicken bouillon, sautéed onions garlic and peppers. Plus the great seasonings of smoked paprika, chipotle chili powder, cayenne, oregano and thyme.
Then we added the kale, cooked it down and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.
We made some vegan corn sticks and voila! A GREAT supper meal.
Our next Elfy winner on tap will be Asparagus and Mushroom Quiche.
Best we recall, this was absolutely wonderful, so we look forward to a nice light supper; and yes, Big Solid DOES eat Quiche.
Our next piece is something we are really excited about in the Kinky Elfery Kitchen, so we hope you enjoy reading about Lauren Rhoads and her wonderful Sweet and Sauer products.
To Ferment or Not to Ferment— Meet Lauren Rhoades
Fermented foods have been around for a bazillion years; primarily as a way to preserve food in environments not equipped for refrigeration. The most well known fermented food is sauerkraut; a fermented form of cabbage. Although some folks might think of fermented foods as acquired tastes, there is no denying the tart, tingly presence that a fermented food brings to the palate. The health benefits of fermented foods are becoming now mainstream with a new awakening to the power that food and diet has in overall wellness. Enter Lauren Rhoades...the fresh face of fermentation in the greater Jackson MS area.
 Lauren and LaQuenza at the Farmer's Market.
What, you say? How can you say fresh and fermentation in the same sentence. Well, Lauren is the energy behind 'Sweet and Sauer', an emerging company who's specialty is offering foods borne from fermentation. Though sauerkraut is the most familiar fermented food, Lauren is quick to show us there are multitudes of other types of fermented foods. Most of these have origins in other cultures such as Korean, Russian, Thai and German.

A native of Colorado, Lauren went to the University of CO at Boulder and studied English, Spanish and Political Science. It was during her collegiate days she began to cook for herself which led to a growing awareness of the stuffs she was consuming. And so this journey began as Lauren researched her foods and the soundness of healthy eating. That intensified after she moved to Jackson MS in 2013 to serve with the FoodCorps, a nationwide team of AmeriCorps leaders who connect kids to real food and help them grow up healthy. For her first two years with FoodCorps, she helped build school garden programs, taught kids about eating healthy, and worked to bring in locally grown fruits and vegetables to the school cafeteria. Lauren is now the MS FoodCorps Fellow who works with service members to help implement FoodCorps programming in the state.

The interest and fascination with fermented foods began in 2011 when Lauren attended a workshop on how to brew the drink called Kombucha  (a variety of fermented, lightly effervescent sweetened black or green tea drinks that are commonly intended as functional beverages for their supposed health benefits. Kombucha is produced by fermenting tea using a "symbiotic 'colony' of bacteria and yeast" (SCOBY). As her interest grew, Lauren branched out, making other fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, kvass, and sourdough.  She shared her products with family and friends but when she realized that no one was actually selling these products at the local Farmer’s Market, she took the plunge and began marketing her products as a cottage industry under the name “Sweet and Sauer”.
Lauren states that she is mostly self taught but is heavily influenced by Tara Whitsitt’s Fermentation on Wheels and has recently taken advantage of a 5 day Fermentation Residency workshop conducted by Sandor Katz in TN.

Though Lauren eats a mostly plant-based diet, she does not consider herself vegan. Her products, however, are almost totally vegan (one exception could be the drink called jun which does include honey). In her own words, “When I do buy meat, I purchase it from one of our local farmers who use sustainable, responsible practices. I eat a mostly plant-based diet because it has a lower environmental footprint, I find it to be healthier, and it’s easier to sustain on a budget.” She also utilizes produce from local farms such as Salad Days, Two Dog Farm, and Amorphous Gardens for her fermented products and is a strong believer in supporting local producers.

Healthy, Tasty and Just a Bit Different
According to Lauren, “fermentation is the oldest and safest method of food preservation. It prevents food waste by extending the life of fruits and vegetables that would typically perish or be deemed unsuitable for sale after a brief period of time. For instance, a peach farm that may consider it’s bruised peaches not salable and throw them away or on the compost pile can be salvaged and used to flavor a batch of kombucha. Or turn 50 pounds of cabbage into 15 quarts of sauerkraut. 
It wasn’t until recently that scientists and dietitians began understanding the health benefits of fermented foods. Fermented foods are living, teeming with bacteria that is beneficial to our bodies. When we eat fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, kombucha, etc. these living microorganisms populate our gut and allow better absorption of nutrients and aid in general digestive health. Scientists are also beginning to find more links between gut health and brain health, which are leading to an influx of probiotic pills. Why take a capsule when you can get probiotics naturally from delicious foods?
Which leads me to my favorite part of fermentation—it results in delicious, unique foods. Fermented foods have complex flavors that are always changing, dependent on many environmental factors, and basically the opposite of the standardized, processed, mass-produced, and marketed foods that populate our grocery stores.”

Lauren’s Products for “Sweet and Sauer"
Kombucha which is flavored with seasonal fruits and herbs (note, this is not to be confused with the Japanese drink konbucha which is made from seaweed). According to Wikipedia, the origin of Kombucha is considered to be China and Russia. 
Jun is similar to kombucha in that it is a fermented sweet tea which forms a SCOBY with each batch. But unlike kombucha, which uses black tea and cane sugar, jun is made from green tea and honey. It has a lighter, more floral taste, and the fermentation time is shorter.
Sauerkrauts, made from a variety of vegetables including a beet sauerkraut as well as the traditional cabbage.
Kimchi which is a traditional fermented Korean side dish made of vegetables with a variety of seasonings. Sweet and Sauer Kimchi does not contain fish sauce as many commercially produced varieties of Kimchi do.
Fermented pickles and fermented mustard. The Elf in the Kitchen can testify to the powerhouse of flavor that is the Sweet and Sauer mustard pictured above with the sauerkrauts.
Lauren says that her Kombucha, Mustard, and Kimchi are her consistent top sellers, however, pickles will be very popular during the hot, steamy Mississippi summer.
Currently Lauren’s products (Sweet and Sauer) can only be found at the Farmer’s Market on High Street or by special order. However, she is expanding into a commercial kitchen which will open the doors for sales to local retail stores as well as the Beaverdam buying club. Sweet and Sauer also has a Facebook page that interested folks may peruse to get more acquainted with the products and see more pictures.

In Her Own Words
When asked what she would like people to take away from this article in addition to the expanded knowledge of fermentation/fermented foods, Lauren stated, “I would like people to take away a greater understanding of Sweet & Sauer, my deep appreciation for our local, sustainable farms, and my desire to be a link in our local economy and a provider or healthy, delicious foods.”
What fun we had writing this article; we hope it brought some joy to you and some great information bout fermented foods.
So, that about does it for this week. Next week, we’ll get caught up on some of the other foodstuffs from the Kitchen of the Elf, for sure. We also hope to expand into more articles featuring some of our local folks who promoted plant-based eating. Until then, laugh a lot, eat plants, love life and DO EPIC. 

We close with one of our favorite pictures of the Father of the Elf; taken in 1942 as a 22 year old Air Corps Cadet and Flight Instructor for the P-51 Mustang. The Elf thinks him a handsome lad, a great representative of The Greatest Generation and a man we miss every single day.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

An Elf and Her Money Are Soon Parted

Oh goodness, today’s title could NOT be more apropos…bein’ as how we have recently made some substantial purchases. But, we are so enjoying them and will endeavor to save up a bit more responsibly. Sure.
We have had so much fun this week and we’ll talk about it later but FIRST, a little FatFree Vegan Kitchen Elfin Magicalness. Remember last week, we selected the Elfy Award winning FFVK recipe for Vegan Sausage and Mushroom Étouffée.
Well, we prepared it on Wednesday night and once again were absolutely THRILLED at the deliciousness. So without further ado, here we go.
The essential part of any étouffée (and gumbo, for sure) is the Roux. Like so many great Louisiana recipes begin…’first you make a roux’. And unless you make a LOT of rouxs (not sure what the plural of roux is, so we’re making a stab at it), you do get that roux makin’ is an art form. We have literally gone through a bag of flour in an elf-fort to make a decent roux. Well, we are here to tell you (as we mentioned in the first report on this dish), this is the BEST roux we have EVER made and it’s completely fat free. Ordinarily, a roux is a mixture of pretty much half oil/half flour with a seemingly unending amount of time stirring…and stirring…and stirring waiting for JUST that right color to show up. And, our usual patience and downright fear of failing, has typically resulted in a roux that is too light and doesn’t have the taste and substance of a nice dark roux. While not foolproof, the dry roux in this recipe is so much easier and heaven only knows, so much better for you. One still has to have the stirring capability and the PATIENCE of JOB to get that nice color. The roux instructions say it takes about 15 minutes of constant stirring to obtain the right shade of brown. The following photos will show from start to finish at 5 minute intervals. We went a slight bit over the 15 minutes but you can see in later pictures that the roux was the perfect color AND consistency.
Wasn't that really cool!! We never thought about how the incremental changes in color were important but this time we watched so carefully to take pictures, it really did make a difference over time. Kinda like watching water never does when you watch it but look away for a second or two and's boiling. Ditto with the roux...don't take your eyes off of it for any time at all or it will go to hell in a hand basket. We pushed it slightly past our comfort zone and finally pulled the plug. Turned out to be good timing. Here's what it looked like when we added the liquid to it and it really became a roux!!

We were so focused on the roux that we wanted to devote our intention totally to it, so we waited until we were happy rouxsters before moving along. So, the onion sauté was next 

followed by the addition of the other vegetable ingredients
 then came the mushrooms (and they were SO NICE)

Followed by the roux. See the nice dark color staring to develop? 

Next was the sausage. We made out own Andouille sausages, compliments of The Gentle Chef's 'Seitan and Beyond' Cookbook. Frankly, we have embellished his great basic recipe by adding a lot more spice/cayenne/ red pepper flakes

Then we added the nice sized slices to the mushroom/roux mixture. 

Doesn't this look AWESOME!! Even through the steaminess?

WE let this simmer for a while and the end result is such a lovely entree. Since Big Solid is not a rice fan, we served it over toast. Never the mind, folks...rice, no rice, toast, no toast, it was absolutely delicious. This truly may be the #1 recipe from last year.

Yeah…yeah..I know, we may say the same thing about any of the remaining Elfy winners. Speaking of which—we are in a bit of a quandary about next week’s Elfy preparation. We are torn between two recipes, so it may come down to a last minute decision. Guess we’ll just have to surprise you! YAY!
Your Elf went on a little adventure this week for a couple of days. The Memphis Film Festival is not really in Memphis and the films it highlights are primarily the old Westerns of the 60’s as well as other shows of that era. Since we thought of ourselves as either Tarzan or Hopalong Cassidy for the first 5 years of our life, we’ve been to several of these. The Elfin brother (Jud) is a vendor, so it’s a double treat to visit with him and his sweetheart, Suzanne. These are a few pictures from the Festival that you (of a certain age) may enjoy. The final photo is the lineup with pictures of these folks from ‘back when’. 
 Andrew Prine

Parker Stevenson

Robert Fuller

 Ron Ely

Darby Hinton

Alex Cord

Jon Provost

And the attendees also show up in costume!
As you can imagine, eating vegan in the Mississippi Delta AT A CASINO is a bit of a challenge. We tried to steer clear of the costly all you can eat buffets since pretty much the only thing available for The Elf was salad. Most vegetables were either covered with cheese or cooked in meat stuffs. So, the one night we were there, we descended on a famous old restaurant called The Hollywood Cafe—Home of Fried Dill Pickle slices. Here we are in front of the restaurant…Suzanne, Elfin Brother Jud and TE hers-elf. 

We had thought ahead and brought what was left of the Vegan Sausage and Mushroom Étouffée. The server was a bit reluctant to heat it up for us but we ordered a baked potato  and some bourbon, so he was cool.
We also brought vegan pimento cheese and boiled peanut hummus to snack on, so we did just fine. It was so much fun just to visit with Jud and Suzanne as they made and sold mugs and t-shirts to all comers.
And, finally, we hit the Farmer’s Market yesterday morning early and got home with some wonderful produce from Salad Days and Two Dog Farms. Our favorite vendors!! We hope to bring y’all a lengthy story about them in the near future. A terrific story and group of people. The spaghetti squash you see actually came from The Garden of the Elf!! We will prepare it sometime this week. Since we are not huge fans of tomato sauce, we’ll most likely just flavor with lemon, EVOO and some fresh basil. 

So, Elfinistas and Elfinistes, another week has flown by. We hope that you enjoy our bloggeriness and will continue to support us. As always, laugh a lot, eat plants, be kind at every opportunity and “DO EPIC”.
Your Elf