Sunday, December 31, 2017

Auld Lang Elf

GREETINGS FROM YOUR ELF!! Didn’t 2017 begin a few weeks ago and here we are ready to dive into 2018? Goodness mercy Elf! We have a lot to share today so let’s get on with it. The holiday season at the Elf-haus is always a challenge…a challenge to find new and exciting vegan recipes to try out on ours-elfs as well as share with others. So, this year we prepared a couple of recipes to take to the Pajama Christmas at the Dees. BUT FIRST, we always start Christmas Day by taking breakfast to the kids/grand kids. This year, we took ‘sausage’ biscuits and Cinnamon rolls. Two weeks ago, we showed you the Maple Sausage roll we prepared from The Gentle Chef’s wonderful meat analogue cookbook, Seitan and Beyond. This week, here’s the end result. We sliced the sausage and sautéed
and then baked the biscuits to ‘slide’ those patties in! We must confess that we did NOT make the biscuits but did find a ‘store-bought’ biscuit that had no dairy or animal stuffs in them. These did not last long.

We also took ‘store-bought’ Cinnamon Rolls, primarily for the grandkids. They are not plant-based, so instead of the Annie’s Rolls we usually take (Kroger has been OUT of them for weeks now), we used regular ole Cinnamon Rolls…they did have an indication of dairy, so Big Solid and Your Elf did not partake. We DID, however, partake of the traditional Christmas morning Mimosas and a sausage biscuit or two.
The three dishes we prepared for our DEES’ DINNER were SO MUCH FUN to make and so worth the elf-fort!! First of all, from Susan Voisin’s Fat Free Vegan Kitchen, we made Vegan Sausage and Mushroom Étouffée.
(Note: We used the French spelling, so that's why it looks different.) We are pretty sure that the idea of a Vegan Andouille Sausage curls the toes of most folks from Louisiana but we have to say that these are a very decent plant based alternative. We had made the sausages a week or so ago; they keep beautifully and also freeze well, though they don’t usually last long enough to have to freeze. So, the base of the Étouffée is a roux; most rouxs are a mixture of oil/grease and flour that is stirred constantly over heat until the flour reaches a certain color. The color could be from a light brown (for a lighter roux) to a deep chocolate brown, for obviously a darker roux. Well, Susan has found a way to make a FAT FREE roux using ONLY the flour stirred over heat! When we first tried this a few years back, we were so skeptical we almost went with the old way BUT we didn’t. And we are SO very glad we did. This method, believe it or not, makes a fabulous roux without the fat!! We started off with just plain ole flour in a pan…we completely forgot to use our iron skillet!! What a stupid Elf.

Using a wooden spoon, we stirred and stirred and stirred. Now, the stirring part is so very critical! At first, you think you’re NEVER ‘gonna’ get to the color suggested by Susan which is the color of light brown sugar. So, we kept on stirring as the flour slowly began to change color. Personally, Your Elf likes a roux base that is a bit darker, so as the flour began to brown up, we kept a close watch on the degree of darkness.
Believe Your Elf when we say that this is THE most critical part of the roux preparation because once the flour starts to color, the process speeds up and it doesn’t take but just an instant to go from the desired color to BURNED. If that happens, you just HAVE to start over. We had gotten to a fairly nice color and were really trying to keep a close eye on further darkening when we got an important phone call we were anticipating. We made the decision to stop the roux at that point rather than balance a phone conversation with the intensification of the roux. We removed the roux from the heat right then.

Once our phone call was over, we finished the roux off by blending the browned flour with The Gentle Chef’s Chicken Bouillon. The final roux was such a lovely color!!
With that preparation done, we were able to focus on the remainder of the ‘cookery’. We sliced our PB Andouille and sautéed them
until they were browned and slightly crisp.
And here's what they look like up close and personal.

We deviated a bit from Susan’s recipe by sautéing the sausages first and then the other vegetables. Why, you ask? Well, we wanted the onions and other vegetables to sauté in the flavor left by the sausages. So we did not wipe the pan out when we began to sauté the onions.
We used a small amount of water to deglaze the sausage bits along with the onions to keep the use of fat to a minimum. Next, we added the rest of the ‘mirepoix’ or Holy Trinity of onions, celery and bell pepper that is so associated with Louisiana cuisine—we added the celery and bell pepper to the onions we had already softened up a bit.

Talk about great smells! Once the ‘mirepoix’ was ready, we gave the roux a quick spin in the blender to refresh and added it to the pan along with the remaining ingredients (soy sauce, thyme, smoked paprika, cayenne, ground black and white pepper, garlic, dried basil). In another slight departure from the recipe, we had sautéed a LOT of sliced mushrooms earlier because we KNEW we were going to prepared two recipes that included mushrooms. So, we added the sautéed ‘shrooms to the roux and spices.

You can see the spices we added prior to stirring them in and letting the mixture slowly cook until it thickened.

When it had reached a desirable thickness
we added the sliced and sautéed sausages.
Here is a close-up of the Étouffée. It’s a beautiful dish. The sauce was just the right thickness to support the substance of the mushrooms and sausages.

And now, for the other side of this dish. If you’ll look back at the spice ingredients, you’ll notice that one of them is cayenne. Well, we have this EXTRA HOT cayenne that we purchased from Patel’s Grocery. And when it says EXTRA HOT, we can vouch every so surely of that. With that in mind, we added ONLY HALF of the 1/4 teaspoon recommendation of the recipe or 1/8 teaspoon. AND EVEN THAT WAS TOO MUCH!! Well, not too much for us but WAY too much for the Dees! So, we were able to share some with our neighbors who LOVE extra spicy food! We can tell you that when we make this again, we will use 1/16 teaspoon of the cayenne. The Étouffée was served over brown rice and we forgot to take a picture of that!

Our next dish was from the Forks Over Knives cookbook titled Mushroom and Green Pea Risotto. We saw this on Facebook and determined we really needed to give this one a try.
O.M.G! This is a most delicious dish! And it’s really easy! Usually, risottos take a while to prepare as you stir small amounts of broth to the arborio/short-grained rice until the rice develops as creamy, silky texture and additional ingredients can be added. This recipe actually develops all of that creaminess without the constant or near constant stirring, adding, stirring, adding. So, here you go. Here is our ‘mise en place’. Left to right-ish we have mushrooms, short-grain brown rice, black peppercorns, apple cider vinegar, frozen peas, nutritional yeast, thyme, onion, and cashew cream in the white topped jar. Not pictured is six cups of the Chiken Bouillon.

There are two 'secret’ ingredients to this recipe that account for the smoothness and the cheesy flavor..raw cashews from which the cashew cream was made and nutritional yeast. The onions are cooked in water (to keep fat use to a minimum) but we used 1 teaspoon of EVOO with water, covered the pan and let the onions soften. After the onions cooked, the mushrooms and green peas were added and cooked until tender with the mushrooms taking a wee bit longer so they were
added first.

The rice, broth, and some spices were cooked in a medium saucepan until the rice was cooked al dente. To the partially cooked rice, we added the mushroom/pea mixture, cashew cream and remaining ingredients.
This was cooked over medium heat with frequent stirring until the rice was completely cooked, all liquid was absorbed
and the dish had developed that creamy, silky texture.
After the Risotto was completely cooked, we let it sit, covered for a bit, tasted to adjust seasoning and it was ready. This dish is quite lovely…we did not over-spice this dish because we wanted to share it with someone who is very sensitive to heavy heat/spices. Even Big Solid, who is NOT a risotto fan, liked this. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

Our final dish was a dessert called Apple Crisp. We actually took a non-vegan recipe that we had used a long time ago and substituted vegan ingredients, namely vegan butter or margarine and sugars.
Here is our ‘mise en place’; all purpose flour, Earth Balance (I hate to use it but sometimes it comes in handy for baking), Brown sugar, a sliced assortment of Granny Smith, Gala, and Honey-crisp apples, quick cooking oats, water, organic sugar, spices.

It’s very easy to prepare. Throw the sliced apples in a 9x13 baking pan and sprinkle a mixture of some of the flour, cinnamon and organic sugar over. Pour the water over that (which we forgot to do, not a big deal). Top with a crumbled mixture of flour, brown sugar, baking powder/soda, and melted vegan butter and bake for about 45 minutes at 350º.  It’s easy and it’s also delicious.
We served it with a scoop (or two) of So Delicious Cashew Milk Salted Caramel Cluster. Not a picture to be found because we were all devouring this lovely dessert! Alas, we have no pictures of the DEES’ Pajama Dinner this year. Time got away from us and people left before we could gather our wits to take a group photo. Elf-forts at a timed group selfie did not result in anything! BUT, you can at least get an idea of what an elegant table ME and Jesse set.
As well as the napkin that has been The Elf’s for many years!
OH—ONE MORE THING! Your Elf has a new Facebook page called The Movie Elf.
We have fun reviewing movies from an average person POV; mostly visceral in nature and oh so fun to do. Join us, please.

OK, NOW we are done for this week! We will be busy tomorrow cooking up some traditional and some non-traditional New Year’s Day plant-based goodness to share with you as we kick-off 2018! Annie sends her best New Year’s Day wishes as well!

So, until such time as we greet you in a New Year, remember to always LOOK for the GOOD, be an EXAMPLE of the GOOD, and ACT for the GOOD as HARD as you can, in as MANY WAYS as you can, EVERY DAY that you can. Your Elf.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Elf Before Christmas 2017

Bein’ as it’s Christmas Eve and all, this will be a relatively brief blog. First and foremost, your Elf would like to wish everyone a beautiful Christmas, Hanukah, and holiday season. It’s a most special time of the year and sometimes we forget to kick back and celebrate the season of giving and love. Let go now of all the stresses, tensions, and rampant emotions this time of year elicits. We have a few things to share foodie and Kinky Elfery Kitcheny wise. Let’s start with one of our favorite Vegan Bowls from Zsu Dever’s book of the same title. We featured a picture of it last week, so no need to repeat. We have made this before and it’s out of this world. Sambal-Glazed Tempeh Bowl.
Wikipedia says, “Sambal is a hot sauce or paste typically made from a mixture of a variety of chili peppers with secondary ingredients such as shrimp paste, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, shallot, scallion, palm sugar, lime juice, and rice vinegar or other vinegars.” It is of Indonesian origin. Note in the description there is mention of shrimp paste and/or fish sauce. So you have to be sure to read the label to make sure the version you find is plant-based. Such is Sambal Oelek. We LOVE the stuff and use it a LOT…it’s pretty spicy, so just a head’s up.
And, this recipe is really quite easy and comes together deliciously. First, you combine a mixture of the sambal oelek, rice wine vinegar, tamari, fresh lime juice (is there any other kind),a bit of organic sugar, and grated ginger. (As we almost always do, we doubled the recipe.) This goes into a small sauce pan along with your cubed tempeh, brought to a boil and simmered until the liquid has reduced by half.
At this point, you’re supposed to grill it but since we don’t have a stove top grill, we sautéed at a high enough heat to get good sear marks.
As this is cooking down, your brown basmati rice is cooking away.
Your prepared vegetables
are ready to be cooked with a small amount of toasted sesame oil until crisp to the bite and finished with a bit of vegetable stock (and you know we ALWAYS use The Gentle Chef Chikun Bouillon powder dissolved in boiling water).
Then you build your bowl; the first layer being your brown rice, topped with you vegetables.
Next add your tempeh and top with a sprinkling of pepitas (pumpkin seeds) that have been lightly toasted and tossed with Chinese 5-Spice powder.
Then, dig in and enjoy the flavor assault on your senses.
This has got to be one of our favorite bowls!!

The next recipe we are sharing will be a participant in our Christmas morning with the kids and grandkids…a tradition for many many years. This year, we will be taking Sausage Biscuits and Cinnamon Rolls. Here you have the Maple Sage Breakfast Sausage, once again from The Gentle Chef. First, the sausage ‘dough’ is made with Vital Wheat Gluten and a bunch of spices.
Then the liquid ingredients are whipped into shape via the VitaMix. The picture is obviously with spices prior to blending.
The liquid is added to the dry ingredients, mixed well, and allowed to sit for about 5-10 minutes to allow the gluten to ‘get a grip’.
The dough you see in the picture above is supposed to be made into links that are then steamed but we typically roll it and bake it for a sausage log to be sliced. Eat your heart out Jimmy Dean!
You’ll see the end result next week!!

Our week would not be complete without at least one meal of a baked potato and whatever stuffs we can find to ‘dress’ it with. In this case, it’s the usual suspects of steamed broccoli and grated Daiya cheese. Then we found some sautéed mushrooms and the NEVER MISSED Delight Soy Chick’n Nuggets. Top it off with some Pinot Grigio and you have one wonderful meal!
And FINALLY, we have said for a while now we wanted to prepare the recipe we saw on Facebook called Creamy Spinach Palak Tofu. We here at the Kinky Elfery Kitchen LOVE Indian food and one of our favorite dishes has been Palak Paneer. Palak means spinach and Paneer is an Indian Cheese. So, this was an ideal recipe to try.
We baked cubed tofu with a coating of an emulsified soy and coconut oil base. This was drained and the cubed tofu dusted with arrowroot powder and baked until crispy. The recipe calls for the tofu to be fried but we took the baking route and it was quite nice. Yes, we forgot to take picture of that…stupid Elf. As the tofu was baking we prepared the brown rice
and vegetables by sautéing our vegetables in coriander, a smaller amount of coconut oil than the recipe called for. This included onions first then coriander, turmeric, garlic and chopped tomatoes
with the spinach leaves later.
When the spinach was nice and wilted, we added a fairly thick cashew cream to the pan, whipped out our hand-held blender and blended it into a fairly smooth mixture. The recipe called for soy cream but we opted for cashew as we had cashews on hand and had no CLUE how to make soy cream. No matter, this was delicious. To the blended ‘palak’, we added the baked tofu, stirred in well and consumed over brown rice.
Finally, just an update on the continuing kitchen re-do saga. We have engaged a contractor who has given us hope of fixing issues left undone (meaning walked away from without finishing) by the previous contractor as well as coming up with some delightful ideas to improve the whole kitchen! First was the installation of drawer gliders that allow the full drawer to be opened. You can see how much room we now how in our two spice/herb drawers.
What a totally awesome idea! And it took him less than a couple of hours to get almost all of that done! We still have some work to be done so we can once again move all of our kitchenery stuffs back in their respective places. At least they are keeping Annie company!
So there you have the week before Christmas here at the Elfery place. The rest of today and tomorrow will be filled with more COOKERY and family and friends. It’s just a magical time. So to all of you, be safe, be happy, be kind, breathe deep and DO EPIC!! See you next Sunday as we roll into 2018. With fondness and wishes for a healthy life, Your Elf!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Every Elf has Her Day

It’s a bit awkward to sit at a desk in front of a big ole Mac to write our blog with a Chihuahua named Ed in our lap but we’ll tough it out. It’s cold outside, he’s cold and bundled up in his purple leopard fleece and we wouldn’t move him for the world. His Daddy has been calling him "Sissy" for wearin' a sweater.

This week in the KEK (Kinky Elfery Kitchen), we had a little bit of everything…the Good (our Vegan Bowl, the Taco Salad and the Andouille Sausages), the Bad (still no resolution of finishing the kitchen redo), and the Ugly (the explosion of our ‘Chikun’ Shreds during the last 15 minutes in the oven). On that last item, we thought the whole house had blown up; consequently, we were so ‘shook up’, we failed to get a photograph of the event…and  it was indeed an event. Big Solid came in from wherever he’d been and said, “HOLY SH*T! What the hell?” There was ‘chikun’ everywhere. We managed to salvage SOME of it, thankfully and then took an hour to clean ‘chikun shreds’ from all parts of the oven. So, we are now on a quest to see how we can rectify what we are doing to prevent yet another event such as this.
But, we digress…on to the Good! In an elf-fort to cut down on the number of times we eat out weekly, we are trying to make Saturday night an eat-in night and make something different. We LOVE the Vegan Bowls cookbook by Zsu Dever;
so we decided to spend a few Saturdays exploring the various ‘bowls’. We had made our first choice once before, the Cajun Tofu and Artichoke Bowl was such a hit and so very delicious, we wanted to start off with a bang (unlike the bang in the kitchen yesterday). We actually blogged about this dish when we first prepared it.
This recipe was our first and ONLY encounter with Celeriac (Celery Root). Since we are now Celery Root Aversive and do not wish to ‘wrassle’ another one anytime soon, we opted to use a much less difficult vegetable as our puree base. Cauliflower! First of all, we pressed our tofu using the BEST TOFU PRESS EVER!
Yep, it’s a big ole brick thing and it works great. We halved our tofu lengthwise, wrapped it in some paper towels, layered old newspaper on the top and bottom and applied our press! Doesn’t take long for that tofu to be just right. It’s then sliced into 8 ‘bars’ and put into a spicy Cajuny marinade. As we did before, we doubled the marinade recipe AND added time for the tofu to absorb more of the flavor.
In the meantime, we fixed our puree using cauliflower that we cooked to al denté.
Here’s the end result of the puree-ity.
Next up, we patted some artichoke hearts dry
and sautéed them until nicely browned.
Finally, we ‘built’ the bowl by the bottom layer of puree (looks like we shorted ours-elfs a bit), then the artichoke hearts and topped with the sautéed tofu. It’s supposed to be ‘grilled’ but we don’t have a stove top grill. Sautéing will have to do…and it does, actually, quite nicely.
This is an awesome bowl!!
Our next Good was a Taco Salad we had on Sunday night. It’s easy as pie and quite yummy. We used a Power Greens combo for our salad part and topped it with Simple Truth Crumbles flavored with some seriously hot Taco Seasoning.
Actually, we supplemented the “hot and spicy” seasoning with some ultra seriously HOT Red Pepper/Cayenne AND added the tiny remains of the Black Lentil Chili from the week before.
We topped all that with some Blue Corn chips, shredded Daiya cheese and a bit of Fat-Free Balsamic-Raisin Vinaigrette from Susan Voisin’s Fat Free Vegan Kitchen.
We love this dressing, only we’d be less than honest to say that we followed her recipe ‘ZACKLY. We did add a tablespoon of EVOO. Don’t think it added THAT much fat but did add a bit to the consistency. However, if you don’t need, want, or can have fat, stick with her original recipe. We linked it last week, but here it is again in case you are a first time ELF-ER.
The final Good this week was finally getting into the routine of making plant-based sausages, namely Andouille, compliments of The Gentle Chef’s book Seitan and Beyond.
We LOVE these sausages and use them to make Red Beans and Rice as well as other fact, we will be using it to make a dish to take to our Pajama Christmas this year. Here’s a picture of the dough prior to rolling and being steamed.
Forty-five minutes later, they are ready to cool off, sit overnight in the ‘frig and then be CONSUMED with glee!
Now this isn’t exactly the Bad we mentioned BUT you can get some idea of the things left undone by the folks we hired to re-do the kitchen (paint, paint, sand and replace cabinet doors). Notice the unpainted blocks of wood that were inserted to compensate for new hinges that did not fit. This is a picture of the cabinet to the right of the stove after we restocked from having to take everything out.
We have decided to replace as much plastic storage as we can with glass. You can get a better feel for that with this panoramic shot of the pantry.
We are still in the hunt for a contractor to come finish the multiple things left undone.
We’ve already commented that we did NOT get a photo of the Ugly ‘Chikun Shreds’ 'event', which is probably a good thing….you may never read The Elf again.
The coming week will be a busy one for your Elf but we will, hopefully, have some good dishes and pictures to share. So, as we wind this week up and anticipate the next, which will no doubt be filled with frenetic activity, high emotions, and additional stresses, so please take deep breaths and realize you can only do what you can do…no more, no less. Go easy on yours-elf.
AND by all means, LOOK for the GOOD, be an EXAMPLE of the GOOD, and ACT for the GOOD as HARD as you can, in as MANY WAYS as you can, EVERY DAY that you can. 
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to YOU ALL!
Your Elf.