Sunday, February 26, 2017

Don't Bite The Elf That Feeds You

Another week in the Kinky Elfery Kitchen has come and gone—in an instant it seems! So without further ado, let’s get on with our fun stuffs for today. As you know, this is our swan-song week for our ‘The Expert and The Elf’ project that we started OVER TWO YEARS AGO
with a brief hiatus to catch our collective breaths. If you read the inaugural blog, you’ll hopefully see that we have most certainly benefitted from the organizational, recipe building, and supporting skills that Susan has help us develop. Not to mention the awesome meals that her recipes and site have provided. So, if you are not a follower of Susan Voisin’s awesome site Fat Free Vegan Kitchen,
then by all means, check it out and see for yourowns-elf. For our last FFVK recipe, we selected a very simple yet delicious pasta dish called Pasta all'Arribbiatta.
We love cooking recipes that challenge with lots of ingredients and some labor intensity. BUT for the most part, we are of the KISS mentality when it comes to everyday cookin’ by Keepin’ It Simple Stupidhead. This was prepared on our Wednesday (Anything Can Happen Day) and we’ll go into more detail as we arrive at Wednesday. In keeping with our weekly menu, let’s take it by by day. And, BTW, we are really enjoying this way of eating right now. It gives us a menu for the week with room to add one recipe that is new to us while keeping our favorites (with some variations) to count on.

Sunday is, so far, Taco Night. Last week we didn’t include a picture of our tacos because, seriously, how many times can you look at a taco. This week we combined cooked brown lentils with some Boca crumbles for the filling and spiced it up with an additional boost from chipotle chili powder. We toasted the Taco shells;
 then shredded and washed the Hearts of Romaine lettuce.
We also had made a TON of Cowboy Caviar, so actually place some of it on the filling too.
We topped with some Guacamole that was ‘loosened’ up a bit with some while wine vinegar. It was YUMMY!!
We have already selected our topping for tonight’s Tacos, so hopefully it will be different enough to photograph!

Monday is All Veggie Night which usually consists of finding the freshest organic produce we can and figuring out a way to make it not only delicious but also different enough in textures to stay interesting. Well, boy Howdy, this week’s grouping turned out to be awesome. We sautéed kale and some wonderful oyster mushrooms with some dark Organic Tamari we found at Mr. Chen’s Oriental Grocery.
Then we had one of our FAVORITES…Cumin Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Sweet Potatoes.
Y’all! If you’ve always been one of those folks that says ‘UGH!’, “GAG!’, and/or “NO WAY!’ to Brussels Sprouts, all we can say is “TRY THIS, YOU’LL LIKE IT!
We also roasted a nice large cauliflower that we’d broken up into smaller florets and coated with a chile paste called Sambal…very spicy! Vegans and plant-based eaters need to be sure to read the ingredients on the Sambal label as sometimes it is made with fish products. You’ll see cauliflower in the final plating photograph. AND, you cannot have vegetables in the South without corn-sticks, which we have down to a vegan art-form (even if we do say-so).

Tuesday Night is Baked Potato Night and we always look for variations on the topping theme. This week, thanks once again to Mr. Chen’s awesome stash of mushrooms, we sautéed a TON of shiitake mushrooms
to add to our typical steamed broccoli, shredded Daiya cheese and sautéed plant-based chicken shreds.

Wednesday is Anything Can Happen Night. And here’s our final FFVK recipe for this season, Pasta all'Arribbiata (link included above). As you can see by our ‘mise en place’, the ingredients are few. Here we have our whole grain pasta (we used fusilli as we had it on hand), our favorite Muir crushed tomatoes (we could NOT find the canned Roma tomatoes that the recipe called for, so substituted these), Italian parsley from our own little herb garden, an added ingredient of some mushrooms that we HAD to use or throw away, one clove of Elephant Garlic and Red Pepper flakes.
We sautéed the garlic, red pepper flakes for a bit in less than a teaspoon of olive oil and then added the mushrooms.
We then added the crushed tomatoes and let the sauce simmer a bit to absorb the flavors. While the sauce was mellowing slowly, we cooked the pasta. We were certainly more cognizant of our pasta cookery than in our last elf-fort that went astray, so kept careful watch on the ‘early al dente’ texture and drained it before adding to the sauce. We stirred the pasta/sauce together to get a good coating, added the chopped parsley  and plated. The first picture you’ll see is Big Solid’s plate. He chose to grate and add some Daiya cheddar to his serving along with a couple of pieces of The Gentle Chef’s plant-based chicken shreds left over from Baked Potato Night.
The next plate is that of your Elf…we stayed with our vegan parmesan.
This recipe is so easy and so delicious, it will no doubt be on our rotation for nights we need something in a hurry or have surprise company. The red pepper flakes impart such a nice heat…we loved it.

Thursday Night is Taco Salad Night. Big Solid  looks forward to the Taco Nights almost as much as he does Thanksgiving (his favorite holiday), so as it stands right now, this will continue for a while longer. No doubt we will begin to deviate from this after a few more months and maybe come up with a SOUP night or something cool like that. Heck, we can always have Taco Salad for lunch! Since we made a barrel of Taco Filling, we had plenty on hand for our salad.
So, that was our WEEK of suppers in the Kinky Elfery Kitchen.

As we were looking at our menu for this past week, we also had a hankerin’ for the Hot ’n Sour soup from the Isa Does It cookbook.
The time we made it before, we LOVED it. AND, we had the ingredients on hand…even those dried Woodear mushrooms that we’d driven ALL over town to find the first time. Well, we bought enough to have some on hand, so we had NO EXCUSES! And we made it. Here is the ‘mise en place’ for the soup which consisted of Toasted Sesame Oil, Organic Tamari, Rice Vinegar, Fresh Ginger, Bamboo Shoots, Angel Hair Coleslaw which is obscuring the Sambal, Minced Garlic, the Woodear ‘shrooms (we used two packs), Extra Firm Organic Tofu, Scallions, and Cremini/Baby Bella mushrooms.
What you don’t see is the plant-based broth that we used. The recipe calls for vegetable broth and we used our Gentle Chef plant-based Chicken Bouillon. The hardest part of this recipe is gathering the ingredients. Once all those are found and readied, this recipe comes together so very nicely and is DIVINE!! SEE!!
Last time we made this, we swapped out the Sriracha for the Sambal because we liked the flavor of the Sambal more. Well, this time, we wanted even MORE heat, so we added a tablespoon of the Sriracha as well. OH BOY!! Next time we make it, we will INDEED make a double batch. It’s THAT GOOD!!

So, it’s the end of another fun-filled cookin'-up-a-storm week with your Elf. As we close this week's bloggeriness, we wanted to share a picture of the little ‘Rememberin’ Tree’ that stands sentinel on a nexus corner of two neighborhoods. We love this little tree placed to remember lives lost during 9/11, one of whom was a relative of a neighbor. As winter is giving way, swiftly we might add, to spring, our little ‘RT’ is getting a jumpstart on turnin’ green. We sure hope that we don’t sustain a severe cold snap and damage this little tree’s elf-forts at welcoming a new season. Enjoy.
And, as always…remember to 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. In other words, “DO EPIC”!
Your Elf

Sunday, February 19, 2017

An Elf is Worth a Thousand Words

Y’ALL! Last week’s post saw our second largest response EVER!! We couldn’t believe our little Elfin Eyes! We were BEYOND thrilled! Lexi Senter’s Story generated quite a bit of response and dialogue as well, so we are happy to get her story out there! Examples of people’s journeys are always inspirational and Lexi’s was certainly no exception.
We also wanted to share with you how we have semi-organized our meals.  For most of you, this is probably something you do quite a bit…plan your week ahead so you know what you are going to serve and prepare in advance. Sure does eliminate the dreaded "What’s for dinner?” The flip side is that it reduces spontaneity…but bein’ The Elf and all, we reserve the right to throw in a new dish on occasion. Given that we prepare vegetables and dishes such as brown rice and lentils, vegan pimento cheese, keep potatoes on hand to bake, and other assorted items to have for lunch, our week of organized meals refers solely to the evening meal. Down here in the Deep South, we call it dinner whereas most folks refer to it as supper. Here’s how the week flowed for entrées:
Sunday — Taco Night. We try to come up with different taco fillings but have a few favorites such as shredded chicken and/or seitan, Gardein Fishless Filets that are baked and shredded, riced cauliflower and lentils, portobellos that are grilled or sautéed and chopped or sliced thinly. You get the picture. We would show you a picture from Sunday night’s Taco Night but, honestly, unless we’ve tried a new recipe out and can show you how it came together, it’s really a repeat of what you’ve seen before.
Monday — Vegetable Night with Vegan Cornsticks. LOOKEE HERE! We had some pretty good stuffs Monday night. Golden Beets that we steamed first to cut down on the cookin’ time and sautéed
then finished off with a maple syrup glaze.
Also some great Kale that we washed thoroughly,

mixed with some Rainbow Swiss Chard and piled up in a deep pan to sauté.
We chopped up the pretty stalks, steamed them and threw them in the mix as well.
Then we added some great mushrooms, some dark, rich balsamic vinegar and let this cook down. Yes, we did add oil but just about a tablespoon of coconut oil.
And finally, our cornsticks because what is a vegetable dinner without cornbread of some kind? Big Solid loves crunchy stuff, so we typically make cornsticks. Actually, this is an older photo as we forgot to take a picture as they came out. We were THAT hungry!
Tuesday — Baked Potato With Selected Toppings Night. Our toppings Tuesday night included sautéed plant-based chicken shreds, steamed broccoli, shredded Daiya cheese. By the time you pile all of that on a nice sized potato, you’ve got a great meal. No picture here either, as you have seen this before. We WILL share one this week though.
Wednesday — Our FFVK Recipe Night!!  Our FFVK recipe for this week was Sicilian Market Pasta.
We have prepared it before but thought we’d give it another go. Since Big Solid has given himself permission to eat pasta, we are always eager to prepare it. This is a delicious recipe because it has some of our favorite flavors PLUS PASTA! So, here we go…now be a bit prepared for a mini-fail along the way that sorta worked itself out. We got our ‘mise en place’ early in the day so we would be SURE to have everything. And sure enough!! We hadn’t read through the ingredients thoroughly and missed two items; we were able to run quickly through the grocery and pick them up (the orange and the basil). So here you have MOST of the ingredients…left to right along the way. Halved cherry tomatoes, orange zest, basil, oregano, chickpeas, red pepper flakes, Kalamata olives, garlic, and…the pasta (Japanese noodles, the beginning of the mini-fail).
We sautéed the garlic (we used the minced garlic rather than chopped), removed it. We then added the chopped red onion along with the zest, oregano and red pepper flakes. We had a cup of the pasta water at the ready and added that along with the chickpeas.

Next we added the basil and Kalamata olives to the chickpeas.
Those cooked a bit
and finally added the tomatoes.
Really pretty, don’t cha think? We also had some portabello caps that needed to be cooked, so we sautéed them to top the pasta. NOW…remember we said that our pasta was some Japanese noodles. We had an overabundance of them and decided to use them instead of regular pasta. We remembered that they cook VERY VERY quickly, so only left then in the boiling water for 1 minute before putting in a colander to drain. That was our mistake and one we won’t make again. When the instructions called for the pasta to be added to the lovely concoction of chickpeas, olives, basil and tomatoes, the pasta had welded itself into the dome like formation of the colander and came to the skillet as a big ole solidified lump o' pasta. We broke it up as best we could but there was FAR too much pasta/noodle stuffs. We wound up taking large hunks of it out and slowly breaking up the rest. Once that was done, we plated it with the portabello slices. The flavor was outstanding!
Lesson learned was to NOT cook these noodles at all and just throw them into the chickpea mixture to cook in it. THAT would have worked beautifully! Even with the mini-fail, we thoroughly enjoyed the recipe!!
Thursday — Taco Salad Night! When we prepared the filling for Sunday Night Tacos, we doubled the amount to have enough on hand later in the week for Taco Salad. The filling was a combination of Gardein Meatless Crumbles and finely minced plant-based chicken (remember The Gentle Chef’s recipe that we make weekly). Sure enough, we LOVED it! We topped our salad with a bit of guacamole, a couple of tablespoons of Cowboy Caviar we made and DOVE in….TWICE!

Friday and Saturday Nights are nights we dine out. Typically, Friday night is Fusion night. Fusion is a local Thai/Japanese restaurant that has great vegan options for some Thai dishes as well as vegan sushi. Saturday is anybody's guess, though we have favorite haunts that serve good vegan options...Anjou being one of them.

Which brings us back to Sunday and we start all over. You know, this way of eating is quite yummy to us and we are content to 'theme' each night and do variations on that theme. Do y’all remember the EARLY days of TEEVEE and the Mickey Mouse Club every afternoon!  Each day of the week had a specific theme. Well, we feel that we are in a similar universe; we remember that Wednesday was “Anything Can Happen Day”. We feel that’s appropriate since that’s the day we usually try out a new recipe!! More about that later...
We went to the local Farmer’s Market Saturday in search of early vegetables. We also had on our 'TO DO' list to go by Whole Paycheck/Foods and pick up some fresh turmeric root for our arthritis tonic.
There’s not a huge selection right now as it’s still early BUT LO AND BEHOLD!! Lookee at what we found at the Farmer’s Market!! Homegrown turmeric!!
And at a cost FAR below what is being charged at Whole Foods. So, if you are local and want to find nice fresh home-grown PESTICIDE FREE turmeric, here’s the booth to look for!
We wanted to let you know that we are going on hiatus from our FatFree Vegan Kitchen “Expert and The Elf” project after next week's recipe.
We will be searching out recipes from some of the dozen vegan cookbooks we have and giving Susan a break from us. She has been such a marvelous support for this little blog and we have certainly benefitted from her sharing with her thousands of readers. We would LOVE as many of you as wish to continue to follow The Elf in the Kitchen as we strive to bring plant-based eating ideas to folks who might otherwise not be inclined to do so…thinking it too hard, too complex, too expensive and too challenging. So THANK YOU SUSAN VOISIN and FAT FREE VEGAN KITCHEN
for your enduring support and understanding of our 'Cluster Elfs' from time to time. Heck, we may even try to create a recipe from time to time and see how that goes on "Anything Can Happen Wednesday" in the Kinky Elfery Kitchen!
We'd like to thank Vickie Graves Gilbert for taking the pictures of the fresh turmeric and the Farmer's Market booth for us! We were already on the interstate before we realized we should have done that! If you've never seen her artwork,  you've missed a real treat!
So, as always…remember to 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. In other words, “DO EPIC”!

Your Elf

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Hope for the Best, Prepare for The Elf

WOW! Do we have a jam-packed blog for you today!! So, let’s get goin’…
For last Sunday's Taco Night, we had 'chicken' tacos made from a combination of The Gentle Chef's Chicken shreds and the Louisiana cookbook's chicken seitan. 
They were outstanding! We took both chicken seitans and processed them to a chunky ground texture, sautéed with seasoning and piled our shells high!! 
Our FFVK recipe this week was Chickpeas, Potatoes and Green Beans in a Cauliflower Sauce.

This is an Indian dish, which is our second favorite cuisine behind Ethiopian. We actually prepared this dish for our Vegan Girls’ Night Out and it was given a unanimous thumbs up from the group.
Don’t let the number of ingredients throw you..the majority of them are to make the sauce and that actually takes little time. So, we actually had THREE ‘mise en places’ to put together. Your Elf is tellin’ you that once you get practiced at this ‘mise en place’ stuff, it sure does make things flow more smoothly! So, first was out MEP for the Sauce. Pictured below are 3 cups of water, minced garlic, white pepper, bay leaves, ground coriander, fresh ginger, cauliflower, ground cumin and garam masala. We have run out of our home-made garam masala via FFVK. We intend to use up what we have and then commence to makin’ our own from here on out.
The recipe also gives an option for curry leaves but we did not have any on hand. (Note to s-Elf…go to Patel Grocery to stock up on curry leaves and replenish other spices.) The next ‘mis en place’ is for the remaining recipe ingredients, so we have non-dairy milk (we use Almond-Cashew), chickpeas, frozen green beans, red potatoes and a lemon (for the fresh lemon juice). 
Our final ‘mis en place’ is a recipe side-bar for a Fiery Onion Relish that is optional. We decided in for a penny in for a pound, so made this as well. Onion, cayenne, lemon and paprika. Y’all know how much we love that Mas Portell Bittersweet Smoked Paprika, so we gave that a go. We have about 5 different paprikas in our spice space but find this one to be our fave.
Once we got everything assembled, chopped and otherwise cook-ready, we started off with the sauce. Here is the cauliflower with seasonings and water, ready to cook ’til fork tender.
And after about 20 minutes, it’s ready to be ‘sauced’.
Fortunately (or not) we have a hand-held blender; HOWSOMEVER, after the first couple of passes, we had sauce all over us and the counter. Our pan was a bit too shallow for the hand-held blender to work properly!
So we transferred it to the VitaMix and pureed it without further mess. Then we added the chickpeas that had been drained and rinsed,
the red potatoes that had been chopped
and the greenbeans.
We tasted the sauce to see if any additional seasoning was necessary…so we added a small amount of cayenne and about an eighth teaspoon of turmeric. Then we let this simmer until the potatoes were done.
The onion relish was very easy. Threw the onion in the mini-processor, added the paprika, lemon juice and cayenne. And, wouldn't you KNOW IT--we FORGOT to take this with us to our gathering! What a stupidhead your Elf is!
Of course, we tasted the finished recipe (not the Relish) and we were delighted. Very flavorful and robust. We also prepared the Vegan Girls favorite cookie, the Oatmeal Creme Pie (we call them the Little Kikis). We haven’t made these in a while so we were a bit apprehensive abouit how they would turn out. We also used Miyoko's Creamery Vegan Butter.
 It’s a bit on the pricey side but the taste is fantastic and it’s sustainable! Shown here is a partial batch with filling, ready to be a ‘pie’!

As always, it was a great evening with good friends and we got to meet Andrew who has become quite an important guy for Misty. Left to right, Your Elf, Gigi, Leslie, Andrew and Misty!
It’s quite fun to anticipate all of the good plant-based food we will have. So here we go! We started off with some awesome Texas Caviar
followed by a couple of entrée options. A delicious grilled portabello taco, complete with peppers and cashew cream from Leslie and Gigi.

The Elf’s FFVK recipe, see above, with MS Blue Basmati Rice was also in the mix.
Then, of course, everybody’s favorite course, dessert. Yep, we had the Vegan Oatmeal Cream Pies
and a FABULOUS vegan Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cake from Misty and Andrew.
We ALL over ate and indulged beyond reason but it was worth it! At the end of the night, we were full, happy, and ready to plan our next time together.
A big Elfin thanks to Kevin Carter, Gigi’s husband, for taking the pictures and to both Kevin AND Gigi for once again hosting this fun group!

You know how chance meetings can sometimes result in discovery of like minds and thinking. Your Elf went to her neighborhood bank a few weeks back wearing a hoodie about being Vegan. One of the employees noticed it and mentioned that there was a teller who was ‘vegetarian’.  Well, we started talking and she is a budding vegan. So, we asked if she would be willing to share her journey, which she was excited to do. Introducing the lovely Lexi Senter!

My name is Lexi Senter, and this is the journey that led to my vegan lifestyle.
For me, the change was a slow progression, certainly not an overnight endeavor. I became a vegetarian in March 2016 after my best friend became a vegan a few months prior. I remember feeling as if a vegan diet was impossible for me, but I was still intrigued. I wanted to know what it was that made her choose this fairly uncommon lifestyle. She sent me a simple article from
and I remember watching a video of cows lined up in a concrete tunnel as they waited for their turn to be slaughtered. The video showed no bloodshed or the process in which the cows were killed; however, it was while watching this video that I decided never to eat meat again. I felt so much empathy and compassion for these animals; it was clear that they were filled with fear yet were unable to save themselves.
Everything suddenly made sense. I have always been an animal lover. Even as a child, my parents gave me the nickname “Elly May Clampett” from the old television show, The Beverly Hillbillies. I was always coming home with new creatures to love. From an early age, I remember feeling empathy and compassion for animals. I was simply taught to ignore these feelings when it came to the food we ate as a family.
After that day in March, I never ate meat again. Going vegetarian was the easiest life change I have ever made. I have always loved fruits and vegetables, and I enjoy trying new things. I wish that I could say that I went vegan overnight but that’s not how it happened. I felt that it would be impossible for me to cut out all animal products, and I had a lot of opposition from my family and even some from my husband. I was told that a vegan diet was dangerous. I was told that my priorities were out of line because I cared too much about the environment.  It wasn’t until I was completely comfortable with my vegetarian lifestyle that I began to build the courage to go vegan.
In December 2016 I watched a documentary called Cowspiracy. I recommend that everyone, regardless of current dietary choices, watch this film. It was both interesting and educational to learn of the many benefits of a plant-based lifestyle. I enjoyed learning about the health and environmental benefits of veganism without having to view the gruesome animal cruelty that often accompanies the agricultural industry. This documentary gave me the courage and motivation to take the next step.

I began by cutting out all dairy and eggs from my diet. Dairy products were definitely the most difficult for me to eliminate.  Thankfully, we live in a time in which technology provides a vegan alternative for nearly any animal product.  Unfortunately, I am still not perfect. My journey to becoming vegan has been similar to learning to walk. I still have days when I stumble, but every day gets easier and more natural. I have discovered great vegan and cruelty-free products for household items such as fashion accessories, cosmetics, or cleaning supplies. I am constantly discovering delicious vegan recipes to try at home, and my sweet husband even eliminated beef and dairy from his diet because he saw how passionate I am about veganism.  I have found so much joy in this lifestyle that I want to share it with the world. We can make a difference.
WOW! Lexi, that's a wonderful story and we appreciate your sharing it with us.

So, there you have another week in the life of The Elf in the Kitchen!! We have selected our FFVK recipe for next's Sicilian Market Pasta
We hope you've enjoyed our elf-forts and look forward to being with you next week. Until then...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. In other words, “DO EPIC”!

Your Elf