Sunday, May 28, 2017

Horton Hears an Elf

Well, we’ve been suffering from Blogger’s Block in a BIG way! NEVERTHELESS, we are determined to get our Elfin-groove back and once again entertain and revel you with how cool it is the eat plant-based. As we move toward this holiday weekend and your Elf's FOURTH year of this Bloggeriness, we want to check back over the week to see what we’ve actually cooked! We also want to alert you to three new cookbooks that we’ve gotten lately (like we NEED another cookbook) and some of the terrific recipes they contain. We are going to share each cookbook in no particular order (and maybe something we’ve made from them). But FIRST, we don’t know about y’all but we in Mississippi have experienced several little cool snaps since Spring Sprung and we THOUGHT we’d gone through all the ‘spring winters’—you know, Redbud, Blackberry, and Cotton Britches. But this week, we had yet another couple of really cool (relatively speaking) days/mornings before the breath-removing, all-consuming, body-drenching, gill-demanding bi-wave of heat and humidity rolled back in. So, in a damn near history making photograph, we present your Elf in a FLEECE jacket this past Thursday the 25th of MAY!!

Given that your Elf IS INDEED a cold-natured creature, this is not unusual indoor wear all summer as Big Solid likes it a wee bit cooler in the Elf-haus. But for outside, this is nothing short of extraordinary.

So, our first featured cookbook is from America’s Test Kitchen titled Vegan For Everybody. In case you don’t know, America’s Test Kitchen is the gold standard for testing recipes to assure that they are delicious. They also publish that great magazine Cook’s Illustrated and the companion, Cook’s Country. While not vegan in nature, Cook’s Illustrated is a fabulous magazine…no advertisements, great illustrations, tips, gadget reviews, and recipes. Well, they NOW have a vegan cookbook, so we ordered it.

By FAR, the most popular recipe we’ve tried out is their Breakfast Energy Bars. It’s a bit of a labor intensive recipe but, once you get the hang of it, well worth the elf-fort. These bars are totally delicious! We won’t go through ALL of the steps but give you enough to whet your appetite. After following a fairly lengthy preparation (toasting nuts and seeds, prepping the pan with foil liners so you can lift the bars out, making a date and maple syrup based binder), you get it all mixed up.
Then you squash it all down into your prepped pan and it's ready for the oven. See all those good nuts/seeds in there! NO processed sugars or eggs or stuffs like that!!
This bakes for a while, until it’s pretty set, and removed from the oven. Here’s the tricky part…let this cool for a MINIMUM of 15 min (we found 30 to be better for us), then lift out the whole thing and slice into 10 bars. Then these bars go into the over (which hasn’t been turned off) and baked for 15-20 minutes. Again, we have experimented with the time and oven, finding that a convection baking works best for us but you have to be careful about over-baking (15 min maximum). Anyway, here’s what they look like baking.
Notice two pans of 10 bars. Since these are so popular, we now bake a double recipe, which makes everybody happy! We love sharing these with our friends in a continuing elf-fort to show folks that plant-based eating can be so very tasty. We LOVE this cookbook and will continue to share our experiences and dishes with you. Here is the link to American’s Test Kitchen website.
They also have a Facebook page that you can search out.

We’ve cooked a number of things from Kathy Hester's ever-so-fun Vegan Slow Cooking and have enjoyed the convenience of slow-cooker, well, cooking, enormously. Actually, we’d purchased this cookbook before we realized it was ‘for two’ and used a smaller slow-cooker (1.5-2 quart) so we HAD to go buy one. Now we want a second one so we can cook two things at once! We are saving our favorite recipe (so far) for another Blog (and there’s a reason for that). But, one we’ve tried and had semi-success (my fault and not the ahead) is titled Ethiopian Style Tempeh W’et and Veggie Meal. Y’all KNOW we at the Kinky Elfery Kitchen LOVE Ethiopian food and so we jumped on this one right away. We also have a fondness for tempeh and always have some one hand. The rest of the ingredients are almost always on hand as well, including the Berbere spice that is the quintessential spice of Ethiopia and other exotic spices such as cardamom. This was one of the recipes we tried BEFORE we bought our smaller slow-cooker, so we doubled it to fit our regular sized slow-cooker (Mistake #1). Here’s the tempeh in the cooking sauce, which is a lovely blend of spices, vinegar, onion and ginger.

The next layer is the vegetable layer of cabbage, potatoes and carrots which we again doubled (Mistake #2). Our mistake here was trying to pile a double portion of these veggies in a parchment paper ‘envelope’ that could be sealed (kinda like a vegetable en papillote).
But we were in too deep to back out so we cooked it on low as the recipe indicated (Mistake #3). A larger capacity slow-cooker (at least the one we have) cooks faster/hotter (even on low) than the smaller one, so we WAY WAY over-cooked this recipe. However, the flavors were delicious though the texture of both the tempeh and vegetables was too soft. We will most definitely do this again and this time, use the right size recipe and cooker!! A second recipe we’ve tried and enjoyed was…hold onto yourself…Tofu and Grape Stew. We are big fans of a veganized version of Italian Sausage and Grapes so this sounded really good. And you know what, IT IS! We served it over cous cous for a lovely meal!
We have also made several soups (White Bean Barley, Creamy Tomato Bisque, Indian Sambar) from this cookbook as well and all were outstanding. For further information on the slow-cookery world of Kathy Hester, here’s a link to her website.
She also has a Facebook page titled Vegan Cooking with Kathy Hester. Please avail yours-elfs of her expertise.

Our final cookbook is the new No Meat Athlete by Matt Frazier and Stephanie Romine.

We have yet to try any recipes from this book as we have had it only a short time, so stay tuned, for sure! Here is the link to the NMA website
AND there is a No Meat Athlete Facebook page as well.

And finally, we’d like to share a some pictures of our ‘fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants’ meals that we dream up when we’ve gotten behind on time to cook or had vegetables (thanks to the UpInfarms CSA) we needed to use. First up, we HAD some awesome broccoli that turned into a lovely Cream of Broccoli soup, using cashew cream and topped with a swirl of cashew cream and garnished with some chile lime corn.

We made up the recipe as we went and have no clue how to replicate it exactly. Yesterday, we got a hankerin’ for a breakfast burrito, so we made a quick tofu scramble, added a ground plant-based Andouille Sausage,
and seasoned with chipotle chili powder, cayenne pepper, and ghost pepper salt! We even threw in a few left-over potato rounds (gotta have something decadent every now and then).
Rolled up in a wheat tortilla with some Daiya shredded cheese, Chipotle Hot Sauce and some freshly picked cilantro, this Burrito was a taste sensation!!
So, there you have it…the return of The Elf to the Bloggery world. Next week, we will be making a trip to Memphis and hopefully have some really cool pictures of the plant-based options found there!!

We also want to say on this Memorial Day weekend that without the ultimate sacrifices made by thousands of men and women who fought for us, we would not enjoy the freedom to live our lives in liberty. We remember, we honor and we will never forget.
Until we meet again, 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, May 21, 2017

Jumpin' Jack Flash-Back Elf

For our Elf-fort today, we are re-publishing our very first blog oddly enough on the exact same date as the inaugural (5/21/14). This is in celebration of THREE years of blogging and the initiation of our FOURTH!! We hope we've learned a lot over the past 3 years and can continue to contribute and grow as a vegan and blogger. Enjoy and remember to always DO EPIC! 

To V or NOT to V
With all the blogs about eating and food and diets and stuffs like that, why ON EARTH would you want to read this one. Well, simply because it’s meant for folks who are THINKING about adding more plant based meals to their eating routine OR folks who in the back of their minds are CONSIDERING what it would be like to NOT eat any meat OR people who are seriously STUDYING the reality of being Vegan or Vegetarian.

This blog is about my journey—past, present and future—as a vegetarian gone vegan. It’s not meant to be prescriptive for anyone else nor is it meant to condescend, rant or
Tofu Scallops
otherwise run-off-at-the-mouth about how EVERYONE should be vegan (or vegetarian). It is strictly a story of an aging baby-boomer who made a decision and sometimes has to struggle to stick to it.  So many folks have asked about how this decision was made, how I sustain a vegan lifestyle (in the South especially), what I eat, how I cook, how I get all my essential nutrients and, most importantly, how they could possibly do the same thing (or at least eat better than they do now). So, this is the result and we hope it has meaning for you.
Vegetarian First—Vegan Comes Later….Much Later

I became a committed vegetarian on 9/30/10, the day I turned 64 years old. My frequent travel and work partner (my dear pal Shannon Hall) had become vegetarian to help her lose weight and be healthier.  My frequent travel and work partner (my dear pal Shannon Hall) had become vegetarian to help her lose weight and be healthier.  I agreed to eat 'veggie' with her (well, most of the time) when we traveled together. Then I read a book called Eating Animals by Jonathon Safran Foer. A long time animal lover, I was moved by the conditions the animals in many factory farms endure. So on 9/29/10 (my 64th birthday EVE), I decided to go vegetarian. Easy as pie...or maybe not. Read on... 

Well, Shannon and I met my brother at an Italian restaurant in North Carolina where we were working that week and since it was my birthday, we were going to celebrate. I did not often get a chance to see my brother since we live so far apart (he’s in NC and I’m in MS). When it came time to order, I had my mind set to order veal piccata (one of my favorites), figuring that my birthday celebration meal took precedence over any vegetarian decision I had made. As I mentioned that selection as my entree, Shannon leaned over to me and said, “Well, you almost made it 24 hours.” That did it!  I was so ashamed of being a ‘wuss’ and not following what I said I would do…I ordered eggplant Parmesan instead and haven’t looked back. The thought of becoming vegan was not even a germ, not even a molecule of an idea.

From that day until 6/30/13, I ate a vegetarian diet..but not without some pretty tempting times. In fact, I declared in December of 2013 that we’d have a ‘vegetarian free’ day on New Year’s Day so we (my husband, Big Solid and I) could have ham hocks and black-eyed peas, cabbage cooked with bacon and corn sticks. The more I thought about that, though, the more I realized I just could not take that first step backward. So, we prepared the same menu without the meats and used veg friendly seasonings instead. Did it taste the same…NOPE. But, I’ve learned a lot since then about seasonings.
I had often thought of making that last commitment to becoming vegan during the past 3 years as a vegetarian but just could not bear the thought of NO CHEESE, NO DAIRY, and NO EGGS (Waffle House has suffered greatly, I’m sure) and all the delicious derivatives of
Three Vegan Cookies--YUM!!
 those three foodstuffs. Then we went to a lecture by Dr. Neal Barnard (June 29 2013). The evidence of the health benefits of a vegan eating regimen was so compelling, that I signed up for the 28 day vegan challenge and began the next day.  SOO--in a little over a month, I will be celebrating my first full year as a vegan. It’s been challenging, fun and a tremendous learning opportunity. More about all that later.

This is the start and I hope to become savvier about blogging. In the meantime, here’s to all of us who are trying to make a difference in a differing world. I have always maintained that you change the world one person at a time through how you live your own life.  I will share with you the good, the bad and the ugly of the work in progress that is me. Enjoy, comment, join in, or just lurk…we are glad to have you.
I want to add that this blog will include resources (books, websites, other blogs) and recipes that have and continue to be meaningful to me. Two blogs that I use a LOT are and