Sunday, July 30, 2017

Hitch Your Wagon to an Elf

Y’ALL! July is done! Already! Didn’t it just start? Slow down world!! There’s much yet to do! So, we’d best be workin’ on it, right? Here we go…barreling into August with the all energy and drive of a two year old wanting out of a lap.
We had our Veganista Night last Sunday night at Kevin and Gigi Carter’s awesome house. We reluctantly but lovingly said farewell to one of our own, Misty, as she moves forward with the next adventure of her life, here pictured with Big Solid. (Note: to clarify, her next big adventure is NOT with Big Solid.)
As usual and in the understatement of the year, the food did not disappoint. Misty brought an awesome Quinoa salad,
Leslie and Gigi collaborated on
a spicy and delicious Chickpea Curry
with Caribbean Greens (to die for),
and your Elf brought yet another Chickpea dish called Spicy Cajun Chickpeas and Grits (pictured later). It’s the vegan equivalent of Shrimp and Grits. The recipe is from the Vegan Slow Cooker for Two but we doubled it and it’s a good thing we did!! Here’s the link to the recipe. It is FABULOUS!
We also brought dessert that we forgot to take a picture of until it had been served…Vegan Richa’s Salted Date Caramel Pie.
The title is really a lot longer so we thought we’d just share the link to the recipe instead. It's a bit on the labor intensive side, but it is just delicious!
The table was set and we were all ready to EAT WELL!!
A closeup of a typical plate looked like this!! You can see the Chickpeas and Grits here about noon on the plate.
And nothing is complete without the Veganista selfie at the close of our gathering. Left to right, Misty, Leslie, Gigi and her husband Kevin (our great hosts), The Elf and Big Solid.
It was a lovely night and we wish Misty the best!!
Week Two of our Green Chef meals got off to a good start. Our Green Chef box arrives on Friday, usually in the late morning. We rush it inside to get it out of the heat and commence to opening it up with great curiosity and anticipation! And this time, we were ready with the necessary containers to keep our meals TOGETHER and eliminate that frantic and energy draining search for all the ingredients. One thing we also learned from Week One was prioritizing what days to prepare the meals. Some of the produce is more fragile than others, so it behooves us in the Kinky Elfery Kitchen to realize that spinach doesn’t last NEARLY as long as a peas or a squash. So, Monday, we fixed the Sweet Potato Samosas for supper. We got our mise en place (SO much easier when one is organized)! Chia Seeds, Baby Spinach (the fragile produce), Tamarind Barbecue Sauce, Peas, Red Cabbage, Cilantro, Toasted Coconut Flakes, Sweet Potatoes, Curry Seasoned Bread Crumbs, Coriander-Coconut Dressing and Roasted Red Peppers.
While our sweet potatoes were boiling to a fork-tender consistency, we prepped our salad of spinach, red cabbage and coarsely chopped red peppers. Then when our sweet potatoes were ready, we drained and gave them an ice water bath to stop the cooking. Then they were ready for mashing.
After they were mashed all up (next time, we’ll use a potato ricer), we added the ingredients for the samosas (peas, curried bread crumbs with a chia ‘egg’ binder).
We squished all that up and formed into patties that went into the ‘frig for a bit.
We sautéed them in hot avocado oil to get a nice crust…actually, we cooked ours a bit longer than the instructions to get a harder ‘edge’.
We finished the salad by tossing our ingredients with about half of the coconut-coriander dressing and sprinkling with some of the toasted coconut flakes and chopped cilantro. The salad was split and placed on the plate. Then we shmeared the BBQ Sauce on the plate and placed two samosas over it. We topped the samosas with the remaining dressing, cilantro and toasted coconut. Isn't this pretty?!
In fact, the samosas were so filling, we each only ate one and saved the other for a left-over lunch!!
Our second GC meal of the week was another surprise to the senses—Veggie Polenta. Now, this meal had eggplant as its base but when we contacted GC folks for alternatives, they suggested either zucchini or Portobello mushroom cap. We went with the Portobello and just rode out the remaining instructions quite nicely. Here is our mise en place: Yellow Bell Pepper, Parsley, Polenta, Mushroom caps, Garlic Pine Nut Sauce, Snap Peas, Veggie Bouillon, Shallot, Corn, Thyme, Tomato, and Marjoram.
Big Solid is not wild about Polenta either but, once again, a clean plate belies that statement. So, here you go. We made the Polenta (so sorry about the blurriness) with corn and snap peas.
The final plating really looked quite lovely and it lasted only briefly after we were seated. It’s really kinda fun to have something you’ve never tried turn out to be such a nice meal…even when there is initial trepidation!!
We took Wednesday off to prepare a meal Big Solid LOVES (he’s really been great with all this new stuff) and that’s Taco Salad. Nothing to picture as it’s just lettuce, fresh yummy tomatoes, ground chili seasoned crumbles (Boca), grated Daiya Cheese and crushed up corn chips (yes, FRITOS!).
Our final GC meal of the week was prepared Thursday night..White Bean Ratatouille. This was ANOTHER one that we thought, 'oh boy, we hope this works'. So, here’s our mise en place: Parsley (upside down), Balsamic Seasoned Tomato Sauce, Yellow Pepper, Baguette, Spinach Sunflower Pistou (a Provençal cold sauce made from cloves of garlic, fresh basil, and olive oil), Zucchini, Pine Nuts, Lemon, and Grape Tomatoes.
We sliced and toasted the baguette, drizzling with EVOO,
covered the toasted baguette sliced with the Pistou and plated the ratatouille with a fresh lemon wedge and glass of chilled white wine. It was delicious!!
Next week’s GC arrived this morning and we have already organized and stored/refrigerated. Looks like some good stuffs on tap for next week!!
We saw a recipe by Kathy Hester (Slow Cooker Vegan cookbooker!) on Facebook this week that looked mighty tempting, so we thought we’d give it a go to share with a friend. Tempeh and Fresh Figs Braised in Port…my goodness!
Well, thanks to a relative (Patrice O’Brien) we had a ‘passel’ of fresh figs, we ALWAYS have tempeh, and Port, so what the hey! We got our mise en place with EVOO, cubed Tempeh, Balsamic vinegar, dried Thyme, diced onion, fresh FIGS, minced Garlic, dried Rosemary and The Gentle Chef’s Chik’n Bouillon. (Note: the recipe calls for fresh rosemary and thyme but we didn’t have any. Besides, those are not big faves of Your Elf, so we minimized the amount.)
We sautéed the onions and garlic.
After that cooled, we put the tempeh, quartered figs and cooled onion/garlic mix in a container to sit overnight in the ‘frig.
The next mornin’, we piled everything in the Crock Pot and let ‘er rip for about 7 hours on low.
We tasted it when it was cooling off and OH BOY!! We hope our friend likes it as much as we did! And, we will most surely make it again when we have a day that is not already ‘spoken for’ in the meal department!
Well, dear Efinistas/es, we have reached the end of another week and another blog. We sure do look forward to all the Green Chef goodness for next week as well as the other fun meals we have planned. We hope you’ll continue to enjoy as much as we do!
We also wanted to take a moment to remind folks where our EOB (End Of Blog) reminder comes from (‘DO EPIC’). It’s from the beautifully written book Bright Side by Kim Holden that chronicles the story of one strong young woman, Kate Sedgewick. In spite of tremendous odds and personal pain, she maintains and shares nought but positivity..her DO EPIC. In the mind of Your Elf, that means to 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.

Your Elf

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Elf is Always Greener

We here at the ElfinHaus wonder how many of y’all remember the old TV show ‘That Was The Week That Was’ or affectionately known at TW3. Well, that could certainly have applied here! We have had a really busy and fun week. This blog will be pretty much devoted to our inaugural meals from Green Chef although we do have some other goodies to share.
Our FIRST Green Chef box arrived last Friday and THANK GOODNESS it was very well insulated. We have been running daytime temps well into the nineties with heat indices in the 105-110 range!
It contained EVERY ingredient we needed to prepare (or as we say here in Missi'ppi', ‘fix’) two meals over the course of three nights. Each meal has the ingredients numbered AND color-coded so you won’t mix them up. Very helpful, as you’ll learn later. Since many of the items are perishable and don’t need to sit in the ‘frig for days on end, we tried to use them as quickly as possible, understanding that Friday and Saturday nights are EAT OUT nights for us. So, we rocked out with the Green Chef’s stuffs beginning on Sunday and ending on Tuesday. That bein’ said, we definitely allowed for adjustments, this Sunday bein’ one of them. We have our VEGAN Gals (the Veganistas) this Sunday—always guaranteed to be not only a delightful evenin’ with good friends but also an opportunity to eat some awesome vegan food!! Stay tuned for a full report next week!! Big Solid will be joining us this Sunday as we will be bidding fond farewell to one of our own…it’s a happy farewell, for sure!!
OK, we put together our first Green Chef meal last Sunday night (7/16). AND, here’s the first thing we learned. When one’s Green Chef Box arrives and one gets all the ingredients out and put up safely, Put all the meals together as the colors and numbers indicate and THEN store them! Naturally, bein’ The Elf and all, we just threw everything in the ‘frig or on a shelf without a thought in the world UNTIL it came time to locate the listed ingredients for our Artichoke and Pesto Pasta mise en place. Of the eleven ingredients, we could easily locate 8. We TORE up the inside and outside refrigerators MORE THAN ONCE before we finally found everything. WHEW! So, here’s our mise en place: Roasted Red peppers and Kalamata Olives, Cannellini Beans, Grape Tomatoes (with a couple of our own yellows thrown in), Frisée (a cool kind of Endive), Pine Nuts, a Shallot, Parsley, Dairy Free Pesto, and Whole Wheat Orecchiette (pasta).
We toasted the Pine Nuts
and prepared the salad (before tossing and OH BOY, do we love Kalamata Olives).
Next up, we sautéed the shallot we’d diced in a bit of EVOO.
And here’s where we fell off the rails for a bit. We were in such a hurry we forgot the next step of sautéing our artichoke hearts. Alas, it made a wee bit of difference in that we did not get that great crust on the sautéed hearts. Oh well, live and learn TO READ THE INSTRUCTIONS AND SLOW THE HELL DOWN!! So, we added the artichoke hearts sans sautéing along with the other ingredients for our final countdown to plating.
Then, our salad was plated
and our Pesto Pasta served up, complete with our toasted pine nuts and chopped parsley.
We LOVED it and thoroughly enjoyed our first Green Chef Elf-fort. So, Monday night, once again we ran amok in the kitchen trying to find yet another eleven ingredients that we’d scattered all over both refrigerators, repeating the commitment to pack up and store the next box with some kind of sense. Our meal for Monday night was Sesame Tofu and here’s the mise en place after we AGAIN finally found everything (note—all items are organic): Tofu, Line, Spinach, Teriyaki Sauce, Scallions, Radishes, Edamame Puree, Shichimi Togarashi (a Japanese 7 spice blend) Tamari-Sesame Marinade, Eggplant and Carrot.
The instructions are very easy to follow, thank goodness.
We did not photograph all the steps this time as you kinda get the drift of things but suffice it to say that this dish was OUTSTANDING with one notable exception. Big Solid does not care one whit about Eggplant (though you’ll see by his finished plate in a bit how he managed to choke it down). The final plating looked like this
and Big Solid’s ‘end plate’ looked like this!
Our final Green Chef meal was prepared on Tuesday evening and the streak of deliciousness just kept right on rollin’. The BBQ Tempeh Kebabs were absolutely delicious. We THOUGHT we’d taken a picture of the mise en place but we didn’t. Nevertheless, there was a southwestern slaw along with some diced sweet potatoes that were roasted. 
The tempeh was cubed and marinated in a great BBQ sauce along with some halved Cremini mushrooms (baby portabellos) and thick sliced yellow squash. The Kebabs were made by threading the mushrooms, squash and tempeh cubes onto bamboo skewers that had been soaked in water to keep them from burnin' up. We even busted out our cast iron stove top grill for this one—and while it doesn’t have ridges to get grill marks, it did just fine.
As the kebabs were grilling we plated the sweet potatoes and topped them with finely chopped roasted peanuts, chopped cilantro and a lovely tomatillo-peanut vinaigrette. The final plating had us excited to get to the table, swill a little wine and enjoy a delicious supper.
So, we can truthfully say that our first week of Green Chefery was so much fun (albeit s-elf induced anxiety) AND really delicious food stuffs, we are eager to put into practice some of the lessons learned from Week One. And, we might also add that the folks at Green Chef are super responsive to questions and very supportive about concerns. We wrote them recently about Big Solid’s disdain for Eggplant (since we saw where it would be on an upcoming menu) and they immediately provided suggestions for alternatives that would provide the same consistency and flavor. If you are interested in sampling Green Chef, you can try this link.
We have also been religiously tracking EVERY CENT we have spent on food this week so we can do some cost analysis (this as we threw out a nice batch of Bok Choy, a half package of lettuce and a whole bag of shredded cabbage that we’d bought and never used). This week’s Green Chef cost was extra low because you get a few free meals with your first order, so we will take that into consideration.
We've also been busy with some other dishes this week to share. We 'fixed' a pasta dish for a friend using Yellow Lentil Pasta
AND brought a Red Lentil Pasta, Delight Soy Chicken Nugget, Mushroom, and Kalamata olive dish to a lovely dinner in the woods with our good friends, Edwin and Gail Butler. They have been saying we needed to have a vegan meal together…so we finally set a date and pulled it off! They are not vegan or vegetarian but working harder to include more plant-based meals into their menus. We are only too happy to share the variety, tastes and ease of plant-based eating. Here’s Edwin’s plate;
full of good plant based food. Our hosts, Gail and Edwin Butler, are pictured in their lovely front yard. Look Ma! No Mowing!
There were deer galore and we had such a fun visit. Big Solid and Your Elf enjoyed the coolness of the woods ourowns-elfs!Note the Shirt of The Elf.
We look forward to Week TWO of Green Chef meals as well as our Veganista gathering (pictures promised) tonight.
And finally, Your Elf almost made a dreadful mistake Thursday night by topping off her glass of white wine with EVOO! Blech!
With that, we look forward to sharing life at the ElfinHaus you next week.
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, July 16, 2017

Elfin Is As Elfin Does

We have such a jam packed blog today, we almost don’t know where to start!! So, best just “git ‘er done”, right? We can title this portion of our bloggeriness as follows: “OH…the Celeriac of it all!!” Look, we here at the Kinky Elfery Kitchen celebrate our propensity for the unusual. Well, Tuesday, we dang near outdid ours-elfs.  A few weeks  back, we happened on yet another recipe from VEGAN BOWLS that looked intriguing—Cajun Tofu and Artichoke Bowl. As we looked through the ingredients, we noticed Celeriac, also known as Celery Root. To give you some idea of our encounter with Celeriac, we shall henceforth refer to it as ‘The Root That Shall Not Be Named’ (Root from here on out). The recipe calls for 2 POUNDS of Root and at $5 a pound, we almost gave up on the recipe right there. In any event, once challenged, never defeated…so we forged ahead with our two pounds of Root without a CLUE how to use it. The instructions indicated that it should be peeled and cut into a 1/2” dice. What the instructions did NOT reveal is that we would need a hatchet and possibly a chain saw to peel and dice it. AND, when we finally DID get it peeled and diced, burning somewhere in the area of 1000 calories, we wound up with…oh, maybe 8 ounces of usable (or so we thought) Root. The ultimate goal was a puree as the base for the bowl. So, into a pot of boiling water went the diced Root where it simmered for 20+ minutes, hopefully by then being ‘fork tender’. NOT. Some of it was and some of it wasn't and actually never would be. Our hatchet wielding elf-forts did not result in ridding Root of all it’s tough skin and pith, so saying that Your Elf was pithed off is an understatement. We squished out as much ‘fork tender’ as we could and tossed the rest in the compost bowl. That left us with about 5 ounces of ‘fork tender’ Root…not NEARLY enough to turn into a substantial puree. So, we improvised by preparing some fork-tender cauliflower. With great resolve, we whipped up the puree as the recipe indicated fully recognizing that we may be tossing it all out. BUT!! WAIT!! What started out as a potential Epic Fail turned into a REALLY lovely puree!! We were then well on our way to completing this recipe. There were actually 3 mise en places and we’ll walk through each as the recipe unfolds. Our mise en place for the Puree: Unsweetened cashew/almond milk, black peppercorns for freshly ground pepper, extra fine sea salt, THE ROOTS, unfiltered EVOO and a healthy amount of water for cooking ‘The Root That Shall Not Be Named’.

It should be noted that the ROOTS pictured had not yet been peeled and diced; truth be told, after all that peeling and dicing, we did not have strength enough to lift the camera. Pictured next is the mise en place for the Grill (the major bowl component). Here we have Smoked Spanish Paprika, Unfiltered EVOO, Cayenne Pepper, Dried Thyme, Dried Turkish Oregano, Black Pepper Grinder, The Gentle Chef’s Chicken Bouillon, and Minced Garlic.
What you don’t see here is the 14 ounce block of Organic Extra Firm Tofu that had been pressed long enough to squish out a fair amount of water and sliced into 8 slices. These ingredients were blended into a marinade for the Tofu slices. We deviated a wee bit from this recipe in that we doubled it to make sure we had enough to coat our tofu thoroughly. Other than that, we stuck to the plan and the marinade turned out beautifully. Here you see the marinade waiting for the slices of tofu.
The tofu as it begins to marinate
and the final complete coverage of the tofu.
Yes, we deviated a wee bit again by leaving the tofu in the marinade for a few hours rather than the 5 minutes indicated in the recipe. We are two people who love strong and intense flavors, so a lengthy marinade was fine for us. For many others, maybe not. The final mise en place was small but comprised the remaining component for the bowl: EVOO, Artichoke Hearts (we used canned and not the oil marinated), and two garlic cloves which were later thinly sliced.
NOW, we were ready to finish it! The warm ROOT/cauliflower puree was layered into the bowls.
We don’t yet have a grill pan but made do with a large skillet which worked just fine to sear/cook our Tofu slices.
We sautéed the artichoke hearts and sliced garlic, which we left halved because these were baby artichoke hearts, in the EVOO to get a nice browning
and topped the Puree with a healthy dose of them.
And finally, we topped those two layers with the grilled Tofu slices.
Your Elf had NO idea how this was going to taste or fly with Big Solid. This picture ought to give you some indication!
This was so damn good we could hardly stand it. The Tofu that we let marinate SO LONG was delicious, the Sautéed Artichoke Hearts were superb and that Puree was absolutely marvelous. So, we are now two for two in this Vegan Bowl cookbook. Highly recommend! For you who may be interested, here is a link to Celeriac:

We used some of our time this week to make two batches of The Gentle Chef’s Chickun Shreds and Pulled Porq. Shown wrapped in foil, the bottom two are the Chickun and the top is the Porq (coming up shortly in a recipe).
The other Gentle Chef meat analogue we prepared was Bacun so we could have Bacun and Tomato sandwiches. Summer ain’t summer without them.

Our next recipe was Cuban Black Beans with Cuban Flavored Pulled Porq served over Brown Rice and Sauteed Plantains. We found the recipe for the Cuban Black Beans (Vegan) online. We are not going to share the link because frankly, the beans had NO flavor at all until we started tinkering around after they had cooked. So, while they were cooked in a slow cooker, the recipe is NOT from our Slow Cooker cookbook. Here’s the mise en place for the beans: Black Beans that had been soaked for 3 days (you can see they are beginning to sprout), Cumin, Onion, Oregano, assorted Peppers (jalapeño, poblano and sweet), and minced garlic.
We placed all the ingredients in the slow cooker (lined to keep it clean) with 3 cups of Chickun Bouillon (The Gentle Chef).
This cooked pretty much all day and still did not have that creamy consistency we wanted BUT even ‘worser’, it had NO flavor. So, we added some salt. That helped but not much. There was a flavor we had in our head that we just could NOT figure out how to replicate. We’d pull out a spoonful of beans, try something new, and elfin-frown. FINALLY, we found it!! And you’ll NEVER believe what it was.
Yep! Turkish seasoning. We gotten some at the Penzey’s store in Memphis (along with some other exotic spices we’ll spring on you another time). OK, so we had the Cuban/Turkish Black Beans ready NOW for the Cuban Pulled Porq (The Gentle Chef’s Seitan and Beyond Cookbook). Our mise en place was simple. Minced Garlic, Avocado Oil (our choice, any good oil will be fine), fresh orange and lime juice with orange and lime zest, thinly sliced white onion, and freshly picked oregano.
We sautéed the onion until translucent
added the garlic and stirred in the Porq we had pulled and the fresh oregano that had been minced.
The citrus juices and zests were added and all cooked down until most of the liquid had been absorbed.
Then, we had a brainstorm of sorts and drizzled a bit of J. Olive's Baklouti Pepper Infused Olive Oil over the Porq for an added boost. HOLY TASTEBUD EXTRAVAGANZA!!
Well, we couldn’t stand not knowing how it tasted, so we sampled the Porq mixture and a mouthgasm occurred; it was incredibly good! Next up, the sautéed plantains. We used a bit of Miyoko’s Creamery Vegan Butter for our sauté base and when the plantains got nice and brown, drizzled a bit of dark agave nectar over them.
The final dish was served as seen.

Last was our meal from Thursday evening. We used our slow cooker cookbook to prepare what appeared to be a nice all in one meal—Black Pepper Portobello and Baked Potato Dinner. The mise en place was: Black Pepper from the Mill, Agave Nectar, Tomato Paste, Vegan Worcestershire, Water, Potatoes, Portobellos and a Broccoli/Cauliflower medley (we actually cooked this in the microwave, so we could assure ours-elfs of the consistency we like). Behind the Broccoli is a jar or Tamarind Paste.
We prepared the marinade for the mushrooms, poured it over them in the pot, added the potatoes, covered and cranked it up on low.
Big Solid wanted some Chickun Shreds to top the potatoes with (as well as the portobello steak), so we sautéed some of those. We had expected the sauce to thicken and become dark, as pictured in the book but it did not. We are not sure why as the mushrooms were thoroughly cooked. The taste was good but the consistency just didn’t fly…very thin. Nevertheless, we certainly did have a nice big meal out of it with the added chickun, Daiya shredded cheese and vegan sour cream.

Now, we prepare ours-elfs for this coming week in the Kinky Elfery Kitchen as we begin our food adventures with The Green Chef. Our first meals will arrive in time for us to prepare them for three days next week. AND that still gives us time to try at least one recipe (if not two) from our gaggle of cookbooks. We are also tracking our grocery/food spending this week and will go back a few weeks as well to get a weekly average (Holy Moly, what an eye-opener!). This should be a lot of fun!! And not to leave out our pack of rescue dogs, we prepared them some healthy sweet potato bites for treats. They love them.

We cannot let this blog end without acknowledging the recent tragedy experienced in the Mississippi Delta. Sixteen servicemen, fifteen Marines and one Navy sailor, were killed when their plane went down in a Delta field enroute from North Carolina to Arizona. There is an unspeakable grief here and we ache for these men and their families, both civilian and military.  It makes the following passage ever more meaningful. 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”!