Saturday, August 12, 2017

All Good Things Must Come to an Elf

We are submitting an Early Elf today as we prepare for a trip to the mountains. The house/dog-sitter is engaged, the vegan foodstuffs are accumulating to be packed, clothes are being washed, last minute details are also be addressed. We are beyond excited!
So, let’s fill you in on this past week as this will be an all Green Chef Blog. Remember we have been quick to use the meals with the potentially most perishable produce first. So, Sunday night, we prepared the Quinoa Chard Dolmas. Dolmas are typically found in Greek cuisine, better knows as Stuffed Grape Leaves. This recipe put a bit of a spin on it and used Swiss Chard, one of our most favorite vegetables. First we got our mis en place with Nutmeg-Herb Spice Blend, Tofu ‘Feta’, Mint, Kalamata/Beet salad, Parsley, Yellow Onion, Roma Tomato, Roasted Red Peppers,  Cucumber, Swiss Chard (wrapped in paper towels), Lemon Greek Dressing,Whole Wheat Pita,and White Quinoa.
And here is where we made a decision to improvise a bit on the instructions. The chard was a bit torn in several places, so we figured a rolled quinoa-stuffed leaf was out of the question. So, we decided to turn the Pita from a salad ingredient to a sandwich base AND toast some of our own Whole Wheat bread to substitute in the salad, made from the tomato, mint and parsley, cucumber, Kalamata olives and pickled beets. This actually turned out MUCH better than we thought as we used the chard as a vegetable in the pita and stuffed it with the quinoa/onion, red peppers combo. Here’s the final plating. We thoroughly enjoyed this although Big Solid wanted a bit more ‘spice’ in the salad. Actually, the Tofu Feta was quite a nice addition.
Next up on Tuesday was Eggplant Napoleon. Now, y’all know that Eggplant is NOT Big Solid’s idea of an edible entity but he said, “Just go ahead a use it. I’ll deal.” (What a guy!) So we did and you know what, it turned out quite nicely and he ate every bite!! Here was our mis en place:  Parsley, Green Beans, Scallions, Cornstarch, Bulgar Wheat, Green Olives, Cannellini Beans, Thyme Eggplant, Yellow Onion, Garlic, and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce.
One of the things we have really appreciated about the Green Chef menus is their salads. For the Eggplant Napoleon, the salad was outstanding…a Bulgar, green bean, chopped and sautéed eggplant, cannellini bean, green olive and tasty lemon-caper vinaigrette. Unfortunately, we did not get a picture of the final plating of this meal but we can tell you it was pretty darn good. Our final Wednesday night meal was the one your Elf had been waiting for..Jamaican Jerk Tempeh! We love Jerk seasoning and this one looked to be a winner. Our mis en place was Mint, Tempeh, Jamaican Style Jerk Sauce, Mango, diced Sweet Potatoes, Lime, Red Pepper, Scallions, Red Onion, Garlic, and Moroccan Pink Rice.  As predicted, this was our favorite meal of the week. We seared the tempeh slices and then simmered in the Jerk Sauce.
Sautéed the sweet potatoes, onions and garlic,
and prepared the warm rice salad.
The final plating was quite lovely set off with some lime wedges.
In fact, we had enough left over to have for lunch another day. This was the last week of our Green Chef subscription. We decided to end our subscription for several reasons, none of which had to do with any issue with the Green Chef program as they have been most responsive to any questions or concerns we may have had.
First, one of the main reasons we subscribed to Green Chef was to see what impact their weekly fee would be on our grocery expenses. Well, we can truthfully say that the impact was significant. On average, we saved around $125 a WEEK! That’s pretty impressive and it also was a factor in our decision to end the meal subscription (keeping open the possibility of doing it again on occasion or even trying our a competitor at a later date). This past month has taught your Elf to be a better and more savvy shopper. We are the world’s most IMPULSIVE shopper, resulting in way more food being ruined and tossed out than we can even begin to admit.
The second reason, and truth be told, the primary one, was we felt like we had most control of our menu (which we did, so to speak). It was also amazing to open the Green Chef box each Friday to find that we had almost all of the ancillary ingredients (onions, scallions, garlic, fresh herbs, olives, tomatoes, edamame, black beans, to name a few) on hand in our Elfin Pantry.
After some more thought, a third reason has blossomed in our little Elfin brain and that is, as much as we like to try new stuffs, it doesn’t have to be EVERY DAY!  Those of us who love to ‘play’ in the kitchen and experiment with new recipes often feel compelled to do something different every day. Big Solid reminded me that he’s perfectly happy with a couple of nights of baked potatoes with steamed broccoli and other toppings AND some of the more devastatingly delicious recipes we’ve tried recently. But, he said, “You don’t have to be a slave to the kitchen every night and prepare a masterpiece.” Now for folks who are incredibly busy, such as fellow veganista Gigi Carter who is a full time student and competitive cyclist, she said “Green Chef has been a godsend for her”.
'Fourthly', Big Solid and Your Elf have been calorie counters for years to keep our weight under control. The Green Chef meals average significantly higher in calories than we are accustomed to eating (we try to stay in the 1200-1500 calorie per day range). Of the 12 meals we prepared, the calories per serving ranged from 470 to 810. WE KNOW that when we eat a whole-food plant based diet, calories ‘shouldn’t matter’ but they do to us. So, while not a deal-breaker, we did look at ways to eliminate some of the calories during preparation (namely, cutting way back on the amount of oils used by using water or spray oils AND trying not to eat all of a serving at once).
So, as we return from the mountains next week, we will once again be cookin’ on our very own but applying some of the great ideas and ingredients from Green Chef. We are excited to narrow our recipe palette to some of our favorites with occasional forays into more exotic dishes. And we have thrown in a new twist to our eating practice…based on significant research on the benefits of fasting, we will fast two days a week (meaning an intake of no more than 500 - 600 calories per DAY). We have chosen Mondays and Thursdays as our fasting days. It’s not as easy as one would think, especially if you are accustomed to eating three squares a day. We’ll see how this goes for us and report out along the way. It DOES cut down meal preparation to 3 days a week (remember we eat out on Friday and Saturday) so that will also help keep the Kinky Elfery Shopping frenzy under control. Here is the link to the article that goaded us into fasting.
So, we look forward to a week off and will be back with a full report on all the cool vegan food we were able to find and other fun stuffs we did in the mountains.
In the meantime, 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

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