Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Elf of a Thousand Faces

Well, we had a bit of a break due to Super Bulldog Weekend!! It’s always a great time to return to Big Solid’s Glory Days with the Boys of Autumn at Mississippi State in the mid-’60’s. Grayer of hair (if the hair is still there) and slower of step; the eyes still twinkle, the laughter is quick, and the stories the same…but who cares? We always enjoy the camaraderie
AND!! This year, at the Football Player Alumni Brunch, Chef Elvis Toncrey and his staff prepared us a LOVELY vegan option--a great guacamole with fresh tomatoes and wheat bread. You can see that we were so excited we didn't think to take a picture until we had almost eaten it up!
Here is Chef Elvis in his SPOTLESS kitchen!
He had a few more vegan tricks up his chef sleeve but we were full with the dish he prepared. We look forward to next year’s elf-fort!! THANK YOU CHEF ELVIS and CREW!!
We actually had started two Ornish-friendly dishes to share but wound up finishing up only one! The one we finished and had for our own meal was Baked Spaghetti Squash with Swiss Chard. First, we have to backtrack just a bit. Remember all those great locally grown (the awesome Two Dog Farm) vegetables from our CSA we had recently? Well, one was a glorious bunch of Swiss Chard...we knew as soon as we saw it that THIS would be the recipe it would be used in! Which is exactly what we did. You know spaghetti squash can be a real pain in the fanny to cut into halves so we pierced it a few times with an ice pick and then microwaved for about 3 minutes. That softened it up enough to halve easily. Then we baked it until the meat was cooked enough to come out like spaghetti!
Then we had most of our 'mise en place' with diced red bell pepper, ground coriander, smoked paprika, ground cumin and minced garlic.
We had already cleaned and prepped our Chard. So we sautéed the onion,
added the bell pepper for a few minutes, along with the spices.
Then came the chard (Gosh it was beautiful!!).
Once the chard cooked down a bit we added the squash that we’d shredded and let the flavors marry.
We served it up with some Plant-based Italian Sausages and mushrooms.
It was SO GOOD! Now for all you Ornish folks, this is a dream dish (without the sausage and mushrooms). Very low in calories and fat PLUS it is absolutely delicious!! As calculated by the My Fitness Pal Recipe Builder, here’s the nutritional breakdown for fat and calories.
You could even add some Boca Crumbles to bump up the substance; those are low in fat as well. OK..SOO! The other recipe that we were going to prepare from the Forks Over Knives cookbook was Penne with Spinach Béchamel. As you know, Béchamel is like the Mother of all White Sauces, typically made with lots of butter and flour (basically a white roux). This recipe made the sauce out of cauliflower and seasonings (onion, nutmeg, garlic, minced fresh thyme). Well, we made the Cauliflower based Béchamel and, to be completely honest, we did not care for it AT ALL. We did everything we could think of to make it have substantive flavor and taste…it just didn’t measure up. So, we tossed it and decided to peruse the book further for more appealing recipes. We’ve also been going back to our Vegan Bowls cookbook and selecting some new dishes/bowls to try. So far, we’ve not had a bad recipe yet. The one we tried this week was Spicy Ginger Polenta Bowl. This is not an Ornish-friendly dish as it does call for the use of oils.
We found a really lovely Polenta (non-GMO, cooks quickly but isn’t instant) at Fresh Market (Mark-up).
We prepared a big ole batch of Chickpeas in the Crock Pot, drained and let dry on a towel. AND, we bought a gorgeous bag of Baby Bok Choy at Mr. Chen’s. While at Mr. Chen’s we also stocked up on King Trumpet, Shiitake, and Oyster Mushrooms. We try to keep a good supply of sautéed mushrooms (frozen) on hand at all times. We knew that just this bowl of Polenta, Chickpeas and Bok Choy would most likely NOT be considered a full meal deal by Big Solid, so we decided to make some King Trumpet Mushroom scallops. If you remember, we prepared those not long ago and went absolutely crazy over them. We fixed the marinade (and next time, we are going to try a bit of a different marinade) and prepped the mushrooms to turn into scallops! These are ready for the marinade.
We then made the Polenta by sautéing some garlic
and adding our go-to chicken bouillon with red pepper flakes.
That was brought to a boil and we slowly added the polenta, stirring all the time. Once it was thickened, we added a bit of non-dairy milk (we almost always use cashew milk for its creaminess) and set it aside
while we cooked the ‘scallops,
and the bok choy that had been halved.
The chickpeas were sautéed in a combination of grapeseed oil and toasted sesame seed oil.
Then we plated or ‘bowled’ it by layering the polenta on the bottom and topped it with the chickpeas, bok choy and our ‘scallops.
Y’ALL!! This was incredibly good. Can’t wait to make it again!! But we also want to explore more of the delicious bowls from this book.
That brings us to the end of yet another Elfin Bloggery from the new and improved Kinky Elfery Kitchen!! And you know what?? This is April's penultimate day and we welcome May on Tuesday as another month slides into history. So, until next Sunday, we wish you a safe, happy, and healthy eating kinda week. And 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. DO EPIC!


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Old MacDonald Had an Elf

Gosh, another week has come and gone…it seems that every week goes faster and faster. Slow down life!! I’m just now gettin’ used to bein’ 70 but 80 will be here before you know it! Enough of this foolishness, let’s talk food and cookery! With some construction work taking some of our cookin’ time away (we’ll fill you in later), we have just a couple of recipes to share this week and if we have time, we’ll share the one we left out last week.
First, Tuesday night, we ‘fixed’ a recipe from one of our favorite vegan cookbooks, Vegan Bowls by Zsu Dever, Freekeh Stir-Fry Bowl (with broccoli and shiitakes). We’d bought some Freekeh at Patel’s Indian Grocery after Camille Peeples of Feast Specialty Foods asked if we’d ever tried it. Not only had we never tried it, we’d never even HEARD of it.
Turns out, it’s a pretty old grain (well, not this particular package) mentioned in a 13th Century Baghdad cookbook! According to Wikipedia, Freekeh is made from green durham wheat. After a rather complicated process of harvesting while soft, sun-drying and then burning, the wheat is threshed thoroughly, sun-dried again to assure consistency in flavor, texture and color. The seeds are then cracked into smaller pieces and resembles bulgur. The cooking process is similar to most hard grains; there is a high protein content as well. The recipe looked fairly easy with relatively few ingredients. So, here we go. We first cooked the freekeh…combined with our ‘go-to’ ‘chicken’, bouillon (instead of vegetable broth), a piece of raw ginger, crushed garlic, and some sea salt, it took about 20 minutes to absorb the liquid and cook to an al dente texture.
We set it aside. We’ve been trying to get all our cooking prep work done early so we are out of the way when the contractor arrives. We sautéed the sliced shiitakes using a non-aerosol spray of EVOO.
The recipe called for a tablespoon of grapeseed oil but we opted for the spray to cut down on the fat. Next, we added the broccoli
and let that cook about 3 minutes. Then came the sliced red bell pepper, a handful of chopped almonds, and bamboo shoots (the recipe called for water chestnuts; we only had bamboo shoots so opted to use them rather than go ALL the way to the store to buy one measly can of water chestnuts). You can see we did not think ahead and had to switch to a larger pan. The cooked freekeh was added
along with a sauce we had also prepared earlier. We actually doubled the amount of the sauce which worked quite nicely. The sauce is made from toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, red pepper flakes. Salt is listed as an ingredient but with the soy sauce, it’s not necessary.
This conglomeration is stirred until the sauce is absorbed and VOILA!! Freekeh Bowl!!
Now, to bump up the substance a bit, we sautéed some Gardein Beefless tips to add…this dish was so delicious it will be on our horizon for many a meal.
You don’t actually need the additional meat analog; the flavor of the freekeh is fabulous and with the addition of the veggies and sauce, it’s just wonderful!!
Our Ornish meal for this week was cooked Saturday night…Penne with Broccoli Rabe. Truth be told, we prepped this dish for an earlier day but had to bump it back to allow for the contractor to finish up the the re-do of the kitchen (pics later). Here we have our ‘mise en place’: sliced Onion, Broccoli Rabe, Golden Raisins, Lemons and Zest, Basil (purple and green from the garden), and Red Pepper Flakes/Nutritional Yeast.

We sautéed the onion
and eventually added the broccoli rabe.
The recipe stated to cook until tender which took a bit longer than the 5 minutes suggested. We then added the remaining ingredients; garlic, the juice of both lemons as well as the zest, red pepper flakes, raisins, nutritional yeast, and the cooked pasta (along with about 1/4-1/2 cup of the pasta water).
This cooked until aromatic and well mixed.
We also cooked up our Gentle Chef Italian Sausage analog to serve on the side (3 g of fat per sausage).
Here is the final plating, along with some Ezekiel bread toast.
The nutritional information was calculated using the My Fitness Pal recipe application. Note: the total grams of fat INCLUDES the pasta.
Paired with a meat analog of your choice, a salad with fat-free dressing, or another vegetable, it’s a very tasty and satisfying meal. There is an option for toasted pine nuts but we did not include them.

If you remember, last week, we had to leave out a recipe because we ran out of room. It was actually a recipe that Camille and Your Elf prepared in the Feast Kitchen and did not get a chance to photograph. It was so good, we decided to make it at home so you could see. From Power Plates cookbook, Spicy Basil Noodles with Crispy Tofu, Bok Choy, and Bell Peppers. This appears initially to be fairly labor intensive BUT after you’ve done it once, you realize it’s pretty easy. We cubed and marinated our tofu…now, we like to marinate for like EVER!! So we let it sit for the day before draining.
We prepared the rice noodles by soaking in hot water until they were soft.
Then we made the spicy sauce which is OUTSTANDING!! We processed Serrano chilies, shallots, and garlic into a paste
whisking in lime juice, ‘chicken’ broth, and brown sugar for later use. Next, we sautéed our bok choy that had been sliced on the diagonal,
added the sliced bell peppers
and let them get a crisp cook
before adding the bok choy leaves since they would cook so much faster.
The noodles were drained and added
along with the sauce. All that was mixed well and we were ready to add the tofu. SOOO, here’s where WE went off the Air Fry Tofu rails…we WAY overcooked the tofu. Not only did we cook at too high a temperature but also cooked much too long. So, instead of crispy tofu like CAN occur in the air fryer, we produced tofu marbles that looked good but were pretty much inedible. DON’T DO THAT! Or, you can fry the tofu in oil. In any event, here’s the finished plating before we removed the tofu marbles and enjoyed the noodles!!
Very spicy with the Serrano based sauce! We’ll do it again because it is easy and we will most certainly cook better tofu!! However, the lengthy soak in the marinade did produce a tasty pre-marbleized tofu.
We got our first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box from Two Dogs Farms today amidst tornado sirens and severe thunderstorms at the local Farmer’s Market. Evidently, nothing keeps The Elf from her food sources. We are particularly excited about this CSA because Two Dog Farms not only grows beautiful produce, they introduce you to vegetables you may not have used or cooked before. Here is a picture of today’s box of goodies, which we have now cleaned and packed away. From left to right, we have Butter Lettuce, Radishes, Spinach, Scallions (or green onions down here), Curly Kale, Kohlrabi, Swiss Chard, and Bok Choy.
We have LOTS of options on the table for Ornish-friendly recipes to try with this awesome produce! Stay tuned!
And last, if you’ve kept track of The Elf since OCTOBER of last year, you’ve probably made the Kinky Elfery Kitchen make-over journey with us. Well, we are FINALLY finished and so very, very pleased with the eventual outcome (after the first contractor left us with an unfinished mess). Todd Toups of Innovative Construction Designs, LLC stepped in and showed us how we could make it even better. Not only was the cabinet catastrophe fixed, we now have a beautiful ‘subway’ tile backsplash with under cabinet lighting and electrical fixtures. SEE!!

So, until next Sunday, we wish you a safe, happy, and healthy eating kinda week. And 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. DO EPIC!


Sunday, April 8, 2018

The House of the Rising Elf

We feel like we’ve been GONE FOREVER!!! But, hey! It’s just been a week; nevertheless, we have much to SHOW and TELL!
Let’s start with our Ornish recipes over the past two weeks. We must admit to a bit of a struggle to find recipes that are a) user friendly/not labor intensive and b) have the nutritional values posted! One of our pet Elfin peeves is when cookbooks do not show nutritional values. We UNDERSTAND what a pain that can be and that the various applications/programs that calculate said values may vary. We also understand that not EVERYBODY is in need of this information, could care less, or worries about the nutrients in their food. Seriously, do we all want to know the fat grams in a Big Mac or Quarter Pounder with Cheese? HOWSOMEVER, for a fair number of folks, such as those following the Ornish Cardiac Reversal Plan or who are on curative or preventative eating regimens, knowing the nutritional values is not only important but critical. Our quest to provide an Ornish ‘friendly’ recipe from start to finish each week has really focused us on how frustrating it is to find nutritional values in cookbooks promoting healthy eating. The cookbook we used these past two weeks to broaden our horizons a bit was the Forks Over Knives cookbook...and let us say, there are some damn fine recipes in this cookbook AND ALL of them are based on whole-foods, plant-based, oil-free cooking. The book even states, “We have elected not to include nutrient data for recipes to avoid encouraging the tendency to get hung up on nutrient tallying or calorie counting.” OK, we understand that because, when we first started eating healthier to lose weight, we were indeed compulsive about counting calories. But, we were not on a regimented plan where the calculation of nutrients (specifically fat grams) is very important. We spoke with our good friend and licensed nutritional/lifestyle coach, Gigi Carter, to see if we were just going off on a tangent or if our thoughts had any merit. Well, turns out it’s both. For folks wanting to improve their health, lose some weight and generally take a proactive approach to life, getting all bogged down in counting calories and/or values can be counterproductive; for those who are already medically compromised and prescriptively on a special eating plan, nutrient knowledge is important. Now the Ornish books do contain nutritional values and we have utilized some of the more appealing recipes. Then we started broadening our Ornish-friendly recipe horizons by turning to the Forks Over Knives cookbook, which is excellent! We have found dozens of recipes to try and to share. We have been very pleased with the two dishes we have prepared so far (as you’ll see today); we use My Fitness Pal’s recipe calculator to determine the nutritional values. It’s not the most user friendly calculator BUT it’s worth the elf-fort to get some idea of the fat grams and other values. And, as a disclaimer, our representation of the nutritional values are only as good as the Fitness Pal application. NOW—let’s get on with the two dishes from last and this week. For those of  you who do not follow our Facebook page, The Elf in the Kitchen, we’ll share a quick review of the recipe but you can find more detail on the actual page. We selected Moroccan Shepherd’s Pie because it just sounded darn good. One of the keys to successful plant-based eating is keeping your senses alive, alert, and happy. If something is bland with poor texture, it’s just not gonna make the cut for future use and folks might get discouraged. Flavors, aromas and textures are so important and sometimes it pays to spread your culinary wings to sample something different. Such was this recipe…now WE love Moroccan food, so this was an easy choice. It IS slightly labor intensive, so a heads up there. The typical Shepherd’s Pie consists of veggies and ground meat (or tempeh crumbles, Boca, or other ground meat analog) topped with mashed potatoes with lots of butter. THIS Shepherd’s Pie uses lentils, onions, carrots, and spinach with Moroccan seasoning (cinnamon, cumin, turmeric) AND a topping of mashed sweet potatoes, no butter needed! The finished product, plated with some fresh sautéed asparagus (quick spray of olive oil) and steamed broccoli, looks like this.

For this Shepherd’s Pie, the fat gram(s) per serving is 1! Now, this recipe makes a HUGE 9x13 pan, so 8 servings is what we used to calculate the fat grams. The picture shows the nutritional values as calculated on My Fitness Pal (not always user friendly!)
It is also very filling and tasty. However, not EVERYONE liked it…in fact, Big Solid ate it ONE time but never touched it again…he did not like the texture or consistency. He likes crunchy stuff and this is not in the least crunchy. Just givin’ you both sides of the tasting coin. Our second Ornish-esque recipe also came from the Forks Over Knives cookbook, Bulgur Pilaf with Chickpeas and Summer Squash. We prepared and served this on Thursday night. So, here we go…we pre-cooked the bulgur in our Gentle Chef Chicken Bouillon, using Bob’s Red Mill Red Bulgur
followed by sautéing a diced onion in water, adding minced garlic and minced thyme from the garden.
To the garlic/onion mixture, we added a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas, sliced zucchini and sliced yellow squash.
This cooked for a bit before we added the bulgur and let heat through and through.
The vegetables retained their shape/al dente texture as the final seasoning (fresh basil chiffonade) and were plated along with some Ezekiel bread toast (one slice has .5g of fat).
Total fat gram(s) for this recipe per serving (4 servings) is ONE!! Again, nutritional values calculated via the My Fitness Pal application.
Now, we added some Gardein Porq Bites that we sautéed separately. One serving of the porq bites contains 3 g of fat with no cholesterol. Here’s the plated version with the Porq Bites and some whole wheat hot dog bun toast (gotta use ‘em up) which has 2 g of fat.
Or, heck, you could have a nice big salad with fat free dressing and have a really nice meal. This recipe is also not labor intensive AT ALL. WE already have next week’s recipe lined up and given we can maneuver around the contractors that will be working on Phase TWO of the Kinky Elfery Kitchen make-over, we’ll be ready next Sunday for a review!! Stay Tuned!
NOW! A couple of other dishes we ‘fixed’ this week include a double batch of Italian Sausages (meat analog from The Gentle Chef). We got our ‘mise en place’ with (pretty much from left to right) Vital Wheat Gluten (we always use Bob’s Red Mill), Soy Sauce, Minced Garlic, Ground Fennel (red top), Nutritional Yeast, Chickpea Flour, Liquid Smoke, Red Pepper Flakes, Onion Powder, whole Nutmeg with grater (actually, this was a mistake…that goes with the analog Bratwursts!), Oregano, dried Minced Onion, Basil flakes, EVOO.
Since we’ve discovered that we can process the dough rather than knead it, making this recipe is a breeze! We weigh the dough in grams, divide by 12 and get a gram size per sausage, wrap in foil and steam for 45 minutes.
The Sausages are really delicious and have 3 g of fat (no cholesterol). Now, for a long time, we’ve noticed King Trumpet Mushrooms at Mr. Chen’s Oriental Grocery where we buy a LOT of ‘shrooms, soy sauces, rice noodles and other cool stuffs. These KT ‘shrooms look a bit strange and intimidating but we were determined to try them out. SO, we found a recipe that uses them to make scallops!
This looked easy enough so we forged ahead. We briefly rinsed our mushrooms (goes against my grain to do that to a mushroom) and immediately wiped them dry.
We made the marinade (we actually doubled the recipe) and soaked the ‘scallop-sized’ slices ALL DAY. The marinade, which we adjusted a bit, was made with Kelp flakes and Dulse, two seasonings that impart ‘the sea’ taste to the marinade
and then lemon and soy sauce.
Sorry, we didn’t get a picture of the marinade, just the pre-marinated slices.
Ed aka ‘Little Man’ kept a close eye on the Kinky Elfery Kitchen activities JUST IN CASE some delectable morsel hit the floor.
We sprayed our pan with some EVOO after it got pretty hot and put the marinated and sliced KT mushrooms in.
Mushrooms typically don’t take long to cook BUT the recipe recommends cooking each ‘scallop’ at least 4 to 5  minutes a side. Here’s what they looked like at the first turn
and here is the final version. Don’t you think they look like real scallops?
We reduced the remaining marinade until it was fairly thick and drizzled the scallops. Well, they were absolutely delicious, VERY easy to make. We plated them with the left-over Spicy Basil Rice Noodles we’d had the night before and had a spectacular meal!!
We will definitely make this again and will work on improving the depth of the marinade flavors…it was good but we want to kick it up a notch. The Full of Plants Facebook page and website have some amazing recipes that we will try and share again! We really do have another meal to share but are running out of space and most likely your attention span. We’ll work it in next week!
So, a VERY Happy April to all you Elfinistas/es! Here in the Deep South, everything is in full bloom and the colors are alive with brilliance. After such a (seemingly) long and colorless winter, the arrival of azaleas’ fuchsias, pinks, whites, and reds;
the wisteria's shades of purple; the whites of blackberry blooms; and the billions of shades of green that have evolved over the past few weeks make our little Elfin soul thrum with energy. In fact, the past week has been one of cookery challenge, fun, and kitchen magicality. We hope we’ve been able to share that energy with you as well.
Until next week, 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. DO EPIC!