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!

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