Sunday, May 6, 2018

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, ELF!

Welcome to the Lusty Month of May (remember Camelot)! As we are writing this on Saturday, there is a gentle rain falling, kissing the ElfGarden with the gift of growth and sustenance. We are grateful. We will dive right into our elf-forts in the Kinky Elfery Kitchen this past week. Actually, we are only highlighting two recipes but BOY HOWDY, they are two good ones!!
First off, our Ornish-friendly recipe for this week comes from a tried and true site that we love...Susan Voisin’s FatFree Vegan Kitchen.
Susan’s commitment to developing and/or modifying recipes to minimize the fat grams is beyond awesome. Recently she posted this recipe on her site and in her blog: Red Lentil Soup with Cauliflower Rice (See the link above). Now, we pretty much realized when we saw the recipe that the Elf would be preparing it. Why? Because we’d picked up two bags of frozen Cauliflower Rice at the grocery last Sunday AND we always keep red lentils on hand from Patel’s Indian Grocery. To keep from being caught mid-cookery needing an ingredient we thought we had but didn’t, we perused the recipe to make sure we had everything on hand. Now, when you first see the recipe, you may be taken aback by the number of ingredients (15 total if you don’t count the water). BUT, do NOT be dismayed; the ingredients are, for the most part, easily found in a cook’s kitchen and if not, easy to find or add to a list. We got our ‘mise en place’, consisting of lentils, diced tomatoes with (top row) chilies, ground cumin, cayenne pepper (EXTRA HOT), turmeric, ground coriander, minced garlic, The Gentle Chef’s ‘chicken bouillon’ powder; (the rest) red/green bell peppers, ginger, lemon, and carrot.

Missing are diced onion and the riced cauliflower which you’ll see later on. The recipe is very easy to follow and make. First, we got our bouillon made (one teaspoon of the powder per cup of hot water) and added our grated ginger, minced garlic, and the lentils (washed and picked over for bad stuffs). Then we added the shredded carrot and diced peppers. This was covered and cooked on low until the lentils were done. Red lentils are tiny and do not take long to cook.

In a large skillet (non-stick), we sautéed the onions.
When they started to caramelize, we added the spices and the cauliflower rice. The frozen bag is just the ticket for this soup.
When the ‘rice’ was warmed and had taken on the flavor of the spices, we added it to the pot with the lentils along with the can of tomatoes/chilies. This cooked for about 10 minutes. Since we made this ahead of time, we waited until just before serving to add the final two ingredients, the lemon and garam masala (not pictured). There is also an option to sprinkle the soup with a bit of sumac, but we actually forgot to do that. Next time!! Anyway, here’s the final plated soup with a great Two Dog Farm Salad topped with FatFree Vegan Kitchen’s FatFree Balsamic vinegar dressing.
ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS!! This is now one of my favorite soups, EVER!! One does need to be cautious about over-cooking both the lentils and the cauliflower or you’ll wind up with still a good soup but mushy. Now, for those of you who track your fat grams, here is the nutritional information from the recipe page AND note the serving size! TWO CUPS! That’s a LOT of soup...we’ve been quite happy with a smaller amount, so consider that when looking at the fat grams.
In our picture, we had a cup of soup and the salad and were quite full!
Eggplant Tomato Pie!! Sooo, we’ve been ‘studyin’ on makin’ this recipe for a while now. The original recipe was noticed on social media a few weeks back.
Now, Your Elf loves Eggplant...Big Solid, not so much. Well, not AT ALL! Nevertheless we were not to be deterred, so with all the ingredients on hand after a last minute trip to Kroger for some pesto, we decided that Wednesday was the day! We got most of our ‘mise en place’ together breadcrumbs (we are partial to panko), eggplant, Vegan butter (leftover Earth Balance), pesto, tomatoes, CSA onion from Two Dog Farm, and the makin’s for a flax egg (1 Tablespoon of flax meal combined with 3 Tablespoons of warm water).
The recipe is a simple one (YAY) and is easily transformed into a full-on plant based product...or so we thought. All we had to do is substitute vegan options for the egg, cheese and butter...or so we thought. We commenced to turning our ‘mise en place’ into real food by peeling and cutting our eggplant into cubes, cooking in our ‘go-to’ chicken bouillon until soft and mashable. That did not take very long, so this recipe would be quickly completed...or so we thought. Well, we picked up the little bitty jar of pesto to get some idea of how much fat was in it when we read CONTAINS MILK PRODUCTS!! WHAT!!THE!!HECK!! You would have thought an Elf would be pesto savvy and KNOW it had cheese in it (Romano). We were not about to make another trip to Kroger, so we proceeded to think...Elf Devil on one shoulder “go ahead and use it, probably only a molecule of dairy in it”; Elf Angel on the other “blasphemy!” Finally, we looked up the recipe for vegan pesto to see what it would take to make our own. We DID have what we needed on hand, so we rushed out to the herb garden and got the fresh basil,
we substituted sunflower seeds for pine nuts, and had a grand ole time making fresh pesto.
WHEW! So, now with a clear and clean conscience, we forged on. We combined the mashed eggplant with the diced onion, garlic, melted butter, flax egg
and...then our next conundrum, breadcrumbs. OK, we revisited the original recipe to make damn sure we had not MISSED something about the breadcrumbs, such as the amount. Well, nope, there is NO AMOUNT listed. So, did we add a tablespoon, a half cup, a full cup, a quart?? There is not even guidance (that we could see or find) about what to add. So, we just closed our eyes and added a fourth cup, hoping that we were on the right breadcrumbs track. Once that milestone had been crossed, all we had left to do was finish it up and throw it in the oven. We sprayed the pie pan with olive oil spray and layered the bottom with sliced tomato.
We then poured the eggplant mixture, complete with the breadcrumb guesstimate, over the tomato base. Then we topped with a layer of sliced tomato.
We originally were going to use shredded Daiya block cheddar as the topping but found we had a block of Miyoko’s Creamery Mozzarella cheese on hand!!
So we shredded that and used it instead.
The oven was pre-heated to 350 degrees complete with a backup thermometer to assure the correct oven temp. And in went the PIE for the instructed 30 minutes. Well, when time had elapsed, it was hardly cooked. We FINALLY removed it, fully cooked and cheese melted, after FIFTY minutes. It was worth the wait and additional cooking time. It was beautiful.
We let it sit for 20 minutes before attempting to slice it. And, indeed, that was a good idea. Since there is no crust, one must be dependent on the substance of the filling to make it ‘pie-like’. We were somewhat pleased with the texture and consistency as it did slice but not very cleanly. The taste was very good...not WOW good but very good. We decided to see how the texture, consistency and taste would change after being refrigerated overnight. What a difference a chill makes! It certainly sliced better and cleaner
but did ‘mush up’ slightly when heated.
The taste again was lovely, delicate and good. Going
So, our sights are now set on making it again with some tinkerin’ and tweakin’ to improve on the consistency and flavors. The real surprise in this was the ho’made vegan pesto!! Thank goodness we have a LOT of basil in the garden so we can make it again. The sunflower seeds hit the spot; maybe we’ll look up a fat-free pesto to lighten it up some. Suffice it to say that, even though Big Solid is a NO EGGPLANT kinda guy, we’ll forge ahead and prepare it anyway. BUT!! Big Solid even liked it!! We did not even try to get him to taste it; he volunteered to try it! And said, “This is really good. It needs a crust to firm it up.” WHO-HOO!! And he was right! We have some ideas to try when we make it again!!
The first week of May has been a winner! Great weather, good food and a growing garden. What more could an Elf want!! Want to also give a shout out to Madison Nutrition and Smoothie Bar for being so supportive of your Elf!!
So, until next Sunday, which is Mother’s Day, we say adios, good cookin’stuffs and remember always 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! YOUR ELF!

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