Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Self-Care For The Nearsighted

Are purple flowers and fair trade chocolate bars enough? 
Lately, my favorite people have been asking the question: how is your self-care in times of COVID-19 and racism? Well, quite honestly, life has been hard. Some days, I stay in bed longer than necessary. I stay wrapped in the sheets, my eyes squeezed close. I do not want to wake up from the dreams where glasses and contacts are not needed, when there is no violence, no women, especially Black women harmed, threatened by racism, misogyny, and misogynoir. In them, I’m definitely not having the painful headaches or those strange blocks from staring at unfocused objects too long. 

Social distancing from mom. Her facility will resume allowing visitation next week! Outside that is. 
Last year, I broke my eyeglasses and foolishly did not get them repaired. I stopped wearing eye contacts in November. Thus, I have been operating blindly since. Whenever I read, write, paint, and draw, squinting heavily on the detail work, it is not a big deal. I run errands like grocery shopping with a blurry sensibility. I see no one’s faces unless they are super close to me. Thankfully, I had an appointment two weeks ago, rescheduled from early April. My vision has worsened. Worsened. It was terrible news to receive. Granted, not surprising. The eye doctor even asked, “how are you surviving like this?” 

Still, in times of this crisis, I have mostly stayed put indoors. My self-care is in creativity and reading about the creativity of others— that passion almost stronger than my own. I also have been spending alternate weekends with my five-year-old nephew, a bright boy (must be that Libra spirit) who now has an appreciation for painting and baking. Weeks ago, I walked him down to the pond carrying a wicker basket of lunch. We saw many ducks including a beautiful black one! He wanted to feed them the crusts off his peanut butter and cherry preserves sandwich. Of course the answer was “no!” 

True blue friends are a gem too. I can go days without talking to someone and receive a phone call or text, inquiring on my health, my family (facing many obstacles at once). I was out with my friend (and former co-worker) whose been such a gracious lifesaver. We recently visited Cox Arboretum with her two daughters and four adorable kittens. On top of faltering eyesight, horrendous circumstances can be a lot and the stress is draining (perhaps explains the lack of wanting to get out of bed). When my self-care is not reading books or writing prose beside fragrant candles eating fair trade chocolate, making all kinds of beautiful vegan food, painting various projects, washing my hair to a great playlist, and trying to make a decent braid, it is seeing my small, intimate circle (not simultaneously). I do appreciate the other messages, the reaching out. One friend dropped off a huge box of toys and books for my nephew (then days later delivered a gorgeous futon). Just yesterday, I was feeling very depleted and a friend shared a special post, a drawing he sketched of me, of me at the pond. I felt a surge of gratitude and happiness coming through. It is not the gift that matters, it is the knowing that people care about you, about your entire self. That “I was thinking about you today” really means so much right now. I thought saying “thank you” was not enough, but it is. It is. Saying “thank you” to your family, your friends for being there is enough. 

Sketch of me started by brilliant Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania based artist Kenneth Nicholson

So in a few days, I try out new glasses and then see the world clearly. Until then, I remain finding delight in the precious things that make me and the ones I love happy in the midst of life’s challenges, big or small. 
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Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Maple Roasted Beetroot And Caramelized Onion Tart

Be the talk of the town when serving this unbelievably scrumptious beet tart. Packed with savory meets a hint of sweet flavor, no one would believe vegan could taste so delicious. 
I am guilty. Guilty of buying vegetables and having to discard them for not using them on time. Beets were a primary crime. Always sitting in the bottom compartment of the refrigerator waiting to be prepared. I had Nadia Lim’s beautiful Maple Roasted Beetroot and Caramelized Onion Tart bookmarked for months and finally accomplished it over the weekend. In my rendition are minor adjustments— omitting nutritional yeast (the cashew cream still tasted impressive), using a practical substitute to make balsamic vinegar, and making beet purée as opposed to resting thin beet slices onto the tart. Plus, humorously enough, I used melted coconut oil instead of olive oil and was in for the biggest snafu. After taking the rested dough out of the fridge and finding a hard rock instead, I softened the dough in the microwave before baking it.
All in all, this tart was exceptional. The maple flavor of the beets complemented the sweet caramelized onions and that “buttery” crust with the chef’s kiss generous dollop of cashew cream— perfect for lunch and brunch. I definitely plan to make this again, having decided that beets are my new best friend despite how “bloody” the kitchen cleanup messes are. It’s well worth it!

Maple Roasted Beetroot And Caramelized Onion Tart With Cashew Cream Ingredients and Preparation

2 cup cashew
1 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)

2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup cold water

3 beetroots, sliced
2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (substitute is four parts vinegar + one part sugar)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
4 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon maple syrup

Make the cashew cream ahead of time and place into the refrigerator.
In a small bowl, mix flour and salt together. Add olive oil and cold water. Form dough into hands and wrap in plastic. Let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a baking dish, add sliced beets. Stir together balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Drizzle glaze over the beets and roast for 25-30 minutes or until beets are soft, tender.
In a skillet, add olive oil and red onion, stirring for ten minutes. Add balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, and water cooking for an additional 15 minutes until thick and sticky jam like consistency.
Once the beets are done, leave the oven on for the tart. Purée the beets with either one cup of almond milk or water until solid and creamy (like mashed potatoes).

Bake tart shell for twenty minutes. 
Pour in beet filling to the top of the shell, spreading evenly. Top with caramelized onions. 
Bake for twenty minutes. 
Top with cashew cream and enjoy.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Rainbow Pasta With Brussels Sprouts, Soy Ground, & Cherry Tomatoes

A huge thank you to the essential workers at grocery stores, post offices, hospitals, and beyond for keeping up with colossal supply and demand during this current pandemic. It has been scary times right now and living in complete isolation frightened a lot of us. We have lost loved ones, dearest friends, colleagues, those who have inspired us from afar.

The New York Times cover 5/24/2020. Rest in peace to those lost. You are more than names. 
Toilet paper was not the only hard to find item. Pantry items like pastas, rice, lentils, bread, and frozen vegetables were scarce, nonexistent for weeks. Good friends sent me beautiful care packages with yeast to make bread, masks for venturing outside, and chocolate (very important in survival). People will let you know in several ways that they care, that they’re thinking of you. Phone calls, text messages, and mailed cards have certainly kept me grounded and made me feel less alone.
Summer is coming. That means fresh, colorful plates that only veggies and fruits can provide.
Luckily, cherry tomatoes —my absolute favorite— are available right now. I love them best in pastas, pizzas, and salads, uncooked. Thus, here is a simple pasta dish of buttery tri-colored rotini with Brussels sprouts, soy ground, and cherry tomatoes.

Rainbow Rotini With Brussels Sprouts, Soy Ground, and Cherry Tomatoes Ingredients and Preparation

1 cup rainbow rotini
2 cup frozen Brussels sprouts
1/4 cup Lightlife Soy Ground (or any other kind of plant based meatless crumbles)
1/4 cup Follow Your Heart Cheddar Shreds
1 tablespoon Mikoyo’s Kitchen Plant Based Butter
1 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
4 cherry tomatoes, sliced
pinch of olive oil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Prepare pasta, Brussels sprouts, and soy ground according to package directions.
Combine pasta, Brussels sprouts, and soy ground together. Add in the cheddar shreds, vegan butter, Italian seasoning, and salt.
Toss chopped cherry tomatoes with olive oil, black pepper, and garlic. Garnish the pasta with the cherry tomatoes.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

I Should Have Quit in November

"If you are silent about your pain, they'll kill you and say you enjoyed it."— Zora Neale Hurston

I remember the excitement in late October, the day the Vegan Dayton group announced a new all-vegan restaurant coming into town. It would occupy the space Loving Hut had years ago in the Dayton Mall. Of course, I had to apply for a job— always wanted to work at a vegan restaurant. 

This happiness was short lived, ultimately becoming a huge, colossal mistake. 

On opening week, I pitched an article to Veg News about the restaurant. On the very first day, I found out the batter had been mixed with a milk additive flour. Boss Lady* stopped immediately, but she seemed more pissed about my discovery than the misleading product. It was the start of many discrepancies. When the news editor emailed me back, I did not want to write the piece and last minute thought that I could. She wrote the article instead. 

For weeks, the restaurant appeared to be running smoother, more authentic vegan until seeing the Sweet Baby Back Thai Chili Sauce which contained milk and chicken fat. Although I had not eaten the sauce, many vegans had and this did not sit well in my stomach, let alone my heart and spirit. Boss Lady screamed, “why would you read the ingredients?” and “get back to the front.” Later, she would call and say, “I’m proud of you for always pointing out what is not vegan. I’m still learning.” Yet her expressions and body language conveyed only a fury and annoyance that would continue growing, making work days harder, strained. 

I no longer had a desire to pitch any other stories about the restaurant for vegan publications. Boss Lady started gaslighting, becoming agitated if I did not want to sample her food, proclaiming everything one-hundred-percent vegan with a sort of wild exaggeration that was frightening and intimidating. The uncomfortable situation ate at my moral compass— weighing the need to remain employed and withstand Boss Lady’s up/down attitudes versus the corrupt knowledge that the food was a complete facade. 

Another discovery led to Boss Lady blaming her partner solely for purchasing another wrong flour. Niles,* my co-worker, confessed that he told her for weeks about the milk batter— a batter that I and others had eaten. When I confronted Boss Lady over the phone at the restaurant, she accused Niles of lying. She called him minutes later. I stood in the doorframe, listening to her berate Niles, her loud voice booming, “why did you tell Janyce about the batter? You know how she gets!” Right then and there, I should have quit, learning that she was purposely poisoning us all. Still, I believed her, believed that she wanted to better herself for the community at hand even as Niles claimed that Boss Lady screamed “I can never have nothing!” every time I found something non-vegan. 

The pandemic had the restaurant closed for two months. That was two months of peace and clarity, unquestioned vegan food. In addition to not reading product ingredients, Boss Lady had been belittling us, making us feel unworthy, ugly. She had cussed us out, never apologized for any of her wrongs, talked about others like a bully in high school. There were days I returned home burdened by the heaviness of worthlessness and stupidity. When we all came back to work last weekend, it resumed— the non-vegan ingredients and Boss Lady pretending that she does not use them. 

After I quit on Sunday morning, Niles revealed to me that Boss Lady had been hiding things before my shifts, knowing that I read ingredients. Apparently she was, “oh we can’t have Janyce seeing this. Oh this writing is too small. She can’t see that” or “don’t let anyone know we use Honey Hot! Vegans don’t eat honey.” I felt absolutely floored and disgusted. Thus, I had finally made the right decision, months too late. Vegans are not important to her, especially the overall consciousness of what we stand for. It makes me sick that the foods manifesting inside of my own body and that of others contained the most unwanted. My eight years of veganism were maliciously harmed and compromised by Boss Lady. She knew all about it. 

When all is said and done, it will take a while to forgive myself for the harm caused to the many customers, to those who traveled far and wide for foods that they believed were cruelty free. In the end, I became as corrupt as Boss Lady and must reevaluate my whole purpose in veganism. May a guiding light aide me in another journey where a paycheck does not come above a chosen sentient lifestyle. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

invoke at 2nd Street Market

Autumn flavors take center stage in the latest menu offerings at invoke.

I finally stopped back in to the 2nd Street Market for another taste of  the utterly forgettable invoke. I had only been once last January and my busy schedule recently granted me a chance to eat there again-- the hours are Thursdays and Fridays 11am-3pm and Saturdays 8-3PM. I will be having my Thursdays off for a bit.

I ran into a local celeb, Mama Nozipo. I interviewed her years ago during my Dayton City Paper coverage of the Black Cultural Festival. So happy that she is still out and about in the city, continuing to be an RTA ambassador and a wonderful, inspiring elder for the young people. 
Circa 2019, the basil mayo drenched invoke zucchini basil sammie and raw Dayton Style Cheezcake. The latte was at Press Coffee.

I came to have the zucchini basil sammie again. However, it was gone, off the menu. Instead, in its place, the choice of a butternut squash sammie topped with caramelized onions, arugula, and almond cheez. Even with the carrot dawg tempting me (applewood smoked carrot "sausage" with lettuce, pickled onion, and romesco), the mood was on for the butternut squash. The brotherly owners, Larry and Lester Gates, are real sweethearts, having great conversations with customers whilst grilling fresh quality ingredients right in front of you. The food is excellent. Just humble, full of flavor, and natural.

A generous helping on top of yummy flatbread. 

I gifted the scrumptious Dayton Style Cheezcake with my mom and had the Pumpkin Cheezcake. The chocolate sauce froze en route, but tasted delicious as "candy."
I absolutely enjoy the incredible food here and will be back-- much sooner than later.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy New Year and Eight Year Veganversary

Happy New Year everyone! It is officially my eight year vegan anniversary! I cannot believe it has been this long and sweet. I have not been blogging as much as wanted because the last few months have been excruciatingly tough. But positive things are on the horizon— that much is certain.
For starters, I work at That’s Soul Vegan, the very first restaurant in Dayton, Ohio— it’s my first food service related job and so far it’s a solid learning experience, especially for someone with some restaurant dreams (mainly baking/chocolatier side of aspiration).
For today’s big celebration,  the large milestone was shared with my mom over Domino’s Pizza which can easily made vegan— just thin crust, no cheese, and all the veggies. Plus, we had a coupon for two pizzas for $5.99 each. Definitely a great deal!
Overall, I think 2020 is already looking bright— vision wise!

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Sunday Outing

This is the second time venturing out to what was once The Sanctuary, the little pond behind Hospice where I often brought light lunches, books to read, and a creative spirit. Since I haven’t visited my serenity place in forever, I’m making up for lost time while the weather remains beautiful, while the ducks are still present. On the way to the newly renovated pond (more open and less seclusion because they have chopped down the suspenseful, magical overgrown trees), I stopped by the Kroger to pick up my ingredients sans my old wicker basket. I found a lot of clearance items like 99 cent French bread and $1.09 fruit pie filling (which turned out to be the most delightful surprise on the bread— who needs jam?!). After I had eaten some of the amazing spread, I watched two ducks, rested a bit atop of the rocks, and read Shirley Jackson horror (‘tis the season). What a treat!

Lunch included nasayo’s Organic Vegan Tofu Vegetable Dumplings, a loaf of clearanced French bread, markdown Michigan Cherry Fruit Pie Filling, and Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. 

Fruit pie filling on bread is an instant dreamy treasure!