Saturday, May 31, 2014

Vegan Pumpkin Pistachio Cream Sauce Over Harvest Blend & Steamed Carrots

A creamy delicious sauce to die for.
It's the last day of May and yummy orange colored food is needed!
A bright pretty food palette washes away an otherwise despairing week. An interview at Whole Foods Market turned awry a few days ago.
I hate job interviews. In fact, I'm very bad at them. The employer asks a question and my replies come out in flustered nonsense. I'm not used to being a conversationalist, spending most of my time drawing, writing, and reading in solitude. But I adore Whole Foods and it seemed an appropriate fit for an organic loving vegan free spirit. Of course, when one isn't used to being sociable and it likely shows there goes a splendid opportunity to be surrounded by summer fruits and vegetables everyday. 
Thankfully chocolate bars and soft carrots make me happy. Not together. Hahaha.
As you all must know, Trader Joe's Harvest Blend is amazing stuff. I use it a lot as basis for meals. It contains good stuff like red quinoa, orzo, baby garbanzos, lentils, etc. Each 10 serving bag only costs $2.69. Talk about a major value.
Pumpkin Pistachio Cream, or in this case Pick-Me-Up-Cause-I'm-Feeling-Down Sauce, perfectly topped harvest and tender carrots with a whip appeal that would make Babyface swoon with jealousy. I received pistachios as a present, having never eaten them. I sampled a few and somehow intuition struck like a lightning bolt- green nuts would be an amazing addition. Plus extra sprinkling beautifies the dish further and gives enticing crunchy texture.
One bite of this delicious meal and all the bad stuff simply vanishes into addictive cream.

Vegan Pumpkin Pistachio Cream Sauce Over Harvest Blend & Steamed Carrots Ingredients and Preparation

1/2 cup Trader Joe's Harvest Blend, cooked according to directions
1 cup steamed carrots
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup almond milk
2 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup crushed pistachios

*as Harvest Grains Blend is on its last few minutes of cooking time- start prepping sauce.

In a medium saucepan, combine pumpkin puree, almond milk, flour, olive oil, salt, curry powder, and black pepper, stirring and making sure nothing sticks.
Warm for 7-8 minutes.
Add crushed pistachios and turn off heat.

Pour over cooked Harvest Blends and steamed carrots.
Topped with extra pistachio and red onions.
Ready for immediate devouring.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Vegan Lemon Powdered Sugar Cookies

Lemon cookies getting powdered sugar love.
Mom's birthday was last Saturday- May 24th. Only Wednesday I made her lemon cookies and mailed them off. I'm late with everything- bad, bad, and more bad. For weeks, I had The Sweet Life Online's recipe for Lemon Crinkle Cookies bookmarked, planning to send homemade goodies to my lemon loving parent. Weather, work, and lack of proper sleep kept me from proper focus.
Lemon Powdered Sugar Cookies are straight forward- meaning fairly simple to make and are packed with citrus goodness. It's lemon meets sugar cookie. Chewy, moist, and soft, I had a little difficulty keeping my limit at trying out two. Of course, memory served that these were for Mom and hope that she loved them just as much as I enjoyed baking them.
That she did. Seeing as she received package this afternoon. :)

Vegan Lemon Powdered Sugar Cookies Ingredients and Preparation

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
zest of 1 large lemon (about 1 heaping tablespoon)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple sauce
2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325 and prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper or oil.
Mix dry ingredients together- whole wheat flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
Separately stir lemon zest, olive oil, applesauce, lemon juice, and vanilla extract.
Combine wet into dry- don't overdo mixing.
In a bowl, pour powdered sugar.
Using a tablespoon or hands, form dough into balls and roll them into powdered sugar.

Bake for 10-13 minutes and cool.
A little lemon decoration and extra powdered sugar madness.
Worth sampling!
Store in a cute container and tied with ribbon.
Packaged along with a watercolor painted birthday card.
Rainbow duct tape and rubber duck ribbon over an old Just Fab shoebox completes everything! Also in there a Theo Dark Chocolate Cherry Bar, a blue roller ink pen made out of 80% percent recycled bottles (Mom collects pens), and more.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Vegan Roasted Artichoke & Roasted Potato Pizza

Be still my heart- it's roasted artichoke and roasted potato pizza!
I love learning to prepare new foods and today's recipe bears no exception!
In a spare classroom, weeks ago, an instructor left an array of free fresh vegetables set for a finished still life. I took cherries, apples, and two artichokes knowing darn well that I never prepared them before. One of my friends said, "just coat it in olive oil and lemon juice and bake. It's incredible!"
Artichokes with their prickly edges scared me quite to death, but I overcame that fear and cut off the thorns (getting stabbed in the process). Also, it's important to have a snack like peanut butter apples or some Earth Balance Cheddar Puffs during this pizza making. It's an hour and a half of preparation time. One could also roast artichokes and potatoes and refrigerate them overnight, putting on a pizza crust for tomorrow- which frankly truth be told, I did this. I feel like a cook show "cheater"- making a pie from scratch live and already having a finished pie in the oven.
Anywho, I loved this pizza!
Artichokes, which turned out very well, mingling with yummy flavorful roasted potatoes is surprisingly tasty. Whilst my brain wrapped around my fascinating idea, my taste buds loved chewing into soft textures of eccentric ingredients. Although melted cashew cream, Daiya, Trader Joe''s or Follow Your Heart would have been a great addition, no artificial cheese was necessary.  I didn't use a sauce, but I suggest a vegan white or simple "butter" sauce might be perfect.

Pretty yet frightening- the almighty artichoke!

Vegan Roasted Artichoke & Roasted Potato Pizza Ingredients and Preparation

2 artichokes
1 pound little gold potatoes
red onion
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/3 cup almond milk
salt and black pepper

3 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon turmeric
 pizza dough

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Coat artichokes in olive oil and lemon juice.
Wrap both securely in foil.
Coat potatoes in olive oil, Italian seasonings, and salt and black pepper.

Lay them around the artichokes. Bake for an hour.
Take potatoes off and put sheet bake in the oven, baking artichokes for another 25 minutes.

One roasted artichoke ready to be plucked.
Turn oven heat down to 350 degrees.  
Let artichokes cool before taking off leaves, scraping fuzzy part, and taking out the heart.
Mix potatoes, artichoke hearts, almond milk, nutritional yeast, and turmeric together, mashing on occasion.
Layer this on prepared pizza dough.

Nicely browned and baked.
Close up of deliciousness.
Sprinkled additional Italian seasonings atop. Can never get enough of that aromatic oregano, rosemary, and thyme blend.
Pizza mountain of "French" fries and artichokes meeting savory crust.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day, Peanut Butter Tofu, & Little NYC Shenanigans

Tofu smothered in thick peanut butter sauce may be just what the doctor ordered.
It's Memorial Day everyone! Enjoy those vegan hotdogs, veggie burgers, side salads, and Patriot Pie, but don't forget that this beautiful, honorable day commemorates the brave women and men, the veterans who fought hard and diligently to protect this country. They valiantly gave their lives or returned home wounded, struggling with unimaginable inner turmoil, harboring much emotional pain. We owe them gracious gratitude, unconditional love, and steadfast support.

Thank you to the fallen. Thank you to the veterans. Thank you. Thank you for all that you do.

Here begins a mild discussion about peanut butter tofu and a small briefing of May 17th- a wonderful Saturday in NYC. Okay, it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows, but it ended on the highest of positive notes.
Combined pros and cons. Greyhound arrived an hour late. I got lost looking for Kara Walker's latest exhibit in Williamsburg Brooklyn. For a while, my head hung low, miserable and disheartened. I did, however, manage to find Union Square and ate amazing pizza at a busy, three story Whole Foods. A touchy-feely guy named Mike helped me find the theater. I, of course, not needing to have this man at my side much longer wished him well and proceeded inside without him. Ah, my first film festival. Simply fantastic seeing people pose and take heavily flashed photographs in front of the white background with Soho International Film Festival's black font all over it. Met older ladies dreaming of kidnapping handsome young  men. I saw Tom. He walked right pass me and his cologne smelled quite wonderful. I enjoyed Please Reply- an eccentric, upbeat short that set the tone for Tiger Lily Road (my review is up!). Once again, I delighted in the screenplay, the acting, the music. It uplifted dwindling spirits. Truly. I met Ilene Kristen (who played the wild, crazy Roxie on One Life to Live), appreciatively thanked Michael for the complimentary pass (he's too kind for words), and inwardly squealed at his invitation to attend the cast party at some place called The Smith. I declined, nervous as heck to be around Tom and Company for longer than three seconds. My ruby red kitten heels couldn't withstand that torture, even if seated. I met a guy named Ibn on the Megabus home. (Yes, I swap bus carriers time to time). We had met ages ago on my first Megabus back to Philly, but swapped information this time around. He's a big time theater enthusiast, an actor actually. Anyways....
Also learned that my high school mythology/creative writing teacher happened to be in NYC with her former assistant Johnny Ramos (whom I haven't seen since 2002!!!). They saw the Walker exhibit almost at precisely the same time I would have been there. Why fate? Why????
Another positive note:

Our post baccalaureate graduation photograph. Ahem. Well, some of us were ready for the photo. I think I may be missing school a little too much right now. More than normal...
Okay enough NYC babbling, soapy entertainment, and school reminiscing. Let's get to the food, right?
Peanut butter tofu. Incredible peanut butter tofu.
I remember my first taste of peanut butter touched noodles at an art party. Back in Dayton, Ohio there used to be an Asian cuisine restaurant called Chin's- next to my beloved Neon art house theater. Chin's catered the party and I freaked out at the thought of noodles having a nonsensical affair with peanut butter. It just didn't sound right. Everyone laid the pressure on me. I caved and fell in love.
Now the love story gets tastier. I discovered Lotus Food's Forbidden Rice Ramen Noodles on sale this week at Whole Foods and decided that it would be the perfect bottom for saucy peanut butter tofu. I found the recipe on Veg Web which can be very helpful at times. It's always wonderful when instincts are proven correct. Spicy, nutty sauce complements meaty tofu goodness, amazing noodles (saved seasoning packet for another day), and yummy veggies (carrots and broccoli).
Definitely a splendid, fulfilling meal for two hungry mouths.

Peanut Butter Tofu Ingredients and Preparation

2 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoon Liquid Aminos 
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 block extra firm tofu, pressed and chopped into triangular pieces
2-3 teaspoon water

Heat a skillet with olive oil.
Mix together peanut butter, white vinegar, Liquid Aminos, and crushed red pepper.
Pour this into the skillet.
Add tofu triangles, making sure to coat it all as even as possible.

Trying something new too- Lotus Food's Forbidden Rice Ramen is made from black rice flour.
Holding this in my hands reminded me strongly of....
Large scale Louise Nevelson sculpture for some odd reason. Ha ha!
Flip over tofu every minutes, adding water every now and then so that nothing sticks. Ready in about 10-15 minutes. Since I didn't have peanuts handy, I topped added Italian herb panko bread crumbs for crunchy texture. Very delicious idea!
Top prepared peanut butter tofu over desired black ramen noodles and veggies (or whatever you choose to use).
Extra crushed red pepper for bonus heat.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Banana Coconut Ice Cream

Despite the rain, summer is still coming and it will get hot and ice cream will become necessary.
There's nothing like making your own ice cream, especially if living with horrid housemates. The other day discovered that my So Delicious Almond Milk Cookies And Cream Ice Cream had been opened and eaten with greedy relish. An expensive celebratory treat stolen and vandalized. It's difficult when living with people who want to spoil life's little victories. However, when crafting my own ice cream no one seems to want any, even if it's pretty. I'm happy that this latest creation, eaten solely by me, wasn't compromised in any way. Califia Farms brand vegan milks are on sale this week at Whole Foods 2 for $7. I decided to give the Toasted Coconut Almond Milk a try.

Dress up Nature's Path Flax Plus Flakes with shredded coconut, diced apples, slivered almonds, cinnamon, and Califia Farms amazingly delicious Toasted Coconut Almond Milk- a real satisfying breakfast treat!
Simple to make ice cream. No powerful kitchen appliances required. Three near blackened bananas provide both fantastic fruity flavor and sweetness (no extra sugar needed) for a chocoholic treat. Mashed to smithereens- chunky bits saved of course, mixed with the incredibly yummy coconut almond blended milk, chocolate goodness, and extra coconut. I covered plain white bowl with a small black bag, making it look utterly unattractive and voila! A few hours later, ice cream readied and untouched, I satisfied craving hitch free! Just a great treat! Sure it's raining right now, but tomorrow the sun is coming out and so is more ice cream.
Recipe serves two vegan ice cream lovers. Or one ravenous fiend.
Oh and FY: It's May 16th. Janet Jackson Day. Let's break out the Rhythm Nation and Control and everything else Damito Jo! Dance everybody! And grab a bowl for the ice cream....

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Banana Coconut Ice Cream Ingredients and Preparation

3 ripened bananas
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup Califia Farms Toasted Coconut Almond Milk Blend
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup vegan chocolate chips
1/4 cup slivered almonds (optional)

Mash bananas together with cocoa powder, coconut almond milk, shredded coconut, and chocolate chips. Cover and freeze for 5-6 hours.
Use an ice cream scooper to scoop out bowl contents and enjoy.
Delicious, simple yum. No ice cream maker or blender needed.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Vegan Grilled Strawberries, Basil, And Cream Cheese Sandwiches

Not your average standard grilled cheese fare.
School is out for summer and the weather is gearing towards more sunny days, less rainy grey. 
That definitely calls for a grilled "cheese" kind of celebration! Lately, I have adored Daiya's utterly delicious Strawberry Cream Cheese Style Spread, laying it down on far more than vegan bagels and breakfast toast. It makes for amazing grilled strawberry sandwiches. Strawberry grilled cheese sandwiches? Oh yes. Sounds frightening, but actually not a bad combination. In fact, when I first made them, I couldn't believe how incredible they tasted. Plump, juicy strawberry slices surrounded by strawberry cream cheese spread and rustic crusty olive oily bread. Far better than imagined. Now it needed extra oomph- some pow wow to up the flavor profile. In this delicious winner, balsamic soaked strawberries take on basil and red onion goodness. An overly messy sandwich- strawberries ooze from the dripping cream cheesy explosion between two slices of crisp bread seasoned with Italian seasonings and garlic, this truly tastes like the joys of this season.
Warning: Will need plenty of napkins.

Vegan Grilled Strawberries, Basil, And Cream Cheese Sandwiches Ingredients and Preparation

8 slices whole wheat bread
olive oil
Italian seasonings
8-10 strawberries, thinly sliced
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup Daiya Strawberry Cream Cheese Style Spread
red onion slices

Sit strawberries in balsamic vinegar for 10 minutes.
Warm up a skillet with olive oil.
Prepare one slice of bread with a thin layer of Daiya Strawberry Cream Cheese Style Spread.
Top bread with an even layer of basil leaves, strawberry slices, red onion, and another slice of bread.
Lay into the skillet, brushing other side with olive oil, Italian seasonings, and garlic powder. Grill until reaching desired brown toastiness at 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle Italian seasonings and garlic powder again.
Repeat until 4 sandwiches are created.
Garnish with basil and strawberry if desired.

Strawberry goodness creeping from crispy Italian seasoned bread.
Ooey gooey creamy goodness will ooze from deliciously messy sandwiches. Napkins are highly recommended for these babies.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Vegan Tropical Chickpea Salad With Avocado Coconut Dressing & An Unforgettable Graduation Day

A lovely salad adds colorful flare to any celebration.
Ah. It's all over. Well, for now.
I'm on summer hiatus. Sort of.
Before we get into delicious tropical salads and tasty avocado dressings, one must bring forth all the exciting graduation action from yesterday- a Friday like no other.
First, PAFA board of Trustees Chair Kevin Donohoe welcomed graduates into a significant place in PAFA history books alongside Mary Cassatt, Cecilia Beaux, and Henry Ossawa Tanner. PAFA president David Brigham delivered encouraging words about tomorrow. Commencement speaker Jane Golden, executive director of Philadelphia's well renowned Mural Arts Program, urged us all not to give up, to persevere, to overcome odds, and used "tenacity" in her eloquently composed speech frequently. One of my favorite MFA students, Nancy Bea Miller (sadly retiring from her post as President of PAFA's Alumni Association) awarded PAFA alum Raymond Saunders with the Distinguished Alumni Award. Must mention my envy at the lucky students who got to have lunch with him this morning. Amazing instructors Jan Baltzwell and Michael Gallagher scored teaching awards from respective MFA and BFA/Certificate student bodies. The astonished look on Jan's face was everything. :) Phyllis Gorsen, chosen MFA speaker, recited a commendable address that spoke volumes- saying that artists are some of the most intelligent people on the planet. We don't get enough credit for our intelligence. Jeanne O'Shell, BFA/Certificate speaker, humorously voiced that we don't necessarily have completed puzzles upon entering college- the teachers/critics offer us more pieces, but it's our "job" as artists to make them fit. Clint Jukkula, head of graduate programs, announced our names along with the MFA candidates, Jeffrey Carr, dean of PAFA, awarded the BFA/Certificate students, and David gave closing address, ringing in the class of 2014. Then it was off to reception duty and the official public opening of not only the big 113th Annual Student Exhibit, but the Post Baccalaureate Exhibit as well.
All in all, a pleasurable experience worth cementing.

Group photo sent by Michael Moore, our wise and wonderful co-leader.
Congratulations to my awesome fellow Post Baccalaureate 2014 classmates- Kalab, Alma B., Lydia, Abby, Peter, Tovah, Louisa, Ken, Julene, Jerome, Camille, Loran, Alma R., Francine, Tim, Katayoun, Laura, and Eric! We made it! I'll be seeing Alma B., Lydia, Abby, Ken, and Laura this coming fall for the MFA Program.
Lovely certificate- the most expensive one yet! Just keeping it 100% real. But I am quite proud of it. One of the finest educations ever received. Words cannot express how much I adored the faculty- Michael, Mark, Neysa, and Jan were outstanding.
Posing with certificate and selected pieces from the Post Baccalaureate Exhibition!
Combs and naps make up the sculpture entitled:
Tovah- by far one of the sweetest people I've ever met.
Alma Rad will always be the epitome of awesomeness!
Our cordial co-leader, Michael Moore, surprisingly gifted each student beautiful, inedible Jasper doughnuts. At the end of a rather thoughtful, encouraging paragraph, he kindly states, "these stones are given with love and respect in honor of the Post-Baccalaureate class of 2013-14 who gave so much to one another."
I feel it only wise to wear every single day.
I have bombarded the blog with graduation news. Such a wonderful time to be remembered always. Yes, I am still here at PAFA for an additional two years, but being a Post Baccalaureate student had a special uniqueness that cannot be manufactured. I loved it- the good, the bad, and the ugly! Well, worth Sallie Mae hounding me once a month. 
Now onto Tropical Chickpea Salad.
No cooking required for this cold number. Plain ole chickpeas meet an array of tropical fruit and coconut flesh for an invigorating plate of colorfully engaging yum. The other dish brought to our class picnic,Tropical Chickpea Salad combines sweet juiciness and savory chickpeas dressed in a tantalizing avocado dressing. Made from ripened avocado and mixed with lime and coconut water, the dressing is simple and doesn't overpower the unique flavor profiles.
For a nuttier flavor and added crunch- I suggest crushed pine nuts or macadamia nuts. 

Vegan Tropical Chickpea Salad With Avocado Coconut Dressing Ingredients and Preparation

1 16 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup pineapple, chopped
1/2 cup papaya, chopped
1/2 cup mango, chopped
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 teaspoon cumin

1 ripened avocado
1/2 cup coconut water
2 tablespoon olive oil
juice from 1 lime
salt and black pepper

Toss chickpeas together with fruit, shredded coconut, and cumin. 
Whip together avocado, coconut water, olive oil, lime, salt, and black pepper.
Pour over salad and until evenly coated.

Colors and tastes of the tropics take over chickpeas.
Add sliced lime for decor and extra zest.