Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Quick & Easy Creamy Mashed Cauliflower

Cauliflower is a delicious, healthier version on mashed potatoes.
2014 is drawing to a complete close as the AfroVeganChick blog nears third birthday. Tomorrow I will be posting top of the tops. Most viewed post, most Facebook liked, most pinned, etc. Some readers have perused surprising recipes and topics. However, I am most happy to still have retained an audience. I thank Ann of An Unrefined Vegan, Poppy of Bunny Kitchen, and Angela of Canned Time for hosting the Virtual Vegan Potlucks and Linky Parties, Lydia of Vegan Bloggers Unite, companies like Daiya, Beyond Meat and other vegan bloggers/sites who've supported by sharing on Internet avenues. I have had so many days desiring to quit writing due to time and what appeared to be lack of interest. Yet passion is dominate.
Something has been noticeable from this year's winter holiday posts. I forgot to use Gardein gravy packets that came with turk'y cutlets. Thus far, I had collected four packets.What better than mashed potatoes soaking up delicious savory sauce? Except well, frozen cauliflower would be the victorious champion.
Mashed cauliflower has always been a recipe on my radar list. Between homemade cauliflower cream sauces and whatnot, one would imagine that the mashed potato replacement had already been created. But no. It has not. Until now. Here is the quick version. This is intended for when you have gravy on standby. Sans the vegan butters and culinary oils, amount of water is key to a smooth yet whipped consistency. Too much is liquid-y. Too little is cauliflower floret lumps galore. Now you might be shooting for the latter, but for true genuine "ha ha I fooled you" is that perfect balance.

Creamy Mashed Cauliflower Ingredients and Preparation

1 cup frozen cauliflower
2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper 

Steam cauliflower.
Drain some of the water. Keep about 1/3 cup.
Pour into blender. Add nutritional yeast, salt, and white pepper. Whip. 

Fried tempeh is another simple entree. Spiced and rubbed protein component is seared in a skillet of coconut oil on each side for 5-6 minutes. Gardein's leftover gravy smothers mashed cauliflower and tempeh in such a dreamy way, it looked far too beautiful to eat.
Steamed carrots were definitely a plus!
One plate meal fulfills all a vegan needs.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Chocosol Hot Drinking Chocolat

Chocoholic's delight from a treasured Toronto friend.
I'm beyond grateful for this gift. Beyond. Never expected anything like this. 
I just got hooked on a different hot chocolate. Or shall I say drinking chocolate or chocolatyl? It's definitely a rapturous, more grown up version of he popular winter aphrodisiac beverage. The notes are exquisite, flavorful, rich.
Chocosol Traders based in Toronto, Canada have a line of rich, impressive sweets that are ethically packaged,  Mexican derived (Oaxaca to be exact), fair trade, and vegan. They are set in the divine practice of stone grounding high quality cacao beans by using methods that date back to ancient time.
Here Chocosol states grand foundation:
"Our artisanal chocolate is a symbol that embodies our values of socially just, ecological chocolate made, not only, with a ‘cradle to cradle’ approach, but also, charged with the use of solar energy..."
The decadent taste alone is highly superb. This has to be one of the yummiest hot chocolaty concoctions there is! My favorite way of making traditional hot chocolate is simmering almond milk and melt in vegan chocolate chips or parts of a whole flavored bar. Chocosol calls for different set of directions.

100% whole roasted cacao beans are in every bar. Next to simple, organic design, the big bold brown words are an inviting read, a narrative that summarizes sophisticated heritage of this tantalizing chocolate. Aromatic smells of squared wedges mimic how it will winningly taste on the tongue- sweet and fragrant.
This is not hot cocoa. Not the hot cocoa from olden days. This is something superior, something above satisfactory.
Looks like a candy bar, but in a hot mug tastes like a sensually fogged dream.
To make. Bring 1 1/2 cup of water to a boil. Then set aside for a few minutes. Break off four wedges and toss into a blender. Pour hot water over wedges. Add 1/4 cup of cane sugar (or maple syrup/agave sweeteners) and mix. Once liquid starts frothing at the top it's ready to drink! Using the blender gives the drinking chocolate its airiness and brings apart glorious chocolate fragrance when removing the lid.
For great variations add cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, cayenne, or even some melted vegan marshmallows. Right now, I prefer plain hot chocolat. Tastes perfect.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Merry Christmas Day With Gardein Turk'y Cutlets

Two for two holiday dinners with Gardein's delicious holiday accompaniment.
I hope everyone had the merriest Christmas ever. It's been a wonderful winter vacation thus far. Exactly one week in Ohio. No lingering thoughts on MFA critiques or reviews. Just relaxing and spending time with family and old friends.

Underneath beautiful holiday tree, a framed photograph of adorable Prince gifted to new father.
On this third vegan holiday, celebrating yummy traditions thanks to Daiya and So Delicious, another product has been added to usual festivities- Gardein's amazing cutlets. I introduced my family to this on Thanksgiving and they loved them, Mom especially.
"Are you sure no animals were harmed?" one of my brothers had asked.

Cover photo is drool worthy. Tasting better than imagined.
Gotta hand it to Gardein, they've made another excellent product. To be honest, I wasn't a turkey fan way back when. Baked for about 20 minutes, Gardein's crispy crusted breading is perfectly seasoned and textured. Hot juicy tenderness is moist and balances well against delicate crunch of a coating. How splendid to sink fork into such a savory piece of cruelty free protein! I loved that my family loved this too. Last year, the Trader Joe's meatless roast didn't score points. But Gardein. Well Gardein, you've made them into believers this year.
Amazing Ultimate Macaroni & Cheese. Daiya has become part of three Christmas feasts so far. Hope our delicious tradition continues.
Chocolate Chai Muffins With Cinnamon-Sugar Pecan Topping as a gift. Fresh batch made today.
Beautiful Celeste and her gift.
Hand drawn holiday card and Harry Potter socks were a slew of my wonderful holiday haul.
Harry Potter Marauder's Map backpack!
Starbucks gift basket.
And like a sweetly knocked out Celeste ends my holiday magic, but not the end of spending time with my Daytonian family and friends.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Arimas Jewelry Box Africa "Queen" Earrings

Lo and behold majesty of ancestral heritage.
The prettiest earrings arrived yesterday. Naturally, I felt compelled to share queen worthy brilliance. I say queen because they're regal in appearance and symbolism. Brass Africa continent cut shaped beauties were like a dream come true. Not too small or large, but dominant enough to make a bold statement. This is perfect for any woman looking to define strength without words. Plus if your origins are from other parts of the world, be it a specific state or region, Samira is willing to create it out of her brass material with gold backing. Or purchase sophisticated designer pieces for a friend. Artisan one of a kind goods hold a certain power and esteem that a regular jewelry store rarely delivers.
Samira's gorgeous Arima's Jewelry Box is now bookmarked. Unique customer service inspires me as an artistic creator. Fantastic personal touches showcases care to buyer.
First of all, delivery arrived faster than anticipated.

Ornate black design on soft gold paper.
Inside paper- a "made with love" sticker atop glittery gold jewelry box with chic ribbon and a special coupon.

$10 off next $50 purchase if shared on social media. Unseen- another extra little coupon for free shipping. With categories in head, neck, ears, fingers, and beyond, I'm bound to find something fetching. <3
Her and hers earrings. Africa is mine. Black afro picks are for Ma. She'll have a real hoot knowing that these weren't from Claire's Boutique or some upscale department store. These were crafted from artisan heart.
These are mine. Fine detail. Although a little red glitter coats one. It's still rather sharp.
Self portrait with Africa earring? Oh yes. Future drawing ideas galore! Sorry Vermeer.
It's truly an earring I've always wanted to own. Perfection.
Happiness served. Thank you Samira. You're amazing.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Chocolate Chai Muffins with Cinnamon-Sugar Pecan Topping

Best treat to wake up to.
That coffee cake muffin from Cincinnati's Coffee Emporium is still on my mind. Yes. It was dry. But not so bad, especially that crunchy cinnamon delight sprinkling the top. 
I wanted to make pretty tasty muffins for a quick reheated grab and go. Plus a present for old friends of mine. This recipe is modeled a bit from one of my favorite bloggers Kathy Patalsky of the sweet Healthy Happy Life Blog. She created scrumptious Cinnamon Toast Morning Muffins. Here instead of espresso, Tazo's alluring Chocolate Chai takes its place.

When having no coffee, steeped tea can be all one needs.
This is amazingly wicked tea. Aromatic symphonies playing between cocoa peels and traditional chai ingredients drives me a bit insane before taking first seductive sip. Rich, brilliant flavor combining my two favorite winter beverages is a gift that never stops giving. Until both mug and pot are empty.
The tea provides liquid replenishment to muffin batter. Once puffed, super risen treats escape oven, topped with delicious cinnamon-sugar pecan topping any bad thoughts start fading. Kitchen smells like sweet escapism. Excited teeth sink into crunchy and moist texture.

Chocolate Chai Muffins with Cinnamon-Sugar Pecan Topping Ingredients and Preparation

2 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup olive oil (coconut oil or applesauce would be great too)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cup brewed Tazo Chocolate Chai
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup pecans, crushed
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease a twelve cup muffin tin.
Mix crushed pecans, sugar, and cinnamon together. Set aside.
Make Tazo Chocolate Chai according to directions. Let steep and warm to room temperature.
Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together.
Add olive oil, vanilla, and chai to dry mixture. Apple cider vinegar gets stirred in last.
Pour into pan.
Sprinkle a bit of cinnamon-sugar pecan topping onto each muffin. Bake for 12 minutes. Lower temperature to 350 and back for 6-8 minutes more.
It was all too easy to scoop these out of the pans. No big deal. Whew!
Delicious close up.
Try to keep serving size at 2.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Whole Wheat Nooch & Walnut Pancakes

Celebrate the official first day of winter with these savory pancakes and a mug of hot chocolate covered tea.
Happy Winter Solstice everyone! The cold weather has already started popping before this day as always.
It's another brisk Sunday evening in Dayton. Perfect excuse to stay in with comfort food and something overly warm to drink. I must commend Tazo on this delightful chocolate chai. Amazingly delicious blend of hot cocoa flavor and spicy robust tea. Bravo!
Companion to the wonderful tea is pancakes. Savory scrumptious pancakes that is.
Nutritional yeast and walnuts are key ingredients in these soft middle crisp edged usual weekend breakfast favorites. Nutty texture add surprising crunch and nooch provides the "cheesy" flavor. Not just for mornings as we all know. Brunch, lunch, dinner or beyond, enjoyable delights bring a smile to any empty plate.

Whole Wheat Nooch & Walnut Pancakes Ingredients and Preparation

olive oil for skillet
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 1/2 tablespoon nutritional yeast (nooch)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Heat skillet and lightly coat pan in oil.
Mix flour, baking powder, nooch, lemon juice, salt, cumin and black pepper.
Add olive oil and water. Blend well.
Stir in apple cider vinegar. Lastly walnuts.
Pour about 1/4 cup batter into hot skillet. Cover for 3-4 minutes. Edges should be crisp signalling turn.

Completely optional, but here I sprinkled extra nooch and black pepper on each pancake.
Close up.
Extra crunchy walnuts.
Ready to dig in.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Hello Cincinnati, It's Been A While

Cincinnati, Ohio, home of four undergraduate years, was a beacon of possibilities.
First semester is over. It's been grueling and heartbreaking. Little joys weaved between struggle, fear, and anxiety. Broken laptops, late nights making nonsensical travesties, losing sleep. Life of an artist, writer, foodie enthusiast. I'll never forget one of my critics saying that 24 hours a day isn't for someone like me. My MFA review was Wednesday-- thirty minutes of hardcore tough talk from four critics familiar to my ideas. I had friends help me set up sculptures, photographs, watercolor with typewritten text, and the Nappylocks and the Three Combs installation. Foursome liked the drawings and writings, believing them to be strongest components. The large rubber duck sculpture was something enjoyable as well as a braid composed of pieced Brillo scrubbers. However, argument is that my writing is more considered, more special than any shown art. Writing is more articulate than a piece. These are criticisms to take towards both painting and lithography classes come spring. I'm already sketching ideas for my litho stones, thinking of profound ways of having writing and drawing intersect successfully.

Massive afro pick composed of newspaper and tape (masking and duct). Critic pros: great concept, humorous, loved inaccurate "teeth" components. Con: duct tape doesn't seem to be right tool.
The large rubber duck. Critic pros: scaling up rubber duck. Cons: visible cardboard, should have more obsessive qualities, more rubber duck the merrier, my desire to throw it away.
Another positive aspect of my MFA Review is one of the coolest people at PAFA, Greg Martino, Career Services Director. Actually came to see work and hear critics. Extremely thoughtful considering it's last days of the school year and what must have eaten thirty minutes out of a busy schedule! Few days prior, he showed me magnificent jewelry work of Samira. She also lives in Philly and attends University of the Arts (another Center City art college). I highly recommend visiting her site-- Arimas Jewelry Box. So many wonderful items to purchase from reasonably priced to pieces I'll have to sell a few paintings to get. If you sign up for her emailed newsletter, she offers $5 off first purchase and opportunities to win free jewelry every month. It's quite special supporting small businesses, especially artist run businesses that one can understand and appreciate. Seeing as my own work is about my heartfelt longing for African Diaspora and cherishing ancestry, kindred kismet to find someone creating beautiful attainable art to be worn and displayed. I'm quite excited about wearing fashion statements bound to strengthen my own.

These are 1" Africa Continent Studs made with brass and 14kt gold filled ear wires, $20. Samira also says, "Please note that these earrings can be customized to any state, country or continent. If a custom order is desired please indicate your request at checkout." So awesome!
Wood cut Afro Pick earring studs come in both hand painted black and crimson red, $18. I chose black!
Package on its way.
Speaking of packages, check out my artist/vegan pal Jolyn's 31at31 post on winning the AfroVeganChick Pacifica Giveaway. Just adorable and sweet to read! Plus she's included a short video of unwrapping.
Now with holidays coming fast, I needed another vacation-- an extended one away from Philly. Home of course. However, I took a little pit stop on the way en route to Dayton-- to its larger populated sister city Cincinnati. I have many memories here- good and bittersweet of course. Nice to reflect on old history, revisit places formerly frolicked or passed by.

I received my Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in drawing at Art Academy of Cincinnati. I hadn't been since former drawing professor Gary Gaffney's retirement party in summer of 2011. That mural by Kim Krause (Painting I and Drawing Seminar II teacher) wasn't always there. Funnily enough, I ran into him (still dressed in all dark gray and rounded glasses) and said "hello." Plus Joe Fisher (admissions director), Anissa Lewis (admissions coordinator), Kim Wheeler (the security head), Sue Hutchens (registrar), Mark Thomas (Foundations and Illustration I instructor) and Jay Zumeta (Art History I and Aesthetics professor) happened to still be around. Great to see them all.
It's Kris! The amazing Libra woman in the financial aid department whom I love and adore. Ladies with almost matching spectacles reminisced about Paris 2009 and mourned the fact that I missed out on Musee D'orsay and the longest line imaginable at Catacombs. I remembered the days of sitting in Kris's office having free chocolates and talking art. Oh how we both enjoy the subject. She did have an art history blog. Plus, we also have Downton Abby in common. Gotta love Downton Abbey. Good things come to an end. On a pictorial note. Joy, financial aide assistant was a real hoot, bringing to life her namesake. I could sense genuine kindness and a real vibrant spirit. She took our photos and off we walked out of AAC together.
Suder's Art Store is the heart of artists community in downtown Cincy. On Vine Steet, just a block away from AAC, it was certainly the place for students to purchase supplies. Sharon Suder, great granddaughter of the founder, stood behind the counter. Plus one of my favorite people in the world-- Ros happened to be working that day as well! We talk all the time via email and phone. Great to see her again in person! We gabbed about PAFA life and "Route." This notion that my writing is "exceptional" and far more superior than artistic pursuit. I still feel drawn and adore both mediums. One thought after that MFA review, however, was is there a stronger fascination, a stronger drive for writing as opposed to art? Is this true?  Ros certainly had me opening Pandora's box.
George Washington the cat performed yoga on rolled up canvas cloth. And yes that is his model photograph on the back left. He is pretty and softer than imagined. Fur must get brushed everyday. Plus his meows were sweet to hear.
"Do not disturb me whilst I reach enlightenment," George seems to hum, with eyes closed in concentration. Actually, he was just napping.
Court View, my old apartment building. Still beautiful and historically charming like the first day I saw it. Those large windows and hard wood floors were a treasure.
Cincinnati's massive main library across the street. Literally. Takes up two blocks. So impressive. I always stayed until closing. Perfect place to read, write, and sketch. There's also a little cafe and used bookshop inside. Loved finding little novelty gifts for family and friends.
Consumed warm crunchy chips and guacamole at Burrito El Charco.
The guacamole was smooth, slightly whipped, but tasted more like lime than traditional recipes. Maybe that's why the light green is much more pronounced. Plus no tomatoes or evidence of cilantro. Very different.
Coffee Emporium was the hangout of AAC students. I rarely went. Mostly stayed lonely recluse in my studio painting or at the apartment drawing or writing.
From the outside it looks like a strictly casual operation.
Plenty of coffees, teas, and specialty seasonal drinks can be made vegan. I adore that they have both soy and almond milk as alternative dairy free options.
I had the alligator pear grilled sandwich. Avocado was a rich, creamy component against fresh spinach, juicy tomato slices, red onions, and smooth, irresistible hummus with delectable pieces of garbanzo bean. Bread was toasted to crisp perfection-- no soggy mess here! Plus the unique savory seasoned crunchy miniature pretzels were amazing. Never had them without distinctive white salt spots before.
I also ordered vegan coffee cake. It was dry unfortunately. I did cherish crunchy cinnamon topping and noting that I can taste most of the ingredients. Would have loved not only more moisture, but some berries, apple slices, or nuts to add texture.
Yummy almond milk hot chocolate inside recycled materials.
Lovely place to have coffee and enjoy art. Music isn't too loud or intrusive. One can have conversation. No screaming match to compete against background melody. Almost regret never coming.
Large, spacious environment, clean dance floor, well worn seats, and neat organization with touches of urban domesticity and bicycle love. Oh, how the bicycle aesthetic is huge in Cincinnati. Huge!
Park+Vine, formerly on Vine Street, moved into Kaldi's Coffeehouse's old location on Main Street. They sell a lot of vegan specialties, beauty supplies, and organic apparel. Since it's independently owned, prices are much higher than even Whole Foods. Field Roast Chao Slices are $7.75 each, Daiya cheeses $7, 32 oz. alternative milks $3-$5, ice creams $8-$9, etc. I had to pass on much. I did leave out with KeVita's Master Brew Kombucha in Tart Cherry. Tasty flavor. Would love to brew my own experimentation someday.
I did have plans to venture further downtown to Fountain Square to the Ballpark to the Ohio River separating state from Kentucky. Chilly weather wasn't exactly welcoming and time escaped faster than sand falling through invisible hourglass. I walked back towards bus station and almost laughed at the sight of the new Horseshoe Casino. Pretty big and flashy for such a rustic, vintage area.
Anyway, it was a charming visit. Hopefully, I'll come back soon. Enjoy more C.E. and chat with my buddies again as well as an old professor or two. Fun times!