Friday, December 28, 2018

Multiple Disciplines of the Multidisciplinary Mind

"We're Never Having This Party," acrylic on canvas, 36" x 48, 2018.
On the lovely night of December 14th, I had my first solo opening, "Let Them Eat Sweet," in Philadelphia at the B(A)LM (Black Artists Liberation Movement) Studio. Makeba Rainey, the gallery's founder and curator, had worked in the wee hours to finish painting this second space walls a rich, glorious red-- a provocative hue that added extra oomph for my paintings and drawings to live and breathe.
As we hung everything the morning of, I thought back to artist/oral historian/poet Kymberlee Norfleet's confessional installation-- the first B(A)LM exhibit. She allowed herself to be vulnerable, confront lifelong pain head on through the many objects placed in the space with great care and deliberation. Every picture, book, and candle had a reason to exist. Although physically gone and moved onto Vox Populi in another form, the fervent memories of Kymberlee's collection are still thriving, the seeds having implanted strong, valiant foundation that tells the next artist, "this moment is yours. Employ your time well."
And "Let Them Eat Sweet" now occupies that message and aims to carry it through to the artist afterward.

A whole view. The lights are white and purple.
The space operates on sensational emotions, the experience of joy and togetherness, the communal act that happens before we dine. The illustrations depict fictional encounters between lost sisters that don't necessarily close gaping wounds, but provide much needed healing under the cover of bright colors and euphoric faces. Others offer self portraitures to exist with iconic ghosts of the past whose legacies are often regarded and mimicked. After all, the sincerest form of flattery is to copy, right?

Pencil drawings grouped together.
In returning to painting, near the end of summer, I returned to a once seemingly dead purpose coming back to life. Prior, I wanted to commit, to take time and effort, but pushed creativity aside to steep in emotional drainage. Additionally, I wrote new stories about hopes, dreams, and encounters, influenced by daily life activities, by reading so much in the dark. Thus, my creativity ignited and bloomed purposely. I was more than happy to defeat depression and come back down to earth, to explore the depths of imagination and have a place to put them together. Now the desire to paint is charged up like a battery, ready and ever so willing.

Corners that evoke stories about Grenada, romance, and fair trade chocolate. 
I incorporated literature, prose, poetry, and art books that inspired me throughout the sweet labor that is painting and drawing-- Zora Neale Hurston, Wallace Thurman, Jean Michel Basquiat, Sojournor Truth, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others. The artist as an avid reader is just as important as the role the artist has in the studio. Words shape the mind, sharpen tools, and enhance abilities. Yet reading is imperative for the artist who loves to write as well.

"Her Eyes Weren't Watching Cupcakes," acrylic on canvas, 24" x 48," 2018.

Books and business cards.
The opening itself presented the gracious opportunity to bake, to place my plant based talents on the table in juxtaposition to the works on three walls. As in the Friendsgiving and the first artist reception, sweetness was my specialty. Fair trade chocolate played a crucial role in several paintings. So I baked fudgy brownies with Divine Chocolate and Theo Chocolate-- both source their cacao from different slave free parts of the globe.

I baked brownies, cookies, and crock pot chai tea for the opening. Also on hand, crackers, grapes, Miyoko's Kitchen Sun Dried Tomato Cheese, Chuao Chocolatier Sea Salt Dark Chocolate, tortilla chips, salsa, and box red wine.

The homemade snickerdoodles came out comically large and needed to be cut in half.

After the wonderful curated playlist (which included Martina Topley-Bird and Massive Attack), we put on the Janelle Monae record to end the evening.

Thank you to my friend Ian for capturing me with Zora in front of Zora.
It is a tough road ahead post graduate life. Most people will face tons of rejection-- from exhibition opportunities, residencies, grants, etc. Nobody seems to want to talk about that path, the ugly reality of an artist's chances to survive in a gritty industry, especially those traveling alone. Yet at B(A)LM (a safe community haven for the ones who have work to urgently show and reveal), to be visible and chosen for once in my five years living isolated in Philadelphia sets a personal achievement. I can finally see that the journey ahead doesn't always have to be so lonesome.

The B(A)LM (Black Artists Liberation Movement) Studio is located in the Kensington area of Philadelphia on 2056 East Huntingdon Street, Philadelphia, PA 19125, opened Mondays and Fridays, 12pm-4pm.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Roasted Carrots With Black Lentils

Sometimes inspirations can make the most pleasant meals.
A few weeks ago, I caught a YouTube video featuring Rich Landau (of Philadelphia restaurants Vedge, V-Street, and Wiz Kid). He made this beautiful dish composed of roasted whole carrots, black lentils, and harissa.
I created a simple dish inspired by that despite not having the proper ingredients for harissa-- an acquired taste. I would have used avocado as a pretty green component, but saving my last little gourd for a special surprise. For a side, I pan seared tempeh and topped it off with an easy gravy of flour, water, and liquid aminos.
The roasted carrots are crisp and perfectly seasoned with the most tasty charred bottoms while beautiful black lentils are absolutely delicious.

Roasted Carrots With Black Lentils Ingredients and Preparation

10-12 whole carrots, rinsed well
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of fenugreek
olive oil
1 cup black lentils
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon Better Than Boullion Original Base
1/2 teaspoon garlic
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In the video, Rich says as high as the temperature goes, roasting his carrots at 525. For home safety precautions, 400 is a safe bet.
On a baking sheet, douse carrots in the spices. Coat the rubbed carrots in a generous amount of olive oil. After all, the oven is a hot, dry place and thirsty carrots need to be quenched.
Place in the oven and roast for 35 minutes or until carrots are fork tender.
Prepare lentils to package directions. After draining water, mix in Better Than Boullion, garlic, and black pepper.

The assembled meal. Sooooo good.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Fig, Balsamic, & Walnut Cream Flatbread

Dried figs rest atop a rich walnut cream with a generous drizzle of balsamic vinegar, extra walnuts, and basil. 
I had been thinking about fig, walnut, and balsamic combination for quite a while. It started as potential hor'doevres idea for our two events-- the Friendsgiving and the second art opening. I didn't follow through and regret it.
This first test succeeded thanks in part to Vegan Richa's flatbread recipe. The quick and simple dough is fried as opposed to baked (healthier alternative, yes, I know) and no yeast activation is involved. Thus, one could whip this up an hour before guests arrive to the party.
The arresting combination of chewy figs (which aren't too sweet), savory walnut cream, crunchy walnuts, and balsamic vinegar has plenty of depth in flavor and texture. No additional heat is necessary-- the hot flatbread just pleasantly warms up room temperature ingredients to higher degree.
I cannot wait to make this delicious flatbread for the next social gathering.

Fig, Balsamic, & Walnut Cream Flatbread Ingredients and Preparation

Walnut Cream

1 1/2 cup walnuts, soaked
1/4 cup water (add a bit more if wanting a thinner consistency)
2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt

After soaking walnuts, place in a blender with nutritional yeast, garlic powder, turmeric, and salt.
Set aside.

1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon Italian seasonings

2 teaspoon olive oil
3 tablespoon aquafaba (chickpea liquid)
2 1/2 tablespoon coconut milk (or any non-dairy milk)
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup dried figs, finely chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
extra walnuts
dried or fresh basil

Mix dried ingredients together.
Separately, stir olive oil, aquafaba, non-dairy milk, and lemon juice.
Flatten until very thin.
Place olive oil in a skillet with heat set to medium high. Wait until it's completely hot before adding flatbread.
Pan seared on each side for 2-3 minutes. Both sides should be browned and bubbled.
Spread walnut cream on top. Add dried figs slices, balsamic vinegar, and extra walnuts.
A very amazing bite of sweet and savory.

An enticing shot.

Chocolate Chunk Brownies

Iresistible chocolate goodness in every bite.
These incredibly adult brownies were a surprising hit at the opening two weeks. Slightly altered from Nora Cooks recipe, my rich, fudgy dessert for sophisticated chocoholics omits vanilla (for a pure chocolate brownie flavor) and butter (coconut oil or use Miyoko's Kitchen butter instead) and uses Food Empowerment Project approved chocolate/cocoa powder. Divine Cocoa is a favorite alongside Theo Chocolate brand. I also included chopped walnuts for extra texture-- amazing interlude with the decadent chocolate chunks.

Chocolate Chunk Brownies Ingredients and Preparation

4 tablespoon flaxmeal
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoon water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup flour
1 cup cocoa powder
2/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon salt
1 half Theo Chocolate Baking Bar, chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Whisk flaxmeal and water together. Set aside for five minutes.
Mix sugars, coconut oil, and vanilla.
Separately, sift flour, cocoa powder, and salt.
Combine wet and dry ingredients. Add flax egg, chopped chocolate, and walnuts.
Pour into a parchment paper lined baking pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
Cool before cutting.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Baked Cashew "Cheese" Wedge

The first baked cheese is certainly not the last.
Merry Christmas to those who celebrate. I hope you all are having a wonderful time with loved ones-- human and/or animal. Plus, watching the significant classics like Rudolph, Charlie Brown, Garfield, Home Alone I and II and Die Hard or listening to the must have tunes.

I learned the hard way about scheduling ahead, especially foods for social occasions. I aimed to serve this cashew wedge at the Friendsgiving last month, but didn't factor in its three day process (thank heaven for Miyoko's Kitchen). The recipe combines influences of The Tasty K's Baked Macadamia "Feta" and the Well Vegan's Baked Cashew Cheese.

Baked Cashew "Cheese" Wedge Ingredients and Preparation

2 cup cashews, soaked
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoon dried herbs (oregano and rosemary)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black salt

After soaking cashews overnight, drain and place in blender. Combine with all the ingredients until mixture reaches smooth consistency.
Lay several cheesecloth over a small bowl and pour in the cashew cheese mixture.
Gather up the four corners of the cheesecloth and tie together with twine or rubber band. Squeeze access liquid.
Place into the fridge and leave overnight. I left mine for three days.

After preheating oven to 350, carefully remove cheese from the cheesecloth and place in parchment paper lined baking pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes 
Spread the warm goodness on favorite crackers, breads, bagels, etc.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Peace Black Rice Bowl With Chickpeas, Mushrooms, and Avocado

Forbidden black rice topped with feel good ingredients.
I start off with recipes made over the past few weeks. Today isn't a challenging step by step process. It is one of a simple pleasure-- black rice as the foundation topped with pan seared chickpeas and mushrooms and a just right avocado. The topping is crushed red pepper, black pepper, and salt. The meal is hearty, wholesome, and fulfilling-- a perfect everyday meal.
After eating, it inspired me to think about grocery shopping. I want to go into the new year with a fresh perspective, a new approach. Plant based purity has been weighing heavily, especially considering that the prices for vegan substitutes are quite high and often out of my price range. My budget is smaller now. I take that as a sign to shift my diet, to advance my original vegan resolution to one of a deeper sentiment.
The journey started with the library. I checked out books that were phenomenal and soul searching. Books about food history. Black authored plant based nutritional cookbooks. I also took out advice on how to become a stronger writer, but that is for a whole other post.....
Still, I love black rice. It's a gorgeous food that lights up when surrounded by bright colors and varying textures. Plus, there is nothing more superb than opening up that avocado at the perfect time.

Peace Black Rice Bowl Ingredients and Preparation

1 cup Forbidden Black Rice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 cup chickpeas (drained from the can)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
dash of crushed red pepper (optional)

Prepare rice to package directions.
In a hot skillet, combine garlic and olive oil. Stir for five minutes.
Add mushrooms, chickpeas, turmeric, cumin, salt, paprika, and black pepper. 
Cook until mushrooms are browned and shrunken.

The bowl is this-- black rice on the bottom and chickpea mushroom stir fry and scooped avocado to the side. 

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Turkeyless Roast And Veggie Casserole

It's Shepard's pie, but not.
Tofurky sandwiches and salads are popular around this time- simple, convenient ways to utilize leftover central.

Leftover mac and walnut cheese overloaded with yummy broccoli.
I had much to work with. A little less than half a turkeyless roast coated in gravy, a slew of undercooked potatoes and carrots, and unused Trader Joe's Vegan Mozzarella screamed, "bake together!" After boiling the hardened potatoes and carrots, I slightly mashed and mixed with the "roast."
Whilst warming spirits inside with blended memories of the Friendsgiving meal, this delicious casserole is a hearty dish perfect for the cold.

Turkeyless Roast And Veggie Casserole Ingredients and Preparation

2 1/2 cup cooked potatoes
1 cup mushrooms
1/2 cup carrots, cooked until soft and tender
1 cup chopped turkeyless roast (or any holiday "meat" substitute)
1 cup vegan mozzarella
2 tablespoon nutritional yeast

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix together potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, and turkeyless roast, mashing it together.

Smooth mixture into a baking dish. 

Top with vegan mozzarella and nutritional yeast. Bake for 30 minutes. 

Rosemary leaf decoration. 

The first scoop-- imperfect yet very delicious. 

More leftovers? Of course! 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Coconut Reddi Whip tops an easy, scrumptious pumpkin pie packed with warm, flavorful notes on a thick flaky crust. 
I'm still learning new vegan things daily.
In fact, I have a whole list of future recipes to tackle. Chocolate croissants are an ultimate fantasy. Mushroom Wellington would be superb. Raviolis from scratch is a close reality. My current refrigerator situation is cashew cheese wrapped in a cheesecloth for a baked "cheese" wedge. I pray that it comes out just as good as an artisan Miyoko's Kitchen spread.
My memories, however, are humbled and delighted by my first attempt at making pie-- a yummy pumpkin pie for our introductive Friendsgiving. It is a combination of The Spruce Eats' crust recipe and Loving It Vegan's eight ingredient pumpkin pie. Although not aesthetically beautiful in this inception (partly due to Trader Joe's coconut milk having a separation issue), the impact of light pumpkin melding on a crust with Reddi Whip on top mirrored a childhood past-- my preference for pumpkin over sweet potato coming on strong and sincere. Most importantly, sharing this dessert among new friends made this year, at this imperative stage of my life, was a fated takeaway. I needed not only to bake pumpkin pie, I needed to share this effort with these specific people, blessing our home with respect, tenderness, and joy.
My heart and soul goes into cooking and baking. A guest taking in a slice of pie receives that love and warmth inside.

Vegan Pumpkin Pie Ingredients and Preparation

2 cup flour
2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoon cold vegan butter (used Miyoko's Kitchen)
3 tablespoon cold water
2 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of cinnamon

1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
3/4 cup full fat coconut milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar (or maple syrup)
1/4 cup arrowroot or cornstarch
2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

If making crust, combine flour, sugar, salt, and cold butter cubes until mixture is crumbly.
Mix cold water and olive oil and add to the flour.
Knead and cover. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Roll out dough and carefully transfer into a pie pan, pressing it in along the way.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine pumpkin, coconut milk, brown sugar, sugar, arrowroot/cornstarch, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, and salt together.
Pour into prepped or store bought crust.

Homemade uncooked crust.

Bake for 50-60 minutes-- filling should be slightly firm. The center will wobble. Chill in the refrigerator for four hours.

Pumpkin pie and fresh lemonade-- homemade is the best made.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Highlights From The First Friendsgiving

Roasted vegetables.
I hope that everyone had a pleasant holiday-- whether with family, friends, lovers, and pets.
We hosted a lovely Friendsgiving potluck gathering at our house yesterday. Around the table, guests indulged in a meal cooked all afternoon: Trader Joe's turkeyless roast, walnut macaroni and cheese, baked rice, Brussels sprouts, spicy tofu, and purple yams. Miyoko's Kitchen Partywheel Chive Cheese paired with grapes and crackers fooled many, creamy soft cashew based cheese delightfully bursting with sprinkled chives. Chuao Chocolatier added a sweet, decadent luxury to the tray alongside positive messages on every little delicious square.
For dessert, we shared pumpkin pie and ice cream over homemade mint lemonade, Califia Farms Holiday Nog, and alcoholic beverages.

Turkeyless roast turned out good. Unfortunately, the potatoes and carrots were hard (a tragic disaster).
I enjoyed Trader Joe's tender, succulent roast.

Pouring the walnut cheese on the Mac. 

The meal plate.

The cheese, grapes, crackers, and chocolate platter: a huge hit. Some guests admitted to not liking chocolate, but Chuao Chocolatier has won them over. 

Crackers spread with love.

Homemade pumpkin pie topped with Coconut Milk Reddi Whip (much better than the almond in my opinion). Originally, I sought So Delicious Coco Whip-- everyone was out. Reddi Whip was a nice consolation.
Real gold playing cards that my housemate bought in Abu Dhabi. 

A guest brought special tea. You pour hot boiling water over them, steep, and drink. It tastes warm and refreshing. 
Every Indigenous Day/Friendsgiving celebration ends in a passionate game of spades. 

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Hot Mulled Cider

Simple flavors bring out the best in seasonal apple cider served hot. 
Who knew that a Crock-Pot could save the hot cider for the opening? I thought a boiling pot might be ideal, but the Crock-Pot keeps mulled cider warm and perfect during a four hour event. Plus, the presentation is much better-- slotted spoon and all.
This is the All That We Had on Hand Version of hot mulled cider. My grocery shopping failed to provide kitchen twine, satchets/cheesecloth, and star anise. With the satchets, cheesecloth, and string, I planned whole black peppercorns, cloves, and nutmeg.
Alas, we were provided adequate enough ingredients for a successful hot beverage. A huge thank you to Trader Joe's for having pure apple cider-- this last minute woman is gracious and humbled.  I definitely aim to make more delicious cider regardless if we find star anise and company or not.

Hot Mulled Cider Ingredients and Preparation

1 1/2 gallon apple cider
8 cinnamon sticks
1/2 small ginger root
4 Mandarin oranges, thinly sliced

In a Crock-Pot set on low temperature, pour apple cider. Add cinnamon sticks, ginger root, and orange slices. Let simmer for hours (four at the most). It should smell so good, your kitchen feels blessed.

The Best Damn Vegan Banana Walnut Bread

Homemade vegan sweet breads in pumpkin and banana walnut.
It was a great honor to bestow catering duties during last night's second opening at The B(A)LM (Black Artists Liberation Movement) Studio. For someone who has attended countless art receptions for years and years, an eclectic menu is as wonderful as viewing an artist's latest work. Originally, I planned to make cookies and a fig and walnut flatbread, but time and weather were not on the side of justice. Still, we had fruit, mulled cider in a Crock-Pot, crackers, Tortilla Chips, salsa, Cava's Caramelized Onion Hummus (the very best), and two fine baked vegan breads by yours truly.

I loved the glorious photographs of the Baking Fairy's beautiful banana bread and modeled Valentina's recipe with Equal Exchange bananas and copious amounts of cinnamon. Unfortunately, the high cinnamon usage was due to the accidental cumin. Thanks to the heavens and goddesses above and beyond, the cumin flavor disengaged itself from the banana bread-- a surprise hit for the night.
Banana Walnut Bread Ingredients and Preparation

4 medium ripe bananas
1/4 cup almond or soy milk
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar (or molasses/maple syrup)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup crushed walnuts
1 tablespoon vinegar

sliced banana for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mash bananas in a medium bowl. Add in almond or soy milk, preferred sweeteners, and vanilla extract. Separately, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
Blend wet and dry together-- include vinegar and walnuts.
Pour batter into a greased loaf pan.

Before baking, added banana slices, extra walnut pieces, and cinnamon. Bake for 45 minutes. Cover with foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes or so-- until the fork is clean.

A generous slice-- moist and light.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Decadent Chocolate Birthday Cake

Chocolate fantasies come true with this exceptional cake. 
On Sunday, a few minor things went wrong. Firstly, I was originally making a round cake, but the spring form pan wasn't secured and a bit of batter leaked on the counter (thankfully, most of the batter was saved). The pumpkin frosting, however, turned to a cottage cheese consistency and couldn't be rescued.
As I prepared Nora's recipe for the best vegan chocolate cake, mild skepticism rose a bit at such a watery batter-- a first for me. She had put a warning disclaimer in her post. Plus, the in-use oven was set at 270 degrees stood in the way of making a successful dessert.
The cake is rich and moist, perfect for chocolate fanatics. One bite transformed a bad day to heavenly delight.

Decadent Chocolate Birthday Cake Ingredients and Preparation

1 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
2/3 cup pumpkin puree (or unsweetened applesauce)
1 cup boiling water

1/2 cup chocolate (used Chauo Chocolatier Sea Salt Bar)
1/4 cup coconut oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine almond milk and vinegar together. Set aside.
Sift flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.
Mix in almond milk, vinegar, coconut oil, and pumpkin puree. Add boiling water.
Pour batter into greased baking pan.
Bake for 23-25 minutes. Let cool.
Whisk together chocolate and coconut oil.
Assemble the cake, pouring some icing on the first, putting the second layer on top, and pouring the remaining icing. Chill covered in the refrigerator.

Scenes of a chocolate affair. Is there no greater indulgent love?

The best treat is one topped with Reddi Whip Almond Whipped Cream and Chauo Chocolatier messages.

After the first taste.....