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.