Little Choc Apothecary’s Vegan Crepes & More

A few Thursdays ago, I came straight off the train and walked down Havermeyer Street. Excitement and eagerness kissed the warm day as I imagined phenomenal vegan crepes everyone was raving about– including a non-vegan artist chick I recently met. When a non-vegan raves about a vegan restaurant, it’s definitely a good sign.
Speaking of crepes, the last time I had a crepe was six years ago in France.

I liked the setting of Little Choc Apothecary. The interior has an earthy aesthetic with its pleasant bare wood grain beauty, live juice bar in active motion, and fresh fruit and plants popping around in random nook and crannies. Plus sitting at the stools to see fall leaves and feel the warm air breezing on a smiling face is pure rapture.

Plus, I entered at the tail end of Serge Gainsborough and Jane Birkin’s highly sensual song, “J’Taime’ Moi Non Plus” (listen at your own risk!). That was a surefire sign that a tantalizing experience– with food– awaited. The impressive menu made decision making hard, but I settled on a pizza crepe stuffed with coconut bacon and mushrooms, a chocolaty scone, and almond milk hot chocolate.

Digging in the crepe. The cashew cream was exceptionally flavored well and the smooth texture contrasted nicely against the sweet tomato sauce, the crunchy flair of coconut bacon, and the meatiness of the mushrooms. As for the crepe– soft and pliant, fork tender, nice balance between pancake fluff and thin airiness. Plus the basil made the day! So delicious. I made sure to devour slowly as to enjoy each bite affectionately.

I loved the French music, the food, the earthy atmosphere, but……. I wish the staff was nicer and made the place more welcoming– to everyone, not just their regulars. I would love to come back and try out the other crepes. In fact, I mentioned this all vegan creepy to a friend today. Yet it is a question of wanting to return back to that unsettling hostility…… *sighs*

Fried Brussels Sprouts

I was all set out to make pumpkin pie bread for today’s gift idea, but it must wait. I didn’t realize my vanilla extract had disappeared into pantry abyss. Now Friday is our scheduled weekly column.
Oh well. Stuff happens.
Thanksgiving is tomorrow- my first year without family. I have to make due being alone and creating art. I am fortunate that the school has 24/7 access to private studio. At the same time, I feel bad for the security guards having to work the front desk. We’re missing out on the food being prepared since dawn, the extended family probing questions, the football (yuck! not a fan), the passing out on the couch, etc.
I do wish everyone a pleasant holiday and remember to love your bellies. Plates should not be beach ball portions….
I’m sharing a simple dish that could complete the no animals harmed buffet– fried Brussels sprouts. The addiction started with Whole Foods Market’s hot food bar. Every time I saw the fried Brussels sprouts I reached for those little green cabbages instantly.  That irresistible charred crunch gives so much flavor depth. The texture switches from a crisp exterior to a pliant, tender bite that is just very pleasing to eat.

Fried Brussels Sprouts

1 16 oz bag frozen Brussels Sprouts
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of nutritional yeast

To boiling water, add the entire bag of Brussels sprouts. Let cook until soft and tender. Drain.
In a skillet, combine Brussels sprouts with olive oil, garlic, salt, black pepper, and nutritional yeast. Keep stirring until there is a nice sear on each side.

Heidi Ho’s Chia Cheeze

I love catching a new vegan product on sale! That was the case when spotting Heidi Ho’s Creamy Chia Cheeze, a 10 oz container at Whole Foods for $4.99 (originally $6.99). The ingredients were especially pleasing: vegetables such as red potatoes, carrots, and onions blended with cashews, lemon juice, chia seeds, and other tasty recognizable things easy to pronounce.The flavor combination truly made my tongue go wildly mad. It has that surprising bell pepper spice kick and a piquant flair in the midst of thick, chunky creaminess. The starring feature in hot pasta and rice dishes, Creamy Chia Cheeze easily melted right in, blending beautifully for a quick, hearty dissolve. There were no flickers of chaos. Just like the best vegan butter, it turned every dish into a ray of golden sunshine.As far as the cheeze business is concerned, this Heidi Ho delight is definitely high on the recommendation list.

Best of the Year: Basquiat’s Retrospective at Art Gallery of Ontario, Spring Break

December already? 2015 is drawing to a close.
In between posts, I’m sharing pleasant memories entailing delicious eat out vegan restaurants, fantastic art exhibitions, and more.

First off, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Now’s the Time” retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario was an amazing spectacle, a treat for a Basquiat novice. I had always treasured Julian Schnabel’s film starring Jeffrey Wright as the locc’ed 1980’s beauty. Yes beauty. The man was a beautiful genius- a bonafide genius– touching the world with his massive abstract expression meets graffiti street style diaries. He had a finesse in style, wearing suits and sporting a shaved head or thick locs twisted in suspenseful direction.

During my spring break in March, I had the gracious opportunity to visit the AGO with a sweet dear friend. I learned more about Basquiat, further than what Google and Wikipedia could document. This introduction to viewing his work in the flesh unveiled meaningful marks, thickly applied shapes, and intimate trilingual language stories arranged purposely among the acrylic, oils, oil stick on found surfaces such as cardboard, scrap paper, and anti-art school canvas supports. From museums to private collections all around the globe, Basquiat’s pieces of raw gritty honesty filled minds and hearts with a tenacious presence that stayed consistent throughout the course of walking through the massive exhibit. He lingered in between worlds– the worlds of Picasso, Da Vinci, and other art history cannon men to the harsh abrasiveness one sees in the tough streets. Much like seeing the journals at Brooklyn Museum, AGO’s display of Basquait’s unique oeuvre stretched out tearful prose in painting and drawing form. The curators tied together civil rights events, featured Basquiat’s family and those who have studied Basquiat, and stock footage videos of the young aerosol lover. Intense compositions articulated the stigma of racial tension, the raspy eloquence found in rapturous jazz notes, animated violence in ill-humored cartoons and comic strips, and deeply personal narrative about his very existence as an American black man.

While there were paintings, drawings, and sculpture, Roland Hagenberg’s rare, very candid Basquiat photographs near Frank restaurant were displayed. The sophisticated black and white shots range from showcasing Basquiat’s serious commitment to art, his stark intelligence, his overwhelming confidence, and his vulnerability.

Thus, I saw “Now’s the Time” twice, lingering in a supreme validation that made my love for him blossom like fragrant flowers in a watered garden. Although solemn and silent, attached to walls, I heard his screams, his protests outlined in the strong, aggressive prowess of varied technical precision and powerful language.

And that incredible talent crowned my ardor with great sublime joy.

Chocolate Raspberry Sauce

How about making chocolate raspberry sauce, pouring thick luxury in a glass jar, and placing a bow tie around the lid? It’s plausible. Chocoholic friends will swoon. Raspberry lovers will be thrilled.
Holiday desserts are the best. Creative bakers seem to be at their most artisan peak, standing over hot ovens (and freezers if raw makers), excited for homemade pies, cakes, and tarts. Sweetened chocolate meets tangy ripened raspberries in a tantalizing sauce meant to trickle over the most decadent creations.
Chocolate raspberry Sauce can be perfect hot fudge sauce substitute, a maple syrup replacement, cake icing and more. The possibilities are endless. And sweet.

Chocolate Raspberry Sauce Ingredients and Preparation

1/3 cup almond milk
1/4 cup vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon Bee Free Honee (agave nectar or maple syrup too)
1/3 cup raspberries (or raspberry jam)
3 tablespoon Trader Joe’s coconut cream
1 teaspoon raspberry extract

In a medium saucepan, combine almond milk, chocolate chips, and sweetener.
Once the chocolate is completely melted, add in raspberries (or jam), coconut cream, and raspberry extract.
Turn off heat and carefully fill a jar.
Keep refrigerated. Can be served warm or chilled.

Purple Streak Box Braids + Thrifty Fashion = Easiest Math

Purple is the best color on the planet. The end.
Box braids had an amazing run. Amazing. I enjoyed the compliments, the feedback. It was a refreshing, enjoyable experimental experience that fulfilled some inner bucket list. Yet I do want my afro to have purple streaks. Right now, I’m softening and conditioning with a surging commitment because to color hair, mine has to be at top notch strength.
I must give a commendable shout out to the Goodwill, Philly Aids Thrift here in sweet ole Philadelphia, and Cure Thrift in New York City. These great thrift shops made it so easy to match chic hair to a frugal wardrobe. I found wonderful modern pieces and some retro flair that still matches my fashionable spirit and of course– my retro specs! It’s incredible how having purple streaked braids made me value my glasses so much I didn’t put my contacts on during my whole purple hair experience.
Please do take the time to find indulging gratification in life’s supreme joys: family, friends, summer, thrift shops, hair dye, good books. It’s too short. Far too short.

Smoked Polenta and Black Beans

Welcome to August. Just a few weeks away from starting the final year of MFA studies. Wow. I would’ve never thought life’s horizons could stretch this far. It’s quite momentous. Each day feels like a great victory.
A great victory should always include good food.
I always keep a good supply of polenta logs (an ingredient that I’ll have to buy in bulk soon) and black beans. Of course that inner genius stroked a late night hunger craving, saying combine these two ingredients in the nonstick skillet. Gotta obey that authoritative command.
Black beans serve as the delicious sidekick to flavorful polenta rounds, golden and lightly crisp with a soft, melt-in-mouth center. Fork and knife slides and slices easily into rather romantic tenderness, all golden and sprinkled in herb, a smoked effervescence fully pleasing taste. There is a reason this recipe portion serves one.

Smoked Polenta and Black Beans Ingredients and Preparation

Trader Joe’s Polenta
1 1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoon liquid smoke
2 teaspoon liquid aminos
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Italian seasonings (optional)

Mix liquid smoke, liquid aminos, cumin, coriander, salt, and black pepper together. Set aside.
Warm up skillet and pour in olive oil.
Cut polenta into pretty logs that can fool people into believing they’re golden scalloped potatoes.
Brush each side with marinade mixture.
Toss polenta rounds into the skillet. Flip over after 5 minutes or so.
Add black beans and cook for an additional 4 minutes.

“The Emancipation of Ms. Lovely” Is Rebirthing The Black Female In Toronto

Remember. Black women’s lives matter. Remember even when the media deflects this imperative truth.
Bright bulbs highlight centered figure.
Around some beige framed eight body-length mirrors, to steady beating of deep drum thumps, provocative movement begins, slow and fluid borne from dark ground. Cloaked in brown fabric mystery, the lone, ubiquitous protagonist shifts and exerts kinetics, both scandalous and sensual, risque and titillating.
The Emancipation of Ms. Lovely starts on a note, a savory piquant flavored note of rhythmic dance. Emphasis on the figure’s lower backside takes immediate heed, the lights reflecting on gesticulating the voluptuous curves, the predominant curves that symbolize both beauty and vulgarity. Ritualistic exertion ends. The exposed one woman show opens up its jaw full of clandestine shadows further, letting audience sink uncomfortably on the bitter taste of a boisterous affair between Ms. Lovely and a married man. They are reaping horrible benefits of the empty situationship- which many fall prey to its twisted complications promising nothing more than cataclysmic writhing and emotionless ecstasy.
“What are you doing?” Ms. Lovely’s mournful conscious asks. “What are you doing?”

Past and present shift from historical to contemporary decades. Humor and sincerity merge, American nostalgia mixed with innocent curiosity and churlish giddiness. Ms. Lovely is the wild church girl slowly seduced by seeds of scandalous eroticism, eagerly slipping into becoming potential victim early. In between Ms. Lovely blossoming in stereotypical chains, in between darkened corners dissolving face, Sarah Baartman, the original Venus Hottentot is inserted. Long ago, Baartman was a source of European entertainment, a human display, a human hostage holding colonist eyes of ridicule and fascination. After her death, she is still prisoner, her private organs touring for two hundred years. In a defiant recording, Baartman speaks in both scowling contempt and ferocious dignity to the ethnic beats of African diaspora. The regal figure majestically performs gratifying choreography meant to celebrate and personalize beautiful form.
Ngozi Paul, writer, performer, and creator of Da Kink in My Hair, delivers a mesmerizing soliloquy, riveting monologues, blending together light comedy and thought-provoking drama, rendering forth a poignant narrative that is tough and chewy like stout jerky. She gets to the heart of the matter, candid and honest, brave and tender. Questions are aroused, debating about the oppression of black women’s bodies, facial constructions, identities, journeys to womanhood sometimes brutally thrust in the aggressive flare of masculine violence. The colonial gaze has negatively impacted what reflections sistahs see in the bevel glass. Self love is key. Black women need to engage in more self love, more self indulgence. Baartman knows her worth and value, knows that though they take and take, stealing what is not naturally own– a definitive metaphor of exploitative cultural appropriation, she is queen of her internal throne, something no one else can own. Each time Paul graces stage to the honeyed timbre of Baartman’s vocalized spirit, Paul’s graceful steps and gestures are confident and celebratory.
d’bi young anikafrika (director and dramaturgist), Roger C. Jeffrey (choreographer and assistant director), Birgit Schreyer Duarte (dramaturgist), L’Oqenz and Waleed Abdulhamid (music collaboration), Jeannette Linton (costume designer), and of course Paul deserve all the kudos in the world for pulling off this commendable vision!

Just eighty minutes long at Factory Theatre Studios, The Emancipation of Ms. Lovely runs tonight at 7:15 PM, Saturday at 12:15 PM, and Sunday at 5:15 PM.

Black Rice & Veggies With Raw Walnut Cream

Another year of school starts next week– the last new school year. Well, the last unless I consider a doctorate in painting and drawing. I’m sure that has been done millions of times…
I cannot stop thinking about a dream food truck. The AfroVeganChick food truck would travel throughout the 50 states (Hawaii would be most challenging) and Canada, maybe even Mexico to bring about yummy plant based food goodness. I would like to have a menu mixing cooked and raw, savory cuisine and sweet desserts, water and fruit smoothies quenching offerings in between. How’s that for an out of art school adventure?  Yes. It’s still a dream. A nice dream.
In other vegantastic news, few weeks ago, one of my co-workers asked me, “what does one do with black rice?”
Black rice?! Now I love black rice! Black rice has a hearty, rustic flavor.
I had no choice but to gush over the wonders of my grain ardor and making a simple sauce to give dinner time a creamy, nutty fulfillment. Both Lotus Foods and Lundberg make a great black rice– I picked the latter brand for this recipe. With firm vegetables blended in, my favorite easy peasy walnut concoction gives any rice or pasta dish amazing flavor- no dairy free milk or heat needed!

Black Rice & Walnut Cream Ingredients and Preparation

1 cup Lundberg Pearl Black Rice (cooked according to package directions)
1 cup steamed veggies (used broccoli and carrots here)
1 1/2 cup walnuts, soaked in 1 cup water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (optional)
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Soak walnuts overnight.
Do not drain the water.
Puree walnuts and walnut water into blender or food processor with olive oil, nutritional yeast, salt, lemon juice, coriander, and black pepper.

Sauteed Zoodles With Black Bean & Corn Sauce For One

I finally purchased a Vegetti just to try out the zoodles (zucchini strands like spaghetti to fettuccine noodles) phenomenon. I got it at Burlington Coat Factory for $10. So yes, it’s not one of those highly advanced, super sophisticated veggie pasta makers, but it did a fine job for my first attempt. Quite an amazing little gadget- holding onto rinsed zucchini and twisting it in the contraption. I did, however, manage to cut my index finger on a blade (those babies are sharp despite being cheap!). I recommend extreme care with these handheld devices. Hopefully no one else is as clumsy as I am.
Alongside piping hot sauteed zoodles, I threw in “sauce” ingredients instead of simmering it in a separate saucepan. Black beans, diced tomatoes, soy ground, and corn are the components of making a zesty accompaniment with a little lime juice squeezed action going right in. This makes dinner time quick and easy. Nothing like the pleasant sound of crackling sizzle and the beautiful eye palette of magical enticement greeting me. Bright vivid red, green, yellow, and black make for a presentable dish packed with so much flavor that one doesn’t even miss the actual pasta. Zucchini has the texture perfect and laps up savory ingredients like a beneficiary soulmate! What’s not to adore?
I am eager to start up some raw recipes! Imagine how walnut cream and walnut meatballs will taste on irresistible zoodles or a rich, tangy sweet peanut sauce! My guess? Raw noodles will be superb!

Sauteed Zoodles With Black Bean & Corn Sauce For One Ingredients and Preparation

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cup zoodles
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 cup black beans, rinsed
1 cup corn (used steamed frozen corn)
1/4 cup Yves Soy Ground
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Italian Seasonings

In a medium heated skillet, toss in olive oil and zoodles. Stir for 3-5 minutes.
Add tomatoes, black beans, corn, and soy ground, and salt. Stir for an additional 2-3 minutes.
Turn off heat. Mix in lemon juice and black pepper, and Italian seasonings.