Hello Cincinnati, It’s Been A While

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.

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.

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.

Whole Wheat Nooch & Walnut Pancakes

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.

‘Soulful’ Casual Dining at The Nile Cafe

It was a nice, hot day to come out to Germantown section of Philadelphia today. In celebration of Support Black Business Weekend, I headed to The Nile Cafe Vegetarian Restaurant and Juice Bar thanks to high marks on Google and mostly positive reviews on menupages. Plus I believe it’s one of few black owned vegan eateries around town. I hope to find more.
Inside the restaurant, is plenty of wide opened space with small, clean wooden tables and rounded wood chairs. The location also hosts wellness workshops and special events. Unfortunately, I missed out on a talk about Non-GMO’s and soy. Other signs showed that their soy products were Non-GMO and that food preparations were made with purified water. I screamed inside, dying to take pictures.
However, I did not give in to that particular brand of spectator-ship. After all, I came to eat.
Behind-the counter ladies were cordial and patient as I drooled over the menu.
“Turkey cheese” sandwiches, “fish” platters, chik’n “drumstick” specials, and more….
So yes, it was hard.

Amazing brown rice cooked firm and pliant lapped up savory, well-seasoned collard greens and chewy lemon chik’n with great delight. Note of lemon wasn’t overpowering, the chik’n’s sauce was light and flavorful, but I wasn’t in love with the peppers. Still, the collard greens were a definite highlight. I will no longer remember my aunt’s meat laden tough stemmed version from childhood. The Nile Cafe has crafted a delicious veganized creation that has that Southern twang without salty, fattening, animalistic horror. Soft, texture similar to tasty cabbage, these greens are worth putting in a to-go box. I enjoyed them.

The ice cream machines were down. I had been looking forward to some ice cold dessert. (They have a pistachio flavor!) Yet the refrigerated cakes and breads did not look disappointing. I was beyond happy to see some never tried Rekhati Bakes (Best Sweet Potato Pie in Philadelphia) fruit cobblers. I took apple and blueberry cobblers on the go along with Core Perfect pH water. The blueberry is divine. The crust on top is exceptional, very edible as far as crust goes, and blueberries in between….. you get that they are blueberries. They’re not overly dressed in sugar or syrup. Blueberry goodness underneath a fabulous crust. Perfect end to a great meal. I’ll be back to The Nile Cafe for more collard greens and ice cream soon.Not on the same plate though…..

Peanut Butter & “Jelly” Pancakes

That awkward moment when you have to move and the gut feeling says, “please don’t take opened pantry ingredients. They’re not acceptable for cardboard boxing.”
Flour is a prime example.
In the past, a hot pasty mess covered spices, olive oil bottles, and the “kitchen” labeled coconut oil. Plus…. ants. They love loveeeeee flour!
On a rare Sunday off day, the best day of the week to make pancakes, I went to work in the kitchen. At first, they were going to be plain Jane style drizzled in good ole pure maple syrup bliss.
Then peanut butter and jelly decided to sweeten horizons. After all, there was a smidgen of peanut butter left and a half empty Bonne Maman jar left to consume. These, like the flour, couldn’t be stuffed in a last minute packing box. Or better yet left for the roommates. I’m a huge huge fan of peanut butter and Bonne Maman. Is it selfish to want to eat them myself? Perhaps…..
The pancakes came out better than I anticipated. My eyes almost watered at the amazing fact that spatula game is strengthening. Light, fluffy, crisp texture pancakes came out all due to flipping them over at appropriate intervals. Peanut butter alone seemed to elevate buttery flavor, with delicious nutty kick, seeming to say that coconut oil may have been completely unnecessary.  Cherry preserves, my favorite, turning the batter blue, gave a pleasant sweetness that evenly matched peanut butter.
I wish to have captured the juicy lure bursting through each fork piercing.* Such a sight always fulfills eating experiences. I cherish looking down on my plate and a gorgeous view “staring back” is one that entices to eat. Plus the smell of maple syrup arrests me completely.

*by the time I started writing this post, I ate four pancakes and its leftovers the following day.

Peanut Butter & “Jelly” Pancakes Ingredients and Preparation

olive oil
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup almond milk (or any other dairy free alternative)
2 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup Bonne Maman’s Cherry Preserves (or any other preferred flavor)
1/2 cup peanut butter

Heat skillet with oil. Set temperature on low.
Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together.
Stir in almond milk, melted coconut oil, and vanilla.
Lastly, swirl in the chosen jam and peanut butter.
Pour 1/2 cup of batter into skillet each time. When pancakes edges are noticeably browned and bubbles pop in the center, it’s ready for the spatula flip. Leave for 3 minutes. Remove.
Oil again.

New Vegan Products: Vegan Eggs, Almond Milk Ricotta Ravioli, & Meatballs

The moment my eyes connected with Follow Your Heart’s VeganEgg located in Whole Foods Markets’ dairy aisle next to the other ‘eggs,’ I almost performed a cartwheel. Then I remembered that I have no such athletic skill. I have no inner Dominique Dawes.

Excellent on a sesame seed bagel. I also added VeganEgg to breakfast polenta, a savory center for waffles, and vegetable stir fry. The creators definitely did their homework when it came down to the science of how eggs operate. Still, the major woe of this review tale is that for 12 servings this product is $7.65. Take that what you will. It might be easier to go traditional vegan tofu scramble route with some added turmeric and nutritional yeast if budget is your concern as it is mine. I will buy VeganEgg sparsely in the future. It’s a yummy, authentic product– one amazing step for vegan humankind, but at the same time, pricing could be a little more reasonable.

These were divine. The center of creamy ricotta and firm pasta tasted like an Italian grandmother’s delicious secret recipe. There’s something wickedly addictive about Kite Hill’s Almond Milk Ricotta for starters. To place their superb ingredient as the sibling component to fresh tasting spinach is an applaud worthy celebration in every bite. I still love my Soyboy frozen ravioli, but cannot the sheer joy of Kite Hill’s simple refrigeration and heat method. Makes things conveniently easier.

gardein’s Meatless Meatballs are easily one of the best vegan versions around and reasonably priced (yes!). I prepared them in tomato basil spaghetti sauce over angel hair. Plump, tasty meatballs are like heavenly, unharmed, plant based treasures from above. Although, they were somewhat burnt on one side, that charred texture provided a wonderful, unexpected crunch. I’m not suggesting that everyone go out and scorch one of side of your gardein– just honestly saying that I did cherish that flavor profile.

Oh Sweet Charlie’s: Rolled Up Ice Cream Kings

Autumn, my favorite season, is here.
Though summer is over. Chill has come. Rainy days have arrived.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t miss ways of beating the heat.
A few weeks ago, I shared Sweet Charlie’s Ice Cream Roll Live in action via the AfroVeganChick channel (subscribe to a digital world of vegan food, art, fashion, hair, and more). This creative concept is interesting– rolling up ice cream and putting toppings on these rounded tubes.
Almost everyone filmed the sideshow spectacle of their creations being made. As the male workers, chopped, scraped, and rolled ice cream to cheesy pop tunes, I waited for mine to be clean. Since there’s no separate turntable (it is a small place), for a vegan, it is recommended that they wash away traces of dairy base.
They use scrumptious Nada Moo— a popular Texas family-owned vegan ice cream brand.
I picked vanilla flavor with blueberries mixed in and strawberries and crushed almonds on top.
And it tasted as special as it looked– a pale lavender shade, strawberry slices like bright red flower petals.

A Birthday Pictopost

On a horrific week that started with cleaning out discarded property and a lost uninsured phone, nothing was more pleasing than Google opening the day with special inedible yet fancy colored treats and a personalized “happy birthday.”

In North Philadelphia, I checked out Duafe Hollistic Hair Salon with Shea Moisture’s dandruff line. I loved the minty smell of both shampoo and conditioner, feeling my scalp cool and desensitize under hairdresser’s ministrations and gentle cruelty free healing. Fresh hairstyle by Miss Geneva, this new hairstylist (one of the friendliest chicks ever) who created this sophisticated open ended crown, is quite wonderful.

Evening ended with a sweet phone call to my mother, an early time off work, white chocolate raspberry cheesecake, the latest episodes of “Queen Sugar” and “How to Get Away With Murder,” and Ava DuVernay’s new release 13th, which surprisingly enough contains powerful moments from various people speaking at Black Portraiture [s] this year. I highly recommend that you all watch this gritty insight on prison systems and the truth behind wording of the 13th amendment. Nothing is ever as it seems.

Peanut Butter Tofu

Let’s pretend that this warm October day isn’t named after an evil murderous villain who terrorized and wiped out a nation of indigenous people which then in turn upstarted roots of problems still existing now. No. Let’s not go there at all.
Instead, I’ll embrace the glory of peanut butter:

  • Peanuts are actually not nuts but legumes grown underground.
  • The U.S. is the third largest producer of peanuts (Georgia and Texas are the two major peanut-producing states). China and India are the first and second largest producers, respectively.
  • More than half of the American peanut crop goes into making peanut butter.
  • U.S. president Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer.
  • It takes about 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter.
  • Americans eat around 700 million pounds of peanut butter per year (about 3 pounds per person).
  • An average American child eats 1,500 PB&J sandwiches before graduating from high school.

Also, peanut butter wasn’t invented by George Washington Carver. However, he did discover 300 other uses for peanuts. I’d like to imagine that he made some tantalizing nutty variation that history won’t allow us to know about. 300 is a lot of inventions– for peanuts alone.

Now nothing makes us aware if George consumed a lot of peanuts during his earthly time.
I would hope that this celebratory peanut butter dish brought joyous light to his table and belly– as it did mine. Peanut butter tofu is an incredible meeting of sweet and sticky with salty and savory under currents. Chewy interior has a tender meaty texture while the star powered exterior has a delectable crunch holding all flavor components together.

Peanut Butter Tofu Ingredients and Preparation

olive oil
1/2 tofu block, drained and diced
1 cup creamy peanut butter (used Whole Foods one ingredient peanut butter)
2 tablespoon Bee Free Honee
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
pinch of ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Pour olive oil onto a skillet set to medium high temperature.
Mix peanut butter, honee, garlic, cumin, turmeric, ginger, salt, and pepper.
Add tofu, evenly coating as much as possible.
Drop into hot skillet.

New Harmony Vegetarian Restaurant

Originally, my friends (this beautiful couple I know) and I were going to see a special screening of Hayao Miyazaki’s memorable classic “Spirited Away” film at the Ritz. It was sold out. Thus, we made plans to New Harmony Vegetarian Restaurant– a star vegan spot in Chinatown, on a Sunday instead. We ordered the special four course meal which consisted of house soup, veggie pancakes, three entrees, and dessert.

This 3-4 portioned House Steamed Bun Soup was absolutely divine. Plump cooked to perfection steamed buns filled with veggies surrounded in flowing carrots, peppers, and leaves, sitting in a clear vegetable stock.

“Beef” tips in broccoli and mock fried fish both served with broccoli. I usually am not a fan of faux meats, but New Harmony is doing something right. They’re solely using tofu and seitan in uniquely innovative ways. They’re seasoned well, the textures aren’t chewy and awkward, flavors are spot on. Nothing is too salty or in need of salt. Though they gave us white rice instead of brown, the food was amazing.

I believe this is the mock duck– triangular shaped tofu cutlets in a dark brown gravy decorated with broccoli and large white onion slices. Absolutely superb. My personal favorite of the three entree selections, these crisp, tender “meaty” additions were exceptional. I often dreamed of getting my tofu to taste similar.

I was surprised by this fantastic fried raspberry cheesecake. My friend pulled a candle out of his pocket, stuck it in the candle, and lit the wick. He coaxed our friend/co-worker Laura, who was sitting at a table nearby, to engage in a quiet “happy birthday” serenade as not to disturb the other guests. To our disbelief, everyone in the section chimed in. The terrific moment almost made my eyes water. I hadn’t expected such a wonderful showing of solidarity. It definitely felt like a scene out of a feel good film.

Neapolitan dessert trio: one had strawberry, one had chocolate, and one had vanilla. The delicate crunch, edible fortune cookies  tasty (like a real actual thin cookie) with my fortune reading, “enjoy three desserts a week..” Sweet ending to an otherwise superb meal. There’s already plans in the works to try out the Sunday all-you-can-eat vegan buffet that just might end lives.