Donuts and Other Good News

I have good news to discuss.
First of all, I am now a contributor of The Artblog– Philly’s top source for arts and culture around the city and beyond. Here is a link to my first article, a Q&A with local artist Makeba Rainey. At Little Baby’s Ice Cream, we discussed her digital media collages, the impact of gentrification, and the importance of collaboration/community.

I signed AfroVeganChick up for Vegan Mofo 2018, which begins next month. Recipes will be veganized versions of various dishes from all over Africa. The last day to be included is August 24th.

The “Hole History: Origins of the American-Style Donut” is out and looks amazing. It is a small, thick volume that fits easily in my purse. I had went down to Maine last year to see the exhibit (and brought along Dottie’s apple fritters). Now the whole show (which had two locations) has been compiled rather impressively. Curator Alexis Iammarino received a Kindling Grant in order for this book to be a reality. Her efforts are worth noting. Plus, I cannot thank her enough for this generous gift. Please read more about the Hole History project– her baby.

Royal Tavern, Govinda’s, & Dizengoff: Something New, Something Old, Something…. Pink

On Friday night, started the weekend off right with co-worker gal pals. They drank specialty beers. I gulped iced water. We discussed all the things loved and despised. Quite frankly, it felt nice letting out the steam. Plus, one of them recently had a milestone birthday (speaking of which the other co-worker’s birthday is today). Hilarious coincidence right? Still, in the dark, with a few lit candles containing real fire, we ate vegan together– they both ordered vegan cheesesteaks– one had without onions and the other without mushrooms. I was blown away by PhillyVeganMonster’s Instagram post of Royal Tavern’s special of the week– a massive chickpea burger between two grilled cheese sandwiches. Of course, apologizing to arteries in advance, I had to try it out for myself.

Served with hot skinny fries, a juicy pickle, and vegan mayo, the unique “cheeseburger” also contained tomatoes, lettuce, onion (a little too much onion), and seitan ba’con. Naturally, this colossal sandwich had to be eaten with fork and knife. It was just so massive. I believe the cheese is Violife’s original version (or mozzarella as PhillyVeganMonster suggested). It has that rich, mild flavor that Daiya just doesn’t have. The thick, well-seasoned chickpea burger, held together with little crumbling, was superb.

At a Saturday afternoon work function, a sweet co-worker saved me Dizengoff Hummus and pita bread inside of their trademark hot pink bag. It was an incredibly good meal– the right balance of lemon juice and garlic flavoring the creamy, tangy whipped hummus goodness. With the soft, chewy pita bread long devoured, I’ve included this delicious hummus in pasta and rice dishes, experimenting to heart’s desire.

Marinated Cauliflower Steaks

Trader Joe’s Kale, Cashew, and Basil Pesto tastes pretty great– just like former pesto of the past and less greasy/oily. For $3.69 and four servings, the deal is solid compared to other vegan brands. For a side dish component to cauliflower steaks, polenta is an ideal choice. I diced up a polenta log, tossed the pieces in boiling salted water, drained after cooking for ten minutes (or less), and stirred in pesto, nutritional yeast, and black pepper, loving how appearance and texture wise polenta mimics gnocchi.
As for cauliflower steaks, on this first attempt, I didn’t cut cauliflower the right way. They are supposed to lie flat like standard. Mine are triangular shaped, snow covered trees. The seasoning blend, however, browned up nicely thanks to a simple marinade starring balsamic vinegar.

Cauliflower Steaks Ingredients and Preparation

1 head cauliflower, rinsed and cut into four pieces
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoon Italian Seasonings
2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon Chickpea Crumbs

Whisk balsamic vinegar, olive oil, Italian Seasonings, nutritional yeast, salt, cumin, coriander, crushed red pepper, and black pepper together.
Dip each cauliflower cut into the marinade. Pour the leftover marinade on top of the four pieces.
Sprinkle on the Chickpea Crumbles.
Bake for 20 minutes on both sides.

Flourless Chocolate Coconut Cake

Imagine a bad day. A terrible day. The most vicious.
First of all, personally speaking, I rarely have smooth time of the month orbits. Some vegan women do. They have discussed that their cramps go away among other painful side effects of these three to seven day body things, even going as far as saying that they no longer have them or what else comes with Mother Nature’s arrival. Again, that is not me. I suffer. Not every month, however.
Last month, I hadn’t had one. Yesterday it came on top of the horrific bad day of snow fall and bus cancellations and likely no refunds for the planned journey to Baltimore for Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s solo show at the Baltimore Museum of Art (which closes this coming Sunday) and lunch at the pristine black owned vegan restaurant Land of the Kush.
I was miserable and teary eyed and in emotional, mental, and physical anguish throughout, angered and disillusioned, having waken up at 6AM, made it to the bus station, and being told that no buses were going out. It sucked.
Chocolate saved the sadness. I found a recipe for chocolate cake on Eggless Cooking and altered it a bit. I didn’t take pictures of the batter of beets and chickpeas. The pretty pink had an effect on me, this lively pink like that of some color on an oil paint palette, seemed to uplift my dwindled spirits.

Flourless Chocolate Coconut Cake Ingredients and Preparation

1 cup beets
2 cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup baking cocoa powder
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup chocolate chips

In a medium saucepan cook beets and chickpeas together for 5-7 minutes.
Drain a little bit of the water and blend the beets, chickpeas, and coconut oil inside food processor or blender until smooth and creamy.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, and coconut flakes.
Combine wet and dry ingredients.
Add vanilla and chocolate chips.
Pour batter into desired pan. (I used a 10 inch foil pan from the dollar store)
Bake for 40-50 minutes.

Latest Events and the Rising Moon Vegan Butternut Squash Stuffed Ravioli Review

It’s been a rather busy week.
I am back to working the museum on weekends. Yet I have managed to see Black Panthertwice (a regular, albeit complimentary ticket on Friday night and then in IMAX 3D on a late Sunday night), attended both a Black Panther themed afterparty (which raised funds for the Black Lives Matter Philadelphia Chapter) and an Audre Lorde birthday party, and added in the darks on my litho stone– all this whilst performing laundry duties and packing up for Toronto.

The Butternut Squash filling is light and creamy, not too heavy with a hint of sweetness (maple syrup is an ingredient and that always works well with squashes). I coated them in a mirrored “butter sauce” comprised of almond milk, nutritional yeast, turmeric, garlic, salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper. The side component is boiled and pan fried asparagus with chopped mushrooms and garlic as a side dish component.
This is a good ravioli if you’re too tired to make your own. I am looking forward to trying the other flavors.

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day: A Day of Service and an Evening At Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books

Today was another wonderful tribute to the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

For Day of Service, on what would have been the slain leader’s 89th birthday, I headed to Uhuru Furniture to hear about their visions and bask in the glowing “uhuru” spirit (Swahili for freedom, independence). They shared videos about the civil rights movement, featured spoken word poetry, a remarkable keynote by Ticharwa Masimba from ADEDF St. Louis on the Black Power Blueprint Project, allowed volunteers to discuss why they came out via an open mic segment, and took a group photo of us outside. We then broke down into various groups (some walking others driving), each participant carrying 200 door fliers to hang in various neighborhoods to let people know about Uhuru Furniture– an organization as well as furniture store.

At lunch, they announced handing out 4,000+ fliers (almost reaching their goal of 5,000), raised over $600, and handed out prizes like gift certificates, posters, and artworks via raffle drawing.

I finally stopped by Marc Lamont Hill owned Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books Shop in Germantown, blocks away from the Nile Café. It was a lovely dedication to the written word that contained some of the most conscious authors/activists/biographies of past and present from Coretta Scott King, Angela Davis, Malcolm X, and Ta-Nehisi Coates to fictional greats Zora Neale Hurston, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and so much more. There are t-shirts that ask people to “read more and talk less.” There is one that says “writer.” Poetry by Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, Ntozake Shange, and Tyhembia Jess. Theory by bell hooks. Economics, history, gender and queer studies, cookbooks, art, and relationship advice are other topics that fill the laid back space. Eyes will water on the displays about Emmitt Till and prison culture.
The décor is straight up vintage– sewing machines and irons that entail seamstresses and domestic employ, Mammy figures of disturbing principles, globes, trunks, and suitcases of migrant travels from South to North, typewriters that make one think of James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry.

Un Vegan Monde: The Vegan Corner Grocery Store of Dreams

I stopped inside Un Vegan Monde, an all vegan grocery store a short distance away from the Centre Pompidou. It was an amazing sight, a store where there were no bloody carcasses hanging in freezers or dairy free cheeses mingling with the cow and goat products. It was a place that I could see myself shopping every week, swinging along my reusable tote among the four aisles. I had only heard of vegan grocery stores being a huge thing in Berlin, Germany. To see this in Paris, in a cheese and egg loving society, it was a refreshing step back.

For starters, I had never seen so many different brands of vegan cheese in one place. There were up to eight sections of shreds, blocks, and slices. With no Daiya of Field Roast Chao in sight, the only North American import was the So Delicious Shreds and several kinds of Tofutti cream cheese.

As I laid on the hostel bed munching on these delightful treasures, things that I longed to have again, I imagined a store like this in Philadelphia, a small store in a corner someplace that sold only plant based options. Honestly, I am quite sick of Whole Foods Market’s disgusting displays, or the crammed fake meats situated among the dead realities at Trader Joe’s and other sad sights among my grocery store shopping. Un Vegan Monde was what I wanted to be present for the rest of my days. It’s every vegan dream come true.

Paris, France: The Wrap Up

It wasn’t the best flight experience prior to arriving in Iceland (my luggage was too big and I wound up tragically discarding it), but the bear and I managed quite well. On the train ride from Charles De Gaulle Airport to Paris with leisure books of Paul Celan and Jean-Michel Basquiat, I enjoyed a tofu and spinach knish and a LARABAR (things stuffed into my bag from Mom’s Organic Market). By then, my overstuffed tote bag was riddled with holes from the weight. I tried not to think about left clothes, towels, and tossed Inkkas sneakers.  I have bought some new shoes. It’s just not the same.

After checking in, I headed to the Musee d’Orsay, a museum that I missed the first two Paris visits. It was always closed and unattainable.The line wasn’t long and I immediately walked inside the impressively designed museum in little time. Auguste Bartholdi’s small version of the gift to the United States.

Always a pleasure to see Jean Auguste Dominique Ingre paintings. He has an illustrious collection here and at the Louvre where one can see his famous The Odalisque and The Turkish Bathers. This oil painting from 1854 above is a splendid, colorful study encased in a dramatic gold frame entitled, The Virgin Worshiping The Host.

On a Friday night, I spent four hours at the Louvre, happily browsing through paintings and sculpture. I was thrilled to see Marie-Guillemine Benoist’s Portrait of a Negress, which reflects a depressing time of great portrait artists rendering a specific woman of color and titling the model her race and gender as opposed to her real name. I wish they were a bit more original– call her the brown Ariadne, a mortal portrait version of the Egyptian Goddess Isis, or some other enchanted fable deity. I liked imagining that she had a purpose, a legacy to behold. I couldn’t just take a picture and walk past. I stood there idolizing every inch of her, inventing answers to riddled mysteries forming in my mind.

A tiny, blurred capture of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. It’s my second time seeing this small world famous portrait of mystery. And just like before, the vast crowd made it difficult to get a great picture, much less a proper view at the composition. In this case, the art history textbooks give better clarity.

1944 Gallery Vegan Shop Is A Charmer of Art And Wonder

I stopped by a chic, eclectic little boutique, 1944 Gallery Vegan Coffee Shop. Thanks to HappyCow, I found a special, unique gem that features a small drinks menu and plenty of gorgeous handmade vegan art.

From drawings, cards, jewelry, upcycled handbags, t-shirts, belts, and even rolling pins, there’s a wonderful gift for everyone you know. They have an etsy shop too.

Hank’s Vegan Burger For Great Figgy Fig Sauce & Soda Pop

Hank’s Vegan Burger was everything I had hoped for. After all, this popular vegan fast food restaurant was on top of my must eat list. Nothing beats a combo meal deal. There is a kind of sophistication when considering their pride of delivering a bonafide dining experience in addition to speedy, respectable service and an amazing meal curated by their chef. With a wonderful spacious upstairs to kick back drinks, eat burgers, and maul on desserts, it makes being a vegan all the more special. This place exists– a fast food haven with incredible food made from plants.

Crunchy on the outside with a moist, soft interior, the scrumptious tiny carrot cake was packed with sweet enticing flavors– vanilla, lemon, and bits of carrot. I was more than happy to have room for this perfect ending.