Zucchini Noodles With Mushrooms and gardein’s Classic “Meatballs”

I cannot get over zucchini noodles. They are simply delicious and versatile. I must have shared so many experiments that adding a “zucchini” label might be a future option. Maybe exploring zucchini noodle desserts will be my newest venture– in a bread or pancake? Perhaps not.
Still, I love zucchini and spiraling is my favorite way of eating it.
In this latest dish, I pan seared zucchini with mushrooms (my other sacred vegetable affair) with garlic and onions whilst preparing gardein’s Classic Meatless Meatballs separately in a chunky tomato sauce. Once dinner looked spectacularly put together, I added a dollop of extra cashew-tofu ricotta (leftover from these amazing Eggplant Roll Ups) and a smidgeon of Italian Seasoning.

Zucchini Noodles With Mushrooms and gardein’s Classic “Meatballs” Ingredients and Preparation

2 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 chopped red onion
1/2 cup mushrooms (used sliced Portobello)
1/2 large zucchini, spiraled to desired consistency (I spiraled mine into thin ribbons, cutting between lengths)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

5 gardein Classic Meatless Meatballs
1 cup tomato sauce (homemade or favorite jarred)

First off, over stove top, cover gardein Classic Meatless Meatballs in tomato sauce according to package directions. They take fifteen minutes.

In My Neighborhood: Women Owned Places to Be In Philadelphia

With the horrible news about the black real estate brokers arrested for waiting at a local Starbucks without purchasing still being unloaded in news and management not properly being held accountable for a disgusting display of racism, it’s important now more than ever to protect ourselves, to commune in spaces operating for us. We need to support communal havens by us for us, that provide safe environments to create, have conversations, and eat/drink.
On the few warm days, I explored the Kensington neighborhood, in this area that I recently moved into, enjoying pleasant shops in the area, most especially three owned by women of color: Art Dept Philly, Franny Lou’s Porch, and Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse. They each offer unique forms of entertainment and carefree liberation, forms of activism while also serving specific needs. Art Dept Philly is a secondhand boutique that also sells art supplies, handmade cards, and accessories and at the same time hosts Writer Wednesdays, an afterschool arts program led by artist Carmel Brown (owner of Colored Vintage, the shop), and craft workshops on knitting, sewing, and more.

I just fell in love with Franny Lou’s Porch. Named after two important Libra figures: abolitionist/suffragist poet, Francis E. W. Harper (who published the first African American short story) and activist/community organizer Fannie Lou Hamer (cofounder of the National Women’s Political Caucus), I visited on this rainy Sunday morning before work, desiring a cup of something sweet and wonderful. The interior is vibrant and inviting, homages to Africa, African American, and other people of color in a victorious celebratory spirit. The aesthetic is all natural, rustic, and friendly, classic R&B music swirling in the background, feeling like a charming second home.

At the awesome Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse (the first and only black woman owned comic book/coffeeshop in the U.S.), is the land of comic book nerd joy. Books, t-shirts, pins, and more are swarmed in the enticing bright lights alongside my favorites Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Black Panther, Jem and the Holograms, The Walking Dead, and others. Like Art Dept Philly, Amalgam participates in First Fridays and hosts all sort of incredible events for geeks like game and movie nights, book launches, after hour entertainment, quizznos, and more. Just a few weeks ago, the great Erika Alexander (from Living Single to co-writing a one-shot Giles Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic) hosted a book signing (of course I didn’t know about it until Instagram but alas can’t make it all).

En Route To Grenada And Other Fair Trade Chocolate News

Remember back in October when I introduced work in progress of my fair trade chocolate bar paintings interacting with the short-lived Still Star Crossed characters here?
The passion is deepening. I have started researching projects for my Fulbright application (scary long process). Women in Africa own chocolate companies. They’re proving that marginalized bodies are not picking cacao pods out of dangerous territories and exporting to Europe and North America. These women are processing their country’s primary resources and selling their efforts in their homelands, giving to their people in the most nurturing ways. Selassie Atadika sells Midunu Chocolates in Ghana (will email her about vegan options) as well as sisters Kimberly and Priscilla Addison of 57 Chocolates (named after the year of Ghana’s independence and they have four vegan flavors). Plus Jaki Kweba of Tanzania co-founded the first and only indigenous company of fine chocolate, Chocolate Mama’s Gourmet.
Thus, I am looking at Ghana and Tanzania for host countries and researching possible projects.

When a co-worker told me about the Grenada Chocolate Festival, I was pleased to hear such an event existed. An actual days long festival dedicated to chocolate? It sounded incredible. While events such as chocolate yoga, chocolate as beauty ingredient, chocolate tastings, chocolate festival, and chocolate extravaganza serenaded a chocolaty siren’s song it was the “Farmer for a Day” that excited me most of all. To trek through terrain where cacao pods grow, to crack open a pod and see the seeds up close, to meet farmers on plantations… I have always imagined being the brown woman version of Charlie Buckett, scoring the golden ticket to the lay of the chocolate land, a land that Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory hadn’t acknowledged, a land of brown farmers and colorful cacao pods, the origins of great wealth and fascination.
Maybe perhaps, I could have scored an invitation somehow. I filled out the comment form and prayed to hear back. No response. I looked up artist/writing travel grants (some of course were expired and others dispersing funds way after the festival).
I created a GoFundMe in hopes of attaining the remaining funds for the Grenada Chocolate Festival ticket, accommodation, and other arriving expenses. This experience will further strengthen my Fulbright application– finally seeing and being around the cacao pod environment. Any amount would be helpful and greatly appreciated.

The Migration: Cosmo Whyte’s Travels Across Mediums to Occupy Physical, Mental, and Historical Spaces

Multidisciplinary artist Cosmo Whyte presented informative research that articulated interweaving roles migration and colonialism play into the raw poignancy and visceral complexity of his narrative work. Hailing from St. Andrew, Jamaica and working primarily in Atlanta, Georgia, Whyte’s trials and tribulations of United States naturalization filter through creative processes of sculptural installations/objects, drawing, performance, and photography with influences ranging from historical context to popular culture.

Whyte, a Hudgens Prize Finalist as well as grant recipient of Artadia and CUE Foundation, has conducted extensive field research, traveling to Ghana, London, and back home to Jamaica (with fresh eyes), collecting valid principles that inform his intriguing concepts. Using generational occupancy of space as metaphor, he focuses on how things easily and quickly slip into other spaces, ideas of transcendence, having diasphoric moments in negative space, meditative, trans space, referencing “ubiquitous” objects such as doilies marking value and worth.

In Promis(ed) Land (Version #3), a Jamaican travel drum explores a connection to “home” and ties to Marcus Garvey’s Black Star Line, a short lived shipping corporation. In Whyte’s creation, a “kitschy tarp with neon signs,” has a musical component that sounds similar to church hymn hums or melodic rhythm of slave shack escapism. The music is actually a part of The Jeffersons theme song (DuBois’s Movin’ On Up), distorting the lyrics “finally got a piece of the pie.”

His drawings also frame varied influences. Carnival in Atlanta, a summer jump off event that has been in existence since 1988, celebrates Caribbean culture and heritage with parades, costumes, music, food, etc. Specific messages that were once lost are retained in small communities, performative rituals disclosed in drawings. Simultaneously, violence comes crashing, with continuous acquitted verdicts of murdered black lives, unfiltered and unjust, slithering around an artist’s vulnerable state of mind. While seeing a Chris Ofili retrospective, Whyte found a connection to tie into his work, sorting emotional turmoil through drawings of Carnival, contorting bodies like gymnastics filtered through colonialism diagrams that overlap, create growing pains.

The Harder They Come, a 1972 crime/drama film exploring Jamaican folklore set in Kingston, Jamaica, enters Whyte’s works as well.

Most importantly, Whyte integrates autobiographical narrative and inherited generational tragedies. In Nkisi, one of several documented C-print photographs of a performance piece, after the death of his father, he wears his father’s ties as a sculptural armature over a suit and communes with a clear, abyssal body of water as a tribunal act, a reference to African traditions of communicating with ancestors via heirlooms.

Furthermore, in Headboy and Cold Sweat, Whyte reacts to Jamaica declaring independence and at the same time, keeping the English schoolboy uniform intact. He dons the red Royal British waistcoat and trousers, sits in a hot classroom for hours, sweating, reenacting moment of hyper awareness. After walking downtown, perspiring in these clothes, he dove in Montego Bay, saturating sweaty uniform fully under water, submerging and floating with composition intending to capture colors of Pan African Flag. Heartbreakingly, is that historically in that water, ancestors had traveled in tight, inhumane vessels, some drowning intentionally, others murdered, their bones, bodies, and spirits way below Whyte’s reach. Yet the connection is clear. He swam in an opened grave. And there are not enough tombstones in the world to commemorate countless unnamed deaths.

In closing, Whyte has captured significant, past moments, laying groundwork for monumental shifts to occur in a diverse practice that promises further emergence, utilizing encounter as a way of thinking about race relations in the United States versus predominantly black spaces in the world.

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.

Eggplant Roll Ups With Cashew and Tofu Ricotta (From Coco Verde Vegan)

Although I’ve eaten eggplant at various restaurants in roasted vegetable salads, in Baba Ganoush (my absolute favorite), and as fries, I’ve never worked with eggplant before last night. The moment Coco Verde Vegan posted an enticing picture and recipe for Eggplant Roll Ups on Twitter (posted here), I was blown away, desiring at last to experiment, bring the vegetable into the home kitchen at last..

With a fulfilling side of Lotus Foods Forbidden Black Rice (which had been out of stock for quite a while), the roll ups are completely simple to make and incredibly delicious. One great trick from Coco Verde Vegan is if not having time to soak cashews overnight, you can boil them for twenty minutes instead. This makes cashews susceptible for traditional blending method in a quicker fashion. Thick, luscious cashew tofu ricotta cheese and chunky tomato sauce topping deliver a pleasing reminder of stacked lasagna flare. I had leftovers for lunch– still impressive and beautifully composed.

Eggplant Roll Ups With Cashew and Tofu Ricotta Ingredients and Preparation

1 large eggplant

2 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Cashew and Tofu Ricotta

1 cup cashews

extra firm tofu

2 tablespoon nutritional yeast

1/4 cup aquafaba (canned chickpea water)

2 teaspoon garlic

1 teaspoon salt

tomato sauce (I used a jarred vegan Portobello Mushroom sauce)

1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice eggplant vertically as thinly as possible– about 1/4 inch a piece.

Coat slices in olive oil, salt, and black pepper. Bake for 35 minutes, turning them around about 18 minutes in.

Whilst eggplant is roasting, cook cashews in water for twenty minutes. Drain. Pulse them in blender or food processor with tofu, aquafaba, garlic, and salt until rich and creamy.

Take eggplant from oven, which should be soft and “rollable,” spoon a generous bit of cashew tofu ricotta and roll. Repeat for each.

Heat up tomato sauce and pour over top of eggplant roll ups. Sprinkle Italian Seasoning.

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.

Amy Sherald Expresses Innermost Turmoils and Breakthroughs In Her Committed Painting Practice

Last Friday, PAFA’s Historic Landmark Building contained a full house on deck for its Visiting Artist Program lecture, rescheduled from weeks ago. Amy Sherald spoke on her personal painting history, providing a thoughtful, humbling backstory for the many young, hungry artists present in the room. It was a treat to watch this incredibly gifted artist discuss the journey, a hard, long, prosperous journey, that eventually brought an attentive, rapt audience vital inspiration.

Colorism contributed harsh experiences growing up in the problematic South for Sherald. Born and raised in Columbia, Georgia, with her fair skin and auburn hair, few with the exception of her family believed her to be black, especially horrid smaller children believed this perception. She recounted a story of a child who used the “n” word around her. And this was the late seventies, early eighties.
She then addresses being uncomfortable with being called “redbone,” a term formerly described dogs with a red coat. “Redbone,” a popular Donald Glover song, is said as an endearment. Meanwhile, it is a destructive adjective that her beauty, her attractiveness is privileged to having white inherited attributes, dismissing her blackness.

Sherald entered painting later than most, having been declared pre-med in college (failing biology wasn’t helping), changing her major to painting a few years before graduating. She wasn’t sure exactly the path to undergo and hadn’t received adequate “training” or having the artist vocabulary, but knew that figuration was a keen interest. Without the skills and resources of fellow classmates, she considered herself self taught, relying solely on instincts and research sessions from frequent library visits. It was also a challenge ascribing to racial and gender politics, disappointed through limited lenses her fellow peers and instructors had expected, which became “performative identity.”

After college, she took a break from painting for four years.
The shocking confession brought apart startling insight, especially seeing as now post-graduate years are depicted as a crucial time to be in that eager need to network and find supportive benefactors.
All the while, Sherald also admits to frequently visiting New York City openings to talk to gallerists in hopes of attaining a show in the past, a hoop some young artists still believe would ring true to them.
In the end, as she continued reading books, going to the movies, and seeing gallery shows, she developed relationships with collectors and advocates.

Her influences were a wide range of scientific fascination and sideshow fantasies, finding exciting, colorful pieces at Panama circuses, at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida, and in Tim Burton’s dreamy tale Big Fish. However, the missing component was identity, the lack of blackness, of black people in experiences that mattered to her awakening imagination. Among her reading, she uncovered W.E.B. DuBois’s compiled photographs for the 1900 Paris Exposition entitled, American Negroes. Sherald fell in love with his Georgia Negroes series, letting the “aha” moment sink. In that, she saw black dandyism– black men and black women in suits and hats, appearing gorgeously confident and stylish at a time denying them existence, creativity. That was what she wanted to paint.
Inspired by photography, where she found images of herself leafing through her family’s historic archives, formulated ideas around her penetration, curving away American perception of black pain, the effervescent knowledge that black photographers could create and own positive portrayals. In the process, her paintings became “meditations on photography,” and realists such as Bo Bartlett, Kerry James Marshall, and Barkley Hendricks began to effectively shape her painting vocabulary.
The more Sherald painted, the more advanced her skills became, growing more so than what graduate school had offered her. She took a wondrous opportunity to study with great painter Odd Nerdrum in the Netherlands and continued on her trips to Panama.

Amy Sherald gave a kind, humbling, relatable lecture for an artist who has gone on to win prestigious honors such as the Pollack-Krasner Grant, Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant, and the Bethesda Painting Award. She has shown at Studio Museum in Harlem in New York City, New York, Spelman College of the Arts in Atlanta, Georgia, and the Embassy of the United States in Dakar, Senegal. She is in collections at the Columbus Museum in her hometown, Columbus, Georgia, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery all in Washington D.C, and the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
She closes with a Kerry James Marshall quote, something along the lines of “nothing has never been able to transform the world.”
Yet with Sherald’s work, his L.A. Times discussion on the history of representational painting is most appropriate as well:

“When you visit an art museum, you’re less likely to encounter the work of a black person. When it comes to ideas about art and about beauty, the black figure is absent.”

Alongside Marshall and a slew of other phenomenal black artists dismantling contemporary art field, Sherald is changing the way viewers look at painting, inserting blackness whilst examining its absence with utilizing greyscale as her figures’ flesh tone. By learning preemptive steps she took to make it this far, she is certainly an artist to root for and champion, paving ways and breaking barriers to those who never believed they ever could.

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.

The Philadelphia Flower Show: Please Go Chasing Waterfalls Edition

It was a real treat to experience Philadelphia Flower Show -an eight-day event held every spring since 1829- for the first time ever.

Headed by the Philadelphia Horticulturist Society, with theme “Wonders of Water,” the downtown Pennsylvania Convention Center had been transformed into an eye opening floral decadence. Sporadic corners of enchanted glory brought out the inner horticulturist gardener growing wondrously inside. From lush tropical rainforest designs to soothing serene splashes of tranquil waters flowing in various artfully crafted arrangements, the whole place sparked engaging interest and provided much needed TLC.

Although crowded at times, the Flower Show featured great highlights: flowers hanging from ceilings, ribbon prize winning plants, cacti, orchids, hyacinths, roses, topiaries, demos, garden teas, and various vendors selling soiled pots, seeds, fountains, and so much more.
Next year’s theme is “Flower Power,” a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Woodstock– sounds like that’ll be funky outrageous fun! It would be wild to see a Jimi Hendrix piece sculpted from flowers….
For the “Wonders of Water,” I took many pictures and these are my curated favorites: