Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Single Awareness Day & Fair Trade Approved Chocolate Avocado Pudding

A sweet divine treat to celebrate another year of 2/14.
In the words of of Lin Manuel-Miranda, "love is love is love is love is love is love is love......."
Happy Single Awareness Day for my darling attachment free friends.
Happy Valentine's Day to lucky ones joined at hearts with someone to adore and treasure whether that's a beloved beau or an adorable furry pet.
Originally, my plans were to make Food From Africa's illustrious Berbere-Spice Chocolate Pudding. Berbere, a spice blend used in Ethiopian cuisine, includes ginger, garlic, chili peppers, cumin, coriander, cardamom, fenugreek, and other ingredients. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a cheat sheet Berbere anywhere. Frontier, a popular brand for great organic spice blends, actually makes one that can be purchased on Amazon. I enjoyed reading Enem recounting a friend's Ethiopian mom handcrafting an ancient spice blend. Plus Enem's eloquent pictures are quite seductive and captured in a brilliant light. Still, her recipe saved for another day, a day in which I'll share how amazing a touch of spiciness brings to classic chocolate pudding.
There are not enough words to speak on the greatness of mixing creamy, ripened avocados with chocolate and homemade date syrup.

Chocolate Avocado Pudding Ingredients and Preparation
I used Equal Exchange's Organic Baking Cocoa which provided ample chocolaty flavor. In the meantime, I'll be searching for the perfect fair trade cacao/carob powder for future chocolate dessert recipes.

2 ripened avocados
1 11oz So Delicious Culinary Coconut Milk  (or 1 can of 14 oz coconut milk)
1/4 cup Raw Date Syrup (or maple or agave nectar or Bee Free Honee)
3 tablespoon fair trade cocoa powder (used Equal Exchange)
pinch of cinnamon

Date syrup!
Almost perfect avocado.
Blend all ingredients together, whipping it to velvety consistency. You may or may not see a heart or two in the blender. Eat promptly at warm room temperature or chill in the refrigerator for later.
Trying to make a heart, but failed. Chocolate avocado pudding is topped with Nature's Path Love Crunch Premium Organic Granola in Chocolate & Red Berries and pieces of Tazo Chocolate's Raspberry Crunch Bar.
Yummy blissful dessert waits for no one. Enjoy.
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Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Food Empowerment App For Your Chocolate Needs

This free app is a grocery store treasure, making shopping for cruelty free, slave free chocolate easy as pie.
The resourceful Food Empowerment App is a handy guide that allows grocery shoppers to find ethical chocolate while perusing the aisle at the same time. Great features include looking at the list in three different modes-- the recommended list, the not recommended list, and all brands. Plus, it's rather nice to read up on the FEP philosophy and how the brands are given ample amount of response time before generating to respective place on each list.
People need to know where their chocolate comes from. I cannot stress this enough.
I strongly enforce during Black History Month that all black lives are important on this very earth we stand on. As our cultural landscape worsens due to monsters in office, we have to be strong and resilient together more than ever before. One primary goal is to make sure that we support companies that disclose information about where their cacao beans are sourced from. Child labor and slavery is wide and rampant throughout Western Africa. I've read stories from children who work day till night, receiving less than penny earnings (sometimes not even being paid on time). Their backs often are injured. They are harshly punished. They don't see their parents or siblings often enough. The statements go on and on-- each worst than the last.
Lately, it has been an upsetting struggle, watching people discuss value of black lives and attending marches/protests while stuffing a Snickers or a Twix bar in their mouths. How can a person not care about where their chocolate comes or the pain involved in the making of it? I want everyone to understand that this is a global issue, a colossal concern that we must consider respectfully with some form of endearment and compassion. If collectively we hurt Hershey, Mars, Nestle, etc, perhaps they could see the impact and shoot for change. Maybe. Just maybe.
Until then, it's wonderful that a company like FEP has rigorously campaigned and opened eyes to this huge, under looked problem.
Please install the Food Empowerment App. It is free and simple. Plus, a lot of chocolate brands are affordable. They might not be available in the office vending machines, but they are in certain grocery stores like Whole Foods Market, Shop Rite, Kroger, and even CVS and Walgreen's. There is no excuse for continuing to give money to those greedy corporations inflicting violence on innocent brown bodies.

Proud of Daiya for being included here. It's one of my favorite vegan brands after all.
Remember that only the So Delicious organic items are Food Empowerment Project recommended. 
Speaking of Taza.....
Since these were on sale for $1.69 each, I bought all three vegan flavors, thrilled and overjoyed to do my part in purchasing chocolate created from kindness and sustainability. Funnily enough, this chocolate is underneath Salazon and Altar Eco-- these two are also on the recommended list.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Thank You Hurraw!

This is the first order from Hurraw's direct website. In the past, American Apparel sold them upfront.
Everyone in the world knows that Hurraw is my favorite lip balm-- more specifically the amazing Black Cherry Tinted flavor. Keeping lips soft, pliant, and moist, this perfect pout lip treat didn't make the Best Vegan Beauty Bets list for nothing. In fact, Hurraw's beautiful, sweet smelling, intense red colored balm is likely always going to be found on my list, staying a consistent aide to someone whose makeup routine is purely minimal.
The joys of balm.
Hurraw sent me the loveliest package:

As a treat-- which was completely unexpected-- I received a fetching new flavor (with a different package design) as a special bonus.
And they used the receipt to write the sweetest note. I see the beginning of a wonderful friendship. Thanks Hurraw for welcoming me to the family. I loved this brand for years now.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Styling & Protecting Two Strand Twists

2017 is the year of committing self to a hair appreciation and health.
A few weeks ago, I received my first trim of the year, a deep conditioning treatment, and two strand twists at Syreeta Scott's Duafe Hollistic Hair Salon, the amazing natural hair salon chosen by celebs such as Janet Jackson and Jill Scott. It's a nice, comfortable atmosphere. Camaraderie between the stylists especially engaging among the hypnotic, bumping tunes of Nigerian born musician Yemi Alade. There wasn't a time where patrons weren't laughing or dancing in seats, reading magazines under hooded hair dryers or having locs twisted during this pleasant excitement.
As my hair received much needed TLC, renowned NYT's bestselling author/nutritionist J. J. Smith conducted a book signing of her latest book "Green Smoothies for Life." I didn't get to see her speak, but she passed through the salon a handful of times, glowing and exuberant. Maybe I will do a cleanse sometime. It has crossed my mind.
To keep my hair healthy and shiny, I alternate days between massaging coconut oil and Jamaican Black Castor Oil (on the scalp). 

Side view.
Partial back view. I love the parted arrangement. Geneva did a wonderful job again!
The back.
Amusingly enough, on my way out of the door, I discovered The Sable Collective, a funky, hip art gallery and shop-- recently reviewed by Philly fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington. Opposite hair salon, the eclectic space sells custom art, handmade jewelry, catchy slogan t-shirts, Black Girl Magic flasks, and vegan lipsticks by The Lip Bar (stay tuned for beauty product reviews!). I talked to the very kind co-owner, Shanti Myers (she runs the popular Around the Curl blog) and hope to soon be putting up drawings and paintings to sell there. After all, natural hair is a huge context in my work.
Below features a few post-salon care shots.
In the meantime, I'm using my favorite Shea Moisture brand products (the vegan ones without honey or silk, etc.), drinking plenty of water, and keeping my sweets consumption to a minimum (hard, hard, hard when you're self-certified doughnut girl). Also has anyone ever tried out Deva Vegan Hair, Nails, & Skin Vitamins pills? They're currently out of order on Amazon. I'm thinking about investing....

For a simple smooth back style, I used an old purple braided hair extension (yes, I kept a whole bag of old braids) and pinned it on the back so that it wouldn't fall by the wayside.
Scrunched faces are just another way of showing great joy for an easy style.
I also braided the purple extension in my hair too-- for that awesome pop of royal color.
At work, enjoying museum sights (like Jacob Lawrence!) and wonderful architecture.
Another style, especially for swanky events like NYC gallery openings (where one can meet amazing artists such as painter Kehinde Wiley), a satin scarf with a stylish cheetah cat print (a thrift store find) atop of head with a few curls sticking out or some baby hair magic is a definite plus.
On days that I want to bring out a beautiful printed Africa headwrap, I first tie on a satin scarf and then loosely secure on desired cotton fabric look of the day.
Sayonara for now.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Cinnamon Snail

Doughnuts and miniature cakes topped with cookies are just some of the wonderful creations offered at Cinnamon Snail. 
At last, I finally experience the beloved buzzed about former food truck turned hit restaurant near Madison Square Garden-- the infamous Cinnamon Snail located at Pennsy. If one gets there early, they have goodies such as fresh outta the oven cinnamon rolls and glazed doughnuts.
I arrived around dinner time, anxious to eat something wonderful before a huge show opening in Chelsea, wanting to dine somewhere new. Cinnamon Snail-- a place I heard about through many vegan grapevines-- was only a thirty minute walk from my location (I was reading at the Mid-Manhattan Library like a true bonafide nerd). Hunger was ignited by titillating thought of yummy vegan comfort food. This provided pep in my step, pumping up the
The behind-the-counter ladies were nice, but a customer (obviously a frequent regular) made my smile wider. She recommended every single thing in sight, exclaiming that the lavender-pear turnover was her most favorite. From coconut coated to maple bacon to tempeh sandwiches, I must say that the menu made decisions a long and difficult process.
Still, I am happy with what my order and will likely return to try out the rest.
Cinnamon Snail is a yummy place, a vegan haven. The food alone is pure pleasure.

Doughnuts!
With choices like seitan tarts and raspberry and cheese danishes, I admit to having a difficult time choosing. With mouthwatering temptation resting behind the glass, teasing and tantalizing my overwhelming hunger, I simply just wanted to devour everything in sight like a human vacuum cleaner.  I wish everyone knew how amazing veganism can be, especially at a place like Cinnamon Snail. They're making delicious things happen.
Cute doughnuts meet cookies galore! I purchased one of these adorable piglet cookie doughnuts for a birthday girl! (Wow, she shares the day with the great Elijah Wood awesome!)
This is the Beastmode Burger Deluxe-- an exceptional, thick cut ancho chili seitan burger featuring jalapeño macaroni & cheese, arugula, smoked chili coconut bacon, and chipotle mayo on a grilled pretzel bun. Easily one the most incredible vegan burgers ever eaten in my life. Just downright amazing!
It was huge, spicy, and fulfilling on many, many levels. The seitan juicy, the mac n cheese firm, creamy, and oh so cheesy, and the warm pretzel bun soft and tender-- all components necessary for an out-of-this-world experience. The coconut bacon and arugula added a delightful bonus to this messy, delightful sandwich-- which was a challenge to eat due to massive, intimidating size. Still, hands down-- a terrific burger! I highly recommend. Funnily enough, I met another vegan who sat across from me-- also eating a Cinnamon Snail burger. She gave me a list of other nearby restaurants to try out. I was so thrilled to have met her! I can't wait to try out these new places and share with you all.
This is the tasty, sensational lemon curd doughnut.
Its crusty, sweet, and divine on the outside.
Yet inside is an oozing, delectable middle of luscious lemon curd-- all creamy and zesty-- the stuff of wonderful citrus dreams!
For a lovely morning after treat, I ate this incredibly flaky pink lady apple turnover.  The filling was a tasty combination of chopped apples, cinnamon, and other spices. It made for an absolutely splendid breakfast. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Chickpea Salad Melts


Is there any ingredient more versatile than the grand ole chickpea? I believe not.
Chickpeas have now graduated from savory menu items like hummus, salads, gravies, and creams. Its excitingly all-the-current-vegan-rage aquafaba (chickpea water) is now a major factor for perfect vegan meringue. I cannot wait to test out the properties of this amazing information. It would be such a dream to make Mom the perfect lemon meringue cookies if possible. May is around the corner. I can think of no other scrumptiously perfect Mother's Day/birthday gift treat.
However, this post is the savory category for chickpeas.
I readily admit to eating chickpeas every other day-- in a variety of ways. It's fascinating how extra garlic here or a pinch of lemon juice there can shift a chickpea recipe. In this salad, instead of vegan mayo, which was supposed to be used to make that exceptional "tuna" flavored appeal, I substituted with Hilary's Ranch Chia Dressing (which I happen to love very much). End results were an incredibly tasty, chunky salad between two thin slices of bread, my favorite vegan cheese melting perfectly over the textured filling.
I have zero regrets about eating two.

Chickpea Salad Melts Ingredients and Preparation

1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained
1/4 cup celery, finely chopped and diced
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
2 tablespoon Hilary's Ranch Chia Dressing
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
vegan cheese of your choosing (I chose Field Roast Chao Tomato Cayenne)

Break up the chickpeas in a blender or processer-- make sure the consistency is not too smooth, leave it a bit chunky.
Pour chickpea mass into a bowl.
Stir in celery, red onion, mayo, salt, lemon juice, Old Bay, and black pepper.
Spread on desired bread. (Here I've used some delicious 3 grain seeded bread).
Melt cheese via way stove top, microwave, or toaster oven. Or make a velvety cheese sauce to save yourself this glorious trouble.






Saturday, January 21, 2017

Best of 2016: A Romantic Interlude Inside of Kerry James Marshall's Ebony Coated Oeuvre

"Vignette (Wishing Well)," acrylic and glitter on PVC panel, 2010.
Kerry James Marshall is one of my favorite painters in the world. No shadow of doubt exists when it comes to an ardor for someone whose mind and talents are greatly matched together.
In a methodical land of daring pitch black skinned figures adorned with fragrant bloom that one can almost smell in flared nostrils, a sentimental viewer finds profound seduction in subjects Marshall majestically paints. At Met Breuer, gracing walls with marvelous retrospective, arrests these compositions-- like glittering oyster pearls-- to the starry eyed visionary who dares to read between lines of pure, titillating insertion. For the stories told in every single piece shares and denotes a specific history, a stolen moment illustrating the African American experience. From romance stories to barber shops to renaissance artists, acrylic painted portrayals are sincere, poignant, and quite triumphant in their pursuits of revealing who we are, who we dare dream to be.

"Vignette IV," acrylic on PVC panel, 2005.
"Untitled (Vignette)," acrylic and glitter on PVC panel, 2012.
Close up.
Marshall works in a series way. Each section centers on different approaches to certain subject matter. For example, the Vignette groupings share intimate moments between black bodies in picturesque scenery, having a John Singleton's Boys In the Hood meets Poetic Justice vibe that enhances these pivotal moments between a man and woman. Black men are strong, chivalrous, and charming and black women are bold, tender, and sensual-- this makes a perfect, unquestionable balance. In sparkling, utterly endearing "Untitled (Vignette)," backs facing away, bodies melding together on grassy meadow, an afro pick in a flawless small afro, two glitter red hearts above heads, birds singing "la la la," a tire swing hanging on a love tree in the distance.  

"Untitled (Beach Towel)," acrylic on PVC panel, 2014.

While known for being a gifted painter, Marshall spread his wings into the comic realm, depicting African Americans as superheroes in their natural habitats. In his "Rythm Mastir" lightbox series, his signature graphic style easily translates into the realm of comic book aesthetic, sharp contrasting values and heartfelt narrative are featured on earth and the space cosmos. It is the artist's purpose to evaluate and dismantle the wrongs of popular culture. By giving blackness inclusivity, leading protagonists and antagonists have an authoritative unchallenged voice.


"Silence is Golden," acrylic on panel, 1986.
"Portrait of the Artist & a Vacuum," acrylic on paper, 1981.
"De Style," acrylic and collage on canvas, 1993.
It's admirable that most of Marshall's gigantic works are unstretched and unframed, pinned to walls in a rather bold demonstration of the artist's strong rationale and reasoning-- a rebellious form of anti-school traditionalism. This brazen manner translates in the work, this authenticity to stay true to self, to acknowledge a passionate inhibition that is as remarkable as it's undeniable.

"School of Beauty, School of Culture," acrylic and glitter on canvas, 2012.
Closeup.
Marshall takes on psychological conditions placed forth on marginalized bodies. Without sugar coating hard evident truths or sweeping cold facts underneath a painterly metaphor, since the days of being a student at Otis College of Art and Design and a Studio Museum Harlem fellow, he has always explored humanizing blackness in all its forms and condoning negative constraints meant to stigmatize and pigeonhole, creating large scale compositions that deliver powerful messages.

"Untitled (Studio)," acrylic on PVC panel, 2014.
"Untitled," acrylic on PVC panel, 2009.
"Untitled" painting series opens up splendorous spectator dreams of a historical past where period styled artists take up prestigious court, holding palettes in a rightful, dignified ownership, black women and black men wearing coiffed natural hair updos, mid-century clothing, and regal expressions. Marshall is seemingly inventing a past indication of black painters carving out their own niche, their own destiny as an art maker.

"Untitled (Painter)," acrylic on PVC panel, 2009.
"Untitled (Painter)," acrylic on PVC panel, 2008.
"Black Painting," acrylic on fiberglass, 2003-2006.
Before seeing inside "Black Painting," inner intuition knew what would be found without reading informative gallery label. This indescribable inkling struck moment eyes discovered the bed appearing out of thin air. Other objects arise at closer inspection. Black scrapped on black. Varying line weights defining a single room, a peaceful room before chaos and blood, before it becomes a grisly murder scene. Marshall was around 14 years old when young intelligent Black Panther Fred Hampton was killed by police in 1969. Marshall, who grew up in Birmingham, Alabama before transporting to South Side Los Angeles now resides in Chicago-- a location not too far from where tragic homicide took place. Thus, it alludes to this great significant part of history that can never be forgotten.

"Still Life With Wedding Portrait," acrylic on PVC panel, 2015.
Mastry takes over two floors for good reason. Marshall's endless range is incredibly stunning to admire and behold, to awe and gawk, to take moments staring and breathing. He defines the true meaning of being a painter's painter, especially in terms of utilizing the color black and shifting interpretation of how black is perceived. Explorations entailing sienna, mahogany, chocolate, cocoa, and other brown skin tone hues are absent. Mars, ebony, tar, and the other black shades on demand as flesh. Undeniably beautiful, one cannot ever turn away from rare depiction-- gratifying art at its finest, most candid illustration. 
This can't miss retrospective is up at Met Breuer until January 29, 2017 and will be traveling to Los Angeles next.