Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Andrea Bree Glasper Crawford: March 13, 1993- September 26, 2016.
A few weeks ago, my younger sister died. She was only 23 years-old.
I just found out yesterday.
I wasn't there. I wasn't there when she needed me to be.
Brooding on death is difficult and not knowing the whys is partly the problem.
Why it happened? Why now? Why her? Why?
Emotional weight of loss has broken eye capillaries, broken spirits. Crying has been a nonstop rain colliding down cheekbones. Sadness is rolling thunder of ruptured thoughts, loudly blasting within. Grief is an intense agony that no Band Aid can stop and smother. It stays unwavering in its intent to linger forever in the moment, excruciating pain enveloping mind and body.
Last month, she protested in Charlotte over the police shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott. Facebook has an indicator status that protesters can switch on to inform family and friends that theyw safe and alive. That was a sigh of relief mixed with being proud of her then.
Now is pure chaos.
I reflect on our phone conversations, which sometimes reached two- three hours. Funnily enough, we had much in common despite not growing up together. Our voices were similar-- bright and chipper. We loved the arts. We appreciated the natural hair movement.
She liked cooking, performing arts, and kids. She was an infant teacher. She just started college at DeVry University. She had only been married two years.  
Unfortunately, we hadn't had a phone conversation in a long time, primarily communicating via social media. Her last message, which Facebook has deleted, was to bring her something back from Paris and take lots of photos.
It's my fault. I know that much. I should have reached out more.
And now I'll miss completing true sisterly bond:

I'll never get to meet her.
I'll never get to say "I love you" to her in person.
I'll never get to touch her hand.
I'll never get to hug her.
I'll never get to kiss her cheek.
I'll never get to cook her a meal.
I'll never get to slather homemade facial mask over her face.
I'll never get to see movies with her.
I'll never get to brush her hair.
I'll never get to take her picture.

Rest in peace, Andrea. Tell Grandmother Elizabeth that I love and miss her as much as I love and miss you.
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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

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.
Fried addictive veggie pancakes. Hard to eat one let alone two.
The soup was delicious!
"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.
Yum yum jasmine tea. I like enjoying Asian teas without the sugar. The flavor notes are strong and powerful. Extra sweetness interrupts pleasant herbs.
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.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Peanut Butter Tofu

One of the most irresistible addictions know to womankind.
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.

George Washington Carver, born into slavery without an accurate known birthdate, was a celebrated botanist and inventor. He had been kidnapped as a baby, raised by his slave owners after slavery was "abolished," witnessed whites killing a black man, and rejected from various schools due to his race. Yet he excelled on. He attended Simpson College in Iowa, studying piano and art, having a prime interest in painting plants and flowers. His art teacher persuaded him to pursue botany at Iowa State Agricultural College. While there, he was the first black student, writing a thesis called Plants As Modified by Man. Booker T. Washington then invited Carver to head the Agriculture Department at Tuskegee Institute. Carver taught at Tuskegee for 47 years. He was well known all over the world. From being respected by presidents Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt to being honored by Time Magazine to becoming member of the Royal Society of the Arts in England to being a consultant for peanut farmers across the nation, Carver earned much fame and fortune. Yet he was humble and frugal. In fact, he donated $60,000 (equivalent to over a million dollars now) to his George Washington Carver Foundation, an exhibited legacy of his work. He is buried next to Booker T. Washington.
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.

Stir constantly and cover in between. Takes 10-15 minutes for peanut butter tofu to be fully cooked.
Paired with broccoli and black rice, flavorful peanut butter tofu made an amazing contribution to dinner.
These leftovers were still impressive.
Definitely adding crushed peanuts at next attempt. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

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."
And Twitter came with the profile balloons popping.
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.
Cornrows up and around. Not too tight either.
It's such a beautiful, complicated design that I myself wouldn't have thought up. In fact, this wasn't what I had in mind, but in the end, I fell deeper and deeper in love. Superb.
A Confident Stance: I found this Jones New York vivacious purple dress at Philly Aids Thrift for a whopping $1! A solid steal! Definitely one of the best hidden rack treasures of the year. For a whole day, I didn't feel discomfort about body shape. I loved the color, the form fit, the bit of gold embellishment-- overall perfect for me.
A big thank you to my high school art teacher. She sent me this beautiful pink box of meaningful gifts.
A new scarf, journal, and trinkets were sweet, but the growing herbs carton (thyme, basil, oregano, and more) had a gazillion happy positive raining in my head. How I have always dreamed of growing an herb/veggie patch! I hope this works out.
Stopped by Dottie's Donuts (naturally) to indulge in true love. Just in luck, I grabbed the last pumpkin pie donut with cream cheese filling.
Lunch at Govinda's treated by my friend/co-worker. Note to the wise: not all vegan cheese are created equal. We were disappointed in the wet, soggy cheese fries. I took them to go and melted Field Roast Chao on top. Now that made those fries the bees knees.
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.
This special birthday card signed by staff and friends (along with some kind social media messages) made the day magical.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Oh Sweet Charlie's: Rolled Up Ice Cream Kings

A neat Center City ice cream joint.
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.

Berry sweet concoction.
Isn't it beautiful? The fruity flavors divinely work together in a cool innovative take on traditional take out ice cream. Rolled up ice cream is a satisfying thing!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

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.
Instructions are simple. Whisk together two tablespoons of VeganEgg with ice cold water.I added a bit of black pepper to the mixture that smells and acts like eggs.
Added to mushrooms and onions, crackling sizzle came on and smell continued its masterful trick on fulling senses. It takes 7-9 minutes to perfect "scrambled eggs."
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.
I have been waiting to try Kite Hill's vegan ravioli forever and it was worth the wait-- meeting every expectation head on.
A delicious balanced dinner comprised of Kite Hill's impressive ravioli topped with marinara sauce and a side of rainbow carrots-broccoli medley.
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.
Topped with lots of nooch (one doesn't want to consume dairy free cheese with every single meal).
Another beautiful close up.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Peanut Butter & "Jelly" Pancakes

Pancakes for days. Okay-- two days to be exact. Just being honest.
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.
Repeat pancake process.

Recipe makes a short stack of eight tasty pancakes.
Pancakes on a pink saucer, drizzled maple syrup, and hot chai tea.
Golden brown, crisp and thin goodness proves that peanut butter and "jelly" weren't meant to be solely for popular after school kiddie sandwiches.