Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Vegan Chao & Chick'in Mac

Newest vegan cheese fancifies up macaroni and cheese dinner hour.
True story: I bought Field Roast's Coconut Herb Chao Slices at the Union Square Whole Foods in Chelsea. It survived 2 hour Megabus trip without becoming a bonafide mess. Impressive!
However, that's not the biggest surprise about their new line of fine quality cheeses.
Oh Field Roast. How many words does one vegan blogger have to say to express undying love? They just keep on making splendid products. For one, I'm pleasantly surprised that they've entered the vegan cheese foray, bringing forth artisan brilliance that rivals Treeline's prestige.
I applaud not using palm fruit oil or canola oil- great accomplishments in itself. I don't cook with either of those oils, but they're a constant ingredient stable in most convenient vegan cheeses. So Field Roast stepped right up to bat for coconut oil-- one of my favorites for its diversity. Coconut oil is so amazing Trader Joe's is having the toughest time keeping their organic version up to demand. To have coconut oil star as a feature ingredient in a "cheese," gives me the brightest smile. This cheese tastes wonderful! Black pepper notes add delicious melodic notes to thinly sliced coconutty tofu. I had a cold sandwich featuring Coconut Herb slices and it stood up to challenge. You know a vegan cheese is good vegan cheese when you can eat sans melted factor. Great on salads shredded up. Eat it with cinnamon apples.
On package eloquent statement reads: vegan coconut cheese alternately seasoned with fermented soy bean curd called Chao by the Vietnamese.... blending Asian and European heritages with Greek cheese maker and a family in Taiwan makes the Chao."
I loved this mission. Field Roast gives credit to all involved in what must be a tremendously long albeit valuable process. In the end, splendid vegan cheese born from unity brings high standards and integrated culture knowledge. 

Packaging is simply captivating.

Slices peel apart easily without crumbly breakage and no wax paper is needed between them.

One can never have too much macaroni & cheese. 
Pasta relishes creamy, beautifully crafted Chao and meaty Beyond Meat's Chickenless Strips offer. Balance between rich consistency, firm elbow macaroni, and chunky tenderness is a dinner for two. Although I used dried basil, fresh leaves would be wonderful addition. Basil dances along with black pepper serenade perfectly. 

Vegan Chao & Chick'in Mac

1 cup elbow macaroni
1/2 cup almond milk
2 tablespoon coconut oil
3 Field Roast Vegan Chao Coconut Herb slices
1/2 cup Beyond Meat Lightly Seasoned Chickenless Strips, diced
3 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of black pepper

Bring pasta to boil.
Lower heat and stir in almond milk, coconut oil, Chao slices, chickenless strips, and nutritional yeast.
Add basil, garlic, salt, and black pepper.
Turn off heat.
Serve.

A little extra basil never hurt.

One last closeup before devouring.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Virtual Vegan Linky Party Pumpkin Cheesecake Parfait

Taste and smell autumn with this chilled fall treat with a dollop of splendid goodness.
Leaves are piling high around Center City. I've already picked a couple color speckled beauties. Thankfully, they have yet to crinkle, wisp, and fall apart.
With colors of orange and black everywhere, craving for pumpkin (both sweet and savory) grows wildly. I've been visiting shops and grocery stores finding all sorts of pumpkin flavors and smells, none of which were vegan. At Whole Foods' fine bakeries, pumpkin pies, pumpkin buns, pumpkin doughnuts, and pumpkin parfaits are abundant. Latter looked extremely mouth watering. Sweetened, spiced pumpkin puree layered between whipped cream and crushed cookies? How such a description tempts the heart. Concept sounded amazing. Although I love the flavor of Soyatoo's Whipped Topping, let's face it- the cap is problematic!
Each week, I kept going to Whole Foods scouting out for the Coco Whip. So Delicious promised that their vegan version of Kraft's beloved Cool Whip would be in stores very soon. At last, when old product was out and I saw the new So Delicious facing stickers- soon had became now!

Look what I finally found in the freezer section!
So Delicious held the answer. It is too amazing to describe how wonderfully brilliant this new product is! Definitely worth the search. Blue and white tub original is airy and light. Coconut hinted taste is not overwhelmingly sugary. Application is thick and holds composition. I'm really really excited about future recipes! One of my favorite frostings growing up was the whipped cream version! With a bit of powdered sugar this will be an amazing future cake topper!
For Virtual Vegan Linky Party Number 16, Coco Whip perfectly suited creamy pumpkin parfait treat. If one doesn't like vegan cream cheese, homemade cashew cream would work just fine. Spiced and whipped to sweet glory, pudding consistency pumpkin cheesecake layer is as tongue melting as a slice of smooth pumpkin pie. When layering, proud of Coco Whip withstanding pumpkin layer without melting or falling apart. Stiffness was a much needed victory.
Pumpkin seeds are absolutely divine. Something I just discovered- yes I can be quite late when it comes to things like this. Pumpkin seeds were added to crushed walnuts and pecans and doused with cinnamon. Crunchy, chewy unsalted components balanced well between creamy and fluffy textures. Also brown walnuts and pecans and green pumpkin seeds really do capture warm earthy colored spirit of the season against pumpkin orange signature.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Parfait Ingredients and Preparation

1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
1 8 oz vegan plain cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1 cup agave nectar (or maple syrup)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
So Delicious Coco Whip
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup nut mixture (used walnuts, pecans, and pumpkin seeds)
pinch of cinnamon

Shake up nuts and seeds in a bag with cinnamon. Set aside.
Mix pumpkin puree, cream cheese, agave nectar, vanilla, and pumpkin spice together.
Layer about 1/3 cup of pumpkin mixture at the bottom of a glass dish.
Top with handful of cinnamon nuts and 1/3 cup So Delicious Coco Whip.
Repeat.

Cinnamon sprinkled on top with a sprinkling of extra nuts.
Close up.
Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours. Or eat at room temperature.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

An Inpromptu Birthday Washington D.C. Trip

Native Foods Cafe (a popular west coast vegan restaurant) just opened in D.C.-- perfect birthday celebratory place.
Oh yay!
This past Tuesday (October 7th with a 99% full moon unseen due to sweet smelling pitter patter rain) celebrated another born day. Prior to that (October 6th) my oldest brother welcomed a little treasure- an angel baby named Princeton. Omg another little Libra in the family!!! Cannot wait to meet him this holiday break.
My new friend.
I imagine a vibrant glittery future of bringing crayons, books, poems, Purple Rain, and cats into his world. Plus he must learn to treat all women with respect, honor, and compassion especially his mommy. In fact, I'm going to make him a crown in the studio today. King Prince or Prince Prince? Hmmm.
So what special shenanigans did I get myself into on Tuesday-- a day of no classes?
Well, I traveled down to Washington D.C. via Megabus for a whopping $15 (to was $13+ fro was $3+ $1 reservation fee).
Here recaps a splendid memorable initiation into 31 captured in pictures and subtitles.

Colorful Frida Kahlo locket played a starring accessory role.
Cinched brown three quarter sleeve top for $6 & bright ultramarine blue white polka dot J. Crew dress for $6. Both from Philly Aids Thrift.
Cute thick patterned XOXO tights and comfy olive green Rocket Dog flats made for walking. Both from Burlington Coat Factory.
First thing's first complimentary birthday reward-- soy raspberry shot hot chocolate from the Starbucks on Union Station. Plus a "happy birthday" from the sweet barista!

At Dupont Circle's Native Cafe Foods Cafe (it took me a while to find it), I ordered the Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger which is topped with these amazing fried pickles. Can you believe I almost ordered this without the fried pickles???! Crazy!
So it was quite hard at first getting this between the jaws, but I managed! The flavors are unimaginably out of this world! Sweet, tangy BBQ sauce marrying some wild secret ranch dressing with a "nutty" melted cheese and fresh veggies make for one of the best burger bites ever. The patty was well seasoned and tender. Bacon well smoked and crisp. Each bite, however messy, was well worth the bus trip. Plus the customer service was excellent! Very nice and courteous staff.
For birthday dessert, because one must have cake, this Spicy Chocolate Cake was to die for. It is made of fair trade cocoa with a hint of cayenne pepper and a luscious chocolate glaze. Rich, moist, and full of mouth watering chocolate fervor each forkful tasted like I was consuming the best romance novel ever written. It's incredibly delicious! Definitely one of the finest vegan sweets ever eaten. After dessert, I found a lovely place to write for a while. "Route" is so close to being finished I can smell it. 
I love riding the Metro. Another wonderful "place" to write. So sleek and futuristic. Headed to American Art Gallery the only Smithsonian Museum opened past five thirty.
The Library by Jacob Lawrence. Before I even saw the title just looking at this vibrant, lively composition screamed intellectual gathering place. Distinctive Pan African colors (red, green, and black) popped on and against light cobalt blue and ebony figures. Different hued books (mostly golden ochre tone) surround everyone and fill the canvas.
Hibiscus With Plumeria by Georgia O'Keefe. I couldn't leave without one parting glance at sensually captivating beauty viscerally painted by the likes of such a woman- one of Frida's lovers. It just seemed appropriate.
A piece that I know and love. This is Harlem Renaissance painter William H. Johnson's very famous "Cafe." Two hatted figures enjoying a drink date. Vibrant bold patterns on the man and modestly fashioned woman in her light pantyhose and kinetic fat red gloved hands. The woman reminds me of profound writer Zora Neale Hurston so much.
Sob Sob by Kerry James Marshall. A midnight shade woman lies at the foot of what is to believe an interior upstairs home library. Shelves are lined with African/African American literature and philosophy. Lone figure takes bottom center, her comic thought bubbles raised above her head like cloudy halos.
Close up of Sob Sob. Abstraction and realism weave together in this large scale composition that is worth diving into when it comes to breaking down its varied semiotics.
Black & White by Bryron Kim and Glenn Ligon. Very deep commentary on display here. See how the black rectangular elements are all painted ebony, but the white component has varied degrees of flesh tones.
I always forget that Duane Hanson's "Woman Eating" isn't human! She feels like a shadow watching. Instead polychrome sculpture is so real that one is sure that she is physically bound to get up at any moment. Too bad she's frozen in time stuck holding a silver spoon next to untouched dessert staring at some sleazy 1980's checkout magazine for the rest of her statuesque "life."
Eying woman's "banana split" also reminded me that I deserved ice cream.
Man With The Cat by Cecelia Beaux-- fellow PAFA alum and wonderful realist portrait painter. Enjoyed how beautifully technical and precise the little orange tabby cat was painted. Rendered proficiently well. I was also fortunate to read some of her journal entries too. They had a page opened up to her outrage on the Titanic. She was rather candidly passionate about the tragedy. Wow.
Molasses Swamp II by Will Cotton. Yeah. It took me a while to move away. There are all kinds of wickedly infectious candies, chocolates, cookies, popsicles, and other sugared treats. I didn't know if I wanted to swim in this scandalous fantasy concoction or vomit at the thought of human footsteps walking through sticky trickle. Either way, it's richly fascinating.  Excess, gluttony, and even stimulating gratification breathes into sinful narrative.
Dinner was a slice of Beyond Chicken Free Pizza with Daiya Mozzarella, Veggies and Sambazon's Acai + Vanilla Protein drink. Yumminess breathed life into me after a great amount of time book store frolicking and skipping in the autumn rain drizzle. 
Ended the celebration with soy based gelato at Pitango. Here is raspberry made with real organic berries bursting with ripened sweet life on the tongue. Chocolate noir, classic rich decadence, is a perfect accompaniment. Genius to serve with a tiny spoon. Makes one satisfied to savor each bite slowly as though they were standing on an Italian street corner.  Yummiest happily ever after.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Happy October! Theo Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups VS. Justin's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

So two companies have created vegan suited Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. Of course, this was begging for a battle.
Happy October! Now the best month (birthday month!) in the entire universe begins. Cannot believe nine months has passed by and we're almost finished with 2014.
Today I had two lovely critiques- one by Eileen and another unassigned visit with one of Post Baccalaureate faculty- Neysa. I cannot pick a favorite when it comes to those four faculty members (Neysa, Mark, Jan, and Michael). Just know that they became an elemental reason why I returned for the MFA program. Current critics: Eileen, Keith, and Dan are pretty awesome too. With Eileen and Neysa, I enjoyed both studio visits immensely and received valuable insight onto where to push this new work. Hoping to someday share some upcoming progress with you all, especially my big fairy tale inspired installation, Nappylocs and the Three Combs. 
In other news, I experienced the incredible performance artist Eiko Otako. We had the most invigorating workshop. Not only did students draw her body in motion, we also got to move and create our own five minute choreography in the University Arts dance studio. Wow! What an experience. Can't dance to save my life so of course I was surprised that someone asked me if I danced. I held back a lot of laughter. I was just mimicking Eiko-- she moved with such timely grace and eloquence. I wanted to simply embody sensually methodical instruction.
Anyways, let's get onto a unique competition involving the vegan's answer to Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. I adored those dented rounded edged peanut butter centering thin chocolate layer throughout childhood. During Halloween, I had an extreme penchant for buying clearance Reese Cup miniatures and stuffing my face with more than nine (nine was the serving size).
Let me introduce the challengers: Theo Chocolate's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups and Justin's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.
They are judged by price, packaging, originality, and taste.

Theo Chocolate Organic Fair Trade Peanut Butter Cups are $2.29 a package and contain two heart shaped beauties.
Theo script stamped on each lovely bottom.
At $1.99 each, Justin's Organic Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups scream "nom nom nom!"
Familiar "Reese Cup" shape plays on childhood memories, but white paper cup sets it apart.
When it comes to price, Justin's wins. Victory is a minor yet easy one. In this day in age every little bit counts. Save thirty cents. $1.99 is pretty reasonable. In general, dark chocolate is a sweet that must be savored slow and lifted up to nose like fine wine. There's something about aromatic properties in chocolate that heightens joyous occasion. So yes, that Justin's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup is a steal.
Theo Chocolate is the winner in packaging. Although mostly white composition like Justin's, Theo's catchy lower case script font, pops of orange and yellow, captivating well bitten melted chocolate over peanut butter photograph, and the red-orange smiley face gets attention right away. It says that these dark chocolate cups hold the key to all suitable vegan chocoholic needs. Theo also scores major originality points for its unique heart shape, thick width, and presenting sans paper. This romantic treat doesn't say have me for Valentine's or Sweetest Day. This is the chocolate that loves right and holds nothing back.
When it comes to taste, Justin's wins by superior landslide. As mentioned earlier, smell has a lot to do with whether a product tastes wonderful or not. It appeared that thinly layered dark chocolate over thicker peanut butter middle would be so simple, so unable to provoke overly giddy satisfaction. When I bite into a Justin's, however, flavor is strong, powerful, and sweetly chocolaty. Forbidden romance happens on tongue and begins lightning bolt aphrodisiac that only ignites during really good chocolate. That rarely happened during the Reese Cup days. I just indulged and indulged on heavy milk and sugar dilution. Justin's makes one linger into that first nibble, close eyes and drift off into a Wonderland Alice would be too shy to enter. This happens too with Theo, but Justin's is a far sweeter dark chocolate. Theo is just a tad bit more bitter. Just a tad.
Still, they both make chocolate and peanut butter dance together in an organic animal free way. That's the real champion here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Vegan Mofo Day 12: Curried Chick'in & Apple Walnut Salad

Sweet and tangy and savory salad perfect for lunch time fulfillment.
Time to break out Green Day's American Idiot and put "Wake Me Up When September Ends" on blast. It isn't just the end of the ninth month of 2014, so concludes Vegan Mofo. In a few weeks, I'll be recreating favorites and counting down top "new to me" blog picks! It's been sooooo exciting as always to be introduced to vegan bloggers. This community is only getting bigger. Animal free, cruelty free women and men are more kitchen savvy than ever before! Woo hoo!
In this incredibly yummy noontime meal perfectly packed for school, combines wide variety of delicious ingredients. Almost similar to a Waldorf Salad, I found it impossible to stop eating. Regular Earth Balance or Veganaise will probably be great substitutes, but I highly recommend Whole Food's No Oil Zesty Tahini Dressing. It's surprisingly light and tangy- not too thick and not too watery. Creamy goodness adds most amazing flavor to Beyond Meat's Southwest Style Chicken Free Strips and apple, marrying sweetness and savory together. Plump, chewy raisins provide extra texture to otherwise versatile crunchiness.
This salad makes for a one serving portion.

Curried Chick'in & Apple Walnut Salad Ingredients and Preparation

1 apple, chopped (used Braeburn)
6 Beyond Meat Southwest Style Chicken Free Strips, diced and pulled
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoon Whole Foods No Oil Zesty Tahini Dressing (or plain vegan mayo is fine)
handful raisins
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
pinch of garlic salt

In a small bowl, bowl ingredients together.
Close up.
Ready to serve and eat just like that!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Vegan Mofo Day 11: Campus Philly, Discovering Stephen Hayes & Blackbird Pizzeria

College Fest!
So I didn't make my 30 post September Vegan Mofo goal. That was quite unfortunate. I barely had time to be around the apartment, let alone cook. For the most part, I've been eating frugal oatmeal bowls and bananas more than twice a day. One strenuous "elective" class takes up most hours. Seminar provides so much intellectual reading my brain is bound to explode from jargon filled information. All the while I am to be conducting studio work. That leaves little time for cooking creativity.  Much less breathing. I haven't breathed relief until well.... today.
Thanks to the big Campus Philly event, I feel at ease. At least for a few hours. Many Center City museums were free to students showing up with college ID or blue campus Philly wrist bands. In front of the Philadelphia Art Museum steps, where all the fun started, entertainment was in great abundance for the growing wild crowd. Open mic poetry, positive rap music, DJ spinning tunes from around the globe, and dance off competitions took the stage. Varied games like spin the wheel and sock game tosses provided happy students prizes. Freebies included lots of fresh drinks, snacks, and coupons.

Cherry Limeade Sparkling Water and a free large Ikea blue bag!
Played Septa bus toss and never made a single hole. I'm terrible at throwing. Just terrible!
Goodie bag haul-- Kind Bar wasn't vegan. Going to give it away to someone.
This Boom Chicka Boom Popcorn is amazing! Lightly salted inside bright poppy packaging, one cannot resist snacking away!
Hanging out with Rocky Balboa!
I took the purple Phlash bus (for the first time! It was free!!!!) to the African American Museum.
Here I was ready to face history-- African American history. Something of which wasn't taught quite well in school. It's a history only found far from extremely biased educational system.
I uncovered Stephen Hayes. Who is Stephen Hayes? Who is this artist that baffles spirit with amazingly riveting work that makes each room silent? Deep respect and undeniable mourning describes the tears burning to fall. Hayes creates haunting poetic narrative that speaks guttural truths to me, that speaks to everyone about the bloody realities on which our country stands. Cash Crop explores not just the past, but future as well. Above is Gluttony, a piece that has an intricately carved slave ship in each wooden rectangle. Remarkable symbolic creation of infinite lives stolen from Africa. It narrates ancestral days. Desires to keep having and having, consuming and consuming, using and using. Hayes asks, when will it be enough? When will we stop forcing people to do that of which we could for ourselves? Will slavery ever be truly abolished worldwide?
Slave ship hinged onto the wall. Mixed media.
Map of slave ship voyage from Africa to America.
Close up detail of frame. Fine detailed, sharp lines and bold contrasts.
Most harrowing, poignant portrait of all paints grisly reality, a brusquely undeniable honesty. Fifteen cement sculptures of men, women, and children- arrested hands and shackled legs all leading to one place. Dripping brown stains faces, bodies, and hands, dried bodily fluids staining gray expressionless, nameless captives. Tears want to fall hard at this sight. And even now, it stays present in mind, unforgotten, saying "remember your history. Your history."
Knowledgeable fruit gifted brain, a sweet abundant nourishment that stimulated ideas for tonight's studio practice. The effective way Hayes took subject matter and beautifully weaved conception delivered insight. Its in the same manner as of Wangechi Mutu's profound show seen last year at the Brooklyn Museum. This idea, this notion, that we as artists shouldn't define ourselves as one primary function. They're not just installation artists or sculptors or mixed media collage geniuses. I'm not just a painter that loves to draw. We're each creative inventors using narrative, with or without text language, to engage viewers into reading with their minds, with their souls.
Thus, I carried this inside my filled heart, walking towards next destination- a place to feed ravenous belly.

Everything on Blackbird Pizzeria's menu is vegan!
Blackbird Pizzeria is one of my absolute favorite Philadelphia vegan eateries. With menu item side salads, sandwiches, Make-Your-Own calzones, pizzas like Balboa (pumpkin pesto pizza topped with Daiya mozzarella, seitan bacon, and tomatoes) or (breakfast pizza with tofu scramble and Daiya), I decided to try something new: the wings! Yes, I have heard through the grapevine all about Blackbird's infamous sauce dripping wings! I wasn't the biggest wing pre-vegetarian hence why it took so long to trying them out.

This yummy slice of thin crust pizza served as an appetizer (yes, weird I know). Nothing wrong with a plain slice of "cheese" and tomato sauce!
Here comes the main event! The reason I came. These Root Beer BBQ wings were a knockout for a small $5 order! Sweet, tangy Root Beer BBQ sauce was finger suckling good. Omg! Definitely the bees knees. The wings were crisp, tender, and juicy, retaining irresistible crunch underneath thickly applied sauce.
And the mystery green cream (which must have a bit of avocado in there) had a smooth, creamy consistency that married well to the sweet BBQ sauce. It was like a heaven I never tasted before. 
At Philly Aids Thrift 9th Birthday Block Party, I met a girl selling vegan cupcakes for $2 each!
I selected apple cider. Pretty. A burnt edge didn't stop me from consuming the fluffy, sweet dessert cake!
And this tree of stuffed animals in front of Philly's best thrift store perfected the day.