Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Jackfruit & Avocado Wraps

Something new that's up to stuff.
Trying out new foods is often an interesting adventure. Skepticism comes and goes, but the testing out of something one has never tried and/or have yet to prepare is cause for tricky concern. On one hand, it might be the nastiest food known to taste buds or cooked horrifically wrong repeatedly. This can then have the food crossed off and banned forever. I have had these experiences throughout this vegan venture. For a while, I hated eggplant. Until I realized that removing the bitterness helps out a lot! I first tried jackfruit last spring and enjoyed the flavor immensely.
However, I feared opening up the gourd and making it myself.
Thankfully Upton's Natural's has now released their brand new Jackfruit varieties-- Chili Lime Carnitas and Bar-B-Que. They pack a solid flavorful punch. Sweet, tangy elements meet wonderful notes of smoky spice in a head on collision that is utterly delicious. The chewy texture, like pulled pork sans the tough annoying bits/hazards, has a meaty reminiscence that is most welcoming, especially given that jackfruit is related to figs and mulberries.
Full bearded mascot.
This wrap is a simple no hassle recipe. The avocado (perfectly ripened by the way) gave a nice, rich balance to the savory juiciness of the warmed jackfruit. 

Ingredients and Preparation

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup chopped red onion
Upton Natural's Jackfruit
vegan cheese (used Field Roast Coconut Herb Chao)
1 avocado

Saute jackfruit and red onions together in a hot, nonstick skillet.
Pour into tortilla centers. Layer with cheese and avocado.

Other stuffing suggestions are mushrooms, jalapenos, spinach.... possibilities are endless!
Juicy closeup.

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Monday, April 25, 2016

For Malick Sidibé and His Lens Caps

T he world will miss tremendously Malick Sidibé, a wonderful artist campaigning positive messages about his people.
We met several times-- his work and I. On a thought provoking path together, we grew into fond understanding of one another, walking the line of true kindred spirits. 
At Jack Shainman Gallery's West 20th location-- the first solo survey I've ever visited of Sidibé's-- his black and white and sepia toned photographs of black lives in Mali and beyond took apart the Western perception of "uncivilized" people. These images span from various decades, showcasing lively, refined characters whose stories the viewer yearns to know.

With a vast drawing background, Sidibé used this particular brand of technical knowledge to compose elaborate photographic compositions. Scenes featured families, friends, or lovers deliberately schemed in the picture plane, letting audience in on their mysterious intimacy. Sitters weren't traditionally set up. Posed bodies activated negative space; framed rectangulars either riddling with individualized peoples engaged together or a sole distinguished solitary figure. Clothing patterns, braided hair styles, head wraps, and the environments where these sophisticated, very unique designs exist play pivotal storytelling role. 
Sidibé captures a natural, engaging choreography-- youth around motorcycles, young girls in a classroom, people embracing one another-- love is etched everywhere. Familiarity in the unfamiliar, in a continent miles away, exists a beautiful organization, a balance that audiences can comprehend from depths of heart and soul. Although Sidibé's handwriting touches bottoms of his images, this knowledge breathing raw candor in the pictures unites and engages without the use of verbal language. It's the physical stuff that compels a deeper, more intuitive perception of Africa, of African lives.

In the back of the room, in a short looping video, Sidibé is a ray of light, a beacon of hope and happiness. He is sweet, charming, and delighted, a humble artist, discussing photography's significant role in his life and to those seeking him out, desiring to immortalized. The medium has importance to the community. Frequentl they invited him to varied parties and social functions, giving him and his eager camera an accessible taste of vibrancy. With camera strapped around his neck, standing outside of his studio, is a melodious frame cementing a man's joy of taking pictures, of proving tremendous contribution to his community through art.
"You don't choose. You are called. You are recommended in advance, so you go to someone's wedding, someone's christening... We were recommended, and I was lucky enough at that time to be the intellectual young photographer with a small camera who could move around."

To Mr. Sidibé-- I would say this- thank you for sharing your vision, for letting us see a beautiful scope of Africa through your lens, a lens of vignette sonnets and vintage storytelling. May these truths continue to bring pleasure to those who have the gracious opportunity to be blessed in the presence of your awe inspiring photography.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Best Vegan Sweet Potato Pie in Philadelphia

Half slice of Rekhati Bakes Sweet Potato Pie topped with So Delicious Coco Whip and slivered almonds. Pumpkin spice tea on the side.
With PAFA's 115th Annual Student Exhibition just around the corner (installation day is next weekend) and a thesis presentation completed (I was beyond nervous yesterday), my paintings are well under way for the biggest live audience ever seen thus far. To have been borne from mind, written in diaries, realized onto canvas, these paintings will be breathing colorful black woman narratives into the beautiful Hamilton building's second floor Annenberg Gallery. It is an unimaginable thing. Thrilling excitement tingles inside. Nerves have reached fever pitch (literally-- I'm sick as a cat right now). Still, I am ready. Ready and confident.
For the past few weeks, I have had another little sweet tooth obsession. Hint: it isn't doughnuts.
Govinda's sells many wholesale vegan desserts from Dottie's Donuts to Vegan Treats. Rekhati's Bakes' sweet potato pie is no exception to the rule.
Light, moist sweet potato puree tastes like splendorous remedy airily coated in warm cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg spices. Glorious meld-- that is pure sweet potato-- sinks into delicious crust that is neither too salty, too crumbly, or too dry. The balance is quite romantic alone. Adding So Delicious Coco Whip and slivered almonds gives accentuated details to an already decadent remix.
I may be stressed out, but always remember that spelled backwards is desserts. Every now and then, a vegan deserves a good vegan dessert. Period. 

True goddesses all hail pie. I crown thee.
Right amount of cream, perfect amount of pie.... *sighs*
Too beautiful to eat right?

Monday, April 11, 2016

Three New Vegan Foods Hit Philly

Sweet Earth Foods new breakfast pick-me-up.
I was overjoyed to see new vegan products at both Center City Whole Foods locations and couldn't contain eagerness to try them out. Unfortunately blindsided eagerness caused the wallet being left at the store. I had just caught a bus heading towards home-- sans a bus pass. Immediately, I raced off (to frustrated annoyance of the bus driver), came back to W.F. and was happy to have retrieved everything. Whew!
Other than being a complete scatterbrain, life has been super busy to the point of near exhaustion some days. With nineteen days until ASE installation, twenty-nine days until final reviews, and thirty-two days until graduation, the end of school is painstakingly near. Blood, sweat, and tears have been going in at six medium to large sized paintings. Six. Self-doubt is trying to take me down. And for all my love of art, I cannot let it.
Needless to say, here are three brand new comfort foods taking some of the edge off-- to my stomach that is.

Yummy cute little morning sunshine.
These sandwiches were absolutely delicious. They get pretty messy towards the devouring finish line, but it's worth it. I've never been a huge fan of ham. Not at all. Most vegan hams remind me of great dislike. Sweet Earth has created savory pieces of juicy texture that isn't too chewy or awkward. The bun is soft, moist and the chickpea"egg" is divine. I could do without the tomato puree stuff.
I really enjoy Pretzilla Buns. Their soft, squishy exterior and pretzel-ly exterior from sausage buns to hamburger buns, bring on fun memories of obsessive Auntie Ann's days. Now the team has brought on Soft Pretzel Bites-- another hit!
Fifteen in a pack, these three serving portion snacks carry on traditional flavor-- pint sized, chewy, tasty treasures! Deliciously good alone or with a "cheesy" dip or mustard. 
Nada Moo is finally here.
I have always wanted to try Nada Moo! for the longest time. They're a hugely popular ice cream line based in Texas and selling their sweet pints all over West Coast.

The ice cream is a refreshing taste of authentic peppermint flavor with bits of miniature chocolate chips in between.
I tried hard to not be one of those people who eats an entire pint in one sitting. I failed. Tremendously.
In my foolish happiness over Nada Moo's arrival, I didn't truly think this out when selecting this particular ice cream flavor. I apologize to my moral consciousness, to my readers in acknowledgment.
Unfortunately, this will be the first and last time, I will try Nada Moo's chocolate products. They are on the Food Empowerment Project's "Cannot Recommend: Companies That Did Not Respond" list.
I've decided it was best to print this out now.
Even if a company has "vegan" and "fair trade" certification labels adhered to its eloquent packaging, a consumer has a right to know where their chocolate hails from, whose hands are in this delicate process of harvesting the precious cacao bean. Are child's hands being whipped and labored? A willing adult's hands?
It's a sore subject to end on, but we cannot deny slavery's existence. A company may scream ethical intentions until kingdom come. The truth is in solidarity of food empowerment. Either you're standing with justice or you're not.  

Friday, March 25, 2016

Baked Apple Cider Doughnuts

Scrumptious treats blended with fresh chopped apple and warm fragrant spices.
Doughnuts-- the tasty sweet pastry that one can try to live without and have no real success.
Thankfully, Dottie's Donuts is an eleven minute trek from home.
On grey days, where the sun decides to hide splendid beauty showcased just warmly yesterday, one takes matters into their own grubby hands to save a little time and money. My first attempt at vegan doughnuts, two years ago, were Sour Cream Doughnut Holes in fact. They were crisp on the outside due to the generous sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar and pliantly moist on the inside.
Weeks ago, I purchased a doughnut pan at Michael's (they were having a 30% off baking supplies sale) and put off ideas, knowing that my favorite place would be opening soon. Now that I have tried and fallen deeper in love, was there room left to make one's own?
Of course.
Why not have the best of both worlds?
I wanted to try crafting a baked version and loved My Darling Vegan's Apple Cider Doughnuts. With her recipe as an inspirational guide, I added cloves, ginger, and chopped Gala apple and omitted the canola oil to add extra applesauce. 
These don't taste like authentic traditional style doughnuts of yore. Maybe due to my using whole wheat flour instead of all purpose-- which I will use next time. It has a muffin flavor profile, not exactly doughnut, but its delicious taste has autumn bells ringing early. Plus the sweetness might be too strong. I liked gaining the simple lessons learned from creating this introductory doughnut bath and plan to invent other recipes down the road.
And still go to Dottie's along journeying way. 

Baked Apple Cider Doughnuts Ingredients and Preparation

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking poweder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup apple cider
2 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Gala apple, chopped


1/4 cup apple cider

Cinnamon-Sugar Topping

1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Counter full of pleasing ingredients.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease doughnut pan. 
Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice together.
Mix apple cider, apple sauce, maple syrup, and vanilla.
Combine wet and dry ingredients together.

Add chopped apple. Stir evenly well.
Spoon batter into the doughnut pan. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Let doughnuts cool.
Brush each doughnut in apple cider and coat with cinnamon-sugar.
Serve and eat.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Asparagus With Butternut Squash Puree and Gardein's Crabless Cakes

Lady Persephone has sprung a pretty plated meal.
Happy Spring Equinox. Philadelphia weather isn't feeling spirit of the warm sun and blooming flowers concept yet. With gray sky and slight chill this afternoon, it's muted autumn territory. 
Originally asparagus, being a dark, intense shade of grass green and all, was conceived for St. Patrick's Day. Life has been busily chaotic with grad school at its near bittersweet end. Thesis paper, painting preparation, and obsessive search for summer plans have taken bulk of my mind and body activity.
Still, an asparagus meal, perfect fit for special occasion, especially with a dollop of butternut squash puree and crispy gardein Crabless Cakes, evokes spring promise.
For added color, perhaps a vibrant pop of red and sweetness, I would suggest plump cherry tomatoes atop of the butternut squash puree.

An A+ effort for gardein's Mini Crispy Crabless Cakes. Pan seared in a bit of olive oil, these delicate crunchy patties were a superb complement to steamed asparagus and butternut puree. I have never had a real crab cake and can only vouch for the flavor and texture of this particular creation-- that of which I immensely feel in love. To let fork pierce into crisply succulent cake is a heavenly experience second to devouring its savory taste. It's a plus that there requires no pre-microwave. Just heat up olive oil and sear each side for 6 minutes.
Asparagus With Butternut Squash Puree Ingredients and Preparation

1/2 cup butternut squash, cut and cubed
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon salt

Bring butternut squash to a boil.
Drain some not all of water.
In a blender or food processor, combine butternut squash with nutritional yeast, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Pulse well.

After boiling asparagus (or steaming), drain and plate.
Pour butternut squash puree over top. Serve with hot gardein's Crabless cakes.

Golden yellow butternut squash puree layering dark green asparagus.
Simple fancy feast.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

(Louise) Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun: A Post Without the Visual

Tenacious crafted skill is a soft feminine breath inhaling sharply etched presence among elaborate situation. With background walls painted in warm matte tones such as Venetian red and cinnamon brown to give mesmerizing paintings a valid space to occupy, revolutionary Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, one of France's finest earlier female artists, has a time-honored retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Hung until May 15th, on lower level behind white marble sculpture land, neoclassical lovers, traditionalist academia buffs, and painting enthusiasts have been granted an astounding opportunity. For this special exhibition photography is prohibited-- both unfortunate and fortuitous. This humbling request asks viewers to grasp at memory, to keep luminous beauty stored so close that belted glory cannot come unbuckled upon fateful exit.
Therefore, to truly comprehend utmost significance of this talented woman's tremendous art canon contribution, to fully appreciate her important legacy, is to choose proper words regarding work left behind, including private collected pieces never before seen on the east side of Atlantic Ocean. Vigée Le Brun's sophisticated oeuvre features over one hundred masterfully detailed paintings and pastel drawings. Ubiquitous lines cross evocative boundaries between Rococo and Baroque elements, showing frank interest in both portraiture and environmental surrounding with excessive attention to technical accuracy. From rosy cherub pink to dreamy turquoise concoction, vibrant candy flavored color schemes unearth undeniable yearning to further study formulaic properties of such richly-engaging-guarantee-to-rotten-teeth palette. Luscious high hued fabrics appearing silken, ruffled, and velvety to touch are realistic shifts playing deceptive games in light and shadow.
First part of Vigée Le Brun's chronological timeline shares her defiant pursuit to be treated with respect and honor, eventually receiving a license to paint and become a member of the prestigious Academie. Esteemed nobility are her earliest clientele until Marie Antoinette, notoriously described as a frivolous narcissistic queen of perfidy, obtains Vigée Le Brun as official portraitist. This is considered powerful position to become court painter, rarely a woman on top of that, which elevates status and influence quite remarkably. She becomes her patron's confidante, entrusted to royal secrets, interweaving extravagant tales via paintbrush. For example, Salon rejected French queen in a modest chemise portrait, deemed scandalous at the time, appears next to acceptably clothed successor. Both share Antoinette's quarter view gaze with a carefree hand holding vivaciously plump flowers.
After fleeing Paris prior to Antoinette's gulliotine, Vigée Le Brun finds other wealthy benefactors due to impressive widespread reputation. She remains capturing distinguished, educated young women in rather compelling believability. These spry, lovely women, with their long hair, moist parted mouths and penchant for roses, are not lustful objects meant for male desire. Although Antoinette likely craved that position in her isolated portraits, these later subjects relish in the world of delicious books and picturesque landscape. Motherhood is important also, bearing a strong foundation in certain works whereas solitude in intelligence opens up another kind of dialogue altogether. Colors are still vivid and wonderful, making it near impossible for eyes to look away from quixotic verisimilitude. To have known that a woman could authenticate creamy faces dipped in the blushing vibrance of life is enough reason to become utterly obsessed, besotted in fact.
At finale, forced to retain knowledge beheld, listening ears weren't surprised to hear awestruck gasps. These frequent audible intervals are a minor distraction bursting out like little nocturnal flies attracted to bright incandescent street lamps. That only defines gratifying depth Vigée Le Brun's brushstrokes have on rapt audience.
It brings notion to return and perhaps coerce memory to carry a little more of the beautiful loaded burden.