Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Baked Apple Hand Pies

Move over Hostess and Little Debbie-- first and certainly not the last foray into pie-- hand pie.

Time to share the perfect Juneteenth dessert.
I have always wanted to make pastry, especially something along the lines of pie, but butter is such an essential ingredient. Most vegan substitutes rely on palm oil. I wonder why it seems to be in everything, which screams red flag. Thankfully, Miyoko's Kitchen has a scrumptious new alternative on the market (look for the official AfroVeganChick review next week). It has been a life saver. At last, certain things are possible.

Organic Royal Gala apples from Mom's Organic Market.
I certainly should have prepped the dough yesterday. It is an involved process that was a bit too taxing after walking to work, eight hours of work, a great artist lecture after work, and the hour + walk back home. So yes, to return to the kitchen and retain dead set determination to create this dessert is a thing in itself. Still, I was excited and joyous about making my first hand pies. The efforts were well worth the end result-- eating a delicious warm sweet straight out of the oven inspired by That's So Vegan's Classic Apple Hand Pies recipe, amended from another amazing blog, Oh Lady Cakes.

Baked Apple Hand Pies Ingredients and Preparation

2 1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter (one package of Mikoyo's Kitchen butter), cold and cut into chunks
8 tablespoon water

2 apples, peeled and chopped into small bits
3 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie or apple pie spice
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon arrowroot powder (or 1 1/2 teaspoon flour)

Mix flour, sugar, and salt together. Add butter chunks and fork stir until crumbly. Cover and place in a freezer for 15 minutes. Take this out and distribute water one tablespoon at a time. Once dough sticks together, knead for a minute or so. Roll into a large ball. Cover again and place in the refrigerator for an hour.

Kneaded dough before being refrigerated. A little tear spilled from my eye. It was such a good moment.

In a saucepan set on low heat, combine apples, water, coconut oil, cinnamon, pumpkin or apple pie spice, sugar, and lemon juice. Once apples are tender and soft add in arrowroot powder or flour to thicken. Remove from heat. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Take out chilled dough. Roll out onto floured surface and form circles. Place a small amount of apple filling in the center and fold corner over. Fork press the corners together. Poke ventilation holes (or hearts) into top of the pies. Brush with a small bit of oil.

Bake for 15-25 minutes or until edges are browned.

Bursting with apple goodness.

Pie resting in a bed of homemade vanilla ice cream.

The heart wants what it wants.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Vegetable Cheese Sauce

Cheese sauce made from veggies. Vegan creativity never fails to influence my everyday meal.
Happy Juneteenth!

Today, we celebrate our ancestors across America, the last of African diaspora slaves in Galveston, Texas earned their emancipated freedom. On 153rd anniversary of this great victory, well giant steps to victory, we must never forget the painful hardships and dangerous oppression that had been orchestrated since coming enslaved to a young country. There is still long ways to go until true, honest, authentic resolution for all the peoples residing in America. And I believe that it can be achieved.

From onward, Juneteenth will be a yearly blog tradition.

I started a 20" x 30" acrylic painting that combines the highlight of the Grenada cocoa fashion show from last month and a generous piece of a still life containing a fair trade chocolate bar (Chauo Chocolate) on headwrap fabric.
Just like a the standard mixtape on the hot summer barbecue days and nights, here's some soulful tune suggestions while making art and cooking for feel good vibes:

"California Soul"-- Marlena Shaw
"Like This"-- Monica
"You Don't Have To Worry"-- Doris & Kelley
"Summertime"-- DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince
"Word Iz Bond"-- 702
"Tonite's Tha Nite"-- Kris Kross
"I Can Love You"-- Mary J. Blige & Lil Kim
"Can We"-- SWV
"Rhythm Nation"-- Janet Jackson
"Hot Like Fire (Remix)"-- Aaliyah
"Queen"-- Janelle Monae Feat. Erykah Badu
"Love Like This"-- Faith Evans
"Music"-- Eric Sermon & Marvin Gaye
"Your Woman"-- White Town
"Here Comes the Hotstepper"-- Ini Kamoze
"PYT"-- Michael Jackson
"Black Sweat"-- Prince
"Creep"-- TLC
"Hit Dem Wit Da Hee"-- Missy Elliot & Lil Kim
"American Boy"-- Estelle
"Black Steel"-- Tricky Feat Martina Topley-Bird
"Don't Disturb This Groove"-- The System
"He's The Greatest Dancer"-- Sister Sledge
"I'm So Excited"-- The Pointer Sisters

And so many, many more (please give me your songs).....

At last, Juneteenth couldn't be complete without a scrumptious dinner. I finally made cheese sauce with carrots and potatoes-- inspired by a video long ago posted on my Facebook page. Isn't it amazing that the simplest of vegetables, cheap vegetables, concoct perfect solutions when one doesn't have cashews on hand? Usually people add Yukon or white or golden potatoes, but I had sweet potatoes. The sauce comes out a pretty shade of orange, reminding me a bit of the butternut cheese sauce. It's tangy, light on sweetness, irresistibly creamy.

Vegetable Cheese Sauce Ingredients and Preparation

2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
5 small to medium sized carrots
1/3 cup red onion, chopped
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Chopped veggies. I saved the sweet potato scraps for future plans.

Bring sweet potatoes, carrots, red onions, and olive oil to a boil-- approximately 30- 40 minutes. Make sure carrots and sweet potatoes are fork tender before placing in the blender. Blend with nutritional yeast, turmeric, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and black pepper until smooth and creamy.

Add to any pasta of your choice. Macaroni is always a good choice. 

The Pan African Flag is on full display: green for Brussels sprouts, the red bowl of dinner, and a black "Black is Beautiful" Studio Museum Harlem mug of iced cold cocoa tea (recipe will be posted this week-- a special treat from the Caribbean).

Monday, June 18, 2018

Blackened Moroccan Spiced Carrots

This is the first time sharing vegan Juneteenth recipes on the blog. It's better late than never to celebrate the important significance of tomorrow, a day that commemorates the last freed peoples of African diaspora in Texas. Although meat is usually on the menus of most Juneteenth functions, especially in the deep South, a little plant based goodness can bring about necessary change to the minds of many while at the same time fulfill the joys of ancestors flowing in our veins and satisfy hungry bellies.

Recipe number one is a trip to Morocco, a country in Northern Africa I long to visit. It's connected to Western Sahara and Algeria and is known for splendid palaces, creative architecture, gorgeous nature views, and delicious spicy food. Thus, all over the web are various versions of Moroccan carrots from chilled salads to carrot soups. I twice prepared my carrots-- boiling to lightly soften and pan frying for the desired blackening effect. They came out perfectly spiced and fork tender accompanied by marinated tempeh and topped with red onions.

Blackened Moroccan Spiced Carrots Ingredients and Preparation

5-6 large carrots, rinsed
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
cilantro (fresh or dried, also sub parsley)
pinch of lemon juice

Bring carrots to a boil. Drain.
Coat carrots with salt, garlic, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, cilantro, and lemon juice. Refrigerate for a few hours.
Heat up a skillet and add olive oil. Toss in marinated carrots, turning them over as nice charred sears start happening.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Wild Blend Rice With Black Sesame Seed Pan Fried Tofu

There is nothing wrong with revisiting an old favorite-- rice and fried tofu, a heartfelt vegan classic.

Last week, a slew of Lundberg Family Farm rice varieties were on sale from jasmine to brown to short and long grain. I selected the Lundberg Wild Blend, a mix of long grain brown rice, sweet brown rice, wild rice, whole grain Wehani rice,  and whole grain black Japonica rice.

It was only right to make classic fried tofu alongside a beautiful, delicious compilation of rice.

Wild Blend Rice With Black Sesame Seed Pan Fried Tofu Ingredients and Preparation

1 cup Lundberg Farms Wild Blend (or any rice of your choosing)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 14 oz extra tofu block, pressed as close to dry as possible and cubed
1 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon Liquid Aminos
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup red onion

1 teaspoon black sesame seeds

Prepare wild rice according to package directions. Set aside.
Heat a skillet with generous olive oil drizzle.
In a bowl, hand toss cubed tofu with sesame oil, garlic, turmeric, cumin, coriander, liquid aminos, ginger, black pepper, and red onion. Let this marinate for a minute or two.
Cook tofu for a few minutes on each side. Serve hot with rice. Sprinkle black sesame seeds on top.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Pot Meet "The Kettle Black"

Established last year, The Kettle Black is spreading love and creativity in baking and drinks department. Don't expect an ordinary kind of bliss.
I made a desperate stop in the Northern Liberties area, an integral part of my hour + walking journey to work, just to visit The Kettle Black on N. 2nd Street. For weeks, some great Instagram accounts have been singing the praises of this indie spirited coffee and bread joint, a nod to France with its boulangerie playing the right notes. Serving up breads and pastries, on occasion specials have included vegan cinnamon rolls, vegan cruffins (crumpet and muffin?), and vegan funfetti croissants.

I am anxious to try the vanilla rose latte! Vanilla rose simple syrup (house made) sounds too good to be true.
When inside the space, warm, pleasant relaxation come to mind, the environment, although small, beckons one to stay and write, chat, linger a while longer. Muted colors on the walls, large windows letting the sun shine in, and clean, clear display case full of beautiful, browned pastries designed to tease hungry revelers on their way to 9-5. A few people can afford the dalliance to sit on tall stools facing the spring blossomed trees, their phones and mini laptops on fitting effortlessly on narrow wooden alignment.

The associate was friendly, giving me a few seconds to look over the entire place. I watched people order their straight coffees and espressos before deciding on trying the vegan croissants.

Humble bread loaves and a mountain of fresh bagels.

The makings of a splendid day cast in golden light to rival the sunshine.

Vegan croissants to go.

After warmed up, this impressive croissant is incredibly flaky, pillowy soft, and full of rich, fattening, "buttery" flavor. It's definitely worth the pit stop.

The first two rolls are usually vegan. 

The current featured artwork fits in quite nicely. These three evenly spaced compositions of intricate line details are contained inside creased, oblong shapes exploring contrast with limited color palette. It's also interesting what color can convey. In the black and white, many representations come to mind such as floating fish, molecular fluidity, and impromptu beginnings of exploring pure abstraction. In a red one, the same line qualities are painted green with yellow green outlines, appearing like leaves or some rare green animal existing in a charged bloodline.

Naturally, I came back to Kettle Black the very next day for the lox sandwich on a black salt bagel. Fashionably frugal yet casual in headwrap from Eva's Headwraps (she has sadly disappeared without word on social media), Kay Unger sunglasses ($8 from Burlington Coat Factory), and a pug print blouse ($2 from Circle Thrift). 

The lox, made of tofu, is divine! I have never had real lox so thus I cannot make a proper comparison. The smoky generous pieces were a mouthful of deliciousness coated affectionately with superb vegan cream cheese-- creamy, rich, no odd after tastes. Alas, the black salt bagel is not just an aesthetically pleasing eye wonder. From its coarse salted granules at the top to the chewy, dense softness of its toasted glory, there is no surprise that it's a popular favorite. It's unique and amazing. 

Friday, June 15, 2018

Macaroni With Eggplant

The ardor for eggplant continues onward. It is such a good, versatile ingredient that can make a meal become more than originally conceived.
For example a simple "butter" pasta dish has been livened up thanks to crumbly texture eggplant.
I chopped up a small one founded at the corner market, stir fried the bits in olive oil and spices, and rested them in seemingly plain macaroni. It was an interesting, meaty tasting dish that was worth the greedy second helping. In addition to garlic, black pepper, cumin, and other dried cabinet things, the touch of Chinese Sauce went a long way. Read the labels on Chinese Sauce, some of them contain non-vegan ingredients.

Macaroni With Eggplant Ingredients and Preparation

2 cup macaroni, cooked
2 tablespoon almond milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small eggplant, diced
1 tablespoon Chinese Sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Prepare macaroni according to package directions. Stir in almond milk, salt, and black pepper.
With temperature set to medium high, heat olive oil in a skillet.
In a small bowl, mix diced eggplant with Chinese sauce, garlic powder, cumin, turmeric, and black pepper. Pour this mixture into hot skillet and turn every few minutes until nicely browned. Should be 8-9 minutes.
Stir finished eggplant with cooked macaroni. Serve.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Grenada Wrap Up: Sights & Fashion Picto Journal

Gorgeous views of Grenada from the Marian area atop hills beyond beautiful mountain peaks.
This trip was supposed to be ten days and in accordance with the Grenada Chocolate Festival.
Alas, I was able to attend one event on one day as opposed to a fully packed nine day schedule. I had to unfortunately cancel my previous nonrefundable bookings, change my Airbnb dates, and lost my wallet in Atlanta. The unperceived financial losses were vast and severe. If it hadn't been for Moneygram, I doubt that my trip would have been as good as it became.
I spent eight days in the warm pleasant environment of Grenada, right in the heart of the Caribbean. Although things hadn't gone originally planned, most days I had a solid time, especially with my lovely host and her family. The weather was supremely gorgeous--not too scorching hot and it rained every night-- which meant cool breeze s through the window and tranquil noise. In addition to the splendid weather, however, there are lots of stray dogs roaming around the island. I have a stray dog phobia and that made my lonely treks around the island much more timid. I managed in the best way possible to overcome the fear-- at least for a little while.

Majestic views from my sweet Airbnb. My host is also a frequent traveler, having just returned from D.C.

Day One: a flowy, mid-calf asymmetrical dress with thick straps,

Day 2: Afrodelik tank, a gift from a friend.

Breadfruit, one of Grenada's primary food staples, grows almost everywhere. Apparently, breadfruit tastes like a potato or fresh baked bread depending on how it's prepared. It is the star of the national dish called "oil down," a one pot meal consisting of breadfruit, bananas, callaloo (or spinach), coconut milk, and spices. I plan to make a vegan version of this soon.

Day 3L Patterned orange tank dress (backless cutout and pockets), a $5 thrift store find.

My host, her son, and I went out to the beach, the Allamande Resort side of Grand Anse. Mother and son swam together. In fact, her father and father-in-law were also swimming. I watched three generations interactwith pure joy and affection, sadly missing out on the simple wonders of life. I had ordered a swimsuit that never arrived. Still, even if had been tucked into my suitcase, I don't think I would have braved standing in the idyllic waters. I don't know how to swim or how I would be able to withstand the breezy waves.

When one has no buckets to make sand castles, there's other art to make-- albeit flatter and portrait like.

On top of the stray dogs, goats are plentiful. These cuties were in my host's backyard curiously staring at me.
Day 4: This dress that I loved so much that I took it to Paris too. Another thrift store find.
Bus fare is 2.50 (or 93 cents in US dollars). Queen Elizabeth I is on most of the monies here.
Breathtaking views at the Melville Street Cruise Terminal where ships and boats of various styles sit in the harbor.
The Osprey Lines Limited Ferry transports inter-island passengers for 80EC each way ($30 US) to Carriacou and Petit Martinique.
I wish fiction fever wasn't boarded up-- probably was a terrific store too early for the time.
Yes! My dry, thirsty skin was thankful to acquire pure cocoa butter (from House of Chocolate). Leaves the skin super moist and chocolaty smelling.
Splendid views from the other side of Grand Anse Beach.
Day 5: Global Couture T-shirt. On a previous day, I had acquired the worst bug bite. It had infected the right side of my nose bridge and underneath my eye, looking like a horrific purple veined bruise. I splashed water on the painful, stinging infection and massaged in Argan oil and cocoa butter. Good as new the next morning-- or as witnessed here on a sun-kissed outing to the beach.
This brick oven wheat bread loaf was extremely delicious. Often, I warmed and coated slices in an olive oil drizzle. I also broke pieces off for the Sweet Potato Coconut Milk Soup.

Fort George formerly Fort Rupert where Maurice Bishop and several of his followers including his partner Jacqueline Creft were executed in October 1983. After the execution, their bodies were burned at another location. Tragically enough, their remains were never recovered. The Maurice Bishop International Airport, located on Maurice Bishop Memorial Highway, is named after Bishop.
An alarming amounts of blood stained the steps towards the fort. I didn't find the hurt victim for the tracks finally stopped (red drippings were on all of the steps and there were many steps). Thus, in regards to history, what happened to Bishop and his devoted followers, my thoughts turned metaphoric.
Day 6: long sleeved black top with a pretty purple floral skirt. The skirt was too large, but I'll tie a string around it or have someone make belt loops for it. The hat (made of paper) is a gift from a friend-- once part of his thesis exhibit at PAFA.
The Sendall Tunnel, a Grenada's national landmark, is a modest structure built for horses and carriages. Cars and buses and pedestrians travel through this daily, but it can be dangerous for pedestrians.  
I took the bus, a 6XCD ($2.22 USD) trip, towards Greenville, sitting through the gorgeous sights of Grand Etang Rainforest (where one can see cacao pods hanging from the trees).
Beaches of Greenville.

A nice guy bought me a drink. He said, "most ladies drink this." Bitters is a usually a botanically infused alcohol, but this is a non-alcoholic beverage that tastes like a Sprite. The Angostura company, also a distillery, is still around in Trinidad and Tobago,making bitters, rum, and other beverages.
A purple spot that sells chips and drinks along the beach.
The first flight is a short one to Trinidad and Tobago (along a tremendously long layover period) then off to Houston, Texas and New York's LaGuardia Airport.  I look forward to returning to Grenada next year-- with better, ironclad plans.