Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Fried Brussels Sprouts

Twice cooked Brussels sprouts are a perfect last minute addition to a vegan (or not) holiday feast.
I was all set out to make pumpkin pie bread for today's gift idea, but it must wait. I didn't realize my vanilla extract had disappeared into pantry abyss. Now Friday is our scheduled weekly column.
Oh well. Stuff happens.
Thanksgiving is tomorrow- my first year without family. I have to make due being alone and creating art. I am fortunate that the school has 24/7 access to private studio. At the same time, I feel bad for the security guards having to work the front desk. We're missing out on the food being prepared since dawn, the extended family probing questions, the football (yuck! not a fan), the passing out on the couch, etc. 
I do wish everyone a pleasant holiday and remember to love your bellies. Plates should not be beach ball portions....
I'm sharing a simple dish that could complete the no animals harmed buffet-- fried Brussels sprouts. The addiction started with Whole Foods Market's hot food bar. Every time I saw the fried Brussels sprouts I reached for those little green cabbages instantly.  That irresistible charred crunch gives so much flavor depth. The texture switches from a crisp exterior to a pliant, tender bite that is just very pleasing to eat.

Fried Brussels Sprouts

1 16 oz bag frozen Brussels Sprouts
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of nutritional yeast

To boiling water, add the entire bag of Brussels sprouts. Let cook until soft and tender. Drain.
In a skillet, combine Brussels sprouts with olive oil, garlic, salt, black pepper, and nutritional yeast. Keep stirring until there is a nice sear on each side.

Let them fry for 7-9 minutes.
Turn off heat. Enjoy the aroma.
Serve alongside any pasta-- delicious with farfalle.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Little Choc Apothecary's Vegan Crepes & More

In the heart of Brooklyn lies something unique.
A few Thursdays ago, I came straight off the train and walked down Havermeyer Street. Excitement and eagerness kissed the warm day as I imagined phenomenal vegan crepes everyone was raving about-- including a non-vegan artist chick I recently met. When a non-vegan raves about a vegan restaurant, it's definitely a good sign.
Speaking of crepes, the last time I had a crepe was six years ago in France.

Throwback Thursday: Paris, France, March, 2009. Hideous red glasses and not a complimentary glass bottle of water.
This was one of many vegetarian crepes I had consumed. I ate crepes every single day in Paris-- both savory and sweet.
I liked the setting of Little Choc Apothecary. The interior has an earthy aesthetic with its pleasant bare wood grain beauty, live juice bar in active motion, and fresh fruit and plants popping around in random nook and crannies. Plus sitting at the stools to see fall leaves and feel the warm air breezing on a smiling face is pure rapture.
Plus, I entered at the tail end of Serge Gainsborough and Jane Birkin's highly sensual song, "J'Taime' Moi Non Plus" (listen at your own risk!). That was a surefire sign that a tantalizing experience-- with food-- awaited. The impressive menu made decision making hard, but I settled on a pizza crepe stuffed with coconut bacon and mushrooms, a chocolaty scone, and almond milk hot chocolate.

Great thing to note: afternoon tea with a pastry menu! Perfection.
Pumpkin rooftop view from across the street.
Pizza shaped and pizza scented. Nothing beats that basil aroma.
Close up.
Perfect lunch set up.
Almond milk hot chocolate and out of this world scone (not the title but should be).
Digging in the crepe. The cashew cream was exceptionally flavored well and the smooth texture contrasted nicely against the sweet tomato sauce, the crunchy flair of coconut bacon, and the meatiness of the mushrooms. As for the crepe-- soft and pliant, fork tender, nice balance between pancake fluff and thin airiness. Plus the basil made the day! So delicious. I made sure to devour slowly as to enjoy each bite affectionately.
The scone. Soft, and moist with crumbly texture, this sweet dessert cookie, muffin-y treat had a rich, dense chocolate melting on the tongue, tasty shredded coconut, and an interior that had some note of banana flavor.
I loved the French music, the food, the earthy atmosphere, but....... I wish the staff was nicer and made the place more welcoming-- to everyone, not just their regulars. I would love to come back and try out the other crepes. In fact, I mentioned this all vegan creepy to a friend today. Yet it is a question of wanting to return back to that unsettling hostility...... *sighs*

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Gift Idea: Raw Cashew Cheeze Sauce

It's that time of the year-- yummy present ideas galore!
There is truly nothing more splendid than the specialness of a homemade gift whether it be a drawing, painting, or a foodie treasure. For the first part of my new Wednesday series, I share a recipe that can be a potentially delicious holiday twist.
Raw Cashew Cheeze Sauce is one of my favorites. I wanted to make a batch for my friend. Simple to concoct. Just twenty four hours until bliss. One of the greatest benefits of such a sauce is that it can be used in pasta (mac n cheese especially!) and rice dishes, top broccoli or potatoes, cream up soups, and make for a unique grilled cheese sandwich. The savory possibilities are endless.  
Raw Cashew Cheeze Sauce lasts 7-10 days and can be refrigerated. After refrigeration, however, it does stiffen, so leave it at room temperature again if wanting to use.

Raw Cashew Cheeze Sauce Ingredients and Preparation

2 cup cashews, soaked overnight in 1 1/2 cup water
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Drain just a tad bit of the cashew water.
Add all ingredients into blender/processor and puree together.
When sauce reaches a creamy thick consistency, it's ready!

Whipped and smooth like butter.
Handmade labels are always fun!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

World Vegan Day Creamy Mixed Vegetable Soup

All the veggies in one bowl.
Happy November and Happy World Vegan Day! Also, did you set your clocks back? That extra sleep felt so wonderful this morning. Funnily enough, however, I did wake up at 5:54 AM which would have been 6:54-- a mere six minutes before my two alarm clocks usually beep together.
For today's recipe I cannot help remembering the blender explosion. That seems to happen a lot. I'm naturally clumsy. It's a gifted trait to be honest. I had taken the blender off and accidentally opened the wrong part of its bottom, spilling scalding liquid everywhere including my hand. Let's just say ot was the very definition of the phrase "a hot mess." The photographed beautiful green soup is what was managed to be rescued in the aftermath. I held back a tear as most of my hard work sank inside the kitchen sink garbage disposal.
Mixed Vegetable Soup may have come with a disaster story, but still the best part is the delicious taste-- the reaping of a worthwhile effort. Rich, creamy consistency brings an air of supreme satisfaction and warm joy to the devourer. Frankly that is all one asks in a soup.

Creamy Mixed Vegetable Soup Ingredients and Preparation

2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 cup lentils
4 large carrots, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 cup broccoli
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of salt (or Liquid Aminos)
2 tablespoon nutritional yeast

Bring water, vegetable broth, veggies, turmeric, cumin, basil, oregano, garlic, paprika, black pepper and salt to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes-- covered (keep checking though, veggie water likes to boil over even at lowest heat setting). Pour into a blender and liquify.
Top with nooch and eat.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween: Zucchini & Apple "Brains" Stuffed Acorn Squash

Happy Halloween everyone!
"Twas dark and stormy on all Hallow's Night,
Giving costumed children cold shivers and fright.
With wet candy buckets and bags, little ones cried,
As the full moon showed them nowhere to hide." 

I hope everyone is having a safe and fun holiday. As my vegan peeps take their kidlets out to collect here's praying that there is actually vegan candy being offered. Annie's fruit snacks and Justin's dark chocolate peanut butter cups would certainly be at the top of my list. I'm not costumed up this year. Just didn't have the time in between being sick and staying in bed (when I wasn't making soup!).
Still, no use beating myself, I'm in the spirit. I plan to watch Hocus Pocus, Addams Family, Harry Potter (one not all 8), etc. Halloween marathons are the best.
The idea of zucchini and apple "brains" popped into my mind. Of course with it being gourd season, an array of fall recipes use gourds as "bowls."
I loved letting this creative side emerge bright. As the little acorn squashes baked, filling the house with a smell Glade plug-ins cannot mimic, I sharpened a knife. I wanted to draw a little pumpkin face into my sweet dinner.
The flavors are quite pleasant, having sweetened deeper in the oven. Zucchini and apple work together with cinnamon and company and the squash itself-- which can be scraped along the sides. Tastes like a very intriguing sort of Halloween pie. 
Other than that, I am rusty with my carving skills. *lets out a long sigh*

Zucchini & Apple "Brains" Stuffed Acorn Squash Ingredients and Preparation

2 acorn squash, remove seeds
1 zucchini, shredded like spaghetti
1 Fuji apple, chopped
1/4 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Ready up a baking sheet with oil or parchment paper.
Rub a thin layer of olive oil and cinnamon on the inside and outside of hollowed acorn squash.
Mix zucchini, apple, maple syrup, olive oil, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger and salt together.

Spoon mixture into acorn squash. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
Cut out eyes and mouth if desired. I did a sloppy job here.
Eat the harm free "brains." Instant zombie gratification.

Friday, October 30, 2015

"Frida Kahlo's Art, Garden, Life" Exhibit Is A Must See

Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life ends on Sunday November 1, 2015.
I suggest to all my New York friends or those visiting the Big Apple this weekend to squeeze in some leisure time. Head out towards the Bronx for a highly recommended treat- the Frida Kahlo Exhibit at the New York Botanical Gardens!
It was a wonderful dream come true to see more of my favorite painter's works in person.  I applaud NYBG 's huge step in recreating Frida's former house now turned museum. The time and effort in putting this beautiful exhibition together fills my heart with a joy that being in the rare presence of Frida could bring. I have only seen the painting at the National Women's Gallery in D.C. and the one in MoMa.
Nothing prepared me fully for the breadth of Frida, of the awaiting expansion ready to cling to mind like an unforgotten perfume.
Inside the open space replica of Casa Azul, flowers and greenery native to Frida's lively environment decorate along a wide pathway paved in splendid riches. It feels like a blessing to be an excited spectator, breathing such a welcoming air of wonder and delight. Her very essence, her very soul nurtured the fragrant bloom in the hot garden house where her native treasures blossomed around each awed visitor.  In one area, rests a mock Frida studio. Powders, empty painting medium jars, a palette, and mirrors rest on an old desk, showing a glimpse into the world of a truly gifted artist.
Honestly, my eyes watered throughout the whole entire journey.
The LuEsther T. Mertz Library's art gallery houses fourteen works that illustrate Frida's adoration of plants and her intricate mastery of rendering their forms. Poignancy, pain, sensuality, lust, hunger.... so many emotional and physical currents driving together. Thinly applied layers on the surface reveal such a direct opposition to the difficulties occurring in Frida's life. From polio at a young age to the trolley accident to Diego Rivera, Frida always battled and triumphed over hardships, drawing and painting in only the way she knew how-- with profound at times candid honesty.  
Notable works remembered:


Portrait of Luther Burbank
Fruits of the Earth
Two Nudes in a Forest
Self Portrait with Necklace of Thorns
Sun and Life
Still Life with Parrot and Fruit

The Miscarriage 

On the fourth floor, artist-in-residence, Humberto Spindola's Los Fridas is a three dimensional sculpture depicting one of Frida's most famous paintings. Tinted tissue paper is his primary medium.
"The garments are displayed on seated dress forms crafted from reeds that have been molded into human forms." 
Overall, NYBG does Frida justice. It's an amazing landscape to revel in. To take comfort in the paradise of flowers and love and allow an intense longing burst forth the seams.  
Also before leaving the gift shop features books, paper dolls, souvenirs, t-shirts, purses and more. Find something for that Frida Kahlo lover in your life. Me for example. Just kidding.....
Anyways, please go see the exhibit and explore the gardens. Frida will make your imagination soar high above tragedy and rest in the twisted madness of luscious fruits and wild flowers.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Rainbow Carrot Coconut Soup

A sweeter soup that looks and tastes like fervent autumn.
I don't regret Sunday night's haul of vegetables galore from Trader Joe's. Now I'm slowly reintroducing solids into palette. By solids, I mean vegetables for now. One of my favorite TJ soups-- the carrot coconut ginger is sadly gone and switched out to give winter offerings their months on the shelves-- minestrone and lentil. Both are highly recommended. The minestrone has lots of vegetables in a delicious tomato broth base. The lentil has a savory Moroccan flavor. At $3.29 each and a nice two serving size, it's a bargain gourmet. On the other hand, Whole Foods sells soups for $7....
Back to carrot coconut ginger, I enjoyed the warm flavors bouncing between comforting ingredients. I only wished to have an emulsifier to create a soupier consistency. Thankfully the carrots turned out plush, near that beautiful velvety pliancy. Firmness with a slight crunch wasn't the goal here. Yet once again the purple carrots lost significant color. I don't mind. This soup, with its creamy coconut milk flair and ginger pinch, was a rainbow-y enough delight to me-- unicorns and all. 

Rainbow Carrot Coconut Soup Ingredients and Preparation

4 carrots (orange, yellow, purple), chopped
1/2 cup light coconut milk
1/4 cup vegetable stock
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon black pepper

Bring all ingredients to a boil.
Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes, covering with a lid.
Serves two.

Carrots are sweet and tender, cooked in their own irresistible juices.
A soup is always welcoming pleasure on the cloudiest, seemingly insufferable days.
Carrots being front and center.