In Cooking Dress It Up Entertaining Food and Drink Health Mens lifestyle Vegan Vegan Foods

Best-Dressed With Less: Dress It Up™ Dressing

Amongst my peers, I'm that rare individual that can get excited about a salad.  Not only does freshness matter but so do textures, pairings and cut sizes.  Buoyant healthy appearance, firm juicy textures, diversity in flavors to create a well-rounded bowl and uniformity in size to create ease while  eating are all keys to a wonderful salad.  I've come a long way from iceberg lettuce, tomatoes quarters and skinless cucumber rounds slathered in Zesty Italian dressing.  I've also come to be annoyed with the afterthought that salad usually goes through in the planning of a family get-togther.  This vegan guy knows the importance of a salad for his survival socially (and biologically) especially at a non-vegan function.  For that reason alone is why I have to be that discerning and choosy salad snoot. 

I love a salad filled with stuff to where each tong-full could produce another verdant hidden leaf or ingredient.  When I make a salad, my greens, my peppers, my root veggies, my fruits, my legumes and my seasonals all have to be in good condition.  The unifying agent is almost always my dressing.  I usually like to introduce a new, but complimentary, element into my salad experience through my choice of dressing.  This is exactly why when I came across Dress It Up™ during the last Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City, I was quite intrigued.  When I look into the ingredients of my dressing I don't want to have to consult Google to understand 'mono-this' and 'poly-that'.  Created in 2012 by Sophia Maroon, Dress It Up is a fresh and sophisticated line of salad dressings that uses clean, simple and organic ingredients to create enhancement rather than confusion in your salads.  

What Dress It Up does so savvily is that it keeps it simple and special.  The cute bottling and the easy to understand labeling are just cherries on top of the flavorful dressings with their perfect pairings of each special ingredient to make amazing toppers and tossers for salads, crudités and sandwiches.  The three vinaigrettes highlighted here are testament.  The Champagne Vinaigrette features the slight aged sweetness from the champagne together with the tart acidity of the vinegar and mustard notes.  The Apple Cider Vinaigrette offers up that fresh pop of apple essence that showcases the nice roundness of apple cider vinegar with the depth of mustard and garlic.  Then the Red Wine Vinaigrette delivers a good-bodied fermented loveliness from the grape that plays nicely up against the other distinct ingredients for a mash up of red wine & vinegar and oil & vinegar.  All three are nice bases to complement the subtle  flavors and textures of a well-done salad but can also serve as wonderful accompaniments to go on top of a sandwich in lieu of creamier mayos and condiments or as great dairy-free dunkers for an Italian antipasti spread.

Your salad must be suave just as your dressing be chic.  With Dress It Up, it appears that the infamous Coco Chanel adage of "less is more" seems both a style lesson and successful ingredient instruction.  For more information on all the dressings from Dress It Up and to peruse their e-store, head over to their website here.

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In Cooking Entertaining Explore Cuisine Good Eats Health Mens lifestyle Vegan Vegan Foods

When Pasta Saves The Day: Explore Cuisine Pastas

The guests came and went, the wine was poured and emptied and the good dishes were dried and returned to the armoire.  Thus ended another Thanksgiving.  So right about now as you may be getting ready to deck the halls, light the menorah, buy the spruce or relearn the seven principles, let me take this moment to pat myself on the back for my first foray into Thanksgiving chef-dom.

Now it's a given that I am always the salad-maker at family functions and, just like my soups, I like a salad filled with stuff.  My past salads have ranged from green delights with haricot vert and shrimp to center cut bacon and heirloom grape tomatoes to my more current veganized updates with artichoke hearts and greek olives to chick peas and sun dried tomatoes.  However, since my going vegan in 2017, my plate at family functions has been salad-rice-roll-heavy with not much else.  So it's with this in mind that I decided to delve into expanding my culinary expertise for family gatherings (if I ever wanted to eat at any of them going forward). 

This past June I came across this wonderful pasta company at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City by the name of Explore Cuisine.  The company lives up to its name by offering pastas made from a variety of beans and veggies that are unique, naturally gluten-free and packed with good amounts of plant-protein and fiber per serving.  Explore Cuisine pastas are essentially just as easy to prepare as traditional pasta but with more nutritional value and flavor.  What was nice to experience was actual flavor to pasta.  Sure some folks get caught up on the texture and al dente this and that but I've found that while they can be hearty and filling, most traditional pastas are just hefty bases for sauces and toppings.  This is precisely why I loved the fact that when I tasted the Explore Cuisine's Organic Red Lentil Penne, I tasted the smoky herbal goodness of red lentils with great cooked texture.  When tasted their Organic Mung Bean Rotini, I tasted the earthy weight of the rich in protein mung bean.  Explore Cuisine pastas deliver a layer of depth to a dish thereby enhancing the dish to a fuller overall flavor profile. 

So how delighted was I when I decided to use their Organic Red Lentil Penne for a delicious vegan Sausage & Peppers dish for my Thanksgiving family gathering.  Using the penne, all fresh ingredients and Field Roast Mexican Chipotle Vegan Sausage I came up with a dish even my heavy-carnivorous family members enjoyed.  Of course in my rush to get cooking finished before the dinner bell, I forgot to take pictures of the wonderfully colorful finished meal, but check out the deets below for the ingredients to make this great remixed Italian dish using Explore Cuisine Organic Red Lentil Penne.

Vegan Sausage and Peppers with Red Lentil Penne

1 box                           Explore Cuisine Organic Red Lentil Penne
2 small to medium     Red bell peppers
2 small to medium     Green bell peppers
2 small to medium     Yellow bell peppers
1 large                         Red onion
5-6 bulbs                     Garlic
1 package                    Field Roast Mexican Chipotle Vegan Sausage
1 large sprig                Fresh Italian parsley
1 handful                     Fresh Baby spinach
1/2 tsp                          Pink Himalayan Sea salt
1/2 tsp                          Fresh cracked Black pepper
1 can                            Quartered Peeled Tomatoes (optional)

Cook the pasta as per package instructions.  Cut the bell peppers and red onion into 1/4-1/2 inch slivers and set aside.  While the pasta is cooking, start a skillet over medium heat with a tiny bit of olive or grapeseed oil (about 1 tbsp), dice sausage links into 1/4 inch discs and toss them for about 6-7 minutes (as per package instructions).  Next in another skillet, heat up over high heat some more olive or grapeseed oil (about 3-4 tbsp) and cook the garlic until it starts to brown.  Then add the salt, pepper, bell peppers and red onion and let them cook, tossing frequently for about 7-8 minutes.  Next add your cooked sausage, quartered peeled tomatoes (w/o water) and toss that together for about 2 minutes.  Strain your pasta then add it to the skillet with the sausage, peppers and onion and about 3 tbsp of the pasta water and the baby spinach.  Toss frequently and let that cook for another 3-4 minutes.  Now it's ready for plating with the final touch being a sprinkling of the fresh Italian parsley cut into shreds over the top.

The zest of the pasta really helped add another element of life to this textural dish and using fresh ingredients made a huge different too.  It's nice to have a element of flavor in each element of your dish.  Explore Cuisine flavorfully saved my Thanksgiving.  Find out about Explore Cuisine's full product range and availability now on their website here.

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In Mens Mens footwear Mens lifestyle Mens Style Menswear Project Bootstrap Wolverine

Secured By The Bootstrap: Wolverine Project Bootstrap

The pomp and circumstance, the campus stroll and the freshman fifteen song & dance are definitely things, but have you ever really stopped to consider if they are 'your' things?  With all the rise in technology and college courses that offer to equip you for the workforce, there still remains a considerable amount of American enterprise that require an excellence in skill and trade, but not necessarily a mention on the dean's list.  With a reported only 9 percent of high school teens seeking careers in the trades, there are currently more than six million jobs in need of skilled trade workers with not enough individuals to fill them.  Ranging from reasons like not enough information and pressure to attend college, many high schoolers seem to be going with the collective flow instead of exploring the feelings in their guts that cry for careers with more independence and job security.  

So the answer is to get Americans more interested in the honor and value of learning skills of the trade.  This is where Wolverine comes in.  The tenured footwear company that's been in the powerhouse work boot business for over 125 years has created a new initiative that aims to link some of the main individuals who don their footwear with their respective trade livelihoods in a full circle way.  Project Bootstrap was started by Wolverine from an initial tour to thank those committed to their trades and has now blossomed into a new campaign to showcase individuals in the trade in order to take away the ignorance and stigmas behind pursuing trade careers.  To help spearhead awareness, Wolverine has paired up with Mike Rowe, host of Dirty Jobs and the mikeroweWORKS Foundation to further the dialogue and disband the misconceptions that have left these jobs vacant.  Rowe sees the integrity and handwork behind the individuals he comes across and aims along with Project Bootstrap to shed much needed light on the disconnect between lucrative, honest, skilled, relevant careers and trade jobs.

At an event I attended in New York City on November 14, I learned firsthand just how invested Project Bootstrap endeavors to become.  At a special media event, a new working entrepreneur spotlight portion of the campaign was revealed and showcased three bright and passionate rising trade workers from their respective fields.  The first three Project Bootstrap members are Nolee AndersonHunter Allums and Andrew Lacy.  Anderson is a trim carpenter from Nashville, Tennessee and the founder of GRIT, a nonprofit organization that mentors young girls interested in the trade.  Allums, an apprentice electrician hails from New Orleans, Louisiana, got his start from unCommon Construction, a non-profit that helps high school students learn real world technical skills.  Finally there's Lacy, a military veteran from Charleston, South Carolina who decided to enter the American College of Building Arts to become a timber farmer after serving his tours of duty.  

These are three well-derving beginning professionals on their way to becoming masters of their trades due to the drive from Project Bootstrap.  After talking with them after the event where, to their surprise, they were gifted with tools to help their trades and a monetary award,  I realized that they spoke with more zeal and more wide-eyed excitement than many students shuffling off to college.  Perhaps Project Bootstrap is onto something in that maybe its about informing yourself to explore all the best possibilities to have the happiest most enriching career-life, lacing-up your boots and enjoying the lesser conventional walks to secure your future.  

For more information on Project Bootstrap, read more about the initiative on their site here.

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In Alcohol Review Basil Hayden's Bourbon Cocktails Drinks Entertaining Food and Drink Good Eats Whiskey Wines and Spirits

What's Bourbon Between Friends: Basil Hayden's Friendsgiving 2018

It occurred to me the other day that I'm the only one in my immediate clique that lives in New York City.  The others in my caravan live across the pond in Jersey.  While the city unites us for various events and revelries, quite often there has to be good reason to stay late in the city, venture out into the depths of lower Manhattan or justify a late night uber home.  Now while the very natures of our friendships are enough, lets face that with the annoying hustle and frustrating bustle of our day-to-days, some days you have to relinquish your good intended presence to just being there in spirit.  Outside of just hanging out, some people may be cajoled to find further justification in dancing the night away, seeing a sold-out show or catching a must-see movie.  However, my friends all have seasoned palettes and nothing gets us together more than good eats, great energy and anchoring the deal of top shelf cocktails.

So when I got the invitation to spend her birthday of one of my dearest friends with one of my favorite whiskey brands, the pot was sweetened and the seal of approval was stamped.  The satisfying Basil Hayden's, that beloved and delectably slick bourbon kicked off the season on November 1st with a pretty amazing Friendsgiving in Gowanus, Brooklyn.  Held at the posh event space 501 Union, upon entering I knew why the trip to BK for this Bronx guy was worth it.  The bar was serving up unique cocktails curated for the event that showcased just how wonderful Basil Hayden's is.  Their Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey is very smooth, has just the right amount of sweetness and packs enough weight to flavorfully hold its own when paired with other cocktail ingredients and spirits.  However, don't just take my word for it.  Here are the cocktails that were on tap for that memorable evening:

First up was the Basil Hayden's Boulevardier.  I tried it with their bourbon and combined with the bitter aperol and the herbal sweet vermouth it made for such a balanced drink.  The mild espresso-like bitterness of the licorice-like aperol played up to the bourbon so nicely.  Next up was the Basil Hayden's Highball, which I also requested with their bourbon.  The lightness from the club soda and the citrusy sweet kick from the lemon soda created a light and refreshing almost summery cocktail with a herbal grown edge from the presence of the basil.

After two bourbon-centered cocktails I needed to try one of their latest offerings, Basil Hayden's Dark Rye.  Perfect on the rocks, the dark rye has less sweetness naturally and more of a distinguished oaky spicy weight, but no less smooth and delicious.  This was a perfect wind-down of a sipper before dinner.

Dinner featured two new cocktails for each course.  The Ward Eight wonderfully combined their bourbon, the citrus power of grenadine, lemon and orange together with the refreshing cooling pop of mint for a clean sipper that evoked a great spiked Summer lemonade.  Finishing up was the Havoc In Nelson County, a surprisingly island-fresh cocktail that took the wonderful rarely seen flavor of banana and mixed it with orange bitters for a flavorfully diverse drink that hits several areas of the palette pleasantly with soothingly familiar notes.

What the evening with Basil Hayden's recreated was the makings of classic friendship lore.  The drinks were flowing, the food was stellar and the energy was upbeat and positive.  How comforting to know that the sweet sip & the relaxing savor, the honest pleasantries & the communal savorings can all conspire together to recognize an evening of old and new friends.  All in all, when Friendsgiving happens, good spirits in both physical and social forms, must ensue.  Basil Hayden's Bourbon and Rye varieties are available now at your finer wine & spirit retailers.

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