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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