In Alcohol Review Cocktails Drinks Entertaining Food and Drink Ketel One Botanical Ketel One Vodka Mens lifestyle Recipes Vodka

The Anytime Botanical Garden: Ketel One Botanical Collection

Deep into the thick of Autumn and butting heads with the crowning of Winter, I dare you to find some fresh grown outside foliage.  The once green leaves have gone from ochre and maize to trampled and decaying and have since left our illustrious lawns and walkways to be bagged and tagged for the seasonal mulch.  The flowers have withered and passed on with their petals going back to the dust and their stems aging dry and ashen.   Green goes to grey as the cold weather pulls out the colors that got us through the Spring and Summer and replaces it with end of life hues.  Although a different kind of beautiful altogether, some take more inspiration from the kaleidoscopic solstices than the melancholy equinoxes.  While I am one of those who can appreciate the the wabi-sabi beauty of the cold and the gnarled, I secretly long to keep the spirit of the Spring and Summer alive if not by foliage then through the drink.

While mulled wines, toddies and festive nogs reign supreme right now, I admire a spirit that can keep me warm, since it's that season, but take my mind to wear I'd rather be.  Enter the amazingly alive trio of vodkas from the Ketel One Botanical Collection.  I say alive since Ketel One remains that premier family-owned vodka brand imported from Holland and is so clean that you almost think you're drinking a crisp mineral water.  The amazing ushers in as this new collection just harnesses the flavors of real fresh botanicals to a well-distilled tee.  From the moment you open the bottles the aromas rush and fill the air with their sweet familiar and exciting fragrances.  The Peach & Orange Blossom delivers that juiciness of a ripened peach with the herbal softness of the orange blossom.  The Grapefruit & Rose gives the light aromatic goodness of a rose together with the tart citrusy sweetness of pink grapefruit.  Then the Cucumber & Mint walks you into a garden with the therapeutic and relaxing mint coupled with the hydrated verdant freshness of the cucumber.  

Add to this sensory experience, the piece of mind of there being no carbs, sugars or artificial sweeteners or flavors in this collection.  The Ketel One Botanical Collection is so amazing that I was almost too perplexed to play bartender with it.  Each one stands very well alone, over ice or with little to no garnish.  However, cocktails are an experience so I couldn't let this moment pass without showing how much more special this Botanical Collection could get.  So check out the three cocktail recipes below that I drafted up to give me a solstice peace of mind in the midst of these equinoxes:

Winter Impeachmint 

3 ounces           Ketel One Botanical Peach & Orange Blossom 
1 ounce            Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
1/2 ounce         St. Germain Liqueur 
1/2 ounce         The Bitter Truth Old Time Aromatic Bitters 
2 ounces           Prosecco 
1 wedge            Fresh peach

Into a cocktail shaker place about one cup of ice, vodka, orange juice and St. Germain.  Slightly bruise and crush the peach wedge under a cocktail spoon then add to shaker.  Shake for about 15-20 seconds then strain the cocktail over fresh ice into a white wine glass.  Add bitters (I chose that brand for the warm summery aroma and flavor it had) then lightly stir with a cocktail spoon.  Finally top off with the prosecco then add a few julienned slivers of peach and a corkscrewed orange rind.

The bold flavor of the peach shines and the floral notes of the orange blossom and the St. Germain complement the drink nicely.  The bitters and the orange juice add a nice layer of fragrance and depth while the prosecco creates a pleasant effervescence to complete this cocktail. 

Pink & Petals

4 ounces          Ketel One Botanical Grapefruit & Rose 
1 1/2 ounces    Carpano Dry Vermouth
1 cup               Ice
1                      Pink Rose
1                      Red Rose
1                      Grapefruit rind

Into a cocktail shaker place the ice, vodka and vermouth.  Lightly shake the mixture then pour it into a martini glass.  Given the flavors of this drink, the olives are optional, but since they are classic you can skewer them or let them nestle at the bottom of the glass.  I chose to do the cocktail sans olives.  Let one pink and one red rose petal rest atop one another and float at the center of the drink.  Finally place a corkscrewed grapefruit rind on the petals.

This is a very pleasant and potent cocktail as most martinis are.  However, the sweet & tart combination makes for a very balanced cocktail with the floral rose accented nicely by the vermouth and the citrusy grapefruit still standing out with a commanding presence.

The Garden Nymph

4 ounces           Ketel One Botanical Cucumber & Mint 
6 ounces           Fever-Tree Premium Club Soda 
1/2 ounce         Lemon Juice
1 ounce            Simple Syrup
7                       Mint Ice Cubes

Pre-prep the night before:  Pour water into an ice try and place a mint leaf in each cube tray.  Let that come to a full freeze before serving.  

Place mint ice cubes into a mason mug.  Pour vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup and add the club soda.  Stir lightly with a cocktail spoon then garnish with a lemon and a cucumber wheel.

This is light a very naughty light Spring salad.  There is a nice herbal freshness and a soothing sweet and salty/mineral balance from the syrup and soda.  That familiar cucumber essence and that calming note of the mint receive an uplifting effervescence from the lively soda bubbles.  What's nice about the melting cubes is that the mint flavor will slowly build in the cocktail to balance out the potency and enhance the natural vodka flavor.

So it would seem that with the beautiful escapes offered from the Ketel One Botanical Collection, there's no need to dwell in the Winter doldrums.  The garden fruity freshness is always and only a cocktail away.  The wonderful Ketel One Botanical Collection is available now at your finer winer, alcohol and spirit retailers.

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In Comfort Foods Cooking Dave's Gourmet Entertaining Food and Drink Mens lifestyle Vegan Vegan Foods

The Heated Side Of Creamy: Dave's Gourmet Creamy Hot Sauces

If you haven't seasoned your food then you haven't even begun to cook.  Also, if you forgot to season your food then you've missed a pivotal step in cooking.  Then, if you just don't season your food at all then you might just not know how to cook.  Knowing what to use when, how and why is essential to a well-prepared dish versus a bland dish that needs a bevy of post-cooking condiments.  Kismet is when a dish is seasoned to perfection and any addition of a condiment only serves to compliment and enhance the wonderfully prepared meal.

Being the hot sauce fanatic I am, it serves as my go-to choice for topping of a dish.  The vinegary tangy heat speaks to my island-bred palette and creates a nice balance of savory pep for all kinds of  foods that need a little oomph without completely altering the flavor profile.  This is one of the reasons I have always enjoyed the hot sauces from Dave's Gourmet since they expertly experiment with peppers that have different levels of heat.  The sauces give you the right amount of vinegar and spices to get the appropriate pepper experience and the range in their collection offers the freedom for the individual to choose their palatable level of heat.

So when I see new offerings from this brand, I'm intrigued.  Dave's Gourmet has a new trio of products that pay homage to the heat they are known for while infusing specialty ingredients to create a flavorful line of sauces.  New to Dave's family are the vegan (yes, vegan) hot sauces in Creamy Ginger Citrus, Creamy Garlic Red Pepper and Creamy Roasted Jalapeño.  What's interesting to note is how the line has an amazing creaminess without any dairy and is made with an amazing blend of non-GMO ingredients.  This line is perfect for a bevy of meals to finish or boost flavor and add a layer of smooth texture to liven up the landscape on your plate.  Check out how I pair them with my meals below.

The robust savoriness of the roasted brussels sprouts with thyme, rosemary and garlic matched so perfectly with the sweet fragrant peppery pop of the Creamy Ginger Citrus.  Next, the earthy, fresh and crunchy balance in the five bean soft tacos with fresh red onion, scallion, tomato, kale and pickled jalapeño was the perfect base for the smooth verdant heat of the Creamy Roasted Jalapeño.  Finally, the garlic kick with the full-bodied red pepper flavor of the Creamy Garlic Red Pepper had just the perfect weight and boldness to hold its own on top of a great veggie burger and to dip fries in.  

All in all I would have to say that Dave's Gourmet has another winning line of hot sauces on tap with this robust trio.  It satisfies the vegan in me and any flavor (or all three) will satisfy any flavor-seeker be they vegan or not.  Dave's Gourmet Creamy Hot Sauces are available now and for more information, plus a store locator, head on over to their site here.

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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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