Gourmet Veggie Mama

Category Archives: Guest Post

Learning to Love Scotch… One Sip at a Time

Note: This is one of a series of guest posts I’ll be hosting over the next few weeks to spice up Cocktail Thursday. Today’s guest is my all-time favorite, for obvious reasons.  Besides being a great husband and father, the hubby (aka Gourmet Omnivore Husband) is now “drinking for two” — what with my diminished boozing capacity. So, I’m letting him take up some of the slack this week. Thanks, honey!

I like scotch. Scotchy scotch scotch.

Not really, at least not yet.

When I was a freshman in high school, I decided it was time to start drinking coffee. I had a good friend who worked at a coffee shop at the time, and when we went together on a theater class trip to an International Thespian Society conference at Abilene Christian University, I decided I would drink as much coffee with her as I could. I don’t recall what I had at the time — almost certainly something in the frappuccino family — but I know that there was no looking back. I drank plenty of coffee from then on.

I recently decided that it was time to drink scotch. My father is an Irish whiskey drinker (sadly, he prefers Bushmills, the Protestant whiskey). I have never been a huge fan. I’ve long preferred that my whisky be made in the New World, starting off as a wee college lad enjoying Crown Royal and moving on to Makers Mark a number of years ago (stay tuned for an update on that front!). However, I’ve always known that to be a true one-percenter, I’d need to develop an appreciation for single-barrel scotch. A perfect opportunity recently appeared when I was invited to an after-work get-together with coworkers. They call this gathering “water of life”, and folks are supposed to bring a bottle of scotch to share around the conference table.

I did not have a bottle the first time because I got the invite late in the day.  Since then, however, I have bought two bottles, and found that, for scotch at least, quality seems to go up significantly with price.  My first bottle was a Tomatin 12 Year Old Highland Single Malt Scotch, and I got it for about $30 at Twin Liquors.  It was a choice of a coworker who thought it was a good, inexpensive bottle.  I enjoyed it but felt like I couldn’t quite handle the heat — scotches seem to blast you in the upper palate like a flame.  My work event is compromised of seasoned scotch drinkers, which means that adding ice would ensure I am never invited again. A few of them add a couple drops of room temperature water to particularly high alcohol selections, but never ice.  So I fought through it, but when I got a bottle of my own, I found myself putting a couple ice cubes in this one.


What I have in my office shelf. #madmen

My second bottle was a success. It was an Alexander Murray Mortlach Distillery Single Malt 16 years, this one coming in at a $40 price point. This one was a pretty big hit at work. It has what I am assured is a “delicious peaty flavor”, and went down much smoother than the Tomatin. It was much more of a lower-palate scotch, and smoother than most of the single malts I’ve had. I did not feel the need to add ice to this one!

Forcing yourself to develop a taste can be treacherous business. I mentioned coffee earlier, but I recently called off my 15-year effort to enjoy a cigar. I smoked cigars occasionally during special events or on the golf course from the time I was about 16, but finally put a stop to it at my brothers wedding last year as I had never had an enjoyable time with them. I think I’ve found at least one scotch I like, but until I can enjoy the sometimes-harsh tastes that are sure to come of single malt whiskys,  I don’t think I can declare victory.

Basil Ginger Cocktails

Note: This is one of a series of guest posts I’ll be hosting over the next few weeks to spice up Cocktail Thursday. Today’s guest is Priscilla Carruthers, AKA The Icebox Queen, who is a personal chef in Austin, Texas who specializes in healthy comfort food. She also writes an inspiring blog of the same name, which draws from her experiences as a chef as well as the local Austin food and wine scene and her “nomadic existence” all over Texas before settling in the capital city. I’m excited to test-drive a virgin spin on the delicious cocktail Priscilla has to offer us… and someday soon, the real thing. Those of us with basil overtaking our gardens this time of year can definitely appreciate this one!

I have the blackest of thumbs. Plants look at me and wilt. Nurseries close the blinds and turn out the lights when I pull into the parking lot. My dogs look at me with disdain when I try again, year after year, season after season, to grow another pot of herbs or a window garden with flowers. Even they can see the foreshadowing of my failure. People gift me with “easy to grow” plants, promising that, “No one can kill mint!,” and warning me to plant it in a pot to fight the spread. They shake their heads when they return to my house, realizing that plants taking over my garden would certainly beat the bare dirt and burnt up oregano that lives there now.

That is, until this time. This time, my mother didn’t just tell me what to do to have a garden, or send me home with a few plants. This time, she came with me to the nursery, and better yet, she came home with me and helped me plant them. And thanks to her, they live. They not only live, they thrive. Thanks to her fairy dusted green thumbs, I have more basil than I know what to do with. It’s starting to flower out there! I didn’t even know basil had flowers.

So this Basil Ginger Cocktail is dedicated to my mother’s verdant thumbs.

Basil Ginger Cocktails

If you don’t have as lush a garden as I do, (she giggles), store-bought basil works just as well, and it only takes a little. If you’d like this to be an adult beverage, I’d highly recommend Dripping Springs Vodka, or Tito’s; otherwise more club soda in place of the vodka would taste just as fine on a hot Austin day.

Basil Ginger Cocktail
Serves: 1
Ginger Syrup:
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and diced
  • 2 or 3 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp ginger syrup, or to taste
  • 1 oz vodka
  • club soda
  • ice
  • 1 lime wedge
For ginger syrup:
  1. Bring water and sugar to a boil together in a small saucepan. Reduce heat and stir until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add ginger, remove from heat, and let steep for at least 20 minutes.
  3. Once the syrup has the ginger strength you'd like, strain into a small jar or pitcher.
For the drink:
  1. In the bottle of a highball glass, muddle the basil with a splash of the lime juice and ginger syrup. (If you don't have a dedicated muddler, try the other end of a wooden spoon.)
  2. Add the ice, vodka, lime, and syrup. Fill the rest of the glass with club soda.
  3. Give it a swirl and garnish with a lime wedge. Enjoy, and bask in a hot Texas summer with fresh herbs.



Veggie Envy

I am excited to welcome Emily Wilson as a guest blogger. Emily is a trained chef who devotes her days (and I suspect many nights) to developing and testing delicious recipes for Cooking Planit.com. I had the pleasure of collaborating with Emily on several meals I put together for Cooking Planit, and it became apparent that we shared a lot of the same tastes, so this was a natural fit. I’ve asked her to share some of her favorite vegetarian recipes with us. Enjoy!

“You love food!”
“You eat out too often!!”
“You work in the food business!!!”

These are just a few of the reasons people have given me as to why I couldn’t possibly become vegetarian. Well, a few years ago I gave up meat for a health experiment and stayed away from it for over a year. Truthfully, it was still easy to enjoy great food, and while I’ve since returned to meat in moderation, I feel I’ve seen greener pastures. Being vegetarian is awesome!

 Whenever I get on an über health kick, I eat as many vegetables and high-fiber foods as possible. Veggies are naturally low in calories, and packed with satiating nutrients, so you can eat (almost) as many as you want and feel satisfied longer. It’s also amazing how un-gross I feel! I mean, if I eat steak nachos I feel a lot more stuffed and greasy than if I opt for black bean nachos, right?

 In other words, I totally “get” being vegetarian, and while I’m not faithful enough to live it full-time, I like to consider myself an honorary member of the club. That’s how I knew Lauren’s recipes would be right up my alley. Lauren shared some of her Gourmet Veggie dishes with Cooking Planit, like Roasted Beet Salad with Orange-Ginger Dressing topped with fiber-and-protein-dense Farro and Garlicky Kale with Creamy Polenta and Poached Eggs, so you can cook her recipes easily, following step-by-step instructions.

I actually went vegan one summer too (never felt better!). But I agree with Lauren, that cheese is just too delicious to live without. Plus, I love Mexican food too much to give up all the cheesy, creamy, salty, crunchy goodness. Have a hankering? Try one of my favorite recipes – Mexican Tortilla Pizza.

Mexican Tortilla Pizza

Like Lauren, I also love eggs. Poached, hard-boiled, fried or scrambled eggs are welcome at my table any time of day. I love to start the morning right with my favorite omelet recipe – Aunt Mimi’s Marmalade and Cream Cheese Omelet.

Marmalade Cream Cheese Omelette

Another popular recipe on Cooking Planit satisfies a beef-less burger craving. Try out these Chickpea Artichoke Burgers for yourself!

Chickpea Burgers

I genuinely envy people who dedicate themselves fully to a meat-free lifestyle, so I hope these recipes show you some love, from one veggie heart to another!

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