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Cranberry Gin and Tonic: My Ultimate ‘It Tastes Like it Has Alcohol’ Cocktail Hack

Cranberry Gin and Tonic: My Ultimate ‘It Tastes Like it Has Alcohol’ Cocktail Hack

Sometimes simply feeling like you’re drinking alcohol is enough. Sipping on a non-alcoholic cranberry gin and tonic using ‘Drink Monday‘ Gin does the trick. Or, as Drink Monday puts it, “Full of spirit. Free of Alcohol.”

As I decided to give some of the new non-alcoholic spirits a test, it felt like gin and tonic was a great place to start. (Especially since NOBODY is going to mess with my tequila.) Gin has such a distinctive herbal characteristic and tonic is basically the cilantro of cocktail mixers… either you love it or hate it.

I chose a cranberry version since I currently had some leftover cranberry syrup from my favorite Roasted Butternut Squash & Apple Salad recipe (see post). This syrup is phenomenal in cocktails (margaritas, champagne, and… gin drinks)

You may be wondering… are those non-alcoholic spirits worth the cash? I think they are if you are setting-up a fun bar with non-alcoholic options. Especially key for folk that will be driving. Given our Covid times, you may be inclined to mix-up a few cocktails before 5 p.m. These spirits will let you have a cocktail experience without smelling like a bar.

Because I truly love the idea of fun non-alcoholic cocktails, I’ll be playing around with some make-at-home herbal options. For example, making a tea out of juniper berries and adding that to tonic and cranberry.

Yet, until then….it could be fun trying something like Drink Monday Gin in your favorite gin and tonic recipe. (not an ad)

(If you’re interested, here’s a link to my recent article about trying to reduce my alcohol consumption.)

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Overhead shot of a cranberry gin and tonic martini.

Cranberry Gin and Tonic: My Ultimate ‘It Tastes Like it Has Alcohol’ Cocktail Hack

  • Author: Nichole Banducci

Ingredients

  • 3 oz of gin
  • 1 tablespoon of cranberry syrup (or, one shot of cranberry juice) – see instructions below
  • 3 oz tonic water
  • ice (to serve on-the-rocks)

Instructions

For Cranberry Syrup:
In a small sauce pan, place 2 cups cranberry juice, ½ cup red wine or port, 2 TBLS sugar and reduce on medium heat to a syrup consistency. This makes about 1/3 cup cranberry syrup.

Notes

You can serve this on-the-rocks or as a martini. The cranberry syrup gives it a great body that works either way. Cheers!

Mulled Wine That’ll Make You want to Grab a Book and Cozy-up to the Fireplace

Mulled Wine That’ll Make You want to Grab a Book and Cozy-up to the Fireplace

This recipe transports me to a small cabin in the mountains. I imagine coming home from a day outdoors, snuggling up with a blanket, and simply feeling good. Mulled wine is more than just a cocktail, it’s truly a state of mind.

The best part? It is a ‘state of mind’ that you can make in bulk and store in the refrigerator till you’re ready to enjoy it. Now, that’s my kind of approachable self-care.

There are tons of mulled wine recipes out there. I wanted to develop an option that reduced sugar consumption and ‘diluted’ the alcohol with wonderful flavor. Adding an easy-to-find brewed orange & spice tea does the trick. It helps spread-out my ‘one glass of wine’ across a couple of mugs-full.

(If you’re interested, here’s a link to my recent article about trying to reduce my alcohol consumption.)

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Overhead shot of hot mulled wine with holiday decor

Mulled Wine Recipe

  • Author: Nichole Banducci

Ingredients

  • 1 bottle of inexpensive red Zinfandel wine
  • 2 cups brewed Bigelow orange & spice tea (I use two tea bags)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 5 strips of orange peel
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice (one orange)

Instructions

  • Add all ingredients to a dutch oven or medium-sized pan
  • Warm on medium heat, allowing the mixture to bubble lightly
  • After about 10 minutes, you can remove from heat and serve

Notes

I love to make a bulk batch and refrigerate it in a large mason jar. Simply add a serving to a mug and microwave for two minutes. Instant joy.

Easy Hot Buttered Rum Mix: Also Phenomenal with Apple Cider or Coffee

Easy Hot Buttered Rum Mix: Also Phenomenal with Apple Cider or Coffee

Honestly, I’d never had hot buttered rum before making this recipe. I wanted an excuse to try one of the new non-alcoholic rums on the market and it was super cold outside. Hot buttered rum mix was the perfect option.

Yes, I said ‘mix.’ You literally make a base that you add to a hot mug of 1:1 rum and water. I warn you… the mix is so delicious, you’ll want to put it into anything possible. I’ve tried it in both hot cider and coffee… plus, straight from the jar.

This recipe calls for butter and non-alcoholic rum. You’re welcome to substitute vegan butter and ‘real’ rum. Totally your call. Cheers, I hope you enjoy the hot buttered rum mix!

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A festive mug of hot buttered rum.

Easy Hot Buttered Rum Mix

  • Author: Nichole Banducci
  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 5
  • Total Time: 10 minutes

Scale

Ingredients

For the Mix:

  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or – 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

For the ‘rum,’ per serving:

  • 1/2 cup Ronsin non-alcoholic rum
  • 1/2 cup

Instructions

For the Mix:

  • Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, stirring until smooth.

For the drink:

  • Heat rum and water and add to a mug
  • Add 2 teaspoons of the mix to the mug
  • Use a small frother to incorporate the mix and hot rum/water in the mug
  • If you don’t have a frother, you can add all the ingredients into a blender, covering the lid with a towel to blend.
  • I like to add some foamed milk or soymilk to the top of the mug for extra frothy fun

Easy Lentil Bolognese: My New Cozy Comfort Food Recipe

Easy Lentil Bolognese: My New Cozy Comfort Food Recipe

Ah, comfort food. The perfect companion to cold weather, stress, and our monthly cycles. (yup, I went there) When I was eating meat, bolognese was one of my favorite things to order at a restaurant. Talk about warm, delicious depth of flavor. Now that I’m plant-based, I’ve discovered that lentils can give you a similar savory indulgence. Hence, this deliciously easy lentil bolognese recipe.

When I first stopped eating meat, I wanted to make sure that I got enough protein in my diet. Lentils were a key item to increase in my diet. On nights I made spaghetti and meatballs for my family, I cooked-up some lentils on the side and added them to my marinara sauce. OMG… I was blown away by the savory goodness lentils can bring to pasta sauce.

Healthy Ingredients Make Lentil Bolognese Extra Special

Why lentils? They’re nutritional powerhouses with a host of benefits:

  • Protein – Lentils are one of the highest protein beans (second only to soy).
  • Fiber – a serving of lentils gives you a whopping 35% of your RDA of fiber.
  • Micronutrients – with high levels of potassium, iron, and folate, lentils have some phenomenal nutrients… especially for women.

The great thing about this lentil bolognese recipe is that every ingredient has purposeful, nutrient-dense properties.

  • Canned San Marzano Tomatoes – one of the healthiest varieties you can choose. Perfect for winter recipes when fresh tomatoes are not an option.⁠ You can get these at nearly any grocery store. I figure if you’re going to do canned, you might as well get the best… especially with a tomato-based sauce.
  • Caramelized Onions & Garlic – super good for your gut health and immune system. By caramelizing them in olive oil at the beginning of the recipe, you get an extra sweet & rich flavor profile.⁠
  • Oregano – a wonderfully healthy herb that is an antibacterial agent, full of antioxidants and valuable phytonutrients. I use dried in the cooking process and then garnish with fresh from my garden.⁠
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Photo of lentil bolognese on a white plate

Easy Lentil Bolognese: My New Cozy Comfort Food Recipe

  • Author: Nichole Banducci
  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 35
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings
  • Diet: Vegan

Ingredients

 

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or to taste
  • 1 cup uncooked lentils, thoroughly rinsed and picked through
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
  • 2 cups vegetable stock or water

Instructions

 

  • Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  • Add onion and cook until translucent, making sure to not burn it.
  • Add garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes, cook until the garlic softens, stirring frequently.
  • Add lentils, tomatoes, and water. Stir to combine.
  • Increase heat and bring the sauce to a rapid boil. Then, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes or until the lentils are tender.
  • Serve over pasta, or scoop onto crostini and eat like warm bruschetta

Notes

  • For my Vegan friends out there… I even used Vegan parm in my version. Yum)⁠
  • You can cook the sauce in just one pot. Comes together in about 35 minutes.⁠
  • If you have meat-lovers in your family, you can easily substitute ground beef in the recipe. I’d add it right after the onions and garlic are caramelized.⁠
  • If you have both plant-based and meat-eaters, make the sauce without the lentils. Cook the lentils and meat separately and then add to the sauce for each person. (I’d rather take an extra step to adjust to folks’ desires vs. make food a drama point in our day.)⁠
Roasted Butternut Squash & Apple Salad

Roasted Butternut Squash & Apple Salad

Looking for a fall or Thanksgiving side dish that goes beyond the ordinary? This Roasted Butternut Squash & Apple Salad will fit the bill. It dishes-up a perfect balance of roasted fall comfort, with a tart cranberry vinaigrette.

As a bonus, it is served a room temperature, so it doesn’t add complexity to meal prep. (a winner in my books) Plus, since it is so unique, it doesn’t have to ‘de-throne’ any other family favorite recipes at the table.

My mom got this family-favorite recipe from a Chef Jose Sanchez. It is my FAVORITE part of the Thanksgiving table, so I will be eternally grateful to him!

This dish is also fantastic beyond Thanksgiving. In fact, after I made the recipe for this post, I stored the extra in the fridge and enjoyed it as a lunch salad for several days. Roasted butternut squash pairs extremely well with meat, but is also fantastic piled on-top of baby arugula.

(Note – if cutting into a butternut squash sends you into kitchen chaos, check out this post by the Minimalist Baker.)

Recipe Highlights

  • You’ll want to cube the squash, apples and onions first thing. Get them in the oven so you can work on the other elements.
  • Next, start the cranberry syrup, which will simmer down in the background (keep an eye on it, but you don’t have to stir constantly if it’s at the right temperature)
  • Chopping the toasted pecans and herbs will be an olfactory delight… I think I could do that forever! So basically, I’m encouraging you to enjoy 🙂
  • Once the roasted squash & friends are out of the oven and cooled-down to room temperature, you can toss all the ingredients together and enjoy right away. If you haven’t tried roasted squash, apples or onions together, give-it-a-go before mixing-in the other ingredients. The combination is really incredible and unique.
  • BONUS… try dipping a whole pecan or a chunk of Manchego into the cooled cranberry syrup. YUM!
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Ready to take a delicious bite of Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Salad

Roasted Butternut Squash & Apple Salad

  • Author: Nichole Banducci
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 45
  • Total Time: 1 hour

Description

You’ve gotta try this perfect, unexpected fall / winter salad. It’s a family favorite at Thanksgiving, but honestly… I can sit down with a plate of it at any time. Roasted squash, onions and apples provide a uniquely delicious base. Highlighted by tart cranberries, crunchy pecans and salty/sweet manchego cheese. The best part? You can make it ahead and serve it room temperature. Of course, it’s also delicious straight from the fridge.

Recipe Credit: Chef Jose Sanchez, who graciously shared the recipe with my mom.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1 large sweet onion, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 4 fuji apples, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup manchego cheese, diced
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for roasting squash, onion, and apples
  • 1 tsp chopped sage
  • 1 tsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon and nutmeg)
  • salt & pepper

Plus… Cranberry Syrup

  • 2 cups cranberry juice
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2 tbsp sugar

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • In a baking pan, toss the first three ingredients with the olive oil and pumpkin pie spice. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45-60 minutes till the squash is barely fork tender, but not mushy.
  • Let the roasted ingredients cool before adding other ingredients
  • Add the cooled roasted ingredients, plus chopped pecans, cranberries, manchego cheese, sage, and parsley to a large serving bowl
  • Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of the cranberry syrup (see below) and stir to incorporate
  • Salt and pepper to taste

CRANBERRY SYRUP:

  • Place cranberry juice, red wine and sugar in a small sauce pan and reduce on medium heat to a syrup consistency. (You’ll end up with about 1/4 cup of syrup.)

Notes

You can serve the salad right away, or store in the refrigerator for up to three days. Longer than that, the manchego cheese starts to break down and the salad loses it’s complexity.

The recipe gives you about 2 tbsp of extra cranberry syrup. This is GOLD in a margarita or a glass of bubbly during the holidays.

Here are a few other of my favorite recipes for fall:
My new Healthy Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte
The Best Baked Pumpkin Seeds