Sunday, April 5, 2015


Living on a budget does not mean you cannot enjoy yourself. While a glass of ice water costs pennies, every now and then you want a little flavor and pizazz. Take advantage of in-season ingredients from your own yard, garden or CSA, or use foraged fruits, herbs and spices to keep costs under control. The right beverage for the weather soothes a sore throat, eases an upset stomach or stimulates the taste buds, making meals more enjoyable. A book of homemade holiday drink recipes makes a welcome hostess gift or token of appreciation for friends, neighbors and the people whose services make your community an enjoyable place to live.

Sangria Punch: Shiraz Box Wine Recipe

Box wines are both affordable and delicious and make excellent mixers. Mix Shiraz box wine with fresh summer fruit for a flavorful sangria punch for your wedding or beach party. Shiraz is a rich red wine with intense blackberry, plum and pepper flavors that pair well with red meats, wild game, pizza and other spicy dishes when mixed into sangria.

Large punch bowl
Glass pitcher
Sangria glasses
1 box Shiraz wine (I prefer Franzia)
4 whole blood oranges
3 lemons
1 lb. fresh strawberries
4 fresh peaches
4 nectarines
4 Asian pears
1 cup white granulated sugar
2 liters ginger ale (Canada Dry tastes best)

Pour the Shiraz wine into a large punch bowl and allow it to warm to at least 64 degrees Fahrenheit.

Slice the oranges and lemons 1/4-inch thick. Cut the tops off the strawberries and cut them in half. Cut the Asian pears in half from stem to base. Substitute Mutsu apples if you cannot find Asian pears.

Cut around the peaches and nectarines up to the pits and twist them to separate the two halves. Remove and discard the pits. Slice the peach, nectarine and pear halves.

Toss all the fruit in sugar until well-coated. Drop all the sliced fruit into the punch bowl to soak in the Shiraz wine overnight.

Add the ginger ale and stir gently to mingle all the flavors.

Serve your Shiraz punch in sangria glasses, which have a large bowl that nips in about an inch from the top and flares back out. Pair Shiraz sangria punch with pizza and spring green salad, enchiladas and guacamole or buffalo, beef or venison steaks and corn on the cob.


"Wine News"; The Barossa Valley; Gerald D. Boyd; Feb./Mar 1999

Icy Ginger Lemonade

Keep your cool when summer temperatures rise with a tall glass of frosty ginger lemonade. The ginger soothes your stomach while the lemonade and ice cool your body. Find a comfy lounge chair in the shade, kick back to your favorite tunes and sip away.

Ingredients and Utensils
4 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. grated ginger
32-oz. beverage glass
4 tbsp. plus 24 oz. water
Crushed ice
Beverage spoon or muddler
Crushed ice

Pour 4 tbsp. lemon juice, 2 tbsp. sugar and 1 tsp. grated ginger into a 32-oz. beverage glass. Stir the sugar and lemon juice with a beverage spoon or muddler while tilting the glass, until the sugar and juice are completely mixed. Add 4 tbsp. water and stir again.

Add crushed ice to within an inch of the lip of the glass. Fill with water and stir again, pressing the muddler through the ice and pulling back up to bring the juice from the bottom of the glass to the top. Sip slowly and allow your taste buds to appreciate the lemon and ginger while the crushed ice cools you.

Soy Chorizo Kitchen Tests

Cacique launched soy chorizo as a new product in April 2011. I decided to kitchen-test the product in June, 2011. I used Cacique's soy chorizo in my kitchen tests because it was priced the same as regular chorizo.

I divided the first 10-oz. package of Cacique soy chorizo into a 2-oz. control portion, which I placed in a separate pan, two three-oz. portions and four 1/2-oz. portions. I added nothing to the control portion. I added 1 egg to the remaining soy chorizo after breaking the roll into bits with my fingers. The roll separated very easily, and the control portion of soy chorizo felt like cooked, chopped taco meat, only lighter and spongier. 

After I added the egg, I used my fingers to mix it into the Cacique soy chorizo. The soy chorizo absorbed the egg, becoming more dense and expanding the individual bits by 1/3 to 3/4 their original volume. At that point, the soy chorizo would not form into patties. I continued to mix it while the chorizo absorbed the egg, noting that it took three minutes before it expanded to its maximum volume.

I added 1/2 cup bread crumbs next, and mixed the soy chorizo again until everything was incorporated. The texture changed as the bread crumbs absorbed the remaining egg and the spiced sauce from the chorizo itself. Once the bread crumbs were fully incorporated, the chorizo was slightly sticky but easily formed into a small loaf, which I then divided into two 1/2-inch thick, 3 1/2-inch diameter patties and four 1-inch diameter "meat" balls.

I used the digital timer on the stove to track cooking time. I tested three cooking temperatures: medium-high, medium, and medium low, using one portion of the first roll of Cacique soy chorizo at a time for comparison. I also tested using two different oils: extra-virgin olive oil and canola, discovering that at every temperature except medium low, the olive oil began to smoke well before the soy chorizo was done.

The results: Use canola oil or other fats and oils with a smoke point above 400 degrees Fahrenheit for best results when frying soy chorizo.

I repeated the most successful test methods with the second package of soy chorizo to ensure that all necessary time and temperature adjustments were made before taste-testing the product with my family and friends. I repeated those methods with a third package of soy chorizo. I used an electric tabletop grill for the patties and a slow cooker for the soy chorizo meatballs. 

Medium-low cooking for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side for patties and 3 to 4 minutes of continuous stir-frying for meatballs resulted in a product that still needed 1 minute on HIGH in the microwave to be considered safe to eat. Soy chorizo meatballs are ready to eat in two hours when slow-cooked on the HIGH setting in Hawaiian-style sauce. The spicy heat of the chorizo provides a perfect counterpart to the sweet-tart pineapple.

You can make your own soy chorizo using textured vegetable protein -- also known as TVP -- and the typical chorizo seasonings -- vinegar, onion powder, garlic powder, mustard powder, paprika and cumin. Homemade soy chorizo performs nearly the same as ready-made soy chorizo in identical kitchen tests, but you need one additional hour of prep time for the vinegar and seasonings to soak into the textured vegetable protein.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Bean(t) Poet

S&W Premium Beans had a poetry contest running for the month of April. They want eight lines or less, and a maximum of 100 words. The prize is a case of S&W Premium Beans and 17 autographed children's poetry books. So let 'er rip!

Here's my entry:

Bean(t) Poet
by Jack V Sage

I grab the first thing I touch as I walk through the store:
a can of S&W beans.
I hold it up to the light, pondering
how much the can feels like home
in the land of potlucks and church suppers,
where beans are the go-to food.
I realize that sometimes, the familiar is the best.