Thursday, October 30, 2014

  We are moving this blog to our new exciting and expanded site. 

Please continue to follow us and our wonderful writers at www.vacuumpacker.com  


Marinus Hoogendorn our professional chef will continue posting his wonderful recipes and uses for vacuum sealing from a professional stand point as well as for home owners. 

Melissa Rudy will continue with her wonderful tips, tricks and hints for daily vacuum packing with projects, holidays, children and daily life with a vacuum sealer. 

Thank you for your comments and insightful questions for our writers.  They love to hear from you and are always grateful for topic suggestions.  

Sincerely
VacUpack PMG  

Monday, October 13, 2014

Please Vote for our Photographer for Best of Washington King 5 News.

In Washington King 5 News has a contest each year.  The contest is to vote in the Best of Washington businesses... Our photographer Jami West Photography is in the running and at #2 our of 246 other photography businesses.

We need your help to push her to #1 please.  

Anyone can vote one time with an email address.  Follow the link and create an account.  
(They do not send any spam)  

Please take a few minutes and vote.  Jami is the best, a wonderful daughter, wife and mother.  She has started her little business from scratch, and is producing fantastic work.  Mostly what she does is lifestyle work but for us she does a special favor and shoots new products.  

Please vote here!  




Thank you 

VacUpack PMG 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

How to make Vacuum Cooking a Roller-Coaster Ride




CHEFTALK


How to make vacuum cooking a roller-coaster ride


 Many of us love to be thrilled in life; I don’t mean thrilled like buying something new or getting a present. I mean the thrill of raising your stress levels to the max.

The thrill
I have never figured out why people spend money on an amusement park to get that thrill. Riding a roller-coaster that takes you up and down a hill to scare the, I do not know what out of you, just to beat death in a little cart dropping that turns your stomach inside out.

The stress
On the other hand when some stress comes into our lives, something we did not pay for, the world seems to come to a standstill. Life’s stress gets us down so easily, because we do not expect it, it comes out of the blue and therefore we cannot handle it. Stress at work because we are under pressure, financial stress because we have difficulties making ends meet.
How come we can be so brave when we pay for a scary ride and are so whimsy, whinny when we need to get the job done we get paid for?

Well, smart people have studied the subject at length and found that we love, “not me, but many of us” predictable stress (coming down a steep hill in an amusement park) but we cannot handle unpredictable stress. Meaning that when you are on top of the roller coaster ride you can predict that you stomach gets turned in-side out, but when the boss shouts we panic and get stressed out.

How to de-stress
We go home stressed, forget about important things in life, our family, health, having a healthy dinner, a good night’s sleep and start afresh the next day, life goes on after all.

So, what can we do to intercept that kind of unnecessary stress, one thing you can do to release that kind of stress is having a good dinner with loved ones. Talk about different things than issues that cause stress, divert and set focus on the moment.

Food unites, a dinner with close relatives makes you feel warm and unstressed, if you do not feel like cooking after a stressful day at work make use of pre- prepared meals you made at a quieter moment.
Once you sit around the table facing a bunch of happy faces you know that investing in a quality vacuum sealer was a good and wise decision.

All you need to do is grab one of your (and your families) favorite meals that you pre-cooked, vacuumed and stored in your freezer and heat it up, maybe with a small addition of some pasta or another staple, but you are done in a whimsy.



My story may sound a bit philosophical, but we all have issues in life, feel stressed and somewhat in limbo maybe. I truly believe that a united meal brings you happiness and releases some of the stress you may encounter.


Here are a few ideas for meals to make in advance and freeze: 

Chicken Cacciatore:

All you need is cubed chicken breast, mushrooms, onion, garlic, canned (or your own tomatoes), oregano, salt and pepper.

Heat a few tbsp of olive oil in a skillet, season the chicken cubes with salt, pepper and oregano and fry until golden brown, add the chopped onions, chopped garlic and the mushrooms (sliced or quartered) and fry for a few minutes, stirring regularly. Add the tomatoes and bring the mix to boil, check for taste and you are done.
Allow cooling, place the mix in a vacuum bag, vacuum and freeze. 

When you are ready to use this homemade delicious concoction, microwave the whole bag for 2 minutes to get the defrosting started.
Place the bag in a pot with boiling water, boil your favorite pasta and top with the Cacciatore, sprinkle some grated cheese.

Pre-preparing this meal takes around 10 minutes, making it ready to serve 15 minutes.

Crispy Pork Belly:

Ingredients:
10 oz                                                   Pork belly (cut in 1 cm pieces)
1 Tbsp                                                 Oyster sauce
2 Tbsp                                                 Light soya sauce
1 Tsp                                                    Crushed black pepper
½ Tsp                                                   Salt
Dash                                                    Chinese rice wine
Oil for deep frying

Method:
Marinate the pork slices with the rest of the ingredients and leave to marinade for 2 hours or so
Drain excessive marinade from the meat
Heat oil to 180 C and deep fry marinated meat for a minute, drain on kitchen paper
Deep fry a second time just before serving, about 2 minutes until crisp
Serve with steamed rice and braised Chinese Nappa Cabbage


Simplicity is the key to good home cooked food. The first and second recipe freeze very well, are a roller-coaster to make and delicious.

Your vacuum sealer helps, if you do not have one, find one here:

 www.vacupack.com  for USA and www.vacupack.ca for Canada. 

By: Marinus Hoogendoorn



Saturday, September 27, 2014

Food for Thought




CHEFTALK


Food for thought



This heading does not really sound like something a chef would have in mind. Chefs have food for your stomach in mind and they should, after all it’s their job to provide food for stomachs. 
So why come with a topic like this, well I've been advocating home cooked food as the right path to healthier living for some time now and thought that it would be interesting to have a look at the differences between cooking at home and restaurant cooking.

One out three or four people in the US are obese, may be with an exception here and there, but all these people became overweight for a reason and that reason is not because they eat healthy food.
Supermarket prices rise by 6% per year while restaurant prices remain somewhat flat. These facts provide the perception that eating out is cheaper than cooking and eating at home.

Americans are spending more and more of every paycheck on dining out; presently this is about 4.5% out of every paycheck, while the spending on groceries stays flat.
When the prices of groceries rise for you, obviously they rise for restaurants also, but restaurants buy in bulk you may argue. True, but so can you! 
Portion your bulk purchase, buddy shop, share, vacuum your portioned bulk purchases.

You can find a quality vacuum sealer here:  www.vacupack.com  for USA and www.vacupack.ca for Canada. 

Is it less expensive to cook at home

I research a bit for this article and found two articles that made clear how we, consumers, are misguided by the media. Let me share the stories.
The first part was a study conducted by a financial website Gobankingrates, I found it on MSN Money, with the heading “Eating out is Cheaper than cooking at home”, they compared a number of restaurant meals to the purchase of the same ingredients of that particular meal in a supermarket and claimed that the restaurant meals were $2.00 to $3.00 cheaper compared to the home cooked version.


Jane Dornbusch of the Boston Globe raised her eyebrows, like I did when she saw the article and investigated.
The study forgot, as I suspected, that you cannot calculate food cost apple to apple. 
One of the meals in question was a rib-eye steak with soup, asparagus and a salad for $17.99, cooking the meal at home costs according to the study $20.52

Jane made a trip to the restaurant and found that in reality $17.99 was the base price for the rib-eye steak, soup added $2.99, the asparagus added another $1.00 and at the end the bill eventually came up to $22.93  
A few days later she purchased the ingredients to duplicate the meal. The grocery bill was close to the restaurant bill but, and here is the whole misconception created, you do not use all ingredients for that one meal only! You use some of the soup and the salad for example. When she calculated exactly what she had used, the cost of the home cooked meal was $11.84.

Quite an amusing twist to the study, but also an eye-opener how we are made to believe that cooking at home is expensive, and therefore it seems better to eat out, this brings me back to the rising cost of supermarket prices. Restaurants and other food offering establishment also need to cover the rise in ingredient prices.
They cut wages by hiring less knowledgeable staff and compromise on quality of food, hard to detect compromises are made to maintain profits and your health pays the price in many cases, whereas you are in control when you cook at home.

Cooking at Home is (in most cases) healthier

The home cooked meal gives you the ability to control, calories, nutrients, quality of ingredients, salt levels, portioning and taste.
Whatever leftovers you have can innovatively be re-used for other dishes when you teach yourself a bit how and your vacuum sealer gives you the ability to keep your food in good condition. A little effort can easily save up to $100.00 per month or more.

Eating out is fine and good for all. It is good to be served and pampered once and a while. Just buying food to eat and out of so-called convenience leads in many cases to obesity, bad health and series of medical issues.

Enjoy a regular trip to your favorite restaurant, but keep in mind that your health is yours, keep it under your control.


By: Marinus Hoogendoorn   


Friday, September 26, 2014

Make the Ultimate Halloween Candy Stash with Vacuum Sealing

As a parent, you may have mixed feelings about leftover Halloween candy. You don’t want your kids to eat it all at once—but there’s only so much you can do with all that sugar, and after a while the candy can start to go bad and create sticky, melted messes in unexpected places.

Conventional storage methods can only preserve Halloween candy for so long. But with vacuum packing, you can keep candy fresh until next Halloween, and even beyond.

Why should you vacuum pack Halloween candy?

When your kids bring home a big haul on Halloween, you need a safe place to store all those sweets. Vacuum sealing keeps Halloween candy from going stale over time, so it’s just as tasty as the day it arrived even months later.

Another great reason to use vacuum packaging is to save money for your own Halloween candy-giving. You can hit stores in the days after Halloween and buy discounted candy, which is often up to 90 percent off as stores clear out for Christmas, and keep it vacuum sealed for next year. You’ll have fresh candy to hand out to trick-or-treaters, and you won’t have to fight through the crowds to buy it.

How vacuum sealing preserves Halloween candy

High sugar foods keep best when they’re kept cool and dry, but ordinary packaging and conventional storage lets in air, moisture, and even insects. The vacuum packing process removes oxygen from the packaging, keeping candy from becoming dry, brittle, or stale and maintaining the natural moisture balance.

This is especially important for chocolate candy, which contains cocoa butter. Removing the oxygen prevents the cocoa butter from becoming rancid and spoiling the candy.

What kind of candy can you vacuum pack?

Pressed sugar candies such as Smarties, lollipops, hard candies, and candy sticks (including candy canes) perform best with vacuum sealing. These types of candies can stay fresh, edible, and tasty for years in vacuum packages, even when stored at room temperatures.

Chocolate is also a great candidate for vacuum packing. When prepared properly, you can vacuum seal and store chocolate for a year or longer without losing any flavor or moisture. You may choose to store vacuum packed chocolate in the fridge or freezer for an even more extended shelf life.

Candies with cream or liquid centers or filling are the toughest to store using any method. The process of vacuum sealing this type of candy in vacuum bags can crush them, leaving you with a mess in a bag, and they also may not stay fresh as long as other types of candies. However, you can store cream or liquid filled candies for a limited time by freezing them before vacuum packing, or by vacuum sealing them in canning jars with a vacuum jar attachment.

Vacuum sealing is a great way to extend the life of your Halloween candy stash, and start saving lots of money on your Halloween candy purchases. You can even buy family favorite treats while they’re on sale after Halloween, and enjoy them all year round without having them go stale.


Image courtesy of Rochelle Hartman
Written by wordsbymelissa.com

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Why making Banh Mi at Home Sounds like a Good Plan





CHEFTALK


Why making Banh Mi at home sounds like a good plan


Reading around lately I noticed a number of pretty contradicting trends in the American fast food businesses. Pizza Hut announced to forgo their plans to introduce ‘skinny’ healthy pizzas. Dominos tried to introduce healthy pizzas earlier, but apparently they also hit a wall of non –acceptance from the public, same reason why Pizza Hut abandoned the idea. 

I noted a couple of articles ago that one of the food trends of 2014 was healthy Gourmet Pizza’s, a trend seemingly growing fast in the US, the move sounded therefore surprising.

A few days later, Vietnamese sandwich outlets were introduced by Yum, owners of Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell, among other famous fast food brand names, in an effort to introduce healthier items on the menu.

Why, Pizza Hut’s owners abandon healthy ‘skinny pizzas’ because they are rejected by the public and they believe that healthy Vietnamese sandwiches will be accepted is somewhat puzzling.

Healthy food is a very difficult to overcome issue for fast food companies, health food has perishable ingredients and perishable ingredients are very difficult to control for the staff. Except maybe for a salad here and there

Fast food does not hire chefs at store level, they have ‘workers’ (with due respect for the word) trained to prepare very simple food, that food has to be fool proof or the risk of contamination and more over cross-contamination reaches dangerous levels, something fast food companies cannot afford to happen.

Sales for a number of fast food chains, that entered China, went down by 20% last year due to some food safety scandals. Millions of dollars are needed to restore customer confidence and no fast food company is looking forward to that, let alone the image damage it causes.


No cooking here

A closer look at a fast food kitchen lay-out, may explain why that is so. 
Frozen foods are strictly separated from perishables and processed foods and handled by different staff members. The moment you mix the two, you have a recipe for disaster.
That is the main reason why fast food uses processed food. A pizza for example has a processed sauce, vegetables, processed meat and some processed cheese on top of the dough, when prepared, the raw pizza goes through a 473 F oven and is served, quite difficult to mess that up. 
Ingredients are replaced after a set period of time, so if everybody follows the rules, you can safely eat your pizza. The moment raw meat or fish enters the circle matters become tricky.

With burgers you see the same thing, a worker places a frozen burger patty on a hot plate or in a grilling machine, flips it over after the buzzer beeps, somebody else adds a slice of lettuce and a slice of tomato on top of a halved bun and the ‘burger man’ tops the patty, pack, serve, also difficult to mess it up.

The moment fresh (not frozen) meat has to be cooked with vegetables, all is lost and food safety control is out the window. The solution? When the pizza does not work for the public, choose a complete new concept and the public will welcome the idea, believing it has been invented by people going out of the way to make our life more exiting.

When you ask me, the best way to have a great Vietnamese sandwich (Banh Mi) is to make them yourself. Why? Well here is a good reason:

In the early 1980s, Vietnamese sandwiches were at the center of a food craze in the US, several peddlers ensued in a sort of food war, advertising prices as low $1 or $1.25. Obviously you got eventually what you paid for and the fast food masters know that benchmark.

Banh Mi is made with a light crispy baquette as a base; this kind of baquette is made with a mix of wheat and rice flour resulting in an airy crumb. They are available in Vietnamese and Chinese stores, bakeries or deli’s. The baquette is traditionally spread with (chicken) liver pate, topped with chili pepper, daikon and carrot pickles, protein is an option, roast chicken, grilled pork, chinese char siu pork and tofu are common.

I am pretty sure that you will not to find a traditional Banh Mi in the fast food. Simply because grilled, roast and barbequed meats are not processed meats and therefore very perishable. 

Focal point is the protein and when you have leftover vacuum packed grilled or roasted meat in your freezer you’re half way done.


Crunchy

Here is a recipe :   
1 small Vietnamese baquette
1 serving of grilled, roasted, or barbequed pork, chicken or beef
1 tbsp homemade mayonnaise
4 thin de-seeded cucumber strips
1 tbsp cilantro leaves
4 thin chili pepper slices (Jalapeno works fine)
1 tsp light soya sauce
Daikon and carrot pickle
Slice the baquette lengthwise in half and remove some of the inside (keep that for bread crumbs)
Spread the mayonnaise on the inside and layer all ingredients in the baquette. Top with the soya sauce and voila. Enjoy.

You can replace the mayonnaise with pate, if you like  

What a way to make perfect use of your vacuum packed meat you stored in the freezer.

If you have no homemade vacuum packed meat in your freezer start making some, you can find your vacuum sealer here:

  www.vacupack.com  for USA and www.vacupack.ca for Canada.


A delightful sandwich that will save you money as well, the fast food plans to charge you $7.50. 

By: Marinus Hoogendoorn






Saturday, September 13, 2014

Vacuum Sealed Food and Food Safe Temperatures




CHEFTALK 


Vacuumed food and food safe temperatures



Vacuum sealing food is THE way to prolong shelf life, maintain freshness and to increase the overall quality of food, either by chilling, freezing or dry storage.  Vacuuming raw, cooked or dry food alone does not guarantee success, there is a little more to it.

Find your vacuum sealer here:   www.vacupack.com  for USA and www.vacupack.ca for Canada.

Every type of food, whether vacuum sealed or not vacuum sealed need to comply with a set of temperature measures to make them safe for consumption when they need storing for a period of time.

Enforcement at home

These temperature measures apply to all foods, raw, cooked, marinated and also dry foods. Guidelines have been set by various departments of public health, but often apply, or seem to apply to catering businesses and related food retailing businesses like supermarkets, restaurants and caf├ęs, seldom have they referred to households. 

We all know that caterers need compliance with food safety measures, but how do these measure translate when we store and cook food at home. 
Caterers and food retailers basically do the same thing as what homemakers do at home. Food is ordered, received, stored and prepared, quantities may vary, but the principal remains the same.  
Main difference is that caterers and other food handling businesses are checked at intervals by enforcement officers where homemakers are not. Does this mean that we can rely on the integrity of caterers and supermarkets? 
The answer is NO! Homemakers have their own part to play.

When foods are sealed in a vacuum and left unchecked on a kitchen counter they are as much subject to spoilage in a caterer’s kitchen as they are in a domestic kitchen.

Safe temperatures



The danger zone lies between 41 F and 135 F. This is the temperature range bacteria love and multiply at rapid speed. Bacteria multiply individually, meaning one becomes two, two become four and four become eight. If you would start with one bacterium, (which is highly unlikely) you will have 4000 bacteria after 4 hours considering that particular bacteria multiplies every 30 minutes.
This proves the importance of food storage under refrigerated or frozen conditions.

Vacuum packing food, slows the process of bacterial growth considerably, but does not stop it, in fact nothing does, shelf life of vacuum sealed food becomes however interesting prolonged as the chart below will show.   


Vacuum for prolonged shelf life

Food

Stored in
Normal shelf life
Vacuum shelf life
Large cuts of meat, beef, poultry, lamb and pork
Freezer
6 months
2-3 years
Ground meat: beef, lamb, poultry, pork
Freezer
4 months
1 year
Fish
Freezer
6 months
2 years
Berries
Refrigerator
1-3 days
1 week
Cheeses, hard, semi, soft and pasteurized. Soft cheeses should not be vacuumed
Refrigerator
1-2 weeks
4-8 months
Cookies, crackers
Room temperature
1-2 weeks
3-6 weeks
Coffee beans
Freezer
6-9 months
2-3 years
Coffee beans
Room temperature
4 weeks
16 months
Tea
Freezer
6-9 months
2-3 years
Tea
Room temperature
4 weeks
16 months
 
 Source: Dr. G.K.York, Dept. of Food Science & Tech, U of California, Davis

It is important to note that laboratorial test are usually performed under perfect conditions, conditions homemakers cannot comply with, even if they want to.

Food Safety Guide Lines

We don’t walk around with thermometers when we do our grocery shopping, well at least I don’t. It is nevertheless good to keep some guide lines in mind which will help improve food safety standards.



·         Ensure to buy fresh meat and fish that has been stored in a chilled environment.
·         Avoid buying food in damaged packaging, for example: dented cans, damaged caps on jars and other sealed products.
·         Ensure that frozen food is in full frozen condition. (not half soft when handled)
·         When your travel time from store to home is longer than 30 minutes, store fresh food in a cooler box with frozen cooling elements.
·         Store food immediately in the respective storage, freezer or refrigerator, after returning home from the store.
·         Place a refrigerator thermometer in your refrigerator and check regularly if the temperature is constant.

Best temperatures for storage

Refrigerated potentially hazardous food
41 F or below
Frozen foods
0 F or below
Dry storage
50 – 70 F
    
When cooking food before vacuum seal storage, ensure to cool rapidly!

·         Do not cool at room temperature
·         Use an ice water bath to hasten cooling
·         Divide food in small units or spread it out to make a thin layer and refrigerate
·         Cool the food from boiling temperature to 70 F within 2 hours and then to 41 F within 4 hours.
·         Transfer to food to new clean vacuum seal bags, vacuum pack and freeze or chill immediately.
·         Thaw frozen food overnight in the refrigerator or on the defrost mode in your microwave.
·         Reheat food for consumption to 165 F  


A few simple measures and a bit of common sense, go a long way when it comes to food safety

By: Marinus Hoogendoorn