Friday, January 24, 2014



The holidays are over. I hope that you can look back on your holidays with a smile but now it is back to business. It is time to look at things a bit more seriously.
I trust that your New Year resolution list is pasted on your refrigerator, with an additional copy on your computer screen.
 Times are still difficult worldwide and many of us will have to tighten the belt a bit more and there is already very little room left. If you are one of those who really feel the pinch, every bit of help on how to spend your money more effectively and still being able to put a healthy and tasty meal on the table is more than welcome.
One wise move is to invest in quality. It definitely saves money on the long run. Quality food and also quality kitchen aids. A quality knife last a lifetime, a set of cheap knives is a wasteful purchase. Same goes for food and storage of food items. A cheaply bought vacuum sealer that gives you a leaking seal after a few weeks has no purpose of even buying it in the first place.
Second is to buy good quality food products from a vendor you can trust, who can give you some decent information about the product and also how to handle it. Good quality food last longer and when you vacuum seal it, it will last even longer as it stays in much better condition. No freezer burn or dried out meats in your freezer for which you paid good hard earned dollars. Throwing food away is easy. Getting the most out of your dollars is not so easy.

Prepared ready meals loaded with preservatives and all sorts of other not so healthy stuff are relatively expensive and of seriously less quality than meals you make yourself. You cannot see or control the contents of these ready meals. You only know what you eat when you cook yourself.
Lovely sounding taglines are of no value to a consumer, I mean, it does not mean anything when it reads on a packet ‘New formula, made with the freshest real beef’. A line like that means zero. Correct me if I am wrong. First of all you do not expect a product with beef contents to be made with half rotten beef and secondly it raises the question: does that mean that the older formula did not have real beef? 
The real valuable information on the packaging, cut of meat, fat contents, added flavoring and preservatives depend completely on what health authorities require by law or food act. Any information that has not been stipulated will not appear, believe me. This means that even when you know the countries food act by heart, you still do not know what you eat.   
This is reason enough for me to stay away from those kinds of products.
Make a well balanced diet a priority. Use fresh produce and cook your own food. You know what your family likes so choosing those items should not be too difficult.
When you do not have too much time left in a week due to a heavy work load and other family obligations, consider dedicating an hour per week and do some bulk cooking. If dedicating your time to a specific task at a specific hour does not work very well consider this idea. 
On Sunday I cook from 11 am till noon. You might have something else planned, so that may not work for you. Try this method at a different time. It works much better for me. When you have the prepackaged products in the refrigerator, you do not want to waste them, you paid for them, you vacuum packed them so you are more likely to use them. 

When the kiddos complain, make pizza and ask them to help, they will love it. Freeze the pizzas, vacuum seal and keep frozen. Homemade pizza ready to go, it does not get much better than that.  
Buy bone in chicken pieces, for example, firstly they are cheaper and secondly they have more flavors and stay juicier after cooking.
Place all chicken parts on a baking tray, season with salt, pepper and any other seasoning you have (paprika powder, garlic, chilly flakes) or any other seasoning of your liking.
Preheat your oven to 325 F and roast for 40 to 45 minutes. Leave to cool, portion the cooked pieces and vacuum seal. When you eat chicken a few times per week, keep it chilled. If not, freeze it. Anyway you choose, you have ready protein to use.
Do the same with your vegetables, only choose a different vegetable for different days. You can precook vegetables (blanch), fry vegetables or braise, this way you have a good variety at any given time. Your meals are almost ready in a very short period of time.
Carbohydrates can also be prepared, cooked rice, boiled or roasted and even mashed potatoes vacuum seal very well. Cooked pastas vacuum seal perfectly also.   
Once you are on the right track and the response from the family is positive, you will enjoy cooking more and more.
Did I tempt you with homemade pizza? Here is a recipe for the dough and sauce, the topping is your choice, great way to use some leftovers as well.  

2 Tsp Dry yeast
1 Cup Warm water
2 Tbsp Olive oil
3 Cups High protein flour (bread flour)
1 ½ Tsp Salt
Pinch Sugar
Dissolve the yeast in a few tablespoons of water with the sugar. Mix until it looks frothy. Leave for ten to fifteen minutes..
Place the flour in a big bowl and slowly add the yeast water and the rest of the water. The water may be too much or too little for the amount of flour. This depends on type of the flour and your individual environment. Do not worry. If it is not enough add a bit more, if your dough is too soft, add a bit more flour.
Add the salt and the oil.
Knead all into soft dough. Good guide is that the dough should not stick to your hands anymore.
Cover the dough and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour or so, depending on the temperature in your kitchen. You should have about 1/3 more dough after the rise.
Divide the dough in portions, the quantity of dough is enough for 2 pieces, ½ “thick, 14” round pizzas.
If you want smaller sized pizzas, just divide to your liking.
Form the right size and thickness, and leave the formed pizzas to rest for another ½ hour.
If you freeze the pizzas, you can do this with or without topping.
Pre-heat your oven to 450 F
Bake the pizza for 10 to 12 minutes if you want to freeze it later. Bake a few minutes longer if you plan to eat straight from the oven.
Freeze the pizza after it has cooled down, vacuum and keep frozen. They stay perfect for up to 3 months.
A good Italian pizza sauce is made with tomatoes, onions and garlic. No tomato paste or puree.
½ Nos Big onion (finely chopped)
3 Cloves Chopped garlic  
5 Nos Ripe tomatoes (chopped)
Oil for frying
Fry the onions till translucent in 3 tablespoons of oil, add the garlic and fry for another minute.
Add the chopped tomatoes and simmer for ten minutes.
Season the sauce with salt and pepper and leave to cool.

You can use any type of topping you like, use some of the leftover vacuumed meat you have.

Written for pMG by:

(Professional Chef) Marinus Hoogendoorn

Culinary expert in recipe development



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