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Vacuum sealers

Many people swear by vacuum sealers while others detest them to the utmost degree.

The question arises…

Are vacuum sealers worth it?

From the infomercials seen on TV, to the shelves of clearance items at your local general store, vacuum sealers are all over the place declaring their superiority over simple human packaging. Has the thought ever crossed your mind; “Are vacuum sealers really worth their high price and cheep looking design?” Well, if it has, you are in luck because we are going to take a look at what makes a good vacuum sealer and if they are really worth all of the hype.

Sealing mechanism

It doesn’t matter how much air a vacuum sealer can suck out of a package. If the mechanism used to seal the package does not work properly or leaves holes in the seal, you might as well have thrown your money into a fire. Some vacuum sealers have specialized bags that work specifically with the sealer to make sure the sealing mechanism doesn’t cause holes or tares.

The sealer works by slightly heating up the sides of the bag and pressing them together in order to melt the plastic to a point where no holes occur. Some sealers get too hot and end up burning through the plastic, creating possible entry points for air. When choosing a vacuum sealer, usually the ones with specifically designed bags work best because the plastic is composed of the exact make-up needed to prevent melting or holes.

Suction

Just like melted bags, a vacuum sealer is completely pointless if it doesn’t do what it says it will do; vacuum. Some of the sealers on the market today, either because they are poorly powered or do not have the best hardware, have extremely low amounts of suction for their intended use.

There is, of course, a flip side to this situation, which is a vacuum sealer with too much power behind the vacuum. When there is too much suction, the food inside the pouch can actually become crushed. Another problem with a lot of suction is that food can become partially dehydrated, which we discussed, leads to an increased chance for freezer burn. It is important to look for a vacuum sealer, which can control the amount of suction it puts on a piece of food as to not demolish it.

Worth it?

As many variables as vacuum sealers can have, it is not worth investing the money unless you do some serious research first and are willing to give up a few green ones in place of the Ziploc and straw method. If you have the time and patience, you could try numerous ones out to see if the work well, but you can get the same freezer results if you take the time to correctly package your foods.

In the end, it is eventually up to you alone whether you want to spend the money on the vacuum sealer, just remember to check for holes in your bags and also to initially freeze your bagged food to keep it from getting destroyed and helping to prevent freezer burn.

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A recipe with a picture 2009

Contestants were asked to send a recipe with a picture of the finished dish for their chance to win one of the prizes. We received great recipes and beautiful pictures. So much, that we will be wanting pictures with the recipes for the contests from now on.

The panel of judges was in a Mediterranean mood when they selected the winning recipes as both, the winning recipe and runner up, have an decided Mediterranean flavor.

Congratulations to both winners!

A recipe and a picture contest

Contestants sent their best recipes to All Foods Natural for the chance to win.

This contest was opened to all visitors. The winning recipes and pictures were published at All Foods Natural and Food Naturally newsletter.

This competition was live on the spring season, from 21 April 2009 to 21 Juen 2009, and entries were accepted from from 21 April 2009 to 1 June 2009. Apart from the book offered as a first prize, there was another offered as runner up.

The winners

The judges were clearly in a Mediterranean mood. The winning recipes for this recipe contest were mozzarella meat balls in vegetable sauce, from Vicky, as the recipe than conquered the panel, and eggplant Mediterranean bake, from Chris, as runner up. Both recipes are delicious.

Meet now Vicky, the winner, at the stove.

Q: Tell us about your background: Where and when did you learn to cook?
A: I have been cooking since I was 12 years old. I like cooking. I cook everyday. I learned to cook from various sources like TV, recipe books from friends and family.

Q: Which one is your favorite food? Which dish is the one you cook best?
A: Sweet and sour pork.
 
Q: Who does the cooking at home? Do you cook for one or two, or a family?
A: I do all the cooking at home for the who family.

Q: Which ones are your favorite recipes/dishes at home? Eating out?
A: Chinese and Thai seafood dishes are always my favorite. I like fresh steamed seabass with a bit of oil and soy sauce dressing.

Q: Please, share with us a typical menu you serve when you entertain friends.
A: Roast chicken with stuffing and bread and butter pudding.

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Best ground beef recipes

The best ground beef meat comes from a lean steak.

We asked for the best ground beef recipes. The contestants sent some great recipes for the chance to grab a copy of the winner book in the category for bread, other baking and sweet in the IACP cookbook awards.

Best Ground Beef Recipes Contest

Contestants sent their best ground beef recipes to All Foods Natural for the chance to win a copy of Local Breads: Sourdough and Whole-Grain Recipes from Europe’s Best Artisan Bakers.

Only subscribers to our newsletter or registered users were allowed to enter this competition.

This competition run from 21 December 2008 to 20 March 2009, entries were accepted from from 21 December 2008 to 1 March 2009. Apart from the book offered as a first prize, there was another offered as runner up.

The winners

Bette’s creamed ground beef on toast was the recipe most voted.

Bette said “I am happy you enjoyed my creamed ground beef on toast , it’s a great easy comfort food.” And she is right.

The recipe is very easy to prepare and very enjoyable to eat. It is one of those sandwiches that feel as satisfying as a full roasted dinner. Meet Bette at the stove..

Q: Tell us about your background: Where and when did you learn to cook?
A: I am the oldest of 5 children, my mother taught me to cook early around age 10. Then when I was 16 I worked in a restaurant as well.

Q: Which one is your favorite food?
A: Favorite food to cook are meats, beef & pork roasts are a favorite due to the leftovers can always be recreated. I love making “something from nothing”.

Q: Who does the cooking at home? Do you cook for one or two, or a family?
A: I do all the cooking. It’s just myself & my husband.

Q: Which dish is the one you cook best?
A: Chocolate chip cookies. Practice makes perfect and I have baked many of those.

Q: Which ones are your favorite recipes/dishes at home? Eating out?
A: At home, beef pot pie made from left over roast and gravy plus whatever vegetables you enjoy. When we eat out, being from Maine, we enjoy fresh seafood.

Bette sent us also a second entry. See her zuchinni ground beef lasagna.

It’s so exciting to have won the bread book. I taught myself to make yeast bread a couple of years ago when my mother in law wanted “bean hole beans” & yeast rolls for her 75th birthday. My brother in law offered to make the beans if I would make the bread. It was only 3 weeks away, so every day I made a batch of yeast bread until it I got the feel of the dough and baking just right. Many batches ended in the trash but by her birthday we had lovely white & oatmeal yeast rolls that were a hit. The book will be used often.

A runner up prize

The second most voted recipe was sheppard’s pie from Liz, and she got a chance to fix and enjoy meals the healthy way.

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Perfect fusion marinade

The recipe that won the first prize at the Complement Your Barbecue recipe competition.

This garlic, ginger and molasses teriyaki is an example of fusion cooking. It won the first prize at the Complement Your Barbecue recipe competition. Meet, Hillary, the marinade expert, at the stove.

Hillary is a retired teacher turned caterer from California, creating menus and recipes for friends and family, including all special events. Her food gifts are very much in demand and she acts as culinary consultant for her group of friends. In fact, it was Pam, her sister in law, who entered this recipe on Hillary’s behalf.

Q: Tell us about your background: Where and when did you learn to cook?
A:  I am an empty nester, mother of two grown up boys. I live with my husband, Tod, a dog and multitude songbirds. Learning to cook? I think I was only nine or ten years old. I always had a taste for sweet things, especially my grandmother cookies. Since we only visited for short periods I asked her to teach me how to make them so I could enjoy my favorite things any time I wanted.

Q: Which one is your favorite food?
A: Still Grandma’s cookies and brownies. Apart from that, I love sushi. I like Japanese and Korean dishes very much and I like being adventurous when I recreate the recipes and combine the flavors in new ways.

Q: Who does the cooking at home? Do you cook for one or two, or a family?
A: I do the cooking at home and out. I often help with

Q: Which dish is the one you cook best?
A: Chocolate chip cookies. Practice makes perfect and I have baked many of those.

Q: Which ones are your favorite recipes/dishes at home? Eating out?
A: At home, I like experimenting with flavors, mixing my favorite Japanese and Asian recipes with local ingredients. I prepare things like bean sprout tacos, or curried shrimp with pasta and daikon salad. It is not usual that I feel tired and I do not want to cook, but it happens and then we go out, I  eat and enjoy everything, then, just grateful I did not have to cook it.

Q: Please, share with us a typical menu you serve when you entertain friends.
A: Apart from the traditional holiday dinners with family, when I may do roast turkey with gravy and add my oriental touch with something like cranberry chutney and a lychee fruit salad, it is more usual that friends ask for my help for entertaining. I try to make it healthy and easy. I either choose a menu around a central dish –usually a roast- and assorted salads or a buffet.

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Crock pot chicken recipes

A recipe contest run by a former publication.

Contestants got their best ones ready for the chance to win two wonderful cooking books. Chicken is versatile an can be prepared in countless ways, however slow cooking in the crock pot allows complex food flavors to develop – apart from preventing any burning – impossible to achieve with other cooking methods. So slow cooker, crock pot or crock pot it is.

Crock pot chicken recipe contest

If you have a great chicken recipe to cook in the crock pot, you are ready to enter. If you don’t, scan your file for casserole chicken recipes, select that one your family and friends always praise, adapt it to the slow cooker and enter it in the Crock Pot Chicken Recipe Competition, Food Naturally Winter 2008 Recipe Contest. Get your recipes published in All Foods Natural.

We are asking for crock pot chicken recipes. Get ready your best for the chance to win two wonderful cooking books.

Chicken is versatile an can be prepared in countless ways, however slow cooking in the crock pot allows complex food flavors to develop – apart from preventing any burning – impossible to be achieved with other cooking methods, so crock pot it is.

Chicken is great meat value. It is lean and healthy, provides iron and vitamin B -so important for growing children- and it is international. With the worries about climate change, chicken is becoming increasingly more popular as raising poultry has less environmental impact than raising cattle.

Make time for a crock pot chicken recipe and give yourself the chance of getting the books.

The winners

The winning recipe was chicken chili, sent by Alice, and the runner up was the delicious chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, from Rose. Both are already enjoying their books, as we wanted them to have them before Christmas. We didn’t get interviews this time as both contestants were very busy with Holiday cooking.

There was no second runner up because we received many recipes for crock pot… with everything but chicken.

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Interview with Stephanie

Meet Stephanie at the stove and as a food writer.

Stephanie has been publishing her own blog about the joys of frugal living before starting her contributions at All Foods Natural.

Interview with Stephanie Appleton

Stephanie at the stove

Tell us about your background: Where and when did you learn to cook?

I’ve been cooking for as long as I remember. My parents worked a lot when I was young. I made a lot of the family meals from about the time I was twelve.. Though I did some cooking with my mom, and of course watched her cook as a child, mostly I was self taught. I loved -and still do- to throw a little of this and a little of that in a dish, and see what happens. I learned to cook with what was on hand, and to use a recipe as a starting point for creative cooking.

Which one is your favorite food? Which dish is the one you cook best?

I like a wide variety of foods. It is hard to pick, but one of my favorite meals to cook and eat is lasagna, salad, bread, and cheesecake for dessert.

Who does the cooking at home? Do you cook for one or two, or a family?

I do most of the cooking. My husband can cook, and is willing to help out when needed. We cook for six most nights, but it is not uncommon to find many more than that around our table.

Which ones are your favorite recipes/dishes at home? Eating out?

Meals at home generally are simple, and use a lot of the foods we raise here. Eating out is expensive with this size family, so if we do go out we usually opt for what is cheap. If just my husband and I go out, for a special occasion, we often choose ethnic. I like to try new dishes, and things that I don’t normally make at home.

Please, share with us a typical menu you serve when you entertain friends.

 I’m not sure there is a typical menu. It depends on the friends and the occasion. I enjoy serving our home grown foods, but not everyone appreciates them, especially the meats, so I try to consider that when planning. I often do serve the meals mentioned in Easy dinner party recipes. In the summer, the grill is used a lot. I try to plan meals so that much of the preparations can be done before the guests are there.

Stephanie, food writer

What was your motivation to start writing about food and creating recipes?

I’ve always created recipes by cooking with what is on hand, and never exactly following a recipe. Trouble is I’m bad about writing the creations down. My husband jokes that we’ve never had the same dish in thirteen years of marriage.

Writing about food started on my blog. I began writing about food in the context of saving money on your groceries, and living a frugal and simple life.

How did you get started with writing? Do you have a special routine, a special place?

I really hadn’t written anything since college. I started my first blog, Adventures in the 100 Acre Wood, about three years ago to keep in touch with family and friends. Then started Stop the Ride to explore some different ways to earn money. Then Erin Phelan recommended me for a freelance job, and now here I am.

What problems did you have to face in order to balance your family time, your writing time and the work you do on your homestead? Did you use any specific time management techniques?

Balancing my time is still something I am working on. Since we home school, I have children under foot all day, every day. I find myself thinking about articles while doing tasks such as laundry, dishes or feeding animals.  It is challenging to find any quiet time to put the thoughts together. The best opportunities for writing are before the children get up, or after they go to bed. Unfortunately, I am not always at my best at these hours.

What would you do differently if you had to do it all over again? What would you do the same if you had to start over?

I’m pretty happy with the way things have developed. I do wish that I had been a little more mindful of time requirements. The writing started as I added several other things to my schedule, I underestimated the time requirements. I also wish some of my grammar courses were a little fresher in my mind.

If you had to advise a friend who wants to follow on your footsteps to become a food writer, what would you tell?

 I’m not sure. I’m still pretty new to this, so I guess I would tell them, “Let’s figure this out together.”


Thank you very much Stephanie, we hope to enjoy your writing for many more issues of this newsletter.