Thursday, February 6, 2014

Homemade Baby Food

We love making fresh baby foods. I buy organic veggies, wash, peel, chop and boil them until they are soft. Then, I simply blend them with the leftover water from the pot and pour them in a blender. Nothing fancy over here! The easiest way to store them in manageable sizes is by using the ice cube tray method (pictured above).

I like these individual portions because you can mix and match flavors. If baby isn't feeling broccoli one day, I just add an apple cube and voila!

Now, if you've taken the time to make your own baby is imperative that you store it properly to maintain absolute freshness. We suggest using a quart size vacuum seal bag. You can re-seal the bag each time and the bag/items typically run out at the same time!

Let us know what you think...any other suggestions?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Meals for the Future - Cheesey & Delicious

Amanda's 10 Meals for the Freezer

Buy foil containers, plastic freezer bags (don't buy the cheapies or you'll get freezerburn), or vacuum seal bags from to freeze these items. Also, have a black Sharpie handy. And some tin foil! It will take you about 2 hours to prepare everything on a Saturday (okay, that's when I plan on doing this!). You will stick them all in the freezer and then for two straight weeks you will pull the meal out in the morning to thaw/slow cook and cook when you get home from work. No more thinking about what to make and/or being too tired to cook! Go play with your babies & your husbands :)

The last time I did a "meals for the future campaign" of 30 meals it was too meat & potatoes for my preference & I was over mushy crock pot meat. These are more cheesey and more delicous, in my opinion. Also, I like knowing how much I'm spending on meals for the month up front. can make leftovers out of all of these to have for lunches -- double savings! 

Feeds 2-4 people per if you have 2 people it could potentially make 2 lunches you decide! Also, I'm sure I missed something so let me know if you find it :)

Shopping List!

8 lbs ground beef/turkey (3# enchiladas, 1# chili, 1# tacos, 1# spaghetti, 2# meatloaf)
4 chicken breasts
3 cans red beans (2 enchilada, 1 chili)
Oyster crackers (chili)
2 lb Monterey jack cheese (enchiladas & casserole)
2 lb cheddar cheese (1# enchiladas, 1/2# for tacos, 1/2# chili)
2 cans mild enchilada sauce
1 can cream of mushroom soup
3 onion
1 green pepper
3 garlic cloves or jar of minced garlic
Meatloaf seasoning packet
1 T dijon mustard
Salt & Pepper
Garlic powder
chili powder
2 c Parmesan cheese
Olive Oil
Spaghetti Noodles
7 Jars Spaghetti Sauce & maybe more if you like more sauce on your items! (2 Chicken Parm, 1 Manicotti, 1 Stuffed Shells, 2 Lasagna, 1 Spaghetti)
32 oz Mozzarella Cheese (8 oz for each batch of manicotti, stuffed shells, lasagna)
Large tortillas (enchiladas)
Corn Tortillas (tacos & casserole)
Taco seasoning Packet
Sour cream (tacos, enchiladas, chili)
Chili seasoning packet
15 oz. can creamed corn
Manicotti noodles
Lasagna noodles
Large Shell Pasta
20 oz packages frozen spinach, thawed completely & squeezed dry
30 oz ricotta cheese
8 oz cream cheese
2 zuchinni
2 squash

10 Recipes

Crock Pot Chicken Parm
1. Cut chicken in strips.
2. Mix 1/2c bread crumbs with 1/4c parmesan cheese.
3. Whip 1 egg & dip chicken breasts in the egg & then coat in cheese mixture.
4. 1T olive oil in bottom of crockpot!! Write this on the bag or pan before freezing!
5. Place in crockpot & layer with mozzarella cheese. 
6. Pour 1 or 2 cans of sauce on top. 3-4 hrs on high or 6-7 on low. Serve over noodles.

Enchiladas -- You could make two separate pans to freeze this!
1. Brown 3 lbs of meat w/ onions. 
2. Add 1/2 of shredded cheese mix (1/2 monterrey & 1/2 cheddar)
3. Add red beans.
4. Sprinkle garlic powder, 1 T cumin, 3 T chili powder.
Sauce Mix: 2 mild enchilada sauce mixed with 1 can cream of mushroom.
5. Put some sauce in bottom of pan, fill warmed tortillas with meat/cheese mixture, roll & place in pan. Put rest of sauce over enchiladas.
6. Cover with cheese.
7. Bake @ 350 for 20-25 minutes. If frozen -- thaw in the morning & write this on the bag!

1. Brown ground beef & onions, drain.
2. Add chili seasoning packet & water according to packet instructions.
3. Add beans.
4. Freeze. Thaw in crock-pot. Serve w/ cornbread, garlic bread, onions, cheese, oyster crackers.

1. Brown ground beef w/ onion, drain,  & add whatever seasonings you want!
2. Freeze! Use leftover tortillas from the enchiladas or corn tortillas.
3. Serve with cheese, sour cream, guac, tomatoes, lettuce...use what you have! Could be quesadillas!

Spaghetti w/ Meat Sauce
1. Brown ground beef w/ onion, drain, & add whatever seasonings you want!
2. Add spaghetti sauce to drained meat.
3. Put in container & freeze. Thaw & serve over noodles.

Cheddar, Corn & Tortilla Casserole
1. Stack 4 tortillas and cut into 1.5 wide strips. Place strips on baking sheet in one layer. Bake until slightly golden ~6 min; set aside.
2. Spray large nonstick skillet w/ nonstick spray and set over med heat. Add bell pepper, onion, garlic, 1/2t chili powder, 1/2 t oregano, 1/2t salt. Cook ~6 min. Let cool.
3. Combine creamed corn, 2 eggs, 3 egg whites, 1/3 c monterey jack, and 1 tsp hot pepper sauce in large bowl. Stir in the vegetable mixture. Spoon about half mixture into baking dish. Arrange half the tortilla strips on top. Spoon remaining veg mixture on top and cover w/ remaining tortilla strips. Sprinkle w remaining 1/3 c Monterey Jack cheese. 
4. Freeze. Thaw & Bake @ 375 for 35-40 min.

Slow Cooker Meat Loaf
1. Combine meatloaf seasoning packet, 2#s meat, onion, bell pepper, egg white, 1/4 c 3/4c ketchup, 1/2c bread crumbs, 1 T mustard, 1/4t salt, 1/4t pepper in a large bowl. Shape into loaf. 
2. Freeze. 
3. Thaw & place in slow cooker, spread remaining 1/2c ketchup on top. Cook 3-4 hours high or 6-8 hours low. Cuts into 8 slices.

Manicotti w/ Spinach & Ricotta AND  double this for Stuffed Shells

1 (10 ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed completely & squeezed dry
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
15 ounces ricotta cheese
4 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup shredded Romano or Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 box (12 to 14 shells) manicotti noodles
3 to 4 cups marinara sauce (1 jar + a little more)
1/2 cup shredded Romano or Parmesan cheese, for topping

1. Cook shells & manicotti in salted boiling water.
2. In a large bowl, mix spinach, cheeses, eggs, salt and pepper. Stir together until well blended.
3. Place about 1 1/2 cups of marinara sauce in a 9x13-inch pan. Spread it around to cover the bottom.
4. Place the mixed filling into a plastic bag. You can use either a frosting piping bag or a gallon zip bag. Snip the corner, gather the top and squeeze the filling into the corner. Hold an uncooked manicotti shell in your hand and squeeze the filling inside the shell. Let it overflow on both sides. Place the filled shell into the sauce-lined pan. Repeat with remaining manicotti and fill the pan with the stuffed shells, until you run out of shells and filling. You should be able to fill 12 to 14 shells- if you run out of room in your pan, use a separate smaller pan to accommodate the extra.
5. Cover the pasta with marinara sauce, using about 2 1/2 cups of sauce. Sprinkle 1/2 cup Romano/Parmesan on top. At this point, you can cover with foil and refrigerate until you're ready to bake, or you can cover with foil and place it in the oven immediately.
6. Bake, covered with foil, 50 minutes @ 350 degrees. Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes.

Veggie Lasagna
1. Cook lasagna noodles in salted boiling water.
2. Cook zucchini, squash, spinach, mushrooms, garlic, onion, etc. in a skillet. Add salt, pepper, seasonings. Add spaghetti sauce.
3.  In separate bowl - Add ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese), eggs and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a medium bowl then stir until well combined.
4. Spoon just enough vegetable mixture into the baking dish to lightly cover bottom (about 1 cup). Arrange four noodles lengthwise and side by side to cover the bottom. (If the noodles are short on one end, you may need to cut an extra noodle and place into dish to cover where the other noodles have not).
Spread about half of the ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese ) mixture over the noodles. Sprinkle with a third of the parmesan cheese and a third of the mozzarella cheese. Then, top with about a third of the vegetable mixture. Add another layer of four noodles then repeat with remaining cheese and vegetables.
Finish with a final layer of noodles, vegetables, parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese.
5. Freeze. Thaw. Bake 25 min @350...remove foil & bake addtl 10 min.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Steaks on the BBQ! Summer, is that you?!

Since we live in Miami, we are exceptionally lucky that we can actually BBQ year round. I grew up in PA and during the winter months (5+ inches of snow on the deck), my Dad would pull the grill up to the screen door and grill steaks while standing inside the warm house. Everything tastes better on the grill, after all!!

These steaks were vacuum sealed a few weeks ago. They were absolutely delicious!!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

VOTE for The Vak Shack!!

Here is the video of my business pitch! If you like the video, please "like" it on Youtube. When you hit the "like" button it will require you to sign-in to a Youtube account. It only takes 20 seconds to make an account. I appreciate all of your support!! Thanks!

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Just pitched The Vak Shack at the Miami Herald Business Pitch Competition! I am moving on to the final round which is on November 15th in Miami, FL. We are filming a "Viewer's Choice" video of our pitches tomorrow and I will post a link. I need everyone to vote for my pitch of THE VAK SHACK!!
Tell your friends :)

Monday, October 17, 2011

1,000 8"x10" SALE!!

Special Price on 1,000 8x10 Vacuum Sealer Bags : $155.00 + $12.95 Shipping.

(Regular price is $185.00 + $20.00 Shipping) SAVE OVER $40.00 and stock up on bags!!!

Email if you are interested. Hurry up, we only have 3 cases left!!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Commercial vs. Domestic

Do I need to buy a commercial machine or is a domestic one going to be OK? 
This is a question that we are asked every day of the week. The answer depends on three things.

1. Do you need to pack items which are bigger than will fit in a 12 wide bag? If the answer is yes, you should look at commercial machines. Domestic machines can typically fit up to a 12" wide bag and sometimes up to 16" but this is much more expensive.

2. How many packing operation do you expect to do? If you are expecting to do more than 250 packing operation per week then you really need a commercial vacuum packing machine like the Cyclone 30 40 or 50. This has an all steel construction and is designed for heavy prolonged use day-in and day-out.

3. Who is going to be using the vacuum packing machine and where? If the machine is going to be used in a busy commercial kitchen or factory type environment then you really need an all-steel machine. It is not reasonable to expect a machine designed for a domestic kitchen to survive for long in a hostile environment like a commercial kitchen where staff are often under intense time pressure and care of the equipment may not be the top-priority.

In short: if you are doing less than 250 packing operations a week, the machine is going to be looked after and everything you pack will fit into a 12” wide bag then you don’t need a commercial machine. You can choose between the Cylone 30, 40, or 50.

Whether you are using a domestic machine or a commercial one, there is not a great deal of difference between machines in the time that it takes to pack something. Assuming that the item to be packed is reasonably well matched to the vacuum bag size, the operation usually takes about 30 seconds. That is 10-20 seconds to remove the air from the bag and about 10 seconds to make the heat seal.

The commercial machines do work slightly faster but the real difference is in the build quality of the machine chassis – commercial machines have an all steel case whilst the domestic machines have a high-impact plastic case. Also, the commercial machines have an 800 watt motor as opposed to the 400 watt motor found in the domestic machines. This speeds up the packing process a little, but the real difference is in the ability of the commercial machine to work continuously all day every day.