More Treats from Living Tree Community Foods

I was very pleasantly surprised with yet another box full of more fabulous products from Living Tree Community Foods livingtreecommunity.com.  Thank you once again Living Tree Community and Jesse Schwartz.  You are spoiling me.  Now I need to do my best to do you proud.  This time I was gifted with a bag of almond flour, more almond butter, walnut butter and cashew butter.  I am going to make something special with the almond butter and the almond meal as soon as i get back into the kitchen, later on today.  And I have some creative ideas for the other products as well.  You will all just have to stay tuned to see what I create with my magic wooden spoon and these delectable products.

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Almond flour is low in carbs and is packed with nutrients.  It is rich in Vitamin E, which acts as an antioxidant.  It is believed that eating almond flour or almond meal will reduce the “bad” LDL cholesterol and insulin resistance.

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Walnuts are an excellent source of essential fatty omega 3 fatty acids.  These cannot be produced in the body and need to be obtained through food sources.  Walnuts are also high in protein and phosphorous, and both Vitamins B and D.

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Cashews are actually not nuts, but are seeds attached to a fruit, grown all throughout many tropical areas of the world.  Originally, cashews were grown in Brazil and have been a favorite ever since they were discovered. They are also rich in both iron and copper, which are both good for the hemoglobin of the blood, and helps transport oxygen throughout the bloodstream.  I was VERY excited to receive this product since cashews are my favorite “nut”.  I have some very creative ideas for this.  I can hardly wait.

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I know there are some very yummy recipes coming from all of these delicious products in the immediate future.  Thank you once again, Living Tree Community and Jesse Schwartz.  This is so AWESOME!!!!!

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Swimilicious Cookies

As you all know, I love to cook and bake, and I especially love cookies.   These beautiful cookies decorated with swimmers and our team logo, Cudas, (short for the Front Range Barracudas) are just awesome!  I cannot take credit for these, although I wish I could.  They were given to me by one of my swimmers as a gift.  I don’t know if she and her mom actually made them or if they had them specially made, but they are incredible, either way.  These cookies are just perfect for the cookie loving swimmer and swim coach that I am.  They are absolutely swimilicious!

My swimilicious cookies with my coach’s badge, my stop watch, my goggles and my swim cap du jour.

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I am an all around swimmer, but my favorite and most powerful stroke is definitely my freestyle.  I used to be a sprinter in my youth, but since I am now old and fat, I have become more of a distance swimmer.  Two years ago, before my injuries, when I was still competing for the Masters, I was swimming about 5-6 K or 3-4 miles per day for training.  I am just now starting to get back to my swimming again, in hopes of returning to the Masters.  I think I still have quite a few races left in me.

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Diving off the blocks.

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Go CUDAS!!!!!  We coach all ages from 6-18.  I coach the 6-10 year olds.

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Let’s Get Cooking Back in Schools

I have been cooking my whole life, and if I do say so myself, I am pretty darn good at it too.  Not only do I know how to cook well, but I also know a lot about nutrition.  When I was first in college, I was a biology major, studying to become a doctor, and had to take a number of nutrition courses.  I also had to take nutrition courses while I was in culinary school.  I furthered my nutritional journey, focusing a lot on sports nutrition, as I became more involved in the world of sports and coaching.   More and more, people, kids in particular, rely on fast food as their food source, and this reliance on fast foods is wreaking havoc with our bodies in many ways.  People today do not know about proper nutrition and the problems of obesity and other diet related issues due to poor diets and sadly, major health issues due to poor diets are steadily on the rise.  I have always said that if we taught people how to eat and to cook properly, we would not have near as many problems with obesity and diseases as we do.  I am all for teaching cooking and nutrition classes in schools, churches, community centers, hospitals, Boys & Girls’ clubs, etc.  I have attached the comment and the link to a petition to do just that, and to start teaching cooking and nutrition classes in schools again.  This was a link forwarded to me from an acquaintance of mine, Anthony Davison.  I think this is a fabulous idea.  I hope you do too.  If you agree, please sign the petition and forward it on.  If not, no worries.  I am only providing the information.

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Image result for pictures of kids cooking

Hi Jeanne, and thanks for the link up, as a foodie I thought you would like this: When 20% of NHS budget is spent on food related disease please read & sign our petition; “Get Food, Growing Cooking and Nutrition at the core of the School Curriculum” More here: http://chng.it/YhNkxrB87W Please promote the petition to your contacts as I think we need lots of signatures to get the government to change. 

Chicken Cordon Bleu

The term “cordon bleu” was originally meant to be a blue ribbon that was a gift of honor awarded to the knights of the highest order, L’Ordre des chevaliers du Saint-Espirit, by France’s Henri III, in 1578.  Today, the term “cordon bleu”, particularly when used in the culinary world, is a term that is associated with foods that have been prepared to a very high standard by outstanding cooks.  It is also a very popular dish that has evolved over time.  Most of the time when we think of cordon bleu, as a dish, we are thinking of it as a chicken cordon bleu, which evolved from chicken kiev.  The dish as we most often think of it today, was created in Brig, Switzerland, around the 1940’s.  It is a schnitzel, which is a meat that is wrapped around a cheese filling and is then breaded and either fried or pan-fried.  It can be made from veal, ham or chicken, and can have a cheese and vegetable filling or a filling made from cheese and ham.  Usually it is topped with a sauce as well.  We love chicken cordon bleu, and eat it fairly often.

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I had some left over ham, although not enough to eat as a meal on its own, it was the perfect amount to use as my filling for chicken cordon bleu.  I topped it with a yellow and orange pepper coulis and served it over wild rice with Brussels sprouts cooked with apples, bacon, shallots and garlic, a biscuit BAM! You Have Biscuits and a crisp, chardonnay with hints of apples and melon to complete the meal.  C’est manifique!

The recipe only calls for a few simple ingredients, yet comes out looking so elegant and tasting so good.  I was experimenting with crackers instead of bread crumbs and they results came out great.  There really was not much difference from the crackers or the breadcrumbs.  By using herbed crackers, there was a little hint of the herbed flavor in the chicken crust, but it was very subtle.

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Chicken Cordon Bleu

1 1/2-2 lbs chicken breasts, pounded thin

3-4 oz white cheese of your choice – I used jack cheese

1 cup shredded ham, cooked

salt & pepper to taste

1- 1 1/2 cups crackers crumbs or breadcrumbs

1 egg

3 TBSP milk

oil for cooking

 

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Generously wrap the chicken in plastic wrap and pound to about 1/4-1/2 ” in thickness with a meat tenderizer on a cutting board.  Make sure the chicken is completely covered with the plastic wrap, otherwise it will tear and be destroyed by the meat tenderizer.

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Once the chicken is to the desired thickness, unwrap the plastic and discard.  Add the cheese and the ham to the chicken, leaving a little bit of an edge all around.  Then gently roll it up, making sure to tuck in the sides and ends.  Tie it with a large piece of cooking string to hold it together.

If using crackers, grind them up in a food processor until they ground into crumbs.

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Mix the egg, milk and salt & pepper together to make the egg wash.  Roll the chicken log into the egg mixture, making sure to completely cover it.  Once the chicken is covered with the egg wash, roll it into the crumbs, again, making sure to completely cover it with crumbs.

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In a hot skillet, add your oil for cooking.  Olive oil is fine, however, it has a much lower smoke point than vegetable oil, so if using olive oil, watch it carefully to make sure it does not burn.  Add your chicken log and brown completely on both sides.  This takes about 4-6 minutes per side.

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Preheat the oven to 375* F

When the chicken logs are golden brown on both sides, remove it and place it in baking dish sprayed with cooking spray and bake for about 30 minutes.  Before serving, remove the cooking string and top with your favorite sauce.  I made a yellow and orange pepper coulis and topped my chicken with that.  I love a roasted pepper coulis and it is super easy to make.  It is relatively healthy too.  I make them with either red, yellow or orange bell peppers.  Today, I used both 1 yellow pepper and 1 orange pepper.

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BAM! You Have Biscuits

Almost everyone has heard of Chef Emeril Lagasse.  He is one of New Orleans’ hometown “boys”, and is famous for his restaurants, TV shows, cookbooks, etc.  Me personally, I LOVE Emeril.  I think he is hilarious, and he has a ton of personality.  He is also widely known for his BAM!  Besides all that, he is a fabulous chef too.  I love his recipes.  When I made my gumbo, Time for Gumbo we took it with us when we had dinner with friends.  I did not make any bread or biscuits that day, because my friend Priscilla had already taken care of the bread.  However, we had a lot of leftovers that needed to be eaten, and I just had to make some biscuits to go with it.  Because gumbo is the most famous food of New Orleans, I thought it would only be fitting to make some bread or biscuits that were also from New Orleans.  I chose to make Emeril’s famous herbed biscuits, from his restaurant Delmonico’s.  According to Chef Emeril, “the secret to great biscuits is not handling the dough more than necessary.  Over handling develops the gluten in the flour, which makes biscuits (or any baked good goods) tough”.  I have always followed this advice, and very rarely do I ever have tough biscuits.  My mother was from the South after all, and I know my biscuits.

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Chef Emeril’s Herbed Biscuits

2 cups flour

1 TBSP baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 cold vegetable shortening

2 TBSP cold butter, cubed

3/4 cup + 2 TBSP buttermilk (I always use the powdered buttermilk mixed with milk)

1 TBSP chopped, fresh assorted herbs or dried herbs

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Preheat the oven to 425* F

Sift the flour and mix in all the dry ingredients.  If you are using dried herbs, you can mix those in as well.  Usually I use fresh herbs, but today all I had was the dried, so that is what I used.  They work fine too, just the flavor is not as pronounced as it would be by using fresh herbs.  Add the butter and the shortening and mix together until the dough is soft and crumbly.  You can use either a pastry cutter or your hands.  I find working with my hands is the best way.  Add the buttermilk and fresh herbs, if using, and mix together with the dough, just until blended together.

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On a lightly floured surface either pat or roll the dough to about 3/4″ thick.  Emeril says to pat the dough; I prefer to roll it.  Either way, just don’t over do it.

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Once the dough is to the desired thickness, use 3″ fluted biscuit cutters to shape your biscuits.  Do not twist the cutters into the dough.  Just firmly press it into the dough.

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Place the biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until they are lightly golden.

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Butter them up while they are nice and hot and BAM!  You have biscuits.

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New Products to Sample

This afternoon, I received two brand new products to sample from Living Tree Organic Foods, Alive & Organic, located in Berkeley, CA.  I was gifted with some delicious Almond Butter as well as some Sesame Tahini.  They both arrived today, and I wanted to give a special “shout out” and thank you to President, Founder and CEO, Jesse Schwartz, for allowing me this opportunity to sample his products.  I am very excited about trying these products and creating some new and delicious recipes with them as well.  Of course, all of you will get to share my new experiences too.  Living Tree Community Foods tries to purchase their produce and ingredients from family farmers as much as possible, and definitely believe in giving back to the community.  They donate their foods and products to live food workshops all over the country and Costa Rica.

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The Alive & Organic Almond Butter is made from farmers who have been growing almonds in California for five generations.  The process for making the Living Tree Almond butter takes course over several days.  The almonds are sliced, not ground and it is made often, in small batches to keep it fresh and alive.

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The Alive & Organic Sesame Tahini is made from alive and organic, mechanically hulled sesame seeds.  Once again, it is made slowly and the seeds are sliced and never ground.

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Living Tree has a wide range of natural and organic products available, ranging from nuts and seed butters to dried fruits and vegetables to organic chocolate, spices and salts and grains and pastas, just to name a few.  Go to their website at info@livingtreecommunity.com or http://www.livingtreecommunity.com to see all the wonderful, organic products they offer.

Once again, many thanks to Jesse Schwartz for this wonderful tasting opportunity.  I am looking forward to creating some new and delicious recipes with both the Almond Butter and the Sesame Tahini.  Those will be coming to you very soon.

Time for Gumbo

Gumbo is the most recognized and most famous food of Louisiana.  Gumbo is to Louisiana like chili is to Texas.  Everyone eats it, whether they be rich or poor, and there are endless variations of how to make it. The art of making gumbo is serious business in Louisiana.  It started out as a a “poor man’s” food, and was made with whatever people could catch and/or had on hand at the time.  By 1803 though, gumbo had already established itself as a local favorite, and was served at a gubernatorial reception in New Orleans.  No one knows where gumbo was originated, but the name gumbo is derived from the West African word for okra, quingombo.  Okra is most definitely one of the key ingredients of any gumbo.  It was originally used as a thickener for gumbo, as well as file, before the times of refrigeration.  All gumbos are made and thickened with either one or a combination of all three of these ingredients, okra, file and a browned roux.  A roux is flour cooked with either oil or another fat, and is browned to various shades of tan or brown.  File is the ground seasoning made from the dried leaves of sassafras trees.  It is used as both a thickener and a flavoring agent for gumbos and other Creole dishes.  Gumbo, is ALWAYS served with rice.  There is no changing that.  That is written in the books.  Some traditions just cannot be changed or tampered with at all.  No, no.  That’s just bad ju-ju.

As I mentioned above, there are many, many different varieties of gumbo.  You can add whatever you like.  This time, I made mine with chicken, shrimp and Andouille sausage.

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Mixed Meat Gumbo

1-1 1/2 lbs peeled shrimp

1 lb Andouille sausage, cooked

1/2 lb chicken, cooked

1 cup, 3 TBSP cooking oil (I used olive oil)

4 bay leaves

1 onion, minced

1-2 cups okra

1 TBSP file seasoning

1 TBSP garlic

3 celery stalks, diced small

1 green pepper, diced small

1-2 jalapenos, diced fine

3 tomatoes, diced medium

6-8 cups chicken stock

salt & pepper to taste

1 tsp cayenne pepper

2 cups flour

cooked rice

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Cook the meats and set a side.  Once the meats are cooked and cooled, cut them into small bite-sized pieces.  Cut all the vegetables and saute the peppers, onions, celery and garlic in 3 TBSP oil, until the onions are translucent.

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When the vegetables are cooked, add the tomatoes, okra, seasonings and the stock.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and add the cooked meats.  The shrimp is added raw and will cook while the soup is simmering.  Cook for about 10-15 minutes.

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While the “soup” is simmering, make the roux.  I used the additional olive oil and mixed it with the flour. You can also use butter instead of oil.  I have made it both ways, and both are very good.  Using oil is a little healthier and a little less “fatty” than using butter, but using butter gives it a bit of a richer taste.  Both are good, and both are acceptable.

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Keep stirring the roux until all the fat is absorbed into the flour.  You can make it as light or as dark as you like.  The darker the roux, the more “nutty” the flavor will be, and the thicker it will become.  Play with it.  Different types of gumbos call for different colors and textures of the roux.  Again, there is no right or wrong way.  It is a personal preference.  When the roux is to your desired likeness, add it to the soup and combine it well.  Simmer for about 10 minutes, until the soup is thickened, then ladle it into your favorite soup bowls, and add a little rice on top.  I used my leftover dirty rice, which was just perfect for the dish.  Vegan Dirty Rice and Andouille Sausage  To complete the meal, I served it alongside a delicious, crisp, sparkling white wine. C’est manifique et bon appetit!

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