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Mrs. Samurai's Kitchen



Coconut Lime Chicken Soup

Posted by Mrs. Samurai, in Main dish, Recipes 10 November 2013 · 872 views

Here's a Thai-inspired chicken soup that is easy to make and bursting with flavor! It's healthy comfort food with an Asian twist.

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Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, ghee, or butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1-2 pounds uncooked chicken breast, diced
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped fine
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced, divided
  • 1 quart chicken broth (I use either homemade or a box of low sodium, no added MSG.)
  • 1 can coconut milk (look for this in the Asian/Thai section of the grocery store. I prefer regular, not "lite".)
  • 1 lime, juiced, divided
  • ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • ½ bunch cilantro, chopped
  • salt, to taste
  • optional: Thai fish sauce, cooked rice
Directions

Heat a soup pot over medium high heat, then add the coconut oil. Saute the onions with a little salt for a few minutes, then add the chicken chunks with a little more salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until chicken is just cooked through. Add the ginger and half of the garlic towards the end of this.

Stir in the broth and bring to a boil, then stir in the coconut milk, half of the lime juice, and the red pepper flakes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer covered for at least 15 minutes (longer is fine, too).

Turn off the heat, and add salt to taste (depends on the amount in your chicken broth). Stir in the rest of the garlic, the scallions, and most of the cilantro (leave a little aside for topping individual bowls). Add the rest of the lime juice if desired. Cover and let sit off-heat for 5 to 10 minutes, then serve.

Great served over rice. Add a few drops of fish sauce to your serving to knock the flavor out of the park!


Hamburger Salad

Posted by Mrs. Samurai, in Main dish, Recipes 27 June 2013 · 1,515 views

Here's a great, quick meal that's perfect for summer. It requires only brief cooking (or grilling) and benefits from the fresh, local produce that's available.
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This is more of an idea than a recipe - a tasty and easy variation on the "cooked meat on a green salad" theme, such as taco salads or grilled chicken caesar salad.

The general idea is to top a green salad with seasoned hamburger meat. The salad part basically mimics the toppings that you would put on a burger - lettuce, tomato, sweet onion, pickles, and cheddar. If you have any leftover bacon, then by all means crumble it up and put it on! Then you top it with cooked hamburger meat - either cooked in a skillet or grilled as patties then crumbled - and dress it with mayonnaise and ketchup or mustard. When I first heard of this, I wasn't sure what I would think, but it is DEE-lish!

Here's how I made the one in the picture. We have a family of 4 currently at home, but 2 of those are teenage boys, so if I cook meat it has to be a minimum of 2 pounds these days! Use only 1 pound of meat for a smaller family.

Obviously, this is a recipe that can easily be altered to suit your own tastes and/or what you have on hand!

Ingredients

2 pounds of ground beef, preferably local and grass-fed
a spoonful of bacon fat
salt, pepper, garlic powder

lettuce (I used local mesclun mix - eyeballed the amount the 4 of us would eat), washed
1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 of a Vidalia (sweet) onion, sliced very thin
pickles and/or sauerkraut (I don't care for pickles, but some traditional sauerkraut adds a nice tang)
shredded cheddar
leftover bacon pieces
mayo*
ketchup

Directions

Brown the ground beef in a skillet in the bacon fat, sprinkling with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. (Or, if you want to grill, just make hamburger patties and then break them up into small pieces.)

Meanwhile, prep all of the veggies and toppings, and set out the dressings. Then, everyone can build their own salad by putting the desired veggies and toppings on a plate or in a shallow bowl, then adding some meat (use a slotted spoon!), then the dressings - usually a dollop of mayo* and a squirt of ketchup or mustard. Just mix it all around a bit with your fork, then eat it up, YUM!

* Miracle Whip may be used instead of mayo for those of you so inclined ;)

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Enchilasagna!

Posted by Mrs. Samurai, in Main dish, Recipes 06 April 2013 · 1,309 views

Here's a hearty and very satisfying casserole that in its original form is vegetarian, but is easy to convert to meaty if you like - just see the note at the end. This would be a great centerpiece for a Cinco de Mayo celebration, and much easier than an assembly-style meal like tacos or burritos (although those are fun if you have the time!)

Go from this...
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to this...
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It's so easy!
Ingredients:
  • 2 jars salsa (use a good quality salsa, and choose the spiciness according to your taste. I use one mild and one medium, but I'm a little wimpy. Samurai would prefer it to be muy caliente!)
  • 2 cans refried beans (I like Amy's brand, either traditional or black bean, usually found in the organic section of grocery stores)
  • 1 package corn tortillas (look for organic, non-GMO. Healthiest brand is Food For Life's Sprouted Corn Tortillas, in the freezer section of many natural food stores or the organic section of some grocery stores.)
  • 1 8-oz. package shredded cheese, jack or cheddar
  • ½ bunch cilantro, chopped, optional
  • sour cream, avocado, scallions, tomatoes, shredded lettuce... as many toppings as you like!
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.

In a 9 x 13 inch baking dish, spread about 1/2 a jar of salsa on the bottom.

Put a third of the corn tortillas on top of the salsa, breaking them up as necessary to fit in a single layer and cover the bottom as much as possible. A little overlapping is fine. Most packages come with either 10 or 12 tortillas, so you'll use 3 or 4 for each layer.

Spread one can of the refried beans over the tortillas, then the other 1/2 jar of salsa, then about 1/3 of the shredded cheese. (These steps are pictured below - not that this is complicated, but pics are always fun!)

Repeat the layers of tortillas, beans, salsa, and cheese one more time.

Finish with a final layer of tortillas and the remaining salsa (smear around to cover the edges of the tortillas) and top with the cheese.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for about 40 minutes, until all bubbly. Remove the foil, add the cilantro, if using, and bake for another 5-10 minutes until the cheese on top is like you want it.

Serve with sour cream or greek-style yogurt, and other optional veggie toppings.

NOTE:

You can make this a meaty concoction by simply adding or substituting seasoned, cooked meat to/for the refried beans. For example, I prepared 2 pounds of ground beef with 1 packet of taco seasoning and used that in place of the beans. This meaty version does especially well with some chopped veggie toppings (tomatoes, scallions, lettuce, etc.), since it is so hearty. Make sure your baking dish is a deeper lasagna-style one, since this version is a little thicker!

Photo documentation of the complicated layering process :wink:

Salsa
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Tortillas
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Refried Beans (and/or meat)
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Salsa
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Cheese
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Then repeat those layers one more time (from tortillas through cheese), finish with final layer of tortillas, salsa, then cheese. Here's what it looks like when done baking! (I added the cilantro in the last 5 minutes or so of cooking.)
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Happy Easter!

Posted by Mrs. Samurai, in Holidays 30 March 2013 · 844 views

I just wanted to wish everyone who celebrates Easter this weekend a very blessed day!

~ Mrs. Samurai

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Coconut Curry Vegetable Soup

Posted by Mrs. Samurai, in Recipes, Main dish 23 March 2013 · 971 views

This is a yummy soup that can be either made vegetarian or with chicken. Delish either way! Don't let the long list of ingredients worry you - as with any of my recipes, it is easy to make. Scoop some cooked rice into each bowl if desired to really round out the meal.

Ingredients
  • 2 T. coconut oil or butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2-3 carrots, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced, divided
  • 1 T. fresh ginger, minced (The Ginger People company makes a nice jarred minced ginger that's a great time saver)
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 2 T. sweet curry powder
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • dash cayenne powder
  • 1 10-oz. bag frozen peas
  • 1-2 cans chick peas/garbanzo beans (depending on how "beany" you like it), rinsed and drained OR about 2 cups or so of cooked, diced chicken
  • 1 quart broth (vegetable or chicken)
  • 1 can coconut milk (look for this in the Asian/Thai section of the store)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 3-4 scallions, sliced, optional
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • cooked rice (optional)
Directions

In a soup pot, saute onion, celery, and carrots in the oil with about 1/2 tsp. of salt until a little soft, about 5 minutes. Add ginger and half of the garlic, cook for about 30 seconds. Add spices and zucchini, then cook for a minute or two.

Add the frozen peas, beans or chicken, broth, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then simmer gently for 20-30 minutes (or less, if you're in a hurry!).

Stir in the lemon juice and some of the cilantro and/or scallions, taste to adjust seasonings. Offer extra cilantro and/or scallions for toppings, as well as cooked rice if desired. A dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt wouldn't be out of place here, either.


Southwest Slow-Cooker Stew

Posted by Mrs. Samurai, in Slow Cooker, Main dish, Recipes 07 February 2013 · 932 views

Here's a very easy and tasty beef stew with a southwestern twist. There are no potatoes in it, so it is low-carb for those of you who are cutting back on the starches! It's thinner than a typical beef stew, but chunkier than a soup. One could thicken the liquid at the end with some corn starch, but I've never bothered. Stirring in some sour cream to your bowl is highly recommended!

Ingredients:
  • 3 T. olive or refined coconut oil
  • 2-3 pounds beef stew meat
  • 2 bell peppers, any color, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 medium carrots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 T. cumin, ground
  • 1 quart beef broth
  • 1 jar salsa, 16 oz.
  • 4 medium zucchini, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
  • sour cream, cilantro, optional toppings
Directions:

Heat 1 T. of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over med-high heat. Brown half of the beef cubes for several minutes, then place into the slow cooker. Repeat with more oil and the other half of the beef.

Heat the rest of the oil in the skillet, then add the peppers, carrots, and cumin. Cook, stirring frequently, for a minute or two, then pour in about half of the broth. Bring to a simmer then cook for a minute or two, scraping the bottom of the pan. Pour the contents of the skillet over the beef in the slow cooker.

Add the remaining broth, salsa, and zucchini to the slow cooker. Cook on low for about 7 to 8 hours, until the beef is tender. (I haven't tried it, but would probably work on high for about 4 hours.)

Serve with cilantro and sour cream.

Notes:

Instead of buying already cut up stew meat, you could get chuck or round steaks and cut them into approximately 1 inch pieces yourself, trimming any excess fat off. Be sure to account for the trimmed-off excess in calculating the weight of the steaks you need to buy. Bison meat would also work fine in this recipe.


Sausages with Peppers and Mushrooms

Posted by Mrs. Samurai, in Recipes, Main dish 09 May 2012 · 888 views

Some recipes are really mostly ideas of what to make for dinner - fairly simple combinations that aren't all that innovative, but just come together so well they are worth writing down. That's what I finally did after preparing this dish recently. There's not much to it, but if you use the right basic ingredients, it makes for a really tasty and easy dinner. The use of sliced mushrooms helps to expand the volume without spending more $ on sausage or sacrificing heartiness. See my ingredient notes at the end!

Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 2 red bell peppers, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 8-oz. container sliced mushrooms
  • 2 packages pre-cooked italian sausages, sweet or hot, sliced (see note)
  • 1 jar Pasta Sauce, marinara or basil, good quality (see note)
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Directions

Heat a 12-inch saute pan (with straight sides - not just a skillet) or a dutch-oven over medium-high heat, add olive oil, then onions and peppers. Saute for about 5-10 minutes until somewhat soft, but not browning. Add mushrooms and saute for another 5 or so minutes until they are fairly soft. Add the sliced sausages and cook, stirring, for another 5 minutes until they are heated through and getting a little browned.

Pour in the pasta sauce, stir, cover, and simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and let sit off-heat for 5 more minutes. (Adding the garlic at this point really makes for a bright taste. If the cloves are really big or seem extra strong, just use one.)

Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Usually jarred sauces are salty enough, so you probably just need pepper.)

Serve over pasta, rice, or quinoa, or just with good bread to soak up the extra sauce, and a little salad or raw veggies.

Notes

My favorite sausages for this recipe are Niman Ranch's Italian Pork Sausages, which I find at a local natural foods store. You could also use chicken sausage, but it won't be *quite* as succulent. Just be sure the sausages are pre-cooked (otherwise, cook them yourself before proceeding with this recipe).

My favorite pasta sauce is Bove brand, the Basil or Marinara varieties. Bertolli and Barilla make good sauces, as well.


Death By Chocolate: what a sweet way to go!

Posted by Mrs. Samurai, in Recipes, Dessert 15 April 2012 · 1,551 views

This decadent dessert is a legend at our parish's Paschal (Easter) feast - the serving bowl is often literally licked clean when everyone is done! It's super easy because it relies on box mixes and Cool Whip, but somehow the combination of the various ingredients results in a surprisingly tasty and even elegant completed dish.

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Ingredients:
  • 1 box brownie mix, prepared (should be over 20 oz. box and use a 9x13 pan - see Note)
  • ¼ c. coffee, optional
  • 1 box chocolate instant pudding mix, 4 serving size
  • 1 ½ cups cold milk
  • 1-8 oz. container Cool Whip
  • ¼ bag creme-filled chocolate cookies (Oreos or Newman O's), crushed
Directions:

Prepare brownies as directed on the box. After you pull the pan out of the oven, poke some holes in the brownies with the end of a chopstick (or a similar item), and pour the coffee over the top of them (optional). Let cool.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the pudding mix with the cold milk. (I use a hand or stand mixer.)

Gently fold half of the Cool Whip into the pudding so you get a mousse-like consistency.

Now it's time to layer these ingredients into your serving bowl! A clear glass bowl is the most attractive, but anything will do. How you layer it depends on the shape of the bowl and if you are doubling (or tripling or quadrupling) the recipe. The basic order is: break up the brownies into large pieces and put a single layer in the bottom of the bowl. Top with the all the pudding, half of the cookie bits, then the rest of the brownies. End up with the remaining Cool Whip and sprinkle the top with the rest of the cookies.

I usually quadruple this recipe for a crowd, and use a big bowl, and end up repeating layers more than listed above.


Notes:

You need a brownie mix that is over 20 oz. and requires a 9x13 pan. I like the taste of the Ghirardelli brownies mixes best, but they are more like 18 oz. and use a smaller pan. So, I just make a little extra!

I'm not crazy about the nutritional quality of many of the ingredients - especially Cool Whip! My fantasy is to create a "real food" version of this by combining the recipes I have for homemade brownies, chocolate pudding, and real whipped cream, but I'm usually making a quadruple batch of this under time pressure and just haven't pulled it off yet. However, I do make a few choices that help - I use local raw milk, and when preparing the brownie mix I use melted coconut oil (refined) and local pastured eggs.


Eggs-cellent!

Posted by Mrs. Samurai, in Nutrition, Local farms, Health 18 March 2012 · 1,400 views

We go through a lot of eggs here at the Samurai household - about 3 dozen a week.  We like 'em scrambled, fried, in omelets or frittatas, even raw!  The simple, humble egg has been much maligned in the press and by the mainstream "healthcare" establishment at times, but we don't let that bother us - we recognize it for the little nutritional powerhouse it is, and know that it's been a valued part of traditional diets for ages.  Eggs are an inexpensive source of a complete protein (in the white) combined with a variety of essential healthy fats and nutrients in the yolk.  They're good brain food!

But here's the tricky part:  those eggs you buy in the grocery store are not as healthful as they could be.  Most of you have probably seen the stories about the poor chickens crammed in cages at the factory farms - not a good life for the animals, but it also turns out that the eggs aren't as nutritious either.  

When a chicken is actually allowed to live a more natural life outdoors with exposure to sunshine and insects, their eggs have lots more Vitamins A, D, and E as well as beta carotene and Omega-3 fatty acids.  Awesome!  Kinda makes sense, doesn't it?  A healthier, happier bird will produce better eggs.

Now here's one more tricky part - deciphering the language used to describe the hens' conditions.  Is there a difference between "cage-free", "free-range", and "pastured"?  Turns out there's a big difference.  The only way to be sure you are getting eggs from chickens that actually spend their days pecking around outdoors, thereby producing those healthier eggs, is if they are labeled "pastured".  Anything else means they might have still spent their whole lives indoors.  (Note: don't confuse that term with "pasteurized", which is a whole different thing ;) )

Here's a very nifty video explaining this egg terminology further: UPDATE- for some reason this video was made "private" recently.  I hope that will change, but in the meantime I'll link to an article discussing this further down below...



How do you find pastured eggs?  We live in a semi-rural area, and our local farm stands and farmer's markets sell them as well as our natural food store.  It shouldn't be too hard to find them wherever you live, and it's great to support the local farmers!  Around here the pastured eggs average around $4 to $5 per dozen - a little more than the conventional eggs, but still a good deal considering how much you are getting from them.

 

For more info, see this article at Food Renegade's site!


Here's a photo of some of our own hens that we had a few years back and their trusty guard, Ouzo.  Good times!

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Veggie Frittata and Baked Hash Browns

Posted by Mrs. Samurai, in Recipes, Main dish 28 February 2012 · 1,523 views

Here's an easy weeknight dinner that you can usually pull together from ingredients you have kicking around in your fridge. Since the food is breakfasty, it would also make for a yummy brunch.

The only "thinking ahead" item is that if you are using frozen hash browns, it's helpful to pull them out and have them thaw (either a few hours on the counter, or all day in the fridge). But there's even a work-around for that. Read on!...

Baked Hash Browns

1 bag frozen, shredded hash brown potatoes, about 1 pound or so, thawed and blotted dry (I use a clean dish towel to do this)
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
a few scallions, sliced
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 450 deg. F. Place one oven rack in the highest position, and one in the lower-middle.

(If you forgot to thaw your hash browns ahead of time, spread them on a clean dishtowel on a baking sheet and stick them in the oven for a few minutes while it's preheating until they are thawed, then pat them dry.)

In a 9"x13" glass baking dish, toss the potatoes with the melted butter, scallions, and salt and pepper to taste. Using the back side of a soup spoon, spread the mixture out evenly and up the sides a bit to have a fairly thin layer (about 1/2 inch).

Place on the lower-middle rack and bake for about 45 minutes until as brown and crispy as you like. (Note: you can turn these into an appetizer by topping with some cheese, bacon pieces, and extra fresh scallions at the end and broiling until the cheese is melted, then serve with sour cream, avocado, etc.)

====> While the hash browns are in the oven, begin preparing the Frittata...

Veggie Frittata

Note: this recipe is literally based on the vegetables I happened to have on hand in my kitchen that night. It turned out to be very tasty with this combo, but feel free to vary the types that you use. It's a great way to use up stray veggies that are lurking in your crisper drawers feeling neglected!

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium yellow summer squash or zucchini, chopped
2 cups kale, loosely packed, coarsely chopped, stems discarded
6 eggs
2 T. cream or half and half
1/2 tsp. salt
black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup or so cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
a few large fresh basil leaves, rolled together and thinly sliced

When the hash browns have approximately 20 minutes left to cook, heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat, then add the butter. When it's melted, add the onions and saute for about 5 minutes until they are somewhat softened, but not browning yet. Add the squash and the kale, and cook for about 5 more minutes until they are softened and the onions and squash are browning a little.

While the veggies are cooking, whisk the eggs, cream, salt, and pepper together in a medium bowl with a fork until well combined.

Pour the egg mixture into the skillet, tilting the pan slightly if needed to get the liquid into the nooks and crannies around the veggies. Reduce the heat to medium-low, then cook undisturbed for 5-7 minutes, until it starts to look set around the edges.

Turn off the heat under the pan, and sprinkle the top with cheese, tomatoes, and fresh basil. Turn the broiler of your oven on, then place the pan on the top rack and broil for about 2 minutes until the top is puffy and lightly browned. WATCH CAREFULLY! "Brown" can turn to "burned" quickly under a broiler.

Remove the pan and turn off the broiler.

(By the way - if the hash browns are still in the oven during all this, they'll be fine. Just keep an eye on them, too.)

Stick a dinner knife into the center of the frittata to check for doneness. If it's runny at all, just pop it into the oven set to about 400 deg. for about 5 minutes, until it's done.

Serve a slice of Frittata (I usually cut this size into 6 slices) with a good-sized chunk of the hash browns... serve with salsa, ketchup, hot sauce, or just as-is. Yum!






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