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Cinco de Mayo Recipe Round-up!

8 Cinco de Mayo recipes from Karista's Kitchen

There is nothing more delicious than a blog post filled with Mexican and South American inspired recipes.  The rich, bold and spicy flavors remind me summer is on the horizon and it makes this chef delirious with anticipation.  Outdoor grilling, fresh local summer produce, casual dining, flip flops or barefoot; it positively makes me giddy just thinking about it.

Cinco de Mayo is Monday, May 5th and to celebrate,  I’ve got a fabulous line up of festive recipes.   So sit back, relax, fire up that grill, shake up a tasty cocktail and enjoy the deliciousness of the season.

 

Spicy Cabbage Salad

The Dreamiest Chocoflan

Slow Braised Barbacoa with Cucumber Avocado Salsa

Spicy Black Bean Soup with Lime Crema and Avocado

Roasted Chicken Tacos with Spicy Avocado Crema

Enchiladas Poblano with Spanish Rice Cakes

Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Bean Salad

Smoked Salmon Wonton Tacos

 

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,

Karista

 

 

 

 

Chicken Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly

Spiced Apricot Chicken and a Guest Author

Thighs with Coconut Rice

It took me a few days to put into words how I feel about this lovely lady.  A most poetic author, who never fails to capture my attention with her “dreamy” prose.

Dreamy.  Marni’s word.  Every time I hear it, read it, see it – I think of her.  Long time acquaintances, now friends.  I won’t give away the story as she’s written a bit about it below, but I can tell you, I never forgot her.  You know, that one person you sort of knew, really liked, but never had the opportunity to be real friends?  And then, years later I discovered her blog.  Her love of the written word.  Her talent I so admire.

Sometimes Marni lets me sneak peaks at what she’s writing, what she’s working on.  And again, it’s always “dreamy”.   A talented gal, Marni started a stationary company along with her blog called “noted“.  There you’ll find her beautiful and exquisite line of stationary as well as poetic verse of life, love, family, humor and anything that strikes her fancy.  I find myself constantly checking her blog just to read a new snippet of her writing.  And of course, I have “noted” stationary (and a pencil!) in my office.  She’s a published author, gracious and lovely with a quiet strength that exudes a zest for life and love and all that’s dreamy.

In honor of this most delicious post, Marni asked me to post a dish that one might take to a neighbor.  A perfect pairing with her story.   This Spiced Apricot Chicken with Coconut Rice is an enchanting meal for a neighbor, family or friends.  Thank you Marni for guest posting!

t Rice

——————————————————————————————-

Hi! My name is Marni and I am the creator of “noted.”, a stationery line as well as a blog where I note my favorite moments. Karista has been a friend both near… here in Mesa, Arizona, and far… social media and through blogging.

Her daughter Alex and my son Hayden were friends in kindergarten. Back then life was a blur of childhood activity. There seemed to be only short moments of pocketed conversation between school drop offs and pick-ups and the occasional play date or birthday party for catching up.

I remember Alex attending Hayden’s sixth birthday party at the park, and then, as if time fast forwarded leaving a bit of itself behind, there is Karista four years later, packed and ready to move to Washington.  I can see her, standing at one end of my living room while I am at the other, she is looking up and over me, maybe admiring the newly faux finished walls (fad of the times), or maybe looking out the shuttered window behind me at our swimming pool, and then an emptiness fills me that we missed our moment to connect.

We could have been more than our children’s mothers to one another, we could have been close friends. That  moment  is stamped to my memory, a  memorized  profile pic that pops up whenever I think about her or she sends me a quick text, bringing me back to that day in my living room, and I notice our connection was there all along, waiting for us to realize it.

Sometimes it’s a parenting question or more often a note of confidence, stirring me on, keeping my words bubbling gently to the top, she knows I work best at a slow simmer. My dreamiest times happen there. Something warm on the stove that needs my calm attention giving my mind space to wander, eyes gazing out the window, drawing them to notice the tree that was bare for the past two years has gathered up the courage to leaf out!

I honestly didn’t think it would make it. It was a transplanted tree you see. We moved into our home two years ago this past December and immediately our next door neighbor came to my husband,  outside unloading boxes in the garage, and asked if we would mind cutting down a backyard tree. His first introduction. He even had the business card in hand of the tree service and offered to pay himself! He wanted that washed out shade of green with needle like leaves that didn’t seem to serve any purpose but litter his pool, gone.

I didn’t really like the tree, knew it was temporary, but my territorial defenses surrounding our new space we had as yet to associate as home, rose at the request.  How dare he ask us to cut down OUR  tree.

After a few months, and experiencing his same pool grief, we agreed, paying for it ourselves while making it clear to him that we would be planting a new tree in that same approximate space. One that wasn’t so messy but a replacement tree none the less.  He was silent. We went ahead and planted a tree that was young and spindly but tall enough to make a subtle statement. Once planted it seemed to fill the space perfectly, not too close to our shared block wall and with the hope of a future canopy of green! I was looking forward to having a shady green corner one day, romanticizing, imagining myself sipping lemonade while turning the dog-eared pages of a borrowed book. Soon the spare amount of leaves it had clinging to its few branches dropped. Mostly in our yard.  Crunchy and dry, the tree went from green to brown in days.

All that next spring and summer it was bald, like our neighbor Eric. It seemed as soon as it was nestled snug in the newly dug hole it went dormant. Maybe in shock from the new soil, or too much fertilizer, or maybe Eric had won. My curtain of hope closed. Nothing would grow in that finicky spot which is why the previous owners had chosen such a nuisance of a tree. Eric would be happy.  A private person, we would probably never know if he liked the outcome or not. He wasn’t unlikeable, just hard to read, a quiet neighbor…which I know from past experience can be the best neighbor.

So here we are two years later, I was pretty much ready to give the tree the boot this spring if it didn’t perk up and produce, but this quiet tree I nicknamed “Eric’s tree” is now full of leaves.  Crazy happy leaves, bright green and lush as if it had been resting, quietly saving its energy just to surprise!

Eric died in a small plane crash along with two other pilots taking off from Telluride this past January. I miss seeing his silent face, occasionally catching his eye long enough to challenge him with a friendly wave.  I am sad for his family. He never had much to say to me but “his” tree will grow to offer quiet shade in both our yards and its lovely ode to life makes me smile every day.

 

Spiced Apricot Chicken and a Guest Author

Serving Size: 4

Ingredients

    For the Spiced Apricot Chicken
  • A tablespoon or two of coconut oil
  • 6-8 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 medium shallot, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¾ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 cup dried apricots (or a mixture of dried apricots, golden raisins or dried cherries)
  • 1 cup white wine
  • Fresh cilantro for garnish (if you don’t like cilantro substitute with fresh Italian parsley
    For the Coconut Rice
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • ½ cup water
  • ¾ cup basmati rice
  • ¼ t salt

Instructions

  • Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper.
  • In a Dutch oven or large pot, heat over medium high heat, adding a tablespoon of coconut oil. When the oil is hot, brown the chicken thighs. You want to see a nice deep brown color on the thighs. This creates flavor and will make the dish taste fabulous.
  • Once all the chicken thighs are browned (you may need to do this in batches) transfer to a plate and hold.
  • Turn the heat down to medium and add additional coconut oil to the Dutch oven or large pot if needed. Stir in the shallots and let them wilt a bit. Next stir in the garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, star anise, fresh thyme and dried apricots. Give it a quick stir and then add the white wine.
  • Add the chicken thighs back into the Dutch oven or large pot and turn the chicken to coat with the sauce. Bring the liquid to a simmer and then turn the heat to low. Cover and let the chicken slow cook for about 30 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken thighs reach 165F.
  • While the chicken is cooking, prepare the Coconut Rice.
  • Once the chicken is done take it off the heat and let the chicken rest in the sauce for about 5 minutes.
  • Place the coconut rice on a platter and then layer the chicken thighs on the rice. Ladle the sauce with the dried fruit over the chicken and garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.
  • To prepare the Coconut Rice
  • Combine coconut milk, rice, water, sugar and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stir once, then cover and cook for 15-18 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Fluff with a fork, cover, and keep warm.
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    Chicken Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly

    Fresh Herb and Mayonnaise Roasted Chicken

    Fresh Herb and Mayonnaise Roasted Whole Chicken

    One of the first classes on my culinary school schedule was devoted solely to the art of preparing poultry.   I drove to class that day over the moon excited about tackling the preparation of poultry.

    Finally, I was going to learn how to prepare a roasted chicken without mangling it with kitchen twine and drying it out to a tasteless plate of bones.

    Sadly… my excitement faded shortly after class began.

    Not only was half the chicken skin missing on the chicken legs, due to my wrangling the chicken with kitchen twine, my lovely chicken was terribly over cooked and nearly a platter of chicken bones.  (The Thanksgiving dinner scene in National Lampoons Christmas Vacation came to mind)

    After all my classmates roasted chickens had been presented, it was my turn to step up and talk about my very dark and dismal looking roasted chicken.  Something I did NOT want to do.

    My chef instructor was quite the perfectionist.  A somewhat gruff and bigger than life demeanor – he was a wee bit intimidating.  He appeared absolutely frustrated by my inability to roast a chicken to perfection and decided to make an example of my over cooked chicken.

    “Bennett” he said, in his thick German accent. “Zee. cheeken. iz dead! No need to keel it again.” Yes, I’ve spelled and punctuated the words just the way I remember him saying this in the class.  Although I could feel my face turning several shades of bright red, I knew then what he was trying to tell me.  Stop over cooking the chicken!

    Herb and Mayonnaise Roasted Chicken Before and After

    The key to making a perfect roasted chicken?  Don’t take it out of the oven until it’s reached an internal temperature of 165F.  And, be sure to purchase a local, hopefully pasture raised, chicken.  Chicken that has traveled across the country to rest in your local market’s refrigerated poultry bin is probably not going to yield a tasty or moist result. Finding a local farmer that sells fresh chicken to your local co-op or market or even to the public, is definitely the tastier and moister choice.   And, you will be helping your local farmer stay in business, which supports the local community.

    If you live in Western Washington, check out the online marketplace for local produce, poultry, eggs, meat and seafood called Farmstr.  Coming soon to new locations in the Pacific Northwest and beyond!

    ———————————————————————————–

    In honor of over-roasted chicken, I thought I’d share my grandma’s method for a moist and tasty chicken using mayonnaise.  Yep, mayonnaise.  Grandma used to massage mayonnaise all over her roasters before popping them in the oven.  And when she ran out of mayo, she used butter.

    I took this mayonnaise slathering technique a little further and incorporated fresh chopped herbs and garlic into the mayo and then added the step of placing some of that herb mayo under the skin of the chicken breast, legs and thighs.  This creates not only flavor, but a tender, juicy roasted chicken.

    Delicious Wishes and loads of love,

    Karista

    Fresh Herb and Mayonnaise Roasted Chicken

    The key to creating a perfectly roasted chicken is making sure you remove the chicken from the oven when the internal temperature reaches 165F. Testing the meat temperature at the joint between the thigh and leg is best.  Then take it out of the oven and tent the chicken with foil and let it rest for about 5-10 minutes.  This will raise the internal temperature another 5 degrees and allow the juices to re-distribute.  The final result should be a moist and perfectly roasted chicken. 

    Ingredients

    1  4-5lb fresh, organic whole chicken

    1/3 cup organic regular or homemade mayonnaise

    Small handful of fresh herbs finely chopped.  (thyme, oregano, Italian parsley, basil, chive, rosemary)

    1 clove garlic, minced

    1 lemon, quartered

    Salt and Pepper

    Directions

    Pre-heat the oven to 400F.

    Mix together the fresh herbs, garlic and mayonnaise.  Add a few pinches of salt and pepper.

    Salt and pepper the cavity of the chicken and stuff with the lemon quarters.  And some extra garlic cloves if you like.

    Next spread about half the herb mayonnaise under the skin of the chicken breast, leg and thighs.  It’s typically fairly tough but if it breaks don’t worry…  it’ll still be fabulous.

    Slather the remaining mayonnaise over the outside of the chicken and then lightly season with some cracked black pepper and salt.

    Place it in a roasting pan or baking dish, or even on a lined baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 1 hour or until the internal temperature reaches 165F.

    Once the chicken has reached 165F, remove it from the oven and tent it with some aluminum foil.  Let it sit for about 5-10 minutes before carving or breaking down to serve.

    I adore this roasted chicken all by itself but during the spring months I serve it with baby spring greens tossed with a simple balsamic vinaigrette.  Or serve it with this lovely spring salad from Pink Patisserie.  A lovely meal!

    ** Rarely do I truss my chicken unless I’m serving a roasted chicken for guests or a holiday meal.  It does help seal the cavity and therefore technically keep the chicken from drying out.  However, I’m typically in a time crunch to get the chicken in the oven and stuffing the cavity with extra herbs and lemon will usually achieve the same result.  The chicken just won’t look quite so Julia Child.  But it’ll still taste delicious.  However, if you’d like to learn how to truss a chicken, click here. It’s a great technique to add to your culinary skills.  Bon Appetit!

    Chicken Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly

    Turkey Recipe Round-up

    Turkey Enchiladas with Pumpkin and Swish Chard

    Leftover Thanksgiving turkey doesn’t have to end up in sandwiches – although I’m a huge fan of the turkey, cranberry and Havarti Panini.  There are so many lovely and delicious recipes for Thanksgiving turkey I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you.

    Turkey Tacos with Cranberry Salsa and Cream Cheese from Mountain Mama Cooks

    Turkey Salad and Warm Clementine Dressing from Chef Jamie Oliver

    Turkey and Sweet Leek Pie from Chef Jamie Oliver

    Turkey and Dumplings from Alaska From Scratch

    Rustic Turkey Pot Pie from A Beautiful Bite

    One last Bennett Crew favorite… Turkey, Pumpkin and Swish Chard Enchiladas Verdes. 

    Wishing you all a most Delicious Thanksgiving Holiday!

    Loads of Love,

    Karista

    Turkey Enchiladas Verdes with Roasted Pumpkin and Swiss Chard

    This recipe can be as simple or as complex as you’d like.  If you’re in a pinch for time use your favorite jarred Salsa Verde, about 2 cups (I completely adore Frontera Brand).  If you prefer to make your own, I’ve included the recipe.

    It appears a lengthy recipe, but it’s really very simple.  I’ve been a bit wordy and tried to write the directions in stages.  To keep things as simple as possible.

    This also makes a fabulous vegetarian Pumpkin and Swiss Chard Enchiladas Verdes.  If for some reason you really are tired of turkey.

    Serves 4-6

    Ingredients

    For the Salsa Verde: (or if in a pinch, I like Rick Bayless Frontera Brand Salsa Verde products)

    2 cans tomatillos

    ½ cup diced onions

    2 cloves garlic, minced

    ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

    1 jalapeno, roasted and seeded

    ½ cup water or chicken broth if needed

    Salt to taste

    For the Enchilada filling:

    2-3 cups chopped roasted turkey

    1 sugar pie pumpkin (or use leftover sweet potatoes)

    1 small bunch Swiss chard, washed and trimmed of stalks and coarsely chopped

    1 small white onion, chopped

    ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

    ½  teaspoon ground cumin

    ½  teaspoon ground coriander

    Salt and pepper to taste

    1-2 cups shredded Jalapeno Jack cheese

    10-12 corn tortillas

    Chopped green onions for garnish

    For the Crema:

    1 cup sour cream

    1 lime juiced

    ¼ teaspoon ground coriander

    ¼ teaspoon ground cumin

    1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

    Salt and pepper to taste

    Whisk together all ingredients and set aside.

    To prepare the Salsa Verde:

    Place the tomatillos in a blender or food processor and puree.

    Add a little oil to a medium sauce pan over medium heat and sauté the onions and garlic until wilted.

    Stir in the pureed tomatillos, cilantro and jalapeno and let it simmer on low for about five minutes, adding water or chicken broth if necessary.  Set aside while preparing the enchiladas.  Reserve ½ cup to top the enchiladas.

    To Roast the Pumpkin:

    Preheat the oven to 400F.  Slice the stem section off the squash first and then slice the squash in half (very carefully).  Scoop out the seeds.

    Brush the cut sides of the squash with a little oil. Lay the squash halves cut side down in a glass baking dish and add a little water to the pan.   Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until the squash is tender and skins are a little toasted.  You will want the pumpkin a little firmer than if you were roasting for a pie.

    Once the pumpkin has cooled, peel it and slice it or crumble into pieces.

    Sauté the Swiss Chard in a large skillet over medium heat with just a bit of oil.  Once it has wilted, but not watery, transfer the wilted chard to a large bowl.  Mix in the turkey, chopped onion, chopped cilantro, cumin, coriander and 1 cup of shredded cheese.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Pre-heat the oven to 350F.

    Heat the tortillas in a stove top steamer, or use the steamer function on a rice cooker or you can always pop the tortillas one or two at a time into the microwave for about 10 seconds.  You need the tortillas soft so they will roll and not tear.  Keep the tortillas covered and warm until you use them.  If they firm up, steam or microwave a little more.

    Ladle a little sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish.  Take a tortilla and fill one end with a few pieces of pumpkin, a spoonful of filling and roll. Continue this until your baking dish is full or you’ve run out of tortillas.

    Ladle a cup or so of Salsa Verde over the enchiladas.  Then ladle the crema over the salsa verde.  Sprinkle the remaining shredded cheese over the crema and bake for about 20 minutes or until the enchiladas are heated through.  Let them cool for a few minutes and then garnish with green onion and serve.

     

     

     

     

    Chicken Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pasta vegetarian

    Sweet Baby Peas and Mushroom Pappardelle tossed in Sherry Cream

    Sweet baby peas and mushrooms over pappardelle

    Assorted lush shades of green encompass the landscape this time of year.  Spring, a time of revival, renewal and start over’s.  Yes, start over’s.  As in something keeps eating the spring greens in my garden, so now I have to start over.

    At least the chicken gals are the beneficiaries of the demolished plants.  They’re loving the lush stems of what was to be a delicious leaf that would grace my pasta or salad recipes.

    sweet baby peas and mushrooms in a sherry cream sauce over pappardelle

    So it was timely that Ranger Craig and I decided to head over to Eastsound Farmer’s Market on Orcas Island a few weeks ago.  I found a bounty of spring produce that made me almost giddy.  Spring onions, asparagus, leafy greens and some small sweet baby peas.  Not to mention slurping fresh shucked oysters and dining on freshly cooked Carni Asada with homemade corn tortillas.

    If that wasn’t spectacular enough, I ran into two good friends and fellow food and farm bloggers, Janelle of Talk of Tomatoes, and her newest baby, Farmstr.com; and Wendy of Chez Chloe and her newest adventure, a gourmet food store called “Chez Chloe”.  A must visit when staying on Orcas Island.  Wendy stocks an impressive selection of salts and oils and books and chocolates… the deliciousness goes on and on.

    orcas island washington

    Wendy of Chez Chloe on Orcas Island

    What a brilliant day.  Sunshine, warm breezes off the bay, food that caused a most soul filled joy and two friends to make the day even brighter.

    Sweet Baby Peas and Mushroom Pappardelle tossed in Sherry Cream

    Serves 2-3 (recipe can be doubled)

    Ingredients

    8-10 ounces Pappardelle or any wide hearty pasta, cooked homemade or according to package instructions

    2 tablespoons butter (plus extra if needed)

    1 tablespoon olive oil

    1 shallot, finely diced

    2 cloves garlic, minced

    2 cups thin sliced cremini or assorted local mushrooms

    3 sprigs fresh thyme

    ½ cup dry sherry

    1 pint heavy cream

    Salt and pepper to taste

    1 cup cooked fresh spring peas or thawed organic sweet peas (look for a brand that is locally grown)

    ¼ -1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

    ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

    Options: Grilled/Roasted Chicken or Grilled Shrimp (sometimes I like to toss in some cubed cooked chicken or place a grilled chicken breast cutlet on top of the pasta before serving)

    Directions

    In a medium sauce pan heat the butter and olive oil over medium to medium high heat.  Once the butter has melted and is frothy add the shallots and thyme.  Sauté for just a minute or two and then add the mushrooms.  Continue to sauté the mushrooms, adding an additional tablespoon of butter or oil if needed to help soften the mushrooms.

    Once the mushrooms are cooked the way you like them, add the garlic (I like my mushrooms slightly golden). Continue to cook for another minute and then whisk in the sherry.  Let the sherry simmer until slightly reduced and then whisk in the heavy cream.

    Let the heavy cream come to a lively simmer and then season with salt and pepper to taste.  For a little heat, add in a pinch of red pepper flakes.

    Let the sauce simmer for a few minutes.  Add the peas to the sauce and then pour the sauce over the pasta.  Remove any remaining thyme sprigs.

    Toss the pasta with the sauce and add the parmesan cheese. Let the pasta cool so the sauce can thicken slightly and then plate the pasta and garnish with chopped Italian parsley.

    Serve immediately or serve warm.  This is even delicious straight out of the frig  🙂

    Chicken Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly

    Chicken Avocado Tortilla Torta

    chicken avocado tortilla torta

    Oh for the love of all things Avocado.  I’m on an intense avocado kick these days.  I feel like adding avocado to everything.

    Actually, Suzie Q, my youngest, made that very comment the other day.  “Mom, you add avocado to everything.  Next it’ll be in our dessert”.   Hmmm… I just came across ice cream prepared with avocado.  Trying that one next. 🙂

    Avocado lends a creamy and sometimes buttery texture to dishes.  It’s not terribly aromatic but it can taste of olive oil and fresh grass when eaten ripe.

    chicken avocado tortilla torta

    I love it sliced on a bed of wilted spinach and topped with poached or pan-fried farm fresh eggs. I also add diced avocado to my Mexican stuffed peppers which eliminates the need for extra cheese.  When the avocado is heated the texture becomes a bit creamy,  just like warm or melted cheese.

    Avocado is perfectly delicious added to my ceviche, tacos and sandwiches.  I keep a squishy, ripe one on the counter for spreading like mayonnaise.  During the summer months I love an heirloom tomato and avocado sandwich with just a sprinkling of my favorite gourmet salt.

    So of course when I was whipping up this chicken torta, I had to add avocado.  Combined with fresh cilantro, white onion, salsa Verde and Cotija cheese… fresh, clean flavors that deliciously marry well together.  Made dinner feel just a little bit special.

    Tank thought so too.  My oldest gal captured this picture of Tank.  Waiting patiently, staring down the deliciousness, while I was working to snap a food photo.  What can I say,  he cracks me up!

    cairn terrier, food photography

    Tank Waiting Patiently

    Delicious wishes and loads of love!

    Karista

    Chicken Avocado Tortilla Torta

    Serves 6

    Ingredients

    2 cups small cubed or shredded cooked chicken

    ½ white onion, small diced (about 1 cup)

    ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

    1 teaspoon chili powder

    1 teaspoon ground cumin

    Salt and pepper to taste

    2-3 cups diced avocado, tossed gently with a little lime juice (approx 2 avocados)

    12-18 corn tortillas, sliced in half

    2-3 cups salsa Verde (green enchilada sauce, Hatch is a quality brand I recommend) (recipe below for when tomatillos are in season.  I do recommend canning tomatillos during the summer for delicious salsa Verde year round.)

    2 cups cotija cheese

    1 cup mozzarella or creamy farmer’s cheese, Mexican Queso

    Directions

    Heat the oven to 375F.

    You will need an 8×8 or 9×13 baking dish.  I like a deep dish torta so I use the 8×8.  But the 9×13 also works well.

    In a large mixing bowl, mix together the cooked chicken, white onion, fresh cilantro, 1 cup crumbled cotija cheese, chili powder and cumin.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Very gently fold in the diced avocado.

    Pour the salsa Verde in a bowl large enough to dip the halved tortillas.  Dip 4-6 tortilla halves and place them in the bottom of the baking dish.  You will feel like you’re making a lasagna.

    Sprinkle with the chicken avocado mixture and then dip a few more tortilla halves into the salsa Verde and arrange on top of the chicken avocado mixture.  Repeat with the layering process until you have used all your chicken avocado mixture.  I can usually get three layers in an 8×8 pan.

    Be sure to end the layers with salsa Verde dipped tortillas.  Sprinkle with Mozzarella and remaining Cotija cheese.

    Bake uncovered for about 20-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and sides are bubbly.  Let the torta stand for about 5 minutes before serving.

    I love this dish with Cabbage and Cucumber slaw.  I’ve listed the recipe below.  Enjoy!

    Fresh Salsa Verde

    Ingredients

    2 cans tomatillos (I prefer Hatch brand)

    ½ cup diced onions

    2 cloves garlic, minced

    ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

    1 jalapeno, roasted and seeded

    ½ cup water or chicken broth if needed

    Salt to taste

    Directions

    Place the tomatillos in a blender or food processor and puree.

    Add a little oil to a medium sauce pan over medium heat and sauté the onions and garlic until wilted.

    Stir in the pureed tomatillos, cilantro and jalapeno and let it simmer on low for about five minutes, adding water or chicken broth if necessary.   Take it off the heat and set aside until needed.  Or refrigerate for up to 3 days.

     

    Cabbage and Cucumber Slaw

    Serves 4-6

    Ingredients

    1 small to medium head Napa cabbage, halved and then sliced so you get ribbons of cabbage.

    1 large cucumber, sliced (peeled if you like)

    4-5 green onions, sliced

    ½ cup fresh chopped cilantro (optional)

    ½ cup mayonnaise

    2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice

    1-2 teaspoons sugar or agave

    Dash of Sriracha or hot sauce to taste

    Salt and pepper to taste

    Directions

    Whisk together the mayonnaise, citrus juice, sugar and Sriracha.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    Toss the dressing with the cabbage and then layer the cucumber, green onion and cilantro on top.  Serve and enjoy!

    *my family likes a well dressed slaw so I often double the dressing recipe.  But I think it tastes great lightly dressed.

    Appetizers Beef Chicken Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Seafood

    Tacos, Ceviche and a Dessert

    Cinco de Mayo recipes

    Ceviche, Chocoflan and Slow Braised Barbacoa

    Over the years, I’ve had a long love affair with Mexican food.  I must have 50 different taco recipes floating around my kitchen.  All with an abundance of fresh ingredients, fragrant aromas that fill my house and robust and spicy flavored dishes that make my family smile big toothy smiles.

    The Bennett Crew and I have spent countless summer evenings sitting out on the deck, dining on ceviche, salsa, tacos, grilled meats and fish, all with the flavors of Mexico.  Sipping on sangria, cerveza or bright pink virgin margarita’s while watching the sun set in the distance.  Ahhh… makes me think of vacation.

    In honor of Cinco de Mayo, I thought I’d round-up some of my favorite Mexican and South American recipes.  Some of the recipes are easily prepared and some take a little extra time, but so worth the effort.

    Wishing you all a fun, festive, and of course, completely delicious Cinco de Mayo celebration!

    Roasted Chicken Tacos with Spicy Avocado Crema.

    chicken tacos

    Roasted Chicken Tacos with Spicy Avocado Crema

    Simple Halibut Tacos with Spicy Slaw

    Halibut Tacos with spicy slaw

    Simple Roasted Halibut Tacos with Spicy Slaw

    Grilled Salmon Tacos with Chipotle Lime Crema.

    Grilled Salmon Tacos with Cilantro Slaw

    Grilled Salmon Tacos with Cilantro Slaw and Chipotle Crema

    Slow Braised Barbacoa with Cucumber Avocado Salsa.

    slow braised barbacoa with cucumber avocado salsa

    Slow Braised Barbacoa

    Mixed Seafood and Avocado Ceviche.

    ceviche with halibut, bay shrimp, cilantro, white onion, sriracha, and avocado

    Mixed Seafood and Avocado Ceviche

    The Dreamiest Chocoflan

    Chocoflan

    Nelly Rodriguez de Galofre’s Chocoflan

    Chicken Grilling Karista's Kitchen Sauces, Salsas and More vegetarian

    Cardamom and Ginger Spiced Yogurt Sauce

    Cardamom and Ginger Spiced Yogurt Sauce over Roasted Eggplant

    I’ve been a member of several book clubs over the years.  Each time, I joined with the exuberance of a puppy playing with a new bone.  Excited about all the new books I’d be discovering and reading, all the new friendships to be made and girlfriend time to be savored.

    Unfortunately each time, my enthusiastic participation ended much too soon.  Either work or other commitments inhibited my attendance and sometimes my busy schedule caused my eyes to close 15 minutes into opening my book.

    Yep, book clubs have come and gone and with them my humiliation of not being able to meet my reading or attendance commitment.  My head bows in shame and disappointment.

    So when I was asked to join this “new” kind of book club, I was a little hesitant.  Until I realized it was right up my alley, Cook this Book.  I have no problem staying awake reading cookbooks.  Browsing the beautiful pages of deliciousness that sometimes inspires new culinary creations or simply reminds me of one I haven’t prepared in years.  A discovery of new types of cuisine and how it relates to the culture it originates.  Exciting!

    Even more exciting, the dynamic and brilliant women that are part of this book club.  Writers, chef’s, professors, food bloggers, professionals and of course fellow lovers of all things foodie, lovely, gracious women from all walks of life.

    Roasted chicken with cardamom and ginger spiced yogurt sauce

    Cardamom and Ginger Yogurt Sauce with Roasted Chicken

    The event has come and gone and my taste buds have never sampled such a mingling of beautiful and fragrant flavors.  Our book for the month was Claudia Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.  Middle Eastern cuisine encompasses a variety of styles and flavors that creates a plethora of dinner options.

    One particular dish from this book is now one of my family’s favorites.  A spiced yogurt sauce that is laced with cardamom and ginger and so beautifully compliments poultry, lamb and grilled or roasted vegetables.

    Honestly, I kept sticking my spoon in the sauce bowl, swiping mouthfuls of the sauce when no one was looking.

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,

    Karista

    Cardamom and Ginger Spiced Yogurt Sauce for Roasted Chicken or Vegetables

    Serves 4-6

    Ingredients

    2 cups plain whole milk yogurt

    1 teaspoon ground cardamom, or the seeds toasted and crushed

    1 1/2 inches fresh ginger, grated

    1 small onion, finely diced

    Serve with roasted or grilled chicken pieces, pan seared chicken cutlets or roasted eggplant, winter squash and zucchini.

    Directions

    In a bowl, mix the yogurt with the cardamom and ginger.  Set aside while you saute the onions.  Heat a skillet and a tablespoon or two of oil over medium heat and saute the onions until golden.  Remove the onions from the heat and stir in the spiced yogurt.  Do not put your skillet over the heat or your yogurt will separate.  The warmth of the skillet and onions will warm the yogurt nicely.

    Serve the spiced sauce with grilled or roasted chicken pieces, pan seared chicken breast cutlets or roasted eggplant, zucchini or winter squash.  I love a dollop of this yogurt sauce over a roasted butternut squash. 🙂

    Recipe ever so slightly adapted from Claudia Roden’s New Book of Middle Eastern Food

    Appetizers Chicken Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly

    Apple and Curry Spiced Turkey Meatballs

    turkey meatballs with curry spices and fresh apple

    Apple and Curry Spiced Turkey Meatballs

    Everyone seemed to land at home today.  No school, no work, no plans, on this cold and foggy winter day.  Wow! That almost never happens.

    It was nice. Nice to have everyone under one roof, all at the same time.  Food simmering stove top and fragrantly spiced meatballs baking in the oven.  All of us hanging about the kitchen chatting, laughing, telling stories, with a few lively debates mixed in. (of course all led by two sassy gals)

    These are the moments that never cease to warm my heart.

    Even Tank joined in the fun while I tackled my yard chores.  He teased the chicken gals by putting his face against the fence. Then jumped back playfully when they try to peck at him.  One day I’ll catch that on video.

    Turkey meatballs with curry spices and fresh apple

    Apple and Curry Spiced Turkey Meatballs

    Among a few other enticing dishes, today I made the Bennett Crew’s favorite turkey meatballs.

    Moist, fragrant, delightfully spiced and a hint of golden color.  Apple and Curry Spiced Turkey Meatballs.  A perfect, versatile dish that can travel to a party or the short walk to the dinner table.

    In my case however, most of them flew right off the baking sheet. 🙂

    Delicious wishes for a healthy and happy week!

    Loads of Love,

    Karista

    Apple and Curry Spiced Turkey Meatballs

    I keep these stashed in the frig for late night snacks, quick lunches or a dinner meal.  Perfect for popping in the freezer (par-cooked) and then pulling them out when you need dinner in a pinch.

    I have my friend Gazala to thank for this lovely spice blend.  Truly magical!

    The key is to purchase fresh quality spices, whole if you can find them, toast and then grind in a spice grinder.  Refresh your spices about every six months for best flavor.  The Spicy Gourmet is my online source for quality spices.

    Serves 4-6

    Ingredients

    1lb ground dark turkey meat

    ½ cup finely chopped red onion

    1/4 cup grated fresh apple

    2 teaspoons turmeric

    2 cloves garlic, minced

    1 teaspoon finely minced or grated fresh ginger

    1 teaspoon salt

    Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

    ½ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

    2 teaspoons fresh ground curry spice (recipe follows)

    1/3 cup breadcrumbs

    1 egg, whisked

    Directions

    Pre-heat the oven to 400F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment and brush with just a little oil.

    In a large bowl add the ground dark turkey, curry spice mix, turmeric, salt, pepper, garlic, ginger, onion and apple.  Gently mix together and then add the breadcrumbs and whisked egg and gently incorporate into the spiced ground turkey.

    Make tablespoon sized meatballs and place on the lined baking sheet.  I also use a medium cookie scoop for even measuring.  As well, you could use a very small scoop for tiny appetizer meatballs.

    Bake the meatballs for about 20 minutes or until they are nicely browned and cooked through.

    Serve with cauliflower mashers, coconut sweet potato mashers or a Mediterranean couscous.  You can also serve these meatballs with a delicious Moroccan Meatball Sauce that you’ll find at www.FrugalFeeding.com   Delicious!

    Fresh Ground Spice Mix

    Ingredients

    2 tablespoons whole coriander

    1 tablespoon cumin seeds

    10 cardamom pods

    3 whole cloves

    ½ stick cinnamon

    Directions

    Place the spices in a dry small pan and toast over medium heat.  Once toasted, remove from the pan and let the spices cool.  Then grind them together in a spice grinder.  You will only need two teaspoons for the meatballs, so reserve the remaining spice mix for soups, stews, curries, egg dishes and veggies.

    I purchase my fresh spices from www.thespicygourmet.com

    Chicken Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Life Around My Table

    Slow Cooked Red Ginger Chicken

    slow cooked chicken thighs, ginger, soy and tomato sauce

    www.karistaskitchen.com

    One of my dear friends in Washington state makes a fantastic Chicken Adobo and Chicken Long Rice which she has so graciously shared with me several times.  So heavenly, I keep begging her for the recipes.  Of Filipino decent, my friend used to watch her Grandfather prepare these traditional dishes when she was little.  She now prepares them for her family, and her extremely grateful friends.  Since then, I’ve come to know another friend and colleague of Filipino decent (Danny, you know who you are!) and I continuously drool over his very delicious looking Instagram feed.

    Because I’m of the curious sort and I’m inspired by my friends ancestral cuisine, several years ago I decided to explore the flavors of the Philippines.  Many recipes and full tummies later, this fragrant and enticing slow cooked red ginger chicken was created. This recipe is simple and brimming with the flavors I was craving.  

    As well, at that time I had a full private chef client list and I was on a mission to create more slow cooker meals for our very busy family schedule.

    When I originally posted this slow cooked red ginger chicken recipe I was raising backyard chickens (laying hens only, they were not raised for consumption) and posted the photos below.  I adored my chicken gals, and you know, I think they adored me too.  When we left Washington state, my girls landed a cushy gig at a local farm where they would live out their sweet chicken lives in chicken luxury.  Since that time I haven’t had the opportunity to build another chicken coop and raise backyard chickens, but I’m sure that time will come again.

     

    Urban Farm Chickens

    Rosemary, Cocoa and Pepper

    I still dabble with this recipe at times, adding a little heavy cream to the sauce when the mood strikes.  On occasion I’ve prepared the sauce stove top, added a little heavy cream and then ladled the sauce over grilled chicken breasts.  I like chicken breasts either grilled or pan seared and then finished in the oven.  Slow cooked chicken breasts can have a strange chewy texture and for some reason I just don’t find that palatable. Surprisingly I do have a bit of a fussy palate. 😉

    If you make this recipe let me know how it turns out for you and how you like it. I’d love your thoughts. This is one of those recipes that keeps evolving and one day it just might be perfected.

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love to you!

    Karista

    Slow Cooked Red Ginger Chicken

    Serving Size: 4-6

    Slow Cooked Red Ginger Chicken

    Ingredients

    • 8-10 chicken thighs, no skin but you can use bone in or boneless
    • 1- 3 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
    • 1 cup tomato sauce (a great way to use your canned tomatoes!)
    • ½ cup Tamari (or soy sauce)
    • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
    • Fresh ground pepper
    • Chopped fresh cilantro or green onions for garnish
    • White Rice

    Instructions

  • Pre-heat the slow cooker on low.
  • Thick slice the ginger into 5-6 pieces. Whisk together the tomato sauce, tamari, garlic and ginger and reserve.
  • Season the chicken pieces with pepper and brown in a skillet on both sides. You’ll want to achieve a nice deep brown color on the chicken as this will give the chicken a lot of flavor. Transfer the browned chicken pieces to the slow cooker.
  • Pour the sauce over the chicken and slow cook on low for about 5-6 hours or until the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165F. Chicken thighs and legs cook up better in the slow cooker, rather than chicken breasts.
  • When the chicken is done, transfer the chicken to a platter. Strain the *sauce through a mesh colander and ladle over the chicken. Serve over white rice and garnish with chopped fresh green onion or cilantro.
  • To make a thicker sauce, heat the strained sauce in a small sauce pan. In a small bowl, mix together a spoonful or two of the heated sauce with about 1/2 teaspoon of corn starch. Then whisk that mixture back into the sauce pan and let it come to a boil for only a few seconds or until you've reached desired consistency.
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    Chicken Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly

    Turkey, Pumpkin and Swiss Chard Enchiladas Verdes

    Turkey Enchiladas Verdes

    Many thanks to my Suzie Q who donned an apron and held the plate for this picture. 🙂

    Enchiladas seemed the perfect dish for my leftover Thanksgiving turkey this year.  Combined with the lone pumpkin left on my kitchen counter and some fresh Swiss chard from a local farm, Turkey Enchiladas Verdes is our follow-up feast.

    I know you’ll be giving thanks this post is short and sweet. I realize I’ve gone long the last few posts.  I’m terribly chatty in person but rarely on paper. 😉

    Off to help decorate the family Christmas tree, while we watch Elf (one of our favorite Christmas movies) and eat Turkey Enchiladas Verdes!

    Wishing you all a most delicious Holiday Season.

    Loads of Love,

    Karista

    Turkey Enchiladas Verdes with Roasted Pumpkin and Swiss Chard

    This recipe can be as simple or as complex as you’d like.  If you’re in a pinch for time use your favorite jarred Salsa Verde, about 2 cups (I completely adore Frontera Brand).  If you prefer to make your own, I’ve included the recipe.

    It appears a lengthy recipe, but it’s really very simple.  I’ve been a bit wordy and tried to write the directions in stages.  To keep things as simple as possible.

    This also makes a fabulous vegetarian Pumpkin and Swiss Chard Enchiladas Verdes.  If for some reason you really are tired of turkey.

    Serves 4-6

    Ingredients

    For the Salsa Verde:

    2 cans tomatillos

    ½ cup diced onions

    2 cloves garlic, minced

    ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

    1 jalapeno, roasted and seeded

    ½ cup water or chicken broth if needed

    Salt to taste

    For the Enchilada filling:

    2-3 cups chopped roasted turkey

    1 sugar pie pumpkin

    1 small bunch Swiss chard, washed and trimmed of stalks and coarsely chopped

    1 small white onion, chopped

    ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

    ½  teaspoon ground cumin

    ½  teaspoon ground coriander

    Salt and pepper to taste

    1-2 cups shredded Jalapeno Jack cheese

    10-12 corn tortillas

    Chopped green onions for garnish

    For the Crema:

    1 cup sour cream

    1 lime juiced

    ¼ teaspoon ground coriander

    ¼ teaspoon ground cumin

    1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

    Salt and pepper to taste

    Whisk together all ingredients and set aside.

    To prepare the Salsa Verde

    Place the tomatillos in a blender or food processor and puree.

    Add a little oil to a medium sauce pan over medium heat and sauté the onions and garlic until wilted.

    Stir in the pureed tomatillos, cilantro and jalapeno and let it simmer on low for about five minutes, adding water or chicken broth if necessary.  Set aside while preparing the enchiladas.  Reserve ½ cup to top the enchiladas.

    To Roast the Pumpkin:

    Preheat the oven to 400F.  Slice the stem section off the squash first and then slice the squash in half (very carefully).  Scoop out the seeds.

    Brush the cut sides of the squash with a little oil. Lay the squash halves cut side down in a glass baking dish and add a little water to the pan.   Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until the squash is tender and skins are a little toasted.  You will want the pumpkin a little firmer than if you were roasting for a pie.

    Once the pumpkin has cooled, peel it and slice it or crumble into pieces.

    To Sauté the Swiss Chard in a large skillet over medium heat with just a bit of oil.  Once it has wilted, but not watery, transfer the wilted chard to a large bowl.  Mix in the turkey, chopped onion, chopped cilantro, cumin, coriander and 1 cup of shredded cheese.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Pre-heat the oven to 350F.

    Heat the tortillas in a stove top steamer, or use the steamer function on a rice cooker or you can always pop the tortillas one or two at a time into the microwave for about 10 seconds.  You need the tortillas soft so they will roll and not tear.  Keep the tortillas covered and warm until you use them.  If they firm up, steam or microwave a little more.

    Ladle a little sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish.  Take a tortilla and fill one end with a few pieces of pumpkin, a spoonful of filling and roll. Continue this until your baking dish is full or you’ve run out of tortillas.

    Ladle a cup or so of Salsa Verde over the enchiladas.  Then ladle the crema over the salsa verde.  Sprinkle the remaining shredded cheese over the crema and bake for about 20 minutes or until the enchiladas are heated through.  Let them cool for a few minutes and then garnish with green onion and serve.

    Chicken Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Sauces, Salsas and More

    Coconut Pecan Crusted Chicken with Sweet and Spicy Apricot Sauce

    Coconut Pecan Crusted Chicken

    www.karistaskitchen.com

    Sauces reign supreme at the Bennett Camp.  And why you might ask?

    I blame it on culinary school.  Almost every entrée recipe I learned to prepare had some sort of brilliant sauce.  I loved practicing sauces.  I relished the challenge of tweaking them to my tastes and adding new and unusual flavors.

    The Bennett Crew loved sampling my sauces.  In fact, my happy little family came to expect a sauce over every entrée I served.

    Until one day… I prepared a Pork Milanese.  Milanese doesn’t have a sauce.  So I served it traditionally. Without a sauce.

    www.karistaskitchen.com

    Everyone sat quietly at the table, looking at their plates.  Not a peep.  I asked my sassy family why they weren’t eating their dinner and my handsome husband replied “where’s the sauce?”

    Hmmm.   Never saw that one coming.  I told my family a Milanese doesn’t come with a sauce.  To which my youngest sassy gal replied “but I’d like to have a sauce Mom”.   Well, who could resist those sweet words coming from a  three year old.

    Back into the kitchen I whipped up a little sauce for the Milanese.  Today, almost everything I serve the Bennett Crew comes with a sauce.  😉

    Coconut Pecan Crusted Chicken with Sweet and Spicy Apricot Sauce

    I’ve paired one of my fave little sauces with this Coconut Pecan Crusted Chicken dish.  You can also find this sauce paired with my Thai Shrimp Cakes and it’s just as lovely over grilled pork and chicken.

    Serves 4

    Ingredients

    4 chicken breasts or 6 chicken thighs (boneless/skinless)

    1 ½ cups shredded coconut

    1 cup chopped pecans

    ½ cup all purpose flour

    2 eggs, whisked with a tablespoon of water

    Salt and fresh cracked black pepper

    Chopped Italian parsley for garnish

    Parchment lined baking sheet

    Sweet and Spicy Apricot Sauce (recipe below)

    Directions

    Pre-heat the oven to 400F.

    In a food processor add the coconut and pecans and pulse until nicely ground together, like bread crumbs.  Set aside.  Per a lovely readers comments, a few tablespoons of panko can be added to the breading for a little extra texture and crunch.

    Set out three bowls. One with flour, one with egg wash and the last one with the coconut pecan mixture.

    Season the chicken with salt and black pepper.

    Lightly dust the chicken in the flour, then the egg wash and then press them into the coconut pecan mixture.  Place them on a platter. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 15-30 minutes.  This step can be done in the morning and then baked in the evening for dinner.

    Transfer the chicken to a parchment lined baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the pre-heated oven for about 20-30 minutes, depending on thickness or until the chicken is done.  I cook my chicken until the internal temperature reaches about 160F. I highly recommend having a meat thermometer handy for cooking poultry and meat.

    Once the chicken is done, take the chicken out of the oven and let it sit for about 5 minutes before serving.

    Ladle a bit of the sauce onto four plates.  Place a piece of chicken on the sauce and garnish with chopped fresh Italian parsley.  Serve with coconut rice and fresh greens with a sesame dressing.

    Sweet and Spicy Apricot Sauce

    ½ cup apricot preserves

    1-2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

    3 tablespoons of sweet chili sauce from Thai kitchen

    ¼ cup water, white wine, sherry or Saki

    In a bowl mix together all the ingredients.  You can lightly warm the sauce in a small pan stove top or in the microwave.  Don’t over warm or the sauce will be too runny.  The sauce will thin once it’s paired with the warm chicken.