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Flying Karista's Kitchen Pasta vegetarian

Butternut Squash and Swiss Chard Lasagna

Butternut Squash and Swiss Chard Lasagna

The enchanting colors of Autumn are beginning to make their appearance.

The beautiful colors remind me of harvest and make me crave Beef Barley soup, squash and hearty leafy greens and sometimes grilled cheese and apple butter on dark rye.

butternut squash and swiss chard lasagna

So, I prepared lasagna.  Not my typical hearty meat and sauce lasagna; instead a decadent harvest lasagna.  I used a beautiful butternut squash from my dear friends garden, and some Swiss chard that was singing to me at the market.

Autumn in a baking dish.

It was divine.  Paired with a captivating new Italian wine I found at my local market, the dinner was as lovely as the weather.

The following day the weather was even lovelier.  So exquisite, Ranger Craig and I decided to ditch the chore list and enjoy the day flying.  🙂

Rather than tell you all about our adventure, I thought I’d show you.

Flying San Juan Islands

Early morning flight to Orcas Island with Mt. Baker in the background

Orcas Island

A beautiful day in the neighborhood… or nearby anyway

Orcas Island

The bay at Eastsound


Leaving Orcas Island with Mt. Baker and Eastsound in the background


A sunset flight home

Butternut Squash and Swiss Chard Lasagna


1 Butternut Squash, about 1 ½ – 2 lbs

Lasagna sheets, cooked or use the Barilla no boil lasagna, enough for  9×13  pan

Ricotta cheese, 16 ounces whole milk or part skim

1 large bunch Swiss chard, leafy greens only  (I freeze the stalks for soups and stews)

1 small onion, chopped

2 tablespoons freshly chopped sage

1 egg, lightly whisked

1 teaspoon dried basil or oregano

1/4 cup grated parmesan

1 ½ cups Mozzarella

1/2 cup shredded parmesan

Salt and pepper

Béchamel Sauce Ingredients

1 quart whole milk, warmed

4 tablespoons butter

¼ cup flour

¼ cup grated parmesan

Salt and pepper

Pinch of allspice


To prepare the Squash

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Slice the stem section off the squash first and then slice the butternut 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 golden brown and toasty.  While the squash is roasting, prepare the Swiss Chard.

When the squash has cooled, remove the meat of the squash and place it in a medium mixing bowl.  Set aside.

To prepare the Swiss Chard

Give the greens a good chop.  Add about a tablespoon of oil to a skillet or sauté pan and heat over medium heat.  Sauté the chopped onion and just as it’s wilted and slightly golden add the chopped Swiss chard and fresh sage.  Sauté until the chard is nicely wilted.

Drain any liquid that has accumulated and then lightly season the chard and onion with a dash of salt and pepper.

Add the chard onion mixture to the bowl with the roasted squash.  Mix lightly to incorporate all three ingredients.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and a dash of allspice.

To prepare the Ricotta

Whisk together the ricotta cheese, egg, ¼ cup grated parmesan, dried basil or oregano and season with salt and pepper.

To prepare the Béchamel Sauce

In a sauté or sauce pan (enough for 4 cups liquid) heat the butter until melted and frothy over medium heat.  Add the flour and whisk until incorporated into the butter.  Much like making a roux or gravy.

Then slowly add the warmed milk about 2 cups at a time.  Whisk until it’s smooth and lightly simmer until the sauce has thickened.

Whisk in the pinch of allspice, grated parmesan and taste for salt and pepper.

Putting the Lasagna together

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.

This is how I layer the lasagna:

In the bottom of a 9×13 pan, ladle a little béchamel sauce.  Then layer the lasagna pasta over the béchamel.

Ricotta mixture and a drizzle of Béchamel

Lasagna pasta

Butternut Squash and Swiss Chard mixture

Lasagna pasta

Ricotta mixture and a drizzle of Béchamel

Lasagna pasta

Any leftover Béchamel or ricotta and then top with Mozzarella and shredded parmesan

Cover with foil and bake for about 20 minutes until bubbly on sides and cooked through. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes or until the cheese is golden on top.

Let the Lasagna sit for about 5-10 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

Flying Grilling Salad Sassy Side dishes vegetarian

Cherry Tomato, Cucumber and Spring Onion Salad… and a trip to San Juan Island Farmer’s Market!

Cherry Tomato, Cucumber and Leek Salad

The summer is coming to an end, school is in session and I’m feeling a slight chill in the morning air.  Ahhh… I’m loving this time of year.

I did manage to freeze a fair amount of my farmer’s market finds, but if I’d really been on top of things I would’ve canned some produce as well.  I’d like to think I’m super woman.  It looks like I’ve fallen short this year.  Bummer.

Our sweet little airfield

The drizzly weather will be here soon so Ranger Craig and I decided we’d fly to one last farmer’s market.  Friday Harbor on San Juan Island.  Wow.  I’ve been there a hundred times and every time I’m in awe.  A beautiful spot in the world.

Landing on San Juan Island

Thankfully, it’s always an easy landing on San Juan, nice and smooth and lots of room.  Just the way I like it!

Beautiful San Juan Island Produce

A Farmer’s Market With A View

The farmer’s market did not disappoint.  Although, I was scolded by a very pleasant-looking lady for having my little guy Tank with me at the market.  I guess dogs aren’t allowed.  I didn’t get the memo. 🙁

The most deliciously sweet cherry tomatoes!

While Ranger Craig and Tank walked around town, my little gal and I walked around the market gathering loads of fabulous food (and other good stuff!).  Grass fed beef, organic fruits and veggies, beautiful baskets of baked goods, and the loveliest quilts and crafts.  And did I mention the jam?  Lots of jam.

I fell in love with this quilt!

Ok, so I had to exit the farmer’s market at some point or I’d never be able to carry my loot back to the plane.

Ranger Craig and Tank cruising the town.

No, this is not our cab.  Although Ranger Craig thought it was pretty cool.  Tank was more worried about lunch.  Me too.


We found lunch. Grilled oysters, fish and chips and of course clam chowder.  I now needed a nap.

We took a stroll down to the marina, you know, to walk off lunch.  I think Ranger Craig just wanted to check out all the sailboats.  And score!  We saw a sea plane take off in the bay.

Grilled Grass Fed Rib Eye Steak and Cherry Tomato, Cucumber and Spring Onion Salad

Home we flew. Dinner was delicious!

Cherry Tomato, Cucumber and Spring Onion Salad with a White Balsamic and Olive Oil Drizzle

Serves 4


1 pint sweet cherry tomatoes, halved1 cucumber, diced into bite sized pieces

1-2 spring onions, diced (substitute with scallions if you can’t find spring onions)

Fresh chopped Italian parsley to taste (I like 2-3 tablespoons)

Drizzle of white balsamic vinegar (pull out your good stuff for this salad)

Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (pull out your good stuff for this salad)

Salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste


Gently toss together the tomatoes, cucumbers, spring onions and parsley.  Drizzle with the vinegar and oil and then season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with grilled meats or chicken.  Or enjoy all by itself!

Breakfast Flying Sweets

Blackberry Breakfast Cake with Streudel Topping… and a flight to Ranger Creek

My idea of flying with Ranger Craig is a trip over to the islands, to visit one of the fabulous Farmer’s Markets.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a fair weather flyer.  A fair weather flyer that likes to land on a nice black top runway.  A runway with lots of space.

Our Beautiful Mountain

But Ranger Craig had a new idea this past weekend.  Yep, he talked me into another one of his adventure flights.  I’m always in for some fun, but testing the strength of my heart is not something I want to do on a regular basis.

Once again… we’re landing where?

If you’ll notice, there is only one picture of the landing strip into Ranger Creek.  That’s because I dropped my camera into my lap and my hands hung onto the sides of my seat.  I was silent.  Silently praying that is.  Large looming mountains… and one itsy bitsy little runway.

Of course all was good, the landing smooth and I could’ve kissed the ground when I got out of the plane.

Tank lacks balance, so he gets a lift across the tree bridge

We grabbed Tank, our little flying buddy, backpacks and water and off we went to explore Ranger Creek.  The beauty was abundant.  And I suppose, worth the eyeball popping landing.

Tank’s determined to get in, but the water’s just to fast and to cold. (even for a terrier)

I don’t know who had more fun hiking, me or Tank.

Ranger Craig doesn’t call these little jaunts in the woods a hike.  Nope.  My tough guy calls these little jaunts a nice walk in the woods.  Well, we can’t all be Rangers.  Right?

So how did I get the idea for a Blackberry Breakfast Cake out of a flight to Ranger Creek?   I went blackberry picking.

You’d think after that adventurous day trip I’d be flat-out exhausted.  But no, the blackberries up the road were calling me.  And Blackberry Cake sounded like a little piece of heaven for a Sunday morning breakfast.

Blackberry Breakfast Cake

Blackberry Breakfast Cake with Streusel Topping

Serves 8-10


1 cup butter (2 sticks/8 ounces), softened

1 ½ cups sugar

4 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup sour cream

3 cups flour (for best results use 1 cup cake flour and 2 cups all-purpose)

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

4-5 cups fresh blackberries or frozen blackberries thawed and drained

Streusel Topping

1 cup brown sugar

1 ¼ all purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

8 tablespoons (4 ounces/ 1 stick) melted butter


Pre-heat the oven 350F.  Butter a 9×13 baking pan.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cardamom.

In a kitchen aid mixer or with a hand-held electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs until combined. Slowly mix in the sour cream and vanilla.

With the mixer on slow, add the flour mixture a cup at a time until fully incorporated and smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and then top with the fresh berries.

In a medium bowl mix together the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and melted butter.  Mix with a fork until crumbly.  Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the blackberries.

Bake for about 40-50 minutes or until cake is done in the center.  Cool completely before serving.

OPTIONS:  Substitute with fresh blueberries and raspberries.  Or serve as a light dessert with fresh whipped cream.

Recipe adapted from multiple sources

Flying Grilling Pork

Asian Style Grilled Pork Loin Chops with Sauteed Sweet Onions … and a trip to Lopez Island Farmer’s Market!

Asian Style Pork Loin Chops with sautéed Sweet Onions

I’m a Farmer’s Market obsessed mad woman this summer.  It all started with the lovely flight over to Orcas Island this past June.  Oh yeah, that’s the one that got me going.

Brown Rice, Fresh Chopped Cilantro and Steamed Sugar Snap Peas

On the flight back home from Orcas, I turned to my hunky pilot (new name for Ranger Craig) and said “I think you should fly me to a different Farmer’s market every weekend”.   I think I made him smile.

Lopez Harbor from the air

Ranger Craig has obliged my request and so off we flew this weekend.   The location? My almost favorite island, (because I can’t seem to decide which is my favorite) Lopez.

Beautiful Lopez Island

It’s a little bit of a hike from Lopez Airport to town center,  so my brilliant hunky pilot (just expanded Ranger Craig’s new name) packed the bikes in the plane… so I could carry more loot!

Me, my bike and my oversized backpack... ready for the market!

It was a glorious ride to town.  Sailboats, blue herons, beautiful cows (I love cows!), friendly locals who waved as they passed my bike.  I think they were waving me good luck bike riding back to the airport.  Two huge hills to climb.  Ok, that won’t be a pretty site.

I love cows!

Kayaking! One of our favorite sports... guess we'll be comin back.

The market was incredible.  I stopped at every booth, bought homemade jam, lots of beautiful and fresh organic vegetables, the most glorious looking organic pork loin chops, killer fudge and an adorable bird house for my sister (she loves birds).

Spicy Salad Mix... beautifully delicious

By the last booth I was gettin the ole “I’m hungry” stare from Ranger Craig.  So I zipped up my oversized backpack (which he was so sweetly carrying) and off we went in search of food.

Savor the Season!

Just Heavenly Fudge

Now if you’ve ever been to Lopez Island in the summer, you’ll know about Holly B’s.  Holly B’s is one of the best bakeries in Western Washington.   A slice of andouille sausage pizza, a Gruyère croissant, and tomato basil bruschetta.  It was a most delicious lunch under the island sun, camped out on fresh grass, with just the lightest ocean breeze.  A moment to savor.

I was in awe.  So in awe of that beautiful moment in time, that beautiful moment of the summer season, I forgot to take a picture of that beautiful lunch!

Thankfully, my memory wasn’t permanently impaired.  I remembered to snap a few pictures of this beautiful recipe.

Asian Style Grilled Pork Loin Chops with Sautéed Sweet Onions

Serves 4


4 thick cut pork loin chops

1 cup Tamari (I use gluten-free)

1 tablespoon fresh finely chopped ginger

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 cup pineapple juice

Red pepper flakes

½ cup veggie oil

½ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

1 sweet onion, halved and thin sliced

2 tablespoons butter

Fresh chopped cilantro for garnish

Serve with Brown Rice, fresh chopped cilantro and steamed sugar snap peas


For the marinade: Whisk together the Tamari, ginger, mustard, pineapple juice, red pepper flakes, veggie oil and black pepper.

Place the pork loin chops in large Ziploc bag.  Pour the marinade over the pork and swish it around to cover all surfaces of the pork.

Lay the Ziploc bag in a large baking dish. For richest flavor and best results, place the dish in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight.

When ready to grill, preheat the grill to 400F.

While the grill is heating, prepare the sautéed onions.  Add the two tablespoons butter to a large sauté pan over medium heat.  When the butter is melted and hot, add the onions.  Let the onions sauté, stirring every few minutes, for about 20 minutes or until wilted and lightly golden brown.   Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper.

When the grill is ready, place the chops directly on the grill.  Brown both sides of the chops and then turn down the heat to about medium, and slowly finish cooking the pork loin chops. The chops will be done when the internal temperature reaches 145F.

Remove the chops to a platter and let them rest for at least 5 minutes.  This is an important step and will allow all the natural juices to re-distribute in the chops, keeping them moist and tender.

To serve:  Top the pork loin chops with the sautéed onions and garnish with fresh cilantro.  Serve with brown rice, steamed sugar snap peas and fresh chopped cilantro.

Flying Grilling Seafood Shrimp

Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Cilantro Slaw

Grilled Shrimp Tacos

During the summer Ranger Craig and I become the flying foodies.  Every fair weather weekend  (because you know I’m a fair weather flyer) we hop in our Cessna 182, Charlie as we like to call her, and fly to enticing locales in search of the most delectable food Washington State has to offer.  And if we’re feeling really adventurous, we might skip on over to Oregon or maybe even Idaho.  Whoo Hoo!  The Bennett’s are livin large.

A landing on the beach

A few weekends ago we decided to hit the beach.  Literally I suppose.  Yep, Ranger Craig talked me into landing at Copalis Beach.  A beach you might ask?  Yesiree Bob.  The only sand landing strip in Washington.

We’re landing where???

As we were circling the beach,  I kept asking “where do we land?”.   Well that question was quickly answered.  We landed smack dab in the middle of the beach.  Ok, that was my adventure seeking thrill ride for the year!

Tank, our flying Cairn Terrier, patiently waiting to get in the plane.

After a beautiful flight just shy of the Olympics, a long hike along the coast, and a little thrill seeking beach landing, Ranger Craig and I went in search of food.  Unfortunately all we found were a few Cliff bars and Sobe lite waters.  Ok, that was a bummer.

Flying by the beautiful Olympics.

But with all the beautiful scenery and sea air, Ranger Craig and I were inspired.  Inspired to dine on seafood for dinner.  On our flight home we tossed around a few ideas and yummy grilled shrimp tacos won the debate.

So I wonder what we’ll be up to next weekend?  I can most certainly tell you it won’t be sky diving.

Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Cilantro Slaw and Fresh Lime

Serves 4


1 lb large fresh Gulf Shrimp, peeled and deveined

4 tablespoons butter

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

1 lime

Pinch of red pepper flakes or cayenne

Salt and pepper

8-10 corn tortillas

1 cup crumbled Cotija, Ranchero or Panela cheese

Sliced fresh avocados (optional, but super yummy with these tacos)

Salsa (optional)

Cilantro Slaw (recipe below)


Pre-heat the grill to 400F.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Just when the butter is melted and frothy, add the garlic, cilantro, pinch of red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Then take the butter off the heat and let it sit.

Brush the shrimp with a little veggie oil and then season with salt and pepper.  The best way to grill shrimp is to skewer them.  Once they are skewered, grill the shrimp for about 1-2 minutes on each side, just until they’ve turned color.  Cooking them too long will make them rubbery and tough.

Remove the shrimp from the grill and the skewers, and place them in a bowl.  Toss the shrimp with the warm cilantro garlic butter and then squeeze with half a lime.

Let the shrimp sit in the cilantro butter while you prepare the tortillas.  I like these tacos served with steamed tortillas.  I steam my tortillas in the top rack of my rice cooker on the steam function.  Or steam them in a stove top steamer.  And if I’m feeling super lazy I just put them in my handy dandy microwave steam bowl and there ya go.  Once steamed, wrap the tortillas in a warm towel.

I like to serve this dish as a “make your own taco” dinner.  Serve the bowl of shrimp with the steamed tortillas, crumbled cheese, cilantro slaw and sliced avocados.   Serve some salsa for a little extra heat.  Enjoy!

Cilantro Slaw

2 cups shredded fresh green cabbage

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

3 tablespoons lime juice

1/3 cup olive oil

1-2 teaspoons sugar (to taste)

Pinch of salt and pepper


Whisk together the lime juice, olive oil and sugar.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Toss the cilantro with the cabbage and then toss with the dressing.  Serve with shrimp, fish, or pork tacos.  Yum!

Flying Seafood Shrimp

Crab and Bay Shrimp Omelettes… and a Day Trip to Orcas Island

Seafood and Asparagus Omelette

Many years ago, when I first met Ranger Craig, he told me one of his favorite pastimes was flying.  I remember saying “that’s so nice”.  Never imagining, not even in my wildest dreams, that someday I’d actually fly with him.

Tying down on Orcas Island

My first flight in our little single engine plane was over the desert from Arizona to California.  The air was hot and kickin up a fuss, and it was rocking our single engine cherokee around like a little toy plane.  Ok, so my first flight was not the most enjoyable, memorable YES.  And lets say Ranger Craig was lucky I got back in the plane to fly home.

Bay at Eastsound, Orcas Island

It’s been twelve years since that first rocky flight and I must say I’m now a passionate aviation enthusiast.   Well, actually a “fair weather” passionate aviation enthusiast.  And this fair weather flyer loves to fly to the islands.  No not the Hawaiian Islands, although they are west from where I live, but the San Juan Islands.  I wish I could tell you which San Juan Island is my favorite.  I love them all for different reasons.

Orcas Island

It was Orcas Island today and first on the list was finding food.  Which isn’t very difficult given the assortment of eateries and restaurants on the island.  Lucky day!  It was also the first day of the Orcas Island summer farmer’s market. Can anyone say score?

Farmer's Market... score!

We had a tasty brunch at the New Leaf Cafe, and while Ranger Craig was enjoying his brunch I pulled out my handy cam and snapped a few photos of our food.  Ranger Craig is used to his food being photographed, but my two gals still feel the need to slink under the table when they see Mom pull out the camera.

Mmmm... seafood

I ordered a beautiful seafood and asparagus omelette with Gruyère cheese.  Light, airy and full of fresh crab, bay shrimp, baby asparagus and Gruyère.  The cheese was a lovely touch imparting a distinct nutty, yet earthy flavor, that complemented the flavors of the seafood and asparagus.  So delicious I decided I needed to re-create this dish at home.

Beautiful Old Church on Orcas Island

And re-create I did.  Light and fluffy eggs with fresh herbs from my garden, crab and bay shrimp from my guys at Gemini Fish Market, aged Gruyère cheese and organic asparagus from the farmer’s market.  A beautiful reminder of a beautiful day on the island.

Seafood Omelette

Adapted from the New Leaf Cafe

Serves 2


4 eggs, whisked with 1 tablespoon cold water, divided

2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 – 1/3  lb fresh crab meat

1/4 – 1/3 lb fresh bay shrimp

4 stalks fresh asparagus, steamed or roasted and diced

2 tablespoons mixed chopped fresh herbs (I used chives, basil and Italian parsley)

1/2 cup shredded Gruyère cheese


In a small saute pan or skillet (10-inch), heat one tablespoon butter over medium heat.  When the butter is hot and frothy swirl it around the pan to coat and then add half the whisked eggs.

Let the eggs set, becoming firm on the bottom, with the top slightly runny.  At this point I usually flip the omelette, however, if you don’t feel comfortable flipping the omelette, no worries.  Keep the heat on medium low and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.

Then add half the fresh seafood, asparagus, fresh herbs and last, the cheese.  Fold the omelette over and slide onto a warm plate.  Repeat the process for the second omelette.  Serve immediately.