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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's Kitchen Kid Friendly Soup vegetarian

Spicy Black Bean Soup with Lime Crema and Avocado

spicy black bean soup with lime crema and avocado

I have selected two words for 2014.  I think I’m only supposed to choose one but I couldn’t make a decision between these two words.

Maybe my new word for the year should be decisive.

Someone once told me I had a talent for connecting.  Ok, never thought I’d hear that described as one of my talents.  But I’ll take it.

A bright young professional, a former business acquaintance, visionary; someone that waltzed through my life but for a season.  Although much younger and less life experience, this astute and intuitive young professional was correct.  Without ever paying attention to that little habit of mine, I realized, I like to connect people.  Of course, if it’s a love connection I’m even more delighted.  But I don’t think I’ll be changing my career path to match maker anytime soon.

Shortly after that thought provoking moment, one of my dearest friends told me her Mom once said “one of the most important things in life is our relationships”.  That too struck me and I’ve never forgotten. (Thank you Kristen… and Lola)

My friends Mom was correct. Relationships, connections, for a lifetime or for a season, help shape us, make us who we are and who were meant to be;  often helping us and others find a solid path.

A New Year's Weekend at the Beach

So, I started this year thinking my word for 2014 would be connect.  However, I’m also quite fond of the word listen.  If I hadn’t been listening I would never have “heard” both my business acquaintance or my friend.  Two words that allowed me to pause and reflect, and then proceed with open ears and an open heart.

I admit, it’s not always easy to actively listen. I have so much swimming around in my head most of the time.  I’d like to tell you I often contemplate super cool subjects like why stars split or why some years we have La Nina or El Nino. And, although the weather and astronomy interest me, my head is usually swimming with a list of seasonal ingredients and how I might pull them deliciously together in a new recipe.  Among other things of course, like being a Mom.

And how will I segue into this lush little recipe?  Well… I’ve been listening to my readers and I’m now connecting you with this delightful, seasonal and delicious recipe that simmers warm and cozy for the winter months. (apparently, I also like adjectives)

It’s a new year with new recipes and hopefully a few new food projects. I love hearing from my readers.  If you have recipe ideas or questions, meal ideas or meal idea questions feel free to email me at  I’ll answer as quickly as I can.  I promise I will listen and hopefully connect you with the information you need.

Loads of Love and Delicious Wishes,


Spicy Black Bean Soup with Lime Crema and Avocado

I know the ingredient list looks long.  But I promise you’ll probably have most the ingredients on hand and I’ve broken down the ingredient list in order of use.  Sectioning ingredients always helps me when I’m preparing a new recipe.  So I thought it might be helpful for you as well.  Enjoy!!

Serves 4-6


The Veggies:

Tablespoon or two of olive oil

1 white onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, finely diced

1 poblano pepper, roasted, skinned, seeded and diced

The Spices:

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon chipotle chili powder

¼ – ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

The Base of the Soup:

1 14 ounce can organic diced tomatoes with juice

4 cups vegetable broth

6-8 cups cooked black beans OR 4 14 ounce cans organic black beans

Salt and pepper to taste

1 lime, squeezed

The Garnish:

1 lime sliced

Sliced green onions

Hand torn cilantro

Sliced avocado

½ cup sour cream mixed with a squeeze of lime juice


Heat a large soup pot over medium heat and add the oil.  When the oil is hot add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent.  Then stir in the garlic and roasted poblano pepper and stir for a minute longer.

Next stir in all the spices, the tomatoes, vegetable broth and *black beans *reserving  two cups or 1 can of black beans. This is a semi pureed soup.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Let the soup simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes.  Add a squeeze or two of lime juice, about a tablespoon, and then take it off the heat.  Puree the soup with either a hand blender or carefully transfer the soup in batches to a vitamix or blender and puree.

Add the soup back to the soup pot and stir in the last two cups of black beans or last can of black beans.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and extra lime juice if needed.

Serve the soup in small bowls and garnish with sliced green onions, torn cilantro leaves, sliced avocado, a slice of lime and dollop of sour cream. Enjoy!

Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Soup vegetarian

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Butternut squash soup with apple and coconut milk

Butternut Squash, Apple and Coconut Soup

I never met a squash I didn’t like.  Roasted, steamed, grilled, sautéed, battered and fried, pureed for tarts and desserts and of course soups.  Paired with additional Autumn ingredients, butternut squash is a lush and mouthwatering seasonal produce that’s not only good for the soul, but good for the body.

Ok, I could totally go nerdy here.  I LOVE (can you hear me singing that word?) sharing the health benefits of whole foods.  However, for the sake of time, my time – as I’m supposed to be in my car picking up my teenager at this very moment – I’ll keep the nerdy stuff to a minimum.

Low in fat, heart healthy, significant amounts of potassium, vitamin B6 and folate.  Not too mention it’s beautiful rich and orange hue signifies it’s abundance of carotenoids and beta carotenes.  All of which keep the heart, eyes and immune system healthy.  It’s also been known to help decrease inflammation caused by arthritis and asthma.  Phew!

There is no doubt butternut squash is a power food.  A power food with a velvet and creamy texture when cooked and can be prepared sweet or savory.

butternut squash soup

Butternut Squash, Apple and Coconut Soup

I adore this soup. It’s like a warm hug in a bowl.  Combined with the sweet tart of the Autumn apple and tropical flavor of coconut milk, this soup is a staple in my frig during the holidays and winter months. Easy to prepare and stays in the frig for up to 5 days.   Make an extra batch to freeze in small bowls for after school snacks or a light lunch.  It also makes an excellent holiday party starter, served in small pretty bowls.

I like to pair the soup with my favorite grilled Irish cheddar on cinnamon raisin bread.  Lovely flavors that compliment the rich and creamy butternut squash soup.  When I serve this to the Bennett Crew for dinner, I include roasted green beans or broccoli or a spinach salad to round out the meal.   Perfecto! (yes, I still believe I’m in Italy)

Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


Butternut Squash, Apple and Coconut Soup

All the ingredients can be adjusted to taste and preference.  I’ve given approximates, but feel free to add a little more of this or a little less of that to create a soup to your family’s tastes.

Serves 6 for a dinner meal or 12 for a party starter


1 medium to large butternut squash

1 medium shallot, finely diced (about 2-3 tablespoons)

1 medium to large apple, peeled and diced

2 teaspoons of fresh grated ginger (or more to taste at end of cooking)

2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil

Olive oil

1 – 1 1/2 cups coconut milk (whole coconut milk in a can.  I prefer Thai Kitchen Organic)

2-3 cups vegetable broth (or more if needed)

Pinch of cinnamon (or as an option, pinch of curry spice)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Serve with Grilled Irish Cheddar on Cinnamon Raisin Bread


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

Brush the cut sides of the squash with a little olive 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.  Remove from the oven and  when the squash has cooled, remove the meat of the squash and place it in a medium mixing bowl, mashing it as much as possible.  Set aside.

In a large soup pot over medium heat add the butter or coconut oil.  When the butter/oil is melted and hot, but not smoking, add the shallot and diced apple.  Sauté until the shallot is translucent and the apple is starting to soften.

Next, stir in the mashed butternut squash, pinch of cinnamon, coconut milk and veggie broth (start with 2 cups and add more as needed).  Heath through and bring to a very slow simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

With an emulsion blender, or in your vitamix, carefully puree the soup. It will be very hot.  Continue to adjust seasoning and liquid to your tastes.

Allow the soup to slowly simmer covered for about 15 minutes.  Watch the soup as you don’t want it to burn.  Turn off the heat and let the soup sit stove top for another 15 minutes.

This soup intensifies in flavor the longer it sits.  If serving for dinner I’d prepare it as early as possible so the flavors have time to develop and meld together.  Better yet, prepare the soup a day before and re-heat stove top for the evening meal.

The soup will hold in the frig for about 5 days.  However, if you have leftovers, freeze after 3 days.  The soup will hold in the freezer for about 3 months.






Appetizers Karista's Kitchen Sassy Side dishes Soup vegetarian

Asparagus and Leek Soup with Crispy Mushroom Gremolata

Asparagus Leek Soup

Asparagus Leek Soup with Crispy Mushroom Gremolata

It’s been a beautiful few days here in the Pacific Northwest.  Unusually warm spring weather brought everyone outdoors, with barbecues grills heavily in use.  It’s just a little exciting when one can grill outside without donning the rain gear.

In addition to grilling all weekend, I made a big bowl of my Mother in Law’s Macaroni Salad, the Bennett Crew’s favorite.  Along with a dish of my brother’s famous salsa.  Bought three huge jar’s of Woodstock organic pickles (I love chilled pickles on a hot day) and I brought out the pretty glass pitcher for my sweet tea.

Although we enjoyed our warm and sunny weekend, my chicken gals didn’t enjoy it quite as much.  The hen-house and chicken yard is nicely shaded but that didn’t keep my chicken gals from digging holes everywhere.

I found Cocoa (my friendliest and bossiest chicken gal) in a hole so deep, all I saw was her head.  It startled me and for a split second; I thought my chicken gal was ill.  Thankfully she popped out of her dirt hole, excited and clucking when she saw me approach the chicken yard.  I’m sure she knew I was bringing freshly dug worms, leftover kale and chard for afternoon treats.

I can happily say the Bennett Crew did not get freshly dug worms, leftover kale or chard for their afternoon treat.  Nope, much to their delight, they were served Asparagus and Leek Soup with Crispy Mushroom Gremolata.  A flavorsome soup, rich with the flavor of spring asparagus and leeks.

Although it was warm outside, I served the soup room temperature and it was perfectly delicious.  It’s also delicious served warm, for those cool spring evenings sure to return.

Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love!


Asparagus and Leek Soup with Crispy Mushroom Gremolata

Serves 2

Can easily be doubled


1 lb asparagus, trimmed and chopped into 1 inch pieces

1 ½ cups chopped leek, white and pale green parts only

1 clove garlic, lightly chopped

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 ½ cups vegetable broth (for a thinner soup, add additional broth at the end of preparation)

½ pint heavy cream

½ teaspoon herbs de Provence, crushed between fingers as you’re adding it to the soup

Squeeze of lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

For the Gremolata

¼ cup thinly sliced mixed mushrooms (I used chanterelle, cremini and shitake)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley

½ teaspoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon unsalted butter


Heat the butter in a medium saucepan or small pot over medium heat and add the leeks and garlic.  Sauté until the leeks are soft and somewhat golden.

Add the asparagus and the vegetable broth and simmer covered for about 10-15 minutes or until the asparagus is tender.  Puree ¾ of the vegetable mixture in a blender, vitamix or food processor until smooth.  If you want a completely smooth soup go ahead and blend all the vegetables.

Add the puree back to the pot and then stir in the herbs de Provence crushing it between your fingers as you add it.  Then stir in the heavy cream and just a squeeze of lemon.  Heat the soup on low, without bringing it to a boil or simmer, and then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Take the soup off the heat and let it sit covered while you prepare the Gremolata.

In a sauté pan heat the butter and when it’s hot and frothy add the mushrooms.  Let them “toast” in the butter and once they are soft and slightly toasty take the pan off the heat and gently toss with the parsley and lemon.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the Mushroom Gremolata.  Serve immediately.

This soup is lovely served room temperature during the summer months.  Pair with a crisp, dry white wine.

Appetizers Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Sassy Side dishes Soup vegetarian

Kabocha Squash Soup

Kabocha Squash Soup

I have a brother.  I also have a twin sister, who I completely adore, but this particular post is about my  brother… and Kabocha Squash.

Yep, my baby brother.  My “Bro” as my sister and I love to call him.  Youngest of three, six feet of handsome, über intelligent and the best brother a gal could have.

Kabocha Squash Soup

Kabocha Squash Soup

My brother, Cameron, married the most beautiful Colombian gal, Paula, and they have the most darling of children, my niece and nephew.  Talk about love.  Those two little ones stole my heart the minute they were born.

Can you tell I’m completely in love with my family? I know, lots of gush in this post.  But I can’t help it.

My brother, the hiker and kayaker

My Brother and his family live in Japan.  Work took them to Japan, but it’s now home.  I can hear it in my Brother’s voice, the way he passionately talks about the food, culture, the new friends and all the adventure to be discovered in a foreign land.

Of course the food is always a highlight of our Skype conversations. 🙂  If my brother wasn’t a genius academic, he’d probably be a chef.  When we get together for family reunions, it’s full on hanging out in the kitchen preparing all kinds of delicious food, lots of new wine to sip, a few fave cocktails and of course, always lots of laughter.

My sister, my brother and me 🙂

Cam and I try to chat often and last time we chatted he mentioned dinner at a friend’s home.  He talked about the most amazing Kabocha squash soup.  Simple, sweet, creamy and just a little bit decadent, with a hint of spice.  Perfect for an Autumn evening.

That conversation got my culinary wheels spinning and I just had to make this soup.  I often roast Kabocha squash and sometimes use it in place of pumpkin if I can’t find a good sugar pie pumpkin.  But I’ve not made Kabocha Squash soup.  Until today.

Like the butternut squash, Kabocha squash is slightly sweet and feels a bit like sweet potato in texture.  Spices such as cinnamon, five spice powder or a curry blend, beautifully compliment the subtle honeyed flavor.

If you can’t find Kabocha in your local market, many Japanese substitute with Kuri pumpkin or Sugar Pie Pumpkin.

I wish you all a most delicious week and leave you with an old Japanese Proverb“One kind word can warm three winter months.” 

Loads of Love,


Kabocha Squash Soup

Adapted by a recipe from Kaori Sakakibara

Deepest thanks to my brother’s friend, Kaori Sakakibara, for sharing her recipe.


Serves 4


1 Kabocha squash (should yield about 1 ¾ – 2 cups cooked squash)

¼ cup heavy cream

2 cups veggie broth

Pinch or two of cinnamon (to taste, about ½ teaspoon)

Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Optional: 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger


Pre-heat the oven to 400F.

I roast Kabocha squash the same way I roast butternut and pumpkin.

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 golden brown and toasty.

Once the squash has cooled, scoop out the pulp and place it in a blender, food processor or vitamix and puree.

Add the tablespoon of butter to a medium soup pot over medium heat.  Once the butter has melted, whisk in the squash puree with the heavy cream and veggie broth.

Heat to a light simmer, adding additional veggie broth if you’d like a thinner soup.

Whisk in the cinnamon (and fresh ginger if using) and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Keep the soup warm for about 10-15 minutes to allow all the delicious flavors to develop.  Serve warm as a first course or as a light dinner with a fresh salad of winter greens.

Chicken Karista's Kitchen Soup vegetarian


Mulligatawny Soup from Karista's Kitchen

Every morning I find myself sitting on the kitchen floor in front of my baby chick’s crate, coffee cup in hand, chatting and playing with my four fuzzy little gals. This morning was no different.

I heard Ranger Craig walk up the stairs to the kitchen and out of the corner of my eye, I caught a  slight smile forming around his mouth.  He tells me I need a farm.  I tell him I’ve known this for years. 🙂

My oldest gal suggested we get a pig.  Not a “raise it for ham” sort of pig, but a “play with the cute little piggy” pig.  That’s out of the question… but did mention I’d love a goat?

Mulligatawny Soup from Karista's Kitchen

Mulligatawny Soup

My new friend and local blogger Wendy, over at Chez Chloe , recommends two Nigerian Dwarf Goats.  I agree!  I have a Washington cold rain forest jungle behind my house.  I’ve often thought a few goats might take care of that jungle for me.  And fresh goats milk for cheese sounds delightful.

If you’re my neighbor and you’re reading this, never fear.  I won’t be getting goats any time soon.  Mostly because my two sassy (human) gals would probably sneak them into the house.  That would not be good.

Until then, I’m completely happy sitting on the kitchen floor… talking to my baby chickens.


This is a soup with many variations.  A tumeric laced soup with huge flavor and usually includes beef, chicken or lamb.  My version of Mulligatawny is filled with all the wonderful flavors of Autumn.

Apples, sweet potatoes and the lovely Indian blend of spices, Garam Masala.  Instead of rice, I’ve used wheat berries.  I adore Jovial Foods Einkorn Wheat Berries, nutty, with a little hint of sweetness, these wheat berries make a delicious substitute for rice.

Serves 4-6  can easily be doubled


2  teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1  tablespoon Garam Masala or:

2  teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

¼  teaspoon ground nutmeg

Pinch of ground cloves

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon grated or minced fresh ginger

1 tablespoon butter

1 onion, diced

1 carrot diced

4-6 cups chicken broth (or veggie broth for vegetarian version)

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1-2  teaspoons Thai Kitchen Roasted Red Chile Paste (or a teaspoon of hot sauce)

1 apple peeled and diced

1 sweet potato, peeled and diced

2 cups diced cooked chicken (optional)

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1-2 cups cooked wheat berries

Salt to taste


Mix together the black pepper and Garam Masala.  If using the individual spices, mix together the spices and black pepper and set aside.

Heat the butter over medium heat in the bottom of a soup pot and then add the onion and carrots.  When the veggies have softened and wilted add the garlic, ginger and spice mixture, stirring for about one minute.

Then slowly mix in the chicken broth.  Stir in the tomato paste, roasted red chile paste, apples and sweet potatoes.  Let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are soft.

Add the diced cooked chicken and cooked wheat berries.  Taste for seasoning adding salt as needed.  If you feel the soup needs a “lift” in flavor, add a teaspoon or two of apple cider vinegar.  The longer this soup sits the better it will taste.

An excellent soup for freezing.

Additional add ins:  Diced parsnips, diced turnips, or winter greens.

Appetizers Sassy Side dishes Soup

Spicy Gazpacho

Spicy Gazpacho

It seems chilled soups have made a comeback this summer and I must say I’m smitten.  I’ve always been a fan of the room temp or chilled concoction, mostly because that’s when fresh ingredients taste strongest in flavor.

Fresh and Spicy Summer Gazpacho

Maybe that’s why I can’t get enough of this Gazpacho.  I make a batch every week and serve it as a starter or lunch.  Full of incredible summer flavor and kissed with a touch of my new favorite olive oil.


I first discovered this lovely oil at my local co-op market, PCC Natural Markets.  I immediately fell in love with the pure, clean and fresh flavors of California Olive Ranch Olive Oil, using it in all my vinaigrettes, drizzled over veggies, Crostini and Bruschetta.

To my savory and sweet surprise, a few weeks after my discovery I was invited to a California Olive Ranch Olive oil tasting.  The tasting was hosted by Janelle Maiocco, brilliant local food blogger and Chef at Talk of Tomatoes, and the lovely Kristen Wanket from California Olive Ranch.

A completely delightful, delicious and most educational evening held at our local Seattle FareStart.  I left the tasting armed with a wealth of olive oil knowledge and a new favorite CA Olive Ranch Olive oil, the Arbequina.  Oh yes, this is now my ultimate favorite olive oil.

So divine I had to come up with this Gazpacho recipe as another excuse to use my new favorite and cherished olive oil.  🙂

All the California Olive Ranch olive oils are divine, but the Arbequina, “high fruitiness, balanced pungency and pleasing clean taste with flavors of tropical fruit and fresh artichoke”  won my culinary heart.

Thank you Janelle and Kristin for a most delicious evening!

Spicy Gazpacho

Serves 4 as a main dish or 8 as an appetizer


2 -3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes

1 small green pepper, coarsely chopped

½ cup diced cucumber (or more if you love cukes!)

½ red onion, coarsely chopped

1-2 tablespoons fresh chopped herbs (thyme, oregano, Italian parsley, basil)

Dash of hot sauce (I like Sriracha, an Asian hot sauce)

2-3 tablespoons champagne or sherry vinegar

Squeeze of lemon juice

1 cup veggie broth

2-3 cups tomato juice

½ cup fresh bread crumbs

¼ cup California Olive Ranch Arbequina Olive Oil

Salt and pepper to taste


In a food processor add the fresh tomatoes, green pepper, cucumber, onion, fresh herbs, broth, 2 cups tomato juice, 2 tablespoons vinegar, dash of hot sauce and squeeze of lemon.

Pulse until all ingredients are nicely blended but not completely pureed.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add additional tomato juice, vinegar and lemon as desired.  I like my Gazpacho a little more drinkable rather than spoonable.

Next stir in the bread crumbs and a few tablespoons of the olive oil.  Ladle into glasses or bowls and garnish with an additional drizzle of olive oil, cucumber slices and toasted Crostini for dipping. 🙂

Beef Soup

Beef and Barley Soup

Beef and Barley Soup from Karista's Kitchen

Winter has definitely arrived.  When I look out my window I see a blanket of white gracing the landscape.

When I look over at my sofa, with my lovely new throw blanket (the one my sister gave me for Christmas), I see a scruffy Cairn Terrier with a summer haircut snuggling in that new blanket.  It seems even Tank loves a soft, snuggly throw blanket.

Tank. Snuggled in for the day.

The only time Tank leaves the sofa... when someone might be in the kitchen.

Winter is a time of renewal.  A time to reflect, a time to rejuvenate, a time to recover.  A very wise lady once told me, everyone needs a season of winter.   I agree.

The season of winter

Although my schedule is busy with my lovely clients, teaching culinary classes and my super delicious family, The Bennett Crew, I still manage to squeak out a little time just for me.

Sometimes it’s 10 minutes to read a few chapters of my new mystery novel (it would be 30 minutes if I didn’t fall asleep), and sometimes it’s 15 minutes in a hot bubble bath with a little glass of wine.  And sometimes it’s just a few minutes sitting on Suzie Q’s bed listening to all the tales in the life of a 13-year-old girl, which can be quite entertaining. 🙂

I really wish I had an hour to read (I’m certain I’d still fall asleep) or an hour to soak in a hot tub, or two hours to listen to my little gals tales.  But I cherish the few moments I do have.  They eventually add up to many hours spent just for me.

I wish you all many peaceful moments in your season of winter.

Loads of Love,


Beef and Barley Soup

Cook Time: Slow cooked for about 2 hours in a Dutch oven or soup pot or can be slow cooked  in a slow cooker for about 5-6 hours

Serves 4-6


1 lb beef stew meat, cubed

1 tablespoon safflower, sunflower or grapessed oil

1 onion, diced

2 carrots, diced

2 ribs celery, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

5-6 cups organic beef broth, start with 5 cups and add more at the end if needed. (Imagine or Pacific brands are delicious as is Wolfgang Puck’s broths)

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 bay leaf

1/3 cup pearled barley (found in the rice aisle of your local market or found in bulk at Whole Foods and PCC Natural Markets)

1 cup frozen organic peas

1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar (I’ve also used rice wine vinegar when I forgot to purchase red and white vinegar)

Fresh chopped Italian parsley for garnish (optional)


In a Dutch oven or Soup Pot heat the oil over medium high heat.  Season the beef cubes with salt and pepper.

Brown the beef and then transfer to a bowl.  Then add the diced onion, carrots and celery.  Let the veggies cook for about 5-8 minutes, or until they are wilted.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Then stir in the beef broth, bay leaf and tomato paste.  Add the beef back into the pot.  Bring the soup to a boil and then cover the pot with a lid and let the soup simmer on low for about an hour.

After one hour, stir in the pearled barley, cover the pot again and let it simmer for another 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, check to see if the barley has puffed up and softened.  And then check to see if your stew meat is tender.  If it’s not tender let it simmer for another 30 minutes.  If all is tender, add the frozen peas and season the soup with salt and pepper to taste.

Then stir in the tablespoon of vinegar to pull all those delicious flavors together.  Garnish with chopped fresh Italian parsley if desired.

This is a fabulous soup to serve immediately, or hold over for a day or two.  It’s also a good freezer soup.  When reheating you might need to add an additional 1/4 to 1/2 cup water, as the pearled barley will absorb a lot of the liquid.

You can also prepare this soup in a slow cooker.  Brown the beef and saute the veggies as instructed above. Then transfer to the slow cooker.  Pour the broth over the beef and veggies, stir in the tomato paste and add the bay leaf.  Cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 5-6 hours.

Stir in the pearled barley at least one hour before the soup is done.   Twice I’ve forgotten to add the pearled barley and ended up cooking it stove top according to package directions. Then I added the cooked barley to the soup.  This is always an option if you’re forgetful like me. 🙂

Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add the tablespoon of vinegar and frozen peas and let the soup sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Chicken Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Soup vegetarian

Curried Sweet Potato and Chicken Stew

I have a sweet potato fascination.  You’d think this time of year I’d be talking pumpkin, butternut squash, maple syrup and apples.  I’m getting to those.  But right now I’m stuck at sweet potato.

Organic Sweet Potatoes

I love sweet potatoes for so many reasons.  They’re a superfood, über versatile (I put them in everything) and they really are a tad sweet.  Especially with a little pat of butter (I did say little), a sprinkle of brown sugar (yes, just a sprinkle) and then I lay it on thick with the cinnamon, nutmeg and a pinch of cloves.


Only a pinch of cloves. Otherwise your mouth will be numb for days.  As my little brother knows oh so well; ever since the pumpkin pie full of cloves incident. That’s another
funny story for another day.

My favorite brand of spices, Simply Organic

This season, I believe I’ve used sweet potatoes in everything.  Muffins, biscuits, pie, as a side with mixed roasted winter veggies and red onions, coconut mashed, and now they’ve found their way into a stew.  With chicken.

I’m sure I’m wearing out the sweet potato welcome in the Bennett house.  I should probably scoot on over to pumpkin soon.

Curried Sweet Potato and Chicken Stew

Serves 6


1 tablespoon veggie or grapeseed Oil

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon curry powder

¾ teaspoon coriander

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon Garam Masala

2 medium organic carrots, diced

1 large organic sweet potato, peeled and cubed into bite size pieces

3 cups chicken or veggie broth

1 cup coconut milk

1 teaspoon (or more) Thai Kitchen Roasted Chili Paste (or a pinch of cayenne)

2 cups diced cooked chicken (a great way to use leftover roasted chicken)

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro


Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat.

Sauté the onions until wilted and then add the garlic and sauté 30 seconds more.

Add the carrots, sweet potato, chili paste and spices to the onions and garlic.

Stir in the broth and coconut milk.  Bring to a boil and then simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until the sweet potatoes and carrots are soft.

Optional:  With a wooden spoon or spatula, press some of the carrots and sweet potatoes into the sides of the pot, smashing them to create a creamy stew without adding dairy.

Season with salt and pepper to taste and add additional chili paste, cayenne or red pepper flakes if desired. (Ranger Craig likes this stew spicy!)

Stir in the diced chicken and cook another 5 minutes, or until the chicken is heated through.

Stir in the fresh cilantro and serve.

** Omit the chicken and use veggie broth and this will make a fabulous vegetarian/vegan dish!

Recipe adapted from multiple sources and my love of all things sweet potato.

Chicken Kid Friendly Pork Soup

Italian Sausage Soup and “for the love of SOUP” Cookbook Giveaway!

Italian Sausage Soup

Ok, hold on to your whisks fabulous foodies… I’m giving away three cookbooks!  I’m so excited! Once again I feel like that dark-haired little gal in Despicable Me.  You know, the one that squeezes the stuffing out of the fluffy toy animal and exclaims “he’s so flufffffffyyyyyyyy!  🙂  Well, I’m so exxccccciiiitttteeeddd!

I love cookbooks, mostly old cookbooks or cleverly written, beautiful pictures cookbooks.  Or cookbooks about a specific country’s cuisine and culture.  But this particular little soup book caught my eye and after browsing the recipes, I just had to have another giveaway.

For The Love Of Soup

I’m giving away three of these soup books.  Just leave me a comment telling me what type of “weeknight recipes” you’d most like to see on Karista’s Kitchen.  I’ll choose three random comments to win the books.  The giveaway ends next Wednesday, October 26th.  Best of luck everyone!

And just because I love soup, I’m posting one of my family’s fave’s, Italian Sausage Soup.  This isn’t in the soup book, just a little something I whip up for the Bennett Crew on cool fall and winter evenings.  Ranger Craig doesn’t usually think soup qualifies as a main dish.  But he makes an exception for this full flavored hearty soup.  Along with freshly baked Italian bread and possibly some bruschetta for nibbling.  🙂

Italian Sausage Soup

Serves 4 – 6

1 lb mild or spicy (I like spicy) Italian sausage (or substitute with Italian chicken sausage)

1-2 tablespoons veggie oil or grapeseed oil

1 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, finely diced

1 15 ounce can fire roasted tomatoes (I like Muir Glen)

4 cups beef broth

1 15 ounce can organic small white beans

1 cup frozen organic baby peas (optional)

1/2 teaspoon dried Italian herbs (or use 1/2 tsp dried oregano)

Salt and pepper to taste

Chopped fresh Italian parsley for garnish

Shredded fresh parmesan for garnish


In a soup pot over medium high heat, add a tablespoon or two of oil.  Lightly brown the sausage and then add the onion.

Cook the onion until wilted and then add in the garlic.  Cook for another minute.

Stir in the tomatoes, beef broth, beans, frozen peas and dried herbs.  Bring the soup to a lively simmer for about 10 minutes.

Take the soup off the heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with fresh Italian parsley and shredded parmesan.  Serve with crusty Italian bread for dipping!

Kid Friendly Sassy Side dishes Soup

Minestrone di Verdura

I love soup. I know it seems a little odd to see a soup post in June, but I really love soup.   Soup is something I make all year-long.  It’s versatile, easily prepared and most soups can be served warm instead of piping hot.  And many soups are fabulous for summer dining.  I love a chilled fruit or veggie Gazpacho, room temp Carrot Ginger Soup or a warm Ratatouille loaded with summer produce.

But, mostly I make soups because my frig is overflowing with produce.  Ranger Craig and I have a bad habit of swinging by the market (without telling each other) on the same day.   This is fabulous, except when we both eventually get home, we’ve each got a big bag stuffed with lots of fresh organic produce.  What can I say except great minds think alike…and we eat a lot of soup.

Minestrone means “big soup”, and this Minestrone di Verdura is a very big soup.  I like to serve this as a summer soup and I love it full of delicious summer spinach. Yep, me and spinach.  It seems half my posts contain spinach.  Not sure when this love affair with spinach began, but as you can see, it continues today. 🙂

Earthbound Farms Organic Leafy Greens

Just for fun I like to “hide” delicious little treasures in the bottom of the soup.  The Bennett Crew favors toasted and garlic rubbed baguette slices.  But I love a firm poached egg.   Buon Appetito!

Serves 4-6

I know the ingredient list looks long, but it’s really quite an easy soup to prepare.  Most of it goes in the soup pot to simmer until done.  And it’s easily adaptable to your family’s favorite veggies.  Like black beans instead of white beans?  Would you rather use your summer kale instead of spinach?  Go right ahead.  Play with the recipe and see what you come up with!


1 large onion, chopped

2 medium carrots, chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely diced (or more if you love garlic)

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 15 ounce can organic white beans

1 15 ounce can organic diced tomatoes

2 medium potatoes, peeled and small diced

2 cups vegetable broth or stock

2 cups packed, fresh organic baby spinach

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley

pinch of cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

Shredded parmesan, Romano or Fontina as a garnish

Sliced baguette, toasted and rubbed with garlic


In a large soup pot heat the butter and oil over medium heat.  Add the carrots, celery and onion and let them wilt, about 5 minutes.

Next, add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about a minute or so.

Then fold in the beans, tomatoes and potatoes.

Stir in the broth and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Turn the heat down and let the soup simmer until all the veggies are tender.

Once the veggies are nicely tender, fold in the fresh spinach, basil, parsley and pinch of cayenne.

Let the soup continue to simmer for about 5 minutes longer and then taste for salt and pepper.  This soup can be made an hour or so (even 30 minutes works well) in advance and as it sits and rests, the veggies and herbs will meld together and become more flavorful.  Just re-heat to serve.

To serve:  Place a toasted baguette slice in the bottom of a soup bowl and ladle soup over the top.  Garnish with shredded parmesan, Romano or Fontina.  Enjoy!

Chicken Kid Friendly Soup

Chicken Chili Verde

It’s definitely a chili kind of day here in the Pacific Northwest.  The rain has moved in, clouds settled low and I feel like staying in my pajamas and hanging out on the sofa with a good book and a warm cup of tea.

That’s a lovely little dream of course because I’ve got a long list of things to accomplish today.  One of those tasks is preparing a yummy pot of Chicken Chili Verde.

Deliciously wonderful and full of rich flavors, with aromatics, spices and moist and juicy chicken.  I especially like chicken thigh meat in this recipe, however, you can use whatever you have on hand.  If you are really in a pinch for time, pick up a roasted chicken at your local market and use the leg, thigh and breast meat for the chili.

This type of chili is typically found in the Southwest, using fresh or pickled jalapeno for a little extra heat, and cinnamon for a welcomed twist of flavors.  Simply and quickly prepared, or slow cooked, it’s mouth-watering goodness that’ll warm the tummy and soothe the soul.

Keep dinner simple… Enjoy the flavors of life!

Serves 6-8


8 chicken thighs (or, use 2 cups diced roasted chicken, dark meat is best)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Salt and fresh cracked black pepper

High heat vegetable oil

1 large white onion, diced

6 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 Poblano pepper, roasted, skinned, seeded and diced

2 12oz cans tomatillos, pureed in a blender

2 cups chicken broth

1 12oz beer

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon chili powder (or more if you like it spicy, but remember, the poblano will give the chili some heat as well)

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 cups frozen corn

Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro, shredded pepper jack cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips


(If using chicken thighs) Heat a few tablespoons of oil on medium high in a large pot.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dust with flour.

When the oil is hot, brown the chicken thighs, in batches if necessary.  When the chicken is done transfer to a plate.  Turn the heat down to medium.

Drain all but a tablespoon or two of oil out of the pot and add the onion, sautéing just until wilted.  Stir in the garlic and chopped poblano pepper letting it simmer for a minute or two.  Next, add the pureed tomatillos, chicken broth and beer.

Bring to a lively simmer and then stir in the cumin, chili powder, paprika, oregano, cinnamon and corn.

Remove the skin from the chicken thighs and then add them back into the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer.  If using roasted chicken, stir the 2 cups of roasted chicken into the chili.

Let the chili simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken thighs are done.  You can easily let this chili simmer for an hour or two, or put the chili in a slow cooker on low for about 6-8 hours.

Once the chicken thighs are done, remove them and pull out any bones.  Chop up the chicken and place it back into the chili.

If you’d like your chili a little thicker, make a slurry with 1 tablespoon corn starch and 1 tablespoon water.  Mix this into the chili and bring it to a boil for a minute or two.  Thickening can also be achieved with masa flour if you happen to have it on hand.

To serve: Place a few tortilla chips in the bottom of a bowl and ladle the chili over the chips.  Top with fresh cilantro, shredded cheese, sour cream.  This is also yummy served over a scoop of white or brown rice.

Chicken Chili Verde can be prepared up to two days in advance and can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.  It also freezes well up to 60 days.