Browsing Tag


Breakfast Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pork

Bacon Apple Cheddar Quiche


bacon apple cheddar quiche

Bacon, Apple, Cheddar Quiche


Bacon Apple Cheddar Quiche… sound delicious?  I’m guest posting this boldly flavorful and savory tart over at my good friend’s blog, Pink Patisserie.  Read a sample of the post below and click on the link to snag the recipe.  While you’re there, stay a while and poke around.  Maria creates some of the most lush and beautiful recipes that will tantalize your taste buds and keep you coming back for more.

Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love!


quiche collage

Winter greetings Pink Patisserie readers!  I’m Karista and I publish the recipe website Karista’s Kitchen.   Big love and thanks to Maria (Pink Patisserie) for asking me to guest post today! I’ve known Maria for many years now and I feel so blessed to call her friend.   A gracious, beautiful and talented lady who has an artistic eye for the naturally beautiful art of food and baking.  I love how Maria embraces the flavors of sweet and savory in her recipes.  Which is why I’ve chosen to guest post this tasty and satisfying Bacon, Apple, Cheddar Quiche.



Beef Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pasta

Tuscan Lasagna al Forno

Tuscan style lasagna with bechamel and sugo

Tuscan Lasagna al Forno

Due to legalities you have to promise you’re 21 or older before proceeding to read this post.  Yes, we are talking wine and food.  But it’s the wine that’s the tricky part.  Thanks!


Nothing could have prepared me for the magic and beauty of Tuscany.  Although I’ve read about Tuscany for years, viewed what feels like a million photographs and watched several films, it didn’t even begin to compare to the moment I stepped onto the gloriously beautiful landscape.

Now, never a day goes by that Tuscany doesn’t come to mind. The lovely memories of decadent food and wine, beautiful landscape, warm and hospitable residents and our DaVinci Wine team… seem to linger and cause my heart to long as if I’ve lost a true love.

Glorious Tuscan Cuisine and Franco the Sous Chef

Glorious Tuscan Cuisine and Franco the Sous Chef

Sounds dramatic I know.  But as my sister said to me after her trip to London – I feel forever changed.  Traveling abroad and experiencing life in a new land is an enlightening feeling.  Probably because I’ve always been so intrigued by people and their food.  Our own food culture here in the states is beautifully diverse as well and possibly some of the most intriguing.  But to experience Tuscany was indeed a highlight that makes me feel forever changed.

My trip was full of little surprises – like when Ranger Craig and I were in search of breakfast.  Eggs?  I think not. A pastry and espresso is found on every corner.  Ask for an egg and you just might be tossed out of the pastry shop.  Honestly , I didn’t mind.  Who wouldn’t mind having a gorgeous pastry and espresso for breakfast.  Nothing terribly sweet, just a little something to start the day.    Or when my fellow Storyteller, Jim O’Donnell asked for an Americano at a little establishment just outside Monteriggioni. He promptly received a “no”; with an espresso instead. A hilarious moment that you can read all about it here.

DaVinci Wine Storyteller Experience

Harvesting the Sangiovese grapes and Photographer Leela Cyd catching the action.

While dining at a restaurant in Florence, I was surprised by the lasagna I ordered.  Not at all the version we prepare here in the states.  Although our Italian American version is divine, this thing of beauty included layers of lush and buttery lasagna pasta sheets with rich béchamel, parmesan, pecorino and rich Bolognese sauce, or as they call it here, sugo.

The absence of ricotta and mozzarella was startling. But I must say it wasn’t missed.  So when I arrived home, I simply had to re-create this lovely dish I so vividly remember.

Because this Tuscan Lasagna al Forno was created for my friends at DaVinci Wine, you can find it on the DaVinci Wine Facebook page.   To check out the websites of our other two Storytellers, just click on their names… Kristina Laurendi Havens and Leela Cyd.

I wish you all Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love!


Tuscan Lasagna al Forno


For the Sugo:

¾ – 1 lb ground beef or ground Italian sausage

1 red onion, diced

1 carrot, small diced

1 rib of celery, small diced

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup DaVinci Chianti

2-3 cups tomato sauce

Pinch dried oregano

Pinch of allspice or pumpkin pie spice (I know  this seems unusual but a kind Trattoria Chef told me this ingredient is always included in his Sugo for Lasagna al Forno)

Salt and pepper to taste


In a heavy bottom skillet, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium high heat and sauté the onion, carrot and celery until nicely golden brown, almost caramelized. Add the ground meat and garlic to the soffrito (diced veggies) and cook until done, breaking up any big pieces.  The meat should be small and somewhat minced.

Take the skillet off the heat and stir in the wine, scraping up the bits of good stuff (fond) on the bottom of the pan.

Stir in the tomato sauce, oregano and allspice or pumpkin pie spice and a pinch or two of salt and pepper.  Put the skillet back on the heat and bring to a low simmer.  Let the sauce simmer while you prepare the béchamel.

Bechamel or White Ragu:


6 tablespoons unsalted butter

6 tablespoons flour

3 cups warm whole milk

Pinch of nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste


In a large sauce pan melt the butter over medium heat.  When the butter is melted whisk in the flour.  Then slowly whisk in the warm milk.

Continue whisking until your milk comes to a simmer and begins to thicken.  Turn the heat down so you don’t burn the sauce and continue whisking until the sauce thickens.

Stir in the pinch of fresh grated nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper.

You will want this béchamel (white ragu) thicker than a béchamel that you might toss with pasta.  So if it feels heavy or thick that’s ok.  It’ll be perfect for the lasagna.

For the Lasagna:


Fresh lasagna sheets, cooked – enough to fill a lasagna baking dish or a 9×13 baking dish.  I love a deep baking dish for this lasagna.

3-4 cups Sugo

3-4 cups Béchamel

½ cup grated parmesan

½ cup shaved pecorino Toscana

Chopped fresh Italian parsley for garnish


Pre-heat the oven to 350F.

Ladle a little Sugo in the bottom of the baking dish and line with pasta sheets.  Ladle the pasta sheets with béchamel, sprinkle of parmesan and pecorino. Continue alternating the béchamel and Sugo until you’ve created 5-6 layers or used all your pasta sheets.  Be sure to save a cup of Sugo for the top of the lasagna.

Sprinkle the lasagna with the remaining cheese, cover with foil and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the sides are bubbly.

Raise the heat to 400F.  Remove the foil and cook the lasagna until the top is toasty and cheese is golden brown, another 10 minutes or so.  Sometimes I put it under the broiler for extra color.

Let the lasagna rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.  This will allow the béchamel and cheese to firm for slicing.

Serve with a side of extra Vinci sauce and grated parmesan if desired.



Beef Karista's Kitchen Pork

Enchiladas Poblano and Spanish Rice Cakes

chorizo and black bean stuffed poblanos with enchilada sauce and spanish rice cakes

Enchiladas Poblano with Spanish Rice Cakes

As I was writing my holiday letter yesterday, I was either laughing or crying.  The year 2013 was anything but typical.  As I reminisced over the past twelve months, I realized it was quite a roller coaster of events.

A year of changes, nail-biting moments, some tears, lots of laughter, because laughter is the best medicine, moments of gratitude, a few panic attacks, and grand adventure. Phew! Yep, all in one year.

Spanish rice cakes and enchiladas poblano stuffed with chorizo and black beans

Without spewing all my emotions here, I’ll just tell you I am so thankful my Bennett Crew is happy and healthy.  In 2013, my oldest gal fought medical hurdles with courage and fierce determination.  She’s my hero.

On the list of events was an extensive house remodel, which caused me to re-think my love of DIY projects.   I know some of you can identify.  Home remodeling can take a toll and make you want to hire the big bad wolf to blow your house down.

A new state, new town, new home… and then a most delicious surprise.  A trip to Italy.  A glorious two weeks that fed my soul and inspired my heart. New and cherished friendships formed and adventure I’ll always remember.  I came back with a renewed love of Italian cuisine and culture, and my recipe developing wheels turning.

In reflection, I’m most grateful for my friends and family, who, as always, gave an abundance of loving support.  Life can be a roller coaster of events, but with friends and family like mine, it makes the curve ball coming at me a little easier to dodge.

In honor of this beautiful new year I thought I’d start off with something spicy, flavorful and festive.  These Enchiladas Poblano and Spanish Rice Cake are pure deliciousness and a perfect way to begin this new year.

I wish you all good health, true joy, lots and lots of laughter, much success in whatever you strive to do, and the love of friends and family.

Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,

Happy New Year!


Enchiladas Poblano with Spanish Rice Cakes

Serves 4-6


6 poblano peppers

1lb ground Spanish chorizo (Spanish chorizo is gaining popularity and you can typically find it in most markets next to the other ground meats)

1 small white onion, diced

Handful cilantro leaves coarsely chopped

1/3 cup sliced green onions

¼-1/3 cup crumbled cotija cheese

1 can organic black beans, drained and rinsed

Salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups Red Enchilada Sauce (I love Chef Rick Bayless Frontera Brand of Enchilada sauces. If you can’t find them, I also use Hatch branch red enchilada sauce)

1 cup shredded pepper jack or mozzarella cheese

Sliced limes

Sliced Avocado (optional)

Spanish Rice Cakes (recipe below)


Pre-heat the oven to 400F.  Lay the poblano peppers on a lined baking sheet and roast them for about 10-15 minutes or until they are toasted on the outside and somewhat soft.

While the peppers are roasting heat a skillet over medium high heat with a little oil.  Saute the white onions until soft and then add the ground chorizo.  Break up the chorizo while it’s cooking and when it’s almost cooked through stir in the cilantro and green onions.

Take the skillet off the heat and then gently toss with the black beans and cotija.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Once the peppers are done and cooled, pull off any of the blistered skin and try not to tear the peppers.  Place the peppers in a large baking dish.

Turn the oven down to 350F.

Slice vertically down the center of the pepper and pull it open a little so you can fill.  Stuff each pepper with the chorizo and black bean filling.  Then ladle a little of the enchilada sauce over the top of each pepper and sprinkle with shredded pepper jack or Mozzarella cheese.

Once all the peppers are filled, sauced and cheesed (don’t you love my snappy culinary lingo?) pop them into the oven for about another 10-15 minutes or until the cheese on top is melted and bubbly.

If you have any leftover sauce I like to ladle it over the poblanos and then top with sliced avocado.  Serve with a side of sliced limes and sour cream.

Spanish Rice Cakes

Makes 12-16 small round cakes


2 cups prepared Spanish Rice

½ cup sliced green onion

¼ – 1/3 cup crumbled cotija cheese

2 eggs, whisked

Healthy oil for frying


Mix all the ingredients together.  Heat the oil on medium high heat and then when it’s ready take a tablespoon full of rice mixture, I also use a cookie scoop, roll it in your hands and then smash into a small round cake.  This mixture can feel loose but once you place it in the hot oil it will form a crust on the outside making it easier to handle.

Brown the cakes on both sides and then place on paper towels.  Serve the Spanish Rice cakes with ½ cup of sour cream whisked with the juice of 1 small lime and a pinch of cumin.  It’s a refreshing dip for the rice cakes. Or serve the rice cakes plain with the stuffed enchiladas poblano as a side dish.




Appetizers Karista's Kitchen Pork Seafood vegetarian

Holiday Antipasti Platter



Antipasti platter with crostini, salumi, and cheese

Holiday Antipasti Platter with Assorted Cheese, Salumi and Crostini

While visiting Tuscany this past Autumn, almost every meal began with an antipasti; signifying the beginning of the meal.  It’s a first course served to create anticipation of the meal to come, as well as stimulate the appetite without filling the stomach. Much like the French hors d’oeuvres and Spanish tapas or the American appetizer, Antipasti sets the stage for the dinner meal.

In Tuscany, antipasti usually consists of assorted dry cured meats, olives, cheese, roasted peppers, Crostini, marinated artichokes and traditional Bruschetta.  For a special occasion or light lunch the traditional pappa al pomodoro, ribollita (a lovely cabbage and bread stew) and rosemary white beans might be served.

Antipasti is the perfect starter for holiday celebrations, special occasions, dinner parties or social events. Lovely nibbles to build excitement of the event.

Holiday Antipasti Platter

This my favorite assortment of antipasti, including two of my favorite crostini and a traditional bruschetta.  Many of these were served for lunch or before dinner while visiting Tuscany with the Storytellers.  A delicious combination that pairs beautifully with all the DaVinci wines.

I created this platter for DaVinci Wine and it can be found on their Facebook page. Just click HERE.

Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love!

Buon Appetito,


PS: Wishing everyone a very happy and safe New Years Eve!


Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Sweets

Cardamom Hot Chocolate

Cardamom Hot Chocolate

Cardamom Hot Chocolate

There is a darling little coffee shop on San Juan Island, in the little town of Friday Harbor.  The name of this darling little coffee shop escapes me, but you’ll know it by the cardamom hot chocolate that is served.  Among other lovely little sips and nibbles, it’s the cardamom hot chocolate that always draws me in.  Sweet, fragrant and rich in flavor, I savor every sip.

This time of year it’s a special treat when I can take a moment to indulge in a warm cup of this rich and creamy hot chocolate.  I live too far away to pop into that coffee shop on a whim, so preparing it at home is the next best thing.

I’ve experimented with a few methods of preparation but for the best tasting cardamom hot chocolate, purchasing fresh cardamom pods is key.  I can usually find them in bulk at my natural market.  They should hold for about six months and when you’re not using the pods for hot chocolate, they are excellent toasted and crushed for sauces, soupscurries and desserts.

In honor of this wonderful time of year, I raise my hot chocolate mug to you!  Here’s to a most delicious and happy Christmas.

I wish you all loads of love, true joy and heartfelt happiness,


Cardamom Hot Chocolate


1 serving of your favorite sipping chocolate. I adore Theo brand sipping chocolate.  I’ve also used Trader Joe’s sipping chocolate.

6-8 ounces whole milk

2 crushed cardamom pods. I crush the pods with a mortar and pestle or with the back of a large spoon.

Whipped Cream (optional)

Chocolate shavings (optional)


In a small sauce pan heat the milk, sipping chocolate and cardamom pods over medium low heat.  Whisk lightly until the milk is hot but not boiling, and the chocolate has melted and blended into the milk.

Strain the Hot Chocolate into your favorite mug or teacup and top with fresh whipped cream and shaved chocolate if desired.  Find a quiet spot by the fireplace and enjoy.



Appetizers Karista's Kitchen Salmon Seafood

Smoked Salmon Wonton Tacos

Smoked salmon, napa cabbage, cilantro, cucumber, red onion with a spicy sauce in a wonton taco shell

Smoked Salmon Wonton Taco Appetizers

I admit, when Kelley, author of Mountain Mama Cooks, started Taco Tuesday I was completely jazzed.  Over the moon excited with anticipation for every new Taco Tuesday.  Soft or crunchy, corn or flour shells that hold a multitude of delicious meat or veggie fillings.  Every Tuesday would be a taco surprise! And for this taco loving gal… that was almost too much excitement.

So when Kelley asked if I’d like to guest post for Taco Tuesday… well, you can only guess my giddiness.

smoked salmon wonton tacos with napa cabbage, cucumber, cilantro, red onion and a spicy sriracha sauce

To read the full guest post and snag this delicious Smoked Salmon Wonton Taco recipe, head on over to Mountain Mama Cooks!

Sending you all lots of love and delicious wishes!


Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pasta Pork

Jovial Pasta with Italian Sausage and a Smoky Tomato Cream Sauce

pappardelle with italian sausage and a smoky tomato cream sauce

Jovial Pappardelle with Italian Sausage and a Smoky Tomato Cream Sauce

I can truly say I found Jovial pasta before they found me.  I like to admit this.  I became a huge fan years ago when I found this delightful pasta sitting on the shelves of my natural market.

I had been looking for a whole grain pasta that wasn’t whole wheat, which can be heavy and tasteless and difficult to digest.  Jovial Einkorn pasta was the alternative I was looking for.  Boasting a high amount of protein and lower gluten content per serving, this nutty delicious pasta became my new favorite.  Until of course they introduced their line of brown rice pasta that is gluten-free.

Pappardelle, lasagna sheets, fusilli and more.  Deliciously light and silky in texture with a taste similar to traditional pasta.  When I first served the pappardelle, my family hadn’t a clue it was brown rice pasta instead of traditional.  In fact, I never mentioned it and no one seemed to notice.  They gobbled it up and there wasn’t a speck of food left in the serving bowl.

Jovial Brand Pasta and Products

Unless I prepare my own fresh pasta, Jovial is the brand that is always in my pantry and it’s the only brand of pasta I use for my clients.  I always hear rave reviews about the taste and the texture of Jovial pasta.  Which makes this Mom and Chef very happy.

This delicious little recipe is a new version of a recipe I’ve been preparing for years.  I call it Pasta Bennett most of the time but this new version deserved a new title.  Jovial pasta of your choice tossed with Italian sausage and laced with a smoky tomato cream sauce, prepared with loveliest Jovial diced tomatoes.  I love that Jovial organic diced tomatoes are in glass jars and not cans, which keep the tomatoes fresh, sweet, and perfectly delicious.  Tastes like summer in a jar!

I use the entire line of Jovial products and I’m never disappointed.  The highest quality, freshness and love go into each product and the results are delightfully delicious.

Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


Jovial Pasta with Italian Sausage and a Smoky Tomato Cream Sauce

This dish is easy enough for a weeknight meal but tasty enough for dinner guests.  I used the brown rice egg pappardelle, which happens to be one of my favorite Jovial pastas.  But I’ve prepared this dish with the Jovial penne, fusilli and torn lasagna sheets.

It’s important to use high quality ingredients for the best flavor.  Home canned tomatoes are divine but if you don’t have any in stock, the Jovial brand diced tomatoes are fresh and delicious.  Truly impressive.

Serves 4


1 package Jovial brand Pappardelle (or your favorite Jovial brand pasta)

¾ – 1lb Sweet Italian Sausage links (either a pre-cooked or fresh link sausage. I like Isernio’s Sweet Italian Sausage links or Aidells pre-cooked traditional Italian sausage)

2 cloves garlic, finely diced

1 cup heavy cream

1 18 oz jar Jovial diced tomatoes

½ teaspoon smoked paprika

½ teaspoon dried Italian herbs or dried oregano

Pinch of red pepper flakes

2 lemon slices, each sliced in half to make four pieces

Handful of fresh basil leaves, either chiffonade or torn

Handful of torn prosciutto (optional)

Fresh grated parmesan

Salt and pepper to taste


Prepare the pasta according to package directions. If using brown rice pasta, toss with a splash of olive oil when the pasta is done.

Add a little olive oil to the bottom of a large sauté pan or skillet and heat over medium high heat.  When the oil is hot, brown the sausage links, either cooking through or re-heating.

Once the sausage is browned and/or cooked through, let them cool a bit and then thinly slice. Set aside.

In the same pan, heat a little oil (if needed) over medium heat and sauté the diced garlic for about 30 seconds.  Then whisk in the heavy cream and let the cream simmer and reduce by about half.  It will thicken just a bit.

Stir in the diced tomatoes, smoked paprika, dried herbs, red pepper flakes and lemon slices. Season with a little salt and pepper.

Bring the sauce to a very slow simmer and then add the sausage back into the sauce.  Let the sauce simmer for a few minutes, incorporating all the flavors.  Add additional salt and pepper to taste.

Place the prepared pasta in a large pasta bowl or platter.  Gently toss the torn basil and torn prosciutto with the sauce and then ladle over the pasta.  Garnish heavily with fresh grated parmesan and serve immediately.

I love this pasta served with a balsamic vinaigrette dressed spinach and arugula salad with sliced cremini mushrooms and toasted almonds.  Sprinkled with cracked black pepper and sea salt.

Dinner is done!

** Full Disclosure: Jovial Brand Pasta’s sent me a lovely box of pastas for this post. Although I have it always stocked, I’m deeply grateful for their generous donation and I cannot say enough good things about this company and their products.   ~Karista Bennett/Karista’s Kitchen




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,


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


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.





Appetizers Karista's Kitchen vegetarian

Roasted Grape Crostini

Roasted Grape Crostini

Roasted Grape Crostini

(Just one little question, I’m required by law to ask… By clicking on this link,  you affirm that you are of legal drinking age in the country where the site is being accessed.)

DaVinci wine is created in a magical place. Tuscany is a treat for the eyes as well as the palate. The air smells of sweet sun ripened grapes and fresh herbs, muddled with the earthy scent of mineral rich soil.

The beauty of the Tuscan region mirrors the beauty of its people and its food.  A culture rich with history and laced with passion. A passion that transcends all boundaries and flows effortlessly onto the family table.


Cantine Leonardo da Vinci

A Villa with a View


Traveling to Tuscany this Autumn with DaVinci wine, I experienced the lovely Tuscan people who so graciously shared their love of food, wine, history and culture.

I couldn’t write fast enough.  Or snap enough pictures to capture the awe inspiring landscape on which my eyes were feasting.  I found myself quietly content, and somewhat absorbed, at my place at each table; savoring the flavor of every bite of mouthwatering food.

Fresh pastas that melted on the tongue like butter, complimented by fresh, local porcini mushrooms tasting earthy and woody and dreamy.  Rich slow cooked ragu’s of wild boar and rosemary, salt cured salumi and fresh ricotta on Crostini, Bistecca alla Fiorentina, the traditional grilled Florentine Porterhouse steak that never wore out its welcome on my plate.  All the flavors so beautifully balanced, clean and never overpowering.

As I savored and contemplated each bite of moan inducing food, I sipped the most delicious DaVinci Chianti’s.  Wine rich and bold on the palate, yet subtle like soft velvet while I sipped.  And sip I did.  Yes, lots of sipping.

The DaVinci Chianti has long been a favorite of mine, however, among the lovely list of DaVinci wines, I have a new love.  The DaVinci Brunello. Our captivating and gracious DaVinci Brand Ambassador, Giacomo Alari, calls the Brunello “a very polite wine.  Once the Brunello is on your palate it is master of your palate. Not in power, but in elegance like cashmere.  A great wine doesn’t have to be powerful to be exquisite.”

I heard once that every bottle of wine has a story to tell.  That couldn’t be more true for the DaVinci Chianti.

To celebrate this glorious week in Tuscany I’ve created eight lovely little dishes.  They will be unveiled throughout the next few months, beginning with the Roasted Grape Crostini.  Check out the DaVinci Wine Facebook page to download a copy of the recipes.

Recipes inspired by a few enchanting people, stunning landscape and scrumptious moments.  Bewitching my heart as well as my palate.

Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love!

Buon Appetito,



Karista's Kitchen Sassy Side dishes vegetarian

Brussels Sprouts Gratin

brussels sprouts gratin

Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived on a little farm with a little red barn, lots of animals, a vegetable garden, fruit trees and lush green raspberry bushes.

brussel sprouts gratin

Brussels Sprouts Gratin

Her little farm was filled with chickens, ducks, a few turkeys, rabbits, pigs, goats, a large white goose named Charlie, a naughty and stubborn Shetland pony named Sugar (not at all a sweet animal), a steer named Rex, and a fluffy white sheep named Fearless.

Often, the little girl would spend hours with her farm animals, naming each one, even though her Father said most of them were being raised for food.  You’d think she would have become a vegetarian.  Instead, she fell in love with life on a farm.  A constant circle of life, helping feed a community with beautiful, healthy and naturally raised food.

Valley View Farm, Zillah, WA

Photos by April Smith. Taken at Valley View Farm, Zillah, WA

I still remember the scent of the molasses in the mixture that helped feed and nourish the baby cow.  Mom’s hearty leftovers that were treats for the three little pigs.  Yes, there were three little pigs.

There was much love and care that went into creating healthy and happy farm animals. I wanted to be part of that care;  so I decided to call myself the farm animals supervisor.

Until the day one of the pigs, Lester was his name, decided to take a little nip out of my backside as I crawled over the pig fence.  My Father had given me warning, but I was the farm animal supervisor and I knew my pigs.  They would never bite me.

I believe Lester may have had enough of my plucking through his pig yard.  He told me, very clearly, stay out!

After that exciting event I admired my pigs from afar and took up management of our pet sheep, Fearless.

brussel sprouts

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

I’m no longer the little girl who lived on a little farm with a little red barn.  Those memories however, remain close to my heart.  I’m certain those memories are one of the many reasons I adore and appreciate our local farmers.  The hard work, the love, the care, the belief that raising fresh food is good for the body and the soul.

Supporting our local farm communities is the best ways to keep fresh, healthy, local food on our tables.  This is why I support a new online marketplace called . was founded by my good friend and colleague, Janelle Maiocco.   Janelle is an entrepreneur with an MBA, as well as a trained Chef.  An amazing woman who has dedicated her time and energy finding a way to help farmer’s bring their local goods to local consumers.

Farmstr is passionate about supporting farmers, and enabling their success by bringing them new customers and better margins. Farmstr is excited about making it possible for anyone, people like you and me, to easily find and access nearby farms, choose farmers, ranchers, and fishermen to support and to be able to buy farm fresh food for less than you would pay at the store. ~Janelle Maiocco

If you live in Western Washington, is up and running in your area.  Sign up for the weekly hot sheet to keep informed about current produce, meat and poultry for sale.  If you live in a different state, not to worry. has plans to expand to most states in the near future.  Personally, I can’t wait until they reach Oregon. 🙂

Another great way to stay informed about local produce, meat and poultry for sale, as well a when is coming to your area, check out and “like” the Farmstr Facebook page.

In honor of Brussels Sprouts season, the holidays, and our local farmers, I’ve listed my favorite Brussels Sprouts Gratin recipe, adapted from one of my favorite Italian cookbooks, The Silver Spoon.

For additional Brussels Sprouts recipes check out these fabulous farm loving food bloggers:

Our Lady of Second Helpings – Farm Fresh Gorgonzola Brussels Sprouts Hash

Seattle Seedling – Cilantro Lime Brussels Sprouts Slaw

Comfy Belly – Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Loads of Love and Delicious Wishes,


Brussels Sprouts Gratin

One of my favorite Brussels Sprouts recipes is found in a traditional Italian Cookbook, The Silver Spoon.  I’ve adapted this recipe slightly, only using half the Béchamel sauce and using Gruyere mixed with traditional Swiss. If using 3lbs of Brussels Sprouts, the full quantity of Béchamel sauce can be used.  Buon Appetito!

Serves 4 (can be doubled)


1 ½ lbs Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and halved

1 tablespoon Butter

1-2 tablespoons Olive oil

3 ½ – 4 ounces pancetta, diced (or substitute with thick cut bacon)

1 cup shredded Swiss or Gruyere (or ½ cup of each)

1 quantity Béchamel Sauce (recipe follows)

Salt and pepper


Pre-heat the oven to 350F.  Prepare Béchamel sauce (recipe below) and set aside.

Butter an ovenproof dish.  I used a smaller baking dish for the 4 servings and used a 9×13 for a double serving.

Cook the Brussels Sprouts in salted, lightly boiling water for about 10 minutes, drain and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat and add the diced pancetta or bacon, stirring occasionally until lightly browned.  Add the Brussels Sprouts and season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Stir half the shredded cheese into the prepared Béchamel Sauce and season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

Place the Brussels Sprouts in the prepared dish and ladle sauce over the top.  I use only half the Béchamel for 4 servings.  Reserve the remaining Béchamel for a delicious tossed pasta.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the sauce and place the baking dish in the oven.  Bake for about 20 minutes.

Let the Brussels Sprouts Gratin cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Bechamel Sauce


¼ cup butter

¼ cup all purpose flour

2 ¼ cups warm whole milk

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper.


Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat.  Take the pan off the heat and whisk in the flour.  Put the pan back on the heat and continue whisking until the flour and butter is smooth.

Slowly whisk in the warm milk and continue to whisk until the sauce begins to thicken.

Stir in the pinch of nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper.  The sauce should be the consistency of a white gravy, not too thin, but not too thick.  Add additional milk if the sauce is too thick and continue to cook a little longer if sauce is too thin.

This sauce is also great over your favorite pasta with peas and diced bacon.

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.






Karista's Kitchen Pasta vegetarian

Pasta Cortona

linguine with napa cabbage and mixed mushrooms drizzled with truffle oil

Pasta Cortona

How could I travel to Italy and not visit the mountain top village of Cortona?  I resisted.  Truly I did.  I didn’t want to be one of those blurry eyed, dreamy looking tourists on a quest to visit a place they’ve read about in a novel or seen on television in a movie.

With a clever grin and knowing eyes, my darling husband kindly dispelled my silly notion by telling me I’d already been walking around for days like a blurry eyed tourist with eyes the size of saucers.  Hmmm… and I thought I was being rather cool and collected.

Early one morning, my husband, who is a sport, no – he’s a super sport,  kindly obliged my longing to see Cortona. We hopped a train and arrived at the small, more modern town of Camucia Cortona which lies at the bottom of the mountain where Cortona is so beautifully is perched.

Camucia Cortona Train Station

Camucia Cortona Train Station

Once inside the walls of the medieval city I felt myself becoming the blurry eyed tourist, eyes wide with amazement of this ancient city.  The architecture so unique with steep narrow streets and views of the surrounding countryside.  Breathtaking.

Nonni's of Cortona

Nonni’s of Cortona walking home from mass.

Ranger Craig and I spent the day walking the steep and narrow streets, talking to the locals, snapping more pictures than I thought was possible, touring the churches and viewing art of the Renaissance.  A magical day that ended with food.  Actually, I think we ate our way through Cortona.  Pasta, soups, salumi, pastry, wine, more wine and then caffe.

Trattoria in Cortona

Trattoria in Cortona

One of the most delicious meals I dined on in Italy was in Cortona.  A dish of fresh handmade linguine tossed with savoy cabbage in a light wine and butter sauce, topped with shaved truffle and fresh pecorino.  A little heaven in a bowl.

dog in cortona,Italy

A furry friend in Cortona saying hello as we passed by

mountain garden in Cortona, Italy

Mountain garden in Cortona

Piazza Garibaldi in Cortona, Italy

Piazza Garibaldi in Cortona

Now that I’m home, I wanted to create a lovely version of that dish.  Something fresh, simple but flavorful.  We don’t have an abundant of truffles here in the states so I decided to make this an easy dish to prepare with local mushrooms and my favorite Napa cabbage.  And of course, if you wish, a drizzle of black truffle oil over the top.  A tribute to the lovely day in Cortona.

Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


Pasta Cortona

Serving Size: 3-4


  • 12 oz. linguine, cooked according to package directions
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1-2 oz dried porcini mushrooms (I love porcini mushrooms so I use 2 oz)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 leek, white part only, root trimmed, halved and then thinly sliced
  • 1 medium shallot, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 cups sliced Napa cabbage (about ½ a medium cabbage)
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Squeeze of lemon
  • Drizzle of black truffle oil (optional, but it’s really good!)
  • Shaved aged Pecorino for garnish


  • Prepare the pasta according to package directions. When draining the linguine, reserve ½ cup of pasta water.
  • Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a sauce pan and pour boiling water over the dried mushrooms. Give them a stir, cover and let them sit for about 20 minutes. When they are soft, drain the liquid, let them cool for a moment and then lightly chop the mushrooms.
  • While the pasta is cooking, heat the butter and 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  When the butter/oil is hot, add the shallots and leeks and sauté until wilted and fragrant.  Add the garlic and saute one minute longer.
  • Stir in the chopped porcini mushrooms and Italian parsley. Let them cook for about 1 minute and then add the white wine. Let the wine reduce by half and then stir in the heavy cream, grated parmesan and pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.
  • Next toss in the sliced Napa cabbage, and gently toss with the mixture, adding the additional olive oil as needed.
  • Take the skillet off the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon.
  • Add the linguine and ½ cup of pasta water to the cabbage and mushrooms. The sauce will thicken as it cools. However, if the sauce seems a bit thin, place the skillet back over medium heat and let the sauce cook for a few minutes which will thicken the sauce.
  • Transfer the pasta to a platter or individual serving bowls and drizzle with truffle oil if desired and shaved aged pecorino cheese. Serve immediately.
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