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Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Sassy Side dishes vegetarian

Roasted Pumpkin Risotto

roasted pumpkin risotto

I probably have 20 different methods of preparing risotto.  Mostly because that’s the one dish my youngest gal always requests.

Suzie Q will request risotto for her birthday dinner, when she’s sick, when she scores a perfect 100 on an exam, when she’s having a really rotten day, or any other evening she might need a little comfort.  For my youngest gal, risotto is celebration and comfort food.

pumpkin risotto

Roasted Pumpkin Risotto

For me, risotto is luxurious.  Especially when I’m not the person who’s done all the stirring.  🙂

I adore the silky, creamy rice simply prepared with shallots, white wine, vegetable broth, parmesan and a dash of truffle oil.  Suzie Q loves it laced with ribbons of  ham, a Risotto alla Milanese.

roasted pumpkin risotto

Roasted Pumpkin Risotto

Risotto with arugula and lemon, risotto with chicken, risotto with wild mushrooms and of course during the Autumn months, risotto with roasted winter squash.  The minute I see the beautiful harvest squash arrive, my risotto wheels start turning.

Today, I let the roasted sugar pie pumpkin do all the driving.

It’s a mellow squash that is slightly sweet and tastes in flavor and texture much like a true sweet potato.  Roasted, it makes a divine addition to any dish.  Especially risotto.  Either served as a main entrée or as a side, this beautiful, brightly colored risotto will grace any Autumn or holiday table.

Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love!


Roasted Pumpkin Risotto

Just in case you’re in need of sugar pie pumpkin recipes, I’ve got just the blog for you.  My friend Smidge, from Just a Smidgen, posted several most delicious sugar pie pumpkin recipes recently, and as well, gives a lovely photographic tutorial on roasting these divine little squash.  Be sure to click on over and check out the post.   Just a Smidgen

Serves 6-8


1 sugar pie pumpkin (roasting instructions below)

2 cups Arborio rice

½ – 2/3 cup finely diced sweet onion

1 tablespoon fresh chopped sage

2- 3 tablespoons butter

½ cup white wine

6 cups vegetable broth (I love the Rapunzel brand bouillon cubes, available at PCC Natural Markets and Whole Foods)

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Fresh sage leaves


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 golden brown and toasty.

When the squash has cooled, remove the meat of the squash and place it in a food processor or blender, add just a sprinkle of salt and pepper and puree.  If you don’t have either a food processor or blender feel free to mash with a fork or potato masher until nicely pureed.

To prepare the risotto:

In a large saucepan bring the broth to a simmer.  Cover and keep warm over low heat.

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of butter in a heavy bottom, large pot over medium heat.  Add the chopped sweet onions and sauté until just tender, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the rice and fresh chopped sage and stir for about 1 minute until the rice is nicely coated in butter.  Add the white wine and stir until absorbed, about 1 minute.

Stir in 1 cup of the warm broth and simmer until it is absorbed, stirring frequently.  Cook until the rice is almost tender, adding broth 1/2 cup at a time and stirring often, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding the next, about 25-30 minutes.

Stir in the roasted pumpkin puree and fresh grated parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with either chopped fresh sage or butter seared sage leaves.   Serve immediately.

To re-heat the risotto: Add ½ cup water to the cooled risotto and re-heat over medium low heat or in a microwave safe steam bowl.  This will bring the creamy texture back to the risotto.

** A fun and delish twist to this risotto is to omit the sage and add a teaspoon of finely minced ginger to the pumpkin puree along with a pinch of curry powder.  Yum!

Grilling Karista's Kitchen Pork Sauces, Salsas and More

Sweet Onion Marmalade with Pork Chops

sweet onion marmalade

Nothing says Washington State like sweet onions, apples, stone fruit, blackberries, Dungeness crab, lavender and of course…. rain.   Just to name a few.

Seattle is a culinary heaven.  James Beard award-winning chefs, a divine selection of restaurants that garner national attention, organic and sustainable farms and ranches, food artisans, and of course a wealth of fabulous food bloggers.

To celebrate these delightfully food passionate people,  Keren Brown, Author of Food Lover’s Guide to Seattle and the food blog Frantic Foodie, created the local event called Foodportunity.

Sweet Onions, Photo Credit

This past June, I had the opportunity to attend a Foodportunity event with my good friend and fellow blogger, Maria, from Pink Patisserie.

As I was walking up the stairs in the Pan Pacific Hotel, who did I run into but one of my fave Seattle Food Bloggers and fellow farm girl at heart, Janelle from Talk of Tomatoes.  The day was off to a brilliant beginning.

sweet onion marmalade

And to think I almost didn’t attend.  I’m not much of a social butterfly.  I love meeting new people, but placed in a room full of people makes me break out into a serious sweat.

Where do I start?  Who do I talk to first?  So, I casually saunter over to the food table.  Although I wish my saunter were a bit more “look at me glide across the room in these heels”.  But it’s not.  It’s sort of a march, I just prefer the word saunter.  In a few paragraphs down I use the word mosy.  I like that word too.

While standing at the food table, with a mouth full of food, I met Erina, from the blog, Shut Up and Cook.  Cool title huh?  Erina is a dynamo.  She’s a hot tamale, firecracker, and ready to set the food writing world on fire.  And maybe the airwaves too.  Erina is a competitor in a local food event developed by our very own Theirry Rautreau, Kitchen Circus.  Check it out and cheer Erina on!

After polishing off seconds of the quail egg and salmon apps, I decided to “mosy” on over to the wine table.  One must sample the wine at these events 🙂

Lucky for me, en route to the wine table I ran into Emmy, from Emmy Cooks and Alyssa, from Everyday Maven.  Lovely ladies with delicious and creative food blogs, who I now consider my good foodie friends.

I left that day feeling pretty darn good.  I even won a cook book!  That never happens.

I’m still not a social butterfly, but I do love a good Foodportunity.  Especially when there’s really great food.  And of course wine. 🙂

Sweet Onion Marmalade with Pork Chops

Makes about 1 ½ cups marmalade (recipe can be doubled)


3 large sweet onions, halved and thin sliced (I used Walla Walla)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds

¼ cup dark brown sugar

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

Sprig of fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves

Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste


Heat the butter over medium heat in a heavy bottom sauté or sauce pan.  When the butter is melted add the onions and brown mustard seeds.  Let the onions cook down for about 10 minutes and then add the sprig of thyme.

Simmer the onions until they are golden brown, about 30-35 minutes.

Stir in the brown sugar and vinegar and let the onions simmer for another 15-30 minutes depending on how caramelized you like your onions.  My marmalade simmered for about an hour.

Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.

Lovely additions to this marmalade are dried cherries, cranberries, currents or raisins.   

Serve with grilled or pan seared pork chops, roast pork loin, roast pork tenderloin or slow cooked pork shoulder.

Grilling Karista's Kitchen Seafood

Miso-Saki Glazed Scallops


My baby chicks arrived!  They are just as sweet as I imagined.


Miso-Saki Glazed Scallops

Ginger, Rosemary, Cocoa and Pepper.

Baby Chick

Cocoa, a Silver Laced Wyandotte

Four little ladies currently basking in the warmth of a heat lamp, or wrapped in a towel and snuggled up with one of the two sassy gals.

baby chicks

Ginger and Rosemary

I keep finding Tank sitting by the brooding crate watching the little ladies.  He seems highly entertained by the baby chicks comedic behavior.

baby chicks

Suzie Q and her baby chick Pepper

In honor of our new little ladies I wanted to post my most delicious Cajun Quiche recipe.  But with my schedule, snapping a picture before the Quiche gets eaten has been challenging.

baby chicks

Tink and her little chick Rosemary

I did manage to snap a few pictures of a new fave scallop dish.  Miso-Saki Glazed Scallops.

baby chicks

Sweet little Rosemary with Pepper and Cocoa

I use this heavenly glaze for a black cod recipe in one of my seafood classes.  However, its divine over pan seared scallops.

Me and Ginger

Pair with Cococnut Rice or Coconut Sweet Potato Mashers and dinner is a little slice of heaven.

Wishing you a most delicious Autumn!

Loads of Love,


Miso-Saki Glazed Scallops

Serves 4


1- 1 1/2 lbs Dry packed scallops

2-4 tablespoons clarified butter

1/3 cup white miso paste

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

¼ cup sake (add more to thin the sauce if you like)

2-3 teaspoons fresh minced ginger

1 clove garlic, minced

½ teaspoon Thai Kitchen Chili paste

Fresh ground black pepper

Sliced green onion (garnish optional)


Whisk together the miso paste, sake, brown sugar, ginger, garlic and chili paste, either by hand or in a blender.  Ladle a bit of sauce on four plates or one large platter.  When the scallops are done you will set the scallops on the sauce and then garnish with the green onion.

In a large heavy bottom skillet heat 2 tablespoons clarified butter over medium high heat.  Season the scallops with a little salt and pepper.

When the butter is hot and frothy, add the scallops but don’t over crowd the pan. You may need to cook the scallops in batches.

Let the scallops brown (about 1-2 minutes) and when they easily pull off the bottom of the pan, turn them over and brown the other side, adjusting heat as necessary.

Transfer the scallops to the plates or platter laced with the Miso-Saki glaze.  Garnish with sliced green onion and serve immediately.

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!

Appetizers Karista's Kitchen vegetarian

Cambozola and Pear Tart

karista's Kitchen

Cambozola and Pear Tart

I’m going to be a new Mama!  A chicken Mama.  My little baby chicks arrive soon and I’m over the moon excited.

Ranger Craig spent the last few weeks building my super fabulous chicken coop.  I think I nearly drove him crazy with my constant requests for additions and changes.

Two levels to roost and two lovely nesting boxes.  It’s really more like a chicken spa. 🙂

Karista's Kitchen

My new chicken coop

This all comes on the heels of building two raised beds for growing edibles, with more edibles mixed into the front yard… which is really now a garden.

I’m sure neighbors drive by my house thinking “that’s where the crazy lady lives, the one who thinks she’s a farmer”.

I have a lot more to learn about growing edibles and raising my egg laying hens.  One of my inspirations for my little urban farm is my friend and colleague, Janelle, from the most fabulous Urban Farm and Food Blog, Talk of Tomatoes.

Janelle put the farm in urban and has transformed her home into a sustainable, productive and beautiful urban farm.  If that isn’t enough, Janelle most recently earned her Master Certificate in Preservation.  Ok, so she’s really more of a Super Woman and to top it off her recipes are outstanding.  When you have a minute, head on over and check out Talk of Tomatoes.

Karista’s Kitchen

Soon, my little egg layers will provide me with dozens of beautiful eggs.  Beautiful eggs to create beautifully delicious recipes just like this Cambozola and Pear Tart.  A savory tart bursting with flavors of Fall.   You won’t be able to stop at one slice.  🙂

Cambozola and Pear Tart

I love this tart as a light lunch with a salad of baby greens, starter for a dinner party or simply as an afternoon nibble.   I typically don’t post other Chef’s recipes but this particular recipe is just too delicious not to share.  Mary Cech is the author of Savory Baking.  A brilliant little cookbook of savory baked goods that are “warm and inspiring recipes for crisp, crumbly, flaky pastries”.

Serves 6-8

Tart Dough

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temp

¾ teaspoon salt

1 egg white

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 ¼ cups walnut pieces, toasted


4 ounces Cambozola Cheese

3 egg yolks

¾ cup heavy whipping cream

½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1-2 pears, firm but ripe

To prepare the Tart Dough

Put the butter and salt together in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment and process for 30 seconds.  Scrape the bowl with a spatula, add the egg white, and process for another 30 seconds.  The egg white should be thoroughly emulsified into the butter and look smooth.

Add the flour and walnuts all at once.  Pulse until the walnuts are fine and the dough comes together into a ball, about 1 minute.  Turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead briefly.  Pres into a disc about 1 inch thick and wrap in plastic film. Refrigerate for 15 minutes while preparing the filling.

Preheat the oven to 350F and place a 9 inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom on a flat baking sheet.

Prepare the Filling

Put the cheese, egg yolks, cream and pepper in the bowl of a food processor.  Process until smooth, about 30 seconds.  Pour the filling into a container with a spout to make it easy for pouring.

Remove the tart dough from the refrigerator and place on a well-floured surface.  Dust the top of the dough generously with flour.  Using a rolling pin, carefully roll the dough into a 12 inch circle about 1/8 inch thick.  Dust more flour under and on top of the dough to keep it from sticking to the surface while rolling, if needed.

Slide a flat, rimless baking sheet under the dough and transfer it to the tart pan. (I don’t have a rimless baking sheet so I ended up transferring as carefully as I could and then just pressed it into the tart pan) Center the dough and press it gently into the bottom and sides of the pan.  Patch any tears with dough scraps.  Trim the top edge of the crust with your fingers or a small knife.  Bake until the crust is medium golden brown, 25-30 minutes.  Set the pan on a rack to cool.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300F.  Stand the pear upright on a cutting board.  With a small paring knife, cut off one side of the pear closest to the core.  Turn the pear around to the opposite side and cut off the other side.  Then cut off the two small sides of the pear and discard the core.  Lay the cut sides on the cutting board and cut each piece of pear into ¼ inch slices.  Place the slices on the bottom of the baked shell, overlapping them like shingles.

Carefully pour the custard over the pears and return the pan to the center of the oven.  Bake until the custard is set, about 25 minutes.  The top should just start to turn golden and the filling will jiggle slightly in the center.

Remove it to a rack and let cool slightly.  Remove the ring from the tart, transfer to a serving platter, and serve warm or room temp.  Leftovers can be wrapped in plastic film and refrigerated for up to 3 days.  Remove the tart from the refrigerator, place on a baking sheet, and warm for about 15 minutes at 300F.

Recipe slightly adapted by Mary Cech

Urban Farming

Urban Farm

Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Sassy Side dishes vegetarian

5 Sassy Sides

sweet potatoes

Coconut Sweet Potato Mashers

“A side dish, is a side dish, is a side dish”, said one of my sassy gals.  Until, of course, she tasted one of my sassy sides.

brussel sprouts

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

A sassy side can rev up dinner and make it take off to new heights.  Especially when fresh, lovely produce is abundant and time is of the essence.  A sassy side is the most perfect complement to a simple but tasty meal.


Cauliflower Mashers

I love to pan sear chicken thigh and leg quarters, and then finish them off in the oven. (I’ll post that method soon)  All that’s needed is a little oil, salt and pepper.  They turn out divine!  But what takes this dinner over the top is the side dish.

green beans with shallots

Green Beans with Brown Butter and Shallots

These are five of the Bennett Crew faves.  And yes… my two sassy gals love these five sassy sides. 🙂

Roasted Delicata Squash

Five Spice Powder Roasted Delicata Squash

Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love!


Coconut Sweet Potato Mashers

Serves 4-6


1 – 1 ½ lbs sweet potatoes (about 3 medium to large)

1 cup coconut milk (Thai Kitchen canned organic is what I use)

Salt and pepper to taste

Pinch of cinnamon (optional)


Pre-heat the oven to 400F.

Pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork and set on a baking sheet.

Roast the sweet potatoes until soft to the touch.  About 45 minutes.

When the sweet potatoes are cool, remove the skins and lightly mash.

Place them in a food processor or blender and add the coconut milk ½ cup at a time. Pulse until the coconut sweet potato mashers are at a desired consistency.  I like mine smooth but thick.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and if desired a pinch of cinnamon.

These can be prepared one day prior to serving. 🙂

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Serves 4


1-1 1/2 lbs Brussel Sprouts

2 tablespoons high heat oil

Salt and pepper to taste

2-3 tablespoons grated parmesan (optional)


Pre-heat the oven to 375F.  If using a convection oven I only heat to 350F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Slice the brussel sprouts in half, trimming the ends.  Place them in a bowl and toss with the oil.

Pour them onto the baking sheet in a single layer.

Roast for about 10-15 minutes until toasty and soft.  I like my brussel sprouts very toasty 🙂

Pull them out of the oven and sprinkle with salt and pepper and a little parmesan if desired. Serve immediately.

Cauliflower Mashers

Serves 4-6


1-2 heads cauliflower (or one really large head cauliflower)

salt and pepper to taste

1-2 tablespoons of really good extra virgin olive oil ( I use California Olive Ranch Everyday Fresh) or 1 tablespoon melted butter

1 clove garlic, minced (optional)


Cut the cauliflower into florets.

Steam the cauliflower in a stove top steamer or for a more toasty flavor you can roast the cauliflower florets by tossing in a little oil and roasting on a baking sheet lined with parchment in a preheated 375F oven for about 15-20 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft.  Phew! That was a long sentence. 🙂  If you’d like to serve these florets as a side, just season with salt and pepper to taste and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.  To make mashers proceed with the recipe below.

Once the cauliflower is soft, set the cooked florets in a colander and let them drain any excess water.

Place the florets in a blender, food processor or vita mix and pulse just until nicely smooth.  Season with salt, pepper and olive oil or butter.  Serve immediately.

Green Beans with Brown Butter and Shallots

Serves 4


1 lb fresh green beans, washed and ends trimmed

1-2 shallots, sliced

1 stick unsalted butter

Salt and Pepper to taste


You can either steam the green beans in a stove top or microwave steamer or you can roast them.

To roast, I preheat the oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment.  Toss the beans in a little oil and then place them in a single layer on the baking sheet.  (Just like we did for the Brussel Sprouts) Roast just until nicely tender.

While the beans are cooking, in a medium sauce pan melt the butter over medium heat.  Lightly swirl or stir the butter in the pan.  Just as it starts to develop those lovely little golden brown flecks, add the shallots and let the shallots crisp in the butter.  This should only take a minute longer.  The shallots should be slightly crisp and the butter brown.  Pull it off the heat and add the green beans to coat, seasoning with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Pour into a serving platter and serve immediately.  For a little variation you can add fresh chopped herbs with the shallots, or a squeeze of lemon before serving.

Five Spice Roasted Delicata Squash


1 ½ – 2 lbs Delicata Squash

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 ½  teaspoons Five Spice Powder

2 tablespoons high heat oil

Salt and Pepper


Pre-heat the oven to 400F.

Mix together the brown sugar, five spice powder and oil until the brown sugar is mostly dissolved.

Wash the squash and then slice about ½ inch of each end.  Slice down the center vertically and clean out the seeds in the squash with a spoon or small ice cream scoop.

Then slice the squash to make little half moons.

Put the slices in a bowl and toss with the Five Spice Powder, brown sugar and oil.

Layer on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Sprinkle with a little salt and black pepper.

Roast on 400F for about 20-30 minutes or until nice and fork tender.

This little dish can be served piping hot or at room temp.  Leftovers store easily in the frig for about 3 days.  Great for midnight snacking!

Chicken Kid Friendly

Roasted Chicken Tacos with Spicy Avocado Crema

chicken tacos

Roasted Chicken Tacos with Spicy Avocado Crema

I’m almost embarrassed to post these.  I feel like the crazy taco woman.

In fact, I think I’m a taco posting maniac.  I probably serve tacos once a week.  It’s the one night during the week that everyone shows up for dinner, all at the same time.  Really.

I know, this shocked me too.

But let’s face it, tacos are fun food. Fun food prepared with fresh, whole food ingredients and piled into a most delicious corn tortilla. It almost feels like a celebration.

I love hearing the chatter and laughter around my dinner table, filled with those delicious tacos.  Of course, I have two sassy gals so most dinners consist of chatter and laughter… and drama and unsolicited advice from big sister.  Ranger Craig and I don’t even think about chiming in here.

We listen, smile, shake our heads and then ask about grades, homework and boyfriends.  This will most certainly quiet the chatter.  😉

Roasted Chicken Tacos with Avocado Crema

Sometimes I make these tacos simply with the avocado crema, cotija cheese and shredded cabbage.  When I have a bit more time, I serve these tacos with a cilantro slaw.  Either way, they are 100% delicious!  And definitely chatter and laughter inducing.

Serves 4-6


2-3 cups diced roasted chicken (If I don’t have leftover roast chicken, I buy a roasted free-range organic roasted chicken in my market deli)

1 small white onion, diced

1 small bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped

2 ripe avocados

1 lime

½ cup tomatillo salsa or salsa verde (Mexican Green Salsa)

¼ cup crème fraiche or sour cream (if you’d like to make this dairy free just skip the sour cream)

8-12 corn tortillas

Cotija cheese, crumbled (optional)

Extra salsa for garnish (optional)

Shredded cabbage or lettuce for garnish (optional) or Cilantro Slaw


Place the avocados, salsa, sour cream, a squeeze of lime juice, and a bit of the chopped cilantro in a blender or food processor until the cream is smooth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

In a large skillet over medium heat, add a little oil (about a tablespoon) and sauté the onion until wilted and golden.  Add the diced chicken and just cook to warm.

Remove the chicken onion mixture and toss with a small handful of the chopped cilantro.  About ¼ – 1/3 cup or as desired.

Now prepare the taco shells.  Either steam them in a microwave steam bowl, your rice cooker or a stove top steamer.  To make the taco shells a bit more firm use this oven method:

Oven Method

Heat the oven to 375F.  Place a sheet of parchment or foil over two baking sheets and put 4-6 tortillas on each baking sheet.  Brush them with high heat oil on both sides.

Place them in the oven and let them get slightly toasty and soft.  Remove them from the oven and sprinkle lightly with a little salt.  Fold them over into tacos.

Fill the tacos with a few tablespoons of chicken and top with the avocado crema and a sprinkling of cotija cheese.  Serve with shredded cabbage or slaw and extra salsa.

Enjoy!  (

Kid Friendly Sweets

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Brownies

A little sweet, for my sweet tooth

This is the time of year that gets me into trouble.  Yep, I get the baking bug.

And of course if I bake something, I have to taste test it.  Right?

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Brownies

I also have friends who bake.  And they bake the most delicious treats.  In fact, two of my friends write baking blogs and one of them is a Pastry Chef right here in Seattle.

Both filled with so much deliciousness, you must click on over and check them out. and  You’re gonna fall in love!

I’m not sure what possessed me to make these.  I was in the mood for a sweet treat but I wanted something simple to prepare and most delicious to eat.

I wish I had a really funny story to tell you, or some cute pictures of Tank.  Well, actually, I do have a few cute pictures of Tank.

Tank needs a haircut

Tank is handsome now 🙂

I think these brownies hit the spot.  For the sake of my workout and waistline, I sent most of them on over to my friend’s house and kept a few to enjoy with my coffee later.

They never made it to the coffee.  I ended up sneaking one as a midnight snack and the other three conveniently disappeared.

Might be one of the sweet tooth Bennett gals.  😉

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Brownies

Similar to blondies or chocolate chip bar cookies, these divine little treats are less sweet and perfect with coffee or tea.

I also prepare these with a gluten free flour  that can now be found in most grocery stores.  A few examples are Bob’s Red Mill, Namaste, Gluten Free Mama,  King Arthur

Makes 12 Squares


1 ½ cups Wholesome Sweeteners Coconut Palm Sugar or dark brown sugar, packed

2 eggs

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup butter (2 sticks), melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups chocolate chips


Pre-heat the oven to 375F.  Grease a 9×13 baking pan and set aside.

Whisk together the eggs and sugar and then slowly add the melted butter.

Then whisk in the peanut butter and vanilla extract until smooth and creamy.

Next, mix in the 2 cups flour and ½ teaspoon salt.  Then stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour the brownie batter into the baking pan and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the brownies are golden brown and done in the center.

When the brownies have cooled, cut into squares and enjoy!

Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Life Around My Table Pork Sassy Side dishes

Slow Cooked Hawaiian Pork Roast with Coconut Rice

Slow Cooker Hawaiian Pork Roast

I wish I could tell you I just got back from a spectacular Hawaiian vacation.  But I didn’t. 🙁  It’s been a few years since visiting Maui, but I remember it like yesterday.

Probably because when I vacation with Ranger Craig it’s not really a vacation.  It’s an adventure of epic proportions.  Seriously.

Coconut Rice

I remember vividly our first vacation twentysomething years ago.

I thought we might lounge on the beach and sip cocktails.  Not a chance.

Slow Cooker Hawaiian Pork Roast with Fresh PIneapple

We were hiking long stretches of beach, exploring old ruins and caves, sunfish surfing, snorkeling, day tripping out to a remote island, only to hike its gigantic mountain.

By the fifth day I put my foot down.  I suited up, grabbed my beach towel and told Ranger Craig we were hanging on the beach that day.  He relented.  But only in Ranger Craig style.

A room with a view

While I was lounging on my beach chair sipping a refreshing cocktail and reading a fabulous mystery, Ranger Craig went surfing, snorkeling and then surfing again.

I saw him for lunch.  And then finally at dinner.  I knew then life with Ranger Craig would always be an adventure.

Look! No Hands! My third dive all by myself 🙂

So that leads me to our more recent Maui vacation.  You guessed it.  Not much lounging on the beach.  Instead Ranger Craig thought we should both get scuba diving certified.

Hmmm… I thought that would be nice.

The first dive I almost had a heart attack and died.  I’m not kidding.  Of course, Ranger Craig chose the one diving company in town that believes getting into the ocean for your first dive is the best way to learn.  Well, maybe for most people.

Ranger Craig and a Maui Sea Turtle

But I’m not most people.  Although adventurous at heart, athletic I’m not.

Finally when I was brave enough to stick my head in the water and breathe properly, guess who I saw casually cruising the ocean floor.  Yep, my husband.  In my somewhat competitive nature,  I was not going to let Ranger Craig get scuba diving certified without me.

Sunset on the beach

So, I grabbed my instructors hand and the rest is history.  Although, my instructors hand may never be the same again.  I held a tight grip on his hand for the first two dives.  By the third dive we had to have a little chat.  I had to let go, my instructor said.

Thankfully, the third dive I was so overwhelmed by swimming with sea turtles, I didn’t even notice the instructor had left my side.

Ranger Craig wants to return to Hawaii for another vacation someday soon.  I’m sure he will come up with something new for us to try.  Probably paddle surfing.  That won’t be pretty.  🙁

Ranger Craig and I were reminiscing about our Maui vacation recently and laughing (lots of hysterical laughing) about my arduous scuba diving training.  In honor of our fun and adventurous vacation I thought a Slow Cooked Hawaiian Pork Roast would be perfect.  Served with coconut rice just takes this dish over the top.

Slow Cooked Hawaiian Pork Roast with Coconut Rice

Serving Size: 6


  • 3-4lbs Pork Shoulder, bone in
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed and halved
  • 1 sweet onion (Walla Walla or Vidalia) sliced
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 cups chopped fresh pineapple (if you can’t find a fresh ripe pineapple, organic canned is a good substitution)
  • ½ cup Tamari (or soy sauce)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Drizzle of oil
    For the Coconut Rice
  • 3/4 cup canned coconut milk (not the light or reduced fat)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 cup Jasmine or Basmati rice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


  • Warm up your slow cooker by turning it on to high.
  • Season the outside of the pork shoulder with salt and pepper.
  • In a large heavy bottom skillet, heat a drizzle of oil on medium high heat and brown all sides of the pork shoulder. Browning gives the meat a richer flavor while searing in the moisture.
  • Transfer the pork shoulder to the slow cooker and turn the temperature down to low.
  • Layer the sliced onion, garlic cloves, pineapple and grated fresh ginger on top of the pork shoulder and then add the Tamari. Cook for about 5 hours or until the internal temperature of the pork roast reaches 145F and is tender and falls apart.
  • Transfer the pork to a platter, slice or shred and ladle the pineapple and onions with a little sauce over the pork roast. Serve with coconut rice and stir fried greens.
  • To prepare the rice
  • Combine coconut milk, rice, water, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring a few times, then cover and cook for 15-18 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Fluff with a fork, cover, and keep warm.
  • Notes

    The rice recipe can easily be doubled.

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    Halibut Seafood

    Simple Roasted Halibut Tacos with Spicy Slaw

    Halibut Tacos

    Simple Roasted Halibut Tacos with Spicy Slaw

    I can’t believe I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest for 10 years and I just made my first trip to Portland, Oregon.  I’ve been everywhere else in this part of the country but for some reason a visit to Portland just never seemed to happen.

    Pacific Halibut

    Roasting Pacific Halibut

    So, because we were highly intrigued, Ranger Craig and I recently visited Portland for a long weekend.  It was a road trip.  Much to my husbands dismay.  He hates driving longer than 30 minutes at a time.

    We were going to fly Charlie, our Cessna, but the weather wasn’t as cooperative as we’d like.  Or,  let’s just say it wasn’t as cooperative as I like.

    We thought about the train, but I had the bright idea of a road trip.  We should have taken the train.

    Mexican slaw

    Spicy Slaw

    Traffic, traffic and more traffic.  I knew we’d (Ranger Craig) need a pint or two once we got to Portland.  And we were in luck!  We found Rogue Brewery in the Pearl District.  Whoo Hoo!

    As we were enjoying our pints of refreshing beverages, I spotted the famous Powell’s Bookstore down the street.   I couldn’t finish my pint fast enough.  I just had to browse this famous Portland landmark.

    Powell’s Bookstore in Portland

    They say (Powell’s) it’s the largest bookstore in America.  And large it is.  Ranger Craig and I were in book heaven browsing that gigantic store.  I barely made it out of the gardening, food and cooking section to sneak a peak at the mysteries.

    Food Truck

    Portland Food Trucks! This one sold cupcakes 🙂

    After an hour (probably more like two) I found Ranger Craig in the main aisle.  As I walked toward him juggling 7 books in my arms, Ranger Craig looked at me with those eyes that said… “how in the heck are you going to carry all those books back to the hotel”?

    So, I put a few books back (actually three) but left the fabulous bookstore with my four favorites.  (Ranger Craig carried them back to the hotel. 🙂 )

    Of course a visit to Portland isn’t a visit unless you dine at one of the many fantastic restaurants in town.  I admit, I hadn’t done much planning for this impromptu Portland visit and regretted my “see where the wind takes us” attitude.  I remember my Grandma saying to me once “Little Miss, you always fly by the seat of your pants. You may regret that one day”.  I think she was right in this case.

    LIttle Bird

    Little Bird in Portland

    I couldn’t get reservations at Little Bird, Gabriel Rucker’s new restaurant, or a few other delectable restaurant’s I’d heard about.  So, we dined in various small, but tasty, restaurants that provided the most divine oysters, seafood, fresh salads and fabulous wine.  I couldn’t complain a snippet!

    Just like Seattle, Portland loves their dogs.

    All delicious, fresh, locally sourced and mostly organic.  That’s what I love about Portland.  Attention to local, attention to quality and of course lots of creative flair.  Creative flair, truly unique, and as one building sign stated “weird”.   I love weird.  🙂

    Simple Halibut Tacos with Spicy Slaw

    Serves 4-6


    1 ½ lbs Halibut (or other white flaky fish)

    2 limes

    Chile powder

    Ground Cumin

    Ground Coriander

    Dried Oregano

    Salt and Pepper

    Drizzle of high heat oil (safflower, sunflower, etc)

    Spicy Slaw (recipe below)

    Corn tortillas

    Crumbled Cotija cheese if desired (optional)


    Pre-heat the oven to 350F.  Assemble the Spicy Slaw (recipe below) and set aside.

    Place the Halibut in a baking dish and squeeze juice of one lime over the fish.  Then brush with oil.

    Season the fish with a healthy sprinkling of Chile powder, ground coriander, ground cumin, dried oregano, salt and pepper.  Seasoning as much or as little as you like.

    Place the fish in the oven and roast for about 8-10 minutes, or until the fish is flaky and cooked through.  Typically, fish will cook 10 minutes for every inch of thickness.

    Remove the fish from the oven and let it sit for about 5 minutes.  Then flake the fish gently to fill the tacos.

    While the fish is resting prepare the tortillas.  I like these tacos served with freshly steamed or warmed corn tortillas.  I usually steam my tortillas in a stove top steamer, microwave steam bowl or the top rack of my rice cooker.

    Add the flaked fish to the steamed tortillas and fold like tacos, layering on a platter. Next fill each taco with some spicy slaw and serve with lime wedges and crumbled Cotija.  Enjoy!

    Spicy Slaw

    Serves 4-6


    2-3 cups thinly shredded Napa or savoy cabbage

    ¼ cup packed coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

    ¼ cup thin sliced green onions

    ¼ cup (or a little more if you like your slaw well dressed) Mayonnaise

    ½ – 1 teaspoon Sriracha or Tabasco or any other hot sauce you have on hand

    1 tablespoon lemon juice

    Pinch of sugar

    Salt and pepper to taste


    Whisk together the mayonnaise, sriracha, lemon juice, sugar salt and pepper.  Place the cabbage, cilantro and green onions in a medium bowl and toss with the dressing.

    Serve on tacos or pulled pork sandwiches.  Yum!

    Chicken Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Life Around My Table

    Roasted Chicken and Sweet Peaches

    Roasted Chicken and Sweet Peaches // Karista's Kitchen

    This roasted chicken and sweet peaches recipe is from the archives and as I read through this old post I’m almost in tears with laughter. I completely remember writing this and all the remodeling chaos that ensued. Although my DIY days are long gone, this recipe is still just as enchanting today as it was back then. Enjoy!


    The last few months I’ve been reading dozens of informative and sometimes funny DIY remodeling blog posts.  Mostly because I needed to read about other people’s headaches and successes with home remodeling and renovation.

    I thought it might make me feel better about the visual chaos that ensues my house right now.

    Sadly, it did not.  I’ve decided I’m much better at handling schedule chaos.  Visual chaos drives me nutty.

    Orange Home Depot buckets filled with tools and tile pieces, nails and pipe fittings casually sit in various corners of the house.

    Old doors leaving and new doors coming in.  A giant bathroom vanity in the garage waiting to be installed along with new paint and tile flooring.  And an enormous gray and blue commercial heavy duty vacuum cleaner sitting in the middle of my den.  My oldest gal calls this monstrosity “R2D2”.

    Yep, Ranger Craig and I are Do It Yourselfers.   A few years ago (when I was younger) I proudly stated that fact.

    Now I find myself cruising the web for various home remodeling contractors… hoping someday soon Ranger Craig will tire of the DIY projects.  🙂

    Until then, schedules are filling and its back to school for the two Sassy Bennett gals.  Dinner becomes a little more challenging to achieve, but I’ve always got a quick recipe in my back pocket.  You’re going to love this one!

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love!


    Roasted Chicken and Sweet Peaches

    Serving Size: 4-6

    Roasted Chicken and Peaches with Tangy Red Onion and a sprinkling of Bleu Cheese. A most delicious combination of flavors that savor the last of our summer season.


    • 4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (this can also be done with bone-in chicken pieces, it’ll just need to cook longer)
    • 4-5 medium to large peaches, pitted and thick sliced (no need to peel)
    • 1 small red onion, halved and thick sliced
    • ¼ -1/3 cup crumbled Bleu cheese or Gorgonzola (I love Rogue Creamery Smokey Bleu with this recipe!)
    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or ghee
    • Salt and pepper
    • Fresh chopped basil as a garnish (optional)


  • Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
  • In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, brown the chicken breasts on both sides and then transfer the browned chicken to a baking dish large enough to hold the chicken and peaches.
  • Browning the chicken breasts first before finishing in the oven allows a nice color/flavor to develop while keeping the inside of the chicken breast moist.
  • Toss the peaches and red onion with a drizzle of oil and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Pour them in the baking dish arranging them around the chicken.
  • Place the baking dish in the oven and finish cooking until the chicken reaches 160-165F internal temperature or about an additional 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the chicken breasts. Be sure not to overcook the chicken as it will make them tough and chewy.
  • If roasting chicken pieces, follow the same browning instructions but don’t add the peaches and red onion until about 10-15 minutes prior to the bone in chicken being done.
  • Once the chicken is done transfer the chicken to a platter, scattering the peaches and onion over top and sprinkle with the bleu cheese. Serve immediately.
  • I love this dish served with a simple salad of fresh greens and a balsamic or French vinaigrette, or roasted green beans with toasted almonds and brown butter.
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    Kid Friendly Pork

    Herb Crusted Pork Loin with Balsamic Roasted Figs

    Herb Crusted Pork Loin with Balsamic Roasted Figs

    A new page is posting on Karista’s Kitchen, “Weeknight Fresh“.

    Fresh, seasonal and delicious recipes that won’t make dinner feel like a second job.

    Herb Crusted Pork Loin with Balsamic Roasted Figs

    As a busy Mom, business owner, culinary instructor and food blogger,  sometimes life competes with dinner.

    So, to keep dinner competitive, I’ve created a series of recipes I call “Weeknight Fresh”.  Fun, sometimes festive, mostly nutritious ( I sneak in a little butter once in a while) and always mouth-watering delicious.

    Making dinner achievable.  🙂

    Pork and Figs… Simple and Delicious!

    I’m starting with a few of my favorite recipes and I’ll be adding to the page throughout the fall.

    In honor of this new page, I’m posting this most delicious new recipe.  Simple, fresh, and ready to bring to the table in  a little over  30 minutes!  Whoo Hoo!

    Herb Crusted Pork Loin with Roasted Balsamic Figs

    Serves 4-6


    2-3 lbs pork loin

    1 teaspoon salt

    ½ teaspoon black pepper

    1 teaspoon dried oregano

    1 teaspoon dried thyme

    ½ teaspoon dried basil

    1 clove garlic, minced

    Olive oil

    Balsamic vinegar

    1 pint of black mission figs, halved (or more if you love roasted figs!)

    Pinch of salt

    A little kitchen twine or toothpicks


    Pre-heat the oven to 375F.

    Place the halved figs in a medium bowl and toss with a drizzle of oil and balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper.

    In a small bowl mix together the salt, black pepper, oregano, thyme, basil and minced garlic.  Drizzle with just a little oil to make a paste.

    Place the pork loin in a roasting pan or baking dish.  Make a horizontal cut, about 1/2 way through, down the center of the pork loin.  Put a little of the herb mixture in this pocket and then rub the pork with the remaining herb mixture. Take some kitchen twine (or toothpicks) and tie the pork closed so the herb mixture will season the interior of the roast.

    Then pour the dressed figs into the roasting pan or baking dish and arrange them around the pork.

    Put the pan in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes or until the pork reaches 145F internal temperature.

    It’s very important to cook pork by temperature as pork can over cook quickly.  Cooking the pork to 140-145F and then taking it out of the oven to rest for about 5-10 minutes, is the best method for a juicy and perfect pork loin.  So be sure to invest in a meat thermometer, about $6-8 at most stores.

    Once the pork has rested, thin slice the pork loin and place on a platter, scattering the roasted figs around the pork.  Don’t forget to drizzle all the juices from the bottom of the pan over the pork.  Serve immediately.

    I love this recipe served with Roasted Broccoli Parmesan.  The broccoli can be roasted in the oven at the same time as the pork, on the rack below.  Making dinner simple, nutritious and delicious!