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Italian recipes

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

Lemon Risotto with Crispy Mushroom and Mint Gremolata

Lemon Risotto with Crispy Mushroom and Mint Gremolata // the perfect spring meal from Karista's Kitchen

It’s the first full week of spring and my mint plant is blooming the prettiest Chartreuse green leaves. These gorgeous green leaves are inspiring a constant stream of recipe ideas like this Lemon Risotto with Crispy Mushroom and Mint Gremolata.  

I adore adding fresh mint to my recipes and I often add it to my quinoa salads, cucumber and papaya salsa, and even a few stir fry recipes. And now mint has made it’s way into my lemon risotto with a crispy mushroom and mint gremolata.

Mixing fresh herbs with sautéed mushrooms compliments a dish and gives it a little extra something special.  I like to combine fresh mint, parsley and basil in my gremolata because each of those herbs play so well together. Not to mention, the herbs compliment the lemon risotto so beautifully you’d think they were made for each other.

Lemon Risotto with Crispy Mushroom Gremolata // Karista's Kitchen

This lovely recipe is bright with flavor but still comforting in texture. Lemon risotto with crispy mushroom and mint gremolata highlights the dawn of a new season with  a playful twist of fresh ingredients.

This is a short, although delicious, post today but I’ll be back soon with more tempting recipes from a new kitchen!

Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


Lemon Risotto with Crispy Mushroom and Mint Gremolata

Serving Size: serves 4 (recipe can be doubled)

Lemon Risotto with Crispy Mushroom and Mint Gremolata


  • 2 tablespoons ghee or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup diced yellow onion (about 1/2 of a large onion)
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4-5 cups warm vegetable broth (I like a creamy risotto so I use extra broth)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 medium lemon zested
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups sliced assorted seasonal mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • A squeeze of fresh lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • To make the risotto add 2 tablespoons of ghee or olive oil to a large pot over medium heat. Add the diced onions and sauté until tender, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the rice and stir for one minute longer. Add ½ cup dry white wine and stir until absorbed, about 1 minute.
  • Next, stir in 1 cup of the warm broth and simmer until it’s absorbed, stirring frequently. Continue to add 1/2 cup of broth at a time, stirring often and allowing each addition of broth to be absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup. Cook for about 20-30 minutes or until the rice is almost tender, al dente.
  • When the risotto is done, take it off the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese and lemon zest. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • To make the gremolata, heat a skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot add the mushrooms and saute until slightly browned and a little crispy. Then stir in the minced garlic, fresh chopped herbs and squeeze of lemon. Take the skillet off the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • To serve the risotto, ladle risotto into individual bowls or one large serving bowl. Top the lemon risotto with the crispy mushroom and mint gremolata and serve with additional grated parmesan cheese.
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    Beef Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Life Around My Table

    Beef Tenderloin Saltimbocca

    Beef Tenderloin Saltimbocca with Red Wine Pan Sauce

    Oh the love and compliments I received when I served this Beef Tenderloin Saltimbocca. I felt like a James Beard Award winning chef after my family finished thoroughly praising me and my saltimbocca.  And such praise doesn’t always happen. Nope, not at my house.

    I have to admit, my palate was dancing with complete bliss after one bite of this Beef Tenderloin Saltimbocca with Red Wine Pan Sauce.  I smiled to myself and felt utterly vindicated as dinner the night before was a total disaster.  My recipe testing didn’t go as planned. Which is what happens on occasion and which is why we call it recipe “testing” – as I so humbly told my family while they were making funny faces and critiquing my meal.  Even chef’s have dinner disasters.

    Beef Tenderloin Saltimbocca with Red Wine Pan Sauce // Karista's Kitchen

    Typically prepared with veal, this saltimbocca is just as decadent when prepared with the most tender cut of beef – the tenderloin.  Medallions of tenderloin are pounded thin, layered with fresh sage leaves and pancetta, quickly pan seared and then finished with a sensuous red wine and butter pan sauce.

    What made this gorgeous Beef Tenderloin Saltimbocca even more perfect was the wine I paired with it – 2013 Yao Ming Cabernet Sauvignon.  This sumptuous wine is from one of the most celebrated vintages in the history of the Napa Valley.  “It displays a level of balance, elegance, structure and ageability”.  Silky and lush, the 2013 Yao Ming Cabernet Sauvignon pairs elegantly with the saltimbocca, allowing the uncomplicated and bright flavors of the dish to shine while complimenting the beauty of the wine.

    Although this exquisite dish might seem fancy, it’s perfectly simple to prepare.  I love to serve this with a seasonal green and vegetable salad with a light vinaigrette such as a lemon Dijon or balsamic or roasted zucchini, broccoli or braised bitter greens.  If you’re looking for a little more substance to add to the meal, good old-fashioned mashed potatoes pair nicely. 😉

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


    *Although I’ve been a huge fan of Yao Ming Family Wines for a while now, I was fortunately gifted with a bottle for this recipe.

    Beef Tenderloin Saltimbocca

    Serving Size: 4-6

    Beef Tenderloin Saltimbocca


    • 2lbs beef tenderloin, cut into 8-10 medallions
    • 1 bunch fresh sage leaves
    • 8-10 slices pancetta
    • 2 tablespoons ghee or extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 cup red wine (any wine that you would drink)
    • 6 tablespoons butter
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
    • Chopped fresh Italian parsley for garnish
    • Toothpicks


  • On parchment paper or a cutting board, pound out each medallion to about ½ inch thick. Season each medallion with salt and pepper on both sides.
  • Place a sage leaf on each medallion and then layer with a slice of pancetta. You can use a toothpick to secure the sage and pancetta to the beef or you can try placing them in the pan completely assembled.
  • In a large skillet, add the two tablespoons of ghee or olive oil and heat over medium high heat. Once the ghee/oil is hot but not smoking, add the medallions to the pan, pancetta side down. You may need to pan sear in batches so that you don’t over crowd your skillet.
  • Cook each medallion for about 2 minutes on each side or until the beef is done to your liking. Transfer the beef to a platter when done. Cover lightly with a piece of foil to keep warm.
  • When all the beef has been cooked, turn the heat down to medium and add the red wine, scraping all the fond (brown bits) off the bottom of the pan. Whisk in the butter one tablespoon at a time and bring the sauce to a lively simmer. Let the sauce simmer until it’s been reduced by half. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Place the pan sauce on the bottom of a serving dish and then place the Beef Tenderloin Saltimbocca over the pan sauce. Garnish with chopped fresh Italian parsley and serve with Roasted fingerling potatoes or mashed potatoes and roasted or steamed seasonal vegetable.
  • Notes

    The fragrant and earthy flavors in this gorgeous beef dish pair exquisitely with the Mao Ying 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. Sip, savor and enjoy.

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    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly vegetarian

    Classic Eggplant Parmesan

    Classic Eggplant Parmesan // Karista's Kitchen

    I can’t think of a better way to begin the new year than with this dreamy Classic Eggplant Parmesan.

    It wasn’t long ago that I could hardly boil water.  I’m not kidding.  Years ago, anything I cooked could have caused a slow and painful death. Yep, I’m a tiny bit dramatic, but truly, it may not be far from the truth.

    Back in the day, my signature meal was a sausage quiche I learned to make while living in Louisiana, fried chicken, biscuits, turkey kielbasa and sauerkraut and a few meals on the grill.  That was it. My culinary repertoire. On occasion I would branch out and follow a recipe just to make something different, but even then my culinary skills were terribly limited.

    This is why I originally enrolled in culinary school almost 17 years ago – and as they say the rest is history. 😉

    Of course, it didn’t help that I lived next door to the most incredible Italian home chef.  Unbelievably delicious scent’s drifting from next door right into my open windows – while I’m trying to prepare a decent meal and all I can think of is that I’d rather be eating at my neighbor’s house tonight.   Knowing how much I loved her cooking, my sweet neighbor would always bring me a sample.

    Daniella’s eggplant parmesan was my favorite dish she made – olive oil fried eggplant layered among shredded mozzarella and homemade sauce.  A little bit of work but so worth every ounce of effort.  I’ve made eggplant parmesan for years now and tweaked the original recipe just a hair since those days.  Rather than labor over the flour, egg and breadcrumbs, I simply salt, pepper and flour the eggplant (I can be a lazy chef), lightly fry and then begin to layer.  Sometimes I’ll layer in a bit of herbed ricotta and I adore using whole milk mozzarella or buffalo mozzarella.  You can make your own sauce or use your favorite.

    I like to make this in individual serving dishes but family style works just as well.  Serve with your favorite tossed green salad or THIS salad or THIS salad and I also love THIS salad, and some crusty Italian bread.

    However you like to prepare this Classic Eggplant Parmesan, it will be a huge hit at your kitchen table.

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,



    Classic Eggplant Parmesan

    Serving Size: 4-6

    Classic Eggplant Parmesan

    This is probably one of the most quintessential Italian dishes. Lush and rich in flavor as well as texture, this dish can stand on it’s own or be served as a lovely side dish.

    Photos originally published in 2015 Dec/Jan Issue of Home By Design Magazine by Karista Bennett


    • 1-2 large eggplants, peeled and sliced about ¼ inch thick rounds or sliced lengthwise
    • Sea or Kosher salt
    • 2 cups Whole milk mozzarella, shredded or sliced
    • 1 cup Romano cheese, shredded
    • ½ cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • ½ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
    • ½ cup grated parmesan for garnish
    • 3 cups of your favorite tomato sauce


  • Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • Salt the eggplant slices and let them sit in a colander in a large bowl for about 20-30 minutes to drain the excess liquid from the eggplant. Rinse the eggplant slices and pat dry with a paper towel.
  • Dust the eggplant slices with the flour, shaking off the extra flour. Using a large skillet or frying pan, heat the extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat.
  • Once the oil is hot, but not smoking, pan-fry the eggplant slices just until golden brown. Place the eggplant slices on a paper towel lined cookie sheet to absorb the excess oil. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.
  • Once the eggplant slices have been browned, place ¼ cup of tomato sauce into the bottom of an 8x8 baking dish, or if using 2 eggplants, a 10x15x2 rectangular baking dish. You can also prepare this recipe in individual baking dishes.
  • Layer slices of eggplant over the tomato sauce and then top with a little more sauce and a layer of mozzarella and Romano and a little chopped fresh basil. Continue layering the eggplant, sauce, cheese and basil. I usually end up with 3-4 layers.
  • Cover with foil and bake for about 15-20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes.
  • Remove the eggplant from the oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes before serving. Slice into squares and serve with additional sauce and parmesan cheese.
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    Appetizers DaVinci Wine Recipes Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pasta Pork Seafood

    Part Two Feast of the Seven Fishes with DaVinci Wine

    Italian Sausage and Shrimp Stew for Feast of the Seven Fishes // Karista's Kitchen and DaVinci Wine

    The Feast of the Seven Fishes is a delicious Italian tradition where seven delectable fish dishes are served for Christmas Eve dinner.

    This year DaVinci Wine asked me to create seven festive and delightful fish dishes for their Feast of the Seven Fishes. This is the part of my job I absolutely love – especially when it involves fish and DaVinci wine.

    The first five dishes we paired with DaVinci Pinot Grigio. You’ll find them HERE along with the first Feast of the Seven Fishes post HERE.

    In this second post, I’m highlighting the last two fish recipes that we’ve paired with DaVinci Chianti. As well as one of the seven fish dishes that I believe pairs beautifully with both the DaVinci Pinot Grigio and DaVinci Chianti.

    When I visited Italy with DaVinci Wine in 2013, I dined on the most decadent food but also the most decadent seafood dishes. One particular starter that struck me as simple but so lovely in flavor was a crostini with homemade ricotta topped with a single anchovy. I call it Bruno’s Crostini – named after our gracious lunch host and DaVinci grower, Bruno Rossetti.

    Smoked Salmon Crostini with Herbed Ricotta for Feast of the Seven Fishes // Karista's Kitchen and DaVinci Wine

    Although I prepare this starter often, I love using smoked salmon with ricotta cheese. Going a step further, I added fresh chopped herbs to the ricotta for a little more “bite” to the recipe. Salmon pairs extremely well with DaVinci Pinot Grigio, so I included this lovely starter in the first post.

    However, I adore pairing both salmon and smoked salmon with DaVinci Chianti as well. Because DaVinci Chianti is well balanced with jammy flavors of ripe plums, cherries and red fruit, it beautifully compliments the smoked salmon and herbed ricotta crostini – making it another lovely wine pairing for this gorgeous starter.

    Italian Sausage and Shrimp Stew for Feast of the Seven Fishes // Karista's Kitchen and DaVinci Wine

    Another recipe from our Feast of the Seven Fishes is an impressive dish everyone will enjoy. An Italian Sausage and Shrimp stew that warms the soul and delights the taste buds. This is an intensely flavored dish, filled with aromatics, fresh herbs that bring earthiness to the recipe, tangy tomatoes and spicy Italian sausage combined with fresh shrimp and clams.   Sounds like a winning combination to me! Although I use the DaVinci Pinot Grigio in the stew, I think this stew is best served with DaVinci Chianti.

    The last fish dish in this series, is the gorgeous Spaghetti alle Vongole (Spaghetti with Red Clam Sauce). Just the name of this dish sounds enticing.

    Spaghetti Vongole for Feast of the Seven Fishes // Karista's Kitchen and DaVinci Wine

    The Vongole sauce is distinctive and lush, prepared with fresh ingredients and a cup of DaVinci Chianti to round out flavors. It’s a hearty sauce that beautifully envelops the pasta and compliments the steamed clams – garnished with fresh grated Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh Italian parsley.

    Creating a festive and exquisite Christmas Eve celebration is as simple as these seven fish dishes. Feast of the Seven Fishes paired with DaVinci Wine will delight your guests and bring delicious merry making to your holiday celebration.

    Wishing you warm and Delicious Holidays!

    Loads of Love,




    Appetizers Karista's Kitchen Life Around My Table Pasta vegetarian

    Raviolo al Uovo with Brown Butter

    Raviolo al Uovo with Brown Butter // Karista's Kitchen

    You know that feeling you get when you bite into a fork full of food so lush, so decadent, it causes a sort of euphoria? And for a moment, you’re senses are transported to another place – relishing the taste, the textures and aroma.  That’s Raviolo al Uovo with Brown Butter.

    This isn’t just another lovely dish, it’s a dish to be savored, served with the best wine and the best company.  It’s a perfect “date night in” recipe, or something you’d serve to a few close friends.  When you prepare this dish, give your self plenty of time in the kitchen.  You know the old saying, the one your mom probably said a thousand times, “stop taking your sweet time and get a move on it”?  Well this is the time to ignore that saying.   Although it’s not a difficult recipe to prepare it does take a gentle hand and a little “sweet” time.

    Raviolo al Uovo with Brown Butter // Karista's Kitchen

    When I was thinking about what I’d write for VRAI Magazine’s December issue, I knew I wanted it to be special.  I’d planned a roasted Tri-Tip that turned out sumptuous in every way – but it just didn’t feel right for the season.  It had to be Raviolo al Uovo.

    Raviolo al Uovo with Brown Butter // Karista's Kitchen

    I know you’ll love this recipe and you can find it at VRAI Magazine.   If you make it,  I’d love to know how it turned out.  And of course, you can always email me with questions.

    Wishing you all a beautiful and very delicious Holiday Season!

    Loads of Love,



    Chicken Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pork

    Chicken Scarpariello

    Chicken Scarpariello recipe from Rao's in Las Vegas // Isernio Sausage Company // Karista's Kitchen

    Chicken Scarpariello from Rao’s in Las Vegas using hot and mild sausage from Isernio’s Sausage Company

    Chicken Scarpariello is definitely a mouth full of words. When I stumbled upon this recipe years ago I was completely intrigued by the name of this dish.

    You’re probably asking yourself “how do I pronounce Scarpariello?” Well, I say it like this, “scar/par/ee/ello”.  Say it several times quickly and it’ll eventually roll off your tongue as if you’ve been speaking Italian for years.

    After doing a bit of research, I found that most culinarian’s believe this Chicken Scarpariello likely originated in the United States. However, because Chicken Scarpariello is similar in ingredients and preparation to many traditional Southern Italian recipes, many feel it’s an evolution of Southern Italian recipes that have been translated from one generation to the next.

    Chicken Scarpariello recipe from Rao's in Las Vegas // Karista's Kitchen // Isernio's Sausage Company

    This hearty dish, often referred to as Shoemakers Chicken, is filled with ingredients that are big and bold in flavor. Chicken that has been pan seared along with my favorite Isernio’s hot and mild Italian sausages, red peppers, potatoes, onions, garlic, oregano and a few sweet but spicy vinegar hot peppers.   Then all the ingredients are tossed together in a light white wine sauce making the most delicious chicken dinner you’ve ever tasted.

    I describe Chicken Scarpariello as a lusty and robust dish that is rich in flavor, delightful to the palate and welcomed anytime of the year.

    Chicken Scarpariello is perfect for large gatherings with friends or family or a Sunday supper. I love making this dish for a weekend meal, serving it with bottles of Chianti or Pinot Grigio, fresh tomato and basil bruschetta over ricotta, drizzled with sweet balsamic vinegar.

    This particular Chicken Scarpariello recipe is from the world-renowned restaurant Rao’s and I created the photo for my friends at the fabulous Isernio’s Sausage Company.  Buon Appetito!

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


    Chicken Scarpariello

    Serving Size: 4-6

    Chicken Scarpariello


    • 4 Isernio’s Italian Sausages, 2 Mild Italian and 2 Hot Italian
    • 4 - 6 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless, about 1.5 lbs.
    • about 1/8 cup flour
    • 2 red potatoes, about 1 lb.
    • 5 Tbsp. olive oil
    • 1/2 large yellow onion, cut lengthwise into 1/4" strips
    • 2 bell peppers, red & yellow, cored, seeded and cut lengthwise into 1/4" strips
    • 3 cloves fresh garlic, finely chopped
    • 3 Tbsp. fresh oregano, coarsely chopped or 1 1/2 tps. dried
    • 2 hot cherry peppers, in vinegar from a jar, seeded and quartered - Optional
    • 2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
    • 1/2 cup white wine
    • 1/2 cup chicken broth
    • 3 - 4 tsp. Salt
    • freshly ground black pepper to taste


  • Preheat oven to 350°. Scrub potatoes and cut into quarters. Place in a sauce pan, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Add 1 tsp. salt and boil, partially covered for 10 minutes. Drain well, cool slightly, peel and cut into 3/8" slices. Set aside.
  • Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large 12" skillet on medium heat, cook the sausage on both sides, until browned, about 8 minutes total. Remove sausages from pan, cut into 3/4" slices and set aside. Sausage does not need to be cooked through, just browned on the outside.
  • Pat chicken dry, salt & pepper both sides and dust in flour. Add 2 Tbsp. olive oil to the pan, saute chicken until browned, 5-7 minutes per side, about 14 minutes total. Remove chicken from pan, cut into 2" pieces and set aside.
  • Add 2 Tbsp. olive oil to the pan. Add the onion, peppers, 1 tsp. salt and 1 Tbsp. of the oregano (if using dried, put all in now), mix well and saute for 4 minutes until slightly softened. Add the chopped garlic and saute 1 minute. Add the wine to deglaze the pan, scraping the brown bits off the bottom for another 5 minutes. Add the sausage, chicken, potatoes, cherry peppers, white wine vinegar, 1 Tbsp. fresh oregano and chicken broth. Mix well and place in oven uncovered for 20 minutes.
  • Taste for salt & pepper, serve immediately with remaining fresh oregano.
  • Notes

    This recipe is from Rao's Las Vegas and using Isernio's Hot and Mild Italian Sausage.

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    Chicken Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly

    Pollo Giacomo (Balsamic Chicken)

    Pollo Giacomo (Balsamic Chicken) A Tuscan Braised Chicken Recipe How did two Prescott College Graduates become Willamette Valley Chicken Farmers?

    That was the first question I asked Laura and Robin of Red Bird Acres after meeting them for the second time at this year’s Corvallis Farmers Market.

    I met Laura and Robin the first time at the 2014 Oregon Small Farms Conference at OSU in Corvallis. I was attending the conference with a friend from Washington state who is the Founder of Barn2Door, a new ready-to-use web store for farmers and easy to find farm food for buyers .  I remember how fascinated I became while listening to Laura and Robin speak passionately about their chicken farm.  Both intelligent individuals who exude a passion for sustainable farming and the future of our food supply.

    Laura and Robin of Red Bird Acres in the Willamette Valley, Oregon // Karista's Kitchen

    Laura and Robin are both graduates of Prescott College in Prescott, Arizona. Receiving degrees in Wilderness Leadership and Adventure Education. While working as Outdoor Education Guides they discovered there was a huge disconnect between educating the public about protecting our environment and our less than perfect food supply.

    After a visit to Oregon, Laura and Robin decided to switch careers and put their knowledge and passion into helping change our food supply by pursuing agriculture. Robin completed a yearlong internship with Afton Field Farm in early 2014. Not long after, Red Bird Acres was founded.

    I saw Laura and Robin every Saturday at the farmer’s market and I always stopped at Red Bird Acres stand to pick up a broiler. One Saturday I couldn’t help but ask if I could visit them at their chicken farm and possibly photograph some of their birds. They smiled and were kind enough to oblige my need to visit with their chickens.

    Red Bird Acres in the Willamette Valley, Oregon

    We set a date, I cooked food to say thank you and one lovely Autumn evening I drove out to Red Bird Acres for a visit.

    A beautiful hillside location just outside of Philomath, Oregon, Red Bird Acres is home to several flocks of Freedom Rangers. Some refer to the chickens as French Rangers or Poulet Rouge and they are hatched by the Freedom Ranger Hatchery in Pennsylvania. The Freedom Ranger breeding stock is imported from Burgundy and Brittany, France.  According to the Label Rouge Poultry Program, this breed was derived from an American and European heritage breed that was developed in early 1960 to meet the high standards of the French Label Rouge Free Range program.

    A Freedom Ranger chicken at Red Bird Acres in the Willamette Valley, Oregon // Karista's Kitchen

    Laura and Robin raise their Freedom Rangers on pasture from the time they are three weeks old; large enough to have grown adult feathers to survive well outside the brooder. The birds roam free range and have access to shelter where they can roost and are protected from the elements as needed.  Portable electric net fencing is set up to separate the different age groups. During the height of the season, Red Bird Acres will raise four flocks of 100 birds on the field.

    Each flock’s shelter is moved within each paddock twice a day and the entire paddock is moved every four to five days as the birds graze down the pasture. Laura says “the benefits of this system is that the birds are truly able to express all of their natural behaviors. They can choose to be in their shelter, or they can run in the paddock seeking forage, so it is the most natural, healthy and humane way to allow chickens to live when you are raising them for human consumption”.

    Robin of Red Bird Acres holding one of his Freedom Ranger Chickens // Willamette Valley Oregon // Karista's Kitchen

    Laura and Robin feed their birds a high quality, non-GMO feed milled locally by Union Point Custom Feeds in Brownsville, OR. Laura says “our broilers do a great job of supplementing that feed with what they forage on the pasture. The pasture is definitely not wasted on these birds. That is evident in the flavor of our chickens and the beautiful yellow color of their fat”.

    While I was roaming the paddock with the chickens, I noticed the hearty bone structure of the birds – thicker legs and feet that seem to thrive in this free range setting. Friendly, calm and somewhat animated, the chickens were as curious about me as I was about them.  Several of the birds decided I should be greeted and that maybe my shoes required a little taste.

    I’ve raised chickens in the past and I have never seen such a happy and playful group of chickens. It was obvious they had grown attached to Laura and Robin; following them all over the paddock.

    I asked Laura and Robin about their philosophy on raising chickens in this method and why they felt it was important: “Our biggest values as producers of meat is that we are raising the animals with the utmost care and attention to humane techniques. This goes from breed selection, feed selection, providing the most natural and stress free life on pasture and gentle handling when it comes time to slaughter (which they do themselves). We are trying to raise meat with attention to the impact on the land and acknowledging that eating meat (as opposed to a vegetarian diet) has a bigger footprint, so what we encourage is that our customers eat less meat. But when they do, they should eat better meat.  Better meat usually comes with a higher price. It takes a huge amount of labor to raise chicken in this method but also the feed costs are higher with quality feed. The benefit is a chicken that lives a healthy life and in turn provides delicious and tremendously nourishing food”.

    Freedom Ranger chickens at Red Bird Acres in the Willamette Valley Oregon // Karista's Kitchen

    I can tell you from personal experience, the broilers I’ve purchased from Red Bird Acres are premium in every way.   Because this particular breed has a lovely distribution of fat, the taste is much more flavorful than that of a conventional chicken, which also makes the texture more moist and tender.  As well, the birds are not outrageously priced. Red Bird Acres sells their chicken for 4.99lb which is less than some of the organic brand names in the market.

    Red Bird Acres will continue to vend at the Corvallis Saturday Farmer’s Market until the end of the season. Eventually, they would like to include pastured heritage turkeys, as well as raise hogs and lambs. Their largest goal is to grow into a multi-species pastured livestock operation, but finding land is the biggest roadblock. They are currently looking for new land to lease to expand their farm.

    Laura of Red Bird Acres in the Willamette Valley Oregon // Karista's Kitchen

    I spent the most delightful evening at Red Bird Acres. We talked, I took photographs and played with chickens until the sun had almost set. It was difficult to leave the beautiful location. Walking back to my truck we stopped by their little garden and Robin gave me a bucket full of the most gorgeous cherry tomatoes. I think I ate half the bucket before I arrived home.

    Laura and Robin of Red Bird Acres in the Willamette Valley Oregon // Karista's Kitchen

    I know many of you do not live in the Willamette Valley. I wish you could taste a Red Bird Acres roasted chicken and I wish you could all meet Laura and Robin.   However,  you can support your local chicken farms. I encourage you to find local farms that humanly raise poultry, pork and beef.  Your body and your taste buds will thank you. Purchasing local supports our farmers and encourages a prosperous and healthy community.

    For more information about Red Bird Acres click on their website at

    As well follow them on Facebook and Instagram:

    I couldn’t end this post without a recipe. This is a recipe a new friend so graciously gave me while we were dining in Tuscany last year.  Giacomo Alari is the DaVinci Wine Ambassador and as we were chatting at dinner one evening, I asked Giacomo what traditional dish he remembered from childhood.  This braised chicken dish is one that his Mother would often prepare.  Simple, with fresh chicken, onion, garlic and balsamic vinegar. His mother would serve it over mashed or roasted potatoes.

    I have now prepared this dish at least twice a month for the last year and adapted it a bit to suit my family. I can tell you it’s just as delicious with just the onion, garlic and balsamic vinegar as it is with all the fresh herbs.  So however you prepare it, you will relish in the flavor and the simplicity.

    Grazi! Giacomo Alari for sharing your family recipe.

    Pollo Giacomo (Balsamic Chicken)

    Serving Size: 4

    Pollo Giacomo (Balsamic Chicken)


    • 8 bone in, skin removed, Chicken thighs or 4 chicken leg quarters, or ONE whole chicken broken down into 6 or 8 pieces
    • 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • Salt and pepper
    • 1 onion, halved and sliced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 handful of fresh herbs, sprig of rosemary, Italian parsley, sprig of oregano, sprigs of thyme, sage is nice too. (no need to chop just toss in with stems)Sometimes I just throw in some thyme and it’s still fabulous.
    • 1 cup high quality aged balsamic vinegar (or as Giacomo’s mother would say “one wine glass of balsamic vinegar”)
    • Serve with mashed potatoes or creamy polenta


  • In a Dutch oven heat the oil over medium high heat and then season the chicken with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot brown the chicken on both sides.
  • Turn down the heat to medium (so the onion doesn’t burn) and add the onion and sauté until soft, then add the herbs and garlic and sauté another minute.
  • Place the chicken back into the Dutch oven and pour the balsamic vinegar over the chicken. Cover and turn the heat to low or medium low and simmer for about 30- 45 minutes or until the chicken is done. Chicken should reach 165F when done.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and then remove the chicken to a platter. Strain the remaining sauce and pour it over the chicken. Serve over creamy polenta or mashed potatoes.
  • **OPTION - I haven't tried this recipe in a slow cooker but I think using a slow cooker would be a good option. Brown the chicken, add it to the slow cooker, top with onion, garlic, fresh herbs and balsamic vinegar. Cook on low for about 5-6 hours or until the internal temperature has reached 165F. Remove the chicken to a platter, strain the sauce and pour over the chicken. Serve with mashed or roasted potatoes or creamy polenta.
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    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pasta Risotto vegetarian VRAI Magazine

    Roasted Pumpkin Risotto

    Roasted Pumpkin Risotto // Karista's Kitchen and VRAI Magazine

    Risotto is true comfort food.  Just the act of preparing risotto feels comforting, soothing somehow.  Maybe it’s because when I make risotto I like to turn on old Italian music and channel my inner Italian; or maybe it simply reminds me of time spent in Italy with the most wonderful and delightful people.

    Although risotto feels like comfort food, it also feels lush.  A bit decadent and a bit indulgent.  That could be another reason I love preparing risotto for my family – tossing in and adding seasonal ingredients like roasted pumpkin to create an even greater indulgent experience.

    If you’ve never prepared risotto or you’ve prepared it and it didn’t quite turn out the way you anticipated, you are going to love this Roasted Pumpkin Risotto post.  I’ve created this post for the October issue of  VRAI Magazine.  Head on over and check out this easy and fun pictorial as well as all the fabulous articles about lifestyle, travel, DIY, fashion and more food!  Click HERE for the recipe.

    Roasted Pumpkin Risotto // Karista's Kitchen

    I just want to say a HUGE thank you for reading Karista’s Kitchen and following Karista’s Kitchen on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.  I truly appreciate and value your time spent browsing and reading – and my hope is that each and every recipe inspires you.

    As well, thank you so much for following and reading VRAI Magazine!  I am so proud and feel so honored to be part of such a talented team of professionals.

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,



    Karista's Kitchen Life Around My Table Pasta Risotto Sassy Side dishes

    Chianti Risotto

    Chianti Risotto with DaVinci Chianti

    Chianti Risotto tastes like one giant food hug.

    Fall of 2013, I was in a whirlwind of excitement and slowly coming down off my travel and culinary cloud after being in Italy for two weeks.  I think in all that excitement I failed to post this lovely dish.

    I originally created this gorgeous Chianti Risotto for DaVinci Wine . I was one of four very lucky bloggers to join the DaVinci Wine team in Vinci, Italy to learn all about Chianti wine-making. It. Was. Glorious.

    Naturally, I had to pair these two ingredients together, making one very cozy and gorgeous looking dish.

    This Chianti Risotto is one of those special recipes I reserve for a weekend when everyone is home and gathered in the kitchen.  We take turns stirring the risotto, chatting, sipping wine, nibbling on bruschetta and savoring the precious moments together.  You can certainly make this on a weeknight (and I do that as well) but it’s such an indulgent and rich dish I love to sit and relish the dish over a long weekend evening.

    Risotto is a staple in most Italian kitchens and it’s served in many forms. Which is truly the beauty of risotto.  It travels through seasons adapting to a multitude of ingredients, never wearing out its welcome on the dinner table.

    I adore the subtle fruitiness of the DaVinci Chianti and I thought it would make a lovely addition to risotto. Top with crispy fried sage, fresh grated parmesan or shaved pecorino and this is comfort food at its most delicious.  For a heartier version of this deeply colored risotto, I topped it with a farm fresh fried egg.

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,



    Chianti Risotto

    Serving Size: 2-3 as an entree, 4 as a side dish


    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 medium shallot, finely diced (about 2-3 tablespoons)
    • 1 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
    • 1 cup DaVinci Chianti
    • 4 -5 cups beef broth, warmed
    • Knob of unsalted butter
    • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 6-8 large sage leaves
    • Shaved pecorino
    • Optional: top each serving with a fried egg


  • In a large pot over medium high heat add the olive oil. When the oil is hot but not smoking add the shallots and sauté for just a minute or two and then add the rice. Stir the rice for about 2 minutes and then add the cup of DaVinci Chianti and stir until the wine is absorbed.
  • Turn the heat down to medium or medium low and stir in 1 cup of the warm beef broth. Simmer until the broth is absorbed, stirring frequently. Repeat this process with about ½ cup of broth at a time and continue to cook until the rice is almost tender.
  • Be sure to allow each addition of broth to be absorbed before adding the next. This takes about 20 minutes. When the rice is done, add additional broth if you feel the risotto is too thick. I like a thinner risotto.
  • Stir in the parmesan cheese and a knob of butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the risotto rest while you prepare the sage leaves and/or fried eggs.
  • In a small sauté pan heat some olive oil and when the oil is very hot add the sage leaves, turning them in the oil as they brown. Once crispy, take the pan off the heat and set the fried sage on a paper towel lined plate.
  • Place the risotto in individual serving bowls and garnish with a fried sage leave, shaved pecorino, and if you wish, a fried egg.
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    Appetizers Karista's Kitchen

    Bruno’s Crostini

    Bruno's Crostini of Herbed Ricotta and an Anchovy

    By choosing to click and read this blog post, you confirm you are of legal drinking age in the country where this site is accessed.

    I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since my visit to Tuscany.  Strolling through acres of brilliantly colored vineyards with deep purple Sangiovese grapes, chocolate brown stems and bright green leaves.  The soil rich with various shades of red and brown, telling visitors the fruit will be lush with gorgeous intense flavor.

    Bruno's Crostini of Herbed Ricotta and an Anchovy

    I can still remember strolling through the fragrant vineyards (I should say, eating my way through the vineyards) in awe of the sweet, juicy Sangiovese grapes.  The flavors so ripe and so sweet with a texture of velvet.  I kept pinching myself while thinking…   I’m in Tuscany, visiting the Cantine Leonardo da Vinci and the growers as a 2013 DaVinci Wine StorytellerAn enchanting week I will always remember.

    Visiting one of the DaVinci Wine Growers Vineyard and Home

    Visiting Bruno Rossetti’s Vineyard and Home

    I felt so welcome. Such lovely hospitality with the most gracious of hosts and hostesses.  And of course, some of the most delicious food that has ever passed my lips.

    While dining at the table of one of the growers, Bruno Rossetti and his lovely wife, I asked Bruno “what is your favorite crostini?”.  He replied “simply ricotta on crostini with an anchovy”, and then he gave me a million dollar smile.  Which of course melted my heart.  I smiled back and told him how brilliant and delicious his favorite crostini sounded.

    I started making Bruno’s crostini the minute I returned home.  I’ve adapted them a bit, depending on what I have in my kitchen.  Most often adding a tablespoon of fresh chopped oregano and Italian parsley to the ricotta cheese.   Spreading the ricotta, sometimes homemade, onto the garlic laced crostini and then topping with an anchovy or two.  The perfect before or after dinner nibble paired with a glass DaVinci Chianti.

    Voting for your favorite four 2014 DaVinci Wine Storytellers is nearing the end.  Twelve finalists have been chosen and they are depending on all of us to vote for our favorite four Storytellers.  Be sure to click HERE, and go vote!  You can vote once per day until voting ends.

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


    Bruno’s Crostini


    1 cup of whole milk ricotta that has been drained

    Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

    Pinch of dried basil or dried mixed Italian herbs // during the summer I use 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano and Italian Parsley

    2 cans of anchovies

    Olive oil

    Crostini (baguette slices that have been toasted and rubbed with half a garlic clove)


    Whisk together the ricotta, crushed red pepper flakes and dried or fresh herbs.  This tastes best if it sits for about 30 minutes so the red pepper and herbs can infuse the ricotta.

    Spread the ricotta on each Crostini and top with an anchovy.  Arrange on a platter and drizzle with good quality olive oil.  Garnish with fresh chopped Italian parsley if desired.

    Serve your Holiday Antipasti Platters with DaVinci Chianti, DaVinci Chianti Reserve, DaVinci Pinot Grigio and if you’re lucky enough to score a bottle, the DaVinci Brunello.  Although I’d probably keep that for myself.

    Buon Appetito!



    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pork

    Tuscan Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

    Tuscan Herb Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Quick Tomato Sauce

    I have a saucy crew.  Serving a meal without a sauce, salsa, relish, chutney, drizzle, vinaigrette… you get the idea –  is just not done in my house.  Many of you may already know the story about my saucy crew, especially if  you attended my culinary classes.  I love telling this story. 🙂

    Years ago, I would arrive home from every culinary class motivated to master every challenge and every technique my instructors gave me.   So I practiced. Every night.  Most everything I chose to practice came with some sort of a sauce.  It was a French cooking school after all and much of the cuisine was French inspired… and saucy.

    However, one day I prepared a Chicken Milanese – which you might notice is not posted anywhere on my website.  I should post one; now that I think about it.  I served that Milanese in the traditional style and with just a squeeze of lemon.  No sauce.

    Oh the horror.  My darling family asked “where’s the sauce?”  I replied “there isn’t a sauce, it’s a Milanese.” To which my darling husband said “but we always have a sauce.”  Huh.

    So back into the kitchen I went to make a sauce.  It ended up being a delicious idea.  I whipped up a light and quick tomato sauce that paired perfectly with the chicken Milanese, making it taste a bit like a chicken parmesan sans the mozzarella.

    Today, the tradition continues.  A sauce or something “sauce like” is paired with most our family meals.  Which is why this lovely Tuscan Stuffed Pork Tenderloin is lounging on a platter of homemade tomato sauce.  Originally I paired this tenderloin recipe with a white wine sauce, however, on occasion I switch to this lovely and light tomato sauce.  A nice transition into spring and summer dining.

    If you’re short on time, and you don’t have homemade tomato sauce in the freezer, don’t worry about making your own sauce.   Your favorite good-quality jarred tomato sauce will do.  I typically make pots and pots of sauce (and stock) and keep it in my freezer for these occasions, but a jarred sauce is perfect when you’re preparing this on a busy weeknight.

    Wishing you all a most delicious and Happy Easter!

    Loads of Love,


    Tuscan Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

    Serves 4-6 


    1 ½ – 2 lbs Pork Tenderloin

    ¼ cup fresh rosemary, finely chopped

    ¼ cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped

    2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage or oregano

    3 cloves garlic minced

    Pinch of red pepper flakes or cayenne (optional)

    ½ cup dry white wine or chicken broth

    Extra virgin olive oil

    Salt and Pepper

    Kitchen twine

    Quick Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)

    Garnish with chopped Italian parsley and grated parmesan

    Serve with Gnocchi, pasta or creamy polenta and an Arugula and White Bean Salad 


    In a small bowl, mix together the rosemary, parsley, oregano or sage and garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon olive oil, and if you like a little spice add just a pinch of either cayenne or red pepper flakes.

    Place both tenderloins (most tenderloins come in pairs) on a cutting board and slice the tenderloins lengthwise about ¾ of the way through.  Fill the tenderloins with equal amounts of the herb and garlic mixture.  Next, sprinkle with salt and pepper and tie up the pork with kitchen twine, in about three different places to secure the herbs.

    Pre-heat the oven to 350F.  Heat a large oven proof skillet on medium high heat and add a few drizzles of olive oil.  When the skillet is hot, but not smoking, brown the tenderloins on all sides.  Next add the white wine or chicken broth to the skillet and let it deglaze the pan a bit.

    Place the skillet in the oven and let the tenderloins roast for about 20-25 minutes or until done, or until an instant read thermometer reaches 140F degrees.  Once your pork is out of the oven, let it rest for at least 5 minutes to achieve optimum flavor and final cooking temperature of 145F.

    While your tenderloins are roasting prepare the tomato sauce.  Or, if you’re using homemade or jarred sauce, heat about 2 cups of sauce for the pork.

    Transfer the tenderloins to a cutting board, remove the twine and slice at a slight diagonal about 8-10 slices per tenderloin.  Ladle the tomato sauce on the bottom of a platter and then place the tenderloin medallions on the sauce.  Garnish with chopped fresh Italian parsley and grated parmesan.

    Quick Tomato Sauce

    Makes about 2-3 1/2 cups


    2 tablespoons olive oil

    4-6 anchovies (keep the leftovers in the frig for soups, stews, salads and sauces, or to add to an antipasti platter)

    1 small red onion, diced

    2-3 cloves garlic, finely diced

    1 handful Italian parsley, chopped (sometimes during the summer I also add in extra fresh Italian herbs I have from my garden. Basil, oregano, marjoram)

    Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

    1 18-28 ounce jar tomato sauce (about 2-3 cups) ( I like using glass jarred tomato sauce, but if using a tin can find one that is BPA free or enamel lined)

    Squeeze of lemon

    Salt and pepper to taste


    In a large skillet over medium heat add a few tablespoons of olive oil and then add in the anchovy.  Let the oil and anchovy heat.  As the oil gets hot stir the anchovy a bit, the anchovy will begin to break up and blend with the oil.  When this happens, stir in the diced onion and sauté the onion until wilted.  Next stir in the garlic, parsley and pinch of red pepper flakes and let it cook for about one minute.

    Take the pan off the heat and stir in the tomato sauce.  I take the pan off the heat so the tomato sauce won’t splatter everywhere.  Mix to combine ingredients and then place the skillet back over the heat and bring the sauce to a simmer.  Let the sauce cook for about 10-20 minutes.  The longer it cooks the more flavorful it will be.

    Season the sauce with a little squeeze of lemon and then salt and pepper to taste.  The leftover sauce can be frozen for another use.

    Beef Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Sassy Side dishes

    Beef Stracotto with Creamy Parmesan Polenta

    Italian slow braised roast beef with red wine and creamy polenta

    Italian Beef Stracotto with Creamy Polenta

    Years ago I met a lovely woman named Sianna.  An older woman, a wise woman and a woman whose every word I seemed to tuck away in the file drawers of my mind.  She was fascinating. Full of  adventurous life stories and snippets of wisdom that I’m sure she felt my ears needed to hear.

    Sianna, originally from Tuscany, sent me the most wonderful book; The Tuscan Year by Elizabeth Romer.   Written many years ago by the English Author who spent a year with a Tuscan family.  Elizabeth Romer documents each seasons harvest and the foods prepared in the region as well as the everyday life of the small Tuscan village.  If you love books about culture and food, this is a fun, and might I say delicious read.

    One of the recipes, a Stracotto, is a beef stew made with wine and herbs.  It’s braised until the meat falls apart and is almost overcooked, which is what “stracotto” means, overcooked.  But this is no dried out tasteless beef stew!  This Stracotto couldn’t be more decadent or simple.  It’s a rich, herby and full flavored Italian beef stew that is a perfect meal for a cold winter or spring night.

    Now in typical Karista’s Kitchen fashion, I’ve adapted this recipe to be easily recreated in American home kitchens.  It still needs to cook for quite a good length of time, but works well in a slow cooker or Dutch oven.  The Stracotto creates the most mouth watering scents in my house and anyone who walks in my front door can’t wait to eat!

    Enjoy this delicious taste of Tuscany!  Bon Appetito!

    Beef Stracotto with Creamy Parmesan Polenta

    Serves 6


    4 lbs Beef top rump or top side roast

    5 – 6 slices Pancetta (or 4 slices bacon), chopped

    1 large onion, chopped

    2 ribs celery, chopped

    2 carrots, chopped

    6-8 cloves garlic, thin sliced

    2 cups dry red wine (This dish taste best with DaVinci Chianti wine) Note: if using a slow cooker reduce wine to 1 cup.

    1 18 oz. jar Organic whole tomatoes (I use Jovial Whole Tomatoes) crush them just a bit with your hands.

    1 teaspoon dried Rosemary, crushed (or 1 stalk fresh Rosemary)

    ½ teaspoon dried Oregano

    ½ teaspoon dried Thyme (or 1 stalk fresh Thyme)

    1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian Parsley

    1 teaspoon black pepper

    1 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt


    Season the roast with salt and pepper on all sides and preheat the oven to 350F.

    In an oven proof Dutch oven or heavy stock pot on medium high heat brown the roast on all sides.  Transfer the browned roast to a plate and set aside.

    Turn the heat to medium and add the chopped pancetta.  Brown the pancetta until crisp and then add the onion, celery and carrots.  Cook the veggies until soft and translucent, and then add the garlic.  Cook for another few minutes.

    Sprinkle the veggies with the teaspoon of pepper and then add the wine, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pot.  Let the wine simmer for a minute or two and stir in the tomatoes.

    Add the dried herbs and chopped fresh Italian parsley and combine with the veggie mixture.  Let the mixture come to a slow boil and then place the beef back into the pot.

    Turn off the stove top, put the lid on the pot and place the pot in the preheated oven.  Cook for about 4-5 hours in the oven until the beef falls apart.  Check for seasoning, adding the teaspoon salt if needed.

    Serve the Stracotto over a Creamy Parmesan Polenta and serve immediately.

    Creamy Parmesan Polenta

    ½ cup quick cook polenta (I like Moretti brand) Or prepare according to package directions.

    3 cups whole or 2% milk

    2 tablespoons fresh grated parmesan

    Season with salt and pepper to taste

    In a medium stock pot heat the milk on medium.  Stir every once and a while so the milk won’t burn on the bottom.  When the milk comes to a slow boil, add the polenta and stir.

    Continue stirring the polenta until it thickens to a heavy creamy texture.  Take it off the heat and add the parmesan cheese.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with the Stracotto or any beef or pork stew or use in place of pasta with a delicious ragu.