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Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pasta vegetarian

No Cook Sun Dried Tomato Sauce with Pasta

No cook Sun Dried Tomato Sauce over Pasta

Recently I came across an opinionated article about dinner posted on Social Media. It left me speechless. It read more like whining rather than a valid concern or issue. When I shared the article on my social media expressing my inability to find words to respond to this article, I was bombarded with passionate comments from friends.  Dinner is a touchy subject.

As I began to respond to the comments, I soon realized it would take more than a few words to describe why I held utter disdain for the article.

Today, I’ve decided to stir the pot. This is a subject to important not to discuss and its near and dear to my heart.

We all face the dinner hour every single day. It will always be there, it will never change or go away.  We have to eat. Right?  So why do so many of us want to bury our “dinner making” heads in the sand?  Because it’s one more thing to do after a very long day.  I get it. I really do get it.

Friends, I’ll begin by saying… the weeknight meal does not have to be Sunday dinner.  Even though I’m a chef and food is my job and I post lots of fun and intriguing recipes on my website… my family doesn’t always get a five course meal for dinner.  In fact, many evenings dinner is something fresh and quick or leftovers.

With that being said, I do believe dinner is important. It isn’t just about the food. It’s about the time of day – the feelings and emotions the dinner hour evokes in our family.  It’s a time when my kids talk about their day;  their proud moments or their worries.   Whether we’re eating dinner in shifts because of school activities or work, my family finds dinner the most comforting moment of the day.  Dinner gives children a sense of security – and whether it be sandwiches and soup or pasta with jarred pasta sauce, dinner says a great big I love you.

Do I ever complain about making dinner?  Yes. There are days when I feel like I drag myself into my kitchen after a very long day or I’ve been sitting at my desk for hours and my head is nowhere near the subject of dinner. That’s when I pull the soup out of the freezer, ask my daughter to make a few grilled cheese sandwiches or my husband to throw together a quick bowl of greens for a salad. The point is – we all meet at the table.

Quick No Cook Sun Dried Tomato Sauce over Pasta

Although dinner isn’t just about the food, studies have shown we eat healthier when we eat dinner at home. Not only is our physical health impacted by the dinner hour, our children’s mental and emotional health are impacted as well.

I found an excellent article from Forbes Contributor Katie Kelly BellAccording to The Family Dinner Project website, “Recent studies link regular family meals with the kinds of behaviors that parents want for their children: higher grade-point averages, resilience and self-esteem.  Additionally, family meals are linked to lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, eating disorders and depression. We also believe in the power of family dinners to nourish ethical thinking.”  “What I find personally traumatizing is the fact that we even have a grassroots campaign dedicated to preserving the family meal. How far we have strayed.” 

Let’s also chat about the financial impact of dinner. If you know me, you know my monthly food bill is higher than most. Yes, some of that cost is due to my occupation, and some of that cost is because I refuse to purchase fake or toxic food.  It is a crying shame that we as Americans are forced to make the choice whether or not we spend our money on quality food or a vacation. It’s a travesty.

However, keeping my food purchases as close to home as possible helps cut my food bill by one third.  I try to purchase all my produce, meat and poultry  at my local farm market, co-op market or local farmers.  Even our local Costco has started stocking local grass fed beef and chicken, as well as many Oregon organic food products. And I’m there for bath tissue anyway.  Then, all I need are the basics from my local grocery store.  If I don’t have time for that many stops, we divide and conquer.

My children are no longer children. One is in college and the other in high school. Did we have glorious idealistic dinners each night? No. But we did have dinner.  My girls may not remember the food they ate, but they will always remember the time spent together.  They still love to gather around the table for dinner.  I see it in their beautiful faces, the comfort, the internal joy found by sharing a meal. The sense of security and unconditional love.  Isn’t that what it’s really about?

Friends I want you to know I will try my very best to post more dinner friendly recipes here at Karista’s Kitchen.  I will adhere to my personal nutritional values, but I promise to make the meals achievable. I’d love your feedback!  What types of meals are easy for you to prepare? Are there cooking techniques you would like me to demonstrate that would make it easier to achieve dinner?

Until then, today I’m posting a no cook Sun Dried Tomato Sauce over your Favorite Pasta. It can easily be prepared in under 20 minutes tops. As well, I’m listing a few of my favorite quick dinner websites. Remember, the weeknight meal does not have to be Sunday dinner.

If you’d like to read the article that got me so wound up, click here.  But please read Joel Salatin’s response.  It’s excellent and I couldn’t agree with him more.


Jamie’s 15 minute meals – What is not to love about this chef or website?!

The Nourished Kitchen – I love this as a nutritional resource as well as traditional recipes

Foodista – an excellent resource for all types of recipes from quick and easy to holiday dinners

Farmstr – For those of you living in Western Washington, this is an excellent resource for local produce, meat, fish and poultry!

Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


No Cook Sun Dried Tomato Sauce with Pasta

Serving Size: 4-6

No Cook Sun Dried Tomato Sauce with Pasta


  • One 8 ounce jar sun dried tomatoes in olive oil (with herbs if you can find it)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • ¼ cup heavy cream (omit if you eat dairy free)
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan, plus more for garnish
  • 1 bunch fresh basil leaves, chopped chiffonade or just chopped if you’re in a hurry
  • ¼ - ½ cup reserved pasta water
  • Drizzle extra virgin olive oil
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lb of your favorite pasta, cooked according to package directions, reserving at least ½ cup of pasta water (I love Strozzapreti pasta or something similar. I think pappardelle would be great with this sauce as well)


  • In a food processor or blender add the sun dried tomatoes with oil (and herbs if included), smashed garlic, grated parmesan and ¼ cup pasta water. Pulse to a puree. If needed, add additional pasta water. Add the heavy cream and pulse one or two times just to blend, you don’t want to whip the heavy cream.
  • Toss the pasta with the sauce, chopped fresh basil, squeeze of lemon and plate. Drizzle each plate with a splash of extra virgin olive oil and garnish with extra parmesan cheese. Serve hot.
  • For a heartier dish serve with Sweet or Hot Italian Sausages. And don’t forget the DaVinci Chianti 🙂
  • Buon Appetito!
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    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pasta vegetarian

    Fettuccine Caprese

    Fettuccine Caprese with fresh cherry tomatoes, basil and mozzarella balls

    Pasta seems the perfect medium for fresh seasonal produce.  It allows the complex flavors of fresh ingredients to shine, while gently caressed in pillows of soft pasta.

    Pasta is one of my family’s preferred meals.  And although I indulge them once in a blue moon with honest to goodness fresh homemade pasta, often,  I use a high quality prepared gluten-free pasta.  I’ve always had one particular favorite brand; now I have two.

    Typically, I don’t post product reviews unless it’s one of my few absolute faves; and it meets my quality ingredient standards.  But when Cappello’s asked me to review their line of gluten-free, grain free pastas and cookie dough, I happily agreed.

    Fettuccine Caprese with Cherry Tomatoes, Fresh Basil, Mozzarella Balls and lemon

    Fettuccine Caprese

    Not only is each Cappello’s products delicious in every way, the company itself is impressive.  I received a custom eco-cooler of product and immediately thought to myself, what can I do with this box? I didn’t have to do anything except attach the return shipping label that was included and then drop it off at the post office.  What a fabulous way to re-use and re-purpose!

    Here is a short review of each product:

    Gnocchi:  Earth friendly, gluten-free and grain free, Cappello’s has produced a most tantalizing line of products.  I prepared the Gnocchi with a classic Italian herb brown butter.  The Gnocchi are soft and fairly pillow like, just as you would expect.  They’re made with almond flour and potato which gives a smooth and creamy texture, but feel a bit more dense than conventional Gnocchi.  They were a huge success in my house.  I now have requests for more Cappello’s Gnocchi.

    Lasagna:  The lasagna sheets are easy to use, especially once they’ve warmed to room temperature.  No need to boil these noodles, just assemble your ingredients and bake.  The ease of preparation is impressive, as is the finished product.  Made with mostly almond flour, the pasta is a bit more dense than conventional pasta but it doesn’t feel too heavy.  It also held up well to my spinach ricotta base and I think would be fantastic for meat sauces and squash lasagna’s as well.

    Cookie Dough:  The cookie dough is tastefully flavored and the cookies bake in 10-13 minutes.  A gluten-free, grain free cookie that tastes delicious?  Now there’s a novelty!  I’m completely in love with these little treats and aim to get my hands on a few more packages.

    Fettuccine:  Last but certainly not least, the Fettuccine is every bit as delicious and easy to prepare as the other products.  Again, an almond flour base that is more dense than conventional pasta but still light enough in texture be enjoyed in a pasta dish.

    It held up beautifully to my Fettuccine Caprese with lovely bite that feels like conventional pasta and the chew was delicious. My pasta test has always been “how good does this pasta taste with butter and grated parmesan alone?”  This fettuccine passed the butter and cheese test with flying colors.

    Gnocchi in Herbed Brown Butter

    Cappello’s Gnocchi in Herbed Brown Butter

    Although an outstanding product, it is priced higher than most gluten free pastas. That being said, I’m all about quality and flavor.  As well, one must remember Cappello’s products aren’t just gluten free, they are grain free.  For those of us who cannot eat grain of any kind on a regular basis, or for those who prefer to consume a paleo or mostly paleo diet, this is the perfect alternative.

    And I suppose I could also make the argument that if we left out a few of those $4 latte’s each week, we could certainly afford to use a higher quality pasta for the stellar meals we create.  “Ahem”… my little soap box speech for the week.

    Cappello’s products are carried in a variety of markets, mostly in Colorado, however, I’ve found them here in Oregon and Washington State.  Check your local natural market, co-op market or Whole Foods.  If you can’t find them there, you can order on the Cappello’s website.  Better yet, ask your favorite market to stock Cappello’s products.

    I know this was an extra long post. Thanks for reading!  I’m usually not this chatty, unless of course you’re sitting across from me at the table.  My friends can tell you this is true.

    Enjoy this lovely seasonal dish for dinner or lunch.  I think it’s best when it’s served warm – when the fresh mozzarella balls become a little melted and gooey.

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


    Fettuccine Caprese

    Serves 3-4


    1 package Cappello’s gluten-free, grain free Fettuccine, cooked according to package directions

    1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

    1 15 ounce container Bocconcini or Ciliegini Mozzarella balls (the small size)

    1 good size bunch fresh basil, cut chiffonade or torn

    Handful of fresh herbs, finely chopped (oregano, Italian parsley, sage)

    2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced

    ¼ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil ( a little extra for drizzling)

    Pinch of red pepper flakes

    Squeeze of lemon

    Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

    Fresh grated parmesan for garnish if desired


    Heat a sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil.  When the oil is hot but not smoking, toss in the handful of fresh chopped herbs and pinch of red pepper flakes.  Let them cook for about thirty seconds to one minute. You want the herbs to release their gorgeous scented oils.

    Next stir in the garlic and let it cook for about one minute.  Take the pan off the heat and toss in the cherry tomatoes.  You don’t want to cook the tomatoes, you just want to warm them in the herb and garlic olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.

    Prepare the pasta.  It doesn’t take long to cook the pasta, only about 45 seconds to one minute.  I cooked it a little longer, maybe two minutes.  Mostly because I forgot to set my timer. It turned out beautifully.

    Once the pasta is done, drain it, put it back into the pasta pot and toss it with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper.

    Gently toss the pasta with the tomato, herb and garlic olive oil, mozzarella balls and half the fresh basil.  Squeeze with fresh lemon and then turn the pasta onto a serving platter or bowl.  Garnish with the remaining fresh basil.

    Serve warm with fresh grated parmesan.  I adore this pasta served with fresh green salad or lettuce wedge and a crisp dry pinot grigio or chianti.

    Buon Appetito!

    Karista's Kitchen Salad Sassy Side dishes vegetarian

    Cucumber Greek Salad

    Cucumber Greek Salad with Herbed Feta, Olives, Red Onion and Fresh Mint

    I can’t eat enough salad these days.  Maybe it’s the weather or maybe it’s all the beautiful produce at the Farmer’s Market and my Co-op – quietly taunting me with brilliant shades of summer color and fresh earthy scents as I slowly meander by.

    Salad is a lovely way to enjoy the warmer months.  No need to turn on a stove top or oven, fresh ingredients that are easily prepped and assembled and can be as fun and festive or as traditional as you desire.

    Cucumber Greek Salad with Herbed Feta, Olives, Red Onion and Fresh Mint

    I keep an assortment of vinegar and olive oil in my pantry for a quick dressing.  Don’t worry about getting to fancy or spending a lot of time making the dressing.  Just a dash of your best olive oil and favorite vinegar with a pinch of salt and pepper will do.  Get a little wild and purchase a champagne, pinot noir or sherry vinegar or high quality flavored vinegar to keep on hand for all your summer salad creations.

    This enticing Cucumber Greek Salad was inspired by the traditional Greek salad that we all know and love.  I makes a lovely light lunch or paired with grilled salmon for the loveliest of summer al fresco dining.  Divine.

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


    Cucumber Greek Salad

    All the ingredients are approximate.  Feel free to adjust to your taste preference.  Sometimes I load the salad with olives and sometimes I keep it simple with just a few.  Let your taste buds be your guide.

    Serves 4


    2 large cucumbers, peeled or partially peeled and sliced about 1/8 inch slices.

    1/2 cup pitted assorted olives (I like using stuffed green and pitted kalamata olives)

    1/2 cup small diced or crumbled herbed or marinated feta cheese

    1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

    1/4 cup coarsely chopped or torn fresh mint leaves

    Optional: Cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

    Salt and pepper

    Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

    Drizzle of sherry, champagne, red wine, pinot noir or balsamic vinegar


    Layer the cucumber on a platter or in a large serving bowl.  Next layer the olives, then the feta cheese, next the red onion and then last, top with the fresh mint.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with vinegar and olive oil.

    I love this served on a large platter but if you prefer, put all the ingredients in a bowl and toss with the olive oil and vinegar.  Garnish with extra chopped mint.






    Chicken Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly

    Fresh Herb and Mayonnaise Roasted Chicken

    Fresh Herb and Mayonnaise Roasted Whole Chicken

    One of the first classes on my culinary school schedule was devoted solely to the art of preparing poultry.   I drove to class that day over the moon excited about tackling the preparation of poultry.

    Finally, I was going to learn how to prepare a roasted chicken without mangling it with kitchen twine and drying it out to a tasteless plate of bones.

    Sadly… my excitement faded shortly after class began.

    Not only was half the chicken skin missing on the chicken legs, due to my wrangling the chicken with kitchen twine, my lovely chicken was terribly over cooked and nearly a platter of chicken bones.  (The Thanksgiving dinner scene in National Lampoons Christmas Vacation came to mind)

    After all my classmates roasted chickens had been presented, it was my turn to step up and talk about my very dark and dismal looking roasted chicken.  Something I did NOT want to do.

    My chef instructor was quite the perfectionist.  A somewhat gruff and bigger than life demeanor – he was a wee bit intimidating.  He appeared absolutely frustrated by my inability to roast a chicken to perfection and decided to make an example of my over cooked chicken.

    “Bennett” he said, in his thick German accent. “Zee. cheeken. iz dead! No need to keel it again.” Yes, I’ve spelled and punctuated the words just the way I remember him saying this in the class.  Although I could feel my face turning several shades of bright red, I knew then what he was trying to tell me.  Stop over cooking the chicken!

    Herb and Mayonnaise Roasted Chicken Before and After

    The key to making a perfect roasted chicken?  Don’t take it out of the oven until it’s reached an internal temperature of 165F.  And, be sure to purchase a local, hopefully pasture raised, chicken.  Chicken that has traveled across the country to rest in your local market’s refrigerated poultry bin is probably not going to yield a tasty or moist result. Finding a local farmer that sells fresh chicken to your local co-op or market or even to the public, is definitely the tastier and moister choice.   And, you will be helping your local farmer stay in business, which supports the local community.

    If you live in Western Washington, check out the online marketplace for local produce, poultry, eggs, meat and seafood called Farmstr.  Coming soon to new locations in the Pacific Northwest and beyond!


    In honor of over-roasted chicken, I thought I’d share my grandma’s method for a moist and tasty chicken using mayonnaise.  Yep, mayonnaise.  Grandma used to massage mayonnaise all over her roasters before popping them in the oven.  And when she ran out of mayo, she used butter.

    I took this mayonnaise slathering technique a little further and incorporated fresh chopped herbs and garlic into the mayo and then added the step of placing some of that herb mayo under the skin of the chicken breast, legs and thighs.  This creates not only flavor, but a tender, juicy roasted chicken.

    Delicious Wishes and loads of love,


    Fresh Herb and Mayonnaise Roasted Chicken

    The key to creating a perfectly roasted chicken is making sure you remove the chicken from the oven when the internal temperature reaches 165F. Testing the meat temperature at the joint between the thigh and leg is best.  Then take it out of the oven and tent the chicken with foil and let it rest for about 5-10 minutes.  This will raise the internal temperature another 5 degrees and allow the juices to re-distribute.  The final result should be a moist and perfectly roasted chicken. 


    1  4-5lb fresh, organic whole chicken

    1/3 cup organic regular or homemade mayonnaise

    Small handful of fresh herbs finely chopped.  (thyme, oregano, Italian parsley, basil, chive, rosemary)

    1 clove garlic, minced

    1 lemon, quartered

    Salt and Pepper


    Pre-heat the oven to 400F.

    Mix together the fresh herbs, garlic and mayonnaise.  Add a few pinches of salt and pepper.

    Salt and pepper the cavity of the chicken and stuff with the lemon quarters.  And some extra garlic cloves if you like.

    Next spread about half the herb mayonnaise under the skin of the chicken breast, leg and thighs.  It’s typically fairly tough but if it breaks don’t worry…  it’ll still be fabulous.

    Slather the remaining mayonnaise over the outside of the chicken and then lightly season with some cracked black pepper and salt.

    Place it in a roasting pan or baking dish, or even on a lined baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 1 hour or until the internal temperature reaches 165F.

    Once the chicken has reached 165F, remove it from the oven and tent it with some aluminum foil.  Let it sit for about 5-10 minutes before carving or breaking down to serve.

    I adore this roasted chicken all by itself but during the spring months I serve it with baby spring greens tossed with a simple balsamic vinaigrette.  Or serve it with this lovely spring salad from Pink Patisserie.  A lovely meal!

    ** Rarely do I truss my chicken unless I’m serving a roasted chicken for guests or a holiday meal.  It does help seal the cavity and therefore technically keep the chicken from drying out.  However, I’m typically in a time crunch to get the chicken in the oven and stuffing the cavity with extra herbs and lemon will usually achieve the same result.  The chicken just won’t look quite so Julia Child.  But it’ll still taste delicious.  However, if you’d like to learn how to truss a chicken, click here. It’s a great technique to add to your culinary skills.  Bon Appetit!

    Chicken Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly

    Chicken Avocado Tortilla Torta

    chicken avocado tortilla torta

    Oh for the love of all things Avocado.  I’m on an intense avocado kick these days.  I feel like adding avocado to everything.

    Actually, Suzie Q, my youngest, made that very comment the other day.  “Mom, you add avocado to everything.  Next it’ll be in our dessert”.   Hmmm… I just came across ice cream prepared with avocado.  Trying that one next. 🙂

    Avocado lends a creamy and sometimes buttery texture to dishes.  It’s not terribly aromatic but it can taste of olive oil and fresh grass when eaten ripe.

    chicken avocado tortilla torta

    I love it sliced on a bed of wilted spinach and topped with poached or pan-fried farm fresh eggs. I also add diced avocado to my Mexican stuffed peppers which eliminates the need for extra cheese.  When the avocado is heated the texture becomes a bit creamy,  just like warm or melted cheese.

    Avocado is perfectly delicious added to my ceviche, tacos and sandwiches.  I keep a squishy, ripe one on the counter for spreading like mayonnaise.  During the summer months I love an heirloom tomato and avocado sandwich with just a sprinkling of my favorite gourmet salt.

    So of course when I was whipping up this chicken torta, I had to add avocado.  Combined with fresh cilantro, white onion, salsa Verde and Cotija cheese… fresh, clean flavors that deliciously marry well together.  Made dinner feel just a little bit special.

    Tank thought so too.  My oldest gal captured this picture of Tank.  Waiting patiently, staring down the deliciousness, while I was working to snap a food photo.  What can I say,  he cracks me up!

    cairn terrier, food photography

    Tank Waiting Patiently

    Delicious wishes and loads of love!


    Chicken Avocado Tortilla Torta

    Serves 6


    2 cups small cubed or shredded cooked chicken

    ½ white onion, small diced (about 1 cup)

    ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

    1 teaspoon chili powder

    1 teaspoon ground cumin

    Salt and pepper to taste

    2-3 cups diced avocado, tossed gently with a little lime juice (approx 2 avocados)

    12-18 corn tortillas, sliced in half

    2-3 cups salsa Verde (green enchilada sauce, Hatch is a quality brand I recommend) (recipe below for when tomatillos are in season.  I do recommend canning tomatillos during the summer for delicious salsa Verde year round.)

    2 cups cotija cheese

    1 cup mozzarella or creamy farmer’s cheese, Mexican Queso


    Heat the oven to 375F.

    You will need an 8×8 or 9×13 baking dish.  I like a deep dish torta so I use the 8×8.  But the 9×13 also works well.

    In a large mixing bowl, mix together the cooked chicken, white onion, fresh cilantro, 1 cup crumbled cotija cheese, chili powder and cumin.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Very gently fold in the diced avocado.

    Pour the salsa Verde in a bowl large enough to dip the halved tortillas.  Dip 4-6 tortilla halves and place them in the bottom of the baking dish.  You will feel like you’re making a lasagna.

    Sprinkle with the chicken avocado mixture and then dip a few more tortilla halves into the salsa Verde and arrange on top of the chicken avocado mixture.  Repeat with the layering process until you have used all your chicken avocado mixture.  I can usually get three layers in an 8×8 pan.

    Be sure to end the layers with salsa Verde dipped tortillas.  Sprinkle with Mozzarella and remaining Cotija cheese.

    Bake uncovered for about 20-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and sides are bubbly.  Let the torta stand for about 5 minutes before serving.

    I love this dish with Cabbage and Cucumber slaw.  I’ve listed the recipe below.  Enjoy!

    Fresh Salsa Verde


    2 cans tomatillos (I prefer Hatch brand)

    ½ cup diced onions

    2 cloves garlic, minced

    ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

    1 jalapeno, roasted and seeded

    ½ cup water or chicken broth if needed

    Salt to taste


    Place the tomatillos in a blender or food processor and puree.

    Add a little oil to a medium sauce pan over medium heat and sauté the onions and garlic until wilted.

    Stir in the pureed tomatillos, cilantro and jalapeno and let it simmer on low for about five minutes, adding water or chicken broth if necessary.   Take it off the heat and set aside until needed.  Or refrigerate for up to 3 days.


    Cabbage and Cucumber Slaw

    Serves 4-6


    1 small to medium head Napa cabbage, halved and then sliced so you get ribbons of cabbage.

    1 large cucumber, sliced (peeled if you like)

    4-5 green onions, sliced

    ½ cup fresh chopped cilantro (optional)

    ½ cup mayonnaise

    2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice

    1-2 teaspoons sugar or agave

    Dash of Sriracha or hot sauce to taste

    Salt and pepper to taste


    Whisk together the mayonnaise, citrus juice, sugar and Sriracha.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    Toss the dressing with the cabbage and then layer the cucumber, green onion and cilantro on top.  Serve and enjoy!

    *my family likes a well dressed slaw so I often double the dressing recipe.  But I think it tastes great lightly dressed.

    Karista's Kitchen Salad Sassy Side dishes vegetarian

    Roasted Beet and Cucumber Salad

    Roasted Beet Salad with Cucumbers, Red Onions and Smokey Bleu Cheese

    Roasted Beet Salad with Cucumbers, Red Onions and Smokey Bleu Cheese

    Today, my heart is filled with overwhelming appreciation.  Friends and family who share in my fear and anxiety, my sadness and hope.

    Beautiful dishes of food, cookies, desserts and love arriving on my doorstep.  Meant to comfort and heal.

    Phone calls, texts, emails, messages of well wishes, friendship, love.

    My Tink

    My Tink

    Today, my heart is grateful.  Grateful my precious Tink is home with us, healthy and recovering.  She’s not the first adult child to be ill or endure a difficult surgery.  There are those who have suffered much more.   For this my heart grieves.

    I wish I could write this post about something comical Tank has done this week.  Even he has been a bit somber.  Missing his girl, knowing something was different.  Giving her tons of kisses when she returned home and not wanting to leave her bedside until I insisted.

    I’m sure no one needs reminding… life is messy.  It’s scary, it’s heartbreaking.  But it’s also glorious.  A reminder to cherish every moment.  Even when those moments are less than Norman Rockwell, or the prettiest, perfect blog.

    Me and My Two Sassy Gals

    Me and My Two Sassy Gals

    You know the old saying “when it rains, it pours”.  It poured this week.  We endured.  Together. With love and friendship, generosity and kindness.

    I am humbled and reminded… Life doesn’t just happen to me.  It happens around me.  To everyone who touches my heart.

    I wish you all the best of health, love and happiness.

    Loads of Love,


    To Good Health and Happiness… A Roasted Beet Salad with Cucumbers, Red Onions and Smokey Bleu

    Serves 2


    2 beets, roasted and sliced

    1 cucumber, sliced (as much or as little as you like)

    1/2 red onion sliced

    Handful of Rogue Smokey Bleu

    Balsamic Vinegar

    Your favorite good quality extra virgin olive oil

    Salt and pepper to taste


    Place the sliced roasted beets on a plate, arrange however you like.  Layer the sliced cucumber on top of the beets, followed by a sprinkling of sliced red onion and a dash of smokey bleu.  Spritz with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Season with a pinch or two of sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

    Enjoy with the ones you love 🙂

    Karista's Kitchen Pork Sauces, Salsas and More

    Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Roasted Red Pepper Hazelnut Sauce

    Roasted Red Peppers, Hazelnut, sauce for pork

    Roasted Red Pepper Hazelnut Sauce

    I always keep a spare pork tenderloin, or two, in the freezer.  It’s one of those quick fix meals that pairs beautifully with most any sauce or roasted winter fruit.  I had planned to use this tenderloin with a spiced apple compote, which is delicious, but I just wasn’t feelin’ the apples that day.

    I must be longing for summer, or maybe I need extra vitamin C,  because my taste buds have been craving the flavor of roasted red peppers.  A little smoky, slightly sweet with a touch of tang, that makes for a lovely pairing with pork, lamb, poultry, pasta and veggies.

    And don’t get me started with the mini roasted sweet peppers.  I can eat them like candy.  So sweet and so flavorful, I often roast them with a little oil, salt and pepper and serve them as a side dish.  They’re also fabulous stuffed with cheese.

    Bell peppers (and mini sweets) make the loveliest sauces, salsas, and relishes.  Complimenting grilled or roasted meats and fish so beautifully.  I read somewhere that bell peppers are like the Christmas ornaments of the vegetable world.  All that bright beautiful color in all those wonderful shapes and sizes.

    This sassy little sauce is no exception.  Combined with toasted hazelnuts, fresh herbs and olive oil, this sauce’s bright orange/red color is pleasing to the eye and tantalizing to the taste buds.

    Extravagant in taste, but simply prepared.  My favorite kind of weeknight meal 🙂

    Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Roasted Red Pepper Hazelnut Sauce

    Serves 4


    1 1/2 pork tenderloin, sliced into 1/2 to 1 inch medallions

    Salt and pepper

    4 tablespoons high heat oil, or clarified butter (ghee)

    Fresh chopped Italian parsley (for garnish)

    Sauce Ingredients

    2 large red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, and seeded

    1/3 cup Hazelnuts, roasted and skinned

    2 cloves garlic, peeled

    2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

    1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves

    1 teaspoon sugar

    1 teaspoon salt

    ½ teaspoon Thai Kitchen roasted red chili paste or a dash of hot sauce

    ½ cup extra virgin olive oil  (decrease the olive oil to ¼-1/3 to use this sauce as a pesto or dip)


    To Prepare the Sauce:

    Place all the sauce ingredients, except the olive oil, in the bowl of a food processor or blender and blend until the hazelnuts are finely ground.

    Next, with the processor running, pour the olive oil over the mixture until well blended.  The sauce should have a very thick salad dressing consistency.  You may need to scrape the sides of the bowl several times in between blending.

    The sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to one week.   Bring the sauce to room temperature before using or warm lightly in a double boiler, never getting the sauce to hot as the oil will separate.

    Serve over any grilled meats and poultry.  Or serve as a dip for crudités or pesto for Crostini. 

    To Prepare the Pork Tenderloin Medallions:

    Season the medallions with salt and pepper on both sides.  Heat a large skillet with 2 tablespoons oil over medium high heat.  When the oil is hot and shimmering,  add the medallions (you may need to cook in batches) adding more oil as needed.

    When they are brown on the first side, flip and brown them on the second side.  It shouldn’t take long for the pork medallions to cook through, 2 minutes on each side depending on thickness.  Pork should be cooked to 145F internal temperature for perfectly moist and juicy pork.

    Ladle the sauce on a platter and place the cooked pork on top of the sauce.  Garnish with fresh chopped Italian parsley and serve immediately.

    Recipe adapted from Chef Jerry Traunfeld, The Herbfarm Cookbook (a must have in your cook book library!)

    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Sassy Side dishes vegetarian

    Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Bean Salad

    roasted sweet potatoes, black beans, and corn with green onions and cilantro

    I created this Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Bean Salad many years ago when I was teaching culinary classes.

    I originally wrote this post in 2011 when I was creating new recipes for my students to prepare in class. There still is nothing quite as wonderful as hearing from readers (or students) how delicious my recipe is or how easy it is to make. Or how it made everyone come to the table with a smile on their face.


    My winter quarter classes begin next week and I couldn’t be more excited about the menu.  I’m proud to say this will be my fourth year teaching cooking classes for our local Co-op market here in Seattle.

    PCC is the Puget Consumer and Co-op Natural Market that began in 1953.  An amazing story about 15 founding families who wanted to improve the quality and nutrition of available food.  Now over 45,000 members strong, PCC continues to support our local farms with the PCC Farmland Trust and educate our community through our IACP Award winning PCC Cooks.

    It does my heart good to see the community supporting our local farms and farming communities.  I think you know how much I’d love to be a farmer. 🙂  Until then, I savor the opportunity to do my part in food education.

    Teaching people to cook is essential to good health.  Teaching home chef’s how to make local, seasonal produce, meat, fish and poultry taste delicious is my goal.

    Black beans, sweet potatoes, lime vinaigrette

    This brightly colored Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Bean Salad couldn’t be more tempting.  Beautiful to the eye and bursting with flavor to the tongue.  I love versatile and this is one of those versatile salads that can be tweaked to your tastes.

    I personally love it loaded with cilantro and green onions.  But I have a friend who doesn’t care so much for cilantro.  Leaving out the cilantro and replacing it with chive or Italian parsley would be also be fabulous.

    Sweet potatoes are divine in this recipe but feel free to substitute with winter squash. Especially if that’s what you have on hand. Pumpkin would also be fabulous as a substitute.

    Delicious wishes for a healthy and happy winter!

    Loads of Love,


    Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Bean Salad

    Serving Size: 4-6

    Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Bean Salad


    • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
    • 1 tablespoon oil
    • 2 limes, zested and juiced (if the limes are large and juicy, only one may be needed)
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • ½ teaspoon pepper
    • 1 tablespoon honey
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • ½ teaspoon chipotle chili powder (or 1 teaspoon chili powder)
    • 3-4 scallions, finely chopped
    • 1 cup corn, I use local organic frozen corn during the winter months (or a little more, especially if you're making this in the summer when fresh sweet corn is readily available)
    • 1 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
    • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro


  • Pre-heat the oven to 400F. Or, if your oven runs cool pre-heat to 425F.
  • In a large bowl, toss the cubed sweet potatoes with a little high heat oil, such as sunflower, safflower or coconut and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Transfer the sweet potatoes to a parchment lined baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes, just until crisp tender. Be sure not to overcook. We wouldn’t want mashed sweet potato salad.
  • While the potatoes are cooking, whisk together the lime juice, zest, salt, pepper, honey, olive oil and chipotle chili powder.
  • Add the cooled potatoes, scallions, beans and cilantro. Toss gently.
  • You may serve at room temperature or refrigerate.
  • Notes

    Roasting the sweet potatoes or squash is preferred. I’ve tried it both ways, boiled and roasted. Roasting brings out the sweetness in the sweet potato and squash, and adds a nice subtle “crisp” on the outside.

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    Chicken Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Life Around My Table

    Slow Cooked Red Ginger Chicken

    slow cooked chicken thighs, ginger, soy and tomato sauce

    One of my dear friends in Washington state makes a fantastic Chicken Adobo and Chicken Long Rice which she has so graciously shared with me several times.  So heavenly, I keep begging her for the recipes.  Of Filipino decent, my friend used to watch her Grandfather prepare these traditional dishes when she was little.  She now prepares them for her family, and her extremely grateful friends.  Since then, I’ve come to know another friend and colleague of Filipino decent (Danny, you know who you are!) and I continuously drool over his very delicious looking Instagram feed.

    Because I’m of the curious sort and I’m inspired by my friends ancestral cuisine, several years ago I decided to explore the flavors of the Philippines.  Many recipes and full tummies later, this fragrant and enticing slow cooked red ginger chicken was created. This recipe is simple and brimming with the flavors I was craving.  

    As well, at that time I had a full private chef client list and I was on a mission to create more slow cooker meals for our very busy family schedule.

    When I originally posted this slow cooked red ginger chicken recipe I was raising backyard chickens (laying hens only, they were not raised for consumption) and posted the photos below.  I adored my chicken gals, and you know, I think they adored me too.  When we left Washington state, my girls landed a cushy gig at a local farm where they would live out their sweet chicken lives in chicken luxury.  Since that time I haven’t had the opportunity to build another chicken coop and raise backyard chickens, but I’m sure that time will come again.


    Urban Farm Chickens

    Rosemary, Cocoa and Pepper

    I still dabble with this recipe at times, adding a little heavy cream to the sauce when the mood strikes.  On occasion I’ve prepared the sauce stove top, added a little heavy cream and then ladled the sauce over grilled chicken breasts.  I like chicken breasts either grilled or pan seared and then finished in the oven.  Slow cooked chicken breasts can have a strange chewy texture and for some reason I just don’t find that palatable. Surprisingly I do have a bit of a fussy palate. 😉

    If you make this recipe let me know how it turns out for you and how you like it. I’d love your thoughts. This is one of those recipes that keeps evolving and one day it just might be perfected.

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love to you!


    Slow Cooked Red Ginger Chicken

    Serving Size: 4-6

    Slow Cooked Red Ginger Chicken


    • 8-10 chicken thighs, no skin but you can use bone in or boneless
    • 1- 3 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
    • 1 cup tomato sauce (a great way to use your canned tomatoes!)
    • ½ cup Tamari (or soy sauce)
    • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
    • Fresh ground pepper
    • Chopped fresh cilantro or green onions for garnish
    • White Rice


  • Pre-heat the slow cooker on low.
  • Thick slice the ginger into 5-6 pieces. Whisk together the tomato sauce, tamari, garlic and ginger and reserve.
  • Season the chicken pieces with pepper and brown in a skillet on both sides. You’ll want to achieve a nice deep brown color on the chicken as this will give the chicken a lot of flavor. Transfer the browned chicken pieces to the slow cooker.
  • Pour the sauce over the chicken and slow cook on low for about 5-6 hours or until the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165F. Chicken thighs and legs cook up better in the slow cooker, rather than chicken breasts.
  • When the chicken is done, transfer the chicken to a platter. Strain the *sauce through a mesh colander and ladle over the chicken. Serve over white rice and garnish with chopped fresh green onion or cilantro.
  • To make a thicker sauce, heat the strained sauce in a small sauce pan. In a small bowl, mix together a spoonful or two of the heated sauce with about 1/2 teaspoon of corn starch. Then whisk that mixture back into the sauce pan and let it come to a boil for only a few seconds or until you've reached desired consistency.
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    Beef Grilling Kid Friendly

    Grilled Steak Salad with Fresh Peaches and Smokey Bleu Cheese Vinaigrette

    Grilled Steak Salad with Fresh Peaches and Smoky Bleu Cheese Vinaigrette

    First day of Fall and it’s 80 degrees.  Most people would say that’s normal for this time of year.  In Seattle??

    But hey, I’m not complaining.  It could be 60 and rainy.  And we all know that’ll happen soon.  Like… in two days.

    Washington Yellow Peaches

    So tonight we’re celebrating summer! I wish I could tell you that Ranger Craig and I drove over to Kittitas and picked up a few flats of peaches like we did last year.   Or that we flew over to the Spokane Valley to go peach picking.  That’s what I really wanted to do.

    Rogue Creamery Smoky Bleu Cheese

    Nope, I got my beautiful peaches at our local co-op, PCC Natural Markets.  Which is great, because they always have the best local seasonal produce on hand.  You know, just in case I can’t pick it myself.  🙂

    Fresh From My Garden Basil

    A little fresh basil from my garden, my fave smokey bleu cheese from Rogue Creamery, Washington peaches, grass-fed Eastern Washington Beef and a tangy but sweet vinaigrette and my little salad was born.

    Actually, this little salad was born last year, only with Mangos.  But I’m allergic to mangos.  I know, this is tragic!  So peaches made the substitution.

    And a fabulous substitution it is.  Happy first day of fall!

    Loads of Love,


    Grilled Steak Salad with Fresh Peaches and Smokey Bleu Cheese Vinaigrette

    Make this salad vegetarian and substitute the beef with grilled portabello mushrooms.  Delicious!

    Serves 4-6


    1- 1 1/2 lbs beef steak (any cut or your favorite), grilled how you like it or pan seared (I used a skirt steak that I pounded out very thin, almost like carne asada)

    4-6 cups fresh greens (I like a mixture of romaine, butter and red leaf lettuce)

    4 ounces smoked bleu cheese (or your fave), crumbled

    1/4 cup fresh basil, cut in strips (chiffonade)

    2 peaches, washed and thin sliced

    Toasted or caramelized walnuts for garnish (optional)

    For the Vinaigrette

    1 clove garlic minced

    1 tablespoon grated onion

    1 tablespoon ketchup

    1 teaspoon yellow mustard

    1 tablespoon sugar

    3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

    ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

    2 tablespoons water


    Whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients and set aside.

    Brush the steak with oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides.  Heat the grill to 400F and grill the beef until it reaches desired doneness.  Let the steak/steaks rest before slicing.  Once they’ve rested for about 5 minutes, slice thinly against the grain.

    Toss the mixed greens with the vinaigrette.  Use as much or as little vinaigrette as you like.  Assemble on individual plates or one large platter.

    Layer with fresh peach slices, sliced steak, bleu cheese and fresh basil.  Garnish with toasted walnuts.

    Flying Grilling Pork

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

    Asian Style Pork Loin Chops with sautéed Sweet Onions

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

    Brown Rice, Fresh Chopped Cilantro and Steamed Sugar Snap Peas

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

    Lopez Harbor from the air

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

    Beautiful Lopez Island

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

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

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

    I love cows!

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

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

    Spicy Salad Mix... beautifully delicious

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

    Savor the Season!

    Just Heavenly Fudge

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

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

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

    Asian Style Grilled Pork Loin Chops with Sautéed Sweet Onions

    Serves 4


    4 thick cut pork loin chops

    1 cup Tamari (I use gluten-free)

    1 tablespoon fresh finely chopped ginger

    2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

    1 cup pineapple juice

    Red pepper flakes

    ½ cup veggie oil

    ½ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

    1 sweet onion, halved and thin sliced

    2 tablespoons butter

    Fresh chopped cilantro for garnish

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Appetizers Grilling Salmon Sassy Side dishes Seafood vegetarian

    Avocado, Tomato and Cucumber Salsa with Fresh Basil

    I’ve got a big yellow bowl sitting on my kitchen counter.  I love that bowl.  It looks like sunshine.  And it’s overflowing with all my beautifully delicious fruits and veggies.   I also love my big yellow bowl because one of my dear friends gave it to me for my birthday, and because it’s so big it holds my prized summer produce.
    And right now my prized summer produce are avocados, tomatoes and cucumbers.  During the spring and summer I find myself consuming major amounts of these lovely pieces of yumminess.  It seems the tasty trio can always be found on my plate.  I should be various shades of green and red by now.

    Avocado, Tomato and Cucumber Salsa with Fresh Basil over Grilled Alaskan Salmon

    I got a little excited last week and purchased a few too many avocados and tomatoes.  Yes, I was grocery shopping while hungry.  Not a good idea.  By the time I reached the checkout counter my grocery cart was overflowing.  I’d definitely need to come up with some nifty new recipes for my embarrassingly large purchase.  I think I need to add the word “restraint” to my vocabulary.

    Home with my unrestrained purchase, I whipped up this quick little salsa to top our dinner of grilled Alaskan salmon.  My nifty new salsa almost didn’t make it to dinner.  The Bennett crew kept sweeping though the kitchen, subtly scooping little bites of the salsa with blue corn chips.

    It’s another two for one recipe!  Serve the salsa as a starter or a dinner.  Or in the case of the Bennett crew, it was a starter dinner.

    Avocado, Tomato and Cucumber Salsa with Fresh Basil


    2 Avocados, diced

    2 Fresh Summer tomatoes, seeded and diced

    1/2 cup fresh diced cucumbers

    1/4 cup fresh chopped basil

    Squeeze of lemon

    Drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil

    Salt and Pepper to taste

    Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)


    Toss together the avocado, tomato, cucumber and basil.  Drizzle with fresh lemon and olive oil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, adding a pinch of red pepper flakes if desired.

    Options:  Instead of fresh chopped basil, substitute with fresh oregano and Italian parsley, or add in a little fresh mint.  Fresh chopped cilantro is also a fabulous compliment to this salsa.

    Serve over grilled chicken or fish.  Or serve as an appetizer with a basket of blue corn chips.