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Kid Friendly Sassy Side dishes vegetarian

Creamy Risotto with Leeks and Parmesan

In our family, my sister is the Queen of all things risotto.   Seriously, Kristin can make risotto to absolute perfection.  One of her family’s favorite risotto’s is her simplest version, creamy risotto with leeks and parmesan, and just for kicks, maybe a splash of fresh lemon. 

This delightfully creamy and fresh tasting risotto can be served as a side with most any main dish, or as an entree.  I love this risotto as an entree during the fall and winter months, and often serve this recipe with grilled meats and fish during the spring and summer.  And although this yummy Italian rice takes a little more effort, it’s definitley worth it.  Once my family spots me stirring the creamy goodness, they all mysteriously appear in the kitchen ready to help stir, and taste test of course.  

Happy Cooking!  And thanks to my brilliant sister for sharing this recipe!  

Serves 4-6


2 tablespoons olive oil

2 leeks finely chopped

2 cups Arborio rice

½ cup dry white wine

6-8 cups low sodium chicken broth or veggie broth

½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste


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

Heat the olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat.  Add the chopped leeks and sauté until just tender, about 4-5 minutes.

Add the rice and stir for about 2 minutes.  Add the white wine and stir until absorbed, about 1 minute.

Stir in 1 cup of the warm broth and simmer until it is absorbed, stirring frequently.  Cook until the rice is almost tender, adding broth 1/2 cup at a time and stirring often, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding the next, about 20-25 minutes.  

Stir in the fresh grated parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle with fresh chopped Italian parsley.  Serve immediately.

Options:  Enjoy this Risotto served as a side dish for roasted or grilled meats and fish or as a main meal with a salad of fresh greens.  For a twist, squeeze a bit of lemon into the risotto when adding the parmesan. 


Kid Friendly Seafood

Ms. Linda’s Crispy Fish Tacos with Apple Slaw and Homemade Tartar Sauce

These are hands down some of the best crispy fish tacos I’ve ever had!  Fresh cod wrapped in a crunchy panko batter and served with an amazing and flavorful slaw and homemade tartar sauce.  I think I’ve watched Linda prepare these twice now and of course she prepares them with the greatest of ease and frys them to a golden perfection.  

Each time I’m extremely amazed at how quickly this meal can be prepared and served.  Although, Linda makes preparing this meal look easy!  Prepping the slaw and tartar sauce first, then prep the condiments, fry or broil the tortillas and then fry the fish.  Voilla!  Dinner is done!  This delicious feast can be served as a weeknight meal, but is so delicious and so beautiful, it would make a fabulous summer meal for entertaining, or a fun weekend fiesta.

Not only does this crispy fish make excellent tacos,  I could eat the fish right off the plate.  They make fabulous fish sticks for the kiddo’s to dip in their favorite sauce.  And I love the apple slaw so much I often serve it with my Mexican pork tacos or shrimp tacos.

Thanks to my dear friend Linda for sharing this fun and delicous recipe!  One more fabulous idea to make dinner fresh, simple and delicious.  Happy Cooking!

Serves 4-6


2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1 cup green cabbage, shredded
1/4 cup carrots, shredded
1/4 cup granny smith apple, cut into match sticks
1/2 jalapeno, seeded, thinly sliced
1 tbsp garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

 Wisk the first 3 slaw ingredients together. Drizzle dressing over remaining slaw ingredients, cover and chill.
Tartar Sauce
1/2 cup mayo
2 tbsp relish
1 tbsp capers
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tsp horseradish
1 tsp lemon zest, minced
1 tsp garlic, minced

Combine all ingredients for tartar sauce in bowl, cover and chill.
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup club soda
1 tbsp Tabasco
1 cup panko crumbs
1lb fresh cod fillets

Veggie oil for frying (use a high heat oil or refined oil for frying)

Corn tortillas

Fresh lemon wedges


Fry tortillas as you would for a regular taco, or you can brush them with oil on both sides, place on a baking sheet and broil each side until a little toasty.  Fold them into tacos as soon as they come out of the oven. 
Whisk flour, salt and baking powder together for the fish. Add the club soda right before you are ready to fry and then add the Tabasco, whisk until combined; it will be a little lumpy.

Spread panko in a shallow dish.
Heat oil on medium high in a large deep skillet. Dip fish pieces into batter, then dredge in panko for a light coating and shake off excess.
Fry fish in batches 1-2 minutes per side.  Drain on a paper towel.

Place the fish on a platter and serve with the corn tortillas, condiments, slaw and tartar sauce.  Enjoy!

Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Sauces, Salsas and More Seafood

Sole Veronique with Fresh Herbs and Sweet Red Grapes

Sole Veronique with Fresh Herbs and Sweet Red Grapes

Sole Veronique

This is one of the first French fish recipes I learned to prepare, oh so many years ago.  In fact, this is one of those recipes that became a Bennett family favorite because of… you guessed it, the sauce!   And as some of you know, I  love “options” when it comes to my recipes, so if you’d like to grill a piece of halibut rather than wrestle with the Dover Sole, I’ll give you an optional recipe for just the sauce.

Sole Veronique is a traditional classic French dish.  And it’s prepared with the most treasured of French ingredients… butter and cream.

Although this recipe does contain both, I’ve tried to pair down the amounts used, and I’ve added in olive oil to substitute for some of the butter.  If you’d like a sauce without the cream, add a squeeze of lemon to the wine and a one last pat of butter to finish the sauce.

This makes a fabulous simple and quick weeknight meal, but it’s elegant and delicious enough to serve to dinner guests.  Happy Cooking!

Serves 4


1 ½ -2 lbs fresh white fish, Dover Sole or Flounder

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon dried mixed herbs, herbs de Provence or French herbs

1 cup all purpose flour (or gluten free bread crumbs)

Extra virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons butter or clarified butter (ghee)

1 shallot minced (about 3 tablespoons)

1 cup white wine

½ cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon fresh chopped fresh herbs such as tarragon, thyme, Italian Parsley

1/2 – 3/4 cup small red grapes halved

1 small lemon


Mix together the flour, dried herbs, salt and pepper.

Heat a skillet on medium high heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter.   Once the oil and butter are hot, but not smoking, dredge the fish fillets through the flour and herb mixture and then dust off the excess.

Pan sear the fillets for 2-3 minutes on each side depending on thickness.  You’ll want to see a nice brown crust on each side.  During the pan searing, add a little butter and olive oil as needed as sometimes the pan becomes to dry.  Transfer the pan seared fillets to a platter and keep warm.

If needed, add a tablespoon of butter to the skillet and then add the shallots.  Sauté the shallots for a few minutes then stir in the white wine deglazing the pan.  Let the wine simmer for a minute or two and then add the heavy cream and grapes and reduce the sauce by half.  Take the sauce off the heat and add the fresh chopped herbs.  Plate the fish fillets and squeeze a little lemon over the fish. Ladle sauce over the fish, garnishing with extra grapes if desired.

Serve with roasted Asparagus, wild and brown rice, mixed fresh greens with a French vinaigrette or wilted spinach with garlic.

To prepare just the sauce:  Add a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil to a sauce pan on medium heat.  When the butter has melted and the olive oil/butter is hot, add the shallots.  Sauté the shallots for a few minutes then stir in the white wine deglazing the pan.  Let the wine simmer for a minute or two and then add the heavy cream and grapes and reduce the sauce by half.  Take the sauce off the heat and add the fresh chopped herbs, a pat of butter.  Plate the fish fillets and squeeze a little lemon over the fish. Ladle sauce over the fish, garnishing with extra grapes if desired.

Grilling Sauces, Salsas and More Seafood Shrimp

Grilled Gulf Shrimp with a Spicy Apricot Sauce

Many years ago while attending culinary classes, I would come home after each class and duplicate the recipes and techniques in my own kitchen.  The classes I attended were mostly classic French with additional classes concentrating in Italian cuisine and Mexican cuisine. 

Most of my classes consisted of some sort of sauce that topped the recipe.  Naturally, everything I prepared at home was now topped with a sauce.  However, one evening I was preparing a Milanese.  A traditional Milanese is prepared with very thin slices of veal, coated in breadcrumbs, pan sautéed and then garnished with a bit of chopped parsley.  No sauce.  Well, you could have heard a pin drop the evening I served this dish.

The first words out of my husbands mouth… “where’s the sauce?”.  I replied of course, there is no sauce, this is a traditional Milanese.  My oldest daughter said “but Mom, we always have a sauce”.  And then my little gal chimed in as well, “yea Mom, we always have a sauce”.  All I could do is laugh and then take myself off to the kitchen to prepare a sauce for my family.  It ended up being just a bit of lemon, wine and capers, which actually tops a Piccata, but I knew they wouldn’t know the difference and would be ever so happy with their sauce.

From that day on, I always serve some sort of sauce with dinner because inevitably someone will ask “where’s the sauce”.  I never imagined that this statement would extend to my parents! 

My parents were visiting one Fall weekend, and I served a coconut shrimp as a light mid afternoon snack.  They were delicious.  However, out of my Father’s mouth came “Daughter, do you have a sauce for these shrimp?” I couldn’t believe my ears.  I burst into laughter as did the rest of my family. 

After rummaging around my pantry I came up with this simple Spicy Apricot Sauce.  It’s fabulous with coconut shrimp, but I love it just as much with grilled gulf shrimp, or Mexican white prawns or Key West pink shrimp.  The sweetness of the apricot, mixed with the spice of the asian chili and the ginger beautifully compliments the flavors of the shrimp. (Be sure to purchase only fresh, wild American shrimp as these will taste the best and are a much healthier choice)

This sauce is so versatile I even serve this over sliced pork tenderloin, grilled or roasted chicken breasts, and just recently Ranger Craig smoked split chicken breasts and I served this sauce with the smoked chicken.  It was divine!   

This sauce is simple, sweet yet spicy and most of all, delicious.  I’ve substituted peach preserves for the apricot and it was just as yummy and I especially liked it over the pork tenderloin. 

Make your dinner simple, fresh and delicious!  Happy Cooking!

Grilled Shrimp with a Simple Spicy Apricot Sauce

1 ½ – 2 lbs wild gulf shrimp

Salt and pepper

½ cup apricot preserves (you can substitute with Peach)

 ½ teaspoon Roasted Asian chili paste ( I like Thai Kitchen)

½ fresh grated ginger (or you can substitute with about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground ginger)

1/4 cup dry white wine (you can substitute with water)

Fresh chopped chives (optional)


In a small sauce pan heat the apricot preserves until it begins to liquefy.  Add the chili paste, ginger and white wine, simmering gently for a few minutes.  Let the sauce cool.


When the sauce has cooled slightly, salt and pepper the shrimp and skewer for grilling.  Take half the sauce and brush onto the shrimp.  Let the shrimp sit with the sauce for about 5-10 minutes while preheating the grill.  Grill the shrimp for a few minutes on each side and basting with the sauce as you turn the shrimp. 


When the shrimp is done, place them on a platter and drizzle with the sauce.  For a complete meal, serve with steamed white rice or soba noodles and sautéed vegetables. 


OPTIONS:  When preparing the sauce for pork or chicken, prepare as directed.  Roast or grill your meat and then drizzle the sauce over the roasted or grilled meats.  Serve your entrée with a creamy parmesan risotto or a brown rice cous cous.  Yum!



Chicken Halibut Kid Friendly Sauces, Salsas and More Seafood

Mango Cilantro Avocado Salsa over Grilled Halibut

Tropical salsas can take a fish dinner from good to great! I adore tropical fruits and especially like them paired with fresh fish of the season. 

This mango salsa recipe is simple, fresh and makes dinner a breeze.  Just top your fresh grilled, or even pan seared or baked fish, or chicken with this mango salsa and serve with an herbed rice, grilled sweet potatoes or grilled plantains and you have a fabulous and fast dinner. 

This delicious salsa can even be served as an appetizier with blue corn chips!  In fact, I usually prepare enough salsa to top our fish or chicken and then serve a little extra with chips for snacking before dinner is ready.   You can prepare this recipe up to one day in advance, however, do not combine the avocado until you are ready to serve.  Happy Cooking!

Mango Cilantro Salsa

Serves 4

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: No cooking required

2 large mangos peeled and diced

1-2 large avocados diced

½ C purple/red onion diced

¼ C (or a good handful) packed chopped cilantro

1 Serrano or jalapeño pepper seeded and diced (optional) or a pinch of chipotle powder

1 Lime zested and juiced

1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


Fresh cracked black pepper

Gently toss mangos, onion, pepper, cilantro, lime zest and lime juice.  Next add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and gently toss again.  Last, add the avocado and gently toss into the salsa.  Serve with blue corn chips as an appetizer or over grilled fresh Halibut or grilled Chicken for a main course.  Add a few yummy sides to make a great summer meal.