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Karista's Kitchen Pasta Sides

Chianti Risotto

Chianti Risotto with DaVinci Chianti

I can’t believe I have never posted this on Karista’s Kitchen!  Last fall 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 missed a post!   I created this last year for DaVinci Wine and although they’ve shared it on their facebook page as I’ve done in the past, I never posted this recipe on Karista’s Kitchen.

This 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, but it’s such a lovely and rich dish I love to sit and relish the dish over a long weekend evening.

So here it is – My Chianti Risotto for DaVinci Wine.

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.   Mama Mia!

Serves 2-4


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.

Buon Appetito!





Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Sides vegetarian

Fresh Spinach, Arugula and Lemon Risotto

spinach, arugula and lemon risotto

Fresh Spinach, Arugula and Lemon Risotto

One of my chicken gals laid an egg today!  Yes, I splattered the good news all over facebook, instagram, and twitter.

After my little social media blitz, I joyously announced the good news to my two sassy gals.  To which the reply was less than enthusiastic.

One of my sassy gals gets a pass on enthusiasm as she’s still recovering from surgery, but I thought my youngest gal would be a little more thrilled about the good news.  I was on the receiving end of “that’s nice Mom”.

chicken egg

Our first egg

I did however get a resounding “hurrah” for this lovely little spring green dish of risotto.  One of my youngest gals favorite comfort foods.

Risotto can be simply flavored with just a hint of spiciness from sautéed shallots, layered with the subtle saltiness of fresh grated parmesan, or exquisitely prepared with earthy porcini’s and lightly drizzled with the distinct pungent flavor of truffle oil.

This risotto however is most beautifully in between.  Hmmm… I’m sounding a bit like Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  This risotto is just right. :)

spinach, arugula and lemon risotto

Fresh Spinach, Arugula and Lemon Risotto

Beautifully green with the distinct peppery taste of fresh arugula and the subtle grassiness of fresh spinach.  Then combined with a spritz of fresh lemon, garlic cloves and olive oil, this risotto seems to complete the spring season of risottos.

Bright in color and happy on the palate.  What every spring risotto aspires to be.

Fresh Spinach, Arugula and Lemon Risotto

Serves 4 to 6


1 cup fresh spinach, packed (I used baby spinach leaves)

1 cup fresh arugula, packed (I used baby arugula leaves)

1-2 cloves garlic, crushed

Zest of one lemon

2-3 tablespoons lemon juice

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons butter

1 shallot, chopped

2 cups Arborio rice

½ cup dry white wine

6 cups vegetable broth, warmed

½ cup grated parmesan cheese


Combine the arugula and spinach leaves, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil in a food processor.  Blend until coarsely chopped.  Fold in the lemon zest.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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

Melt the butter in a heavy large pot over medium heat.  Add the chopped shallot and sauté until tender, about 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 ½ cup at a time and stirring often, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding the next, about 20 minutes.

Stir in the spinach arugula mixture. Continue cooking, adding more broth ¼ cup at a time, until rice is creamy and tender, about 10 minutes longer.

Season the risotto with salt and pepper.  Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese.  Serve immediately.


Chicken Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly

Slow Cooked Red Ginger Chicken

slow cooked chicken thighs, ginger, soy and tomato sauce

My girls (of the chicken variety) are growing up and will be egg laying hens soon.  Although they are now considered pullets, my teenage chickens are finding their grown up voices and developing the most comedic personalities.

Urban Farm Chickens

Rosemary, Cocoa and Pepper

I love to walk out into the yard and see those four brilliantly feathered girls line up by the chicken coop gate.

Little heads pressed against the fencing, patiently watching and waiting for any treats I might be bringing them.  Pushing each other out-of-the-way so one of them can be first to greet me.  And maybe the first to get a treat.

When I step through the chicken coop door they flutter around my feet making the sweetest coo and purring sounds.  I’m usually smiling by this point.  What can I say, my chickens warm my heart.

Urban Farm Chickens

The girls lined up watching Tank roam the yard.

Speaking of chicken… one of my dear friends makes a fantastic Chicken Adobo and Chicken Long Rice.  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.

One day soon, she’s promised to show me how she prepares her Grandfather’s food. There were never any recipes handed down, just delicious memories.

Until then, (because I’m of the curious sort and couldn’t resist) I decided to explore the flavors of the Philippines.  The result… this fragrant and enticing Red Ginger Chicken.

Oh, and just to make things clear, my chicken girls will never see the inside of a Dutch oven or slow cooker.  Urban farm pets, that will someday lay delicious eggs.  :)

Red Ginger Chicken

Serves 4-6


8-10 chicken thighs

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.  Reserve.

Season the chicken pieces with pepper and brown on both sides.  You’ll want to achieve a nice deep brown color on the chicken as this will give the chicken lots 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 work best in the slow cooker.   Directions below for using 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.

If you want to use chicken breasts, Prepare the sauce and simmer covered, on low heat, for about 30 minutes.  Take off the lid and if the sauce is too thin reduce over medium heat until you reach the desired consistency.  Then ladle over grilled or pan seared chicken breasts and serve with white rice or coconut rice. Garnish with fresh chopped green onion or cilantro.

Check out these other mouth-watering chicken dishes!

Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Sides vegetarian

Roasted Pumpkin Risotto

roasted pumpkin risotto

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

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

pumpkin risotto

Roasted Pumpkin Risotto

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

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

roasted pumpkin risotto

Roasted Pumpkin Risotto

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

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

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

Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love!


Roasted Pumpkin Risotto

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

Serves 6-8


1 sugar pie pumpkin (roasting instructions below)

2 cups Arborio rice

½ – 2/3 cup finely diced sweet onion

1 tablespoon fresh chopped sage

2- 3 tablespoons butter

½ cup white wine

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

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Fresh sage leaves


To roast the pumpkin:

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Slice the stem section off the squash first and then slice the squash in half (very carefully).  Scoop out the seeds.

Brush the cut sides of the squash with a little oil. Lay the squash halves cut side down in a glass baking dish and add a little water to the pan.   Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until the squash is tender and skins are golden brown and toasty.

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

To prepare the risotto:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact Grilling Halibut Seafood Sides Swordfish

Garam Masala Crusted Fish with Cucumber Mango Raita and Coconut Rice

Garam Masala Crusted Swordfish with Cucumber Mango Raita and Coconut Rice

Score! A beautiful day on a weekend in September… in Western Washington.  This can only mean one thing.  It’s flying weather.  O Happy Day!

Pretty Puffy Clouds at Jefferson Co. Airport, Port Townsend

As soon as the sun came up Ranger Craig and I were packing for a quick little day trip over to one of our favorite spots, Port Townsend, WA.  Fresh seafood, beautiful produce, my favorite espresso cafe and a little shopping to round out the day.

Fort Worden State Park, Port Townsend, WA

But… Ranger Craig was thinking more along the lines of a hike from Fort Worden into town and maybe a little kayaking or a visit to the wooden boat museum.  All really great ideas, yesiree bob.  But ya know,  I was ready for a little less action and a little more food shopping.

My little flying foodie, who's taller than her Mama!

Adventure Bound Bennett's

And of course, as soon as my youngest gal heard the word shopping, her adventure meter tipped the scale and she was in.

What a 13 year old will do to shop!

How much longer do I have to hike this beach?

Ok, so we compromised.  We hiked the long beach from the fort into town.  And conveniently for Ranger Craig, the wooden boat museum was on the way.

Finding a little happy in hiking

Kayaking sort of fell by the wayside, after the hour and half hike on the beach.  My hunky hiking guy had two hungry gals following him and he knew from experience that finding lunch should be next on our list of activities.  :)

Halibut Fish and Chips

Seafood Stew with a splash of Gruyere

The Public House on Water Street was the perfect spot for lunch.  The halibut was so fresh and moist and delightfully beer battered with fresh herbs; served with Asian slaw and of course french fries.  I’d love to tell you I was a very health concious diner and didn’t eat my fries.  I ate every last one off my plate.

Ranger Craig had a seafood stew with white wine, garlic, fresh herbs and topped with a little Gruyere.  Suzie Q opted for her favorite, a grilled chicken burger which she ate in record time.  I think she was just a little hungry.

Flying Home

On the way home I had fish on the brain and more fish for dinner sounded divine.  I love swordfish and coconut and Ranger Craig loves sauce.   I’d been craving coconut rice and had a new sauce to test over fish.  I think dinner was just decided.

Tank, my Toto in disguise.

Although, I was so full from all those fries!  You’ll be glad to know, I hiked an hour with Tank the next day.  See… we can have our fries and eat them too. :)

Garam Masala Crusted Fish with Cucumber Mango Raita and Coconut Rice

Recipe adapted from multiple sources

Serves 2


For the Fish:

2 Swordfish or Mahi Mahi Steaks (halibut or Hawaiin Opah is also a great alternative) Buying fresh fish is the key to any delicious fish dish.  If the fish isn’t fresh, eat chicken.

1 tablespoon Garam Masala

Pinch of salt and Pepper

2 T high heat oil (I like pan searing in grapeseed oil)

For the Raita:

½ cup cucumber, finely diced

½ cup mango, finely diced

½ teaspoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons plain yogurt

Juice of ½ lime

Salt and pepper to taste


Mix together the cucumber, mango, cumin, yogurt and lime juice.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and refrigerate until ready to serve.

In a skillet, heat the oil on medium high.  Season the two steaks on both sides with salt, pepper and garam masala.

For pan searing fish, use a well seasoned cast iron pan or ceramic coated pan.

Pan sear the fish for about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until cooked through.

Serve warm with the cucumber mango raita and coconut rice.

Classic Coconut Rice

Serves 2-4


1 cup coconut milk

¾ cup basmati rice

½ cup water

1 T sugar

¼ t salt

1/4 cup raisins (optional)


Combine coconut milk, rice, water, sugar and salt in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stir once, then cover and cook for 15-18 minutes, or until the rice is tender.  Fluff with a fork and add the raisins if desired.  Cover and keep warm.

Beef Chicken Contact Kid Friendly

Mexican Stuffed Bell Peppers

If there is a new recipe created in my house, it’s typically the result of my work, or my youngest gal was watching another episode of Dr. Oz and felt compelled to re-create a recipe shown on an episode.

I think I may have the only 12-year-old on earth who records the Dr. Oz Show.  And when I hear a recording begin (she records every episode), I’m generally intrigued and almost half listening as I’m working.

Par-roasting the peppers before stuffing

During a recent episode, a cookbook author and health advocate showcased her decadent looking stuffed peppers recipe.  My ears were immediately drawn to the animated voice of the Kitchen Diva and then I heard all sorts of wonderful words… spinach, ground chicken, bell peppers, sour cream, cheese, and the list goes on!

I left my work filled desk and made my way into the family room to catch a glimpse of  those beautiful peppers stuffed with mouth-watering fresh ingredients.  Now, I’m totally in love with my good friend Daniella’s Italian stuffed peppers… absolutely divine!   But these unique stuffed peppers looked so fun and fresh and beautifully delicious, I knew I had to make the Bennett Crew some Mexican Stuffed Bell Peppers.  And of course, my little gal completely agreed.

Fresh baby spinach added to the ground chicken mixture

After experimenting with these brightly colored peppers, as in typical Karista fashion, I had to change a few things here and there.  Mostly because I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand and needed to make substitutions.  The result was a fiesta of spicy and full flavored stuffed peppers.

It was a good day on the Dr. Oz show and it was a great night around the dinner table in the Bennett house…Muy Bueno!!!

Keep dinner simple, fresh and delicious… Enjoy the flavor of life!

Mexican Stuffed Bell Peppers

Recipe adapted from the Kitchen Diva’s Stuffed Bell Peppers.  For more information about the fantastic Kitchen Diva check out her website at

Serves 4-6


4-6 bell peppers (red, yellow, orange or green)

1 lb ground chicken, turkey or beef (or a mixture of all three) (for vegetarian substitute with beans)

1 cup diced white onion

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 package Simply Organic Southwest Taco Seasoning

½ cup warm water

2 cups fresh baby spinach

1 cup salsa

½ cup Cotija cheese, crumbled (a firm and slightly salty Mexican cheese)

2 cups cooked brown rice (I like short grain brown rice)

1 – 1 ½ cups pepper jack cheese

¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro

Sliced avocados and sour cream (or plain yogurt) for garnish


Pre-heat the oven to 375F.  Cut the top off each pepper and scrape out the seeds and ribs, if any.

Place the peppers on a parchment lined baking sheet or in a large baking dish and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes.  The peppers will be soft, but firm enough to be filled.

While the peppers are roasting, heat a large skillet on medium high heat and add a little high heat oil to the skillet. I like Spectrum brand high heat Safflower or Sunflower oil.  The high heat peanut oil is also a tasty alternative as is coconut oil.

When the oil is hot, add the diced onions and cook until translucent.  Next, add the minced garlic and cook for a minute or two.

Then add the ground meat and cook through, breaking up the ground meat.  Mix together the water and taco seasoning and then add it to the ground meat and onion mixture.  Stir to combine.  Then stir in the salsa and let it simmer for a few minutes.  If the skillet is too hot, turn the heat down to medium.

Add the fresh baby spinach leaves to the skillet and continue to gently toss the spinach in the ground meat mixture until the spinach leaves have wilted slightly.

Mix in the Cotija cheese and brown rice.  It will look like one giant skillet of goulash but it will be a delicious filling for the peppers.

Taste the mixture for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste if needed.  Cotija is a salty cheese so be sure to taste before adding extra salt.

Fill each pepper with the stuffing and then place the baking dish in the oven.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until the peppers are soft or crisp tender, however you like your peppers.

Remove the peppers and sprinkle with pepper jack cheese and chopped cilantro.

Serve with avocado slices and sour cream or plain yogurt.  Enjoy!

Options: Make these vegetarian and substitute beans for the ground meat.