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Appetizers Karista's Kitchen Sassy Side dishes Soup

Red Curry Cauliflower Soup

Red Curry Cauliflower Soup

I could eat my weight in cauliflower and in red curry cauliflower soup.  I like it steamed, roasted, pureed into mashers, served raw with pesto or Bagna Cauda and in soup.  Who knew this opaque and not terribly attractive veggie could light my culinary fire?

I think it has to be in the top five of my favorite veggies.  Cauliflower is versatile, affordable, nutritious and relatively painless to prepare, just like this Red Curry Cauliflower Soup. 

Red Curry Cauliflower Soup // Karista's Kitchen

This soup couldn’t be easier.  It also holds well in the frig for up to three days, as well as in the freezer for up to two months.  I love pairing this soup with a seasonal chopped salad and crusty bread or Naan for dipping.

I also serve this soup as a starter for a dinner party or a light lunch with an Asian chicken salad.  And of course, you can dine on a bowl of this soup a la carte with your favorite glass of wine.

Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,

Karista

Red Curry Cauliflower Soup

Serving Size: 2-4

Red Curry Cauliflower Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large head cauliflower (about 2-2 1/2 lbs) stemmed and chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1 stick lemongrass, halved vertically
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 handful cilantro, chopped
  • 1 14oz can coconut milk (not light)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 ½ tablespoons Thai red curry paste
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • Squeeze of lime juice to taste
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • In a large pot heat the oil over medium heat. When it’s hot add the onion and sauté until translucent. Then add the garlic, chopped cauliflower, lemongrass, fresh ginger, cilantro and vegetable broth. Let the veggies and broth simmer on low for about 10 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft.
  • Next, stir in the coconut milk, Thai red curry paste and turmeric. Bring it back to a simmer. Let the soup simmer on low for another 5-10 minutes to bring all the flavors together.
  • With an immersion blender, blend the soup to a puree. If you don’t have an immersion blender, transfer the soup to a blender or vitamix and puree. Then pour the soup back into the pot. If the soup feels too thick, add another ¼ cup veggie broth until you feel you have the right consistency.
  • Season with salt and pepper and then add a squeeze or two of lime juice to taste.
  • Garnish with sliced green onions or fresh cilantro.
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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.

    Resources

    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,

    Karista

    No Cook Sun Dried Tomato Sauce with Pasta

    Serving Size: 4-6

    No Cook Sun Dried Tomato Sauce with Pasta

    Ingredients

    • 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)

    Instructions

  • 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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    Appetizers Karista's Kitchen Sweets vegetarian

    White Peaches in Sangria with Fresh Mint

    White Peaches in Sangria // Karista's Kitchen  The perfect summer dessert!

    This is one of those summer desserts that I love to prepare when it’s super hot outside and something sweet and refreshing is in order.  Not to mention, all that needs to be done is peel and slice the peaches and add them to a bowl of sangria to marinate for 30 minutes.  It’s also a great way to use a flat of local sun ripened white peaches.

    A few years back Ranger Craig and I bought a few flats of white peaches from a local farmer.  We ate peaches all the way home (a two hour trip).  Windows down, warm air filling the jeep while drips of the sweet, juicy peaches slid down our chins.

    Super excited about our white peach stash, I made a pie with the white peaches and local blueberries, I added them to pancakes, muffins and a lovely steak salad with gorgonzola.  Froze a few bags for a peach pie and slow roasted pork mid-winter, but I still had plenty left to use.  That’s when I decided we’d be using the rest for some White Peaches in Sangria.

    White Peaches in Sangria // Karista's Kitchen The perfect summer dessert!

    Most often I purchase the sangria but you can certainly make your own.   I have a few sangria recipes I adore, but most of the time I’m so deeply involved in preparing the starters, entrees and sides… I forget to make the sangria.  So I always keep a bottle in stock.   I’ve found a few lovely sangrias at several Spanish food shops and my local market.  Something light, sweet and a bit spicy will do.  If you don’t have a favorite Sangria recipe, HERE is a fabulous article from Wine Enthusiast “The Anatomy of Sangria“.  I highly recommend the article.

    I’m going to be MIA for a little while, we’re moving again and I know it’ll take some time to put a kitchen back together as well as set up my office.  It’s not a big move like last year, but nonetheless, its still packing, unpacking and trying to figure out where to put things.  As well, I think I’m going to enjoy the weather a bit and spend a little time with my lovely family.  I hope you have the chance to do the same!

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,

    Karista

    White Peaches in Sangria

    Although I typically serve these White Peaches in Sangria for dessert, often I will serve this as a light cocktail starter.  It’s refreshing and the perfect warm weather starter for a gathering mid-summer.

    Ingredients

    White Peaches, peeled and sliced

    Sangria

    Mint leaves

    Directions

    Place white peach slices in a large glass or non-reactive bowl.  Pour Sangria over the peaches and let them marinate for about 30 minutes.  Then ladle peaches and sangria into martini glasses and garnish with a sprig of 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,

    Karista

    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. 

    Ingredients

    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

    Directions

    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!

    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Soup vegetarian

    Spicy Black Bean Soup with Lime Crema and Avocado

    spicy black bean soup with lime crema and avocado

    I have selected two words for 2014.  I think I’m only supposed to choose one but I couldn’t make a decision between these two words.

    Maybe my new word for the year should be decisive.

    Someone once told me I had a talent for connecting.  Ok, never thought I’d hear that described as one of my talents.  But I’ll take it.

    A bright young professional, a former business acquaintance, visionary; someone that waltzed through my life but for a season.  Although much younger and less life experience, this astute and intuitive young professional was correct.  Without ever paying attention to that little habit of mine, I realized, I like to connect people.  Of course, if it’s a love connection I’m even more delighted.  But I don’t think I’ll be changing my career path to match maker anytime soon.

    Shortly after that thought provoking moment, one of my dearest friends told me her Mom once said “one of the most important things in life is our relationships”.  That too struck me and I’ve never forgotten. (Thank you Kristen… and Lola)

    My friends Mom was correct. Relationships, connections, for a lifetime or for a season, help shape us, make us who we are and who were meant to be;  often helping us and others find a solid path.

    A New Year's Weekend at the Beach

    So, I started this year thinking my word for 2014 would be connect.  However, I’m also quite fond of the word listen.  If I hadn’t been listening I would never have “heard” both my business acquaintance or my friend.  Two words that allowed me to pause and reflect, and then proceed with open ears and an open heart.

    I admit, it’s not always easy to actively listen. I have so much swimming around in my head most of the time.  I’d like to tell you I often contemplate super cool subjects like why stars split or why some years we have La Nina or El Nino. And, although the weather and astronomy interest me, my head is usually swimming with a list of seasonal ingredients and how I might pull them deliciously together in a new recipe.  Among other things of course, like being a Mom.

    And how will I segue into this lush little recipe?  Well… I’ve been listening to my readers and I’m now connecting you with this delightful, seasonal and delicious recipe that simmers warm and cozy for the winter months. (apparently, I also like adjectives)

    It’s a new year with new recipes and hopefully a few new food projects. I love hearing from my readers.  If you have recipe ideas or questions, meal ideas or meal idea questions feel free to email me at karistaskitchen@gmail.com.  I’ll answer as quickly as I can.  I promise I will listen and hopefully connect you with the information you need.

    Loads of Love and Delicious Wishes,

    Karista

    Spicy Black Bean Soup with Lime Crema and Avocado

    I know the ingredient list looks long.  But I promise you’ll probably have most the ingredients on hand and I’ve broken down the ingredient list in order of use.  Sectioning ingredients always helps me when I’m preparing a new recipe.  So I thought it might be helpful for you as well.  Enjoy!!

    Serves 4-6

    Ingredients

    The Veggies:

    Tablespoon or two of olive oil

    1 white onion, diced

    2 cloves garlic, finely diced

    1 poblano pepper, roasted, skinned, seeded and diced

    The Spices:

    1 teaspoon ground cumin

    ½ teaspoon ground coriander

    ½ teaspoon chipotle chili powder

    ¼ – ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

    The Base of the Soup:

    1 14 ounce can organic diced tomatoes with juice

    4 cups vegetable broth

    6-8 cups cooked black beans OR 4 14 ounce cans organic black beans

    Salt and pepper to taste

    1 lime, squeezed

    The Garnish:

    1 lime sliced

    Sliced green onions

    Hand torn cilantro

    Sliced avocado

    ½ cup sour cream mixed with a squeeze of lime juice

    Directions

    Heat a large soup pot over medium heat and add the oil.  When the oil is hot add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent.  Then stir in the garlic and roasted poblano pepper and stir for a minute longer.

    Next stir in all the spices, the tomatoes, vegetable broth and *black beans *reserving  two cups or 1 can of black beans. This is a semi pureed soup.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Let the soup simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes.  Add a squeeze or two of lime juice, about a tablespoon, and then take it off the heat.  Puree the soup with either a hand blender or carefully transfer the soup in batches to a vitamix or blender and puree.

    Add the soup back to the soup pot and stir in the last two cups of black beans or last can of black beans.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and extra lime juice if needed.

    Serve the soup in small bowls and garnish with sliced green onions, torn cilantro leaves, sliced avocado, a slice of lime and dollop of sour cream. Enjoy!

    Karista's Kitchen Sassy Side dishes vegetarian

    Winter Roasted Beet Salad

    roasted beet salad with gorgonzola and candied walnuts

    Winter Roasted Beet Salad

    You may be surprised to learn that beets haven’t always topped my favorite veggie list.  It wasn’t until the last few years that I’ve completely embraced this lush red or golden root veggie.  My favorite method of consumption?  Roasted.  Roasting brings out the sweetness in most vegetables but especially root vegetables like carrots, parsnips and beets.

    Often I’ll bring home 2 or 3 bunches of local beets, clean them, roast them and store them in the frig.  When I need a quick side or salad, voila!

    roasted beet salad with gorgonzola and candied walnuts

    This salad is easy to prepare with ingredients that can be prepped in advance.  Not only is it delicious, it looks like art on a platter.  Which makes this the perfect holiday or winter salad.

    I’m keeping this post short and sweet today.  Tank hasn’t had his morning run and he’s sitting at my feet staring at me with his “please take me for a walk” look.  And really, who could resist those terrier eyes.

    Wishing you all things merry and bright this holiday season!

    Loads of Love,

    Karista

    Winter Roasted Beet Salad

    Serves about 6-8

    Ingredients

    About 6 medium size red or gold beets (or a mixture of both)

    1 – 2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

    1/2 – 1 cup good quality crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (Rogue Creamery and Salemville have nice mid-range rice options that are quite delicious)

    1/2 cup chopped candied walnuts (found in most markets, especially during the holidays.  However, I’ve given a quick recipe below)

    Good quality Balsamic Vinegar (this is the time to break out the good stuff)

    Good quality Olive oil, about 1/4 cup (I used California Olive Ranch Arbosana Extra Virgin Olive oil.  One word, divine!)

    Directions

    Pre-heat the oven to 350F.  Wash the beets and trim just a bit.  Place in the center of a large piece of aluminum foil and wrap, tenting it a little.  Roast for about 45 minutes or until the beets can be pierced with a fork or knife.  I like my beets slightly undercooked, otherwise the texture tends to be a bit mushy.  So check them at 35 – 40 minutes.  Let the beets cool and then peel off the skins.  This is a colorful and messy job but well worth the effort.  If you are roasting the beets in advance, place the roasted whole beets in a Ziploc bag and pop them in the frig until they are ready to use.

    Place the thinly sliced shallots in a small bowl and toss with a drizzle or two of balsamic vinegar.  I love the shallots marinated in the balsamic vinegar. Cuts the harshness of the shallot and adds extra balsamic flavor to the salad.  Let the sliced shallots hang out in the vinegar while you prepare the salad.

    Slice the beets, not too thick, and layer them on a platter.  Dust lightly with a little sea salt.

    Next, toss the marinated shallots over the beets.  Then sprinkle the beets and shallots with Gorgonzola and garnish with the chopped candied walnuts.  Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.  Serve immediately.

    Option:  During the summer months, I add sliced or coarsely chopped cucumber to the salad for a little fresh, clean, crisp flavor.

    Quick candied nuts

    1/4 cup sugar

    1/2 cup chopped nuts

    Pinch of salt

    In a heavy bottom pan over medium heat add the sugar.  Let the sugar melt.  Once melted, sprinkle the chopped nuts into the sugar and give it a stir.  Once the nuts look well coated pour them out onto wax paper to cool.  Sprinkle lightly with a pinch of salt.  Break with a knife or by hand.

     

     

     

     

    Karista's Kitchen Sassy Side dishes vegetarian

    Brussels Sprouts Gratin

    brussels sprouts gratin

    Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived on a little farm with a little red barn, lots of animals, a vegetable garden, fruit trees and lush green raspberry bushes.

    brussel sprouts gratin

    Brussels Sprouts Gratin

    Her little farm was filled with chickens, ducks, a few turkeys, rabbits, pigs, goats, a large white goose named Charlie, a naughty and stubborn Shetland pony named Sugar (not at all a sweet animal), a steer named Rex, and a fluffy white sheep named Fearless.

    Often, the little girl would spend hours with her farm animals, naming each one, even though her Father said most of them were being raised for food.  You’d think she would have become a vegetarian.  Instead, she fell in love with life on a farm.  A constant circle of life, helping feed a community with beautiful, healthy and naturally raised food.

    Valley View Farm, Zillah, WA

    Photos by April Smith. Taken at Valley View Farm, Zillah, WA

    I still remember the scent of the molasses in the mixture that helped feed and nourish the baby cow.  Mom’s hearty leftovers that were treats for the three little pigs.  Yes, there were three little pigs.

    There was much love and care that went into creating healthy and happy farm animals. I wanted to be part of that care;  so I decided to call myself the farm animals supervisor.

    Until the day one of the pigs, Lester was his name, decided to take a little nip out of my backside as I crawled over the pig fence.  My Father had given me warning, but I was the farm animal supervisor and I knew my pigs.  They would never bite me.

    I believe Lester may have had enough of my plucking through his pig yard.  He told me, very clearly, stay out!

    After that exciting event I admired my pigs from afar and took up management of our pet sheep, Fearless.

    brussel sprouts

    Roasted Brussel Sprouts

    I’m no longer the little girl who lived on a little farm with a little red barn.  Those memories however, remain close to my heart.  I’m certain those memories are one of the many reasons I adore and appreciate our local farmers.  The hard work, the love, the care, the belief that raising fresh food is good for the body and the soul.

    Supporting our local farm communities is the best ways to keep fresh, healthy, local food on our tables.  This is why I support a new online marketplace called Farmstr.com .  Farmstr.com was founded by my good friend and colleague, Janelle Maiocco.   Janelle is an entrepreneur with an MBA, as well as a trained Chef.  An amazing woman who has dedicated her time and energy finding a way to help farmer’s bring their local goods to local consumers.

    Farmstr is passionate about supporting farmers, and enabling their success by bringing them new customers and better margins. Farmstr is excited about making it possible for anyone, people like you and me, to easily find and access nearby farms, choose farmers, ranchers, and fishermen to support and to be able to buy farm fresh food for less than you would pay at the store. ~Janelle Maiocco

    If you live in Western Washington, Farmstr.com is up and running in your area.  Sign up for the weekly hot sheet to keep informed about current produce, meat and poultry for sale.  If you live in a different state, not to worry.  Farmstr.com has plans to expand to most states in the near future.  Personally, I can’t wait until they reach Oregon. 🙂

    Another great way to stay informed about local produce, meat and poultry for sale, as well a when Farmstr.com is coming to your area, check out and “like” the Farmstr Facebook page. www.facebook.com/farmstr

    In honor of Brussels Sprouts season, the holidays, and our local farmers, I’ve listed my favorite Brussels Sprouts Gratin recipe, adapted from one of my favorite Italian cookbooks, The Silver Spoon.

    For additional Brussels Sprouts recipes check out these fabulous farm loving food bloggers:

    Our Lady of Second Helpings – Farm Fresh Gorgonzola Brussels Sprouts Hash

    Seattle Seedling – Cilantro Lime Brussels Sprouts Slaw

    Comfy Belly – Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

    Loads of Love and Delicious Wishes,

    Karista

    Brussels Sprouts Gratin

    One of my favorite Brussels Sprouts recipes is found in a traditional Italian Cookbook, The Silver Spoon.  I’ve adapted this recipe slightly, only using half the Béchamel sauce and using Gruyere mixed with traditional Swiss. If using 3lbs of Brussels Sprouts, the full quantity of Béchamel sauce can be used.  Buon Appetito!

    Serves 4 (can be doubled)

    Ingredients

    1 ½ lbs Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and halved

    1 tablespoon Butter

    1-2 tablespoons Olive oil

    3 ½ – 4 ounces pancetta, diced (or substitute with thick cut bacon)

    1 cup shredded Swiss or Gruyere (or ½ cup of each)

    1 quantity Béchamel Sauce (recipe follows)

    Salt and pepper

    Directions

    Pre-heat the oven to 350F.  Prepare Béchamel sauce (recipe below) and set aside.

    Butter an ovenproof dish.  I used a smaller baking dish for the 4 servings and used a 9×13 for a double serving.

    Cook the Brussels Sprouts in salted, lightly boiling water for about 10 minutes, drain and set aside.

    Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat and add the diced pancetta or bacon, stirring occasionally until lightly browned.  Add the Brussels Sprouts and season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

    Stir half the shredded cheese into the prepared Béchamel Sauce and season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

    Place the Brussels Sprouts in the prepared dish and ladle sauce over the top.  I use only half the Béchamel for 4 servings.  Reserve the remaining Béchamel for a delicious tossed pasta.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the sauce and place the baking dish in the oven.  Bake for about 20 minutes.

    Let the Brussels Sprouts Gratin cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

    Bechamel Sauce

    Ingredients

    ¼ cup butter

    ¼ cup all purpose flour

    2 ¼ cups warm whole milk

    Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

    Salt and pepper.

    Directions

    Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat.  Take the pan off the heat and whisk in the flour.  Put the pan back on the heat and continue whisking until the flour and butter is smooth.

    Slowly whisk in the warm milk and continue to whisk until the sauce begins to thicken.

    Stir in the pinch of nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper.  The sauce should be the consistency of a white gravy, not too thin, but not too thick.  Add additional milk if the sauce is too thick and continue to cook a little longer if sauce is too thin.

    This sauce is also great over your favorite pasta with peas and diced bacon.

    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Sassy Side dishes vegetarian

    Chive Blossom Popovers from Pink Patisserie

    Chive Blossom Popovers

    Chive Blossom Popovers

    I love seasonal, I love fresh, especially fresh from the garden or local farm, and I love my friend Maria.

    Maria is the author of the baking blog Pink Patisserie.  I’ve known Maria for over 10 years.  A gracious, beautiful and talented gal who hails from deep Norwegian roots.  Immersed in her family’s heritage, Maria has been baking along side her Mother and Grandmother since childhood.  She has an artistic eye for the naturally beautiful art of food and baking, and embraces the flavors of the sweet and the seasons.

    Thank you Maria for your most delicious spring recipe of Chive Blossom Popovers!

    CHIVE BLOSSOM POPOVERS from Pink Patisserie

    Hello!  My name is Maria of Pink Patisserie, and I want to extend a huge thank you to my lovely friend Karista for allowing me to guest write here today on her beautiful blog.

    One of the things I love about Karista is her wholehearted devotion to cooking seasonally. In light of that I thought it appropriate to share with you a recipe that had at least one seasonal ingredient.  Here in the Pacific Northwest as in most of the country, rhubarb is currently in season.  As a result, I have been raiding my vegetable patch almost weekly to pull the latest of the ripening stalks for the many recipes I love to make this time of year.  Last week while in the garden surveying the rhubarb, I happened to glance in the oft-neglected corner of my garden where my chive plants grow.  To my great surprise I noticed that the chive flowers were almost fully in bloom. In all my rhubarb furor I’d completely overlooked them.

    chive blossom popovers

    Chive Blossom Popovers

    Chives are so simple to grow really, one of the most low maintenance plants, and if you don’t have one I encourage you to head to the nursery now to pick one up.  They grow beautifully in pots too if you are space challenged.  And in the summer, I love nothing more than to run out and snip some for salads and baked or boiled potatoes.  This recipe for chive blossom popovers is lovely with the blossoms, but really if you don’t have a plant, don’t worry; they taste just as fantastic without them.

    Our favorite way to eat these is at dinner, with steaks or a lovely roast on a Sunday afternoon. Fresh, light spring onion flavors in a buttery, crispy bun.  Simply seasonal, simply spring, simply heaven.

    Chive Blossom Popovers

    Serves 12

    Prep time 10 minutes

    Bake time 30

     Ingredients

    2 T. unsalted butter, melted

    1 ½ C. all purpose flour

    ¾ tsp.  Kosher salt

    3 large eggs

    1 ½ C. milk

    4 T. chopped chives with blossoms, reserve additional blossoms for garnish

     Directions

    Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

    Grease popover pans or large muffin tins with butter, about ½ tsp per muffin well.  Place the pan in the oven for 3-4 minutes to preheat.

    In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, eggs, milk and melted butter until no lumps remain.  Batter will be thin. Fill each well in the popover or muffin tin halfway with batter. Bake for 30 minutes.  Avoid opening the oven door while baking.   Serve with chive butter.

    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!

    Karista

    Chicken Avocado Tortilla Torta

    Serves 6

    Ingredients

    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

    Directions

    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

    Ingredients

    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

    Directions

    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

    Ingredients

    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

    Directions

    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.