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

Lentils with Sausage and Spinach

Lentils with Sausage and Spinach // Karista's Kitchen

The simplest meals are often my favorite. Lentils with Sausage and Spinach comes together without too much fuss and fulfills the need for healthy comfort food.

This dish usually happens when dinner inspiration has gone missing. Or when I didn’t make it to the market as planned. Which happens all too often.

I’ve sort of been in a Fall slump lately and I think it might be because my kids are away at college and there are no little ones to share the beginning of the holiday season. When my kids were little, we would spend an entire weekend decorating the house for fall and for Halloween. Then I’d let the girls choose one Halloween movie to watch each weekend. We’d usually make pizza or their favorite pasta and always Tamale Pie on Halloween night.  Weekend mornings I’d make bat and ghost shaped pancakes for breakfast and then we’d launch into Halloween cookie baking.

The only kids at home now are my two fur babies. Tank really doesn’t care about fall festivities unless there is a comfy sofa and tasty bone involved. Gus however, is very happy to accommodate my need to be outside in the falling leaves and brisk cool air.

While I was feeling less than festive last week I whipped up this little dish of comfort. Lentils with Sausage and Spinach seem to always make the day a bit more cozy and delicious. Although I added ground sausage to this dish for a bit more hearty texture, you can certainly keep it vegetarian and add a mix of greens to the dish.

Lentils with Sausage and Spinach

I’ve found the key to making lentils soar with flavor is to add aromatics and herbs while cooking them. This creates the loveliest lentils and a delicious base in which to add additional ingredients.

On occasion I’ll add diced pancetta or cooked bacon rather than sausage. And sometimes I load it up with extra veggies and skip the meat. However you prepare this dish, it’ll warm the heart as well as the belly.

Wishing you a festive and delicious fall season!

Loads of Love,

Karista

Lentils with Sausage and Spinach

Serving Size: 4-6

Lentils with Sausage and Spinach

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried chives
  • 2 cups lentils (I like the French green lentils but any kind will work)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2-4 cups of vegetable broth (enough to cover the lentils)
  • 1/2 lb cooked ground sausage (optional) You can also use ground chicken or turkey sausage
  • 3 handfuls of baby spinach or assorted greens such as kale, chard and mustard greens (about 1 5-ounce package)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Shaved Pecorino or Parmesan to garnish

Instructions

  • In a medium to large pot, add the olive oil and heat over medium to medium high heat. Add the onions, garlic, carrots, celery, parsley, oregano, thyme and chives. Saute the vegetables just until soft and then stir in the lentils.
  • Add the bay leaf and enough vegetable broth to cover the lentils. Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and let it cook for about 20 minutes.
  • Remove the lid and continue to simmer five more minutes to allow some of the liquid to reduce. If you don't have much liquid left you won't need to drain the lentils. However, if you have more than a cup of liquid still in the lentils, you may want to drain at least half. I like a bit of liquid still in the lentils as they will absorb the liquid as they sit.
  • Next, take the pot off the heat and stir in the sausage and then the spinach. Season to taste with salt and freshly cracked black pepper and then give it another drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil. I like to serve this dish with freshly shaved pecorino or parmesan cheese.
  • Notes

    This dish also makes a great side without the sausage. I pair it with hearty roasts or a whole roasted chicken.

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    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Life Around My Table Salad vegetarian

    Spring Roll Bowl

    Spring Roll Bowl from Karista's Kitchen

    Last week, I made this Spring Roll Bowl for at least the fifth time in the past month. It’s nothing fancy but it makes the tastiest and most satisfying lunch.

    Why do I love this little bowl of goodness so much? Well, the veggies for one, but I also love the dressing. Or maybe it’s a sauce. Whatever it is I could sip it. And it makes this bowl of veggies and baby shrimp sing with flavor and make my taste buds smile.

    Spring Roll Bowl from Karista's Kitchen

    I’ve listed the “recipe” below but it’s really just a guideline for whatever Spring Roll Bowl you’d like to make. Most days I add whatever is leftover in my fridge. But for photos I thought I’d be a bit more traditional. I do love shredded carrots, bean sprouts, cucumber, avocado, edamame, fresh chopped mint, green onion and rice noodles. These are the ingredients I try to cram into my bowl most days – if I can make it all fit.

    This lovely little Spring Roll Bowl can also be filled with Oregon bay shrimp, which we have a lot of here.  Sometimes I load it with leftover roasted chicken, salmon or shredded pork. But most of the time it’s just filled with veggies.

    The dressing (or sauce) is simply peanut butter or almond butter, honey or Thai chili sauce, Hoisin, soy sauce and water. Whisked together to my desired consistency and then drizzled over my bowl. And sometimes, just for kicks, I’ll throw a little Sriracha Mayo over the top.

    However you like your Spring Roll Bowl, I know it’ll make your lunch hour a delicious one.

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,

    Karista

    Spring Roll Bowl

    Spring Roll Bowl

    Ingredients

      Choose a handful of five or six ingredients to fill your bowl
    • Shredded carrots
    • Shredded cucumber
    • Edamame
    • Bean sprouts
    • Sliced green onion
    • Fresh chopped mint
    • Fresh chopped basil
    • Rice noodles
    • Avocado slices
    • Bay shrimp
    • Poached shrimp
    • Diced chicken
    • Diced or shredded pork
    • Leftover cooked salmon
      For the dressing/sauce (you can double or triple these amounts)
    • 1 tablespoon peanut butter or almond butter
    • 1-2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
    • 1 tablespoon Thai Chili Sauce or honey
    • Dash of soy sauce (to taste)
    • Water to desired consistency

    Instructions

  • Layer the five or six ingredients in a bowl. I can tell you that including at least one fresh herb really makes this salad sing. Either mint or basil is best. To assemble the salad you can either layer ingredients beside each other like I did in my bowl or layer them on top of each other beginning with the rice noodles. Rice noodles or something of the sort is important in this bowl.
  • Whisk together the peanut or almond butter, Hoisin sauce, Thai chili sauce or honey, dash of soy sauce and a dash of water to begin. As you mix the sauce add more water as desired. Season to taste with the soy sauce or additional Hoisin, peanut butter or honey. This is clearly a sauce to your tastes. I make it different every time.
  • Drizzle the dressing/sauce over the spring roll bowl and enjoy!
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    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Life Around My Table Pasta vegetarian

    Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Vodka Sauce

     

    Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Vodka Sauce

    I am having the biggest love affair with Spaghetti Squash right now; especially when its Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Vodka Sauce. 

    Typically, I don’t prepare spaghetti squash until the fall months roll around. However, I spotted one in my co-op market the other day so I bought it. I knew I was making a Vodka Sauce that week and I thought it would taste divine over roasted spaghetti squash.

    Well I was right! It was divine. Just like many other squash, when spaghetti squash is roasted, the roasting process caramelizes some of the squash, which makes it slightly sweet to taste. That slightly sweet flavor balances the vibrant flavors in my Vodka sauce.

    Vodka sauce is basically a traditional tomato based pasta sauce with a splash of vodka and heavy cream. Some recipes add roasted red peppers and/or crushed red pepper. Why vodka? Just like most tomato sauce recipes, adding a bit of alcohol enhances the flavor of the tomatoes. Most people add wine to their pasta sauce which enhances flavor, but also adds a bit of flavor. Vodka is flavorless (unless you use a flavored vodka which I don’t recommend) so it enhances the flavor of the tomatoes without adding flavor to the sauce. If you want a more lengthy explanation of why we add vodka to a tomato sauce, you’ll find this ARTICLE interesting.

    Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Vodka Sauce

    There are also several methods to roasting spaghetti squash. Typically, I slice it lengthwise down the center and scoop out the seeds. Brush it with olive oil, salt and pepper and then place it flesh side down and roast it for about 35-45 minutes depending on the size. You’ll get spaghetti like noodles out of the squash but they won’t be quite as long as a traditional spaghetti noodle. I read about a hack for getting longer spaghetti squash noodles which I haven’t tried yet, because honestly, it looked like more work than I was willing to do at that moment. Here is the ARTICLE. I’m sure I’ll try it at some point, however, if you do try this method, let me know your thoughts. Thanks!

    Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Vodka Sauce is my new “go to” meal. Although, I may have served it one too many times over the last few weeks, or so I’ve been told. 🙂 My family likes diversity in their menu. 

    You’re going to love this combination of flavors and you’ll probably want to use the Vodka sauce on other kinds of noodles as well – like Zucchini noodles, lasagna, pasta and buckwheat soba noodles.

    I hope you’re enjoying the season and the warmer temperatures!

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,

    Karista

    Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Vodka Sauce

    Serving Size: 2-4

    Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Vodka Sauce

    Ingredients

      For the Spaghetti Squash
    • 1 or 2 Medium sized spaghetti squash
    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • Salt and pepper
      For the Sauce
    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 small red onion, diced
    • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
    • 2 tablespoons vodka
    • 1 28 ounce can of tomato sauce
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 1/2 cup heavy cream
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil for garnish
    • 1/4 cup grated parmesan for garnish

    Instructions

  • To roast the spaghetti squash, pre-heat the oven to 425F.
  • Cut the squash lengthwise down the center and scoop out the seeds. Then brush the flesh side of the squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the squash flesh side down on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 35-45 minutes or until soft to the touch. Remove them from the oven and let them cool before shredding.
  • To make the sauce, add the olive oil to a sauce pan and place it over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and saute until soft. Then stir in the garlic, red pepper flakes, fresh herbs and smoked paprika and saute about 30 seconds longer. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the vodka and tomato sauce.
  • Bring the sauce to a slow simmer and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Then slowly stir in the heavy cream and simmer for about five more minutes.
  • As with any sauce, it will be more flavorful the longer it sits. It's even better the next day.
  • Carefully scrape the inside of the spaghetti squash with a fork and add to individual bowls. Top the squash with some sauce and then garnish with fresh basil and grated parmesan. Enjoy!
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    Appetizers Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Life Around My Table Sassy Side dishes Soup

    Carrot Ginger Coconut Soup

    Carrot Ginger Coconut Soup // Dairy Free // Karista's Kitchen

    This gorgeous Carrot Ginger Coconut soup is a revised version of my original carrot soup recipe.  As time passes, and the more I prepare a recipe, chances are it’s going to get a few makeovers now and again.

    Although I do love my original recipe, I’ve created this version with coconut milk to appease my nagging dairy allergy and to create a different flavor twist to the soup.

    I prepare carrot ginger soup almost year round.  My family completely adores this soup in the fall and winter months because of the soothing properties of ginger.  It’s also equally as loved in the spring and summer for the bold taste of earthy, sweet carrots and the tropical flavors of coconut milk.

    Last week I topped the carrot ginger coconut soup with candied blood orange that my brother and sister-in-law sent me from Japan.  The simple touch of orange elevated the flavors yet again, creating the most delightful winter soup.

    I often make the soup on the weekend and store it in the fridge for quick weekday lunches or a light weeknight meal.  It also makes a delicious starter to Sunday dinner or a late night snack.

    And sometimes, I just find myself stopping by the fridge and snagging a spoonful of the silky, lush soup. It’s delicious room temp or warm and obviously, I eat it when it’s cold. 😉

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,

    Karista

    Carrot Ginger Coconut Soup

    Serving Size: 4-6

    Carrot Ginger Coconut Soup

    Ingredients

    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 yellow onion, diced
    • 12-15 medium carrots, chopped
    • 2 ribs celery, diced
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/4 cup sliced fresh ginger
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 4 cups vegetable broth or 2 cups vegetable broth and 2 cups carrot juice (enough liquid to cover the veggies in the soup pot)
    • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
    • Pinch of ground cloves
    • 1 cup canned organic coconut milk (not the light coconut milk)
    • Salt and pepper to taste

    Instructions

  • Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, carrots, garlic and dried thyme. Sauté for about 10 minutes or until all the veggies have softened.
  • Add the 4 cups of vegetable broth or 2 cups vegetable broth and 2 cups carrot juice and sliced ginger. (enough liquid to cover all the vegetables in the pot) Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer. Let the soup simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove the ginger slices, or as many as you can.
  • Either using a hand blender or pour the soup into a blender, Vitamix or food processor and puree. You may need to do this in stages as all the soup may not fit in the blender/food processor all at once.
  • Pour the pureed soup back into the pot and stir in the allspice, pinch of cloves and coconut milk. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. If the soup feels too thick, stir in ¼ cup of vegetable broth at a time until the consistency feels right.
  • Serve immediately. You can keep it warm on the stove if needed. Just keep the heat on low. This soup can be refrigerated for about 3 days and reheated stove top, or microwave.
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    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Life Around My Table vegetarian

    Swiss Chard, Leek and Mushroom Rice Bowl

    Swiss Chard, Leek and Mushroom Rice Bowl for a fresh and simple weeknight meal // Karista's Kitchen

    This is a recipe I’ve been wanting to post for a long time.  Swiss chard, leek and mushroom rice bowl.  Seriously, I think I make this once a week, however, often with whatever I have on hand.

    Sometimes it’s Swiss chard because I’ve got a spring garden full of chard.   Sometimes with organic seasonal greens, spinach, mustard greens or kale that I picked up at the market because someone used all the chard for their green protein smoothie.  😉  That’s actually what happened when I went to make this recipe a few nights ago.  The Swiss chard was gone so I reached for my organic seasonal greens.  But that’s why I love this dish so much.  It can become whatever you want it or need it to be.

    sautéing leeks // Karista's Kitchen

    Begin with a little extra virgin olive oil and sauté the leeks.

     

    On occasion I’ll make this with brown rice, just for the heck of it and because I love that nutty flavor from brown rice.  Sometimes I make it with quinoa when I’m in a quinoa mood or Einkorn berries when I feel like I want to mix things up a bit.   Most often though, I make this recipe with Jasmine or Basmati rice.  I find the clean, fragrant flavor of Jasmine rice compliments the rich bitterness of the Swiss Chard or Kale.

    sautéing leeks and Italian parsley // Karista's Kitchen

    Once the leeks are slightly caramelized, add the fresh herbs and garlic.

     

    During the winter months the Bennett Crew likes a bit of sautéed crumbled Italian sausage mixed in or leftover beef or pork roast.  This dish can easily accommodate leftover roast chicken or turkey as well.

    As for me… I’m happy with a fried egg on top.

    sautéing mushrooms // Karista's Kitchen

    Then add the sliced mushrooms and cook until wilted.

     

    When leeks aren’t in season I use diced onions or sliced green onions.  When my herb box is overflowing, I chop up fresh herbs and throw those in as well.  It’s truly a hearty one dish meal that satisfies everyones palate.

    baby greens sautéing // Karista's Kitchen

    Add the greens and toss gently with tongs until wilted.

     

    sautéing baby greens // Karista's Kitchen

    All the ingredients get served over rice or ancient grain and topped with a bit of grated parmesan cheese for good measure.  This, my friends, makes my family so happy. 🙂  Which makes me happy of course.

    Swiss Chard, Leek and Mushroom Rice Bowl // Karista's Kitchen

    Swiss chard, leek and mushroom rice bowls… Food fresh and simple.  Isn’t that what a weeknight dinner should be?

    Wishing you a very happy weekend with friends and family!

    Loads of Love,

    Karista

    Swiss Chard, Leek and Mushroom Rice Bowl

    Serving Size: 4

    Swiss Chard, Leek and Mushroom Rice Bowl

    Ingredients

    • 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or ghee
    • 2 medium to large leeks, trimmed where the white turns pale green, rinsed, halved lengthwise and diced (or 1 small onion, diced)
    • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
    • 1 tablespoon chopped mixed fresh herbs (Italian parsley, oregano, thyme, marjoram, chives)
    • 1-2 cups sliced mushrooms (cremini, buttons, chanterelle when in season are delicious)
    • 1 bunch Swiss chard, stemmed and greens chopped or 3-4 cups seasonal chopped or baby greens
    • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
    • 4 cups cooked white or brown rice
    • Serve with cooked ground Italian sausage, homemade sausages, leftover pork or beef roast, leftover roast chicken and of course top with a fried or poached egg.
    • Garnish with grated parmesan cheese (optional)
    • Sometimes my youngest gal likes a dollop of Greek yogurt on top 🙂

    Instructions

  • In a large saute pan or skillet over medium heat, add 1-2 tablespoons of the oil or ghee. When the oil is hot add the leeks and sauté until slightly golden. Then add the minced garlic, fresh herbs and mushrooms. Add the additional tablespoon of oil if desired. But remember, the mushrooms will soak up all the liquid and oil in the pan and then once they're cooked, they will release the liquid and oil.
  • Once the mushrooms are done, add the greens in batches if necessary. Toss gently until the greens are incorporated and wilted, but not over cooked.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve over rice with garnishes or meats.
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    Appetizers Karista's Kitchen Life Around My Table Pasta vegetarian

    Raviolo al Uovo with Brown Butter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Wishing you all a beautiful and very delicious Holiday Season!

    Loads of Love,

    Karista

     

    Appetizers Karista's Kitchen Sassy Side dishes vegetarian

    Sautéed Mushrooms with Garlic and Herbs

    Sautéed Mushrooms with Garlic and Herbs in a white wine cream sauce

    What do I serve as a side dish in a pinch?  These gorgeous Sautéed Mushrooms in a White Wine Cream Sauce.  Seasonal mushrooms that are gently sautéed with garlic and fresh herbs and then finished with a light white wine cream sauce. 

    These sautéed mushrooms couldn’t be easier or more delicious.  Living in the Pacific Northwest, we’re fortunate to have a climate perfect for growing mushrooms.  It’s not difficult to find locally grown or wild mushrooms here in the Pacific Northwest; often finding them at the Farmer’s Market as well as local markets.

    Another option is to take a wild mushroom foraging tour.  Ok, I have to admit, I’ve never been on a wild mushroom foraging tour but it’s on my bucket list.  I know, it doesn’t sound exciting enough to be on a bucket list but because I’m such a food nerd it’s super exciting to me.  Not to mention, I’m smack in the middle of mushroom heaven. It’s just something we do up her in the far left hand corner of the U.S.

    Sautéed Mushrooms with Garlic and Herbs in a white wine cream sauce

    Most markets carry a fair assortment of mushrooms.  Crimini’s, buttons, shiitake, seasonal chanterelle, seasonal oyster, seasonal truffle, and seasonal morels as well as a selection of dried mushrooms that I often incorporate into my sautéed mushrooms.  

    Because I adore porcini mushrooms, and it’s rare to find them fresh unless you’re in Italy, I reconstitute them in warm white wine and add them to these sautéed mushrooms.  Porcini mushrooms have a distinct, woody and nutty flavor that lends depth to this sautéed mushroom recipe.  I’ve also used dried morels, oyster and chanterelle in a pinch.  Truly any dried mushroom you like, mixed with fresh mushrooms will make a delicious and tantalizing side dish.

    I serve these sautéed mushrooms with beef, pork, poultry, salmon and sometimes over mashed potatoes, roasted root veggies, or rice.  They’re also divine when topped with a fried egg. 

    They’re a lovely and complimentary side dish and I love them served with leftover turkey and gravy.  On the rare occasion you have leftover sautéed mushrooms, add them to a soup or stew for a little extra texture and flavor.

    Once you make these sautéed mushrooms you’ll love them so much, you’ll want to make them a regular rotation on your side dish menu.

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,

    Karista

    Sautéed Mushrooms in a White Wine Cream Sauce

    Serving Size: 4

    Sautéed Mushrooms in a White Wine Cream Sauce

    Ingredients

    • 1 lb assorted fresh mushrooms (cremini, shitake, oyster, morels), sliced
    • 1 ounce dried porcini or morels (reconstituted in warm water or wine), chopped
    • 2 large portabella mushrooms, thinly sliced
    • ¼ cup fresh chopped herbs (Italian parsley, chive, thyme, oregano, marjoram or rosemary)
    • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
    • 4 tablespoons butter
    • ¼ cup white wine
    • ¼ cup heavy cream
    • Squeeze of lemon
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • Fresh grated Parmesan for garnish

    Instructions

  • In a medium sauté pan heat the butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted stir in all the sliced mushrooms. The mushrooms will soak up the butter, but will release the oils once the mushrooms have wilted.
  • Continue tossing the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms until wilted or slightly browned. Stir in the fresh herbs and garlic and sauté for a minute longer.
  • Add the white wine and stir. Then add the heavy cream and stir. Allow the cream to thicken and then take the pan off the heat, toss with a squeeze of lemon and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Garnish with fresh grated Parmesan and serve.
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    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Life Around My Table Sassy Side dishes vegetarian

    Pesto Broccolini

    Pesto Broccolini // Karista's Kitchen

    Some recipes garner a surprising response.  This little platter of Pesto Broccolini got loads of love on my Instagram and Facebook page which honestly, sort of surprised me.

    So, I decided to post it here.  It’s just a simple side that I toss together when I’m in a hurry but I want something fresh and delicious to serve with my dinner entrée.

    I was preparing a stuffed trout dish Monday night and I happened to have several bunches of Broccolini, which I typically pair with pasta or Gnocchi.  But Monday night I decided to serve it a la carte tossed with some basil pesto I had made the day before.  Voila! Pesto Broccolini.

    This is something I also do with blanched broccoli or cauliflower, sautéed or grilled zucchini and on occasion, roasted baby red potatoes and carrots.  It allows me to serve a fresh seasonal side with minimal fuss – because minimal fuss is important when the day is long and dinner is late.

    And who doesn’t love a crisp tender veggie lightly bathed in a spicy and herb laced pesto?  Even my picky eater loves this gorgeous Pesto Broccolini side dish.  If you don’t have the time to knock out a homemade pesto,  just buy one.  There are many excellent, high quality pesto’s in the market these days – many without any preservatives and made exclusively with extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs.

    Here’s to making dinner fresh, simple and delicious! Cheers!

    Karista

    Pesto Broccolini

    Serving Size: 4-6

    Pesto Broccolini

    Ingredients

    • 1 1/2 - 2 lbs Broccolini, trimmed and larger stalks halved
    • 1/2 - 1 cup Basil Pesto (prepared or homemade)
    • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
    • 1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan
    • Squeeze of lemon juice

    Instructions

  • Fill a large pot with water and heat over high heat. Once the water has reached a boil, add about one tablespoon of salt. Then add the broccolini.
  • Let the broccolini cook for 2 1/2 - 3 minutes for crisp tender or 4 -5 minutes for tender. Drain in a colander and then place in a bowl and toss gently with 1/2 cup of pesto or more if needed. Drizzle with a squeeze of lemon and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Place on a platter and sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan. Serve immediately.
  • Notes

    For this recipe, I don't place the broccolini in an ice bath once it's cooked as I'm usually serving this right away. If I were going to hold the dish for a few minutes, I'd prepare a bowl with ice and water and let the broccolini rest for a few minutes in the ice bath after cooking, before tossing it with pesto. If you do decide to let it rest in the ice bath, gently heat the pesto before tossing with the broccolini so the dish is warm when served.

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    Grilling Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Salad Sassy Side dishes vegetarian

    Grilled Summer Corn and Tomato Salad

    Grilled Corn and Tomato Salad with Sliced Red Onions and Fresh Basil // Karista's Kitchen

    This is the time of year I’m in food heaven. Summer produce is at its peak and it adorns my table with gorgeous color and delicious flavors, like this Grilled Corn and Summer Tomato Salad.  

    Most of the plants in my garden are ready to harvest, with the exception of the few plants that have suffered little critter attacks, the heat and my apparent lack of gardening knowledge.  I was so excited about my little strawberry patch, only to walk out one morning and notice tiny teeth marks on my sweet red berries.  Darn bunnies. 🙁

    I have a short list of plants I probably won’t attempt growing next year.  I have completely failed at sugar snap peas – and I love sugar snap peas.  Disappointment is looming.  I’m not sure what happened but I think I may have planted them in the wrong spot in the yard.  My knack for growing cauliflower never emerged this season… and then the white flies noticed the fledgling cauliflower hanging about and pretty much decimated what was left of the cauliflower crop.

    I’ve had a few successes however.  I am awesome at growing greens!  Which is great because we eat loads of greens in my house.  Bok Choy, Spinach, Swiss Chard and Collards are being harvested daily.  My spring lettuce flourished as did the arugula.  Tomatoes will be ready soon and the cucumbers are popping out everywhere.  Another huge success are the peppers, which is making Ranger Craig very happy.  He could eat peppers daily.  And of course my herb garden is overflowing with the most beautiful and fragrant herbs.  Ok, so I have somewhat of a green thumb.  I believe it may be more determination than an actual green thumb. 🙂

    Grilled Corn and Tomato Salad with Red onion and Fresh Basil in a Sherry Vinaigrette

    The one vegetable I do wish I’d grown in my garden this year is corn –  so I could make this Grilled Corn and Summer Tomato Salad straight from my garden.  

    Summer isn’t summer without corn. And well… potato salad, grilled ribs, grilled chicken, burgers, grilled stuffed peppers, macaroni salad and I could go on and on.  Maybe it’s the memories it evokes, noshing on corn on the cob with smears of butter on warm summer days, or watching my family dig into a bowl of this sweet corn and tomato salad.

    Grilled summer corn and tomato salad is a staple on our summer table.  

    It’s easy to prepare and it holds well in the fridge for up to 5 days.  Although it doesn’t last that long in my house.   Slightly sweet from the corn and a little tang of fresh cherry tomatoes combined with a little spice of sliced red onion and then topped with fresh and fragrant basil.  The simplicity of clean, fresh flavors shines through and is melded together by a little taste of char from the grilled corn.  Earthy, fresh, fragrant and most of all, delicious.

    Cheers to a delicious and fun-filled summer!

    Loads Of Love,

    Karista

    P.S. Having a little trouble with my print plugin but hopefully it will be fixed soon.  Thanks so much for your patience!

    Grilled Summer Corn and Tomato Salad

    Ingredients

    5-6 cobs of fresh summer corn, husks peeled and rinsed

    1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

    1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

    1 bunch fresh basil leaves, chopped chiffonade (Julienne)

    1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley

    1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

    2-3 tablespoons sherry vinegar (start with 2 tablespoons and taste, if you need more add the extra tablespoon)

    Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

    Directions

    Pre-heat the grill to 400F.  Brush each corn on the cob with a little oil and then wrap each corn on the cob in aluminum foil and place them on the grill.  Note: Some people like to soak the corn on the cobs in water for about 10-15 minutes prior to grilling.  But if the corn is fresh and kernels look plump, this step won’t be needed. I don’t typically soak my corn prior to grilling unless its end of the season and the kernels look less than plump.

    Grill the corn for about 15-20 minutes, turning with tongs every five minutes to insure even cooking.  Once the corn is done, remove from the heat and let them rest for about five minutes.  Then unwrap the corn and let them rest another five minutes if they are too hot to handle.  Then scrape all the corn off the cob and place it in a bowl.

    To assemble the salad, gently toss together the corn, tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion, chopped Italian parsley and basil.  Whisk together the olive oil and sherry vinegar and then gently toss with the vegetables.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

    This salad is fabulous when it’s had about 30 minutes to sit on the counter at room temperature.  This will allow all those delicious flavors to meld together.  Place any leftover salad in a covered container in the fridge for up to five days.

     

     

    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Salad vegetarian

    Summer Garden Panzanella

    Summer Garden Panzanella with Herb and Garlic  Croutons // Karista's Kitchen

    The scent of summer is laced in the warm evening breeze that’s floating through my open kitchen window.  A familiar seasonal scent that conjures visions of lush salads, grilled stone fruit, cherry pie and fresh made sangria.   Weekend evenings are spent shuffling between the garden and the kitchen, washing my fresh produce in preparation for dinner, while Spotify is playing softly in the background some of our new favorite summer music mixes.  Oh how I love these barefoot, slightly warm and breezy evenings.

    For pre-dinner festivities, I set out a little tray of Bruno’s Crostini and Chianti wine for sipping while Ranger Craig and I are mingling in the kitchen chatting, laughing, and making dinner.

    This evenings meal is simple and fresh.  A Summer Garden Panzanella Salad.  I call it a Summer Garden Panzanella because it’s not quite traditional in that it includes whatever is in season in my garden, along with the usual suspects of cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and mozzarella.

    On occasion I’ll slow roast the tomatoes and peppers for a richer, sweeter flavor and sometimes I simply slice it up fresh and toss it all together; using any additional fresh herbs I might have on hand.  I think Panzanella is best when served fresh, however, I always toast my bread cubes so the leftovers hold well one more day in the fridge (If by chance we have leftovers).

    I’ve listed my basic recipe but you can certainly customize to your tastes.  Panzanella recipes can be found with all sorts of vinaigrettes, but I like it best with the traditional balsamic vinegar and olive oil with a splash of lemon.

    Cheers to walking around barefoot, chilled sangria, warm breezes, summer sunshine and all things delicious from the garden!

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,

    Karista

    Summer Garden Panzanella

    Serving Size: 4-6

    Summer Garden Panzanella

    Ingredients

    • 1 loaf ciabatta, focaccia, or your favorite loaf, cut into 1-2 inch cubes
    • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
    • 1-2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
    • 1 cup sliced fresh red, yellow or orange peppers (optional)
    • 1 cup baby asparagus tips (optional)
    • 1 cup sliced cucumber (optional)
    • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red or sweet onion (optional, for a little zing)
    • 1 container of small mozzarella balls (Bocconcini)
    • 1 large bunch of fresh basil, chiffonade or chopped
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • Squeeze of fresh lemon
    • Good quality aged balsamic vinegar
    • Good quality extra virgin olive oil
    • Grated parmesan for garnish

    Instructions

  • Heat the oven to 350F.
  • In a small saucepan gently heat the olive oil. When the oil is warm but not too hot, add the garlic and salute for one minute.
  • Toss the garlic oil over the bread cubes and then spread the bread cubes on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for just about 5-10 minutes, until toasty but not too hard.
  • Remove the bread from the oven and sprinkle the cubes with a bit of salt. Your kitchen will smell so good by now!
  • While you are letting the bread cubes cool, assemble the salad.
  • Gently toss the fresh veggies with the basil and mozzarella and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and splash of lemon. Then toss in the bread cubes and drizzle the salad with vinegar and oil, tossing to combine. Serve with fresh grated parmesan.
  • You can serve the salad immediately or let it rest for 10-15 minutes. Because the bread is toasted, this salad holds well.
  • Notes

    Serve this salad as a lunch or light dinner or pair it with your favorite grilled fish, chicken, pork or beef.

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    http://karistaskitchen.com/2015/06/05/summer-garden-panzanella/

    Appetizers Breakfast Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Sassy Side dishes vegetarian VRAI Magazine

    Avocado and Watercress Salad with Edible Flowers

    Avocado Watercress Salad with Edible Flowers // Karista's Kitchen

    There is nothing quite like a beautiful salad. The color, the scent of fresh greens and produce, all collectively creating edible art on a plate.

     Not only is this Avocado and Watercress Salad impressive in presentation, but it’s mouth-watering delicious in taste.  

    Fresh avocado and watercress tossed with a light lemon vinaigrette, gently stacked and then topped with brilliantly colored edible flowers.

     

    Spring Vegetable Strata // Karista's Kitchen and VRAI Magazine

    The Avocado and Watercress Salad is simple to prepare – either with round food rings or you can layer the salad on a platter or on individual plates.   This salad is so delicious served with either a quiche or this lovely Spring Vegetable Strata I created for VRAI Magazine.  The fresh flavors of the avocado and peppery watercress pair beautifully with eggs dishes or even a spring lamb chop or roasted rack of lamb would be lovely.

    A gorgeous table of food for Mother’s Day brunch or any casual weekend entertaining.  I often serve the strata for Sunday breakfast and fancy it up with the salad if I’m serving it for brunch.  However you decide to serve these dishes, your guests will be completely delighted. Especially if there is a Mimosa sitting next to the plate!

    Wishing you all a beautiful and delicious week!

    Loads of Love,

    Karista

    Avocado and Watercress Salad with Edible Flowers

    Serving Size: 4

    Avocado and Watercress Salad with Edible Flowers

    Ingredients

    • 1 large bunch watercress, thin stems and leaves only
    • 2-3 large firm but ripe avocados, diced
    • ½ to 1 cup edible flowers (usually purchased in the fresh herb section of a market)
    • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
    • Juice of one lemon, about 3 tablespoons
    • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    • 2 teaspoons honey
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 4 3-4 inch round food molds, if desired (optional). If you don’t have food molds, a washed and dried tuna with both ends removed will also work.

    Instructions

  • Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and honey. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • In a bowl, gently toss the diced avocados with a splash of the lemon vinaigrette. In a seperate bowl, gently toss the watercress with a splash of lemon vinaigrette. The watercress will wilt quickly once it’s dressed with vinaigrette so don’t dress the watercress until right before serving. The avocado should be dressed with vinaigrette as soon as it’s been diced.
  • If using food molds (or tuna cans), brush the inside with a little olive oil. Set each mold on a plate. Divide the avocado among the plates. Press the avocado firmly into the mold. Next, press the watercress into each mold. Gently remove the molds. It’s ok if the watercress falls, it will still look beautiful. Drizzle a little more vinaigrette over each salad if desired and once last pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Garnish each salad with edible flowers and serve.
  • If you’d like to make the salad without molds, layer the avocado on plates, top with watercress and then the edible flowers.
  • Notes

    If you can't find edible flowers, not to worry. Garnish with fresh chopped chives and some grated fresh carrot and beet or spiralized carrot and beet for some color.

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    http://karistaskitchen.com/2015/05/04/avocado-and-watercress-salad-with-edible-flowers/

     

    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Sassy Side dishes vegetarian

    Red Quinoa Lunch Salad

    Red Quinoa Lunch Salad // Karista's Kitchen

    You know that salad you’ve always got to have on hand, stocked in the fridge, or someone in the family just might have a meltdown?  Yep, that is this salad.

    I first dined on this salad at my favorite co-op market in Seattle many years ago, PCC Natural Markets.  Not only did I work as a cheese specialist at PCC Natural Markets, but I also taught culinary classes at their IACP award winning culinary school, PCC Cooks, for four years.  A fantastic group of professionals committed to our community farms, quality food and nutrition. I couldn’t have asked for a more gratifying place to work.  I met the loveliest and most interesting people, including fellow chef’s, nutritionists and culinary instructors.  Some are now dear friends – I love it when that happens!

    This red quinoa salad was always served in the deli at my local PCC Natural Market.  I never left the store without a medium container filled to the brim with this salad.  Sometimes I’d hide it in the back of my refrigerator when I got home; so I could at least sneak a few bites before the rest of my family found it and devoured it.

    Red Quinoa Lunch Salad // Karista's Kitchen

    I now live about 275 miles south of the nearest PCC Natural Market – so I make this salad at home.  I snagged this recipe (called Red Quinoa Tabouli on the website) and ended up adapting it a bit to suit my family’s tastes.  My family dubbed it the “Red Quinoa Lunch Salad” because that’s usually when everyone wants to eat it;  at lunch.

    My family has also been known to add extra ingredients like Italian salami, sweet peppers, bay shrimp, grilled chicken and on occasion Ranger Craig will toss it with some smoked salmon.  However it’s served it’s nutty, fragrant, full of flavor and so completely satisfying.

    Wishing you all a fantastic weekend.  Don’t forget to move the clock forward one hour! I’m already feeling sleep deprived just thinking about it.

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,

    Karista

    Red Quinoa Lunch Salad

    Serving Size: 4-6

    Red Quinoa Lunch Salad

    Ingredients

    • 1 1/2 cups dry red quinoa, rinsed
    • 2 1/3 cups water
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
    • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    • 1 bunch green onions, sliced
    • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
    • 1 cucumber, chopped
    • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
    • Avocado slices for garnish

    Instructions

  • In a medium pan bring the 2 1/3 cups water to a boil. Add the quinoa and bring it back to a boil. Cover, turn the heat down to low and simmer for about five minutes. Then turn off the heat and let the quinoa sit for another five or ten minutes until the quinoa has sprouted or is cooked. Drain well, if needed. Cool in the refrigerator.
  • Whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, minced garlic, Dijon mustard and sugar. Toss the vinaigrette with the quinoa and then add the lightly fold in the green onions, cilantro, cucumbers and tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Let the salad sit overnight or for a few hours so the flavors can meld together. Serve cold or at room temp.
  • Garnish with Avocado slices.
  • Notes

    This recipe was slightly adapted from the PCC Natural Markets Red Quinoa Tabouli.

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    http://karistaskitchen.com/2015/03/05/red-quinoa-lunch-salad/