Sunday, May 29, 2016

Mostly Homemade Veggie Spaghetti

So here's the thing. It's been pretty silent over here. And that's because I have spent the last month traveling in Costa Rica and then coming back home only to be wrapped up in interviewing for a promotion. So while we are going to get this fantastic spaghetti, I have an announcement first. 

But wait, I wanna show this before I tell you...
Here's one of my favorite shots from our trip.
Pure relaxation....

Anywhoo...during an entire 4 weeks+ away from blogging, I found myself in a daily practice of photography and writing that was all my own. No agenda. No audience. Just me and my imagination. And what I found is that it's time for a change. Long story short, this is the last post for Karen's Place. 

When I started this blog, I needed an outlet. I needed to practice photography. I needed to just do SOMETHING productive. And it has been the most amazing and fulfilling hobby. I have gained a newfound confidence in myself and a renewed commitment to my own dreams. 

This blog is no longer just about practice and food. It's about spreading a message of joy and good meals, because they are inextricably linked. And so now it's time to introduce my new blog,

My goal? 
To empower the every day person to get in the kitchen and make some flippin' REAL food, to take care of themselves, and to no longer make any excuses. Reinventing what it means to be a foodie, and what it looks like to fuel your dreams. Last, I'm out to encourage folks to live fantastically normal lives, one healthy step at a time.

Starting next week, all my recipes, fitness tips, and wellness writings will be found at There's going to be a whole lot more focus on lifestyle and a whole lot more writing. It feels like a big step forward. And I am really going to miss Karen's Place. Thank you, readers, for being a part of it. So for today, let's celebrate with one of my new favorite meals. A veggie packed pasta that is easy to make for dinner and pack for lunch throughout the week. 

  • Olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 serrano peppers, minced 
  • 2 medium white onion, finely chopped 
  • 4 small carrots, minced 
  • 2 cups crimini mushrooms, diced 
  • 1 zucchini, small, rough chopped 
  • 1 small yellow squash, rough chopped 
  • 15 oz marazano canned tomatoes
  • 1 jar good marinara sauce 
  • 2 fresh tomatoes, diced 
  • Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, to taste 
  • Angel hair pasta 

  • Boil quart of water and cook angel hair pasta according to package.
  • Heat oil, garlic, serrano in sauce pan over medium high heat
  • Saute for about 1 minute and then add onion and carrots ... 5-6 minutes
  • Add salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Stir! 
  • Add mushrooms, cook for another 3 minutes
  • Add zucchini and squash. Saute for another 10 minutes. 
  • Add canned tomatoes. Bring to boil and reduce to medium-low heat. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Pour in marinara. Simmer for another 15 minutes until thick. 

And there you go! One healthy, balanced meal. I love it! Stay tuned to for more awesome recipes like this one, fitness challenges, and wellness reflections! It has been such an amazing journey here at Karen's Place. Thank you, again, for being here. Here's to another climb! Be a part of the next hike. Bookmark and follow:

xx - karen 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Charred Romaine with Pancetta + Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

It's not too often you meet someone that you can completely sync with in life and in work. Michelle is one of my very best friends and she is by-far my favorite person to work with and travel with. We met as co-workers, in a place that was a super tough environment. I remember being on her interview team and thinking to myself, "If she doesn't get hired, these people are making a huge mistake". Luckily, my voice was heard and she was hired. We spent over a year together, in each other's offices every day, working on copy and talking about the future. Without realizing, it seemed as though we were inseparable. And though our lives look very different today, we still have that #dreamteam vibe flowin' on the regular. 

Just yesterday, she came to my side of the water and we sat at the most Seattle-like pub I could find in Issaquah. (It was the Black Duck btw. If you haven't been there, go now!) We sat in the sun, caught up on life-happenings and started stirring-up new plans for the future. The drinks, the conversation, and the food were all equally fantastic. 

Do you follow me on Instagram yet? If not, you totally should. More of this goodness over @karenleannkirsch 

So, speaking of the FOOD, I decided to go for a salad at the restaurant since I had already eaten really heavy all day. (See previous post ... training for STP makes you hungry... like woah) And maybe you're thinking, "Well, that's boring". But let me tell you friend, it is NOT! I had grilled romaine. Yes, they put it on a grill and served it up with a honey mustard vinaigrette. It knocked my socks off. So much so, I was determined to recreate it today for my lunch. But, this time, I knew I needed some protein and my own flair to it. Also, I don't have a grill. So for this recipe, I used my cast iron grill pan and just charred it. 

Grab that pancetta and get cookin' folks. It's time for that silly salad of yours to get a HOT new makeover. (Ha, see what I did there?)

for the salad:
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 of Romaine head, sliced lengthwise 
  • 1 handfull cherry tomatoes 
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese 
  • 1/2 cup cooked pancetta 
  • 1/4 honey mustard vinaigrette (see below)
for the vinaigrette
  • Scant 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced in half
  • 1/2 tablespoon coarse mustard (I used Mustard & Co. Dill & Garlic)
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey
  • 1.5 tablespoon white wine vinegar 
  • Salt & pepper to taste


for the salad:

Heat a saute pan over medium heat and cook the pancetta until golden brown. Drain on a plate with a paper towel. Next, slice the cherry tomatoes thinly, and do your best to get the seeds out. Cut your lettuce head in half. Be sure to keep the stem ON. You'll need it to keep the leaves together. Then, get your grill pan HOT and lightly spritz it cooking spray. 

Now, drizzle just a teaspoon or so of olive oil over the cut side of the Romaine. After about 30 seconds, give or take, of heating up your grill pan, place the Romaine on the grill cut-side down. Grill for 2 minutes and then flip it. Grill for another 2 minutes. Take the lettuce out of the pan and place it onto a large plate. It should look slightly brown and wilted, but full of color. Then all you need to do is top it with the pancetta, feta, tomatoes and dressing. 

for the dressing:

Rub 1 clove of garlic all around the sides of a medium bowl. Then discard it. Next, measure out the honey, mustard, oil, and vinegar. Dash in some salt and pepper. And then whisk it all together. You can also place all of the ingredients into a small jar and shake everything together. I like to do this for easy storage afterwards. 

AND BOOM! There you have it. A wonderfully warm salad for a spring day. Try it out and let me know what you think. 

As always, eat well! Be well!


Sunday, April 3, 2016

Ethan's Slow Cooker Ribs

Ethan and I just started training for the STP. In other speak, that means we are riding from Seattle, WA to Portland, OR on our bikes with about 15,000 other people. It's a classic ride that is about 200 miles long. You know that emoji face where its all like bug-eyed and its mouth is wide open? Yeah, that's what I picture in my head every time I am reminded that we are doing this in July...

So yesterday we took our first ride. Along with my good friend Andy and my dad, we rode around the perimeter of Mercer Island. That's only about 14 miles, so yes, we still have a long way to go. But for real, it felt so good. And I even beat the boys on most of the hills ... high five! Up top! By the end of the ride, I was spent. But so happy to be able to get out on the road again.

But let's be real, when you're training for any kind of competition, you get real HUNGRY! Knowing this, Ethan decided to take dinner into his own hands. Before we left for the island, he popped in some ribs into the SLOW COOKER. You heard me right. For those of us not lucky enough to own a grill, this is probably the BEST way to cook a rack of ribs. Like really. Just try it, you won't regret it. And you may find yourself eating ribs WAY more than you probably should. Because it's just too easy to make them this way..

  • 3 pounds ribs
  • 1 onion, sliced into 8 wedges 
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp garlic powder 
  • 2 tsp salt 
  • 18 ounces Barbecue Sauce of choice (we use Stubbs)
  • Combine ribs, onion, spices and sauce into slow cooker or crock pot. Save about 1/2 cup of the BBQ sauce!
  • Turn the knob to low and let everything cook for about 6 hours 
  • At the end of the 6 hours, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F
  • Once the 6 hours is up, line a baking sheet with foil and put the ribs + onions onto the sheet and cover everything with the previously saved BBQ sauce.
  • Finish the ribs in the oven, cook for about 20 minutes. 
  • Serve with a great salad or roasted veggies. You'll surely be stuffed!

Eat well! 
Be well!
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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Kimchi Tofu Egg Fry

I've been running on one whirlwind after another. Between flying back and forth from the Southwest and fighting a weird flu-cold thing and THEN throwing a fantastic Sock Hop for the 100 families I work with, there hasn't been a whole lot of time for creativity on my plate. But, last weekend I had the house to myself and kimchi in the fridge. I knew I wanted to try something new. And I also knew I had to cook for only my self. It was time to take a chance. Get that fermented cabbage into a fry pan with some tofu and put some fried eggs on top. This recipe is surprising AND delicious. Get ready to treat your self. And yes, please say that in a tone that Donna would on Parks & Rec.

  • 1/4 cup fried tofu
  • 1/4 cup kimchi
  • 1/2 tsp Chili powder
  • Dash of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon oil

Slice a 1/2 inch slab of semi-firm tofu. Cut into cubes. Grab a medium-sized fry pan and heat 1/2 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Once hot enough, put the cubes of tofu into the pan, and let those babies fry! Season with chili powder and salt. 

Once the tofu starts to brown, get that kimchi into the pan. Stir fry for 4-5 minutes. You'll know everything is ready when the tofu is very firm and golden all over. Clear the pan.

Then put the other 1/2 tablespoon in the pan and heat over medium heat. Crack two eggs directly into the pan, and fry! Season with a dash of chili powder and salt. 

Layer the tofu and kimchi onto a plate and place the fried eggs on top. Serving with sriracha is recommended! 

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Eat well! Be well!


Sunday, March 20, 2016

DIY Adult Ramen

I'm not going to lie. Today's entry is going to be pretty elemental, pretty old school, pretty throw-back to my college days. And yes, it does require going to the store and buying a $0.99 package of Top Ramen. BUT, before you judge, I caught whatever plague everyone else is getting. I've been so sick for the last week, its been taking all of my energy to even get out of bed in the morning. Really, the only thing that has been tasting good lately is ramen. It's a crazy sickness that's been affecting everyone I know, and so I hope this blog post finds you well! 

The thing is though, I've dressed up this ramen. I added REAL chicken, radishes, and mushrooms. I also did NOT use the sodium-bomb that is called the "spice packet". It's been boiled in chicken bouillon and I added an egg. So it's like a chicken noodle egg drop soup that's been dressed up with a hint of lime and sriracha. It's like your old college favorite ... but classier. 

Say what you will about this simple meal, it's filling and warm. Two things you need most when you're fighting a fever and have little energy. Let's get to it then, shall we?


  • 1 Top Ramen Package
    (it really doesn't matter what flavor you have, you won't be using the spice packet any way)
  • 1/2 cup cooked, shredded chicken
  • 1/4 cup sliced radish
  • 1/4 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon bullion
    (dissolved in water ... you could also skip the water and the bullion and just use chicken stock instead!) 
  • 1-2 squeezes lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha 
Bring two cups of water +  bullion or stock to a boil. Place the dried ramen noodles into the boiling water and cook for three minutes. At the end of those three minutes, crack the egg into the boiling pot. Quickly whisk the egg around until you see the yolk separate and firm up. Then, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the veggies, chicken, sriracha, and lime juice. Cook for 1 more minute, and then get ready to enjoy this easy noodle soup!

I'm starting to feel a little better, so get ready for those fancy recipes you're used to! 
Per usual, eat well! Be well! And really... don't get sick. It's the worst. 


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Flashback Food: Beach Fresh Oysters

I wrote the beginnings of this story while recently attending a food writing workshop, led by Molly Wizenberg. I hope you find it entertaining, please let me know in the comments if you do!!

Weekends are precious pockets of time, especially reserved to spend together. Usually it is the only time we have to really connect, and adventure (more importantly!). I learn the most from him when I'm outside my comfort zone. And this day was no different. 

We packed into his brother's car and headed towards the peninsula. I looked up and realized we were crossing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. I secretly hate this bridge. My mind always flashes to this black and white image of the bridge rocking and rolling to the typical whipping wind known to plague the area. Right before the image fades, the bridge collapses into the cold sound below. 

So instead, I looked up at the arches and the rain dotted windshield to keep my mind occupied on something less morbid. 

I kept saying loud affirmations in my head to pump myself up, because soon I'd be on a beach gulping down my very first fresh oyster. And then I took a picture to post to Instagram. If the whole internet world knew that this about to happen, then I couldn't wuss out. 

We kept traveling, and the more we passed turnoffs that look reasonable enough to stop at, the more anxious I became. "Where are we going? Does he actually remember how to get there?" ... I get super judgmental when I'm nervous...

"I don't do things like this", I thought to myself, "He and I are so different. What is his family going to think of me?" And then we turned.

We finally get to the intended beach, the one he has been going to since he was very little. It's different than I expected. There are patches of grass and the parking lot feels like it's practically on top of the sand. As we wait for his parents, I start reading all of the warning signs posted around the lot. 


Yikes. My mind immeadiately goes to the thoughtful advice of my grandmother, "Why dig it up yourself when someone else already has done it for you?" That's the kind of philosophy my family lives by. But me? NO. I'm going to do this. I'm going to be different. Let's get started before I run back to the car and lock the doors. 

Everyone is accounted for, I grab my blue Northface, and we head down to the grey, gritty beach. His parents set out deep buckets and short shovels, shuckers, and extra water. And then they sat down on the smallest stools I had ever seen. The scene is simple and quiet, but my insides are bursting loudly still with random thoughts and fears. I'm completely out of place. But before I can dwell in self-pity for too long, he hands me a shovel and points me to a mud puddle where we will start digging. Between the ocean air and the heavy lifting, I feel covered in salt. Though the rangers back at the parking lot told us that this year's harvest was lack luster, we were making a good haul. 

I must have lost track of time, because all of a sudden his uncle was looking at me. His eyes tell me, "It's time." He's holding three shucked, wiggly oysters and one of them is for me. Excited and disgusted, I hold the bumpy grey shell and stare at its pale, slimy insides. "BOTTOMS UP!", he said. I closed my eyes and let the animal slide down my throat. I did it, I made it. 



  • 1 awesome boyfriend + family
  • 1 beach with oysters planted (for Washingtonians, find a beach here)
  • 1 freshly dug up oyster, shucked
Drive to the beach with shuckers, shovels, and courage in tow. Get out of the car and walk yourself to the beach, with the tools previously listed in hand. Find a puddle with a shell sticking out of it, and start digging. 

Clean the shell in a deep bucket of water. Grab your shucker and pop that baby open. Look at your boyfriend, close your eyes, and gulp it down. Oysters come freshly seasoned with salt water from the ocean. 


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More stories like this to come!


Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Monte Cristo

Last night, Ethan and I went to the ale house across the street with Joe & Devin. A couple that we love. Gosh, they're great. It's so hard to make friends after college, let alone couples. Yay for double dates that don't suck! Anyway, after some beer, Joe ordered a Monte Cristo for dinner. Oh man Joe, what a good choice. How come I never think to order that? We reveled in his choice for a beat, and then Ethan spoke up. He didn't know what Joe was eating. 

Cue cheesy double take.... "WHAAA?"

So we explained. It's a ham & cheese sandwich, fried french toast style, and topped sweetly with powdered sugar and jam. He was with us in our excitement until we got to the "sweet toppings" part. 

Cue cheesy double take.... "WHAAA?"

It made me think of my first MC. I was with my mom (whom I call MAAAAAAAmmmmm) at the Issaquah Cafe (great local diner, check them out). She ordered it, I was curiously wary. I tried it, and BOOM. My eyes and tastebuds were opened to a whole new world. 

After our dinner with Joe and Devin, I knew I had to make it for Ethan. And according to him, a Monte Cristo is like the best parts of breakfast for dinner without sacrificing the dinner part. As of this morning, he's still weirded out by the sweet and savory combo. But that's what makes this sandwich great. Embrace the weird, folks. 
Embrace   the   weird.

  • 2 pieces of bread (I used Essential Baking Co Multi Grain) 
  • 1 tablespoon greek yogurt (or mayo)
  • 1 tablespoon mustard (I buy Mustard & Co ... so good)
  • 6 slices fresh ham
  • 1/2 cup grated Gruyere Cheese 
  • 2 eggs
  • Splash of milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Honey, jam, and/or powdered sugar for topping 

In a shallow bowl, crack 2 eggs and add a splash of milk, a couple grinds of pepper, and a few dashes of salt. Now, if you accidentally drop your pepper container in the bowl, pick it up, dry it off, and keep moving. You gotta whisk all those ingredients together!

Get two pieces of bread and spread the yogurt and mustard on one side of both. Put the cheese on piece and the ham on the other. Smoosh the bread together and then proceed to dredge it in the egg wash. 

Heat butter over medium heat in a large pan. Once the pan has heated and after dredging the sandwich on both sides, put the sandwich in the pan. Fry on both sides (about 3 minutes per side). 

Serve with raw honey, fresh jam, and/or top with powdered sugar. And enjoy! Enjoy the weird! It's delicious. 

As always, eat well! Be well! 
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