Todd and Karen Pattist fell in love while flying glider planes. They enjoy potluck dinners with friends at the airport and by their koi fish pond in their Connecticut backyard.

When guests stop by Karen Pattist’s Rockfall, Connecticut home, they often find themselves dining in the backyard, next to the fish pond!

Since the completion of a 55,000-gallon pond for her pet koi, or Japanese carp, there are always drop-in guests curious about her fish and ready to relax by the water. Koi are distant “cousins” of goldfish and a symbol of love and friendship.

“Our pond is the perfect place to host get-togethers, dinner parties and neighborhood potlucks,” says Karen, who loves giving her guests a place to soothe their souls. “Koi have an amazing effect on people! When they sit by the pond and feed the koi, they become mesmerized by the beauty of our wet pets. It pretty much guarantees a release of anxiety and a drop in blood pressure.

“Our guests always appreciate a good salad and some comfort food,” she adds. “I’ve figured out a chicken recipe using Bangkok Seasoning that is so versatile, it can be used for salads and main dishes galore. You can feed a group on just a couple of chicken breasts.” Two favorite recipes using the chicken are her Hot Spinach Salad Bowl and Comfort Bangkok Chicken.

Karen, who has been keeping koi for 20 years, is eager to share her knowledge with other enthusiasts. “For the past year, I have been creating a nonprofit organization to support and teach good koi keeping worldwide. It is often said in Japan that they do not ‘keep’ koi—they ‘keep’ beautiful water (and the koi take care of themselves). Koi are living jewels. Most have the potential to grow upwards of 28 inches. Like parrots, they can live many years, and are even listed in wills for the next generation.”

Second to her serious koi passion, Karen shares a love of glider flying with her husband, Todd. “That’s how we met! He was my flight instructor and taught me to fly ‘sailplanes,’ too. Sailplanes are to power planes what sailboats are to powerboats.We typically fly 60 mph and stay under 1,000 feet off the ground.Our motto—low and slow is the way to go!

“On my first solo flight I thought I would be nervous without my instructor (and lonesome for my fiancé!), but the thrill of gaining some altitude and searching for lift along with the hawks and eagles was all I could think about. It took me hours to ‘come down’ after I landed.

“We are very lucky—southern Connecticut is one of the great places to have a glider. There are hundreds of small airports, and our hangar is 3 miles from the Connecticut River. Some of the nicest flights are up and down the river, or we’ll fly to Long Island Sound, Martha’s Vineyard, Rhode Island, or Cape Cod. No matter where we are, as soon as we land a sailplane away from our home airport, we become part of the new airport ‘family.’ All sailplane pilots are welcome to dinners and into other pilots’ houses.”

Karen and Todd love weekends at their home airport. “There is a potluck dinner every Saturday, with 20 to 50 attending,” says Karen. “Appetizers are the first order of business once all the planes are put away.

“Soaring seems to bring together the closest knit community of world-wide friends imaginable. Those speaking foreign languages usually outnumber the English-speakers at every dinner. There is always something different to tempt your taste buds—Weisswurst on the grill next to Polish sausage and burgers. And there’s lots of time to relive the day’s flying highlights. Everybody’s story has to be told!”

----As told to Emily Tyra

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Karen's Almond Puff Coffeecake

This delicious pastry makes every morning a little brighter.

  • 1 Cup flour
  • 1/2 Cup butter, room temperature (1 stick)
  • 1/3 Cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Cup milk
  • 1/2 Cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 Cup flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 Cup butter (5 TB. plus 1 tsp.)
  • 11/2 Cups powdered sugar
  • 2-3 TB. heavy (whipping) cream
  • 1/4 Cup sliced almonds, slightly toasted

Preheat the oven to 350°. For the crust sift the powdered sugar and flour over the butter in a medium bowl. Beat the crust ingredients with an electric mixer until smooth. Lay out a square of waxed paper

or parchment paper and sprinkle it with flour. Place the crust dough on top, sprinkle with flour again, and place a second piece of parchment paper or waxed paper on top and roll gently into a circle slightly larger than 12". Remove the top piece of parchment paper and invert crust onto a well-greased 12" pizza pan. Peel off the second sheet once the dough is in the pan. Create a 1 inch lip at the edge of the dough to hold the topping--the final size of the dough can be smaller than 12". Or……once the crust is mixed, roll in a ball and place in the middle of a well greased cookie sheet/pizza pan. Using your fingers, press the ball into a 12" circle, creating a 1 inch lip at the edge of the dough to hold the topping. The final size of the dough can be smaller than 12". For the topping, bring the milk and butter to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. As soon as it comes to a boil, remove from heat, add the ALMOND and VANIILA EXTRACT and the flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until a ball forms. Beat in the eggs with the wooden spoon, one at a time--the first one is harder but it will work! Make sure the eggs are completely mixed into the dough. Spread the topping onto the crust up to the lip. Bake at 350° for 40-50 minutes. The top should be puffy and golden brown. Cool completely. Don't worry if the filling sinks. For the frosting: beat the butter, powdered sugar, ALMOND and VANILLA EXTRACT and cream with a mixer until smooth. Spread onto the coffeecake and then top with sliced almonds.

Prep. time: 30 minutes
Baking time: 40-50 minutes
Serves: 12-16

Nutritional Information: Servings 16;
Serving Size 1 piece (76g); Calories 280; Calories from fat 160; Total fat 18g; Cholesterol 80mg; Sodium 130mg; Carbohydrate 27g; Dietary Fiber <1g.

Need any spices for this recipe?

Spice Price Quantity
Almond Extract 4 fl. oz. Bottle $9.49
Single Strength Vanilla 4 oz. Bottle $13.99

Karen's Comfort Bangkok Chicken

Karen writes, "Guests always appreciate a good salad and some comfort food. I've figured out a chicken recipe that is so versatile, it can be used for salads and main dishes galore!"

    Bangkok Chicken:
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 lb. total)
  • 4 TB. flour
  • 3 TB. butter
  • 2 tsp. water, divided
  • 2 TB. BANGKOK SEASONING, divided
  • 8 oz. egg noodles
  • 1 TB. butter
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced
  • 12 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 Cup sour cream
  • freshly ground PEPPER or FOUR PEPPERCORN BLEND, to taste
  • salt, to taste
  • 3 sliced scallions, optional

Sprinkle a rimmed plate with the flour and set aside. Heat a large skillet (non-stick is easiest) over medium heat and melt the butter. Place one chicken breast into a zip-top bag along with half of the water (the water will help the chicken spread out in the bag by slipping instead of tearing). Gently pound the chicken to about 1/4" thick; it is OK if it ends up in more than one piece.

A heavy jar works great for pounding if you don't have a meat mallet. Reach into the bag and sprinkle the top side of the chicken with 1/2 TB. of BANGKOK SEASONING. Take the chicken out of the bag and place onto the flour-coated plate--seasoned side down. Sprinkle another 1/2 TB. of BANGKOK on the exposed, unseasoned side of the chicken, and then turn the chicken over so that both sides are nicely coated in seasoning and flour. Place the chicken in the hot pan and repeat with the other breast. Flip each breast over after about 3 minutes of sautéing, and sauté the other side for an additional 3 minutes. The chicken should be just cooked through and still moist. Do not overcook! If you are unsure slice into the center of a piece of chicken and test that it is completely opaque. Make sure the heat isn't so high that the chicken blackens – just turn it down and let it cook longer if necessary to avoid burning. Cool the chicken slightly, and then slice into pieces 1/2" by 1". Set aside.

Boil the egg noodles until tender. While the noodles are cooking, melt the butter in the frying pan used to cook the chicken over medium heat. If the bits in the chicken cooking pan blackened don't use that pan, just start with a fresh one. Add the onion and sliced mushrooms. When browned, remove from heat and stir in the sour cream and BANGKOK SEASONING. Return to the stove on very low heat and gently heat through. Stir in the chicken pieces and heat another 30 seconds. Place the cooked egg noodles in a large serving bowl, and top with chicken mixture. Coarsely grind FOUR PEPPERCORN BLEND over the top and sprinkle lightly with salt. Sprinkle with sliced scallions if desired and serve immediately.

Prep. time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4

Nutritional Information: Servings 4;
Serving Size 1 1/2 cups (374g); Calories 600; Calories from fat 220; Total fat 24g; Cholesterol 165mg; Sodium 280mg; Carbohydrate 61g; Dietary Fiber 7g.

Need any spices for this recipe?

Spice Price Quantity
Bangkok Blend 1.0 oz. 1/4 cup jar $4.69
Black Pepper Shaker Grind 2.1 oz. 1/2 cup jar $5.69
Four Peppercorn Blend .9 oz. 1/4 cup jar $6.29

Karen's Hot Spinach Salad Bowl

Here is another recipe that uses Karen's versatile Bangkok chicken.

  • 1 8 oz. bag baby spinach, washed and torn into bite-size pieces
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced or chopped
  • 6 thick bacon slices, fried and crumbled, drippings reserved
  • 1/2 Cup pecan halves
  • 2 oz. goat cheese (chèvre), crumbled
  • 1 Cup cooked Bangkok Chicken Breast pieces (see recipe above), about 4 oz., still warm
  • 1/2 Cup croutons
  • 1 apple, skin on
  • 2-3 TB. bacon drippings
  • 1/4 Cup rice vinegar (seasoned or plain)
  • 1 TB. honey
  • 2 TB. your favorite mustard (Karen likes Southwest mustard)
  • 1 tsp. coarsely-ground PEPPER or FOUR PEPPERCORN BLEND

Place all of the salad ingredients in a large serving bowl except the apple. To make the dressing: Reheat the bacon drippings. With the pan still on the stove, stir in the vinegar, honey and mustard until well blended. Pour the hot dressing over the salad and toss gently. Chop and add the apple, toss again. Coarsely grind PEPPER or FOUR PEPPERCORN BLEND over the top and serve immediately.

Prep. time: 10 minutes
Baking time: 10 minutes for bacon
Serves: 4

Nutritional Information: Servings 4;
Serving Size 1 1/2 cups (274g); Calories 540; Calories from fat 360; Total fat 40g; Cholesterol 245mg; Sodium 630mg; Carbohydrate 24g; Dietary Fiber 6g.

Need any spices for this recipe?

Spice Price Quantity
Black Pepper Shaker Grind 2.1 oz. 1/2 cup jar $5.69
Four Peppercorn Blend .9 oz. 1/4 cup jar $6.29