Sometimes I look in the fridge and realize that I am straight up vegetable crazy! I go to make dinner and I’m met with a fridge stocked to the gills with veggies and cheese, but not much else. Time to get creative! I had some beautiful little patty pans (the UFO looking baby squash) and shitakes as well as some staples we always have year-round like avocados and cherry tomatoes (it’s a rough life in this climate;). You really can’t go wrong with a quesadilla but this mash-up recipe was much more impressive than I had imagined and now we’ll be making it all the time! Necessity (and hunger) is the mother of all invention!

This recipe is chock full of veggies and healthy fats. You can adjust the amount of cheese to your liking and using non-fat yogurt instead of sour cream is a much healthier alternative and tastes just as good if not better! It is lighter health-wise but certainly not in flavor! The shitakes add an incredible steak-like quality to the quesadilla making for a exceptionally “meaty” vegetarian meal. Good quality, firm shitakes are key here. If you have an asian market nearby they are usually THE place to find large, firm, hearty shitakes for shockingly reasonable prices. Shitake mushrooms are ridiculously good for you, often referred to as medicinal mushrooms because they boost the immune system, help protect the heart, and have an astonishing amount of bioavailable iron. What’s not to love?!

all right reserved Crystal Cartier copyright 2013

  • 3 small patty pan summer squashes, sliced into matchsticks
  • 4 large shitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thin
  • 1 Tablespoon+ smashed garlic
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 sprouted grain tortillas (I like Ezekiel brand)
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese, I use half extra sharp cheddar and half dubliner
  • large handful cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • large handful cherry tomatoes, halved
  • plain yogurt, to drizzle

~ Heat olive oil in large skillet, add garlic then veggies and saute until tender. Salt and pepper to taste.

~ In large skillet, layer one tortilla, half of the cheese, veggies, other half of cheese, cilantro and remaining tortilla. Cook 3 minutes or so on each side.

~ Plate and cut quesadilla then top with avocado, tomatoes and drizzles of yogurt.

ENJOY guilt-free!!!


food photographer, food photography, los angeles, crystal cartier

After the seasonal parade of citrus at the farmers’ market comes that fateful day when my bleary Sunday morning eyes snap open wide at the site of lovely stone fruits on the tables. Hooray!!! Summa summa summa tiiiiiime! I went a little bonkers in my excitement and bought way more peaches and apricots than we could consume  fresh so it was time to get a little creative. Roasting the fruit is key here as the process creates a rich, complex sweetness and prevents the juices from making the sorbet icy. This is one of the creamiest sorbets ever! Next time I might add a splash of coconut cream as well.

all right reserved Crystal Cartier copyright 2013

  • 4 apricots
  • 4 peaches
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 cup sugar (if fruits are very sweet decrease sugar)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup dried jasmine flowers
  • pinch dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon  dried ginger pieces (OR 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger)
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

~ Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

~ Bring sugar, water, jasmine, rosemary, and ginger to a boil to dissolve sugar. Stir, remove from heat and steep covered for 10 minutes. Strain syrup through sieve or cheesecloth.

~ Roast apricots and peaches on a baking sheet in the oven for 40-45 minutes. Let cool then pit.

~ Puree fruits, syrup, lemon juice, and almond extract in the blender until smooth.

~ Spin in ice cream maker.




food photographer, food photography, los angeles, crystal cartier

We all know we should be eating more fish in our everyday diets, but for some reason I don’t seem to incorporate that much into my diet. I’m not sure why this is given how quick and easy it is to make a weeknight fish dinner. I enjoy the flavor of fish so I’m a bit of a minimalist when it comes to its preparation. Salt, pepper and a quick, fresh homemade relish or salsa fits the bill for me. Wild trout is one of the few fish that contains a good amount of omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are crucial to balancing out our omega-6 to omega-3 ratios. Other omega-3 fish include wild catfish and wild salmon. Farm raised fish contain more overall fat than their wild counterparts but less usable omega-3 fats so GO WILD!!! Farm raised is touted as the sustainable choice, which is a serious issue, but the inferior feed they give their fish as well as issues with farms contaminating the ocean and killing wild fish are proof that it’s not actually sustainable yet.

This recipe is great on it’s own and really lends itself so some succulent food photography. If you’d like to bulk it up, a simple light white wine sauce (included below) tossed with some pasta and torn up trout is really tasty. I made the leftovers this way last night and my husband said “wow, we really eat a lot of gourmet meals on weeknights now.” Ha! It’s so easy it’s just silly.

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  • 4 rainbow trout filets, skinless and de-boned
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 or so sun-dried tomatoes in oil, diced (check out my homemade sun-dried tomato recipe)
  • 1 scallion, sliced
  • few sprigs fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • juice from half a lemon
  • olive oil

LEMON WHITE WINE SAUCE (optional for serving with pasta)

  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • juice from half a lemon
  • small hand full of finely chopped parsley

~ Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Salt and pepper both sides of fish and cook at medium-high heat for a couple minutes per side or until fish flakes easily. Remove from heat and keep warm.

~ Toss sun-dried tomatoes, scallion, thyme, lemon juice and lemon zest with a little drizzle of olive oil in a bowl. Serve each filet topped with a generous spoonful of salsa.


~ Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add shallots and saute for a couple minutes. Add wine and bring to a boil. Simmer vigorously until liquid is reduced by half. Turn off heat and stir in butter to melt.

~ Whisk in lemon juice, lemon zest and parsley.

~Toss pasta with sauce and serve with shredded/bite-sized chunks of fish.


all rights reserved Crystal Cartier copyright 2013

food photographer, food photography, los angeles, crystal cartier 

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