I lost one of the great loves of my life in 2013 when I had to go gluten-free. The sandwich and I have been through a lot together over the years and it was hard to say goodbye. As an homage to a beautiful relationship, may I present this photograph of the most epic sandwich I have had the pleasure to meet in all my years on this spinning orb. Isn’t he a beauty?! Gorgeously food styled by the talented Sienna DeGovia. What you see is what you get in a stacked monster sandwich, the softness of bread, the salty tear of deli meat, the crunch of lettuce and onion…can you feel the longing in this sentence? Oh dear, I need a second to compose myself…

I had to include this abstract pickle shot, sliced and ready for action. This image is the lock screen on my phone, can’t get enough of it!

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Stacked Sandwich ingredient possibilities include but are never limited to:

  • salami, mortadella, turkey, chicken, prosciutto, ham, bacon, capicola
  • swiss, cheddar, provolone, jack, brie
  • sprouts, lettuce, tomato, onion, cornichons (the tiny pickle), pickle slices, avocado
  • mustard, mayo, olive oil and vinegar

Hooray for PICKLES!!!!

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You may notice with these shots that we were not victims of the polar vortex this winter. Much of January was in the 70s with stints in the 80s. Once you get pampered with weather like this, there’s no going back. Given this gift of warmth, we took advantage of the beautiful, low hanging winter sun and had a little hike at Malibu Creek with the lovely and charismatic duo Jack and Alysse. There’s nothing like a dose of vitamin D and stretching your body strolling through nature to get your head right. It puts some real life in lifestyle photography!

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This is just a little preview of one of my favorite shots that I photographed with food stylist Liesl Maggiore and art director Scott Hyers for this month’s Vegetarian Times, on shelves now! We had a fun day and it shows in the shots, can’t beat that! It’s always inspiring to brainstorm and conceptualize ideas with a talented team, you never know what kind of gorgeous imagery will come of it! And who doesn’t need a gut tune-up after the holidays?!?!

Don’t you just love a classic, moody food still life? Droooooool…

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 There’s also a wonderful article on indoor herbs that we shot. Nothing like fresh herbs to perk up winter meals!

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I’ve become a bit obsessed with eggplant these days. Eggplant and mushrooms are enough to make me a mostly vegetarian because they are so dang meaty and amazing. This dish has both so you feel like you’ve eaten something heavy and sinful but, truly, this is packed full of healthy veggies and general awesome-ness. Full disclosure: The rolls are beautiful for food photography but time consuming so if you’re not looking to impress feel free to just slice the ingredients and layer them in the casserole dish instead. Same taste, different aesthetic, quicker process!

What are some our your favorite eggplant and mushroom dishes? Please share!!!

Eggplant Ratatouille Rolls - copyright Crystal Cartier

  • Olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablspoon dried thyme
  • 3 pounds tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, sliced 1/2″ thick
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 medium japanese or 3 small regular eggplant, sliced 1/4″ thick lengthwise
  • 3 medium zucchini, sliced 1/8″ thick lengthwise
  • 4 oz beech mushrooms
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into sticks
  • fresh basil, sliced

~ Heat olive oil in a skillet, add garlic, thyme and tomatoes. Bring to simmer and cook until liquid is a bit reduced. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour into the bottom of a casserole dish.

~ Heat more olive oil in same skillet, add bell pepper and flash saute at medium high heat for 3-5 minutes. Salt and pepper lightly.

~ Lightly salt both the eggplant and zucchini and let drain in two colanders for 20 minutes or so.

~ Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

~ On a work surface, stack a slice of eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper, mozzarella, mushroom, and a bit of basil and roll up. Arrange rolls upright in casserole dish.

~ Brush tops of rolls with olive oil and cover with foil. Bake for an hour or more or so until cheese is bubbling and veggies are tender, removing foil halfway through baking (30 minutes).

~ Let rest for 10 minutes then serve.

ENJOY!!!

Eggplant Ratatouille Rolls - copyright Crystal Cartier

Sometimes my sweet tooth is very specific. Do you guys ever find this to be the case? If I don’t satisfy that precise craving with something in the ballpark I end up consuming way too much sugar/sweets without satiating the desire. Bad news bears. Sometimes it’s rice pudding, sometimes creme brulee, and sometimes it’s the boozy sweetness of bananas foster paired with some creamy dairy dream. Though I have a sweet tooth, I find most desserts are just way too sweet for me in general. I tend to cut the sugar in most recipes and, in that vein, find bananas foster over ice cream to be so sweet that it dominates the delightful flavors in the dish. The easy and healthier alternative to a so-sweet-it-makes-you-pucker foster is swapping ice cream for plain greek yogurt. The thick, creamy, tartness of the yogurt is such a nice contrast to the warm flavors of banana, whiskey and spice. Mmmmm, I want some right now. Make this, it’s easy and awesome and you get to light something on fire! Win-win!

When I shot this I made it with homemade ice cream which I make A LOT less sweet than store bought but I still find it a bit too much. The Mister loves it with the ice cream but the yogurt version is definitely my jam!

makes 2 servings, 4 if you’re feeling well-behaved;)

Bananas Foster- copyright Crystal Cartier

  • 1 tablespoons unsalted butter or coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar or coconut sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup whiskey (I like Jack Daniels)
  • 2 ripe bananas, 1/3″ slices
  • 1/2 cup raw pecans or these maple glazed pecans (leave out the herbs)
  • 2% plain greek yogurt

~ Bring whiskey, butter/oil, sugar, cinnamon and allspice to a boil in a large skillet. Turn the heat off (so as not to ignite the whiskey) and gently stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves.

~Return to medium heat and bring to a simmer. At this point I like to ignite the mixture with the burner flame or a grill lighter and watch it dance. It’ll die down on it’s own but light with care because it’s a hefty amount of booze and makes a big flame.

~Simmer until the mixture thickens a bit, add bananas and cook until just barely soft, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in pecans.

~ Let cool then spoon over cups of yogurt.

ENJOY!!!

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