In honor of the heat that has settled in to stay in southern california, I had a gorgeous los angeles lifestyle beach shoot with two lovely young models. There’s something about a day by the sea, toes in the sand. It’s simultaneously churning and tumultuous, but somehow incredibly calming. Here are some photos from our day so you can visually join us on our beach-capade!

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This week I had an incredible craving for a rich and hearty tortilla soup that was still healthy and nutrient dense. A big batch of soup is so awesome because it provides leftovers for quick lunches and dinners for the rest of the week. This recipe makes for A LOT of easy, quick and healthy meals for when I end up “down the rabbit hole” of work and lose track of time until my stomach is furiously angry. We all do it, this is the cure for that mean hunger! Love it. This particular tortilla soup recipe uses baked corn tortillas and fresh crisp veggies to deliver a sublime mexican soup experience with just the right amount of heat. It’s a thicker tortilla soup, more like a stew, and it is so delicious. Be sure to adjust the hot peppers to your personal tastes;)

tortilla soup, chicken, dinner, mexican food, recipe, food photographer, los angeles, Crystal Cartier

  • 4 corn tortillas OR  coarsely crushed corn tortilla chips
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic, smashed
  • 4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 Tablespoons cumin
  • 2 Tablespoons paprika
  • 1+ Tablespoon chipotle purée, optional
  • 1 (28 ounce) can diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 1-1/2 cups ( 1 can) fresh sweet corn kernals
  • 1 cup whole white hominy (half a large can)
  • 1 cup white hominy pureed in food processor or blender, can use some of the chicken stock to facilitate blending
  • 3 anaheim chiles AND/OR 1-2 small jalapeños, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (reserve 1/4 cup for garnish)
  • 2 chicken breast, cooked and diced OR 1 rotisserie chicken ripped and shredded
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • grated white cheddar cheese
  • avocado, sliced

~Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut corn tortillas into strips and bake at 400 degrees for 2 minutes until crunchy.

~ Heat olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic in the oil for a few minutes until fragrant and softened. Add chili powder, cumin, paprika, tomatoes and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.

~ Add corn, whole hominy, pureed hominy, chiles (add incrementally to reach desired spiciness), black beans, 1/4 cup of the cilantro, and chicken. Simmer for 20+ minutes until soup thickens to desired consistency.

~ Salt and pepper to taste.

~Ladle soup into bowl and top with cheese, tortilla strips, green onions, cilantro and avocado.

ENJOY!

tortilla soup, chicken, dinner, mexican food, recipe, food photographer, los angeles, Crystal Cartier

I didn’t realize I loved confections. That may sound pretty dumb but, before I went gluten free I would have said I’m not that into cakes, pastries, cookies etc. That said, when you can no longer have a thing it’s amazing how much you can grow to miss something you never really cared much about in the first place. Oh desire! So, in the past year, I’ve developed a love for always gluten-free macarons. It’s a bit surprising how diverse french macarons can be. Some are chewy and soft, other firm and crispy while others are simply flavorless with so much sugar it can make your teeth ache. I don’t know which way is the “right” way but I know that this style is the one for me. It has a lovely crispy shell and a tender almost chewy inside. It’s heavy on honest-to-goodness pistachio flavor and I love the richness and slight tang of the cream cheese filling instead of the sweeter, stiffer buttercream that I often see. I use almond meal instead of flour because it’s easier, cheaper and a bit denser which I like. If you want a more traditional macaron shell buy some almond flour, if not simply grind raw almonds into a meal using a food processor.

I will say that macarons are a bit involved so take a deep breath and don’t worry if they come out a bit wonky. They will be DELICIOUS!

french macarons, pistachio macarons, recipe, dessert, food photographer, los angeles, Crystal Cartier

  •  1/2 cup almond meal or flour
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios, ground in food processor to a fine meal
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 2 Tablespoons regular white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon food coloring (optional)
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

~ Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and fit a pastry bag with a plain tip.

~ In a food processor, grind together almond meal, pistachios and powdered sugar. Sift through fine mess sieve into a bowl. Reserve the larger mixture that didn’t pass through the sieve to add back into the filling

~In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites with an electric whisk/beater until foamy. Keep whipping and slowly add in the regular white sugar. Add food coloring now if desired then whip until the egg whites become thick and form stiff peaks.

~Gently fold dry ingredients into the egg whites with a rubber spatula, taking care to scrape down the edges of the bowl until smooth.

~Pour the batter into the pastry bag and squeeze onto baking sheet in 2 inch circles. This should make about 16 circles or so. Rap pans firmly on counter to dislodge air bubbles and let sit for two hours to allow a skin to form (this is the making of a crisp shell).

~Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake macarons for 15+ minutes until the cookies look just a touch golden. Let cool completely.

~Throw cream cheese in a bowl and beat with a hand mixer until smooth. While mixing add in the remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 3 Tablespoons of the reserved nut mixture that did not pass through the sieve and beat for a few minutes until smooth, light and fluffy.

~Spoon small spoonfuls of the filling on the bottoms of the macaron cookies and gently sandwich together. They can be eaten immediately but are best if left to sit overnight in the refrigerator to reach the desired texture. Remove from fridge and serve at room temp.

ENJOY!!!

Hooray for spring, which is pretty much the same as summer here in Los Angeles! There’s no easier way to shake the stresses of daily life than to take a breather and have a lovely, delicious picnic in perfect weather. The light dapples through trees, the fruit is plump and ripe, the cheeses are indulgent and stink to high heaven, and the wine in full-bodied and rich. Deep inhales of nature and oxygen, the clean yet warm smell of trees and leaves, take a beat from this hectic life and have yourself a rustic picnic. Not sure where to start? No worries, it’s easy and totally worth it.

picnic, young couple, outside, lifestyle photography, food photographer, meat, cheese, fruit, los angeles, crystal cartier

1- Good Company and a beautiful day: The most essential component to a divine picnic!

picnic, outside, meat and cheese plate, lifestyle photography, food photographer, meat, cheese, bread, fruit, los angeles, crystal cartier

2- Lovely, tender meats like Prosciutto di Parma and a seasoned hard salami.

3- High-end cheeses that can hold their own like an aged parmigiano reggiano and a triple cream brie.

picnic, outside, lifestyle photography, food photographer, meat, cheese, bread, fruit, los angeles, crystal cartier

4- A nice crusty, rustic bread (I like a kalamata olive bread here) with a simple dipping oil made from olive oil, red pepper flakes, and fresh minced rosemary and thyme. Don’t forget the cornichons (pickles) for a nice crisp bite!

picnic, outside, lifestyle photography, food photographer, honey, fruit, los angeles, crystal cartier

5- Plump ripe berries like raspberries and blueberries drizzled with local raw honey.

picnic, outside, lifestyle photography, food photographer, meat, cheese, bread, fruit, los angeles, crystal cartier

6- Some wildflowers, a blanket and some great red wine to finish the mood.

picnic, young couple, outside, lifestyle photography, food photographer, meat, cheese, fruit, los angeles, crystal cartier

ENJOY!!!

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