MAN, OH, Maaaaaan are these a winner! I had lost my hand-scrawled, barely legible recipe for my flourless banana muffins and tried a few others I’d found online. It was…disappointing to say the least. I dug through every single recipe paper I had until I finally found the damn thing, and it was SO worth it!!! I’ve adapted my original recipe to be even more incredible. I prefer gluten-free recipes that don’t require an alternative flour as they rarely have much, if any, nutritional value (though, I’ll admit, sometimes you just want a damn baked good!). I pretty much keep these in stock at our house and make a double batch (24 mini and 12 regular muffins) whenever we start to run low. We eat these for breakfast more often than not!

Oh and I buried the lead! This recipe is whipped up quicker than quick in a high speed BLENDER!!! You’re welcome;)

Roasting the bananas is totally optional but quite delicious if you have 15 minutes to spare. You can customize this recipe with walnuts or pecans. I usually use my homemade almond butter but have also used the raw store bought variety that is only almonds and it works great too!

Flourless chocolate banana bread muffins

*makes ~ 12 regular or 24 mini muffins

  •  1 1/4 cups old fashioned oats
  • 3 medium ripe bananas (if desired, roast bananas in skin on baking sheet at 350 degrees for 15 minutes)
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips or chunks

~ Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a muffin tin.

~ Combine all ingredients except chocolate in a high powered blender. Blend until smooth. If the batter is warm, let cool before stirring in the chocolate or it will melt. Stir in chocolate.

~ Pour into muffin tins filling each hole a little over 3/4 of the way full.

~ Bake at 350 degrees. Bake regular muffins for 15-16 minutes and mini muffins for 12-13 minutes. Baking times may vary depending on the amount of natural oil in your particular almond butter so keep an eye and don’t over-bake. They should be fluffy and very moist.

ENJOY!!!

 Flourless chocolate banana bread muffins

Flourless chocolate banana bread muffins

Best HOLIDAY pomegranate pear pie

It’s that time of year again when I have the pleasure of doing my annual pie shoot with my dear friend, Emily-the-Pie-Maven. Ahhhh I love the holidays and this tradition with Emily is truly one of my favorites. Now that she and I both have boisterous toddlers, we rarely have the opportunity to casually cook or chat together. It seems like it’s only once a year, at our pie shoot, that we can speak to each other in complete sentences with full attention without having to stop everything to catch a flying (correction: falling!) daredevil 2-year-old! The calm of the tradition is complimented by the incredible scents wafting through the house and finished by the insane flavor-filled fruits of our labor. Mmmmm.
This year we have a tart and sweet rustic pomegranate pear pie. I’ve included a recipe for a gluten-free press in flourless hazelnut crust which is delicious! The gluten-free crust makes this an open-faced pie. It’s easy to make this pie as pictured with the leaves using your favorite pie crust recipe. Emily hand cut the leaves for this regular flour artistic pie and boy did she nail it! She subbed 1/2 cup of the flour in her usual crust recipe for 1/2 cup ground hazelnuts and it was fantastic! The gluten-free crust cannot make these leaves as it is a press in crust and can’t be rolled;)
The pomegranate molasses in this recipe is a necessary and divine addition as it balances the sweet pear with the tartness of pomegranate. You can buy pomegranate molasses at some grocery stores and Persian markets but it’s easy to make. I’ve included the simple recipe at the end and it’s sooooo good!
Best pomegranate pear pie
GLUTEN- FREE Crust
  • 1 cup oat flour
  • 1/2 cup ground hazelnuts or pecans
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3-4 Tablespoons melted butter or liquid coconut oil
~ Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
~ Mix all but oil. Mix in 3 Tb oil up to 4Tb until the mixture is moist but not sticky. Press evenly into pie pan or 2 cocottes.
~ Pre-bake for 10 min at 375 degrees.
*makes 1 regular sized pie bottom crust or 2 cocottes. Double recipe to make 4 cocottes to accomodate the amount of pear mixture or cut the pie filling recipe in half to accomodate 2 cocottes.
Pomegranate Pear Pie Filling
  • 5 cups sliced bosc pears, ripe but a bit firm and unpeeled
  • 1/2 cups pomegranate seeds plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 Tablespoons pomegranate molasses (*recipe below)
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • Hazelnut Flourless Crust (recipe above) or regular pie crust of your choice.
~ Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
~ Mix sugar, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl.
~ Arrange sliced pears layer by layer over bottom crust, sprinkling sugar mixture and 1/4 cup of the pomegranate seeds over each layer as you go.
~ After assembling the top layer, drizzle molasses evenly over pie/s, sprinkle the last of the sugar on top and scatter little blobs of the butter on top of pie. If using regular crust, place top crust over the filling, pinch around edges and brush with egg wash.
~ Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes then reduce to 350 degrees for 40 minutes or so until golden and bubbling.
~Top with fresh pomegranate seeds.
*Pomegranate Syrup
  • 4 cups pomegranate juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice

~ Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid has reduced to 1 cup (~ 75 minutes). It should be thick like warm molasses. Allow to cool for a while then transfer to jar to cool completely before refrigerating. Can be stored in refrigerator for 6 months or so.

Rustic Gluten Free Pomegranate Pear Pie

Best pomegranate pear pie

Still life of bosc pears pomegranate and holiday greens on blue napkin

I was recently asked if I like to cook. The person who asked me was relatively certain the answer was yes. I replied, “Not particularly, but I really LOVE to eat well”. That response surprised her. I guess a love for cooking and eating should go hand-in-hand. Meh, not so much. That said, I’m pretty enamored by the natural processes of real healthy food. Preparing foods in the same perfect ways our ancestors discovered for us. Culturing living foods, cooking down fresh foods to thicken and add richness and watching foods transform and be reborn into something altogether new and deliciously nutritious never ceases to amaze. I make a lot of things from scratch not because I love the physical process, I don’t find it cathartic to spend extra time on crazy busy days making coconut milk or yogurt from scratch. I do it because it’s better. It tastes better. It’s healthier, more nutritive and sometimes cheaper or the only way I can give my little girl grass-fed yogurt without added thickeners. I find ways to streamline the process and make it a normal part of my day (and my husband’s;). I don’t love the “doing” but, to me, it’s important and I do LOVE the eating. I also hope my daughter will learn and appreciate the value of real food, made the old ways. In a world where many children are appalled to learn that much of their food grows (or should grow!) out of the ground, I hope she finds value in the living nature of vibrant food. We’ll see, a mama can dream;)

Anyway, on the with the show! Making yogurt at home is flat out cool and pretty dang amazing. It’s the most delicious science experiment there is and it’s VERY simple. You are literally sleeping, yes SLEEPING, for most of the process. Can’t beat that! Use the freshest store bought plain yogurt you can find for your starter culture. I’ve only had 2 batches not culture and the starter came from the same tub of store bought yogurt. Wah-wahhh. Sometimes the live cultures in store bought yogurt die and, therefore, cannot culture your milk. Once you make your own yogurt, reserve a 1/4 cup from each batch to use as a starter for your next batch. Never buy yogurt again!

Lately, I’ve experimenting with making my yogurt in traditional earthenware pots. They are made of unglazed clay and the porosity of the pot pulls some water out of the yogurt which makes it thicker. They are a nightmare to clean though, good grief! You can also make the yogurt more of a greek style thickness by straining it in cheesecloth or a towel in a colander over a bowl. Set it this way in the fridge for a few hours or until it reaches the desired thickness. This separates the whey out of the yogurt but the whey has a lot of the probiotics so it’s a trade-off. I’ve found that letting the yogurt culture for 24 hours makes it insanely creamy and thicker. I’ve read cautions about culturing for too long saying that the yogurt becomes too tart. This has not been my experience at all! Give it a try and see for yourself.

Of course you can always make a fruit on the bottom yogurt with store bought yogurt if you’re not much for making your own.

The blueberry chia jam is just flat out yummy. Great on toast, PBJs and yogurt. Or on a spoon, it’s pretty great just on a spoon too;)

Homemade yogurt with blueberry chia jam

YOGURT

  • 1/2 gallon of the freshest, best milk you can get – doesn’t have to be homogenized (I like grass-fed organic)
  • 1/4 cup starter culture

~ In  a large pot, gently heat the milk to at least 180 degrees, stirting regularly.
~ Remove from heat and let milk cool to about 110-115 degrees (do not add culture above 115). Whisk in starter culture.
~ Cover the pot (optional to wrap pot in a towel) and leave overnight in the oven with the light on.
~ In the morning or after ~ 24 hours, remove pot from oven. Leave at room temperature for an hour. If using an earthenware pot, put pot of yogurt in the fridge where it will continue to thicken. If using a regular pot, whisk yogurt and pour into jars or strain yogurt in the fridge for several hours before jarring and refrigerating.

BLUEBERRY CHIA JAM

  •  3 cups (16 ounces) frozen blueberries
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1 lemon (~1/4 cup)
  • 3 Tablespoons honey
  • 2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons chia seeds

~ In a saucepan, bring blueberries, zest, lemon juice, honey and maple syrup to a simmer. Simmer and stir occasionally until blueberries thaw, then smash about half of the blueberries.
~ Bring to a boil, stir occasionally and reduce liquid by half. Remove from heat.
~ Whisk in chia seeds.
~ Cool and store in jars in the fridge. Leave overnight before eating to allow the chia to completely soften.

ENJOY!!!

It’s been HOT HOT HOT! I know this summer has been unusually brutal for most of the country, and here is Los Angeles we are no exception. It seems like the entire area has been burning since May. The smoke and heat blowing in are oppressive.

Now that I’ve made you think about all that sweaty misery, let’s talk about soup! Ha! No but seriously, this is a late summer soup because the corn is best fresh off the cob. It’s super crisp and bursting with flavor. I love chowder hot but this version tastes simply amazing cold. Dollop of sour cream on chilled sweet potato corn chowder is just the nutrient boost your sweaty booty needed! You can customize the degree of thickness by pureeing more or less of the soup. Keep it broth-y and skip blending altogether.

This is a great, flavorful and healthy soup that’s easy for toddlers to eat too because it’s thick and sticks to the spoon a bit;)

Ps: We already went through this pot of soup and I’ll be making another today. Cool, healthy, delicious food doesn’t get better than this!

Vegan sweet potato corn chowder

 

*serves 4 as a main dish

  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves smashed garlic
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 quart vegetable (or chicken if not vegan/vegetarian) stock
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 7 ears of corn, kernels cut from cob
  • avocado, diced
  • cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • sour cream (optional but lovely if serving chilled)
  • salt and pepper

~ In a stock pot, heat oil and sauté onion and garlic for 5 minutes until fragrant and onion becomes translucent.
~ Add cumin, salt and pepper and stir to coat.
~ Add sweet potatoes and stir to coat. Sauté for 5 minutes.
~ Add stock, bring to bowl, reduce to and simmer for 20 minutes or so until the sweet potatoes become fork tender.
~ Add corn and bell pepper, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
~ Turn off heat, let cool a bit then ladle 1/3 of the soup into a blender. Blitz until pureed. Stir puree back into soup. Salt and pepper to taste.
~ Ladle corn chowder into bowls and top with avocado and cilantro. If serving chilled, you can add a dollop of sour cream.

ENJOY!!!

I never intended to blog this recipe. It’s just a quick, healthy muffin I make in my blender for myself and my kiddo for a tasty, healthy snack on the go. One day I posted a photo of it on social media and got so many requests for the recipe that I realized maybe it’s exactly the type of no-frills, not-so-beautiful recipe everyone should have tucked away for a delicious, healthy convenience food!

These green muffins are heavy on the good stuff: almond butter, oats, blueberries, and spinach. No flours so they’re gluten-free to boot! Great way to sneak veggies into picky kiddos too!

Copyright Crystal Cartier all rights reserved 2016

*makes about 9 muffins

  • 1 medium ripe banana
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup creamy almond butter
  • 1/4 cup rolled (quick cook steel) oats
  • Spoonful coconut butter (optional but yummy)
  • 1/8 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Couple shakes pumpkin spice
  • Handfuls spinach or kale
  • 1/2+ cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a muffin tin. Blend all but blueberries in a high powered blender until smooth. Fold in blueberries and pour into greased muffin pan. Bake at 350 degrees 12-14 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

ENJOY!!!

Copyright Crystal Cartier all rights reserved 2016

There is nothing so delicious on a chicken sandwich than the sweet tang of pickled bell peppers. It takes a lame-o leftover turkey sammie and gives it a gourmet makeover in an instant. I’ve been playing around with this recipe for a bit and I think I’m ready to share it. SO delicious and makes a hearty amount to hold ya over for a while;)

Oh and it’s pretty. Like, really pretty.

Copyright Crystal Cartier all rights reserved 2015

* makes 2 pint jars

3 red bell peppers
3 yellow bell pepper
extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon sea salt plus more to sprinkle on peppers
ground pepper
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
3/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup water
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
6 peppercorns

~ Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

~ Divide garlic and peppercorns between 2 wide-mouthed pint jars.

~ On a baking pan, rub peppers with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

~ Roast 40 minutes, rotating halfway to evenly char. Let cool then slice and pack into jars.

~ Combine vinegars, water, oregano and 1 Tablespoon salt in a saucepan and bring to bowl.

~ Pour brine over peppers leaving room to tap the jars and release air bubbles. The top off with brine and cover tightly with lid.

~ Let cool then refrigerate and ENJOY!!!

 

* these lovely and delicious Persian Pickles are not be missed either!

Copyright Crystal Cartier all rights reserved 2015

 

 

This is one of those nutritious bowls that seems super duper fancy and only steals about 5 minutes of your life! If you got this at a restaurant you would be floored. Seriously, it’s incredible and so quick and easy that you could make it daily while simultaneously chopping ungodly amounts of fruit for a toddler fruit monster. I know because I do;)

Customize however you like. Sometimes I do a few shakes of pumpkin spice and that’s delicious. Chia, flax, nuts you name it! It’s all good!

Copyright Crystal Cartier all rights reserved 2016

  • 5 medjool dates, pitted
  • pat pasture butter
  • greek yogurt
  • small chunk of honeycomb
  • a few almonds (not pictured)
  • sprinkle of maldon sea salt
  • sprinkle of chili powder
  • sprinkle of ground vanilla bean

~ In a frying pan, melt butter over low-medium heat. Add dates, sprinkle with salt, and sauté turning regularly so they don’t burn. Once they’re a bit crispy on all sides they’re done! It only take about 5 minutes so keep an eye on them because they’ll burn quickly.

~ Assemble your yogurt bowl with the remaining ingredients. Top with the dates and pour the brown butter from the pan over the yogurt. YUM!

ENJOY!!!

Since giving up gluten to make my guts happy, I’ve tried plenty of gluten-free breads and confections. Some have been downright terrible (truly an affront to the senses!) while others have so many gums in them I end up with “bubble guts” for days. Mostly I just avoid substitutes entirely and stick with foods that never had flour in them to begin with. But sometimes, just sometimes I daydream of a crusty baguette to dip into a rich Coq Au Vin or a toasted roll slathered in butter and honeycomb. A friend introduced me to Against the Grain’s breads and they were delicious. Expensive but tasty and with real ingredients (no gums!! Hooray!). Lately I haven’t been able to get my hands on any of their products so that is where this recipe comes in. It’s a slight adaptation from this one from Gluten Free on a Shoestring. From what I understand, her recipes are usually spot on but I just could not get it to work for the life of me and it seems like I wasn’t alone. Here is the adaptation that made these babies…

ps: this recipe is tapioca based so it has a crusty outside and slightly chewy inside. Lovely:)

pps: the brand of tapioca flour matters. I use Vitacost brand with great success (Bob’s Red Mill was a fail). Gluten free on a Shoestring also recommends Authentic Foods and nuts.com brand, which I have not personally used.

Copyright Crystal Cartier all rights reserved 2016

  • 2 1/2 cups (Vitacost brand) tapioca flour
  • 1 1/4 cups (tamped on counter) shredded low-moisture mozzarella cheese
  • 3 Tablespoons liquid coconut oil
  • 2 eggs, room temperature and beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup + 2 1/2 Tablespoons milk (I believe this is around 5 oz but don’t have a scale)

~ Put first 5 ingredients in a food processor with the steel blade. Turn on then add milk very slowly while machine is running. Turn off machine and scrape down sides if necessary. Process until dough is smooth ( around 2.5 minutes in my Cuisinart). The dough will be quite slack and sticky.

~ Set a large piece of plastic wrap on top of a baking sheet. Sprinkle with more tapioca flour. Scrape dough onto it and freeze until firmer for about 10 minutes.

~ Unwrap dough and divide into 6 equal parts. Use wet hand to shape the dough into rounds. Note that this dough does not have a lot of spread so you’ll want to shape them into a real round, not a ball. Place equidistant on a baking sheet and freeze for another 10 minutes.

~Preheat oven to 375 degrees while you wait.

~ Remove from freezer and bake in center of oven for 20 minutes. Then quickly cut a small slit on the top of each roll for steam release and bake for another 10 minutes or so until golden. Note* these won’t get super golden like regular bread.

~ Remove and let cool completely. Eat fresh or slice in half, wrap individually in plastic wrap and freeze. Defrost for 30 minutes then toast in oven.

ENJOY!!!

Copyright Crystal Cartier all rights reserved 2015

There are plenty of versions of this flying around the internet. This is just my favorite. It’s super easy, truly terrible for you, and big enough to make quickly for dessert after a dinner party or shamefully shove in your face until your sick to your stomach all by your lonesome. We don’t judge.

I used crushed maple pecans I already had on hand. Use this maple pecan recipe and omit the pepper and herbs in favor of 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.

Then I lit that ish on fire because it’s fun and burnt sugar is delicious. What a great life, huh? 😉

  • 12 ounce bag semi-sweet chocolate
  • crushed maple pecans OR toffee bit OR peanut butter chips (whatever your heart desires basically)
  • ~1 1/4 bags large marshmallows (enough to fill pan, depends on pan size)
  • graham crackers for dipping

~ In a large cast iron pan, spread chocolate chips then sprinkle with pecans and top with marshmallows.
~ Bake at 450 degrees for 8 minutes for golden brown, gooey marshmallow perfection.
~ If you like ’em burnt up, torch or broil but keep a VERY close eye as they flame fast!
~ Serve with graham cracker.

For example….

ps: if anyone knows why a GIF won’t play in wordpress (sizing is original etc.) please let me know! I wasted too many hours troubleshooting and finally resorted to vimeo instead. Technology…

Copyright Crystal Cartier all rights reserved 2015

 

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