Hiya everybody! I hope you all had an amazing Thanksgiving! We ate and ate and ate and ate and, well, you get the idea. I think I was hurting for days afterward so it was time for some restorative winter food dinners. This recipe is an absolute favorite of mine so full of delicious, healthy goodies and super easy to boot!

I’ve been on a real cool weather foods bender these days. Living in a climate that doesn’t really have any kind of winter, I relish in the cool nights of the desert and love making some hearty, warming foods. I’m a huge soup person but my husband, not so much. Though soups and stews are the ultimate warming comforts foods in my life, I try to make some other non-soup dishes that celebrate the cooler season and are pretty healthy. This recipe fits the bill. It’s simple and doesn’t make a lot of dishes. One quick tip: Don’t skip making the maple chili pepitas (pumpkin seeds)! They are AWESOME and transformative in the dish (and also as I shovel them in my mouth by the fistful!). The flavor of the pepitas once they’re in the mix is slightly subtle but turns a simple skillet fry into a culinary masterpiece. Oh, and it’s stupid easy, did I mention that? Yep, stupid easy.

This pretty little number may make an appearance at our Christmas (or maybe hanukkah) table. Definitely an easy, healthy, impressive holiday dish!

squash, kale, vegan, holiday, christmas, thanksgiving, recipe, dinner, food photographer, food photography, crystal cartier

MAPLE CHILI PEPITAS

  • 1 cup raw unsalted pepitas/pumpkin seeds (if you can only find roasted cut roasting time down to 5 minutes)
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder (or more depending on your taste)

BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND KALE SKILLET FRY

  • 1 small butternut squash, cubed (you can also use kabocha squash, equally delicious!)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 large bunch lacinato (dinosaur) kale, stemmed and torn into bites
  • sea salt, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste

~ Preheat oven to 350 degrees with oven rack in the middle. Toss together pepitas, maple syrup, 1 Tablespoon olive oil, several cranks of ground sea salt and chili powder until evenly coated. Spread evenly on parchment lined baking dish and roast for 10 minutes or so until fragrant. Remove from oven and cool completely before breaking them up.

~ In a very large skillet (or divided among two skillets if need be), combine squash, 1/4 cup water, remaining 2 Tablespoons olive oil, a few cranks of salt, shallots, garlic and rosemary. Cover and steam over high heat until the squash is softened and water evaporates, about 10 minutes.

~ Uncover skillet and cook stirring frequently until squash browns nicely, about 7-10 more minutes. Add kale and cook a few minutes longer until wilted.

~ Plate and top generously with pepitas.

ENJOY!!!

squash, kale, vegan, holiday, christmas, thanksgiving, recipe, dinner, food photographer, food photography, crystal cartier

 

 

There’s something deeply magical about food. The process of creating a nourishing, lovely meal can be as cathartic and beautiful as the final dish. This is my very first foray into the world of video and it was really fun and, I think, beautiful. This video is simply the making of a whole foods, everyday salad with arugula, olive oil, shaved parmesan, berries, and a squeeze of lemon for some nice acidity. It’s the kind of salad we all throw together day after day without thinking twice about the calming ritual of digging your hands into the making of a healthy meal. Sometimes it’s nice to take 40 seconds to appreciate the beauty in the everyday tasks…

 

 

As I’ve mentioned countless times, I’m not much of a baker. I have little baking motivation and find it messy and annoyingly precise compared to cooking. Soooo since I went gluten free I’ve had some new motivation for baking. Never thought much of cupcakes but it’s amazing how strong a craving for something can get when you can’t have it! This brings us to this week’s hankering for cupcakes and cream cheese frosting, which is bar none, hands done my very favorite frosting!! This gluten-free cupcake recipe uses all-purpose gluten-free baking flour and almond flour as a batter base. It’s a nice dense cake, I found it sort of reminiscent of poundcake with a nice slight chew. It’s a winner!

Almond flour, made from blanched almonds, is finer and softer than almond meal. Next time I’ll try this recipe with almond meal, which is just ground almonds, and update the post if it’s a viable or preferable substitution. Pro tip* To get the most juice out of your lemons, roll them on the counter before juicing.

gluten free, cupcakes, dessert, recipe, lemon, fruit, food photographer, food photography, crystal cartier, los angeles

CUPCAKES

  • 1 cup all purpose gluten-free baking flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 plain fat free yogurt (natural, no thickeners etc.)
  • 4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice (slightly less than 2 average lemons)
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

FROSTING

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • fresh blueberries
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon

~ Preheat oven to 350. Line a muffin pan with papers.

~ In a bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt and brown sugar until combined.

~ In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until foamy. Beat in cream cheese and yogurt until smooth.

~ Mix in lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla.

~ Slowly add the flour mixture and beat for 2 minutes.

~ Pour batter into cupcake papers, filling almost to the top as this batter does not rise much and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or so or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.

~ Let cool.

~ While the cupcakes cool, beat together cream cheese, powdered sugar and lemon juice until smooth.

~ Frost cooled cupcakes and top each cupcake with blueberries and a pinch of finely grated lemon zest.

After intense stints of client work, which I totally love but it’s a lot of work, and especially after long retouching days of sitting, I am busting at the seams to get out in the side and play with nature. I had some much needed time out and about after been cooped up a bit too long. It’s a long “aaaaaaaaaah” after I’ve been good and gotten my work done. Breaks are important:) I’m particularly lucky to have wonderful weather and the breathtaking scenery of Los Angeles beaches and cliffs. So very “aaaaaaaaah”…

Feed the wanderlust…

train tracks, railroad, travel photography, lifestyle photographer, lifestyle photography, crystal cartier

boat, beach, sea, lifestyle, sunset, apparel, wave, clothing, nature photography, lifestyle photographer, lifestyle photography, crystal cartier

beach, sea, sand, lifestyle, sunset, apparel, wave, clothing, nature photography, lifestyle photographer, lifestyle photography, crystal cartier

runner, beach, sea, lifestyle, sunset, apparel, wave, clothing, nature photography, lifestyle photographer, lifestyle photography, crystal cartier

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!!!

At the farmers’ market this week I stumbled upon some gorgeous, perfectly crisp and sweet snap peas. Snap pea season is so short in our hot climate so I was amped to get a giant bag at their peak of perfection. When I got home I realized how over-zealous I was and that we’d have to eat snap peas every day to use up the obscene quantity I had bought. Darn;)

Anyway, sushi grade ahi tuna might be a bit tough to source but I always find it really fresh and vibrant at our local asian market. This recipe has a a great mix of contrasting textures and flavors. The crunch of the peas and radishes against the tender ahi flesh pairs wonderfully with the pepper radishes, sweet snap peas and spicy ginger vinaigrette. To die for! We like it heavy on the ginger over here so adjust for your personal taste:)

ahi tuna, snap pea, salad, radish, recipe, food photographer, los angeles, Crystal Cartier

SALAD

  • ~1 pound fresh ahi tuna, salted and peppered, seared at high heat for 2 minutes each side, cut into chunks
  • ~1 pound sugar snap peas, strings and tops removed and chopped
  • 8 radishes, very thinly sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon toasted black sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup ginger vinaigrette
  • salt and pepper

VINAIGRETTE

  • 1/2 cup macadamia nut oil
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon seedy whole grain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

~Toss all salad ingredients together in a large bowl.

~ Toss all vinaigrette ingredients except macadamia nut oil into a blender and blitz until smooth. While blending, slowly add the macadamia nut oil until it emulsifies. Store leftover vinaigrette in fridge.

~Drizzle salad with desired amount of vinaigrette and toss to coat. Serve immediately if desired, but flavors gain depth from chilling for an hour then serving.

ENJOY!!!

ahi tuna, snap pea, salad, radish, recipe, food photographer, los angeles, Crystal Cartier

There’s this “fast casual” Los Angeles restaurant Lemonade, which now has a few locations. They celebrate a very Southern California style cuisine with eclectic fresh flavors. They have several dishes that I really love so I’ve been working through their new cookbook a bit. Unfortunately, the recipes I’ve made directly out of the book don’t really live up to the dishes at the restaurant (maybe their keeping a few secrets to themselves) so I’ve been trying to tweak them to get closer to what I eat at the restaurant. This particular recipe was pretty true so I only made small modifications to intensify the flavors.

Cauliflower can be a tough one, lacking much flavor unto itself, it gets a lot of help from roasting and then tossing with a flavorful vinaigrette. This is my interpretation of a really fun side dish I tried at Lemonade and it’s a delicious, healthy way to get some more cauliflower in your life. The book says that they make their curry oil using green apple chunks and onions to infuse flavor so that’s what I tried. It was brilliantly delicious! If you’re up for modifying recipes to perfection, I’d recommend taking a look at the Lemonade cookbook for some interesting inspiration.

I use macadamia nut oil here because it’s light, super healthy, and has a high smoke point. You can use any oil you see fit if macadamia isn’t in your pantry.

What do you love making with cauliflower?

cauliflower, curry, roasted, side dish, recipe, food photographer, los angeles, Crystal Cartier

  • 1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3-1/2 cup vinaigrette

VINAIGRETTE

  • 1 cup macadamia nut oil
  • 1 granny smith apple, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoon high quality curry powder
  • 1 Tablespoon turmeric
  • 1-1/2 Tablespoon seedy whole grain mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon agave nectar
  • 2-1/2 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • juice from half a lemon
  • 1 Tablespoon orange juice
  • salt and pepper

~ Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss florets with olive oil and spread on baking sheet. Salt and pepper generously and roast cauliflower for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.

~ Meanwhile, make the curry oil by heating a couple tablespoons of the macadamia oil in a large skillet, add onion and apple and sauté for a few minutes until fragrant. Stir in curry powder and turmeric and sauté until the spices darken slightly.

~Stir in the rest of the oil and boil for a few minutes so the flavors can infuse. Let cool then strain oil through fine mesh filter, discarding onion and apple.

~In a bowl, whisk together the mustard, agave, vinegar, lemon juice, orange juice, and a few grind of salt and pepper. Whisk this mixture into the curry oil. Refrigerate leftover vinaigrette for later use.

~ In a large bowl, toss roasted cauliflower with almonds and golden raisins. Then add 1/3-1/2 cup of the vinaigrette according to your taste and toss to coat.

*I’ve found that this dish tastes equally wonderful hot and cold

ENJOY!!

cauliflower, curry, roasted, side dish, recipe, food photographer, los angeles, Crystal Cartier

cauliflower, curry, roasted, side dish, recipe, food photographer, los angeles, Crystal Cartier

 

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