I won’t go on and on about gut health yet again or ramble about the benefit of collagen and gelatin on the guts or skin and hair. There are many, many other blogs that can provide that info. Suffice it to say that collagen, in this case in the form of gelatin, is an incredible source of healing protein for your connective tissues, guts, skin, hair, bones, joints and even your hormones! Give it a try but, as with all things, start slow. Introducing gelatin into your diet can really get the wheels moving in your colon if you eat too much too fast! You get the picture;)

These pasture raised beef gelatin gummies have endless flavor possibilities. Once you get teh hang of the basics you can really let your imagination run wild! We really love the additional of homemade coconut milk to gummies. It add a wonderful silky body and rich flavor to any flavor combo! You can use any juice or milk (nut or animal) you like:)

These are some of my favorite recipes as a jumping off point! Have fun with it! I even give my kiddo her probiotic and elderberry syrup in gummy form. She looooves it!

Copyright Crystal Cartier all rights reserved 2016

Horchata Gummies

1 cup coconut milk, divided (I use homemade)
3 Tablespoon gelatin (I use this brand)
2 Tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon ground vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
silicone molds

**other flavor ideas
 Orange Creamsicle:  1/2 cup OJ + 1/2 cup coconut milk
 Coffee: steep coconut milk in coarse ground coffee. Strain.
Cocoa: + 1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
Berry: 1/2 cup pureed berries + 1/2 cup coconut milk
Elderberry: 1/2 cup elderberry syrup + 1/2 cup coconut milk
Probiotic: + 3 1/2 Tablespoons probiotic powder added AFTER whisking in hot liquid. A serving is 10 gummies

~ Gently heat 1/2 cup of coconut milk on the stove until it’s hot but not bubbling. Put remaining 1/2 cup room temp coconut milk in a spout bowl. Gradually whisk gelatin completely into unheated milk to temper the gelatin. Whisk hot milk it into gelatin mixture then whisk in honey, vanilla and cinnamon.

~ Quickly pour into silicone molds set on a baking sheet. Refrigerate to set. Pop out of molds and store in airtight container in fridge.

* This same recipe holds for any liquid you use. Temper gelatin in half of the liquid at room temp then blend gelatin with the remaining half of hot liquid. Easy Peasy!

ENJOY!!!

Copyright Crystal Cartier all rights reserved 2016

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 have an undying love for good meatballs! For so long I went without meatballs because I couldn’t concoct a gluten-free recipe that had the soft juiciness of a real meatball. Omitting bread completely made a cheesy but super firm literal ball of only meat. Meh. The gluten-free sandwich bread I use in this recipe is fantastic! It’s from Trader Joe’s and contains all kinds of ancient grains as well like teff. It has a killer texture, just perfect. This recipe would also be wonderful with plain, old gluten-y bread so everyone wins!!

I also learned that toddlers LOVE meatballs! I promptly made a double batch and froze them after the searing process. Ya know we’re always in need of more quick, real meals especially now with a kiddo to feed!

Copyright Crystal Cartier all rights reserved 2016

  • 1 cup of your favorite gluten-free sliced bread, torn into small pieces with no crust
  • 1/2 cup grated onion (use that food processor if you can!)
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon smashed garlic (~2 cloves)
  • 1/3 cup parmesan, shredded
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 16 ounces ground beef (80/20) or 13 ounces beef and 3 ounces pork
  • olive oil, enough to sear meatballs
  • jar of your favorite pasta sauce
  • fresh basil

~ Mix torn bread and grated onion in a bowl, combining well so that the bread becomes saturated with the juices from the onion.

~ Combine next 6 ingredients and mix well. Then add meat and combine well once more.

~ Roll them into consistently sized balls, taking care not to roll too tightly.

~ Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat, brown meatballs on all sides OR place on a foil lined cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray and bake uncovered in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.

~ Place meatballs in a large sauce pan and cover them with sauce. Simmer meatballs in sauce until completely cooked through, usually about 10-15 minutes.

~ Serve with, of course, more cheese over pasta, Garnish with basil.

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!!!

Water kefir is a brilliantly delicious way to enjoy a fizzy, soda-like beverage while getting a healthy dose of gut-loving probiotics. Cultured and fermented foods are an important part of overall health, though modern diets tend to be lacking in these tangy foods. I won’t go into the endless benefits of improving or maintaining gut health, but suffice it to say that new, credible research is coming forward every day touting the benefits of bacterial balance for the entire body.

That said, healthy can be SOOOO delicious. I’m not much of a soda drinker but I can down a bottle of water kefir in a blink! It’s far less sweet and the flavoring possibilities are endless. Similar to kombucha, water kefir uses a live culture of grains that contain a spectrum of healthy bacteria and yeast. Unlike kombucha, kefir is quick and easy to make (3-4 days) with a much milder flavor. The process consists of culturing the grains in sugar water for up to 48 hours, then bottling the strained kefir in a grolsch style bottle with your desired flavors. There are many resources for troubleshooting and purchasing water kefir grains so we won’t go into all that, but the grains do reproduce and nothing says “I love you” like a cup of bacteria and yeast culture! Ha!

As with all probiotics, start slowly. You’ll be improving the bacterial balance of your gut which is best done over time.

This is my process for brewing water kefir. Keep in mind that grains are a living thing and are always changing so different batches will produce different levels of carbonation etc. This “recipe” is a good start point.

Final word of caution: When doing your second ferment make sure to “burp” the bottles at least a couple of times a day to release pressure. We have had some serious explosions here even after a batch has been refrigerated. While some batches will be flatter than others, always open a bottle with caution because champagne ain’t got nothing on the fizz capabilities of kefir! YOWZA!

Copyright Crystal Cartier all rights reserved 2016

You’ll need:

quart mason jar
small clean cloth or towel
rubber band
brown sugar (great mineral content to feed grains)
kefir grains
grolsch bottle
boiled and cooled water (chlorine damages grains so we must boil it out)

Boil 4 cups water and dissolves 1/4c brown sugar in it. Let cool to room temp. Gently stir in kefir grains. Cover wth cloth and rubber band and keep on the counter if your home is warm or in oven with light on in winter for about 48 hours. *Don’t leave grains for longer than 48 hours as they die once they “eat” all of the sugars and run out of food. It’s better to replace the sugar water more frequently than less frequently for the health of your grains.

48 hours later the sugar water should be much lighter in color and there may be some bubbles on the surface. This means the grains have consumed much of the sugar and cultured the water. Strain cultured water from grains. Rinse grains (or don’t as there are different opinions on this) and brew again in new sugar water. For a fizzy, soda-like kefir you must do a second ferment and bottle the strained water in tightly sealed bottle with flavors (my favorites are below) for another 24-48 hours burping the bottles regularly to release pressure and avoid explosions. Refrigerate and ENJOY!!

My FAVORITES!
*as you can see most of my faves also include a helpful dose of vitamin C!

— juice from 2 small limes and 1 lemon
— juice from 1 grapefruit & a pinch dried lavender flowers
— 1/2 TB cut hibiscus flower petals & 1 tsp lavender flowers
— juice from 2 meyer lemons & 1/8 tsp vanilla powder
— 1/2 cup fresh tangerine juice
— juice from 2 lemons, 1/8 tsp salt, 1/16 tsp cayenne
— 1/8 c each spearmint & peppermint
— 1+ cup tart cherry juice
— generous amount of fresh ginger (be careful, ginger fizzes like a sonofabitch!!)

Copyright Crystal Cartier all rights reserved 2016

I have been totally MIA for the past month and a half because work has been BONKERS! It’s great to have more work than you know what to do with but also quite challenging to strike any sort of balance. Today’s post is in keeping with the theme of trying to juggle work, motherhood and all the responsibilities of life while fueling my spent body with nutritious food (because, hey, jelly beans are A LOT quicker than chopping veggies). The lovely Sienna and I had the opportunity to meet and shoot with a local business, Motherbees, that specializes in providing homemade nutritious food to pregnant, nursing and new mamas. They make and deliver healthy food for moms, which as I’ve learned this past year, is all too important and quite difficult to accomplish on your own with a new baby. It turned out that the founder Heng Ou and I ran in some of the same doula circles (I’m not a doula but met many during my pregnancy) and know some of the same wonderful people. The world gets smaller every day:)

Here are some of the inspiring images we made of vibrant, nourishing foods. I love gorgeous, meaningful collaborations!!

Copyright Crystal Cartier all rights reserved 2015 Copyright Crystal Cartier all rights reserved 2015

Copyright Crystal Cartier all rights reserved 2015 Copyright Crystal Cartier all rights reserved 2015Copyright Crystal Cartier all rights reserved 2015Copyright Crystal Cartier all rights reserved 2015Copyright Crystal Cartier all rights reserved 2015

 

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!!!

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