A big pot of chili makes for some of the most useful leftovers anyone could ask for. I have to be careful not to eat beef chili leftovers for every meal. I poach eggs in chili for a big, fat, hearty lunch! This is an extra awesome way to enjoy chili using my Cornbread Waffle recipe. I make these waffles gluten-free but you can use regular flour as well. They have amazing texture and flavor and compliment chili like no cornbread I’ve ever tried! Not to mention you can freeze extra waffles and throw them in the toaster for last minute meals. Pretty great, no?

This chili is an easy, no-frills beauty. There’s a time and a place for fancy chilis, but for my go-to recipe I like to keep it simple. I like to incrementally add spices because I find that the spice level and flavor of my chili powder and cumin can vary GREATLY between varieties. This is especially true for chili powder. To give you an example, I used 3 teaspoons of my previous variety of chili powder in this recipe but the chili powder I have now I use 1/2-1 teaspoon. Big difference! You can always add more if you take it slow! In light of that, the recipe below lists the smallest amounts of spice I use for my most potent spices. Try it and add more based on your spices and tastes.


  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon smashed garlic or 3 cloves minced garlic
  • olive oil
  • 4 can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 3 red bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder (add more incrementally to achieve desired level of heat)
  • 3 teaspoon cumin (may also add more incrementally)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • few shakes onion powder (optional)
  • few shakes garlic powder (optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • sour cream (optional)
  • cheddar, shredded
  • Cornbread Waffles, toasted if frozen

~ In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat and sauté onion and garlic until fragrant. Add beef, breaking the large chunks up with a spoon, and cook until browned.

~ Add the tomatoes, black beans and spices. Bring to a simmer and let cook for at least an hour but preferably longer. A long, slow simmer allows the flavors to meld and the meat to become more tender.

~ Top toasted cornbread waffles with a large spoonful of chili, cheddar and a dollop sour cream. Serve and 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.



Sometimes it’s nice to keep things simple and savory! I love making sauces that you can just throw onto some grilled meat in a jiffy and have a special meal. This becomes especially convenient when the summer days reach the triple digits and you just can’t even imagine turning a stove on. Torture. Pure, sticky, heat torture. This chimichurri is fresh and bright in flavor with an undercurrent of earthy garlic. I usually make it with fresh raw garlic but you can also use roasted garlic for a richer flavor or if you’re not a fan of the sheer power that is raw garlic! For the sake of speed and laziness, I throw everything in the blender and blitz it up. I’m soooo not patient enough to chop everything up super tiny!

So grill up some steak (or chicken!), top with some sauteed mushrooms, chimichurri and whip up a simple salad for an easy, quick, and oven-free dinner on a busy day!

mushrooms, beech, wild mushrooms, gourmet, recipe, grilling, food photography, Crystal Cartier

steak, chimichurri, recipe, grilling, food photography, Crystal Cartier


  • 1+ cup firmly packed fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2+ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves (raw or roasted)
  • 1/2+ cup extra virgin olive oil (to reach desired consistency)
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

~ Blitz all ingredients in a food processor or blender until combined. Then add more olive oil if needed to reach desired consistency and blitz again.


~ Heat grill to a medium heat.

~ Season steak with salt and pepper. Grill steak for 4-5 minutes each side for medium-rare (~1″ thick cut).

~ Top steak with sauteed mushrooms and chimichurri and serve.


Are you ready for summer grilling?! This is one of those shots that comes from a food stylist, in this case Sienna DeGovia, and I looking at each other one day and deciding that we needed to create the most glamorous classic burger we could imagine. This beefy giant is a no frills, down to business, scarf-fest. Simple and classic is all you need in a truly delicious burger so that’s what we did. It’s the gorgeous cousin of fast food monster burgers the likes of Carl’s Jr. and the like. Sometimes you just need some tender, juicy red meat with all the classic fixins’! Time to get to the grill stat!!

You won’t find me throwing around the word “food porn” because I think the term has been usurped by instagrammers (not there there isn’t some amazing work on instagram) with chronic compulsions to post every meal #foodporn. Meh. That said, this sexy beef beast is a bit porn-y to me. Is that a porn-stache I do or do my eyes deceive me… oh wait, that’s just glistening meaty goodness!

Happy chomping and may you have many worthy meals this week #foodporn (couldn’t resist!)

beef burger, beefy, meat, fast food, food photographer, food photography, los angeles, crystal cartier


Nothing celebrates the coming of warmer weather like a Corona with a freshly made steak fajita. Ahhhhhhh! Gosh it’s good to be a food photographer. Put on those flip flops and celebrate spring with this variation of the classic fajita. We’re lucky enough to have an abundance of mexican markets teeming with authentic ingredients to inspire new dishes. Give this recipe a try and let us know how you dress up your fajitas!

Copyrighted Crystal Cartier 2012 all rights reserved

  • olive oil for sauteing
  • 1 lb skirt steak
  • 1 large yellow onion sliced lengthwise with the grain
  • 2-3 bell peppers sliced lengthwise into strips
  • grilled corn cut from cob
  • sliced crimini mushrooms
  • queso fresco, crumbled
  • corn tortillas, lightly grilled or heated on stove
  • cilantro
  • diced mint leaves (optional)
  • Salt
  • guajes and/or guajes guacamole (optional)


  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 fresh Jalapeño pepper, seeded and finally chopped
  • handful of fresh cilantro

~ Mix marinade ingredients is zippered bag, add steak and shake until completely coated. Let sit for at least an hour.

~ Heat skillet on medium-high heat, add olive oil and cook steak to desired doneness (a typical flank steak is medium rare with 4  minutes on each side)

~ While the meat rests, flash saute veggies and mushrooms in oil olive at high heat stirring occasionally after the first minute. I like my veggies crunchy so I cook them very briefly, about 3 minutes.

~ Slice the steak against the grain at an angles to achieve thin slices.

~ Assemble steak, veggies, cilantro and mint on warmed/grilled tortilla, sprinkle with queso fresco crumbles and squeeze with fresh lime juice. You can also add guacamole or sour cream.

* To “grill” your tortillas indoors like the photo below simply place tortilla on the burner of a gas stove with the flame set very low for 30 seconds on each side. You can also warm them in the microwave between a paper towel for 20 seconds.


Copyrighted Crystal Cartier 2012 all rights reserved

 food photographer, food photography, los angeles, crystal cartier

I am an absolute meat eater. I eat veggies by the handful, but I could not imagine my life without meat. For health’s sake I like to get leaner cuts of steak and dress them up a bit which is exactly what we’re doing with this glaze. It is a beautiful way to serve a tender lean cut of delicious meat. A salad of full flavored punchy greens serves as a nice contrast to the savory richness of the meat both in terms of flavor and aesthetic. I’m a little bit in love with the second shot because it has the feel of a painting. What do you think?

Copyrighted Crystal Cartier 2012 all rights reserved

GLAZE (for 4 steaks):

  • 3/4 cup cabernet sauvignon
  • 1 shallot finely minced
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme (not pictured)
  • salt and pepper
  • Olive oil for searing steaks


***Any and all of your favorite zesty ingredients such as:

  • mint/shiso leaves
  • cilantro
  • red onion
  • wild arugula
  • mustard greens
  • sugar snaps peas for a sweet contrast – the list goes on…

~ Salt and pepper both sides of filets then sear both sides at medium-high heat in pre-heated pan of olive oil for about 3 minutes each side to lock in juices

~ Reduce heat to medium and cook both sides to desired doneness. Remove from pan and set aside.

~ Increase heat to medium high and deglaze pan with cabernet. Add thyme leaves, shallots and salt and pepper. Simmer for a couple minutes until shallots are translucent.

~ Brush a bit of the glaze over each filet and serve with a zesty salad.


Copyrighted Crystal Cartier 2012 all rights reserved

food photographer, food photography, los angeles, crystal cartier

When the weather gets colder my cravings turn toward richer, heartier foods. I love a good hot stew or chili on a chilly (yep, pun intended;) night. Serve this delightfully warming one-pot-wonder with some crusty bread and everyone will be going back for seconds.

  • 2 pounds ground beef, I prefer lean
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon smashed garlic
  • 2 small to medium onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, coarsely chopped
  • 2 serrano chiles, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons chopped chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 (15 ounce) can crushed tomatoes with juice
  • 1 (12 ounce) bottle of Guinness stout beer
  • 1 (15.5 ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15.5 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • sour cream
  • fresh cilantro
  • fresh sliced scallions (green onions)
  • grated cheddar cheese (optional, not shown)
  • salt and pepper to taste

I like one pot recipes and will use any excuse to get my enormous dutch oven working it’s magic. Plus, who wants more dishes to clean?

~ Saute onions with garlic, salt, cumin, paprika and coriander and olive oil until soft.Add meat and cook until outside is browned. Add beans, chiles, chili powder, serranos, tomatoes, and beer and bring to a boil then decrease heat to simmer for 25 minutes stirring occasionally. Add bell peppers and cook for 3-5 minutes, allowing peppers to remain somewhat crunchy. Ladle into bowls and top with sour cream and fresh cilantro as garnish.


food photographer, food photography, los angeles, crystal cartier

This is a fantastic example of how gorgeous a hunk of meat can truly be. This baby is loaded with textures to make you drool: gritty with crunch, glistening with just the right amount of delicious grease, crisp with fresh firm veggies and well done bacon. An exquisite piece of carnivore heaven styled au naturale (totally edible, no funny business) by food stylist Sienna DeGovia. Don’t get me wrong, I think pushing visual boundaries is a beautiful thing, but I must say I’m a big fan of food imagery that is natural and exists in some semblance of reality (albeit a slightly improved reality;). I love me some crumb-age (don’t bother trying to look that up, def not a real word) and some drips or slight melting to evoke the delectable impermanence of real food. Sometimes it’s hard to salivate at the most pristine image of perfectly un-melted fake ice cream. Though working with real food as a food photographer can be more challenging in some situations, in the end I find it more rewarding. You’ll have to excuse my love of parentheses (I feel like it makes for a more personal conversation;)

Nothing like a beefy day in the kitchen to get the studio pups all wild-eyed and feral!

Anyway, enough of my ramblings. What gets you all revved up and drooling? Melty, gooey sweets? Savory, crispy bites? Let’s hear it!

Honestly, this is simply a big ‘ole beef burger with everything you see here:

  • LARGE beef patty
  • Toasted/grilled onion roll
  • Crunchy thickly slice Applewood bacon
  • Sliced fresh onion and tomato
  • BBQ sauce tops this one off nicely

If you want to avoid the inevitable kitchen mess from frying (you can’t see it but my hand is totally raised) pick up a bag of the frozen Panko (Japanese bread crumb) breaded onion rings and toss them in the oven with some chopped fresh herbs. We included loads of garden herbs like oregano and rosemary as well as some coarsely ground fresh black pepper to make a simple packaged food extra tasty and attractive! Get ready to eat yourself into a satisfying food coma!


food photographer, food photography, los angeles, crystal cartier

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