Yeah, you heard right. I said Piña Colada Grilled Caramelized Pineapple!!! I mean life doesn’t get better or easier than this. This recipe is ridiculous. We’ve been poolside beating the oppressive L.A. heat and this little ditty is the perfect ending to any and every impromptu bbq. I mean, the grill’s already hot so it seems a shame NOT to make it, right?

Although…I do make this in a skillet on the stove sometimes and the caramelization is to die for! Try it both ways and pick your own delicious poison;)

Pineapple skin cut from the pineapple

Grilled pineapple rings caramelized with piña colada glaze

  • 1 whole pineapple
  • 1/4 cup dark rum, like Meyers
  • 1/4 cup coconut cream (optional but insanely delicious)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4+ cup dark brown sugar, to taste
  • unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted stirring frequently in a dry pan on low heat until nicely browned
  • coconut oil for brush grill racks

~ Cut the thick skin and eyes from the pineapple. Slice into thick rings then core with either a cookie cutter or paring knife.

~ Whisk together all ingredients except the toasted coconut (and oil for brushing) in a shallow baking dish and marinate pineapple rings for an hour.

~On a preheat grill to medium-high heat. Brush grill racks with coconut oil to prevent sticking. OR preheat an oiled skillet over medium heat.

~ Grill/sear pineapple until you see grill marks and/or caramelization and the pineapple is heated through (about 5 minutes per side).

~ You can reserve the marinade and serve it with the rings if you like. Then sprinkle each ring generously with the toasted coconut.


Grilled pineapple rings caramelized with piña colada glaze

Grilled pineapple rings caramelized with piña colada glaze

This strawberry pie was a delightful afterthought. I had extra flaky gluten-free from a batch of quiche and I sure as hell didn’t want to waste it! I grabbed a bunch of frozen strawberries from last season and whipped up something tasty to fill mini pots. Perfect!

We loved these topped with straight sour cream and a sprinkle of brown sugar! In the 100+ temps we’ve been having, a cool strawberry pie is a welcome treat!

Gluten-free Mini Strawberry Pies with Flaky Pie Crust


  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose gluten-free flour (again I use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 Tablespoon butter, chopped and chilled
  • 1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
  • Ice water by small spoonfuls only if necessary

~ Mix flour, baking soda, and sea salt in a large bowl. Add chilled butter and coat chunks with flour. Flatten chunks of butter between your thumb and fingers. Mix in sour cream then knead dough until it starts to come together, adding tiny spoonfuls of ice water if needed until the dough holds together. Shape into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

~ Placed chilled dough on a floured sheet of parchment. Place a second sheet of parchment over the dough and roll it out into a thick rectangular. Then fold the dough over onto itself in thirds like a letter. Do this twice more then roll it out into a round large enough to use in your particular pie dish.

~ Some people drape the rolled out crust over a rolling pin and then drape it into the pie dish. I have little luck with that so I use on of the sheets of parchment to support the dough, drape it over the dish, then carefully peel off the parchment and gently work the dough into the corners. Tuck the extra dough at the rim under itself and crimp the entire edge with your thumb and finger.

~ Cover crust with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least and hour and up to several days.


  • 2 cups whole frozen strawberries, divided
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 ounce/ 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2+ Tablespoons chia seeds
  • Sour cream, to top

~ Combine 1 cup of the frozen strawberries with lemon juice and sugar in a pot over low heat until the strawberries thaw.

~ Smash the strawberries with the back of a wooden spoon to add thickness and texture to the mixture then add remaining 1 cup strawberries.

~ Once the last strawberries thaw, turn up the heat to medium and lightly simmer until liquid reduces and thickens a bit.

~ Add chia seeds. Let cool then refrigerate. If your filling is more liquid than preferred, you can always add more chia seeds to soak up the juices. The water content of frozen strawberries can vary so adjust the chia accordingly.

~ Spoon chilled filling into ramekins of baked pie crusts. This recipe made 4 mini pies for me.

~ Top with a dollop sour cream (and a sprinkle of brown sugar if desired).


Yaaaaaaaay the holidays are here and these are a surprisingly delicious little holiday sparkle! They’re easy to make, packed with flavor and texture and great for garnishing cocktails, desserts or just eating right out of a bowl. My daughter loves the tart sweetness of these little cranberry beauties!

Cranberries and rosemary in a pan of sugar syrup

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (to roll it all in)

~ In a saucepan over low heat, heat the water and 1 cup sugar until warm and sugar dissolves. Cool until you can put your finger in the liquid.

~ Wash and dy cranberries. Once liquid is cool enough not to cause the cranberries to burst but still warm, add cranberries and rosemary.

~ Cover and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate and let soak overnight.

~ Strain berries and rosemary and reserve the rosemary infused syrup for holiday cocktails or desserts.

~ Blot cranberries and rosemary with a paper towel so that they sticky but not wet. Then work in batches rolling the berries and rosemary in the remaining sugar to coat. Place on parchment lined baking sheet and let dry until hardened. Eat and smile!!

~ Store at room temperature.

Cranberries and rosemary in sugar

Holiday cocktails with sugared rosemary and cranberries

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


  • 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.


  •  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.


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!!

*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

So you may have noticed my hiatus from this blog over the past few months. Our incredible baby girl was born in January and I was back at working shooting for clients two weeks later. Talk about an adjustment! What with figuring out my role as a new mama while also keeping my head above water working on client jobs, I had ZERO time to shoot for myself, or really even eat for that matter! Now I’m all about super duper quick meals and snack, the very best of which being those that can be made one-handed! HA!

The title says it all on this one. Easy peasy, gorgeous jewel-toned plums wrapped in salty prosciutto deliciousness. A wonderful collision of salty and sweet as well as chewy and juicy!

What quick easy foods do you make when you don’t have seconds to spare? No really, this mama needs all the ideas you can give her;)

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Wooooo weeeeeee it’s summer fo sho! Time for light and/or frozen desserts. I wouldn’t have ever fancied myself a meringue person , but this recipe has totally changed my mind. Pavlovas are brilliantly airy and sweet. I tried a few recipes following them to the letter and, frustratingly, end up with flat little pancake meringues (grimace). I looked like a meringue bomb had exploded all over me and had nothing to show for it, this is why baking makes me nuts. So, given my lack of success with an actual recipe, I decided to wing it a bit. What could it hurt?! I was already a mess! The results were truly delectable and super easy. I was able to easily make extra batches and they turned out predictably lovely each time. That’s what we like!

The aged lavender balsamic is a bit on the syrup side of the thickness spectrum. You can also make a balsamic reduction steeped in dried lavender flowers and simply strain the flowers out and let cool before use. This is a lovely, tangy and earthy contrast to the sweetness of the meringue and peaches. The cool, fresh whipped cream pairs beautifully with the crisp outer shell of meringue and chewy center and balances the caramelized rich sweetness of the peaches.

I had some great friends over to help me not eat all this sugar myself and it was a big hit! Not a spec was left behind:)

pavlova, peaches, meringue, recipe, dessert,  recipe, food photographer, crystal cartier

pavlova, peaches, meringue, recipe, dessert,  recipe, food photographer, crystal cartier

makes 2   6″ pavlovas

  • 3 large egg whites, room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest, grated on microplane
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 pint whipping cream, beaten into whipped whipped cream
  • 4 ripe peaces, sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons butter or coconut oil
  • 2 Tablespoon good maple syrup
  • lavender infused aged (or a reduction) balsamic vinegar, optional but a lovely tangy contrast

~ Preheat oven to 325 degrees

~ Line a baking sheet with parchment and use a bowl to trace 2 6” diameter circles onto the parchment. Flip the parchment over so the circles are on the underside (so as not to get marker in your meringue).

~ In a large bowl, beat egg white and salt on medium speed with an electric hand mixer until stiff but not dry.

~Increase speed to high and slowly add sugar in very small increments, blending thoroughly each time. Add the cornstarch, lemon zest, and lemon juice and beat for another minute or so to combine.

~ Divide meringue in half on the two circles on the parchment. Shape meringue nests with the back of a spoon making a slight depression in the middle of each nest for whipped cream and fruit.

~ Place baking sheet in pre-heated oven an immediately decrease heat to 200 degrees. Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes. Then turn off oven and leave baking sheet in oven allow meringues to completely cool.


~ Heat butter/ coconut oil in a skillet on medium heat until melted, add sliced peaches and sauté until soft. Turn up heat a bit, add maple syrup and sauté until the peaches caramelize a bit and the sauce thickens. Remove from heat.

~ Top each meringue with a generous scoop of fresh whipped cream and roasted peaches. Drizzle lightly with the lavender aged balsamic. 





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


  • 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


  • 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.

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.

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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.

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Sometimes my sweet tooth is very specific. Do you guys ever find this to be the case? If I don’t satisfy that precise craving with something in the ballpark I end up consuming way too much sugar/sweets without satiating the desire. Bad news bears. Sometimes it’s rice pudding, sometimes creme brulee, and sometimes it’s the boozy sweetness of bananas foster paired with some creamy dairy dream. Though I have a sweet tooth, I find most desserts are just way too sweet for me in general. I tend to cut the sugar in most recipes and, in that vein, find bananas foster over ice cream to be so sweet that it dominates the delightful flavors in the dish. The easy and healthier alternative to a so-sweet-it-makes-you-pucker foster is swapping ice cream for plain greek yogurt. The thick, creamy, tartness of the yogurt is such a nice contrast to the warm flavors of banana, whiskey and spice. Mmmmm, I want some right now. Make this, it’s easy and awesome and you get to light something on fire! Win-win!

When I shot this I made it with homemade ice cream which I make A LOT less sweet than store bought but I still find it a bit too much. The Mister loves it with the ice cream but the yogurt version is definitely my jam!

makes 2 servings, 4 if you’re feeling well-behaved;)

Bananas Foster- copyright Crystal Cartier

  • 1 tablespoons unsalted butter or coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar or coconut sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup whiskey (I like Jack Daniels)
  • 2 ripe bananas, 1/3″ slices
  • 1/2 cup raw pecans or these maple glazed pecans (leave out the herbs)
  • 2% plain greek yogurt

~ Bring whiskey, butter/oil, sugar, cinnamon and allspice to a boil in a large skillet. Turn the heat off (so as not to ignite the whiskey) and gently stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves.

~Return to medium heat and bring to a simmer. At this point I like to ignite the mixture with the burner flame or a grill lighter and watch it dance. It’ll die down on it’s own but light with care because it’s a hefty amount of booze and makes a big flame.

~Simmer until the mixture thickens a bit, add bananas and cook until just barely soft, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in pecans.

~ Let cool then spoon over cups of yogurt.


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