My toddler daughter and I were recently invited to an authentic Sri Lankan dinner party. We had a blast and the food and company were so delightful! I’ve teamed up with my friend Yasara who hosted us to bring you a delicious and super nutritious Sri Lankan dish. Not to mention this Sri Lankan beet curry looks like little ruby jewels of goodness. Thanks Yasara for a beautiful day of food and fun!

Also, Sri Lankans eat with their hands to blend the food and flavors which is just about a dream come true to me. It really brings a new experience to food adding the tactile experience with your hands. I think it makes fo a deeper level of appreciation for flavor and nourishment.

Dark-skinned woman's hand peeling a red onion. Sliced red onion and curry powder on dark handmade plate. Turmeric powder, peppercorns and fresh curry leaves in dark handmade bowl.Dark-skinned woman's hands slicing red beets.Turmeric, red onion, curry powder and peppercorn ingredient shot on dark handmade dishes.Dark-skinned woman's hand sprinkling turmeric over pan of beet curry.Sri Lankan vegan beet curry in metal panDark-skinned woman eating Sri Lankan beet curry with her hand.

  • 2-3 red beets with tops, peeled and sliced beets into slim chunks – chop leaves
  • 1/2 onion, sliced thin
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons coconut milk powder
  • 1/2+ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2+ teaspoon un-roasted curry powder
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 3-4 fresh curry leaves
  • coconut oil to sauté
~Heat coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat.
~ Brown onions and garlic, then add beets.
~ Add coconut milk powder, turmeric, and curry powder and stir to combine.
~ Salt and pepper to taste then add curry leaves. Mix thoroughly.
~ Cover and cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes until beets soften a bit. Feel free to add more curry powder and turmeric to suite your taste.
~ Once beets soften a bit, add beet leaves and cook them down.
~ Remove from heat and let sit for a few minutes before giving them a final stir and serving.
 ENJOY!!!
 Dark-skinned woman eating Sri Lankan beet curry with her hand.

A great friend of mine is getting hitched and having a camping style wedding. In honor of her and her man, I had some fun with the elements of one of summer’s best treats…s’mores!! I know it’s technically fall, but it’s 100 degrees here and fall is good camping weather in these parts! These are some abstract interpretations but, seriously, try rolling your roasted marshmallows in toasted unsweetened coconut when making s’mores. It is F-ing TRANSCENDENT!

Burnt marshmallow still life on black.

Deconstructed s'mores

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.

ENJOY!

Grilled pineapple rings caramelized with piña colada glaze

Grilled pineapple rings caramelized with piña colada glaze

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

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

 

 

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

 

Holiday dishes tend to be a bit of an epic battle for oven time, don’t they? Turkey, ham, endless casseroles and on on on. They all need their time in the oven, often at different temperatures of course, then need even more time for a reheat before dinner. If you don’t have an enormous commercial kitchen, this can present quite a problem. That’s why we always have some cold, delicious, crisp veggie dish waiting in the fridge that can be made the night before to take some of the pressure off.

These beautiful beans are a crisp and flavorful contrast to the heavy fare of the holidays. I’ve actually converted many a veggie-hating party goer with these beans. They are delicious!!

Crystal-Cartier-holiday-green-beans-5652

  • 1/3 cup minced shallots (~1 shallot)
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar (thin, not thick aged)
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2/3 cup dried tart cherries
  • 2 pounds trimmed slender green beans (such as haricots verts)
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds

~ Toast almonds at 350 degrees for 5-6 minutes. Keep a close eye as they burn quickly.

~ Whisk first 8 ingredients in small bowl. Mix in dried cherries; set aside.

         DO AHEAD: Vinaigrette can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature; re-whisk before using.

~ Fill large bowl/ half of sink with water and ice; set aside. Cook green beans in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain. Transfer to ice water; cool. Drain.

        DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap in paper towels; enclose in resealable plastic bag and chill. Let stand
            at room temperature 1 hour before continuing.

~Toss green beans, almonds, and vinaigrette in large bowl.

        DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Transfer to platter and serve.

ENJOY!!

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