Tandoori Spiced Salmon Cakes

Carrots and CakeHayyyyy friends. I’ve got another recipe to share with you today, this time, I wanted to focus on creating something that was budget friendly and easy to make. The result, tandoor spiced salmon cakes. The major protein in this recipe comes canned salmon which can typically range from $2.50 – $3.50 (Cdn) per can. A pretty sweet deal if you ask me!

In our home, I’m the only fish eater. The hubs has made it loud and clear that he’s “allergic” (ahem, liar) to any form of seafood. Because of this, I tend not to splurge on seafood and often settle for canned varieties in single servings to help me meet my 2 servings of fish per week. Salmon also has a number of health benefits, here are only a few:

  • it’s loaded with heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids
  • excellent source of calcium (from the bones)
  • it’s also one of the few foods that offer up vitamin D
  • it’s super anti-inflammatory and therefore helps to protect the health of all the tiny cells that make up your body

The inspiration for these salmon cakes came from the Food Network. I knew immediately I wanted to add an Indian flair to their version so I set out for some Patak’s Tandoori Paste. This popular paste can be found at most grocery store retailers in the ethnic food aisle. A little bit of this paste goes a long way! I also added my favorite spices: garam masala, coriander and ground cumin.
Carrots and Cake, Nita ShardaNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

CAUTION: we learned a lot while developing this recipe. Keep these two pieces of advice in mind: 

  1. DO NOT use the food processor, blender or beaters to create the mixture. Let me tell you, that’s a recipe for an epic fail!
  2. Make sure you thoroughly drain the liquid from the salmon cakes.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Tandoori Spiced Salmon Cakes
 
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Ingredients
  • 3 7.5 oz cans salmon, drained
  • 1 cup frozen corn, thawed or canned corn
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs + ¼ cup panko bread crumbs in a shallow plate
  • 2 Tbsp tandoori paste
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • Pinch of ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients (first ten) into a bowl. Mix together using a fork until all ingredients are combined.
  2. Shape into 2" or 3" patties and then press salmon cakes into the breadcrumbs, coating both sides well.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large oven-safe nonstick skillet or cast iron pan over medium heat. Add the salmon cakes and cook until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes per side.
  4. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the cakes are heated through. About 5 - 8 minutes more.

Feel free to garnish your salmon cakes with some plain yogurt that has been spiced with salt, black pepper and some chilli powder. And of course, garnish with more fresh cilantro. These salmon cakes are great on a bed of greens, over a naan and I’ve also enjoyed gobbling it up solo.

Carrots and Cake, Nita ShardaCarrots and Cake, Nita ShardaFood photography done by the talented Ceone Dyck. To learn more about Ceone click here or follow her on Facebook.

Don’t forget to follow Carrots and Cake on Instagram to see tiny square snap shots of my life.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Asparagus and Cherry Tomato Pasta

Nita Sharda Carrots and CakeYAASSSS. Asparagus is finally in season. I remember being in my twenties and trying a spear of asparagus for the first time. I was confused. But then I had another spear. I was hooked. Since then, I’ve enjoy asparagus in many ways from grilling, steaming, wrapped in prosciutto and mixed into a summery pasta dish!

This pasta recipe is SO EASY to throw together on a busy weeknight. Washing and trimming the asparagus ahead of time will help make this a total breeze. Besides, doesn’t everyone love pasta?

Here are a few reasons why you’ll enjoy this recipe and feel good about eating it:

  • It’s colourful – beautiful red and green colors make this pretty on the eye
  • The whole wheat pasta will keep you full
  • You can top your pasta with any cheese you desire, I used Bothwell Cheese Parmesan but it’s also taste with goat cheese and feta cheese; if you’re vegan you can nix the cheese or use your favorite dairy-free product!
  • It includes 9 only ingredients! NINE!
  • The olive oil is super heart health and anti-inflammatory (remember, we talked about that here)

Kay…one more picture, and then I’ll share the recipe! 

Pasta_main

Asparagus and Cherry Tomato Pasta
 
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Serves: 5-6
Ingredients
  • 2 cups whole wheat pasta (uncooked)
  • approx 20 spears of asparagus, washed, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup and 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ⅓ cup cheese (parmesan, goat cheese or feta cheese)
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, sauté asparagus in 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Continue to cook asparagus until it is tender.
  3. Add in garlic, cooked pasta, remaining olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Mix together and heat through for about one minute to allow the garlic to infuse itself into the dish.
  4. Add in cherry tomatoes and continue to heat the pasta through for 5 minutes or until cherry tomatoes begin to wilt.
  5. Remove from heat. Top with cheese.

Nita Sharda Carrots and CakeFood photography done by the talented Ceone Dyck. To learn more about Ceone click here or follow her on Facebook.

Don’t forget to follow Carrots and Cake on Instagram to see tiny square snap shots of my life.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

White Bean Spread

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeI didn’t think I would say it. But I am. Sometimes, I get sick of hummus.

haaawwwww

Okay chill–we all need variety. After all, variety is the spice of life! So what is a Dietitian and foodie to do? Improvise! I always seem to have a can white kidney beans (or cannellini beans) in my pantry so I opted to use this as inspiration to create a protein based dip. Because the cannellini bean is more pastey the result is a thick and spreadable dip. I prefer to dunk veggies and crackers into this pretty stuff but I’ve also added dollops of it onto salads.

This recipe is totally versatile. You can add more or less of any ingredient or even nix something you don’t like. For example, my sister isn’t the biggest fan of caramelized onions, but I love them. They make for a beautiful garnish and give it a sweet flavour. Love! Give it a try and let us know what you think!

White Bean Spread_jugWhite Bean Spread_all decor

White Bean Spread
 
Ingredients
  • 1 19oz can white kidney beans, rinsed
  • 3 - 4 cloves garlic, roasted in oven
  • ⅓ cup tahini
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients into a food processor or blender.
  2. Blend until smooth.
  3. Taste and add more spices as needed. Feel to also add 1 tbsp of water at a time to reach a desired consistency.
  4. Garnish as you wish! You can garnish with caramelized onions, olives, herbs or a drizzle of olive oil!

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeFood photography done by the talented Ceone Dyck. To learn more about Ceone click here or follow her on Facebook.

Don’t forget to follow Carrots and Cake on Instagram to see tiny square snap shots of my life.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

3 anti-inflammatory foods you should eat…NOW

p.s. recipe for this super awesome juice is coming your way (and you don't need a juicer)

p.s. recipe for this super awesome juice is coming your way (and you don’t need a juicer)

We’ve heard of these magical food properties called anti-inflammatory agents, but what are they? Answer: when our cells excrete waste it is sometimes in the form of oxidative waste, which can be toxic and harmful to the body. These waste particles are like little fists that can punch the cells and tissues, causing inflammation. Kinda like when you scrape your elbow or get a deep paper cut, the area around the injury becomes reddened and inflamed. That’s a good thing, because your body is healing. BUT there is also a type of inflammation that can happen at a cellular level and is referred to chronic low-grade inflammation.

Why does inflammation happen? And what’s the big deal?

Inflammation can take place when we bombard our body with things like sugar, refined grains, stress, environmental toxins, aging etc. There’s a lot we’re still learning about low-grade inflammation. The reason why we’re concerned is because this very type of inflammation is linked to heart disease, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and neurological degeneration.

But here’s the cool news….

Anti-inflammatory agents come in like the heroes that they are and swiftly carry away those feisty little guys to ensure that nothing is being irritated and swollen inside the body.  Anti-inflammatory is goooood news! Even better news is that we can find it in all sorts of foods!

Here are JUST three anti-inflammatory foods you ought to be eating, and all just in time for the upcoming harvest season.

ONE.

Beets – the deep red/purple color of beets indicates a lot of functional health properties. Anti-inflammation included! Boil, pickle, roast, juice, whatever! Just get these beautiful root plants into your diet and let your digestive system reap the benefits.

TWO.

Turmeric – let’s not forget that herbs and spices have endless medicinal properties. Turmeric is a root plant that is often dried and ground into a lovely yellow spice. The flavor is subtle, a bit pungent but also warm and peppery. It’s commonly used for mustard and curry dishes but the options are endless. Add to scrambled eggs at breakfast, rice for a hint of flavor or soups to bring even more warmth. Or hey, how about making this Kaju Korma over some baked tofu cubes?

THREE.

Olive Oil – Those Mediterranean folk, famous for their lack of inflammatory disease and in part due to their high fat diet. High fat?! Crazy right? The thing is that they are eating some majorly clean, healthy fats over in Greece such as fatty fish, olives and oils.

When fishing for the anti-inflammatory properties of cooking oils (ha, fishing) we have to make sure we grab Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Cold-Pressed Olive Oil, the cold-pressing form of processing keeps all their health benefits in tact. Limit the EVOO to your salads or for bread dipping because high temperatures will destroy those anti-inflammatory agents before they can even get to your cells…dangit. But feel free to use canola oil which is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids in your frying pan or the oven.

Now, here’s a wild idea to tie it all together…toss your chopped beets in some olive oil, sprinkle with turmeric and any other spices of your choice and roast for 25 minutes at 425F. Voila! A beautiful, fall-harvest, anti-inflammatory dish!

If you want to learn more about this specific diet, get your hands on Desiree Nielsen’s book Un-Junk Your Diet: How to Shop, Cook, and Eat to Fight Inflammation and Feel better Forever.

If you’re interested in eating more in the way of an anti-inflammatory diet, contact me. I’d love to help!

Please note the content of this post was written by 4th year Human Nutritional Sciences student Johanna Adriaansen. Johanna also maintains her own website and is an aspiring Dietitian!

Don’t forget to follow Carrots and Cake on Instagram to see tiny square snap shots of my life.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

The Better Broccoli Salad

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeAs per the title of this blog post, the feature vegetable in this summer salad is none other than the broccoli. Growing up we typically only enjoyed broccoli when it was cooked into saag which is a giant mush (I’m not joking) of cooked down onion, spinach, broccoli and an array of spices. Now, I have fun using broccoli in stir fry’s, roasted, dunked into a ranch dip and of course, all dressed up in a Greek yogurt dressing.

I’m sure you’ve tried a few versions of this recipe. But I really think you should make my recipe your go-to for summer potlucks, dinners or even enjoy this salad as a snack. Along with broccoli, this salad also includes a juicy apple, red onion, carrot sticks,  cranberry and pumpkin seeds. Feel free to swap out ingredients and change the quantities as you wish. The “OG” version of recipe usually calls for copious amounts of mayo and sometime bacon. THIS version is laced with a high protein dressing courtesy of Greek yogurt.Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Arrrrrright, let’s move onto what you’re really here for

The recipe.

The Better Broccoli Salad
 
Prep time
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Serves: 5
Ingredients
  • 3 cups broccoli, chopped
  • 1 Gala apple, chopped
  • ¼ cup red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup grated or julienne carrots
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup chopped SqueaK'rs, cheddar (or grated)
  • Dressing
  • ¾ cup 2% M.F. Greek yogurt
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoon honey
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • Pink of paprika
Instructions
  1. Place all prepared veggies, apple, cranberries, pumpkin seeds and cheese into a bowl. Toss together.
  2. To prepare the dressing stir together Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, honey, lemon, salt, pepper and paprika.
  3. Pour the dressing (only half at a time) over the salad, ensuring the veggies are well coated. Let the salad sit in the fridge for 20 minutes to soften the broccoli. Add more dressing if desired.
  4. Serve and enjoy!
Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeFood photography done by the talented Ceone Dyck. To learn more about Ceone click here or follow her on Facebook.

Don’t forget to follow Carrots and Cake on Instagram to see tiny square snap shots of my life.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Egg Noodle Bake

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeOh haaaayyyy. Yes, that’s a casserole dish full of carbs and yes, I am a Registered Dietitian who developed this recipe. I’ve said it before: don’t be afraid of carbohydrates! This recipe features a classic egg noodle. Because it’s difficult to trace down a wholewheat version of this popular noodle I decided to embrace it’s “white version”. Knowing it would be lower in fibre, I quickly decided that I could:

  1. Add fibre to the overall dish by loading up with veggies, and,
  2. Add split red lentils to not only boost protein but to also amp up my fibre intake

The result: an all-in-one dish that packs a ton of flavour, lasts for dayssss (*hello freezer*) and can be enjoyed by the entire family. The protein content in here is also one to be admired – cottage cheese is always such an underrated food. But in our house, I can eat a heaping bowl of it as a snack or as part of my breakfast. One cup of this stuff contains about 30 grams of protein. HOLY MOLY!

This is also the type of recipe you can adapt. For example, if mushrooms aren’t your jam then add in celery instead! Or if you’re craving more bell peppers because they’ll be in season soon, then add more! You can’t go wrong. Except…if you add zucchini, it will be very liquidy (that’s just the nature of zucchini). There is even flexibility in the type of protein you choose. I opted for some local Manitoba Chicken but you could use a lean ground pork or beef if you wanted. Even TVP would work well (although I haven’t tried that).

Let me tease you with one more photo before sharing the recipe…(and yes, that’s Bothwell Cheese for the win, duh).

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

5.0 from 1 reviews
Egg Noodle Bake
 
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Serves: 10
Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 lb ground meat (lean beef, turkey or chicken)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups mushroom, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • ½ cup red split lentils
  • 1 15oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1½ cup cottage cheese
  • ¾ cup mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 1 packgage egg noodles (about 8oz)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook egg noodles until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  3. Brown your selected meat in a large skillet. Drain fat and then set aside on a plate.
  4. Heat 1 tbsp canola oil in the same skillet and sauté onions. Once onions are slightly translucent, add in mushrooms, red pepper and garlic. Continue to cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender.
  5. Then add in meat, tomato sauce, broth and red split lentils. Add in your spices: salt, pepper, parsley and oregano. Feel free to add in any other spices you'd like such as red chilli flakes for some heat!
  6. Let this mixture simmer for about 15 minutes over low heat, or until red lentils are cooked through.
  7. Meanwhile, place your drained egg noodles into a large casserole dish. Mix in cottage cheese.
  8. Top noodles with the meat and vegetable mixture and mix well to ensure the noodles are well coated.
  9. Top with grated cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake
Food photography done by the talented Ceone Dyck. To learn more about Ceone click here or follow her on Facebook.

Don’t forget to follow Carrots and Cake on Instagram to see tiny square snap shots of my life.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

The Whole Grain and Nothing But the Grain (Part 2: Free Gluten)

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeA couple of posts back we talked about the goodness of whole grains and why grain-excluding diets aren’t so great after all. Today we’re going to shift your focus and delve into the increasingly popular gluten-free diet trend that has everyone going cross-eyed with confusion.

WHAT ON EARTH IS GLUTEN?

Well, I guess clarifying things would help. Let’s pause. Contrary to popular belief (thanks to loads and loads of marketing and misinformation) it is not some horrifyingly fattening, health-impeding substance that will cause you to drop dead. Gluten is a protein found in the center (endosperm) of wheat, barley, and rye. Physically speaking, it helps the grain maintain it’s shape and elasticity when used in baking or cooking.

NOT FOR EVERYONE

As wonderful as whole grains are (as previously established here), there are a few instances where they are not well tolerated. Celiac disease for example is an auto-immune disorder that affects 1% of the Canadian population. With this condition, gluten proteins are not digested or absorbed, leading to some pretty unpleasant symptoms and in severe cases, anaphylactic shock – yikes! Remember, in Celiac Disease there is an immune response.

To make matters more confusing we are also noticing a number of folks struggling with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Symptoms are similar to those of celiac disease but luckily the overall clinical picture is less severe. Folks with a non-celiac gluten sensitivity don’t experience an immune response per se, but they may feel groggy, bloated, experience pain, headaches etc when gluten is ingested. In these cases it is always best to STAY CLEAR of wheat.

If you suspect you have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, contact a physician or Registered Dietitian to get some help.

1BlackBeanBrownies_squares

Gluten free brownies.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Gluten containing yummy mac and cheese (veggified of course!).

BUYER BEWARE: GLUTEN-FREE vs HEALTHY

As the incidence of celiac disease increases, more and more gluten-free products are constantly becoming available on supermarket shelves. With this shift in the market, gluten-free products have been promoted as “healthy” or “trendy”, which is confusing to the average consumer. Note to self: the words “gluten-free” in bold on a package is not code for healthy. Gluten-free products when refined (ex. white rice crackers) can be just as harmful as the refined, gluten-containing grains described in the previous post.

For those who have trouble tolerating gluten, I recommend experimenting with gluten-free options such as amaranth, buckwheat, uncontaminated oats, quinoa or brown rice pasta to create healthy snacks and meals at home.

BUT IF I GO GLUTEN-FREE, I’LL LOSE WEIGHT RIGHT?

Think of it this way: when a person with celiac disease is properly diagnosed and begins a prescribed gluten-free diet, they may in fact gain weight since the malabsorption that was once happening subsides and they are better equipped to absorb the nutrients and calories they have been consuming. You heard me right! – gluten-free diets were actually intended for people to maintain their ideal weight, sometimes meaning weight gain.

Whether or not you lose weight on a gluten-free diet all depends on how you go gluten-free. Giving the boot to gluten-containing refined grains like white-flour bagels, pasta, and crackers, and processed snacks will definitely be an effective weight loss method if you are replacing them with wholesome, high fiber alternatives. However, if these gluten rich foods are replaced by hyper-processed gluten-free products weight loss isn’t a guarantee. Besides, it never truly is.

FREE GLUTEN

The stigma surrounding gluten deserves to be squashed! Consider how silly this sounds: “My friend is allergic to peanuts – therefore they must be terrible for my health and I must give them up immediately!” That would never fly in one million years – so why would we apply this mentality with gluten? (on a side note: you would have to pry the jar of PB out of my cold dead hands before I would give it up).

The takeaway:

whole grain, gluten-containing foods are absolutely A-OKAY in our books. Unless you have been properly diagnosed with an allergy or intolerance keep munching on whole-grain goodness!

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

That’s Ceone rocking some gluten love.

If you’re not in a rush to leave this blog page, check out this video by Jimmy Fallon. Jimmy is notorious for his comedic ways, pranks and well, making us laugh a little more in our day. Enjoy.

Food photography and blog post written/captured by a talented student volunteer, Ceone Dyck. To learn more about Ceone click here or follow her on Facebook.

Don’t forget to follow Carrots and Cake on Instagram to see tiny square snap shots of my life.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Chia Seed Pudding

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeOh, hello! Welcome back – I hope you enjoyed learning about whole grains on our last post. We’re going to take a break from nutrition education and share this uber simple recipe with ya’ll. You’ve previously seen me use and talk about the health benefits of chia seeds, like when I showcased my version of a 5 Ingridient Berry Sauce. When I heard my food friends talk about chia seed pudding, I was totally hooked and needed to give it a try.

Here’s what I love in particular about this recipe:

  • calls for only 5 ingridients
  • offers up 10 grams of fibre
  • source of calcium
  • source of protein
  • allows for customization
  • naturally gluten free
  • no cooking, just stirring

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeOkay, I think you’re sold.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Chia Seed Pudding
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Serves: 2 - 3
Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup chia seeds (black or white)
  • 1½ cups milk (dairy or dairy free)
  • 2 tbsp runny honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extra
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients into a bowl. Mix very, very, very well and cover with saran wrap.
  2. Place bowl into the fridge for thirty minutes. Stir again.
  3. Return back to the fridge for at least another 2 - 3 hours. The result is a thick pudding similar to rice pudding.
  4. Top with additional fruit if you wish. I love it with tart raspberries, mango or kiwi.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake
Food photography done by the talented Ceone Dyck. To learn more about Ceone click here or follow her on Facebook.

Don’t forget to follow Carrots and Cake on Instagram to see tiny square snap shots of my life.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

The Whole Grain and nothing but the Grain (Part 1)

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeAs soon as you type the word “diet” into your preferred internet search-engine, you’ll probably be met with results like “gluten-free,” “low-carb,” or “cutting out wheat for weight loss.” This grain-free diet trend has become increasingly popular, compliments of endorsements by many celebrities and Instagram stars. But before you write off grains for good, take a look at some of the top reasons we love whole grains, and why they’re essential to your health.

SO…. WHAT IS A WHOLE GRAIN?

What makes a whole grain whole? Well, really ALL grains start out as “whole.” The harvested seed is made up of three edible parts: the bran, germ, and endosperm.

  • The bran is the darker coloured, outer skin of the seed, which is where most of the antioxidants, B-vitamins, and fiber is stored.
  • The germ is the center embryo of the seed, which stores B-vitamins, but also protein, minerals, and healthy fat.
  • Lastly the endosperm, which is the largest portion of the seed, contains starchy carbohydrates, protein, and small amounts of vitamins and minerals.

When whole grains are refined, the bran and the germ are kicked to the curb, leaving all those wonderful and healthy vitamins, minerals, and fiber behind. Whole grains are not refined, and because of that all parts of the seed are included in the final (healthy) product. Remember, you don’t want to go grain-free, you want to go whole grain.

THE GOOD STUFF

Clearly, those un-refined whole grains have got a lot of good things going on. Here are a few of the amazing benefits of whole grains:

  • Dietary fiber helps you feel fuller, faster, and longer. It also aids in digestion and promotes gut health. Fiber is found only in plant sources (nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains), and grain fiber specifically has been shown to be protective against digestive cancers even more so than other forms of fiber. Beta-glucan, found in high concentration in both oats and barley, has been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels remarkably. Personally, we love starting our day with a big bowl of oatmeal and fruit – which honestly keeps us feeling satisfied all the way until lunch.
  • B vitamins are metabolic champions which you need, in order to make use of all those other amazing super-powered nutrients you are consuming. These power house vitamins ensure that the food you consume is utilized and absorbed to the full extent so you can get the most out of your daily nutrient consumption! They also maintain healthy skin, hair, muscles, form red blood cells, and promote healthy immune & nervous system function – kind of incredible, right?
  • Minerals – such as zinc, magnesium, phosphorous, selenium, and iron are abundant in whole grains. Collectively, these compounds have the power to boost your immune system, regulate metabolism, reduce blood pressure, and keep your skin & hair looking healthy!

The moral of this story: whole grains keep you looking and feeling like the total 10 you are.

kjkj
Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

HIGH QUALITY VERSUS LOW QUALITY GRAIN

So, after reading that first section, it’s probably clear to you that not all grain products are created equal in terms of nutrient value. It’s important to choose the right grain products in order to get all those wonderful benefits described above. Refined grains, which is the bulk of what people consume today since they’re the bulk of what’s stocked on market shelves, have been linked to obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes – whoa! Just about the exact opposite effect of whole grains. That can feel overwhelming, but here’s something to hold on to: little changes in your diet can make a huge difference. (psst, looking to make smart goals, click here). Look for the words “whole wheat flour” or “100% whole grains” as opposed to “enriched wheat flour” or “wheat flour” on the ingredient lists of your favourite grain products. Or, even better, opt to make more snacks and meals at home ahead of time with a healthy whole grain flour (try whole-wheat flour, oat flour, buckwheat, or spelt). And hey! Bake these super seedy chocolate chip cookies made with whole wheat flour, you won’t regret it I promise!

Drumroll please…. a few of my favourite whole, unrefined grain swaps are:

  • Overnight oats as a replacement for boxed breakfast-cereal (get the recipe here)
  • Quinoa or brown rice noodles as a replacement for white rice in stir-fry or soup
  • 100% whole wheat wraps to replace refined, white flour sandwich bread
  • Whole-wheat or oat flour to replace white flour in baking (replacing even half is a great way to start)

It is important to note that a lot of whole grain products on the grocery shelf today get a bad rep for being “unhealthy” due to some of the other ingredients included in their making. For instance, certain brands of 100% whole wheat bread, crackers, or pre-packaged snacks may also contain high levels of sodium, sugar, or additives which are admittedly not so great. Because of this, often the whole grains themselves take the blame. The best way to avoid some of those unhealthy extras is to incorporate unprocessed whole grains into cooking or baking at home and get familiar with reading nutrition labels.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

TO SUM IT ALL UP

Whole grains are the BOMB! (The capitalization is totally needed, I promise!). Whole grains are jam-packed with nutrients, energy, and overall deliciousness, so they make a great addition to just about anyone’s diet. Now that you’ve received a brief grain education (you are hereby granted your diploma in grain education!) you are ready to navigate the grocery store and pick out some seriously nutritious whole grains! Go forth, be adventurous, and enjoy adding those amazing whole grains into your life!

Food photography done by the talented Ceone Dyck. To learn more about Ceone click here or follow her on Facebook.

Don’t forget to follow Carrots and Cake on Instagram to see tiny square snap shots of my life.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

No Bake Granola Bar

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeI love a good granola bar. It’s basically like having portable nutrition in your hand! Mind you, a good quality product can often be hard to spot. Most large-chain grocers have entire aisles dedicated to this iconic food item. The tough part is distinguishing which one truly is a granola bar versus which one is…well..basically a chocolate bar.

Tips to sourcing a quality granola bar:

  • When I’m on the hunt for a bar I try to look for something that has less than 8 – 9 grams of sugar and offers me up at least 3 grams of fibre.
  • Protein is another POWERHOUSE nutrient that I scout for. If you’re looking for a nut-free product, it will be difficult to find a protein bar with more than 2 grams of protein. Otherwise, if nuts are your thang, you’ll likely have no trouble finding something that can offer you atleast 4 – 5 grams of protein.
  • Look at the ingredient list and find something that is 100% whole grain.
  • Avoid granola bars that are chocolate or yogurt covered. These bars can have upwards of 3 teaspoons of sugar in a small serving.

Or HAYYYYYYhow about making your own?

When I have a bit of extra time on my hands, I take pleasure in being able to make my own granola bars that I can snack on. The ingredients in this recipe (adapted from Cookspiration) include all the foods I enjoy eating as snacks: dates, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and hemp hearts are the super heroes behind this bar. Seriously, you’ll feel so good after making them, eating them…and maybe even sharing them. You’ll notice – the recipe doesn’t call for any refined sugar. The sweetness is brought to you naturally from the dates and honey. Don’t cha love nature?
Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and CakeOkay, recipe deets below:

5.0 from 1 reviews
No Bake Granola Bar
 
Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cup All Bran Flakes cereal (I used PC brand from Superstore)
  • 1 ½ cup large flake oats
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup hemp hearts
  • 1 cup dates (about 12 - 15 dates)
  • ¼ cup honey or maple syrup for vegan option
  • ⅓ cup almond or peanut-butter
Instructions
  1. In a large nonstick skillet, toast oats, walnuts and pumpkin seeds over medium heat, stirring often for about 8 minutes or until light golden and fragrant. You'll even hear the pumpkin seeds "pop".
  2. Pour this mixture into a large bowl and let cool slightly; stir in bran flakes and hemp hearts.
  3. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse dates until finely chopped. For me, it rolls into one giant blob.
  4. In a small saucepan, heat together honey and almond butter over medium low heat until melted and smooth. Add dates and stir to combine.
  5. Pour into oat mixture and stir together until dates are distributed evenly throughout and oats are coated well.
  6. Press mixture into 23 cm (9 inch) parchment or foil lined baking pan and press to flatten evenly (warning: don't place it on a pan that's too big - you want the mixture to be "tight").
  7. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until firm. Cut into bars and wrap individually with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for longer.
No Bake Granola Bar_Stacked

STACKS ON STACKS OVER HERE!!

For more granola bar inspiration, here are a few ideas from my personal food friends:

Food photography done by the talented Ceone Dyck. To learn more about Ceone click here or follow her on Facebook.

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                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda