5 Reasons you Should be Eating Pulses

Photo from www.iyp2016.org

Photo from www.iyp2016.org

Oh hiiii! Or I should say, heho! Forgive me, I’ve been celebrating the Festival Du Voyageur over the last two weeks. Hence the blogging hiatus. Okay, one last time, HEHO!

If you haven’t caught on, over the last little while we’ve really been encouraging you to load up and experiment with legumes. For a refresher on what a legume is, visit our previous blog post. For the next little bit, we’re going to explain the WHY behind the WHAT. It’s your health (and tummy) so you should know our top five reasons for recommending legumes.

  1. High in protein.
    Whether you opt out for a lentil or bean, you’re guaranteed to consume a solid amount of protein. Protein is that good stuff you need to keep you full, maintain muscle, produce enzymes and plays in important role in maintaining our skin.

    • 1 cup cooked lentils = 18 grams of protein
    • 1 cup cooked black beans = 15 grams of protein
    • 1 cup cooked kidney beans = 13 grams of protein
      _____
  2. Source of fibre.
    Unlike most animal proteins, beans and lentils contain a complex carbohydrate component that is rich in fibre. Beyond just promoting gut health and keeping you regular with washroom visits, fibre does your body an amazing favor by helping to keep blood sugar levels stable. It’s even known to reduce the risk of colon cancer, and, it can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels to a healthy range. Oh, and one more thing: it keeps you full for longer.___

    Image from www.pulses.org

    Image from www.pulses.org

  3. Environmentally friendly.
    We’re starting to learn more and more about the agriculture industry. Here’s what we’ve come to know so far:

    • Growing pulses increases farming biodiversity
    • Pulses are highly water efficient (to produce 1 kg of lentils we need 50 litres of water; for same amount of chicken, we need 4325 litres of water)
    • Crop residues and byproducts can be use for animal feed making pulses multifunctional
    • Pulses produce very little carbon footprint, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions that pollute our air
    • The nitrogen in pulses improves soil fertility
    • Okay that’s enough bragging.
  1. Versatile.
    If you’re new to beans and lentils like most of our clients, please take comfort in knowing that these little “big” guys are extremely versatile. You can slowly start incorporating them into meals you already enjoy. Here are a few ideas:

    • Mix red lentils into your favorite mac and cheese recipe
    • Add a can of beans into homemade soups and stews
    • Throw in an extra can of beans into your chili
    • Add lentils into your hamburger patty mixture
    • Mix refried beans into your taco beef
    • Throw in ¼ cup of red lentils into your berry smoothie
    • Source recipes that use beans for baking like these black bean brownies
    • Use lentils in your homemade granola
      _
      _____
  2. Economical.
    Lentils and beans are extremely gentle on your wallet and help you maximize food dollars. For a fraction of the cost, you get the benefit of protein (see point one) and fibre (see point two) without the saturated fat that animal proteins come with. Note to the universe: I do love me a good steak, or homemade chicken fingers but prefer to enjoy veggie proteins for the bulk of my meals. I did some price checks at my local mom and pop grocer, here’s what I learned:

    • 1lb extra lean ground beef = $4.99
    • 1lb sliced bologna = $3.99
    • 1lb chicken legs = $2.49
    • 1lb bag dried red lentils = $2.19

So that’s it folks! This rounds up our top 5 reasons for eating pulses. If you’re feeling motivated by all of this information but stumped on how to put this into practice, contact me so we can discuss things further. In the mean time, stay tuned for a load of Carrots and Cake tried and true recipes featuring pulses.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Black Bean Brownies

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

Seriously, yummy.

Earlier this week we talked to you about how excited we are that 2016 is the International Year of the Pulse. Hip hip hooray! In today’s recipe post we’re sharing an exciting brownie recipe that uses black beans. Yes, you read that right: BLACK BEANS. Please, don’t be scared – the results are amazing and dddddelish.

If you’re also making it a goal to experiment with new grains you’ll note that this recipe is actually wheat free. Instead, it uses oats. The original inspiration came from a fellow food blogger who we love, Chocolate Covered Katie. Our contributor Ceone had also made variations of the recipe in the past, so we wanted to share-share (what do they say? Sharing is caring). We made a few adaptations such as using applesauce to reduce the fat content and also decided to finely process the oats a bit more. The result is a brownie that resembles fudge but is still soft, a little gooey and chocolatey. All good things people. All good things.

From a nutrition standpoint, what I love about this dessert option is that it offers my clients an opportunity to still practice balance. In comparison to commercial or boxed brownies, this brownie is fairly low in sugar, offers up some fibre and protein which in turn will help you feel full for longer (that’s because fibre and protein are satiating). It’s totally the type of treat (or every day food) that really can be good for you. 

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

All mixed up.

Before it goes into the oven.

Before it goes into the oven.

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

After it’s been baked.

Okay, okay. Enough with the chatter. Recipe below:

Black Bean Brownies
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • ½ cup quick oats or rolled oats
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ⅓ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ cup chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Place oats into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it resembles coarse flour.
  3. Add remaining ingredients except chocolate chips into a food processor and blend until completely smooth.
  4. Fold the chocolate chips into the batter.
  5. Place mixture into a greased 8×8 pan.
  6. Optional: sprinkle extra chocolate chips over the top.
  7. Cook the black bean brownies 20 minutes. Allow it to cool and set at least 10 minutes before trying to cutting into it. If they still look a bit undercooked, you can place them in the fridge overnight and they will magically firm up! Makes 12 brownies

1BlackBeanBrownies_squares

These photos  were taken by Ceone Dyck, 4th Year Human Nutritional Sciences student. To learn more about Ceone click here or follow her on Facebook.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Celebrating the International Year of the Pulse

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Image purchased from Shutterstock.

With all of the buzz around pulses, you may have heard that 2016 is officially the international year of pulses (pulse farmers, vegetarians and vegans everywhere applaud)! You might however be wondering – what does this even mean? By declaring 2016 the international year of pulses, leaders in food production (like FAO) and health promotion (like Dietitians of Canada) will be placing pulses at the top of their agenda. AKA the major frontrunners in nutrition, agriculture, and food security are teaming up to promote and celebrate the nutritional, economical, and environmentally sustainable benefits that pulses have to offer. Let’s learn more.

WHAT THE HECK ARE PULSES?

We get this question all the time. Pulses are a part of the legume family (a plant whose fruit is enclosed in a pod); however the term “pulse” refers only to the dried seed. This includes a wide range of beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils. You might also recognize them as those hard colourful little seeds lying in half empty bags in the back of your pantry that you probably had a plan for at one point. It’s time to resurrect that bag my friends. And, we’ll teach you how to use them too.

1 7 13 15
LET’S GET COOKING

What I love most about pulses is that they are versatile. Legit, they are like little chameleons when added into dishes. Pulses can be used in so many different menu items from side dishes to main courses to dessert (that’s right, DESSERT!). Pulses are fairly neutral in taste, therefore they are well equipped to take on a wide variety of flavour palates. This means they can be used for savoury items, like roasted butternut squash hummus , or chickpeas with roasted cumin masala, but they can also be transformed into super sweet desserts such as cookies, cakes, or brownies (stay tuned for an upcoming recipe).

Another great feature of pulses is that they are super filling because they come loaded with fibre and generally have a higher protein content than most other plant foods. If you’d rather ease your way into the world of pulses, a great way to begin is by replacing half of the ground beef or turkey in your favourite chili or soup recipe with a can of lentils, black beans, or kidney beans. Trust me, your wallet will thank you. Beef lovers, take note: the price of ground beef has gone up 41% over the past three years, rising from an average of $4.02/lb in April 2012 to $5.70/lb in April 2015. Yikes!

If you’re like me, and you’re constantly on the go, a great idea is to keep a few cans of your favourite beans or lentils in your kitchen cupboard that are ready to use on the fly. Remember to always drain off the liquid and rinse the product with cold water before use.

If you’ve got a little extra time to spare for prepping, you could opt to buy dried pulses and cook them yourself over the stove or in a crockpot. This method is a bit more time consuming than using canned pulses, however it also eliminates extra consumption of sodium and additives – which is always a plus! If I’m going this route, I typically batch cook a large quantity of pulses and freeze them in plastic baggies in one cup portions. Other times, we might use a pressure cooker to cook down larger pulses especially for traditional Punjabi cuisine. Pressure cookers can be scary (trust me, I used to think it was a torture weapon) but once you get the hang of things it really reduces cooking time!

Each pulse requires a different cooking method. Some (like chickpeas) are best cooked when soaked the night before and others like red lentils can be cooked in a matter of 18 minutes. To learn more about cooking pulses, click here for downloadable guide. Or press play to learn how to cook dried lentils:

Here are a few of our favorite pulse recipes from around the web:

This blog post was written by Ceone Dyck, 4th Year Human Nutritional Sciences student. 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

 

 

 

 

 

Real Talk: The Raw Food Diet

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Photo purchased from Shutterstock

Alright, raise your hands: how many of us have seen something on social media recently with a photo of a happy, fit-looking model, and the words “detox” or “cleanse” thrown somewhere in there and thought, “Oh, wow. I’ll have what she’s having”? In today’s age of social media, health fads have the ability to spread faster than ever. And us evidenced-based nutrition folks don’t like it. With all sorts of information now at our fingertips, it can be difficult to navigate through to find sources that are valid. That’s the purpose of this blog post.

The Raw Vegan Diet or also know as the Raw Food diet is a trend that is loud and clear on our radar. Actually, it’s on our front door step. Let’s learn:

What is it?

The Raw Vegan, or Raw Food diet consists of eating plant-based foods that have not been cooked, or that have been dehydrated at a very low temperature (usually not higher than 40 degrees Celsius). This is (falsey) based on the premise that cooking destroys enzymes and nutrients that are essential for human health, as well as can “produce toxins that accumulate in the body”.

Wait, is this true?

Well, there are some truths, however, don’t hop onboard just yet. Yes, cooking can destroy some nutrients in fruits and vegetables such as vitamin C. However, many nutrients actually become more bioavailable, or easily absorbed and used by the body after being heated at a certain temperature. This includes some good stuff such as lycopene in tomatoes and red peppers, and beta carotene in carrots and sweet potato.

Cooking = not a bad thing. 

Cooking vegetables also helps to break down tough cell walls in plants which releases nutrients that would otherwise be inaccessible to the body. This, in turn creates less work for your digestive system (ie. spinach). Many people who have switched to a raw food diet report concerns with bloating and gas due to the excess fibre content associated with consuming large amounts of fruit and vegetables. No fun.

There is one nutrient that would be very difficult to obtain from a raw vegan diet, Vitamin B12. This micronutrient is found mostly in meat, or fortified foods – neither of which are allowed in a raw vegan diet. Deficiency of this particular vitamin leads to a host of problems including fatigue, weakness, memory loss, and depression. Not fun. Not fun at all.

What about those enzymes? Don’t I need them?

Yep, cooking does indeed denature some enzymes, which are made up of proteins. This means that they unfold and unravel so that they can no longer function properly. But guess what? These enzymes are no match for stomach acid either. Raw or cooked, proteins in food will get denatured so that the body can break them down into building blocks to use for other things. We are fully capable of producing all the enzymes we need. Our bodies are smart like that!

Show me the money. Cost?

With the rising cost of produce in Canada, the raw food diet simply isn’t economical. Since fruits and vegetables are lower in calories than other food groups, you would have to eat a much larger volume to meet your required energy intake. Therefore, you would have to buy way more (can you imagine a professional hockey player on this diet? No!). If you live somewhere where most fresh fruits aren’t in season in the winter, you’re not only paying more for imported produce, but increasing your carbon footprint due to the transportation of these foods. Those instagram collages of pretty blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are worth the double-tap but can cost a fortune.

What about the benefits?

Many raw vegans claim to feel more energetic, and have lost weight loss since starting this diet. Swapping out certain processed foods for more fruits and veggies will do that for ya. Indeed, eating more fruits and vegetables is great, and we should definitely take advantage of the nutrients that raw food provides (check out these easy recipes for Avocado Chocolate Mousse, Energy Date Balls, and Tropical Green Smoothies)! However, restricting yourself to only raw foods could really limit your variety. It would mean excluding many vegetables that have SO MUCH to offer, like root vegetables, squash, and pulses which have formed the staple diets of various cultures for centuries. I mean, how would we have survived the Great Depression without potatoes?

Despite individual testimonies, there is no evidence that shows the long term effects of a raw diet on the body. On the flip side, fire has been used for cooking for hundreds of thousands of years! Many anthropologists believe that our brains would not be as developed as they are today if it weren’t for the switch to the consumption of cooked food. Gotta love the industrial and agricultural revolution.

At the end of the day, when it comes to most of us, the best diet is no diet.

It’s all about balance

At the end of the day, when it comes to most of us, the best diet is no diet. All foods provide energy and nutrients. Eating a variety of whole foods; cooked and uncooked is the best way to ensure that we get the proper amount of nutrients we need to thrive. Our bodies will take care of the rest! When in doubt, consult with a Registered Dietitian before starting any new meal plan. They’ll tell you what’s up!

To learn more about our thoughts on detoxes, click here.

And, before peacing-out check out the video below created by Registered Dietitians Abbey Sharp and Abby Langer. I love the banter.

This blog post was written by Christy Lai, 4th Year Human Nutritional Sciences student. Follow Christy on Instagram, trust me, you’ll want to.

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

Hearty Meat Marinara

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeWhen guests come over for dinner, what’s your go-to-recipe? You know, the one that gets the oohs and ahhs. I tend to lean towards Italian cuisine. I mean, WHO DOESN’T LOVE PASTA? Pasta tends to receive a lot of negativity – you know, it’s just carbs, right? No way! Pasta is actually very versatile and can be super nutritious. Most enriched varieties come with B vitamins and iron. Not to mention it’s hella economical.

What to buy?

When choosing pasta look for something that offers you at least 4 grams of fibre per serving. Next, check out the ingredient list. Go for a pasta that has the word whole grain written as the first ingredient. If you’re not quite ready for whole grain pasta (don’t worry, I get it) then I recommend starting slowly. Mix in half wholegrain with half regular pasta. Baby steps are all G around here. I tend to enjoy spaghettini as it’s slightly thinner.

So we’ve got the right pasta in the shopping cart. It’s also important to pay attention to how you dress your pasta. If you prefer to use a ready-made pasta sauce be weary of the sodium content. This marinara is stuffed full with yummy vegetables, flavourful spices and for protein I opted to use a lean protein – ground turkey. You could also use lean ground beef or soy protein.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Okay. Rant over. Recipe below!

Hearty Meat Marinara
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Ingredients
  • 1½ tbsp canola oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 whole yellow onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced (keep the skin on)
  • Large handful mushrooms, diced
  • ¾ - 1 lb ground meat (lean beef, turkey, chicken)
  • 1 28oz can whole tomatoes
  • 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup water or vegetable broth
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp basil
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp parsley
Instructions
  1. In a large pot add canola oil, onions and garlic. Cook for a few minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add in green pepper, celery, zucchini and mushrooms. Cook for 5-8 minutes until softened over medium heat.
  2. Place cooked veggies on a plate and set aside. In the same pot brown your meat with salt and pepper to taste, about 3 minutes.
  3. Pour in whole tomatoes (mashing them each with your hands), crushed tomatoes, and water/broth.
  4. Add salt, black pepper, sugar, basil, oregano and parsley. Add in plated veggies. Stir to combine and simmer over very low heat for 30 minutes.
  5. If you would like, feel free to blend the sauce for a desired consistency using an emersion blender.
  6. Voila!

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita 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

 

Red Thai Curry with Tofu

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeRemember a few posts ago I talked to you about living in Winterpeg, Manisnowba (Winnipeg, Manitoba). Well, the past two weeks have been cold. Like, hella cold. What’s a girl to do? Make curry! Curries are enjoyed all over the world and although they may appear complicated, they don’t have to be! Plus, during these winter months I find a bowl of curry just heats from the inside out.

I love many variations of curry but this winter I find myself cooking quite a bit of Thai inspired dishes (ahem, husband, please fly me to Bangkok). I love the richness of coconut milk, the flexibility in produce that I can use and the aroma it leaves in my home.

For this recipe my veggies included:

  • Sweet potato
  • Red Bell Pepper
  • Yellow Bell Pepper

As far as fat goes, I chose to use canola oil. As many of you might gather, it’s one of my staple liquid fats around the house. But that doesn’t mean you have to follow my suite. Other fat options include:

  • coconut oil
  • grapeseed oil
  • olive oil
  • avocado oil
  • camelina oil

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

You can certainly try your hand at making your own curry paste – that’s something I haven’t ventured into just yet. Or, you can purchase a ready-made paste such this product by Thai Kitchen. Now, if you fancy other veggies or proteins, the options are endless:

  • Onion
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Snow peas
  • Mushrooms
  • 2 chicken breasts, cubed
  • Edamame beans
  • etc.

Once you’ve tried this recipe. Try it again and get creative with all types of ingredients and spices.

Nita Sharda

Easy as ONE, TWO, THREE.

Okay, okay. Rant over. Recipe below.

Red Thai Curry with Tofu
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 4-5
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 1 tbsp cilantro stalk, minced
  • 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 1 ½ cup cubed sweet potato (leave the skin on, fibre! This is about 300 grams)
  • ½ red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 800ml low sodium vegetable broth
  • Pinch of salt, black pepper and red chilli flakes (all optional)
  • 1 can coconut milk (14oz or approx. 400ml)
  • 1 cup tofu, cubed into 1” pieces (medium-firm or firm)
  • ½ lime
  • Cilantro, to garnish
Instructions
  1. In a medium sized pot heat canola oil, ginger, cilantro stalk and red curry paste. Heat over low-medium temperature just until the ginger and cilantro stalks begin to sizzle.
  2. Add in cubed sweet potato, red bell pepper and yellow bell pepper. Give the mixture a whirl ensuring the paste has smothered all the veggies. Cook for 5 – 6 minutes on medium heat ensuring you’re stirring the contents every minute or so.
  3. Pour in vegetable broth. Add in your desired pinch salt, black pepper and red chilli flakes.
  4. Once the vegetable broth has come to a boil, allow the sweet potato to be cooked through until they are soft. About 12 minutes.
  5. Once potatoes have been cooked, turn the heat down to low-medium and pour in coconut milk. Allow the mixture to heat through.
  6. Using a potato masher, mash some of the mixture to create a thick curry. Or if you prefer, feel free to blend a portion of the curry using an immersion blender or any other blender you may have.
  7. Gently add in tofu cubes, juice of ½ lime and cilantro.
  8. Serve.

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

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad Bowl

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Who knew winter veggies could be so colourful?

Earlier this week on the blog we shared some tips on how keep things “fresh” when it comes to salads. If you missed that post, click here. This time around we’ve enlisted other veggie varieties to create a salad.

This time around I opted to roast butternut squash for a nutty flavour that just-so-happens to be pretty to look at. Butternut squash is particularly rich in beta-carotene which is what gives the flesh a bright orange colour.  In our body beta-carotene is tactfully converted to vitamin A. This under-rated nutrient imparts anti-cancer benefits, helps our immune system, acts as an anti-oxidant and helps to fight signs of aging (yes please!).

Side note: I actually use frozen pre-chopped butternut squash. Frozen produce is often priced well and the nutrient content is just the same. With our busy schedules I often don’t have the time (or strength) to cut through a squash. Now that’s a convenience food I’m down for. 

For the starch component I opted to use wheat berries. New to this grain? Actually, you’re not! Wheat berries are intact WHOLE-wheat kernels! That’s what your all-purpose and whole-wheat flour are milled from. Once cooked (basically you boil the crap out of them) they have a mild nutty flavour that most of us can enjoy. This whole grain is great in a salad because it has a chewy texture that holds it’s shape (aka it won’t get soggy on you). Because wheat berries go through  minimal processing they retain a lot of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants making it an A+ choice for your salad.

Side note: I got my hands on these beautiful wheat berries when I was at Canola Harvest Camp visiting a grain elevator. I made friends with a fellow farmer and she hooked me up with a stash. Score!

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Now in the last post we talked about how you should dress your salad. Here, I’m going to get you out of your comfort zone to make a creamy salad dressing using seeds. Yeah! Pumpkin seeds! The inspiration for this dressing came from a plant based blog My New Roots. The final product is a really interesting one – the dressing has a grittiness to it and tastes lovely on the bed of veggies. It won’t drizzle like a typical dressing so don’t be alarmed.

Okay, okay. Enough with the nutrition rant. Look below to learn more about how I assembled the salad:

Roasted Butternut Salad Bowl
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Ingredients
  • ½ cup wheat berries
  • Butternut squash, cubed (use as much as you would like)
  • Kale
  • Red cabbage, shredded thinly
  • White kidney beans or cannellini
  • Green onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 - 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • ¾ water
  • Pinch of salt and black pepper
Instructions
  1. Rinse wheat berries under water to ensure they are clean.
  2. Bring 1¼ cup water to a boil on the stove. Add rinsed wheat berries to the boiling water and stir. Once water starts to boil again, turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour. You know the wheat berries are done when they are soft.You'll have enough wheat berries for 2 - 3 servings.
  3. While your wheat berries are cooking toss your butternut squash with olive oil and roast in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees celsius or until they are cooked through.
  4. Massage 1 tsp of olive oil into your kale. This helps to soften the kale so it's not so tough.
  5. Once your wheat berries and squash are ready, assemble the remaining salad ingredients into a salad bowl (shredded cabbage, white kidney beans, kale and green onion). Add as much or as little of each ingredient as you wish (yup, you decide what and how much you want).
  6. For the dressing: toast pumpkin seeds in a non-stick pan over low heat for 10 - 12 minutes until they become fragrant. In a food processor blend: cooled pumpkin seeds, garlic, maple syrup, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and water. Season as desired with salt and black pepper.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake
This recipe was created with the help of Christy Lai, 4th Year Human Nutritional Sciences student. Follow Christy on Instagram, trust me, you’ll want to. Food photography done by the talented Ceone Dyck. To learn more about Ceone click here or follow her on Facebook.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Roasted Cauliflower Salad Bowl

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

YUMMY YUMMY!

If you’re living somewhere that is currently in the middle of winter (read: “Winterpeg, Manisnowba”), cold and raw veggies is probably the last thing you feel like eating. On the other hand, many of us are trying to UP our veggie intake. Salad is a great way to increase the amount of fruit and vegetable servings in our diet, but it can get old pretty fast.

We have a secret though (shhh): with a little creativity, salad doesn’t have to be boring, and yes, they can be hearty. Here are some tips to creating your own salads that you’ll actually look forward to eating this winter (and no one will be accusing you of eating rabbit food! How rude!):

 salad doesn’t have to be boring

  • Warm it up. Roast some of your vegetables to bring out those warm, nutty flavours – you can play around with spices such as cinnamon, cumin or chili to add an extra dimension of flavour. When prepping ahead of time, pack the cooked portion separate from your greens so you can warm it up right before eating, and keep the greens from getting soggy. Veggies that love to be roasted: broccoli, beets, peppers, cauliflower, green beans, squash, zucchini, eggplant, and potatoes. Here we opted to roast cauliflower. Isn’t it gorgeous?

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

 

  • Stay balanced. Be sure to include carbohydrates (aka carb) and protein in your salad if you are having it as a meal. Got that? IT IS NOT A MEAL WITHOUT CARB AND PROTEIN. Doing so will ensure that you feel full and that you consume a variety of nutrients (oh and it will keep you from reaching for that candy bar when hunger strikes).

    • Carb options: brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, potatoes, sweet potato, or squash.
    • Protein options: grilled or steamed chicken breast and salmon, tofu, beans, chickpeas, and lentils (Psst: 2016 is the year of pulses! More on that in a later post).
  • Eat the rainbow. We all know that we eat with our eyes first, but including a variety of colours not only makes your salad pretty, it ensures that you are also getting a variety of vitamins and minerals with each bite. Opt for dark, leafy greens as a base, and then add 2-3 other colours to the mix. Carrots, red cabbage, beets, pomegranate, and squash are all in season.
  • Dress to impress. When choosing a dressing, vinaigrettes are the better option, as they have less saturated fat than cream-based dressings such as caesar or ranch. If you prefer to purchase dressing rather than make your own, be sure to check out the ingredients list and choose a dressing that has simple ingredients that you can pronounce and would likely have in your pantry; such as oil, vinegar, and spices. Here’s a simple go-to canola oil dressing I love. So simple.
  • Fake it till you make it. If you’re a fan of creamy dressings, try using hummus, tahini (sesame seed paste), or plain yogurt as alternatives when making dressings.
  • Go nuts! Nuts and seeds are a great way to add healthy fat, protein, fibre and texture to salad. Try adding roasted and unsalted almonds, walnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds for extra crunch and flavour.

Whew! The possibilities are endless when it comes to “ a salad”. The best way to avoid getting stuck in a rut is to experiment and see what works best for you.

ANYWAY, here is a cozy and delicious winter salad to get you started:

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Cauliflower Salad Bowl
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Ingredients
  • Kale
  • Edamame bean, steamed
  • Cauliflower
  • Quinoa, cooked
  • Pomegranate
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees celcius.
  2. Chop cauliflower into bite size florets. Lay onto a baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of black pepper, salt and any other herbs you'd like to use.
  3. Roast in the oven for 15 - 20 minutes until cauliflower is tender and beginning to brown.
  4. In the mean time, assemble your salad bowl by combining kale, steamed edamame beans, cooked quinoa and pomegranate. Add as much or as little of each ingredient as you wish.
  5. For the dressing, whisk together 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp each of maple syrup and white wine vinegar. Pour over salad and massage into your kale (this helps to tenderize and soften the kale).
  6. Once the cauliflower is ready, add it onto your salad bowl. Enjoy!
This blog post was written by Christy Lai, 4th Year Human Nutritional Sciences student. Follow Christy on Instagram, trust me, you’ll want to.
Food photography done by the talented Ceone Dyck. To learn more about Ceone click here or follow her on Facebook.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

How to Gain Momentum… and Keep it

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Plan SMART!

Here we are again: another year behind us, and a brand new one to start! Along with champagne and streamers, the new year brings resolutions, promises, and goals that we carefully contemplate and decide upon. It’s likely that at the start of this, or the start of some other year, you vowed to drop those extra few pounds, hit the gym more often, or get in those last few servings of fruits and veggies each day. Although it’s easy to make these promises to ourselves, it is not always as easy to keep them going throughout the year. So how do you make these new goals stick (and not just for a week or two!)? Here are some of my tried and true favourite ways of keeping on pulse with my goals.

  1. Set healthy goals
    First things first, when setting a goal, it should be SMART. Meaning, your goal should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely (see, SMART!). By making your goal specific, you are much more likely to understand which exact steps need to be taken in order to achieve your goal (example: “go to two yoga classes a week”). Next, make sure that your goal is measurable – meaning that you have decided upon a way to meaningfully and accurately track your progress. Eventually, you’ll be able to determine whether or not you met your goal. Remember though, there are a lot of creative ways to measure an accomplishment. Try not to get caught up with calories or weight (trust me, the media does that enough for all of us!). Instead, focus on how you feel and what you’re able to do – this can be much more rewarding and you will be less likely to feel discouraged or overwhelmed. Your goal must also be realistic and attainable. For instance, if you vow to climb Mount Kilimanjaro by the month’s end, but can only make it to the top floor in your apartment building’s stairwel, you might be left feeling disappointed. However, climbing up 6-10 flights of stairs is no joke! Lastly, decide upon a specific time span in which you will have either maintained or reached your goal (aka there’s a difference between one year and “eventually”). By setting this time span, you are less likely to lose your momentum by reminding yourself of your personal deadline.

Now..don’t you feel SMART!

  1. Get journaling
    Keeping a food journal is a great way to stay on track while keeping that all-important perspective. Multiple studies have shown that people who opt to jot down what they have been eating throughout the day are more likely to consume fewer calories and make more conscious decisions regarding their nutrition. Journaling is an excellent alternative to counting calories, because it encourages healthful food choices all day long and as opposed to reaching a specific number amount. Counting calories most often results in paying greater attention to quantity rather than the quality and wholesomeness of the food being consumed (and, I should add, enjoyed!). At the end of each day, journalers are given the opportunity to reflect on the quality of their consumption and evaluate personal progress.
  1. Call on your tribe
    This one is easy. Sticking to a goal can be especially difficult when going solo. Call on your tribe. It is very likely that they will be more than willing to lend support as you need (we all need cheerleaders from time to time!). Staying on track with a new healthy lifestyle or choice is greatly dependant on an individual’s immediate environment. Call, text or message your buds.
    _________
  2. Move..and then move some more
    One of the best ways to maintain that positive attitude and stick to your healthy eating goal is to get up and move! Regular exercise, even a quick power walk each day, can really help in maintaining that initial motivation. Pick any type of activity (or several types) that you personally enjoy – this is important for long-term success. If regular trips to the gym aren’t your thing, no sweat (in the metaphorical way…). Join a walking group, dance or join a recreational team! These are great ways to get your heart pumping and meet new people who may have similar goals as you. Personally, I love to walk and run outside (weather permitting, but of course), but I also enjoy completing a couple weight circuits at the gym each week for an extra challenge. Variety is key to keep it fun and interesting! DID I MENTION when we move our body, we release feel-good hormones, YAASSS (See, it’s a win win!).

 WIN WIN! 

  1. Be Kind
    Above all else, remember to be kind to yourself when setting your new goal. I get it…it’s hard to see the end from the beginning. But we must try. Slip-ups are inevitable – we’re all human! Don’t get stuck on these setbacks or beat yourself up. In fact, research shows that these “slip-ups” don’t prevent people from reaching their goal or forming a habit. Welcome these moments as an opportunity for self-reflection.

So that’s all for now. Cheers to a happy & healthy new year!

This blog post was written by Ceone Dyck, 4th Year Human Nutritional Sciences student. And the pretty photo (see above) was also taken by her. To learn more about Ceone click here or follow her on Facebook.

 

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Super Seedy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeHave you ever experienced that moment when you perfect the most incredible recipe? I have. It was a great feeling but one that certainly came with a lot of errors, epic-fails and me wracking my brain to problem solve. The issue was I kept getting a cookie that was too dense and too “hard”. After altering the recipe (five times) and most importantly decreasing the baking time, I got it. PS it totally pays to have friends like Jenn and Courtney who offer up baking advice! Here it is…the perfect Super. Seedy. Chocolate Chip. Cookie.

Oh and hey mama’s! You can send these little guys to you children’s school. It’s loaded with protein but it totally no-nut friendly!

What are some things that I love about this cookie?

  1. Vegan friendly. ‘Nuff said.
  2. Flax-water Replacement. Instead of using an egg to bind and moisten my cookie, I used a flax-water replacement. Yup, that’s right you can use 1 tbsp ground flax meal + 2.5 tbsp water to replace one egg. Voila!
  3. Seedy. Healthy and compact, seeds are amazingly nourishing. They often packed with  protein, fibre, iron, vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. In this cookie I use: hemp hearts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.
  4. Sweet, but not too sweet. I originally started off this recipe using 1/2 cup each of sugar and brown sugar. Coupled with the chocolate chips, it was just way too sweet for me. I also knew that if I offered it to my niece with reduced sugar, she probably wouldn’t notice. So why bother? I reduced the sugar to 1/3 cup of white and brown sugar and it’s great.
  5. Healthy fats. I chose to use a plant-based fat, canola oil, for this recipe. There’a s few reasons why:
    • Canola oil is extremely neutral in taste. This means, the flavors from your ingredients are never masked.
    • I’m a prairie girl. Using canola oil means I’m supporting my local economy and most importantly our local family-farmers. Did you know, canola oil is 100% Canadian.
    • Canola oil is economical – yes, this Dietitian is on a budget!
    • Lastly, canola oil means more to me than it simply being a fat. Towards the end of my summer I was invited to join the Canola Eat Well team at Canola Camp. I learned a lot about the agriculture industry that I didn’t know about before. A few things: growing canola allows farmers to nourish their soil (it gives back nutrients), it sustains our bees that are often busy producing honey for us and provides livestock with high quality protein for their feed. Quite honestly canola is life-sustaining. I’m still working through my journal (and brain) to really articulate what my experiences were like at camp to share with you, so stay-tuned.
      • Recipe tip: did you know that when a recipe calls for a solid fat to be melted you can often use canola oil instead? This works easily for cakes and muffins. Use this conversion chart.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeIn the mean time, bake these cookies. Pour yourself a glass of milk.

Enjoy.

Super Seedy Chocolate Chip Cookies
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 24
Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup canola oil
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup white sugar
  • 2 tbsp flax meal
  • 5 tbsp water
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp hot water
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup white flour
  • ½ cup large-flake rolled oats
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ⅓ cup chocolate chips (dairy free for vegan option)
  • ½ cup dried cranberries or raisins
  • 1 cup seeds or nuts (your choice; I do a mixture of sunflower seed, pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Soak flax meal in water. Ensure you’ve mixed it thoroughly with a fork. Let it stand 5 minutes.
  3. In another small pinch bowl stir together baking soda in hot water. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl or in your stand mixer, combine canola oil, white sugar and brown sugar until well mixed.
  5. Add in your flax and water mixture. Stir to combine.
  6. Add in the baking soda and water mixture. Sitr to combine.
  7. In a separate bowl combine the remaining dry ingredients. Once thoroughly combined add this dry mixture to the wet ingredients. Give this all a whirl with your mixer or beater – be sure not to over-mix!
  8. Drop a spoonful of batter at a time onto a non-stick pan (I prefer to use parchment paper).
  9. With your fingers, lightly press the cookie-dough rounds so they are slightly flat (see photo above). These cookies wont run or expand much!
  10. Bake for 10 minutes (important: do not over bake).
  11. Makes approximaly 30 cookies.
Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Here’s your egg substitute made with flax meal and water!

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Please note all opinions in this post are my own. I have not received compensation for this post.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda