From the bottom of my heart, Thank You

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Photographed by Curtis Moore.

The last few months have been a whirlwind to say the least.  My family experienced the birth of my baby niece—who, in so many ways is teaching me the virtues of patience, resilience and unconditional love.  My husband and I are embarking on a journey to become homeowners.  We bid farewell to my sister-in-law who found herself a love that has moved her south of the border. And I decided after many months of deliberation to bring to life Carrots and Cake—Balanced Nutrition Consulting.

As with any business endeavor, an entrepreneur has to think of a strong mission, values that are set in good faith, and objectives to forecast growth and prosperity. While all of this can be daunting, it’s endearing to know that I’ve had many helping hands guide me along the way.

I’d like to thank Jolene Olive, the creative genius behind this website.  She faithfully brought to fruition what I had imagined my website, brand and blog would reflect. To Sandra Carson for designing the perfect logo that I’m proud to showcase as a reflection of my business.  A warm thank you to Curtis Moore for snapping photos of myself that I’ve used throughout the website.  To my friends  Aasttha Khajuria and Prasan Patel of Baat Cheet for creating a profile video to help me share my story.

At the forefront of my success has also been my incredibly supportive circle of family and friends (ya’ll know who you are).  My husband–the source of my strength and on those days when I wonder why I am embarking on this unknown territory, he is relentless in motivating me to keep on keepin’ on.  I’m proud to have this man stand with me through the mountains and valleys of our lives.  This doesn’t happen often, but I am at loss for words when it comes to describing the role he plays in my life.  Babe, you’re my person and I love you. 

Thank you, Thank you! 

My girl Christine Eisma—this woman, while on maternity leave has faithfully researched food blogs and taught me the basics of using a DSLR camera.  I know one thing for sure—women on maternity leave have very little spare time. And so, I am ever indebted to Christine for taking the time to learn with me, to share with me and to experience this all with me.  Love you long time.

This journey would also not have been possible without the support I’ve received from my fellow colleague, Chinwe Asagwara. Like me, Chinwe is fulfilling her goal to independently launch a business that meshes the importance of healthy eating and active living (stay tuned Winnipeg).

There is one more special lady in my life that deserves applause: Jennie David for being a beautiful source of inspiration and for helping me cross my “T”’s and dot my “I”’s. I admire you in so many ways and likely more than you will ever know.

Going forward I hope to never lose sight of being thankful. Life is good and I consider myself blessed to have the opportunity to do the very things I love. Because really, there can be no joy without gratitude. 

                           – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Love Local, Love Manitoba

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’m a huge advocate for supporting local producers. This statement means that much more when you live in Manitoba; a part of Canada that faces extreme temperature changes and a very short growing season. But when has bad weather ever stopped Manitobans from doing anything?

This spring & summer, look forward to fresh local produce at Famers’ Markets across the city.  In fact, one of Manitoba’s largest Farmers’ Market has announced their opening on May 24th, 2014. Drum-roll please… it’s none other than the amazing Le Marche St. Norbert Farmers’ Market. When you get the chance to check it out, make sure you meet the many local producers and growers that are happy to serve this fine province.

At Le Marché St. Norbert Farmers’ Market, everything within sight will have been made right here in Manitoba – you can talk to the person who grew your dinner-table veggies, cared for the produce, and carefully construct drool-worthy pies.

“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy local. And that’s kind of the same thing.”

I personally like to go to the market slightly hungry; it allows me to munch on some fresh Kettle Popcorn, sample cookies, or a stalk of crunchy celery as I shop around and enjoy music from live entertainers.

The “go local” food movement is far beyond any trend or a temporary fad. It’s here to stay, folks. People all over Manitoba (and Canada) are becoming more skeptical about where their food comes from, how it’s cared for, and – more over – consumers want to know who is producing the food that nourishes their family’s bodies. When you buy local food, you vote with your food dollar for family farms, thriving communities, and nourishing food.

 Over the next few months, make it a goal—go local.
 For more information on steps you can take to source local foods, visit Buy Manitoba. For more about Farmers’ Markets across Manitoba, visit the Manitoba Farmers’ Market Website.

     – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Baked Oatmeal with Apple & Cinnamon

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

Quick n’ easy.

Breakfast. The most important meal of the day. No, it’s not an old wives tale or a myth. It’s a fact folks. In my practice I meet a lot of clients that just can’t stomach the idea of having a meal first thing in the morning. I always explain the benefits of breakfast very briefly, but also offer new and novel ideas. Some people have just over-killed “breakfasty foods” – you know the toast, cereal, porridge, eggs and sausages, the list goes on. I get it, it gets boring. But heck, think outside the box. I don’t care if you have a sandwich for breakfast or even leftover lasagna. Just have something that is balanced (aim for 3 food groups)! If breakfast for dinner is appropriate, why can’t we have “dinner” for breakfast? Sometimes, years of eating cereal or oatmeal the traditional way can get boring.

There’s also no harm is postponing breakfast either: such as, waiting until you’ve gotten to your office or had some time to really “wake up”.

–    Breakfast. The Most important meal of the day.    –

Other clients express that their morning is often really busy and they simply “have no time”. Being a rather busy-body myself, I can fully sympathize with this one. So what do I tell people? I encourage them to prepare breakfast the night before as they would for lunch. HERE is where this recipe comes handy. It’s a staple in our home and quickly devoured.

This recipe is a version of oatmeal, but baked. You can prepare it in advance and it will offer you 4-6 servings over the week. You can feel free to munch on it as a bar, or pour warm milk over it. Sometimes I like to throw in nuts, fresh berries, coconut or even a mashed banana to change it up. The ideas are truly endless. If you’re making this to serve a large group, you can easily double the recipe and bake into a 13″ x 9″ dish. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days.

4.0 from 1 reviews
Baked Oatmeal with Apples & Cinnamon
 
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Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cups Old Fashioned rolled oats
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds or walnuts
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries (optional: or add in shredded coconut, raisins etc)
  • 1 Apple, chopped
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 cups milk or milk alternative
  • 2 tsp Ground cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8" (2L) baking dish
  2. In a medium size bowl, combine oats, nuts, cranberries, chopped apple, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt.
  3. Once blended together, pour in milk. Mix well.
  4. Pour contents into the greased pan and bake until oats are softened and milk has absorbed. It usually takes about 45 - 60 minutes.
  5. Serve hot or cold.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Nita Sharda

            – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

 

Spicy Honey Roasted Chickpeas

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

Seasoned and roasted to perfection!

As you can likely tell from the few posts I’ve had since the birth of this blog, I’m a HUGE proponent of sourcing plant based foods as a source of protein. Where do I begin? Beans, legumes, lentils and nuts are packed with protein and heart healthy nutrients to keep your ticker in top shape!

This particular recipe for roasted chickpeas is ridiculously easy and incredibly tasty. What more do you want out of a recipe,  like really? If you’re new to beans, you can purchase them dry and boil until tender. Inspect your dried chickpeas before cooking, throwing out those that are shriveled or have broken skin. You might find some pebbles or twigs which can be discarded. For every cup of chickpeas, soak with 3 cups water. Chickpeas need to be soaked for at least four hours or preferably for 8 hours. To keep things easy, soak them overnight. Throw out the soaking water by putting chickpeas into a strainer and rinsing them well. This washes away the carbohydrates and sugars that cause gas. For more information on chickpeas, check out this article from Eat Right Ontario.

Or, you can easily find canned versions. If you’re going this route, be sure to rinse them thoroughly. Either way, ensure you allow enough time for the chickpeas to completely dry out, otherwise they may not roast nicely for this recipe.

I typically stash these in an airtight container in the fridge and nibble on the chickpeas a little bit at a time. Another way to enjoy this recipe is by tossing them onto a salad. They offer an added “kick” to any salad and a pretty awesome crunch.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Spicy Honey Roasted Chickpeas
 
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Ingredients
  • 1 28oz can chickpeas
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp honey (or agave nectar)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Drain, rinse and dry the chickpeas. You can also use a salad spinner to help them dry a bit faster.
  3. Mix the cumin, paprika, garlic powder and black pepper into the oil. Stir honey into this mixture.
  4. Toss this dressing onto the chickpeas until evenly coated.
  5. Spread the chickpeas in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 30 to 40 minutes. Check up on your chickpeas every 10 minutes and roll them around with a spatula.
  6. And, enjoy!

 

Carrots and Cake, Nita ShardaCarrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

            – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Smashin’ Potatoes

 

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

Smashed potatoes topped with Jalapeno Monterey Jack cheese

I’ve mentioned in a previous post, in our home we are not carb-phobics (intense fear of carbohydrates). Instead, we fully embrace carbohydrates as the primary source of energy for our body and brain.  In my practice I help misinformed clients understand the role of carbohydrates in a healthy diet and often spend time educating them on the wonderful benefits carbs offer. Typical carb foods can be rich in fibre, folate and iron.  You may even be surprised to know that 45 to 65 per cent of your daily calories should be coming from carbohydrate sources, especially if you’re an active person!

…we fully embrace carbohydrates as the primary source of energy for our body and brain…

Growing up, my primary “carb food” came in the form of an Indian flatbread known as roti. Other families may rely on rice, bread or potatoes as their main “carb” source. After living independently and being able to experiment in my own kitchen, I often gravitate towards whole grain breads, white and sweet potatoes, brown rice, soba noodles and whole grain pasta.

Onto the important stuff.

Here’s an easy peasy take on baby potatoes. Being a cheese lover, I decided to top these babies with Manitoba proud, Bothwell Cheese…the Cadillac of all cheeses (in my opinion).

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

Smash (gently) prior to baking.

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

Remember, purchasing local foods helps to sustain our economy and flourish our communities.

Smashin' Potatoes
 
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Serves: 3-4
Ingredients
  • 1lb Baby Potatoes
  • 2 tsp Canola Oil
  • 1 tbsp salt free seasoning (Greek, Italian, plain parsley etc)
  • Dash of cracked black pepper
  • ⅓ cup grated cheese (optional, use dairy free if vegan)
Instructions
  1. Bring pot of water to boil. Add in potatoes, and cook until fork tender.
  2. Drain water from the potatoes and line on a baking sheet that has been drizzled with the oil.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Smash each potato using a potato masher, your hand or even a fork.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes. Top with cheese, bake for another 2 minutes.

        – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Black Bean & Corn Enchiladas

More than any other type of cuisine, I must admit I adore Mexican inspired dishes. Perhaps in a previous life I was a Latin woman or this may all be thanks to a dear friend of mine, who happens to be part Mexican. Either way, it’s a win win situation.

I first discovered this recipe in the coveted Dietitians of Canada Cook! cookbook. I love that it’s a meatless dish and nicely pairs black beans and cheese, without it being too heavy.
Give the recipe a try and don’t forget to leave a comment!

Espero que tengas un buen día.

Carrots and Cake Nita ShardaI paired this dish with a simple guacamole and a side of corn tortilla chips proudly made in Manitoba (courtesy of La Cocina Foods). When time permits, it’s also very nice with a fresh salsa and chopped cilantro.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Black Bean & Corn Enchiladas
 
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Serves: 5 - 6
Ingredients
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1 ½ cups chopped red bell peppers
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 can (19 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup thawed frozen corn kernels
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp freshly group black pepper
  • 8 8" whole wheat flour tortillas
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • ½ cup light sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese
Instructions
  1. In a nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Saute red peppers and onion for 4 to 5 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes, beans, corn, chili powder and pepper.
  2. Divide bean mixture evenly among tortillas. Roll up burrito-style and place seam side down in prepared baking dish. Set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour and sauté for 30 seconds. Gradually whisk in broth and bring to a boil, whisking the entire time until thick—about 2 – 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream. Pour sauce over tortillas and sprinkle with cheese.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling.

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Just drizzle…

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Never, ever, ever forget about the guacamole.

 

       – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Detoxing the Detox

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Weighing in on the detox

Alas, winter is over. Spring is here (well, sort of). This also means summer is just around the corner and more than ever people are frantically preparing for that perfect beach body, brides are pressured to shed weight in honor of their big day, and others are given hope that a quick detox will result in a total transformation worthy of infomercial infamy.

If you’re on the search for that perfect detox, you don’t need to leave home. The human body was miraculously created with organs to facilitate exactly that: a natural process for detoxification all thanks to our livers, kidneys, and colons.

Be weary of products that promote weight loss after a “7 day detoxification” or a “30 day colon cleanse”.  Marketers strategically construct these products to appeal to those looking for an easy way out and sell people on the notion that they’ll somehow become healthier, thinner, happier, and more attractive after using such products. The pursuit of the perfect detox has become a million dollar industry that targets people looking for “a quick fix”.

–   The pursuit of the perfect detox has become a million dollar industry that targets people looking for “a quick fix”   –

Often sold in the form of a pill, tea, or loose powder—detox products’ claims often have very limited evidence to support their alleged grandiose changes. In fact, leading toxicologists give very little credit to these types of products; in some cases, detoxes can actually cause harm by disrupting our normal gut flora, exposing us to dehydration, and can also toy with our biological hunger cues. Many are laced with laxatives causing bowel urgency, leading people to believe this is somehow “cleansing”–it’s not, and it certainly isn’t natural.

It may seem like an old wives tale by now, but moderation is key. Rather than embracing this principle, our ‘slowly but surely’ health model is quickly being replaced by compulsiveness, extremism, and the impatience for instant gratification. We’ve all had moments of overindulgence and feeling the need to “reboot” how we eat, but don’t be swayed to believe any one product will transform your body or health for that matter.

The take away: a consistently healthy, well-balanced diet is the best “cleanse”.

        – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda