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
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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 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
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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

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
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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

#GNI Indian Style: Kaju Korma Sauce (vegan)

Up close and personal with this kaju korma.

Up close and personal with this kaju korma.

If you’ve found your way to this recipe post, consider yourself lucky. I was so thrilled to have Courtney Rae (The Fig Tree blog) bring her version of a vegan “butter chicken” sauce to the party I hosted. I asked Courtney if there was a way we could use her recipe as a dip to dunk roasted cauliflower. It’s a leaner take on traditional gobi pakoras (deep friend cauliflower). Courtney was up for the challenge and brought her A-game! We even saved a portion for the rest of my family to try. A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

The beauty with this kaju korma recipe is it’s versatility. For the girls night we enjoyed it as a dip but it can also be used as a sauce on top of chicken breast, a white fish or even roasted tofu chunks with a side of rice. Please people. Try it, eat it, love it, share it. It’s that good.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

The perfect garnish, cilantro.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and CakeHi Courtney! (yup, that’s her in the sweet purple dress) – thanks again for sharing your recipe with the world. *note: if you don’t have a chance to soak the cashews overnight or you don’t have a high-powered blender, simply bring a small pot of water to a boil, add cashews and simmer for about 10 minutes. They will be soft enough to blend into a smooth consistency regardless of the blender.

And now, enter drumroll…

5.0 from 1 reviews
Kaju Korma Dip (vegan)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 4 - 6
Ingredients
  • 1 block of pressed tofu or extra firm tofu, cubed
  • 2 tablespoon of canola oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped (or 1 large onion)
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 3 to 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of fresh grated garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of dried unsweetened coconut (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon of garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1-14 ounce can of crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce (no sodium)
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 cup of raw, unsalted cashews (soaked over night or boiled)
  • 1 and ½ cups of water, divided
  • ½ teaspoon of garam masala
  • ¼ cup of cilantro
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 375'F. Toss the tofu cubes with a bit of oil. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté until golden brown (about 15 minutes). Add the cumin seeds and cook until they start popping (about 30 seconds).
  3. Add garlic and ginger and sauté about a minute.
  4. Add turmeric, ground coriander, ground cumin, 1 teaspoon of garam masala, cayenne pepper, and shredded coconut. Heat through until fragrant (about a minute).
  5. Add crushed tomatoes and sea salt. Add in ½ cup of water and 1 teaspoon of sugar and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool slightly.
  6. In a blender, add the remaining cup of water and the soaked cashews. Blend for one minute or until creamy. Add in the cooled tomato spice mixture. Blend another minute or until well combined.
  7. Place back in the pan and add the final ½ teaspoon of garam masala. Simmer over low-medium heat to heat through. Add the baked tofu and simmer for another 5 to 6 minutes. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with basmati rice. Enjoy!

Kaju Korma_platedKaju Korma_all eating

Before you leave, check out this fun stop motion video about the girls night in I hosted, trust me you, you’re going to want to see it! It’s pretty darn cute if I don’t say so myself!

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

#GNI Indian Style: Fudgy Coconut Ladoo

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

Yes, dessert first! I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I prefer to always let my guests know that a dessert will be served. If the dessert is all set to be eaten, I don’t mind plating and having it available to my guests to eat. First. I know what you’re thinking: won’t they fill up on dessert and not eat the meal? Maybe, but maybe not.

Here are a few reasons why I choose to serve dessert first. For starters: I hate it when guests choose not to eat dessert because maybe they reached their “fullness” cue shortly after dinner. That’s fair. And, I’m not one to force anyone to have dessert because chances are, it may not make them feel well (even if it happens to be a low calorie dessert such as fruit). Secondly: I believe in offering people choice. Simple as that. And lastly, for those caring for young children, serving dessert first or with a meal takes the reward factor out. Children shouldn’t be coerced into eating their meat, veggies, milk etc because they’ve got a dessert waiting for them. Serving dessert with a meal and avoiding using it as a reward are big leaps of faith, but the return is amazing.

MOVING ON.

For the GNI my friend Courtney Rae of ‘The Fig Tree’ blog brought two items. One of them happens to be this easy and yummy Fudgy Coconut Ladoo. Imagine a ball of coconut goodness with a touch of cardamom that hits your sweet spot but without driving you into a sugar crash. The original recipe was created by a lovely vegan food blogger, Richa. She has recently launched her first cookbook titled Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen: Traditional and Creative Recipes for the Home Cook. If you want to get your hands on this baby, click here. In the mean time, whip these babies up yourself by clicking here to visit the recipe details on Richa’s website

Spotted! Christine and Jennifer Ashley (‘Pretty Little Details’) with the uber delicious ladoos. They were all gone!

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Before you leave, check out this fun stop motion video about the girls night in I hosted, trust me you, you’re going want to see it! It’s pretty darn cute if I don’t say so myself!

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Fit Story: HEAL with Chinwe

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

Photos by Bree-Ann Merritt Photography

To keep things interesting on the Carrots and Cake blog, I’ll be showcasing local “Fit Stories”. This is your chance to learn about local exercise gurus and fitness opportunities available in Winnipeg. I often find when I’m counselling clients, we talk a lot about moving the body. So, what better way to share information about local experts than by being able to offer their unique stories on the blog. I’m so humbled that Chinwe Asagwara of Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) is joining me for round one!

Chinwe is a personal friend of mine, and, she also happens to be my personal trainer. After a back injury that left me demotivated, weak and actually really sad I decided it was time to get strong. I remember a time when reading a book for twenty minutes would cause week long pain. Something had to change. We all have different reasons for being active. My desire to participate in regular physical activity has very little to do with my body size. I’m a petite woman (just like my mama, and my grandmama) and I’ll likely always be this way. I choose to engage in exercises that will push my body in unique ways so that it can stay strong for years to come. Coupled with yoga, barre and running I feel like I’m honouring this body of mine to do what it does best. To be well. To just be well. Oh! And if you can’t tell, Chinwe is the one in full-sleeve blue top.

How did the birth of HEAL come to be? Was it a big decision?

I feel that the birth of HEAL was an organic progression over time. I dabbled in private practice for nutrition services soon after graduating from my dietetic internship program in 2011. At the same time I began personal training. I quickly found that my personal training clients required nutrition support to get the full benefits of their training programs. The same applied to my clients who came to see me for nutrition, starting an exercise program was something that would benefit their nutrition goals. I always had a vision of providing my clients with both nutrition and exercise support to be as healthy as they could be. In my first few years of working as a dietitian and personal trainer I worked for larger fitness facilities. I felt this limited my ability to provide services the way I really wanted to. I’m now able to work with the whole person, physically, mentally and emotionally. Eventually I made the decision to start my own business, and HEAL was born.

On the blog, I shared my personal food philosophy. Do you have a personal food philosophy or something you “eat by”?

If I had to describe my personal food philosophy I think of words like balance, moderation and preparation. When I am not training for a physique competition I like to include variety. To me this means eating from all four food groups, with room for a few extras. I love to see color on my plate, fresh vegetables in a tasty kale salad topped with red and yellow peppers, sunflower seeds, avocado and goat cheese for example. I am a meat eater, choosing lean cuts such as chicken and turkey, extra lean ground beef for a yummy tomato based sauce to put over pasta, typically whole wheat, but maybe white if I feel like a change. One of my favorite snacks is fresh raspberries with yogurt, I love other dairy products such as cheese and yogurt, oh ya and ice cream here and there too! I also love traditional Nigerian foods, which I grew up on as a child. Semo and draw soup, fried plantains, jollof rice and black eye beans are just a few. I have a phrase I like to share ‘all foods can fit, balance is key’ I truly believe this, and my meals are guided in this manner.

“If I had to describe my personal food philosophy I think of words like balance, moderation and preparation”

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

How come you use the phrase “Women and Weights” to describe your circuit classes instead of “Bootcamp”?

I find that a lot of women are intimidated by weight training, and believe it will create a masculine body. This belief is untrue. Weight training is so important for women. I wanted to create a program that emphasises the importance of weight training for women and draw attention to the benefits it can provide. I don’t think I intentionally avoided the term ‘bootcamp’ but rather wanted to emphasise the class was an opportunity for women to start weight training.

How does the “health at every size” approach fit into your company?

I try to emphasise all the benefits of exercise and balanced nutrition, which is not limited to a person’s body shape or size. Exercise and balanced nutrition have benefits such as a reduced resting heart rate, improved blood sugar control, increased total body strength, improved flexibility, increased energy levels and improved sleep just to name a few. That being said, weight loss can also be a beneficial result of exercise and balanced nutrition. We know that a BMI and waist circumference above normal ranges places them at higher risk for chronic disease. I do not feel this should be ignored, so as a Registered Dietitian and Certified Personal Trainer this is always something I look at and assess when starting with a new client. It is also a measure of assessment as a client moves through a training or a nutrition action plan. But if focusing on weight does not serve as a positive motivator for my client, we simply do not focus on it, rather all the other benefits I’ve mentioned.

Is HEAL geared at a particular population or gender?

HEAL is for everyone and anyone, and body size, shape and fitness level. The goal of HEAL is to help people become more active, and more importantly maintain that new level of activity.

Many people juggling full time work have a tough time scheduling in physical activity AND eating well. It’s not easy. Do you have any kitchen hacks you could share?

I think the main thing is to be prepared. If you have healthy and nutritious foods and snacks at your finger tips healthy eating can be made a little easier. Choose a time during the week (it doesn’t have to be the weekend) to plan, shop and prepare your meals and snacks. It pays to invest a couple hours at one time, to eliminate the need to cook and prepare foods during the week – big time saver! If this is new for you, start simple. For example breakfast can be a hardboiled egg and a piece of toast. Eggs can be boiled for the week, peeled and kept in the fridge – easy! Even those mornings you are rushed and in a hurry, you can grab it and go.

Lunch, again – keep it simple! Cruise the vegetable section of your grocery store, there are so many awesome pre-made salads that can be great time savers. Grab some fresh vegetables to chop and keep in the fridge, maybe cucumbers, yellow peppers, tomatoes, red onion… the options are endless. In a large Tupperware container, throw in all your vegetables and salad mix, maybe add some chickpeas for added protein, sprinkle some cheese – there you go! For more preparation you can bake a few chicken or turkey breasts in the oven to be added to meals during the week. Prefer a warm lunch? Whip up some chicken quesadillas with that baked chicken and keep them in the fridge. Grab and go, a perfect match to your salad.

Utilizing cooking tools such as a slow cooker can be a time saver as well. Slow cookers allow for meals to be made without the fuss of watching the stove. It also makes a large volume of food that can be portioned and saved in the freezer for later in the week.

It’s Friday night, what’s Chinwe having for dinner?

That’s a tough one! It could be so many things. Friday evenings I typically move away from whatever I have prepared for the week and make myself and make whatever I’m craving for. The meal is usually based on the season as well. During the colder winter months I like to make hearty meals that warm me up. I love whole wheat rotini with a lean beef meat sauce, with a simple salad of romaine, tomatoes and cucumbers. I enjoy making chilli in my slow cooker or stovetop. I load them up with beans and vegetables. In the summer months I enjoy cold salads like fresh leafy vegetables with summer berries. I often make a quick and easy mini pizza topped with with cheese, tomatoes and fresh cilantro (I love cilantro!). I also like to make meals from groceries I picked up at the St. Norbert Farmers market. Last year a reoccurring favourite was grilled cheese sandwiches made with fresh baked bread and bison sausage.

To learn more about Chinwe and the services she offers, be sure to visit her site by clicking here. If you want to follow her along on Instagram, her handle is @healthy_eating_active_living. Stay tuned for an at-home workout that Chinwe specifically designed for Carrots and Cake readers!

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Soft Carrot Oatmeal Cookies #kidfriendly

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

C’mon, don’t you celebrate your birthday all month long?

Okay, I can’t possibly be the only one that celebrates birthday’s all month long.  Right?  Lucky for you, in lieu of this blog’s first birthday I also whipped up a cookie recipe.  Sorry, this recipe isn’t loaded with sugar, chocolate or copious amounts of fat.  Instead, this soft and well textured cookie is full of yummy carrot goodness and is a big hit not just with adults, but kids too!  My nieces love snacking on this cookie and their moms feel good offering it as a snack. That’s a win win situation if you ask me.

If you’re going to compare this cookie to an Oreo or Chip’s Ahoy, that’s just not fair. Simple homemade cookies can’t compete with hyper-processed and sugar laced foods. This cookie is whole grain and contains whole ingredients. Nothing fake here.

Simple homemade foods can’t compete with hyper-processed foods.

I opted to use honey as my primary sweetener. You can choose to use maple syrup or agave nectar if you wish. Note to mama’s and papa’s: if baby is less than 12 months, you don’t want to offer them honey. Use maple syrup instead.

I got the inspiration from these cookies via another blog. The original recipe can be found here. Thanks Amy!

4.0 from 1 reviews
Soft Carrot Oatmeal Cookies #kidfriendly
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 12 - 18
Ingredients
  • 1 cup quick cooking oats (source gluten free if necessary)
  • ¾ cup whole wheat flour (or, gluten free flour if necessary)
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp canola oil (or, whatever type of fat you prefer)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ c honey, maple syrup or agave (I used honey)
  • ¾ c grated carrots (about 1 medium carrot)
Instructions
  1. In a medium sized bowl, combine oats, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
  2. In another small bowl, whisk together the canola oil, egg, and vanilla extract. Stir in the honey until thoroughly incorporated. I prefer to use a hand mixer for this step.
  3. Add the wet mixture to your flour mixture. Don't over mix the contents - just enough to blend well. Then, fold in the carrots.
  4. As recommended by Amy, chill the dough for at least 30 minutes. (If chilling longer, cover with plastic wrap, ensuring it touches the entire surface of the cookie dough). This helps you out a lot when you start dropping the cookies onto your baking sheet.
  5. Preheat the oven to 325°F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  6. Drop the cookie dough into 15 rounded scoops on the baking sheet. (If chilled longer than 1.5 hours, flatten slightly.) Bake for 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Cool on the baking sheet for at least 15 minutes, and then place on a wire rack.
  8. Now, enjoy.

And again, here’s to raising a forkful of Carrot Pineapple Loaf and toasting to a very, very happy first birthday!

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Cooking with Courtney: Indian Spiced Briyani

Birdseye Briyani_Full

Photographed by Courtney of The Fig Tree

 

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to cook with my friend and fellow Winnipeg-based food blogger, Courtney of The Fig Tree. For many years now, Courtney’s eating lifestyle has primarily been vegetarian; however, after struggling with some tummy ailments related to food she limits her dairy intake and is now stepping into a vegan lifestyle. We wanted to learn more about each other, network and of course, have some “girl time”. What better way to bond than by cooking together?

I met Courtney in her beautiful downtown loft and by the time I left, her home smelled divine. I decided to show Courtney some tricks of the trade when it comes to preparing Indian cuisine. I’m a huge fan of one-pot-meals (I mean, who isn’t?) so we opted to make biryani.

Being of Punjabi descent, my mom seldom prepared this dish. It’s not so common in that part of India. I was only exposed to the dish in my adulthood and I would primarily prepare it with chicken for my husband to enjoy. Well, Courtney put me up to the challenge of veganizing the dish. I came, I delivered and man was it good.

To make this a complete meal with adequate protein, I added cubes of pressed tofu. You can also add in edamame beans if that’s up your alley. As far as the rice, I have tried this briyani recipe  with brown basmati rice and the final product was mushy. I’ve also tried using a fifty percent ratio of brown and white basmati rice and the final product was much better. In the end, do what’s best for you. If I’m opting for total white rice, then I typically make an effort to load up on veggies to bump my fibre content.

If you’re interested in viewing the full recipe for Indian Spiced Briyani with Tofu, just click here. Drop a comment and let me know how it turned out for you.

To learn more about vegan lifestyle and nutrition components to be aware of, subscribe to The Fig Tree for my nutrition series.

Courtney, thanks again for inviting me into your home. xoxo.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

 

2015: Taking the Weight Off Weightloss

Pictured above is a baked apple dessert my husband and I enjoyed before the countdown to 2015. Yum.

Pictured above is a baked apple dessert my husband and I enjoyed before the countdown to 2015. Yum.

Wow, what a year it has been. In 2014 I opened up to the cyber-universe and gave birth to this baby I call Carrots and Cake. How was your 2014?

And now, to think it’s January 2015! This means for many North Americans, the diet has been “on” (or not) for 3 weeks?  This time around, I encourage you to forgo those rather “hardcore” New Year resolutions for weight loss. Even with the best of intentions it can be hard to stick to a weight loss resolution because we often view excess pounds as the “bad guy”.  Focusing so intently on weight can actually backfire.

I often see people resort to intense and unrealistic exercise regimes, give up staples in their diet, experiment with cleanses and dangerous detoxes and limit themselves to only a few select food items.  The result is usually an epic fail, physiological harm to your body and a lot of self-loathing. Does that sound like fun? This year, be kind to yourself.  Perhaps work on evolving a past resolution or mindfully select one specific goal unrelated to weight loss.

This year, be kind to yourself. 

Small steps and simple changes are easiest to achieve and will make a big difference as you move towards a healthier you.  If you want to cut down on fat intake, you’re more likely to stick with a switch from whole milk to 2% milk versus going all the way to skim milk.  If your goal is to be more active, it will be more manageable to start exercising 2 days a week versus heading to the gym 5 days a week.

To make sure you’re successful in achieving your goals, enlist support from friends and family.  Often, when you tell others what your resolutions are, they can offer encouragement and accountability to help you get over any stumbling blocks along the way.

If you’re still contemplating a few different ideas for a resolution as you welcome February 2015, here are a few suggestions to  improve your nutrition (and hey, maybe the weight will change, maybe it wont):

  • Incorporate a salad into one meal every day
  • Pack your lunch for work the night before
  • Drink more water—purchase a 1L water bottle and try to get through 1 – 2L during your work day
  • Increase your fibre intake by incorporating whole grains into your diet and munching on fresh fruits and vegetables
  • During winter months, take that daily Vitamin D supplement
  • Try going “meatless” on Monday’s
  • Limit eating at fast food restaurants

Before signing off on this article, I’d like to publicly declare that my personal goal this year is in fact an evolution of a previous goal I set in 2014. And that is, to eat more fish. I’ll keep everyone posted on how I do.  Happy New Year!

Want to know more about my personal thoughts on “Detoxes”? Click here.

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Black Bean Quinoa Stew

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Beautiful photo captured by a fan of Carrots and Cake. Thanks Sleepwell Bedding!

During these warm winter nights, it’s nice to snuggle into bed with a warm mug of stew. Typically, stews centre around a cut or type of meat. They are full of body, flavour and oober satisfying. Now, as a huge proponent of plant based proteins I’m asking you: would you ever try a meatless stew? If the the answer is YES, then boy, you’re in for a treat!

Winter. Warm. Cozy. Perfection. 

The quinoa stew is straight up not very pretty to look at. But heck, the flavours are amazing and it’s the kind of stew that doesn’t make you feel heavy. What more? It’s pretty much a one-pot-meal; this means no fussing over multiple dishes and skillets. Easy peasy. And, it’s great for freezing.

I enjoy serving this stew when we have house guests over. I assemble bowls that are full of fun toppings such as cheddar cheese, feta, green onions, tomato and avocados. Guests can top their bowl of stew with whatever they like; it’s always a hit.

Okay, okay, the recipe. See below!
Original recipe can be found here.

Black Bean Quinoa Stew
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 5
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ⅔ cup uncooked quinoa
  • 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 - 14 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • ½ cup shredded white cheddar cheese
  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and carrot and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Toss in red pepper, cook for two minutes.
  2. Stir in garlic and quinoa and toast quinoa until slightly fragrant, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add broth, black beans, black pepper, cumin, and crushed red pepper. Add in tomato paste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in lime juice.
  4. Remove half the soup, and carefully purée in food processor or blender until smooth (another option may be to use an immersion blender for approx 15 seconds). I prefer to only blend a portion for more texture.
  5. Return to pan and heat 2 minutes. Divide among serving bowls and garnish with cheese and cilantro etc.

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

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda