Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Butternut squash, chickpeas and hemp = amazing.

Butternut squash and chickpeas.

The best of both worlds when this subtle squash melds with chickpeas in this non-traditional take on hummus. I’ve tried few different variations of hummus including my Jalapeno Spiced Hummus and other store bought variations like Sabra’s Supremely Spicy Hummus (c’mon, I’m Indian aka I live for spice). But after seeing the Minimalist Baker’s version of Butternut Squash Hummus I just had to try it out. I didn’t have all of the same ingredients on hand so this is my adaptation. Seriously, I can never follow a recipe (jeeze).

What I love about this version of hummus is the thick consistency. It’s perfect as a dip but really I think it was destined to be used as a spread on wraps and sandwiches. Don’t you hate it when your sandwich spread leaves your bread soggy? Yuck! Fear not. This wont happen with this Roasted Butternut Squash hummus.

I have two other tid-bits to share about the recipe.

  • First, the garlic. ROAST THE GARLIC PEOPLE. The yield is a deep flavor that isn’t as overpowering as raw garlic tends to be. I know my bff Christine aka nurse-turned-photographer LOVED the taste of garlic. She’s actually rationing her hummus to keep it all week long. Yeah, that good.
  • Secondly, the hemp hearts (shout out to Just Hemp Foods) adds a lovely nuttiness to the entire product. Not to mention, these tiny but oober-powerful seeds help crank up the protein content and offer anti-inflammatory fats that we could all use a little more of.

And HELLO to all of you mama’s who try to get your little peeps to eat more veggies. They will never know there is squash in this hummus (sneaky, sneaky). But, that doesn’t mean you can’t tell them what’s in it! We can really only hide veggies from our kids for so long; educate your children about the meals you’re creating and they’ll be encouraged to try them!

Okay, okay. The recipe: 

 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup butternut squash, cubed
  • 5 cloves garlic, whole
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 15oz can chickpeas, rinsed + drained
  • ⅓ cup tahini
  • ¼ cup hemp heart
  • 5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and position a rack in the middle of the oven.
  2. Toss butternut squash, 5 garlic cloves and parsley with a drizzle of olive oil on a baking sheet.
  3. Roast squash for 20 - 30 minutes minutes, or until all squash is fork tender and the garlic is golden brown. I allowed some of my squash to really crispen up. Let cool 5 minutes.
  4. In your food processor or blender combine: squash, garlic, lemon juice, chickpeas, tahini, hemp hearts, olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin.
  5. Blend the mixture until creamy and smooth, scraping down sides as needed and adding more olive oil or a touch of water to achieve desired consistency.
  6. Serve immediately or chill in your fridge.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Now what are you gonna do with all that hummus? The options are endless: plop some onto of a salad, use it as a spread on sandwiches and wraps, eat it by the spoonful, dunk veggies into it or use it as a dip to compliment a cheese board. Kinda like I did over here for an upcoming collaboration with Bothwell Cheese (stay tuned). Drooooolllll.
Nita Sharda

If you’re need of more legume based recipes, check out:

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Chickpeas with Roasted Cumin Masala

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeHey, do you know what’s coming up? Diwali! November 11th marks the date for the “festival of lights,” which is celebrated all throughout India. Simply put, Diwali symbolizes the victory of light over dark, good over evil, and knowledge over darkness.

When our Lord Rama returned to his kingdom after defeating a demon, villagers lit oil lamps to welcome him home. On that same note, we celebrate Diwali by lighting candles, oil lamps and turning on household lights.

As a first-generation South Asian Canadian woman (what a mouthful!), I’m trying in my own way to develop our family tradition around this holiday. I have such fond memories of gathering around with my family listening to my mom recite a portion of the Ramayana (a Hindu scripture). If we were lucky, we would each get a small sparkler to dance around with.

Since I’m only starting to really experiment with Indian cooking as of late, I wanted to develop a recipe; something simple that I could make every year for Diwali for our family feast. So, you may ask, what did I come up with? Chickpeas with Roasted Cumin Masala! The magical ingredient in this recipe is the roasted cumin (how good does that sound?). It’s pretty easy to spend 15 – 30 minutes roasting a batch of cumin ahead of time, and this way you can incorporate it into other dishes.

How to become a cumin seeds roasting expert:

  1. In a nonstick pan add 1/3 cup of cumin seeds and roast at low-medium heat until they are a dark shade of brown and fragrant. It’s important to keep a watchful eye on your seeds to prevent them from burning. Tip: I find on my gas range it takes me about 15 – 20 minutes at a low setting to get the perfect roast.
  2. Immediately remove from heat and let it cool.
  3. Grind into fine powder using a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle.
  4. This can be stored in an airtight container for several months.

Now, you may need to visit a local Indian grocer or head down the ethnic aisle at a large grocery store chain to find Chat Masala and Tamarind Sauce. I use Chat Masala in a number of other dishes; actually, my husband loves a sprinkle of this spice mixture over his pizza! Adding Tamarind Sauce is completely optional. It will add a sweet and tangy flavor to the dish. I tend to go without this sauce but you may very well prefer it!

Nita Sharda

Here are some step by step photos I included, you know, just to help ya’ll out!

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

Okay, okay. On to the recipe but first,

A very Happy Diwali to you and your family. 

Nita Sharda

If you’d like to send your friends or family a custom Happy Diwali card visit Evite to peruse through their beautiful selection of customized cards.When planning an event, Evite is a great way to get friends and family together and we all know: life’s better together!  To add, Evite is providing an exclusive offer for Carrots and Cake readers to send 15 free Premium Thank You cards.  Use promo code: NSTHANKYOU15  (good through 11/30/15).

Okay, okay. The recipe! 

 

Chickpeas with Roasted Cumin Masala
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 4 - 5
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced thinly into rings
  • 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 19oz canned chickpeas, rinsed (preferably no added sodium)
  • 1 ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp each salt and black pepper
  • 1 - 3 tbsp ground roasted cumin (I prefer to use 2 tbsp)
  • 1 tbsp chat masala
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 roma tomatoes, diced
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • 1 tbsp tamarind sauce or chutney (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a nonstick fry pan or wok, heat canola oil with cumin seeds and onion over low-medium heat.
  2. Cook onion rings for 5 – 7 minutes or so until they become soft and translucent.
  3. Add in garlic, chickpeas and remaining spices. Stir the mixture to ensure chickpeas are coated well. After another 5 minutes add in diced tomatoes and squeeze juice from ½ lemon into the mixture. Stir to combine.
  4. Cook mixture until tomatoes have softened (but not mushy), about three more minutes. At this stage you may add in tamarind sauce if it's available to you.
  5. Serve over rice, with naan or with roti.

Nita Sharda

A very Happy Diwali to you!

This post is part of a sponsored campaign on behalf of the South Asian Bloggers Network  for Evite and I have received compensation for this post. All opinions are my own.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

#GNI India Style: Indian Chilli Tofu

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeHello! My oh my, it has been some time since my last post (insert *nervous laughter*) but that truly goes to show how ridiculously-out-of-control and crazy-busy this past summer was for myself and my family. Early on I had a chance to travel to the USA (Vegas, New York and Washington) and then my husband and I were knee deep moving into our brand, spankin’ new home. The boxes are unpacked but I’m left to slowly turn this sterile house into something that can feel more like home. 

To kick off my return to “the blog” I’m sharing a meatless recipe that features tofu—a pressed soy product loaded with fibre, anti-inflammatory isoflavones, healthy fats and lean protein. All good things. Tofu is a product that I often use in Indian cuisine to replace paneer (a traditional cheese). This is especially helpful for when I’m trying to bump up the protein content of my meal. If you’re new to tofu you might be scared but I’m here to tell you shouldn’t be!  Try tofu a few different ways before you really pull out the verdict, like in this Spiced Tofu Briyani.

The recipe for this chilli tofu was developed alongside my aunty who first introduced me to the dish as “Chilli Paneer”. It’s fairly heavy on using bell peppers but you could also substitute other veggies such as sliced mushrooms or peas. Let me know what you think!

By the way…this is the kind of dish that tastes even better the next day.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Indian Chilli Tofu
 
Ingredients
  • 1 brick of extra firm tofu, chopped into ½" pieces
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • ½ tsp whole cumin seed
  • 1 medium sized onion
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp chilli (or more as tolerated)
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 3 bell peppers, diced in 1 inch pieces (use yellow, green and red)
  • 1 ¼ cup crushed, canned tomatoes (preferably reduced sodium)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin (preferable toasted)
  • 2 tbsp fenugreek *optional
Instructions
  1. Place oil in a shallow pan (wok style) turn up the heat to medium. Once heated, add in cumin seeds. Be careful not to burn them!
  2. Add in onion. Once translucent, about 5 – 6 minutes, add in ginger and peppers.
  3. Add in spices: salt, chili, black pepper and turmeric.
  4. Cook for another 5 minutes until peppers are slightly tender but still crunchy!
  5. Pour in crushed tomatoes, sugar and water (water is added to create more of a saucy consistency; if you’re not a saucy person then you can omit this).
  6. Add ¼ tsp ground cumin and 2 tbsp fenugreek.
  7. Turn heat to a low simmer. Add in your cubed tofu, stir gently and be careful not to over mix. Cover your pan and simmer on a low temperature for 10 – 12 minutes. This allows all the flavor to meddle.
  8. The color should be bright and vibrant!
  9. Serve with roti, naan or rice. Best served with a side of plain yogurt.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Pardon my reach!

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: 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: Vegan Mango Lassi

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Pouring for my guests.

Every girls night needs a signature drink, right? Instead of opting for a boozy beverage I decided to take a twist on the traditional Mango Lassi and “vegan-ize” it. Lassi is a common beverage enjoyed in most parts of India. It isn’t always flavoured; in fact, my favorite type of lassi is actually “plain”! It’s perfect on hot days when you need something to quench your thirst and keep you cool. For those of you (myself included) who love dairy milk, you can easily swap out the ingredients as you wish! My girlfriends Courtney (The Fig Tree) and Chantal (Nutty 4 Nutrition) don’t do so well with cow’s milk so I was more than happy to accommodate their restrictions. And guess what? Everyone loved it!

The ingredient list as you’ll see is minimal and perhaps the most important ingredient of all is yogurt. When you peruse through other lassi recipes you’ll notice they almost all contain yogurt which helps to impart the slightly sour taste that you can’t help but love.
Carrots and Cake, Nita ShardaCarrots and Cake, Nita ShardaAs far as spices go, you can be as adventurous (or not) as you want to be. I love using similar spices as I would in my chai (tea) so I tend to stick with cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. I also added some saffron which is a commonly used spice among many Indian dishes. Because it can be difficult to come by and also extremely expensive I only used a small sliver for each serving.

You can slurp on this beverage as part of a healthy breakfast, post workout nutrition or simply offer it up to your guests at any time and for any occasion. Heck, serve it as a liquid dessert (that’s a great idea).

Happy sippin’ folks…and now, the recipe:

#GNI Indian Style: Vegan Mango Lassi
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Serves: 3 - 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 cups frozen mango, cubed
  • 2 cups soy yogurt, plain
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • ¼ - ½ cup water
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • Agave nectar (or honey) to taste *optional
  • Ice cubes
  • Saffron, for garnish
Instructions
  1. In a high speed blender (or large food processor) puree the mango until it is in liquid consistency.
  2. Add in yogurt, milk and spices. Blend for 45 seconds.
  3. Next, depending on how thin or thick you want your lassi, add in water. Be careful! Just add a little at a time until you reach your desired consistency.
  4. Pour lassi into glasses, add in ice cubes and one sliver of saffron to each glass.
  5. Serve and enjoy!

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeCarrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

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

Girls Night In: Indian Style (and, getting personal)

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For the past several months, I’ve had this craving to share a different side of my life on the blog. My Indian side, which really isn’t so much of a ‘side of me’ as it is a part of me that has been longing to be acknowledged. It’s how I walk, it’s how I talk, and – in its entirety, it’s who I am.  I remember a time when I would come home, look in the mirror and ask myself, “why is my skin brown?” or, “how come my food smells funny?” At that age, I didn’t understand or appreciate my Indian heritage. Admittedly, I hated it. I was young, and to me being different didn’t translate to being beautiful; to me it meant I didn’t fit in with the norm. I interpreted myself as being the odd-girl-out and therefore somehow less than my peers. But thankfully, my perspective on my heritage eventually changed.
Inidan GNI_SideNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

As I transitioned from childhood to my teenage years to now being a grown married woman, I have this deep desire to connect with what makes me Indian. A large part of that is what I eat and how I eat. I love looking into the mirror and seeing my nose ring sparkle, my long black hair is worn proudly, and on days I choose to wear a bindi, I sort through all my sachets to find the perfect one. Most of all, I love the opportunity to wear sentimental jewelry; like my mangal sutra, which symbolizes my marital status (you’ll catch a glimpse of it in photos, it has dark black beads around the chain, it’s kind of beautiful if I do say so myself!).

Okay, okay, moving forward…so what does this have to do with food and your life?

Alas, here is the idea: I want to share Indian and Indian fusion recipes in the way I grew up with them. Similar to the “Girls Night In” (GNI) series I hosted last year, I decided to host another GNI, Indian style! Guests included: Chantal of ‘Nutty for Nutrition’, Courtney Rae of ‘The Fig Tree’, Jennifer Ashley of ‘Pretty Little Details’, Sara of ‘Soul Nutrition Consulting’, Jessie of ‘One + One Designs’, and of course, my closest friend, Christine (who you’ve met before!), who’s my nurse friend turned amazing food photographer.

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

Thanks for putting this table together Sunayna!

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Two words: hella yummy!

Take a peek at the video below which was produced by SambaJoy Photo + Art. I hope you love it as much as I do! Stay tuned for recipe details on all of the amazing dishes we prepped and promptly demolished. We’ll be starting with dessert first. Yes you read that right, I said wrote that for real. Dessert. First.

Namaste.

– 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

Cheers to Spring “Cleaning” How You Eat

Above photo was taken by SambaJoy Photo & Art.

Above photo was taken by SambaJoy Photo & Art.

It’s here people. Spring. Is. Here.

As we bid farewell to our cold winter, we welcome all that the new season will bring to us. For many, spring marks a time for an annual “purge-my-closet”, a car tune up and more famously, we gear up to hit the shopping malls in race for the perfect new shoes, purse or even that pretty dress.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with any of this; but how many of us take this time to reflect on how we eat and where we can perhaps make a few improvements in our diet, if even one?

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you embrace spring with a sense of renewal and work towards a healthier you:

Reduce sugar by a third in baked good recipes. Now that’s a sweet deal. 

It’s no secret that foods that contain sugar can be part of a balanced diet, but too much of the sweet stuff can add unnecessary calories.  Be conscious about your efforts to reduce sugar intake. We certainly can’t completely omit sugar when we bake chewy cookies, moist muffins or sweet breads. But typically up to one third of the sugar can go missing without anyone noticing. If you’re going give this try, add a little extra cinnamon, vanilla or almond extract to add a hint of sweetness without the load of sugar.

Get intense flavor with less fat. 

When people want to reduce fat intake, they often jump the gun and eliminate cheese from their usual regime. C’mon, cheese is more than just F-A-T. Cheese provides muscled building protein, calcium and other nutrients too. Reduced-fat and low-fat cheese can be a smart choice for snack and sandwiches—look for something at 20% M.F. Because these types of cheeses don’t melt well and make for a tough or stringy casserole, try using a little less regular cheese in your usual recipe. Or, shred in highly flavourful cheese such as Asiago, aged cheddar or Parmesan.

Eat a variety of different fruits and vegetables. 

No one fruit or vegetable is so “super” that it can keep you healthy on its own. Don’t dwell on products that are labeled as “superfoods”; sometimes this phrase is used to market expensive foods or new trendy ingredients. Everyday (and affordable) produce such as broccoli, carrots or apples can be just nutritious.

Fibre up! 

Fibre can help to lower blood cholesterol and control blood sugar levels. This is called soluble fibre and is found in some vegetables, fruits and legumes. Other types of fibre, called insoluble fibre from some vegetables and fruit, whole grains and wheat bran, help keep you “regular” and may protect against colon cancer. How can you increase fibre?

  • Consume higher amounts of whole grains such as rolled oats, barley, quinoa and brown rice.
  • Replace at least half of the white flour with whole wheat flour in your recipes.
  • Add a few spoonfuls of bran, chia seeds and ground flaxseed to your cereal or yogurt.
  • Savor the peel—crunch into your apples and pears as they are.
  • Read the label—check for grams of fibre. A food labeled as “high in fibre” must have four or more grams of fibre per serving.
  • Try your hand at these Energy Date Balls that are loaded with fibre and will hit that sweet spot.

Whatever you decide, make it sustainable. Find ways to source help from a Registered Dietitian or your fan club (we’ve all got one: your spouse, sister, friend, child etc). This is one great way to welcome all that spring brings (and then, it’s summer).

This blog post was originally published as a guest post on PegCityLovely for my friend Natalie Bell. Visit her here!

SpringClean

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Celebrating National Dietitians Day #nutritionmonth

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

This photo is from a College of Dietitians of Manitoba video. See the full length video below. Aren’t those characters cute?

 

Once a year, a special day is dedicated to all dietitians across Canada. It celebrates dietitians as health care professionals, committed to using their specialized knowledge and skills in food and nutrition to improve the health of Canadians. Why have a Dietitians Day? Well, it’s a great way to spotlight the profession and reminds us that dietitians are the smart choice for advice on proper eating, good nutrition and healthy living.

I have difficulty celebrating this day without thanking all of my colleagues, peers, governing bodies and clients that have made my career one that I can enjoy. With a complex food system and a bombardment of false information (thanks to the media and cyberspace), my job hasn’t always been an easy one. Sorting through the facts and fallacies to bring you relevant information is my job, and I’m proud of it.

On this morning, my husband packed my lunch along with a few extra goodies and a beautiful bouquet of hydrangeas. I love that he loves my profession as much as I do. Earlier in the month, I was welcomed at my workplace with a Carrot Pineapple Loaf. My colleague had made it for me after seeing it shared on the blog. That’s special.

Here’s the deal: if you know a Dietitian or have worked with one, on this day, maybe give him/her a call, an email or a message letting them know their work is valuable.

And, how about a few DID YOU KNOW’s:

  • Structured, intensive lifestyle interventions delivered by dietitians can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 60% in clients at risk
  • Nutrition counselling improves general dietary behaviours associated with good health such as increased fruit, vegetable, and fibre intake and decreased fat intake
  • In working with a Dietitian, we can potentially reduce healthcare cost by 34%
  • Lifestyle and diet changes can reduce the risk of cancer by 40% and heart disease/stroke by 80%
  • After at least three months of nutrition counselling, patients with chronic disease have experienced:
    • Decreased body weight of about 3-5 kg
    • Improved blood sugar/glucose control
    • Reduced blood pressure and cholesterol levels

In the mean time, get educated. Here’s a great video brought to you by the College of Dietitians of Manitoba that highlights the credibility and work that Registered Dietitians offer to Manitobans.

NM_Colour_EN
Please note, a portion of the above information is adapted from the Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month Campaign Materials. Find more information about Nutrition Month at www.nutritionmonth2015.ca.

 

– 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