GNI Feature: Almond Crusted Salmon with Gourmet Inspirations

 

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Thanks to Gourmet Inspiration!

For the girls night in I hosted, I had my foodie friend Peter Fehr of Gourmet Inspirations help me serve up a few appetizers using his handmade finishing sauce, Strawberry Balsamic with Basil. Let me tell you, if anything was a hit that night, it was this baby right here. Perfectly cooked, crunchy and flavorful is exactly what this dish was. But, to be honest–I wouldn’t expect anything short of perfection from Peter. I’m excited for him to continue sharing his product with the world and wish him all the success (don’t worry, more to come with Peter in future posts)!

Salmon is loaded with a bounty of nutrients. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids it offer a TON of anti-inflammatory properties for our body. It also serves as a source of vitamin D and is an excellent choice for lean protein. There are so many ways to cook up salmon–you can grill it, poach it, pan-fry it, bake it or even steam it. For this recipe, we created a crunchy crust by processing almonds and submerging the salmon into it. I wouldn’t have had it any other way! For the purpose of serving this dish “appie style” we opted to slice the salmon into strips and just before serving, Peter arranged them beautifully into bite size pieces.

Thank you Peter for lending a hand, sharing your passion and getting us inspired. Recipe below: 
GNI Feature: Almond Crusted Salmon with Gourmet Inspiration
 
Prep time
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Serves: 3-4
Ingredients
  • 2 salmon filets, skinned
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • All purpose flour as needed (approx ½ cup)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cup sliced raw almonds (or slightly pulsed), spread on a shallow plate
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp. Gourmet Inspirations’ Strawberry Balsamic with Basil Sauce
  • 2 fresh strawberries for garnish
Instructions
  1. Season salmon with salt and pepper
  2. Dredge one side of salmon in flour
  3. Dip that same side in the beaten egg
  4. Press salmon with sliced almonds (on the egg/floured side only)
  5. Flash fry in olive oil on a shallow pan, set to medium-high heat (approximately 2 minutes)
  6. Bake at 400F for 15 minutes or until salmon is cooked through
  7. Top salmon with strawberry balsamic sauce
  8. Garnish with a fresh sliced strawberry
Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

Visit http://gourmetinspirations.ca/ to find out how you can get your hand on this finishing sauce.

GNI_Salmon_peterGNI_Salmon_closeup

Photo credit goes to my friends at Samba Joy – Photo & Art. They-da-bomb!

p.s. If you haven’t already checked it out, this is a short snippet of what my #gni looked like. Enjoy!

 

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

GNI Feature: Jalapeno Spiced Hummus

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

Perfectly spiked and ready to enjoy.

Today I’m thrilled to share the first of a recipe series from the girls-night-in (GNI) I hosted a few weeks back. The recipe below is for hummus which is often used as a spread or dip. The main ingredient is chickpeas and often most recipes contain tahini. Because tahini isn’t a staple in my home, I opted to create a hummus spread without it. The base of this recipe came from my glob-trotting, foodie-extraordinaire, yogi friend (also a fellow Dietitian), Allie of Balanced with Allie.  It’s the kind of recipe you can spike with multiple flavors: chilli, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic or caramelized onion–yum! The options are endless.

I’m particularly fond of hummus because unlike many commercial spreads and dips, it’s not loaded with starches, sodium, fat or cheap ingredients. It’s also a great way to incorporate more beans and legumes into your lifestyle if these aren’t foods you typically cook with. Not to mention, it’s super easy to put together. All you need is a blending device or an immersion blender! Hummus also freezes well – yaay for batch cooking!

Enjoy!

Jalapeno Spiced Hummus
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Ingredients
  • 1 15oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 - 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • paprika (optional)
  • cilantro (optional)
  • 1 pickled jalapeno
  • 1 - 2 tbsp picked jalapeno juice
Instructions
  1. Drain and rinse garbanzo beans.
  2. Combine all ingredients into food processor and blend until consistency is smooth.
  3. Add additional water or lemon juice as needed.
  4. Serve with veggies, pretzels, wholegrain crackers or use as a spread on wraps, sandwiches or even as a "pizza sauce" (yes, it's yummy)!

Oh, and just incase you missed the magical video that my friends at Samba Joy created for me, see below!

A few more photos, snapped by the talented Samba Joy

Carrots and Cake, Nita ShardaCarrots and Cake, Nita ShardaCarrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Carrots and Cake Hosts: Girls-Night-In #gni

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Well, I’ll toast to that! #gni

Well hello there!

With summer in full swing, our days are longer and the warmth of the sun flirts with us into the evening hours. In previous posts I’ve mentioned that summer is hands-down-no-questions-asked my favorite season. In my life, summer represents a time that allows for many family BBQs, weddings, baby showers, and of course, those coveted girls-night-in (infamously known as GNI).

There are many things I can confidently and sincerely say I’m lousy at (examples: ironing, making roti, and singing), but there are some things that I’m pretty darn great at. C’mon, I’m a self-proclaimed “chef” and boast myself as being the hostess with the mostess (believing it is half the battle, right?). It’s taken me years to hone my entertaining skills and, though I’m happy with where I’m at, I’m always on the lookout for the latest and greatest ways to ensure my guests have a certifiable ball. It isn’t always easy being that hostess with the mostess (aka trying to juggle a million balls at once and making it look like it’s no sweat), and I’ve learned that it’s a skill that will, like a good wine, mature with time (oh, did you see what I did there? That rhymes!). The best part is that entertaining can be (very) messy, it can be fun, soothing (dare I say therapeutic at times), but most importantly it can be incredibly rewarding. When my guests leave with happy bellies, nourished bodies, and warm memories, it gives me this real sense of fulfillment. I think it’s another trait I inherited from my mother as she would prepare food for our family. I guess this is another example of how I am completely my mother’s daughter.

So, getting back to that GNI…

A while ago I invited a few of my girlfriends over for a fun GNI that was, of course, filled with the latest celebrity gossip and sharing upcoming summer plans, all accompanied by excessive helpings of giggles. I prepared a menu that I knew they would all enjoy, and even handcrafted a yummy cocktail, which used herbs from my very own garden. Don’t worry, I’ll share more about the specific menu items and recipes so keep an eye out for them! But for now, how about you drool over this insanely adorable video that my friends at Samba Joy created for me (shout out to Marcello and Madalena!).

I’ll fix your favorite dishes
Hopin’ this good food will fill ya
Stand in kitchen alone, work my fingers to the bone
You better eat if it kills ya
Cause everybody eats when they come to my house”

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

Planning on hosting Girls Night In? Check out these links for suggestions and recipes:

Jalapeno Spiced Hummus

Very Berry Pavlova

Almond Crusted Salmon

Raspberry Mojito

Minted Cranberry Pecan Quinoa Salad

Grown UP Party Snack Ideas

               – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

 

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

The Everything Granola

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

All things good, right here.

Yes, EVERYTHING. This version of a granola recipe is incredibly functional and flexible, not to mention highly addictive. You can mix in different nuts, experiment with a variety of grains such as barley flakes or add in unique dried fruit such as chopped apricots, coconut or even dried blueberries. The options are truly endless which makes this all the more fun.

More and more I’ve been trying to intentionally incorporate Hemp Hearts into my diet. They have a creamy mouth feel and a nutty flavor to them that is irresistible. This is a fairly new seed that is gaining popularity across the nation, and, for the right reasons. The great thing about Hemp seeds is that they are a great option for vegetarian folks that are trying to meet their protein requirements. It’s nutrition profile is quite amazing–beyond the protein, it is also a great source of fibre and those coveted healthy fats (omega-3 and omega-6) which contain anti-inflammatory properties. Okay AND, Manitoba happens to be one of the most successful producers of hemp hearts in North America, HOLA!

Okay, back to business. Enjoy this recipe:
The Everything Granola
 
Prep time
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Serves: Lots.
Ingredients
  • ½ cup walnut halves or pecans
  • ½ cup hazelnuts
  • ½ cup almonds
  • ⅔ cup almond butter
  • ½ cup honey or agave nectar
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 6 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • ½ cup wheat germ
  • ½ cup ground flax seeds
  • ½ cup hemp hearts or hemp seeds
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup flaked unsweetened coconut (optional)
  • 1 cup dried fruit (chopped dates, raisins, dried cranberries etc)
Instructions
  1. Spread walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds on a baking sheet. Toast in preheated oven for about 8 minutes or until lightly browned at 350 degrees. Caution: be sure to keep an eye on them to prevent the nuts from burning. Remove from the oven, allow them to cool and chop coarsely.
  2. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, stir together almond butter, honey, and oil. Microwave on high for about 45 seconds or until bubbly. Give this liquid mixture a good stir and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together oats, wheat germ, hemp hearts, flax seed and cinnamon. Pour the warm honey mixture on top of the grain mixture and mix well.
  4. Cover a baking or cookie sheet with Parchment paper and spread the mixture evenly across the pan. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to use two.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes but be sure to stir the granola every 5 minutes to ensure it is all evenly cooked. Your house should smell like heaven by now.
  6. Once the granola is cooked through, allow it to cool. Place the mixture into a large bowl and stir in chopped nuts, coconut (if used) and dried fruit.
  7. Store in an air tight container, it keeps well for several weeks!
 Let me know what changes you’d make, and don’t forget to leave a comment below or subscribe to the blog!

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

 Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda       

                  – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Honey Ginger Chicken – Slow Cooker Friendly

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Always a crowd pleaser.

When the hubs tells me that the boys are coming over for dinner, I can always turn to this no-fail recipe! Stir up the dressing, throw in the chicken and let the slow cooker do its thing. Now that’s my kinda meal. But beyond the simplicity in preparing this dish, it’s actually insanely delicious. I was inspired by a recipe posted by fellow blogger, Foodie with Family. I adapted the recipe to suit our taste buds and we’ve never looked back.

Honey Ginger Chicken - Slow Cooker Friendly
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 5-6
Ingredients
  • 4lb boneless skinless chicken thighs (approx 16 – 18 thighs, trim the fat)
  • Black pepper
  • ½ cup honey
  • ½ cup sodium reduced soy sauce
  • ½ cup minced onion
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
Instructions
  1. Very lightly season the chicken thighs with pepper and place them in the slow cooker.
  2. Whisk the honey, soy sauce, onion, ketchup, sesame oil, ginger and pepper flakes together in a mixing bowl and pour over the chicken thighs. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 4 hours, or until the chicken is tender and cooked through.
  3. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to a rimmed plate or bowl and cover lightly with foil, leaving the pan juices in the slow cooker.
  4. Stir the cornstarch into the water with a fork or small whisk until dissolved. Whisk the mixture into the pan juices in the slow cooker. Re-cover the slow-cooker and turn the heat to high. Let it cook and thicken for 15 minutes. (Note: This step is optional and most desired for a thicker sauce).
  5. Carefully transfer the chicken back into the slow-cooker.
  6. Garnish with sesame seeds and cilantro. Serve!

This chicken entree pairs nicely with quinoa or even on a bed of rice. As far as veg, I like to enjoy this recipe with green beans or stir fried vegetables. Don’t forget to top with cilantro or toasted sesame seeds. Oh and it’s the kind of recipe that tastes better the next day.  L O V E.

Let me know how you’d change up the recipe, and don’t forget to leave a comment. Happy long weekend!

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

            – 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
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
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
 
Prep time
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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
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
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

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