Veggie-filled Mac and Cheese

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeDon’t get upset! I know what you’re thinking “why did this Dietitian take my favorite comfort food and add veggies and then butcher it with lentils?”! I realize fully that mac and cheese is all things comforting and nostalgic for many of us. Having said that, most of use could do with a bit more veggies in our life and in honour of The International Year of the Pulse, it only made sense.

The truth is, I love a good mac and cheese. You know, the kind you get at restaurants with the crispy topping. Oh, and when it has bacon, even better. Unfortunately, on almost all occasions, these variations of mac and cheese left me feeling like I had just eaten a treat. So, I wanted to create a wholesome recipe that I could enjoy and feel good about eating throughout the week. You feel me?

I remember the first time I made this recipe. My husband scratched his head and said, “babe, there is something more gritty in the texture”. I smiled and told him it was the lentils. He shrugged, grabbed a second serving and called it great. What a keeper. So yes, you should expect a slight change in the texture you’re used to, but the taste shouldn’t be all too different.

If you need to take baby steps. Maybe try the recipe with just onion and lentils. Or, just veggies. It’s your body, you’re the boss. 

I tripple-tried this recipe before deciding to have it photographed and placed on the blog. But, it fits. It truly does. Here’s what I love about this version of mac n’ cheese:

  • It uses 2% Evaporated Milk to give it the creaminess you want. It’s made by removing water from fresh milk and then heating it. Heating the milk gives it the creamy, slightly cooked taste and darker colour. It’s a source of protein, calcium and Vitamin D!
  • It includes approximately 3 cups of veggies which mean you could really add more, or less. One time I added cauliflower! Another time I opted to use mushrooms.
  • The lentils help to increase the protein and fibre content of the entire recipe, making it a one-pot-meal kinda deal.
  • You can spice it up as you wish. I keep it simple but you could also add some basil or parsley if you fancy.
  • Lastly, it’s freezer friendly and great to pull out on those day’s you might be extra crazy busy and don’t want to compromise on your nutrition. Simply place it in the oven and bake until everything is heated through and your cheese is bubbly.

I drew inspiration for this recipe from The Lean Green Bean and the Eat Shrink and Be Merry gals. Check out their versions if you wish.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Okay, recipe taymeeee.

Mac and Cheese with Lentils
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 6 - 8
Ingredients
  • 1 cup elbow pasta
  • ¾ cup red lentils, uncooked
  • 2 tbsp canola oil or butter
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 cup broccoli, chopped into small florets
  • 1 cup spinach, thinly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 can (370mL) Evaporated Milk (I used 2% MF)
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook elbow pasta according to package directions, until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  3. Cook red lentils according to package directions. Once lentils are cooked through, set aside.
  4. In a separate large pot, heat butter or canola oil. Add in onion and cook until translucent.
  5. Once onion is cooked through, add in remaining vegetables, garlic and spices. Saute for 10 - 15 minutes until vegetables are softened. I prefer to add my spinach last as it requires very little heat.
  6. Sprinkle vegetables with flour, ensuring the mixture is well coated.
  7. Add evaporated milk and ¾ cup of cheese, leaving some cheese for the last step.
  8. Add in cooked pasta and lentils to the vegetable mixture and combine thoroughly.
  9. Place mixture in a 9 x 13 dish, or two 8 x 8 dishes. Top with remaining cheese.
  10. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until cheese is bubbly.

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

5 Reasons you Should be Eating Pulses

Photo from www.iyp2016.org

Photo from www.iyp2016.org

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

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

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

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

    Image from www.pulses.org

    Image from www.pulses.org

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

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

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

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

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

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Hearty Meat Marinara

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

What to buy?

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

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

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Okay. Rant over. Recipe below!

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

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake
Food photography done by the talented Ceone Dyck. To learn more about Ceone click here or follow her on Facebook.

Don’t forget to follow Carrots and Cake on Instagram to see tiny square snap shots of my life.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

 

#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

Off the Farm, In the City

Chilly outside, cozy inside.

Chilly outside, cozy inside.

I love Winnipeg, but as a self-proclaimed foodie it can be challenging to source locally-grown food given our northern climate. Though I may have to rely on California for my broccoli, and thank Chile for my grapes, I know I can always rely on our hard-working dairy farmers for local milk. When I spoke about my Food Philosophy I shared that I enjoy drinking dairy milk and nibbling cheeses.  For me, milk is nostalgia at its finest. Thanks to my mom, I have childhood memories gulping homemade lassi made with milk and yogurt—yum.

Where am I going with this?

I wanted to reflect on a wonderful event that connected me to local dairy producers, held at Thom Bargen Coffee & Tea (Must. Go. Back.). While sipping on lattes, guests listened to dairy farmer Henry Holtmann speak about the important roles farmers play in their communities. In addition to his talk being educational, it was endearing to hear Henry talk about the way in which he nourished and cared for his cows. I can say with confidence that our fine dairy farmers commit their daily lives to bring safe milk of the highest quality to our tables.
Carrots and Cake mingling_CnCPeople listening_CnC
Oh, I can’t forget about the delectable treats made by Winnipeg’s very own French bakery, A l’epi de Ble! The lemon tarts were my favorite!

They tasted as good as they look.

They tasted as good as they look.

Bite size pieces of heaven.

Bite size pieces of heaven.

Events like this can’t take place without the champions that host them. A big hip-hip-whooray to the folks at Grazing in the Field for finding an innovative way to bring the farm to our homes. I cannot stress the importance of supporting our local producers—think of it as an investment for the future of our communities.

For more information on upcoming Grazing in the Field events, click here.
Beautiful photography by Cory Aronec.

Signature2