#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!

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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

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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

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.

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Thanks for putting this table together Sunayna!

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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

GNI Feature: Easy, Fancy, Grown Up (but not really) Party Snack Ideas

 

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Pretty spices.

This post will mark the finale of the Girls Night In feature that was running on the Carrots and Cake blog over the past few weeks. As we bid farewell to what was a short but sweet summer, I’m hoping I can look forward to the fall season with open arms and that I can introduce you to some of my favorite fall recipes.

If you’ve ever hosted a girls night or any form of entertaining you know that multitasking is a skill you’ll need to really hone in on. Preparing in advance will save you from feeling overwhelmed and what I want to talk to you about is selecting a few quick n’ easy munchies that you can whip up in minutes!

The Cheese Plate

Putting together a cheese plate takes very little time and effort. It’s a great way to serve a dairy product in a sophisticated way for guests to enjoy or nibble on while the rest of your items are getting prepped. Cheese often gets a bad rap for its high fat content but people forget how rich it can be in nutrients like calcium, vitamin B12 and protein. For my girls night, I served up a variety of cheeses generously donated by Bothwell Cheese – the finest cheese makers in Manitoba! I take great pleasure in sourcing local food products. My favorite is the classic marble cheese but when I’m feeling adventurous I enjoy snacking on the Jalapeno Pepper Jack

I often pair my cheese plate with whole grain crackers such as Mary’s Gone crackers but you can also utilize a crusty baguette, raisin bread, sourdough or pumpernickel. Just remember the idea is not to overwhelm the taste of the cheese – check out the Dairy Goodness site for more information on entertaining with cheese. It’s also fun to pair cheese plates with pickles, roasted garlic, dark chocolate, nuts and dried fruit. What’s your favorite way to enjoy cheese?

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Thanks again Bothwell Cheese.

Parmesan Popcorn 

Popcorn isn’t just for the movies–you can pop a modest portion and top it with unique ingredients to create fun flavours. I’m a big believer that popcorn is the most versatile food out there. Popcorn is a totally unprocessed whole grain that also contains fibre. You can enjoy it sweet or savoury. Nix the pre-packaged microwave, store-bought, and movie theater varieties which are usually laced with a ton of additives, fat and salt. Instead, air-pop a handful of kernels in a dab of fat such as butter, olive oil or even coconut oil. The Food Network has an easy microwave method if that’s the route you’d like to take or you can pop it on the stovetop.

I had a guest who brought over a super-duper-awesome popcorn maker which made it really easy to prepare popcorn. It’s not necessary to buy a fancy popcorn maker but if you’re interested, they can be purchased for extremely affordable prices, usually less than $20.00. I packaged the popcorn into cute little sandwhich bags and topped the mixture with cayenne pepper and Bothwell Cheese Smoked Parmesan.

As far as toppings, here are a few that I personally enjoy, but the list could be endless:

  • Nutritional yeast
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Cinnamon + Vanilla extract
  • Garlic powder
  • Parmesan Cheese

CnC_gni popcorn Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

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: Raspberry Mojito

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

Sip sippin’

I have a confession. 

I am  THE  Sober Sally, the expected designated driver, and – as a result – on rare occasions I am the wild “one-hit-drunken-wonder.” Honestly, two drinks and I’m out. Alcohol wasn’t present in my family home growing up. We usually enjoyed wine with specific meals and served up bevies when we had guests. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy a social drink here and there. Winnipeg summers scream for sangria, wine, and cool cocktails – it’s the perfect fit for a summer sunset and something many of us look forward to after a seemingly never-ending winter.

Having said this, it’s important to not get carried away by assuming you can make up for months of not-drinking and load up with copious amounts of alcohol. We all know far too well, too many drinks + drinking too fast = paying for it later on. When you look at calories per gram, carbohydrates and protein offer 4kcal per gram. Alcohol, on the other hand, offers about 7 kcal per gram. This just goes to show that for very little in the way of nutrition, the “empty calories” alcohol promises can really add up.

NOW, LISTEN UP PEOPLE!

If you don’t already drink, here’s raising a virgin drink to you. If you do enjoy a sip on occasion, drinking responsibly is just as important for good health as is eating fruits and veggies. For more information about drinking enjoyably but safely, visit this resource here.

For the GNI that I hosted, I prepared a jug of cucumber water for my guests topped with fresh mint leaves (which looked pretty cool, if I do say so myself). This ensures my guests can comfortably choose to keep well hydrated, and bonus: it’s a bit more sophisticated than plain ol’ water. The other beverage I mixed up was a Raspberry Infused Mojito.

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

The recipe calls for simple syrup so instead of toping the mojito with sugary soda, I poured sparkling water into the mix. Throughout the night, I excitedly emphasized all of the yummy (and nutritious) food I prepared by asking my guests what they thought of certain dishes, kick-starting conversations about food trends, and of course delving into fashion talks, politics, celebrity gossip and, most importantly, enjoying some darn good company.

I’ll toast to that! *cheers* Recipe below: 

4.0 from 1 reviews
GNI Feature: Raspberry Mojito
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 10
Ingredients
  • Raspberry Simple Syrup
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups raspberry (fresh or frozen)
  • Ice
  • Lime, sliced into wheels
  • White rum
  • Springs of fresh mint
  • Tonic water
  • Raspberries for garnish
Instructions
  1. To make the simple syrup: In a saucepan combine the sugar and water. Cook the mixture over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the saucepan from the heat and add in the raspberries. Allow the mixture to steep for at least one day. The simple syrup will keep up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
  2. To make the raspberry mojito: In a cocktail shaker, muddle or crush the lime and mint leaves. Add in ½ - 1oz raspberry simple syrup, 1oz white rum and ice. Cover, shake shake shake, and then pour over ice into a glass.
  3. Top with tonic water as desired.
  4. Garnish with a raspberry.
  5. Toast and sip (responsibly)!

Like these photos? Visit Samba Joy Photo & Art to view more of their work.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Cheers to good food, good company and good health.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cakep.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 – Very Berry Pavlova

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Very Berry Pavlova

Pavlova – I was first introduced to this delicate dessert by a dear friend of mine. She’s the kind of friend who, no matter what, will always handcraft a dessert when we visit. No, she’s not the cake-mix kinda gal. She’s the whip your own whipping cream, chop berries and use a springform pan kinda woman. I like her. Okay I lied, I love her.

If you haven’t yet tried pavlova, you’re missing out. I prefer homemade versions over those sold in stores or at other restaurants. It’s a dessert that really needs to be enjoyed when it’s fresh. Each mouthful is packed with sweetness (but not too much), a cool touch of whipping cream and burst of fresh flavor from the fruit you use. I added pistachios to my final product to add a bit of a crunch, and color. If you want to go nut-free, by all means, go for it!

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Now, when it comes to dessert, this is full-fat, full-sugar. There’s no “lightening” up when it comes to pavlova (or atleast I haven’t tried). It’s an all-in kind of dessert. Does that make me feel badly? Of course not. Pavlova takes a gentle touch and I’d much rather prefer to spend as much time enjoying it as I took to prepare it. In situations like this, I always allude to something Michael Pollan wrote about in his book, Food Rules. He mentioned that french fries are often enjoyable. But, when you take time to prepare them by hand it can become quite labour-some. When you’re feeding a family that can amount to a lot of time and energy to hand-prepare fries if you’re serving them several times a week. So would you necessarily make french fries regularly? Probably not. But once every 6 – 8 weeks, sure! That’s how I feel about pavlova.

I was never raised in a family that placed emphasis on desserts. I remember my parents serving something sweet only “once in a while” in between birthdays. Looking back, since discovering pavlova roughly four years ago, I’ve probably only made it a handful of times. So, like I said, I go all in.

I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy this recipe and dessert as much as I do. It’s a definite crowd pleaser. You can bake it into what shape or size you wish. I changed things up by making a 4″ pavlovas. The recipe was sourced from The Joy of Baking website. And fair warning, prepare to make the pavlova 4-5 hour prior to serving, you’ll need time for it to cool slowly in the oven. See below:

Very Berry Pavlova
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • Pavlova
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • Topping:
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1½ tbsp granulated white sugar (or to taste)
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Fresh fruit of your choice- kiwi, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, passion fruit, peaches, pineapple, mango etc.
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and draw a 7 - 8 inch circle on the paper. Turn the parchment paper over so the circle is on the reverse side.
  2. In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Start adding the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat, on high speed, until the meringue holds very stiff and shiny peaks (about 5-6 minutes). Test to see if the sugar is fully dissolved by rubbing a little of the meringue between your thumb and index finger. The meringue should feel smooth, not gritty. If it feels gritty the sugar has not fully dissolved so keep beating until it feels smooth between your fingers.
  3. Beat in the vanilla extract.
  4. Sprinkle the vinegar and cornstarch over the top of the meringue and, with a rubber spatula, gently fold in.
  5. Spread the meringue inside the circle drawn on the parchment paper, smoothing the edges, making sure the edges of the meringue are slightly higher than the center; you want a slight well in the center of the meringue to place the whipped cream and fruit.
  6. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until the outside is dry and is a very pale cream color. Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the meringue cool completely in the oven.
  7. The outside of the meringue will feel firm to the touch, if gently pressed, but as it cools you will get a little cracking and you will see that the inside is soft and marshmallowy.The cooled meringue can be made and stored in a cool dry place, in an airtight container, for a few days.
  8. Just before serving gently place the meringue onto a serving plate.
  9. Whip the cream in your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, until soft peaks form. Sweeten with the sugar and vanilla and then mound the softly whipped cream into the center of the meringue.
  10. Arrange the fruit randomly, or in a decorative pattern, on top of the cream. Serve immediately as this dessert does not hold for more than a few hours.

A few more drool-worthy photos by: Samba Joy Photo & Art.

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Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Here we go, all in!

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

                 – 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

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                 – 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”

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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