Happy Birthday Carrots and Cake + Poppy Seed Biscuit

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeWoah. How did that happen? Today marks the second birthday for Carrots and Cake Balanced Nutrition Consulting. What was supposed to initially be a “lets try to see five clients per month” kinda gig has turned into visiting with at least twenty clients monthly, blogging, recipe development, writing for cool food producers and as of late, mentoring Nutritional Science students that are hoping to get their feet wet in the dietetic industry. By the way, all of this on top of a nearly full time job in an area of clinical practice I love.

A very sincere thank you to all of my friends, readers, clients and colleagues who continue to support me through my growth. When I gave birth to Carrots and Cake it was all very organic. I never felt like anything was being forced into place – there really was no financial goal, strategic plan or real incentive other than to connect with people, about food.

I remember last year when I celebrated Carrots and Cake’s first birthday I showcased this Carrot and Pineapple Loaf. And then, I celebrated some more with these yummy Carrot Oatmeal Cookies. The sweetest was coming into work and my colleague had prepared some of these goodies for me and our team to enjoy.

Needless to say, I am SO looking forward to what 2016 has in store for me.

Here’s what happened over the last twelve months:

  • I moved from a condo into our home (that has a great big island, yaaaaassss)
  • Got a Vitamix…that’s a big deal, right?
  • Joined a Women’s in Business group  made up of fine business women in Winnipeg
  • Completed several Women and Weights classes via good friend, RD extraordinaire and Personal Trainer, Chinwe – so basically, I’m way stronger than last year
  • I partnered with some awesome food industry folks like Bothwell Cheese which allows me an opportunity to write more often, something I love to do
  • I learned and helped my food loving friend, Getty Stewart can some tomatoes
  • Completed my second Manitoba Marathon Relay while the hubs added a second half marathon to his list
  • I went on an amazing #CanolaConnect Harvest Camp with the lovely folks of Canola, Eat Well
  • On the same note, I also had a chance to attend a Grow Canada conference c/o #CanolaConnect – picture this: being only meters away from Clara Hughes and former LGen Romeo Dallaire – MIND BLOWN
  • Went through a lot of professional struggles at work, but came out stronger than I ever thought I was
  • Took on two student volunteers to help with content creation, recipe development and photography
  • As of LAST NIGHT, my sister (many of you might know her as Myuz Artistry) gave birth to a sweet baby boy AND my other sister is expecting her first babe
  • On that note, I officially have baby fever

Okay, okay. I know why you’re ALL really here, it’s for this SUPER DUPER amazing recipe for Poppy Seed Biscuits. This recipe hails from somewhere…I just can’t remember where. It’s the kind I just wrote down with pencil and pen after trying them at a friends house years ago when I live in B.C.. The recipe stuck with me.

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

These biscuits are on the slightly sweet side, but still pair well with soup. I think they make a great snack for a girls afternoon or act as a lovely addition to a large green salad. You’ll see below, I paired it with my 5 Ingredient Berry Sauce which ended up being the perfect marriage.

Okay, recipe taymeee.

Poppy Seed Biscuits
 
Prep time
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Serves: 18 - 24
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup poppy seeds
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ⅓ cup cold butter, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 cup buttermilk
Instructions
  1. Line a large baking sheet (or two) with parchment paper and preheat oven to 425.
  2. In a large bowl stir together dry ingredients until well combined.
  3. Add in butter. Using a pastry blender or two forks cut the butter into the dry ingredients. Eventually, you'll have a texture that resemble coarse crumbs.
  4. Add buttermilk. Stir the mixture to moisten and create a sticky dough.
  5. Drop a handful of flour onto a clean surface and knead the dough about 10 times.
  6. Roll out the dough or using your hands pat it into a ½" thick round.
  7. Using a 2" biscuit cutter cut out as many rounds as you can. Place on a baking sheet. Gently form scraps into a ball, flatten and cut out more biscuit rounds. Repeat if needed.
  8. Bake biscuits for 12 - 15 minutes. Biscuits shouldn't be too brown! Remove from baking sheet and onto a cooling wrack.
  9. Best when served warm.

Biscuits lined upBiscuit_with jar of spreadBiscuit with Spread
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 Ingredient Berry Sauce

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeI remember the first time I made a berry sauce. It was for a brunch I was hosting and waffles were on the menu. It was some random recipe that Mr. Google found for me. It called for 1 cup of juice and 1 cup of sugar for only two cups of berries. Jesse whiz, that is A LOT of sugar. What’s a Dietitian/Food Nerd to do?

Develop her own recipe! 

I prepare this berry sauce quite regularly for our meal-prep line up. It’s extremely low maintenance and the recipe is pretty darn easy to memorize. There are so many uses for this sauce, here’s what I’ve tried so far:

  • Great in smoothies
  • Lovely on top of plain yogurt
  • Fabulous over pancakes or waffles
  • Yummy on warm or cold oats
  • Genius as a jam on toast or biscuits

The recipe uses a super cool ingredient that might be new to you. It’s chia seeds! You can find these little guys at any bulk store and they can also be spotted in the “health food” aisle of many large-chain stores. Chia seeds harness a lot of nutrition, offering up some omega-3 power, fibre, calcium and a wee-bit of protein too. Chia seeds are crucial for this recipe as they suck up (literally) moisture from the concoction, leaving you with a nice saucy texture. I promise you’ll love it.

Recipe taymeee.Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

5.0 from 1 reviews
5 Ingredient Berry Sauce
 
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Ingredients
  • 3 cups frozen berries, mixed variety
  • ½ cup 100% orange juice or water
  • 2 tbsp maple sryup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp chia seed
Instructions
  1. Place frozen berries into a medium sized pot. Add in orange juice or water.
  2. Turn heat to medium and bring mixture to a gentle simmer. When this happens, using a potato masher muddle the berries to a desired consistency. I prefer to leave mine a little chunky, but to each their own!
  3. Next, add in maple syrup and vanilla. Stir to combine.
  4. Remove pot from heat and add in chia seeds.
  5. Stir and wait about 20 minutes. The mixture will begin to thicken.
  6. Store in a mason jar or tupperware for one week, refrigerated.

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

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
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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

Real Talk: The Raw Food Diet

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Photo purchased from Shutterstock

Alright, raise your hands: how many of us have seen something on social media recently with a photo of a happy, fit-looking model, and the words “detox” or “cleanse” thrown somewhere in there and thought, “Oh, wow. I’ll have what she’s having”? In today’s age of social media, health fads have the ability to spread faster than ever. And us evidenced-based nutrition folks don’t like it. With all sorts of information now at our fingertips, it can be difficult to navigate through to find sources that are valid. That’s the purpose of this blog post.

The Raw Vegan Diet or also know as the Raw Food diet is a trend that is loud and clear on our radar. Actually, it’s on our front door step. Let’s learn:

What is it?

The Raw Vegan, or Raw Food diet consists of eating plant-based foods that have not been cooked, or that have been dehydrated at a very low temperature (usually not higher than 40 degrees Celsius). This is (falsey) based on the premise that cooking destroys enzymes and nutrients that are essential for human health, as well as can “produce toxins that accumulate in the body”.

Wait, is this true?

Well, there are some truths, however, don’t hop onboard just yet. Yes, cooking can destroy some nutrients in fruits and vegetables such as vitamin C. However, many nutrients actually become more bioavailable, or easily absorbed and used by the body after being heated at a certain temperature. This includes some good stuff such as lycopene in tomatoes and red peppers, and beta carotene in carrots and sweet potato.

Cooking = not a bad thing. 

Cooking vegetables also helps to break down tough cell walls in plants which releases nutrients that would otherwise be inaccessible to the body. This, in turn creates less work for your digestive system (ie. spinach). Many people who have switched to a raw food diet report concerns with bloating and gas due to the excess fibre content associated with consuming large amounts of fruit and vegetables. No fun.

There is one nutrient that would be very difficult to obtain from a raw vegan diet, Vitamin B12. This micronutrient is found mostly in meat, or fortified foods – neither of which are allowed in a raw vegan diet. Deficiency of this particular vitamin leads to a host of problems including fatigue, weakness, memory loss, and depression. Not fun. Not fun at all.

What about those enzymes? Don’t I need them?

Yep, cooking does indeed denature some enzymes, which are made up of proteins. This means that they unfold and unravel so that they can no longer function properly. But guess what? These enzymes are no match for stomach acid either. Raw or cooked, proteins in food will get denatured so that the body can break them down into building blocks to use for other things. We are fully capable of producing all the enzymes we need. Our bodies are smart like that!

Show me the money. Cost?

With the rising cost of produce in Canada, the raw food diet simply isn’t economical. Since fruits and vegetables are lower in calories than other food groups, you would have to eat a much larger volume to meet your required energy intake. Therefore, you would have to buy way more (can you imagine a professional hockey player on this diet? No!). If you live somewhere where most fresh fruits aren’t in season in the winter, you’re not only paying more for imported produce, but increasing your carbon footprint due to the transportation of these foods. Those instagram collages of pretty blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are worth the double-tap but can cost a fortune.

What about the benefits?

Many raw vegans claim to feel more energetic, and have lost weight loss since starting this diet. Swapping out certain processed foods for more fruits and veggies will do that for ya. Indeed, eating more fruits and vegetables is great, and we should definitely take advantage of the nutrients that raw food provides (check out these easy recipes for Avocado Chocolate Mousse, Energy Date Balls, and Tropical Green Smoothies)! However, restricting yourself to only raw foods could really limit your variety. It would mean excluding many vegetables that have SO MUCH to offer, like root vegetables, squash, and pulses which have formed the staple diets of various cultures for centuries. I mean, how would we have survived the Great Depression without potatoes?

Despite individual testimonies, there is no evidence that shows the long term effects of a raw diet on the body. On the flip side, fire has been used for cooking for hundreds of thousands of years! Many anthropologists believe that our brains would not be as developed as they are today if it weren’t for the switch to the consumption of cooked food. Gotta love the industrial and agricultural revolution.

At the end of the day, when it comes to most of us, the best diet is no diet.

It’s all about balance

At the end of the day, when it comes to most of us, the best diet is no diet. All foods provide energy and nutrients. Eating a variety of whole foods; cooked and uncooked is the best way to ensure that we get the proper amount of nutrients we need to thrive. Our bodies will take care of the rest! When in doubt, consult with a Registered Dietitian before starting any new meal plan. They’ll tell you what’s up!

To learn more about our thoughts on detoxes, click here.

And, before peacing-out check out the video below created by Registered Dietitians Abbey Sharp and Abby Langer. I love the banter.

This blog post was written by Christy Lai, 4th Year Human Nutritional Sciences student. Follow Christy on Instagram, trust me, you’ll want to.

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

Red Thai Curry with Tofu

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeRemember a few posts ago I talked to you about living in Winterpeg, Manisnowba (Winnipeg, Manitoba). Well, the past two weeks have been cold. Like, hella cold. What’s a girl to do? Make curry! Curries are enjoyed all over the world and although they may appear complicated, they don’t have to be! Plus, during these winter months I find a bowl of curry just heats from the inside out.

I love many variations of curry but this winter I find myself cooking quite a bit of Thai inspired dishes (ahem, husband, please fly me to Bangkok). I love the richness of coconut milk, the flexibility in produce that I can use and the aroma it leaves in my home.

For this recipe my veggies included:

  • Sweet potato
  • Red Bell Pepper
  • Yellow Bell Pepper

As far as fat goes, I chose to use canola oil. As many of you might gather, it’s one of my staple liquid fats around the house. But that doesn’t mean you have to follow my suite. Other fat options include:

  • coconut oil
  • grapeseed oil
  • olive oil
  • avocado oil
  • camelina oil

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

You can certainly try your hand at making your own curry paste – that’s something I haven’t ventured into just yet. Or, you can purchase a ready-made paste such this product by Thai Kitchen. Now, if you fancy other veggies or proteins, the options are endless:

  • Onion
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Snow peas
  • Mushrooms
  • 2 chicken breasts, cubed
  • Edamame beans
  • etc.

Once you’ve tried this recipe. Try it again and get creative with all types of ingredients and spices.

Nita Sharda

Easy as ONE, TWO, THREE.

Okay, okay. Rant over. Recipe below.

Red Thai Curry with Tofu
 
Prep time
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Serves: 4-5
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 1 tbsp cilantro stalk, minced
  • 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 1 ½ cup cubed sweet potato (leave the skin on, fibre! This is about 300 grams)
  • ½ red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 800ml low sodium vegetable broth
  • Pinch of salt, black pepper and red chilli flakes (all optional)
  • 1 can coconut milk (14oz or approx. 400ml)
  • 1 cup tofu, cubed into 1” pieces (medium-firm or firm)
  • ½ lime
  • Cilantro, to garnish
Instructions
  1. In a medium sized pot heat canola oil, ginger, cilantro stalk and red curry paste. Heat over low-medium temperature just until the ginger and cilantro stalks begin to sizzle.
  2. Add in cubed sweet potato, red bell pepper and yellow bell pepper. Give the mixture a whirl ensuring the paste has smothered all the veggies. Cook for 5 – 6 minutes on medium heat ensuring you’re stirring the contents every minute or so.
  3. Pour in vegetable broth. Add in your desired pinch salt, black pepper and red chilli flakes.
  4. Once the vegetable broth has come to a boil, allow the sweet potato to be cooked through until they are soft. About 12 minutes.
  5. Once potatoes have been cooked, turn the heat down to low-medium and pour in coconut milk. Allow the mixture to heat through.
  6. Using a potato masher, mash some of the mixture to create a thick curry. Or if you prefer, feel free to blend a portion of the curry using an immersion blender or any other blender you may have.
  7. Gently add in tofu cubes, juice of ½ lime and cilantro.
  8. Serve.

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

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

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad Bowl

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Who knew winter veggies could be so colourful?

Earlier this week on the blog we shared some tips on how keep things “fresh” when it comes to salads. If you missed that post, click here. This time around we’ve enlisted other veggie varieties to create a salad.

This time around I opted to roast butternut squash for a nutty flavour that just-so-happens to be pretty to look at. Butternut squash is particularly rich in beta-carotene which is what gives the flesh a bright orange colour.  In our body beta-carotene is tactfully converted to vitamin A. This under-rated nutrient imparts anti-cancer benefits, helps our immune system, acts as an anti-oxidant and helps to fight signs of aging (yes please!).

Side note: I actually use frozen pre-chopped butternut squash. Frozen produce is often priced well and the nutrient content is just the same. With our busy schedules I often don’t have the time (or strength) to cut through a squash. Now that’s a convenience food I’m down for. 

For the starch component I opted to use wheat berries. New to this grain? Actually, you’re not! Wheat berries are intact WHOLE-wheat kernels! That’s what your all-purpose and whole-wheat flour are milled from. Once cooked (basically you boil the crap out of them) they have a mild nutty flavour that most of us can enjoy. This whole grain is great in a salad because it has a chewy texture that holds it’s shape (aka it won’t get soggy on you). Because wheat berries go through  minimal processing they retain a lot of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants making it an A+ choice for your salad.

Side note: I got my hands on these beautiful wheat berries when I was at Canola Harvest Camp visiting a grain elevator. I made friends with a fellow farmer and she hooked me up with a stash. Score!

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Now in the last post we talked about how you should dress your salad. Here, I’m going to get you out of your comfort zone to make a creamy salad dressing using seeds. Yeah! Pumpkin seeds! The inspiration for this dressing came from a plant based blog My New Roots. The final product is a really interesting one – the dressing has a grittiness to it and tastes lovely on the bed of veggies. It won’t drizzle like a typical dressing so don’t be alarmed.

Okay, okay. Enough with the nutrition rant. Look below to learn more about how I assembled the salad:

Roasted Butternut Salad Bowl
 
Prep time
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Ingredients
  • ½ cup wheat berries
  • Butternut squash, cubed (use as much as you would like)
  • Kale
  • Red cabbage, shredded thinly
  • White kidney beans or cannellini
  • Green onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 - 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • ¾ water
  • Pinch of salt and black pepper
Instructions
  1. Rinse wheat berries under water to ensure they are clean.
  2. Bring 1¼ cup water to a boil on the stove. Add rinsed wheat berries to the boiling water and stir. Once water starts to boil again, turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour. You know the wheat berries are done when they are soft.You'll have enough wheat berries for 2 - 3 servings.
  3. While your wheat berries are cooking toss your butternut squash with olive oil and roast in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees celsius or until they are cooked through.
  4. Massage 1 tsp of olive oil into your kale. This helps to soften the kale so it's not so tough.
  5. Once your wheat berries and squash are ready, assemble the remaining salad ingredients into a salad bowl (shredded cabbage, white kidney beans, kale and green onion). Add as much or as little of each ingredient as you wish (yup, you decide what and how much you want).
  6. For the dressing: toast pumpkin seeds in a non-stick pan over low heat for 10 - 12 minutes until they become fragrant. In a food processor blend: cooled pumpkin seeds, garlic, maple syrup, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and water. Season as desired with salt and black pepper.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake
This recipe was created with the help of Christy Lai, 4th Year Human Nutritional Sciences student. Follow Christy on Instagram, trust me, you’ll want to. Food photography done by the talented Ceone Dyck. To learn more about Ceone click here or follow her on Facebook.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

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.

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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.
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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!

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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.

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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