#GNI Indian Style: Kaju Korma Sauce (vegan)

Up close and personal with this kaju korma.

Up close and personal with this kaju korma.

If you’ve found your way to this recipe post, consider yourself lucky. I was so thrilled to have Courtney Rae (The Fig Tree blog) bring her version of a vegan “butter chicken” sauce to the party I hosted. I asked Courtney if there was a way we could use her recipe as a dip to dunk roasted cauliflower. It’s a leaner take on traditional gobi pakoras (deep friend cauliflower). Courtney was up for the challenge and brought her A-game! We even saved a portion for the rest of my family to try. A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

The beauty with this kaju korma recipe is it’s versatility. For the girls night we enjoyed it as a dip but it can also be used as a sauce on top of chicken breast, a white fish or even roasted tofu chunks with a side of rice. Please people. Try it, eat it, love it, share it. It’s that good.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

The perfect garnish, cilantro.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and CakeHi Courtney! (yup, that’s her in the sweet purple dress) – thanks again for sharing your recipe with the world. *note: if you don’t have a chance to soak the cashews overnight or you don’t have a high-powered blender, simply bring a small pot of water to a boil, add cashews and simmer for about 10 minutes. They will be soft enough to blend into a smooth consistency regardless of the blender.

And now, enter drumroll…

5.0 from 1 reviews
Kaju Korma Dip (vegan)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 4 - 6
Ingredients
  • 1 block of pressed tofu or extra firm tofu, cubed
  • 2 tablespoon of canola oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped (or 1 large onion)
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 3 to 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of fresh grated garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of dried unsweetened coconut (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon of garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1-14 ounce can of crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce (no sodium)
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 cup of raw, unsalted cashews (soaked over night or boiled)
  • 1 and ½ cups of water, divided
  • ½ teaspoon of garam masala
  • ¼ cup of cilantro
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 375'F. Toss the tofu cubes with a bit of oil. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté until golden brown (about 15 minutes). Add the cumin seeds and cook until they start popping (about 30 seconds).
  3. Add garlic and ginger and sauté about a minute.
  4. Add turmeric, ground coriander, ground cumin, 1 teaspoon of garam masala, cayenne pepper, and shredded coconut. Heat through until fragrant (about a minute).
  5. Add crushed tomatoes and sea salt. Add in ½ cup of water and 1 teaspoon of sugar and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool slightly.
  6. In a blender, add the remaining cup of water and the soaked cashews. Blend for one minute or until creamy. Add in the cooled tomato spice mixture. Blend another minute or until well combined.
  7. Place back in the pan and add the final ½ teaspoon of garam masala. Simmer over low-medium heat to heat through. Add the baked tofu and simmer for another 5 to 6 minutes. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with basmati rice. Enjoy!

Kaju Korma_platedKaju Korma_all eating

Before you leave, check out this fun stop motion video about the girls night in I hosted, trust me you, you’re going to want to see it! It’s pretty darn cute if I don’t say so myself!

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

#GNI Indian Style: Vegan Mango Lassi

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Pouring for my guests.

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

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

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

Happy sippin’ folks…and now, the recipe:

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

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeCarrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

Before you leave, check out this fun stop motion video about the girls night in I hosted, trust me you, you’re going to want to see it! It’s pretty darn cute if I don’t say so myself!

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

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

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

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

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

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

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

Thanks for putting this table together Sunayna!

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Two words: hella yummy!

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

Namaste.

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Memories at “Abbi’s Payfair”

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

Me and the boss, dad.

We all have a story of how we came to our career choices. For some of us our careers found us, while for others we work hard day-in and day-out to work in a chosen field. The passion for becoming a nutrition expert came quite naturally to me, and I found myself on the path towards the career.

I distinctly remember being a young teenager and watching a woman speak on the national news. She was so poised and eloquently spoke about the increasing rates of Type II Diabetes and obesity among our First Nations population in Canada. And voila, that was it. That was the moment that would prescribe how I focused my academic time for the next several years.

But, you may ask, why?

Because something clicked for me in hearing what she had to say.

You see, my parents have operated a family grocery store, Abbi’s Payfair, in the Point Douglas area since 1997. We primarily service the First Nations community and plates of other ethnic minorities. The grocery store is a humble one with three aisles, a quaint produce aisle, and a very popular meat counter. Growing up, I spent my summers and some odd weekends working for parents. It was in this setting I began to observe what my ‘friends,’ our customers, were purchasing. I made the link: the kinds of foods we purchase and the way we do (or don’t) prepare meals directly influences our health and the health of our families. An aha moment!

Nita Sharda

CnC_Aisle

Perhaps some of the most valuable life lessons I’ve learned came from experiences within those three aisles. My parents taught us about hard work, discipline, and about earning respect by giving respect (especially as a small independent grocer) via leading as examples. My dad, affectionately known in the community as “Abbi,” can be seen at the grocery store seven days a week. Yes, you read that right, seven days a week! (Getting this guy to take a day off is like pulling teeth!). I guess that’s the beauty of it – running Abbi’s Payfair isn’t just a job, it’s his passion, it’s his life. And somehow in some awesome way it’s also a part of my life and helps create my story.


CnC_DadMeatCounter Chicken_smiling CnC_Family Hugs CnC_DadMom

There you have it folks! If you’re ever in the Point Douglas area and pop into the store, say hi to my papa!

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Celebrating National Dietitians Day #nutritionmonth

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

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

 

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

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

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

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

And, how about a few DID YOU KNOW’s:

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

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

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

 

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

#nutritionmonth Let’s Talk Breakfast

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Spotted, Nita’s Breakfast Muffin. Click the photo for recipe details.

March is Nutrition Month, which means Dietitians across Canada rally together to bring you relevant nutrition information around a particular topic. This year, the theme centers on Eating 9 to 5! We realize that families no matter the size can find eating healthy to be a challenge. This is especially true with rushed mornings, limited breaks, multiple work meetings, appointments and of course end-of-the-day dinner struggles.

In fact, almost 40% of Canadians skip breakfast, increasing their risk for morning brain drain.

On that note, let’s dissect the breakfast. This is usually the first day of the meal for many Canadians. Unfortunately, it’s also often skipped and not given the attention it oh-so-lovingly deserves. I get it, when you need to beat rush hour traffic to make it in time to work (after brewing your cup of Joe and dropping off the little humans), eating a solid breakfast may not be on your morning “to do” list.

What if you knew these interesting facts about eating healthy breakfast:

  • It’s linked to health weights and reduced weight gain over time
  • You can achieve improved appetite control so you can avoid morning munchies
  • You’ll be more alert and better able to concentrate at work (or school)
  • And, you’ll likely have a better intake of key nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, potassium and fibre

Have I got you convinced yet? Yes! Read on.

The key to having a star breakfast is to keep it simple and plan ahead.

  • On the weekend make a big batch of hot cereal like dahlia (Indian cracked wheat) or baked oatmeal. Pre-pack in individual servings, top with some fruit and refrigerate.
  • Get in a routine of hard boiling a few eggs. In the morning, grab an egg or two, whole wheat toast and a fruit! Of course your chai or latte can pack well into a travel mug. Tip: gradually reduce the amount of sugar you use, this way you can enjoy the natural flavor of your tea/coffee.
  • Blend up a smoothie. At home, my husband and I usually make a 1L serving of smoothie and portion them into mason jars to keep for a few days. Smoothies are a big trend right now and can often be packed full of fruits and veggies. Have you tried my Tropical Green Smoothie? Yum.
  • Enlist some help and get baking. If you have little ones at home, get them into the kitchen to help whip up a few dozen muffins. Muffins can be stored in an airtight container and kept in the freezer for a quick grab n’ go breakfast. Try these yummy breakfast muffins.
  • Stock your pantry with nutritious cold or dry cereals. What could be easier? Look for cereals that are high in fibre the next time you’re at the grocery store. What you want to do is find a product that has at least 4 grams of fibre per serving. Reading the nutrition facts table will offer you a wealth of information. A few packaged cereals currently in my pantry include:

What’s your favorite breakfast? Is there something you specifically struggle with? Let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

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

 

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

2015: Taking the Weight Off Weightloss

Pictured above is a baked apple dessert my husband and I enjoyed before the countdown to 2015. Yum.

Pictured above is a baked apple dessert my husband and I enjoyed before the countdown to 2015. Yum.

Wow, what a year it has been. In 2014 I opened up to the cyber-universe and gave birth to this baby I call Carrots and Cake. How was your 2014?

And now, to think it’s January 2015! This means for many North Americans, the diet has been “on” (or not) for 3 weeks?  This time around, I encourage you to forgo those rather “hardcore” New Year resolutions for weight loss. Even with the best of intentions it can be hard to stick to a weight loss resolution because we often view excess pounds as the “bad guy”.  Focusing so intently on weight can actually backfire.

I often see people resort to intense and unrealistic exercise regimes, give up staples in their diet, experiment with cleanses and dangerous detoxes and limit themselves to only a few select food items.  The result is usually an epic fail, physiological harm to your body and a lot of self-loathing. Does that sound like fun? This year, be kind to yourself.  Perhaps work on evolving a past resolution or mindfully select one specific goal unrelated to weight loss.

This year, be kind to yourself. 

Small steps and simple changes are easiest to achieve and will make a big difference as you move towards a healthier you.  If you want to cut down on fat intake, you’re more likely to stick with a switch from whole milk to 2% milk versus going all the way to skim milk.  If your goal is to be more active, it will be more manageable to start exercising 2 days a week versus heading to the gym 5 days a week.

To make sure you’re successful in achieving your goals, enlist support from friends and family.  Often, when you tell others what your resolutions are, they can offer encouragement and accountability to help you get over any stumbling blocks along the way.

If you’re still contemplating a few different ideas for a resolution as you welcome February 2015, here are a few suggestions to  improve your nutrition (and hey, maybe the weight will change, maybe it wont):

  • Incorporate a salad into one meal every day
  • Pack your lunch for work the night before
  • Drink more water—purchase a 1L water bottle and try to get through 1 – 2L during your work day
  • Increase your fibre intake by incorporating whole grains into your diet and munching on fresh fruits and vegetables
  • During winter months, take that daily Vitamin D supplement
  • Try going “meatless” on Monday’s
  • Limit eating at fast food restaurants

Before signing off on this article, I’d like to publicly declare that my personal goal this year is in fact an evolution of a previous goal I set in 2014. And that is, to eat more fish. I’ll keep everyone posted on how I do.  Happy New Year!

Want to know more about my personal thoughts on “Detoxes”? Click here.

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

The Vitamin you SHOULD be Taking

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Pictured above is my little cocktail of daily nutrition supplements. With the help of my amazing physician and some critical thinking on my part, this concoction is just right for me at this life stage. It includes a good quality probiotic, prescription iron supplement and vitamin D.

Vitamins—their purposes, roles, and needs were the focus of many discussions this year. This was largely due to mainstream media articles and a few studies suggesting that vitamin supplements aren’t necessary for all individuals. Disclaimer: this statement is true. Not everyone needs to take a multivitamin; you may not be deficient in a nutrient if you’re eating a variety of foods in adequate portions.

Having said this, there is one nonnegotiatiable supplement, and that my friends is vitamin D. Also known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D can actually be made in our skin when we are exposed to sunlight. We can also source vitamin D from a few food sources, such as in fortified milk, fish, and to a lesser extent, eggs and mushrooms.  A quick fact: to get enough vitamin D from milk, you would need to drink 10 cups per day. Idealistic? Sure. Realistic? Unlikely.

Because of  its’ poor bioavailability in foods,  we run the risk of being vitamin D deficient. Furthermore, when you live in a city affectionately called “Winterpeg” it can be difficult to make vitamin D subcutaneously because we’re often bundled up in the spring, fall, and winter months. According to research, Canadians actually produce zero vitamin D between October and May. And, if you’re wearing sunscreen in the summer months you’re also less likely to being producing vitamin D.

There’s so much fuss about it, but do I really need vitamin D?

It plays a key role in helping our bodies absorb and utilize calcium. As a result, we can help maintain healthy bones, muscles, and teeth by having a-okay stores of vitamin D. Beyond this, new research is showing that the human body has evolved with more receptors for vitamin D. Increasingly, there is substantial evidence that vitamin D can improve our immune health, prevent certain forms of cancer, fight inflammation, and even promote better mental health.

So what’s the point?

It’s virtually impossible to get enough vitamin D from food alone. Consider taking a single vitamin D3 supplement. I typically recommend my clients take between 1000 – 2000IU daily depending on their intake of other vitamin D containing foods. This recommendation applies to anyone I see over the age of one (so, basically everyone!). If you or a family member is not a ‘pill person,’ talk to your pharmacist about a liquid or chewable version of vitamin D which is readily available.

Can I overdo taking vitamin D?

Vitamin D supplements have no known side effects if they’re taken at the appropriate dose. A dose of 4,000 IU/day is considered the tolerable highest dose a person can consume long-term without risk of adverse effects. Still concerned? Feel free to contact me or speak to your physician for more information!

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda