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

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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.

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Easy as ONE, TWO, THREE.

Okay, okay. Rant over. Recipe below.

Red Thai Curry with Tofu
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
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!

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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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Total time
 
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

Super Seedy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeHave you ever experienced that moment when you perfect the most incredible recipe? I have. It was a great feeling but one that certainly came with a lot of errors, epic-fails and me wracking my brain to problem solve. The issue was I kept getting a cookie that was too dense and too “hard”. After altering the recipe (five times) and most importantly decreasing the baking time, I got it. PS it totally pays to have friends like Jenn and Courtney who offer up baking advice! Here it is…the perfect Super. Seedy. Chocolate Chip. Cookie.

Oh and hey mama’s! You can send these little guys to you children’s school. It’s loaded with protein but it totally no-nut friendly!

What are some things that I love about this cookie?

  1. Vegan friendly. ‘Nuff said.
  2. Flax-water Replacement. Instead of using an egg to bind and moisten my cookie, I used a flax-water replacement. Yup, that’s right you can use 1 tbsp ground flax meal + 2.5 tbsp water to replace one egg. Voila!
  3. Seedy. Healthy and compact, seeds are amazingly nourishing. They often packed with  protein, fibre, iron, vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. In this cookie I use: hemp hearts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.
  4. Sweet, but not too sweet. I originally started off this recipe using 1/2 cup each of sugar and brown sugar. Coupled with the chocolate chips, it was just way too sweet for me. I also knew that if I offered it to my niece with reduced sugar, she probably wouldn’t notice. So why bother? I reduced the sugar to 1/3 cup of white and brown sugar and it’s great.
  5. Healthy fats. I chose to use a plant-based fat, canola oil, for this recipe. There’a s few reasons why:
    • Canola oil is extremely neutral in taste. This means, the flavors from your ingredients are never masked.
    • I’m a prairie girl. Using canola oil means I’m supporting my local economy and most importantly our local family-farmers. Did you know, canola oil is 100% Canadian.
    • Canola oil is economical – yes, this Dietitian is on a budget!
    • Lastly, canola oil means more to me than it simply being a fat. Towards the end of my summer I was invited to join the Canola Eat Well team at Canola Camp. I learned a lot about the agriculture industry that I didn’t know about before. A few things: growing canola allows farmers to nourish their soil (it gives back nutrients), it sustains our bees that are often busy producing honey for us and provides livestock with high quality protein for their feed. Quite honestly canola is life-sustaining. I’m still working through my journal (and brain) to really articulate what my experiences were like at camp to share with you, so stay-tuned.
      • Recipe tip: did you know that when a recipe calls for a solid fat to be melted you can often use canola oil instead? This works easily for cakes and muffins. Use this conversion chart.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeIn the mean time, bake these cookies. Pour yourself a glass of milk.

Enjoy.

Super Seedy Chocolate Chip Cookies
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 24
Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup canola oil
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup white sugar
  • 2 tbsp flax meal
  • 5 tbsp water
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp hot water
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup white flour
  • ½ cup large-flake rolled oats
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ⅓ cup chocolate chips (dairy free for vegan option)
  • ½ cup dried cranberries or raisins
  • 1 cup seeds or nuts (your choice; I do a mixture of sunflower seed, pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Soak flax meal in water. Ensure you’ve mixed it thoroughly with a fork. Let it stand 5 minutes.
  3. In another small pinch bowl stir together baking soda in hot water. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl or in your stand mixer, combine canola oil, white sugar and brown sugar until well mixed.
  5. Add in your flax and water mixture. Stir to combine.
  6. Add in the baking soda and water mixture. Sitr to combine.
  7. In a separate bowl combine the remaining dry ingredients. Once thoroughly combined add this dry mixture to the wet ingredients. Give this all a whirl with your mixer or beater – be sure not to over-mix!
  8. Drop a spoonful of batter at a time onto a non-stick pan (I prefer to use parchment paper).
  9. With your fingers, lightly press the cookie-dough rounds so they are slightly flat (see photo above). These cookies wont run or expand much!
  10. Bake for 10 minutes (important: do not over bake).
  11. Makes approximaly 30 cookies.
Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Here’s your egg substitute made with flax meal and water!

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Please note all opinions in this post are my own. I have not received compensation for this post.

                 – 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.
Nita Sharda

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.

Nita Sharda

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

#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