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
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  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
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  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

Black Bean Brownies

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

Seriously, yummy.

Earlier this week we talked to you about how excited we are that 2016 is the International Year of the Pulse. Hip hip hooray! In today’s recipe post we’re sharing an exciting brownie recipe that uses black beans. Yes, you read that right: BLACK BEANS. Please, don’t be scared – the results are amazing and dddddelish.

If you’re also making it a goal to experiment with new grains you’ll note that this recipe is actually wheat free. Instead, it uses oats. The original inspiration came from a fellow food blogger who we love, Chocolate Covered Katie. Our contributor Ceone had also made variations of the recipe in the past, so we wanted to share-share (what do they say? Sharing is caring). We made a few adaptations such as using applesauce to reduce the fat content and also decided to finely process the oats a bit more. The result is a brownie that resembles fudge but is still soft, a little gooey and chocolatey. All good things people. All good things.

From a nutrition standpoint, what I love about this dessert option is that it offers my clients an opportunity to still practice balance. In comparison to commercial or boxed brownies, this brownie is fairly low in sugar, offers up some fibre and protein which in turn will help you feel full for longer (that’s because fibre and protein are satiating). It’s totally the type of treat (or every day food) that really can be good for you. 

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

All mixed up.

Before it goes into the oven.

Before it goes into the oven.

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

After it’s been baked.

Okay, okay. Enough with the chatter. Recipe below:

Black Bean Brownies
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • ½ cup quick oats or rolled oats
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ⅓ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ cup chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Place oats into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it resembles coarse flour.
  3. Add remaining ingredients except chocolate chips into a food processor and blend until completely smooth.
  4. Fold the chocolate chips into the batter.
  5. Place mixture into a greased 8×8 pan.
  6. Optional: sprinkle extra chocolate chips over the top.
  7. Cook the black bean brownies 20 minutes. Allow it to cool and set at least 10 minutes before trying to cutting into it. If they still look a bit undercooked, you can place them in the fridge overnight and they will magically firm up! Makes 12 brownies

1BlackBeanBrownies_squares

These photos  were taken by Ceone Dyck, 4th Year Human Nutritional Sciences student. To learn more about Ceone click here or follow her on Facebook.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Real Talk: The Raw Food Diet

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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

Roasted Cauliflower Salad Bowl

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

YUMMY YUMMY!

If you’re living somewhere that is currently in the middle of winter (read: “Winterpeg, Manisnowba”), cold and raw veggies is probably the last thing you feel like eating. On the other hand, many of us are trying to UP our veggie intake. Salad is a great way to increase the amount of fruit and vegetable servings in our diet, but it can get old pretty fast.

We have a secret though (shhh): with a little creativity, salad doesn’t have to be boring, and yes, they can be hearty. Here are some tips to creating your own salads that you’ll actually look forward to eating this winter (and no one will be accusing you of eating rabbit food! How rude!):

 salad doesn’t have to be boring

  • Warm it up. Roast some of your vegetables to bring out those warm, nutty flavours – you can play around with spices such as cinnamon, cumin or chili to add an extra dimension of flavour. When prepping ahead of time, pack the cooked portion separate from your greens so you can warm it up right before eating, and keep the greens from getting soggy. Veggies that love to be roasted: broccoli, beets, peppers, cauliflower, green beans, squash, zucchini, eggplant, and potatoes. Here we opted to roast cauliflower. Isn’t it gorgeous?

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

 

  • Stay balanced. Be sure to include carbohydrates (aka carb) and protein in your salad if you are having it as a meal. Got that? IT IS NOT A MEAL WITHOUT CARB AND PROTEIN. Doing so will ensure that you feel full and that you consume a variety of nutrients (oh and it will keep you from reaching for that candy bar when hunger strikes).

    • Carb options: brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, potatoes, sweet potato, or squash.
    • Protein options: grilled or steamed chicken breast and salmon, tofu, beans, chickpeas, and lentils (Psst: 2016 is the year of pulses! More on that in a later post).
  • Eat the rainbow. We all know that we eat with our eyes first, but including a variety of colours not only makes your salad pretty, it ensures that you are also getting a variety of vitamins and minerals with each bite. Opt for dark, leafy greens as a base, and then add 2-3 other colours to the mix. Carrots, red cabbage, beets, pomegranate, and squash are all in season.
  • Dress to impress. When choosing a dressing, vinaigrettes are the better option, as they have less saturated fat than cream-based dressings such as caesar or ranch. If you prefer to purchase dressing rather than make your own, be sure to check out the ingredients list and choose a dressing that has simple ingredients that you can pronounce and would likely have in your pantry; such as oil, vinegar, and spices. Here’s a simple go-to canola oil dressing I love. So simple.
  • Fake it till you make it. If you’re a fan of creamy dressings, try using hummus, tahini (sesame seed paste), or plain yogurt as alternatives when making dressings.
  • Go nuts! Nuts and seeds are a great way to add healthy fat, protein, fibre and texture to salad. Try adding roasted and unsalted almonds, walnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds for extra crunch and flavour.

Whew! The possibilities are endless when it comes to “ a salad”. The best way to avoid getting stuck in a rut is to experiment and see what works best for you.

ANYWAY, here is a cozy and delicious winter salad to get you started:

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Cauliflower Salad Bowl
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Ingredients
  • Kale
  • Edamame bean, steamed
  • Cauliflower
  • Quinoa, cooked
  • Pomegranate
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees celcius.
  2. Chop cauliflower into bite size florets. Lay onto a baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of black pepper, salt and any other herbs you'd like to use.
  3. Roast in the oven for 15 - 20 minutes until cauliflower is tender and beginning to brown.
  4. In the mean time, assemble your salad bowl by combining kale, steamed edamame beans, cooked quinoa and pomegranate. Add as much or as little of each ingredient as you wish.
  5. For the dressing, whisk together 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp each of maple syrup and white wine vinegar. Pour over salad and massage into your kale (this helps to tenderize and soften the kale).
  6. Once the cauliflower is ready, add it onto your salad bowl. Enjoy!
This blog post was written by 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!

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

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.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

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!

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

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: 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

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