The Whole Grain and Nothing But the Grain (Part 2: Free Gluten)

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeA couple of posts back we talked about the goodness of whole grains and why grain-excluding diets aren’t so great after all. Today we’re going to shift your focus and delve into the increasingly popular gluten-free diet trend that has everyone going cross-eyed with confusion.

WHAT ON EARTH IS GLUTEN?

Well, I guess clarifying things would help. Let’s pause. Contrary to popular belief (thanks to loads and loads of marketing and misinformation) it is not some horrifyingly fattening, health-impeding substance that will cause you to drop dead. Gluten is a protein found in the center (endosperm) of wheat, barley, and rye. Physically speaking, it helps the grain maintain it’s shape and elasticity when used in baking or cooking.

NOT FOR EVERYONE

As wonderful as whole grains are (as previously established here), there are a few instances where they are not well tolerated. Celiac disease for example is an auto-immune disorder that affects 1% of the Canadian population. With this condition, gluten proteins are not digested or absorbed, leading to some pretty unpleasant symptoms and in severe cases, anaphylactic shock – yikes! Remember, in Celiac Disease there is an immune response.

To make matters more confusing we are also noticing a number of folks struggling with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Symptoms are similar to those of celiac disease but luckily the overall clinical picture is less severe. Folks with a non-celiac gluten sensitivity don’t experience an immune response per se, but they may feel groggy, bloated, experience pain, headaches etc when gluten is ingested. In these cases it is always best to STAY CLEAR of wheat.

If you suspect you have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, contact a physician or Registered Dietitian to get some help.

1BlackBeanBrownies_squares

Gluten free brownies.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Gluten containing yummy mac and cheese (veggified of course!).

BUYER BEWARE: GLUTEN-FREE vs HEALTHY

As the incidence of celiac disease increases, more and more gluten-free products are constantly becoming available on supermarket shelves. With this shift in the market, gluten-free products have been promoted as “healthy” or “trendy”, which is confusing to the average consumer. Note to self: the words “gluten-free” in bold on a package is not code for healthy. Gluten-free products when refined (ex. white rice crackers) can be just as harmful as the refined, gluten-containing grains described in the previous post.

For those who have trouble tolerating gluten, I recommend experimenting with gluten-free options such as amaranth, buckwheat, uncontaminated oats, quinoa or brown rice pasta to create healthy snacks and meals at home.

BUT IF I GO GLUTEN-FREE, I’LL LOSE WEIGHT RIGHT?

Think of it this way: when a person with celiac disease is properly diagnosed and begins a prescribed gluten-free diet, they may in fact gain weight since the malabsorption that was once happening subsides and they are better equipped to absorb the nutrients and calories they have been consuming. You heard me right! – gluten-free diets were actually intended for people to maintain their ideal weight, sometimes meaning weight gain.

Whether or not you lose weight on a gluten-free diet all depends on how you go gluten-free. Giving the boot to gluten-containing refined grains like white-flour bagels, pasta, and crackers, and processed snacks will definitely be an effective weight loss method if you are replacing them with wholesome, high fiber alternatives. However, if these gluten rich foods are replaced by hyper-processed gluten-free products weight loss isn’t a guarantee. Besides, it never truly is.

FREE GLUTEN

The stigma surrounding gluten deserves to be squashed! Consider how silly this sounds: “My friend is allergic to peanuts – therefore they must be terrible for my health and I must give them up immediately!” That would never fly in one million years – so why would we apply this mentality with gluten? (on a side note: you would have to pry the jar of PB out of my cold dead hands before I would give it up).

The takeaway:

whole grain, gluten-containing foods are absolutely A-OKAY in our books. Unless you have been properly diagnosed with an allergy or intolerance keep munching on whole-grain goodness!

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

That’s Ceone rocking some gluten love.

If you’re not in a rush to leave this blog page, check out this video by Jimmy Fallon. Jimmy is notorious for his comedic ways, pranks and well, making us laugh a little more in our day. Enjoy.

Food photography and blog post written/captured by a talented student volunteer, 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

Chia Seed Pudding

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeOh, hello! Welcome back – I hope you enjoyed learning about whole grains on our last post. We’re going to take a break from nutrition education and share this uber simple recipe with ya’ll. You’ve previously seen me use and talk about the health benefits of chia seeds, like when I showcased my version of a 5 Ingridient Berry Sauce. When I heard my food friends talk about chia seed pudding, I was totally hooked and needed to give it a try.

Here’s what I love in particular about this recipe:

  • calls for only 5 ingridients
  • offers up 10 grams of fibre
  • source of calcium
  • source of protein
  • allows for customization
  • naturally gluten free
  • no cooking, just stirring

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeOkay, I think you’re sold.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Chia Seed Pudding
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Serves: 2 - 3
Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup chia seeds (black or white)
  • 1½ cups milk (dairy or dairy free)
  • 2 tbsp runny honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extra
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients into a bowl. Mix very, very, very well and cover with saran wrap.
  2. Place bowl into the fridge for thirty minutes. Stir again.
  3. Return back to the fridge for at least another 2 - 3 hours. The result is a thick pudding similar to rice pudding.
  4. Top with additional fruit if you wish. I love it with tart raspberries, mango or kiwi.

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

The Whole Grain and nothing but the Grain (Part 1)

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeAs soon as you type the word “diet” into your preferred internet search-engine, you’ll probably be met with results like “gluten-free,” “low-carb,” or “cutting out wheat for weight loss.” This grain-free diet trend has become increasingly popular, compliments of endorsements by many celebrities and Instagram stars. But before you write off grains for good, take a look at some of the top reasons we love whole grains, and why they’re essential to your health.

SO…. WHAT IS A WHOLE GRAIN?

What makes a whole grain whole? Well, really ALL grains start out as “whole.” The harvested seed is made up of three edible parts: the bran, germ, and endosperm.

  • The bran is the darker coloured, outer skin of the seed, which is where most of the antioxidants, B-vitamins, and fiber is stored.
  • The germ is the center embryo of the seed, which stores B-vitamins, but also protein, minerals, and healthy fat.
  • Lastly the endosperm, which is the largest portion of the seed, contains starchy carbohydrates, protein, and small amounts of vitamins and minerals.

When whole grains are refined, the bran and the germ are kicked to the curb, leaving all those wonderful and healthy vitamins, minerals, and fiber behind. Whole grains are not refined, and because of that all parts of the seed are included in the final (healthy) product. Remember, you don’t want to go grain-free, you want to go whole grain.

THE GOOD STUFF

Clearly, those un-refined whole grains have got a lot of good things going on. Here are a few of the amazing benefits of whole grains:

  • Dietary fiber helps you feel fuller, faster, and longer. It also aids in digestion and promotes gut health. Fiber is found only in plant sources (nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains), and grain fiber specifically has been shown to be protective against digestive cancers even more so than other forms of fiber. Beta-glucan, found in high concentration in both oats and barley, has been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels remarkably. Personally, we love starting our day with a big bowl of oatmeal and fruit – which honestly keeps us feeling satisfied all the way until lunch.
  • B vitamins are metabolic champions which you need, in order to make use of all those other amazing super-powered nutrients you are consuming. These power house vitamins ensure that the food you consume is utilized and absorbed to the full extent so you can get the most out of your daily nutrient consumption! They also maintain healthy skin, hair, muscles, form red blood cells, and promote healthy immune & nervous system function – kind of incredible, right?
  • Minerals – such as zinc, magnesium, phosphorous, selenium, and iron are abundant in whole grains. Collectively, these compounds have the power to boost your immune system, regulate metabolism, reduce blood pressure, and keep your skin & hair looking healthy!

The moral of this story: whole grains keep you looking and feeling like the total 10 you are.

kjkj
Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

HIGH QUALITY VERSUS LOW QUALITY GRAIN

So, after reading that first section, it’s probably clear to you that not all grain products are created equal in terms of nutrient value. It’s important to choose the right grain products in order to get all those wonderful benefits described above. Refined grains, which is the bulk of what people consume today since they’re the bulk of what’s stocked on market shelves, have been linked to obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes – whoa! Just about the exact opposite effect of whole grains. That can feel overwhelming, but here’s something to hold on to: little changes in your diet can make a huge difference. (psst, looking to make smart goals, click here). Look for the words “whole wheat flour” or “100% whole grains” as opposed to “enriched wheat flour” or “wheat flour” on the ingredient lists of your favourite grain products. Or, even better, opt to make more snacks and meals at home ahead of time with a healthy whole grain flour (try whole-wheat flour, oat flour, buckwheat, or spelt). And hey! Bake these super seedy chocolate chip cookies made with whole wheat flour, you won’t regret it I promise!

Drumroll please…. a few of my favourite whole, unrefined grain swaps are:

  • Overnight oats as a replacement for boxed breakfast-cereal (get the recipe here)
  • Quinoa or brown rice noodles as a replacement for white rice in stir-fry or soup
  • 100% whole wheat wraps to replace refined, white flour sandwich bread
  • Whole-wheat or oat flour to replace white flour in baking (replacing even half is a great way to start)

It is important to note that a lot of whole grain products on the grocery shelf today get a bad rep for being “unhealthy” due to some of the other ingredients included in their making. For instance, certain brands of 100% whole wheat bread, crackers, or pre-packaged snacks may also contain high levels of sodium, sugar, or additives which are admittedly not so great. Because of this, often the whole grains themselves take the blame. The best way to avoid some of those unhealthy extras is to incorporate unprocessed whole grains into cooking or baking at home and get familiar with reading nutrition labels.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

TO SUM IT ALL UP

Whole grains are the BOMB! (The capitalization is totally needed, I promise!). Whole grains are jam-packed with nutrients, energy, and overall deliciousness, so they make a great addition to just about anyone’s diet. Now that you’ve received a brief grain education (you are hereby granted your diploma in grain education!) you are ready to navigate the grocery store and pick out some seriously nutritious whole grains! Go forth, be adventurous, and enjoy adding those amazing whole grains into your life!

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

Overnight Oats

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeI’m all about making sure we’re eating a variety of whole grains in this house. Sometimes without knowing it, we get stuck in a rut and stick to one primary grain (wheat, and by the way: there is nothing wrong with that). Consequently, we don’t get a chance to enjoy the wonder and benefits other grains have to offer us.

Oats. I LOVE OATS. a) they are hella cheap  b) they are super versatile  c) they are easy to cook  d) you can enjoy them sweet, savory, warm or cold!  e) for folks who are sensitive to gluten, they can enjoy certified gluten free oats. What more do ya want from a grain?

Want the nutrition jiffy on oats?

  • They are whole grain! Health Canada recommends that 50% of your grains should be whole grain; we know people who eat whole grains have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and digestive disorders.
  • They are rich in soluble fibre; this type of fibre helps improve blood cholesterol and can help manage blood sugar levels too.
  • A half cup serving (dry, large flake oats) offers up nearly 8 grams of protein.
  • They are a source of B vitamins, iron and vitamin E.

Why overnight oats?

It’s great for people who require a quick grab n’ go style breakfast; maybe you’re someone who prefers to enjoy breakfast at work or are too busy preparing breakfast for your little ones. This is a great alternative!

Mornings can be rough for some of us so overnight oats take the prep-work out in the morning. You can prepare a few batches to last you throughout the week.

Overnight oats are incredibly versatile. You can change the proportion of milk/yogurt/oats as needed to suit your needs.

In general, you’re getting a great source of protein, carbohydrate, fat if you add some nuts/seeds and fruit. These components make it a complete and balanced meal.

It’s a nice change from your typical bowl of hot oatmeal.

Variations: 

  • Top it with my 5 Ingredient Berry Sauce, bananas, shredded coconut, apples, canned peaches or any other favorite fruit.
  • Switch up the milk from a dairy milk, nut milk or soy milk.
  • Add nuts and seeds for extra protein such as pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almonds or toasted hazelnuts. My friend Chantal of Nutty for Nutrition loves adding chia seed to her concoction, just make sure add extra moisture if you go this route because chia seeds love to suck up liquid!
  • Feel free to use your favorite sweetener such as brown sugar, maple syrup, honey or stevia if that’s what you fancy.

Nita sharda, Carrots and Cake

Overnight Oats
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Serves: 1
Ingredients
  • ½ cup rolled oats (large flake)
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ - ⅓ cup vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp flax seed
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • Drizzle of maple syrup, honey or your preferred sweetener
  • Fruit
Instructions
  1. Place oats, milk, yogurt, flax seed, cinnamon and sweetener into a Tupperware, mason jar or cereal bowl. Stir until smooth.
  2. Top with your choice of fruit. Leave overnight.
  3. The next day, enjoy it cold or feel free to nuke it in the microwave for 20 seconds! If it's a little too thick for you add a dash of milk or water until you've got your desired consistency.

Nita sharda, Carrots and CakeFood 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

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

Hearty Meat Marinara

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeWhen guests come over for dinner, what’s your go-to-recipe? You know, the one that gets the oohs and ahhs. I tend to lean towards Italian cuisine. I mean, WHO DOESN’T LOVE PASTA? Pasta tends to receive a lot of negativity – you know, it’s just carbs, right? No way! Pasta is actually very versatile and can be super nutritious. Most enriched varieties come with B vitamins and iron. Not to mention it’s hella economical.

What to buy?

When choosing pasta look for something that offers you at least 4 grams of fibre per serving. Next, check out the ingredient list. Go for a pasta that has the word whole grain written as the first ingredient. If you’re not quite ready for whole grain pasta (don’t worry, I get it) then I recommend starting slowly. Mix in half wholegrain with half regular pasta. Baby steps are all G around here. I tend to enjoy spaghettini as it’s slightly thinner.

So we’ve got the right pasta in the shopping cart. It’s also important to pay attention to how you dress your pasta. If you prefer to use a ready-made pasta sauce be weary of the sodium content. This marinara is stuffed full with yummy vegetables, flavourful spices and for protein I opted to use a lean protein – ground turkey. You could also use lean ground beef or soy protein.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Okay. Rant over. Recipe below!

Hearty Meat Marinara
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Ingredients
  • 1½ tbsp canola oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 whole yellow onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced (keep the skin on)
  • Large handful mushrooms, diced
  • ¾ - 1 lb ground meat (lean beef, turkey, chicken)
  • 1 28oz can whole tomatoes
  • 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup water or vegetable broth
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp basil
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp parsley
Instructions
  1. In a large pot add canola oil, onions and garlic. Cook for a few minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add in green pepper, celery, zucchini and mushrooms. Cook for 5-8 minutes until softened over medium heat.
  2. Place cooked veggies on a plate and set aside. In the same pot brown your meat with salt and pepper to taste, about 3 minutes.
  3. Pour in whole tomatoes (mashing them each with your hands), crushed tomatoes, and water/broth.
  4. Add salt, black pepper, sugar, basil, oregano and parsley. Add in plated veggies. Stir to combine and simmer over very low heat for 30 minutes.
  5. If you would like, feel free to blend the sauce for a desired consistency using an emersion blender.
  6. Voila!

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita 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

 

Red Thai Curry with Tofu

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

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

For this recipe my veggies included:

  • Sweet potato
  • Red Bell Pepper
  • Yellow Bell Pepper

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nita Sharda

Easy as ONE, TWO, THREE.

Okay, okay. Rant over. Recipe below.

Red Thai Curry with Tofu
 
Prep time
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

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

#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