#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

Cheers to Spring “Cleaning” How You Eat

Above photo was taken by SambaJoy Photo & Art.

Above photo was taken by SambaJoy Photo & Art.

It’s here people. Spring. Is. Here.

As we bid farewell to our cold winter, we welcome all that the new season will bring to us. For many, spring marks a time for an annual “purge-my-closet”, a car tune up and more famously, we gear up to hit the shopping malls in race for the perfect new shoes, purse or even that pretty dress.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with any of this; but how many of us take this time to reflect on how we eat and where we can perhaps make a few improvements in our diet, if even one?

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you embrace spring with a sense of renewal and work towards a healthier you:

Reduce sugar by a third in baked good recipes. Now that’s a sweet deal. 

It’s no secret that foods that contain sugar can be part of a balanced diet, but too much of the sweet stuff can add unnecessary calories.  Be conscious about your efforts to reduce sugar intake. We certainly can’t completely omit sugar when we bake chewy cookies, moist muffins or sweet breads. But typically up to one third of the sugar can go missing without anyone noticing. If you’re going give this try, add a little extra cinnamon, vanilla or almond extract to add a hint of sweetness without the load of sugar.

Get intense flavor with less fat. 

When people want to reduce fat intake, they often jump the gun and eliminate cheese from their usual regime. C’mon, cheese is more than just F-A-T. Cheese provides muscled building protein, calcium and other nutrients too. Reduced-fat and low-fat cheese can be a smart choice for snack and sandwiches—look for something at 20% M.F. Because these types of cheeses don’t melt well and make for a tough or stringy casserole, try using a little less regular cheese in your usual recipe. Or, shred in highly flavourful cheese such as Asiago, aged cheddar or Parmesan.

Eat a variety of different fruits and vegetables. 

No one fruit or vegetable is so “super” that it can keep you healthy on its own. Don’t dwell on products that are labeled as “superfoods”; sometimes this phrase is used to market expensive foods or new trendy ingredients. Everyday (and affordable) produce such as broccoli, carrots or apples can be just nutritious.

Fibre up! 

Fibre can help to lower blood cholesterol and control blood sugar levels. This is called soluble fibre and is found in some vegetables, fruits and legumes. Other types of fibre, called insoluble fibre from some vegetables and fruit, whole grains and wheat bran, help keep you “regular” and may protect against colon cancer. How can you increase fibre?

  • Consume higher amounts of whole grains such as rolled oats, barley, quinoa and brown rice.
  • Replace at least half of the white flour with whole wheat flour in your recipes.
  • Add a few spoonfuls of bran, chia seeds and ground flaxseed to your cereal or yogurt.
  • Savor the peel—crunch into your apples and pears as they are.
  • Read the label—check for grams of fibre. A food labeled as “high in fibre” must have four or more grams of fibre per serving.
  • Try your hand at these Energy Date Balls that are loaded with fibre and will hit that sweet spot.

Whatever you decide, make it sustainable. Find ways to source help from a Registered Dietitian or your fan club (we’ve all got one: your spouse, sister, friend, child etc). This is one great way to welcome all that spring brings (and then, it’s summer).

This blog post was originally published as a guest post on PegCityLovely for my friend Natalie Bell. Visit her here!

SpringClean

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Soft Carrot Oatmeal Cookies #kidfriendly

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

C’mon, don’t you celebrate your birthday all month long?

Okay, I can’t possibly be the only one that celebrates birthday’s all month long.  Right?  Lucky for you, in lieu of this blog’s first birthday I also whipped up a cookie recipe.  Sorry, this recipe isn’t loaded with sugar, chocolate or copious amounts of fat.  Instead, this soft and well textured cookie is full of yummy carrot goodness and is a big hit not just with adults, but kids too!  My nieces love snacking on this cookie and their moms feel good offering it as a snack. That’s a win win situation if you ask me.

If you’re going to compare this cookie to an Oreo or Chip’s Ahoy, that’s just not fair. Simple homemade cookies can’t compete with hyper-processed and sugar laced foods. This cookie is whole grain and contains whole ingredients. Nothing fake here.

Simple homemade foods can’t compete with hyper-processed foods.

I opted to use honey as my primary sweetener. You can choose to use maple syrup or agave nectar if you wish. Note to mama’s and papa’s: if baby is less than 12 months, you don’t want to offer them honey. Use maple syrup instead.

I got the inspiration from these cookies via another blog. The original recipe can be found here. Thanks Amy!

4.0 from 1 reviews
Soft Carrot Oatmeal Cookies #kidfriendly
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 12 - 18
Ingredients
  • 1 cup quick cooking oats (source gluten free if necessary)
  • ¾ cup whole wheat flour (or, gluten free flour if necessary)
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp canola oil (or, whatever type of fat you prefer)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ c honey, maple syrup or agave (I used honey)
  • ¾ c grated carrots (about 1 medium carrot)
Instructions
  1. In a medium sized bowl, combine oats, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
  2. In another small bowl, whisk together the canola oil, egg, and vanilla extract. Stir in the honey until thoroughly incorporated. I prefer to use a hand mixer for this step.
  3. Add the wet mixture to your flour mixture. Don't over mix the contents - just enough to blend well. Then, fold in the carrots.
  4. As recommended by Amy, chill the dough for at least 30 minutes. (If chilling longer, cover with plastic wrap, ensuring it touches the entire surface of the cookie dough). This helps you out a lot when you start dropping the cookies onto your baking sheet.
  5. Preheat the oven to 325°F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  6. Drop the cookie dough into 15 rounded scoops on the baking sheet. (If chilled longer than 1.5 hours, flatten slightly.) Bake for 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Cool on the baking sheet for at least 15 minutes, and then place on a wire rack.
  8. Now, enjoy.

And again, here’s to raising a forkful of Carrot Pineapple Loaf and toasting to a very, very happy first birthday!

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

#nutritionmonth Let’s Talk Breakfast

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NM_Colour_EN

 

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

 

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

2015: Taking the Weight Off Weightloss

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

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

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

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

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

This year, be kind to yourself. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

The Vitamin you SHOULD be Taking

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what’s the point?

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

Can I overdo taking vitamin D?

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

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda