Easy Cauliflower Steak

Nita ShardaHey! Do you have a friend that is vegetarian or vegan, but you’re not…so what do you do? Don’t fret, this recipe is not only healthy, good looking and easy, it’s the perfect fit if you’re wanting to impress your veggie loving friends. Or, even if you just need some plant food inspo! I gotchuuuu.

I was inspired to experiment with cauliflower after my friend Chantal (nutty4nutrition) literally started putting cauliflower puree into almost everything. While this method of enjoying cauliflower isn’t pureed, it’s definitely a crowd pleaser and you can easily make this your own. I have a scheduled girls night coming up – invitations out (thanks Paperless post!) and the menu is all set with a plan to feature this recipe. I know they’ll love it, and moreover, I know how meaningful it is to my vegetarian girlfriends that I take time to accommodate their dietary lifestyle. Das love. Amirite?

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P.S. Paperless Post generously offered me some coins which I totally intend on spending for more dinner parties and girls nights!

The first step is to pick the perfect cauliflower head – you want something that is medium to large in size so you can get about 2 – 4 “steaks” out of it. If you choose ones of those itty bitty cute cauliflowers you might end up with a bouquet of cute florets. Which…isn’t a badddd thing either. Then, start thinking about what flavour profile you want. For mine, I added Indian spices like cumin and garam masala. You could easily adapt the herbs – I’ve done variations with parsley, oregano and basil and I’ve also sprinkled nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavour. What’s next? Sear it, bake it, eat it! EASY PEASY.

Nita Sharda

Easy Cauliflower Steak
 
Cook time
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Serves: 2 - 4
Ingredients
  • 1 head cauliflower, medium to large size
  • 2 tbsp oil, I used canola oil but you can use avocado oil or olive oil
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 450°F.
  2. In a small bowl mix oil, garam masala, cumin, turmeric and garlic. Add in salt and pepper.
  3. Set cauliflower on a sturdy surface, stem side up. Cut cauliflower in half, vertically, through the center of the stem (the stem helps keep the steak intact).
  4. Starting from the flat side of each half, measure in 1-inch and slice down vertically creating a 1-inch thick “steak”.
  5. Save exterior section (which will likely fall apart because there is no stem to hold it together) for salads, to make cauliflower rice to enjoy as florets.
  6. Heat a large, heavy oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Drizzle cauliflower with spiced oil and rub all over on both sides.
  7. Cook until the bottom side is a nutty brown color but not burnt, about 8 - 10 minutes.
  8. Flip steaks and transfer skillet to oven. Bake for 15 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender throughout and the bottom is browned.
  9. Remove cauliflower from the oven, serve as is or with a drizzle of yogurt if you wish. I also enjoy garnishing mine with cilantro.

Nita Sharda
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

 

Thai Quinoa Salad

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeI love quinoa. But I’m really not a fan of it by itself. Are you? My preference is to enjoy it when it’s “mixed” into something like a pesto quinoa salad or as a pilaf with garlic mushrooms. Mmmmm. I’ve been making this version of a Thai quinoa salad for years now but never really took the time to standardize the recipe. With some encouragement from friends and family, I finally did it.

Here are my pre-requisites for a quinoa salad:

I want it to be hearty enough to be a meal, so I need a solid source of protein. Enter the edamame bean! A ½ cup serving of edamame beans is about 12 grams of protein.

I want color. I eat with my eyes so against the quinoa I wanted to see some yellow, red, purple and green. A colorful meal also means I’m feeding my body variety of nutrients.

I want a good-for-you dressing. I’m not fearful of fat and my mantra has always been: it’s not the quantity of fat you eat, it’s the quality. The dressing for this recipe is largely based on peanut butter. Go for a natural PB that isn’t loaded with added fats, sugar or salt. The dressing also has lovely hints of ginger which is great for digestion and amping up the flavor of this salad.

I want it to still be good the next day. C’mon, we all know many salads don’t hold up more than 24 hours. Not this recipe! I prefer to keep the dressing on the side and pour on more as I need it. The quinoa salad itself stays perfectly fine for 3 – 4 days when kept refrigerated in an air-tight container.

This recipe is a hit, no matter where I go. My vegan and vegetarian friends and mama’s all LOVE it. It’s perfect for weekday lunches, as a side or for sharing at a potluck.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeThai Quinoa Salad_vertical

Okay, okay, recipe below!

4.0 from 2 reviews
Thai Quinoa Salad
 
Prep time
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Ingredients
  • Salad:
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups shredded red cabbage (we like to chop it pretty small)
  • 1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 2 cups edamame beans *steam/cook ahead of time
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • ½ cup cashews
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • For the dressing:
  • ⅓ cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey (use agave if vegan)
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds *optional
  • juice of one lime
Instructions
  1. Prepare quinoa: ensure you've thoroughly rinsed and strained it. Place quinoa in a small pot with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until tender and the liquid has been absorbed. About 15 - 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Set aside and cool.
  2. To the quinoa add in cabbage, bell pepper, carrots and edamame beans. Fold this into the the quinoa.
  3. Prepare the dressing by mixing together all eight ingredients. I often use a handheld blender to do this job but you could totally use your muscles and a strong fork.
  4. Garnish with cashews, cilantro and green onion. Serve chilled (or eat it up right away).
Thai Quinoa Salad_birdseye
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

White Bean Spread

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeI didn’t think I would say it. But I am. Sometimes, I get sick of hummus.

haaawwwww

Okay chill–we all need variety. After all, variety is the spice of life! So what is a Dietitian and foodie to do? Improvise! I always seem to have a can white kidney beans (or cannellini beans) in my pantry so I opted to use this as inspiration to create a protein based dip. Because the cannellini bean is more pastey the result is a thick and spreadable dip. I prefer to dunk veggies and crackers into this pretty stuff but I’ve also added dollops of it onto salads.

This recipe is totally versatile. You can add more or less of any ingredient or even nix something you don’t like. For example, my sister isn’t the biggest fan of caramelized onions, but I love them. They make for a beautiful garnish and give it a sweet flavour. Love! Give it a try and let us know what you think!

White Bean Spread_jugWhite Bean Spread_all decor

White Bean Spread
 
Ingredients
  • 1 19oz can white kidney beans, rinsed
  • 3 - 4 cloves garlic, roasted in oven
  • ⅓ cup tahini
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients into a food processor or blender.
  2. Blend until smooth.
  3. Taste and add more spices as needed. Feel to also add 1 tbsp of water at a time to reach a desired consistency.
  4. Garnish as you wish! You can garnish with caramelized onions, olives, herbs or a drizzle of olive oil!

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

The Better Broccoli Salad

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeAs per the title of this blog post, the feature vegetable in this summer salad is none other than the broccoli. Growing up we typically only enjoyed broccoli when it was cooked into saag which is a giant mush (I’m not joking) of cooked down onion, spinach, broccoli and an array of spices. Now, I have fun using broccoli in stir fry’s, roasted, dunked into a ranch dip and of course, all dressed up in a Greek yogurt dressing.

I’m sure you’ve tried a few versions of this recipe. But I really think you should make my recipe your go-to for summer potlucks, dinners or even enjoy this salad as a snack. Along with broccoli, this salad also includes a juicy apple, red onion, carrot sticks,  cranberry and pumpkin seeds. Feel free to swap out ingredients and change the quantities as you wish. The “OG” version of recipe usually calls for copious amounts of mayo and sometime bacon. THIS version is laced with a high protein dressing courtesy of Greek yogurt.Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Arrrrrright, let’s move onto what you’re really here for

The recipe.

The Better Broccoli Salad
 
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Serves: 5
Ingredients
  • 3 cups broccoli, chopped
  • 1 Gala apple, chopped
  • ¼ cup red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup grated or julienne carrots
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup chopped SqueaK'rs, cheddar (or grated)
  • Dressing
  • ¾ cup 2% M.F. Greek yogurt
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoon honey
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • Pink of paprika
Instructions
  1. Place all prepared veggies, apple, cranberries, pumpkin seeds and cheese into a bowl. Toss together.
  2. To prepare the dressing stir together Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, honey, lemon, salt, pepper and paprika.
  3. Pour the dressing (only half at a time) over the salad, ensuring the veggies are well coated. Let the salad sit in the fridge for 20 minutes to soften the broccoli. Add more dressing if desired.
  4. Serve and enjoy!
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

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

No Bake Granola Bar

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeI love a good granola bar. It’s basically like having portable nutrition in your hand! Mind you, a good quality product can often be hard to spot. Most large-chain grocers have entire aisles dedicated to this iconic food item. The tough part is distinguishing which one truly is a granola bar versus which one is…well..basically a chocolate bar.

Tips to sourcing a quality granola bar:

  • When I’m on the hunt for a bar I try to look for something that has less than 8 – 9 grams of sugar and offers me up at least 3 grams of fibre.
  • Protein is another POWERHOUSE nutrient that I scout for. If you’re looking for a nut-free product, it will be difficult to find a protein bar with more than 2 grams of protein. Otherwise, if nuts are your thang, you’ll likely have no trouble finding something that can offer you atleast 4 – 5 grams of protein.
  • Look at the ingredient list and find something that is 100% whole grain.
  • Avoid granola bars that are chocolate or yogurt covered. These bars can have upwards of 3 teaspoons of sugar in a small serving.

Or HAYYYYYYhow about making your own?

When I have a bit of extra time on my hands, I take pleasure in being able to make my own granola bars that I can snack on. The ingredients in this recipe (adapted from Cookspiration) include all the foods I enjoy eating as snacks: dates, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and hemp hearts are the super heroes behind this bar. Seriously, you’ll feel so good after making them, eating them…and maybe even sharing them. You’ll notice – the recipe doesn’t call for any refined sugar. The sweetness is brought to you naturally from the dates and honey. Don’t cha love nature?
Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and CakeOkay, recipe deets below:

5.0 from 1 reviews
No Bake Granola Bar
 
Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cup All Bran Flakes cereal (I used PC brand from Superstore)
  • 1 ½ cup large flake oats
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup hemp hearts
  • 1 cup dates (about 12 - 15 dates)
  • ¼ cup honey or maple syrup for vegan option
  • ⅓ cup almond or peanut-butter
Instructions
  1. In a large nonstick skillet, toast oats, walnuts and pumpkin seeds over medium heat, stirring often for about 8 minutes or until light golden and fragrant. You'll even hear the pumpkin seeds "pop".
  2. Pour this mixture into a large bowl and let cool slightly; stir in bran flakes and hemp hearts.
  3. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse dates until finely chopped. For me, it rolls into one giant blob.
  4. In a small saucepan, heat together honey and almond butter over medium low heat until melted and smooth. Add dates and stir to combine.
  5. Pour into oat mixture and stir together until dates are distributed evenly throughout and oats are coated well.
  6. Press mixture into 23 cm (9 inch) parchment or foil lined baking pan and press to flatten evenly (warning: don't place it on a pan that's too big - you want the mixture to be "tight").
  7. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until firm. Cut into bars and wrap individually with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for longer.
No Bake Granola Bar_Stacked

STACKS ON STACKS OVER HERE!!

For more granola bar inspiration, here are a few ideas from my personal food friends:

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
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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

5 Ingredient Berry Sauce

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeI remember the first time I made a berry sauce. It was for a brunch I was hosting and waffles were on the menu. It was some random recipe that Mr. Google found for me. It called for 1 cup of juice and 1 cup of sugar for only two cups of berries. Jesse whiz, that is A LOT of sugar. What’s a Dietitian/Food Nerd to do?

Develop her own recipe! 

I prepare this berry sauce quite regularly for our meal-prep line up. It’s extremely low maintenance and the recipe is pretty darn easy to memorize. There are so many uses for this sauce, here’s what I’ve tried so far:

  • Great in smoothies
  • Lovely on top of plain yogurt
  • Fabulous over pancakes or waffles
  • Yummy on warm or cold oats
  • Genius as a jam on toast or biscuits

The recipe uses a super cool ingredient that might be new to you. It’s chia seeds! You can find these little guys at any bulk store and they can also be spotted in the “health food” aisle of many large-chain stores. Chia seeds harness a lot of nutrition, offering up some omega-3 power, fibre, calcium and a wee-bit of protein too. Chia seeds are crucial for this recipe as they suck up (literally) moisture from the concoction, leaving you with a nice saucy texture. I promise you’ll love it.

Recipe taymeee.Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

5.0 from 1 reviews
5 Ingredient Berry Sauce
 
Prep time
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Ingredients
  • 3 cups frozen berries, mixed variety
  • ½ cup 100% orange juice or water
  • 2 tbsp maple sryup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp chia seed
Instructions
  1. Place frozen berries into a medium sized pot. Add in orange juice or water.
  2. Turn heat to medium and bring mixture to a gentle simmer. When this happens, using a potato masher muddle the berries to a desired consistency. I prefer to leave mine a little chunky, but to each their own!
  3. Next, add in maple syrup and vanilla. Stir to combine.
  4. Remove pot from heat and add in chia seeds.
  5. Stir and wait about 20 minutes. The mixture will begin to thicken.
  6. Store in a mason jar or tupperware for one week, refrigerated.

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

Veggie-filled Mac and Cheese

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeDon’t get upset! I know what you’re thinking “why did this Dietitian take my favorite comfort food and add veggies and then butcher it with lentils?”! I realize fully that mac and cheese is all things comforting and nostalgic for many of us. Having said that, most of use could do with a bit more veggies in our life and in honour of The International Year of the Pulse, it only made sense.

The truth is, I love a good mac and cheese. You know, the kind you get at restaurants with the crispy topping. Oh, and when it has bacon, even better. Unfortunately, on almost all occasions, these variations of mac and cheese left me feeling like I had just eaten a treat. So, I wanted to create a wholesome recipe that I could enjoy and feel good about eating throughout the week. You feel me?

I remember the first time I made this recipe. My husband scratched his head and said, “babe, there is something more gritty in the texture”. I smiled and told him it was the lentils. He shrugged, grabbed a second serving and called it great. What a keeper. So yes, you should expect a slight change in the texture you’re used to, but the taste shouldn’t be all too different.

If you need to take baby steps. Maybe try the recipe with just onion and lentils. Or, just veggies. It’s your body, you’re the boss. 

I tripple-tried this recipe before deciding to have it photographed and placed on the blog. But, it fits. It truly does. Here’s what I love about this version of mac n’ cheese:

  • It uses 2% Evaporated Milk to give it the creaminess you want. It’s made by removing water from fresh milk and then heating it. Heating the milk gives it the creamy, slightly cooked taste and darker colour. It’s a source of protein, calcium and Vitamin D!
  • It includes approximately 3 cups of veggies which mean you could really add more, or less. One time I added cauliflower! Another time I opted to use mushrooms.
  • The lentils help to increase the protein and fibre content of the entire recipe, making it a one-pot-meal kinda deal.
  • You can spice it up as you wish. I keep it simple but you could also add some basil or parsley if you fancy.
  • Lastly, it’s freezer friendly and great to pull out on those day’s you might be extra crazy busy and don’t want to compromise on your nutrition. Simply place it in the oven and bake until everything is heated through and your cheese is bubbly.

I drew inspiration for this recipe from The Lean Green Bean and the Eat Shrink and Be Merry gals. Check out their versions if you wish.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Okay, recipe taymeeee.

Mac and Cheese with Lentils
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 6 - 8
Ingredients
  • 1 cup elbow pasta
  • ¾ cup red lentils, uncooked
  • 2 tbsp canola oil or butter
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 cup broccoli, chopped into small florets
  • 1 cup spinach, thinly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 can (370mL) Evaporated Milk (I used 2% MF)
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook elbow pasta according to package directions, until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  3. Cook red lentils according to package directions. Once lentils are cooked through, set aside.
  4. In a separate large pot, heat butter or canola oil. Add in onion and cook until translucent.
  5. Once onion is cooked through, add in remaining vegetables, garlic and spices. Saute for 10 - 15 minutes until vegetables are softened. I prefer to add my spinach last as it requires very little heat.
  6. Sprinkle vegetables with flour, ensuring the mixture is well coated.
  7. Add evaporated milk and ¾ cup of cheese, leaving some cheese for the last step.
  8. Add in cooked pasta and lentils to the vegetable mixture and combine thoroughly.
  9. Place mixture in a 9 x 13 dish, or two 8 x 8 dishes. Top with remaining cheese.
  10. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until cheese is bubbly.

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.

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                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

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