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
 
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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

Easy Kale and Parsley Pesto

Nita sharda, carrots and cakeI love me some pesto. Do you? I only began experimenting with this sauce a few years ago and now it’s a pantry staple. Better yet, I’ve even ventured into making my own version of pesto. I was inspired to use kale in this recipe by my summer CSA. We’ve been getting an abundance of kale and I’ve been experimenting with unique ways to use up this nutrient-loaded green.

Most pesto recipes call for basil. I opted not to use basil primarily because in the fall/winter months it’s actually quite pricey (at least here in Winnipeg) and sometimes I find myself visiting 2 – 3 grocery stores only to not find any! So instead I use parsley. Problem solved.

There’s also a TON of ways you can use up pesto. Here’s a few suggestions to inspire you:

  • Use it as marinade for your white fish or chicken
  • Place it on top of toast to change up your breakfast game, top with a poached egg
  • Toss it in pasta (hot or cold)
  • Make pesto spinach muffins
  • Use pesto instead of pizza sauce on your crust (my favvv)
  • Use pesto for this quinoa salad recipe
  • Flavor turkey meatballs with with pesto
  • Add small dollops to crostinis and top with cherry tomatoes for a fun appie
  • Make a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich with pesto and mozzarella
  • Marinade veggies like tomato, zucchini and muchrooms in pesto and grill
  • Or, eat it by the spoonful

There you have it! Ten ways you can enjoy this pesto! 

Why is this pesto a great choice?

  • It’s loaded with anti-inflammatory olive oil
  • Helps you meet your recommended intake for greens
  • Walnuts offer up omega-3, hello heart health!
  • There’s cheese in it
  • Mic drop, enough said!

Nita sharda, carrots and cakeNita sharda, carrots and cake

Okay, recipe below.

Easy Kale and Parsley Pesto
 
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Ingredients
  • ¼ cup walnuts, toasted (or preferred nut)
  • 1½ cups torn kale, stem removed
  • ½ cup curly parsley, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup cubed or grated parmesan
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • juice of one lemon
Instructions
  1. To toast walnuts, warm a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add walnuts and lightly toast for about 8 - 10 minutes or until fragrant. Be careful! You don't want them to burn.
  2. In a small food processor of blender add walnuts and remaining ingredients. Blend well.
  3. Taste. Add salt, pepper or more lemon juice as needed. If you find your pesto too runny, you can add another ¼ cup of walnuts.
  4. Store in an air tight container in the fridge for up to one week or freeze!.

Pesto in processor_close upFood photography done by the talented Ceone Dyck. To learn more about Ceone click here or follow her on Facebook.

Don’t forget to follow Carrots and Cake on Instagram to see tiny square snap shots of my life.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

 

Roasted Cauliflower Salad Bowl

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

YUMMY YUMMY!

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

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

 salad doesn’t have to be boring

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

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

 

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

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

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

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

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Cauliflower Salad Bowl
 
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Ingredients
  • Kale
  • Edamame bean, steamed
  • Cauliflower
  • Quinoa, cooked
  • Pomegranate
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees celcius.
  2. Chop cauliflower into bite size florets. Lay onto a baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of black pepper, salt and any other herbs you'd like to use.
  3. Roast in the oven for 15 - 20 minutes until cauliflower is tender and beginning to brown.
  4. In the mean time, assemble your salad bowl by combining kale, steamed edamame beans, cooked quinoa and pomegranate. Add as much or as little of each ingredient as you wish.
  5. For the dressing, whisk together 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp each of maple syrup and white wine vinegar. Pour over salad and massage into your kale (this helps to tenderize and soften the kale).
  6. Once the cauliflower is ready, add it onto your salad bowl. Enjoy!
This blog post was written by Christy Lai, 4th Year Human Nutritional Sciences student. Follow Christy on Instagram, trust me, you’ll want to.
Food photography done by the talented Ceone Dyck. To learn more about Ceone click here or follow her on Facebook.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Black Bean Quinoa Stew

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Beautiful photo captured by a fan of Carrots and Cake. Thanks Sleepwell Bedding!

During these warm winter nights, it’s nice to snuggle into bed with a warm mug of stew. Typically, stews centre around a cut or type of meat. They are full of body, flavour and oober satisfying. Now, as a huge proponent of plant based proteins I’m asking you: would you ever try a meatless stew? If the the answer is YES, then boy, you’re in for a treat!

Winter. Warm. Cozy. Perfection. 

The quinoa stew is straight up not very pretty to look at. But heck, the flavours are amazing and it’s the kind of stew that doesn’t make you feel heavy. What more? It’s pretty much a one-pot-meal; this means no fussing over multiple dishes and skillets. Easy peasy. And, it’s great for freezing.

I enjoy serving this stew when we have house guests over. I assemble bowls that are full of fun toppings such as cheddar cheese, feta, green onions, tomato and avocados. Guests can top their bowl of stew with whatever they like; it’s always a hit.

Okay, okay, the recipe. See below!
Original recipe can be found here.

Black Bean Quinoa Stew
 
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Serves: 5
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ⅔ cup uncooked quinoa
  • 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 - 14 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • ½ cup shredded white cheddar cheese
  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and carrot and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Toss in red pepper, cook for two minutes.
  2. Stir in garlic and quinoa and toast quinoa until slightly fragrant, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add broth, black beans, black pepper, cumin, and crushed red pepper. Add in tomato paste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in lime juice.
  4. Remove half the soup, and carefully purée in food processor or blender until smooth (another option may be to use an immersion blender for approx 15 seconds). I prefer to only blend a portion for more texture.
  5. Return to pan and heat 2 minutes. Divide among serving bowls and garnish with cheese and cilantro etc.

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

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Honey Ginger Chicken – Slow Cooker Friendly

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Always a crowd pleaser.

When the hubs tells me that the boys are coming over for dinner, I can always turn to this no-fail recipe! Stir up the dressing, throw in the chicken and let the slow cooker do its thing. Now that’s my kinda meal. But beyond the simplicity in preparing this dish, it’s actually insanely delicious. I was inspired by a recipe posted by fellow blogger, Foodie with Family. I adapted the recipe to suit our taste buds and we’ve never looked back.

Honey Ginger Chicken - Slow Cooker Friendly
 
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Serves: 5-6
Ingredients
  • 4lb boneless skinless chicken thighs (approx 16 – 18 thighs, trim the fat)
  • Black pepper
  • ½ cup honey
  • ½ cup sodium reduced soy sauce
  • ½ cup minced onion
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
Instructions
  1. Very lightly season the chicken thighs with pepper and place them in the slow cooker.
  2. Whisk the honey, soy sauce, onion, ketchup, sesame oil, ginger and pepper flakes together in a mixing bowl and pour over the chicken thighs. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 4 hours, or until the chicken is tender and cooked through.
  3. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to a rimmed plate or bowl and cover lightly with foil, leaving the pan juices in the slow cooker.
  4. Stir the cornstarch into the water with a fork or small whisk until dissolved. Whisk the mixture into the pan juices in the slow cooker. Re-cover the slow-cooker and turn the heat to high. Let it cook and thicken for 15 minutes. (Note: This step is optional and most desired for a thicker sauce).
  5. Carefully transfer the chicken back into the slow-cooker.
  6. Garnish with sesame seeds and cilantro. Serve!

This chicken entree pairs nicely with quinoa or even on a bed of rice. As far as veg, I like to enjoy this recipe with green beans or stir fried vegetables. Don’t forget to top with cilantro or toasted sesame seeds. Oh and it’s the kind of recipe that tastes better the next day.  L O V E.

Let me know how you’d change up the recipe, and don’t forget to leave a comment. Happy long weekend!

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

            – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Confetti Quinoa Salad

Quinoa_main

When we’re stuck dead center in a Winnipeg winter—what do we do? How about make colorful summery salads? This quinoa salad won my heart over. I’m a pesto fanatic so I was happy when the Fresh Juice magazine featured a quinoa recipe that was all dressed in a basil dressing and could be assembled with minimal cooking. I’ve adapted the recipe a bit from the original (which, I couldn’t seem to find online)!

4.5 from 2 reviews
Confetti Quinoa Salad
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 yellow pepper, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced (optional, great especially if you want to increase your veggie intake)
  • 1 cup diced English cucumber
  • ⅓ cup chopped red onion
  • 1 can (19 oz) no-salt-added chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ⅓ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • ½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Toasted pine nuts for garnish (optional)
  • Dressing:
  • 2 tbsp prepared pesto (I love the Classico Pesto)
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
Instructions
  1. In saucepan, add quinoa and water (if quinoa isn't pre-rinsed, first rinse and drain well). Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 18 to 20 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork; transfer to large bowl. Let cool for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, for the dressing, whisk together pesto, vinegar, oil and pepper.
  3. Add to quinoa with yellow pepper, cucumber, onion and chickpeas; toss gently to coat. Fold in feta and tomatoes. Sprinkle with pine nuts, if desired.
  4. Substitutions/Tips
  5. Feel free to add in other veggies you may enjoy, or sun dried tomatoes for additional flavor.
  6. This recipe makes a large batch so you may want to cut the ingredients in half if you’re just feeding yourself or a small group.

Substitutions/Tips

Feel free to add in other veggies you may enjoy, or sun dried tomatoes for additional flavor.
This recipe makes a large batch so you may want to cut the ingredients in half if you’re just feeding yourself or a small group.

Quinoa_ingredients

Look at the array of colors—pretty, huh?

Quinoa; it’s an ancient grain that seems to be all the talk as of lately, and with good reasons. It boasts itself as a great source of protein, making it worthwhile for vegetarians to incorporate into their lifestyle. And, for those with a gluten sensitivity, it’s a dream come true. Quinoa can be purchased in different forms—whole grain or as ground flour. You’ll even find them offered in an array of colors: white, black, red—but really, they’re all the same. We typically consume quinoa 2-3x week as a hearty salad like this one, as a side or in the form of patties. How do you enjoy your quinoa? Let me know, in the mean time give this recipe a try.

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