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
Cook time
Total time
 
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
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
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 Butternut Squash Salad Bowl

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Who knew winter veggies could be so colourful?

Earlier this week on the blog we shared some tips on how keep things “fresh” when it comes to salads. If you missed that post, click here. This time around we’ve enlisted other veggie varieties to create a salad.

This time around I opted to roast butternut squash for a nutty flavour that just-so-happens to be pretty to look at. Butternut squash is particularly rich in beta-carotene which is what gives the flesh a bright orange colour.  In our body beta-carotene is tactfully converted to vitamin A. This under-rated nutrient imparts anti-cancer benefits, helps our immune system, acts as an anti-oxidant and helps to fight signs of aging (yes please!).

Side note: I actually use frozen pre-chopped butternut squash. Frozen produce is often priced well and the nutrient content is just the same. With our busy schedules I often don’t have the time (or strength) to cut through a squash. Now that’s a convenience food I’m down for. 

For the starch component I opted to use wheat berries. New to this grain? Actually, you’re not! Wheat berries are intact WHOLE-wheat kernels! That’s what your all-purpose and whole-wheat flour are milled from. Once cooked (basically you boil the crap out of them) they have a mild nutty flavour that most of us can enjoy. This whole grain is great in a salad because it has a chewy texture that holds it’s shape (aka it won’t get soggy on you). Because wheat berries go through  minimal processing they retain a lot of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants making it an A+ choice for your salad.

Side note: I got my hands on these beautiful wheat berries when I was at Canola Harvest Camp visiting a grain elevator. I made friends with a fellow farmer and she hooked me up with a stash. Score!

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Now in the last post we talked about how you should dress your salad. Here, I’m going to get you out of your comfort zone to make a creamy salad dressing using seeds. Yeah! Pumpkin seeds! The inspiration for this dressing came from a plant based blog My New Roots. The final product is a really interesting one – the dressing has a grittiness to it and tastes lovely on the bed of veggies. It won’t drizzle like a typical dressing so don’t be alarmed.

Okay, okay. Enough with the nutrition rant. Look below to learn more about how I assembled the salad:

Roasted Butternut Salad Bowl
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Ingredients
  • ½ cup wheat berries
  • Butternut squash, cubed (use as much as you would like)
  • Kale
  • Red cabbage, shredded thinly
  • White kidney beans or cannellini
  • Green onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 - 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • ¾ water
  • Pinch of salt and black pepper
Instructions
  1. Rinse wheat berries under water to ensure they are clean.
  2. Bring 1¼ cup water to a boil on the stove. Add rinsed wheat berries to the boiling water and stir. Once water starts to boil again, turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour. You know the wheat berries are done when they are soft.You'll have enough wheat berries for 2 - 3 servings.
  3. While your wheat berries are cooking toss your butternut squash with olive oil and roast in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees celsius or until they are cooked through.
  4. Massage 1 tsp of olive oil into your kale. This helps to soften the kale so it's not so tough.
  5. Once your wheat berries and squash are ready, assemble the remaining salad ingredients into a salad bowl (shredded cabbage, white kidney beans, kale and green onion). Add as much or as little of each ingredient as you wish (yup, you decide what and how much you want).
  6. For the dressing: toast pumpkin seeds in a non-stick pan over low heat for 10 - 12 minutes until they become fragrant. In a food processor blend: cooled pumpkin seeds, garlic, maple syrup, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and water. Season as desired with salt and black pepper.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake
This recipe was created with the help of 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

Roasted Cauliflower Salad Bowl

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

YUMMY YUMMY!

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

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

 salad doesn’t have to be boring

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

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

 

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

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

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

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

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

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

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

GNI Feature: Minted Cranberry & Pecan Quinoa salad!

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Just a little sweet but mostly fresh!

While many of us in Winnipeg (and elsewhere) are preparing for the fall season, I’m still planing to savor every bit that is left of summer. Over the next week, I’m hoping to wrap up the “girls night in” feature by sharing just a few more recipes. This particular quinoa salad is extremely simple to make and can easily be prepared the night before, allowing the flavors to mingle and marinade the quinoa. If you are hoping to prep this in advance, I highly suggest adding the pecans just before serving time.

Similar to when I shared the Almond Crusted Salmon recipe, this dish also makes use of an amazing sauce produced by my friend Peter Fehr of Gourmet Inspirations. I specifically used the Strawberry Balsamic with Basil sauce for this recipe and it added an extra richness and flavor to the end result. I don’t often source convenience food items, but when hosting calls for multitasking I’m all for local handcrafted food items that make little use of preservatives and this sauce fits the bill!

Okay, okay, enter drum-roll. The recipe below – and, a huge *thank you* to my friend Peter for contributing to my fun #gni!

Minted Quinoa & Cranberry Pecan Salad
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • ½ cup pecan halves
  • ⅓ cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • Garnish: handful of mint, chopped
  • Dressing:
  • Juice from 1 whole lime
  • ⅓ cup Gourmet Inspirations "Strawberry Balsamic with Basil" sauce
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • Cracked black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cook quinoa as directed ensuring you've rinsed the quinoa beforehand (rinsing your quinoa is a must!) and allow it to cool.
  2. Mix in pecan halves, cranberries, raisins and mint. Set aside.
  3. To make the dressing: Juice lime and add strawberry sauce.
  4. Season with onion powder and black pepper.
  5. Add desired amount of dressing to salad. Dressing will keep in fridge for up to 1 month.

 Here’s a few more snippets of my “girls night in” — photos captured by the amazingly talented team at Samba Joy Photo & Art.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeCnC_Quinoa_Saucep.s. If you haven’t already checked it out, this is a short snippet of what my #gni looked like. Enjoy!

 

 

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Pesto Turkey Meatballs

Nita Sharda Carrots and Cake

J-j-juicy.

By now you’ve learned that I’m a sucker for easy, flexible and tasty recipes. Here’s one that can be adapted to your liking. Though the protein used in this recipe was ground turkey, you can also opt out for chicken which can be less expensive and more readily available in grocery stores or your local meat market. I often shape the meat into juicy meatballs and eat them over a bed of pasta or on a salad. But here’s a suggestion: given the warm summer temperatures in Winnipeg, it’s also nice to form the mixture into a patty and make a sophisticated “grown up” turkey burger! If you’re going this route, choose toppings like red onion, spinach and roma tomatoes.

Oh, and I’m proud to say that this recipe is freezer friendly.  Hells yeah!  #mealprepmoday anyone?

When it comes to sourcing pesto, most brands are quite comparable.  When I have extra time on my hands, I’ll even whip some pesto up myself (but honestly, that rarely happens). If you’re concerned you might not use that jar up right away and it will go waste just hold up!  Pesto is extremely versatile! You can use it instead of pizza sauce, add it into marinades and use it as the base of a dressing for this Confetti Quinoa Salad.

Okay, okay…on to important things. The recipe, below.

Pesto Turkey Meatballs
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1lb Ground turkey or chicken
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ⅓ cup Pesto
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ bread crumbs, or more depending on moistness of meat (for gluten free, use alternative)
  • ¼ cup Feta
  • Pinch of ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients. It's okay for the mixture to be a bit "gooey"--poultry tends to be very moist.
  3. Shape into 2" balls (or patties, you'll get about 5 or so).
  4. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes or until ready.

Enjoy!

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

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
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
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.

Signature2