Happy Birthday Carrots and Cake + Poppy Seed Biscuit

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeWoah. How did that happen? Today marks the second birthday for Carrots and Cake Balanced Nutrition Consulting. What was supposed to initially be a “lets try to see five clients per month” kinda gig has turned into visiting with at least twenty clients monthly, blogging, recipe development, writing for cool food producers and as of late, mentoring Nutritional Science students that are hoping to get their feet wet in the dietetic industry. By the way, all of this on top of a nearly full time job in an area of clinical practice I love.

A very sincere thank you to all of my friends, readers, clients and colleagues who continue to support me through my growth. When I gave birth to Carrots and Cake it was all very organic. I never felt like anything was being forced into place – there really was no financial goal, strategic plan or real incentive other than to connect with people, about food.

I remember last year when I celebrated Carrots and Cake’s first birthday I showcased this Carrot and Pineapple Loaf. And then, I celebrated some more with these yummy Carrot Oatmeal Cookies. The sweetest was coming into work and my colleague had prepared some of these goodies for me and our team to enjoy.

Needless to say, I am SO looking forward to what 2016 has in store for me.

Here’s what happened over the last twelve months:

  • I moved from a condo into our home (that has a great big island, yaaaaassss)
  • Got a Vitamix…that’s a big deal, right?
  • Joined a Women’s in Business group  made up of fine business women in Winnipeg
  • Completed several Women and Weights classes via good friend, RD extraordinaire and Personal Trainer, Chinwe – so basically, I’m way stronger than last year
  • I partnered with some awesome food industry folks like Bothwell Cheese which allows me an opportunity to write more often, something I love to do
  • I learned and helped my food loving friend, Getty Stewart can some tomatoes
  • Completed my second Manitoba Marathon Relay while the hubs added a second half marathon to his list
  • I went on an amazing #CanolaConnect Harvest Camp with the lovely folks of Canola, Eat Well
  • On the same note, I also had a chance to attend a Grow Canada conference c/o #CanolaConnect – picture this: being only meters away from Clara Hughes and former LGen Romeo Dallaire – MIND BLOWN
  • Went through a lot of professional struggles at work, but came out stronger than I ever thought I was
  • Took on two student volunteers to help with content creation, recipe development and photography
  • As of LAST NIGHT, my sister (many of you might know her as Myuz Artistry) gave birth to a sweet baby boy AND my other sister is expecting her first babe
  • On that note, I officially have baby fever

Okay, okay. I know why you’re ALL really here, it’s for this SUPER DUPER amazing recipe for Poppy Seed Biscuits. This recipe hails from somewhere…I just can’t remember where. It’s the kind I just wrote down with pencil and pen after trying them at a friends house years ago when I live in B.C.. The recipe stuck with me.

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

These biscuits are on the slightly sweet side, but still pair well with soup. I think they make a great snack for a girls afternoon or act as a lovely addition to a large green salad. You’ll see below, I paired it with my 5 Ingredient Berry Sauce which ended up being the perfect marriage.

Okay, recipe taymeee.

Poppy Seed Biscuits
 
Prep time
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Total time
 
Serves: 18 - 24
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup poppy seeds
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ⅓ cup cold butter, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 cup buttermilk
Instructions
  1. Line a large baking sheet (or two) with parchment paper and preheat oven to 425.
  2. In a large bowl stir together dry ingredients until well combined.
  3. Add in butter. Using a pastry blender or two forks cut the butter into the dry ingredients. Eventually, you'll have a texture that resemble coarse crumbs.
  4. Add buttermilk. Stir the mixture to moisten and create a sticky dough.
  5. Drop a handful of flour onto a clean surface and knead the dough about 10 times.
  6. Roll out the dough or using your hands pat it into a ½" thick round.
  7. Using a 2" biscuit cutter cut out as many rounds as you can. Place on a baking sheet. Gently form scraps into a ball, flatten and cut out more biscuit rounds. Repeat if needed.
  8. Bake biscuits for 12 - 15 minutes. Biscuits shouldn't be too brown! Remove from baking sheet and onto a cooling wrack.
  9. Best when served warm.

Biscuits lined upBiscuit_with jar of spreadBiscuit with Spread
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
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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.

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 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
      _____
  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
      _
      _____
  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

Black Bean Brownies

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

Seriously, yummy.

Earlier this week we talked to you about how excited we are that 2016 is the International Year of the Pulse. Hip hip hooray! In today’s recipe post we’re sharing an exciting brownie recipe that uses black beans. Yes, you read that right: BLACK BEANS. Please, don’t be scared – the results are amazing and dddddelish.

If you’re also making it a goal to experiment with new grains you’ll note that this recipe is actually wheat free. Instead, it uses oats. The original inspiration came from a fellow food blogger who we love, Chocolate Covered Katie. Our contributor Ceone had also made variations of the recipe in the past, so we wanted to share-share (what do they say? Sharing is caring). We made a few adaptations such as using applesauce to reduce the fat content and also decided to finely process the oats a bit more. The result is a brownie that resembles fudge but is still soft, a little gooey and chocolatey. All good things people. All good things.

From a nutrition standpoint, what I love about this dessert option is that it offers my clients an opportunity to still practice balance. In comparison to commercial or boxed brownies, this brownie is fairly low in sugar, offers up some fibre and protein which in turn will help you feel full for longer (that’s because fibre and protein are satiating). It’s totally the type of treat (or every day food) that really can be good for you. 

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

All mixed up.

Before it goes into the oven.

Before it goes into the oven.

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

After it’s been baked.

Okay, okay. Enough with the chatter. Recipe below:

Black Bean Brownies
 
Prep time
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Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • ½ cup quick oats or rolled oats
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ⅓ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ cup chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Place oats into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it resembles coarse flour.
  3. Add remaining ingredients except chocolate chips into a food processor and blend until completely smooth.
  4. Fold the chocolate chips into the batter.
  5. Place mixture into a greased 8×8 pan.
  6. Optional: sprinkle extra chocolate chips over the top.
  7. Cook the black bean brownies 20 minutes. Allow it to cool and set at least 10 minutes before trying to cutting into it. If they still look a bit undercooked, you can place them in the fridge overnight and they will magically firm up! Makes 12 brownies

1BlackBeanBrownies_squares

These photos  were taken by Ceone Dyck, 4th Year Human Nutritional Sciences student. To learn more about Ceone click here or follow her on Facebook.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Red Thai Curry with Tofu

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

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

For this recipe my veggies included:

  • Sweet potato
  • Red Bell Pepper
  • Yellow Bell Pepper

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nita Sharda

Easy as ONE, TWO, THREE.

Okay, okay. Rant over. Recipe below.

Red Thai Curry with Tofu
 
Prep time
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Total time
 
Serves: 4-5
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 1 tbsp cilantro stalk, minced
  • 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 1 ½ cup cubed sweet potato (leave the skin on, fibre! This is about 300 grams)
  • ½ red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 800ml low sodium vegetable broth
  • Pinch of salt, black pepper and red chilli flakes (all optional)
  • 1 can coconut milk (14oz or approx. 400ml)
  • 1 cup tofu, cubed into 1” pieces (medium-firm or firm)
  • ½ lime
  • Cilantro, to garnish
Instructions
  1. In a medium sized pot heat canola oil, ginger, cilantro stalk and red curry paste. Heat over low-medium temperature just until the ginger and cilantro stalks begin to sizzle.
  2. Add in cubed sweet potato, red bell pepper and yellow bell pepper. Give the mixture a whirl ensuring the paste has smothered all the veggies. Cook for 5 – 6 minutes on medium heat ensuring you’re stirring the contents every minute or so.
  3. Pour in vegetable broth. Add in your desired pinch salt, black pepper and red chilli flakes.
  4. Once the vegetable broth has come to a boil, allow the sweet potato to be cooked through until they are soft. About 12 minutes.
  5. Once potatoes have been cooked, turn the heat down to low-medium and pour in coconut milk. Allow the mixture to heat through.
  6. Using a potato masher, mash some of the mixture to create a thick curry. Or if you prefer, feel free to blend a portion of the curry using an immersion blender or any other blender you may have.
  7. Gently add in tofu cubes, juice of ½ lime and cilantro.
  8. Serve.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake
Food photography done by the talented Ceone Dyck. To learn more about Ceone click here or follow her on Facebook.

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

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

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
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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
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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

Super Seedy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeHave you ever experienced that moment when you perfect the most incredible recipe? I have. It was a great feeling but one that certainly came with a lot of errors, epic-fails and me wracking my brain to problem solve. The issue was I kept getting a cookie that was too dense and too “hard”. After altering the recipe (five times) and most importantly decreasing the baking time, I got it. PS it totally pays to have friends like Jenn and Courtney who offer up baking advice! Here it is…the perfect Super. Seedy. Chocolate Chip. Cookie.

Oh and hey mama’s! You can send these little guys to you children’s school. It’s loaded with protein but it totally no-nut friendly!

What are some things that I love about this cookie?

  1. Vegan friendly. ‘Nuff said.
  2. Flax-water Replacement. Instead of using an egg to bind and moisten my cookie, I used a flax-water replacement. Yup, that’s right you can use 1 tbsp ground flax meal + 2.5 tbsp water to replace one egg. Voila!
  3. Seedy. Healthy and compact, seeds are amazingly nourishing. They often packed with  protein, fibre, iron, vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. In this cookie I use: hemp hearts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.
  4. Sweet, but not too sweet. I originally started off this recipe using 1/2 cup each of sugar and brown sugar. Coupled with the chocolate chips, it was just way too sweet for me. I also knew that if I offered it to my niece with reduced sugar, she probably wouldn’t notice. So why bother? I reduced the sugar to 1/3 cup of white and brown sugar and it’s great.
  5. Healthy fats. I chose to use a plant-based fat, canola oil, for this recipe. There’a s few reasons why:
    • Canola oil is extremely neutral in taste. This means, the flavors from your ingredients are never masked.
    • I’m a prairie girl. Using canola oil means I’m supporting my local economy and most importantly our local family-farmers. Did you know, canola oil is 100% Canadian.
    • Canola oil is economical – yes, this Dietitian is on a budget!
    • Lastly, canola oil means more to me than it simply being a fat. Towards the end of my summer I was invited to join the Canola Eat Well team at Canola Camp. I learned a lot about the agriculture industry that I didn’t know about before. A few things: growing canola allows farmers to nourish their soil (it gives back nutrients), it sustains our bees that are often busy producing honey for us and provides livestock with high quality protein for their feed. Quite honestly canola is life-sustaining. I’m still working through my journal (and brain) to really articulate what my experiences were like at camp to share with you, so stay-tuned.
      • Recipe tip: did you know that when a recipe calls for a solid fat to be melted you can often use canola oil instead? This works easily for cakes and muffins. Use this conversion chart.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeIn the mean time, bake these cookies. Pour yourself a glass of milk.

Enjoy.

Super Seedy Chocolate Chip Cookies
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 24
Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup canola oil
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup white sugar
  • 2 tbsp flax meal
  • 5 tbsp water
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp hot water
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup white flour
  • ½ cup large-flake rolled oats
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ⅓ cup chocolate chips (dairy free for vegan option)
  • ½ cup dried cranberries or raisins
  • 1 cup seeds or nuts (your choice; I do a mixture of sunflower seed, pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Soak flax meal in water. Ensure you’ve mixed it thoroughly with a fork. Let it stand 5 minutes.
  3. In another small pinch bowl stir together baking soda in hot water. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl or in your stand mixer, combine canola oil, white sugar and brown sugar until well mixed.
  5. Add in your flax and water mixture. Stir to combine.
  6. Add in the baking soda and water mixture. Sitr to combine.
  7. In a separate bowl combine the remaining dry ingredients. Once thoroughly combined add this dry mixture to the wet ingredients. Give this all a whirl with your mixer or beater – be sure not to over-mix!
  8. Drop a spoonful of batter at a time onto a non-stick pan (I prefer to use parchment paper).
  9. With your fingers, lightly press the cookie-dough rounds so they are slightly flat (see photo above). These cookies wont run or expand much!
  10. Bake for 10 minutes (important: do not over bake).
  11. Makes approximaly 30 cookies.
Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Here’s your egg substitute made with flax meal and water!

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Please note all opinions in this post are my own. I have not received compensation for this post.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Butternut squash, chickpeas and hemp = amazing.

Butternut squash and chickpeas.

The best of both worlds when this subtle squash melds with chickpeas in this non-traditional take on hummus. I’ve tried few different variations of hummus including my Jalapeno Spiced Hummus and other store bought variations like Sabra’s Supremely Spicy Hummus (c’mon, I’m Indian aka I live for spice). But after seeing the Minimalist Baker’s version of Butternut Squash Hummus I just had to try it out. I didn’t have all of the same ingredients on hand so this is my adaptation. Seriously, I can never follow a recipe (jeeze).

What I love about this version of hummus is the thick consistency. It’s perfect as a dip but really I think it was destined to be used as a spread on wraps and sandwiches. Don’t you hate it when your sandwich spread leaves your bread soggy? Yuck! Fear not. This wont happen with this Roasted Butternut Squash hummus.

I have two other tid-bits to share about the recipe.

  • First, the garlic. ROAST THE GARLIC PEOPLE. The yield is a deep flavor that isn’t as overpowering as raw garlic tends to be. I know my bff Christine aka nurse-turned-photographer LOVED the taste of garlic. She’s actually rationing her hummus to keep it all week long. Yeah, that good.
  • Secondly, the hemp hearts (shout out to Just Hemp Foods) adds a lovely nuttiness to the entire product. Not to mention, these tiny but oober-powerful seeds help crank up the protein content and offer anti-inflammatory fats that we could all use a little more of.

And HELLO to all of you mama’s who try to get your little peeps to eat more veggies. They will never know there is squash in this hummus (sneaky, sneaky). But, that doesn’t mean you can’t tell them what’s in it! We can really only hide veggies from our kids for so long; educate your children about the meals you’re creating and they’ll be encouraged to try them!

Okay, okay. The recipe: 

 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup butternut squash, cubed
  • 5 cloves garlic, whole
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 15oz can chickpeas, rinsed + drained
  • ⅓ cup tahini
  • ¼ cup hemp heart
  • 5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and position a rack in the middle of the oven.
  2. Toss butternut squash, 5 garlic cloves and parsley with a drizzle of olive oil on a baking sheet.
  3. Roast squash for 20 - 30 minutes minutes, or until all squash is fork tender and the garlic is golden brown. I allowed some of my squash to really crispen up. Let cool 5 minutes.
  4. In your food processor or blender combine: squash, garlic, lemon juice, chickpeas, tahini, hemp hearts, olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin.
  5. Blend the mixture until creamy and smooth, scraping down sides as needed and adding more olive oil or a touch of water to achieve desired consistency.
  6. Serve immediately or chill in your fridge.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Now what are you gonna do with all that hummus? The options are endless: plop some onto of a salad, use it as a spread on sandwiches and wraps, eat it by the spoonful, dunk veggies into it or use it as a dip to compliment a cheese board. Kinda like I did over here for an upcoming collaboration with Bothwell Cheese (stay tuned). Drooooolllll.
Nita Sharda

If you’re need of more legume based recipes, check out:

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

#GNI India Style: Indian Chilli Tofu

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeHello! My oh my, it has been some time since my last post (insert *nervous laughter*) but that truly goes to show how ridiculously-out-of-control and crazy-busy this past summer was for myself and my family. Early on I had a chance to travel to the USA (Vegas, New York and Washington) and then my husband and I were knee deep moving into our brand, spankin’ new home. The boxes are unpacked but I’m left to slowly turn this sterile house into something that can feel more like home. 

To kick off my return to “the blog” I’m sharing a meatless recipe that features tofu—a pressed soy product loaded with fibre, anti-inflammatory isoflavones, healthy fats and lean protein. All good things. Tofu is a product that I often use in Indian cuisine to replace paneer (a traditional cheese). This is especially helpful for when I’m trying to bump up the protein content of my meal. If you’re new to tofu you might be scared but I’m here to tell you shouldn’t be!  Try tofu a few different ways before you really pull out the verdict, like in this Spiced Tofu Briyani.

The recipe for this chilli tofu was developed alongside my aunty who first introduced me to the dish as “Chilli Paneer”. It’s fairly heavy on using bell peppers but you could also substitute other veggies such as sliced mushrooms or peas. Let me know what you think!

By the way…this is the kind of dish that tastes even better the next day.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Indian Chilli Tofu
 
Ingredients
  • 1 brick of extra firm tofu, chopped into ½" pieces
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • ½ tsp whole cumin seed
  • 1 medium sized onion
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp chilli (or more as tolerated)
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 3 bell peppers, diced in 1 inch pieces (use yellow, green and red)
  • 1 ¼ cup crushed, canned tomatoes (preferably reduced sodium)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin (preferable toasted)
  • 2 tbsp fenugreek *optional
Instructions
  1. Place oil in a shallow pan (wok style) turn up the heat to medium. Once heated, add in cumin seeds. Be careful not to burn them!
  2. Add in onion. Once translucent, about 5 – 6 minutes, add in ginger and peppers.
  3. Add in spices: salt, chili, black pepper and turmeric.
  4. Cook for another 5 minutes until peppers are slightly tender but still crunchy!
  5. Pour in crushed tomatoes, sugar and water (water is added to create more of a saucy consistency; if you’re not a saucy person then you can omit this).
  6. Add ¼ tsp ground cumin and 2 tbsp fenugreek.
  7. Turn heat to a low simmer. Add in your cubed tofu, stir gently and be careful not to over mix. Cover your pan and simmer on a low temperature for 10 – 12 minutes. This allows all the flavor to meddle.
  8. The color should be bright and vibrant!
  9. Serve with roti, naan or rice. Best served with a side of plain yogurt.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Pardon my reach!

Before you leave, check out this fun stop motion video about the girls night in I hosted, trust me you, you’re going to want to see it! It’s pretty darn cute if I don’t say so myself!

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda