Meatless Monday – Rum Cake

I had planned to make a “healthy” dessert for Guy’s birthday, an Orchard Crumble–after the main event, we could eat leftovers for breakfast. Unfortunately, from Sunday to Monday the pears went from perfectly soft to rotten-brown-inedible and I had to switch to Plan B: rum cake. [Note: this cake was originally based on Bacardi’s recipe, but the changes are all mine]rum-cake

You can make this cake with either yellow or chocolate cake mix. This was the first time I’ve used chocolate, but that’s what I had in the cupboard. I can now heartily say–either way, just so much yum!

This was also the first time I made it vegan and, happily, still yum! In fact, I learned something: instant pudding mix is vegan. Surprising, since most likely you’d buy Jello brand and one would think Jello products contain gelatin, but the ingredients list does not contain gelatin or dairy.

Also interesting, I didn’t have instant pudding mix, so I subbed two mashed bananas and still no problemo. Next time I might use the pudding mix and sub bananas or unsweetened applesauce for the oil, more fruit making this decadent deliciousness a smidgen healthier without changing the flavor. Oh, but I also added about 1/3 cup of non-dairy dark chocolate chips, so forget any notion of “healthy” happening here.

It will look like way too much glaze, but it will soak in, I promise. And the longer it soaks, the better. Not as healthy as Orchard Crumble, but I have had house guests request leftovers for breakfast! 

Rum Cake

1 c chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts
1 18-1/2 ounce yellow or chocolate cake mix
1 1-3/4 ounce (4-serving size) instant vanilla or chocolate pudding mix
4 flax eggs (1 Tbsp flax meal + 3 Tbsp water per “egg”)
½ c cold non-dairy milk
½ c vegetable oil
½ c dark rum
1/3 c non-dairy dark chocolate chips (optional)

½ c non-dairy butter (Earth Balance)
¼ c water
½ c sugar
2 Tbsp agave nectar
½ c dark rum

Cake: Prepare flax eggs and set aside. Preheat oven to 325, and grease and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Sprinkle nuts on bottom of pan. Combine all cake ingredients. Beat for 2 minutes on high with electric mixer. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour. Cool in pan. Invert on serving plate.

Glaze: Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in water, sugar, and agave. Boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in rum. The rum will cause steam. Be careful not to burn yourself.

Prick top with fork. Drizzle glaze over top of cake. Use brush or spoon to put extra dripping back on cake. Enjoy!

Creative Passions

Back in junior high, Nikki and I created drama. In high school band, we created music (and still, drama). We’ve put a lot of years and miles between those energetic girls and the women we’ve become, but we both still manage to create. And here we are, creating together again.

Create Challenge #14: Nikki Norman

NNorman famThe word create is different for everyone. I don’t consider myself very creative as a rule but I do a lot that is creative. I am a photographer, I am a baker, and I make salves and blends with essential oils.

Let’s start with my number one passion: Photography. As a child I loved to have my picture taken, much like teens now. If only we had cellphones then… Oh my word, it would have been bad.

As an adult I much prefer to be behind the camera. Photography is something I have developed over the past 20 years. Other than a class here and there, I don’t have formal training. Most of what I do and know is by the grace of God. He has given me the talent to frame the subject and edit the photo to be pleasing to me and the client. I prefer to photograph people although I do sometimes have to grab a shot of God–a beautiful sunset, rainbow, even a thunderstorm.NNorman baby

As a natural light photographer, I prefer to shoot outdoors. My photo shoot location of choice is the Monastery in Conyers, Georgia. It has a lake, a grassy area with trees, a road hardly traveled and a gorgeous brick wall and staircase. The Monastery’s calm and quiet help as well. People feel comfortable there even if they are not “religious.” I absolutely love photographing people’s story, “making memories to last a lifetime” (my slogan).NNorman wedding

Next passion: Baking. I create birthday cakes with love for the ones I love and feel an immense pride when it comes out tasting good and looking pretty. My son’s girlfriend has a term she uses when something is really good. She says, “It tastes like Jesus.”

The first time I heard it I was like, “Really? You just said that?”

And she said, “Jesus is good–and so is this!”

Creating a great dessert people ask for over and over again? That is very rewarding!

Using essential oils for natural healing is my final creative passion. I am truly an advocate for essential oils. I make salves with coconut oil, olive oil, and beeswax and add different essential oils to the salve depending on the ailment. I make one for general healing and use it instead of lotion. I make one for aches and pains. My parents use it all the time and say it truly helps with their arthritis and other aches that come with age. I just made one that is supposed to help with nerve pain or neuropathy. My husband suffers with this so here’s hoping it works!

One essential oil must for day-to-day use is frankincense, which I refer to as “Frank.” Frank is a super cancer fighter and all-around great oil and, heck, the Wise Men brought it to Jesus so you know it must be good! I believe so much in these oils that I am an affiliate with the company I prefer to use and am able to pass on a 10% discount to everyone.

Finally, I am an Apache Indian. We refer to God as Creator–how cool is that? He is the Creator of the heavens and earth, Creator of all. I try to live my life to please Creator and I thank Creator for the talents He has given me.

NNorman bio

Nikki Norman has been married for 20 years to her incredible husband, Kevin, and they have four children: Brittney (23), Haylie (20), Hunter (19) and Harrison (15). Haylie is married and has given them the joyful gift of Ryker, their 18-month-old grandson. Nikki works for a pharmacy management company that manages twelve stores and counting. She and Kevin also just embarked on a bee-keeping adventure.
Spark Naturals essential oils:
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Meatless Monday – Carrot Cake

I’ll admit, I was sad to send the kids back to school today after a marvelously relaxing holiday break. Last night we pulled out backpacks we hadn’t seen nor opened in two weeks, and just unzipping the zippers and catching sight of the overflowing binders and spirals raised my anxiety. Once again we’re back at the packed lunches and homework.

Muffins are one of my favorite lunchbox inserts. I can make a batch on the weekend and pull them out for breakfast or lunch throughout the next few days. And this carrot cake recipe…? Its original title was “The Best Vegan Carrot Cake Recipe Ever.” I’ve made it healthier while maintaining its scrumptious-ness, so I guess the original title was off by just a smidge.

“Best Ever” because it’s easy and delicious. Use a food processor to shred the carrots and it becomes even easier. I made the mistake (?) of using my Vitamix – still easier than shredding by hand but not as effective and harder to clean.

By the way, the original recipe included a frosting recipe, but as I make muffins instead of cake and wanted a healthy option, I’ve never frosted them and never missed frosting. These muffins taste both light and decadent.

Here’s to a delicious 2016!carrot cake 1carrot cake 2carrot cake 3carrot cake 4


The Best Vegan Carrot Cake Recipe Ever

1 1/2 c white whole wheat flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c white sugar
1/4 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp of salt
2 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of baking soda
2 tsp of cinnamon
3 c shredded carrots
3/4 c applesauce
1/4 c agave nectar
1/2 c orange juice (or slightly more)
1/2 c golden raisins or craisins
1/2 c shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/2 c of chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin tins.

Mix together the flour, sugars, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon until thoroughly combined. Add the shredded carrots, applesauce, and agave to the dry ingredients and mix well with a spoon (not a hand mixer!).

Add the orange juice and mix again, then fold in the nuts, raisins and coconut.

Put the batter into muffin tins.

Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until knife/toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center. If making cake, bake for about 45 minutes.


The year I turned seven my mom made a beautiful Doll Cake for my birthday party. She stuck a Barbie-type doll torso into a dome cake which she decorated with frosting rosettes.

Something like this...

Something like this…

I ran and laughed together with my friends in my Backyard Birthday Party. Later we sat around the dining table, all eyes admiring the cake in its center, until someone (probably my mom) starting singing, “Happy Birthday.”

“Stop,” I whispered, then again with more force.

The girls kept right on singing while I crawled under the table and cried.

I’m sure I had a piece of cake, but I don’t remember it. The overriding memory from that party is feeling awkward as the center of attention.

That was long before “introvert” entered my vocabulary and became part of my self-understanding. One of my many introvert dilemmas continues to be how to receive love, which requires being seen, when focused attention sometimes feels uncomfortable.

Some who know me could read this and scoff. They’ve seen me speak publicly, and I look so comfortable.

Yes, and no.

You don’t see the hours and hours I put into crafting Every Single Word. You don’t see me reading my manuscript under my breath time and again until I have it just about memorized. You don’t see me visualizing all going well, and the prayer that undergirds each step. You don’t see the hours of solitude that precede and follow the speaking event.

And then, when I speak publicly I have Something to Share, and guaranteed I’m not there if I don’t. I will never volunteer for improv night or karaoke. “Extemporaneous” will never describe me.

After returning from our honeymoon, some of my co-workers who had been unable to attend the wedding joined me to watch our wedding video. One boldly asked, “What is that look on your face? I’ve never seen it.”

She was right: I smiled, overjoyed to be walking down the aisle to my Love. But the pressure of All Eyes on Me while I walked down the Longest Aisle Ever, well, it warped my smile. Apparently I have my own unique “everyone is looking at me” smile. Great…

Some who know me could read this and scoff. They’ve seen me at parties, and I look so comfortable.

Yes, and no.

I love a good party! I love the decorations, food and drink, the company. At least, I love talking To You, yes, You, Standing Right Here. If/when we run out of things to talk about, I will choke down panic. Small talk, and even worse, maneuvering from person to person remain skills I haven’t mastered, and my constant prayer is that I don’t look as awkward as I feel. Safely at home later, I will crash. I will then wake in the Wee Hours to mull over Every Word of Every Conversation until daylight creeps under the window shades. It will take me at least a day to recover.

A Party is one thing; My Party is altogether different. Some days, though, being loved really is about receiving it whether or not people plan with your quirks in mind. This birthday I had a morning meeting. One friend stood to hug me as another friend set out cake and people began to sing. I whispered under my breath, “As a little girl I crawled under the table when people sang to me.” She held her arm around me and whispered, “So did my daughter,” and squeezed a little tighter.

Safe in her embrace, I smiled. If anyone took a picture, I’m sure I could show you my “everyone is looking at me” smile. And I enjoyed the cake.