I know, I know, I know!!! Please dont judge…I feel your disbelief that here we are talking about Christmas already, but truthfully, there’s only about 12 more weeks until Christmas! 12 WEEKS PEOPLE!!! 86 days to be exact! Egads! Do you know how fast that’s going to go? And how much we all have to do in those next 12 weeks? This is not the time for complacency…we’ve got things to do, places to go, people to see, food to cook, presents to buy, blog posts to write…the list goes on and on!
But Christmas is not called THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR for nothing! Personally I think the reason I love Christmas is because I love to give to others! There is something so special about sharing – whether it’s a gift of your time, your talents, or something you’ve carefully chosen, purchased, and wrapped for a loved one or special friend – giving makes us feel good! And people who feel good are happier people. Honestly – the world is not the happiest place right now, so we could all use an extra dose of happiness to spread around this year!
Anyway, when I found about this 2016 Food Blogger Christmas Gift Swap, I was a little intrigued. And a little skeptical as well. I sometimes tend to shy away from getting involved in group activities like this. It’s the extroverted-introvert in me…I wanted to participate, but I was unsure because I’m a new blogger and my blog is tiny…just a baby and I struggle to get page views. But then I thought – hey! They said everyone was welcome, they said you didn’t have to have a huge following for your blog – and that it didn’t even have to be a blog strictly focused on food and cooking! So finally I thought, yep! This is something I want to do, and honestly I’m super excited about it and can’t wait to see who I get matched with. I’m hoping to make some long term connections with other bloggers – and that, friends, is the biggest gift of all – the opportunity to connect with folks whom I admire and respect!
Only 86 more days people…..86!!! If you wait til tomorrow it’ll only be 85, then 84, then…well…you all know how countdowns work! But the time is short – they’ve opened it up to only 100 bloggers, and wouldn’t it suck to be number 101?!? Today is the day to make the decision to sign up. The rules are simple, the dollar amount is minimal – $25.00 is the limit, and it can be a purchased gift or homemade/home baked. All they ask is to please be careful to check that there are no food allergy issues if you give a gift of food! You’re application to participate must be received by November 1st. Your blogger gift exchange partner will be announced no later than November 8th. And the gifts must be mailed by December 17th to assure arrival by Christmas. Easy, right?
Please dont hesitate to join in as well! We’d love to have you! Please go here to learn more, get all your questions answered, and to sign up! This is the original blog post I saw from Valerie at The Kitchen Revival and she can answer any questions you might have! ‘Tis the season to be joyful, so lets spread a little joy amongst ourselves and have fun with this – cause the thing about joy – it’s contagious!
This is one of those posts that I hadn’t planned on doing, but when the basil gods (in the form of a friend with a bumper basil crop) shine on a food blogger, I believe it’s a sign! A sign that says **Hey…blogger lady…take this beautiful basil you’ve been gifted and turn it into something tasty for your blog!** So, thanks to my BFF, Karen, I came directly home and whipped up a quick batch of Purple Basil & Garlic Hummus!
Hummus is a favorite in our household. I love it for so many reasons…flavor, adaptability, ease of preparation, and healthfulness! Hummus contains chickpeas which are high in fiber and protein, iron, folate, phosphorus, and B vitamins. The lemon juice in hummus is high in vitamin C and antioxidants. Basil contains essential oils that have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. And the garlic…it’s a powerhouse of health benefits! Garlic helps fight colds, help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and it contains antioxidants that can help prevent dementia! Garlic can help you live longer, help detox your body of heavy metals, and it tastes delicious! And finally the tahini in hummus is high in protein, rich in vitamins and minerals, easy to digest because of it’s high alkaline mineral content, and high in unsaturated (good) fat! And finally, the olive oil in this recipe helps balance the cholesterol levels in your body.
Then because I was hurrying 😟 (the faster I go, the behinder I get)…here’s a photo of the lemon and red pepper flakes.
When it comes to making hummus it just couldn’t be easier. Everything except the olive oil goes in the food processor. Process on high until mostly blended, then begin streaming in the olive oil while still processing on high speed. You may have to stop to scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally, continuing to process until it’s smooth and well blended!
When it comes to serving your delicious homemade hummus the sky’s the limit! Of course it’s a fantastic dip with a bowl of chips or fresh vegetables. I love it spread on a sandwich or a wrap. I have also made a fantastic hummus-slathered baked chicken dish that is to die for! You could thin it out with a little vinegar and make a salad dressing or how about spreading it on a piece of toast with a little avocado and topping it all with a soft poached egg? I’m thinking stuffed mushrooms would be fabulous, or maybe as a sauce for roasted vegetables! I could probably go on and on, and I’m sure you can think of many more applications! Let’s just say it’s yummy and versatile and healthy – and we all should eat more hummus! It doesn’t always work out that something so healthful is also so delicious, but when it does it’s a beautiful thing!
Tip: By switching out the basil, garlic, and red pepper flakes for other seasonings, herbs, and spices, you can customize the basic hummus recipe to suit your tastes, or to take advantage of readily available fresh produce, as I did in this recipe by utilizing fresh purple basil.
Now that I’ve done a 180 and turned my eating habits and eating style upside down, I’m always looking for ways to enjoy a decadent little treat or occasional dessert without completely going off the rails. I find that if I don’t allow the little pleasures in my live-it (I hate the word diet…..I’m not dieting – I’m eating to live!), and try to rely on willpower alone I get a little, lot bit hard to live with! It can be frustrating to watch others enjoy a dessert and not be able to have any myself. I feel like deprivation is a sure way to fail and I have no intention of failing! Carrot Cake has always been a favorite of mine, so I began thinking about ways I could enjoy it without the guilt, so TA-DA, Flourless Tropical Carrot Custard Cake is what I came up with!
I have placed certain restrictions upon myself that I find helpful in keeping my live-it on the straight and narrow. First, and I believe most important, is that I have eliminated all processed sugar! Let me just say, this was really the most frightening change for me. Sugar is added to almost every processed food, so obviously I don’t eat anything pre-packaged, but I have learned to use natural sources to add sweetness to my recipes. In this cake the dates, maple syrup, banana, and coconut all add their own element of sweetness, and I venture to say that nobody is going to miss the processed sugar one little bit! One of the other things I’ve opted to avoid as much as possible is processed flour. I just feel better without it, so why not, right? But how the heck could I make a cake without flour?!? I experimented with a few different ideas, I looked at lots of options on-line and in the grocery store. In the end, I thought I’d give quinoa a try. I love the stuff and eat it frequently in a variety of recipes, and I thought it was mild enough to be the base for my cake, but sturdy enough to bind it all together! I will admit, in an effort to be completely transparent and honest, that my first attempt failed miserably! 😳 I mean it was really awful! But hey – at least I learned what NOT to do!
So for this cake I wanted to include all the flavors of a traditional carrot cake that I love so much and then amp up the health factor so that I’d be able to enjoy a piece without stressing out that I was eating cake! But of course, I also wanted it to be such a fabulous cake that my friends and family wouldn’t even know I’d “health-i-fied” it! Like I said before, it all starts with cooked quinoa…then I added dates, maple syrup, cinnamon, baking powder, a couple eggs, coconut oil, pineapple, coconut, walnuts, and of course, grated carrots. The surprise ingredient that really intensifies the moistness and sweet carrot flavor is a jar of carrot baby food! You’ll be amazed how much of a difference this simple addition can make. Of course, I could have used apple sauce, but this is a carrot cake after all!
Now I don’t know about you, but one of the things (perhaps the main thing) I always loved about carrot cake is the deliciously sweet cream cheese frosting! But let’s see….sugar, butter, cream cheese….nope, nope, and nope! However, I couldn’t make a cake without topping it off somehow. A cake without topping is just so sad! So I combined coconut oil, coconut, walnuts, oats, and maple syrup with just a sprinkle of cinnamon and created a crunchy cake topping that is to die for! And then the real magic happens when you take the first bite of the creamy smooth custardy cake juxtaposed with the crispy crunchy topping…..it’s just such a happy thing that it’ll make you want to do a happy dance!
Tip: For this recipe I used unrefined coconut oil. I like the extra coconut flavor it imparts to the cake. But for many of my recipes when I don’t actually want the flavor of coconut to come through I use the refined oil. I find it helpful just to keep both on hand.
Now I know some of you may be looking at this and asking, “Why so much topping on this cake, Lisa?” To which I feel I must reply, “Why the heck not?!?” If I’m having cake without cream cheese frosting, then I’m gonna sure as heck have some yummy crunchy goodness on the top!
Flourless Tropical Carrot Custard Cake
A creamy, custardy cake with a crispy, crunchy topping!