Easy Vegan Banana Pancakes | Umami Girl
Here’s a little happiness for your weekend: a hearty batch of easy vegan banana pancakes. Truth be told, I’m perfectly happy to use a couple of eggs in my pancakes under normal circumstances, but after our recent visit to Austin we came home to find I’d done too good a job cleaning out the fridge before we left. It was the same impulse, opposite result, as hoarding at the grocery store before a snowstorm. We were gone for five days, and eggs stay good for like a month. But don’t worry, I used them all before we left. Along with everything else.

One of the more satisfying parts of being a grownup is learning — and remembering — to take the long view on the choices you’ve made and the ways you’ve spent your time. If you step back far enough, all (okay, most) of the meanderings on your path start to look like they move in a reasonably straight line. Case in point: the abundant time and energy I’ve spent learning about vegan cooking and baking, even though I still can’t give up steaming live lobsters. (For what it’s worth, I do, in all honesty, say, “Thank you for your service,” to each of them, just as I whispered to Jon Stewart from my car the other day when I caught him driving behind me.)

It’s great to know how to cook with what you have, even when what you have is a big bag of flax seeds.  

The “flax egg” is a surprisingly convincing egg substitute in a variety of heartier baked goods. This isn’t news, I know. But if you haven’t tried it in muffins, pancakes, or quickbreads, I recommend you do, whether it’s to avoid a trip to the grocery store or to be a little more plant-based from time to time. Or to impress Jon Stewart — how do I know what your motivations are? Simply take a tablespoon of flax seeds and grind it very finely in a clean coffee or spice grinder. Stir it into three tablespoons of water and wait about 15 minutes for the mixture to get a little bit gelatinous. Then use it to replace one egg. (But don’t try it in an omelet or a meringue! No duh, as we used to say in fourth grade.)

Even though these pancakes were a result of total improv, the family and I thought they turned out really well, and I’ll definitely make them again soon. It’s worth noting that we’ve never been a Bisquick family, though — we like a little heft to our pancakes. These rise beautifully but won’t melt like the holy eucharist/ send you in a blood sugar rocket to the moon. Just letting you know, one earthling to another.

Happy weekend. See you soon.

Carolyn xx{CLICK TO GET THE RECIPE FOR EASY VEGAN BANANA PANCAKES.}

Blueberry Yogurt Coffee Cake Muffins

Hello again with cake. I thought about holding these muffins-with-cake-in-their-very-title in the drafts pile for a week or two out of some vague sense of decorum. But instead I’m declaring it cake week and hoping you’ll grab a cup of coffee, sit next to me, and dig in. Anyway, with berries and yogurt and something crumbly on top, these blueberry yogurt coffee cake muffins are basically the parfait of muffins, which is very highbrow and aspirational. Let’s just agree on that without really making me defend it, shall we?Blueberry Yogurt Coffee Cake Muffins

They’re also quick to put together and, if you want to get all 1950s housewife about it, make a nice little surprise for when the kids get home from school. If that kind of behavior rubs your worldview the wrong way, just think how surprised the kids will be when you make these on a rare day off from work, fail to quite finish them all yourself, and present the kids with the leftovers as they get off the bus. See? We can meet you where you are with these muffins-that-are-cake. Cake is amenable and, these being small cakes, they’re especially nimble. What do I have to do to get you into these muffins today? 

Eating Blueberry Yogurt Coffee Cake Muffins

I won’t lie — this narrative has gone off the rails, and I’m getting concerned for our mutual safety. So let’s end it here with a mouthful of muffins and talk again soon, but definitely not about this. 

Terrific.

Carolyn xx

{GET THE RECIPE FOR BLUEBERRY YOGURT COFFEE CAKE MUFFINS}

The Silver Palate
Recently this blog has been All About That Cake (No Vegetables). I couldn’t really say why — or why I thought it was a good idea to start this post with a line that Meghan Trainor, or your average 11 year old, or MY average 11 year old, might murder me for in the night. Still, it’s true. Cake.

This particular layer cake tastes more sophisticated than it looks with those slightly melted organic lollipops (or are they balloon emoji?) sticking out of the top. It’s The Silver Palate’s yellow cake recipe, and there is wine in the batter, which makes all the difference for both taste and texture. No one would guess the secret ingredient, but everyone will know it’s a little bit special.

In addition to baking cakes, one thing I’ve been doing a lot of recently is insisting I’m way more into statistics than astrology but then saying things like this anyway: So many of my favorite people have birthdays in interesting clusters. Four of my best ladies have consecutive birthdays a direct six month leap across the calendar from mine, and they’re all kinda the yang to my yin (although watch me expunge those terms from my vocabulary now that I’ve seen yin described as “feminine/passive/negative”).

Three other MVPs share the birthday that I made this cake to celebrate. Granted, only one is local, so the others had to subsist on a cheeky text and a photo of the cake, which means it’s lucky they’ve already liked me for a while. We brought the actual cake to the local, and she and I and our kids decided to dig in while her poor husband was out. She’s an excellent sculptor, and though cake and truth aren’t her usual media, that day she sliced off a perfect ring of cake edges for us to eat, leaving a smaller but totally legit-looking round layer cake behind for a family celebration later in the evening. If I tried something like that it would instantly start trending as a Pinterest fail, but in her case no one suspected a thing.

Birthday clusters are one of those life events/non-events that seem meaningful even though maybe technically they aren’t. But then, the more birthdays my friends and I have, the more I realize that meaning exists where you make it — and statistical significance isn’t always the best measure of importance.

See you soon.

carolyn xx long

{CLICK TO GET THE SILVER PALATE’S YELLOW CAKE RECIPE}

Instagram Original Raspberry Meyer Lemon Smoothie | Umami GirlHappy Monday! Here are three recipes every bit as pink and green as Friday’s cupcake extravaganza, but otherwise from a different planet. (It’s Planet Monday Morning, where the air is full of antioxidants, the core is made of willpower, and the gravity is strong.) I’ve shared all these recipes on Instagram over the past few months, but here they are again in case you missed it. I’ve been crushing on the raspberry, Meyer lemon and Greek yogurt smoothie pictured above many, many mornings during the past month, since I’ve been looking for a little extra protein and haven’t been feelin’ the chalky vibe of vegan pea protein powder. 
Instagram Original Green Smoothie | Umami GirlThis green glass of gorgeous is a real inflammation buster, with fresh turmeric and ginger and lots of leafy greens. It also tastes great, I promise. 
Instagram Original Blueberry Smoothie | Umami GirlAnd who doesn’t love a tall drink of purple? I know I’ll stand (on one foot, on my head) for nothing less after an especially tough hot yoga class.

You can find all the recipes below, and here’s a little something to hang on your fridge. It’s the Daily Dozen from Dr. Michael Greger’s totally worthwhile book How Not to Die.* He recommends the indicated number of daily servings of each of these delicious foods, which as far as I’m concerned is a fabulous way to feel good about what you’re eating. And hey, each of these smoothies will help you tick a few of those immortality-seeking boxes! 

Dr. Greger

*Believe it or not, this asterisk is to inform you that the link above is an amazon affiliate link, and not to indicate that you will inevitably die one day despite reading this book. Speaking of which, here’s a photo of those piano recital cupcakes I was about to make when we last talked. Cute, right? And since we’re all mortal anyway, totally worth it. 

Piano Recital Cupcakes | Umami Girl-2

Talk to you soon.

Carolyn xx

{CLICK HERE FOR THREE KILLER SMOOTHIE RECIPES.}

Cupcakes for Peter Pan from Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes with Classic Buttercream | Umami GirlHello from possibly the only person on earth who grew into a love of buttercream at the age of 38. Sometimes I’m disappointed when I feel like no one gets me, but in this case you’re all free to give me the WTF face without even trying to hide it. Lord knows I saw it first in the mirror.

These days, even though I tend to opt for the ghost/French exit/Irish goodbye after a few bites, I love buttercream for its simple flavor profile and endless adaptability. Buttercream helps you turn delicious cupcakes into gently themed bake sale contributions and party favors without too much effort, creativity or fondant. Just stir in a few dabs of gel icing color and buy or quickly make a little topper or two, and you’ll have achieved the ultimate ratio of impressiveness (good enough) to effort (doable after dinner the night before). 

I made the cupcakes pictured above for the intermission bake sale at our middle school’s production of Peter Panic, a made-for-tweens musical about theater kids fighting an evil football coach for enough funding to perform Peter Pan. (Whew!) Below is the same cupcake with the same frosting, but restyled for Easter by said tween and me.

Easter Cupcakes from Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting | Umami GirlAs for the cake: For years I’ve oscillated between searching for the perfect chocolate cupcake recipe and avoiding baking chocolate cupcakes at all. I already have a favorite chocolate cake, but I’m not in love with the way it translates to cupcakes. 

In anticipation of Peter Panic, I tested the recipe below, originally created by Two Peas and Their Pod. I’ve finally found the chocolate cupcake batter I’ve been looking for, and since then I’ve been making up for lost time by churning these babies out for any and all occasions. It’s the best, because the recipe quickly becomes an old standby, but the cupcakes clean up real nice and look totally different every time. Next up, this weekend’s piano recital. I think we’ll keep the frosting its natural ivory color (I mean, come on) and jazz up the tops — pun totally intended — with some sheet music-adorned toothpicks. We shall see. 

I hope this pair of recipes will help simplify your life in the same rewarding way they’ve done for mine. Have fun, and see you next time.

Carolyn xx

{CLICK FOR THE CHOCOLATE CUPCAKE AND BUTTERCREAM FROSTING RECIPES.}