Split Pea SoupHappy New Year! 2016 what now? We really enjoyed the holidays, but we’ve been busy enough that I haven’t yet had that necessary moment to pause, reflect on what’s ending and set the course for all that’s about to begin. That’s why I’m giving myself until Monday before diving into the stream of momentum and intentions that January brings. I’m thinking about doing a gentle reset for the next four weeks, eating and drinking with lightness and care, tweaking my fitness regimen for the winter and leaving lots of room for creativity and productivity. But for now, I’m sitting on a favorite chair with my feet up, wrapped in a cozy sweater, thinking about friends — and soup.  

I’ve made this satisfying, flavorful vegan split pea soup maybe 10 times in the past year and countless times before that. But something possessed me to search for the recipe on Umami Girl as I set out to serve it to friends for New Year’s Day. I knew for sure I’d posted it a couple of years ago. I could see the photo in my head. Except, of course, no.

So. How about now? Is now good for you? Okay, great. Here you go.  

Carolyn xx


Herb Salt and Spiced Sugar
Every year the “last-minute holiday gifts!” emails start rolling in around December 10th, and every year my eye-roll gets a little more slow-mo, a little more epic. Last-minute? Please.

I know a thing or two about last-minute, and kiddos, let me tell you that today through Thursday night is when last-minute happens. You still have plenty of time to get busy with homemade gifts, and these two are totally achievable at any point before the big guy with long white beard makes all our impossible dreams come true. This might be a little too crazy since mason jars are widely available everywhere, but at the moment of publication many of you actually still have time to order your jars on Amazon (through my affiliate links here if you like — thank you!) and fill them with beautiful homemade salts and sugars on Christmas Eve. Now we’re talkin’ last-minute.

Herb Salt and Spiced SugarThe best part, though, is that last-minute or no, these gifts are thoughtful and lovely, and almost everyone will like them. The sugar is a new addition to my repertoire this year, but the salt has been a staple over several years, and I always get requests for more that border on showing signs of addiction. No judgment, believe me.

Herb Salt and Spiced SugarHerb Salt and Spiced SugarHerb Salt and Spiced SugarHerb Salt and Spiced SugarI’ll leave you to finish your holiday prep with warm wishes for the holidays and the rest of 2015. I am so grateful for each of you and your support of Umami Girl this year. Love, peace and umami to all. See you in 2016.

Carolyn xx

P.S. Here’s a little holiday gift for you: printable labels. Buy Avery Labels 22830 and print: 


Snowflake Linzer CookiesAs the countdown to Christmas reaches single digits and the to-do list only grows more “festive” (or one of those f-words, anyway), I find I’m getting better and better and my holiday baking specialty. That specialty, it turns out, is making cookies that have the potential to be exquisite and using my own set of skills to make them adequate. Cute, sure. Tasty, definitely. And let’s just say unequivocally homemade. It’s good to bake with the kids, because even if they’re more nimble than you, people — at least people without access to forensic equipment — will assume they made the ones with the cracks and the blobs and the fingerprints. You don’t even have to say anything.
 Snowflake Linzer CookiesAt any rate, if I can make these cookies in an evening, you can make them, too. They’re basic shortbread cookies that decided to get a little dressed up for the holiday party, and they didn’t have to try too hard, because they’re confident they know how to work a crowd.

Snowflake Linzer CookiesI’ll leave you with that for today, so you can get baking and we can all get back to our “festivities,” whatever they may be. (And at this point I’ve used enough convoluted double entendres that I actually don’t even know what they may be.) See you soon.

Snowflake Linzer Cookies | Umami Girl

Carolyn xx

{Click here for the recipe.}

  • Henry

    What a wonderful spin on an old favorite!ReplyCancel

    • Thanks, and lovely to see you, Henry. Not sure my ancestors from the Austro-Hungarian Empire would approve, but everyone here likes them. :)ReplyCancel

Friends Eating a Skillet CookieLook at those faces. So happy. Four kids, three adults, not one of them crying. Not even a little. Would you like to make your friends and family feel this happy? If only — oh, wait! What’s that in the middle of the table with seven spoons about to plunge into it? Good call. It’s a skillet cookie. A whole damn batch of your favorite drop cookies baked together in one skillet and then, if you’re smart, topped with a pint of your favorite ice cream. 

The skillet cookie is no original idea of mine. I learned about it here and have deployed it for various crowds more times than I should probably admit over the past year. Once I even served it to an adults-only crowd, and nobody was like, “No thanks, this is wildly inappropriate.” I always offer bowls in case anyone wants to quietly remove their own portion from the germ pool, but to date no one has taken me up on the offer. 

So, cool. We’ve established that the skillet cookie is a thing to be proliferated for the good of humanity. But that part is obvious. Here’s where the new twist comes in. What if we take our enabling to the next level for the holidays with the gift of a skillet cookie starter set? It seems only fair. And it’s easy! Here’s all you need:

A skillet. (I mean, really.) Depending on the life stage/kitchen state of the recipient and your budget, you could go a few ways with this. For about $35, there’s the always wonderful Lodge 12-inch cast iron skillet, which should be in every kitchen. It will get a ton of use and will last a lifetime and then some. (At the risk of plunging you into an existential crisis, have you seen how many of these things show up at estate sales? They’re positively immortal.) This would be a great option for anyone who doesn’t have one already.

Lodge Cast Iron Skillet

Or let’s say you’re some wealthy grandma with a dedicated cook on your list and $315 to burn in a beautiful, enameled cherry-red flame. Then how about this Le Creuset 5-quart braiser? (I own both of these beauties and use them regularly, in case you were curious.)

Le Creuset Braiser

A third option, one I strongly support but can’t really help you with, is to find a local maker or seller of pretty things that are about 12 inches in diameter and can spend half an hour in the oven at 375°F. This is a great plan if your gift recipient already has all the kitchen basics, or if you don’t know what they have.

Next, you need a cookie recipe or 50. Print your family’s favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe on a pretty piece of card stock, or include the excellent cookie book Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy by Alice Medrich.

Alice Medrich Cookie Cookbook

Then, if you’re a real class act, you might buy the dry ingredients for one of the recipes and wrap them all up in the skillet. Up to you, but it’s a nice touch. 

And that’s it! Merry merry, cookie cookie. See you soon.

Carolyn xx

P.S. Links to Amazon in this post are affiliate links. If you click through and buy something, I’ll earn a small percentage of the sale, which helps to keep Umami Girl running strong. Thank you!


  • Roxane

    What are you doing reading this comment?! Go quickly to your kitchen – you will wonder why you have been missing this all your life! Quick tip – make 2 – see those big grins in the back? They were gobbling it up while the rest of us were smiling for the picture… It’s all about smarts or picture positioning :).ReplyCancel

Easy Homemade SoapI made soap. True story.

It was a lot like cooking. A lot. Chopping, heating, flavoring, mixing, pouring. Setting in the freezer to chill. I used Pyrex and a spoon. Poppy seeds. A baking sheet. The kitchen smelled like lavender, lemongrass, peppermint. I won’t lie: the hardest part by far was remembering not to taste-test. 

I think the reason it was so easy is because I essentially made the Annie’s Mac & Cheese of soaps. I used the “melt and pour” method, where you start with something that’s already soap — but really big, really boring soap — and just make it all pretty and stinky and bite-sized. The alternative method requires you to mix lye with other ingredients. Lye is highly corrosive and generally sort of terrifying to those of us who trembled our way through high school chemistry and have been known to cut ourselves badly with a stalk of Brussels sprouts. If you knew how recently I’ve said, “Thank God I’m not a surgeon, right?” I’m confident you’d support me in the melt and pour.

And hey, maybe you’ll try it too? Based on my experience gifting these left and right last year, I’ve put together a list of everything you need, which you can click through and buy via my affiliate links on Amazon if you like. (And if you do, thanks for helping to keep Umami Girl up and running.) I made four “flavors”: Peppermint, Lemongrass Poppy and Orange Poppy (the poppy seeds act like little exfoliating microbeads, which is cool but also sounds like muffins, right?), and Lavender, which I totally know is not spelled Lavendar (like calendar?), so I definitely did not have to reprint my labels at ALL. You can make whatever scents you like, but if you want to make the same ones I did, I’m including PDF files of printable labels below because I love you dearly.

Easy Homemade Soap

Here’s what you need:

Here’s how to do it:*

  • Cut a one-pound block of soap base into rough one-inch squares and place in glass measuring cup.
  • Microwave on high in 30-second bursts, stirring in between, until melted — about 90 seconds total.
  • Stir in 10-20 drops essential oil (to “taste”) and about a tablespoon of poppy seeds, if using.
  • Place soap mold on cookie sheet for stability, then pour soap mixture evenly into molds. Tap out any air bubbles or pop with a toothpick (or don’t, honestly).
  • Freeze for 15 minutes or so, until set. Gently pop soaps out of molds. 
  • Don’t you almost feel guilty giving these as gifts because they’re so easy? Don’t.
  • Cut a 2-inch strip of waxed or craft paper to wrap around each bar of soap. Secure with a printed label. Place one or two bars of soap into each gift bag, tie with ribbon or included twist-tie. 
  • Give give give! 

*(Method adapted from Gluesticks)

That’s it! You made soap. Omnipotent much? The best part is the dishes clean themselves. Just add water.

Have fun, and see you soon with more homemade — and, no worries, totally non-homemade — gift ideas.

Carolyn xx


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  • Sadie

    Ooo! You reminded me of the present I always used to make. Those crazy flexible ice cube mold trays make really great novelty (guest?) soaps, and my most liked flavour combination was clove, cinnamon, nutmeg – yes, pie spice – which has a slightly exfoliating property. My mother also frequently commissioned me to make her ‘kitchen soap’ with bashed up lemons and chunks of salt. You might like that one. Cheers!
    Ps. Of course mine were nothing like this elegant – I like your labels a lot.ReplyCancel

  • Teresa

    Thank you! That sounds easy enough to make his gifts and to keep for myself. I shall make time to do this. Happy holidays to you and your family keep up the good work.ReplyCancel