Lifestyle and food blogger, Alana Yazzie, pairs her Navajo heritage and fancy personality to create tasty recipes.
Alana Yazzie, a “fancy” Diné (Navajo) lifestyle and food blogger elevates her childhood recipes from New Mexico and puts a twist on tradition with new recipes on her blog, TheFancyNavajo.com. Yazzie is known for her recipes that incorporate blue corn, like her blue corn cookies, blue corn stuffing, and more. She also shares Native-made products and businesses to continue to highlight and support local communities. Yazzie answers some questions for us and shares her Blue Corn Cupcake recipe.
Cowboys & Indians: Why did you start your food blog, and what got you into food and cooking?
Yazzie: It happened by accident when I created an Instagram in 2014. There was a great interest in what I was sharing, which largely revolved around food and fashion. At the time Instagram was limited in its services, and there weren’t many Native American food bloggers. So, I created TheFancyNavajo.com as a way to share more with my audience.
Food and cooking have always been a huge part of my life. I grew up in a family that loves to cook, bake, and host parties. At a young age, I realized how food brings everyone together, and at a young age, my family involved me in the cooking process. As I grew older, I took a greater interest in learning about Native foods and how to cook them after moving away from home to go to college. Now I am focused on finding new ways to make Native foods and with each new creation, I like adding a “Fancy Navajo” twist.
C&I: What is your favorite recipe to make?
Yazzie: My favorite recipes are the most simple and versatile recipes like Fancy Navajo Magic Bread, which makes tortillas, fry bread, and biscuits. It’s like magic! It was also one of the first recipes I learned to make as a child, so it’s a very nostalgic recipe.
C&I: Do you prefer to cook or bake?
Yazzie: I am definitely more of a baker than a cook. Baking is one of my favorite things to do. I love making muffins, scones, and cupcakes. I love baking because you can change up the ingredients around the changing seasons.
C&I: What is your process for creating a new recipe — cooking and baking?
Yazzie: It really depends on what type of recipe I am creating. If I am sharing a new Native recipe, that requires a lot of testing because I am creating a new recipe from scratch. So, it takes a lot of trial and error to figure out the right ingredients in a format that is easy to replicate. Other times recipes are classic staples that I have made many times and often are recipes where I don’t ever write down measurements. For those recipes, they are a bit easier to create since I have made them numerous times before.
C&I: What are some recipes that come from your Navajo upbringing? Why is blue corn prevalent in your recipes?
Yazzie: A lot of the recipes I share are family recipes that I grew up having like Fancy Navajo Mutton Stew and Fancy Navajo Magic Bread. However, a lot of the blue corn recipes are new recipes that I created. Blue corn is a prominent ingredient in a lot of Native and Indigenous cultures. I grew up having blue cornmeal in mush or pancakes that we ate for breakfast. There were only a couple of ways I had seen it prepared. A lot of the blue corn baking recipes are new recipes that I created to show other ways to prepare this staple. Using blue cornmeal has become a popular ingredient on TheFancyNavajo.com and in the past years, we have shared a variety of ways to use the ingredient such as Fancy Navajo Blue Corn Cupcakes and Fancy Navajo Blue Cornbread Stuffing. It’s one of those ingredients that gets everyone excited and is an ingredient that can easily be incorporated into everyday foods.
C&I: Why is it important to you to highlight other Native American-made products, not just in the culinary industry?
Yazzie: I personally think it’s important to support local communities. We often don’t hear much about Native American-made products but they are out there. Through social media, I have learned there is a great interest in others wanting to support Native American business but don’t know where to purchase these items. There are so many Native businesses and they are all creating so many wonderful products and services. Through social media, I am able to introduce and share authentic Native American-made products that aren’t only food-related but everyday items.
C&I: How have you adapted your blog and content over the years?
Yazzie: The fun thing about having a lifestyle/food blog is that you can adapt the content to your changing lifestyle. Over the years I have covered a variety of topics from fashion to travel and recipes. There is a lot of flexibility in what I can share. It has been amazing to see how TheFancyNavajo.com has grown from an Instagram/blog to include hosting in-person and online events such as cooking/baking demonstrations.
C&I: What are you looking forward to in the coming years for your blog?
Yazzie: I am looking forward to more in-person events. We slowed down a bit through the pandemic and put a few things on hold, one being baking/cooking classes. I am hoping to get that started soon and share The Fancy Navajo magic with everyone. We also are always looking forward to sharing more recipes that incorporate Native foods.
Fancy Navajo Blue Corn Cupcakes
Yields: 16 Cupcakes
Blue Corn Cupcakes
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup roasted blue cornmeal (I use the Navajo Pride brand. Shima of Navajoland and Tamaya Blue sell this online, but I have seen blue cornmeal in some specialty grocery stores.)
1/4 cup white sugar
5 teaspoons baking powder
1 pinch of salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pan with cupcake liners. Sift all dry ingredients (flour, blue cornmeal, baking powder, salt) together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whip room temperature unsalted butter and sugar together until fluffy. Then add eggs, milk, and vanilla until combined. Slowly stir in the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until smooth. Scoop the batter into cupcake liners 3/4 from the top using a spoon or ice cream scoop. Bake for 20 – 22 minutes or until tops are a light golden brown and a toothpick can be inserted in the center and be removed clean. Let cool for 10 minutes.
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup of cold unsalted butter
3 cups powdered sugar
2 – 4 tablespoons of heavy cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
Whip butter and salt together on medium-high until light and fluffy. Slowly add in powdered sugar until the mixture starts to clump up. Add in heavy cream and continue to add powdered sugar until desired frosting consistency (if the frosting is too thick, add in more heavy cream). Frost your beautiful blue corn cupcakes. Optional, top with a piñon.
Recipe: courtesy Alana Yazzie of TheFancyNavajo.com
Photography: (All images) courtesy Alana Yazzie, Jennifer Hubbell, and Hannah Manuelito