Broccoli Salad with Raisins or What to Take to a Potluck

broccoli salad with raisinsIt would seem I’m on a bit of a broccoli bender. First came the challenge of concocting a brunch recipe with broccoli that yielded the highly flavorful broccoli breakfast tostadas smeared with an Aleppo pepper white bean spread, roasted broccoli, a dollop of labneh, and a sprinkling of sambal oelek, giving that meal that encompasses two meals a bit of flair. Then came Jeff Friedman’s Pan-Sauteed Broccoli with Walnuts, paired with an homage to our King Arthur visit. Just when you thought the green crown had been deposed, it’s still in charge.

Sometimes the CSA delivery surprises me not with what’s inside but with its arrival. Notoriously, I heed some inner alert to buy vegetables for the crisper the evening before the brown cardboard box greets us with its array of fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s happened often enough that I’ve had to get creative about assessing its contents and the newly procured produce to deduce what will go bad quickly. Broccoli usually passes the test, like a small tree uprooted whose crown keeps green. This buys me time and as such has made broccoli an indispensable addition to the regular rotation.

broccoli salad with raisins

Recently, after attending a Big Traveling Potluck, I found myself happily saddled with a block of Kerrygold Skelling cheese. Tucked in an insulated bag, deep in the confines of my suitcase, it became one of my “food-venirs” to make the journey back up north to San Francisco from San Diego. Like the contents of our CSA box, the unexpected block of cheese was whisked into the fridge where it greeted us each time we opened the door, somewhat bewildered how to use it best. Part of the cheese slid off the block and onto a cheeseboard with a little help of prunes and crackers. Another bit made its way from the block into the mouth with ease and this might have continued if the crisper had not beckoned.

The notion of salads doused in mayonnaise somehow leaves me limp like greens past their prime. One evening I discovered that the drawer I thoughts had held spinach was bare. In its place, the head of broccoli eyed me with promise. Recent broccoli boasts included different techniques- pan-sauteeing and roasted, why not add a raw offering to the mix? Raw broccoli contrary to a misconception I had growing up is not bitter but crunchy and a good foil for other flavors. Punched up with mini cubes of the Skelling cheese, sweetness from fennel, raisins and a bit of maple makes this salad surprising without any mayonnaise marring its flavor.  If I’m going to get fixated on an ingredient, and I do all the time, then broccoli’s time has peaked. I can think of worse things to vie for space in the crisper. broccoli salad with raisins



You’ll find this recipe calls for hemp hearts and avocado. I think this greatly makes up for the lack of mayonnaise as it’s still full of fats, albeit healthy ones. Hemp hearts are fantastic- they’re slightly nutty and a delicious way to also add some omega 6’s to your meal. Hemp hearts are what you find inside hemp seeds. Both are available at grocery stores, but keep in mind that hemp seeds are crunchy as you also eat the outer shell as well as the heart. It’s your call as to which one to use here, but I find the fennel and broccoli provide ample crunch on their own. To store hemp hearts, pour them into a wide mouthed mason jar and freeze until your next use of them. This should keep them fresh for several months. A big thank you to the California Avocado Commission for a bag of San Diego avocados that found their way into this salad and the block of Skelling Kerrygold cheese, both from the Big Traveling Potluck and both of which provided important elements for the salad. It goes without saying that all opinions are my own.

YIELD: 4-6 servings




1 bunch broccoli, diced

1 fennel bulb, diced

2 oz. sweet cheddar (I used Kerrygold Skelling)

¼ cup pecans, chopped

¼ cup raisins

2 tablespoons hemp hearts

avocado, cut into slices



1 tablespoon maple syrup

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

¼ cup olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced




1 tablespoon fennel frond, minced



  1. In a large bowl, toss diced broccoli, fennel, cheese, pecans, raisins and hemp hearts. Set aside.
  2. Pull out the avocado pit. Cut each avocado half into slices and set aside.
  3. Whisk together the maple syrup, Dijon mustard, olive oil and garlic. Grind black pepper to taste.
  4. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat.
  5. When plating the salad, spoon out the avocado slices on top of the salad on each serving plate.



Simple Candied Sweet Potatoes

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Dates and Pecans

I don’t know about you but with the close of October marching gleefully toward us, all eyes are on Thanksgiving. I’m thinking of doing a series on simple sides that will augment that fine feast without a ton of prep work.

This little beauty below worked well served beside roasted chicken and collard greens. If you happen to be a fan of the candied sweet potato side dish that makes the rounds at the Thanksgiving table, I bet this recipe will appeal to you. Think of this as the scrappier cousin of that marshmallow or sherried sweet potato dish. I played off the natural sweetness of the sweet potatoes, taking them up a notch with dates and added a splash of apple cider vinegar to balance out the other flavors with a bit of tartness.

What I liked about this recipe is how easy it is for a weeknight (or for the day to end all other celebration meals). It’s about as easy as you can get and involves no refined sugar. I found time to putter around the house while the potatoes roasted. Saving time in the kitchen and creating something simply delicious makes me want to give thanks!

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Dates and Pecans


Simple Candied Sweet Potatoes


  • 5 small sweet potatoes
  • ¼ cup pecans, chopped
  • 3 medjool dates, seeded and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400.

Wash and scrub potatoes well. Then prick potatoes in several spots with a fork. Once oven is ready, place in oven for about an hour or until soft when pierced with a fork.

Pull out of the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. While potatoes are cooling, chop up your pecans and dates. Set aside. Once the potatoes are cooled, chop sweet potatoes into small cubes and place in bowl. Add pecans, dates and sage. Stir. Then add in the apple cider vinegar, olive oil, maple syrup, salt and pepper and then the rest of the ingredients.

Toss and serve.




Spiced Oatmeal Pumpkin Pecan Cookies

DESSERT RECIPES- Spiced Oatmeal Pumpkin Pecan Cookies

A certain Mister has a fondness for oatmeal cookies. He and I talked ad nauseum about the variations on Oatmeal Raisin and we agree, there’s something extra special about a basic oatmeal raisin cookie. How do you take something delightful and basic and make it better? Easy.

Bake it with fall spices, a bit o’ pumpkin and play with different flours. Those of you reading this who are gluten free- so is this cookie. Adding teff flour boosts the iron, protein and calcium and pairs well with the brown rice flour. The smell of mesquite flour hearkens back somehow to a Texas sunset and makes your kitchen smell warm and inviting. I decided to experiment with using half refined sugar and half maple sugar, which is less sweet than refined as I really wanted the sugars to accent the natural sweetness of the raisins. Cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and pumpkin kick it up a notch. You’ll find the texture to be hearty as the toothsome flours play to that of the oats. My taste-testers all gobbled up the cookies- everyone from the Mister to the artist friend, the retired soccer player and the amiable bus driver. And I have a hunch you might like them too.



Spiced Oatmeal Pumpkin Pecan Cookies

YIELD: 2 dozen cookies
TIME: 15 minutes – overnight – 30 minutes

  • ¼ cup teff flour
  • ¼ cup mesquite flour
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • ½ cup maple sugar
  • ½ cup refined sugar
  • ¼ cup pureed pumpkin
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ¼ cup rolled GF oats
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup chopped pecans

Combine teff flour, mesquite flour, brown rice flour, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom and baking soda in a large bowl. Whisk until combined.

In a separate bowl, mix butter, pumpkin puree, maple sugar and refined sugar until completely combined. Then whisk in the eggs and vanilla.

Add ½ flour mixture into the sugared butter bowl and mix until combined. Then add the rest of flour mixture and mix until completely combined.

Mix in oats with a spatula. Then mix in raisins and chopped pecans with spatula until combined. Cover bowl tightly and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 375.

Place sheet of parchment paper or silpat on your cookie sheet. Use a tablespoon and scoop out medium sized portions of dough onto cookie sheet. With your hand, press down on dough without pressing cookie flat.

Cook for 16 minutes. Let cookies cool on wire rack.




Mexican Wedding Cookies & a Cookie Swap

DESSERT RECIPES- Mexican Wedding Cookies

Over dinner one night in Oakland, I swapped stories and ideas with Luna. We share a love of tea and as such had decided it would be fun to meet up and bake at my new digs using tea. Weeks and a wedding later, the idea was revisited and began growing until I swapped out the tea baking get-together into a cookie swap.

I had never hosted a cookie swap before.

Seemed simple enough. Invite guests. Check. Have guests bring homemade cookies to swap. Check.

But then it went in many different directions. I’ve been known to put my own spin on the occasional party, such as last year’s Birthday Chili cook-off where guests voted for each other’s chili using print-outs of Willie Nelson and varying degrees of “Willie Likes It”… The year before that, a cupcake decorating party thrown in the spirit of Project Runway, complete with a runway and a backdrop illuminated with the words Project Cupcake. Yup. My spin.

So when I started thinking how to do the Cookie Swap I began tossing around ideas. People walking in and drawing a slip of paper out of a hat and then later looking for their word’s other half (i.e. “candy & cane”). Distributing cookies like a secret santa party where people could exchange the cookies they receive for another person’s.

Nathan and I discussed how to proceed. And we went for simple, straightforward: everyone bring 36 homemade cookies and the recipe to share. Our first Christmas together, we are making traditions as we fashion our lives together. The cookie swap cemented our first party for us to co-host! Nathan’s the ultimate party sidekick.

The guests began arriving. Heather brought homemade Scottish shortbread. She told the story of earning the recipe from her grandmother which entailed baking them with her and then sending her some to make sure they were okay. I loved this and especially the part of her learning through shadowing her grandmother. Family time / cooking time.

Stephanie and I chatted it up at that same dinner in Oakland now several months ago where we talked about her studying linguistics and her mad baking skills. I’m still looking forward to baking macarons with her! She brought and adapted a recipe from David Lebovitz for Meyer Lemon Rosemary Madeleines and Berry Pumpkin Madeleines. The glaze on the Madeleines gave them a delightful crisp and tang of berry or lemon. Yum!

Anita and Mike came bearing several types of cookies. Armed with meringues and her jam thumbprint cookies. We were excited to nibble and nosh because we knew these would be phenomenal. I met Anita at the SOS Bake Sale this year. She single-handedly organized the logistics and bakers for the sale with poise and grace. Her jamprint cookies were a fun take on a wedding cookie with a thumb print filled with TellTale jam Sangria chocolate jam. These reminded me of Mexican cookies with their specific crumb and especially tasted great with a glass of milk.

Irvin and AJ showed up bearing a plastic bin filled to the brim. Irvin has a way of making people laugh in between bites of his creative concoctions. We met originally at the SOS Bake Sale because we were the two people to bring gluten free goodies. He definitely leaves an impression and has quickly become my twitter BFF, my sidekick at food blogger get-togethers and my go-to source for gluten free baking. He baked up Marbleized Lemon and Ginger cookies. The texture was soft with a slight crunch of sugar at the end.

Jen (aka Jeters) showed up bearing Ginger Cranberry Cookies. Jeters recently roasted an entire pig and we talked about how she stealthily did it in a tiny kitchen. Her spunk and spirit make any party more fun. We laughed at a food blogger conference earlier this year as her name was called as the winner of a well outfitted albeit huge oven unit. The Ginger Cranberry cookies were small and bite-sized sweet and spicy morsels. I ate mine with a glass of milk.

We had a great time chatting it up and sitting around telling stories in between the plates of cookies being passed. This was such a great way to celebrate the holidays!

Nathan and I contributed by baking up some Mexican Wedding Cookies.

Here’s the thing. I had every intention of baking some up for the wedding. I told my Mom and Tia that I would be baking up cookies the Sunday evening before the wedding to include in the guest welcome bags. As I got closer to that Sunday, it so didn’t happen. Irvin offered to make some, but I was definitely in the space of overload and began molting ideas, letting them go as fast as they actually occurred to me. It was my way of staying sane. And his offer was beyond nice.

So there really wasn’t any veering from the cookie of choice for the year. I found the recipe at new friend Amber’s blog. She too is from the Southwest and recently posted a recipe of Mexican Wedding Cookies from a Southwest recipe book. That was all I needed to know. I trust her Southwest instincts and it only fit that one food blogger inform this food blogger friend cookie swap.

While this may be my first cookie swap, I’m looking forward to continuing the tradition next year… who doesn’t love starting a new tradition and one imbued with sugar…

DESSERT RECIPES- Mexican Wedding Cookies



Found at Bluebonnets and Brownies Adapted from “Mexican Wedding Cookies” in The Tex-Mex Cookbook by Robb Walsh

YIELD: Makes approximately 3 dozen

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c. confectioners’ (powdered) sugar plus 1 cup for dusting
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. coarsely chopped pecans
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Beat butter and 1/2 c. sugar together in a mixer on high until light and fluffy. While still mixing, add in the vanilla, salt, and chopped pecans, and continue until well combined.

Mix in flour by hand, stirring only until combined. Do not overmix or the cookies will be tough.

From dough into crescent shapes (I did this by using a cookie scoop. I’d make a scoop, and then cut the scoop in 1/2 to create half moons), and bake 12-16 minutes until the edges are golden brown.

Allow to cool. Put the rest of the sugar in a large bowl. When the cookies are cool to the touch, place 2-3 at a time into the bowl, and shake to coat with sugar. Once all the cookies are coated once, sift the remaining sugar over the cookies to give a second coating.