Fig Quinoa Salad with a Fig Feta Vinaigrette

This salad has it all, a hint of sweetness from the figs, saltiness from the feta, tanginess from the hibiscus and floral notes from the fennel and basil.  It has a nice combination of crunchy texture from the fennel and onions incorporated with soft textures from the quinoa, feta and figs.  It is the perfect fall salad!


It was my birthday this weekend and I had a great time!  My mom flew in from Washington for the week with her new boyfriend Clyde.  We went to lunch at one of our favorite spots, the “Bittersweet Bistro“.  Later that evening, four of my girlfriends, my mom, Clyde, Robby and I met for dinner at a really cool restaurant in Felton named “The Cremer House“.  It should be no surprise that I ordered the mac n cheese, which was exceptionally good by the way!  The server later surprised me with homemade apple fritters with fresh whipped cream and a candle on top. The fritters were the size of donut holes and there were more than enough to pass around the table.


 I made this salad for our beach picnic yesterday.  It was the perfect addition to our usual picnic suspects, cheese, crackers, apples, grapes, pesto and nuts.  Oh, and wine of course!


This salad goes great with just about any white wine.  If you’re in the mood for sweet then try a Riesling or if you’re leaning towards a dryer wine try a Sauvignon Blanc.


 Recipe: 4 – 6 servings

Hibiscus Champagne Vinegar (you can half this recipe)
  • 1 Cup Dried Organic Hibiscus Flowers
  • 1 Bottle Champagne Vinegar (I used 12.7 oz. Napa Valley Naturals)
Feta Vinaigrette
  • 1/2 Cup Sheep Feta Cheese
  • 1 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup White Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/4 Cup Champagne Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Teaspoon Dijon Mustard
  • 3/4   Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1 Cup Dried Quinoa
  • 2 Cups Filtered Water
  • 1 Vegetarian Bouillon Cube
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Champagne Hibiscus Flowers – or to taste
  • 1/2 Fennel Bulb – thinly sliced
  • 1/4 Red Onion – thinly sliced
  • 1 Cup Basil – chiffonade
  • 3/4 Cup Feta Cheese – crumbled
  • 8 Fresh Black Mission Figs – quartered
  • 1 Cup Toasted Almonds – or more – top on individual salads – optional
Garnish – optional
Fennel Fronds – thinly sliced
Toasted Almonds –  spread out on a cookie sheet bake for 20 minutes on the middle shelf on 350 degrees F. Let cool completely, then roughly chop.
Hibiscus Flowers
Prepare this 4 days to a week ahead.  Add the hibiscus flowers to a glass jar and pour the vinegar over the hibiscus flowers.  Let sit for 4 days to a week. (I did a week) Strain into another jar.  Save the hibiscus champagne vinegar for other recipes like  my “Fresh Herb and Edible Flower Salad with Hibiscus Champagne Vinaigrette

Put all ingredients in food processor or blender and blend well.  Set aside.


Measure the quinoa and water then add to a small sauce pan.  Add the bouillon cube, olive oil and salt.  Bring to a boil uncovered, mash the bouillon cube then turn heat down to medium-low and cover for 15 minutes. (use a timer)  Turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes.


Add the quinoa to a large bowl and fluff with a fork to break up any clumps and let cool.  Mix the hibiscus flowers, fennel, onion and basil into the quinoa and then carefully stir in the feta crumbles and figs.  Top individual salads with the vinaigrette, almonds and fennel fronds.


Health benefits:

Quinoa is a super food that is extremely nutrient rich as well as it is a complete protein source and high in fiber, which helps digestion and heart heath.   It contains more antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients than any other grain.  Unlike most grains quinoa has a significant amount of gamma-tocopherol of the vitamin E family, which helps some inflammatory issues.  It is a good source of magnesium  that helps metabolism, cardiovascular, and blood vessel function, which is helpful for migraine headaches. Quinoa contains the antioxidant flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol even more than in cranberries.  It is helpful in regulation of blood sugar and also reduces your chances of developing type 2 diabetes.

Figs are high in potassium, which helps control high blood pressure. They have a high concentration of fiber that is helpful in digestion, weight management, constipation; helps prevent colon cancer, post-menopausal breast cancer, hypertension, and diabetes. The soluble fiber pectin, helps pull out excess cholesterol. They are also high in calcium that strengthens bones and they are high in antioxidants that are excellent for the liver.

Spicy Mexican Style Potato Hash

This potato hash is an extremely satisfying dish full of texture and spice.  It has a wonderful element of freshness from the fresh cilantro, jalapeno, chives, tomato and avocado.  It is also great when it is spread out in a Pyrex dish and topped with jack cheese and put under the broiler until the cheese is bubbly and melted.


My mom and I went backpacking in Nepal many years ago on a trek in the Himalayan Mountains.  We started at Pokhara Valley and trekked halfway around Annapurna and back again.  I could barely walk after the first three days of the seven-day journey.  So we decided to stay a couple nights in an incredible little village that had lots of water buffalo roaming around.  There were these Sherpa who would trek from this tiny village down to the Pokhara Valley to get supplies for the villagers as well as for travelers like ourselves.  They made this journey on foot and by on foot, I mean barefoot or in flip-flops.  They had these giant baskets on their backs that were secured by a strap across their foreheads.  Some of these baskets would be filled with beer and soda in glass bottles!


 The man who ran the place where we stayed at had opened a beer that had been recently brought up by a Sherpa and half the beer erupted out because of the continued shaking during its long voyage.  After seeing that I said, “oh hell no, that will not happen to me, I will not loose a single drop”.  Needless to say, he did not believe it was possible.  I took a bottle opener and tapped the cap for a couple of minutes, then I took the opener and barely lifted the cap just enough to let out some of the pressure.  I tapped on the cap a bunch more times, lifted the cap up a little more and continued doing this until the cap was off and not a drop of beer came out.  The man was in utter shock and said he had been losing half his beer for as long as he could remember.  He couldn’t stop thanking me.  That made my day!  I’m sure he passed this knowledge on.


This recipe is perfect with a nice cold Mexican beer.  Well, maybe not for breakfast, ha ha!


Recipe: 3 – 6 Servings

  • 2 1/2 Pounds Potatoes medium high heat
  • 2 Tablespoons White Vinegar
  • 1 Poblano – roasted – de-seeded – de-stemmed – diced
  • 1 Medium Red Bell Pepper – diced
  • 1 Jalapeno – minced – optional
  • 1 Cob of Corn – cut off the cob or 1/2 Cup Frozen Corn – thawed
  • 3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Large White Onion – diced
  • 2 Garlic Cloves – minced
  • 2 Teaspoon Ancho Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Paprika
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt – or to taste
Top with
  • 1/2 Cup Green Onion – thinly sliced
  • 1 Cup Cilantro Leaves – roughly
  • chopped
  • 1 Jalapeno – thinly sliced – optional
  • 1 Cup Tomato – wedges or diced
  • 1 – 2 Avocados – thinly sliced or diced

*If you aren’t vegan you can add some jack cheese.

Salsa of your choice. Here are a few I like to serve it with.


 Place the potatoes chunks into a large bowl filled with water.  Set aside

Roasted the poblano, remove stem and seeds, dice and then refrigerate.

Add the red pepper, jalapeno and fresh cut corn to a covered bowl and refrigerate.

In another covered bowl, add the cilantro, green onions and jalapeno and refrigerate.

 Add the onions to a saute pan with olive oil and saute on medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeno then continue cooking for an additional 5 – 7 minutes or until the garlic starts to become golden.  Stir in the red pepper, poblano and corn.  Cook for a couple additional minutes and take off the heat.  Set aside.

Put the potatoes in a 5 quart pot covered with water, and add the vinegar.  Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium low and continue to cook for about 8 minutes.  You want them to be soft but still a little firm.  Strain.  In a large skillet add the olive oil and turn the heat to medium high heat.  When the oil becomes hot, add the potatoes.  Let them brown a little before stirring.  Add the ancho powder, paprika and salt; then continue to stir and cook until they are golden brown.  Add the onion mix, stir well and continue to cook for a couple minutes until the entire mixture is hot.

Serve with a wedge of lime, tomatoes, avocado and the cilantro mix.

Prickly Pear Sangria

It’s Sunday Sangria time!

Sangria is typically more of a holiday drink enjoyed in the fall or winter but it has become a summer tradition at most of our pool parties. Someone will always end up making a large pitcher of sangria to be enjoyed in this desert heat. I have used many different types of fruits, liquors and herbs to make sangria. This prickly pear recipe is not only beautiful but also refreshing and absolutely delicious!  PricklyPearSangria--

Sangria is a traditional European drink made from red wine, chopped fruit, sweetener and brandy although you will find many variations on the drink from other countries with white wine, different types of fruit and liquors.


Recipe: Makes a Pitcher

  • 1 Bottle of Dry White Wine (Pinot Grigio is best)
  • 2 oz Orange Liqueur (Triple Sec or Orange Curacao is best)
  • 4 Prickly Pears peeled and cut in fours
  • 1 Lemon cut into slices

Profile: Classic/Original-Sweet/Refreshing

Glass: Wine Glass

Garnish: Lemon Slice


First prep the prickly pears by cutting the ends off, cutting a slit down the side and peeling back revealing the juicy pink fruit inside.  Remove the fruit and cut into fours. Second, slice the lemon into 1/8” thick wheels.

Pour the bottle of wine into a glass pitcher, add the Triple Sec, and fruit.

Let stand for at least a couple hours. By allowing to marinate for 24 – 48 hours will give the sangria a much richer, sweet flavorful drink.

Before serving strain sangria through a fine mesh strainer to filter out all of the seeds.

Fill wine glass with ice, top with sangria and garnish with lemon wheel.

Yellow Split Pea Basil Soup with Roasted Red and Yellow Peppers

If you have never tried yellow split peas before, do yourself a favor and try them.  They are much more mild than the green variety.  Unlike the green variety, they continue to be bright and cheerful after cooking.  The red, yellow and green colors in this soup are so gorgeous.  The flavor is also phenomenal with the roasted peppers, basil and pecorino cheese.  Seriously guys, it’s delicious!  Serve it with your favorite crusty bread!


Robby and I had a great time this weekend.  Our friends Beto, Jill, Paloma and baby Severin stayed over Saturday night.  Erin, Leif and Taj came over to join us all for a taco dinner.  Erin made an incredibly delicious chocolate basil tart with a grapefruit jam to go on top.  It was a fun night full of food, wine, laughter and nonstop talking as it always is with this group.

On Sunday, we had a beach picnic, which is always a great time with Paloma!  Paloma insisted on becoming a mermaid, so Beto made her a mermaid tail out of sand while Robby made a barricade of seaweed so Paloma wouldn’t get washed away.  They decorated it with seaweed, shells and sand crab shells.  She loved it!


I was just on Thalia’s blog “Butter and Brioche” (if you haven’t been to her blog, check it out!) and she just posted an incredible Tiramisu ice cream dessert.  I thought it was ironic because she is posting a cold ice cream dessert in the middle of the Australian winter while I’m posting a hot soup recipe in the middle of summer in California.  It just goes to show that you can eat whatever you want regardless of the weather!


This soup is perfect with a nice cold glass of Verdejo!  Or a crisp white wine of your choice.


Recipe: 8 – 10 servings

  • 1/2 White Onion – diced
  • 2 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Cloves Garlic – minced
  • 1/3 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 2 Unsalted Vegetable Bouillon Cubes
  • 10 Cups Filtered Water
  • 2 Cups Dried Yellow Split Peas
  • 2 (about 1 1/4 cup) Red Bell Peppers – roasted – diced
  • 2 (about 1 1/4 cup) Yellow Bell Peppers – roasted – diced
  • 1 Cup Pecorino Romano Cheese – finely shredded – packed
  • 1 Cup Fresh Basil – packed – minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Hot Paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 Cup Fresh or Frozen Corn
  • 2 Teaspoons Sea Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper


Add the onions to a saute pan with olive oil and saute on medium-low heat for 5 minutes, add the garlic and continue cooking for 5 – 7 more minutes until the garlic starts to brown.

Then add the white wine and bouillon cubes, cook until wine is reduced and syrupy.

Add the 10 cups of filtered water to the onions.  Measure and sort thru the peas to ensure that there are no rocks. Rinse them in a colander and add them to the onions.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour or until peas are super soft.

 While the peas are cooking, roast the peppers and then put them into a covered dish to steam for 10 minutes.  Remove the stem and seeds and then dice the peppers. Add them to the peas.

Shred the cheese and mince the basil. Set aside.


Health benefits:

 Bell Peppers are matured green bell peppers and have more nutrition as they mature.  They are super high in vitamin A which helps to support healthy eyesight, especially night vision and are extremely high in vitamin C, so much so they have twice as much as an orange which makes it really good for the skin.  Red peppers are one of the highest veggies in lycopene, and have been successfully tested in the prevention of many cancers.  They have a good source of the antioxidant mineral manganese and B-complex and vitamin E.  They help reduces ‘bad’ cholesterol, helps controls diabetes and helps reduce pain.  They are also a good source of fiber, folate, vitamin K, molybdenum and manganese.

Fresh Basil has anti-aging, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.  The herb contains exceptionally high levels of beta-carotene and vitamin A and is rich in zea-xanthin an anti-oxidant that helps protect age-related macular disease.  It has a good amount of Iron and also helps to detoxify the liver.  It contains phytochemicals that may lower cortisol, a hormone secreted when you’re stressed that causes weight gain, so add some fresh basil to you water or tea.

Maple Roasted Fig and Brie Crostini

These crostini are a delectable treat that will surely impress your taste buds!  The savoriness of the Brie adds the perfect balance to the sweetness from the roasted figs, pesto and walnuts.  You can prepare the roasted figs, pesto and walnuts a day ahead.  Then, all you have to do is toast the bread, assemble and pop them in the oven just as your guests arrive.  You will want 3 to 4 crostini per serving.


It’s fig season and I have been on a major fig kick lately.  I am on a mission to redo photos from my old blog posts.  I don’t know if other bloggers do this, but I think each recipe deserves to have great photos.  I have been redoing fig photos over the past 2 weeks including my Roasted Figs in a Maple Wine Sauce,  Maple Roasted Fig Feta and Walnut Crostini,  Fresh Fig Pesto,  Fresh Figs topped with Fig Pesto and Caramelized Walnuts.  I really love creating new appetizers like these crostini that were born from a few of the above recipes.


Serve these with some sparkling wine like a Prosecco, Cava, Rose’ or Txakoli.


Recipe: 3 to 4 servings
  • 12 Maple Roasted Figs Halves
  • 3/4 Cup Fresh Fig Pesto
  • 1/2 Cup Maple Caramelized Walnuts
  • 12 Slices of French Baguette
  • 1 Brie Cheese Wedge – 12 – 1/4 inch slices
Roasted Figs in a Maple Wine Sauce - (whole recipe)
  • 12 Medium Figs – cut off stems – cut in half
  • 2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
  • 1 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoons Dry White Wine
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla (optional)
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Sea Salt

Fresh Fig Pesto – (whole recipe)

  • 1/4 Cup Bucherondin de Chevre Cheese (Rind optional)
  • 1 1/4 Cups (about 7 to 8) Whole Fresh Black Mission Figs – stems removed – quartered
  • 1/2 Cup Raw Walnuts
  • 2 Tablespoons Virgin Coconut Oil
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
Maple Caramelized Walnuts - (whole recipe)
  • 1/2 Cup Raw Walnuts – roughly chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon Pure Maple Syrup (Mildly sweet)
  • Pinch of Sea Salt
  • 12 Slices of Italian Ciabatta or French Bread – 1/2 inch slices
  • Approx. 1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Roasted Figs in a Maple Wine Sauce

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the stems off the figs and slice them in half.  In a 9×13″ baking dish, place the figs along the bottom..  In a small bowl mix the syrup, wine, oil, vanilla and salt together then drizzle the syrup mix over all the figs.

Put in oven on the middle shelf for 25 minutes.

Fresh Fig Pesto

 Cut the stems off the figs and add everything to a food processor or blender and puree.

Maple Caramelized Walnuts

Add everything in a saute pan and turn on stove to medium heat.

Stir the whole time.

In about 3 minutes they will start to get sticky. When all moisture is gone, turn off the heat.

Spread onto parchment paper or a baking sheet.  Don’t worry about them sticking together, when cooled you can separate them. Wait a until they are completely cooled.  They will hardened and become crystallized.


Slice the bread into 1/2 inch slices.

Place slices on to a baking sheet and coat both sides with olive oil.

Place on the top shelf of the oven and broil for 1 – 2 minutes then flip them over and broil for about 1 more minute.  Make sure and watch close, they can burn fast.

I usually put the timer on for 1 minute and check then put on for 1 more while watching.  They cook faster on the 2nd side because they are already hot.


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Spread about a tablespoon of pesto onto each crostini, top with a fig half and top with a piece of brie.  Put in the oven on the middle shelf for about 6 minutes.  Top them with the walnuts and serve.

*You can also drizzle a little the sauce from the figs over each crostini.


Health benefits:

Figs are high in potassium, which helps control high blood pressure. They have a high concentration of fiber that is helpful in digestion, weight management, constipation; helps prevent colon cancer, post-menopausal breast cancer, hypertension, and diabetes. The soluble fiber pectin, helps pull out excess cholesterol. They are also high in calcium that strengthens bones and help reduce macular degeneration. They are very high in antioxidants that are excellent for the liver.