Heather Rockwood is a food sciences junior and the Mustang Daily food columnist.

Vegetables in your cookies — Yuck!

Think again. To the untrained cook, it can be scary to use unfamiliar ingredients in classic favorites such as cookies, but luckily you are no untrained cook. You have spent the last few weeks exploring foreign and familiar foods while expanding your knowledge and confidence in how to turn fresh ingredients into magnificent meals and scrumptious snacks. Now I challenge you to venture into the versatile cooking possibilities the vegetable fennel has to offer; you might just realize it’s not quite as scary as you once remembered.

I know what you are thinking — why risk putting a vegetable in cookies? But I say have faith in the mighty fennel, as it is no ordinary vegetable. Fresh fennel is composed of a white bulb that gives way to a green stalk, leaves and seeds — all parts are 100 percent edible and offer you more bang for your buck.

The seeds — often used as a spice in cooking— are the key to making a cookie your roommates will crave. The seeds have a similar taste to licorice and therefore lend depth of flavor to cookies. I know licorice is most often a hit-or-miss type of flavor, but even I — a Red Vines-only consumer — have found a new appreciation for the savory sweetness fennel seeds can add to a dish.

If you aren’t quite at a place in your cooking career that seems adventurous enough to meddle with mixing desserts and vegetables, I implore you to take a closer look at the bulb, stalk and leaves.

The ability for the aroma of the fennel leaves to permeate through the food they are being added to without overpowering its original flavor makes fennel a desirable addition to meat, fish and soups.

The fennel stalk and bulb share a similar texture to celery which makes them great candidates for sautéing, braising and adding to salads. Simply combine chopped fennel, orange slices and avocado; add a little honey balsamic and you have a heart healthy snack in less than five minutes.

Fennel truly is the versatile athlete of the food world — a spice, an herb, a vegetable, intensifier of savory dishes and complementer of delicate desserts. This winter, put fennel to the test and see if there is something it can’t enhance.

CLUE: This berry comes in two color varieties — Cal Poly’s very own green and gold.

Heather Rockwood is a food sciences junior.

Fennel Tea Cookies Recipe


1 tablespoon fennel seed, crushed

2 tablespoons boiling water

3/4 cup butter, softened

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 egg

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Confectioners’ sugar


In a small bowl, soak fennel seed in boiling water; set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Drain fennel seed. Combine the flour, baking soda and fennel seed; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.

Roll into one inch balls; place two inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Roll warm cookies in confectioners’ sugar. Cool on wire racks. Yield: three dozen.

Join the Conversation


  1. I don’t think it’s fair to claim that your cookie recipe has vegetables in it. Fennel seeds are just that – seeds. I was hoping the recipe would have some fennel bulb in it – that sounds quite interesting.

    Also, I assume “honey balsamic” is a salad dressing? I’m concerned that the sweetness from the honey would overpower the fennel (also, you already have orange in there for some sweets). How about fennel bulb, julienned daikon and carrots, avocado and cilantro with an asian-inspired dressing of soy sauce, rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil and a splash of grapefruit (yuzu, if you can get it) juice?

    1. Harold, how generous of you to enlighten the students of Cal Poly with your vast knowledge on food and cooking.

      1. Heston:

        Don’t worry, you’ll get 1st place one of these years. You always have a table at El Bulli. I look forward to dining at Dinner next time I’m in London.

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