Cranberry Pecan Salads

Cranberry Pecan Salads

In September 2012, I trekked 25 miles to Valley Natural Foods in Burnsville, MN to get some gluten-free flour.  While there, I discovered what a great selection of gluten-free and dairy-free items they have, including items in the deli counter (clearly labeled as GF and DF!).  Needless to say, I came home with much more than my GF Superfine Brown Rice Flour.  Two of the deli salads were particularly yummy—Cranberry Chicken Salad and Raw Squash Salad with Craisins and Pecans.  Tonight I made a variation of my own, Spaghetti Squash with Craisins and Pecans, though at the last minute mine became a hot dish rather than a salad.  So here are three variations on the “Salad/Side-dish with Cranberries and Pecans,” beginning with the dish I made tonight, followed by my the Valley Foods dishes.

Spaghetti Squash with Craisins and Pecans

Spaghetti Squash with Craisins and Pecans

  • 1/2 spaghetti squash, seeded & baked (see note below on spaghetti squash)
  • 1 rib celery, diced
  • 1 scallion, finely sliced
  • 1/3 cup craisins
  • 1/3 cup pecans
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • dash of paprika
  • salt & pepper to taste

Using a fork, remove the flesh from the squash.  (As the name implies, it will come out in spaghetti-like strands, you may wish to cut them into smaller, bite-sized pieces.) In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients.  Toss together.  Enjoy!


  • I used leftover spaghetti squash baked as I bake most squash: cut in half lengthwise, remove seeds and pulp (but not the “flesh”) of the squash, spray the raw side lightly with oil, place raw side down on a baking sheet.  In a 375°F oven, bake for 45-60 minutes (or until fork tender), remove, allow to cool. Enjoy!
  • Tonight I decided I wanted this dish hot, rather than cold.  I tossed together the ingredients without the craisins and pecans, heated the squash mixture in a bit of oil in a medium sauté pan until the spices were fragrant, then added the craisins and pecans, tossed and ate with rice.
  • I can think of many variations on this dish:  add a diced apple, change out the curry powder for “poultry seasoning” (a mixture of sage, rosemary, thyme, and marjoram), etc.  The curry powder and the texture of the squash actually made this dish taste like “Singapore noodles,” so I can imagine swapping the cranberries and pecans for carrots, bean sprouts and bok choy.  The possibilities are endless!!

Raw Squash Salad with Craisins and Pecans


  • 3/4 C. chopped pecans
  • 2-1/2 lbs. finely shredded raw butternut squash (peeled and seeded first)
  • 1 C. finely diced yellow onion
  • 2 C. craisins (dried cranberries)
  • 1/3 C. freshly chopped cilantro
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp. ground coriander
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 Tbsp. sea salt, or to taste

Place pecans in a bowl and cover with water. Allow pecans to soak at room temperature for 1 hour. Shred squash in food processor fitted with fine shredding blade, or shred by hand with grater (should appear small and “rice” like). Drain water off pecans and combine with squash and remaining ingredients. Toss well and chill before serving.

Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad

(I couldn’t find the actual Valley Natural Foods recipe for this salad, so I used the ingredients list from the deli container and adapted a recipe found at  )


  • 4 cups of cubed cooked chicken
  • 1 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 1 rib celery, finely diced
  • 2-4 tbsp. finely minced shallot or scallion
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup light mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp. minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper


Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl.  Mix well until thoroughly combined.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes or more to allow flavors to meld.  Serve.


Enjoy these recipes!  Have fun with them and report and interesting variations in the comments.


Lemon-Soy-Sesame Marinade

Lemon-Soy-Sesame Chicken & Kale

My plan for Marinated Grilled Vegetables was cancelled due to inclement weather (rain and hail throughout the day), forcing me to punt.  I had some leftover quinoa and baked sweet potato that needed to be eaten, a bunch of kale, and some chicken tenders.  So the marinade intended for grilled veggies became the basis for sautéed kale and marinated chicken tenders.

For years I’ve used this Lemon-Soy Marinade with vegetables (mushrooms, squash, peppers, red onion, eggplant slices . . . ), as well as tofu and tempeh; I found it originally in Quick Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin (her version adds scallions and uses rather odd amounts of some of the ingredients, but my proportions are similar to hers).  Only tonight did it occur to me to use it on chicken!  Absolutely perfect combination of the tang of lemon, the salty tenderizing of tamari, and the nuttiness of sesame.

Lemon-Soy-Sesame Marinade

Makes about 1-1/4 cups, enough for several dishes, so divide in half if only using for one dish.

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup wheat-free tamari soy sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons grated ginger (or 1/2 tsp dry ground ginger)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl or jar and whisk or shake together.

Lemon-Soy-Sesame Chicken

Cut chicken tenders into bite-sized pieces.  Place in bowl and drizzle some of the marinade over— just enough to marinate all the pieces.  Stir to coat.  Let sit for at least 30 minutes (refrigerate if marinating longer than 30 minutes).  Heat skillet over high heat.  Toss in the chicken and its marinade.  Stir to cook until done, about 5-8 minutes.


Lemon-Soy-Sesame Kale

Remove one bunch kale from its stems (save the stems for veggie stock).  (Tearing with your hands is the easiest, but you can also run a knife down each side of the stem.  Wash the leaves and tear into bite-sized pieces.  Drain.  Heat a skillet over high heat.  Coat lightly with vegetable oil.  Add kale (you may have to do this in bunches, it will wilt down quickly).  Cover and cook until softened.  Sprinkle on about 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes (the kind folks use on pizza).  When the kale is almost done (from 10-20 minutes depending on how you like it) drizzle over a couple tablespoons of the Lemon-Soy-Sesame marinade.  Keep cooking until kale is done and most of the marinade has been absorbed or evaporated.


Update June 15, 2012

Today I doctored the remaining marinade and used it with some vegetables.  To what was left after making the above, I added 2 Tablespoons tamari, 2 Tablespoons oil, 2 Tablespoons rice wine, a dash of sesame oil, 1 Tablespoon molasses (honey would work too), and another clove of garlic.  After marinating a few hours my veggies looked like this before going into the 375°F oven (I gave up on the grilling):

After 40 minutes in the oven:


Thai Food Feast

Continuing the Around the Gluten-Free World Tour with my favorite Thai dishes.  I’ve been making these for years . . . not realizing that part of why they are so satisfying is that they contain no ingredients that my body considers toxic—no gluten, wheat, corn, or dairy.*

Both of these recipes originated in Keo’s Thai Cuisine (1986) but I’ve modified them enough (and provide annotations) to feel comfortable sharing them here.

Evil Jungle Prince with Chicken
adapted from Keo’s Thai Cuisine (1986)
Makes 3-4 servings

  • 1/2 – 1 pound boneless chicken breast
  • 3/4 c. to 1-1/2 c. coconut milk* [buy a 15 oz. can]
  • 2 to 6 small red chili peppers
  • 1/2 stalk fresh lemon grass
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 10 to 15 sweet basil leaves, cleaned, dried, and (if large) gently torn into 1″ pieces
  • 1 to 4 Tbls. fish sauce*
  • 2-3 T. oil
  • Thai Sweet Sticky Rice [Look for it in an Asian Grocery. You can substitute regular rice or a bed of chopped cabbage, but the sauce this dish makes is simply delicious with sweet sticky rice.] Your rice should be all cooked and ready to eat before you start cooking the chicken.


Cut chicken into thin strips. Pour about 1/3 c. coconut milk over the chicken and allow it to marinate while you get everything else ready.

chicken marinating

Grind together red chili peppers, lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves in a food processor or mini-chopper until the lemon grass is in fine strands. [It helps to chop the lemon grass into 1 inch lengths before processing.]

The Lemon Grass, Lime Leaves, and Chilies mixture should be this finely chopped.

Heat oil to medium-high and saute the pepper/lemon grass/lime leaves mixture for 2 minutes. You want it to soften and release its flavors, but not burn or brown too much. Add about 1/4 c. coconut milk and stir to blend, about 1 minute.

Lemon Grass, Lime Leaves, and Chilies mixture cookingLemon Grass & Coconut Milk Mixture

Add chicken in its coconut milk marinade. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add in a bit more coconut milk (if desired). Stir in fish sauce and basil leaves.

Evil Jungle Prince w/Chicken in wok

Serve over Thai Sweet Sticky Rice.

Evil Jungle Prince w/Chicken


  • My local Asian grocery often runs out of Thai Basil before I can get there, so whenever I am lucky enough to get a bunch (which is usually much more than I need for a recipe) I make “Thai Basil Cubes” with any extra:  clean and stem the basil leaves, combine with a little water in a food processor, pulse/chop, spoon into ice cube trays, freeze, transfer to a ziploc bag.  Most of the pictures above are from yesterday, when I had to thaw a handful of basil cubes, strain, and add the leaves to the dish.

thawed and strained thai basil cubes

  • If you don’t have a food processor or mini-chopper to mince the lemon grass/lime leaves/chilis as finely as shown in the recipe, I recommend leaving them whole and removing them from the sauce before serving . . . the flavors will be more subtle, but there’s nothing worse than chewing on tough lemon grass.  Here’s the mini-chopper I use (not sure they even still make these):

Cuisinart Mini-Chopper/Grinder circa 1980s

  • Most of the pictures above are of a double-batch of the recipe (enough to feed 6-8). The recipe as written is what I usually make; I get four meals out of it when combined with the recipe below for Eggplant & Bok Choy.

Copyright © 2012, Lucinda DeWitt


Thai Eggplant with Bok Choy
adapted from “Eggplant with Chicken” in Keo’s Thai Cuisine (1986)

  • 2-3 Chinese/Japanese eggplants (the thin kind, not the fat Mediterranean kind) or 1 pound of Thai eggplants (small round green eggplants)
  • 4-5 baby bok choy (or 1 small bunch broccoli)
  • 6 Tbls oil
  • 1-2 tsp chili paste with garlic*
  • 10-15 Thai basil leaves
  • 1-3 Tbls yellow bean sauce* (or 4-5 Tablesppons of homemade Black Bean Sauce)
  • Thai Sweet Sticky Rice

Slice unpeeled eggplant crosswise into thin slices (1/4-3/8 inch thick). Remove the end, then separate and rinse the leaves of the bok choi. Chop into bite-sized pieces. (If using broccoli instead, separate broccoli into flowerettes and/or spears. Peel and chop the tender part of the broccoli stalk if desired.)

Bok Choy & Eggplant prep

Heat oil over medium-high heat in wok. Add chili paste with garlic. (Careful, it will splatter.) Add eggplant and cook for 3-4 minutes, getting all the slices coated with the oil/chili paste.

Eggplant in Chili Oil

Add bok choy or broccoli, stir to coat.

Add Bok ChoyEggplant & Bok Choy

Cover and cook/steam for 5-7 minutes. Add yellow bean sauce, stir to coat. Just before serving (when all the vegetables are cooked) add basil leaves.

Eggplant w/Bok Choy in Yellow Bean Sauce

Serve immediately over Thai Sweet Sticky Rice.

Makes 3-4 servings.


  • The original version of this dish used 1/3 pound boneless chicken breast, thinly sliced, cooked with the eggplant (rather than the broccoli). It also used crushed garlic and red chili peppers instead of chili paste, but it was difficult to avoid burning the garlic, thus my substitution of chili paste with garlic.
  • This dish works well with Evil Jungle Prince with Chicken.

Copyright © 2012, Lucinda DeWitt

* Do be certain to read the ingredients on any of the Asian sauces used in these recipes to verify that they are gluten-free/corn-free/dairy-free as you require . . . I’ve been able to find brands that seem “safe enough” for me, but none of them are labeled “gluten-free” (and no one is required to even acknowledge when their ingredients are “derived from corn”)  . . . use your own judgment and substitute where necessary.  Feel free to post substitution questions and comments in the comments below.
fish sauce, yellow bean sauce, chili sauce

Update:  I now make my own Chili Garlic Paste and Bean Sauce (Black rather than Yellow Bean).  You can find my recipes here.