Crowd-Pleasing Vegan Broccoli Salad With Cranberries

January 11, 2011
vegan broccoli cranberry salad

Easy, Crowd-Pleasing, Vegan Broccoli-Cranberry Salad

Here is another one of those easy, basically dump-and-mix salad recipes. It’s a broccoli salad with cranberries or raisins, that you can make vegan very easily. I started with a popular recipe by Paula Deen, famous food celebrity.

Then I read some of the many comments and tried some of them out. All the variations I tried seemed to come out well.

The salad is a lovely mix of crunchy, creamy, salty, sour and sweet. You can substitute other dried fruits, such as dates or raisins, for the cranberries. You can use different nuts. We used pecans in some batches and almonds in others, when we made food for a memorial service and started with 24 pounds of broccoli florets.

We made some with the carrots, and some without, when we thought we had run out of carrots. I had brought liquid smoke, intending to add it in place of the bacon bits or vegetarian, fake bacon bits, but I forgot to add it. So it’s quite a versatile salad.

It has been very well received whenever I’ve served it, too. Even a friend, who doesn’t care for raw onions, ate it and didn’t complain.

You can make it vegan by using vegan mayonnaise and vegetarian bacon bits. With the combination of vegetables, nuts and fruits, the salad packs a nice wallop of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, too.

You could go through the trouble of blanching the broccoli if you find it too hard. But I prefer the less-work method, and it’s not necessary. Hey, you burn more calories when you chew more!

Here’s the recipe.

Crowd-Pleasing Vegan Broccoli Salad

4 cups broccoli florets (about 2 stalks)
1 cup minced sweet onion
2 carrots, grated
1/3 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins
1/4 cup vegetarian bacon bits
1 cup mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar

Mix all ingredients together.

The only complaints about this broccoli salad I heard were from those who were making it. We were using warehouse club bags of already cut broccoli florets, and dumped and mixed them with the other ingredients.

“This broccoli is too big!” and “How are they going to eat it–with their hands?” is what I heard them saying. “Aren’t we going to cut it smaller?” “Aren’t we blanching it?”

“NO!” I said. “We don’t have time.” We had hundreds of pounds of food to make, and no time to waste cutting or blanching broccoli.

“If anyone has a problem with the food, they can come talk to me,” I said.

Of course, I couldn’t help teasing them when we ate some for dinner that night. “Where is the quality control around here? WHO is in charge of this food? Look at this broccoli tree on my plate! Don’t choke on it!”

I guess you can’t please everyone.

But they had a point. The floret I had was the size of my palm. I cut it with a knife before eating it. So if you cut the florets yourself, be as meticulous as you so desire.

I hope you enjoy this Crowd-Pleasing Vegan Broccoli Salad With Cranberries recipe. Let me know if you try other variations and how they turn out.


Vegan Apple Crisp

November 21, 2010

vegan apple crisp

Rich, buttery flavor, without any butter, in this Vegan Apple Crisp

Apples are in season, and this week, with all the Thanksgiving-themed shows on, I was starting to get hungry for fall food, stuff like pumpkin, stew with lots of root vegetables, and apple pie.

I’m not much of a pie eater, but I do love me a good Dutch apple pie. Since I hate to make the crust, and it seems like extra calories anyway, I made this crustless version. In other words, a vegan apple crisp. Here’s the recipe.

This came out far more delicious than I expected. My experimental butter substitution ended up actually tasting pretty buttery. Go figure, but what a happy surprise!

I love a lot of spices in my apple desserts, so I added cinnamon, cardamom, and lots of fresh, minced ginger. The ginger gives it a real kick, and the warming feeling can feel like heartburn. But it will warm you up from the inside, something that may be ideal if the weather is cool or cold. (It’s pretty hot and muggy here this fall.)

You can reduce the amount of ginger, or omit it altogether, if you prefer. Also, some people find cardamom overpowering. If so, add only half the amount in the recipe, then taste, and decide if you want to add the other half called for.

As far as sweetening goes, the amount of sugar you use will depend on how tart or sweet your apples are, and how you like your crisp. Again, start with the smaller amount of sugar, taste, and add more if desired. If you go too sweet, you can add a bit of lemon or lime juice to round out the flavor, probably about 1-3 teaspoons or so.

Vegan Apple Crisp Recipe

For the filling:
5 to 6 large apples, cored and chopped
1/2 to 1 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
2 Tablespoons peeled, minced fresh ginger
lemon or lime juice, optional

For the topping:
2 cups oats
1 cup pecans
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup canola oil
2 Tablespoons water

To make the filling:
Mix ingredients together well. Taste and adjust sweetness/tartness level.

There is no need to peel your apples! There is a trace mineral called boron, which is essential to strong bone health, in apple peels. Why throw that away and run the risk of getting osteoporosis? Buy organic apples if possible, and wash your apples well.

To make the topping:

Put half the oats and half the pecans into a blender. Blend until ground. Dump this into a bowl. Repeat with the other half of the oats and pecans.

Add the brown sugar, salt, and flour. Mix well.

Mix in the canola oil. Stir very well to incorporate the oil. You might want to just use your hands. Drizzle in 2 Tablespoons water, or enough so that if you take a handful of the mixture and squeeze it, it will clump together.

Place the filling into a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. There will be liquid that has released. Add that as well.

Evenly sprinkle the topping over the entire filling. Press down to create a crust-like layer.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 40 minutes, until the top is lightly browned, the filling is bubbling up around some of the edges, and the apples are tender.

Let cool until it is warm. Consume with gratitude!

I hope you try this vegan apple crisp recipe while apples are in season. You can eat it without guilt, since there is no saturated or hydrogenated fat in it, but you still get a rich, buttery flavor. Leave a comment and let me know what you think.


Vegan No-Cook Spiced Apples

December 25, 2009

Looking for a quick, easy, healthier potluck or holiday dish? Try these spiced apples. There is no cooking involved, apples are in season, and you probably have everything you need already. You can throw it together in about 15 minutes.

I made these at the spur of the moment, when I had planned to make Li Hing Apples but couldn’t find my li hing powder. So I used a different combination of spices, with the goal being to create an apple pie-like flavor.

Ingredients (amounts are approximates)
3 apples, washed, cored, sliced into wedges (about 12 per apple)
1 TBS lemon or lime juice
2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp ginger

Directions
Keep the peel on your apples! The peel contains boron, which is necessary for strong bones. (I personally think it plays a key role in preventing osteoporosis, but that is my intuition and based on observation and theory.)

Since apples are one of the top 10 polluted produce items, however, buy organic apples whenever possible, and wash them well.

Mix together the apple slices with lemon juice. Add the remaining ingredients. Mix well.

Taste and adjust the flavors. You want a balance of sweet, sour, spicy, with a touch of saltiness.

Keep in mind that this needs to sit for about an hour for the flavors to get incorporated fully. You’ll get an idea of what it will taste like, but now it has a harsher, more raw flavor. Later it will become well-rounded and mellower yet fuller in taste.

These are also great for a quick snack, and the spices add extra phytochemicals, plant-based health-maintaining compounds, plus variety.

My guess is that because of the sugar and salt, they will get soggy and won’t keep more than half a day or so (unless you don’t mind the sogginess…they’ll still taste good.)

(Sorry, no picture and no exact amounts. I made this in a hurry, then rushed off to the party, where it was eaten and complimented. When I make it again, I’ll write things down and edit this post.)


The Secret to Those Delicious Pancakes

December 2, 2009

During my cooking class at May Kaidee’s Vegetarian Restaurant in Chiang Mai, Thailand, one of the other students asked Duan, May’s sister and the woman in charge of the shop, what the secret was to their pancakes.

“We use a mix,” she replied, “and coconut milk.”

“Ah, it must be the coconut milk,” my co-student answered.

I hadn’t tried the pancakes yet, so I added that to my list of must-try’s.

Two mornings later, I was in the mood.

Pancakes with a tropical Thai twist

The cake was crisp around the edges of one side, and where it had soaked in honey, it tasted almost like coconut custard, even though the texture was completely different.

The honey had a fragrance of jasmine (pikake in Hawaii) flowers, a surprisingly light yet complex addition to the dish. I asked and found out it was longan honey, from the blossoms of the longan tree. Fruits are like chocolate brown, ping-pong balls and have a texture and taste similar to lychee.

The slices of mango, juicy and slick, made the cake feel not so rich, yet still luxurious.

Unfortunately, a trio of Brits sat at the table next to me and began smoking, which totally destroyed the delicate flavors and aromas.

I moved to a table far away, but all I could smell was cigarettes, so I gulped the last three bites down and left. No faster way to ruin a meal than cigarettes. What a shame, since I had been enjoying myself completely.

Oh well. I’ll have to try to re-create the dish at home and see if I can make it with whole-grained flour and no eggs.


Thai Thanksgiving Feast

November 27, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving to you all back home in the U.S.!

It’s a day ahead here in Thailand, so my Thanksgiving was celebrated one day before the U.S.

I went to visit my two Thai massage friends at their shop and took some Pad Thai, Penang Curry, and rice from my favorite vegetarian Restaurant here in Chiang Mai, May Kaidee’s.

They had raw cucumbers, blanched cabbage and oyster mushrooms, sticky rice, nam phrik, (hot chile paste, made by pounding chiles, garlic, salt and sugar and frying it for a short while), and egg omelette.

My kind of Thanksgiving spread--vegetarian, mostly organic, and international


We shared food. The nam phrik on the omelette was really spicy, and they laughed at me as I coughed.

They hadn’t really heard of Thanksgiving. I tried to explain it’s a holiday when people eat turkey and just eat too much.

But I had decided to come to Chiang Mai instead and visit the Elephant Nature Park, to remind me to be thankful, which is in line with the true spirit of the holiday.

(I’ll post the sad and happy details of my visit to the elephant park in a separate post.)

I tried to say, “You are my Thai massage family.” That resulted in a lot of confusion and laughter, and they eventually understood me.

My friend June has a northern accent, so her pronunciation is a little different than so-called standard Thai at times. But her animated personality and boundless energy make for a lively time, whether we are discussing politics, massage techniques, animal cruelty and the complete lack of regulation and protection for animals here, or how to eat sticky rice.

She insisted I eat it the traditional way, balling it in my hand, then dipping it into the curry or nam phrik. When she was a child, she used to roll the rice between two palms to create a dense ball that was then too chewy and hard to eat easily.

Kids will be kids the world over.

It took two of them, plus pantomime, to explain how they used to squeeze the essential oils out of a piece of orange peel onto a ruler. Then they touched the ruler to the palm of their hand and pulled it away repeatedly. Eventually the oils created spider-web-like strands. The mandarin oranges we had for dessert (along with apple bananas) didn’t have enough essential oil in the peel to make it happen, so I had to take their word for it.

I laughed so much, I was getting a headache from my cheek muscles contracting. That, plus a sore face from smiling, crying, and trying not to sob at the elephant park, were not helping.

They gave me a kaffir lime (ma kroot) to sniff the peel, which is supposed to help with headaches.

Kaffir Limes, Ma Kroot in Thai


It did, until my friend said she wanted some of my extra weight, because she is too skinny and runs out of energy. I told her to take all she wants, and that the reason she is so skinny is because all her movements are vibrant, full of energy, and overexcited.

I imitated her, and we both laughed until our stomachs hurt. She told me she never guessed I’d be a mirror to her behavior.

Then I had a headache again.

They fed the stray dogs outside, named Ding Dong, Long, and Kencham, then put out a hot water bottle so Ding Dong can sleep on it.

Ding Dong, an old street dog with mange and aching joints


He is old and gets stiff after sleeping when it’s cold like this. When he gets up, he shrieks in pain for a few minutes, until his joints warm up and stop hurting.

Sometimes they massage him, to relieve the pain.

“Khon jai dee,” I tell them often. Good, kind people.

Long sleeps hidden in the plants fronting the shop, two feet away from the mopeds, cars, and traffic.

My Thanksgiving dinner was an international celebration, and I was happy to spend it with my Thai “massage family” of therapists here in Chiang Mai.

And although my time at the Elephant Nature Park earlier in the day was emotional, it reminded me of many things I am grateful for.

This Thanksgiving was probably the nicest one I’ve ever had. Ironically, there was no turkey, no stuffing, no overeating, no blood-related family, and I wasn’t even in the U.S.

I hope yours is as full of warmth, love, and good eats as mine was. Happy Thanksgiving, and please remember to give thanks.


Samosas and Banana Lassi

November 23, 2009

I couldn’t resist the temptation to have some Indian food. There are two restaurants in my neighborhood here, and one was closed, so I tried the other one. This one is New Delhi Restaurant on Ratchawithi Road, near the intersection with Ratchaphakhinai Road.

Like most places, it looks unpretentious enough: a few tables roadside and about eight more inside, just a step up onto the platform and under the roof. The man sitting at the front looked unfriendly and bored, watching people go by. But he was actually quite sweet, making suggestions to people as he took their orders, and encouraging me to add the cilantro-mint sauce to the samosas.

I decided on two samosas and a banana lassi, since my stomach was feeling a little gurgly and unstable, and I know the beneficial bacteria in yogurt not only helps to balance the digestive tract, it also helps improve immunity.

The creamy, tart yogurt was in perfect harmony with the apple banana, which has just a hint of “green” flavor to it. I could taste the touch of salt along with the sweetness, something I think many of our desserts at home could benefit from.

In Asia, it’s quite common to add some salt to your dessert, which balances the sweetness and makes it not cloyingly sweet, as desserts can be.

Crisp samosas, stuffed with curried potato filling, and cilantro-mint sauce


The samosas were perfectly crisp and crunchy, without being heavy or oily, despite the oil stains on the red tablecloth, which were there when I sat down. The filling was flavorful and light, not overly spicy, and not tasting like it just mashed potatoes inside, like other samosas I’ve eaten have been.

As I left, I told him the man it was delicious, patting my stomach. He smiled broadly, which transformed his face into one of a boy. That alone was worth the 100 Thai baht I paid (about $3 US.)


The Travelers’ Curse: The BRAT Diet

November 20, 2009

Surely you’ve heard of the BRAT diet to cure diarrhea? Bananas, Rice, And Toast (white, plain). I offer you my Thai version: Bananas, Rice, And Tea.

Apple bananas, 15 baht per hand (about 50 cents U.S.)


The bananas were apple bananas, the smaller version popular in Asia, with a more tangy taste and firmer texture (to hold up to those delicious desserts, like bananas in coconut milk, bananas steamed in leaves with sticky rice, and tapioca and coconut milk pudding with bananas.)

The rice was the Thai version of something my grandmother and mother used to eat when they got sick, called okayu in Japanese. Not sure at this time what the Thai name for it is…if I find out, I’ll get back to you…

The tea was ginseng first, then grachai later. Grachai (said with a low tone) is Chinese keys, which is obviously in the ginger family.

Chinese keys, Grachai, for stomach upset


It smelled a bit like turmeric, looked like orangey mud, tasted bitter and earthy and had a bit of heat and pungency to it, just like fresh ginger and turmeric do.

It reminded me very much of the horrendously bitter “berbena con jugo de limon,” another herbal brew that I was served in the jungles of Ecuador, after pulling our boat through the river made my bronchitis worse….but that is another story!

My sister said I was being a drama queen, making faces with every sip, so I told her to try it. She gagged. It was the last time she drank my tea, and the last time I traveled with her (by choice, that is…but that is also another story!)

(Am I bitter? Perhaps–but not as bitter as that tea! ha ha)

Where was I?

Oh yah, the tea. The kind husband manager of the guesthouse, Jimmy, came up to my room on the fourth floor to check on me several times all day and night. I was supposed to have my vegetarian cooking class, but I was rudely awakened at 2:30 am with stomach cramps and the dreaded Montezuma’s Revenge. Or, since this is Chiang Mai, Thailand, perhaps a better name would be Moon Muang Road’s Revenge.

I’ll “spare you the gory details,” as my mother used to say…

By 8:00 am I was no better and went downstairs to ask them to call to cancel. I needed help getting back up and spent the day and night in bed and the bathroom, basically.

I asked for bananas, which he brought, along with tea, and some Chinese herbal medicine from their uncle across the way, who, coincidentally (although there are no coincidences in life, apparently) had also been sick the day I arrived, and had an extra vial.

They were tiny pellets which looked like they had been dipped in brownish-red royal icing and left to dry. He motioned for me to tip my head back and empty the vial into my mouth. I took a swig of liquid and managed to down them in three swallows.

“Guarantee you better by this afternoon,” Uncle said. “Guarantee.”

That afternoon, I would have joked with him, “I want my money back,” but 1) he wasn’t around, 2) he gave it to me free, 3) I had barely enough energy to open the door, and 4) I was in no @#$^ mood to joke.

I kept popping acidophilus tablets every hour, and by evening, I was thinking, I wish I had rice. Not that I was hungry, but I remembered the BRAT diet. I didn’t want to bother the hotel manager, either.

As it was, he must have read my mind, because he showed up several hours later, surprising me with a bowl of watery rice porridge, in a little plastic bag secured with a rubber band, the way they do take-out here, a tiny zip-top baggie of salt, and one mandarin orange. So kind of him.

Watery rice gruel, salt, and a mandarin orange: gifts from kind Jimmy, the guesthouse manager


He must have gone back down and climbed up again to bring me the cup of muddy grachai tea.

I’m happy to report that I am back in commission today and extremely happy to be eating more exciting fare!

What have I learned? Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to pinpoint what made me sick, which is frustrating, because I can’t avoid it if I don’t know what it is. I ate at restaurants I had eaten at before, where they cook the food when you order it. (On my last trip, I had gotten sick from places where the food has been sitting in trays for a while.)

I have been drinking bottled water and taking acidophilus tablets to keep the good bacteria outbalancing the nasties. Perhaps it was the fresh orange juice with ice. Ice is apparently suspect, because they don’t always use purified water to make it.

I haven’t been using bottled water to brush my teeth, just the tap water, but I thought once you’ve been to a place, you body gets used to the bacteria there and you’re fine?

Whatever it was, it wasn’t nice. Another woman in the guesthouse had the same problem, and I was just trading notes with a man at dinner (although his was from India.) Not the most enjoyable travel story to share, but important nonetheless.

I also was reminded of the kindness of strangers, and how the simplest acts can mean so much. How grateful I am for them. It’s one of the reasons I travel. It reaffirms my faith in humans, which can quickly erode if I bother to watch the news.

Finally, I have a few more possible remedies for when I travel through this part of the world, natural options that do not just squash the symptoms and leave me with unwanted side-effects. Nature is amazing.


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