Veggie Platter

Hosting a guest with food allergies (or bringing food to the home of someone with food allergies) can be nerve-wracking. Many aren’t sure what is safe, and are afraid to make their guests sick.  As we visit and host friends, I frequently get asked what my family and I can eat. Read on to safely feed your gluten free friends and family this holiday season. If you’re new to the world of food allergies, it’s much easier to go with naturally gluten-free foods to accommodate the diet than try to alter your recipes with special ingredients.

Drinks

  • Many wines and liquors are safe, but be aware that beer is not gluten-free.
  • Fresh fruit smoothies are fun for adults and kids, and can easily be made dairy-free by using almond or soy milk instead of cow’s milk or yogurt.

Appetizers

  • Gluten-free crackers, pretzels, or tortilla chips (easily found in grocery and health food stores) pair well with cheese, hummus, or salsa.
  • A fresh fruit or vegetable platter is a welcome sight, just check dips for hidden wheat ingredients.
  • Nuts, seeds, and dried fruit make nice before-dinner treats; check labels as coatings or crunchies may be added in.
  • If you’re feeling adventures, kale chips are easy to make and fun to serve (find my how-to here).
  • Cheese fondue makes a nice appetizer, just use cornstarch for thickening instead of flour, and serve gluten-free crackers or breadsticks along with veggies. Be careful to designate the fondue gluten-free so that others don’t dip in regular bread.

Potato and Bean Salad

Main and side dishes

  • Green salad is great with naturally gluten-free dressings like olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  • Rice and quinoa can stand in nicely for pasta in a pasta salad recipe.
  • Fried rice with veggies or chicken is a fun side dish.
  • Mashed potatoes are a great alternative to pasta to accommodate a main dish.  A potato and green bean or snap pea combo is also a delicious option.
  • Soups are often gluten-free, again cornstarch can be used in place of flour here.
  • Beef, fish, and chicken are naturally gluten-free, as long as you marinade or dress them without flour, soy sauce, or any wheat/barley ingredients.  If something requires breading, almond meal (found in most baking aisles) is a possible alternative.

Chicken fried rice

Dessert

  • Fresh fruit can once again easily be served as dessert.  It’s healthy, and I am always glad to see it at the end of a meal.
  • Many ice creams, sorbets, and sherbets are gluten-free, but check ingredients and avoid any cookie-based flavors.
  • Chocolate fondue is a fun dessert- dippers like fruit, marshmallows, and gluten-free pretzels are welcomed here.
  • If you’re so inclined, gluten-free mixes are sold in most grocery stores, and you could add brownies, cookies, or cupcakes fairly easily to your selection.  If you’re feeling really brave, there are many great websites for from-scratch gluten-free baking.

If you are cooking, check labels. You would be surprised that everything from salad dressings to ice cream to cream-of-something-soups can have gluten in them. Also, be aware of cross-contamination. It’s very considerate to make your gluten-free friend a special dish, but if pasta is drained in a colander that just held regular pasta, or rice crackers are put on a plate next to wheat crackers, or a cutting board and knife are reused after they cut regular bread, you’ve just compromised your friend’s safety.  Same goes for baking– clean your bakeware extra well before using it, and use stainless steel utensils, as wooden utensils can adsorb gluten in their fibers.

Gluten-free folks are used to checking menus before they attend an event and bringing along their own treats when necessary, but it is always touching to attend a gathering and find that your host has gone through special effort to feed you.  Thanks in advance to all who go out of their way to do so… each time a friend has made a special dish, it has given us a smile to be included in the festivities. To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy holidays to all!

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