The holidays… ’tis the season to be jolly! But for folks with food allergies it can feel more like a time of hungry happy hours and isolating gatherings. Armed with the following tips, tricks, and recipes your season can be just as jolly as the gluten-eating carnivore next to you. If you have life-savers I missed please comment, it takes team work to make this allergy-free lifestyle dream work.
Host with care, hosting people is a beautiful act of love that we so rarely give proper attention.
1) Label everything, even the alcohol. It’s a fun added decoration element also – choosing festive card-holders (like these or DIY with close-pins!) and typing or hand-scripting dietary labels. To most it will just be an added touch of thoroughness, but to some it means eating or not. Do not assume your guests will ask (actually, assume they won’t; it’s hard to catch a host in a free moment and especially hard to share that kind of information and all the requirements that go along with it).
2) Reach out, especially when hosting dinners or other meal-centered events. If you know for certain a guest has certain food needs send an email or give a call. This does not mean you have to cater your whole event to that diet! First, explain your plan for the meal: what you’re going to be making and how. Then: do they have any quick fixes or tips so they can eat what you have safely? Whatever the answer, ask if they have a favorite dish they’d like to bring to share, this will ensure there is at least one piece for them to enjoy! Most are not expecting everything to work for their needs. So take some pressure of yourself and know that 99% of folks with allergies just want to have a good time.
3) Helpful reads:
- What to do when your dinner guests have dietary restrictions
- 13 Recipes to accommodate any guest and any diet
- The best way to organize a massive holiday shopping list (assuming you may be out there looking for things you haven’t purchased before!)
Here is my favorite and, simultaneously, most irritating life lesson: nothing is personal, it is not about me. So, how does this relate to holiday living with food allergies?
It is incredibly liberating to remember this when walking into a party or a dinner! I have to remind myself it’s not about me, no one is paying particular attention to what I do/do not eat. There are a million other better, more fun things to be paying attention to! Like guessing what gifts will be given, putting up ornaments, or literally anything else. It’s a blow to the ego but a treat for the heart.
Here a few tips that carry on in that spirit:
1) If you think it could make you sick don’t eat it, no matter what. Your host has so many other concerns and places to divert their attention; they won’t remember you turned down that corn muffin. If they do, that is something to have an honest conversation about, at another time. Explain your condition in a loving, gentle way and share what the requirements are for you to eat safely. This is something a partner can be very helpful with, sometimes hearing it from them, not you, can create more receptivity.
2) Say yes and no with grace (applies to the above). What you do isn’t incredibly important, but how you make people feel is. It’s a tactful game of loving your host who wants to feed you the delicious treats they worked hard on and saving yourself hours/days/weeks of pain. So, say no but don’t make the host feel bad! You can probably bet it is not a poisoning attempt; this is not an intentional affront. There is a difference between: “Oh that is so wonderful! I love ____ but I just don’t want to risk it. I want to be able to enjoy the evening! Where did you find these adorable plates?” and “Well did you sterilize your counters and double wash that wooden spoon before making these? Because I really cannot eat them unless you’ve followed cross contamination procedures.”
3) Be useful. Ask if YOU can help! Offer to take care of a dessert (usually the stumbling block for a lot of hosts when trying to serve guests with allergies) or a salad/hearty side (potentially something that you could make your main course). Planning parties is an incredibly fun activity, but it brings a lot of “to-do’s” that can take over the fun, spread some cheer and check a box or two off for them. Helps them, helps you – win.win.
3) BYOEverything: Worried about having a cocktail you could imbibe in? Or appetizers? Or anything? Bring a spare, one for the host one for you. Sometimes I scope out the scene and then if I need to say something like “Oh! Do you mind if I open a bottle? I brought one just in case. It’s so wonderful and I’d love for you to try it too if you like!”
4) Helpful reads for you before spreading that holiday it’s-not-about-me cheer:
- Gluten free alcohol list
- The 4 Agreements. Give yourself a few mantras to hold onto, namely “nothing is personal.” This can get a little “out-there” and I certainly am not on board with the whole gamut of his philosophy, but the 4 agreements are life tools that can be very useful when navigating people and things as sensitive as cooking!
- Also maybe give this a listen and do a star pose or two before a big night – you got this!
Food- Holiday fare for special moments
These are a few recipes you can keep in your back pocket for gatherings on the fly or when you just want some extra cheer.
With guests coming too and fro and packed holiday schedules, sometimes a cup of coffee with friends or a quiet moment alone to start the day is just what the season calls for.
I want to be the kind of person who likes biscotti. Actually, I want to be the kind of person who makes biscotti and then has lush coffee dates with sweet friends on chilly winter mornings. So there’s a lot wrapped up here; these two recipes (chocolate dipped and pistachio) should help me move this dream into a reality.
Museli, with a beautiful flavorful twist.
Ultimate hors dourves (talk about a shrimp cocktail)
Candied nuts! What perfect little treats, not too sugary and special enough to give out. I have a vision of spinning them in the food processor and sprinkling on chocolate covered figs.
In a similar vain – a delicious spiced nuts mix. I made this for my Thanksgiving happy hour: turned down the sugar and turned up the spice. It is definitely a tradition now!
A true show stopper. This is a meal so beautiful, it reminds me of the precious art of cooking.
For a more comfort food route, and a nice nod to the vegan at your table.
Pear upside down cake, a cake meant to be shared. This is NOT a GF recipe, but is one that is favorable to conversion; using all-purpose flour will be forgiving in this basic style.
Soft batch pumpkin spice cookies. Remember those soft iced cookies from school days? (Maybe not, you’re missing out). Well these are the ones, but seasonal and not artificial allergy bombs!
When you only have 45 minutes and you’re already dressed dessert: Peppermint King Arthur brownies. Use their all-start never-fail brownie mix, add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract, & a hearty handful of dark chocolate chips. Extra “brownie” points for icing with coconut milk chocolate ganache (recipe here)
Cranberry kombucha sangria, because of health
Blood orange pomegranate sparkling sangria, because of not-so-health
Winter rosé, I went on about this last year but it’s worth reminding. I will be drinking pink all winter long!
**Here is last year’s reminder
Wishing you a merry season ahead!