And other diet-restricted holiday delights.
By Maureen McDonald
Coping with an ever changing constellation of diets could make a cook the stature of Martha Stewart crazy; but Halle Saperstein, a registered dietician for Henry Ford West Bloomfield, says a holiday meal for many can be quite do-able with a little advanced prep and early conversations with guests.
“Preparing a big meal for family and friends is hard enough alone; but many books, websites and grocery stores offer goods to help you prepare for those with restricted diets,” says Saperstein, a mother of four who often entertains.
“The important thing is to make your guests feel welcome and not a burden. Living with food allergies is really tough on many levels; highest on that list is that allergies can be deadly,” she adds. Peanut allergies can be so severe a person needs an EpiPen shot to restore balance after eating a toxic substance.
Many grocery stores now have entire aisles devoted to special diets and food needs with gluten free noodles making macaroni and cheese as tasty as the real stuff. Whole Foods specializes in vegan and vegetarian products including ready-made dishes. Many of the fruit markets sell an array of fresh vegetables and fruits that make trays of crudités and fruit tempting offerings for guests.
Saperstein suggests serving appetizers that work for most diet restrictions, including rice crackers, hummus and tabooli platters with bread and gluten-free crackers, salsa and chips and guacamole made from scratch. To appease low-sodium diets, some recipes leave out the salt.
Plan your side dishes carefully. Since root vegetables are very popular in fall, you can make a delightful stew for the vegans, tasty enough to pass around the table. Make your sweet potatoes without nuts and make turkey stuffing with rice and vegetables. Roasted or steamed Brussel sprouts with plum vinegar taste divine.
When it comes to marinades, read the labels closely. For example, soy sauce has gluten unless you buy the gluten-free variety. You want to make sure you don’t buy something loaded with salt and sugar. You can make gravy with arrowroot or cornstarch instead of flour.
Try creating a salad bar with a variety of ingredients from black olives to sunflower sprouts and goat cheese to fresh beets. Set out some Earth Balance (plant-based buttery spread) along with butter for your guests to enjoy bread and gluten-free rolls.
For your main course, look for natural, not pre-basted poultry. The Royal Oak Farmer’s Market has several vendors offering organic and free-range turkeys and chickens. The John Henry brand of bacon has no nitrates; it’s made on the family farm and goes fresh to the market. Tofurky brand offers a large, plant-based roast that tastes remarkably close to meat and might substitute for turkey. It’s sold at Whole Foods and Natural Food Patch in Ferndale.
Yummy desserts can be made with the “Enjoy Life” brand of chocolate chips free from eight allergens. Spiff up a dessert table with dipping chocolate and fresh strawberries, a healthful alternative.
Ask your guests with special dietary considerations to bring their favorite dish, knowing it will please their palate and help others who may not have communicated their needs. Make up cards with the ingredients of dishes for large gatherings, assuring that no one will take a heaping load of something they can’t enjoy, such as spicy Wasabi peas instead of sweet peas.
To cap off the day, try a sampling of non-alcoholic beers and wine for your abstaining guests. Nearly ever grocery store and specialty beverage shop sells nonalcoholic beer with less than .5 alcohol. Several places, including the Beverage Warehouse in Beverly Hills, carry non-alcoholic wines in a variety of flavors. The main stores carry St. Julian sparkling juices.
Reach for help with holiday preparations for special guests
While no one cookbook covers all diet restrictions and allergies, Coping with Food Allergies for Dummies is one resource recommended by Book Beat in Oak Park because of the tasty recipes. Bookstores and Amazon have a number of books with tasty recipes for people with one or more allergies. Danielle Walker wrote Against All Grain Celebrations and Morgan White wrote Wheat Free Gourmet Desserts; Saperstein recommends these books to patients on her visitation rounds.
Many people use the beloved Moosewood Cookbook series from Ithaca, New York, including Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates with plenty of vegetarian and vegan dishes to please all your guests, along with mindful substitutions for gluten allergies or low fat needs.
Enjoy your day. Some of the best conversations come from tender words spoken while organizing the food offerings and cleaning up. NS
A recipe for Jessica’s Vegan Sweet Potato Casserole is available on under Dining SEEN or CLICK HERE.
Websites for Special Dietary Needs
• PCRM.org for vegan recipes