Nut Free Zone

Without a doubt, for those of us who have food allergies and intolerances, the holidays are a difficult time. Holidays are usually celebrated with food — lots and lots of good tasty food. But when you can’t have gluten or dairy or other common ingredients, it can feel like you’re being punished during holiday parties. Even though we all know that’s not the case, the feeling of being separate—different—from everybody else can cast a pall over the fun.

This is especially true when we are dealing with people who do not believe that food allergies are serious, who don’t believe that food intolerances are very real and detrimental.

There’s always that person who keep urging us to “Just try it, one bite can’t possibly hurt you!” We all seem to have that one relative or friend who refuses to understand how sick food can make us when we have dietary issues. It seems that Aunt Martha just can’t wrap her head around the concept that one crumb of gluten can be poison for someone with celiac. And Uncle Joe refuses to believe that if you eat even one chocolate covered strawberry, you’ll be pulling out your EpiPen and might end up in the hospital.

To be honest, staving off well-intentioned relatives can feel like full-scale battle.

So for the people who aren’t affected by food, here’s a quick (and by no means complete) primer on allergy-friendly etiquette:

  • DON’T be insulted if they decline to eat your delicious shrimp platter. They are not insulting you, they are doing their best to stay healthy.
  • DO graciously accept their offer to bring a dish, especially if you haven’t planned an allergy-friendly menu. This may be the only food on the table they can eat.
  • IF you want to make allergy friendly treats, be very cautious about cross-contamination. It’s amazingly easy to accidentally cross-contaminate food in the kitchen.
  • When setting out serving utensils, remember: if someone uses a knife to better their bread and then uses that same knife to cut a dairy free pie, they have contaminated the pie. Ways to combat this? Pre-cut everything into servings. Keep all the dairy free food in one section, all the gluten-free food in one section, and so forth. Include decorative labels on the foods that are allergy friendly. And DO NOT be afraid or embarrassed to ask all of your guests to be careful when serving themselves.

We host Thanksgiving for a group of friends every year. As my food allergies have gotten worse, I have taken over all of the cooking. This ensures my safety as well as my guests, because some of them have their own food allergies. I ask for donations to defray the cost of food, but this way I know what I prepare is safe and my allergic guests also know they can safely eat here.

Our Thanksgiving feasts are sumptuous — we have pie, we have stuffing, we have rolls and turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy and none of it has dairy or gluten or garlic or onions. And all of it tastes great. My guests who do not have food allergies love the food that I cook and can’t tell the difference.

Some general hints:

  • When making mashed potatoes, instead of milk and butter I use canned coconut milk or chicken stock and dairy free margarine.
  • For the rolls and stuffing I found a bread mix that contains no gluten, dairy or yeast — I am also allergic to yeast.
  • For the pies, I use a gluten and dairy free pie crust mix. And in place of milk in my pumpkin pie, I use coconut milk.
  • For the gravy, I simply use rice flour in place of the wheat flour when I make the roux.
  • I even make my homemade cranberry sauce because everybody loves it so much better. I don’t use orange in it because I’m allergic to oranges, but I use raspberries and Framboise liqueur and people go nuts over the stuff.

Substitutions are not difficult if you do your homework and try a few sample recipes in advance. If you have egg-allergic guests, egg replacer works quite well in recipes. Coconut and almond milk (or rice milk for tree-nut allergic guests) works like a charm for most recipes. I make cheesecake with faux cream cheese made from soy.

You can make any holiday allergy-friendly.

So I’m including some of my favorite products here that make holiday cooking so much easier! You can check on my blog via the search function for recipes. And there are numerous allergy-friendly cooking sites on the web. Just search on allergy blogs.

You don’t need to be deprived during the holidays. Sure it’s hard when you see people eating things you cannot, but there are plenty of delicious ways you can make the holidays just as fun as ever.

Bright blessings and happy holiday season,

Glutino Pie Crust
Orgran Yeast Free Bread Mix
Glutino Cornbread Mix
The Cravings Place Pancake and Waffle Mix
Cherrybrook Kitchen Cake Mixes
Kinnickkinnick Graham Style Crumbs, Breading Crumbs, Doughnuts, and K-Toos

 

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Holiday Cooking with Allergies
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8 thoughts on “Holiday Cooking with Allergies

  • 11/12/2015 at 3:09 pm
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    Thank you for the info. I will share it with my niece.

    Reply
  • 11/12/2015 at 12:54 pm
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    This is so thoughtful of you to share your helpful ideas on allergy free meals and how to help those with allergies.

    Reply
  • 11/12/2015 at 9:42 am
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    Hi,
    I am very lucky, no allergies etc BUT I am a vegetarian and boy do I and my husband cop a lot of stick from some meat eaters, you would think we were cutting their throats. So I know where you coming from when people say some food couldn’t hurt you, especially when for some unknown reason they put little pieces of bacon in a perfectly good green salad and tell me to pick out the pieces or pizza or make a dish which has chicken or beef stock in it, can’t pick that out.

    I chose not to eat meat not from an allergy or any religious reason and I don’t ‘preach’ to anyone who does but the idea that I can just pick out the meat and won’t make a difference is just sad.

    Good luck with your holiday meals and enjoy

    Reply
  • 11/12/2015 at 9:12 am
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    Good for you for letting people know what should be common knowledge. Unfortunately, in today’s society, we have “stars” who leap on ideas and declare they are sufferers e.g. gluten, thereby endangering those who truly suffer!

    Reply
  • 11/12/2015 at 6:26 am
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    Hanks for mentioning cross contamination. I actually would not have thought of that. For my son’s 2nd birthday party I made dairy and gluten free cupcakes as well as regular cupcakes. I’m really weird about washing every utensil and my hands every time it is used so I didn’t cross contaminate but it would have been easy if not for that. (I say I’m weird about it because on cooking shows it seems like they only wash things at the beginning and end). I had relatives who told me I was silly to make treats that only two of the guests would require. I said that I didn’t want anyone to feel left out. I’m not big on cooking unless it’s sweets and then only rarely. I can’t imagine fixing a full thanksgiving meal alone or having relatives push allergens. I will try to be more aware so I don’t make that mistake.

    Reply
  • 11/12/2015 at 4:19 am
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    A really good post-my niece cannot tolerate gluten. She brings her own dishes to our family gatherings & brings enough for the rest of us to sample. Her husband does most of the cooking (lucky woman) . He leans toward a more gourmet menu. We all enjoy it & we’re learning more about food allergies in the process.

    Reply
  • 11/11/2015 at 4:12 pm
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    Great blog post. Thank you for pointing out cross contamination, a lot of people may not realize they may be doing that as they use utensils for multiple things. I think it’s great that you and your friends are aware of each other’s allergies and you do the cooking. Thank you for sharing your recipes, I hope they help others too. 🙂

    Reply
  • 11/11/2015 at 10:57 am
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    I think it’s great you share you recipes with everyone so they too can have safe and happy holiday meals.

    Reply

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