by Jo Barnes –
It’s time to plan your Christmas Party!
It’s fun, festive and … sometimes frustrating.
The chance to get your family and friends together for the holiday season is always special, but finding ways to satisfy their broad range of dietary needs can seem overwhelming.
“When you do the preparation, there doesn’t have to be stress,” shares Laura Waters, owner of Snowdon House Gourmet & Gifts.
So where do you begin? Some of your guests are vegetarian or can’t eat dairy. Some are gluten-free. It’s important to know their level of severity. Is it low level or does cross contaminating foods pose a risk?
“There is a definite difference between gluten free and gluten intolerant. Some people have quite adverse reactions to gluten; others just prefer to eat gluten free,” says Laura.
In chatting with guests, outline the kinds of dishes you’re serving. If they have specific needs, invite them to bring foods they prefer to eat. The onus is more on the guest rather than the host. You can encourage more of a potluck style of party in which guests bring dishes according to their diets. It not only addresses personal needs but opens up the range of foods available.
A great entertaining option is a fondue.
“It can work with all groups. All the preparation can be done ahead of time. It’s a very social meal,” shares Laura, adding: “The interaction is so much fun.”
Cooking can be done in several pots; electric woks work well. One might be the designated gluten free pot. One might be a meat pot and another meat free for the vegetarians in the crowd.
“If you want to do a batter that is gluten free, use a cornstarch batter and that will work for everyone,” says Laura. “Prepare a variety of dipping sauces. You could offer a chutney one, onion pickle, hummus or a vegetable hummus. You have everyone covered,” says Laura.
There are plenty of recipes and information available to help you prepare tasty dishes that can also satisfy various eating styles and needs. A festive party is an opportunity to try a new twist on an old favourite or combine new flavours and ingredients.
“We are so blessed to live in an area where fresh vegetables are plentiful and delicious. With the desire and a bit of research, making healthy food that everyone will love to eat is not that hard,” shares Muffet Billyard-Leake, owner of Muffet & Louisa, a local business specializing in products for the home and dining.
You can create a gluten free quiche using quinoa and nut cheese. Dress up a salad with dairy free avocado dressing. Rather than crackers and cheese how about kale or corn chips with hummus?
“Instead of raw veggies for an appetizer, try veggies roasted with unusual spices like cardamom or ginger,” shares Muffet.
No party is complete of course without dessert. There are plenty of ways to sweeten the evening and appease the particular palate too. Fresh fruit works well. Create delicious pastry using ground nuts and coconut butter. How about a chocolate torte using rice or quinoa flour? Coconut cream or vegan cream cheese mean cheesecake is on the menu for non dairy eaters!
Dietary consideration can also extend to your festive drink selection. There are all kinds of ways to make creative cocktails and hot steaming beverages that keep special diets in mind.
“We sell a variety of non-alcoholic cordial bases. Mixed with sparkling water these make delicious party drinks,” says Muffet.
“Our mulling spice mix is paired with cranberry or apple juice for a lovely hot non alcoholic drink. Any of my vinegars can be paired with soda water or tap water for a refreshing beverage,” shares Laura.
Eggnog, that perennial favourite, can still be enjoyed even if your guests can’t have dairy. “There are lots of recipes online and in books using combinations of coconut milk, raw cashews, water, maple syrup, nutmeg and cinnamon. You start by soaking the raw cashews overnight and then process everything in the blender,” says Laura.
So be stress-free with your party planning this season. Creating food and drink for all your guests, no matter what their dietary needs, is doable, delicious, and delightful.
A recipe from Haro’s Restaurant & Bar: Seaside Brandy
0.5oz Stoli Vanil
0.5oz St Remy
0.5oz Disaronno Amaretto
0.5oz crème de cacao white
Chill glass. Add all ingredients in shaker. Shake. Spread chocolate syrup in glass. Pour drink into glass. Savour.