Thursday, November 15, 2012

Holiday Food Quandaries and Food Intolerances

The holidays are upon us. For most of us, this is a time we look forward to, good food, family and friends. But for some of us, it's also a time to dread those invitations or meals away from your safe spaces. Some of us have food intolerances or allergies to foods, and this makes going to other homes for meals and socializing hard on us. We get very stressed about what ingredients are in the foods, is there cross contamination, etc. Or maybe we've been invited to a home of someone who has food issues, and we politely ask if we can bring anything, all the while wondering if there is going to be anything good, or they're wondering what to tell you to bring without being rude that is safe. 

For the either scenario, please talk with your host about either your food allergies/intolerances, or ask them about theirs if it's the latter. Be sure to ask all the right questions, and be specific. And quit stressing over it! 

Most hosts are more than happy for you to bring food or goodies, or come help them prepare food, it can be fun. If you don't have any food intolerances or allergies, it's a great way to expand your culinary skills and learn about new foods that really do taste good!

You just might be amazed......
If you're taking goodies to someone's home, a few ideas to make the cooking simpler. You can make many things without milk, eggs, gluten, soy, etc. 

For no dairy, you can use the nut cheeses now available if they can have nuts, and make scalloped potatoes without the cream in them, use coconut cream. Anything that calls for buttermilk or cream can be subbed with coconut milk, if it needs more thickening, use some starch to help thicken as you cook. You can use a vegan margarine, which is usually palm oil based in lieu of butter, or use coconut oil. You can buy a loaf of gluten free bread and make a bread pudding with it or stuffing. 

Of course there are many vegetable dishes to be had too! You can make Green Rice to take. It's very good, I assure you. You can make a creamy cabbage dish, a variation on green bean casserole, basic roasted root vegetables or roasted brussel sprouts, a quinoa dish or salad, and by the way good green salads are almost always safe. I'll give you some recipes for ideas, nothing needs to be complicated or stressful. 

And if you are the person with the food issues, offer to bring your own sweets or desserts, sides, etc. Perhaps you and the host can work out a main dish that you can partake of too. And if you, the host, want to make sure folks know your food is free of certain ingredients, one way to help is to have these serving utensils from The Food Allergy Kitchenware Co. They're very nice utensils and a good way to mark what foods are safe. 

Ok, now you want to know about recipe ideas.... I will share some. 

This is a main course meat idea for ham, which is heavenly actually, and I imagine you could do the same for Turkey or Chicken, although I would probably recommend leaving out the maple syrup for the poultry.

Maple Ham in the Crock Pot

1, 7 to 8 lb spiral cut ham
½ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup pure maple syrup
2 cup cherry cider
In a 6 to 7 quart crock pot, place ham flat side down. Rub brown sugar over all the sides. Pour syrup and cider over. Cook on low setting for 6 to 8 hours, basting during the last hour. Remove ham from crock pot and let it rest on the cutting board for 15 to 20 minutes before cutting.

Some side dish ideas.....

Bread Stuffing

1 medium sized loaf of gluten-free bread, cubed
Sweet onion, diced
Celery, chopped
2 to 3 Tbl butter or olive oil
1 Tbl of seasonings of your choice
Enough water or broth to moisten well, not soggy
Cube bread, toss with seasonings and spread on a cookie sheet. Toast cubes lightly in a 275 degrees F oven.
Sauté onion and celery in butter until clear. Add cubes coating well with mixture. Add broth or water, just enough to moisten the cubes. If you will be stuffing your bird with it, use less liquid, otherwise place in buttered baking dish and bake at 350 degrees F until done (about 30 minutes).
Note: you can use cornbread or any of your favorite breads you have made. You can also add spices as you like or other additions like giblets or oysters. Cranberries are good also. 

Decadently Creamy Leek and Potato Casserole

2½ to 3 lbs potatoes, sliced thin
¼ cup butter
2 leeks, halved and sliced
⅛ cup starch
1 cup cream or plain canned coconut cream (just the thick part of the milk)
2 cups milk or plain coconut milk (I use So Delicious)
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 to 2 tsp red chili powder or chipotle powder
2 Tbl dried parsley flakes
10 oz. of shredded white cheeses, mixture of fontina or swiss, jack, white cheddar, etc. (or use the non dairy cheeses, the cheddar is good)
Scrub and slice potatoes, boil them in water for 8 minutes and then drain and rinse well with cold water.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13x2” casserole dish and set aside.
Warm the milk and cream together in the microwave for about 2 minutes.
Melt the butter in large sauce pan over medium heat. Add leeks and cook till tender and soft, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add the starch and stir in well to make it pasty. Add chili powder and salt and pepper and slowly add in milk and cream mixture. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a gentle boil. Cook for about 2 minutes until mixture thickens some. Remove pot from heat, let stand for a couple of minutes and then whisk in 7 to 8 oz. of the cheeses and parsley.
In the prepared casserole dish, place a layer of half of the potato slices in the bottom. Spoon in half of the cheese mixture. Place a second layer of the remaining potatoes and the cheese mixture on top. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Cover with foil and place on a baking sheet (to catch any drips). Bake covered for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven, uncover and allow it to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. 

Green Rice and Toasted Pepitas

1/3 cup raw, unsalted pepitas (or known as hulled pumpkin seeds)
½ Tbl olive oil
¼ cup dried chopped cilantro
¼ cup dried chopped parsley
1 small sweet onion, minced
2 cloves of garlic finely minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
Sea salt and pepper to taste
¼ tsp ground cumin
1 cup uncooked brown rice
2½ cups water or low sodium vegetable broth or combination of.
3 Tbl olive oil
In a 8 inch skillet, heat ½ Tbl olive oil over medium heat and toast pepitas for about 3 minutes stirring occasionally, until the seeds are toasted lightly. Remove from the pan onto a dish lined with paper towels. Set aside.
In a 3 quart saucepan, heat the 3 Tbl of olive oil over medium heat. When oil is hot, add the rice and garlic and cook 3 to 4 minutes stirring frequently, until the rice is a bit translucent around the ends. Add remaining ingredients except toasted pepitas. Increase heat to medium high and bring to a boil. When boiling, reduce heat to medium-low to simmer for 50 minutes or as directed on the rice packaging. When rice has absorbed almost all the liquid, remove from heat and stir in toasted pepitas. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Black Bean Salad

1, 14oz. can black beans, rinsed well and drained
1oz. fresh cilantro, chopped
1oz. fresh parsley, chopped
¼ cup sweet onion, minced
½ cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 medium tomato, diced
1 cup olive oil
4 key limes, juiced
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
Sea salt and pepper to taste
¼ can chipotle en adobo peppers, pureed
¼ oz. chili powder
Combine all ingredients together, place in non-reactive covered container and refrigerate overnight before serving.

Desserts???? Try these. 

Fruit Cobbler

2 to 2½ cups of fruit (frozen or fresh)
½ cup sugar
1 cup (140g) flour
½ tsp gum
2 tsp baking powder
⅛ tsp salt
1 to 1½ cup milk, milk substitute or water (enough to make the batter pourable)
½ to 1 cup sugar (enough to cover the batter)
½ cup boiling water
Put fruit into a greased deep baking dish or casserole dish. Pour batter over the fruit and sprinkle the sugar over the batter, finally pouring the boiling water over the sugar covered batter.
Bake at 375 degrees F for about 40 to 55 minutes until the top is golden and crusty. 
Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream or with heavy cream at room temperature.
Note: if you use a juicy type fruit that is frozen, you may wish to add ¼ to ⅓ cup tapioca granules to help it gel.

Coconut Cream Tart with Mangoes and Kiwi

Coconut Cream Tart Filling
1 prepared Date Nut tart crust, or crust of choice
½ cup raw cashews
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
4 to 6 Tbl coconut creamer (I use So Delicious)
2 Tbl coconut oil, melted
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ cup agave or honey
¼ cup applesauce, or mashed banana
½ cup pureed fruit, mango, peach, etc.
Soak cashews and coconut in water overnight. Drain water from cashews and pulse in food processor or high speed blender until smooth and creamy, adding a tablespoon or so as needed of coconut creamer. Drain any excess water from coconut shreds and add to cashew mixture, adding creamer as necessary. Processing all until smooth, thick and creamy.
Add oil, agave or honey, vanilla and pureed fruit. Pulse till combined.
Pour into prepared crust and refrigerate a minimum of one hour to allow it to set before topping with sliced fruit or berries. Serve chilled.

Have fun, and above all, use your creativity to create good, fresh, and whole foods. Stop stressing, focus on what it's really all about, family and friends. Food is secondary. Questions? Ask away.....

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