Sunday, November 21, 2010

Make and Take


Well another major holiday season is upon us, and that makes me nervous. Anytime I have to take the kids out for meals or any food related celebration at another's home. I run through the usual concerns in my mind: will there be items they can eat, will they be victims of cross contamination, will I hear the "no fair" blues from them? But, as I illustrated in a previous post, there are tips I can offer to make your experience more pleasant.

1) Be Pushy

I'm not one to elbow my way to the front of a buffet line, no matter how hungry I am, but in the case of food sensitivities it is important to be served first in order to lessen the chance for cross contamination. If you don't believe me, observe a buffet table and I will guarantee you will see someone serve themselves glutenny stuffing and then stick the same spoon in the carrots (otherwise permissible). Even better, ask your host if you can make up a plate for your child in the kitchen before the food even hits the table.

Discuss with older children what their options are on the table. Although you may wish that your protective wings will always be spread over your children, they won't. At some point your children will have to go out into the world and be in charge of their own illness or allergy. This is a good opportunity for them to test the waters.

If your grandmother tells you that little Susie can have "just one of her special nut crescents; it won't hurt her". You have to politely and firmly educate grandma and reiterate that one nut crescent, however delicious, is one too many.

2) Be Clear

You should definitely speak to your hosts beforehand so that they know the special dietary needs of your family members. Whether they do anything special is another story. Don't resent them if they don't. Some people are very confused when it comes to food allergies and celiac disease. They are afraid of "messing up", so they prefer that you bring your own food. This is fine, and in many cases preferable in my opinion. On the other end of the spectrum you have those that want to try really hard to accommodate special dietary needs, but fall short. For example, once I spoke to a hostess and told her I would like to bring meals for two of my children. She was adamant that she would be able to provide food for them. We discussed that in the context of her planned menu, she would leave a couple of pieces of chicken plain for the girls. When dinner was served she said, "Ooops! I totally forgot. But I made the sauce myself (that's on all the chicken), it's just honey and mustard, nothing else." That's lovely except Rosie is allergic to mustard.

For Thanksgiving you may have a situation where the host seems to understand your needs, but goes ahead and puts flour in the turkey baking bag (as is suggested by the manufacturer---sub-potato starch by the way), either forgetting about the gluten issues, or thinking that doesn't "count". Well, it does and you must be clear about everything.

3) Bring a Dish

If your hostess' husband decides to pour the gravy (thickened with flour--again sub-potato or cornstarch) over all the turkey which your very diligent hostess made otherwise gluten free, you are out of luck for a main course. So, it is a good idea to bring a dish that is filling, and everyone can enjoy. Just be careful, as above, about cross contamination once the dish hits the table. I also like to bring an extra special, showstopping dessert. I feel this makes Lillie and Rosie feel less bad about not being able to eat everything on the table. In addition, for children their ages, desserts are a big deal. At holiday time, they are often extra special offerings, so I want to ensure they feel included and satisfied.

Overall, it is not impossible to eat at others homes and enjoy the camaraderie and festivity of celebrations, but you must do your homework beforehand, and not let down your guard at the actual event.
Happy Eating!

This corn pudding is both gluten free and vegan. You may substitute one large egg for the cornstarch mixture, which will render it vegetarian, but not vegan. This is a hearty and homey side dish, and can be a filling main course for those who forgo meat on Thanksgiving.

Vegan Corn Pudding (Spoon Bread)

2 Tablespoons non-dairy margarine (such as Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)
3/4 cup gluten-free yellow cornmeal*
1/4 cup all-purpose gluten free flour blend or oat flour (gluten free certified oats only)
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar (or agave nectar)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 3 Tablespoons warm water
1- 15-ounce can non-dairy cream style corn (such as Green Giant brand)
1-11-ounce can whole sweet corn, drained (frozen corn, thawed or steamed, fresh may be used)
1/4 teaspoon Frank's Red Hot sauce (or any that is gluten free)
2 Tablespoons jarred or canned sliced jalapeno peppers, drained and chopped (optional)
1 1/2 cups soy or rice milk (reduce by 1/4 cup if a more cornbready texture is desired)

*Note: I didn't have gluten free cornmeal on hand, so I used gluten free dry polenta (corn grits), which I ground finer in the food processor. Cornmeal has the same contamination problem as oats, so be sure to buy one that is marked gluten free. You can also use Ener-G brand Corn Mix.

Pre-heat oven to 375F degrees. Place margarine in a 9x9 or 8x8 square pan and place in oven until melted. If you are using Pyrex, this may be done in a microwave. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Add next five ingredients until well blended. Whisk in soy milk.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake for one hour, or until top appears golden brown, no longer moist, and slightly cracked. Serve warm.

Yield: 8-10 servings

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