Holiday time means feasting time.  From Christmas open houses to sweets, treats and traditional meals now more than ever feeding family, friends and invited guests is becoming increasingly complicated.

Gone are the days when some well chosen canapés fit the bill.  Even traditional holiday fare like turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy can spell disaster around your family table when your eldest arrives home from college suddenly declaring himself both vegan and gluten-free.

As caterers these are conversations we have every day.  Do we scuttle our favorites?  Do we abandon our sweets and stuffings?!  No, we adapt, we adjust, and we overcome.  A little know-how goes a long way so here are a few of our favorite tips to tweak your traditional holiday menu and ensure a Merry Christmas for one and all.

Deliciously Gluten-Free

With the sharp rise of gluten intolerance and Celiac disease in the last five years gluten-free options are probably our number one request.   Gluten is found in many grains (barley, rye, farro, and triticale) and not limited to wheat.  Rule of thumb; read the label.  Gluten is a stowaway ingredient and can be found in everything from chocolate to sausages.

THE FIX:  In sauces avoid roux (equal parts four & butter) and use cornstarch and water instead (this will literally save your gravy).  Source gluten free bread for stuffing or take a different approach and serve this year’s turkey stuffed with wild rice, sunflower seeds and cranberries.  Corn, quinoa and rice are instant fixes for starch also, there’s not gluten in potatoes and vegetables so those are all safe foods.  Swap a flour based sweet or two for a gluten free option like fresh fruits, custards, meringues, macaroons and flourless tortes and have a box of rice crackers on hand for snacks, dipping and cheese.

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Green Living Vegetarian Edibles

Vegetarianism has been around for hundreds of years and in today’s age this way of eating can be surprisingly flexible as many still include eggs, dairy and even fish in their diet.   Best recommends; avoid all meat and ask what their diet allows.  Here again, watch labels on your favorite store bought products for items like gelatin and lard particularly in the sweets section.

THE FIX:  Everything on our table that grew on, or in the dirt, is fair game for vegetarians.  So all your mashed potatoes, candied yams, roasted brussels sprouts, salads and cheese platters are welcome fare.  Offer delicious dips like hummus when entertaining.  Instead of turkey offer a dish high in protein like a lentil salad or chickpea curry to meet dietary needs.  Go the extra mile and use vegetable stock in your stuffing, cooking a potion of outside the bird in tinfoil of a casserole dish will earn extra vegetarian gratitude.   Most baked goods are vegetarian friendly, but when in doubt, ask your baker.

Vegan, Egg Free & Dairy Free Delights

Vegans avoid all animal products, and that includes eggs and all dairy.  So if you’re hosting someone with a lactose intolerance or egg allergy these solutions can help you to easily adjust.

THE FIX:  Think PLANTS.  All plants are vegan food, but it’s what we put with those plant based options that make the difference.  Amp up the seeds, nuts and legumes and use lots of herbs.   Instead of meat, serve mushrooms for satisfying umami flavour.  Both sweet and savory:  hold the butter and use olive oil.  In many baking recipes you can substitute milk for coconut, soy or almond, milk.  Or try another vegan baking trick and use apple sauce or the cast off liquid from canned chickpeas instead of eggs.

Above all remember, it’s as easy as caring enough to have options.  Guests need to know what is available so they can nosh and nibble through your holiday event with ease.  You can mark buffet items with small tent cards, or simply welcome your guest with a quick rundown of what to enjoy and what to avoid. 

As is often said, it’s the thought that counts. 

Words & Photos By:

Cori (Corinna) Horton is a Food Marketing Specialist, freelance writer/ photographer and the voice behind the blog Food Gypsy. Based in Canada’s National Capital Region she takes great joy in exploring all things DELICIOUS!

Cori Horton