Many families celebrate Easter with a dinner party. I know in my family, the food served and attending guests are very much grounded in tradition. Many, if not most, Celiacs are not diagnosed as children and, consequently, their family dinners and traditions may be a gluten free obstacle that they will face this Spring. Families of Celiacs diagnosed at older ages may not be as familiar with the gluten free diet and how to accommodate their family member as a family that raised a Celiac child.
How do you work around such a challenge? There are various reasons why trying to tweak your family dinners to be GF may be more difficult than simply telling the appointed cook not to use flour to thicken the gravy.
Here are some scenarios that may apply to you and ways you can gracefully work around them:
You are very recently diagnosed:
If you were recently diagnosed then this may be your first Easter dinner, if not your first big family dinner, since becoming gluten free. Learning about all the complex components of the GF diet is overwhelming at the best of times, let alone during a hectic holiday filled with out of town relatives, family feuds and the like. How can you get your family on board with your new lifestyle?
Talk specifically to the host and/or the family cook. If you aren’t comfortable speaking to your entire family or if you simply don’t have time to explain the intricacies of the GF diet to your entire family, be smart about who you talk to! Around the holidays, time is of the essence. Figure out who is cooking and make a plan — find places where you can substitute GF ingredients and double check all the family recipes and ingredients that will be used.
You don’t know the host well/are a new guest:
Not everyone has the time to travel to wherever their families may live. Maybe you have recently moved to a new city and don’t know many people. In these two situations you may be going to an Easter dinner at a new friend’s or a friend of a friend’s house. What if you aren’t able to get in touch with the host before the dinner party?
If this is the case, bring an entree or a substantial side dish to the party with you! It is completely normal and, often, encouraged to bring a gift or contribution for the host of the dinner party. Give this gift a dual purpose: a gift for the host, demonstrating incredible etiquette and something filling you can eat, demonstrating incredible preparedness.
What to bring:
There are many simple GF dishes you can bring the an Easter dinner that are filling and delicious. Try making a quinoa dish, which will be an acceptable side dish for some and, if need be, a main entree for yourself. I suggest this springtime recipe for a quinoa dish!
Another easy and filling option is roasted vegetables. This is very easy to make and is both a homey dish and a very nutritious one! I suggest picking up fingerling potatoes, carrots and fresh beets. Chop all the vegetables into similar sized bites and season with olive oil, garlic power, onion powder, oregano, salt and pepper. Spread the veggies out on a cookie sheet and roast in the oven, set at 400 degrees, for ~30-40 minutes or until tender. The beets and carrots add a sweetness to the potatoes that will surely impress the host of the dinner party.
If not these dishes, I highly recommend brining either a starch (rice, quinoa, potatoes etc) or a meat/poultry dish (a whole, stuffed chicken or a small honey baked ham). You want to bring something that is substantial enough to serve as your meal so that you are not a lone starving guest.
Other Useful Resources:
This year there are a ton of great GF resources on the web specifically for having a GF Easter. Gluten Freeville posted a 2012 GF Ham list! I highly suggest using this resource before purchasing a ham for a dinner party. Last Easter, I bought a ham that was labeled GF but the glaze on the ham was NOT gluten free! This was a tricky labeling problem that I overlooked and greatly regretted it! Make sure you find a ham that is safe, I even suggest calling the company to double check the GF status of their product.
Enjoy some Peeps!
I love enjoying classic food items that are naturally gluten free. It makes me feel like I have a super normal and easy diet! Peeps are an Easter classic. Though completely devoid of nutritional value, Peeps are a fun, sugary and gluten free dessert you can munch on with your friends. To top it off, unlike many GF substitutes, they are incredibly cheap! Bring a large pack of peeps to the Easter dinner party you attend as a dessert. Even if the host is serving a seemingly delicious glutinous cake, I would bet my blog that the majority of guests won’t be able to pass up the nostalgic, sugary goodness that is Peeps.
Good luck with all of the dinner parties! I hope that these strategies are useful and make the holidays a bit less stressful for everyone!