Tag Archives: Dinner party

Gluten-Free Wedding Cake Guide

26 Feb

—-Originally printed in Celebrate Gluten Free – a quarterly magazine by the Gluten Intolerance Group—-

Weddings come in many shapes and sizes but virtually any wedding occasion includes food. So, what about planning a gluten-free wedding event?  If you’re doing the planning, setting a gluten-free menu with a caterer is relatively easy to do. But what about the cake? There is a lot of flexibility when it comes to choosing entrées whereas the cake may seem more limiting for someone looking to accommodate dietary needs. Whether you have a gluten-free bride/groom or gluten-free guests, the big question remains the same: what do I do about the cake?

I have a distinct memory of walking by a table promoting gluten-free wedding cakes during my first visit to a gluten-free conference. Despite not having any wedding plans, the table caught my eye. To my shock, I felt my eyes fill with tears. When told by my physician that I must adhere to a gluten-free diet it took me a few weeks to really process the complexity of what it meant to live gluten-free. When I realized that a wedding cake was probably not in my future, I was not particularly bothered by the idea. Cake was out. I could accept that. Regardless, when I saw that wedding cake booth I felt so happy and sentimental. Even at a young age, the idea of a wedding cake was special to me and was a tradition I thought would elude me. So, now that you know you can have a gluten-free wedding cake, the question is how to find one.

If you are planning a wedding you have a variety of options for the gluten-free wedding cake. You should choose the option that best suits your needs and your budget. If you want an entirely gluten-free wedding then I suggest finding a dedicated gluten-free bakery in your area and ordering a wedding cake from them. However, if you are not looking for an exclusively gluten-free wedding then you have many options on the table.

Living in our nation’s capital, I stumbled across a gem of a bakery: Sticky Fingers. Two-time winner of the show Cupcake Wars, Sticky Fingers Bakery has made quite a name for itself. They pride themselves on offering delicious cupcakes and goodies that are vegan (dairy-free, egg-free), peanut-free and gluten-free. I stopped by their storefront for an official wedding cake tasting, one of the perks of writing an article about wedding cakes! When I arrived there was a small table reserved with a sign that read “Wedding Cake Tasting.” Kamber, the baker, brought out four options for me to try. Even though they make full-size wedding cakes, the cake tasting is done using cupcakes! My personal favorite was the chocolate cake with buttercream frosting and fresh raspberry puree. The sweetness of the frosting was cut so perfectly by the tart berries that it left me wanting bite after bite.

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Kamber explained that her customers have a lot of say when it comes to designing the perfect wedding cake. Depending on the bakery, you will need to request your cake pretty far in advance. During busy wedding months like May, June, August and September bakeries like Sticky Fingers may need at least a month’s notice, if not more. The amount of time it takes to make your personalized gluten-free wedding cake also depends on the complexity of your design. Kamber also had some great tips on how to save on your gluten-free wedding. Keep reading to see how you can make your wedding delectable and affordable.

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of wedding cake planning: the cost. Wedding cakes are expensive. They are usually sold on a “per-slice” basis ranging (on average) from $8-$15 per slice. A typical 3-tier wedding cake serves 82 resulting in a cost of around $900. In addition to that already seemingly staggering number, gluten-free cakes are often priced on the higher end of the spectrum. Sticky Fingers charge $2 more per slice when making a gluten-free cake, adding up to $12 per slice.

There is no denying that gluten-free options are usually more expensive than their gluten-containing doppelgangers. Luckily, there are plenty of relatively easy ways you can cut down on cost!

  1. Dual-Cake: If you are a gluten-free bride or groom without many gluten-free guests you can cut down on costs by ordering the top-tier of your wedding cake from a dedicated gluten-free bakery and the rest of the cake from a traditional bakery. If you opt for this make sure you clearly communicate your plan to both bakeries. You will need to separate the top tier from the rest of the cake with cardboard or styrofoam covered in fondant but the cake decorators should be able to do this without any trouble!
  2. Go for cupcakes: With the national popularizing of cupcakes, gluten-free options have become fairly common at most cupcakeries across the nation. You can order a traditional looking top-tier then place the cupcakes in lower tiers. You may find that cupcakes are cheaper than ordering an entire personalized wedding cake.IMG_0341
  1. Play it up: You can make your cake appear larger by separating the tiers with non-cake layers that are decorated in fondant. If you want the appearance of a grand cake but do not need a huge cake to accommodate your guests this is an affordable way to get the effect you are looking for. You can also use this trick to separate gluten-free tiers from gluten-containing tiers if you opt for cost-savings trick #1.
  2. Be Square: when designing your cake, choose a design that allows the tiers to be square-shaped. Squares are easier to cut in a grid pattern so you will be able to cut more slices per tier, cutting down on costs!
  3. Bottomless cake: In addition to ordering a small three-tiered wedding cake for wedding pictures, order a few large sheet cakes made with the same type of cake and frosting. The chefs or caterers can cut up the slices in the back and no one will know the difference. The sheet cakes will save you a bundle while you still get the glamorous and traditional wedding cake to display and eventually serve to guests.

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The most important thing to keep in mind when planning for a gluten-free wedding is to enjoy the process! Weddings are so fun and so special. You may feel like the cake is a gluten-free bump in the road but there are so many options out there for people living gluten-free! Don’t be afraid to ask questions and definitely do your research! Prices will probably vary from bakery to bakery so call around and enjoy the gluten-free cake tastings while you plan your big day!

Gluten-Free Superbowl Party Ideas

27 Jan

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Gearing up to watch the Seahawks battle the Patriots on the field of Arizona Stadium? You might be feeling stressed at the thought of heading to a 3-5 hour long Superbowl party to watch the game while sitting across from a coffee table covered with snacks and party foods that may or may not be gluten-free.  Set that stress aside because below are some fun tips to prepare for and enjoy the big game!

Young adults watching football

On game day there is no such thing as too many snacks. No host will complain about having an extra addition added to the buffet table or coffee table for guests to enjoy during the game.

I suggest bringing chips (corn tortilla chips are the easiest, maybe try buying Scoops!) and an assortment of dips. You don’t want to be limited to one option while watching the game so bring more than one dip in case there aren’t many other options for you at the party.

If you are worried about going hungry then try for a dip that is heartier than onion dip or salsa. Earlier this football season I hosted people for a game and made a hearty Mediterranean dip, inspired by the multi layer dips I have seen at grocery stores.

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Ingredients:

1 lb ground lamb

Spices: garlic, onion, dried basil, salt and pepper

1 cucumber

1 carton of Greek yogurt

4 tablespoons of dill

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt and pepper

Feta cheese crumbles

Instructions:

  1. Season the ground lamb with the spices listed above. Cook in a pan on high heat until browned. Pour meat onto a plate lined with multiple paper towels to collect grease. Set aside
  2. Dice cucumber and chop the dill. Mix cucumber and dill with yogurt and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste
  3. In a small glass dish put a layer of yogurt-mix then add lamb meat then feta crumbles – repeat layering until dish is filled to the top

This recipe is quick, east and more creative than a traditional multi-layer dip! Enjoy with tortilla chips! Note, although this is a Mediterranean inspired dish do not buy pita chips at the store because they are unlikely to be gluten-free.

Don’t feel like making dip? You can easily find premade dips at your local grocery store. Try guacamole, salsa, hummus, onion dip or multi-layer bean dip for quick purchases that will still be a crowd pleaser. If you buy onion powder mix be sure to read the ingredients label just in case!

Feel like being ambitious? Try my spin on stuffed jalapeno poppers! Whenever I see stuff jalapenos at parties I usually stay clear for fear of the heat. You won’t know how cooked/roasted the jalapenos are before biting down and an undercooked jalapeno can wreck havoc on your palate and leave you running to the fridge for milk to cool off. If you want a crowd-pleasing twist on a classic then make my Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Poblano Peppers instead!

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Ingredients:

Poblano Peppers (5)

8 ounces of cream cheese

1 cup of extra sharp cheddar cheese

1 teaspoon of the following spices: paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder

1 package of bacon

20 toothpicks

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Line a baking sheet with tin foil (for easy clean up) then set aside.
  2. Cut the poblano peppers in half lengthwise; remove the seeds and center membrane
  3. In a bowl, mix together the cream cheese, 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese, and spices. Add salt and pepper to taste
  4. Using a spoon (or your hands) to spoon the filling equally among the 10 poblano pepper halves.
  5. Wrap each stuffed pepper with one slice of bacon (if too long feel free to cut the bacon strips in half as needed) then stick a toothpick through the center to hold the bacon in place
  6. Place the stuffed peppers on the tin-foil lined baking sheet and bake for 28 minutes or until bacon is crisp

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You can refrigerate these and reheat at the party in the oven or eat at room temperature. The poblano peppers have less heat than the traditional jalapeno so your guests will find it easy to eat without burning out their palates. Want to spice things up? Try buying flavored cream cheese like garden vegetable, chive and onion, jalapeno or chipotle flavors (check ingredients before purchasing to double check)!

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The last component of attending a Superbowl Party? BYOB. Many people associate beer with watching football and there is no reason you cannot partake in the tradition. Try bringing a 6 pack of hard cider or Redbridge beer. My favorite cider right now is Angry Orchard but there are a lot of brands out there that should be easy to find at the supermarket.

If all else fails you can now order gluten-free pizza at Pizza Hut at select locations! You can expect a CC Gluten Freed blog post dedicated to the new gluten-free Pizza Hut option – the latest development in the gluten-free world! Starting TODAY, Jnauary 26th, Pizza Hut has started rolling out their gluten-free pizza option. Unlike Domino’s it is certified gluten-free. Details to come in my next post. PS thank you Udi’s for working with Pizza Hut to support the gluten free community!

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Regardless of whether you are rooting for the Patriots, the Seahawks or are just watching for the commercials you should enjoy all of what Superbowl Sunday has to offer – including the food!

-CC

Gluten-Free Holiday Survival Guide

16 Dec

Healthy-Holiday-Survival-Guide

Despite the snow covered trees, glittering lights, smoke from the chimneys and the overall sense of Holiday spirit that store fronts and houses display, for people living gluten-free there is usually a little bit of gluten-free gloom that hangs over the Holiday season. Don’t get me wrong, we are far from gluten-free grinches, but we cannot deny the nagging sense of anxiety that takes over when considering all of the ways that gluten can complicate even the simplest of Holiday celebrations. Your work may host a Holiday party, you may be staying with extended family members during the Holiday season, there may be a slew of dinner party invitations in your inboxes (or mailboxes if you are classic like that). Don’t let the Holidays overwhelm you! This Gluten-Free Holiday Survival Guide should help make the Holiday season gluten-free and stress-free.

1. Traveling

Regardless of your destination, taking the time to plan for traveling gluten-free can save you a lot of time and hassle when you are en route. Whether you are road tripping your way to Grandma’s house or flying to Cabo for a sunny Holiday getaway, these tips will help keep hunger pangs at bay.

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Download Find Me Gluten Free  

Find Me Gluten Free is an app for smart phones that takes your current GPS location and generates a list of gluten-free dining options ear your location.  The list includes reviews (many written by me!), menus, phone numbers and directions to restaurants that offer gluten-free options.

I know some of you may be thinking, “I know my hometown through and through, trust me there is nothing gluten-free,” but a lot can change in a year! Gluten-free products and menu-options are on the rise. In 2012, Time magazine listed “gluten-free” as one of the Top 10 Food Trends of the year and the projected growth of the gluten-free product market (currently at $4.2 billion, is $6.6 billion by 2017 (statistics from Packaged Facts).

You can use this app to find places to eat while on the road. When you have to stop for gas and a snack you may not know the area well which is where Find Me Gluten Free can be a huge help.

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Pack Snacks

Speaking of stopping for a snack…when flying or driving it is important to pack snacks, especially for long flights. About a month after being diagnosed with Celiac I hopped on a plane for a trip to Italy. Being new to the gluten-free lifestyle, I didn’t realize that the plane would have close to zero gluten-free options on board. Needless to say, by the time I landed in Rome, I was starving!

In my recent experiences traveling, there are usually gluten-free options on the flight menus but they are not always in stock or they are not very filling and/or not very nutritious. You don’t want to rely on a bag of potato chips to hold you over for 8+ hours while traveling.

What are some great snacks to pack? Here are some of my favorites:

▪   KIND Bars —  jammed packed with protein, fiber and other nutrients,  easy to eat and convenient to pack. Check out my post here.

▪   Pirate’s Booty — yummy and sold in small, individual servings (great for throwing into a bag or purse).

▪   Glutino Pretzels –  if the plane has hummus you can use your own pretzels! You can also grab the chocolate covered or yogurt covered pretzels offered by Glutino.

Call Ahead

If you are flying this Holiday season make a call to the airline and ask about their gluten-free options. Sometimes websites are not up to date or the information is not true for all of the flights the airline offers. Calling and talking to the airline company about your options while in the air is the most reliable way to get information about gluten-free options. You can read about my nightmare airline experience here.

Get Everyone Onboard (pun intended) 

If you are traveling with family or friends, make sure they are onboard about the gluten-free thing. It is easier to just bring it up at the start of the trip rather than wait until everyone is hungry and searching for a place to grab a bite. If your travel-mates know beforehand that stopping at Pizza Hut is not really an option for you, you won’t have to veto their glutinous choices! Be open and honest about what kind of pit stops will work for you.

2. Attending Dinner Parties 

There are many strategies you can use when attending a dinner party and which one you choose has a lot to do with the context of the party. Is it hosted by a close friend? A new friend? A friend of a friend? A neighbor? My go-to approach for attending a dinner party is a 3 step process.

  1. Call/email/text/Facebook message the host and ask what they are serving
  2. Disclose that you are gluten-free and what thats means
  3. Offer (by offer, I clearly mean insist politely) to bring a side-dish or a dessert.

Approach the chat with the dinner party host as conversational. Your goal isn’t to make the host change their menu or make everything gluten-free. The goal of the conversation is to figure out if there are any gluten-free dishes so you can plan accordingly.

dinner-party

When you bring a side dish, make sure it is something quasi-filling because it may be all you end up being able to eat. I suggest a quinoa dish (here is my favorite recipe). When it comes to dessert, I suggest baking mini-gluten-free cupcakes (my Tiramisu cupcake recipe is always a hit at parties, check it out!).

Lastly, I suggest eating a little bit of food before heading over to the party. Gluten-free pro-tip? Never go anywhere truly hungry!

3. In-Laws/Extended Family

Does the word “In-Law” run shivers down your spine? Sometimes the idea of being a burden to the in-laws during the Holidays, especially for a new couple, is quite unnerving. What if you ruin their family traditions? What if you are that girl, the one who refuses to eat anything made by the family? Take a breath. Being gluten-free, for people with Celiac or gluten-intolerance, is not fleeting. This will be your reality at Holidays for years to come so it is best not to beat around the bush. Don’t down play how important being gluten-free is to you, just be open and honest about it. In most cases, people will be accommodating even if it does take them a while to truly understand what it means to be gluten-free.

family-tree

I have heard so many of my readers tell me that extended family members “just don’t get it” or are “unsupportive” or think that being gluten-free is a cry for attention or a fad diet. I don’t have any magic words of advice to fix that. It happens to all of us. You need to be patient and understanding even if the people you encounter are not. Remember, for most people the idea of being gluten-free is quite literally out-of-this-world-weird. So many cultural and religious traditions center around wheat (as an Italian and growing up in a Catholic household I can personally attest to this). It will take some time for people to accept the gluten-free lifestyle but if you are persistent, patient and willing to answer the questions people will inevitably have, they will come around.

4.Traditions

Here is where you may have to get a bit creative. Some family traditions may not be gluten-free friendly which means you will likely need to make some changes to your tradition or make a new tradition altogether. Check out my post about tweaking holiday traditions. If you or your family aren’t quite ready to make changes to family traditions for the gluten-free diet (maybe you are newly gluten-free and aren’t sure it is for you, maybe your family is still adjusting etc.) then take the time you need! Christmas will come around again next year, you can always make changes for future years. I had been diagnosed with Celiac Disease for four years before my Italian family made a complete transition to a gluten-free Christmas. We spent a few years trying to just add a gluten-free option but eventually  decided to make the entire dinner gluten-free since so many of my family members are now gluten-free. You can read about the Bonaduce transition from classic Italian Ravioli to gluten-free “roliolis” (a hybrid lasagna ravioli dish) here.

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There is no doubt that being gluten-free around the holidays can be a challenge but the most important piece of advice I can offer is to be graceful about being gluten-free. Take the Holidays in stride, be persistent and protect your health. Being an easy-going guest is not worth getting physically ill. By being open to talking about gluten-free options and your needs you can absolutely be gluten-free gracefully.

Have a great Holiday season!

Safe travels,

CC

Easter Holiday Survival Guide

4 Apr

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!

-CC


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