By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
This time of year often involves cooking appetizers, side dishes and baked goods for a lot of people. It’s not unlikely that guests will have different dietary restrictions to consider such as being vegan, diabetic or gluten-free.
A dish as simple as sweet potatoes can include ingredients that many people can’t or don’t eat such as butter or marshmallows, said Cierra Robbins, Hatfield ShopRite registered dietitian.
She said it’s possible someone at the dinner table has a dairy allergy, is diabetic or vegan. “All those people can’t eat that (sweet potato) dish even though it appears to be okay,” Robbins said.
Robbins has dietary restrictions herself and said she really appreciates when the individual hosting a dinner finds out what those are ahead of time. She said with a little planning, the host doesn’t have to end up feeling bad when they seat their guests and find out there’s someone who cannot eat the foods they prepared.
“I would ask if anyone has any special dietary needs ahead of time so that you can be well prepared as the hostess or the host,” Robbins said.
Another good way to help plan the menu is to send out recipes to invited guests and ask if the dishes are something they would be able to enjoy. The guests may recommend swap suggestions for certain ingredients.
“It just makes everyone, I think, feel more comfortable and included when you can really share with them what you’re actually putting in the food that you’re preparing,” Robbins said.
She said those invited to the dinner or party will be so grateful that their diet was taken into consideration. Also planning for dietary restrictions is very important when it comes to food allergies because not asking a guest beforehand can lead to someone having to go to the hospital.
Below are things dinner hosts should keep in mind for guests that have the following restrictions.
Robins said there are several subgroups of vegetarians. Some vegetarians eat eggs, some eat chicken and some eat fish so it’s important to know the specific diet of each guest. Vegetable stock can easily be used to replace chicken stock. Dishes made with meat can be replaced with grains like quinoa or other proteins.
“If you actually chop up mushrooms, they mimic meat and the texture of meat very well,” Robbins said.
“Vegans are a plant-based diet which means they don’t eat anything derived from an animal so no meat, no dairy and no eggs. Some vegans will even eliminate honey from their diet because honey is a byproduct of bees,” Robbins said.
Loriann Wade owns the plant-based restaurant Firefly Café in Boyertown along with her husband Michael Martinez. Wade said milk and butter are in a lot of traditional holiday recipes including even vegetable dishes. She said regular butter can be substituted with vegan butter. Dairy milk can be replaced with almond, soy or coconut milk. There’s even a substitute for eggs called flax eggs.
“Which is basically just ground flaxseed and water but you can use it as a replacement for eggs in a lot of baked goods,” Wade said.
“If someone’s gluten free, there’s a big difference between them choosing to be gluten free, being gluten intolerant and having celiac disease,” Robbins said.
She said the words “gluten free” are used so much that sometimes it takes away the seriousness of celiac disease. Robbins said a guest with the condition can get extremely sick from ingesting gluten even it’s just through cross contamination such as using the same knife to cut bread and onions.
“If they say they have celiac disease that’s when you really need to work with that guest and ask what can I do to make you comfortable,” Robbins said adding that a host may even suggest the person brings their own bread or helps prepare the meal.
TYPE 2 DIABETES
“Diabetes is obviously very prevalent in our country,” Robbins said.
She said having diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t have sugar at all but that you have to pay attention to portion sizes. Hosts can it make it a little easier by providing sugar-free baked goods such as pumpkin pie or cookies. When it comes to side dishes that have sugar, the recipe doesn’t need to be changed as long as the diabetic monitors how much they eat.
Robbins said ShopRite Supermarkets have a diabetic course series throughout the year that can help diabetics and their family members learn how to handle holiday meals.
“It’s so they can go to parties and they can have that knowledge to be confident in their choices so they’re not worried about what their blood sugar may be like the next day,” she said.
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
“We have a lot of people in this country that have high blood pressure and they’re watching their sodium,” Robbins said.
She said even people without high blood pressure are becoming more aware of the amount of sodium in their food. When watching the sodium amount in dishes, it’s very important to look at food labels. Canned products like beans can be rinsed prior to using to decrease the sodium.
There are also lots of seasonings with no salt added.
“There are many herbs and seasonings you can use to flavor your dishes. You don’t always have to resort to the salt shaker,” Robbins said.
If you have a vegan guest attending your holiday meal, consider using the following recipes.
FIREFLY VEGAN SHROOMY GRAVY
1 large Vidalia onion, minced
15 large cremini or shitake mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups organic vegetable broth
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons gluten-free tamari
4 tablespoons chickpea flour (or other gluten-free flour)
1 cup plain non-dairy milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
Sauté onions until very tender then add garlic. Sauté until both begin to brown. Add mushrooms, stir well and continue to cook until tender, making sure to stir often. Add veggie broth, tamari, nutritional yeast and thyme. Add non-dairy milk/flour mixture (just whisk flour into milk in separate bowl). Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste. Blend with hand blender, leaving a few non-blended pieces of mushroom for texture (can be blended smoothly if preferred).
Recipe Courtesy of the Firefly Café in Boyertown
VEGAN CHIK’N WILD MUSHROOM SOUP
1 pkg of Meal Starters Morningstar Farms Chik’n Strips
3 cups fresh oyster mushrooms or white mushroom, sliced
2 cups fresh shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon bottled minced garlic
1 tablespoon grated gingerroot
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons sake or dry sherry
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons cold water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup cooked wild rice
Coarsely chop Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Chik’n Strips. Cover and refrigerate until needed. In nonstick Dutch oven cook oyster mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, garlic and gingerroot in hot oil for 4 to 5 minutes or until very tender. Stir in broth, sake and pepper. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, in small bowl stir together cold water and cornstarch. Stir in mushroom mixture. Cook and stir until mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat. In food processor, puree about half of the mushroom mixture until nearly smooth. Repeat with remaining mushroom mixture. Return all to saucepan. Stir in chik’n strips. Bring to boiling, stirring frequently. Reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 2 minutes. Ladle into soup bowls. Top each serving with some of the rice.
Note: Remove and discard mushroom stems before slicing.
Recipe Courtesy of ShopRite Supermarkets