A few weeks ago, we had new neighbors move in. In the past, I’ve always made a point to welcome them to the neighborhood, homemade baked good in hand. But this time, I couldn’t shut down my mind. What if they have a gluten intolerance? Or a nut allergy? Or are dairy sensitive? Or are diabetic? What could I make that didn’t involve wheat, dairy, nuts, or sugar? Call me crazy, but showing up with a veggie platter in hand just didn’t seem to have the same warm fuzzies…
But this is our new(ish) reality. Yet our culture still revolves around coming together for mealtimes, and that’s a tradition I’d like to continue with my children. So here are a few allergy-sensitive meal ideas that don’t break the bank or palate:
Make Your Own Pizza Bar
Pizza naturally doesn’t contain nuts and there are gluten-free crusts readily available today. Grab smaller individual-size gluten crusts (gluten free and a whole wheat or flatbread so people can choose), then set out all the toppings. Everyone can make their own pizza exactly how they want it. This is always a hit with our kids and their friends.
Yes, traditional pasta has wheat in it, but there are so many other options in today’s market that it really isn’t even an issue. You can find gluten free pasta if you want to play it safe, or try black bean, edamame, or lentil noodles for carb-free options that are also gluten free. Stick with a traditional meat marinara sauce or amp it up by sautéing asparagus, sliced yellow squash, artichokes, and tomatoes, then simmering the vegetables in some white wine. Cook some chicken or shrimp separate so meat eaters can add in their own protein, while still leaving a vegetarian option. And, of course, have parmesan on-hand – on the side.
Even the pickiest of eaters tend to love stir fry. Try pan-fried tofu for a meat-free option: Cube extra-firm tofu, then let it rest between towels with a pan on the top to drain the excess water. Pop it in a dry pan for a couple minutes, then turn it to lightly brown all sides. It’s easy to do, full of protein, and delicious. For the meat eaters, sauté up some lean chicken or pork. By keeping the proteins on the side, you can please everyone easily and without creating two totally separate meals. For the stir-fry portion, simply chop and sauté your choice of vegetables. Once they’re cooked through, add some sesame oil, garlic, freshly grated ginger, and soy sauce to the pan; toss it with the vegetables to coat and then serve.
Allergy-free cooking can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be complex. By sticking with simple, staple dishes that you can easily customize, serving various dietary needs can be simple and quick.