Chef Talk: Something for Everyone at the Holiday Table: What to Serve Guests with Food Allergies and Diet Restrictions by Lynn Dugan

Your family will be together in a few short weeks and you are already stressing about the holiday meal you are hosting.  Aunt Susie is newly gluten free.  You also think your brother’s girlfriend is a vegan.  What should you do to accommodate these dietary restrictions? Most importantly, how can you be a good host while managing the menu and keeping your sanity?

I can help!  As a Registered Dietitian, I know about meal restrictions and accommodations. I also love to entertain and know the challenges in meal planning and food preparation when dealing with different diet demands.  And, my oldest son has a life threatening nut allergy.  Every holiday, I work with the host to understand the menu and determine what I need to make to supplement the meal for his benefit.

So, here is your game plan in three simple steps:

  1. Understand your guest’s dietary restrictions. 2. Work out the base menu. 3. Communicate the menu and recruit help with preparation.
  1. Don’t begin meal planning until you understand the dietary restrictions. After making it clear to your guests that you look forward to being together, ask the questions necessary to best understand the restrictions. Vegan is a diet free of animal products (including meats, fish, dairy, butter, eggs) but does your vegan guest avoid honey, too? How sensitive is the gluten restriction? I have gluten-free friends who eat bread on occasion but none of my celiac friends can tolerate even cross contamination from cutting boards, knives, toasters, measuring cups, frying oil and baking sheets. The conversations you have with step one are a good place to begin as it shows your concern for your guests, that their well-being is your priority. You can also gauge how open they will be to making and bringing a dish to supplement your meal. That takes us to step #2.
  1. Plan the menu. Your guiding principle for menu planning is to have something for everyone at the Holiday table but not everything has to be for everyone. Consider what I call the ‘red light’ foods for each dietary restriction and pick a menu item that suits everyone.  Red lights for gluten free are always anything made with wheat flour: regular bread, stuffing, crackers, pasta, and rolls.  You’ll be able to offer a gluten-free side dish when using rice, wild rice, potatoes, corn or quinoa to replace wheat.

As already mentioned, the red light for vegans are any animal products – meats and poultry, fish, dairy products, honey. Make sure you offer a menu item that contains a significant protein source like adding beans or legumes to a wild rice casserole, or offering a quinoa-based dish or any dish featuring legumes or lentils. A bowl of mixed nuts on the table can also offer an additional source of protein for the vegan diet.

Side dishes that can work for everyone are typically potatoes, vegetables, salads, fruits and nuts when prepared without the red-light ingredients and prepared with dairy substitutes like soymilk and vegetable oil spreads.

  1. Share the menu with your guests and recruit help. Most people like to bring something. And they are best able to adapt to their own dietary restrictions. While sharing the menu, it is important to communicate any diet restrictions that they might not be familiar with (like telling the gluten-free aunt you have a vegan guest coming). Let your guest know you’ll need them to keep track of any ‘red light’ ingredients in their dishes so you can communicate those during the holiday meal. If your party is small, you can easily point out acceptable dishes. If your party is large, it may be helpful to mark foods as GF or Vegan using a tented name card/place card. Remember, your goal is to have something for everyone but not everything has to be for everyone! 

By following these three steps and making some easy adaptations to the traditional Holiday dinner, your guests will feel welcomed, special and included.

I have highlighted my Warm Sweet Potato Lentil and Apple Salad Bowl.  It is vegan and gluten-free.  Each step of the recipe can be made in advance and assembled warm just before mealtime.  Happy Holidays!

Warm Sweet Potato, Lentil and Apple Salad Bowl
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 2 pounds sweet potatoes peel and dice
  3. 1 small red onion, large dice
  4. 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  5. Salt and pepper
  6. 8 ounces mushrooms (button or cremini), sliced
  7. 2 cloves minced garlic
  8. 2 stalks celery, sliced
  9. 4 small tart apples (Jonathon or Cortland), dice
  10. 1 cup cooked lentils
  11. 1 cup balsamic vinegar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven 425 degrees.
  2. Make balsamic glaze: place balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and gently simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until the glaze is reduced by half, is thick and coats the back of a spoon (consistency of chocolate syrup). Set aside.
  3. Place potatoes and onions on baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with rosemary, salt and pepper. Roast high in oven for 20 minutes, until tender.
  4. Meanwhile, sauté mushrooms, garlic and celery in 1/2 tablespoon oil until mushrooms and celery are softened. Salt and pepper, to taste. Add apples and cook until just warm.
  5. Pour contents of sauté pan into a large bowl. Add roasted potatoes and lentils; stir to combine. Garnish with balsamic glaze.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Sweet Potato Chickpea Buddha Bowl

Sweet Potato Chickpea Buddha Bowl
Serves 2
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Ingredients
  1. Vegetables
  2. 2 tablespoons of olive, melted coconut, or grape seed oil
  3. 1/2 red onion, sliced in wedges
  4. 2 large sweet potatoes, halved
  5. 1 bundle (227 g) broccolini, large stems removed, chopped
  6. 2 big handfuls kale, larger stems removed
  7. 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  8. Chickpeas
  9. 1 15-ounce (425 g) chickpeas, drained, rinsed and patted dry
  10. 1 teaspoon cumin
  11. 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
  12. 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  13. 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  14. optional: 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  15. optional: 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  16. Tahini Sauce (optional)
  17. 1/4 cup (56 g) tahini
  18. 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  19. 1/2 lemon, juiced
  20. 2-4 tablespoons hot water to thin
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (204 C) and arrange sweet potatoes and onions on a bare baking sheet. Drizzle both with a bit of oil, making sure the flesh of the sweet potatoes are well coated and placed skin side down on the sheet.
  2. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from oven flip sweet potatoes and add broccolini. Drizzle broccolini with a bit of oil and season with a pinch each salt and pepper.
  3. Bake for another 8-10 minutes, then remove from oven and add kale. Drizzle kale with a touch more oil and season with a pinch each salt and pepper. Bake for another 4-5 minutes then set aside.
  4. While vegetables are roasting, heat a large skillet over medium heat and add chickpeas to a mixing bowl and toss with seasonings.
  5. Once hot, add 1 Tbsp oil and chickpeas and sauté, stirring frequently. If they’re browning too quickly, turn down heat. If there isn’t much browning going on, increase heat. I found 10 minutes total at slightly over medium heat was perfect. Once the chickpeas are browned and fragrant, remove from heat and set aside.
  6. Prepare sauce by adding tahini, maple syrup and lemon juice to a mixing bowl and whisking to combine. Add hot water until a pourable sauce is formed. Set aside.
  7. To serve: Slice sweet potatoes into bite size pieces. Divide vegetables between 3 serving bowls and top with chickpeas and tahini sauce.
  8. Best when fresh, though leftovers will keep for a few days in the fridge.
Notes
  1. Provided by Minimalist Baker
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Pesto Pronto by Brandy Fernow

As a chef instructor, people always ask me “do you cook like this at home every night?” And my answer is a swift “nope!” Yes, I am a chef, but I am also a busy mom of two active 1st and 2nd grade boys. That means I’m running all week from school, to sports, to cub scouts, volunteering, doing homework, playdates, cleaning, cooking, and of course teaching classes at Marcels!

So no, I don’t cook every night and it’s certainly not a gourmet meal every night either. We do eat at home every night and I have learned to cook smart. Cook one night, then turn that into 2 more meals that I can make in 15 minutes or less.

One of my favorite go-to’s for this technique is a simple pesto sauce. What probably comes to mind is the traditional basil, parmesan, pine nuts and olive oil. I certainly make this version to toss over pasta or accompany chicken, but I also use the same fundamentals to make a dozen other “pestos” which to me is generally an herb, nut, cheese and oil – whipped together in seconds with the help of my food processor.

Now – to make this a million other ways, you just swap the herb, nut and cheese combos. For example, Mexican night – use cilantro, pepitas, queso or cotija cheese, and a dash of red pepper flake. Or sweeten it up a bit by swapping arugula for basil, pecans for pine nuts, adding 2 tablespoons of honey and ½ cup ricotta. Or try parsley, almonds, and asiago.

This way you can pour over ANYTHING! Pesto variations are great poured over steak pork, chicken or fish, tossed with pasta, quinoa or favorite grain, drizzled over roasted veggies, you name it.

Bonus – you can freeze in portions and re-use. Why haul out that food processor more than once? Make big batches of a few kinds and freeze in portions. Pull out and enjoy on that frenzied night you’re trying to get something fresh, but fast on the table.
I’m featuring this favorite pesto technique in a private event this month at Marcels for a group of moms looking to cook once, eat twice. We are serving the pesto over flank steak, then recycling it to a pasta for the next meal. If you have a group that is looking to learn something specific or want to have a good time with your friends, let Marcels know and they can customize your own private event!

Fresh Basil Pesto
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  2. ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  3. Zest and juice of a lemon
  4. Handful of fresh parmesan
Instructions
  1. Add all to a food processor and add olive oil until you have you preferred consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Kebabs

Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Kebabs
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Ingredients
  1. ½ cup olive oil
  2. 2 tablespoon Lemaster Family Kitchen TOSA seasoning mix
  3. 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  4. 1 medium onion
  5. 1 zucchini
  6. 1 red pepper
Instructions
  1. Whisk together oil and seasoning mix. Add chicken cut into chunks. Marinate in the refrigerator at least 1 hour or overnight.
  2. Heat grill to medium high heat.
  3. Cut vegetables into chunks and toss with some more olive oil and TOSA mix to coat.
  4. Thread chicken and vegetables on skewers. Grill until chicken is cooked and vegetables are crisp tender.
  5. Serve with saffron rice.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

One Pan Farro and Tomatoes

One Pan Farro and Tomatoes
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups water
  2. 1 cup farro
  3. ½ large onion (use white for mildness)
  4. 2 cloves garlic
  5. 9 oz. grape or cherry tomatoes
  6. 1 ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  7. ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or less to taste)
  8. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  9. Few basil leaves, cut into ribbons
  10. Grated parmesan, for serving (optional)
Instructions
  1. Place water and farro in a medium saucepan to presoak (5-10 minutes is enough) while you prepare the other ingredients. Adding each ingredient to the pot as you finish preparing it, cut onion in half again, and very thinly slice it into quarter-moons. Thinly slice garlic cloves as well. Halve or quarter tomatoes. Add salt and pepper and set a timer for 30 min.
  2. Bring uncovered pan up to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. When the timer rings, the farro should be perfectly cooked (tender but with a meaty chew), seasoned and the cooking water should be almost completely absorbed. If needed, though, cook for additional 5 minutes.
  3. Transfer to a wide serving bowl. Drizzle farro lightly with additional olive oil, scatter with parmesan and basil.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Pasta Fresca (Fresh Tomato Sauce)

Pasta Fresca (Fresh Tomato Sauce)
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 4 cups chopped tomatoes
  2. 6-8 fresh basil leaves
  3. 1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed
  4. 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  5. salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  6. 1 lb. fusilli, bow-tie or penne pasta
  7. 1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  8. grated parmesan or pecorino cheese (optional)
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Set aside 1 cup of the chopped tomatoes and 2 of the basil leaves. In a blender or food processor, puree the remaining tomatoes and basil with the garlic and olive oil until smooth. Add the salt and pepper to taste.
  2. When the water comes to a rolling boil, drop in the pasta, re-cover the pot, and return to a boil. Uncover and cook the pasta until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cut the reserved basil leaves into thin strips.
  3. Drain the cooked pasta and toss it immediately with the mozzarella cubes. Add the sauce and mix well. Top with the reserved tomatoes and basil, and grated cheese if desired.
  4. Serve immediately.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Spiced Chicken and Grape Skewers

Spiced Chicken and Grape Skewers
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Ingredients
  1. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  3. 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  4. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  5. 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  6. 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  7. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  8. 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  9. 8 (10-inch) skewers
  10. 1 1/2 cups seedless green grapes
  11. Cooking spray
  12. 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
  13. 1 lemon, cut into wedges
Instructions
  1. In a medium sized bowl whisk together the oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, coriander, and salt. Add the chicken to the marinade and toss to coat. Marinate the chicken for 20 minutes. While the chicken is marinating, soak the skewers in water, if wooden.
  2. Thread 4 pieces of the chicken and 4 grapes onto the skewers, alternating them. Spray a grill pan with cooking spray and preheat over a medium-high heat, or prepare an outdoor grill. Grill the chicken until cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Sprinkle with mint and serve with lemon wedges.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

No Oven, No Problem by Julie Busteed

Somehow it seems to happen that whenever we have out of town guests, something breaks, or clogs, or freezes. Think plumbers on Christmas Eve, or a dozen guests enjoying the warmth of the fireplace – because the power has gone out. This visit was no different, the day before company arrived our ovens decided to quit working. Not a total disaster since the stovetop still functioned, but I needed to alter my menus none the less.   

It has been several years since we’ve owned a grill and we’ve been planning to get one. As luck would have it, we were gifted a Kamado Joe! Yes, they were those kind of out of town guests, and yes, they probably figured it was their best shot at eating a home cooked meal. 

To be clear, the Kamado Joe is to “grill” as Ferrari is to a riding mower. This thing is on another level. The heat is enclosed entirely in a thick, ceramic shell, making common recipes that say “Bring the temperature to 700 degrees.” My ovens don’t go to 700 degrees…even when they’re working. The delivery crew shows up to assemble the unit dressed like they were going to a wedding… Which they were.  (Thanks Jill and Bob…)  And, like Ferrari, most of the Kamado Joes are red. Think of Marcel’s as the showroom, with free delivery and setup. 

I’ve had to skip over “grill” recipes for many years, and now here was my chance to dive back in. So far, we’ve seared steaks, grilled shrimp, warmed bread, grilled romaine and even baked banana bread. The surprising one was grilling salmon.  I had adapted this salmon recipe for the oven and it had proven quite tasty, but now I was actually able to grill it and wow, what a difference!

 

Asian Grilled Salmon
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Ingredients
  1. 1 side fresh salmon, boned but skin on (about 3 pounds)
  2. 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  3. 3 tablespoons good soy sauce
  4. 6 tablespoons good olive oil
  5. 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
Instructions
  1. While the grill is heating, lay the salmon skin side down on a cutting board and cut it crosswise into 4 equal pieces. Whisk together the mustard, soy sauce, olive oil, and garlic in a small bowl. Drizzle half of the marinade onto the salmon and allow it to sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Place the salmon skin side down on the hot grill; discard the marinade the fish was sitting in. Grill for 4 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Turn carefully with a wide spatula and grill for another 4 to 5 minutes. The salmon will be slightly raw in the center, but don't worry; it will keep cooking as it sits.
  3. Transfer the fish to a flat plate, skin side down, and spoon the reserved marinade on top. Allow the fish to rest for 10 minutes. Remove the skin and serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.
  4. Grilling with high heat is a little like learning a new language. There’s a bit of a transition, but once you have the basics, a lot of exciting culinary adventures become available. And the flavors that will appear are astounding. Plus, it’s a great option to have when your appliances go on the fritz.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

No Bake Granola Bars

No Bake Granola Bars
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Ingredients
  1. 1 heaping cup packed dates, pitted
  2. 1/4 cup maple syrup, agave nectar, or honey
  3. 1/4 cup creamy salted natural peanut butter or almond butter
  4. 1 cup roasted unsalted almonds, loosely chopped
  5. 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  6. 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  7. optional additions: chocolate chips, dried fruit (Jill used dried cranberries), vanilla, etc.
Instructions
  1. Process dates in a food processor until small bits remain (about 1 minute). It should form a "dough" like consistency.
  2. Toast your oats (and almonds if raw) in a 350 degree F oven for 10-15 minutes or until slightly golden brown.
  3. Place oats, almonds and dates in a large mixing bowl - set aside.
  4. Warm honey and peanut butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir and pour over oat mixture and then mix, breaking up the dates to disperse throughout.
  5. Once thoroughly mixed, transfer to an 8x8-inch baking dish or other small pan lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper so they lift out easily.
  6. Press down firmly until uniformly flattened - use something flat, like a drinking glass, to press down and really pack the bars, which helps them hold together better.
  7. Cover with parchment or plastic wrap, and let firm up in fridge or freezer for 15-20 minutes.
  8. Remove bars from pan and chop into 10 even bars (or 9 squares). Store in an airtight container for up to a few days.
Notes
  1. Can store in freezer
Adapted from Minimalist Baker
Adapted from Minimalist Baker
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

A New Year and a New Focus in the Kitchen by Paul Lindemuth

The holiday decorations are taken down and packed away. The last of the Christmas cookies are eaten. And now I’m finally able to move forward to the first weekend that does not involve the responsibility of entertaining or being entertained! It was a very busy season of holiday cooking and baking with so many lists that needed checking and re-checking with a work-related event on the calendar nearly every day.

If you’re like me, a New Year brings a new focus to so many aspects of everyday life and it’s a good time to bring that focus to our homes and kitchens. Here are some thoughts (OK….resolutions) that I’m bringing into our kitchen and home in 2017:

BRIGHTEN UP YOUR KITCHEN

You’ve spent so much time in the kitchen and looked at the same four walls and all the surfaces for hours on end. January is a great time to give your kitchen a good cleaning from top to bottom. And when you’ve finished that chore, create a new focal point with a planter of bright green herbs on the counter or a new food photo hung on the wall or a new cookbook displayed in a book holder.

GET ORGANIZED

This is a great time to open all the cabinets and drawers and take control of the clutter. Kitchen tools are often thrown into a drawer in haste when you’re busy, so pull everything out to clean up and organize. The same holds true for cabinets and drawers with ingredients and spices that may be past their prime. Toss that stuff out and get a fresh start.

EAT MORE HEALTHILY

 Begin with small goals that are easily achievable on an everyday basis. Start packing a healthy lunch to take to work. Grab an apple for your snack to ease into eating more nutritiously. Once you’ve conquered the small steps add more healthy habits like cutting back on bad carbs and sugar until you’re eating more healthily regularly.


MAKE TIME FOR FAMILY

I think we’ve all had our fill of office parties, holiday feasting and revelry. Before the New Year gets too busy, make sure to set aside time for family. Block off some time that’s reserved just for activities at home. Eating together around the dining table is a great way to bring focus back to home and family.  Please enjoy this beautiful and vibrant recipe around the table together!

Baked Whitefish with Coconut-Cilantro Sauce
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. canola oil spray
  2. four 6-ounce whitefish fillets
  3. 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  4. 1/2 cup light reduced-fat coconut milk
  5. 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
  6. 1 teaspoon peeled chopped fresh ginger
  7. 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  8. 2 garlic cloves
  9. 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
  10. fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Spray a 9x13-inch baking pan with canola oil spray. Sprinkle the fish with the salt and place it in the pan.
  2. In the jar of a blender combine the coconut milk, cilantro, ginger, garam masala, garlic and jalapeño. Pulse until fairly smooth.
  3. Pour the mixture over the fish. Bake until the fish is just opaque in the center, about 15 minutes.
  4. Transfer the fish to heated plates. Garnish with more cilantro and serve right away.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/