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
  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
  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

Chef Talk: Turkey Sanity by Robin Nathan

 Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  It’s all about family, friends, food, and gratitude – a combination that’s hard to beat.  With one possible exception… roasting the turkey. How can one successfully roast this holiday classic without being accused of turkey-cide?


For years I have experimented with different methods.  One year, I butterflied the turkey (sometimes known as “spatchcocking” ), a simple process of cutting out the turkey’s backbone and flattening the bird in an effort to reduce cooking time.  Bad move.  It wasn’t until after I had removed the backbone and flattened the turkey that I realized I didn’t have a pan big enough to accommodate the sprawling bird other than a sheet pan.  Please believe me when I tell you that you cannot successfully roast a 13 pound turkey on a sheet pan without starting an oven fire and setting off every smoke alarm in your home.


Other attempts, perhaps less dramatic, include flipping the bird from back up, to breast up, half way through the process to insure a juicy breast – messy and not particularly effective; and brining – a step that is easily avoided by shelling out a few extra bucks for a kosher turkey (which is brined as part of the koshering process).


Chef Robin’s Herb Roasted Turkey (12-14 Pounds)
For the Butter
  1. 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  2. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  3. 1 large handful mixed herbs, minced (thyme, sage, rosemary, parsley)
  4. sea salt to taste
  5. 1 12-14 Pound Turkey, giblets removed
  6. sea salt
  7. 2 yellow onion, quartered
  8. 4 stalks celery, halved
  9. 4 carrots, halved
  10. 1 cup water or chicken broth
  1. Make the butter by combining all ingredients in a small bowl. Following the directions in the above article, place the butter beneath the skin of the turkey’s breast. Rub any remaining butter on the turkey and sprinkle with additional salt and pepper. Place the half the vegetables inside the turkey’s cavity. Place additional vegetables on the bottom of the roasting pan. Pour the broth over the vegetables in the bottom of the pan. Place the prepared turkey on top of the vegetables.
  2. Place the turkey in a preheated 400 oven and roast, undisturbed until the breast registers 160. Pour in up to another cup of broth if the vegetables on the bottom threaten to burn. Remove from the oven, tent with foil and let rest 20 minutes. Take the temperature of the thigh. If below 175, cut the breast from the carcass and set it aside, and return the dark portion to the oven until it reaches 175. Carve both and serve with gravy made from drippings, if desired. It will take approximately 1 ½-2 hours to reach 160 if the turkey is unstuffed and you do not open the oven door to baste. Now relax and enjoy the holiday!!
Marcel's Culinary Experience
What makes roasting a whole turkey so darned frustrating in the first place?  The biggest obstacle to overcome is that the dark meat is considered “done” at 175-180° and the breast is done at 160°.  The other complicating factor is that the turkey must rest, depending on its size, for 30-45 minutes, which will allow juices to redistribute and keep you from frying your hands while you try to carve it.  Another complicating factor is stuffing.  I highly recommend NOT stuffing the turkey.  First, it’s a health hazard, as stuffing must cook to a different internal temperature (165°) than either the breast or the dark meat, and just as importantly, significantly increases the roasting time.  What else significantly increases cooking time?? Basting.  Please stop basting that turkey.  Basting does not add flavor or moisture to a turkey – nothing is getting through that skin, believe me, and all you are doing is reducing your oven’s temperature by 50 degrees every time you open that darn door. 


So what’s the answer/answers?? Here’s what I recommend.

First, consider purchasing turkey parts.  If you are cooking for a large group, especially a group that has preferences of dark meat or white meat, and it’s not important for you to show off a whole bird, buy one or two breasts and enough drumsticks and thighs to satisfy your group.  This will allow you to start the dark meat first, giving a head start to 175, and pop the breast in about 30 minutes later.


Second, make a flavorful compound butter to put BETWEEN the turkey’s flesh and skin.  Mix room temperature unsalted butter with your favorite fresh or dried herbs, a drizzle of maple syrup or a squirt of sriracha if that’s your thing.  Slide your hands carefully between the turkey’s flesh and breast skin, breaking the tiny tendons that hold it in place.  Scoop up some of the butter on a spoon, lift the skin and slide in the spoon, using your fingers on top to slide the butter off.  Smoosh it around to flatten it and keep going until you’ve created a large pancake of butter on both sides of the breast.  Rub any remaining on the skin.  This will flavor and moisten the breast.


Third, if you must roast a whole turkey, do not stuff it or baste it.  Use a probe thermometer (which snakes through the oven door and beeps at the temperature you’ve set) inserted into the thickest part of the breast.  BREAST, not thigh.  Roast to an internal temperature of 160.  Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest 30 minutes, keeping an eye on the internal temperature of the thigh.  After the turkey has rested 15 minutes, if the thigh meat is below 160, cut the breasts from the turkey and return the dark meat to the oven until it’s reached 175, which won’t take but 15-20 minutes longer.  You can pump up the oven temperature if you like – it’s impossible to dry out dark meat.

Food As A Gift by Deb Forkins

After lamenting my less than stellar rhubarb harvest last year, a dear friend brought me over this homemade rhubarb treasure.  She is a fabulous cook, and the pie was delicious….but it was the big D on that pie that was the most delish!  Edible friendship!

One Sunday, I came home from working at Marcel’s to dinner in the oven.  Marc had made his specialty quiche, adding zucchini to my half.  Again, the best part of that dinner was my name on my half of the quiche in zucchini peel.  Edible love.

Sharing the gift of food is a universal gesture of love and friendship, compassion and kindness.  A meal to a family struggling with challenges, chicken soup to a sick friend, cookies to your new neighbor…food has always been a way that we reach out to one another, to connect.  We all know this.  The food itself may or may not be a fabulous culinary creation, but the gesture speaks volumes.

In her cookbook, Food Gift Love, author and chef Maggie Battista shares some tips to make you the quintessential food gifter:

  • Know your recipient. (always best to play to the audience.)
  • Master a signature food gift so you can make it quickly and have the ingredients in your head.
  • Embrace imperfection. (my favorite tip!)
  • Put a label on it. (ingredients and date created)
  • Summer and fall are the best time to make gifts when fruits and vegetables are plentiful and it’s a less hectic time of the year.
  • Reuse old jars, cups and boxes that can be cleaned and repurposed.

At risk of sounding corny, “what the world needs now is love.”  And edible love is just the best. 

(Check out Chef Kelly Sears’ “Pickling and Preserving Workshop” on Sunday, August 27th to learn the tricks of canning and preserving in anticipation of Christmas 2017 Food Gift Giving!)

Champagne Punch

Champagne Punch
  1. 2 cups apple cider
  2. ¼ cup sugar
  3. 1 mesh teaball with mulling spices
  4. 1 bottle champagne or sparkling wine
  1. Combine apple cider, sugar and teaball with mulling spices in pan and bring to the boil. Simmer until sugar is dissolved. Chill.
  2. Just before serving, add champagne.
Marcel's Culinary Experience

Thumbprint Cookies

Thumbprint Cookies
  1. 2/3 cup butter, room temperature
  2. 1 ½ cups flour
  3. ½ cup sugar
  4. 2 eggs, separated
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  6. 1 cup pecans, finely chopped
  7. your choice flavored preserves
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer until softened. Add sugar, egg yolks, vanilla and half of the flour. Beat until thoroughly combined, then beat in remaining flour. Cover and chill for one hour.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  4. Slightly beat egg whites. Finely chop nuts. Form dough into 1” balls. Roll each ball in egg whites, then in the chopped nuts. Arrange 1” apart on cookie sheet. With your thumb or the end of a wooden spoon, make an indentation in each cookie. Bake 10-12 minutes.
  5. Remove cookies from cookie sheet and cool. Fill in the centers with your favorite preserves.
Marcel's Culinary Experience

Gingersnaps in White Chocolate

Gingersnaps in White Chocolate
  1. 1 cup packed brown sugar
  2. 3/4 cup butter
  3. 1/4 cup molasses
  4. 1 egg
  5. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  6. 2 teaspoons baking soda
  7. 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  8. 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  9. 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  10. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  11. granulated sugar
White Chocolate
  1. 1 12-ounce bag white chocolate chips
  2. 4 tablespoons shortening
  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease cookie sheets or line with cooking parchment paper or silicone baking mat.
  2. In a large bowl, beat brown sugar, butter, molasses and egg with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Stir in the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. Shape dough by rounded teaspoonfuls into balls. Roll in granulated sugar.
  3. On cookie sheets place cookies about 3 inches apart. Bake 9 to 12 minutes or just until set. Immediately remove from cookie sheets to cooling rack.
  4. When cookies have cooled, make the white chocolate for dipping. Either in a microwave or a double boiler, melt the white chocolate chips and the shortening. Dip half the cooled cookie into the chocolate.
Marcel's Culinary Experience

Deviled Eggs Three Ways

Deviled eggs from Jill, Kelly and Dana!

Jill’s Deviled Eggs
  1. 8 hard boiled eggs, cooled and peeled
  2. ¼ cup mayonnaise, or more as desired
  3. 1/8 t. cayenne, plus more for sprinkling
  4. 1 T. horseradish
  5. 1 ½ t. dry mustard
  6. 1 t. poultry seasoning
  7. ½ t. celery salt
  8. a few dashes worcestershire
  9. salt and pepper
  1. Cut eggs in half and remove yolks into a bowl. Mash yolks and add remaining ingredients. Taste and season as desired. Fill each egg white with a generous spoonful of the egg yolk mixture. Sprinkle with cayenne.
Marcel's Culinary Experience
Kelly Sears' Deviled Egg Base
  1. 1 cup mayonnaise
  2. ¼ cup Dijon
  3. 1 t. salt
  4. 2 good grinds pepper
  5. ¼ cup buttermilk
  6. ½ t. smoked paprika, if desired
  7. mashed egg yolks
  1. Mix together mayonnaise, Dijon, salt and pepper in a jar. To this add buttermilk. Shake or stir until completely combined. To this add smoked paprika, if desired.
  2. Mix this base with mashed egg yolks to form the basis of your deviled egg filling.
  1. Add-ins: crumpled bacon and chile with adobo, smoked salmon and dill, shallots, chives, etc.
Marcel's Culinary Experience
Dana's Deviled Eggs
  1. 8 hard boiled eggs, cooled and peeled
  2. Deviled Egg Base (see Kelly's recipe above)
  3. La Boite B Marlene seasoning
  4. celery salt
  5. salt and pepper
  6. capers
  1. Cut eggs in half and remove yolks into a bowl. Mash yolks and add enough deviled egg base to form a creamy yolk mixture. Add seasonings to desired taste..
  2. Fill each egg white with a generous spoonful of the egg yolk mixture. Top with capers
  3. Hard Boiled Eggs: Place eggs in sauce pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let sit for 15 minutes. Plunge in cold water until eggs are cold. For best results, do not use eggs that have just been purchased.
Marcel's Culinary Experience

Ricciarelli Cookies

Ricciarelli Cookies
  1. 3-3/4 cups blanched almond meal flour (such as Bob’s Red Mill)
  2. 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  3. 4 oz. (1 cup) confectioners’ sugar; more for dusting
  4. Finely grated zest of 1 large orange (about 1 Tbs.)
  5. 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  6. 1-1/2 T. honey
  7. 1/2 t. pure almond extract
  8. 1/4 t. pure vanilla extract
  1. Line 4 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Pour the almond flour into a large bowl and use your fingers to break up any clumps. Add the granulated sugar, 1/2 cup of the confectioners’ sugar, and the orange zest, and whisk to combine.
  3. In a small stainless-steel bowl, beat the egg whites with a hand-held mixer on high speed until they form soft peaks. With a spatula, gently fold the whites into the almond meal mixture. Add the honey and extracts, and mix well. The dough will be stiff and sticky.
  4. Put the remaining 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl. Pinch off about 2 tsp. of dough, roll it into a ball, and place it on the baking sheet. Repeat until all the dough is shaped into balls, placing 12 balls per sheet. Roll each ball in the confectioners’ sugar until well coated, then return to the baking sheet and gently pinch the ball into a diamond shape. Let the cookies sit, uncovered, for 1 to 2 hours to firm up and dry out a little.
  5. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, until their tops have started to crack and they are barely tinged with gold around the edges, about 12 minutes. Transfer the baking sheets to cooling racks and let cool completely.
  6. Dust with more confectioners’ sugar. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
  1. These cookies from the almond-growing region of Siena date back to at least the 15th century. They’re melt-in-your-mouth tender, but with a nice chew. Their cracked, snowy-white tops make a beautiful addition to a cookie platter, and they’re a great option for those on a gluten-free diet.
Marcel's Culinary Experience

Grapes and Espresso

Grapes and Espresso
Serves 4
  1. (2) 1.5 oz strong Espresso
  2. 1 T. olive oil
  3. 1 pound red and white grapes
  4. 5 oz. sweet white wine (Sauternes or Gewürztraminer)
  5. 3 sticks of cinnamon
  6. 1 T. honey
  7. ½ T. balsamic vinegar
  8. ½ T. butter
  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized frying pan. Add the grapes and sauté for one minute. Add the espresso, white wine, cinnamon sticks and honey. Stir for two minutes and then remove from the heat.
  2. Add the vinegar and butter to the pan and stir until the butter melts. Serve warm.
  1. This elegant dish is a splendid blend of colors and tastes.
  2. Serve as an accompaniment to an Italian meal of roast meat or poultry with polenta or as a light dessert with cheese and biscotti.
Marcel's Culinary Experience

As Easy as Pie by Teri Hiben

We’re in that time of year we call “The Holidays.”  Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s Day….  Celebrations abound!  We gather with family and friends from near and far.  We have parties and dinners, catch up on the latest news in each other’s lives and reminisce about the years past.  As our families and friend groupings multiply and change, these gatherings help to deepen the love and admiration we have for one another.  At the centerpiece of these gatherings is the food: food from our past, new dishes to share.

For me, many of my family food traditions involve baking.  My mom has already been busy baking the family pfeffernusse (peppernuts) to send to each of us in the next weeks. (I can’t wait!)  Here at home there are cinnamon roll coffeecakes to mix, rise, bake and share with neighbors, as well as gingerbread and snowball cookies (and many others) to make.  There will be sweet potato crescent rolls, stollen and biscotti to create – all filling the house with enticing aromas.  But, first on the list of holiday baking are the Thanksgiving pies.  

TeriPieBlog2My love of baking was passed down from my mom, Della, who was the baker for her family of 7 on her family’s Kansas farm starting at age eight!  She’s an expert baker of many breads and cookies, but it’s her pies that have brought her fame.  She’s affectionately known as “The Pie Lady” and her pies are fervently sought out at work and asked for by friends and family.  I’ve been the willing recipient of much of her baking wisdom so have grown up baking pies of all sorts.  This Thanksgiving I’ll be baking up a few cherry pies for the pie social at church and for our dinner, I’ll be serving both apple and pumpkin pies.   Every bite eaten while spending time with people I love.

I’d like to share with you mom’s pie crust recipe.  It’s an easy, forgiving crust that bakes up flaky and tasty and is truly NO FAIL.

Happy Baking!

Della's No Fail Pie Crust
  1. 2 ¼ c. flour (can use up to half whole wheat flour)
  2. 1 t. salt
  3. 2/3 cup oil
  4. ¼ cup water
  1. Mix together flour, salt and oil with a fork. Then add water and mix. Divide into 2 disks. Roll out between 2 pieces of wax paper that you “stick” to the counter with a slightly damp dishtowel.
  2. After adding the top crust to pie, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar or cinnamon sugar, if you wish.
  1. Yields a 2 crust pie.
Marcel's Culinary Experience