Monday, December 29, 2008

Celebrate New Year’s Eve Gluten-Free!

For many of us, parties can lose their luster once diagnosed with Celiac disease. Since most parties center around food and drink, many gluten-intolerant find it difficult to partake in celebrations where they can’t eat the food and prefer not to drink on an empty stomach. Instead of feeling left out, try hosting your own New Year’s Eve Party! In this article we will focus on everything you need to host a fabulous holiday party, entirely gluten-free that all your guests, gluten-intolerant or not, will rave about! As with any successful endeavor, it all begins with a plan.

Plan your party

Step 1.
Decide on your guest list. How many guests will you invite? How many are men, how many women? It is important to be aware of the number of men and women guests because generally, men will consume more food and beverages than women.

Step 2.
Decide on a theme. Themes not only add an element of fun and uniqueness to your party, but will dictate recipes, decorations and even suggested attire for your guests.

There are a limitless number of theme ideas, among them, ethnic themes, such as Italian, French or Japanese can be great fun for both you and your guests.

Last year we hosted a New Year’s Eve Sushi Party. I had prepped many different sushi ingredients, prepared huge bowls of sushi rice and set up sushi rolling stations all over the kitchen. After a short rolling demonstration, all my guests energetically created their own sushi masterpieces. When all the sushi was made, we filled an entire dining room table with platters of fabulous sushi. I decorated the table and room in Japanese style and served a miso soup, green tea and plenty of sake. The party was great fun because everyone was involved and interacted together. Even guests who differed in age and background and who didn’t previously know each other were laughing and competing on who’s sushi was the most creative and interesting looking. It was great fun. And, there was no cooking involved!

You can also host a black tie party, dessert party, hors de oeuvre party or anything else you can conceive of.

Step 3.
Once you have your guest list and an idea of what kind of party you would like to have, you’re ready to plan the menu.

How much food is enough?

The answer to this question is relative to a few variables. Are your guests big or small eaters, or a combination of both?

Will you be serving hors de oeuvres only, or will you be serving a meal?

For an hors de oeurve party, the rule of thumb is 2-3 pieces of each appetizer for each guest. If you plan to serve only appetizers, make at least six different types. Think through a balanced menu of fish or shell fish, meat, vegetables, breads, dips and don’t forget the desserts! A good balance of foods will ensure that there will be something for everyone regardless of food intolerances or preferences.

Step 4.
Once your menu is complete, plan your decorations. Decorations help put everyone in a party mood. Decorating can be elaborate or as simple as decorative serving dishes.

If your party will include a buffet, make your table decorations as inviting as possible. One of our favorite ways to decorate a buffet table for the holidays is to first start with many different sized card board boxes, the largest about 2’ tall. Cover your table with a tablecloth. Place the boxes, (lids removed) upside down on your table so that they are touching each other down the center of the table. Place small boxes on top of large ones. The smallest box should be large enough to hold a serving plate. Place a string of small white Christmas lights around the bottom of the group of boxes. Select a large piece of shear or semi-shear material that enhances your theme and drape it over the boxes and the lights. Bunch up the material and tuck in the raw edges. Plug in the lights and you have a table of beautiful pedestals to present your food on.

No matter what type of party you would like to host, we have hundreds of delicious gluten-free recipes to suit any party. Just search our archives by category, recipe name or main ingredients.

To get you started, here is a collection of fabulous gluten-free hors de oeuvres everyone will love!

Mini Crab Quiches
Pesto & Sun-dried Tomato Torta
Marinated Shrimp Wrapped in Bacon
Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese on Polenta Triangles
Smoked Salmon Cheesecake
Shrimp Remoulade
Chicken Liver Pate with Cranberries & Pecans
Spinach & Artichoke Dip
Bruschetta with Smoked Salmon & Herbs
Mini Beef Filets with Horseradish Crème Fraiche
Baby Red Potatoes Stuffed with Garlic & Herbs
Baked Crab Dip
Fried Mushroom and Leek Spring Rolls
Green Apples with Crème Fraiche and Smoked Trout
Marinated Olives
Melon Wrapped in Prociutto
Parmesan Crisps with Pecans & Basil
Spicy Chicken Skewers
Tuna Tartare

Happy Holidays from!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Christmas Dinner to Remember

Celebrating the holidays with friends and family can be a fun and joyous event….but it can also be filled with stress and frustration. After all families are family — you just never know what can happen and preparing a feast of all feasts can be a little overwhelming at times…especially if you are the host.

My favorite memory of Christmas dinner was last year at my mother-in-laws. My in-laws had just moved into a beautiful home and were scrambling to unpack, get settled and decorate the house (all within about a month’s time) with a deadline of Christmas to have everything perfect. The goal: a picture perfect Christmas with kids running around, a feast unmatched by no other, holiday ornaments sparkling in the background and cousins, nieces, uncles, aunts, sisters, brothers, and of course the on-looking grandparents soaking up the moment. Now don’t get me wrong, it did end up being picture perfect but it was a little messy along the way.

It all started off Christmas morning…I received a call from my mother-in-law casually asking if I would help her prepare the $100 beef tenderloin she purchased for dinner. Of course I happily agreed to help. We arrived at her house a couple hours early with a batch of homemade eggnog to add to the festivities (remember the eggnog, it plays an important roll in this story). The house was beautiful — something straight out of Southern Living — the tree was gorgeously decorated and donned with beautifully wrapped presents, the table setting picture-perfect, the beginnings of a bountiful buffet coming together rapidly as she put the finishing touches on the Christmas ham and the sides. Everything seemed well under control….until the tenderloin emerged. My dear mother-in-law graciously sets a very large hunk of meat in front of me and says "here it is!". (Now keep in mind I had thought that she had a plan for the tenderloin and just needed help putting it together while she worked on the other sides and so forth). I wish I had a picture…this was an untrimmed tenderloin, complete with fat and all the trimmings! I have to admit, I was caught off guard! I asked her for a knife and was handed a serrated edge knife (ok — the true kitchen snob is going to emerge now…so be prepared) that was less than sharp. I hacked away at that tenderloin desperately trying to get it to resemble a nicely trimmed piece of meat that it so richly deserved (especially considering its high price tag!). I asked if she had some kitchen twine — she just looked at me with a funny look on her face. Getting the hint, I asked if she had some dental floss. "Floss? Oh yea, I’ve got floss". She ran upstairs and returned back with "mint" dental floss. I think it was at this point that I started to get a little testy with her…"No that won’t work — we need unflavored dental floss", I snapped back at her.

The guests started to arrive. My sister in-law arrived with her 2 year old daughter and rushes in the door with pure panic in her face. She accidentally locked the door to her car with her daughter inside! My husband and father in-law rush outside and do everything humanly possible to unlock the door but to no avail. A call is placed to the fire department — and this is when the eggnog comes back into the picture. Out comes the eggnog and my husband so kindly spikes it with another few glugs of Jack Daniels and begins serving it to all to calm the nerves that are now unraveling at the seams. Several glasses were poured and everyone took a few sips, set their cups down and returned to address the problems at hand — most importantly the small child locked in the car in the middle of winter, and of course, let’s not forget… the tenderloin! My mother-in-law did manage to dig up some plain dental floss so I was now back on track. The fire department had arrived and were checking my niece’s legs to see if they were starting to turn blue-ish due to the cold weather….and my mother-in-law started consuming all the half full cups of eggnog…her mood improving with every sip!

The tenderloin is now nicely tied with strips of dental floss and now we hunt for a pan to brown it in. Unfortunately, that box was not unpacked and cannot be found…so, we improvised. I say sure a paella pan will work. Why not? I asked her for some olive oil. No olive oil. Ok — "How about some butter?" - "Oh it’s in the fridge". I look and what do I see…but a miniature cube of "I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter" and eight more cups of eggnog! Ok- I can do this, I say to myself. So, I flame on the paella pan and dissolve the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter (which I can believe, by the way), and I begin to brown the beast. I transferred it to the oven and roasted it to perfection. Now for the gravy or sauce…what to use…I scoured her cupboards for anything that would make a nice sauce. We did have wine (and lots of it), no herbs, no stock, no BUTTER, and very little of anything else that would work. What I did find was garlic, onions, and some raspberry jelly. That will work in a pinch! So, I deglazed the pan with the wine, added the garlic and onions and sautéed until tender and then whisked in the jelly and begrudgingly finished it with I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter". Dinner is served!

Amazingly, the child was released from the car, the tenderloin turned out beautifully and the dinner ended up being the feasts of all feasts and definitely a Christmas to remember! As you can see, Christmas disaster can strike us all — the trick is to improvise and imbibe in a lot of eggnog!

Below you will find two beautiful Christmas dinner menus that will hopefully prevent a Christmas disaster in your house. The first menu is more of a sit down, plated menu and the second can be served quite easily as a buffet. The key — prior preparation, having a good game plan and of course a freshly made batch of homemade eggnog!

Christmas Dinner Menu I (plated menu)

Hors D’oeuvres
Chicken Liver Pate with Cranberries and Pecans

Swiss Chard Stuffed Crepes with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Main Course
Mustard & Bacon Crusted Prime Rib
Roasted Potatoes with Rosemary
Roasted Broccoli with Toasted Walnuts

Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse & Vanilla Ice Cream Bombe

Christmas Dinner Menu II (buffet style)

Hors D’oeuvres
Smoked Salmon Stuffed Gougere
Lemon Cumin Chicken Meatballs
Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Mixed Greens with Apples & Pomegranates

Main Course
Dry Brined Turkey with Cognac Thyme Gravy
Andouille Cornbread Dressing
Mashed Potatoes with Fennel
Carrots with Sausage & Rosemary

Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse & Vanilla Ice Cream Bombe

Now, you don’t think I’d end this without a recipe for the homemade eggnog, do you?

Homemade Eggnog
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 cups milk
  • Scrapings from 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl and set over a double boiler or a pan of simmering water (being careful not to touch the bottom of the bowl to the water). Add 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the sugar and whisk over low heat until the mixture is pale yellow and thickened, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the milk, vanilla bean scrapings, bourbon and transfer to a large bowl. Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk the egg whites with the remaining sugar until very soft peaks form. Stir the egg whites into the yolk mixture. In a medium bowl, beat the cream until lightly thickened. Fold the cream into the eggnog. Season with freshly grated nutmeg and chill thoroughly. Before serving whisk to re-blend mixture.

Happy Holidays from!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Beautiful Holiday Soups

Nothing will tantalize your holiday guest’s appetites more than a sensational bowl of soup. Winter vegetables or shell fish make the perfect main ingredients for savory soups that will have your guests oooing and ahhhing not only after each delectable bite, but also over exquisite presentations.

Soup as a first course should be served sparingly. Beautiful shallow soup bowls filled halfway or 3/4 to the top are perfect for such an occasion. The purpose of a first course is to tease the appetite, not to fill your guests up before the main course.

Soup can also be prepared ahead, even a day ahead of the meal then simply re-warmed just prior to serving. This is a great help when tackling a holiday dinner with several menu items.

Most elegant soups are prepared in a similar way.

Saute the vegetables which may consist of onions, shallots, garlic, carrots, celery, leeks and other vegetables.
Add dry white wine and reduce until liquid has almost completely evaporated.
Add stock, chicken, fish or vegetable and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until vegetables are very soft.
Transfer to a blender or food processor and puree.
Strain soup to remove solids and return to a clean pot.
Add cream and bring to a boil then immediately reduce heat to a simmer.
Adjust seasonings and keep warm until served.

Once you have the soup, what transforms it from great to spectacular is the presentation and garnishes. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Serve small squash soups in a halved squash shell. Cut a flat spot on the bottom of the shells to make sure they sit solidly on the plates.
Garnish with contrasting colors.
Puree garnish sauces and pour them into squeeze bottles and squeeze a design on top of the soup just before serving.
Place an herb that has been used in the soup on top of the soup for garnish.
Garnish with 2" pieces of chives in the center of the soup and sprinkle chopped chives around the lip of the soup bowl.
The following are a collection of beautiful, out-of-this-world delicious soups that will impress even the most sophisticated gourmet.

Roasted Yellow Pepper & Roasted Tomato Soup
Cream of Mussel Soup
Pumpkin Soup w/Gruyere
Butternut Squash & Caramelized Apple Soup
Butternut Squash Soup w/Mushroom Mousse & Chives
Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Roasted Red Pepper Puree
Cream of Mushroom Soup
Smoked Salmon Bisque
Cream of Shrimp Soup
Orange & Carrot Soup
Roasted Eggplant Soup
Shrimp Bisque
3 Mushroom Consomme

Happy Holidays from!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Gifts from Your Kitchen and Your Heart

My husband’s family gets together every year after Christmas to draw names for the next year’s Christmas gifts. The concept is that each member of the family will buy a nice gift for one person instead of buying less expensive gifts for everyone. This method simplifies the season’s gift buying frenzy, plus our family members are all adults who are difficult to buy gifts for because generally if they want something they buy it themselves.

A couple of years ago, I came up with the idea that since none of us really needed anything and we were all difficult to buy for, why not change the rules a bit. I suggested that we draw names, but instead of buying a gift, we had to make the gift. The gift could be anything, as long as the gift-giver made it him or herself. The result was wonderful. Every person gave great thought about what that special someone would really like and took immense pride in the gift they made. On Christmas day, each person was emotionally vested in watching their gift being opened, I am sure that everyone cherishes the gifts they received that day.

What I learned from that Christmas was that everyone has a talent to create, no matter how ‘non-creative’ they may think they are and that a gift from the heart is far more meaningful both to the gift giver and the receiver.

Have you guessed yet what my gift was? Gifts from the kitchen.

As a side note, everything I cook is always gluten-free and I have no other family member who suffers from Celiac disease, (or not that they know of) still everyone is always delighted to receive gifts from my kitchen.

The obvious choices for food gifts are candy or cookie boxes or holiday quick breads. These are always a welcome gift but there are many other ideas that go beyond sweets.

A great idea is to center your food gift around ingredients indigenous to your region.

I live in the Pacific Northwest, famous for many great foods, most specifically, seafood.

Last year we smoked and packaged many pounds of salmon which made excellent gifts, especially to those who for which Pacific Northwest smoked salmon is truly a delicacy.

When choosing food gifts, take into consideration the durability of the food item. In some cases, your gift will need to survive the post office and at minimum remain fresh for several days. Gifts like smoked salmon or candy are great ‘keepers’ but cookies and other baked goods will perish quickly, especially gluten-free baked goods.

Another great food gift that I have given in the past are rubs. Rubs can be used on any meat, fish or poultry, are easy to make in bulk, and can be packaged in adorable wrappings. I package rubs in decorative little tin cans or small holiday gift bags tied with ribbons.

Use your imagination and you will find that gifts from your kitchen and your heart will be the most treasured of gifts this season.

Kitchen Gift Ideas:
The following are is a rub recipe. Experiment with adding your own signature ingredients to create your own special rub.

Kansas City Rub Makes 2-1/2 cups
  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 1/3 cup paprika
  • 1/4 cup seasoned salt
  • 1/4 cup garlic salt
  • 1/4 cup celery salt
  • 2 Tablespoons onion salt
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 Tablespoons black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
Combine all ingredients and mix well. Rub generously over meat. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes or marinate in refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Store in an air tight container.

For Smoked Salmon visit our Cooking Class Archives for July 2002 Smoked Salmon.

For Beef Jerky visit our Cooking Class Archives for February 2002 Homemade Gluten-free Jerky.

Another great gift is granola. Try our recipe, ‘Glutenfreeda’s Granola’. This recipe is a subscriber rated ‘5 star’ and makes a wonderful gift.

There is an enormous collection on sweet gift ideas in our Recipe Archives. A few great choices are:

Decadent Brownies
Bourbon Espresso Truffles
Orange Pecan Biscotti
Lemon Bars
Stained Glass Cookies
Lace Cookies
Cranberry Nut Bread
Holiday Spritz Cookies

Happy Gift Giving,
- Glutenfreeda