So far in our Food Allergy Awareness Week, we’ve talked about what exactly food allergies are, and how dangerous they can be. Today I’m going to give you some tips for ways you can host your food allergic friends and relatives in your own home.
Knowing the dangers of food allergies, you will not be surprised, I hope, if your food allergic friend is skittish about eating anything other than what they have made themselves. Particularly if it’s actually the parent of a food allergic child! This is the first rule of hosting a food allergic guest, in fact:
- Don’t be offended! Speaking strictly from my own experience, I feel very awkward at times as a guest in other peoples’ homes, because my Certain Little Someone’s allergies create the necessity for me to do some things that are generally regarded as downright rude. For example, I bring his own food – and not enough to share. Or I ask to see the labels of packaged food. Or I ask detailed questions about the ingredients and prep of certain foods that are offered. Or I refuse all of the host’s food altogether. Rude much, yes?! Like I said, it makes me feel incredibly awkward. When a host is gracious and understanding and doesn’t even let off a hint of offense, it makes it so much easier for me to relax and enjoy my time in their home! So whatever your food allergic guest does or does not do, relax. Don’t be offended. And remember: their life (or their child’s life) could be at stake, so to them, it’s worth making a few social errors! Let them.
- Go a step further and be pro-active and open. Don’t wait for them to ask about the labels and ingredients. Have it sitting on the counter waiting for their inspection, and offer it to them. If you know them well enough, and it’s a casual occasion, invite them over to watch (and/or help) as you make the meal so they can really rest easy, knowing there is no risk of cross-contamination. Offer your dishes and your microwave and anything else they may need to heat up or prepare their own food. Can I tell you how much this means to me when hosts are so considerate?
- Talk to your guest beforehand. Chances are, your guest is not likely to ask or even want you to make an allergen-free menu. They will pick and choose what they can eat. However, you can let them know what you plan to cook and what the ingredients are in advance, so they will know if and what they need to supplement. This is also the perfect opportunity to allow them to bring a dish to share. Trust me; they won’t mind. The fact that there will be a polite and discreet way of ensuring safe food at the gathering will be totally worth their effort.
- Focus on food with basic ingredients, like the recipe below. Generally speaking, the more ingredients involved, the more likely there is to be something allergenic. Of course, anyone can be allergic to anything, so even a basic chicken recipe like the one below might prove to be a problem for someone. But knowing your friend’s allergies will help you to construct a simple menu that has the greatest chance of being safe for them. Don’t try to make something fancy, or on the flip side, a casserole. Too many ingredients. Instead, just cook up a piece of meat in a simple way, using olive oil, spices and herbs. For sides, steam or roast veggies, drizzle with olive oil and seasoning (not pre-packaged seasoning because it contains allergens). Chop up a fresh fruit or green salad and serve the dressings on the side. Go ahead and make some bread or rolls, but beware they likely won’t indulge in those if they have wheat or dairy/egg allergies.
- Beware of cross-contamination. This goes for food prep, and food serving. Only use clean utensils, clean plates, and clean pots and pans. Don’t use the same spoon for two different food items. If in doubt, toss it in the sink and grab a new one. At the table, if you’re serving family or buffet style, allow the allergic guest to serve him or herself first so that there is the least likelihood of un-safe food being dropped into safe food, or safe utensils contacting un-safe foods. If children are a part of the gathering, watch them carefully: try to contain them in one place while they eat, wash their hands and face thoroughly when they’re done, and immediately clean up their dirty plate.
- If after all this preparation, your guest still insists on eating their own food, please refer to rule #1. Food allergies can have a way of making even the most relaxed person a control freak when it comes to their food.
And now here’s a QECH recipe that’s allergen-free (by which I mean it’s free of the top 8 allergens, but people can be allergic to anything! Check with your friend before serving.).
Slow Cooker Lemon Garlic Chicken
1 whole chicken
1/4 cup chicken broth or water
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp fresh minced parsley
In a jar (or small container with lid) shake together the broth or water, lemon juice, and garlic. Pour into the bottom of a slow cooker. Remove innards from the chicken, rinse well, and dry. Liberally sprinkle the chicken all over with the oregano, salt and pepper (I just sprinkle with a pretty heavy hand, and rub into surface of chicken. Here are approximate measurements: 1 TBSP oregano, 1/2-1 tsp salt, and 1/4-1/2 tsp black pepper) Place chicken in slow cooker (I like to place them breast-side down) on top of liquid. Cook on high 4-6 hours or on low 8-10 hours. Sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving.
It takes 15 minutes or less to get this going in the crock pot, so I think it qualifies as QUICK! Sure the “slow” cooker takes a while, but it’s not hands-on time, so it doesn’t count.
It’s so EASY, too! Even a beginner cook could handle this recipe.
It’s very CHEAP, as well, whole chickens costing $0.99 or less a pound. The other ingredients are all minimal in cost, as well.
Very HEALTHY! Can’t go wrong with these super basic ingredients!
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