Hosting Dinner for the “Picky” Guest

Allergy Free Lasagna! See recipe at bottom of page.

I often feel like I get the label of “picky” associated to my inability to eat certain foods or at least that is the image I project on to myself. It is in no way a matter of me just not liking something – I would kill to eat ooey gooey cheese sauce all over my nachos or a large chocolate fudge sundae smothered in whipped cream. *sigh* I guess I use the term “picky” in the sense that I have to pick and choose where I can go to eat and what I can eat.

I have only recently began this allergy free cooking journey with the diagnosis of an arthritic condition, so this new way of eating has been bitter sweet. I am starting to feel for those with actual food allergies, except their lives depend on the decisions they make – being a “picky” eater is a matter of survival.

The bitter: If I go out for dinner with friends, I usually try to recommend a place where I have options and not have to send my food back a handful of times (how embarrassing for everyone). Most restaurants are pretty good anymore, but there are some that I have to turn down because I can’t eat most of what they serve. When someone at work brings in treats I usually have to decline, since most desserts are made with egg, milk, and wheat. The worst part was my daughter’s first birthday, when I couldn’t enjoy the cake since it was made with milk, wheat, and egg, and then had to order my own special gluten and dairy free pizza.

What can be more uncomfortable is being a dinner guest at someone’s house. My poor mother-in-law already frets over having dinner guests and now she is confronted with all my food restrictions aka the “picky” eater. She feels obligated to make separate meals and I feel terrible when I have to tell her I can’t eat something – she did spend a lot of time preparing the meal. It has taken me months to get the hang of this (and I still mess up), so telling someone “Thank you for the dinner invite, but I can’t eat the following items…” is something I feel uncomfortable with and need to move past I guess.

The sweet: I have decided to educate people about dietary restrictions, while I learn new things myself! I am by no means a chef or a nutritionist and I have only recently been eliminating foods. I have always loved to cook and rather than eliminate all my favourite dishes I want to learn to convert them into allergy free dishes I can eat and share with others. I figure writing about my successes and failures will in turn help others – why not let me be the guinea pig for a lot of these products and recipes? Hey, I offered!

Cooking for the “picky” guest?

So if you have that “picky” guest coming for dinner, and not sure what to make, keep checking my blog for different allergy free recipes. I will be tweaking my favourite family recipes to make them as free from food allergens as possible.

For now, here are my top 5 ideas for feeding that “picky” guest without making 2 separate meals:

1. Put out raw veggies and fruits for a snack.

2. If you are not a baker, check out some of the local bakeries for desserts that are gluten and dairy free (becoming much more common to find).

3. Stay away from overly complex recipes with a lot of different ingredients – keep it clean! Chances are the more ingredients you put into a dish, the higher the chance I can’t eat it.

4. Let your guests know what is in the food prior to serving, sometimes you may think something is allergy-free and it isn’t (marinades and sauces often have allergens).

5. Who doesn’t love a good lasagna? I was successful in converting my beloved lasagna into an allergy free delight (note: this recipe has been tested on men and children with positive results). Great part of this recipe is that if you are allergic to any of the veggies listed below, just substitute them for something you can eat!

Allergy Free Lasagna – serves 6-8 (dairy free/gluten free/soy free/corn free/egg free)

1lb ground turkey or beef (optional – if vegan just omit or replace with another veggie or beans)

1 medium onion diced

1 tbsp of minced garlic

2 tbsp olive oil or flax oil

1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped

1 stalk of celery, chopped

½ cup green peppers, chopped

1/2 cup sliced mushrooms

1 tbsp dried basil

1 tbsp dried oregano

1 tsp salt

½ tsp granulated sugar

½ tsp pepper

1 can of diced tomatoes (28oz)

1 can tomato paste (51/2 to 6oz)

6 dried lasagne rice noodles

1 cup of crumbled goat’s cheese (alternative: vegan cream cheese spread thinned out with a bit of the tomato sauce mixture)

¼ cup parmesan rice (vegan) cheese (read the labels since some of the rice or soy cheeses still contain milk – must say vegan or dairy free)

2 cups of mozzarella style shreds (great brand is Daiya, http://www.daiyafoods.com/)

Step 1

Heat oven to 375F

For sauce, in a large saucepan cook meet, onion, and garlic over medium heat until meat is brown; drain off fat. Stir in oil, carrots, celery, and green peppers and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add basil, oregano, salt, sugar, pepper, and mushrooms into meat and vegetable mixture. Stir in undrained tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step 2

Meanwhile, cook lasagna noodles according to package directions.

Step 3

In a separate bowl, combine goat’s cheese and parmesan rice cheese (if using vegan cream cheese spread, take 1 cup and thin out with some of the tomato sauce from the meat and veggie mixture. You want to be able to easily spread it out over noodles).

Step 4

Spread a 1 inch layer of meat and veggie sauce over the bottom of a 2-quart (or a larger one would be fine) baking dish. Layer 3 noodles over the dish and trim if needed. Take 1/2 of the goat’s cheese and parmesan mixture (over vegan cheese spread) and spread over noodles. Top with another layer of sauce and 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Layer the last 3 noodles on top and the remainder of the mozzarella cheese over the noodles (you could also sprinkle some more parmesan cheese on top if desired).

Step 5

Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes or until heated through. Let stand for 10 minutes.

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Voila!
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