You're hosting a holiday feast and plan to prepare a mouth-watering spread.
But along with your special bread stuffing and your fabulous apple pie, you're concerned with making appropriate dishes for your aunt with diabetes, your cousin who cannot tolerate gluten, your best friend who follows a vegan diet and her paleo-diet spouse.
Guests who must avoid gluten or manage their diabetes might present the greatest recipe challenges, but you can help by keeping track of ingredients and offering easy food alternatives to safeguard their health.
For gluten-free diners, substitute cornstarch for flour as a thickener, said Mary Kay Sharrett, a registered dietitian at the Celiac Disease Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
Check processed food labels for wheat. For example, two ingredients in the classic green bean casserole — canned cream soup and canned fried onions — might include flour.
Make a delicious stuffing using gluten-free cornbread or wild rice. You also can buy gluten-free bread for stuffing.
“That might be a safer option than baking yourself,” Sharrett said.
People with diabetes should make their own decisions about what to eat, said Jennifer Stack, author of the Culinary Institute of America cookbook, “The Diabetes-Friendly Kitchen” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012).
“They're deciding what their diet budget is for carbohydrates and saturated fat,” Stack said. “But you also can make some easy switches to lighten carbohydrates and fat.”
For example, when making bread stuffing, increase the proportion of vegetables and decrease the bread.
Add lots of celery to the stuffing, which Stack said “will add flavor and hardly anything in the way of carbs.”
The fat in au gratin vegetable dishes can be trimmed by using whole milk instead of cream and switching to a reduced-fat version for half the cheese.
If your recipe calls for “carb-intense” dried cranberries, use frozen raspberries instead.
“You'll get the red color,” Stack said.
Rethink the traditional pie for guests with diabetes or who must avoid gluten.
“The crust adds a lot of carbohydrates and calories,” Stack said.
She recommends replacing the pie with a crisp or crumble. Prepare a topping with oats, which are available gluten-free, and walnuts.
Following are recipes for classic holiday dishes, with tips on how to amend each for four diets — gluten-free, vegan, diabetic-friendly and paleo.
Cornbread, Mushroom and Sausage Stuffing
Makes six servings
1 (5-inch square) piece of cornbread, cut into ½-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large celery rib, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped (1 cup)
4 cups sliced shiitake mushroom caps
8 ounces raw Italian pork sausage
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
½ cup chicken broth
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place cornbread cubes on baking sheet. Toast in oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove; set aside.
Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add celery, onion and mushrooms. Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add sausage, breaking up with a spoon. Cook until sausage is no longer raw, stirring occasionally, five to 10 minutes. Add salt, pepper, sage and broth. Stir well. Add toasted cornbread. Stir gently.
Spoon into shallow 10-inch-round casserole. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Heat 15 to 20 minutes.
Gluten-free: Use gluten-free (GF) cornbread mix. Check sausage ingredient list.
Vegan: Make cornbread from a mix, eliminating dairy and eggs. Use soy-based sausage instead of pork. Replace chicken broth with vegetable broth.
Diabetic-friendly: Increase the vegetables, decrease the cornbread and substitute chicken- or turkey-based sausage for the pork.
Paleo: Skip the cornbread. Prepare the vegetables, adding nitrite- and gluten-free sausage. Eliminate or use modest amount of iodized sea salt.
Chunky Apple and Cranberry Sauce
Makes six servings
3 large apples, cored, peeled and diced
2 cups fresh cranberries
¼ cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup apple juice
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
Place apples, cranberries, maple syrup, apple juice, sugar, cinnamon and salt in medium pot. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot and cook for 30 to 40 minutes or until fruit is tender and liquid has mostly evaporated.
Check occasionally and stir. If sauce seems dry before fruit is done, add a little more apple juice.
Gluten-free: No changes.
Vegan: Use raw sugar.
Diabetic-friendly: Decrease the maple syrup, increase the apple juice and use sugar substitute in place of sugar.
Paleo: Serve a baked apple, filling the core with chopped nuts
Roasted Broccoli with Toasted Bread crumb Topping
Makes six servings
1½ pounds broccoli, cut into thin stalks
Olive oil cooking spray
3/8 teaspoon salt
¼ cup breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons shredded fontina and Parmesan cheese combination
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon crushed dried thyme
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place broccoli on baking sheet. Spray with cooking spray and sprinkle on salt. Roast 20 minutes or until half tender. Remove. Flip broccoli over.
Mix together bread crumbs, cheeses, pepper and thyme in a bowl. Evenly sprinkle over broccoli. Return broccoli to oven and bake until just tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove.
Gluten-free: Use gluten-free breadcrumbs.
Vegan: Eliminate cheese or use vegan cheese substitute.
Diabetic-friendly: No changes.
Paleo: Lightly drizzle broccoli with olive oil. Season with thyme and pepper. Roast.