Have you ever struggled when you have to plan a party because you have guests coming who you know are on special diets? Or, perhaps like some of my friends and family, they can’t have gluten, or they don’t eat meat (vegetarian) or may be vegan (no animal products whatsoever). Now, maybe it is just my Italian heritage, but I always make sure I have food for everyone, gluten or no gluten. Although I may eat meat, and I am fortunate enough to have no digestive issues with gluten, I respect anyone’s decision to eat whatever way they want (for example, choosing to be vegan), and I definitely am going to support those who have medical issues with gluten, carbohydrates, or anything else. With the Super Bowl coming up next weekend, I thought it might be helpful to share some of my ideas for feeding everyone. And even if you don’t have any dietary restrictions, here are some of my favorite yummy, healthy and easy ideas for feeding a crowd.
For the Vegans (also gluten free):
Quinoi Bean Salad (can be used as a dip with corn chips (such as Tostito’s) or in a corn tortilla wrap (lightly fry the corn tortilla in a vegetable oil, drain on paper towel and fold in half to fill)
Make a cup of quinoi according to directions (more or less of it, depending on how much you like it). To this add a can of drained chick peas and black beans. I add a diced red onion, a few cloves of chopped garlic, diced grape tomatoes and sometimes diced kalamata olives, and diced avocado. Add salt, pepper, crushed red pepper to taste. Add some fresh chopped cilantro (I use about half a cup, or half a large bunch). You can squeeze a bit of lime or lemon juice on it (I don’t), or add some olive oil (I don’t). This can be made ahead of time, and again, used as a dip, a salad, on a wrap or gluten free corn tortilla.
For those who are vegetarian but do eat dairy, you can add some melted cheese to the tortilla, or add some feta to the cold salad.
Vegetarian Chili (can be used as a dip also, and you can modify for those who do eat dairy by leaving cheese on the side to add, be sure it is a gluten free brand such as Sargento). This is also known as “Puerto Rico Chili” because I made this while on vacation with a bunch of my friends and their spouses. We rented a beautiful home near the beach in Rincon, PR. That day I stayed at the house while they all went to the beach. It ended up down-pouring a torrential but brief rain, and I was happy to be there cooking!) Although they may have had more fun sitting at the Tiki bar watching the waves on one of the most beautiful beaches on earth…
Anyway, everyone adds their own twist to their chili, I never make one batch the same as another. But typically, I first saute a few cloves of garlic and an onion, also a diced stalk of celery, then add 2 large cans (28 oz) of diced tomatoes, about a cup of vegetable broth (I keep the cubes on hand). I then may add some red wine (maybe 4 oz) and simmer a few minutes. Add drained canned beans (kidney, black beans, cannellini beans and chick peas). I add a diced red and a green pepper. I may scrape some fresh corn from a cob or use a bit of frozen corn (optional). I also add some shredded carrots (half cup or so). For seasoning I add cumin (2-3 teaspoons), chili powder (~3 Tbsp), black pepper (1-2 teaspoons), salt (1-2 teaspoons), a dash crushed red pepper and sometimes hot sauce. This can simmer for hours on low while you make your other stuff, then can sit warmed in a crock pot for people to help themselves. Even meat eaters love it! Spread on tostitos for nachos, with cheese and guacamole on the side. Or use in wraps, add fresh greens, salsa, avocado, whatever you love.
Marion’s Baked Eggplant (can’t take credit for this one, it comes from my best friend Marion who is a wonderful cook and inspiration to her dietitian friend!)
Wash an eggplant and slice with skin on (thick slices, about 1/4 inch). Dip slices lightly in rice flour, then beaten egg (to make vegan just use water), and then gluten free bread crumbs (I get Italian seasoned). Bake on a dry cookie sheet at 400 degrees for ~15 minutes (a fork will go in easily, the outside is a bit crispy, inside mushy). Do not turn over. Remove from oven and layer with Victoria’s Marinara Sauce (delicious and gluten free). Once assembled, bake in the oven to heat up. We usually add shredded mozzarella for the vegetarians, but you can use a soy cheese for you vegan friends.
Roasted Red Pepper White Bean Dip
You can use 7 oz of roasted red peppers from a jar, but I rather roast them myself. Clean and slice in half about 3 red peppers, Oil a cookie sheet and roast peppers on high heat (400 degrees) until they are soft and browned (about 20 minutes, turn halfway). Cool. Blend in a food processor: the roasted peppers, 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, 16 oz cannellini beans (drained), 1-3 cloves garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar and at the end add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Blend until smooth. This also can be made ahead of time and kept for a few days. Serve with any gluten free chips.
For the Vegetarians
Chili Dip (also gluten free)
Use the vegetarian chili you made earlier, or purchase your favorite canned veggie chili. On the bottom of a flat casserole dish, spread a thin layer (1/3 inch) of cream cheese. Layer this with the vegetarian chili, top with a layer of shredded cheddar cheese and sliced jalapeno peppers (the kind you get in a can, drain first). Bake or microwave until cheese is melted. This is a great last minute appetizer, and I always have the ingredients on hand (frozen chili almost always there because I make so much there is enough to freeze). Serve with Tostitos.
I discovered a fish taco seasoning packet that I absolutely love, and these take no time to make. It is made by Ortega and is allergy free. All you do is mix it with water and marinate your fish (I like cod but you can use shrimp or any white fish) for just a few minutes (the directions are on the package). The fish cooks very quickly in a non-stick frying pan (about 3-4 minutes each side depending on the fish). We like to fry our corn tortillas quickly in vegetable oil then drain and fold in half. Add your fish, cheese,salsa, lettuce or coleslaw (see recipe below for yummy homemade coleslaw dressing!)
I buy the package of already shredded stuff. You can just buy the bottled dressing but I found this great recipe scribbled on a piece of paper, probably from some old cookbook or on-line: Mix half a cup of mayonnaise, 2 Tbsp sugar, 1 Tbsp vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 and a half Tablespoons lemon juice. YUM.
Sweet Potato Black Bean Quesadillas
Peel cook and mash a few sweet potatoes, you will need 1.5 cups (add salt and pepper to taste). Set aside. In one tablespoon olive oil saute 2 minced cloves garlic and a diced onion till soft, add a 15 oz can of (drained) black beans, 1 teaspoon each cumin and dried oregano, and 1 tablespoon lime juice, heat through. You can use flour tortillas or corn if you want gluten free. Spread 1/4 of the sweet potato over tortilla, then spread 2 tablespoons shredded Monterrey Jack cheese, followed by a layer of fresh baby spinach leaves, then more cheese and top with another tortilla. Grill 4-5 minutes on each side until cheese melts. These can be made without the cheese to keep them vegan. They are delicious cut into quarters and served with salsa and guacamole.
Use your imagination and invent your own quesadilla! Saute some portabella mushrooms with red onion, layer with spinach and cheese, or for your meat eaters, add sliced chicken or cooked spicy chicken chorizo. The possibilities are endless.
Shrimp Cocktail: no recipe, but always a hit! You can buy the frozen already cooked and just defrost before the game. Serve with cocktail sauce. Always a good go-to fast healthy appetizer.
Another fast and easy favorite of mine. I just saute salmon that I have seasoned with a sprinkle of Old Bay Seasoning (a stand by of mine for all fish). I use a little butter and cook in a frying pan until the fish flakes when you twist a fork in it (usually not more than 5 minutes each side depending on the thickness). I serve on small dinner size potato rolls with yet more coleslaw! But you can also serve with a thick slice of ripe tomato and lettuce, chips on the side, now it does not get better than that! Well, maybe add a glass of nice cold chardonnay.
For the Meat Eaters
Crock Pot Swedish Meatballs
My husbands favorite easy appetizer. To a crock pot add a bag of frozen meatballs (~2 lbs), the small Swedish ones, although I have used the Italian ones and it is still good. Add a 16 oz container of sour cream, a can of Cream of Mushroom Soup, a cup or 2 of sliced fresh mushrooms, and 3 good dashes Worcestershire sauce. Cook in the crock pot on low for several hours until the meatballs are cooked. My crock pot is old and it can take 6 hours. You don’t need to worry about overcooking if on low. Serve these with small snowflake rolls.
Quick Pesto Chicken Pizza
An easy favorite! Use already cooked chicken (buy a rotisserie chicken or one of the “quick” sliced cooked chicken packages). For the crust I use Boboli brand, then spread with Bertolli’s prepared pesto, add some diced or sliced cooked chicken, sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese, sliced kalamata olives, and then some shredded mozzarella. Bake according to directions on Boboli package, or just until chicken is heated and cheese melts. This is easy and delicious. Mix it up by adding some sun dried tomatoes or artichoke hearts.
Boneless Chicken Thigh Hot Wings
Brown about 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs in heated oil for 4 minutes on each side. Place in a baking dish and cover with sauce:
Combine 1/4 cup hot sauce, 3 tablespoons melted butter, 2 Tbsp. water, 1 Tbsp. white vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.
Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. You can double this recipe. These are healthier and tastier than the classic fried wings. I can’t take credit for this recipe, but I don’t remember where it came from…..I have it scribbled on a piece of torn paper, like many of my favorite recipes, always in a rush I suppose!
So there you have it, just a few of my favorite recipes which are bound to make everyone happy and most of which you can make the night before and just heat up. I always have the staples such as a platter of cheeses, olives, crackers and red grapes, good old potato chips and dip, and purchased hummus with pita chips if you don’t have time to make your own. I don’t enjoy making desserts (too much thinking, you have to measure, not fun to me!) but I personally may pick up something made at the store bakery just to keep it easy (something that does not require forks or plates, such as brownies or cookies). There is always fruit and ice cream for the gluten free folks. Oh, and I neglected to talk about drinks….no recipes from me (although we sometimes experiment with Sangria…wine looks so pretty with fruit floating in it…making it even MORE healthy!). Do remember, though, many people do not drink and so have those water bottles on hand along with other alcohol-free beverages.
Although I do love football, the most important message I wanted to share was this: enjoy the Super Bowl, enjoy the commercials and enjoy your Super Bowl food. But, always remember to consider your guests and their needs. Respect their personal choices, and definitely respect those who have medical or digestive issues. Nobody wishes that upon themselves, dietary restrictions are not fun, and repercussions of mistakes often painful. And some people, regardless of allergies, restrictions or whatever, just plain like to have healthy but yummy choices.
So who am I routing for? My son lives in Colorado so I may have to go with Denver….plus I love the thought of an older person going out in style…..