Entertain with Confidence

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It’s here. The unofficial start to summer—Memorial Day weekend. The weekend when we can “without judgment,” wear our fancy sandals; “without being reminded,” wear our sunscreen; and “without fear” (or maybe some fear), wear our entertaining hats. Are you ready?

So this entire week, the Food Network has been spotlighting “Grilling,” just in time for the holiday. Most food magazines, and food blogs are highlighting a bevy of burgers and steaks. Even my favorite mag, Whole Living, has a burger on the cover, albeit a turkey burger, but a burger nonetheless. Go figure.

But what if you don’t eat meat? And for that matter, what if you can’t eat the bun?

Did you know that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies? Besides allergies, there are sensitivities, intolerances, aversions, and plain old “No thank you, I’ll take a pass on that.” Because of this, it’s harder than ever to plan a party while making sure all of your food bases are covered. You don’t want your guests going home hungry, or worse yet, sick.

Most families have one, if not more than one person who has some sort of food restriction, either medically or self-imposed. And our family is no different. Between my gluten allergy, our mother’s gluten sensitivity, our son’s and niece’s lactose intolerance, my sister’s vegetarian family, and Mr. S’s garlic and onion aversion, we are not an easy bunch to cook for. But leave it to my incredible and extremely creative sister Cathy, to crack the code on this dilemma. I thought I’d share with you the menu she devised and the food she cooked to satisfy our highly sensitive family for last week’s Mother’s Day dinner. You can serve these foods all summer long to your family and friends. They are bound to please even the pickiest eaters. Oh, and besides the food, Cathy sets a pretty dynamite table. Check it out!


Hors d’oeuvres

Tuscan Bean Dip
Gigante White Beans
Gluten-free Bagel Chips
Homemade Roasted Cashews

Buffet Dinner

Grilled Marinated Chicken Breast (for the carnivores in our family)
Grilled Halloumi Cheese (for the vegetarians, however we meat-eaters couldn’t get enough of this)
Herbed Grilled Vegetables
Brown Jasmine Rice
Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette


Chocolate cake – gluten-free, and dairy free
Fresh Fruit

Needless to say, we didn’t go home hungry.

Cathy’s selection of hors d’oeuvres covered all of our needs. They were gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian.

Serve Bobbie’s Tuscan White Bean Dip in a bowl decorated with chopped celery. Drizzle your favorite extra virgin olive oil on top. Glutino (gluten-free) bagel chips are used to scoop the dip and then top with a Gigante white bean. So yummy!

Freshly Roasted Cashews

Cathy bought raw, unsalted cashews and roasted them on a sheet pan.

It’s important to roast nuts on a low temperature, not higher than 170 degrees. Higher temperatures will break down the fats in the nuts and cause the production of free radicals, which could lead to health problems. So roast low and slow…15-20 minutes will work.

When done, she sprinkled olive oil, salt, and pepper on the cashews for this homemade warm nibble. If you don’t like cashews, any nut will work. Healthy and delicious.

Grilled Marinated Chicken Breast

Our mom, aka The Chicken Chick, makes an awesome barbecued chicken. She swears the secret is to buy a sauce that you love. Well, that may be true, but she also adds some special touches. Here’s her trick: First she buys a favorite gluten-free barbecue sauce, and then she thins it out with a little orange juice and a bit of grapeseed oil to make a marinade.

She then slathers this on the chicken, and places it in the fridge overnight to marinate. In the morning she flips the chicken over and lets it sit for another couple of hours in the fridge. She lets the chicken come to room temperature before Dad or one of her three sons-in-law cooks it on the grill. Fabulous!!

Grilled Halloumi Cheese

If you are on a gluten-free diet, you’ll think you died and went to heaven. Eating Grilled Halloumi Cheese (click for recipe) is like eating our long lost friend, the grilled cheese sandwich. Also, for those who are lactose intolerant, you might be able to stomach this cheese. Halloumi is a soft curd-like sheep’s milk cheese, similar to Feta. It’s salty and rich, and when grilled it transforms into the most amazing palate pleasing parcel of pure perfection. It develops a strong savory taste, with a slightly creamy texture.

Simply slice into 1-inch pieces; coat with a bit of grapeseed oil, sprinkle with dried thyme or oregano and grill on medium heat for 2-3 minutes on each side and it’s done. You can also use a grill pan or non-stick sauté pan.

Herbed Grilled Vegetables

Fresh herbs from the garden were cut and mixed with grapeseed oil, which we coated the veggies with before grilling.

Brown Jasmine Rice

Jasmine rice is a flavorful long-grain rice originally grown in Thailand. It cooks up moist and tender and has a delicate and aromatic scent.

Don’t forget to rinse your rice first to remove any dust or stone particles before putting it into the pot with water or broth.

Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

A simple balsamic vinaigrette allows the flavors of the veggies to shine through.

Dessert-Chocolate Cake and Fresh Fruit

Cathy found this terrific baker who makes organic gluten-free, dairy-free and nut-free cakes, cookies, and muffins all from local, whole-grain and in-season ingredients. Her name is Lori Smith and her company is called Dream Bakery. She can be reached at (215) 641-1375 or email: las9@comcast.net

No photo here because the cake was finished before I could get my camera.

So, my happy hosts and hostesses, I hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend. As always, remember that moderation is the key…except when it comes to sunscreen and smiles!!!

Until Next Time,
Be Well,
Suzy 😉

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3 Responses to “Entertain with Confidence”

  1. Max Calder

    I’ve never even heard of Halloumi cheese…!? And here i thought i knew a thing or two..! But after your description I can’t wait to try it!

    • Suzy

      Thanks Max. I think you’ll love it. It goes nicely with your favorite guacamole too. And of course a special once in a while Margarita is also nice.


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