Hassle-free Gluten-free Holiday Entertaining

Written by: Carol Kicinski Posted on: November 1, 2016

Holiday entertaining can be daunting for anyone, especially those new to a gluten-free diet. I love entertaining and have learned a lot over the years about how to host without overloading myself with stress.

Entertaining is usually about spending time with people we care about and sometimes about trying to impress someone we feel we need to, like the boss or the in-laws. Regardless of the reason, the result is the same, you are sharing of yourself.

So why not share who you REALLY are and how you REALLY eat? Look at it this way – if you were invited to a person’s home from Ethiopia, wouldn’t you get more from the experience if they served you a traditional meal of theirs than if they tried to make the food you eat every day? The same holds true for gluten-free – sharing the foods you eat and love will give the other person more of an experience of who you are and how you live than trying to feed them food they can get anywhere else.

My rules for entertaining are pretty simple: I prepare food I love with care and hope others will love it also, I keep it as simple as I can so I can actually enjoy my guests, and I try to make everyone who enters my home feel special. I don’t try to be something I am not – like a gourmet French Chef. I just try to be the best of what I am. And you know what? It is enough!

To keep your holiday entertaining hassle-free, here are a few tips:

  1. Organize. As a professional event planner, I always did a timeline for events and I do them for my own parties, as well. Spreading the work over a period of a week is so much easier that trying to get it all done in one day. Figure out what can be done ahead and work it into the schedule. Decorating, shopping, gift wrapping of favors, setting up tables, and even making a lot of the food can all be done ahead. I even set up the bar, put out my buckets that will hold drinks, and put the drinks in them. Then a couple hours before, I just add ice. Easy!
  2. Allocate an hour or so of time before the party for you to relax and get ready; you should enjoy the party too!
  3. Instead of buying costly bottles of water, put out pitchers of water with lemon or lime slices – it’s pretty and economical.
  4. Make a signature cocktail. Stocking a bar with all types of liquors, mixers, and garnishes is expensive and there is a lot of waste. Make one festive alcoholic drink and one non-alcoholic drink, then set out sparkling and still water. If the budget allows, add some sodas, wine, and gluten-free beer. You also won’t spend tons of time during the party making drinks. Have the glasses, ice, and drinks all set up and let people serve themselves.
  5. When buying liquor and wine, always buy it from a place that will let you return unopened bottles. This way if you don’t use it, you don’t pay for it!
  6. If space is an issue, think outside the box. In one house I lived in, I was very space challenged. Fortunately, there was an open floor plan, so I used the kitchen sink as my drink station – I filled it with wine, gluten-free beer, waters, and ice and put out glasses on the kitchen counter. The best part was at the end of the night I just pulled the plug and the water drained away! You can set food out all over the place, on side tables, coffee tables, even chairs if they are stable enough. Make little food stations. It is a lot of fun and encourages mingling around.
  7. The supermarket is your friend! You don’t have to cook everything from scratch. Take help where you can. Scope out the deli section for gluten-free meats and cheeses, frozen, precooked shrimp (thaw and serve with store-bought cocktail sauce – how easy!), fruits, veggies, and nuts. Make one or two really great things and then arrange the rest on platters. Supermarket flowers are inexpensive but may not be the prettiest – buy a couple arrangements then separate the flowers by type or color, put into small vases, and it looks super chic!  
  8. Most of all, don’t bite off more than you can chew – relax, have fun, crank up the music, and spend time with your guests – everyone will enjoy themselves, including you!

A word about Tamari:

I made an entire holiday meal using Tamari in every course, from appetizers to dessert. You might think of Tamari as a typically Asian flavor but in reality, it is an excellent seasoning for poultry, meat, seafood, sauces, and sweets. Due to the amino acids in Tamari, it complements all the flavors of food – sweet, salty, sour, and bitter.

I like to combine Tamari with salt in my brining liquid for turkey and chicken – the Tamari has a rich, smooth, well-balanced flavor and less of a “salty bite” than using just salt. It adds flavor while reducing the sodium content, as I cut the amount of salt I would normally use in a brine. When roasting meats or poultry, it adds depth of flavor, deep color, and helps to ensure even browning.

Tamari deepens the flavor of gravies and sauces and adds nice color, as well.

You might wonder about Tamari in desserts. A little Tamari added to store-bought vanilla ice cream intensifies the vanilla flavor and brings out light, butterscotch notes. The addition of Tamari to chocolate intensifies the chocolate flavor, as well as adding a slight hint of saltiness – it is truly addictive!

Click here to view my holiday recipes with San-J Tamari.