Friday, December 2, 2011

Making a list, checking it twice.

Many people I know are cutting back on Christmas this year, but I'm doing just the opposite... not exactly from choice. It started when my brother in Australia announced that he and his wife would be paying us a visit over Christmas. This would be the first time in ten years so my daughter Clare announced that she and her family had to come and join in the fun. (My son is currently living with us and daughter Jane and family live close by so that's an extra 5 people). Then my daughter Anne from LA asked if she could bring a friend who would otherwise be all alone over Christmas.

So that makes 16. Sixteen people for almost a week.
We are lucky in that we have a big house with enough rooms to put people but I'm currently buying or borrowing air mattresses, a fold up table, and trying to get my list of presents done well in advance.

Then there's the little matter of food. Christmas day is easy. Big brunch then turkey. mince pies, Christmas pudding. The day after Christmas (that we still call Boxing Day) is easy. John's turkey curry.
But the others? I was all set to buy a Costco lasagna until I realized that Anne and her friend don't eat red meat, or dairy and the friend doesn't eat gluten, and my brother and his wife are diabetic and don't eat any refined starches. So I hit on the brilliant idea of a paella one night, a seafood cioppino and brown rice another and one night of soups and baked potatoes.

Any other brilliant suggestions, please? Easy. Dairy free. Red meat free. Refined starch free. And tastes good. What a challenge....

I expect we'll muddle through. I plan to put up a roster so that there are the right number of people to help in the kitchen at all times and I've told John he is on constant food buying runs. And I'm telling myself it will be fun. It will be fun... it will be fun....


  1. My daughter has all kinds of food allergies. You can still make lasagna. Tinkyada and Schar make great gluten free noodles (mostly rice and corn flours). Schar also makes breads. There are many cheeses that are dairy free. Use veggies instead of meat. There are companies that make gravies without wheat or gluten products if you need that for the turkey. Check out sites like Glutun Free Mall or go to a local health food store. Favorite desserts include chocolate no bake cookies. They're a combination of oats, dark chocolate, powdered sugar, dairy free butter substitute and peanut butter. you can also make cookies from ground nuts and honey.

  2. Rhys, this sounds exactly like what's happening in our house, right down to the diabetic and gluten free problems, LOL! I'm going to send your url to my daughter, who will be hosting our mess; at the very least she'll know she's not alone. Ideas? I have no clue, except there seem to be a lot of Indian dishes that are gluten free, etc.

  3. I think you'll have great fun! At most holidays, I look around the table and see 4-5 vegetarians, 1-2 gluten frees, 1 allergic to garlic (so sad), 1 reflux, and 1 seafood allergy. I barely remember their names anymore! Luckily, the people who make choices about the way they eat also like to share their philosophies and expertise. Request their specialties and let them have the kitchen to themselves. Also--make-your-own pizzas with a variety of "crusts" from Whole Foods and a great array of toppings is such a fun way to do dinner--and takes care of breakfast, too, for those who never got over the college habit of cold pizza in the morning. Have fun and happy holidays!

  4. One of my favorite dishes is chicken breasts with sauteed mushrooms (not chicken marsala), served with mashed potatoes. I cook the chicken in a pan on the stove with garlic & olive oil, & sprinkle seasonings on each side of the chicken breast, then I add mushrooms, & when the chicken is nearly cooked through, I add enough water into the pan to cover 1/2 an inch at the bottom, then add some chicken bullion to the mix & set it to boil for a few minutes. I like to make sure there's some of the "gravy" left over, but honestly, the chicken is tender, flavorful & one of the most delicious meals I've made up in a long time. You can always serve it with steamed veggies too. No flour-based starch whatsoever...voila!

    I'm sure you'll have a wonderful holiday with your extended family. :o)

  5. My husband's from India, and we are both vegetarians, although we do eat fish and seafood. Plantains are a good side dish, diced and sauteed in canola oil (he has to watch cholesterol), with turmeric, salt, cayenne and hing, all to taste. Also Eggplant Coriander. (This also diced and sauteed in canola oil with salt, ground dried split peas and ground coriandeer seeds, then seasoned with fired mustard seeds and urad dhal.) Again, a side dish. A good main dish we put over brown rice is Cabbag Kuttu: Chopped cabbage added to boiled chana dhal, and seasoned with ground dried coconut, cumin seeds, and green chilies ( the latter to taste) and then seasoned a second time with fried mustard seeds and urad dhal and curry leaves. If any of these sound good, I can send you the exact recipes.

  6. This is a salad that I really enjoyed. It's refreshing. I am allergic to dairy and gluten. Please cut and paste the following into your browser.

    Is it possible for any of your guests to bring a dish if they live close by? I often do that whenever it's hard for the host to meet my dietary needs. Alternatively, if someone is coming form far away - is there room in your kitchen for them to make something that they can eat and share? It sounds like you may need some help.

    I also make lasagna but I put meat into it. I'm sure that you could make one with rice noodles and veggies and I make my tomato sauce from The Joy of Cooking book.

    Best wishes over the holidays.

  7. Thank you for the great suggestions. We'll be having curry on Boxing day so that's probably enough for the usually non-curry eaters. I'm thinking lovely thick vengetable soups, crusty garlic bread (and slices of ham for the meat eaters)

  8. This is a really, really tasty soup... It needed a bit of oomph at the end - I threw in a handful of cheddar cheese, but you could also mix in a small amount of mashed potato. I also pureed everything prior to adding the chicken. You could also easily use leftover turkey instead of chicken. I like things spicy so I added 2 chipotles. Enough for my daughter and I to each have a big bowl + leftovers to freeze in prep for the next bad cold.

    Chipotle Chicken and Tomato Soup

    Recipe By:
    Serving Size: 4


    Just one chipotle chile (canned smoked jalapeño pepper) adds smoky heat to this top-rated soup. If you want to tame the spice, substitute 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika for the chile.


    1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    1 (15.5-ounce) can navy beans, rinsed and drained
    1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added stewed tomatoes
    1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
    1 chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce, finely chopped
    2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast (about 1/2 pound)
    1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
    1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
    1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


    Combine first 5 ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Partially mash tomatoes and beans with a potato masher. Stir in chicken; cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat; stir in oil. Place 1 1/4 cups soup in each of four bowls. Top each serving with 2 tablespoons sour cream and 1 tablespoon cilantro.


    Nancy Hughes, Cooking Light
    NOVEMBER 2006