Hosting a Labor Day BBQ? Going Allergy-Friendly Is Simple

 Make your BBQ safe for the food-allergic members of your family, but still delicious for everyone. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Make your BBQ safe for the food-allergic members of your family, but still delicious for everyone. (Photo: Thinkstock)

After we landscaped our backyard a few years ago, my husband wanted to have his whole family over. He wanted this to be a family tradition. It's one of the last swim weekends of the year ... the unofficial a farewell to summer (even though here in Phoenix it will be pretty hot for a few more weeks still).

For our first Labor Day BBQ, my son was just a few months old, so we could do cheeseburgers and potato salad and mac and cheese ... Anything we wanted. Since then, though, we've been managing his allergies. And I've worked to make sure that everything on the table is something he can have.

(Admittedly, I've been known to go ahead and do deviled eggs at Easter even though my son's allergic, but in general, I feel like he should have no restrictions in our house.)

But the question often arises: What about the other guests? What if they want cheddar on their burgers or can't live without coleslaw? I get it, but at the same time, I'm the one throwing this party, and a few times a year, my kid shouldn't have to be told he can't eat what everyone else is eating.

So, if you're grilling this weekend, here are several food options to consider. If you have food-allergic members of your family, you can still cook delicious grub that everyone can safely enjoy.

Happy Labor Day!

  • Grilled chicken thighs/breasts. I like my personal marinade. But you can also buy marinades or just grill plain and serve with a sauce.
  • Grilled chicken wings. For my son’s birthday this year, I did a Bobby Flay recipe that I love, but I’ve also done a basic olive oil/salt/pepper rub and then post-grilling, covered with sauce.
  • Grilled hot dogs. You can get the all-beef variety to assure no soy; buns are optional in my book.
  • Grilled burgers. Again, buns are optional depending on your needs. You could introduce guests to the lettuce wrap option.
  • Coney Island sauce. This is great for the hot dogs, and if you do have burger buns, guests could make a little sloppy joe too.
  • Tortilla chips. Who doesn’t like a little salsa and guacamole? (The Coney sauce works here too.)
  • Potato chips. As long as you avoid cheese- and sour cream-flavored varieties, you should be fine.
  • Relish tray. Pickles, olives, pepperoni, salami. (Add cheese if dairy isn’t an issue for you.)
  • Pasta salad. Cook up some pasta (with rice pasta if you need gluten-free), and then mix ‘n’ match your favorite ingredients: salami or other meat, jarred artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh asparagus, cucumbers, fresh arugula or spinach, fresh cherry tomatoes, olives, etc. Then, add a simple dressing of olive oil and red wine vinegar (my fave) or OO and balsamic vinegar with some salt and pepper, maybe some fresh basil. Or take it in a Tex-Mex direction with chilies, tomatoes, chorizo, corn and black beans with a cilantro vinaigrette. 
  • Grilled asparagus. (Season with olive oil, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper.)
  • Grilled corn on the cob. (Season with OO, salt and pepper, and herbs if you’d like.)
  • Grilled zucchini and squash. (Season with OO, salt and pepper, and herbs if you’d like.)
  • Grilled bell pepper. (Season with OO, salt and pepper, and herbs if you’d like.)
  • Fresh fruit. Watermelon, berries, mangoes and pineapple hit the spot this time of year. 
  • Grilled fruit. I’m experimenting with this personally, but I say go for it.

For dessert, you can do allergy-friendly cookies and ice cream or wacky cake. Or just let the fruit be dessert (maybe do some coconut milk whipped cream or dark chocolate sauce to dip).