My son has a summer birthday, so it feels natural to have a pool party and barbecue to celebrate his day. As we approach the July 4 holiday, many of you will be hosting pre-firework cookouts.
When I was planning my son’s first birthday party last year, I remember thinking I wanted to be able to have plenty of foods he could eat (and that I could too!). But what if my guests would be offended by the lack of ranch dressing or cheesy dips? I started planning on multiple versions of everything.
Then I stopped.
This was an unsustainable (and frankly, insane) notion. If you have an allergic kid, their birthday and holidays and special events should be safe places. I’ve accepted that not everyone is going to prepare entirely allergy-friendly meals for us. That's totally fine. I have brought our Chipotle takeout and our allergy-friendly snacks to parties before, and I suspect I will again. No big deal.
But if I’m hosting, my kid gets to eat. (He's a picky toddler, so he might not, but still, he should be able to.) And as he gets older and more independent, I don’t want to have to worry about whether he’s grabbing a piece of cheese off a platter. The last thing I want to do on a holiday or ANY day is reach for the EpiPen.
Since I’ve come to this realization, we’ve hosted Labor Day and birthday barbecues and a Thanksgiving that my son could fully partake in (except for mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving, because as I understand it, those are sacred?).
And here’s some pretty cool news, guys: If you do a dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, nut-free, (even gluten-free) cookout, do you know what you are left with? Food. Yummy, delicious, healthy, whole foods. If your guests get annoyed with that, tough. It's one day; they will survive, I promise. Your food-allergic family members should be able to safely enjoy the holiday. That's one of the joys of hosting!
Here’s what we’ve served at past barbecues:
- 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, 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 (gluten-free if you need), 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.
See? Lots of options for lots of taste preferences. Nobody’s going to starve — least of all your allergenic kiddos.