Sweet Indulgences: Navigating food sensitivities around the holidays

Written and photographed by Alycia Chrosniak
 
Centered around family, friends, and loved ones, the holiday season is supposed to be welcoming and inclusive (aside from the usual family drama of course). But for those with dietary restrictions, being a guest at someone’s house can be stressful and possibly ostracizing. Will there be something there for them to eat? What if there isn’t? Should they eat beforehand just in case?
While guests shouldn’t expect an entire meal to be catered around their habits, hosting a party comes with the responsibility of accommodating your guests’ needs. Here are a few hosting etiquette tips for navigating dietary restrictions this holiday season:
Make sure to inquire about your guests’ needs. By asking if there are any allergies or restrictions well before the event, you avoid any uncomfortable realizations the night of.
Be on the lookout for hidden ingredients. A lot of unsuspecting foods can contain allergens, and some we just plain forget about. For example: avoid soy for those with a gluten sensitivity and butter for those who are lactose intolerant.
Offer a variety for everyone. Not all dishes have to cater to someone’s intolerance. By including several options, guests can skip an offending dish while still having alternatives.
Once you’ve gotten past how to handle the restrictions, you have to find the perfect recipe. Here’s where I can help. Every year, my family makes an assortment of holiday desserts: Italian pizzelles, gingerbread cookies, chocolate tarts, you name it. When suddenly we came across egg allergies, celiac and lactose intolerance, we had to alter the usual Christmas spread. We kept the pizzelles, because, well, they’re delicious. But we added meringues which are naturally gluten free, dairy free and nut free, and added egg-free melting moment cookies to the menu as well. I hope that these recipes will become a part of your holiday tradition, as they have mine.
Alycia Chrosniak is a freelance food and travel writer, and the human behind CTEatsOut.com, your guide to the best eats in the state. 
 
 
Pizzelles

 

Makes about 30 cookies

 

Special Equipment:
Pizzelle maker

 

Ingredients:
  • 6 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp anise extract
  • 3 ½ cups flour
  • Confectioner’s sugar for topping

 

Instructions:

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together

Add the butter, vanilla and anise and mix until combined

In another bowl, sift the flour and baking powder together

Add the flour and baking powder mixture to the egg mixture in batches, mixing together in between

Turn on your pizzelle iron

Place one heaping teaspoon of batter onto each grid, placing slightly back and off center

Close the iron and cook according to your pizzelle maker’s instructions, usually about 30 seconds or until lightly golden brown

Transfer to a wire cooling rack and continue with the rest of the dough

Just before serving, put confectioner’s sugar in a sieve and sprinkle over the tops of the cookies

 

To store:
Place in an airtight container for up to two weeks
Melting Moments
(egg free, nut free)

 

Makes about two dozen cookies

 

Ingredients:
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup confectioner’s sugar, plus more for topping
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

 

Instructions:

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, cornstarch and salt, and set aside

In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla until smooth, about 2-3 minutes

In batches, add in the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until incorporated

Cover, and refrigerate the batter until firm, about 1 hour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place a rack in the center of the oven

Line your baking sheet with parchment paper

Once your batter is firm, scoop out full tablespoons of dough and roll into balls

Place them on the cookie sheet, spaced 1-2 inches apart

Bake for 13 minutes, or until the cookies just begin to brown

Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack

Place a piece of parchment paper beneath the wire rack

Put confectioner’s sugar in a sieve and sprinkle the tops of the cookies with the sugar

 

To store:
Place in an airtight container for up to two weeks
Mint Meringues
(gluten free, dairy free, nut free)

 

Makes about two dozen cookies

 

Special Equipment:
Ice cream scoop (optional)

 

Ingredients:
  • 6 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp cream of tartar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp mint extract

 

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F

In a bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy

Add the cream of tartar and salt and continue to beat

Begin adding sugar in small batches, beating well after each addition

Beat the mixture until firm peaks have formed (when the whites hold their shape; if you pull the whisk out of the bowl, a peak will form and the top will fold over on itself)

Add the mint extract

Continue beating until stiff peaks have formed (the peaks will stand straight, the mixture will be white and glossy, and it will feel silky between your fingers, with no sugar particles)

Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper

Using the ice cream scoop (I like this for uniformity, but you can use a large spoon as well), spoon out the meringue mixture and place on the parchment paper, leaving an inch or so in between each scoop

Bake for 90 minutes, until cream colored and firm. Turn off the oven and leave the meringues inside for several hours or overnight, without opening the oven door

When ready to serve, carefully peel them away from the parchment paper

To store:
Place in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days

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