Parties have always been an interesting time for me. I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease 17 years ago and over the years I’ve always brought along my own gluten free food to parties. Given the many food choices available for people needing an allergy free diet, I continue to be surpised that I still need to bring my own food to parties and other events. Many people feel it’s not their responsibility to cater for those with ‘difficult’ allergies but in today’s society with the rapid increase in the rate of kids with allergies I think it’s time they should. With the array of easy to access allergy friendly products I believe it’s a good host’s responsibility to consider any allergy needs of all their guests.
If you have a long list of allergies then please give the host a break and bring your own stash or shared platters as there is a limit to understanding multiple allergies and intolerances and also a reduction in the easy-to-access foods.
These experiences was one of the many reasons we created quick and easy premixes and why we released our app, allergy free entertaining, so anyone could prepare and present allergy friendly food when entertaining. As a mother to three children under five years old I’ve attended 15 kids’ parties in the last 12 months. Only two hosts provided a decent array of gluten free food for me and a couple of other guests. It was a delight to have both savoury and sweet foods provided and labelled appropriately to ensure we were able to enjoy the food and did not miss out. Unfortunately, most of the time there was no suitable food provided for myself and other guests. I often ended up snacking on gluten free crackers stashed in my handbag! Importantly, I was very concerned for children who attended these parties who had food allergies. It is critical to let your hosts know beforehand about your children’s dietary needs but it would also be good for hosts to ask parents about any dietary needs beforehand. We all want children to really enjoy themselves and not feel excluded.
There are so many food products easily available now which hosts can add to their party shopping list. At the two ‘well catered’ parties the host only served gluten free party lolly mixes. This avoided any mix-ups. They also used simple signs on plates to help the children make safe choices. A few food ideas include:
I include in my party invitations a question about any food allergies and/or intolerances. I can then provide a good range of food and remove any stress on the day.. One of my latest projects is gluten free Cake Pops. They are taking over cupcakes I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading ‘Cake Pops’ by American blogger Bakerella and the below recipe originated from this book.
My kids and their friends had the pleasure of trialing my ‘fail-cakes’ (my mum says to say this quickly so they think it’s a type of cake!!) and loved them. If you’re feeling adventurous why not try these to dazzle your guests and the parents at your next party.
Bake the brownie as directed on the box ensuring you cook it longer for a more ‘cakey’ style brownie. Cool completely and cut into eight pieces. Using your fingers crumb the cake into a bowl until very fine (you may need to partially freeze before crumbling). Add in 220g frosting and using a metal spoon stir until combined. Roll mixture into balls or press into greased cookie cutters for shapes and place on a greaseproof papered tray. Cover with wrap and freeze for about 15 minutes until firm but not frozen or freeze until needed and remove for partial defrosting.
Melt the chocolate on low in your microwave, stirring until smooth and runny. Place into a small deep bowl. Remove a few balls/shapes from the freezer at a time. Make an indent in the ball/shape with the end of the stick. Place the same end into the chocolate and then replace into the hole and push until ½ into the ball/shape. This will help the stick stay in place.
Holding the stick with the cake ball attached, dip the entire cake ball into chocolate swirling until completely covered and remove in one motion. Hold on the side to allow dips to fall off (keep rolling the stick between your fingers for chocolate to set evenly. Run your finger around the base of the cake to seal the cake mixture. This can be the tricky part and result in a few ‘fail-cakes’ but once you get the rhythm it’s easier. Place in Styrofoam block to set and decorate as you wish.
We used the sweet caramel mixture and white chocolate frosting as well.
Beat softened butter, cream cheese and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add icing sugar until combined. Use 220g for cake pops and remaining for cupcakes.
Next time you are invited to a party advise your host of your or your child’s needs and offer to bring a plate to share which may spark their interest in providing other food for the event.
Thank you!! My 5 yo daughter also has Coeliac Disease and I find parties a nightmare. I think you’ve really helped me with this she has a party this weekend that I know will have no gluten free food…thankfully she’s very understanding and will “make do” all the time.
Maria Archer Says:
I love the idea of those Cake Pops will have to give them a try! I always take a plate of GF food to share when the boys are invited to parties! I feel it takes the heat off the host and also allows my kids to know they will have something to eat! As long as there is a “birthday cake” substitute they are happy!
My 9 year old daughter recently was invited to a birthday party held at a rsl kids club. The mum contacted me and asked if I could write a list of gluten free party foods. Then a few days before the party she excitedly told me that all the food at the party was gluten free – the restaurants’, the cake, the party bag…..everything! My daughter had the most wonderful time. For the first time since diagnosis she wasn’t the odd one out at a party. The smiles on her face were utterly delightful.
Even before my almost 4 year old daughter was diagnosed with anaphylaxis (nuts), I always made sure I had at least one thing on the menu (for everything, not just parties) that our allergy friends could eat.
Since my daughters diagnosis I of course have taken that further, as I understand the need even more now. I know some people still say not to cater for them, but like you said, allergies to foods is on the rise so we need to do our part and make those affected feel welcome, by catering for their needs.
Also I think the government is very lacking in their support when it comes to raising awareness, which does not help the situation at all. I wish I had the money and power to change this.
I have found teh most accommodating people to be close friends with children. One family have allergy and intolerance needs, the other there are no issues, but they know how important it is. oh and I cannot forget my SIL who made a cheesecake recently and catered for my daughter 100% buying orgran nut free biscuits, aldi nut free chocolate buds, the lot. It actually brings a tear to my eye when someone goes to this much effort. If only everyone cared that much, or tried to understand.
Jude Lupson Says:
I would like to enter ‘Christmas day 2010’ as my best ‘allergy experience party’.
We have a large extended family and 20 of us gathered at my brother John and sister in-law Julie’s house to celebrate together.
The gathering of family and sharing of time is a wonderful occasion but for families aware of allergies it can also be a difficult time.
I would like to tell you about the food.
There was food, food and more glorious food!
Firstly the meat: ham, turkey, chicken kababs, sausages plus more.
Then there were the salads: potato bake with bacon, potato salad, corn and rice salad, coconut lime rice, cuscus with vegetables, pasta with tomato and salami salad, bean salad, tabuli salad and again the list continues.
Lastly, and to some in our family, most importantly, there were the sweets: cup cakes, birthday cake (it’s my birthday on Christmas day), star cookie Christmas tree, chocolate balls, cherry ripe slice, jelly, honey joys, chocolate tart, custard berry tart, fruit and marshmallow kababs, trifle and I’m sure there were more.
This huge supply of food was enjoyed by all of our family this Christmas.
It was the creation of my dear sister in-law, Julie.
With help from John, her daughter Georgina, her mum Dawn and my mum Helene.
So to most other families this would sound like a generous but normal Christmas Menu.
To a family with food allergies it would sound incredible.
With a lot of hard work, dedication and love my sister in-law was able to create this wonderful day of safe food for not only her son who is a celiac but also for my daughter who has multiple food allergies.
Only a family who deals with food restrictions can truly appreciate this day and the joy it brought to Edward and Charlie.
With all wheat and gluten products being removed for Edward and all peanut, treenut, dairy, egg, soy, pea, kiwi and cantaloupe products being removed for Charlie it was a day of choice for our children.
It was a day of relaxation for me as no allergen triggers were present.
Above all it was a day of joy as we watched children be children not only opening their gifts but also enjoying the plentiful food selections on offer to all.
Thankyou to Dawn, Helene, John and Gina for your help.
Thankyou so much to Julie, your hardwork and kindness will always be remembered for this priceless Christmas gift.
I hope this story inspires other families to supply a menu that all family members can enjoy together.
My daughter is on the Autisim Spectrum and also has a con genital condition in her lower back called Spina Bifida Occulta. This results in nerve damage to her lower abdominal organs and has been chronically constipated since birth. Her peadatrician suggested a gluten & Dairy Free deit just over 12 months ago and her favourite GF foods are Melinda’s Caramel Cakes, although untill recently these were topped by Melinda’s White Choc Biscuits which are no longer available to us!
Luckly I am an avid cook and like to experiment in the kitchen and we have adapted many household favourites to her diet.
We also have quite a high percentage I would think, of our small (60) church family who have varying degrees of gluten intolerances amongst other dietary needs, where every Sunday morning after the service we have morning tea, And every sunday morning there will be something there for all of those people to partake of. Some weeks it may only be cheese & tomato on crackers, but there will be GF, Salt reduced, Diabetic, and usually a dairy free option, and other weeks it’s Thai goodies, or all out cheesecake & chocolate slice, but there is always something for everyone! So we party every week with everything labelled as best we can with lots of help from Melinda’s prepaked mixes which when it’s my turn to do morning tea I usually buy and make the newest thing on the market and use it as an excuse for my fussy daughter to try! By the way if she likes it it doesn’t make it to church it get sliced up & wrapped individually & into the freezer for lunch box treats!
Thanks for all your help and inspiration!!
This month my sister made me my very own gluten free birthday cake from scratch. It made me cry, because this is the first time someone – other than hubby- has ever gone to the effort of making a cake that was ok for me to eat. No apple or pile of dry rice crackers- a whole cake! In my profession I see my role in educating the other chefs and kitchen staff as paramount, the more they accept gluten free food as ‘normal tasting’ the more open they will be to making it themselves for others. I belive in changing the world, one gluten at a time!
How fantastic, I would have cried too!
Great comments everyone – keep them coming as it really helps others to understand our situation and hopefully show a little love towards us!
Thanks for an interesting read. I love the idea of the labelled cupcake holders and flags! I have two coeliac children (7 & 8 year old) out of four who were diagonosed last July. We feel so very fortunate that it was picked up this early as they didn’t have major symptoms.
We haven’t had to deal with too many parties this year, but soon after they were diagnosed they were attending friends parties. Some have been mildly accommodating, but one of the best was a pizza party at a local restaurant. The children all had fun making their own pizza, and fortunately for my son, the restaurant was well informed about gluten contamination. They got him to make his gluten free pizza first with gluten free ingredients, and after his was set aside, everyone else got to make their pizza!
My son is also fortunate that his best friend’s mother is very understanding about food allergies, so when he visits their place, there is never any worry about what to provide, and whether there is contamination or not.
We are fortunate that our children have been coping with coeliac disease very well, and their siblings have been very supportive also. It has made going to parties very easy, as they generally just take a goody box full of food – a GF cupcake (I have a stash in the freezer), some chips, lollies, and one or two other things depending on the situation.
We also have a GF goody box at school too, for whenever the class has special treats (like birthday cakes) at school. The two children have their own sealed container (stored in the teacher’s desk) which has gluten free cookies and colourful mini meringues. They always come home excited when they have had treats out of the box, and they are easy for the teacher to accommodate (rather than getting cupcakes out of the school freezer and having to thaw them) and there isn’t the need for me to know when they are having a special treat at school so I can provide something. I don’t think they ever mind that they get to have something different to everyone else… maybe they think they are a little bit special!
Melissa Curtis Says:
I also feel very blessed to have a great group of friends who are always accommodating to my and my sister’s dietry requirements. I have 3 great friends who have a number of gluten free friends, not just myself so when going to celebrations, get togethers etc, there is never any worry about whether I will be able to eat or not. And because these great people are always accommodating I love to get in helping prepare goodies or always make sure I contribute something aswell. One of my friends has 2 children and always has 3 of us to cater for for birthdays etc so the whole celebration is always gluten free.
There are some truly lovely stories above.
I’m a 26yo mother diagnosed with coeliac’s in 2001. At my daughter’s first birthday last year all the food was GF & nut free and around 90% was dairy free. It was a BBQ to cater for around 24 adults and children with 7 of us with food allergies. I told those that had allergies (myself included) of what foods were ok but said nothing to the ‘normal’ folk, who didn’t appear to notice.
We had everything from sausages, steaks, bread rolls, pasta salad, lollies, chips, slices, biscuits and of course the birthday cake.
A lot of people despair at the thought of allergy free parties but it really isn’t that difficult if the put their minds to it.
Wish us luck for her 2nd birthday in a few weeks