By Melissa Stefanec
Have you ever been excited to host a gathering only to have your excitement extinguished by the prospect of meeting everyone’s dietary restrictions? You’re not alone. Gone are the days where everyone on the list is happy with hotdogs, macaroni salad and potato chips and soda. These days, a lot of people are more conscious of what they are putting in their bodies. Most times, that’s a good thing, but it can leave the entertainer frazzled.
So, here is a four-course meal that will have just about every guest on your list happily coming back for seconds.
Appetizer — Hummus Layer Dip
Highlights: Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free (contains sesame seeds), very low sugar
Prepare: Take about 14 ounces of plain, garlic, or Mediterranean hummus, and spread it into a wide, flat dish. In a blender or small chopper, puree 4 ounces of roasted red peppers, ½ tbsp minced garlic, 1 tbsp olive oil and salt to taste. Set aside. In the same container, puree 10 pitted Kalamata olives, ½ tbsp minced garlic, 1 tbsp olive oil and salt to taste. Set aside and rinse the container. Then, take a few of your favorite hot peppers and puree with ½ tbsp minced garlic, 1 tbsp olive oil and salt to taste. Put each mixture over the hummus, using each mixture to cover one third of the top. Sprinkle with finely diced fresh parsley. Serve with fresh pepper strips, cucumbers and baby carrots. You can also include pita chips, for those guests who can eat gluten.
Salad – Roasted Sweet Potato Salad
Highlights: Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free
Prepare: Peel and cube four medium-sized sweet potatoes. In a zip-top bag, mix 3 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp salt, ½ tbsp black pepper, 1 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp garlic powder, and 3/4 tbsp chipotle powder. Add one small diced red onion and ¼ cup dried cranberries. Put the potatoes in the bag and shake until all items are evenly coated. Spread mixture on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 375F for 20 minutes. Turn the oven up higher at the end if you want the potatoes to lightly blacken. Remove from the oven and let the potatoes cool. In the same bag you mixed the potatoes in, mix one seeded and diced poblano pepper with ½ cup honey and the juice of one lemon. Mixed cooled potatoes in the mixture. Place in a bowl and mix with a bag of fresh arugula and whole, pitted olives (optional).
Main Course — Grilled Romaine Salads
Highlights: Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, very low sugar
Prepare: Take heads of romaine lettuce and slice lengthwise. Brush lightly with avocado or olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place lettuce on the grill, cut-side down. Grill until the bottoms begin to brown. Remove from grill and add toppings. Prepare toppings ahead of time and keep them in separate dishes so cross-contamination does not occur. Toppings suggestions: crumbled, crispy bacon; roasted, slice peppers; diced red onion; halved cherry or grape tomatoes; crumbled bleu cheese; shredded parmesan cheese; sliced olives; sliced hot peppers; artichoke hearts; and hard-boiled eggs.
Dessert — No-bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
Highlights – Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free
Preparation: Line a square baking pan with parchment paper. Melt ½ cup coconut oil in the microwave. In a chopper or blender, chop enough gluten-free and dairy-free animal cookies or graham crackers to make 1 cup of crumbs. In a bowl, mix crumbs, coconut oil, 1 cup of powdered sugar and ¾ cup peanut butter (smooth or chunky). Press the mixture into prepared pan. In a small bowl, microwave 1 cup of vegan chocolate chips (some dark chocolate chips and naturally dairy-free) with about 2 tbsp of peanut butter. Stir until combined and spread mixture evenly over crumb mixture. Top with chopped peanuts or chopped peanut butter cups (optional and note that peanut butter cups will add dairy). Refrigerate for about three hours or until bars are set.