Bringing Gluten-Free To The Cookout

cookout HP

Lucky you! You’ve been invited to the weekend barbecue, the pool party, the company picnic, a block party, a graduation bash, or maybe just a simple pot-luck in your neighbor’s backyard (those are my favorite)! Now, what will you bring so you can be sure that there is something gluten-free on the menu that you can safety eat? 

The good thing about gluten-free party food is that some of the things that everyone loves to have at a party are already G-free! And others require just a few simple tweaks to render them safe for those who avoid gluten. Whatever you decide to bring, be sure to label it as gluten-free so others can be in-the-know, too. (And ok, so this post isn’t exactly a nutrition article, but I couldn’t resist the need to provide some ideas just in time for the kickoff of the summer party season.)

We’re assuming that you’re not in charge of providing the main course at the upcoming shin-dig, so here are some of our favorite ideas for totable gluten-free foods to round out the meal…summer sangria

Drinks: Start with the obvious—gluten-free beer! But also consider new gluten-free light cider from Michelob (I haven’t tried it yet, but we noticed it’s new and sounds yummy). Of course, homemade lemonade or limeade is always nice, too—and good for all ages of guests. Summer sangria made with white wine and summer fruits (sangria is one of my party staples), mojitos made with some of the mint that’s taking over your garden, or tote along the mixing for wine spritzers and toss a few frozen raspberries, grapes or blueberries into each glass.

Apps: It’s summer, so hot apps aren’t the best choice and really, who wants to be in a hot kitchen before a party? Concentrate your efforts on pre-made, room temp or chilled appetizers. If you’re pressed for time you can always go the cheese and cracker tray route, but for just a little bit more time and effort you could bring something you created! If you haven’t tried it yet, the Parmesan Chex Mix Kim recently cooked up is delish, easy and enjoyed by guests of all ages. A room temp quiche or frittata featuring summer veggies is a chic way to go if you’re feeling really foodie and grown-up. If you’re just looking for something cool, easy and yummy, go with a really good dip and G-free crax or veggie dippers. Think outside the usual carrots and celery–make it special with Belgian endive leaves, cucumbers sliced lengthwise into 4-inch long “planks” (a mandoline makes this easy), garden-fresh sugar-snap or snow peas, unusually-colored carrots or cauliflower (I’m partial to the purple cauliflower), or the cute little mini-sized sweet peppers we’ve been seeing more of lately. The mini peppers also are great for stuffing with a bean dip or herbed cheese, too.gazpacho shootersGazpacho “shooters” are awesome and easy, as the soup mixes quickly in the blender. All you’ll need is small plastic cups to serve it in—or go high style and make little cucumber “cups” for it like in the pic! Mexican layered dip (cream cheese, fat-free “refried” beans mixed with salsa, and topped with layers of shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, chopped tomato and sliced scallions) is always a favorite and can be made ahead of time and served with tortilla chips. Melon wrapped with fresh basil leaves, marinated fresh mozzarella and of course, a nice olive platter or bowl of homemade spiced nuts is always a good stand-by.

Sides: Some things are simply mandatory at a cookout, it seems, and thesepotato salad include one or more of the following—coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans, macaroni salad and three-bean salad. Choose your favorite and be happy that most of these standard side dishes are already gluten-free or are easily tweaked to be so. Of course, we’re partial to our own tasty recipe for Vegetarian New England-Style Baked Beans, which have the extra benefit of being slow-cooked so you won’t be melting in your kitchen all day. Make sure you read labels for all condiments used in making your salads (of course), and then prepare to dazzle your friends with how delicious gluten-free salads can be (and how perfectly acceptable gluten-free macaroni or rotini can be, too)!

semifreddoDessert: Everybody’s favorite part of the meal, right? We like to focus on fruit in the summer because, well, that’s when fruit is best, most plentiful and most economical! Grilled fruit (bring it prepped and ready to throw on the grill–you’ll need to scrape it down really well before putting fruit on it) drizzled with honey or sprinkled with coarse brown sugar and topped with Greek yogurt is divine, simple and healthy. You could also top it with a scoop of sorbet and a sprinkle of finely chopped fresh mint or basil. Show off your gluten-free baking skills if you like, but we prefer to stay out of baking mode in the summer. For us, a giant pan of gluten-free crispie bars (the peanut butter ones are good too) do the trick if kids are around. A semifreddo (Italian for “half-cold”) is a cream-based frozen dessert usually made in a bread pan and cut into thick slices. Served with berries and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, it’s sophisticated, yet easy. Or how about a trifle? This is another of my signature desserts that shows up at pretty much every party I throw (summer or winter—ask my friends)—I just vary it according to the season. It’s perfect party food because it’s easy to assemble, it’s done ahead of time (a day ahead is perfectly fine), and a trifle can feed a big crowd of folks. Berries and lemon curd (or homemade G-free custard), and cubed G-free angel food cake is very suitable for summer.

I could go on and on with more ideas (I left out so many yummy things you could do!), but you get the point. There is a vast array of gluten-free party food you can bring to summer festivities. Show off your kitchen skills, and you’ll also show everyone how delicious gluten-free eating can be!

Photo credits: Bon Appetit magazine, Stonewall Kitchen, Betty,

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