I’ve been watching for an excuse to host a party that could serve as a bit of a guide for how to host guests with food intolerances, restrictions, allergies or other limitations. I wanted to share information on how to make everyone feel invited, to feel welcome, to feel like they were included in a party. And I wanted it to be relatively easy to do, so anyone could pull it off. I really wanted you to be able to say, “Everyone’s Invited!”
I invited my friends over for a Summer Solstice celebration. Even though I’m in the special event business and am a Go-Big-or-Go-Home girl, I like a fun, informal backyard soiree. Not a lot of planning, not everything from scratch and certainly not everything in place in my house. I hope my guests overlooked that I didn’t have time to mop before they came over, that my lawn furniture is a mish mash of what I can round up at the last minute. If I waited for everything around here to be perfect, we’d never have company!
While I mentioned I wanted to make this a guide, it ultimately became a list of resources for an easy backyard gathering. When I started writing this post, I quickly realized it could become more of a book than a blog-post if I wrote everything I wanted to about hosting allergen-friendly events. So I’m going to keep this simple, just a starting point.
To meet the needs of my guests, everything offered was gluten-free and dairy-free with options for Vegans, those who are soy-free and those who limit their refined sugar intake. It was absolutely not difficult, all but two ingredients used were available at my local super market. What I’m sharing is really just the tip of the iceberg. It does show you can host an event that most can attend and feel comfortable enjoying the food, an event where everyone is invited!
A couple of tips: label everything you serve. I used these cute flags from HGTV for food markers and added a simple GF, DF, V, etc…to each item. Those of us who have to be dairy-free will understand DF and Vegans will get the V. It is also a good idea to keep the full ingredient list handy for those with additional dietary concerns. If you are not gluten-free and are hosting a gluten-free guest, have a discussion with them about how to best handle their visit. We’re happy to share what keeps us safe, which includes keeping anything with gluten-full ingredients away from anything we can eat.
I kept it simple with cupcakes, baking a batch each of chocolate and vanilla. I made them gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, refined sugar-free, soy-free but far from flavor free. I wanted to make sure everyone could indulge in a cupcake and still respect their dietary plan. And I also wanted to test both recipes on children, because they are a tough audience, they will tell you if your cupcakes aren’t tasty. These pass the test!
Because I’ve not yet perfected a refined sugar-free frosting, I did use a vegan powdered sugar to make my buttercream frostings. I also used backyard eggs to make this wonderful marshmallow fluff, which proved to be a popular topping on cupcakes AND ice cream! The kitchen torch was available for adults to toast the fluff. A few of us had s’mores cupcakes, so fun!
For ice cream, we had two flavors from So Delicious, chocolate and vanilla. I scooped the ice cream into individual cups ahead of time and stored them in the freezer, which made things much easier. So Delicious is my absolute favorite non-dairy ice cream. It fools “regular” ice cream eaters every time I serve it. We had Creamy Vanilla which contains soy and Chocolate, made from coconut milk and sweetened with agave. I was careful to watch the refined sugar in as many ingredients as possible.
Initially, I planned to have separate cupcake and ice cream toppings, but realized many work for both. Here’s a list of what I served:
Ah!Laska Organic Chocolate syrup (this is decadent, very rich, love it!)
caramel agave from FunFresh Foods
strawberry agave from Wholesome Sweeteners
Udi’s Au Naturel Granola
Udi’s Chocolate Chia muffin tops, broken up for brownie-like bits in sundaes
Fresh blueberries, local goodness!
Toasted coconut, I like Let’s Do Organic’s variety
homemade maraschino cherries, free of refined sugar and food coloring!
SurfSweets gummy bears, swirls and worms (Should have bought more, they were popular!)
Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips
Butterscotch and white chocolate chips from Lieber’s
Sprinkelz organic confetti sprinkles
An easy self-serve drink station with water and lemonade worked really well for our group of friends. Striped and polka dotted paper straws are always a hit!
We had so much fun making cupcakes and sundaes…
We chased chickens around the yard…
Hula hooped, sometimes while making cupcakes…
And made giant bubbles.
Nothing fancy about it, just simple cupcakes and ice cream. Everyone could enjoy the food and the fun. Everyone’s invited!
Do you have tips to share on making everyone feel welcome at a gathering? I’d love to hear from you!
Full disclosure: A few products featured in this post were provided to me at no charge. So Delicious provided ice cream for this event. Udi’s Gluten Free provided granola and muffin tops. Ah!Laska provided organic chocolate syrup. The opinions expressed are my own. I used these products because they are my absolute favorites.