Accommodating Those With Food Allergies at Your Family Reunion

food allergies

Ten ideas for “accommodating” those with food allergies at your family reunion or party
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Allergies to gluten, eggs, milk, seeds, nuts, peanuts, and more make it impossible to eat “normal” family reunion food. In our family we deal with life threatening food allergies every time we get together for a family reunion or party.  Below is a list of things we have found make a difference when planning family reunion food around food allergies:

  1. As the family reunion chairman make sure you know about any food allergies or other food restrictions. 
  2. As a family member with allergies be specific when you let the reunion food committee know about your allergies.  Don’t just say “gluten-free crackers,” but suggest a brand and where to purchase it.  No one is going to be as concerned about food allergies as you are. They may not consider some things that you feel are obvious so speak up.
  3. If you are planning a potluck meal for your family reunion make a note of food allergies in your family.  For instance you could add,  “Please remember, no nuts” (Be specific) on your invitation. For some fun recipes check out these 10 Delicious Nut Allergy Friendly Recipes.
  4. Some meal ideas that make dealing with food allergies at your family reunion a little easier is salad, taco or potato bars.  Family members with allergies can take only those foods that are safe for them.  See Aunt Mo’s blog on “Belly Up To The Bar” for more food bar ideas.  However if the food allergy is life threatening you must be aware of cross-contact when eating at buffets or food bars.
  5. If you have food allergies, it is often safest to bring your own food.  Instead of planning meals around the entire family consider doing some meals “on your own”. 
  6. Offer to bring safe food so that you know there will be something there that you can eat. 
  7. If you’re on the food committee consider keeping the original boxes and packages for food you’ve used so that parents can read the packages for themselves.  Even though you may think you’ve taken all the precautions only those with experience will know for sure.
  8. If  you are on the food committee for your family reunion don’t let those with allergies feel like a burden or annoyance. Let them know that you are want them to be safe and enjoy the reunion food just like everyone else.  For help with planning food for a large reunion check out our “How Much Do I Need To Feed a Hundred” chart.

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My sister-in-law, Lisa, has a couple of children with food allergies.  Over the years she has developed her own ways of coping with food allergies at family reunions and parties.  Lisa added her own suggestions to the list I made:

  1. Often food is given as prizes and treats at family reunions. Lisa suggests bringing your own bag of treats.  Make sure the treats for those with allergies are “cool” treats like Pop Rocks or fruit snacks.
  2. Lisa also carries fast to fix food for her children like cereal, instant oatmeal, Cup of Noodles and instant mashed potatoes for when surprise situations arise.

Lisa says, “It’s nice when people make an acceptation for my kids but I don’t plan on it or expect it.”  When talking about her daughter’s sensitivity to dairy she says, “It’s my job to take care of it and I plan ahead for unforeseen situations.”

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One of my nieces, McKell,  is a vegetarian and we accommodate that at our family reunions by reserving a serving of Dutch oven potatoes before we add the bacon etc.  She loves vegies and we always make sure there are several choices for her.  McKell’s uncles like to tease her about her food choices but in the end they all respect her and work to make sure she can eat with the family.

When it come to food allergies any food allergy can be life-threatening. As the Aunt to several children with food allergies, I try to be a meticulous label- reader and remove all nut- containing foods when I’m in charge of the food at a family reunion or party but honestly, I’m never going to be as good at identifying problem foods as Lisa or her children. Lisa has taught her children to accept some responsibility for the food they eat.  They have learned to ask questions before they eat foods that may be  a problem for them.

And lets not forget those family members that may eating healthy or trying to lose a few pounds.  Its such a welcome surprise for them when they find healthy options amidst all the high calorie foods usually found at a reunion. Check out our list of 30 healthy snacks all containing less than 70 calories for great snack ideas that won’t be detrimental to your health.

You’ll find seven delicious and decadent recipes for those that are trying to eat healthy, like carrot cake bites and peanut butter cups here. Seven Guilt Free Recipes for Healthy Desserts

There's No Place Like Home  Medieval Reunion   Family Heritage Reunion

A little extra planning can help those with allergies  feel like they’re part of the group.  If you can prepare one or two food items around your reunion theme.  For instance, if you’re having “Bronasuraus Burgers for dinner make a vegie burger for you vegan family members.  You will find some fun reunion reunion theme ideas here.

Sometimes those with food allergies have apologized for being a problem and for the extra work it takes to accommodate them.  Honestly, ensuring safety for family members is not being “accommodating”, it is being responsible and loving- and that’s what families do!

Cookie Sheet Apple Pie for Your Family Reunion

Now that you have chosen your family reunion theme and planned your games and activities you’ve got to figure out a way to feed all the hungry people that will show up at your reunion.  For many folks the most important part of the family reunion is the – FOOD!

Feeding a 100 family members can be tricky and so I was thrilled when Marilyn Hunsaker shared her “Cookie Sheet Apple Pie” recipe at a family reunion presentation I gave recently.  Most pies serve only 6 or maybe 8 but this cookie sheet pie serves 16-20.  You will need 5   cookie sheet pies to feed a family of 100.

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Cookie Sheet Apple Pie Recipe  (16-20 Servings)

  • Ingredients
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 cups shortening
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup plus 4-1/2 teaspoons water
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 8 cups sliced peeled apples  (Marilyn uses 6- 8 Granny Smith apples)
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup crushed cornflakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 egg whites, beat until foamy
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup powder sugar

Directions

  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Whisk the egg yolks, water and lemon juice; gradually add to flour mixture, tossing with a fork until dough forms a ball. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Divide dough in half so that one portion is slightly larger than the other. On a lightly floured surface, roll out larger portion to fit the bottom and sides of a greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Arrange apples over crust. Combine the sugar, cornflakes, cinnamon and nutmeg; sprinkle over apples.
  • Roll out remaining dough to fit top of pie; place over apples. Seal edges; cut slits in top. Brush with egg white. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°; bake 20-25 minutes longer or until golden brown.
  • Let pie mostly cool then mix 1/4 cup milk (plus enough more to make a thin glaze) in 1 cup powder sugar.  Drizzle over the top of the pie.
  • Yield: 16-20 servings.

NOTE:  When preparing the apples, Marilyn will peel and slice them the day before and put them in a pan.  She adds enough water to cover the apples and bring them to a boil then she removes them from the heat and lets them cool.  Put a plate on top to push the apples down and refrigerate.  The next day drain the water off the apples and follow the recipe.

Baked Potato, Taco or Dessert- Belly Up To the Bar, Boys

A baked potato bar is a simple way to feed a large crowd at your family reunion or party. It is also makes for a delicious meal where individual tastes and special diets can be accommodated. Everyone puts on their potato or tortilla their favorite toppings while leaving the things they don’t like for someone else. “Bars” or “Buffets” are an economical way to feed your family reunion crowd. And don’t soup, salad and pasta bars. Plan on providing the basics from you family reunion budget and assign out the toppings.

For a potato bar, baking potatoes are pre-cooked and kept warm until serving time. When it is time to eat, guests line up to split open their own potato and top as desired. For a taco bar try using a variety of tortillas and shells- corn, flour, crispy or home-style.

You can keep baked potatoes warm by placing them in coolers. While your potatoes are baking, fill the coolers with hot (not boiling) water and replace the covers. When you are about to take your potatoes out of the oven, empty the hot water and quickly dry out the coolers. Immediately load the potatoes into the preheated coolers. Place the lid on and LEAVE COVERED TIGHTLY. Potatoes will remain hot for several hours and may even continue to cook.

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Popular potato bar toppings are:
Bacon bits
Broccoli
Broccoli/cheese sauce
Butter
Celery
Cheddar cheese
Chili
Chives
Diced ham
Diced onions
Green Onions
Hamburger gravy
Minced chives
Minced garlic
Onions
Parmesan cheese
Ranch dressing
Salsa, hot or mild
Salt and pepper
Sour cream
Tomatoes

 

When planning a taco bar or buffet provide at least two types of meat such as ground or shredded beef, pork or turkey along with vegetables, salsa, guacamole and cheese so guests can build their ultimate taco. They sell tortillas warmers in kitchen supply stores that are great for keeping tortillas warm. Another way to keep tortillas warm is to place them onto a plate and cover them with a warm, damp towel. You can also wrap the tortillas in foil and place in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. The tortillas come out hot and soft.

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Popular taco bar toppings are:
Chicken
Chopped onions
Ground Beef
Guacamole
Hot peppers
Olives
Peppers, green or red
Salsa
Shredded cheese
Shredded iceberg lettuce
Sliced Steak
Soft and hard taco shells (enough for 3-4 per person)
Sour cream
Tabasco sauce
Tomatoes
Yellow Rice

A dessert “bar” or “buffet” can be a chocolate bar, cake bar, cookie bar, ice cream or just an assortment of favorite desserts. A fruit bar is a fun and delicious way to serve dessert. Provide chocolate and caramel sauces, fountains or fondues and assign out seasonal fruit trays.

A dessert bar is really just a more interesting title for “potluck”. Potlucks are great because you’re guaranteed to have a wonderful variety of foods and it ends up being a community effort. A potluck can save you a lot of money when feeding a crowd.

I once attended a function that had a “Cake Bar”. The hostess made a few specialty cakes that were displayed beautifully on raised cake plates and other cakes were displayed between them. It was a delicious looking display.

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You can also have “Chocolate  Bar” or “Anything but Chocolate Bar”. Try a “Sundae Bar” or “Banana Split Bar”. Provide ice cream, chocolate, caramel and strawberry toppings and ask family members to bring their favorite ice cream toppings- sprinkles, chopped nuts, maraschino cherries, chopped fruit etc.

Master List of “Bar” and “Buffet” Toppings
avocado slices or chunks
broccoli
cauliflower florets
carrots
mushrooms, sautéed
fresh or frozen peas
onions
celery
tomatoes
olives
sweet bell pepper
jalapenos Sauces and Dressings
flavored sour creams,
such as chipotle, truffle, Ranch dressing
sour cream dips
seasoned butters
garlic butter
nacho cheese or chili con queso Meats
flaked tuna
smoked salmon
bacon bits
shredded ham
grilled or creamed chicken
shredded or crumbled ground beef
stroganoff or beef tips
chopped barbecue
blue cheese
shredded Parmesan cheese
chopped fresh herbs
pesto
stir fried baby vegetables
roasted red peppers
mixed grilled vegetables
truffle oil
sliced toasted almonds
chopped water chestnut
cheese sauces
Meat sauces
Marinara sauce
Alfredo sauce
chili
dipping oils

Aunt Mo

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” —-Virginia Woolf