Monday, January 28, 2013

Allergy-Friendly Partying (Super Bowl time!)

Have you noticed that most social gatherings in America involve food?  This can make it rather daunting to plan or attend a party while having to take dietary restrictions into consideration.  However, there are plenty of allergy-friendly snacks that one could simply buy or easily make. 

As always, be sure to double-check ingredients, including cross-contamination risk based on your level of sensitivity and comfort.  (If you are hosting the party or making an item to bring to the party, it is very important to save labels for every ingredient used; only prepare foods using clean (not shared) utensils/cutting boards/serving dishes, and all new, unopened products—even items such as sugar could already be contaminated in the kitchen.)  Carefully read labels, remembering that allergens and gluten can “hide” in a lot of processed food, and ingredients change without notice and vary from region to region.  Not every brand or all varieties of an item listed below will be allergy-free; obviously choose safe versions based on your dietary restrictions.  Contact me if you need recipes (for safe guacamole or bean dip or hummus, for example) or product recommendations.

With that disclaimer, here are some allergy-friendly (free of the top 8 most common food allergens and even gluten) party snacks:

  • Air-popped popcorn sprinkled with salt and spices, or “natural” microwaveable popcorn (where the only ingredients are popcorn, oil, and salt).
  • Corn tortilla chips and salsa, pico de gallo, and/or guacamole.
  • Most plain potato chips.
  • Corn chips (like Fritos® with corn, oil, and salt as the only ingredients), served with a bean dip.
  • Nachos—melt Daiya™ cheddar or pepperjack “cheese” on top of white corn tortilla chips.
  • Fresh or canned fruit with coconut-milk-based yogurt for dip.
  • Deli wraps—corn tortillas, turkey, lettuce, and mustard (or just use lettuce as the wrapper).
  • Dried fruit (such as raisins, dried apricots) or fruit snacks.
  • Fresh vegetables and hummus.
  • Homemade sweet potato chips—peel and slice sweet potatoes into 1/8”-thick rounds, toss with olive oil and salt, adding other spices, if desired; place on foil-lined pan and bake at 400° for 25 minutes, flipping once, until edges are crisp.
  • Baked/microwaved snack mixes using safe margarine and safe cereals (Chex® even comes in several gluten-free varieties)—make a salty mix using savory herbs/spices and air-popped popcorn; or a sweet version with honey, raisins, marshmallows, and apple-pie-type spices.
  • Cocktail links or cut-up hot dogs, speared with toothpicks, served with safe barbecue sauce or mustard.
  • Trail mix of safe cereals, marshmallows, dried fruit, and safe chocolate chips (e.g. ones from Enjoy Life®).
  • Cupcakes—CherrybrookKitchen®’s Gluten-Free Dreams Chocolate Cake Mix (using baking instructions given on box) and their ready-to-spread vanilla frosting.
  • Sliced Daiya™ wedge "cheese" and/or pepperoni with crackers from Crunchmaster® (Multi-Grain Crackers in Sea Salt, or 7 Ancient Grains Crackers in Hint of Sea Salt, or Baked Rice Crackers in Toasted Sesame).
  • Cereal bars using safe margarine or oil, marshmallows, and crispy rice cereal.
  • My yummy bacon appetizers! (recipe below; be sure to see Allergy Info)

Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts

Always a favorite at parties, this recipe is easily doubled—which is a good idea since these tasty appetizers will be snatched up quickly!  You will also need wooden toothpicks for this recipe, enough so that there is one toothpick per water chestnut (the recipe yields about 50).


  • 3 (5 oz.) OR 2 (8 oz.) cans water chestnuts
  • 1 pound bacon, uncooked
  • 2/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)*
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Soak toothpicks in a bowl of water for 10 minutes.
  3. Drain water out of water chestnuts cans.
  4. Slice each raw bacon strip into thirds.**  Place one water chestnut in center of each bacon piece; wrap bacon around water chestnut, securing ends with a toothpick. 
  5. Place bacon-wrapped water chestnuts, spacing evenly, in an ungreased 10”x15” rimmed baking pan.  Bake for 30 minutes or until bacon is starting to crisp on edges.  Remove pan from oven; drain grease or transfer bacon-wrapped water chestnuts to a clean baking pan.*** 
  6. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, stir together ketchup, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce.  Cook over medium heat just until boiling; mix in red pepper (if using).  Remove from heat; set aside.
  7. Pour sauce over the bacon-wrapped water chestnuts, being careful not to get sauce onto exposed toothpicks (for cleaner handling and better appearance).  Return to oven; bake 30 minutes longer, until sauce is bubbly and appetizers appear candied.  Arrange neatly on serving dish.


*You can substitute the Worcestershire sauce with soy sauce, prepared mustard, or even apple cider vinegar (just a little something to give the sauce some tang), choosing allergen-free versions if necessary.
**To easily and quickly slice bacon, remove from package, maintaining the flat stack, and use kitchen shears to cut through stack in two places, dividing evenly into thirds.
***They fit fine in a 9”x13” glass pan for this step; they tend to “shrink” slightly while baking.  Alternatively, you can use your oven's broiler pan; no need to drain grease or to transfer to a clean pan.  


This recipe is free of dairy/milk, eggs, shellfish peanuts, and tree nuts (“water chestnuts” are actually a vegetable, not a nut).  To make it fish-, wheat-, gluten-, and soy-free, carefully choose a Worcestershire sauce with safe ingredients (many brands aren’t allergen-free; contact me if you need product suggestions as there are options out there), or use one of the listed substitutions (see TIPS above), or just omit entirely.  Always double-check ingredients, including cross-contamination risk based on your level of sensitivity and comfort.


  1. I love those bacon wrapped water chestnuts you make! They're so yummy, I really need to make some myself perhaps for a work potluck one day :)

  2. Tried them, and they are phenomenal! Make them at your earliest possible convenience; you won't be sorry.