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Old 18 December 2017, 12:43 AM
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Baseball A Traditional But Non-Traditional Christmas Dinner - Ideas?

Hello my valued board colleagues. I have a question for you.

My two daughters are roommates while they are away at university and college. Our family decided to have their first Christmas Dinner away from home at their place. They asked, and we agreed, that they could invite any of their classmates who can't go home for the holiday season. So, the master chef, moi, will be cooking a large dinner for about 10-12 university students.

Our UEL traditional Christmas dinner consists of:

- turkey breast
- chicken curry (one daughter does not like turkey)
- mashed potatoes
- sweet potatoes
- rice (for curry)
- dressing
- tossed salad with dressing
- pumpkin pie
- mixed vegetables
- egg nog (non-alcoholic)
- chocolate milk (one daughter does not like egg nog)
- ice cream (to go with pie)
- yule log

Now, my challenge this year:

- one student (at least) is Muslim
- one student (at least) is Hindu
- one student is celiac
- total about 13 people for dinner
- I have all day to prepare this dinner at their place

I am looking for suggestions on how to augment the UEL traditional dinner to accommodate our friends. Any ideas?

- fish dish?
- soup?
- gluten free dressing (if such a beast exists)?
- additional starch?
- cake for dessert?

I am open to any suggestions and looking to change the UEL family tradition as our daughters seek their own futures. All suggestions welcome.
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Old 18 December 2017, 01:30 AM
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First of all, very cool that you're doing this. Bravo!

For the dressing, there are some pre-packaged Gluten-free options available for a stuffing/dressing base; some are pre-seasoned and some are neutral (I've used the Aleia's plain); for those you could pretty much punch them up with whatever add-in ingredients you would use for your traditional dressing (assuming they meet the dietary needs of your guests). There are also a number of rice-based stuffing/dressing recipes out there these days. (You might try googling "wild rice dressing" as a place to start.)
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Old 18 December 2017, 01:42 AM
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When it comes to fish, I think grilled or baked salmon would probably go pretty well with your other dishes.

Is the Hindi student a vegetarian? If so, maybe a vegetable curry?
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Old 18 December 2017, 11:50 AM
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I don't think there's anything in your list that a (non-vegetarian) Muslim couldn't eat, assuming you can find a halal turkey. No idea how easy that would be in Canada (or the UK, for that matter). It's pretty easy to find a halal chicken here, though, so that part should be OK.

Similarly for the Hindu, the more important question is whether they're vegetarian. You're not serving beef anyway...
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Old 18 December 2017, 05:03 PM
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Good call guys on the vegetarian options... never considered that. For that matter, the Hindu student or any of the others may very well be vegetarian for other than religious reasons. I will look to augment the vegetable options. Maybe a moussaka?

I did look up gluten free stuffing ideas. I found a relatively easy one (given the amount of work I will be doing at that time, easy is best) that uses corn bread instead of wheat bread. I know the local Metro sells corn bread, so I might lean that way.

Baked salmon is a family favourite for the UEL family anyways. I will lean that way.

Thanks for the advice. You've given me some good options.
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Old 18 December 2017, 07:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UEL View Post
For that matter, the Hindu student or any of the others may very well be vegetarian for other than religious reasons.
You may already have thought of this, but if you don't know anything about their diets, someone may even be vegan; which would mean that they can't eat a whole lot of things that most vegetarians can and do eat.

Good luck! -- and agreeing with praise of you for doing this.




(I once took a short road trip with a vegan who was allergic to gluten. He had brought his own food with him, under the presumption that he wouldn't otherwise be able to get much of anything to eat either anywhere along the route or even at the (vegetarian-friendly) conference we were going to. That was admittedly some years ago; but the number of things that were ruled out by one diet or the other would still be very large.)
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Old 18 December 2017, 07:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UEL View Post
I did look up gluten free stuffing ideas. I found a relatively easy one (given the amount of work I will be doing at that time, easy is best) that uses corn bread instead of wheat bread. I know the local Metro sells corn bread, so I might lean that way.
Careful there - most corn bread is made with wheat flour in addition to cornmeal.
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Old 18 December 2017, 10:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by musicgeek View Post
Careful there - most corn bread is made with wheat flour in addition to cornmeal.
Yeah. I found some gluten free cornmeal bread. That is going to be my base. Initially, I thought, duh it should be gluten free. Then I seriously thought about it and I now know better than assuming anything. haha

As for doing this, we have been doing this for years. We'll pack up a meal or two or four and bring one to the Admin Assistant at the hospital, despatcher at the local police unit, base security detachment or the duty NCO on the base. This is the first year where we will have people in. It has always been our way of ensuring very few leftovers and spreading the cheer of the season with some others that by circumstance of job, can't be with a loved one for a meal.
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Old 19 December 2017, 02:41 AM
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For what it is worth, I, a vegan, made this for Thanksgiving to share with my extended family, and everyone was happy to eat it:

Roasted acorn squash with cranberry-apple stuffing
Baked beans
Pecan pie (from one of dozens of vegan recipes)

They made, to go along with that and their turkey, with ingredients I could eat so we could all share:

Mashed potatoes
Mashed sweet potatoes
Steamed green beans
Boiled pearl onions (this is a New England thing, apparently)
Cornbread stuffing
Apple pie

Good luck!
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  #10  
Old 19 December 2017, 03:40 AM
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My daughters have confirmed:

- Muslim student is not so observant to require halal, but will definitely not eat pork
- Hindu student is not a vegetarian. Just Hindu because family is Hindu, not observant
- Celiac student is still coming, but can navigate the options we have. But I still want to try the stuffing
- No vegetarians are coming, yet. Number 2 daughter is still talking in her classes. May have a student from Ghana coming

I appreciate the suggestions. I'm having far too much fun with this. And your suggestions are greatly helping.
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Old 19 December 2017, 02:00 PM
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Avril, those foods sound delicious! I remember my mother making a cranberry/orange relish dish that was really good. I cannot remember the details or any other ingredients though.

I got a great recipe earlier this year that is super easy to make. All you need is 1 can of corn; one can of black beans; some bell peppers (I use red, yellow and orange); plus some Italian salad dressing. Dice the peppers, add all the ingredients together and mix in the dressing. (use the dressing to taste). The result is a delicious and pretty salad that all--to my knowledge--can eat. Sometimes I throw in a 1/8 cup of orzo, but that's just me.
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Old 19 December 2017, 04:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DawnStorm View Post
I got a great recipe earlier this year that is super easy to make. All you need is 1 can of corn; one can of black beans; some bell peppers (I use red, yellow and orange); plus some Italian salad dressing. Dice the peppers, add all the ingredients together and mix in the dressing. (use the dressing to taste). The result is a delicious and pretty salad that all--to my knowledge--can eat. Sometimes I throw in a 1/8 cup of orzo, but that's just me.
I do something similar, but with the juice of 1 lime, a splash of olive oil, and a generous sprinkling of chili powder and a dash of cumin in lieu of the Italian dressing. Always a hit.
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Old 19 December 2017, 04:37 PM
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I make a black bean salad, too, but without corn. My dressing is similar to musicgeek's, but because I'm lazy I use the juice from the little plastic limes.
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Old 22 December 2017, 03:49 AM
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OK, so final count is in.

8 plus me.

Celiac is in.

Now have 3 halal eaters.

And a Syrian refugee with his Dad.

Our Hindu guest is no longer attending.

Am adding devilled eggs, just because it is a favourite of #2 daughter.

Cutting out the Gluhwein I was tossing around, as it looks like with drinking age and religious issues, I'd be blottoed before dessert.

Going with 2 salads. A green salad, and a gluten free macaroni salad with some vegetable and perhaps tuna mixed in.

Still going with the chicken, turkey and fish options. However, will head to the MidEast market to get a halal chicken. I already have the turkey and I don't think it is halal. Are fish ok? I think so, as I watched the fishers pull them in when I live in Lebanon.

Dessert is now going to be mostly ice cream and sorbet. I have a yule log, but will leave that for later in the evening.

Also putting out some snack trays to include celery, cucumber, carrots and candy.

I'll let you know how it all goes. I am excited.

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Old 22 December 2017, 04:50 AM
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As far as I'm aware, seafood is considered halal by default and does not require any special preparations, unlike poultry or land animal meat. Not being a practitioner of the religion, I would be recommend double-checking that when you go to the MidEast market: surely someone there will be able to give you an authoritative answer.
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Old 23 December 2017, 05:32 AM
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First, congrats on what you're doing! It sounds wonderful and I'm jealous. Sounds like Christmas dinner at Hogwarts

Onto the practical - my best friend's parents have now nine children/step children between them and they always host an annual Thanksgiving dinner with needy friends and significant others welcome. I've spent more T'givings with them than I have with my own family. (My best friend passed away a few years ago and I am invited in her stead, I am honored to say). I know you're not talking about Thanksgiving, but big celebratory inclusive dinner applies; same diff.

TIPS:
1). If you are prepping/cooking at their place, take into account the number of burners, counter space, fridge space, oven space, storage space. DO NOT feel guilty about draping crime scene tape over places you need people to keep out of while you prep. Keep beverages/cold apps far away from the action, young people will swarm here. Order out or prep ahead of time as much as you humanly can.
1a). I don't know your daughters or the structure of their schools, social lives, or living spaces, but in my past drop-ins wouldn't have been shocking. Sounds like your girls have a bit more of a handle on the situation.

2). With varied diets, you are so much better off serving buffet/family style. I don't get the sense you're planning on doing formal courses, but courses, to me, would be a big mistake, because it "obligates" people of various diets and patterns to eat in a certain way (i.e. "here is your salad, or your salad substitute, first. etc.). It sounds like you will more than accommodate your guests.
So to me the best way we handled things was to make sure everyone had their first serving of the drink of their choice, they knew where the food was, and then everyone got up and served themselves. Some people started with soup and salad; some took a huge slice of turkey; some ate pie. Who cared. We did have some natural breaks for getting up/refreshing plates but we didn't follow a strict course menu.
Drinks were in the kitchen and food was stationed in various places throughout the dining room; we broke every 10-15 min to refill whatever. (Though if someone got up 2 times in the meantime, nobody cared--whether it was me peeing or a teenager boy taking 3rds and 4ths). That helped us keep conversation flowing but kept things casual as well.

3). If there is any chance things might be awkward or there may be cultural differences, printing a fun little "agenda" might not hurt. I have no idea what you guys all have planned but something like (this is a roughly paraphrased sample from years past, but I don't know if the size/age of the function is comparable):
Your daughters can tell you if printing it is too formal, but even talking about a sequence casually might be a good idea.

EX:

[bonus if you have a brother with a huge booming voice to make announcements for each round:]

(Round A: Hosts Toil in Kitchen, Guests Mingle) ~ 1hr
(Round B: Hosts Go to the Bathroom; Football Games are Turned On) ~ 10 min
(Round C: Grab your drinks and grab your seat!) ~5 min
(Round D: Eat & Drink Chapters 1-15) ~2 hours - I'd recommend to plan for 10-15 min per course with 5 min gaps, but letting people serve themselves really smooths this out. Unless you're planning on very formal, announcing anything besides "get up and grab your next dish if you dare!" seems disruptive and overly formal to me.
(Round E: Videogames in location A, XYZ TV in Location B; Polite Guests in Kitchen Helping with Dishes. Guests from locations A & B will not be invited to spend the night.) ~45 min
(Round F: Karaoke, other diversions) ~90 min
(Round G: The Calling of the Cabs and Allocating of the Couches). <fin>

ETA: I am sure you get the idea, but this plan is tailored to about 15-20 late teens/adults (no littles) in a NYC apartment with a lot of bedrooms and leisure space but a tiny kitchen. For example purposes only. My college roomie and I spent our first holiday dinner in college creating a table out of a cardboard box in the center of our small double room and splitting orders of Fried Rice and Mongolian Beef. Holidays are what you make them.

Last edited by Plurabelle; 23 December 2017 at 05:46 AM.
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Old 23 December 2017, 04:07 PM
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Great minds, think alike, Plurabelle.

Much of what you have mentioned is already in the works. We always run a buffet for big dinners, as I have one daughter that absolutely does not like turkey, so we always have several options.

For cooking, we are starting today (baking stuff), and will be hard at it tomorrow (appetizers etc) and on Xmas day itself. I anticipate a 5pm dinner, with everything on the table, but we won't have enough table seating for everyone, so it will be fetch and find your place to sit in the living room (lots of room for that).

All these kids (?) are 18-21, so aren't really kids. I am trusting my daughters to keep them entertained. I found out a good old friend of mine is alone this Christmas, so I invited him to keep me company. We'll drink in the kitchen whilst preparing food, and the girls will keep everyone out.

It's coming together like a train wreck. I'm off to the MidEast market in about 45 minutes to get my chicken. I am also buying the majority of the groceries for dinner today. It will be a great day!
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Old 23 December 2017, 05:07 PM
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Remember how much teens can eat, even those in their late teens.
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Old 23 December 2017, 08:26 PM
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Well, number 2 daughter just informed me that 2 have dropped out, but her boss at work has no plans, so she invited her.

I don't think I'll fully know how many are coming until the actual day. Hahaha.

As for quantity, I'm good, I believe. If we run out of one main dish, I will stuff them full of Christmas candy!!!!

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Old 25 December 2017, 08:19 PM
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As I head out for my third Christmas dinner in as many days (good thing I like turkey) I am thinking of you, UEL. Please let us know how your Traditional but non-Traditional Christmas Dinner went on the day!
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