Each month FBC member and nutritionist, Sondi Bruner, takes a favourite recipe and shows you how to adapt it to be allergen-friendly, as well as delicious and healthy. This month she's deconstructing side dishes - make holiday side dishes that everyone can eat and, more importantly, will love!
Allergen Friendly Remix: Side Dishes

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who cook side dishes and those who don't.

I'm in the latter category. It's not that I don't enjoy eating sides, I'm simply too lazy to make them on a daily basis. I'm more of a one-pot or slow cooker kind of gal, especially during the workweek.

However, when I attend a potluck I'll make a huge 'side dish' that performs double duty, in that it can serve as an entree for me and a side for everyone else. Traditional side dishes tend to use ingredients like glutenous grains, flours, cheese, milk or cream, especially around the holidays.

If you're looking to add some extra vegetables into your diet, side dishes are the perfect vehicle to achieve this. And, most recipes can be adapted and tweaked to suit gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, nut-free and other allergen-friendly diets. In today's post, I'll show you how it's done!

1. Swap Out The Dairy Products

One of the simplest ways to remix an old favourite side dish recipe is to swap out the dairy in the recipe. Milk, cream and butter are easy to replace — you can use nut milk, seed milk, or coconut milk for a thick and creamy texture, and opt for olive oil instead of butter. Some people who are lactose intolerant can consume ghee — clarified butter — because the milk solids are removed, making ghee a good choice for those who are aiming for a buttery flavour.

Cheese is definitely more difficult to replicate. While there are vegan versions on the market, they usually taste like plastic and the cheese lovers in the room will throw things at you. If possible, offer the cheese separately and guests can sprinkle it over their side dishes as they choose. This works well for dishes like salads, roasted vegetables or gratins.

2. Mash Vegetables Other Than Potatoes

Sometimes Grandma's classic mashed potato recipe simply won't cut it without gobs of cream and butter. In this case, it might be better to make something else rather than adapt and have guests disappointed by an inferior counterfeit. Hearty vegetables like yams, squashes, parsnips, celery root, turnips, rutabagas, carrots and cauliflower are delicious when smashed with a little olive oil and sea salt, and typically don't come with the emotional baggage.

3. Use Your Roasting Tray

Roasting vegetables caramelizes them, producing a sweet, delicious result that even the vegetable haters will enjoy. The vegetables I mentioned above are all amazing when tossed in the oven, as are Brussels sprouts, broccoli, mushrooms, eggplant, bell peppers, onions and fennel. Seasoning plays a huge role, too. You can certainly roast with only oil and salt, but it's also nice to amp up the flavour profile with things like balsamic or red wine vinegar, cumin and coriander, mustard and honey or maple syrup, cayenne, smoked paprika, lemon slices, dried basil, thyme or oregano, sesame oil and tamari, or your favourite hot sauce. Fresh herbs are wonderful as well; I recommend adding them at the end to maintain their flavour and nutritional value.

4. Try Gluten-Free Grains

Most grain-based dishes can be made with a gluten-free grain such as brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, buckwheat, millet or sorghum to make an incredible pilaf. If you're new to gluten-free grains, you may want to stick with brown rice or wild rice, as these ingredients are often used frequently in traditional grain dishes. If you'd like to try a stuffing, substituting a gluten-free bread is a tasty option.

5. Don't Forget About Beans and Legumes

Beans and legumes are filling, protein-rich and full of fibre. They're gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sugar-free and mostly soy-free (except for soybeans), so they're ultra allergen-friendly. Use a single pulse or a mix of your favourites, pair them with roasted vegetables, or tumble them into a salad or pilaf. If you have vegans or vegetarians coming over, make extra quantities so they can have the bean dish as an entree. Also, since they're wonderful cold or at room temperature, you can cook beans ahead of time and let the flavours of your side meld and intensify.

RELATED:  The Ultimate Collection of Holiday Bars: 30 Recipes

6. Cook Seasonally

Vegetables taste better and offer more nutritional value when they're in season. Roasted asparagus spears or a strawberry and peach salad won't be tasty in the dead of winter, so use your local market or farmer's stand as a guide to what to buy.

7. Make a Salad (But Not a Lame One)

Salads are a great way to add more vegetables to your plate, but nobody wants a hunk of wilted iceberg lettuce with a pasty tomato. Create salads with flavour and interest by using fresh greens, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, fresh herbs, dried fruit or gluten-free whole grains.

8. Experiment with Fermented Foods

Fermented foods are rich in beneficial bacteria that aid digestion, boost immunity, and can help alleviate skin conditions and allergy symptoms. More importantly, they're delicious! Sauerkraut, pickled vegetables and kimchi can add a burst of tangyness to a variety of meals. You don't need to consume a lot of fermented foods to obtain the benefits — start off with one tablespoon if you're unaccustomed to eating them, and work up to two or three tablespoons.

Allergen Friendly Recipe Remix: Side Dishes

Baked Avocado Fries
This is a fun and tasty side dish for the avocado lovers out there, and is lovely when served with your favourite marinara sauce or ketchup. Feel free to double the recipe if you'd like!
Recipe type: Side
Serves: 4 servings
  • 2 large avocados
  • ½ cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp arrowroot or tapioca flour
  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.
  2. Cut the avocados in half, remove the pit, and peel them. Cut them into lengthwise slices.
  3. In a shallow bowl, mix the vegetable broth and flour. In another shallow bowl, mix the cornmeal, paprika and salt.
  4. Dip an avocado slice into the broth mixture, then dip it into the cornmeal. Coat the avocado slice with cornmeal, patting it gently to make sure the cornmeal sticks, and lay it on the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining slices.
  5. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until the cornmeal is lightly browned and crispy.
  6. Serve hot with a marinara dipping sauce, or another sauce you adore.

More Reading

Check out more of Sondi’s Allergen-Friendly Remixes for great ideas on revamping your favourite recipes to make them allergen friendly! Here are a few to check out:

Vegan and Gluten-Free Pies and Tarts

How To Make Creamy Non-Dairy Pasta Sauces

Allergen Friendly Recipe Remix: The Granola Bar

Got a favourite recipe you’d like to see get an Allergen-Friendly Makeover? Let us know in the comments…

Sondi Bruner is a holistic nutritionist, freelance writer and food blogger. She educates people who follow allergen-friendly diets about how to eat simply, deliciously and safely, allowing them to rediscover the pleasure of food. When she’s wearing her writer’s hat, she works with natural health brands to create content that will help their customers live fulfilling, healthful lives. Find out more at www.sondibruner.com. Or you can follow Sondi on Facebook or Twitter.


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