Inclusive Hosting

Dec 14, 2021

Hosting that perfect dinner party can be a challenge at the best of times. You want to make sure everything is timed correctly, that you’re not spending the whole evening in the kitchen preparing the meal, and that everyone is relaxed and comfortable. That last part is vital, and it brings up an important aspect of the modern dinner party: food sensitivities. 

The last thing you want to do is plan out the perfect meal, only to find out that you didn’t realize that one of your guests is lactose-intolerant or vegan. As the goal is to make sure everyone is having a good time, you’ll need to consider your guest’s food sensitivities. Calgary Co-op can help too: there’s ready-made options aplenty that cover a number of food sensitivities, and our Produce department and Natural Choice sections also have you covered.

Cocktails/Beverages for Non-Drinkers

There are many different reasons that someone might not want to have alcohol at an event or dinner party. Whether it’s an allergy, a preference, or a health or life choice or your guests include children ultimately doesn’t matter. Your goal is simply to make sure your guests are having a good time. These days, there are many non-alcoholic options for beverages, including the same cocktails you’d typically make sans alcohol.  

With fresh fruit available year-round and so many types of juices on the shelves, making a tropical mocktail is a piece of cake. From something simple like a Watermelon Aqua Fresca (essentially water, watermelon, sugar, and lime), all the way to Blue Hawaiians without the curacao and rum, mocktails are a fun and colorful way to wet your guests’ whistles. 

Choose Cal & Gary’s non-alcoholic options

You can also make a punch bowl and have alcohol on the side for those who wish not to imbibe.

Another great option is to keep a bucket of Cal & Gary’s Sparking Water on hand. With an array of flavor choices, the fizz in sparkling water can make the drink feel special. Add a splash of Cal & Gary’s Orange Juice to your sparkling water for a fresh and fruity mocktail. Also, head to the cold drinks cooler at your local Co-op store where you can find a huge array of other fun beverages kombuchas, craft sodas and teas; it’s simple to provide a flavorful option without the booze.

Vegetarian Appies

When it comes to the food, the trick to a great vegetarian or vegan appetizer is to immediately forget about putting out a crudités plate. Okay, if you HAVE to, at least add some interesting dips, like Almond Cheese with Herbes de Provence or French Onion dip made with cashew sour cream, or a Baba Ganoush.

Salsa or guacamole is a quick and easy vegetarian dish (pick up Co-op’s store-made salsa or guacamole in the produce department!), and a cucumber/pineapple salsa is the perfect refreshing appetizer for your party if you’re up for making it yourself. You can also win over the crowd with salad rolls featuring rice paper wraps with bright and colorful veggies inside—they’re easier to make than you think! If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try your hand at homemade maki rolls or mango nori wraps with pickled ginger. Peruse the International Foods aisle for even more ideas and inspiration.

Gluten-Free Snacks

Making sure your gluten-sensitive guests are taken care of isn’t tricky business. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, and rye, so avoiding grains should take care of things. Just be sure any sauces you use are labeled gluten-free or don’t contain wheat products. If you’re unsure, reach out to your guest in question and ask; they’ll likely point you to safe sauces.

The good news is that you can go with perennial party favorites like meatballs (again, no breadcrumbs!) with a glaze or chicken skewers with a dip, bacon-wrapped apricots, or stuffed mushrooms. 

Potato skins, like those from local Jenni’s Delectables are gluten-free, as is a shrimp cocktail. Even chicken wings will fit the bill, provided they aren’t breaded (or breaded with a gluten-free breading), and you’re careful with the sauces. Jalapeno poppers will also work, as will fruit and cheese kebabs. Hit up the Froze Food section at Co-op and read the labels.

If you’re in an adventurous mood, try watermelon salad on a stick; made from a cube of watermelon with cucumber, red onion, feta, and fresh herbs stacked on top.

Gluten-Free/Vegetarian and Dairy-Free Side Dishes 

Making a gluten-free side dish is easy enough, as is dairy-free, as is vegetarian. Some side dishes will even tick all the boxes for you. Let’s have a look at a few:

- Sautéed Mushrooms will please all three categories, containing only mushrooms, oil, salt, and other herbs or spices. - GF/DF/V

- Roasted Broccoli with a sweet sauce (even a lemon-garlic vinaigrette dressing) gets the job done, providing the sauce is dairy-free and doesn’t have gluten. GF/DF/V

- Potato Cakes: Providing you don’t add dairy or eggs to the mash, you can make potato cakes with veggies as a great and crispy side dish. GF/DF/V

- A simple roasted asparagus dish can be made by broiling your asparagus with a splash of olive oil and salt. GF/DF/V

- Similar to the asparagus, grilled zucchini made with lemon and garlic with herbs will impress your guests. GF/DF/V

- Depending on your guests’ dairy-free requirements, you could make pesto with baby potatoes, as parmesan is almost free of lactose. GF/V

- Jasmine rice is gluten-free, so you could offer up black beans with rice and cilantro. GF/DF/V

If you look at working around dietary requirements as a fun challenge, you can let your creativity guide you towards exciting new dishes, making things a little healthier at the same time. Co-op has both the raw ingredients for your recipes, and plenty of ready-made or frozen options to help speed things along too.

Visit your neighbourhood Co-op to find ingredients and inspiration.

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