For me, the hardest time of the year to have food issues is when holidays arrive. It seems that around every corner, I’m reminded of the things I can’t eat that everyone else around me can.
My personal goal is to make holidays and holiday parties more about friends and experiences than about food. One of the many reasons I like Halloween is that there are fewer expectations. Your party can be anything you want it to be. There are many fun suggestions online for various party themes. You can find ideas by typing “Halloween Party Themes” into Google. By keeping in mind your audience, you will be able to find something that works for you. Themes involve decorations, the costumes your guests wear, and the games you play. And yes, it even involves the food you serve.
Decorations can be as elaborate or as simple as you like. I’m not into elaborate decorations myself, and so I find many simple ideas involving real pumpkins very nice. Many appealing (and pretty minimalistic), ideas can be found on Martha Stewart’s website, for example. Halloween decorations are fun because not only do they not have to be perfect, but they shouldn’t be! Spiders, ghosts, pumpkins, zombies, vampires, tombs, blood, witches, all scream imperfection. There’s no “right” way to decorate for Halloween.
Here are a few more good “experience” suggestions:
• Place something at your front door to welcome guests in and ‘set the stage’ (i.e. black streamers, spider web, nice fall decorations, pumpkins).
• Use candlelight from different colors of candles as your light source. Candles and candleholders are cheap at stores like IKEA! To be thoughtful to those who are allergic, please avoid scented candles.
• If you’re looking for movie ideas, some good ones are: (Again, keep in mind your audience –) Young Frankenstein, Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands, and Sweeney Todd.
• Have someone do a scary Halloween or funny Halloween reading. Pre-read texts ahead of time to find stories/poems appropriate for your party.
• Doing games at a Halloween party is kind of interesting, because it can be hit or miss. Again, you have to keep in mind who your audience is. You don’t always have to play games, but it’s good to have a few up your sleeve, just in case.
Here are two game suggestions that I think are fun:
1. Name that Tune – play themes from Halloween-themed shows or songs (The Munsters, Addams Family, etc.)
2. Halloween Scene Write, Sketch and Switch is a fresh take on the old Telephone game. Have your guests sit in a circle, and give everyone who’s playing a pen or pencil and a sheet of paper. Have each of them write a short, one-sentence Halloween scene at the very top of the page (i.e. witches gathered around a bubbling cauldron). When they’ve written that sentence, everyone hands their page to the person on their right. The guests now do a simple drawing of the sentence handed them. They fold the paper over the sentence from the previous person, so only their drawing is showing. The papers are then handed off to the next person, who then writes a sentence describing the scene depicted. The process repeats itself until the page is full. After the game is over, each guest unrolls their paper, reads the original sentence, and reveals how convoluted it got as it was passed person to person. This game gets a lot of laughs.
Now, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the food! Halloween tends to be a lot more low-key, and people are willing to try “scary” dishes that they might not at any other time of the year. There is also more gluten-free candy than ever. I’ve noticed a big push lately for companies to make their products gluten-free, which is awesome! If you’re wondering if any particular candy is gluten-free, just type “[product name] gluten-free” into your browser and see what comes up. There are a lot of resources on the web.
• Have bowls of various candies on the table. Candy corn, Snickers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey’s Kisses, Skittles, Starbursts, and lots of other candies are good choices.
• In the cookbook Life Tastes Good Again, http://www.eatingglutenfree.com), the Chocolate Cake recipe would make great chocolate cupcakes (with orange frosting, of course!), and the Pumpkin Roll is a huge hit within my circles.
• Have punch! Juice with some kind of soda, (all gluten-free!) combined with dry ice, served in a pumpkin for dramatic effect.
• There are several recipes out there for a soup or casserole that’s baked in a pumpkin. (I’m definitely going to try this one this year.)
• “Spider Rolls” – gluten-free parmesan rolls (or minus parmesan for those dairy-free folks in your life) with gluten-free pretzels for legs.
• Pumpkin-shaped Rice Krispies treats. There are now official Gluten-Free Rice Krispies! Marshmallows are generally gluten-free, but as always, check the packaging. Throw some food dye in and turn them orange. If you add candies to make a jack-o’-lantern face, don’t use licorice – most brands of licorice have gluten.
The most important thing – don’t apologize for having a gluten-free party! If you have good food and you’re excited about what you’re doing, other people will be, too. Remember, most people won’t even think about gluten.
Have a Happy Halloween, and may all your ghoulish fantasies come true!
Endnotes: I did not receive any compensation from any of the companies mentioned. I mentioned specific products/companies in this article for informational purposes. Please ALWAYS check the ingredients of your Halloween candy. I’ve found candy corn to generally be gluten-free, but always check for yourself. Gluten-free pretzels can be found in many places – including some regular grocery stores!
Author Information: Cristina Swenson, UT, USA
Cristina Swenson was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in May of 2009. In October 2010, she was diagnosed with food allergies to beef, chicken, eggs, milk, bananas, carrots and corn. She blogs about her adventures in gluten-free at cinderellaspear.blogspot.com.
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