March 25, 2016

3 Flexible Easter Feasts!

Flexible Ceviche Bar

Flexible Ceviche Bar

Whether or not you plan to celebrate Easter, it is a perfect time to start perfecting your brunch game. Because it is SPRING! And spring means warmer(ish) weather. And a great excuse to start gathering friends together — inside or outside — to enjoy an array of sweet and savory treats. And maybe a low-so good beet bloody Mary or two.

But here’s the challenge: How do you feed a gaggle of guests all while tending to your low-so needs as well as the dietary needs of others (think: egg-free, gluten-free, Paleo, Whole30, vegetarian, etc). All while making something stunning. And not too time or budget consuming?

The answer is the FLEXIBLE FEAST, which I’ve talked about before here and here. And it is my favorite way to entertain guests and make sure that everyone gets something to eat, that they love. Basically no one winds up with a boring salad. Or even something salt-free.

So for this Easter/Brunch season, I wanted to fill your basket with three new Flexible Feasts that are super easy to prepare; will meet any dietary need or desire; and are so colorful, that they will make a show stopping spread. No flower arrangements necessary. Plus, they are all egg-free, which is super important if you plan to feed someone with an egg allergy or are doing an anti-inflammation diet! So, let’s dig in.

BYO YOGURT BAR: Dairy-free, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Egg-Free, Paleo, Veg & Vegan, Low-So

Flexible Yogurt Bar

This is the easiest of the three Flexible Feasts because it literally requires no more effort than buying your ingredients and putting them on the table.

First, you need a couple tubs of yogurt that span the spectrum of cow, coconut, and soy-based, depending on the needs and tastes of guests. Then, if you want to go the lazy-genius route, simply buy pre-cut fruit. Or, if you have time on your hands and want to get super fancy pants, slice those strawberries yourself. Or, try something new by roasting a bunch of grapes. Now that’s fancy.

Also, don’t be afraid to go tropical with kiwis, papaya, and mango. Or add extra flare and texture with nut-free granola, dried fruit, toasted coconut, puffed quinoa, and my favorite, crushed Go Raw chocolate cookies (filled with healthy sesame seeds). Fresh mint and lime zest will earn you extra points.

BYO LETTUCE CUPS: Dairy-free, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Egg-Free, Paleo, Veg & Vegan, Low-So

Flxible Lettuce Cups

I love brunch because you’re not stuck with just standard pancakes and waffles, but can dabble into savory foods as well. And in my opinion, nothing says “happy spring day” like a fresh lettuce wrap filled with equally fresh chicken or tofu salad. So let’s break brunch boundaries and make a BYO Lettuce Cup Bar.

To prepare, put out little mixing bowls for each guests — you can go with eco-friendly disposables or even personalize reusable, plastic or glass ones for an awesome party souvenir. Then provide the following ingredients in individual serving bowls: (1) Chopped chicken (or even low-so turkey) as well as chopped tofu (for the vegetarians and vegans). (2) Shredded carrots — I bought mine pre-cut at the Whole Foods salad bar. (3) Chopped, fresh herbs (like dill, mint, and basil). (4) Plain coconut yogurt and plain greek yogurt, in place of egg-based mayonnaise. Or smashed avocado for those eating Paleo or Whole30. (5) Chopped and roasted and salt-free nuts or seeds. (5) Washed and separated butter lettuce leaves.

Once the spread is set, let gusts mix up there own chicken or tofu salads in their individual serving bowls according to their individual tastes. Then, fill up those lettuce cups and enjoy.

BYO CEVICHE BAR: Dairy-free, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Egg-Free, Paleo, Low-So

Flexible Ceviche Bar

Vertical Ceviche

Okay, so don’t tell the other two brunch ideas, but this is my favorite and definitely something I am making (again) this weekend. It is so refreshing and so different from mid-day meals. And I’m totally in love with it. It’s also really easy and requires absolutely no cooking.

To start, you want to buys some really fresh, white fish — like sole, bass, tilapia, halibut, or flounder. The flesh should be firm and translucent. Basically, just buy what looks best. And ask the butcher to remove the bloodline and bones. You can also buy some pre-cooked shrimp or scallops for those guests that can go no-low-so. Just be sure to keep the fish cold and in the fridge until prep and serving time.

Using a sharp knife, dice the fish into even sized chunks. And if using several different kinds of fish (or shrimp and scallops), be sure to place in separate bowls. Next, add diced red onion and green onion to the fish bowl. And then, add lime juice. A good rule of thumb is 1/2 cup citrus juice for every pound of fish. Let it “cook” in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes until the juice is absorbed and the fish turns opaque in color. Drain out any extra lime juice-marinade and keep the fish mixture(s) covered, in the fridge until serving.

As for the BYO Ceviche Bar, provide an array of the following ingredients depending on what’s available: (1) halved cherry tomatoes. (2) Diced necatrines or mango. (3) Toasted pumpkin seeds and coriander seeds. (4) Diced jicama. (5) Fresh, chopped cilantro. (6) Diced avocado. (7) Fresh corn kernels. Place all the ingredients in separate serving bowls and try your best to cut everything the same size(ish) as your fish.

Also set out a bowl of tortilla chips, salt-free rice crackers, and toasted nori squares for dipping and wrapping options. As well as individual bowls, just like the BYO Lettuce Cup Bar. Let guests then mix and match their own ceviche. And use the chip and cracker options to dip and eat.

 So there you have it. THREE NEW FLEXIBLE FEASTS that you can make for this Easter Sunday. Or any Sunday. And if you want more Flexible Feast ideas, check out some of my favorite allergy and dietary spreads below. Or on my Low-Sodium Brunch Board on the Sodium Girl Pinterest Page.

MATZO BAR: Veg & Vegan, Dairy-Free, Nut-Free, Low-So 

IMG_3873

 CUCUMBER SANDWICH BAR: Gluten-Free, Paleo, Whole30, Veg & Vegan, Low-So

Cucumber Sandiwch Bar

Simply hollow out the seedy-center of a ton of English cucumbers (like this). And then provide a ton of filling options, such as: (1) Curried tofu, egg, or chicken salad. (2) Creamy cauliflower “cheese,”. Or (3) low-so smoked fish. Then provide a ton of fun toppings, like: (1) Dukkah spice or crushed, no-salt nuts. (2) Avocado or cheesy guacamole. (3) And sliced breakfast radishes. Then let guests build and fill the cucumber sandwiches for a fresh bite.

BYO ICE CREAM FLOAT BAR: Vegan, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Low-So

Flexible Floats

Instead of the classic ice cream sundaes, provide guests with flavored, all-natural sodas and dairy-free ice cream or sorbet for a fun twist on this soda shop favorite. Extra fun additions include fresh fruit, mint leaves, and of course, twisty straws. And if you use small mason jars, tie them with colored ribbons (and name tags!) and give them as parting gifts.

What You Need:

  • 2 to 4 pints of dairy-free ice cream or sorbet
  • 64-ounces of all-natural soda (minimum)
  • Fresh fruit for garnish (optional)
  • Fresh mint for garnish (optional)

Pick one float combination (below) or choose several, buying small 6 to 8-ounce bottles of soda in different flavors.

Either way, keep the ice cream and sodas cool in large, ice-filled buckets or coolers. And when it’s time to open the float bar, pull out a few pints and bottles at a time. Line up the cups or mason jars, a few serving spoons, and the fruit and herb garnishes. Get crafsty and make signs with your favorite flavor combinations. And then let guests scoop, mix, and float!

Favorite Combinations:

  1. Apple Pie: Vanilla Coconut or Almond Milk Ice Cream + Sparkling Cider
  2. Berries And Cream: Vanilla Coconut or Almond Milk Ice Cream + Sparkling Berry Soda
  3. Tropical Float: Pineapple or Mango Sorbet + Vanilla Coconut Ice Cream + Ginger Ale
  4. Sunny Citrus: Lemon Sorbet + Sparkling Lemonade
  5. Cafe Latte: Coffee Coconut or Almond Ice cream + Cream Soda
  6. Tea Sparkler: Green Tea Coconut Ice Cream + Ginger Ale

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