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Gluten-Free Grilling

Preparing an Allergen-Friendly BBQ

Nothing says summer quite like the good ol’ barbeque: flames flying, the sound of sizzle and the unbeatable smoky scent filling the air. To me, everything tastes better when barbecued. I love grilled veggies and fruit like onion, eggplant, zucchini, peppers and pineapple. A touch of olive oil, chopped garlic and sea salt, and it’s good to go.

If you’re planning to fire up a nice meal for family and friends soon, make sure to find out about everyone’s dietary requirements. The most common food allergens (which account for more than 90% of food allergies) are often referred to as “the big eight.” According to the World Health Organization, the most common allergenic foods on a worldwide basis (aka the big eight) include cow’s milk and products that contain it, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (including walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, etc.), fish, shellfish, soybeans and wheat.

The most recent statistics indicate that nearly one-third of North Americans are now following a gluten-free diet for one reason or another. According to the Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, lactose intolerance in Canada is estimated to affect approximately 16% of the population. There is no disputing it—we are living in a country (and continent) that has a growing number of adults and children experiencing numerous food allergies and intolerances. Given that fact, it is our collective obligation to learn more about this topic in order to be informed about how we need to eat as individuals and how we can accommodate the needs of others. The odds are everyone is connected to someone else who has special dietary requirements. So here are some tips for the next time you’re entertaining and putting food on the Bar-B.

Ask Questions
The last thing you want to do is replace something your guest can’t eat with something they can eat but don’t like to eat. Everyone appreciates being part of menu planning, or simply being asked what they enjoy eating. Pose the question casually and let it be known you are asking because you aim to please.

Read All Labels
There are many unsuspecting hidden sources of common food allergens. You might want to ask your guests for a mini lesson on this topic. You will be surprised by what you will learn! For example, many people don’t realize that malt is often a source of barley, which contains gluten. Most sources of malt (malt extract, malt syrup, malt vinegar, malted milk, and malt flavouring) are derived from barley and function as an additive in packaged foods. Beer, which is also derived from barley, is a big no-no for gluten intolerant or sensitive guests.

Prevent Cross-Contamination Risks
Clean and disinfect your barbeque grill. While preparing food, work in a disinfected area of your kitchen and ensure that it is completely clear of any restricted ingredients that could potentially come into contact with the food you are preparing for your guests with dietary restrictions. Make sure that countertops, pots, pans, utensils and all equipment you use to prepare your dishes are properly disinfected. Do not use serving utensils made of porous material, which might hold allergen-containing ingredients. Ask your guests for a mini lesson on cross contamination prevention.

DIY & Serve Safe Sides
Make your own dressings, gravies, soups, salads and sauces. By making these items fresh, you avoid hidden allergen sources. Check the ingredients in all condiments, and ask your guests which ones they can and cannot have.

Honesty is the Best Policy
We all make mistakes and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. If you think you made a mistake with how you have prepared a dish, bring it to your guest’s attention. I guarantee they will thank you for the heads up!

Don’t Throw Away Packaging
To prevent doubt, don’t throw it out! Without the labels, ingredients can’t be verified. Having packaging available for your guests to look at will put their mind at ease, particularly with those foods that really taste delicious (and not allergen-free).

Keep the Members of Your Household Informed
Let your household members know about your guests’ special dietary needs and the steps you are taking to ensure they don’t get sick or ingest anything they can’t eat. Give your family a lesson in cross-contact prevention, food allergy safety and how to be a gracious host (now that you’ve learned how!).

Don’t Skip Dessert
There is an abundance of recipes available today for allergen-friendly desserts and baked goods that are completely free of all the top food allergens. Serve your dessert with an assortment of fresh fruit that your guests are allowed. You can’t go wrong with ending on a fresh, sweet note.

This is my go-to gluten-free, allergen-friendly, vegan burger recipe, created by recipe developer and author, Maggie Savage.

Adzuki and Quinoa Veggie Burgers

Yield: 6-8 Burgers

1 cup chopped red onion
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 cup chopped veggie of your choice (we like celery, carrots, orange pepper)
2 cups cooked quinoa
1½ cups cooked adzuki beans
2½ tbsp unsweetened salsa
2 tbsp chipotle sauce
1½ tsp grainy mustard
1 tsp sea salt
black pepper to taste
1½ cups almond flour

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet or pizza stone.
2. Cook red onion and garlic in a frying pan over medium heat until soft.
3. Add celery or carrots or orange pepper and cook for 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and place in the bowl of your food processor.
4. Add cooked quinoa, adzuki beans, salsa, chipotle sauce and mustard. Process until combined.
5. Add sea salt, ground pepper and almond flour. Process until desired consistency is reached and almond flour is well distributed.
6. Place veggie burger mixture into a bowl, cover and put in the fridge to cool for at least 30 minutes.
7. Remove from fridge and form into patties that are approximately 4 inches wide.
8. Place on prepared cookie sheet and cook at 350°F for 25-30 minutes. Flip burgers after 15 minutes.
9. Serve burgers on a gluten-free bun or a crunchy pile of greens tossed with lemon and olive oil.


Lisa Cantkier is a lifelong celiac, nutrition coach at Toronto’s Liberty Clinic, and founder of GlutenFreeFind.com