A few weeks ago, my daughter celebrated her eighth birthday with a party. If I’m a bit of an indulgent mother from time to time, it comes to the fore here. You see, I thought it would be nice if her own birthday party would be the one occasion at which she could walk up to a table of food and choose anything to eat. You know, choose anything to eat without first having to ask whether it’s gluten-free. Not that she minds having to ask, but it was great for her to have a little break from the everyday.
So I resolved to do a food spread that was entirely gluten-free. And that wouldn’t break the bank.
Nothing like a challenge.
I’ve not really done party food posts before – mainly because this is only the second birthday party my daughter has had since her diagnosis. Food for the previous party was also all gluten-free but also fairly experimental. That’s me. Serve up an experiment to the guests. Crazy stuff!
I’ve learned a thing or two since then, so now, finally, I think my party food is worthy of a post.
It has to be said, though, that my pictures for this post are rubbish. Sorry about that. I was working quickly, without enough time to set the food up in proper lighting, but I’m sure you’ll get the idea. At least I had time to grab my camera!
I should also warn you that when it comes to birthday parties, I dispense with all my principles of good nutrition and home baking. I’ll serve up processed foods, packaged foods, cake mix birthday cakes … whatever gets me to bed before 2am the night before the party. Why? Because my kids only have parties once every two years and as they get older, fewer of their friends are having parties. So there’s not too much risk that the party food will cause long-term damage from excess sugar, fat, salt, additives, et cetera. I just avoid serving anything with red colouring so that my house doesn’t get trashed by hyped-up kids!
Here’s my gluten-free party menu.
Light Snack Food
I had a big bowl of potato chips (crisps) waiting for the kids when they arrived. Popcorn is also a good option for older kids (but beware it’s a choking hazard for little ones).
I always think that the beginning of the party is the one time when you might be able to fill them up with a bit of fresh fruit, and if it’s presented in an interesting or novel manner, the kids won’t mind. I love these fruit rockets from Feeding Fussy Kids by Julie Maree Wood with Antonia Kidman – also known by me as The Greatest Cookbook Ever Written (I may have mentioned this once or twice before). You guessed it. There were none leftover.
Another easy option is gluten-free hommus dip with vegetable sticks and rice crackers. The kids may or may not go near the veggies, but any adults hanging around will be happy to fill up on them.
I was thinking about making gluten-free sausage rolls, but they’re expensive and time-consuming. Also, I think that the less energetic the party, the less they’ll eat. This party was a pamper party (that’s right, you heard me), so it was a safe bet that the kids weren’t going to eat me out of house and home. So I cancelled the sausage rolls idea and instead served pizza, nachos and frankfurt sausages.
I made two large slabs of pizza in my large rectangular cookie sheet trays. I used a pizza dough mix which was far cheaper than buying ready-made gluten-free pizza bases. The Macro Gluten-Free Pizza Base is my favourite and it worked a treat. The topping was a simple ham and cheese. The kids polished off one whole pizza, which left the other one to be frozen. Double win!
I made really basic gluten-free nachos by putting plain corn chips into a large oven-proof dish, generously covering with tomato salsa or taco sauce and topping with grated cheese. I baked them in a moderate oven for about 10 minutes so that the cheese had melted and they had warmed through. So, so easy. The kids were happy to eat them, but it was the grown-ups who polished them off (er, that would mostly have been me!). This one ticked all the boxes of quick, easy and cheap.
And the frankfurts. I don’t even want to know what they put into those little sausages, but it’s fair to say that if I’d served double the amount, the kids still would have eaten them all. Heat them up in a pot of boiling water and serve with an endless supply of tomato sauce (ketchup). Yerk, but happy kids!
Another fantastic but more expensive option is a sushi platter from your local sushi shop. Kids and adults alike love, love, love sushi. But beware of any fillings that are crumbed, contain mayonnaise or soy sauce (as well as the soy dipping sauce). Gluten can be lurking so you need to careful to give clear instructions when ordering.
Let’s be honest, the sweet party food is really what everyone looks forward to. And there are so many options. Bowls of lollies, chocolates, chocolate crackles, honey crackles, fairy bread. And on it goes.
I made cupcakes (pictured at the start of this post) using the Coles Simply Gluten Free Vanilla Cupcakes cake mix. I added cocoa to the icing (frosting) and generously decorated them with a piping bag, topping with a chocolate button.
I took the lead from my friend Katrina and made jelly oranges. Click here for Katrina’s Babyology post on jelly oranges. They’re great – they look impressive but are simple and cheap to make, and the kids go nuts for them.
I continued the chocolate theme with chocolate-dipped marshmallow pops from the current Donna Hay Kids Magazine 2014 (page 91), although my attempt was fairly woeful compared with the gorgeous picture in the magazine. The kids didn’t care, though. No leftovers!
I also made the confetti bars from the same magazine (also on page 91) as they looked and sounded interesting and there was no need to adapt the recipe to gluten-free. Mine were more like uneven confetti chunks because they didn’t slice very easily, but it didn’t matter. The kids weren’t much into trying them but the grown-ups more than made up for that.
If you want more sweet ideas, try these Gluten-free Wicked Chocolate Balls. The great thing about them is that you can use any offcuts from the birthday cake to make the balls. Love a bit of recycling!
The birthday cake is the most important part of the feast, even though the kids aren’t usually interested in eating it by the time the cake is cut.
My daughter chose the Sweets Shop Cake from the Australian Womens’ Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book (Vintage Edition). This posed quite a challenge as I couldn’t source gluten-free multi-coloured candy canes and liquorice. I settled for the sweets you see in the picture above. Not my greatest cake decorating effort, but she was happy.
As you’d know by now, I’m not one to shy away from a packet cake mix and I used two chocolate mud cake mixes for this cake. For a great tip on decorating gluten-free cakes, click through here to one of my older posts.
I hope this post assists you with your next birthday party. If you have any of your own suggestions, please leave a comment below. Happy party planning!