How do you pull off an awesome low-budget, gluten-free, soy-free, worry-free birthday party?

Guest post by Agenta Emme
Gluten Free birthday party card by TickTockPress

I’m trying to pull off an awesome birthday party for my husband this year. But it’s his first birthday since we discovered that he is both gluten and soy intolerant. It’s been a tough year, and we both have had to change the way we shop for food and our feelings about always eating together. On top of that, money has been tight, due to his doctor visits and because I’m still in school.

I feel like he deserves to have a wonderful birthday, where he doesn’t have to give a damn about worrying about what’s in his food. I figured if anyone would know about throwing a party for a nerd with dietary constrictions on a budget, the Offbeat Homies would know.

So how do you pull off an awesome low-budget, gluten-free, soy-free, worry-free birthday party? -Jackie

Hi! I’ve been gluten-free for a little over a year now. It was really hard at first as we love having weekly game nights with our friends. There’s always the worry that they’re not going to like gluten-free food, and they’re not going to be happy… wait… if it doesn’t taste good than I am not going to be happy either.

I have since learned to make a ton of things myself:

  • We do build your own taco bars (giving people the option to use either corn or white flour tortillas)
  • We make quesadillas
  • Serve all-meat hot-dogs with homemade beans
  • Build your own potato salad
  • Always little bites of things like cheese, salami (read the ingredients), cherry tomatoes
  • And I always provide crackers even if I don’t have any that are gluten-free

For a gluten free birthday party I try to make the cake myself, as many of the boxed mixes taste weird. I use the gluten free flour blend in this book: Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking and I have never had any problems with substituting that in place of flour in any recipe. Just remember that you need to make your own gluten-free baking powder. You can find the recipe on the internet and make a big batch to last awhile. It’s just baking soda and cream of tarter.

Since I started baking from that book my husband (who HATES gluten-free food) has been happily munching on the same bread that I have.

If you have any questions for a gluten-free foodie who throws a ton of get-togethers… let me know!

Comments on How do you pull off an awesome low-budget, gluten-free, soy-free, worry-free birthday party?

  1. I’m GF, cheap, and love food, so here’s my tip:

    Make a cookie bar, using this sugar cookie mix as the base:

    A friend of mine did this for a party. She made the dough and pre-formed them into balls which she left on a cookie sheet, and then put out a bunch of bowls full of “toppings” people could add to make the GF cookies of their dreams! Toppings included peanut butter cups, chocolate chips, m&ms, raisins, and other dried fruits. People topped their cookies to their liking, and then my friend just popped them in the oven when the cookie sheet was full. It was super fun, gluten free, and everyone got to have their ideal cookie! So much more fun, creative, CHEAP and taste-satisfying than buying some fancy/expensive/complex cake or pre-made dessert thing that isn’t even guaranteed to be good.

    Along with the cookies, she served homemade sangria, which again can be done on the cheap using less expensive wines combined with yummy juices and fresh fruit chunks.

    Best party food ever. Also, you can always tell friends to “BYOB” if you think people will want other beverages.

  2. Lots of good advice! I love the grilling out one b/c with a grill you can throw a BYO party and easily come up with cheap, yummy veggies (I love big meaty Portabello mushroom caps grilled with balsamic vinegar and black pepper, which also goes well with mozzarella and red tomato).

    Bob’s Red Mill cake mix is really yummy but off the top I don’t remember if it has soy.

    I have tons of gluten free, vegan, veggie and carnivorous recipes on my blog, as well as budget party menus and tips, gluten free cake ideas, and such. Please feel free to browse it!


  3. I’ve been celiac for years, and I’m also a bit of a food nerd. Top tips:

    DO invest in good cook books for baking – ‘Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache’ has some fabulous cakes that will satisfy every cake craving AND their healthy with easy to find ingredients. Ratio by Michael Ruelman (SP?) will teach you how to bake anything without a specific recipe by weight. Works perfectly for GF.
    DON’T buy cake mixes – obviously they have their place, but you are paying premium for an inferior product. Make your own.

    DO eat more curries, targines, paellas and stirfrys. Stock up on fresh garlic, ginger and herbs, dry herbs and spices and things like apple cider vinegar and honey. |
    DON’T buy pre-made sauces. A little research will give you a delicious chicken with cashews using ginger, garlic, honey, pepper and cornflour instead of artifical flavours, thickeners, msg, salt, gluten and soy. Tasty, real, food, using only food! Woo!

    DO explore new foods, styles and flavours. I’ve just discovered the sofrito. I buy up cheap veges and cook up a big batch, frozen in portions. Then I use it as a base for soups, pasta sauce, paella, baked dishes. It adds quick, healthy flavour.
    DON’T try to replicate you old diet. It’ll cost the earth, disappoint and frustrate you.

    For my daughters birthday party last week end we had cupcakes (check out that book Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache), macarons, mini quiche, rocky road, chocolate truffles and zucchini slice. all made from scratch, all gluten free, all within our tiny budget and all delicious. My daughter and I were the only GF people there, and no-one even noticed until someone made a big deal out of how awesome the cake was.

  4. Can I just say how awesome this whole thread is? Husband just started going gluten-free and soy-free, and it’s awesome to have product recommendations and meals ideas, party or no party.

    • This is an awesome thread! I felt so alone a few months ago when we had to switch to a stricter gluten free & soy free diet, but now I have such a huge sense of community from all the homies!

  5. When I had a large number of people over, some of whom were GF, I did a breakfast burrito bar, and the burrito stuffing was a perfectly acceptable stand-alone crock pot egg bake like thing. I precooked eggs and hash browns the night before, then before we left in the morning, I threw them in the crock pot on low. Then when we got back to our apartment a few hours later I threw in cheese and mixed it up.

    Also, there is a “cheesy ranch” chex mix recipe on the manufacturer website. I make sure to use GF pretzels and I substitute cheese flavored nut-thin crackers for the cheez-its.
    Also, just because it always tastes better, I bake it per original chex mix directions instead of the microwave – crunchier that way. GF pretzels are getting better and easier to find, so most people don’t even notice, except those who need to be careful.

  6. i’m a special eater, too.
    it’s summertime, so all the good stuff is in season. i say taco bar potluck (use corn tortillas!) – make you-bring-this assignments, cheap box wine+fizzywater for cocktails (fancy, tasty, and you don’t notice it’s franzia once you add the bubbles), and fruit and chocolate for dessert. we just made juice ice cubes to go in the fizzy cocktails since it was 105+ here last week; that made for a nice refreshing treat.

    on the topic of flourless chocolate cake: get the recipe from gianmarco.

    i agree with all the folks about substitutes v. alternatives and choosing alternatives is way way tastier, and typically more affordable.

    crustless swirly quiche – is heavenly.
    google this for recipes
    “spanish tortilla” – it’s like an omelette meets a pancake. it’s a delicious eggy treat.

  7. I just want to say that all of you are amazing. I was not expecting this strong of a response, but you have blown my expectations out of the water. Potato bars, Mexican bars, kebabs, crust-less quiche, homemade hummus, pavlova and that’s just scratching the surface. The number of wonderful links and resources alone have been awesome!

    I feel so much more confident and prepared about this now, thank all of you so much!

  8. I am not only gluten intolerant and allergic to MSG but due to intestinal by pass I can not eat most carbs or anything with a lot of fiber unless I want to be in pain and be gassy to a toxic level for the entire night. This includes most fruits and veg as well as anything with sugar in it.
    The gluten intolerance became much much worse after knee surgery which is not uncommon as physical trauma can make it worse. I think it is good you are making an effort because to be honest I am dealing with some depression issues feeling like there is so little I can eat and damn but I am sick of meat… the worse for me is how people minimize any feelings of loss I have over this, yes I had given up bread but soup? Who knew how many things have gluten for heavens sake.
    If it was me and I could eat the fruit and veg I would much prefer the grilled glazed fruit to a GF cake. Peaches, pineapple, honeycrisp apples I have even heard of doing watermelon that way. I also agree with the kabobs, they are easy but feel fancy when they are nicely grilled

  9. Another dessert idea is cheesecake. My recipe is basically just cream cheese, fresh cream, eggs, sugar, and (optional, if you can’t find GF) vanilla extract. Super quick and easy especially with a mixer.

    For the crust, instead of graham crackers, I throw about a cup of nuts (almonds and Brazil nuts have both worked deliciously well) into the food processor. Add gluten free oats until it gets kind of uniformly mealy, along with a pinch of salt and a spoonful of sugar. Add butter just until it sticks together when pressed. Pat into the bottom of your pan and bake in the oven just until it starts to brown and the nuts start to smell toasty. Then add your cheesecake batter.

    I currently have no oven, but have learned to make the cheesecake itself in my pressure cooker, and I’m not sure I’ll ever go back. It’s much quicker and easier. Slow cookers can also be used with less hassle and no worry about cracking.

    Top it with fresh fruit, fruit sauce, chocolate ganache, cocoa powder, write on it with melted chocolate, etc.

  10. my greatest advice to you, as a chef, is to learn to cook. learn about food. learn about processed foods, common synonyms for your “bad list”, ect. basically, you just need to learn. because even if everyone here links you to the best GF, soy-free cake ever and you make it and it turns our perfectly, you are right back to where you are now literally the next day.

    being gluten and soy free is not that hard. being a chef, ive planned lots of menus around lots of different restrictions- my personal favorite and hardest to tackle, was a passed h’orderves party centered around a southern-style thanksgiving. and that was just the menu theme- no dietary restrictions! so trust that its not hard, you just need to be intelligent and informed, and know how to cook. itll be a process, it wont happen overnight, but talking more about the big picture of this- learn all you can about cooking and food.

  11. If you’re on a budget, why don’t you do a potluck where you ask people to bring a gluten-free dish? You can make a few you know he’ll like and use a paper tablecloth where you write what each dish is and you can even visibly split the table on the tablecloth to indicate which dishes are safe and which aren’t.

  12. I went GF & Dairy free a few years ago and, as much as I love baking, GF baking generally intimidates me. However, I found this recipe that I made a couple weeks ago for a BBQ that everyone loved (uses coconut flour): I haven’t figured out the frosting yet, but the cupcakes were really good.

    I agree with what many others have said: it should be fairly easy to do a BBQ and have everything that works to your husband’s dietary restrictions.Corn chips and guacamole or hummus are my favorite appetizers as they’re fairly easy to get (at least here in California) and are safe.

    To save money, you could also do a potluck and ask people to bring a gluten free/soy free appetizer or side dish to snack on so you don’t have to pay for all of it yourself and you can try new things at the same time. Most people know at least one person who is gluten free these days so those who like to cook may like the challenge. Good luck.

  13. In my experience with clients ( I do home cooking/food consults for dietary restrictions), my advice is to go as natural as possible. Gluten free naturally is far easier than people realize, and if you stay away from premade **** you can usually avoid Soy pretty easily as well. What types of food does he like? There are also some amazing like 3 ingredient cheesecake recipes out there for a dessert that’s EXTRAordinary when you add your favorite fruit/chocolate/etc to it. Pinterest has some amazing options for classing up basic things.

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