Lauren Egger is a busy mom of five, a former RN and founder of the Healthy Mom Project.
‘Tis the season for cookouts and get-togethers! FINALLY. A cheese tray is pretty much a staple at gatherings. Even if you don’t usually eat cheese and crackers you probably end up eating it at parties because it’s right in front of you. I have recreated the typical tray to make it healthy and gluten-free with a dairy-free option, for the ultimate gluten free cheese board. WIN!
It’s nice to always show up to someone else’s house with an appetizer (or dessert.) If you’re like me, you don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen preparing it. This is super simple and a total crowd pleaser. Allergies are on the rise and so are special diets for tackling systemic issues. Having healthy and allergy-friendly options is really appreciated in my book!
1. Start with Crackers
We are huge fans of Simple Mills Almond Flour Crackers. They are paleo-friendly, dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan. They are made out of a nut and seed flour blend so they are naturally gluten free. Only 8 simple ingredients! It’s actually really hard to believe these are gluten-free and healthy. Something that tastes this good usually isn’t healthy! They are kid-approved which makes them that much more spectacular. These are located in the cracker aisle at Heinen’s. Other gluten-free crackers that are delicious are Absolutely Gluten-Free (Everything), Crunchmaster Multi-Seed and Mary’s Gone Crackers.
2. Think Local and Pickles
I love to use local products when I spot them at the store. Even if they are priced a little higher, I buy it because I know it’s going to a small business with a lot of passion behind the product. Supporting local companies builds strong communities. Check out this long list of local companies Heinen’s carries in store. Randy’s Pickles Bread & Butter pickles are one of our favorites. They use real ingredients that you can recognize and pronounce. Stick a toothpick in a few to get a little fancy for your guests. We also prefer Heinen’s Organic Olives over other brands. They stick to real ingredients as well with no artificial ingredients.
3. Make Candied Pecans
We usually make candied pecans around the holidays, but they are too good to only make them seasonally. They are super easy to make. These are addicting, but that’s ok because it’s a great healthy snack full of protein and healthy fats. (See recipe below.) If you don’t have time to make candied pecans, choose almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts or any nuts you have on hand!
4. Add Fruit
This can be anything from blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, melon, sliced oranges, apples or grapes. Fruit is great to have at any gathering and is kid-approved! It adds a nice pop of color on your tray. If you want to get fancier, hollow out cherry tomatoes, and fill them with softened cream cheese and fresh herbs like parsley and chives.
5. Cheese Please!
Give a couple options for cheese on your tray. It’s thoughtful to have a dairy-free option for anyone who avoids dairy (whether they have an allergy, are vegan or just like to avoid it for health reasons.) We go for the dairy-free DAIYA Monterey Jack Style farmhouse block and an organic regular cheese option. A soft goat cheese and blue cheese are other crowd pleasers as well.
Assembling the tray takes no time at all. Start with a flat tray of any sort. Use different size bowls to give it height and depth. Add olives to a small bowl and crackers to a larger bowl. Use a coaster to add some decor and place pickles or fruit on top. Drop a handful of nuts in the middle of the tray. Finally, add cut or sliced cheese to the tray. Easy peasy! Your cheese tray will look fancy, taste great and meet most dietary needs. Best of all, it’s healthy!
Candied Pecans Recipe
- 2 tbsp unrefined coconut oil
- 3 tbsp organic maple syrup
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- 2 cups raw pecans
1. Melt coconut oil over medium/low heat. Add maple syrup, vanilla and salt, and stir well.
2. When mixture is bubbling, add pecans. Stir pecans well so they’re completely coated.
3. Cook and stir constantly for about 5 minutes. Be careful so they don’t burn!
4. Take the pan off the heat and transfer pecans onto a piece of wax paper or parchment paper to cool.