Feeding a Mixed Crowd: one meal for a variety of food needs

Photo: Amanda Donaho Photography

About 18 months ago I had the pleasure to serve as private chef to an incredible group of female business owners. They were at a creative retreat designed to infuse their businesses with new vision. One of the perks of this retreat was all meals served up in-house by yours truly. The menu was in place BEFORE the participants. Upon registering, each person had a chance to list food allergies, intolerances and preferences. So there I was, not only needing to meet pretty tight timelines for meal service, but also needing to adapt each meal to accommodate 3 very specific needs. TIME TO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX!



Menus made of mostly whole, unprocessed foods are the easiest to modify. You can control EXACTLY which ingredients to include and omit. This does require making most of your food from scratch, but with good planning you can make a lot of things in advance. (Don’t get me started on my love of meal plans. That’s a post for another day!)


I remember freaking out the first time I had to cook for a friend who has celiac disease. This is not just a matter of a tummy ache, too much of the wrong food could land her in the hospital. I used to go to elaborate lengths to cook a different meal for her. She actually wanted to be eating what everyone else was, so I stopped over-planning. When I made a big batch of lasagna for our small group I made a smaller pan using zucchini noodles. One simple ingredient switch. Instead of serving cake or cookies for dessert, we did fruit parfaits. They were every bit as delicious, but wouldn’t hurt our friend.


Cooking , and especially baking, can be pretty tricky when it comes to certain food needs. Spend some time learning. Just a few tips can go a long way. A while back I took a deep dive into gluten free baking. I learned all about alternative flours, which could be subbed 1:1, which could not. Now I have this little reference file tucked away in my brain. It makes adapting a baking recipe so much easier and I can use MY favorite recipe and still serve my gluten free friends.


If you serve it, they will eat! Did your parent ever try to sneak extra veggies into your meals? Maybe they did and you didn’t even notice! The best way to serve a mixed crowd is to just SERVE THE FOOD and say nothing. Instead of announcing to the group about this gluten free/dairy free/paleo brownie, just serve it and watch what happens!

I think the best compliment I received the weekend of the retreat was the women asking if I had remembered their allergy when preparing a certain food. I always assured them I did, but they couldn’t see a difference between their food and the rest of the group. One woman teared up telling me how much she enjoyed eating some foods she hadn’t had in ages. SHE didn’t even know of some of these tweaks were possible. There’s so much joy in serving food, especially when folks have been feeling left out.

Today I’m sharing with you my recipe for the delicious quiche pictured above! I used to serve it in a flour crust, but I decided to try a potato crust for my gluten free friends. Guess what? I loved it, my family loved it! It’s our new go to quiche.

All photos in this post courtesy of Amanda Donaho Photography http://amandadonaho.com/


The Evolution of a Recipe: Tortilla Edition

Who loves tacos? I guess the better question is, who DOESN’T love tacos? In my house we diligently guard our Taco Tuesdays (and Wednesdays, Thursdays… you get the picture). Actually, tacos and fajitas are one the top ways I utilize leftover protein. So when I realized my Whole30 was going to prevent me from enjoying my beloved corn tortillas, I went to work on a grain-free option.

Now, before the Whole30 judges come to get me, I am WELL AWARE that tortillas are SWYPO (search it); taking an item and making a paleo version of it, rather than just giving it up for a month. However, my reasons for Whole30 these days are not to identify triggers or allergies, but simply for a reset and refocus. And, so here we are!

ATTEMPT #1 Almond, Coconut + Tapioca Flours

YIKES! The theory was good, but they were very crumbly and the almond flour did not say tortilla to me.

ATTEMPT #2 Tapioca Flour + Egg

Getting Closer! The texture was almost right, but these little guys were not fold-able! They would make a better tostada.


I’m so happy with how these turned out! I decided to roll them out and use my 4″ pastry cutter to make them the perfect little tortillas for street tacos.

Sniffles, Snuggles, & Sourdough

Being healthy means sometimes letting go of all the expectations.

It’s been a week around here! Rather, it’s been a crazy winter season in general. My youngest (the little cherub cheeks in the photo) is in Kindergarten and our wonderful family doctor has been assuring me since child #1 that virus-after-virus when starting school is part of developing a healthy immune system. Honestly, without her encouragement my mama-bear brain would be circling the drain. It’s so hard to watch your kids fight continuous sickness and despite all best efforts and healthy habits, it’s still happening. I’m so fortunate and truly grateful, that even with these “seasons” of sickness, my kids are generally in great health. I have nothing but respect for those parents who walk through chronic illness with their children.

But, sometimes…

I’m a creature of habit: a non-type A person who actually thrives in a routine. I know it sounds strange, but I’m actually MORE creative when I have a plan for the day. Not a plan for every minute or hour, but an idea of what things need to take time; morning, afternoon and evening. For years I was so resistant to planners and digital calendars. Now they are my trusted companions.

So, when life throws me a major curve ball I find my tendency is to throw it all out! Forget about meal planning, exercise, juicing, etc, etc, etc. And then I beat myself up for abandoning “THE PLAN.” You know what… SOMETIMES THAT’S WHAT’S NEEDED!

Sometimes I need to stop everything, order some carryout and snuggle my boy.

Sometimes I need to realize I haven’t slept through the night in weeks and though going for a run may temporarily clear my head, the toll on my body may not be ideal.

Sometimes getting a sweat on is just what the doctor ordered!

-Sometimes a big, green smoothie can cure a multitude of ailments.

Being healthy means sometimes letting go of all the expectations and taking a moment to back off the routine and just sit, relax, heal, and reevaluate. A mandatory, unplanned week at home is one of the best things for me to clear my head and reset. Unfortunately, this usually only happens when someone is home sick. How sad.

So for this week, I’m snuggling my rosy-cheeked boy, baking sourdough biscuits, watching hours upon hours of Wild Kratts and striving to live in a place of balance and gratitude for this beautiful, messy gift of a life!


A Whole-y Jolly Christmas

It’s upon us! That time of year that is both exhilarating and exhausting, magical and mind-spinning… you get the idea. It’s the holiday season and as I get older I realize that for too many years I’ve just barely limped through the holidays. I wanted to share a few tips that have proven helpful to me in my personal journey toward a healthy mind, body and spirit. 

Best of all, Christmas means a spirit of love, a time when the love of God and the love of our fellow men should prevail over all hatred and bitterness, a time when our thoughts and deeds and the spirit of our lives manifest the presence of God.

George F. McDougall

Okay, I won’t get too mystical here, but I do believe you can’t talk about the holidays without addressing what it “truly means” to you and your tribe. On that note, we’ll tackle SPIRIT first. 


What does Christmas/ “the” holidays/ this season actually mean to you? As a Christian my season does (or should) center around celebrating the birth of Christ.  In my house, we love starting out December with a daily Advent devotional, celebrating the life and times of St. Nicholas and having a big ‘ole birthday party for Jesus. And don’t worry, we still love Santa, write our letters, make our lists, check them five hundred times. 

As a new mom I used to get really caught up in creating the perfect Christmas moments for my boys and EVEN WORSE the perfect post-able photos. UGH! I’m embarrassed to even type out those words.  In my quest to create some magic for my family, the outcome was quite the opposite. I was run down, rushed, sleep deprived and not joyful. And forget actually taking a moment to remember Jesus. 

I’m not sure when it clicked; that I was NOT a Griswald, and didn’t need to outdo the Jones’s with my Christmas displays. I could create a meaningful and very magical Christmas experience for my kids in my own way.  Starting the Advent devotional was the best thing that ever happened to us. We end every evening reading a reflection and prayer about why we celebrate this season. This may not be your style or how you choose to do the holidays, but my challenge is this: FIND WHAT MAKES YOU PAUSE AND PONDER DURING THE HOLIDAYS. Maybe it’s mindfulness, gratitude, acts of service- Find. that. thing!


We’re fast approaching the date when everyone decides they’re going to be healthy…for two weeks. Groan. Let’s not hang out here.

It’s easy to get physically depleted during this time of year. We’re traveling, participating in extra parties, making some of the most delicious goodies of the whole year. I’m not here to tell you to abstain from any of those things- they’re all good.

For me all things in moderation becomes my mantra this time of year. Christmas cookies? In moderation. Wine? In moderation. But lets also add a few other good things to our list: moving our bodies, drinking water, eating lots of fresh vegetables. I wouldn’t in a million years advise anyone (or myself) to adopt any hard and fast rules about eating or fitness this time of year. I feel, in general, success comes through gradual, MODERATE changes (in most cases).

Here are my goals for the next month:

  • Eat a fresh, raw vegetable with every meal. YES, EVERY MEAL! For me this usually means tossing some mixed greens with a yummy infused balsamic and some olive oil for breakfast. For real, folks, breakfast salads changed my life!
  • Move my body every day. A brisk walk around the house, up and down the steps a few extra times, or most preferably getting myself, my kids, and our pup outside.
  • Focused exercise 3 times per week. This includes some intense cardio and lifting weights. You’ll be amazed what this can do for your body and your mental health!
  • DRINK WATER!!!! Take your body weight, cut it in half and that’s the amount of water (in ounces) you should be consuming every day. I’m taking to myself here, too! Find a cute tumbler you like, throw in some fruit slices and ice and keep refilling throughout the day


For those of us who’ve experienced the loss of a loved one or lack of the ideal family situation, the holidays can be a very tricky time of year. There are so many opportunities for these magical, card-worthy moments and I can sometimes get caught up in the lack I’m feeling. Now-a-days I feel the sting when I attend my kid’s Christmas programs. All of the grandparents proudly sporting their Christmas best, snapping pics of their little legacies. You see, even though my dad has been gone almost 20 years and mom and step-dad are amazing grands, I still can’t help but remember my own proud father at these productions and how much he would have adored attending every one now. The potential to circle the drain is so strong.

And here is where I make a choice. A sometimes-harder-than-others choice. I choose to remember my dad, my grandparents and other loved ones who’ve passed and how they celebrated Christmas. I choose to make my Granny’s gingerbread or try (with much failure) to ice skate backwards while holding my kids’ hands, like my dad did for me. I talk about these people with my kids A LOT. I share favorite memories and look at photos. MOST OF ALL, I honor them by NOT sinking into despair or feeling like I’ve been robbed of something. I honor them by CHOOSING JOY DURING THE HOLIDAYS!

So maybe your holiday angst doesn’t come from this same sort of loss, but something you’re longing for or waiting for. Make a choice to acknowledge those feelings without letting them be the focus or driving force of your holiday. Give voice and name to those feelings (don’t ignore) but don’t hang out with them. Put yourself in a better position this year. Maybe that means changing up your traditions; serving at a feeding center, not going into debt to purchase gifts, inviting someone new into your celebrations. Just think about it and make a better choice. 

Now for something a little more light-hearted, head over to my recipes page where I’ve shared my Granny’s gingerbread with a few tweaks of my own!


A Carefully Curated Life

authentic adjective au·​then·​tic | \ə-ˈthen-tik

not false or imitation REALACTUAL
true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character

How’s your relationship with social media? Does it make you better? Does it lift you up? If you’re anything like me you’ve found a lot of good out there: tips on how to make life easier, healthier, simpler, more exciting! But you’ve probably also found some bad:  trolls, political divisiveness, picture-perfect people that make you feel so small. And while I can CHOOSE to pass on social media,  unfollow the bad and try not to compare myself to the perfect, it’s still out there… in the world! 

I keep stumbling across and fighting against this need to curate the life I put out for everyone to see. Whether it’s on social media or in front of peers at my kids’ schools, this perceived need to portray myself as something (good-competent- capable-etc) is strong. I sometimes even find myself trying to do this with the people who know me  best; my husband, family, even God.  Why is it so hard to be vulnerable?

For me it two-fold: FEAR and PRIDE. I’m AFRAID people might see the real me and not approve. I’m too PROUD to allow that to happen. It’s a terrible way to live. It robs me of true connection in relationships and even keeps me from seeing growth opportunities for myself and taking them.  

I follow some really amazing people on social media who do a phenomenal job of laying it all out there. A lot of them are SO real it sometimes rubs me the wrong way.  And sometimes, even when it looks a lot different from my way of life, it’s incredibly refreshing! One friend is so real in her struggles and finding strength in her faith it’s challenging, refreshing and makes me feel I know her better (and she’s a friend in the tangible world, too)! 

So here’s my challenge to you and to myself: Let’s get real! Let’s put useful, beautiful, creative things out there in the world. BUT, let’s also let our freak flags fly! Let the struggle show, let the mundane show, let the need show. That way we can use this incredible platform of instant communication to benefit each other. Isn’t that really the most beautiful thing of all?

P.S. I’ve got a really yummy healthy swap recipe coming your way just in time for the holidays!

This is me 90% of the time. Hat covering my giant hair, NOT looking at the camera, comfy athleisure wear, screaming to my husband about a botanical, food,  or child “OMG take a photo!!”

I was here- I. AM. Here.

It’s not too small. It’s not insignificant. My voice is just that- MY VOICE.

Photo: Amanda Donaho

Hey there, friends. I’ve been holding back on you a bit. You see, I can’t even count the amount of posts, articles, infographics, etc I’ve composed in my head and never shared. I just figured, who am I? I’m NO expert. It’s not a lack of caring. I just don’t want to waste your time.

Your words, your work, your online life is one of the things your kids will look back to when you’re gone to say, ‘ this is what my mom was about.’

So let me lay it all out there.

I’m too scared to try.

I’ll get to telling you all about me, my point of view, my passions, my faith; but first I need to tell you a story.

I just spent the weekend at a retreat for creatives; photographers, designers, planners, videographers. I am none of these. I was hanging out in the kitchen. Cooking, doing dishes, and watching some really inspiring entrepreneurs hone in on the heart of their business. One of my oldest, dearest friends was hosting this group and maybe it was my FOMO (or her intuition) but I pretty much inserted myself in this weekend. “How about I come and serve as your private chef?”

So while I didn’t sit in on the sessions on building your brand, finding your point of view, connecting with clients, I did have some really incredible conversations. These women have so much grit. Almost all have overcome personal hardships, tragedies, so much struggle, and yet still have built vibrant, successful businesses. And even more, they’re creatively fulfilled, leaving their marks on the world. USING THEIR GIFTS.

And then the questions…
“What’s your story?” “Do you cook for a living?” “Has food always been your passion?”And the scariest one, “What’s your social media handle?” (I can see you rolling your eyes right now. Also, I’m 38). My social media presence consists of a moderately active Instagram account, which is mostly pics of my kids and puppy and a Facebook account which exists only to keep up with friends and family. I occasionally post a food photo or maybe a PR at the gym, but I’m not lifestyle social media sharer. I just want Aunt Kathy to be able to see how cute my guys were at summer camp.

But, why?
You see, I LOVE to learn about food, nutrition, fitness, supplements, high performing gear! And if you know me, you know I will evangelized you to the max! When I get behind something like that it’s all I can talk about. Seriously, ask my friends and family. But, that evangelism has never translated to the online world. Here’s why: I’m no expert. I don’t have any letters behind my name to validate my research. Most of this stuff wasn’t even on my radar during my college years. So when I think about putting it out there for anyone beyond my circle of quiet (more on this later) it’s always been a hard pass.

Enter Terri

Are you familiar with an alcoholic beverage called Hot Damn? It’s this kind of crazy liquor that burns your face off with cinnamon and spice and finishes sweet. This is Terri. She is strong and feisty with the biggest, sweetest heart! She pulled me aside one night during the retreat and share her story; complete with near death experiences due to a very acute heart issue that popped up during a pregnancy. She asked me that scary question about social media. I gave her all of my reasons (read: excuses) and she blew up every one with this one statement: “You don’t blog for others! Who cares if you have 5 followers or 5 million? Your words, your work, your online life is one of the things your kids will look back to when you’re gone to say, ‘ this is what my mom was about.'”

Terri and I are the same age and she’s had experiences that demanded she look at the things she’s leaving as a legacy for her family. And it’s true. Why can’t I share my thoughts, the things that make me the person I am at this place in my life? I want my now 8 year old to read this when he’s 28 and say, “Yep. That’s my mom.”

So maybe my thoughts about mind-body-spirit will resonate with you. And maybe they wont. But, Levi and Abe, however you’re reading this when I’m old or gone, this is your mom. I’m 38 years old. I just decided that I’d share some of my crazy wellness rantings with you and the world. And maybe you can even show your kids and grand kids why I made you eat that hard, sprouted bread or green food smoothies. xoxo.

I was here. I AM here.