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!

TIPS FOR ADAPTING A MENU

1.STAY CLOSE TO NATURE.

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!)

2. DON’T OVERTHINK.

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.

3. DO YOUR HOMEWORK.

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.

4.KEEP YOUR ADJUSTMENTS TO YOURSELF.

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/

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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.

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