Food Flexibility


I love to cook. I have all these recipes I have made, catalogued and plan to try. In future blog entries, I will share some of my favorite recipes and tips for keeping things organized and simple. Truth is cooking is not so simple anymore. That is what today’s blog is about.

Last week, my husband walks in the door after work and announces “Oh, by the way, I am not eating carbs, so no pasta or potatoes or rice for me. Oh, I and I have eliminated sugar.” This isn’t the first time this has happened with some other variation.  REALLY?????  At least he could have told me before I made dinner.

This weekend I have guests coming and before hitting the market I asked about food preferences. My guest replied “My wife is pretty much non-gluten. I usually request extra gluten.”

Has anyone noticed that cooking and just plain eating has become more complicated?

There are all kinds of diets out there promising us to help us lose weight. Carbs, sugar, flour, protein, dairy.  Yes? No? The list goes on and on. We are faced with organic vs non-organic, “superfoods” like flaxseed and chia seed and articles every day coming out and telling what is good for us, what we should be eating more of and what was thought to be good for us and isn’t any more.

Allergies abound and many have just chosen to eliminate foods that seem to bother them.  I am totally respectful and try to accommodate.  As an amateur home cook it might make me a little bit crazy but I am usually up for the challenge.

I think back to the days growing up and none of these issues with food were even on the radar.  We just had to eat what my mother made. Period. Have our bodies changed? Has our tolerance changed? Did you know that scientists have discovered that most people develop some degree of lactose intolerance as they get older?

Some of us like to cook, others not so much. It is hard enough to come home from a long day of work and have to cook a meal and now it has become that much more complicated. There is just so much to keep track of.  One child eats sandwiches with cheese and the other doesn’t. This one eats chocolate ice cream but not vanilla and vice versa. Macaroni and cheese, pizza, burgers become staples for children and anything green or with nutrition will be avoided. But what if I don’t want to eat some of those things? Do I make two different dinners?

My mother was a wonderful cook. She was creative and we had dinner every night as a family, except for Saturday nights when my parents would go out. I learned many things from her and began to cook in my senior year of college when I moved into an apartment and then throughout the years.  She hosted dinner parties or gatherings and there was never a word about allergies or preferences.  Today life is much more complicated.  Before hosting people for a meal we now ask their food preferences. And for some this can be challenging.

No gluten, no dairy, no garlic, no meat, no eggs, no bananas, no vegetables, no sauces, no, no, no. These are all requests I have run across personally. Should we all just go out to eat??

I wonder whether things have changed so much with food or have we just become more open with our preferences?

Rather than fret, I decide to take this on as a challenge and work it out.  It is all about flexibility. The good news is there are so many resources out there to help you along the way.  My tip for today is about substituting.


I have mentioned certain recipes to people and they will comment that the recipes are too rich, have too much fat, salt and butter so they won’t make them. I substitute. When a recipe calls for heavy cream, I add low-fat milk. Instead of sour cream I use Greek yogurt. I substitute low-fat cheese and use less butter. It has become a running joke in my family. “Is this the real recipe or your low-fat version?”

The same theory goes for food sensitivities.

A perfect example is my mother’s brownie recipe.  This is a keeper of a recipe; very easy and one most people love.

For my gluten-free friends I substitute Gluten Free All Purpose Flour and make sure the chocolate and baking powder is also gluten-free.  For Passover, I substitute Passover Cake Meal



My Mom’s Brownie Recipe

1/2 cup butter

1 cup of sugar (sometimes I use a little less)

1/2 cup of flour (substitute for gluten allergy)

2 eggs

1/2 tsp baking powder (make sure is gluten-free when substituting)

1 cup of semi sweet bits (Nestle semi sweet bits are gluten-free)

1 tsp vanilla

Melt butter and chocolate bits (I do it in the microwave).

Beat eggs and sugar well.

Add melted chocolate to eggs and sugar mixture.  Beat well.

Add flour and powder (mixed together) Add vanilla.

Do not mix too much after adding flour.

Pour in greased 8×8 pan. Bake at 350 for 2o to 25 minutes. Check to see if tester comes out clean.  Let cool.  Cut into squares and wrap in groups of 4 or 5 brownies in aluminum foil to set and store.


For my friend allergic to garlic. I leave garlic out of the recipe. Believe it or not, most people won’t notice the difference unless it is something garlic intensive. I just make sure I check the back of the package of other ingredients I use to make sure there is no garlic.


For my husband, I get creative and substitute zucchini for pasta.

My quick Zucchini Pasta Recipe

Thinly slice 2 zucchini or use a vegetable spiralizer. I bought mine at William Sonoma.


Put zucchini in colander and salt and drain liquid for 30 minutes. Rinse off salt and squeeze excess water out – or use paper towels to remove liquid.

Sauté zucchini in 1 tablespoon of olive oil for about 3-5 minutes until cooked but not mushy. Add ingredients of your choice. I add chopped roasted red peppers and olives. Add 1/2 cup of your favorite jar of tomato sauce. More or less sauce to taste. Top with grated cheese and/or a dollop of ricotta cheese.


I guess I could easily throw up my hands. That would be the easy way out.

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About Shari

I am a two-time cancer survivor and patient advocate. Diagnosed as a young adult, at age 25 with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I had to quickly face the reality of life’s curveballs. My treatment offered a potential cure while at the same time, underestimated the long term side effects including a secondary cancer (breast cancer) nine years later. Shortly after my breast cancer treatment ended, my youthful, seemingly healthy mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer and passed a year later. I have lived the cancer experience as a patient and a family member/ caregiver and understand both sides. Life after treatment is often challenging emotionally and physically and there is a gap in providing needed support. I don’t consider cancer a gift as it is not something I would ever want to give to someone. Rather, I view cancer as an opportunity; one I received at an early point in my life to live intentionally, understanding how things can change at any moment. I live without regrets, fully understanding the gift and fragility of life.
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2 Responses to Food Flexibility

  1. leannegfs says:

    I applaud your willingness to be flexible! I am less so. I accommodate allergies (e.g. lactose intolerance, anaphylaxis), illness (e.g. celiac) and vegetarians – THAT’S IT! I get around it by usually having a buffet when I entertain, or simply don’t invite finicky, picky people.


  2. Shari says:

    You make a good point. I am flexible but not to the point where I am jumping through hoops for sure. Like your idea about buffet style. I am extra careful with food allergies but in terms of likes and dislikes I can’t make everyone happy all the time. There is a balancing act.


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