The Secret Ingredient : Love


By Annette Ramke, CHHC

It’s mealtime.

Maybe you’re cooking an old favorite.

Or you found a new recipe you can’t wait to try.

In either case you’ve been to the store, picked up everything the recipe calls for and are all set to make your chosen dish.

Food is washed, diced, chopped, mixed together, cooked, baked, tossed, or blended. All according to the directions on paper or in your head.

But something’s likely missing. Something to make your meal complete and your food more delicious than you can imagine.

It’s a secret ingredient. One that you’ll rarely find listed in a recipe.

What is it, you ask?

Photo: Fangol

Photo: Fangol

It’s love.

While that may sound a little “fluffy” to some, I am pretty darn serious.

Because when we “get” the fact that what we put into our body matters, then that means all of it.

And so it matters – the conditions under which are food is grown or raised. It matters the care given, how the plants and animals are treated and, in turn, our earth.

Think of the kind of energy you are taking into your body from an animal raised in factory farm conditions and, under stress, transported and butchered in a huge “processing facility” versus the animal raised and lovingly cared for according to its natural ways on a family farm and which is not forced into trucks at the end of its life before it reaches our plates.

Think of the energy of produce grown from genetically-modified seeds, fungicide and pesticide-laden as compared to fruits and vegetables that are grown organically, using nature’s tools for pest management and for protecting our environment.

Our body not only takes in the protein, fat, carbohydrates and vitamins of our food, it takes in the whole essence of it — from the way it was grown, to the manner in which it is prepared.

You can test this by seeing how you feel after eating certain foods. There may be more aggression, more sadness, more unsettledness. But also more joy, contentment and wellbeing.

Beyond how our food is grown there is the atmosphere in which it was prepared. Can you notice the difference in how you feel between eating, say, a fast food meal versus a home-cooked meal made with care and love? Or a home-cooked meal made under feelings of stress, anger and resentment compared with a restaurant meal made by a chef passionate about real food and her work?

I am going to venture to say that there is a light bulb going off for some right now. Maybe you had never stopped to reflect on this.

So when we shop for our food, when we get in the kitchen, we have a lot of power, actually!

First, the act of showing up in the kitchen, of placing a priority on food, is an act of radical self-love. This comes from realizing that your meal is not just there to fill a hole in your stomach, but rather to nourish and support your body. When you bring your presence, care and love to preparing your food, you are not just making dinner, you are caring for your body and your life.

So….grow the love.

Grow the love inside you.

Our tips:

Choose food grown with love.

Make self-care (self-love!) a priority – one aspect of which is preparing healthy meals for yourself.

And when you are in the kitchen, treat this time as a scared time as much as possible. Feel the gratitude for your food. Your health or the path toward health you are on. For the people you will share the food with, whether yourself or a whole group. Really feeling the gratitude, the love, as you are preparing and eating a meal makes all the difference between food that merely pacifies a hungry stomach and food that helps us create a life full of meaning and well-being.

Love your food. Love yourself. Love your life.


20 Food Faves in our Kitchens


Four years ago, you wouldn’t have found many of these foods in our kitchens. A few cancer avocado - sweetonveg flickrdiagnoses and a couple health coaching credentials later, you’d be hard-pressed to not see most of these items in our pantries or refrigerators. Why? Because we eat pretty differently than they way we did several years ago. We focus on whole, plant-based foods. And we didn’t make these changes overnight – it happened in baby steps – and we’re still learning, experimenting, tweaking, and just having fun with all that whole, real, nutritious food has to offer.

That’s not to say that we don’t enjoy or treats and sweets too, but eating foods like those listed below is our focus. And it’s gotten pretty easy, and not to mention, darn delicious! The best part – we can truly feel what a difference it makes in our bodies, our minds and our moods. It’s such a drastic change, that besides the occasional takeout pizza or summertime ice cream cone, we prefer eating this way. This is the real deal. Real food. No drastic dieting. No restrictions. No guilt. Just enjoying food in a way that supports our health and not worrying too much about the rest.

It can take a little discovery, a little planning and an open mind (after all, much of the “food” available these days is far from what Mother Nature created), but if you begin with one small step and turn that into part of your lifestyle, it’s easy! Then take another step. And another.

So, check out our list below – 20 of the top foods you’ll find in our kitchens – and see how many you have in yours. Maybe you’ll find a few new foods to try. Maybe you have some healthy faves to add. But what better time than right now to start adding in some great foods? It’s a brand new year! Happy 2013! 20 food faves

  1. Kale
  2. Brown rice
  3. Quinoa
  4. Steel cut oats
  5. Coconut oil
  6. Raw almonds
  7. Avocado
  8. Tempeh
  9. Miso
  10. Garlic
  11. Ginger
  12. Carrots
  13. Sea vegetables
  14. Mushrooms
  15. Tamari
  16. Onions
  17. Broccoli
  18. Seeds (pumpkin, hemp and chia)
  19. Lentils
  20. Beans

Food is Love

Kendall: Friday’s tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School has affected so many of us, Annette and I included. We are moms: Annette’s beautiful daughter is 13. My little guy is 15 months. And at the moment, it’s difficult to find the motivation to talk about food, post a recipe or schedule another book signing. I only want to hold my baby, focus on my family, send love and peace to those stricken with grief in Newtown and try to figure out what to take away from something so unbelievably heartbreaking.

In the last few days, I’ve thought about how much I want to offer kindness and compassion to every person, everyday, myself included. I’ve realized how disconnected we often are from the people around us, be it loved ones or complete strangers. I’ve felt relief and peace by immersing myself in love from my munchkin, my hubby, family and friends. I’ve considered what protecting my child and my family means to me. I’ve contemplated what it means to be a parent and what a parent’s job really is. And I’ve realized how important it is to me to get away from the cell phone and computer, turn off the tv and just be present with myself and the people around me.

So those things aren’t about food, cooking, or the kitchen necessarily, but they are connected. And in fact, preparing and eating food can be the center of most of what I mentioned above.

As a mom, I prepare food for my family with love. I put together healthy and tasty meals and snacks for my kiddo, knowing that he will grow and thrive in large part because of it. He’s so interested in watching me chop, stir, season, and he often gets his own spoon and pot to stir on the kitchen floor (which keeps him occupied for about 30 seconds).

Food is a way to express love, to help balance and heal, to promote strength and renewal.

Loved ones come together over meals, providing an opportunity to be kind and compassionate, to connect, share, laugh and just be present.

Last night over a simple dinner of lentils, roasted root veggies, rice and kale, my little family talked about the things in our lives for which we are grateful. My baby is a little over a year old, and I swear as I explained what it means to be thankful and my hubby and I shared what we are thankful for, he listened intently and understood it on some level. He then babbled away, surely sharing with us the things for which he’s grateful.

So while I’m not inspired to keep up with food tips, recipes and kitchen talk right now, I’ve rediscovered that food is a catalyst for so much beyond fueling and supporting our bodies. Food is compassion. Food is kindness. Food is tradition. Food is healing. Food is connection. Food is gratitude. Food is love. And those are things on which I do want to focus – now and always.


Banana-Pecan Pancakes with Chocolate-Coconut Drizzle

Banana-Pecan Pancakes with Chocolate-Coconut Drizzle, Photo: Steve Legato

Yup, they’re as good as they sound! This is one of the recipes from our book, Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen. We use spelt flour (whole grain, low gluten) and add in some pecans and bananas for some more whole food goodness. There’s also coconut oil, which is a fabulous, health-promoting oil to add to your pantry. Oh yeah. Then there’s that chocolate coconut drizzle. A-MA-ZING!

Want the recipe? Watch Kendall make these easy, delish pancakes on WCSH6’s 207 Show with anchor, Rob Caldwell. Click here to watch on the WCSH6 website and get the recipe, or watch the video below. Enjoy!

Finding Gratitude in the Kitchen

Guest post by Debbie Woodbury, Founder and Editor WhereWeGoNow

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Melody Beattie

We’ve all been there … running around, a million things to do and dinner to make. It’s happened to me and I admit to throwing a meal on the table my share of times.  They weren’t the best meals I ever made, but they got the job done.

Or did they?

Sure, bellies were filled, but is that the only reason we eat?  Is putting a meal together just a job to cross off a list?

No and definitely not.  There’s a big difference between “throwing a meal on the table” and preparing it with love. And where does that love come from, especially when we’re overworked? It comes from gratitude.

When we approach cooking and eating with gratitude, everything changes no matter how much time we have in the kitchen.

Gratitude for our families, food, kitchen and the roof over our head brings us into a state of mindful awareness. It slows us down after a busy day and brings us back to center, literally and figuratively.  As we chop, mix, stir, braise, sauté and create a meal in our kitchens, gratitude brings home the only reason we are there – for the love of our families.

As gratitude slows us down, it gives us time to think. We take the time to plan healthy meals, rather than reaching for the same old stuff. We sit and read cookbooks encouraging us to serve foods we’ve never tried before. We learn to simplify and yet, somehow, we expand.

Every day, we have the chance to make meals which inspire healing, wellness and live out loud joy! As we enter the holiday season, let’s focus on bringing gratitude to the table.

Survival > Existence,


PS: Don’t miss The WhereWeGoNow Gratitude Gems Series starting November 1st. Sign up today and, as a member, you will get an email each day of November with an inspirational gratitude quote and a note from me. Make gratitude and a little time for yourself a priority this holiday season – sign up to be a member of The WhereWeGoNow Gratitude Gems Series now!

ABOUT: Debbie Woodbury is a volunteer with the Cancer Hope Network, a patient educator with The Connection’s Pathways Women’s Cancer Teaching Project and a member of the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center Oncology Community Advisory Board at Overlook Medical Center, Summit, NJ. She is the founder and editor of WhereWeGoNow, an interactive online community for survivors creating inspired healing, wellness and live out loud joy. Join her today at WhereWeGoNow and sign up for the WhereWeGoNow Newsletters and your FREE copy of the “WhereWeGoNow Manifesto – 20 Intentions for Your Inspired Survivorship” and the WhereWeGoNow Gifts & Losses List Workbook. You can also find Debbie on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.


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