Monday, January 9, 2012

Sharing Food and Loving Unconditionally

Happy New Year Everyone!

I could be writing happily about how much I love to entertain guests in my home! Planning, creating, and serving a meal to friends and family is one way I love to give to others.

However, today I want to share another way I love to give to others, a practice that has been growing for me over the last five years or so. It simply is to randomly feed those who can't always depend on a regular meal, let alone shelter from the cold.
Those without a home often stand with a sign at the parking lot entrance of my favorite shopping center. When I see someone in need of food, I love to purchase a take-out order of soup and bread at Flour Garden, one of my favorite cafes, and hand deliver it to the individual. It warms my heart to imagine that warm soup nourishing the other body and soul. 

I used to only do this occasionally but after a suggestion that came out of a spiritual counseling session I have been enjoying doing it more and more. The counselor suggested I carry peanut butter & jelly sandwiches in my car to share as needed. I have handed home-made gluten-free muffins, store-bought sandwiches, and health-food store nutrition bars through my car window when I spot another human being in need. I never give junk food or food I wouldn't enjoy myself. I want to share simple, nutritious food that expresses my love of food. I truly want them to love every bite!

Early Saturday morning I stopped at the local gas station before heading up the mountain to deliver my son for his ski-team practice. As I got out of the car, feeling the brisk 30 something degree air press against my skin, I thought about those without a warm place to sleep. I was standing there imagining them waking early to find some place to get a warm cheap cup of coffee or the money to get one, when a large bearded man with two empty plastic grocery bags walked into the service station and began rummaging through the trash cans. I had a supply of mandarins in my car and thought how nutritious and delicious that might be for this man to enjoy. Before leaving, I walked over and handed him two mandarins and wished him a nice day. In the big scheme of life, a very small thing but it felt good to give what I had to give.

On New Year's Day at my spiritual center, the guest speaker, Brynde Lambert told an old story about heaven and hell that has stuck with me. Hell was a heavenly place with a lush banquet of food and drink set before the people. Sadly though the people were starving because they had long pitch-fork-like things for arms and hands and could not figure out how to get the wonderful food laid before them to their own mouths. Heaven was identical in appearance except that the people had discovered that all could be nourished if they just took turns feeding each other.

Feeding others, sharing nourishment is what we are meant to do. The urge to do so comes from that spiritual source that unites us all in oneness - that which sees not with fear or judgment but with love. This kind of love is unconditional; it wants nothing for its givingness. It matters not what we call the spiritual source or what we call ourselves - all that matters is that we give ourselves over to the desire to feed each other.

I remember many years ago a relationship workshop leader saying that what homeless people need most is to be seen. His answer arose in response to a participant who shared how confused he felt about whether to give the homeless money or not, his desire to help, and his sense of guilt if he just ignored them. Everyone could relate admitting how they often avoid or ignore the presence of the homeless so as not to disturb their own fragile sense of happiness. Although a common response, the workshop leader said, "this makes homeless people feel invisible". He recommended to give what you can give unconditionally with joy, grateful that you have something to give, and most of all, to bless them with your presence, your attention, your love.

Eric Butterworth, in his book, Spiritual Economics, reminds us that the historical definition of the word "bless" is "to confer prosperity upon". So whether or not I have food to share, I make it a point to bless the other with an enthusiastic wave, a big smile, an extended gaze that says "I see you, I care, you are not alone".
The old me used to feel burdened by looking at the pain of homelessness, thinking that nothing I could give would ever be enough. What I know now is that although I am not responsible for another's situation and choices, their misfortune however they have come upon it is a call for love. If they come into my world of experience they do so because I am a potential source of love. If I choose I can see the situation as a gift, an opportunity to practice loving unconditionally. 

I hope you will join me in knowing that the small things we do in love are more than just enough, they are profound. If you know Course of Miracles, then you know this one! "Everything is either an expression of love or a call for it's expression to come forth." When love given without condition circulates both giver and receiver experience an increased sense of prospering, of nourishment. This is why I am grateful, so grateful for the opportunity to experience real, unconditional love through my random encounters with strangers in need. I am so grateful for the abundance of food available in the world that is meant to be shared. I visualize this supply distributed by organizations, nations, and people like me and know that it is good!

On December 27, 2011, a Detroit Free Press article appeared in USA TODAY under the NATION section entitled: "Faiths and Fates Mingle for Christmas". I've been carrying this news clipping around with me because it is evidence, a real demonstration that human beings can, in numbers, fearlessly be loving to those who seem different with the understanding that we are one in heart and mind. The article reported that in metropolitan Detroit 1,000 Jewish volunteers joined forces with United Council of Islamic Societies volunteers to deliver festive holiday meals to Christian families and play Santa Claus giving toys and clothing to underprivileged children. What fun this must have been for the givers and the receivers!

Here is my list of ideas for experiencing unconditional love through feeding others in need:

- smile, wave, bless, and eye-to-eye wish a homeless individual a good day

- carry food with you to give away: homemade, store-bought, health-food snacks

- buy extra nutritious convenience items when you can to have in your car

- buy hot food on the fly when you see someone who needs a hot meal

- donate food to your local food closet and volunteer to hand it out

- volunteer time at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter

- participate in grocery store holiday meal programs

- Think Global, Act Local: combine giving money to organizations and giving in-person in your own community

I know that I am not alone - that there are others of you out there sharing food, clothing, blankets, time, and love with homeless or underprivileged friends. I'd love to hear from you. How do you feel when you give? How do you feed others in need? Please share your personal experiences with us ...

With a Grateful Heart,

Friday, December 2, 2011

Embracing Change, Loving What Is, and Learning to Fly

I hope you enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday last week! Our Hachiya and Fuyu persimmons made it safely through airport security and those that remained after the holiday feast are sunning themselves in the light of the Marie's kitchen window to, at some later date, impart their sweetness to chutney, pies, or cakes. This week I am sharing my recipe for Sweet and Savory Stuffed-Pumpkins, a vegan substitute for stuffed turkey main course. Even though pumpkins may not be available still in your area, kabocha or golden hubbard, or any other variety that sits like a pumpkin will do nicely. Have fun, be creative, and enjoy this nutritious, hearty main course.
My dad made this fabulous brine for the turkey this year with whole clove, juniper berry (which grow in plenty in their neighborhood), ginger root, sugar, salt, orange, bay, garlic, and apple juice which the turkey bathed itself in for 16 hours or so. He then dried the bird and cooked it slowly in a pan atop the barbecue grill for 6 hours or so. This freed up the oven and the kitchen, for that matter, for all the wonderful side dishes which Marie prepared: yams with pear sauce, a green bean dish, a green salad, a wonderfully tart cranberry chutney. Friends and family enjoyed a wonderful feast made complete by an assortment of pies. I am happy to say that I did not over-indulge!

Two high points of the trip, for me, (aside from the feast) were our Friday hike in the Woods Canyon Lake area of the Mogollon Rim with its incredible vista views of the Coconino National Forest and our Wednesday flight to Sedona. Some of you may not be aware that I come from a flying family. My father, a retired airline pilot learned to fly when he was 14 years old, before he learned to drive a car. His father, a doctor, also enjoyed flying. Now, my youngest son, Shawn is learning to fly at 14 years old. The day before Thanksgiving, Shawn flew us to Sedona in their Cessna 182 under the instruction of Marie, a Young Eagles Flight Instructor. The red rock formations stand majestically as if guardians of grace around the gentle plateau of the Sedona airport. We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast at the airport's Mesa Grill restaurant after the 30-minute flight. 

I have grown up flying in jets, single, and twin-engine prop planes and it never ceases to amaze me how being in flight uplifts and changes my perspective on whatever is happening in my life. I am so grateful for the wisdom I have learned about how to navigate life's changing terrain and weather patterns from my experiences of flying over the years. This year, Jon and I, have found a new support called Real Love which is supporting me in letting go of old patterns of fear and protection. This week I've been playing with co-mingling what I've learned from flying and my Real Love experiences. Here it is for your further musing:

Check my fuel level - Am I feeling full and ready to give to others or do I need a re-fueling first before I enter the others airspace? Sleep, water, food, self-love are tanks that need re-fueling on a regular basis. Flying with an empty tank will only cause me to crash and burn.

Check the functioning of my gauges and equipment - Is there any part of my mental, emotional or physical body that needs repair or adjustment before I take-off? Am I willing to take the time to adjust my mental attitude, take care of my body, or know where I am emotionally so I don't experience engine failure which shows up as my feeling powerless, acting helpless, and forgetting that my happiness is my own responsibility - not someone else's.

Plan my flight path - Where will I be in relationship to the landscape of my relationships? What are others going through that is known? Leave room for the unknown.

Never assume anything without checking in. Remember as Winston Churchill said "Planning is invaluable, plans are useless." This means once the flight has begun "be in the moment".  Be positively prepared for a change of course if equipment malfunctions, weather changes suddenly, or the unexpected occurs (like dropping the turkey). Be willing to ask questions. Respect the terrain of others emotions and opinions. Honor the presence of something that is at least for this moment unmovable whether it be within or in another. Don't insist on my way but be willing to turn around and go back to where I began (re-access my own motives) if I find myself confused or entering dangerous relationship conditions.

In the event of a change in cabin pressure, place the oxygen mask on myself first, then help another with theirs. Love and take care of my own energy before placing myself as a support for another. 

Holidays can challenge our ability to love ourselves and others especially when we become attached to how things look or happen. It helps me to remember that when I find myself having expectations of people or outcomes, I am usually in fear about something. If I can stop and notice this, I can make choices to reconnect with my trust and faith that life is a gift; that my fear is an experience - not who I am; and that every moment that looks or feels challenging is also an incredible opportunity to let go of thinking I know how it should look and welcome more freedom to give and receive unconditional love. Everyday now, I am reaching for that inspired and uplifting sense of flying in the course of my day-to-day choices remembering to stay in the moment with love and gratitude for the adventure that life is.

Autumn asks us to embrace change, to let go of what no longer serves our highest good, and to ready ourselves for a loving and deep inward experience of winter. Winter provides the opportunity to re-access our current course and to allow that which is true and pure within us to incubate until it is ready to be born into expression and allowed to prosper and grow. 

You see, Love'n Every Bite is experiencing some change at present. Due to an important family matter, Dawn has suddenly moved out of Auburn and is discontinuing her participation in the Love'n Every Bite blog and cookbook projects. I am in a peaceful, trusting acceptance of this change and absolutely honor Dawn's choice. I feel an immense feeling of gratitude for the last year of friendship with Dawn. She has contributed to my life, helping me to grow in ways I wanted to, and I am equally grateful for the challenges as well as the easy times. Even though I did not expect this, I am trusting that all is well and unfolding perfectly for the highest good of all concerned. I feel a sense of clarity about the only purpose for pain and loss and that is as opportunities to give and receive unconditional love.

With that said, I am letting the readership know that I will be taking a month away from posting to re-group and work more specifically on the cookbook proposal. I look forward to re-connecting with you about food and life again in January 2012. 

May we all fly into the unknown adventure of life open to that limitless source of unconditional love that dwells within that is ready and willing to meet whatever may come our way. May we surrender to Its wise and intelligent guidance in all that we think, say, and do.

Happy Holidays! 

With Love, Deb

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Gathering Woman’s Plethora-of-Persimmon Challenge

Deb's photo Hachiya persimmons 2011
Ahhh, it is autumn and our lovely grafted persimmon tree is heavy with fruit and ablaze with color. Next week my family and I travel to Payson, Arizona to share Thanksgiving with my father and Marie, my second mom. Marie, like me, loves the Fuyu variety from our tree, so much so that last year my Dad told me she hid and rationed them out very carefully so as to make them last. I believe the persimmon to be a much misunderstood autumn delight.  Many people think that all persimmons are alike having once tried an unripe Hachiya with its bitter aftertaste. The Hachiya persimmon, with the pointy bottom, is perfect for baking especially with mulling spices. The flesh of the Hachiya should be the consistency of jam to be sweet enough to enjoy off the tree. In contrast, the Fuyu should be eaten firm as an apple and; in my opinion, is far too good fresh to be used in baking but rather is to be enjoyed fresh off the tree for its silky, smooth texture and delicate flavor.
Deb's photo Fuyu persimmon 2011

At this time of the year I enjoy fresh Fuyus and look for new ways to make use of the larger yield of Hachiyas. A recent weekend jaunt to Santa Rosa’s Savory Spice Shop provided some much needed, fresh inspiration to meet my plethora-of-persimmon challenge.
Jennifer, Kristine, & Deb at Cafe Bliss in Belmont, C
In traditional feminine style, I began this “gathering” expedition equipped with a carefully made list after having previewed their products online. I wanted kaffir lime leaves for my own version of Tom Ka Thai Soup, as well as, White Pepper, Saigon Cassia, Nutmeg, Mexican Vanilla Beans, and Organic Green Cardamom Pods for my own Green Chai Tea recipe. Mexican Vanilla Beans were on my list because a new food-writing friend, Jennifer, who I met at the food writing class I took in October through the UC Berkeley Extension, told me that she preferred Mexican Vanilla and suggested I try it! I adore Vietnamese/Saigon Cassia for its dark, rich, and chocked-full of cinnamon-like flavor!  Did you know what is sold as cinnamon in most American stores is really bark from the cassia tree? True Cinnamon, from Sri Lanka (Ceylon), is the preferred cinnamon in England and Mexico and being the “cinnamon girl” that I am I enjoy them all but I especially favor the Saigon variety for baking.

courtesy of Savory Spice
Visiting a Savory Spice Shop is like smelling and tasting your way around the globe! I found an open “taster” next to each of the more than 140 spice and herb blends offered. It meant a lot to me to be able to pour a little sample into my hand, smell its fragrance, and enjoy its flavor.  Once I was in the store, I was in serious “gathering” mode! Jon was definitely on his own for nearly an hour.
Pat Benfer & Cheryl Ytreeide-Santa Rosa Savory Spice
 Savory Spice began in Denver, Colorado in 2004 when Mike and Janet Johnston opened their first store. They now own 4 stores in the general Denver area, provide online purchase and free recipes through their website, and have sold 14 franchised locations in the United States. The Santa Rosa franchise is owned and operated by Pat Benfer and Cheryl Ytreeide. I was so delighted when Jon and I arrived to find both owners working that afternoon! They graciously showed me around and answered all my curious questions. Needless to say, this “gathering girl” left with a few extra items in her basket that weren’t on her list. (I bet that has never happened to you.) Even my “hunter” companion, Jon, unexpectedly found something: a wonderful 12 Blend Curry Set for his MIT friend, Paul. To Paul’s delight, Jon couldn’t wait till Christmas and now Paul is busy cooking up a curry storm in Prescott, Arizona.

Sweet & Savory Stuffed Pumpkins
I couldn’t help it . . .I fell in love with a $20 bottle of salt, but it’s not just any salt – it is Black Truffle Italian Sea Salt! I haven’t even used it on anything; I just eat it right out of my hand. I also found a delicious Alderwood Smoked Sea Salt that I used this week to develop a recipe for our hometown newspaper, the Auburn Journal, called Vegan Thanksgiving Sweet and Savory Stuffed Pumpkin. I used these wonderful little local organic one-pound sugar pie pumpkins to prepare this delicious substitute for the usual stuffed turkey that I know you will love even if you’re not vegan or vegetarian.

I must say that I am quite impressed with the quality of Savory Spice’s freeze-dried kaffir lime leaves! The fragrance and taste of these leaves from the kaffir lime are so distinct that they really cannot be adequately substituted with lime juice as I have sometimes had to do. I bought a good supply and made soup as soon as we returned home. Yumm! 

When we finally checked out, Pat threw in a free package of Chinese Five Spice blend with a recipe for cupcakes.  Inspired by my visit to Savory Spice two weeks ago I’ve made delicious Green Chai, Tom Ka, and developed two new recipes. The Sweet and Savory Stuffed Pumpkin recipe can be found soon at  My most recent recipe, Chinese Five Spice Gluten-Free Persimmon Muffins, inspired by the Five Spice cupcake recipe, is what I am sharing with you today (see the link below or tab at top)

But before you get started I want to share some background of why the recipe is written the way it is. In the past I have found my own gluten-free muffin test recipes extremely unreliable as well as the gluten-free muffins recipes I found online. In January of this year I was inspired by Shauna James Ahern (aka Gluten-free Girl and the Chef)  who adapted a baking-by-weight muffin recipe by Shuna Fish Lydon. The recipe I am sharing is based on a philosophy of baking-by-weight that does not include gums and renders a reliable texture that is chewy and moist. I know you will enjoy the difference!

P. S. What an extraordinary coincidence - Shauna’s Wednesday recipe post  also uses Chinese Five Spice! Well, great minds think alike! I wonder if she got her blend from Savory Spice? This cake looks very good, egg-less – will have to try it too! Anyway, these muffins were a big hit here in our home, are yet another great way to enjoy those autumn Hachiya persimmons, and I hope will be a treat in your home.

See you again in two weeks! Have a very, happy thanksgiving!

Lots of Love, Deb


Friday, November 11, 2011

Loaves of Love

This week while visiting family in Santa Rosa California, I had the distinct pleasure of visiting a one of a kind artisan bakery located in nearby Rohnert Park California and couldn’t wait to share this unique family run business with you. Grindstone Bakery was founded in 1999 by owner Mario Repetto in a small garage where he experimented with alternatives to modern wheat and commercial yeast products, as well as stone milling his own flours using natural pink granite stones. The end result was a nutrient dense, highly nutritious bread which contains substantially less gluten and more water soluble protein, minerals, natural anti-oxidants and essential phytonutrients than modern wheat bread products. In July of last year the product line was expanded to include several gluten free breads and cookies, a transition that came naturally and has been very well received. The gluten free items are prepared in a dedicated facility by a dedicated staff, all following the same time honored artisan traditions used with their original products.

Arriving at the bakery for my early morning appointment with Mario, I was 0verwhelmed by the wonderful aromas that greeted me as I entered the facility. There is nothing quite like the smell of freshly baked bread and this was no exception. I was curious and looking forward to learning more after reading about their approach online. I was excited to hear that somebody was making an artisan quality gluten free bread that is actually nutritious! After learning that I was gluten intolerant nearly 2 years ago, I quickly discovered that there are a plethora of products now on the market that I call “Betty Crocker goes gluten free” which are highly processed, loaded with refined sugar, and have little or no nutritional value. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if its gluten free it must be good for you and it’s no wonder that many people gain weight in response to making this change. Although I personally choose to limit the grains in my diet, I really miss enjoying fresh baked bread from time to time so I was very hopeful and my nose was telling me that I would not be disappointed.

Not only were the smells of the baking bread warm and inviting, so were each of the individuals I encountered during my visit. Grindstone’s owner, Mario, is passionate about his product and clearly loves talking about what he does as well as growing up amongst the grain fields in Argentina where his father was a partner in a flour mill. During our interview an employee’s young child, Devin, happily ran into the room and promptly climbed into Mario’s lap – something he was clearly quite used to doing! 

I also had the privilege of watching, hair net and all, as he and his team mixed, kneaded and shaped completely by hand the loaves of love which were being prepared that morning. It was explained to me that this hand processing and focused attention is considered to be a very important ingredient which will never be replaced by conveyor belts or assembly lines. An hour later we were gathered around the ovens waiting with excited anticipation for the golden loaves to emerge, and again I watched as they were turned out of the cast iron bread pans one loaf at time, all by hand and with obvious loving care.

But beyond all the wonderful qualities I’ve just described, there are some technical details that make this bread not only unique, but highly nutritious and full of life. Only the best organic, non-GMO ingredients are used and the flours are all made from whole grains which have been stone milled into dense and creamy flours. This is a gentle process that preserves all the beneficial and health giving parts of the grain as it is homogeneously transformed into flour, retaining all of the original proteins, oils, vitamins, sugars and starches. Spelt is used in many of their breads, which is an ancient grain and nutritionally superior to modern wheat. Something new I learned in my time with Mario is that modern wheat was actually engineered to have higher levels of gluten to accommodate the fast rising industrial yeast being used, which he believes has contributed to the rise in gluten intolerance we are currently experiencing today. Oat, Barley and 100% Rye are also used and the gluten free loaves are comprised of primarily Quinoa and Millet.

A further point of distinction worth noting is that there is absolutely no commercial yeast used in any of the breads baked at Grindstone Bakery. Although very time consuming, leavening is achieved through a fermentation process which utilizes wild microorganisms. These cultures are the result of years of experimenting with wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria harvested from the region’s vineyards, farms and wetlands and have been aptly named “Sonoma Cultures”. The end result is bread that is dense and chewy with highly developed and satisfying flavors. In addition, these cultures not only increase the availability of the nutrients, it also increases the digestibility of the grains by breaking down or predigesting any gluten present. In addition, this natural fermentation process also produces bread with a lower Glycemic index that is resistant to spoilage without the use of any preservatives.

Another interesting point made by Mario more than once during our conversation, was that a number of their customers are gluten intolerant individuals which are successfully eating their whole grain, wheat free (not gluten free) breads with absolutely no adverse reaction. Based on the testimony of these clients and his extensive research, he speculates that the lower gluten content of the grains in combination with the natural fermentation process may substantially reduce or possibly eliminate the toxic amino acid sequence responsible for the adverse reaction in many individuals. He is very clear however, that he does not recommend that anybody diagnosed with celiac disease consume any of the breads made with gluten based grains.

You may be wondering about the availability of these breads (and cookies too!) in your area. You’re in luck if you live in Sonoma County, the home of Grindstone Bakery, as it is readily available in many local markets including Whole Foods. Not to worry though if you don’t. They have developed complete and easy to use program for shipping anywhere in the domestic US utilizing flat rate shipping. The bread will keep well for 4-5 days after it arrives and freezes well for later use. Click on the links provided below for detailed information as well as a complete product list.

I left the bakery that day with a box full of bread and cookies, several of them right out the oven which I left with my sister and her husband in Santa Rosa to enjoy. I headed back to my home in the foothills with a box of goodies which I was anxious to try, and I’m pleased to report that I was not disappointed. Grindstone Bakery definitely has a new customer and advocate in me and will be looking forward to their flat rate boxes of goodness arriving at my door in the near future!

Until next week, remember to enjoy the love that is in every bite!

Love and blessings,


all photos by Dawn Adams