Gluten Free

The Root for Fall Comfort

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The Holland Famer’s Market has been one of my favorite places in the world to visit, and especially in the fall when my daughter was young. The vendors were so impressed by her excitement to try fresh food that she would come away with fists full of radishes, carrot greens, and fruit for days! One of the best times to visit the market was on a weekday when we could easily arrive mid-morning, take our time walking up and past all the vendors on each side. In those moments, I would wish for my daughter to be bigger, thinking, “it would be easier then…” Suddenly, seasons turned into years, and now I’m staring down the days until my fresh-food loving girl turns 16! We rarely find time to enjoy the market like we used to; most weekends are spent driving her to and from events and friends. And, spoiler alert: there’s nothing easier about bigger kids :)

This past weekend, while she was away doing her own ‘thing,’ as teens tend to do, I was fortunate enough to teach a yoga class in the quiet town where we enjoyed living for a couple of years. Everything about being in this town is a little bit smaller and, also, bigger. When I finished teaching my class, it was still early enough to catch the weekly Farmer’s Market. While the market here is mostly seasonal, they’re blessed with a fantastic set up that includes a permanent cover and Artisan Fair. While the market usually consists of what appears to be only a few vendors, we left with bags brimming! We were able to haul away carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, celery and an incredible loaf of apple butter cinnamon bread. While it was easier to maneuver, I found myself lovingly watching the families with their little ones and found myself wishing for the past. 

Maybe that’s why comfort food takes center stage in the fall? To help us feel okay knowing that the ‘next season’ is ever-closer. Maybe the certainty of the food helps us feel okay with the uncertainty of what’s next. Whether it be our children growing, our jobs changing or simply the seasonal shift, maybe comfort food is more about stability and security during these transitions. While we may never quite get this all figured out, I do know this: buying food that is locally grown makes our hearts happy; fueling one of our favorite places just feels right; and, knowing that our soon-to-be 16 year-old will love whatever comfort dish we make with these fresh grown veggies is even better! 

While it’s hard, sometimes, to watch the kids grow up and the wrinkles move in, it’s moments like these when the air is brisk, and the vegetables are ripe, and the morning is young when it feels like it’s all going to be okay. And, when we do sit down to enjoy our root vegetable feast, we will be comforted to know that it is what’s around the table that gets us through each season. 

These two slow cooked root vegetable dishes bring out satisfying sweetness like a cinnamon roll without the dreaded gut-rot, headache and bloat. Audrey and I recommend you try both of them at different times, but take note: The purple veggies bleed and will turn everything next to them a lovely shade of pinkish blue. It’s easy enough to cook them on their own pan or omit all-together if feasting with the eyes is part of the plan!

Rustic Roasted Roots

By Jane Robrahn

3 large sweet potatoes, peeled, chopped, 

4 large carrots, chopped

4 stalks celery, chopped

4-5 parsnips, (depending on size) peeled and chopped

2-3 Tablespoons olive oil

Sea Salt, to taste

Black pepper, fresh ground to taste

Add potatoes to the first of two large bowls. Place remaining vegetables in second large bowl. Over each bowl, pour over olive oil, salt and pepper then toss to coat evenly. Add to sheet pans(lined with parchment paper if desired). Roast at 425 for 35-45 min. or until fork tender. Once roasted, these can be added to anything!

“rustic” pot pie

Olive oil, to coat the pan

Roasted root veggies

3-5 sheets whole grain puff pastry

Organic, grass fed melted butter or ghee(optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a medium cast iron skillet with olive oil. Place sheets of puff pastry to cover the bottom. Fill with roasted veggies. Optional: sprinkle in roasted chicken or pork. Cover with another 3-5 sheets of dough. Brush top with oil, ghee or melted butter. Place skillet in 375 degree oven for 15 minutes or until pastry is lightly browned and crispy.

PS-veggie loving daughter gobbled this down in record time!


Garlic Baked Roots for a Crowd

By Audrey Byker Health Coach


15 cups of root vegetables:

-Sweet potatoes, scrubbed and chopped

-Carrots, scrubbed and chopped (try rainbow for something different)

-Red or yellow skin potatoes, chopped

-Beets, peeled and chopped

-Parsnips, scrubbed and chopped

Garlic, peeled and left whole, as many as you prefer

Olive oil, a generous drizzle

Sea salt

Black pepper, fresh ground


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, toss together vegetables with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Add to 9x13 pan then cover with foil. Bake in the oven for 30-40 min, setting timer to check and stir half-way. Continue to roast until vegetables are fork tender or reach desired consistency.  

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Baking Up a Bond and Banana Muffins

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By Aubrey Wilson—the talented Hope College Communications student and intern!

My dad is a man of many average dad talents - grilling, driving a boat, mowing the lawn. But baking is one of his hidden talents. Outside our home, he is known for being a man of few words. Inside the four walls of our home, he is known for his spur of the moment kitchen take over. Picture this, our family of five lounging in the living room and watching TV. He abruptly stands up, heads to the kitchen, opens every cabinet possible, pulls up a recipe online, and within seconds our kitchen has transformed into the episode of “Top Chef”. 

His specialties range from banana bread to protein balls. His flavor depends upon the day. But what does not change is the bond my dad has baked up. Through his periodic kitchen endeavors, a lot more than just food has been made. The walls of our kitchen watched my siblings and I’s “I only want chicken tenders” phase grow into “Filet mignon please”. The walls watched as my dad came home after his weeks away on business trips. I would sit next to the stove as he boiled the fresh lobster he picked up in Maine. To count the number of people who have sat on those counters awaiting the baked goods to be done would be in impossible task. Those people (including my family, closest friends, and I) have cried to the point of laughing and laughed to the point of crying while sitting on those counters. Our kitchen counters have served my brothers “Blue’s Clues” birthday cake as well as his high school graduation dessert bar. 

The love I have experienced, witnessed, and cherished in that kitchen will carry with me no matter what house I am in and no matter who I am with. So here’s my challenge to you: next time you are baking/cooking something up, notice the kitchen. Take note of the people in it. Remember the conversations. Foster the time the food is in the oven because it allows for more conversation. But don’t leave them in too long… :) 

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There’s good news if you’d like to clean up your nutrition and maintain your hidden talent like Aubrey’s dad or begin to embrace the kitchen as a connecting place. Living a healthy lifestyle does not mean giving up baking, rather, swapping old school, processed and refined sugar laden recipes for as close to whole food ingredients as possible, whenever possible.

Baking is a detailed chemical process that cannot be messed with. As cookbook author and Food Network star, Alton Brown, shared in his book I’m Just Here for More Food, “Standard everyday cooking is relatively forgiving. Baking is rarely so. In fact, baked goods are a great deal like cars: You can change the wheel covers, put in new mats, and change out the stereo, but if you’re going to mess around under the hood, you’d better know what you’re doing or you may wind up taking the bus.”

Banana muffins are no exception so when on the quest to clean up recipes and add-in nutrition, precise details cannot be dismissed! It’s best to stick to preexisting baking recipes and only swap similar ingredients like chocolate chips for nuts and seeds or yogurt for coconut milk yogurt, for example. This banana muffin recipe is a tweak of a vegan recipe passed along many years ago. The muffins are gluten free, diary free and can be egg free and nut free if you choose! They qualify to be justified as the fruit and whole grain portion of a balanced plate and are an awesome lunchbox staple and pre workout fuel! Don’t forget to find the potato masher before getting started!

Staple Banana Muffins

By Audrey Byker Health Coach

-Makes 24-30 standard muffins

6 average sized ripe bananas, mashed(not extra large)

1 cup coconut sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted

2 tsp pure almond extract(omit for nut free)

2 tsp sea salt

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

3 cups oat flour

1 cup chocolate chips, diary free

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare muffin tin with regular muffin liners. 

Add bananas, sugar and eggs to large bowl and mash with potato masher until combined.  Add coconut oil and mix again.  Add all remaining dry ingredients and fold together just until combined. Dish batter into muffin liners 3/4 of the way full(two small cookie dough scoops work great).  Bake in preheated oven for 18-20  min or until center is set. Eat as soon as cooled or store in airtight container up to 6 days at room temperature.

Chili Pasta Skillet

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Every morning I walk out of our bedroom, turn my head, then peek outside at the pond to foster a positive mindset and begin the day with the uplifting sense of wellbeing nature always offers. Yesterday marked the start of Thanksgiving week which makes it hard to believe there is already a layer of ice shimmering across the pond’s surface today! Considering I grew up in Michigan, this should be no surprise—the weather has always been mysterious. When I think of the fall season, freezing temps are the first thing to come to mind along with this overwhelming sense of gratitude for all the warm things: Sweaters, blankets, heat, a home, socks, shoes, boots, roasted veggies, soups and stews, and absolutely, yes, venison chili!

Calling all venison lovers!

Hunting, then the sharing of meat with loved ones, appears to be a primal instinct acted on by the masses in Autumn and Winter throughout the midwest. Here in Michigan, the majority of families have at least one member who enjoys it as a hobby. My heart is too sensitive to think beyond the cooking, but I’m grateful for my family and friends who invest far more time and energy into hunting deer than I do creating: Any animal raised in it’s natural habitat is a healthier option when comparing to a mass produced, factory farmed one.

Also, a major selling point? I never paid a dime for venison! My hunters are begging to give it away.

While I will never enjoy looking at photos of huge racks or sleeping in a room plastered with hides and mounts, I will always enjoy the eating of the meat. My body says meat is a must for the grounding, calming, warming, strong and lean results it offers. This is not the case for everyone—we are all unique—but given it is for me, the majority of the recipes I create include meat while also striving to fill 1/2 the plate or bowl with veggies and plants.

This Chili Pasta Skillet is my families’ favorite way to eat venison. When food comes straight from nature it connects me in the same way gazing at the sunset, watching snowfall or taking a deep breath of winter’s crisp air can.

I’m warning you, if you make this, do not plan on having leftovers and always double for a crowd! And if hunting or all things carnivorous are not for you, you’ll equally love this recipe.

Chili Pasta Skillet:

By Audrey Byker Health Coach

-30 min. meal

-serves 4-6

For the protein fat and flavor

1 pound ground venison(omit for vegan or swap for ground meat of choice)

1 Tbls. ghee(avocado oil for vegan)

4 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. garlic powder(or granulated garlic or 1 clove garlic, minced)

For the veggies and carbs

3/4 cup onion, chopped

1/2 large red bell pepper, chopped

14 1/2oz. diced tomatoes w/juice

16oz. can kidney beans, rinsed

8oz. canned tomato sauce

1/2 cup gluten free rotini pasta

1 Tbls. raw honey or pure maple syrup

sea salt and pepper to taste

Chicken broth or water as needed to keep the pasta moist


In a large skillet(with a lid) on med-high heat add ghee, venison, onion and  red pepper.  Saute until venison is beginning to brown then add chili and garlic powders. Saute 2 minutes more then add remaining ingredients. Turn heat to high to bring to a boil. Add broth or water to coat the pasta(amount varies).  Add lid and turn heat to low. Simmer for 20 min.

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Audrey Byker is a skilled and experienced Health Coach in West Michigan. She specializes in supporting busy people on their wellness journey through one-on-one coaching which can take place in person at her private office, in home or virtually from anywhere in the world. If you are looking for guidance and support to improve your health and quality of life, click here to set up a free consult today! She accepts HSA/FSA as payment!