Health Coach

Food + Grief = Growth

Real, whole food, organically raised: none of the words in that sentence even existed when I was growing up. The buzz words then were: convenient, easy, crowd-pleasing- which meant one thing- casserole! When I reflect on childhood meals, I remember eating together around the table; I remember laughing at my dad's bad jokes; I remember my mom eating what I had methodically separated, and I remember my brother having to wait until I was finished eating before he could escape with his friends. Basically, none of what I remember about eating was the food. 


Five years ago, my dad passed away after a battle with cancer. Just prior to that, we had made some changes to our schedule that had allowed me to be home more during the day. Feeling inspired, I began figuring out how to create at home the food that I had normally purchased.  In the kitchen, I am determined, methodical and s l o w.....it takes me for-ev-er to cut, chop, slice and dice. In short, my family would devour in less than 15 minutes what had taken me hours (and sometimes days) to prep and create. When my dad died, so did my love for all that food prep. 


Strangely enough, I grieved him through taste. Dad had an unapologetic love for donuts that I never understood. Yet, when I no longer had dad, all I wanted were donuts. Every single time we stopped for ice cream, Dad would get butter pecan. I never understood. After dad passed, I couldn't stop my cravings for all things butter pecan, including those strange 'maple nut goodie candies?! What was happening? How could I have gone from spending days preparing whole, real foods to sustaining myself on a variety pack of TimBits & Maple Nut Goodies (thank you Tim Horton's & Brach's, by the way). It was as if my mind and heart were at odds and somehow my food cravings were the mediators. After a few months, I prayerfully said out loud, "Dad, I love and miss you! And, I have to break up with the donuts. There has to be another way for me to grieve your loss." 


That time away from the hours of preparation allowed me to realize a few things: 1-it's not realistic for me spend hours making meals, 2-did anyone even realize all the time involved in making the meals and were they supposed to, and 3-I cannot live on donuts, alone.  


Fast forward to about 2 years ago. On a slow Sunday morning, Mr. Wonderful and I were watching a cooking show. There was a fantastic recipe called something like sweet potato hash. They had my attention at sweet potato, but 'hash' had me confused. My experience with food titled hash was more akin to...well...yuck. But, this recipe just roasted the sweet potatoes, added some spinach and served it with a fried egg. Wait. That was real, whole food that didn't require extraordinary preparation?! Wasn't that the best of both worlds?! 


That recipe was the turning point. Suddenly, Mr. Wonderful and I started using an hour of our Sunday together to peel, chop, and roast veggies for the week ahead. It happened! That one hour transformed how we cook, what we cook, even what we crave.  Maybe it's the fact that we prep together, or maybe it's that we have fresh, real, organic food that's ready to use for the week, simplifying all our recipes. Until this moment, I'm not sure that I even thought too much about it. But, what I know is that finally, we have found a way to create better meals, in less time that everyone loves- and wouldn't dad love to see that?! I bet he'd even have a joke about it.

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Jane Robrahn is a wife-mother-madrasta-educator-yogi-nutrition enthusiast. As an adopted person, she is an advocate for both adoption & autism awareness. Audrey met Jane, first, as a high school student, then, as a teacher, and eventually became deeply connected as healthy striving, writing-loving friends.

Follow her adventures of life as a late bloomer on her blog.

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!

Six Weeks of Bowl Meals: Chicken Taco Soup

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Aaliyah and Timbaland’s words keep circling through my head after losing a beautiful first draft of this post to internet never-never land yesterday. 

“And if at first you don’t succeed then dust yourself off and try again..”

Last fall I had a dear friend share his experience with this common blogging issue.  While sitting along side me editing my work, he advised me several times to “never type a post on your website. Create a document. Always.” He may even have made me promise him I’d never make that mistake.  Chances are good, I did.

Ironically, here I am, constantly fighting for others to do the same; advising to pay attention, plan ahead, make a healthy decision. Love yourself. Promise me. I know what works. Learn from my mistakes.

While it’s incredibly helpful, encouraging and necessary, to have trusted advisors in our lives, we will always be human, wired for struggle, imperfect, and in need of grace and forgiveness—beginning with ourselves. The reality is, learning from someone else’s shortcomings will never be as impactful as learning from our own. Personal growth is a humbling process.

Sit with the yuck for a bit—feel the sting, but then join me in the quest to be and do better. We get one life, yet a new opportunity with each given day.

After 24 hours of dusting off, I still have a simple, 30 min. soup I am excited to share with you.  Each step in the process of making this soup is crucial for the desired, deep flavor outcome.  The ingredients and layers closely resemble our family’s favorite tacos, yet is so much easier to throw together near the end of a busy day.

Chicken Taco Soup

By Audrey Byker Health Coach

Serves 6-8

for the protein fat and flavor

-1 Tbls. avocado oil, ghee or chicken fat

-1 medium onion, chopped

-1 Tbls. chili powder

-1/2 Tbls. cumin powder

-2 big pinches sea salt

-Black pepper, fresh ground

-2 cloves of garlic, minced

-2-3 cups cooked chicken, chopped(leftover and off the bone—optional for vegan/vegetarian)

for the veggies and carbs

-1 1/2 cups quick cooking brown rice

-2, 14oz cans diced tomatoes with green chilis

-1-2 cups corn, frozen, non GMO

-1 medium jar great northern beans, rinsed

-2-3 quarts chicken stock or broth

-1 tsp apple cider vinegar or to taste

In a large pot over med-high heat add oil and onion then sauté for 4-5 min. or until soft and translucent, stirring frequently.  Add all remaining ingredients in order and stir all together. Allow the garlic to become slightly fragrant before adding the stock and apple cider vinegar.  Cover and turn heat to high and allow broth to come to a boil.  Turn to low and simmer for 20-25 min. until rice is soft.  Serve with cashew sour cream, guacamole, organic tortilla chips and olives if desired. Adjust taste with sea salt, pepper and/or Franks Red H

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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!