clean eating

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.

Spring Soup and Bone Broth - Part 2!

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Homemade bone broth is just plain good. It’s also one of the most popular food inquiries from clients, friends, family, followers, fans, class participants...Parents.  The moment cold weather hits us midwesterners, messages and texts come blasting in like the polar vortex in January:

“Audrey, what the easiest way to make bone broth?”

I’d like to take a moment to sort out every reader into two separate categories:

  1. Have made bone broth

  2. Have not made bone broth

If you fall under category #1, scroll ahead to this week’s tasty white bean and sausage potato soup recipe--ideally to utilize your homemade bone broth and improve your healthy culinary skills! Temps are slowly climbing, yet cold still lingering, along with illnesses: Gut health is always needing more TLC.  I promised to share more about bone broth, but can’t help but want to move forward with an exciting new recipe along with it…

If you have not made bone broth you fall under category #2--Should you choose to finally take the raw, whole chicken plunge, I’m here to reassure you, it’s really quite simple! The trauma is more than made up for with the juicy, flavorful meat and healing broth.  While preparing it can be high in disgust, it’s low on time and takes care of itself once the oven temp is reached and timer set. Over the past four years I’ve written two blog posts and one recipe ebook explaining the simplest way in detail. Check it out and plan on reading the recipe first, writing the grocery list second, then committing to some kitchen time.  Similar to all healthy habit changes, practice makes perfect. It takes practice to get it exactly how you prefer it. And I am cheering for you! For additional support in increasing your culinary skills, here is a helpful checklist:

Kitchen tools needed:

-Dutch oven, crock pot or instant pot(must have a lid)

-Large food storage container if chicken will not be consumed immediately

-Large fine mesh strainer

-Large bowl

-Large mason jars with lids

-Large food funnel

Bone Broth:

See previous blog post - Gut Healing Chicken Soup and Bone Broth

There’s something about creamy soups. The temptation to indulge in a diary based soup left me years ago after discovering diary=sick. However, warm, creamy, and filling comfort food will never get old and does not have to contain dairy to taste incredible!  This soup is awesome with a spoonful of cashew sour cream (I like this one) stirred in, yet also good on it’s own. I like to add a splash of apple cider vinegar just before serving to boost the flavor a bit and improve digestion and gut health. Smashing some of the beans and potatoes with a potato masher creates the thick and creamy affect my taste buds crave the most.  When it comes to texture, it passed the 3-selective-eaters and one diary-addict test in my home! While bacon, sausage, ground pork, leftover pork tenderloin or even chopped up pork chops would work well in this soup, no pork at all is an equally tasty option for the meat or penny-less striving for great health! Chicken breakfast sausage would also not disappoint.

In an effort to ease the pain and discomfort of adding in new cooking skills for better health, here are the kitchen tools needed for this soup(more on skills yet to come. Stay connected!).

Kitchen Tools needed:

-Stock pot

-Cutting board

-Potato peeler

-Potato masher

-Fine mesh strainer

-Chef’s knife

-Favorite apron (optional but strongly suggested)

You matter to me so whether you are a #1, #2 or anything in-between, you are worth the extra effort it takes to look and feel amazing. In most circumstances, healthy sustainability requires time logged in the kitchen. Why not start by swapping french fries for potato while indulging in this soup?

White Bean and Sausage Potato Soup:

By Audrey Byker Health Coach

For the Protein Fat and Flavor

1 lb. Pork (optional, preservative and added junk free)

3 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced

2 sprigs of fresh Rosemary leaves, stemmed and minced or 1/2 Tbls. dried

1 pinch of Marjoram seasoning(optional)

4+ cups Broth

Sea salt to taste (a lot)

1 tsp white pepper

2 tsp apple cider vinegar

For the Veggies and Carbs

1 med. onion, chopped

1 16oz jar white beans

3 Lbs. Russet Potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces

3 cups Kale leaves, stemmed and chopped

In a large stockpot with a lid, add meat and onion. Sautés on med-high until fragrant and translucent about 5 min. Add sea salt, pepper, garlic, and marjoram. Saute 2 min. more then add all remaining ingredients except for kale. Add lid. Bring pot to a boil and turn to a simmer for 20 min. or until potatoes are cooked through. Add kale for the last few minutes to soften. Salt to taste.