gluten free

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.

Six Weeks of Bowl Meals: Harvest Burger Bowl

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Everyone is overwhelmed. Laundry, responsibility, work, a million school papers flying out of kid’s backpacks. The garage. Voicemails. Emails.

Then there’s meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking healthy meals.

The difference between those who can handle the overwhelm and those who allow it to paralyze them is basic: Healthy-striving people prioritize and plan. Successful people prioritize and plan. Less stressed people prioritize and plan. They listen to their intuition and trust it. They ignore that which is not important and focus on all that is to them.

What does it even mean to prioritize and plan? For some it’s a detailed planner, for others it’s utilizing Apple technology, google calendar or an app. For my grandpa it was always a notepad and golf pencil stashed in the breast pocket of every shirt he wore. It means saying “no” more than “yes” even if it hurts someone’s feelings, makes the kids cry or the neighbor annoyed. It’s taking action, one priority at a time.

Yup, without disclaimer or explanation. It’s a “no”.

Week four of six weeks of bowl meals is the perfect salad to add to next week’s meal plan. It follows all the balanced nutrition guidelines for ideal blood sugar control—a high healthy eating priority. It just so happens eating balanced, nutrient dense meals aids in the effort to feel less overwhelm. Blood sugar control is related to hormone regulation. Hormone regulation is responsible for balanced cortisol which aids in calm, clear, focused thinking, sleeping, and moving. It’s crazy how everything is connected.

Suddenly the emails and garage have bumped to the bottom of the list.

Harvest Burger Bowl

By Audrey Byker Health Coach

serves 4-6

FOR THE VEGGIES FAT AND PROTEIN

-2-3 head of romaine lettuce, chopped, washed and spun in the salad spinner

-1lb ground beef (know your farmer)

-1-2 Tbls. non chili spice blend(burger blend). I can’t get enough of this

-1/2 medium onion, chopped

-1 cup pecans, roasted and salted

for the carbs and flavor

-4 med/lg sweet potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into 1in. pieces

-1-2 Tbls avocado oil

-salt

-pepper

-1 apple sliced or diced(optional for garnish)

Creamy Avocado Dressing(or this):

-1/2 large avocado

-1/4 tsp sea salt

-One lime, juiced

-1/4 cup olive or avocado oil

-1/2 Tbls raw honey(optional)

-1 clove garlic, minced

-1/4-1/3 cup water, as needed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add sweet potato to a large bowl and stir to coat with oil then sprinkle with 1 1/2 Tbls spice blend. Add salt if spice does not contain it. Add to parchment paper covered sheet pan and add to oven to roast for 30 min or desired doneness, stirring 1/2 way. Set aside to cool slightly before adding to bowl.

While sweet potatoes roast add ground beef and onion to pan over med. heat. Add 1/2 Tbls spice blend. Cook through and brown. Remove from heat until sweet potatoes are ready.

Prepare bowl and dressing. Layer romaine coated in dressing, sweet potato, ground beef and pecans. Drizzle a bit more dressing on top as desired.