Dairy-Free Basil Pesto
At 26 years old my body was in rough shape. After giving birth to my first baby, I left the hospital sick and spent much of the next two years battling virus after virus, allergies, asthma, GERD, eczema, and my frienemy, anxiety(with a touch of depression). I can remember blaming someone who came to visit us in the hospital for my body's inability to fight.
Blame is such an easy way out, isn't it? When we blame we don't have to own our shit and can pass it on to someone else without the dreaded guilt. "It's not my fault" is a lot easier than, "I did this to myself and am the only person who can undo it".
It took about 18 months, dozens of doctor visits, and a handful of prescription drugs to think differently, then start asking questions:
-Is this drug going to heal my condition?
-How long will I have to take this drug?
-What is wrong with me? What is causing my immune system to fail me?
-What will my life look like 10 years from now?
It was the last question, what will my life look like 10 years from now, that ignited my strength driven by my powerful, determined, inner leader. I left the doctors behind and took a close look at my daily life, priorities, food choices, and got brutally real with myself.
It was time to accept it all.
It's actually NOT the daycare's fault my toddler caught every virus and lived with a constant runny nose. It's NOT the doctor's fault I wasn't getting better on a concoction of prescription drugs. It's most definitely NOT anyone else's fault, not even my husband's!
I can control a lot and what I cannot, will be let go.
Today, slightly shy of that 10 year mark, I am more driven than ever, still working hard to own all my own shit while guiding others to do the same.
Now, drug-free, med-free, illness-free and BLAME FREE...I look in the mirror and can hardly believe it. If my body shouts loudly at me with a symptom, I know my lifestyle choices, priorities and thoughts need tweaking. Of course, every body and circumstance is different, but this is my truth I claim.
When blame is replaced with acceptance, powerful healing and life-lessons are on the table, ready to be used as tools to teach and grow.
While far from the easy way, it's the only way to live my best life.
You know that feeling when you didn't quite get those 7-9 hours of sleep your body begged for, or your stress and anxiety level was a bit too high for a bit too long? Then it happens, either out of no where (stomach flu) or a slow onset (scratchy throat and swollen glands), you get sick.
Way back when I constantly abused my body through overexercising, under eating, and placing far too high of expectations on myself, I was sick often: My poor gut was in shambles. All the talk we hear today about gut health and the immune system is absolutely true, I am living proof. Thankfully, I heard about Juice Plus and the research proving the power of whole food nutrition, before suffering more. 3 months into eating the fruits and veggies in capsules 7 years ago, a very bright light bulb went on in my head due to my immune system balancing, digestion improving and energy skyrocketing. The one simple change led eventually to my passion and becoming a holistic health coach. I traded dieting, antibiotics, steroids, inhalers and OTC meds for fruits and veggies. No looking back!
It turns out, there is far more that goes into healing a damaged gut like I had. My training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and working alongside Naturopathic Drs. has taught me, a healthy lifestyle, along with specific whole foods that rebuild and restore, help heal what was lost and damaged. One of those foods happens to be delicious, cheap and easy to make: Chicken soup with homemade bone broth! If you don't have 40 minutes to spare to sit down and watch my live Facebook video, pull up this recipe and give it a try before illness strikes (and yes, it works for prevention too!).
Gut Healing Chicken Soup
by Audrey Byker, Health Coach
Serves a large crowd and a sick neighbor or two
For the broth:
1 3-4lb Chicken, humanely raised**
Salt and pepper
1 splash of apple cider vinegar
1 handful of various veggies scraps and peels (optional-save from the following)
For the soup:
1-2Tbls avocado or olive oil. Cold pressed.
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 large stalks of celery, finely chopped
3 Jumbo carrots, peeled and chopped
A few pinches of sea salt and pepper
4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
Chicken leftover from broth or 2-3 cups cooked(boneless/skinless or rotisserie from the store)
6 cups of bone broth (or organic chicken/veggie stock)
1 1/2 cups of brown rice*
2 tsp. all purpose, salt-free seasoning (optional, my favorite is Kirkland brand)
1 day before making the soup, sprinkle salt and pepper on and roast the chicken in a large roasting pan or dutch oven, covered, at 350 for 2 hours. Don't forget to empty the cavity! Cool/chill then take all the meat off the bones. Toss skin and bones/pieces and juices into a large stockpot. Cover with water, about 6 cups. Add the splash of apple cider vinegar and vegetable scraps and pieces. Cover. Add pot to the stove and bring to a boil on high. Once boiling turn to low and simmer for 2-4 hours. Pour into a large pot through a fine mesh strainer. Discard the chicken bones and pieces. Reserve bone broth for soup:
Chop all veggies. Add oil to bottom of large stockpot/saucepan and turn heat to med-high. Add onion, celery salt, pepper and carrot. Saute' until onion is translucent and soft. Add garlic and saute' a bit more until fragrant, like 1-2 min. Turn heat to med-low. Add chicken, brown rice, seasoning, and cover well with broth. Add lid and bring to a boil. Turn down to simmer and continue to simmer on low, covered for 45 min. to cook the rice. Serve immediately or leftover for a week. Freeze in wide-mouth mason jars leaving a few inches from lid to allow for expansion.
*For a Paleo, SCD, GAPS and grain-free option, sub brown rice for peeled, chopped parsnips and cook until fork tender, around 15-20 min.
**If a conventional chicken is the only option, skim off the fat once broth cools
Friends. It’s not that I haven’t been inspired, working hard or dedicated lately, but because I haven’t found a recipe that really wowed me enough to share another blog post with you...since September. Please accept my apology!! Surely this will make up for it!
Major shout-out to my friend, JP, for inspiring me to invent this quick and easy sautéed meal by delivering a fresh package of Garam Masala spice straight from India. I can’t wait to travel there myself soon!
Not only is this dish worth celebrating, it’s full of plant nutrients, perfectly clean eats, and might even be white linen worthy in flavor. I’m sharing it with you before refining and hoping I can guess the measurements I used—hahaha. I invite you to also become a whole foodie and throw stuff together in a pan like me, not taking yourself too seriously, and enjoying every successful bite along the way.
Bollywood Sweet Potato Saute
by Audrey Byker, Health Coach
-Dairy free, gluten free, soy free, nut free, with vegan option
Avocado oil-2 turns of the pan
1/4 lb *ground turkey (know your farmer or go for certified organic if at all possible)
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1/2in. pieces
1 small apple, peeled and chopped (I used a gala)
1/4 cup sweet onion, chopped
2-3 pinches of sea salt, or to taste
1 1/2 tsp Garam Masala spice mix
2 Tbls. broth (veggie or chicken)
1/2 cup coconut milk (full-fat, from the can, shake well)
Quinoa if desired (follow directions on the package before beginning your sauté)
In a large, 10in. skillet with a lid, sauté oil with ground turkey and onion on med-high heat until cooked through. Add sweet potato and saute' for 1-2 min. Add apple. Stir all together, sauteing for a few minutes more, then add the lid. Turn heat to low. Let simmer until for tender, resisting the urge to lift the lid, about 5 min. Lift the lid, add the spice, salt and give a quick toss. Drizzle the broth and coconut milk around the edge and turn heat to med. Stir and incorporate while scraping the bottom of the pan. Allow to simmer just enough to coat and create a sauce.
Serve with quinoa, rice or on it’s own.
*For a vegan option omit the turkey and add more fruits and veggies or tofu
Nothing beats having a plan when it comes to eating healthy: Fail to plan, plan to fail, yes? If you've just begun your journey to wellness, you've probably quickly discovered, living life on auto pilot(aka, without a plan) does not lead to success the majority of the time. If you want to lose weight, heal your body, fight illness, and prevent disease, a new approach to how daily life is lived is the only way to go! When a strategy is not in place, the food in sight and on-hand, ready to eat, becomes the only option, which makes you a victim of your circumstance. As your health coach, it's my mission to help you help yourself ditch that victim and take charge in creating lasting, life-long, healthy habits possible to execute in your specific life situations!!
I love the organization part of coaching along with creating realistic recipes fit for the crazy busy person or family. It's my mission every day to make insanely satisfying (pleasurable, sexy, lovely, delicious, scrumptious, and oh so glorious) real food, which takes only a little thought in conjunction with a stocked pantry and fridge. This Cruciferous Coconut Curry recipe (demo'ed at Grand Rapids Veg Fest 2016) is a staple in my home. If I were to write a cookbook this would fall under the category of "Quick Sautéed Weekly Staples". Curry is sweet, versatile, a little savory and free of the top allergens(diary, eggs, shellfish, nuts, wheat and soy). Green beans and cauliflower were chosen for their crowd appeal, but any veggie or animal/non-animal protein can easily be swapped or added in with the same tasty results. After playing around with this recipe for months, I finally decided using the Thai coconut milk from the can is the only option for the stellar results VegFest attendees experienced first-hand.
Cruciferous Coconut Curry
By Audrey Byker, Health Coach
-Vegan, gluten free, nut free, soy free and only 30 min. to prepare
8 oz. brown rice or buckwheat noodles
2 Tbls. coconut oil
1 Head of cauliflower (med.-lg.), chopped
12 oz. Green beans, ends trimmed
2 Green onions, biased-sliced into 1/4in. pieces
1 14 oz. Can unsweetened, full-fat coconut milk (Thai brand)
4 tsp. Bottled curry paste
2 tsp. Coconut sugar
Sea salt and pepper to-taste
2 Tbls. Lime juice
- Cook noodles according to package while getting started on step 2. Set a timer! Set aside when cooked and add a little bit of prepared sauce as soon as possible to break up the noodles.
- Add 1 Tbls. of oil to large, 10 inch (or larger) non-stick skillet with a lid on med. heat. Add grean beans. Cook for a few minutes with lid on pan while prepping cauliflower.
- Add the remaining oil and then cauliflower. Toss around and sauté for a few more minutes to brown then add lid and set heat to low. Allow veggies to cook/steam for 5-10 min. depending on desired texture then remove lid and add green onions, coconut milk, curry paste, and coconut sugar.
- Simmer on low for 2-5 min. depending on desired doneness. For crisp tender results cook for less time. Stir in lime juice just before removing from stove and serve over hot noodles.
Chow? Really? I know, my creative brain is on fire!
Anyway, earlier this summer I posted this on Instagram:
Shortly after the post, and then dozens of times following that, I've been contacted to share this recipe. Since I am a holistic health coach I found myself in the middle of a moral dilemma. You see, the base of this recipe is not a whole food. It's not brown rice covered in real nutrient dense goodness; it's a processed, stripped, mashed up, molded form of fake food. It's white rice squares.
Then, I thought about real life. Real people and real problems. If I find joy and comfort in knowing I took an addictive childhood treat and added nutrition to it in a way that I can justify feeding it not only to my family, but also myself, then this needs to be shared! It's the truth and like all circumstances in life involving the release of secrets, once they are out you are FREE!!
So, the secrets out. I am not perfect. Actually, I hate perfectionism and am a self proclaimed recovering perfectionist. Here is my "Chow" recipe. My kids beg for it and I love it as an occasional treat occasionally justified as a snack on the go or upon occasion on the beach. Ok, ok, sometimes it's a lunch box staple--ahh, another slip up! Either way, join me in the journey of striving for better, not perfect, and clean up Betty Crocker's oh so addictive version of this treat.
By Audrey Byker Health Coach
9 cups Corn rice or wheat squares cereal*
1 cup dark chocolate chips (Enjoy Life ideal, Ghiradelli 60% cocoa or more)
1/2 cup natural nut or seed butter, unsweetened
2 Tbls coconut oil**
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar (organic if possible)
1 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut***
Measure cereal into a large bowl (do not talk or think about anything else or you will have to start over). Melt chocolate chips, coconut oil and nut butter in a glass measuring cup in the microwave or on the stove in a double broiler (my favorite method). Add vanilla. Pour over cereal once smooth and stir well until cereal absorbs mixture, set aside. Mix coconut with powdered sugar then add to cereal mixture. Add to large airtight container and cover with lid. Shake like crazy and have a dance party. Open and enjoy! Store in fridge or on the counter for up to 6 days. If you're looking to keep it clean keep chilled.
*Use rice or corn for gluten free
**For coconut free use ghee or vegan butter(earth balance)
***For coconut free get creative and use ground roasted nuts or seeds. Yum!
Every. Single. Summer day the kids are shuffling around, in and out of the house, searching for the ipad, unloading landscaping stones from cargo pockets, poking and prodding at their sister, screaming from the toilet for a bum to be wiped, and then, exactly 1.25 hours after their last meal, it happens. Every single day. "Mom, I'm hungry! I want some chocolate! May I have some yogurt? Can we go get ice cream? I want a treat!" Before I get a chance to breathe let alone answer the first question, the voices turn from a gentle whine to more of a screechy "I'm staaaaarving!!"
Now, while patience is a virtue, I can openly admit, it is not one of mine. Not with 3 kids cackling and screeching all at the exact same time! Baby, you are not starving!
It was about 3 years ago the experimentation with hummus began in my kitchen. It was pretty clear we needed a diary-free, protein and healthy fat packed snack to help with blood sugar dips for the entire family. While store bought hummus is a better snack option in comparison to other processed foods, it's still very much a processed food, typically containing sugar and various additives and preservatives. According to a highly selective 6-year-old, this hummus is better than those store bought brands.
Get out your food processor, just a few simple ingredients, and be ready to wow a small family or large crowd. Hush the hungry littles and put an end to the cravings, naturally, with this Roasted Red Pepper Hummus Dip!
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus Dip
By Audrey Byker Health Coach
1 can of organic chickpeas, drained, reserving 1/3 cup of liquid
1 clove of fresh garlic
3 Tbls. tahini
2 Tbls. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. sea salt
2 organic roasted red peppers (from a jar)
1 Tbls. liquid from the roasted red peppers or more to taste
In a large food processor, add drained chickpeas, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, salt and reserved liquid. Turn on and process for a few minutes. Scrape sides then add peppers and liquid from the jar. Turn on and process for a few minutes more until hummus has reached desired consistency. Serve with cut up veggies and/or organic tortilla chips. Double the recipe and keep on hand, in the fridge, to use for a hunger emergency.
Oh my oh my do I love feeling sexy. How does a wife and mom of 3 feel sexy you ask? It's a loaded question, but one about which I feel extremely passionate! When I am my best me, body, mind and spirit, I feel amazing. My entire family benefits from the momma with the sexy shorts on if you know what I mean? Kids screaming, fighting, whining and crying for food at 4pm on a Monday? It's ok, momma feels sexy. The husband is busy while I'm at home organizing and packing for a family trip? It's all good, momma's got her sexy. Ok, so what about when it's the middle of the holiday season and stress and overwhelm creeps in from an overloaded schedule and there's comfort food all around? YUP! Momma's got this because she feels sexy! Now, don't get me wrong, I have many insecure, self-critical moments, but when I am taking the time and energy to take care for this one unique and intricately designed body (I mean, just THINK about what a woman's body can do!) I am able to find a positive far sooner than when I feel less than sexy.
This can be a touchy subject with women or in a conservative town, but not talking about it only makes us females feel worse. Sexy is a feeling, a state of mind, an expression or even a simple decision--we were created to feel it! While It's not an ideal or set of measurements, it IS acceptance of your unique body in your mind and spirit. When you make the decision to fuel your best you are also choosing to feel your best--which lends itself to self love and acceptance. Women are strong. We are brave, bold, unique, sensual, emotional, sensitive, compassionate, and absolutely sexy. We are capable of turning ordinary chaos into life-giving joy and the most complex and complicated situations into peace and calm. Awesome, real food nutrition such as this spring salad is one of the most pleasurable ways we can feed our inner sexy. What are you waiting for?
Sexy Spring Salad
By Audrey Byker Health Coach
1 Large bowl
Baby spinach and arugula
Sauteed mushrooms, onions and garlic (leftover)
Cold, roasted sweet potatoes (leftover)
Cold protein of choice (you guessed it, beans, chicken or bacon, leftover)
Balsamic vinaigrette (My family could drink this one)
Raw sunflower seeds
Assemble salad with desired amount of every ingredient in order. You are uniquely you and there are no set measurements for that reason. Sit down, breathe, chew, preferably in the spring sunshine, and enjoy every bite!
It's true, obesity, ADD/ADHD, autism, allergies, cancer and autoimmune diseases are on the rise in children living in the United States. As a mother and educator this does not sit well with me. Real food not only prevents disease, but it can dramatically lessen symptoms, and in many circumstances, heal.
After working 3 years in the schools, the decision was made to make all lunches for my family as long as our children would choose strawberry milk and Bosco sticks outside of our supervision. Today, with 2 in school, I'm shocked to hear from them they ALWAYS want mom to make their lunch. While there are definitely weeks where I'd give a lot not to care, making lunches is a small thing I can do to help my babies thrive.
Candied Nuts and Seeds was born from the realization that children unite when it comes to having a love for sweets. They especially love snacky treats they can carry in a bag and crumple up to shove in their pockets. While raw nuts alone are insanely full of macro and micronutrients our bodies need, they seriously lack in satisfying flavor and crunch their packaged food rivals have to offer. The best way to eat these is in a small bowl alongside some delicious fruits and veggies "of course"--as my 3-yr.-old would say!
Candied Nuts and Seeds
By Audrey Byker Health Coach
6 cups of raw nuts and seeds of your choice (cost makes the decision for me)
2 Tbls coconut sugar
1/4 cup melted coconut oil or ghee
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt (or to taste)
A sprinkle of cinnamon (optional)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Add nuts and seeds to large bowl. Combine remaining ingredients then pour over nuts and seeds. Stir and toss well to coat. Spread on large baking sheet. Place in oven then set timer for 15 min. Toss and shake around every 15 min. for 45 min. bake time total. I keep setting my timer so I can multitask without distraction! Cool completely then store in an air-tight container at room temp. or freeze for 6+ months in Ball jars. I've never had them sit longer than a few days!
Way back, when I started feeding my sweet little Savannah solid foods, I can oh-so-clearly remember really questioning the package labels like I never had before. Sure, if you read my story you know I definitely read food labels, but it wasn't until my innocent baby sat in my arms I, then, started looking at them differently. The pediatrician prescribed baby rice cereal, but when I read the label on the box recommended to me, I could not help but wonder if it was truly rice I was forcing down her. Shortly after a few successful attempts, it was no surprise that after many months of no issues on breast milk, she now developed constipation. The next prescription was to then administer prune juice or a stool softener (or both) after the rice cereal.
Now, call me crazy, but my mommy radar went a little nuts. We love our pediatrician. We love Drs.(and nurses, hospitals, surgeons...Of course), but this just simply did not compute. My baby was now suffering and I created every bit of it. Instead of me pounding myself to the ground with mom guilt, anxiety and panic, I trusted my creator and started making my own baby food (and feeding her after she nursed if she was still hungry). I cooked brown rice. I mashed it up. I thinned it with breast milk. My baby girl thrived.
Fast forward 7 years and we're still eating brown rice together (and thriving)! The only difference now is we are making treats instead of mashed up breast milk (can you even imagine?!) When I asked Savannah if I could dedicate my next recipe post to her she didn't even hesitate and squealed "Scotcharoos!!!!". This puffed brown rice dessert-looking goodness offers nutrition and health in every bite. The raw honey and nut/seed butters' benefits are far too expansive to even begin to list. As the two chocolate-loving ladies in the house, this treat is our staple. Consider yourself warned: when you add-in more real food, your guts will feel soothed, your tastebuds alive and a little bit will satisfy even the sweetest of sweet tooths.
Cleaned Up Scotcharoos
by Audrey Byker Health Coach
1 cup raw honey(local, even better!)
1 cup natural peanut butter(or natural nut or seed butter of choice)
7 cups brown rice puffs
1 cup raw or roasted seeds(we use hemp and sunflower)
1 cup dark chocolate chips(Enjoy Life, Ghirardelli, or Costco, in that order)
1 tsp coconut oil.
In small saucepan bring honey to low boil then boil for 1 min. Remove from heat. Add PB, stir well. Add warm mixture to rice puffs and stir well. Press into a 9x13 pan, press down to flatten with silicone spatula or damp fingers.
Melt chocolate chips and coconut oil in double broiler or microwave, in 30 sec. increments. Stir well until smooth. Drizzle and/or spread over bars. Cover and freeze briefly to set. Store at room temp or fridge, cut into squares.