Chili Pasta Skillet

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Every morning I walk out of our bedroom, turn my head and 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!

Six Weeks of Bowl Meals: Grain-Free Thai Bowl

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Telling someone addicted to food to “just eat mindfully” is like giving an alcoholic a fifth of whiskey as a gift and saying “enjoy one glass a day”. Mindful eating is to an infant what living on autopilot is to an adult. As much as I believe in my clients far more than they believe in themselves a lot of the time, there is a point, typically in the beginning of Health Coaching program, where I just have to put it bluntly and show a bit of tough love. Awareness of denial, blame and shame is essential to beginning the process of living a mindful life. Mindful living and eating is freedom.

I am here to help you help yourself, trust me, and time is on your side.

My story includes too many years of battling an incredibly disordered relationship with food. It was as if I had myself convinced I was born with a weight + calorie chart in one hand and measuring cups in the other. Can you even picture that? First comes the head, the shoulders then…Wait for it…measuring cups and spoons! Awe! Now this child will always know how to stay healthy and love herself!! Yay!

Learning how to retrain my mind-body connection to “just eat mindfully” was a process. It took time. One of the important health discoveries I made along the way was the crappy physical feeling that resulted from junky food choices. Mindful eating means making well-thought out nutrition decisions based on the mind-body connection and love for oneself. It means fully enjoying the eating experience and slowing down with every bite—a helpful practice for life overall.

This week’s bowl meal makes eating mindfully simple. Every nutrient-dense ingredient not only forces taste buds to dance, but continues to fuel and support everyone living a healthy lifestyle. The balance of macros and micros will satisfy the largest of appetites! The dressing can be used as a sauce and is drinkable on its own! I’m so so so pleased with it and cannot wait for you to try it!

Grain-Free Thai Bowl

By Audrey Byker Health Coach

Serves 4-6

for the veggies and protein

-1lb. boneless chicken tenders, chopped into 1 in pieces(make it vegan and omit)

-1 pint baby bella mushrooms, sliced

-1 pint shiitake mushrooms, sliced

-2 cups shredded carrots

-1 large bundle of broccoli, chopped

-Sea salt

-Black pepper, fresh ground

-1 Tbls avocado oil(or any healthy oil)

-1/2 tsp sesame oil

for the carbs fat and flavor

-2-3 cups jasmine rice, brown rice, brown rice noodles, cooked(optional if grains are desired)

-Sunflower seeds, roasted and salted(optional garnish)

-Green onion, sliced(optional garnish)

FOR THE THAI SUNFLOWER SEED DRESSING/SAUCE:

By Audrey Byker Health Coach

-1/2 cup sunflower seed butter, unsweetened and unsalted(or any other natural nut butter)

-3 Tbls Tamari soy sauce or coconut aminos

-2 Tbls raw honey(optional—omit for vegan)

-Juice of 1 lime

-1 Tbls rice or white wine vinegar

-Water to taste

Add both oils to a large wok or nonstick skillet(with a lid if you prefer veggies to be cooked through) then add chicken, salt and pepper. Sauté until cooked through, remove from pan, set aside and immediately add mushrooms to the pan. Sauté over med-high heat, stirring frequently for 5 min. Add remaining veggies(broccoli and shredded carrots) and sauté over medium heat until cooked al dente(or add the lid and steam until desired doneness is reached). Meanwhile add all dressing ingredients except for water in a small mason jar with a blender ball, add lid and shake until fully combined. Add water to thin to desired consistency, one tablespoon at a time. Add chicken back into pan to heat through, just before serving. Serve in bowls layered with noodles or rice(optional), dressing, green onion, and sunflower seeds. Eat leftovers cold or reheated, in a salad, alone or with grains.

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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!