Wellness

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.

6 Weeks of Bowl Meals: Brussels, Bacon and Brown Rice

This summer has been the most challenging for me to get in the kitchen and create! If you've followed closely, you witnessed first, a torn rib muscle, then, shortly after that, a fall that resulted in a very messed up--still not diagnosed--left middle finger with additional wrist pain. I always laugh out loud when people ask how on earth I managed to get these injuries! Surly, I had to be pushing my mental and physical limits at the gym, on the field, or lets say, showing off in the water? Nope. While I love all the things and am guilty of every one, including attempting "tricks" on the paddle board, my kitchen set backs during my favorite cooking season have all been related to carelessness and slightly bad luck.  A forceful reach in a hurry and a fall, in my closet, while "skillfully" removing my skinny jeans, have resulted in a lot of pain, making chopping, typing, and dish washing quite the challenge! Thank you for sticking with me!  

A giant stalk of brussel sprouts was on sale at Meijer last week which sparked the very basic and simple creation of this stick-to-your-ribs meal--the first of my 6 weeks of bowl meals! My cashew cheese recipe adds an additional layer of healthy fat decadence and is optional, as always with sauces(even though sauteing then steaming typically provides plenty of flavor all on it's own).  When planning to prepare this bowl be sure to make time to chop the onion, bacon and brussels. With my finger slowing down the entire process, I cooked this in two shifts--the first steps before soccer practice, and the last, once I returned home.  As it turns out, tossing perfection out the window--once again--made it possible to cook and enjoy another satisfying, plant rich meal.

It brings me intense joy to have a platform and the physical health to share this tasty creation! Thank goodness all this real-food eating is proven to speed up healing time!

Brussel-Bacon, Brown Rice Bowl

By Audrey Byker Health Coach

Serves 4-6

for The veggies fat and protein

-1 pound clean bacon, chopped

-1/2 large onion, chopped

-1 large stalk or two bags brussel sprouts, quartered 

-Sea salt

-Black pepper, fresh ground

For the carbs and flavor

-8oz dry brown rice noodles(or three cups cooked potatoes or grains)

-1 batch Cashew Cheese(optional)*

*If planning to use cashew cheese, refer to recipe 1 day to 2 hours before planning to eat.

Fill a large saucepan with water and cook noodles per package directions. At the same time, in a large, non-stick skillet with a lid, add onions and bacon then saute on med. heat until cooked through.  Remove from pan leaving remaining bacon grease.  Add chopped brussel sprouts, a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook on med-high, watching carefully and tossing frequently--just enough to create a brown crust.  When crust is achieved, turn heat to low, add bacon and onions back into the pan, then add lid. Steam until desired consistency is reached: 10-15 min.

Prepare cashew cheese(optional), then add to noodles and stir together.  Add to a bowl(choose the best size for each appetite): brussels mixture and noodles.  

 

 

Spring Chicken Power Bowl

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Gosh I love fat. And mayo. And full-fat mayo with lemon. It was like my sister moved back and my best life began when I slowly made the discovery eating fat and the higher calories--9 per gram to be exact--that come with it, does not make me fat. Ironically, the low-calorie, nutrient depleted, chemically concocted fake foods from the 90's not only left me hungry ALL THE TIME, but were to blame for the constant shrinking and expanding of my jeans in my 20's.  It makes a heck of a lot more sense to me now and especially when I stop to think about how humans are made and connected to the earth--the source of life and food's existence.

Most bowl recipes are thought up on the fly while managing three kids, leftovers and a cluttered kitchen. This Spring Chicken Power Bowl is no exception. I started with the raw chicken tenders from Costco sprinkled with lemon rosemary seasoning, salt and pepper. They sat on a plate while I asked the neighbor to help me light the grill then scoured the fridge and pantry for leftover "dump ins" which always include:

1) Mainly light, nutrient-laden veggies

2) Some fiber and filling, dense carbs

3) Added healthy fats

4) A sprinkle of flavor

5) A portion of protein

Once the kids were settled and eating, I rinsed and tossed green beans into a pan of water--no time for trimming. When the water came to a boil, gluten free rotini noodles were added, along with the lid. After a quick check on the flames, I was back inside chopping green beans and baby spinach.  

With every ingredient scattered across the counter, this power bowl came together . I had one last dump-in to create: The dressing, which is also the added fats for flavor, satiety and overall goodness.  Creamy mayo always makes me happy and especially when it's homemade or has clean ingredients.  Not all fats are good--for disease prevention, inflammation reduction and nutrient absorption. Processed fats need to be crowded out with as-close-to-natural as possible sources. A whole egg contains a yolk which is natural. A sunflower, almond, olive and the cold-pressed(not chemically processed) oil from it can also be included. Anything heated at high temperatures and extracted with chemicals changes dramatically from it's natural state which in turn becomes foreign and harmful to the body--not natural. Again: Nature, not science.  Mystery not definite.  Praise God mayo is not the enemy!! Nothing sounded better to me than a mayo based dressing and lemon to pair with the chicken seasoning. Oh. My. Thank. You. To my jeans, for not altering and the most delicious flavor combinations to keep it that way.

Spring Chicken Power Bowl

By Audrey Byker, Health Coach

Serves One

For the Bowl:

-3 small raw chicken tenders

-2 tsp. lemon rosemary seasoning(I use Wildtree)

-1 cup fresh green beans

-1/2 cup gluten free noodles

-1 cup baby spinach, chopped

-1/4 cup roasted, salted almonds, crushed

-Sea salt, to taste

-Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

For the Dressing:

-1/4 cup mayonnaise, organic without soybean, canola, safflower or other processed oils(I like Sir Kensingtons or homemade)

-2 Tbls. lemon balsamic vinegar(Fustinis) or 1 Tbls. white wine vinegar and 1 Tbls. Fresh squeezed lemon juice

-1 tsp. fresh rosemary, minced

Sprinkle seasoning on chicken with salt and pepper. Preheat grill and cook chicken, turning half way. In a large saucepan add green beans and cover well with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add gluten free noodles. Turn to low and simmer per noodle directions. Strain and rinse with cold water.

Add to a bowl the spinach, green beans, noodles, chicken, almonds and sea salt and pepper.

In a small bowl or dressing jar, whisk dressing ingredients together.  Drizzle over ingredients in bowl and enjoy!