health coach

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.

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.  

 

 

Decadent Pumpkin Bisque and Risk

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To the creatives, artists, entrepreneurs and risk-takers who came before me--I was not one of you--I was as comfortable as my nike running shorts with the built in granny underwear.  Life was appropriate just as I was taught, hiding behind my double jogging stroller, keeping a tidy house with folded laundry and organized drawers.  Babies were breastfed, beds were made, mom groups attended and my husband praised.

With the very first thought of becoming a holistic health coach came an intense amount of angst, dread, drain, and all-out adrenaline induced paralyzing panic.

You know, that feeling you get when you realize you will have to put yourself out there.  

I. Was. Terrified.

I would have to show up and be seen.  Promote myself.  Dig deep.  

The Institute for Integrative Nutrition did not sugar coat their delivery or training when it came to encouraging a life full of passion and purpose, but at the cost of expectations, limits and a clean house(we are always adding-in and crowding-out after all).

While I held on to a lot of hope for a good portion of 5 years, I did eventually move from awareness to acceptance and founded Audrey Byker Health Coach LLC. A clock would likely never be punched again.

This pumpkin bisque recipe represents all that is me.  It was concocted completely from scratch, not following or modifying a single existing recipe.  The sweetness of squash and cinnamon are traditional and expected, but the savory broth and red pepper add an edgy, rebellious kick.

The emotion extremes hit hard the day this sent to print.  It put me on the map as a creative.  As messy and uncomfortable it can be, staying the same or never trying seems like the riskier place to hang.

Decadent Pumpkin Bisque

By Audrey Byker, Health Coach

 

1 Medium pumpkin pie pumpkin, cut in half and seeded

1 small butternut squash, cut in half and seeded

1/2 Tbls coconut oil

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1/4c cashews, soaked overnight

1 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 tsp. cinnamon 

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

red pepper flakes(optional)

salt 

pepper

1-2 cups vegetable broth

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a 9X13 glass baking dish place pumpkin and squash flesh side down.  Bake for 30-45 min. until fork tender and skin is slightly browned.  Let cool to touch.

 

In a small sauté pan over medium heat, add onion, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Sautee until translucent and fragrant.

 

Scoop squash flesh out and place in blender.  Add cooked veggies/spices. Drain and rinse cashews, add to blender.  Add a few pinches of salt and pepper.  Blend on high in high speed blender until hot and silky smooth.  

 

Add salt and pepper to taste.  Calm your warming/sweet cravings with this grounding soup!