real food

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!

Smokey Bites and the Power of your Vibe

You know how you meet someone and they simply get you? He or she is "on the same page", laughs at your jokes, shares the way you share and connects on the same level.  There's this draw to be in the same room and a massive sense of relief knowing you don't have to care, try, or put any effort into pleasing her/him.  The way you look, speak, act, sing, dress, eat, or what you talk about is not only expected, but accepted. The best part of all, is the ability of this specific human to make you feel loved. It's the power of your vibe.  You found your tribe.

After MANY conflicting thoughts and all-consuming doubts, I'll never forget the day my therapist gave it to me straight: "Audrey, not everyone is going to like you".  While I knew this, absolutely, it broadsided me like the day my brother missed the baseball conveniently pitched inches from my head.  My heart hurt in the same way my brain felt the blow from the bat.  His words are truth, my truth, and it took way too long for me to embrace it.  

Always needing and seeking validation is life-draining--It will never be possible to please the masses.  These bites came alive after 3 years of coaching and hearing there's a great demand for savory snacks--similar to a desire the majority of my clients have to feel accepted as they are.  The same concept Brene Brown describes as "love and belonging".  When I went into coaching I could not have predicted either one which is actually quite funny given my life story...Haha, always learning over here.  All people can be kind, open-minded, driven by empathy and compassion, yet it's realistic to conclude not everyone is going to understand your vibe. IT'S OK. NEXT!  Keep working on loving yourself in the same way and your tribe will come along.

If you are stuck, constantly prying yourself away from the salty treats at the store[you bought and are in the pantry] I think you might want to give these a try!  You may have to think "outside the box" and be open to the textures and flavor.  If you can't, I'd still love your feedback!

Smokey Fiesta Power Bites by Audrey Byker

Smokey Fiesta Power Bites by Audrey Byker

Smokey Fiesta Power Bites

By Audrey Byker, Health Coach inspired by Minimalist Baker's "Everyday Cooking"

1 Cup roasted walnuts

1/4 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp granulated garlic

3/4 Tbls chili powder

1 Tbls nutritional yeast(optional)

1 Tbls cocoa powder(optional)

1/2 Tbls cumin powder

Sea salt, two pinches

Black pepper, fresh ground to taste

1 Tbls pure maple syrup

1 Cup cooked quinoa

1 14oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 Tbls dried chives

Add walnuts, onion powder, granulate garlic, chili powder, nutritional yeast, cumin, salt, pepper and pure maple syrup to a food processor.  Process until paste forms.  In a large bowl add drained and rinsed black beans and smash with a fork, leaving a small amount whole.  Next add quinoa, chives and nut paste to the bowl then stir together to form a dough.  Roll into 1 inch balls and serve or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 1 week or freeze up to 6 months.  Good at room temp for many hours!

Bonus: These bites have multiple uses!  Use dough to make veggie burgers or sprinkle on a salad after pan frying in olive oil.  Use as a meat replacement.  They make an excellent post workout recovery food, high in protein, fat and nutrients. 

 

Gut Healing Chicken Soup and Bone Broth

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