Eventually I was existing on quinoa and a small handful of vegetables my body could digest. I needed more. Clearly.
I had eaten meat-free for a number of years beginning in college. I felt good and didn't crave meat so I figured, hey!, this must be my groove. What I neglected to consider is that my body didn't have one mode - a setting I could figure out, click into, and cruise on throughout life. I understand now my body changes from day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year, season to season. I consistently hear [and say] as a parent everything is a phase - nothing lasts forever. It's true for parenthood, for our bodies, and for life.
While I was pregnant with my first child my body screamed for burgers and bacon and cheese. Rather than finding the best version of these I could, I quieted the voice with what I assumed to be "healthier" choices. When my second came around that same voice upped the volume yet my stubbornness and head knowledge took over, convincing me once again this inner voice was somehow incorrect. It couldn't really be asking me to eat meat, right?
Although both babies were healthy [so much gratitude for this!], I came away exhausted, depleted, and malnourished. My body stopped receiving the nutrients from the food I was feeding it and I was feeling every bit of the effect.
And so I started eating meat. There are oodles of books on animal cruelty and the detriment of eating meat with extremely convincing scientific studies. I don't doubt the validity in this way of thought and I do believe as a nation we eat far too much tragically raised animal products on a regular basis. What I do doubt is that a meat-free way of eating is feasible for all. The Ayurvedic tradition uses meat as medicine and I love this. I love that meat holds a respected place in this system which also values animal rights, care, and protection.
So I ate - minimally at first but then with a vengeance. Let me make this very clear, meat wasn't the only thing that healed my body. Healing took a lot of work on many levels and continues to do so. I have been so blessed by the skillfulness, kindness and knowledge of a naturopath, body/energy worker, and acupuncturist and most of my healing is a direct result of the work I've done with each. But meat did act as a catalyst. Eating meat taught me grace, humility, and a different form of ahimsa [non-harming] than I had been practicing.
And it gave me hope. Something I desperately needed at that time.
These days, meat is still a part of my diet but it plays a far less prominent role. I rely more on gelatin and bone broth and have been able to slowly bring back some of my favorite meat-free staples. My forage into consuming animals has shown me balance and perspective are two things worth making friends with and practicing as much as possible. It's not easy, especially that perspective thing, but it provides the ability to understand situations in a way tunnel-vision simply doesn't allow.
My hope is that this part of my story encourages you in yours and extends permission to explore releasing the areas of life you grasp so tightly. Many blessings.
Recipe adapted from this Killer Quinoa Salad Recipe
2 c. quinoa
4 c. cold water
1/2 tsp. sea salt
zest and juice of one lemon
2 T. raw apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
sea salt + freshly ground pepper
4 T. extra virgin olive oil
3 medium yellow onions, cut into very thin slices
5 - 6 small garlic gloves or 3 large cloves, cut into very thin slices
1 bunch of kale cut into very thin ribbon-like strips
2 c. or one 15-ounce can of cooked garbanzo beans
2 fresh green onions, cut into thin slices
1/3 c. dried cranberries
1/3 c. sliced almonds, lightly browned or toasted
Begin by warming 2 tablespoons of olive oil and onions in a medium size skillet over medium-low heat. Once the onions begin to sizzle, reduce the heat to low. Carmelizing the onions will take about 45 minutes so it's important to begin with this. Occasionally stir the onions to prevent them from getting too brown. At about the 30 minute mark, add the slivered garlic to the onions. Continue to stir occasionally until the onions are a deep golden color and very soft. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
While the onions cooks, place the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear. Put the rinsed quinoa into a medium size pot and add water and 1/2 tsp. sea salt. Bring the water to boil, reduce the heat low, and cover. Cook until all of the liquid has been absorbed [about 15 minutes]. Once the water has been absorbed, turn off the heat and remove the lid. gently fluff the quinoa in the pot with a fork every 10 minutes or so until the quinoa has cooled to room temperature. If you're short on time simply spread the cooked quinoa out onto a couple rimmed baking pans to cool.
While the onions and quinoa are cooking, mix the lemon juice, lemon zest, apple cider vinegar, cumin, coriander, and a pinch or two of salt and pepper in a small glass jar with a tight fitting lid . Secure the lid tightly and shake for 30 seconds. Place dressing in refrigerator.
Place 2 T. olive oil and the cut kale into a large skillet over medium-low heat. Stir frequently until the kale becomes soft and turns a bright green color. Add the garbanzo beans, saute for 1 minute or just enough to warm, remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Once the onions, kale and quinoa have cooled to room temperature, place the quinoa, onions, kale and garbanzo beans in a large glass bowl. Add green onions, cranberries, and slivered almonds [if using] and gently stir to combine. Drizzle the entire salad with dressing and carefully stir well to combine.
Serve immediately or refrigerate. Salad will keep for 1 week or you can freeze to enjoy later.
Makes approximately 15 meatballs
A special note: In eating meat, I think it's extremely important to mention my family and I try hard to support our local farmers who raise animals in a respectful, loving way. We bless the animals blessing us and we've chosen not to consume the meat of any animal who has suffered through a heartbreaking life. We believe eating meat is both a privilege and a responsibility - something to be taken seriously and done with great care. This can be done by choosing local, organic, pasture-raised meats, eggs, and dairy without added chemicals, hormones, or antibiotics. Better yet, make a visit to the farm you purchase your meat from. See how they raise the animals and get a sense of the heart of the farmer. You may just land yourself a friend in the process.
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. fresh cilantro, finely chopped [if using dry cumin and coriander] OR fresh parsley, finely chopped [if using dry parsley and oregano]
1 tsp. each cumin and coriander OR parsley and oregano
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
freshly ground pepper
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium-size glass bowl and mix well using a spoon or your hands. Form into small meatballs and place in a glass baking dish. Cover and refrigerate for 30 - 60 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place meat balls on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the inside of the meatballs are no longer pink.
Remove from the oven and serve immediately.
[HERB YOGURT SAUCE]
1 c. plain Greek yogurt or unsweetened dairy-free yogurt of choice
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 c. fresh cilantro or dill, chopped finely
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Place all ingredients in a glass bowl and mix well. Taste and adjust as you need. Cover with a secure fitting lid and refrigerate for 30 - 60 minutes or make the night before.