Eating My Feelings in the Form of the Perfect Pot Roast

I’m human, so I must eat to survive, and I’m human, so I have feelings that are sometimes uncomfortable, unexplainable or irrational. That combo of humanity means I often “eat” my emotions, whether it’s a celebratory bowl of chocolate mousse or a comforting hunk of tender pot roast. Sometimes the result is pure elation and deliciousness and sometimes the result is just more itchy feelings and extra pounds on my derriere. Oh, the conundrum in which I find myself…

My sweet little dog, perfectly happy to eat the same food day after day after day.

As far as I know, humans are the only species on earth that eat not just to satiate hunger, but we eat when we’re happy, when we’re sad or when we’re just bored. I think it’s a pretty good assumption that our relationship with food is way more complex than that of say, a dog. If you have a dog that you feed the same food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and even the same treats over and over again, you know what I’m talking about. No matter what I put in my dog’s bowl for meal time, she sits at my feet, staring up at me eagerly, and then goes to town chomping down a combo of kibble and mushy mystery meat, licking up all the juices left in the corners of her bowl. Every. Single. Day. And still she’s happy, satisfied and nourished. If all of us could have the life a dog…

Back to being human. Our food decisions are complex, and if eating was simply about refueling our bodies, we wouldn’t have obesity issues and eating disorders. I’m not a scientist, but I’m pretty sure there’s all sorts of synapses, releases and breakdowns, and chemical reactions going on inside our bodies and souls when we eat, triggering biological AND emotional sensations that make us eat even when we’re not hungry. Talk about complexity!

Pot Roast!
One of the most comforting dishes of food

For me, cooking and eating is about creativity…creativity in the pan, on the plate and on the palate. It’s an expression of pure, simple love. And as I wrote in a previous blog, I find solace when I cook. When I’m feeling content and light, a well-composed salad with lots of color looks especially appealing. When I’m feeling sort of blah and unsettled, I love a good braised meat and veggie dish, and when I’m downright uncomfortable, a big ole pot roast feels like a giant hug from the inside out. What better food to fill me up, literally and figuratively, and nourish me at the same time?

Pot roast is just plain comfortable — what, with its marvelously tender texture contrasted with bright orange carrots (if everything is cooked well, of course); and with its warming-cooking-liquid-turned-meaty-broth, it just might be the ultimate comfort food.  One bite of a perfectly cooked pot roast that effortlessly separates with just a fork, and my soul and my belly are reassured. Whether it was angst, distress or unease, it all just melts away with one simple bite. Any discomfort somehow tastes beefy, rich and delicious. I can’t think of a more perfect dish.

Perfect Midwestern Pot Roast

  • 1 3-4 lb. beef chuck roast (either bone-in or boneless is fine)
  • 2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • Lots of salt and pepper
  • 32 oz. of chicken or beef broth
  • 1 large onion cut into quarters
  • 2 stalks of celery cut into two-inch pieces
  • 3 carrots cut into two-inch pieces
  • 1 bunch of fresh oregano
  • 1 bunch of fresh rosemary
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, cut into two pieces
  • 1 lemon cut in half
  • 12 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 small onion, cut into wedges
  • 3 carrots and/or parsnips, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 handfuls of small mixed potatoes
  • Fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

Bring roast to room temperature and generously salt and pepper it. Heat oil in a large pan, preferably your crock pot pan if it’s heat-safe. Brown the roast on all sides (about five minutes per side). Transfer your pan to your crock pot and add broth through the garlic. Set your crock pot to high and leave for four hours, flipping the roast half way through cooking. Lower the heat to low and cook for another two hours, again flipping the roast half way through cooking.*

Remove the roast from the cooking liquid and set aside. Strain the cooking liquid, reserving the liquid and discarding the solids (the veggies are mush at this point and sort of tasteless). Add the roast and reserved liquid back into your crock pot pan and add the fresh onion, carrots and potatoes. Cook in your crock pot another hour or until the veggies are tender to your liking. Serve roast pieces with cooked onions, carrots, potatoes and a ladle-full of broth.** Garnish with fresh parsley.

*Please note that every crock pot is different, so if you want to cook your roast over night or while you’re at work, set the temperature to low and leave it. It’s really hard to screw this up, so don’t stress if you’re not home to flip it or adjust the temperature.

**I prefer a thin broth-like gravy. If you want a thicker gravy, make a roux of flour and melted butter and whisk it into the cooking liquid once you’ve removed the roast to serve it. Cook for about 10 minutes, and it should incorporate, making the gravy a bit thicker.

Coziness in a pot.

By the way, I have to give a shout out to Snow Creek Ranch, a family ranch in Larkspur, Colorado. Plus, Snow Creek Ranch has roots in Kansas, and I have roots in Kansas, so I love them even more. They’re family owned and operated and raise their cattle humanely, “the old-fashioned way.” The hunk of meat I used in this recipe is a Snow Creek Ranch Larkspur roast. I bought one of their meat packages at the Denver South Pearl Street Farmers Market at end of the season, and I’m so glad I did!


Reinvention is No Joke

This whole “second career” transition thing is tough. I’ve been in the middle of a bit of a writer’s block (hence, my lack of blog posts) and a bad case of self doubt. It sneaks into my head at the worst times, too. I’m a lounger in the mornings and it takes me a good half hour to really wake up and get moving. I love to just hang out in my bed contemplating my day, my week, my month, my life. But that’s exactly the time those little voices telling me I’ve lost my marbles, that I walked away from a good income, stability and admiration, that I’m absolutely crazy to put everything – my kids, my home, my relationships, my free time, everything that brings me joy – on the line. This is the mind game I play almost every day, and it’s exhausting.

You see, I spent 16 years building a business, and before that, I spent my education and the early part of my career building my skills as a marketing and public relations professional. For nearly a quarter of a century, I worked hard at becoming the professional I am today. To just stop and completely change direction is no small feat. In the past few months, in those mornings snuggled in my bed, I realized I have a lot of layers to peel back and in some cases outright shed. I also realized I have a lot layers that I should keep and are worth keeping. I’m learning that sorting through who I am and who I’ll still become is at the core of my mid-life reinvention.

I love this photo because it represents the pinnacle campaign of my career. My work with Colorado Proud and the Colorado Department of Agriculture was creative, collaborative, challenging and rewarding. And, it was all about food! More of this, please.

As I sit and write, I look around my desk, and I have sayings posted everywhere, small reminders and inspiration. “Self care is a divine responsibility.” “Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.” “What if you treated you, not the way you were treated, but the way you should have been treated?” “Be present.” And there’s more. I have an entire box of daily reminders, wishes and inspiration – 365 of them that I try to grab and read every day, although, admittedly I forget some days. I have a journal book that’s all about discovering my gifts, giving myself motivation and being nice to myself. I have kind and caring advisors and friends who support me and give me tools and resources to help me find my way. And still I struggle.

I find solace in the kitchen, chopping, stirring, tasting and experimenting. I find clarity when I write. I find connection with good friends, good wine and great conversation. I find contentment in visual order, whether in my closet, in my kitchen cabinets or in the pages of my favorite food and lifestyle magazines. I find adventure in my car or on an airplane on my way to a new, unknown place. And I find pure joy on a snowy mountainside with my kiddos bundled up looking like astronauts on skis. These are the things that help me through my struggle. These are the things that I long to do when I’m doing anything else.

When it comes to my mid-life career reinvention, I’m trying to figure out how to do more of what I love and still make a financial contribution to my family and my community. It’s not easy, because deep down, I’m terrified. I’m afraid I’ll be judged if I take a step (or five) back to an entry-level job. I’m afraid I’ll run out of money. I’m afraid I’ll never find satisfaction and joy in my work, whatever that happens to be. I’m afraid I won’t have time with my kids. I’m afraid my kids will resent me if I move them away to explore a new opportunity. I’m afraid my already fragile marriage will completely disintegrate and I’ll be alone. I’m afraid I’ll be alone.

There it is. The crux of my midlife fears. I’m scared of being alone. Shit.

Here’s the funny thing. I really love solitude. Before I had kids, my favorite thing to do was to ski by myself. I loved to get in the singles lift line and ride up with complete strangers, quietly listening to their stories of fun on the hill. My most cherished part about skiing alone, however, was stopping midway down an uncrowded run and just listening to the quiet of the mountains. That kind of solitude is something I seek, but the idea of being alone in life is not the same thing.

To me being alone is the feeling of being rejected by friends, family and loved ones because I choose to go down an unpopular and unchartered path. Being alone is being misunderstood and feeling like I’m the outcast or that I simply don’t fit in. Those feelings suck, and it’s hard for me to wrap my head around my sense of being rejected. “Why do I care?” I ask myself. “Plow ahead, because pursing a path that calls you is a noble thing,” I answer. But it’s. So. Damn. Hard.

Here I am, baring parts of my crazy soul that I’ve never shared before. And I may be rejected. Alone. But I suppose that’s the point. Perhaps the more I do it, the better I’ll get at it, and the light that’s guiding my way will become brighter, my future more focused. I have to believe that it will.

In the meantime, for anyone else out there searching, know that you are not alone. You’ve at least got me, flailing at my computer in my basement trying to figure out the point of it all. I’m open to anyone who’s made the leap into the unknown, hoping their net eventually appears. Even if you haven’t made the leap or never will, I know you have your own struggles, and I am open to you, too. It’s true that reinvention is no joke, but I know that in the end it’s all worth it. And so are you. And so am I.

Among wine grapes ready to be harvested in the Loire Valley in France. One of my all-time favorite days with some of my all-time favorite people.
Soul-satisfying solitary skiing in Crested Butte.
Ski day with the kiddos
Micro astronauts on skis in Breckenridge.

Much love and connection to you all. Thanks for reading.