Balsamic Quinoa Salad with Roasted Tomatoes + Green Beans

I read an article a few months after giving birth that said something to the effect of, “It can take up to a year to get your pre-pregnancy body back.” 

“OK,” I thought. “I can do that. I can be gracious and patient and let myself have a year.”

It’s been 16 months, and I’m not even close. 

I thought I had moved past the body image insecurities I had when I was younger. I don’t struggle as much now with the shame monster that used to rear its ugly head while I leafed through glossy, Photoshopped magazine pages in high school. I haven’t worried like I used to about measuring up to those around me who are running faster or racing farther. I thought I’d learned to be content with my body, and this negative self-talk battle was behind me. 
It’s not. That battle is still right in front of me, but it looks different now. I compare myself not to others, but to who I used to be and what this body used to be able to do. I’m not as agile, as strong, as flexible, as (fill in the blank) as I once was - but I’m learning to be okay with that. I’m learning to hold my expectations loosely and to appreciate where this body has taken me. Just like everything else in my life, my physical self has changed drastically since becoming a mother, and I’m slowly learning to love and embrace this new self. 

My new self includes stretch marks that weave their way around my torso, stopping only to make way for my C-section scar. I have widened hips that give me a place to carry my babies, and love handles add an extra, comforting cushion. My stretch marks remind me of the privilege I had to carry two children in my womb for 37 weeks and 3 days, and that C-section scar bears testament to a healthy delivery that complications could have made more difficult. I ran a local race a few weeks ago that was one of my slowest race times ever, yet I came home from that race surprisingly proud of myself. In this new body, finishing was an accomplishment. 

No, this body isn’t what it used to be. There are things I want to change. I want to be stronger and healthier. I want to continue to be intentional about what I eat and make exercise a regular part of my life. I’m a firm believer in physical health, and I want to treat this body well. 

But you know what? This mom-bod? This soft, cushy, slower than it used to be, stretch-marked body that hasn’t returned to its pre-pregnancy state?

This body kicks ass. 

Balsamic Quinoa Salad with Roasted Tomatoes + Green Beans
Yields about 8 servings

1½ - 2 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved if large
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cups quinoa, rinsed
4 cups water (or use chicken or vegetable broth for more flavor)
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Handful of chopped fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Add the tomatoes, green beans, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil to the prepared baking sheet and toss together until everything is evenly mixed (I just use my hands). Bake for about 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the vegetables are tender and slightly browned.

While the vegetables are roasting, combine the quinoa and water (or broth) in a medium pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until the quinoa is translucent and tender and the liquid has been absorbed. Fluff with a fork and allow the quinoa to cool slightly. 

Add the cooked quinoa and roasted vegetables to a large bowl. Pour in all the leftover oils and juices from the baking sheet into the bowl. Add the balsamic vinegar and mix well. 

Season with additional salt and pepper to taste, and top with chopped fresh basil. Serve warm, or cover, refrigerate and serve cold. 

Words and photos by Sarah Hauser