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Grief, an Instant Pot, and a Dog

Updated: Jun 12, 2023

Instant Pot Cooking

The day you make a decision. My constant companion and alert dog, Bruce, a labrador retriever, had died the year before. I was still a bundle of grief, tears, loss, and was creating a permanent dent in the seat cushion of the couch. I felt incredibly isolated because of Covid — much like the rest of the world. Human interaction was zooms and looking for smiles behind masks.

There were days I didn't want to even look in the mirror. I didn't want to talk to anyone. I was feeling way out of alignment with the business I was a part of. My health was changing, definitely my weight, I wasn't nearly as active without Bruce, and I knew the inflammation for what it was after being involved with natural health, and like-minded individuals, for the previous seven years.

Bruce Batdog Lane, a black labrador retriever, eating a birthday cake

In that community, so many of my "clean eating" friends were using Instant Pots and I’d just laughed and said, "no, not for me." (Y'all cook on.) Me and a pressure cooker? I had visions of blowing up the house. But later, I found a set of cookbooks that caught my attention. The author had lost more than 100 pounds by changing her eating habits. Amazon was at my door the next day with an Instant Pot.

The first time I used mine, I called my friend Joanna in a panic when the beeper went off and it was time to open the lid. Not one to let me die alone, she walked me through the dreaded pressure relief valve, and we both laughed at how anticlimatic that was.

That was the first night of my picky-eater Instant Pot journey and I’ve since posted countless pictures of what I made from three different cookbooks written by Brittany Williams. I vowed to cook in the Instant Pot once a day for an entire year. Those meals came to represent so many things that one didn't see in the bowl or on the plate:

One was my previous relationship with food (a story for another time) and the other is a combination of: standing up, getting off the couch, reorganizing my kitchen, being present in doing something for myself, making grocery lists, feeling anxious that the chicken cost $11, losing myself in new ingredients and recipes, wondering if I got it all right, waiting for the beep, opening that lid, plating, and being amazed it all worked out fine.

I became lost in something besides loss.

This was the second time that grief in relation to Bruce changed my life. It’s interesting to me that the first time was when he came into my life and the second was when he was gone. I grew in new profound directions both times.

If my Instant Pot breaks, we might have to have a funeral. I'm grateful for every like on my Instant Pot stories posted on my personal Instagram. People didn’t even know — I didn’t even know — what they meant to me.

I'm still "potting" and trying new things, eating for health and wellness instead of just because I happen to remember to at 9:00 at night. So many changes I've experienced: less bloat, less inflammation, improved my gut, and developed a love affair with trying new things, as I let go of some emotional baggage attached to food (that "for another time" story I told you about earlier).

The Ultimate Guide to Building a Healthy Kitchen: Farmhouse and Farm Fresh Style

But for now until we get to that story, as I mentioned, I totally reorganized my kitchen as I learned that the more prepared I was to eat healthier, the more likely I was to actually enjoy cooking and savoring meals. In my free guide, the "Kitchen Sync," you will learn about everyday kitchen tools to make planning, shopping, cooking, and sharing meals more fun. I hope you enjoy it.

To close, here you go! My first Instant Pot creation and the recipe for Barbacoa Lettuce Wrap Tacos. You can see it wasn't going to be too challenging for my taste buds and processed-foods lifestyle. However! I was feeling all healthy-ish by making my own bone broth, not using pre-packaged taco seasoning, boxed taco shells nor flour or corn tortillas, and eating tacos without cheese and sour cream as toppings.

Lettuce Wrap Tacos

Lettuce Wrap Tacos in the Instant Pot


  • 1 lb. beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces

  • ½ cup low-sodium beef froth (made it myself)

  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

  • 1-½ tsp chipolte chili powder

  • 1-½ tsp tomato paste

  • ¾ tsp fine sea salt

  • ½ tsp cumin

  • ½ tsp garlic powder

  • ½ tsp dried oregano

  • ½ tsp ground black pepper

  • 1 large head butterleaf lettuce

  • 1 medium Roma tomato, diced

  • ½ small red onion, cored and thinly sliced


  1. Combine meat, broth, olive oil, vinegar, chili powder, tomato paste, salt, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, and black pepper in the Instant Pot.

  2. Place the lid on select beef/stew function, high pressure, for 35 minutes

  3. When it beeps, let it naturally release the pressure for 15 minutes. Then, release the steam.

  4. When steam has all released, open the lid, and select the saute function. on high. Shred the beef into the sauce and cook until it thickens and the liquid reduced by half. About 5 minutes.

  5. Fill each lettuce leaf with 2 to 4 tablespoons of meat. Garnish with tomato and onion.

And so the journey began for me -- tacos. I forgot about losing weight and lost myself in planning and cooking with fresh ingredients. I truly began to see the link between diet, emotions and how gut health is paramount for better mental wellness. Once I got over feeling fatigued all the time, got my mojo back, and found joy and happiness in simple things again, I became a certified mental wellness coach, specializing in nutrition for better mental wellness.

If you're feeling fatigued, burned out, stressed out, moody, and generally unhappy, I'm here to help you change that. I've walked it and now I'm talking about it because women need to know life is supposed to be MORE and they deserve it. Let's make some decisions together for you!


Nelea R. Lane

a/k/a The Happy Juice Chick

Founder of Legacy Wellness Entrepreneurs

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