Thursday, 31 January 2013

Grapefruit, Roasted Beet and Cauliflower Quinoa Salad

I am overtly sensitive and too easily bothered by the misfortune, inequity and suffering imposed upon other living people and animals throughout the world. I avoid reading the news because if I read a story about a plane crash, a shooting or other violent crime - the details of the event push everything else out of my mind, preoccupy my thoughts and prevent me from focusing on any other task.

My theory is that my life has been too easy; I am unfairly lucky. I have never lost someone close to me, I have never been in a serious accident, I have never witnessed a violent event, was never abused, never lived in extreme poverty or thought realistically that my life was in danger. I know that I am relatively safe when I walk down the street, I have a wonderful job, I feel respected in my workplace, I have an amazing family, close and supportive friends and a best friend for a boyfriend.

I sense that, because I have been so lucky in my life, I am like an empty canvas, a sponge of sorts, for pain and empathy. I do not know what real suffering feels like and so when I am exposed to it, through the media or through the stories of others, the perceived weight of these experiences seeps into every crevice of my soul. Hearing about the details of horrid events keeps me awake at night, my mind exploding with confusion and disgust at the extent of misery experienced and inflicted by humankind.

Recently I had one such experience, whereupon I lied awake for hours in my undeservingly warm and comfortable bed as scenes from Vegucated assaulted my every attempt to fall asleep. Vegucated is a documentary following the lives of three New Yorkers who sign up for a 6 week challenge to become vegan with the intent on losing some weight and adopting healthier lifestyles. The documentary description piqued my interest a few weeks ago, but I opted not to watch it at first because I know what films centered around veganism contain - they plague you with guilt about the torturous nature of farming and the horrible impact that animal farms have on the planet.

I already know how bad these industries are because I have watched many documentaries and read many articles on this topic. So, when I pressed play, I expected to be bored. Instead, I was uncomfortably shocked as I watched horrible scenes and listened to violent accounts of the nature of life and death on animal farms. These scenes were not unlike anything I have been exposed to in the past but for some reason, seeing these images again magnified latent feelings of horror that I have experienced before. I was unexpectedly saddened, frustrated and disappointed mostly in myself for being aware of how unbearably cruel animal farming can be but somehow, over time, allowing this reality to slip from my mind so that I can comfortably enjoy eating cheese, butter and eggs.

Besides horrifying me, this documentary also made some very simple and logical arguments against using evolution and humans-are-carnivores as rationales for supporting ones desire to live on animal-based diets. It is true that at one point along our evolutionary history it was advantageous for humans to eat meat. When we moved from a strictly herbivore diet to a carnivorous diet we gained an evolutionary advantage. Meat acted as an additional food source that gave us more energy, more food options and it allowed us to spend less time seeking out food and more time on developing our wits. 

At that time in our past, it made sense for us to eat meat as there was not that many of us, and there were a lot of animals to sustain us. Presently, the only way to maintain the carnivorous diet in the human population is to automate the raising and killing of animals in farms. This practice is contributing to the destruction of the planet and, to say the least, is horribly unpleasant. 

It is also obvious that many animals are carnivores who depend on killing other animals and eating meat for survival - if their food sources were to run out, they could go extinct. Unlike these animals, we humans have an endless array of food options at our disposal. Thanks to agriculture we can grow almost any fruit or vegetable we want, we can get protein from legumes and nuts, we can make dairy-like products from soy, rice and almonds. We can make pasta, stews, veggie burgers, soups, wraps, tacos, sandwiches - we can easily survive - without animals and it is important that we at least try to do so for our own health, for the respect of our animal friends and for the longevity of the planet. Albert Einstein once famously said: "Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."

I do not expect other people to change their lifestyles based on this or any other strategically placed argument - or even after seeing the distubing images that dropped me into this conflicted state of mind. But I personally have had enough of the insanity that is farming in North America. I have reached a point where I have to at least try to live without eating animal products. I dont expect it to be easy. I already put milk in my coffee yesterday without even thinking about it, but I am determined to try; even if just to help my conscience sleep at night.

I made this salad, actually, before watching Vegucated. When I made it, I also thought about adding goat cheese and avocado but found it to have so many flavours already that I stopped after roasting cauliflower and beets and adding spinach, grapefruit and thinly sliced almonds. The grapefruit I used made the dish slightly sour, so the grapefruit you use could have a big impact on how much you like this dish. An orange or even chopped apples would also be a good option if you prefer to stay away from the sour grapefruit.

Grapefruit, Roasted Beet and Cauliflower Quinoa Salad
See this post for handy quinoa cooking tips

  • 2 medium golden beets (peeled and cubed)
  • 1/2 head of cauliflower (chopped into small florets)
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fine sea salt to taste
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup vegetable bouillon (I like Harvest Sun)
  • 1 cup spinach, chopped
  • 1 grapefruit, segments, chopped, juice reserved
  • Sliced almonds to garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Add beets to a pot and cover an inch above the beets with cold water. 
  3. Heat the water on the stove, bring to a boil and simmer the beets until tender-firm (test by piercing with a fork), 2-5 minutes.
  4. Drain the beets, keeping 1.5 cups of the hot water in a bowl.
  5. Add the beets to a mixing bowl with the cauliflower florets. Drizzle in 1 - 2 tbsp of olive oil, minced garlic and season with sea salt. Mix well to coat.
  6. Spread the cauliflower and beets on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  7. Roast the vegetables for about 20 minutes or until the cauliflower starts to brown - turn the vegetables about halfway through the cooking time.
  8. Meanwhile, add the beet water back to a pot with 1/2 of an organic vegetable bouillon cube. 
  9. Bring the water to boil, dissolve the bouillon and stir in the quinoa. 
  10. Cover, lower heat and simmer the quinoa for about 15 minutes.
  11. Drain the quinoa well (about 10 minutes) then add to a bowl. 
  12. Stir in the grapefruit, reserved juice, cauliflower, beets and spinach. 
  13. Cover and let rest at least 15 minutes before serving - or store in the fridge until ready to eat.
  14. Serve garnished with thinly sliced almonds.

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