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Cooking Tip: Use some of the herbs when simmering the garlic and onion to enhance flavor.

Vegan Tip: Serve with warm sourdough or French bread and Smart Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread, the best vegan butter around!

Tags: Recipe, Vegetarian

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That’s right! October is National Vegetarian Awareness Month! Shoot, the whole world is spreading vegetarian awareness this month. October 1 was World Vegetarian Day and many countries around the globe are celebrating World Vegetarian Awareness Month. Soy product sales are likely up, yogis around the globe are speaking up about their dietary choices, and some people may be fed up with hearing about the health benefits of vegetarianism already, but the truth remains: reducing meat consumption is good for your health.

Started by the North American Vegetarian Society (NAVS), World Vegetarian Day was founded in 1977 and endorsed by the International Vegetarian Union the next year. The movement’s informative website offers all kinds of resources for those interested in participating or spreading the word about vegetarianism, such as:

Free Awareness Poster (you can download it and print or order it)

Tips on how non-vegetarians can participate

Tips to spread awareness

Outreach Materials for $1 or less

Tell NAVS how you plan to participate to enter a contest!

Pledge to go vegetarian for a day, week or month and you could win up to $1000!

Will, there’s some decent incentive to give vegetarian meals a shot!

When I Took the Vegetarian Plunge

I gave vegetarianism a full shot in 2003 and loved the results. I stuck with the vegetarian diet for eight years before I added some fish back into my diet about a year ago, which makes me a pescatarian. I largely opt for wild and sustainably-caught seafood (especially local), because I do not want to support the fish farms and their unethical practices.

I usually have seafood about once every 7 to 10 days and often go weeks without eating fish, or will have it more often when traveling to coastal areas. Sometimes I have no desire to think about eating seafood at all, which makes me wonder how long I’ll be a pescatarian, or if I’ll go back and forth from full vegetarian to occasional pescatarian. My diet is largely vegetarian meals (probably around 95% on monthly average), and my body still feels the great effects of vegetarian eating.

Amy's Organics frozen meals are amazing! This “Southern Dinner” has become a recent vegetarian favorite of mine!

Benefits of Vegetarian Meals

Aside from health effects like increased energy and metabolic rate, quicker healing and recovery time from injuries, improved skin and hair, and drastically reduced risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, vegetarianism is practically giving your Mother Earth the most influential, profound and soulful gift you could ever give.

Even if you never plan to give up meat, you can reduce your consumption and you will feel some of the health effects – most noticeably improved digestion and increased energy. And you can choose ethically-raised, organic, free-range meats. Hell, you can even support Florida’s local organic farmers by purchasing your meats through the fabulous Homegrown Co-Op, the most amazing local co-op that offers an extensive online market with delivery, pickup, and a Farm Store open Wednesday through Sunday on Orange Avenue near the Florida Hospital.

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Maybe you could give Meatless Mondays a chance; that movement is making headway in private and public kitchens across the country and the world! Even Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios is offering Meatless Monday food options in the cafeteria and she encouraged her talk show audience to give the meat-free day a try. Who doesn’t heed Oprah’s advice these days???

Well, little Ziggers isn’t able to fully heed Oprah’s advice, he can’t participate in Meatless Mondays since meat is fundamental to his kitty diet. Sorry, Oprah, Ziggy still has mad respect though!

I have to disobey Oprah? I don't know how I feel about this right meow.

But he would love to eat more banana chips and watermelon throughout the month of October!

Here are 31 vegetarian recipes to help you celebrate National Vegetarian Awareness Month!

Motivational Stats: Vegetarians have about half the risk of developing cancer, between a 24% and 60% less mortality from heart disease, 70% lower risk of stroke, and 25% lower cholesterol after only two weeks of vegetarian eating. How ’bout dem apples?

it’s about that time of year when we all start to crave warm comfort foods like soups, baguettes, roasted marshmallows and hot chocolate. When I recently purchased Gardein’s Home Style Beefless Tips at Whole Foods, I began daydreaming of a hearty and flavorful stew served with barley or quinoa, or even warm French bread.