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A vegetarian way of thinking

Ah, the aroma of flank steak grilling on the barbecue. The sound of pork chops sizzling in a hot pan. The sight of a beautifully browned roast chicken. The taste and texture of corned beef on rye bread. Who in their right mind would give all these sensations up for a vegetarian diet?

Lake Oswego resident Carole Raymond, for one - and more people than you might realize join her everyday. Carole is the author of two popular vegetarian cookbooks and recently she and I enjoyed an afternoon chatting about her books, eating seasonally and our shared love for good food.

Carole told me people follow a vegetarian lifestyle for a variety of reasons. She became a vegetarian for ethical reasons; she wanted to live her life without killing animals.

Some choose not to eat meat for religious beliefs, some people eat a vegetarian diet as a way to reduce fat and cholesterol consumption. Others, particularly college students, may adhere to a vegetarian diet for economic considerations, as fruits, vegetables and grains are less expensive than meat. Vegetarianism is today a mainstream choice - it no longer has the 'odd' stigma it carried in the 60s and 70s.

Carole hasn't always been a vegetarian.

'I thought all vegetables came in a square frozen block. I didn't think I ever saw a fresh vegetable,' she laughed. Her early days learning to cook led her to a deep appreciation of fresh fruits, vegetables and grains.

When her children and their friends went to college, many of them began eating in a vegetarian manner. Carole thought they could benefit from a simple cookbook that would explain not only the premises of eating a balanced vegetarian diet, but also how to select fruits and vegetables for use. That was the impetus for her first cookbook, 'Students Go Vegetarian.' The book was published in 1997 and revised in 2001.

'There is a natural progression from being a vegetarian to becoming a vegan,' she said. 'I wasn't a vegan when I wrote the second book. And frankly, the recipes in the first book can be adapted to vegan with minor tweaks.'

Those who follow a vegan diet chose not to eat meat-derived foods including butter, cheese, eggs and milk.

There are other degrees of vegetarianism, too. Ovo-lacto vegetarians consider animal-related foods acceptable, but of course, don't eat meat. Some vegetarians will eat fish or poultry. As a rule, most vegetarians prefer their food organically grown and get their protein from legumes.

Carole's recipe books, 'Students Go Vegetarian' and 'Students Go Vegan' offer those venturing into vegetarianism simple, fail-safe recipes for great tasting, satisfying foods.

'I wanted to use foods that people were familiar with already, so that the changes would be minimal,' she said. 'Often when people go vegetarian, they eat a pretty high fat diet - adding lots of cheese. The recipes (in my books) are lean. I rely on spices and the foods to produce the great flavors.'

Not only do the foods taste great, they are visually exciting. A former school teacher, Carole often was assigned lunch room duty, and helped students go through the lunch line.

'I would encourage them to 'Get some color! Look for green, yellow and orange!' That helped them select colorful vegetables and they would eat them. The focus was on the color, rather than on the vegetable.'

She still encourages people to add color to their plates, and includes colorful vegetables in the recipes, too.

Whether you are a seasoned vegetarian or have never considered eating vegetarian, give these recipes a taste try. They are quick, satifying and delicious!

Bon Appetit! Eat Locally!

Beer and Aztec Rice

The ingredient list may look long, but the recipe is super simple, and the taste is fantastic.

1 tablespoon minced jalapeno chile

½ cup finely chopped onion

3 large cloves garlic

1 ½ teaspoon olive oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro

1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander

½ teaspoon ground cumin

1 cup brown rice

1 cup water

1 cup dark beer, ale or stout

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup frozen peas, thawed

If you like food really spicy hot, leave a few of the seeds in the jalapeno. If you like a mild flavor, remove the seeds and vein.

In a medium saucepan, saute the jalapeno, onion and garlic in olive oil until the onion softens, about five minutes. Add the cilantro, coriander and cumin and saute about one minute.

Add the rice, water, beer and salt. Bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat and cover. Cook on low heat for 35 to 40 minutes, until the rice is tender. When the rice is nearly done and the liquid is almost gone, turn off the heat and let the rice sit on the burner for another five minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the peas. Cover the pot and let it sit for another five minutes to warm the peas.

Makes three servings.

From Students Go Vegetarian Cookbook, rev. 2001 by Carole Raymond

Avocado and White Bean Burritos

½ ripe Haas avocados (dark, knobby skin)

1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice

¾ cup canned white or navy beans, rinsed and drained (about half of a 15 ounce can)

2 large whole wheat flour tortillas (7 to 8 inches)

Store bough salsa

tabasco * optional

2 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh arugula or fresh cilantro

Cut the avocado in half. Use the half without the pit. Hold the avocado in the palm of your hand, cut side up. Without piercing the skin, score the flesh in a crisscross pattern, and scoop the pulp into a medium sized bowl. Add the lemon juice and mash the avocado with the back of a large spoon or fork. Add the beans, mash the mixture some more and stir to combine.

Warm the tortillas in a dry skillet for 20 to 30 seconds on each side. Spoon half of the avocado mixture onto each tortilla, and add the salsa. Sprinkle the tabasco if desired. Garnish with a generous amount of arugula.

For something extra, you can sprinkle on sliced scallions, black olives or a few chopped cherry tomatoes. Fold the bottom edge of the tortilla over the filling, then fold in both sides toward the middle to create a pocket.

From Students Go Vegan Cookbook, 2006, by Carole Raymond

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-635-8811, ext. 101, or by e-mail at bran

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