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World Vegetarian Awareness Month!

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Those of you living meat-free, rejoice! October is World Vegetarian Awareness Month. Some vegetarians are doing it for the health reasons, some to support animal rights and live cruelty-free, and others to protest the increasing McDonald-ization of the world's food supply. The World Vegetarian Day website is offering a free trip to Vegetarian Summerfest for one lucky winner who contributes a story about what they are doing to celebrate their lifestyle choices this month.

But don't worry, bacon-lovers! You can celebrate, too. The website suggests trying a meatless diet for just one week -- or even one day -- to show your support for your veggie brethren. Vegetarian diets have been shown to have substantial health benefits, and some argue that factory meat farming is causing serious damage to the environment.

But before we get too serious on you, there are lots of fun ways to eat and cook meat-free this month. Some good web resources include VegWeb, which has a crapload of user-submitted recipes and message boards. Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks combines gorgeous food porn photos with original recipes and cookbook recommendations. GoVeg is the vegetarian arm of the PETA organization, and offers a vegetarian starter kit as well as lots of "easy activism" ideas. The magazine Vegetarian Times also has a website chock full of tips, guides, and recipes.

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And, of course, we at LAist love the Hot Knives, that dashing biking-cooking-beering duo who know how to hook you up with great vegetarian recipes as well as excellent brews.

If you're feeling the urge to stop by a vegetarian or vegan restaurant, we've got some recommendations in the Los Angeles area: try Flore Vegan Cuisine, Truly Vegan, any number of falafel joints, Leonor's Vegetarian Mexican, vegetarian junk food (yes!!!) at Orean, and the veggie burger at Lucky Devil's.

If you're more the do-it-yourself type, check out our veggie-friendly recipe for perfect potato salad (and some pretty great pickles), try tomatoes several different ways, go shopping for fresh, local veggies at your farmer's market, or throw a vegan-friendly barbecue.

Oh, and thank god you can be vegetarian and still enjoy cheese. Okay, vegans, you too: check out Playfood's vegan cheese, made from cashews and agave nectar.

Even if you're a tried-and-true omnivore, it never hurts to spruce up your diet with more servings of fruit, legumes, soy protein, and leafy greens. Go veggie for a few days and see what a difference it can make!