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For the love of eating

Natural-foods chef and nutrition counselor Roanne Lewis confesses that she loves to eat. And who doesn't?

But Lewis loves herself enough to stick with a plant-based diet.

"It's really a healing diet, primarily," she says.

Recipes in Lewis' new, self-published book, "For the Love of Eating," not only promote energy, weight loss and healing. Diners actually are empowered to eat more, she says, because the fresh, wholesome ingredients truly feed the body.

"It's just taking care of ourselves in this day and age."

The culinary instructor and nutrition counselor at Morningstar Healing Arts in Ashland worked for about a year on the 280-page book — released in November — that contains more than 250 recipes billed as "vegan," "macrobiotic," "dairy-free," "meat-free," "egg-free" and "wheat-free." Buzzwords aside, Lewis says the book's theme is supporting the body's ability to stay healthy through food.

"I think they all have different energies," she says of various approaches to whole-foods cooking.

"The raw-food world is huge," she adds, referencing a more extreme version of veganism that recently has risen in popularity. While fans will find plenty of raw recipes in "For the Love of Eating," Lewis says that isn't the book's focus.

Nor is macrobiotics, although Lewis was certified in the discipline more than a decade ago by the Kushi Institute in Massachusetts. Attaining peak popularity in the 1960s and '70s, macrobiotics has a strong emphasis on whole grains, which have fallen from favor amid the current crazes for high-protein, Paleo- and Atkins-type diets.

Yet Lewis credits macrobiotics' influence in her book's introduction and advocates some tenets, such as soaking nuts, grains and beans to unlock their nutritional properties. These methods are explained in the book's "Cook's Notes" while the glossary defines unfamiliar foods and troubleshoots some techniques.

"You gotta soak your seeds," says Lewis. "You got to sprout some things.

"Macrobiotics is about balance."

For those who are gluten-free, Lewis notes that most of her book's recipes contain no gluten, a naturally occurring protein in wheat, rye and barley that can cause allergies and more severe autoimmune reactions.

"For the Love of Eating" balances meals largely between vegetables, grains and beans. Other sections are dedicated to soups, salads (both cultured and fresh), sea vegetables, breads, tortillas and crackers; sandwiches, wraps and snacks; patties; noodles; sauces; dressings; spreads, dips and salsas; condiments and seasonings; breakfast; beverages and smoothies. The heading of burrito, quesadilla and fajita pays homage to Lewis' time in Taos, N.M., where she lived before relocating to Talent with her husband and son three years ago.

The Rogue Valley's growing season, farmers markets, university, culture and mountains all beckoned, along with the fairly short distance between the region's mountains and the Oregon Coast, says Lewis. The 45-year-old previously lived in Portland, Cannon Beach, California and Hilo, Hawaii, where she taught whole-foods cooking at the University of Hawaii. Lewis' interest in natural foods arose in her native Canada, where she ran an organic catering company and cooked for clients with cancer and chronic diseases.

Citing the prevalence of chronic inflammation, Lewis says she doesn't cook or consume many members of the nightshade family, which includes tomatoes and potatoes. So her Italian Sauce is a puree of winter squash, carrot and onion with a bit of beet for color and the typical Italian seasonings. Lewis' nondairy pasta topping is a melange of soaked, sprouted and dry-roasted walnuts, plus nutritional yeast and paprika.

With this meal of rice-noodle spaghetti, Lewis may serve Rainbow Pressed Salad, one of the book's dozen cultured salads tossed with vinegar or salt, pressed and left to ferment for 10 minutes to a day, which aids digestion.

"It's a very age-old technique; it's an Oriental technique."

Extracted from a Japanese plum and not truly vinegar, sour and salty umeboshi vinegar is among the pantry staples listed in the book's "How to Cook" section. Cooking novices will find guidance on choosing kitchen tools, of which the most high-tech are a blender, food processor and dehydrator. Lewis clarifies, however, that she prefers minimal processing of foods, making a knife and cutting board her primary pieces of equipment. More tips are available on her blog at www.roannelewis.com.

"For the Love of Eating" can be purchased for $14.95 at Ashland Food Co-op, Bloomsbury Books in Ashland and Amazon.com.

Lewis plans to sign copies from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, May 9, at the Co-op as a precursor to her May 16 cooking class in the Co-op's Community Classroom. For more information and to register for the class, see www.ashlandfood.coop or call 541-482-2237.

For the love of eating