Looking to make a change this new year? Why not give being vegan a try? Veganuary is a non-profit organisation that encourages citizens the world over to be completely vegan for a month and more.

Veganuary was started by husband and wife duo Jane Land and Matthew Glover in 2014, and has had over 1-million participants from 192 countries around the world.

Throughout the year, Veganuary encourages and supports people and businesses alike to move to a plant-based diet as a way of protecting the environment, preventing animal suffering and improving the health of millions of people.

Those up for the challenge can simply sign up for free on the Veganuary website, and will receive daily meal plans, delicious recipes and tips to help keep you on track. Their recipes are divided by food types, so you don’t have to miss out on your favourite Chinese or Italian meals.

Mira Weiner, a South African entrepreneur, creative cook and plant-based advocate passionate about conscious living, plant based nourishment and holistic healing, has some delicious vegan dishes you could rustle up. Here are two of our favourites:

Cauli Wings with Cashew Sour Cream Dipping Sauce

Serves: 4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

“If cauliflower can become a pizza, rice, mash and cauli wings – you my darling can become ANYTHING!”
Cauliflowers are packed with nutrients, high in fibre, filled with antioxidants and rich in vitamins B and C. They are also low GI and extremely versatile, they make a great alternative to grains and legumes. The added benefit of these cauliflower wings is that they’re packed with fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals from both the cauliflower and the chickpea flour. This is also a great grain free recipe while still being a little indulgent as they’re fried in a pan and not baked.

– 2 cauliflower heads, gently cut into florets
– 1 cup organic soy milk (can sub almond milk)
– 1 cup chickpea flour
– 1 tsp smoked paprika
– 1 tsp garlic powder
– 1 tsp lemon zest
– 1 tsp dried herbs (basil and parsley work well)
– 1 tsp special rub mix (equal amounts of ground coriander, ground ginger and mustard powder)
– 1 tsp dried vegetable stock (Mary Ann’s veg stock is my ultimate pantry staple)
½ tsp chilli flakes (optional)
– Oil for shallow frying (I use extra virgin olive oil or cold pressed coconut oil)
To serve:
– White or black sesame seeds
– Tangy cashew sour cream dipping sauce (recipe below)
– Gently cut the cauliflower into florets
– Place the organic soy milk in a bowl

– In a separate bowl, combine the chickpea flour, smoked paprika, garlic powder, lemon zest, dried herbs, special rub mix, dried vegetable stock and chilli flakes together. Mix well.
– Dip the cauliflower floret into the soy milk, so that the entire piece is well covered in milk. Then roll the floret in the dry chickpea mix so that it is heavily coated all over. The mix should be enough for 2 cauliflower heads but if you have any leftovers you can combine the dry and wet mixtures together and make a thin flatbread/savoury style pancake in a non-stick pan.
– Heat a large saucepan on medium heat with olive or coconut oil. These aren’t deep fried so the oil doesn’t cover the florets, it just goes up to about half way of the actual cauliflower
floret size.
– Once the oil is hot, place the well coated florets into the hot oil and cook for a few minutes on each side until golden brown.
– Best served immediately with the below tangy cashew sour cream dipping sauce or they can be made in advance and reheated in the oven to crisp them up!

Cashew sour cream dipping sauce Ingredients
– 1 cup cashews, soaked overnight or for minimum 4 hours
– ¼ cup and 2 tbsp filtered water
– 4 tbsp lemon juice
– 1 tsp onion flakes
– 1 tsp pure maple syrup or light agave nectar
– ½ tsp garlic powder
– ½ tsp apple cider vinegar with ‘the mother’
– ¼ tsp miso
– Pink Himalayan salt to taste

– Combine all ingredients together and blend until smooth and creamy. If the mixture is too thick you can thin out with more water. Can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Creamy vegan mushroom campagnola

Serves: 2 hungry humans or 4 small portions
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

– 2 tbsp cultured cashew butter or extra virgin olive oil
– 250g mushrooms, sliced (portabello or large brown mushrooms work well)
– 300g gluten free pasta of choice – measurement is dried weight
– 1-1,5 cups full fat coconut milk
– 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar with ‘the mother’
– ½ cup cashew nuts, soaked overnight or minimum 4 hours
– 2 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
– 2 tsp dried vegetable stock (my favourite pantry staple from Mary Ann’s) – alternatively, you could also sub garlic powder, onion powder and herb salt
– 1 tsp onion powder
– 1 tsp garlic powder
– 1 tsp pure maple syrup or light agave nectar
– 1 tbsp jalapeno relish (optional)
– Generous pinch of sea salt and black pepper to taste

To serve:
– Roughly chopped toasted cashew nuts


– Cook pasta according to packet instructions.

– In a large saucepan, heat the cultured cashew butter or olive oil on medium heat. Once hot add the mushrooms.  Fry for a few minutes and then add the dried vegetable stock and fresh rosemary. Cook until the mushrooms are crispy and the pan is dry.

– Add the apple cider vinegar to the pan and let it cook out.  This is called deglazing – it adds immense flavour to the dish. Wine is often used to deglaze a pan but apple cider vinegar is my secret hack for this dish. The vinegar will basically cook out but infuse the tangy flavour into the mushrooms.

– In a blender, combine the cashew nuts, coconut milk (1 cup), onion powder, garlic powder, maple syrup or light agave nectar, jalapeno relish, salt and black pepper together and blend until smooth and creamy. If the mixture is very thick, thin out with the additional ½ cup of coconut milk.

– Pour the creamy cashew and coconut sauce into the mushroom mix and gently stir through, allow to cook for 5-7 minutes on low heat until the sauce is nicely thickened. Add the cooked pasta into the sauce mix and combine well.  Serve with roughly chopped toasted cashew nuts.  Enjoy!

New to a vegan lifestyle? Here are Mira’s top six tips for Veganuary:

1. WHY: Find your why? Your personal reason for doing this as it will help to keep you motivated and so that you can enjoy this new process too.  There are incredible benefits to being vegan – environmental, animal cruelty and for your health. Watch documentaries like Forks over Knives, Game Changers, What the Health, Earthlings and Cowspiracy.  It will help you find your why!

2. SIMPLIFY: Don’t over complicate things, try to keep them simple and start where you are with what you have but learn to read labels – this is so important and will get better with time I promise! This is a big one as you won’t believe where all sorts of things are hidden like milk powders, eggs, gelatine, etc.  Check out what your local grocery store stocks as vegan products and build from there.

The easiest way to start with this is to simplify your meals and focus on plant based and whole food products that don’t have long ingredient lists (i.e. whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables).  You will also start to learn that many products are accidentally vegan too!

3. SUPPORT: You can also support local restaurants and food businesses (many are doing deliveries during lockdown) that have vegan menu items or even entire vegan menus to choose from.  This way you can still eat out and know that what you’re getting is vegan friendly without having to read the labels all the time.

4. NUTRITION: Vegan nutrition – this is so important if you are just starting out and making a drastic change to your diet.  Remember, all bodies are different and require different nutrients there is no one size fits all here.  Learn to get to know your body and listen to what it needs.  There are different approaches to this, you can learn to “veganize” your current diet by simply swapping out animal based products for vegan ones (i.e. vegan dairy for animal based dairy or vegan fake meats for animal based meats).  However, you won’t necessarily get all your important nutrients this way and some vegan replacements are expensive.

Personally, I find the best way to eat in the beginning is with simple foods that are economical and not difficult to find or expensive to purchase.  I like to look at my plate and divide it into sections – 1/2 veggies, 1/4 whole grains or starches and 1/4 protein (beans, legumes, organic soy, etc). Then you can add healthy fats in the form of a marinade, dressing or sauce.  I also like to treat myself to vegan treats so I don’t feel deprived.  If you want this way of eating to stick – it needs to be sustainable.

5. SUPPLEMENT: Don’t worry so much about your protein intake, it’s important but you don’t need to obsess about it.  There is protein in plants! But do take a B12 supplement – this is so vital for everyone regardless of dietary choices.  Our soils are simply not like they were before and sadly our food production and supply has so changed in recent years.

6. CONNECT: Social media is a powerful tool to connect into an online community.  There are some amazing content creators and influencers who post weekly vegan recipes and share videos and tips on easy, quick and healthy meals. Having an online space to share, vent, create, ask questions and have support is so important!

Local creators like @cape_town_vegan, @clairesharrynroberto, @kindbutgoodfood and @thehonestgrazer are some of her top picks.

Mira is an original creative and loves recreating beautiful replacements for some of her favourite dishes that heal instead of hurt.  Her recipes are dairy, gluten and refined sugar free.  You can connect with Mira on her website at www.miraweiner.com or on Instagram @miraweiner.

Mira is also an official ambassador for ProVeg. ProVeg is an international non-profit organization that is striving to create awareness for a world where everyone chooses delicious and healthy food that is good for all humans, animals and the planet.  They have teamed up with Veganuary, who are encouraging everyone to take the month-long Veganuary pledge to try vegan this January.

Sign up for the Veganuary challenge and every day in January you’ll receive an email with all the support you need to make trying vegan easy including daily hints and tips, meal plans and recipes as well as information about the benefits of a vegan diet for health, animals and the planet. You will be part of a global community of vegan pledgers!

Picture: Unsplash

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