Thinking of going vegan in 2021? Foodie and plant-based advocate Mira Weiner shares her tips, along with a decadent vegan chocolate brownie recipe.
Mira loves recreating beautiful replacements for some of her favourite dishes that heal instead of hurt. Her recipes are often allergy-friendly and free from dairy, gluten and refined sugar as well as a few nut-free and oil-free recipes, too.
Here are Mira’s tried and tested suggestions.
1. JUST DO IT
Start now where you are and with what you have. Eating more plants has incredible benefits for your health, animals and the planet. Make a start; small steps lead to big impacts. You can include a weekly meat-free Monday night, make one meal everyday that is 100% plant-based, or swap out dairy milk for plant-based milks. There are many kinds on the market from oat, organic soy and rice to almond, cashew, hazelnut and coconut milk – experiment and find your favourite.
2. KEEP THINGS SIMPLE
Don’t over complicate things, keep it simple. Find substitutes for your favourite meals and visit your local grocery store to see what vegan products they stock. I find it easiest to focus on whole foods as you don’t need to check long ingredient lists and work out if it’s vegan friendly or not. Stick with items that have short ingredients lists and are not overly processed.
3. SUPPORT LOCAL
There are many restaurants and local food catering businesses offering vegan options or whole vegan menus for home deliveries. If you’re able to, now is a great time to support the local food industry.
4. VEGAN NUTRITION
It is important to remember that all bodies are different and that there are different lifestyles within veganism that work better ranging from person to person. I am a firm believer in kindness over cruelty always. Learn to get to know your body and listen to what it needs. When it comes to daily meals you can learn to “veganise” 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. 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: ½ veggies, ¼ whole grains or starches and ¼ protein (beans, legumes, organic soy, etc). Then you can add on 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.
Find your foodie tribe online. Social media is a powerful tool and there are some wonderful groups that are great for recipe inspiration, tips and support. Follow local and international vegan food bloggers, content creators and influencers. You can also sign up for Veganuary throughout the year and they will send you daily tips, meal plans and information on the benefits of a vegan diet.
Oat, chickpea and cranberry choc brownies
Try this one-bowl nutrient-packed vegan and gluten-free chocolate brownies with a twist!
Makes 9 medium square brownies
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
This is one of my favourite recipes and the brownies are even better the next day. It’s super quick and easy to make, and is great for festive treats. This recipe originated during lockdown and were one of my first baked recipe creations. They come out a little different each time but it’s always a winner – gooey, chocolaty, fudgy and delicious!
This is a great allergy-friendly sweet treat and I love that I can indulge in something scrumptious, knowing it’s packed with nutrients and free from all the things including gluten, nuts, dairy, eggs and refined sugars. The brownies are loaded with oats, chickpeas and raw cacao powder, which means it’s packed with nutrients. Oats are highly nutritious and filled with fibre, vitamins and minerals. I
t’s also high in magnesium, zinc and iron. Plus oats support heart health, assist blood sugar levels and aid digestion. Chickpeas are a great source of fibre and protein, packed with vitamins and minerals, filled with iron, zinc and phosphorus as well as B vitamins. It improve digestion, aids weight management, assist gut health, support blood sugar levels and can protect against chronic illnesses.
Raw cacao powder is a wonderful superfood and contains protein, fibre, iron, magnesium and potassium. It has amazing health benefits including assisting with blood sugar levels, improving circulation, reducing inflammation, improving brain function and has positive effects on depression symptoms and is a natural mood lifter.
Ingredients ¾ cup gluten free oat flour (blend gluten free oats into a flour) ¼ cup chickpea flour 2/3 cup coconut sugar ¼ cup raw cacao powder 6 tbsp unrefined (virgin) coconut oil, melted 1 cup plant-based milk (oat, organic soy or almond (if not nut-free) works well) 1 flax or chia ‘egg’ (1 tbsp ground flaxseeds or ground chia seeds with 3 tbsp filtered water) ¼ cup refined sugar-free dark chocolate chips or roughly chopped chocolate Handful of sulphur-free dried cranberries ½ tsp baking soda ½ tsp apple cider vinegar (with the Mother) ½ tsp pure vanilla extract Pinch of pink Himalayan salt
1. In a glass or cup make the chia or flax ‘egg’ by combining the ground seeds and water together. Let sit for 5-10 minutes.
2. Combine the oat flour, chickpea flour, raw cacao powder, coconut sugar and pink Himalayan salt together in a bowl. Mix well. Place the baking soda into the bowl and add the apple cider vinegar directly on top so it foams. Add the coconut oil to the mixture.
3. Slowly mix in the plant-based milk, vanilla and the chia or flax ‘egg’.
4. Once combined, add the chocolate chips or roughly chopped chocolate as well as the cranberries. Allow the mixture to sit for 5-10 minutes to thicken.
5. I use parchment paper but you can also oil a baking tin (19cmx19cm) with some melted coconut oil and pour the batter in. I use my mini convection oven to bake these at 175 for 20-25 minutes, it’s so easy and you don’t have to preheat the oven!
6. Once done, allow to cool and serve with your choice of toppings. I love this brownie with salted date caramel sauce and a scoop of coconut ice cream or coconut yoghurt. It also works super well with a drizzle of tahini, maple syrup, raw cacao nibs and toasted sesame seeds.
For more recipes, visit www.miraweiner.com