6 April 2023 · Author Profile
The latest new title to be added to ckbk is Simple and Delicious Vegan (Mango Publishing, 2023). Ramona Andrews caught up with the book’s author, social media superstar Michaela Vais, who blogs at Ela Vegan and has more than one million followers on Instagram.
Vais offers a natural, whole food-based approach to vegan cuisine. Her book lives up to its title – the recipes really are both simple and delicious – and healthy too. Michaela credits her switch to a plant-based diet in 2011 with clearing her cystic acne and vastly improved her energy levels. We especially love the way each recipe in the book includes a photo of all the ingredients ready to go, as well as the finished dish.
In the Q&A below, Vais tells us about her comfort food favorites, healthy eating influences, and some of the “life-changing recipes” she compiled for this book.
By Ramona Andrews
What is the best thing that you have cooked in the last seven days?
My vegan Mushroom Stroganoff from the book.
What ingredient couldn't you live without?
Bananas. I just love them, and they are perfect for ice cream and many desserts.
How would you describe your approach to healthy eating and what are your top tips?
I follow a whole food plant-based diet and eat lots of fruits, vegetables, greens, root vegetables, legumes (lentils, beans, chickpeas, and peas), seeds (flax, chia, sunflower, and pumpkin), nuts (such as walnuts) and make my own healthy bread. I stay away from everything non-vegan, gluten, refined sugars, too much oil, and processed food (which is often expensive and unhealthy). I recommend incorporating as many plants as possible into your diet. Just start with a couple of plant-based meals per week and go from there. Try my Banana Baked Oatmeal for breakfast, Lentil Salad for lunch, and Sweet Potato Curry for dinner, and get inspired to try out more and more plant-based meals.
Almond, oat, soy? Which alt-milk are you and why?
I actually prefer coconut milk. Living in the tropics [Dominican Republic] and having access to fresh coconuts makes me love coconut milk even more.
What is the biggest misconception people have about healthy eating?
Most people think healthy eating is too restrictive. However, it’s quite the contrary!
What is your go-to comfort food?
I love curries - they are so comforting and delicious!
If you could only eat one vegetable for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Potato! Potatoes are so versatile and you can create lots of amazing dishes with them.
Sometimes all the conflicting advice about health and food can be so overwhelming. How can we know what advice to listen to and how to cut through the noise?
Having read tons of books from Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Neal Barnard, and many other plant-based doctors, I am convinced that a whole-food plant-based diet is the way to go.
Your Instagram presence came before the cookbook and it’s massive - one million followers! How has writing the cookbook affected the way you use social media? (If at all.)
It actually didn't affect it. I still share healthy vegan dishes which I love on my Instagram account @elavegan and hope to inspire other people to eat more plants!
What are the big trends on social media on food and health? Anything out there that you particularly love or hate?
Big trends on social media are recipes with just a few ingredients, but many of them aren't particularly healthy or even work. I love to see more and more plant-based recipes, like meat alternatives, made from mushrooms and tofu. I’m not too keen on all the deep-frying food trends or viral chilli oil reels, haha!
What's your go-to healthy snack?
I love to stuff dates with nut or seed butter and enjoy them as a healthy, sweet snack. When it comes to savory snacks, I like to make crackers from seeds.
Do you have a guilty food secret?
It's no secret that I love chocolate (I make my own healthier version) and pizza (I could eat pizza every day, and already shared lots of healthy crust recipes on my blog).
Tell us about putting this book together. How do you come up with your recipe ideas both for social media and for the book?
I have always been a person who loves to experiment a lot! Whether it is making my own creams and lotions (I have a pharmaceutical background), making my own soaps for skin and hair care, or creating new recipes. I will try the recipe once, but if it’s not perfect, I will change one ingredient and try it again. It helps to have a lot of experience (in my case over 10 years now). Of course, I also get some inspiration online, but I will always add my own “Ela Vegan stamp”.
Which (if any) kitchen gadget have you come to rely on?
I love my food processor and use it quite often.
Tell us about your favorite recipes from the book and what makes them special.
There are some life-changing recipes that I created several years ago, which I HAD to include in my cookbook Simple and Delicious Vegan, because my followers and readers love them as much as I do. Some examples are my popular Vegan Cheese Sauce, Gluten-Free Tortillas and Bread, Red Lentil Dahl, Vegan Shepherd's Pie, and so many more.
What's the craziest thing someone has ever said to you about being vegan?
Nothing crazy in particular. I think all vegans get the same questions all the time, like "do you only eat grass?", "where do you get your protein from?” and "do you have to take tons of supplements?".
Tell us about your decision to go vegetarian at the age of six and what made you switch to being vegan as an adult?
I always loved animals and stopped eating meat and fish when I was just six years old. Many years later, in September 2011, I fully transitioned to veganism. At the time, I was suffering from severe adult acne. After removing dairy from my diet, my skin cleared up! I also watched several documentaries about veganism to increase my knowledge. Now, I am 100% convinced that going vegan was (and still is) the best decision I’ve ever made. I am now proudly an ethical vegan!
If you had to choose between giving up kale or giving up avocado, which one would you choose and why?
I would give up kale because I love avocados more. We can buy them locally and even have our own avocado trees (very grateful about that!). However, I like kale in my smoothies.
Finally, what are your plans for 2023?
To share more healthy vegan recipes and inspire a lot more people to eat more plants.
To stop working 14 hours a day and take more time for myself and the people I love.
To meditate more often.