Meatless Monday: Veganuary Is the New January

You may not know Matthew Glover and Jane Land (yet), but they're here to make 2016 your best year ever. All you have to do is to make January Veganuary. Pledge to go veg.

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Glover, a longtime vegetarian and animal rights activist, was ready to commit to vegan several years ago. He just didn't know how to do it. "I'd never met another vegan so I had no one to go to for advice. If only Veganuary had been around then!" Instead, Glover and Land created it. Two years ago, they launched Veganuary, an epic online vegan resource that gives you all the intel you need to succeed -- from vegan mythbusters (yes, we get plenty of protein -- really) to lists of vegan products, including happy surprises like Oreos. "Accidentally vegan!" says Glover. "I'll never starve!"

Vegan Oreos are nice, but are they worth creating a whole vegan kickstart program and website? Once the giddiness of their idea wore off, the York-based couple weren't sure, either. When they debuted Veganuary in 2013, Land prayed a hundred people would pledge. Glover was pushing for a thousand. After 3,000 people pledged, they realized, "the world was ready for a vegan month," says Land. "We ploughed the rest of our savings into building a much bigger and better website."

They did the legwork, they laid out the cash. All you have to do is pledge. You'll be in cool company. Influencers including punk couture queen Vivienne Westwood are taking the Veganuary 2016 pledge. If Westwood designs a Veganuary t-shirt, I want one.

Last year, "people in 115 countries pledged to try vegan. The final tally: 71 percent of participants felt an improvement in their health in just one month, 65 percent learned something new about animal agriculture, and a whopping 51 percent said they're staying vegan permanently. Best of all," says Land, "Veganuary 2015 saved the lives of 1,596,180 animals."

If you want videos factory farming animal abuse, Veganuary has them, but Glover and Land designed Veganuary to offer more than that. "Our attitude has always been supportive," says Land. Not only can you download a vegan starter kit, "we encourage people to be open with us, ask questions and engage." Veganuary's pledge format makes going vegan "more acceptable and accessible, something fun, a challenge perhaps, but a positive one."

Veganuary has been positive for Land and Glover, as well. "I think we've become much more conscious consumers." They've discovered being vegan goes beyond Oreos. ""We've experimented more with cooking," says Land. "But we're not even part way through the 500 recipes on Veganuary.com."

She and Glover want to make Veganuary a delicious experience for everyone. This year, they're looking to broaden their reach -- that means you. It also means they've translated pages into Spanish, German, Italian and Mandarin. "World domination of veganism!" jokes Land. What she and Glover really hope is "to change public attitudes about veganism, to make it more mainstream, and make the transition to vegan as easy and enjoyable as possible, to get people to try vegan and stay vegan."

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Chana Masala

Glover, Veganuary's co-founder, is "a curry man," according to Land. In honor of him and Veganuary, I've adapted this recipe from Madhur Jaffrey, author of cookbooks including the new "Vegetarian India," actress and source for all things amazing and Indian. I've kept the spirit and spice of her recipe but streamlined the ingredients -- mostly dried spices -- to keep things cheap and cheery. Amchoor, dried mango powder, is awesome, but lemon juice is cheaper, easier to come by and still provides a tart thrill.

Serve chana masala with brown basmati rice or with naan or chapati, gorgeous Indian flatbreads. It's an easy, beany way to celebrate 2016, the International Year of Pulses.

2 tablespoons canola or coconut oil
2 medium onions, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced (optional but terrific)
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon amchoor or the juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons paprika
2 tomatoes, chopped or 1 15-ounce can tomatoes
1 cinnamon stick
4 cups home-cooked chickpeas or 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, plus reserved chickpea broth
sea salt to taste
optional garnish -- a handful fresh coriander, chopped coriander and/or a 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, chopped into matchsticks

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add minced onions and garlic. Add minced chili, if desired. Cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables soften and turn into a golden paste.

Stir in coriander, cumin, cayenne, turmeric and paprika.

Add tomatoes, cinnamon stick, amchoor or lemon juice.

Stir in chickpeas and 1/2 cup of chickpea broth or water. Reduce heat to low.

Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove cover and give mixture a stir. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the chickpeas. If it seems too soupy, continue cooking, uncovered for another 5 minutes or so.

Season with sea salt to taste, garnish with chopped coriander or ginger. Or both.

Covered and refrigerated, chana masala keeps for several days and the flavors are even richer the day after you make it.

Serves 6 to 8.