Dreena Burton has taught an entire generation how to cook delicious, innovative, and down-home vegan meals. In her fifth cookbook, Plant Powered Families, she combines delicious, accessible, and kid-friendly to create one of the books you will never lend to anyone, ever.
I prepared for this interview by gathering questions from my niece Rachel, who works full-time as a public school teacher in New York City while transitioning her family (including toddler Benjamin) to a whole food, plant-based diet. Dreena's wise and compassionate replies can help all of us who have chosen to navigate this toxic food culture with discernment and integrity.
Dreena has graciously given me permission to share three of the best recipes in Plant Powered Families, below.
In our conversation, we cover:
- the challenges involved in feeding kids healthy (packed lunches, unfamiliarity, specific foods, etc.)
- not judging ourselves on the journey
- how to prevent your kids from “food rebelling” or sneaking contraband
- finding a balance with our toxic food culture
- “It's the parenting part that's difficult”
- the importance of great photographs in a cookbook
- Rachel's practical questions about transitioning to a plant-powered lifestyle with her husband and young son
- dealing with picky eaters
- navigating social situations and peer pressure
- “hiding the vegetables” vs teaching your child to try new foods
- helping kids develop autonomy around food choices
- being kind without being a pushover
- and much more…
Enjoy, add your voice to the conversation via the comment box below, and please share – that's how we spread our message and spread our roots.
Oatmeal Banana Bites
These muffin-like bites use only pureed banana as a sweetener, and as a bonus, they can be prepped in just minutes! Adapted from Vive le Vegan!
Makes 8–12 bites
1 cup rolled oats (use gluten-free certified oats for gluten-free option)
1 cup oat flour (use gluten-free certified oat flour for gluten-free option)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup pureed overripe banana (roughly 2 large bananas; see note)
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract or ½ –¾ teaspoon vanilla bean powder
3 tablespoons nondairy chocolate chips (optional, can substitute dried fruit; see note)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl, combine the oats, oat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, sea salt, and nutmeg. Stir through until well combined.
Add the banana, vanilla extract, and chocolate chips to the dry mixture, and stir through until combined. Using a cookie scoop, place 2-tablespoon mounds of the batter onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 13–14 minutes, until just firm to the touch and a light golden on top. Remove from oven and let cool on pan for a minute, then transfer to a cooling rack.
Banana Note: Use an immersion blender and a deep cup to puree your bananas (this is easiest, but a blender or small food processor will also work). It produces a very liquefied mixture, not like what you can get through mashing.
Idea: Try adding raisins, chopped dates, or chopped dried banana in place of the chips
Makes 16 brownies
These brownies are incredible! They are fudgy and dense and sweet. Make them and see whether your family can even GUESS what’s in them!
1/2 cup kidney beans
1/2 cup pitted dates
1/3 cup peeled, precooked, and cooled yellow or red potato (see note)
2 tablespoons tahini or nut butter (see note and nut-free option)
2 tablespoons coconut butter (see note)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons nondairy milk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup coconut sugar
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
1 teaspoon vanilla bean powder or 11/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons nondairy chocolate chips (mini are nice)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8″ × 8″ brownie pan with parchment paper.
Using a small or mini food processor, puree the beans, dates, potato, tahini, and coconut butter until smooth, and then add the maple syrup and milk and puree again.
Add the cocoa powder, sugar, arrowroot, vanilla bean powder, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt to the processor and puree until combined. (If your processor is too small, transfer the date mixture to a bowl, and use a spatula to incorporate the dry ingredients.) Stir in the chocolate chips.
Transfer the mixture to the brownie pan, and spread evenly with a spatula. Bake for 22–24 minutes (brownies will firm with cooling and are more fudgy with less baking, so don’t overbake).
Remove, let cool completely, frost if desired, and cut into squares.
Potato Note: Potatoes add moisture and density when combined with the beans. If you don’t have cooked potato, substitute 1/4 cup of potato starch and increase the milk to 5 tablespoons.
Nut-Free Option/Tahini Note: I use a good-quality tahini, with a mellow, buttery flavor and smooth texture. If you don’t have nut allergies, try substituting macadamia or almond butter. Another 1 tablespoon of nondairy milk may be needed if the nut butter is quite thick/dense.
Coconut Butter Note: If you don’t have coconut butter, you can substitute another 11/2 tablespoons of a nut butter like macadamia, almond, or cashew butter—or more tahini.
Frosting Note: Chocolate Ganache, page 211, is wickedly good on these brownies!
Umami Sun-Dried Tomato and Almond Burgers
This has fast become one of my FAVE burger recipes! The flavor is full of umami depth from the nuts, tamari, and sun-dried tomatoes. They taste fantastic paired with sliced avocado in burger buns, or wrapped in whole-grain tortillas!
Makes about 6 patties
2 cups raw almonds
1½ tablespoons tomato paste
½ teaspoon dried rosemary or 1½ teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 small-medium clove garlic, cut into quarters
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon tamari or coconut aminos
¾-1 cup sliced green onion
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes (pre-sliced, or chopped before adding to processor; see note)
1½ cups cooked and cooled quinoa (can substitute brown rice)
In a food processor, add the almonds, tomato paste, rosemary, sea salt, garlic, balsamic vinegar, and tamari. Puree until the nuts are very finely ground. Be sure to grind them fine enough so that the almonds release some oils and become a little sticky; that will help bind the burgers.
Then add the green onion and sun-dried tomatoes and pulse through until the mixture becomes dense and starts to hold together. Add the quinoa and process/pulse through again until well incorporated. Refrigerate for ½ hour, as it helps make it easier to shape the patties.
After chilling, take out scoops of the mixture and form burgers in your hands. I scoop generously with an ice cream scoop, roughly ½ cup for each.
To cook, heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook the patties for 5–7 minutes on the first side, and then another 3–5 minutes on the second side until golden brown. These patties hold their shape well, but if they are flipped a lot and overcooked they become more crumbly and dry. Serve with the fixings of your choice.
Sun-Dried Tomatoes Note: Some varieties and brands of sundried tomatoes can be very tough and hard, and others quite soft. If the ones you have are soft, go ahead and add them straight— but if they are very hard, it is useful to soak them in boiling water for a few minutes to soften (be sure to fully drain and pat dry before adding to the processor).
Recipes reprinted from Plant-Powered Families, with permission from BenBella Books. Food photo credit to: Nicole Axworthy.
Dreena's website: PlantPoweredKitchen.com
Dreena's first appearance on this podcast, in which we talk about her journey from unwell junk food junkie to plant-based eater and cookbook author
The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians. It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour. You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website, WillRidenour.com.