[This post is part of an ongoing series of interviews with cookbook authors, bloggers, women entrepreneurs and home chefs whose work I enjoy and admire. If you’ve got someone in mind you’d like me to approach for an interview, please shoot me an email at dietdessertdogsATgmailDOTcom, or leave a comment here and let me know! And now, enjoy today’s installment!]
I had no idea when I did my first (joint) interview with Cara of Cara’s Cravings that I’d have so much fun, I’d want to do it again! I love getting to ask questions of some of my foodie friends and others in the culinary realm.
Today’s guest is someone I have admired for a very long time, ever since I bought her first cookbook, The Everyday Vegan. It was one of the first vegan cookbooks I owned, and it was a bit of a revelation (that tiramisu! those “neat” balls!). In the decade since she first shot to fame, Dreena Burton has since developed and maintained her reputation as a consummate recipe creator (her Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies are legendary), engaging writer (in her books and now on her blog, Plant Powered Kitchen), fabulous vegan role model and, not least, mom to three growing girls. (Being one of three sisters myself, I cannot imagine how she gets it all done–but she does!)
In fact, when I first thought about publishing a cookbook back in 2008, I contacted Dreena and asked if she’d mind sharing some information with me. Even though our connection was tenuous at best (someone she knew had taken several of my cooking classes back when I taught them in my home), she graciously agreed–and did so with incredible generosity. I was over the moon thrilled when she agreed to write a blurb for my book! Although we’ve never actually met in person, Dreena and I have gotten to know each other over the past few years via our blogs, Facebook, and being part of the vegan community. I’m delighted to be able to share a little more about her and her latest book, Let Them Eat Vegan, with you today!
I’m also sharing Dreena’s recipe for Chocolate Coconut-Goji Granola AND giving away a copy of her book! Skip to the bottom of the post for details.
[The soy-free “Momelet,” here filled with “Vegveeta” for a delicious breakfast cheese omelet.]
Well, my recipes have always utilized whole foods, I think I became known as the “crunchy-granola vegan cookbook author” for many years! 😉 It’s always been important to me to use plenty of whole foods, and to maximize flavors while minimizing sweeteners and fats. With my previous books I did just that, but in my earlier cooking I included some refined flours and also a scattering of recipes with some processed vegan foods (not much, but some). Over the years, I evolved more into using whole-grain flours for baking (and wheat-free and gluten-free flours), and also simply using what I call “the vegan basics” (those beans, nuts, seeds, grains, fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices). In Let Them Eat Vegan, I went full-steam-ahead with this concept, and I think this book represents not just how I’ve evolved as a vegan cook, but also represents an evolution in vegan cooking in general – with an emphasis on non-processed and minimally processed ingredients. All of the recipes in Let Them Eat Vegan are made with these “vegan basics”, for everyday plant-powered eating. You won’t find any ‘white processed stuff’ – no white flour, no white pasta or bread… and also no commercial vegan substitutes like vegan sour cream, mayonnaise, etc. The recipes are wheat-free and also largely gluten-free, and you’ll also find a sprinkling of raw delights for good measure.
Which recipe in the book would you say is most kid-friendly? Which one would you feed to skeptical omnivores?
Oooh, that’s tough. So many are kid-friendly as I make many of these recipes regularly for our family. Let’s see, some top picks for “kid-friendly” are: “BF Blueberry Muffins,” “Hempanana Smoothie,, “Chipotle Avocado Cream” (I know that sounds not very kid-friendly, but I omit the small amount of chipotle and our kids love this!), “Cheesy Sprinkle” (a fave with our girls for pasta, rice, beans, just about anything!), “Vegveeta Dip,” “Almond Roasted Cauliflower,” “Mac-Oh Geez”… and many healthy treats too (“Raw Orange Chocolate Pudding,” “Troll Cookies,” “Banana Butter Pie” to mention a few!).
Picks for omnis? That’s even harder for me to say, but I think some of the dishes that “wow” omnis so far are the “No-fu Love Loaf,” “Panfried Falafels with Quinoa Taboulleh and Smoky Tahini Sauce,” “Jerk Chickpeas,” and “Nutty Veggie Burgers.”
[Kale slaw with almond-curry dressing]
You devote an entire chapter in Let Them Eat Vegan to “Plant-Powered Lunchboxes” and the idea of packing healthy lunches for your vegan kids at school or out of the home. What would you say is the most important piece of advice for moms who are raising their kids as vegans?
I start with my motto that “kids come to love the foods they know”. If you are introducing new foods to your children – whether vegan or not – it may take some time. My girls wouldn’t want to drink cow’s milk or eat ham sandwiches or string cheese – all pretty typical school lunch fare. It’s not always about the food being vegan, but about the food becoming healthier. Working towards eating less processed, whole plant-based foods may take some adjustment for your children. But, remember that so many of the foods we eat are already vegan! Your children are already eating fruits and vegetables, grains, breads, pastas, and beans and possibly nuts and seeds. It’s about eating more of them, and combining them in some pretty fantastic ways! Our daughter said to me just the other day “Really all of our food is regular food – regular food that people eat anyway… just with no milk or meat!” If we can remember that it’s not “different”… but rather an expansion of what we already know, it becomes far more approachable and acceptable.
And, in terms of school lunches, it’s easier now than ever before for children to eat vegan. Not only is the word well known, and convenience products and foods far more available for quick lunch-fixes – there are so many allergies in schools that teachers and administrators are very accommodating of varying dietary needs. Many children are allergic to dairy, and of course many to nuts and peanuts. That is the only slight challenge with packing plant-powered lunches, is that just about every school has a “nut-free” policy. Still, there are PLENTY of other choices for packing lunches beyond pb&j (or even almondbutter&j)!
These days, with so many celebrities touting the benefits of veganism, scientific studies, documentaries, and a slew of vegan cookbooks, veganism is positively mainstream. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in how people view vegan diets, compared to when you first adopted a vegan diet 15 years ago?
As you’ve also surely noticed, being vegan is no longer fringe. When I started this journey almost 20 years ago, vegan was largely unknown. It felt almost embarrassing to say the word, knowing I would be unfairly judged for its stigma at the time. Vegan was ‘out there’, it signalled radical and extreme, and even unhealthy… when ironically a whole-foods vegan diet serves to promote health and reduce risks of disease! Now, the word vegan is widely known, it’s trendy, and sparks interest and curiosity more so than any negative judgements.
[Raw Carob-Goji Truffles]
Are any of your girls budding chefs as well? If so, what do they like to cook?
Not as much as people might think they would be! They like to get in the kitchen with me occasionally, but they have their own very individual interests. Our eldest (11 years) loves (loves!) to read and draw, and also play hockey. Our middle daughter (7 years) is very musical and loves to sing and dance and has music blaring in the background most of the day! And, our “wee one” (3 years) – not quite sure where her interests are at this point. Maybe she will return the cooking love in years to come.
If you had to eat one food every day for the rest of your life, which food would you choose?
Ice cream. With a side of dark chocolate. (And as much as beans and greens sound like a boring answer, they run a close second, I love beans SO much, eat them every day – and usually in some form in a big green salad!)
[Creamy Eggplant Dip]
The Everyday Vegan was one of the first vegan cookbooks I bought, and I still consult it regularly when I’m looking for reliable recipes that I know I’ll enjoy; you are one of my culinary role models (thanks!). Who are your role models when it comes to cooking?
That is so lovely to know, Ricki. I really appreciate that. Some of my early mentors and teachers may not be well known to many of your readers. Some were Canadian chefs and cooks that I learned a lot from in their tv shows, and books and more. James Barber, “the urban peasant”; Bonnie Stern, Ken and Mary Jo from What’s for Dinner? – these chefs taught me some of the basics about using basics! Using things like fresh herbs and vegetables, and citrus, and beans – and even tofu! And, one of my first cookbooks was The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen – a classic. There are others I still learn from – not vegan chefs, but chefs that really teach intricacies about flavors and ingredients – like Bobby Flay and Jamie Oliver.
Thanks so much, Dreena! It was such a pleasure learning more about you, your recipes and your approach to cooking.
And thanks, too, for letting me share this recipe for Cocoa-Goji Granola. I loved this cereal (well, duh–chocolate AND goji berries?!). And unlike most cold cereals, the millet here stayed crunchy right down to the last spoonful (of which there were many). 😉
Cocoa Goji Granola (wheat-free, optionally gluten-free, soy-free)
recipe provided by Dreena Burton, with permission, from Let Them Eat Vegan
This granola is lightly sweetened, rather than sickly sweet as some commercial varieties of granola can be. Full of healthful ingredients, it makes a great snack to eat straight out of your hand! [Ricki’s note: yes, it does!! 😉 ]
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup dry millet
3/4 cup hemp seeds
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (see note)
3-4 tbsp unrefined sugar [I used coconut sugar; Dreena recommends sucanat or date sugar as other good choices]
¼ cup sunflower seeds (see note)
¼ cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1⁄4 tsp (little scant) sea salt
1/2 cup brown rice syrup [I used coconut nectar]
3 tbsp organic extra-virgin coconut oil (at room temperature so softened, see note)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/3 – ½ cup goji berries (or raisins, see note)
1 tsp orange zest
Preheat the oven to 300°F and line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a bowl, combine the rolled oats, dry millet, hemp seeds, coconut, sugar, sunflower seeds, cocoa, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and stir until well mixed. Add the brown rice syrup, coconut oil, and vanilla and stir well (see note). Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking sheet and spread out to distribute evenly. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, stirring a couple of times throughout the baking process to ensure the mixture browns evenly. Remove from oven, stir in the goji berries and orange zest, and let cool completely. Serve with cold nondairy milk, and store in an airtight container.
If This Apron Could Talk: If your coconut oil isn’t warmed until liquefied, take a shortcut! Simply toss all ingredients as best you can and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. After 2 to 3 minutes of baking, the oil will have melted. Remove your baking sheet from the oven and now toss everything until well combined. Back into the oven it goes, but do re- member to stir a couple of times again during the total baking time.
Savvy Subs and Adds:
1) Chopped almonds are a natural complement to the orange and cocoa flavors in this granola, so feel free to replace the sunflower seeds (and/or the coconut) with some chopped almonds.
2) Not everyone is fond of goji berries. Feel free to substitute raisins or even cranberries (or combination of both) for the goji berries. Add them at the same time in the recipe, just after removing the granola from the oven.
Suitable for: ACD Stage 3 and beyond, sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg free, nut free, vegan.
Recipe reprinted from Let Them Eat Vegan by Dreena Burton, published by Da Capo Lifelong.
And, finally, THE GIVEAWAY!!
Win a copy of Dreena’s latest cookbook, Let Them Eat Vegan, just by leaving a comment here! (Be sure to leave the comment through the Rafflecopter entry form, below, as well, or it won’t register as an entry). That’s it!
You can also gain extra entries by doing any of the following: follow me or Dreena on twitter or facebook; tweeting about this giveaway; or sharing it on Facebook. (Remember that each option is a separate entry and you’ll need to do it through the form below).
The giveaway will remain open until 11:59 PM my time (EST) on Friday, August 3rd, after which point I’ll choose a winner at random and let them know via email. If I don’t hear back from the winner winner within 3 days, I’ll choose another winner.
Good luck, everyone!
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© Ricki Heller, Diet, Dessert and Dogs