Recipe Posts for Christmas and New Year’s

 

Hi friends…

I had planned to share some new recipes with you before the holidays. After one very rough, but enlightening day this week, I realized a work break was essential.

Behind the scenes of social media and blogging I’ve been attending to work on the new book (design edits and preparing for the launch), getting ready for the holidays, and well, keeping up with daily life as a mom of three. In short, I’ve been exhausted and stressed.

I find it very hard to step back from my work, because I love it so much. But, taking a break from blogging and social media is one area that I can simplify right now.

As mothers, we give so much, and rarely give back to ourselves. This Christmas I am gifting myself with a break! Please do the same for yourselves before the holidays, my women and mama friends. We all need it.

I leave you with these two posts for recipes through the holidays: my Christmas Day menu, and ideas for New Year’s Eve.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and love-filled holiday season with your family! Thank you always for your support.

x Dreena

 

 

A+ Healthy Baking Recipes for Back-to-School (nut-free)

I’m late with a back-to-school post year, but that’s because our kids aren’t back in school yet!  In British Columbia, there is a teachers’ strike that began in June, so our girls still haven’t returned to school yet, and probably won’t until October. Our girls have a tutor right now, and are doing some daily online work. It’s not the same, for them it’s an extended summer. Nevertheless, I am trying to feel the “back-to-school” vibe, and getting in to my regular baking routine!

During the school year, I rely on a few key baked goods to put into lunch rotation for the girls’ lunches (and also for hubby’s work lunch). These snacks are all nut-free, so perfect for school snacks. People always ask “what do you pack for lunches”. Last year I posted my top 10 recipes for packing school lunches, and today I’m sharing my A+ List of Healthy Baking Recipes for Back-to-School!

Top Healthy Baking Recipes for Back-To-School! #nutfree #vegan

1) Maple Banana Bread Muffins: These are a long-time family fave, and I cannot tell you how many tweets and notes I get saying something like “omg those muffins are wicked“. They really are good. And easy!  So, go bake them. :)

Maple Banana Bread Muffins by Dreena Burton, #vegan #oilfree

 

2) Apple-Hemp Muffins: I love these because they pack a good dose of nutrtient-dense hemp seeds in a fragrant, tasty muffin. Kids can be a little fussy about eating hemp seeds, they won’t even know they’re in these muffins!

Apple Hemp Muffins by Dreena Burton, #vegan #oilfree

 

3) Pumpkin Seed Chocolate Chip Oat Bars: These are the bars I make when I want a snack that will “hold up” well (ie: it won’t get squished in a pocket during a field trip!) These are dense, chewy, bars that are a much healthier alternative to storebought granola bars – and far more satisfying. I usually double the batch and freeze half! These are from my PP15 ebook, and if you don’t have a copy, I offered a special on my FB page last week. I’ll extend the offer, use code PP15school at checkout for 25% off!

Pumpkin Seed Chocolate Chip Oat Bars by Dreena Burton, #vegan #glutenfree #oilfree

Oh, and this particular photo of the bars was taken by Tami of Nutmeg Notebook. She shared on Instagram, and I’ve reposted a few times since!

4) Oat Snackles: (Pictured in background, on dishtowel) These are what I bake when I feel like I have literally 10 minutes to get something in the oven. If you make them enough times, I bet you can meet that time! The kids love them, and you can customize with dried fruit, chocolate chips, seeds, etc.

Oat Snackles, by Dreena Burton #vegan #oilfree #glutenfree

5) Power Cookies: These are a cookie treat, but still quite healthy. I’ll be putting this new cookie in rotation this year. For the kids… right. 😉

Power Cookies by Dreena Burton - #vegan #glutenfree #nutfree #oilfree

 

6) BF Blueberry Muffins: These I make a little less often just because the prep is a wee bit longer (not much, just slightly). When I do make them, the girls think they are quite the treat!

BF Blueberry Muffins by Dreena Burton, Plant-Powered Kitchen

 

7) Berry Scuffins: When you want a baked berry fix that’s a little quicker, this is your recipe! For the fall and winter, you can use frozen berries or substitute apple or pear (toss in a little lemon juice first to help prevent discoloring).

Berry "Scuffins" by Dreena Burton, Plant-Powered Kitchen #vegan #oilfree

 

8) Banana Oat Bundles. I’ve been making these since my 13 year old was a wee babe! They are the perfect grab ‘n go snack, for lunches or anytime of the day. (And the added chips, always welcome.)

Banana Oat Bundles by Dreena Burton, Plant-Powered Kitchen #vegan #glutenfree #oilfree

 

10. Cocoa Cookie Dough Balls. Ok, technically not a baked good, but certainly a healthy school treat (with a nut-free option) and most definitely a favorite for kids!

Cocoa Cookie Dough Balls by Dreena Burton #vegan

There you have it! My favorite, wholesome, baked snacks for packing into lunches. All of these recipes freeze well, so if you are energized to double batches, go for it!

Oh WAIT. I have another… these CINNABON MUFFINS...

Cinnabon Muffins by Dreena Burton #vegan

Brand new! Bit of a teaser, I have another round of testing to go, then I will share up. Promise!

What is your go-to baking recipe during the school year? Share what works for you!

Pressing Pause

Hi friends,

You may have noticed I haven’t been as present on my blog and online. I’ve decided to take some time for a work break, or to make some work changes.

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Our middle girl finds hearts everywhere – in food, rocks – and just yesterday during a park visit, in this puddle.

The last two years I’ve been going full force. First with the release of LTEV, then starting another cookbook, working online, and of course everything that goes with being a mom of three. Life has been particularly busy since September, and it’s time to regroup.

Sadly, and ironically, what I love to do most – creating in the kitchen every day – isn’t materializing on this blog right now. I have stacks of recipes that I would love to share with you, things I’m excited about developing in the moment and passionate to share. Yet, those recipes remain scribbled on sheets in my kitchen or office, never reaching you. I’m one person, and right now that’s not enough womanpower to keep up with life as a blogger, recipe developer, author, and mother. While my creative fire still burns, life is telling me to pause and be more present with myself and our children, and to assess my work and passions.

I don’t know if this as simple as taking a break in the short-term, or changing my work focus longer-term. Perhaps I’m still on the right path, but just need to walk – not run. What I do know is I need time to reflect, organize, and find clarity. This will be hard for me, as I love to create and share, and I’ve become very accustomed to “doing” all the time. Hopefully, I will receive some guidance or signs to help me with this decision.

I trust you all understand. I have deep appreciation for the encouragement and support you’ve offered as friends and readers, especially as I finished this latest book. My plant-powered gratitude and love…

Dreena

14 Recipe Ideas for New Year’s Eve!

As we clue up 2013, I thank you for being part of this community. I value your engagement through comments and feedback, and also your support and generous compliments. Let’s enjoy much more plant-powered goodness in this coming new year!

14 party ideas to ring in a healthy, compassionate 2014!

Whether you are having a quiet night at home, or celebrating with a new year’s eve party, I have a vegan recipe round-up to make your evening delicious!

Here are 14 party food ideas to help you ring in a healthy, compassionate 2014!

The countdown (in no particular order other than ending with a dessert!)…

14. Wonder Spread. I just posted this one, so you probably don’t need reminding. Actually, maybe you do! Make it! It’s scrumptious slathered on some great artisan breads – or for baked potatoes. You could also thin it out and toss into quinoa or drizzle over broiled asparagus or steamed broccolini.

Wonder Spread - by Dreena Burton, Plant-Powered Kitchen

13. Rawesome Nut Dip. Serve it a bowl with crackers (raw or otherwise), or tucked into mini bell peppers, endive leaves, or cherry tomatoes. Or, use it as a filling for rolls for finger food (ex: baked mini phyllo rolls).


12. Creamy Artichoke Dip.  I know I’ve talked about this one a lot, but that’s only because it is freaking amazing, and readers are LOVING it!

creamyartichokespinachdipLZ
photo credit: 86lemons.com

11. Falafels with Smoky Tahini Sauce.  I served these for a holiday get-together one year, along with the Quinoa Nicoise (in LTEV), and the Lemon-Rosemary Potatoes and Creamy Hummus (both from Vive le Vegan!) – HUGE hit!


10.  Black Bean, Sweet Potato and Quinoa Croquettes with Pumpkin Seed Chipotle Cream These are so incredibly tasty, your guests will deem you some sort of flavor wizard that has revitalized their tired holiday tastebuds! Definitely a dish to impress (but not that difficult to make)!

Black Bean, Sweet Potato, Quinoa Croquettes with Pumpkin Seed Chipotle Cream

9. Mini-Burgers. Take a favorite burger recipe, and make mini-patties, for sliders, or for dipping. Try Mediterranean Bean Burgers from LTEVNutty Veggie BurgersMushroom Pecan Burgers, or the now very popular Umami Almond Burgers!

mushroompecanburgers

8. Chickpea Salad Rolls. These are fresh and fast, and the salad mixture is a little like a mock tuna salad, but far lighter without vegan mayo.  Roll in leafy greens like chard, romaine leaves, or steamed collards, in rice paper rolls, or make into more elegant finger sandwiches.


7. Moroccan Bean Stew. If you are having a cozy, homey New Year’s Eve and want a soup, this is one of my favorites. It is special and elegant enough to serve to guests, and is also delicious paired with breads with the  from LTEV.

Moroccan Bean Stew

6. Vegveeta Dip. I need to say little other than – YUMMY! 😀  Mix in a few spoonfuls of salsa, and serve up with tortilla chips. Easy as that.


5. Cannellini Bean Sweet Potato Hummus. There is a hummus for every occasion! For New Year’s Eve, skip the traditional puree and try this sweet and smoky version. This recipe is a bit of a hidden gem, give it a try! Roasted Red Pepper Almond Hummus is another goody.

4. Kale Slaw.  Even less adventurous foodie guests will enjoy this salad because the dressing coats the ingredients so scrumptiously!  The 3-Bean salad pictured would also be a great potluck salad – so simple you could throw it together last minute!

Kale-Slaw and 3-Bean Salad, Dreena Burton, Plant-Powered Kitchen

3. Jerk Chickpeas or Chickpea Ratatouille. Have either dish potluck style with tortillas, rice, and avocado – you’re set!

Chickpea Ratatouille, by Dreena Burton, Plant-Powered Kitchen

2. Creamy Cashew Dip. Most folks are little tired of sugar-laden cookies at this point in the holidays. This dip is lightly sweetened, and pairs well with fruit. Also, those Softly Spiced Nuts peeking out in the bottom right hand corner make a fine nibbly New Year’s Eve party snack!

creamycashewdipedbv

1. Easy, Healthy Dessert Bars. If you’d like to make a cookie treat, but want something healthier, opt for Frosted BrawniesRaw Chai Bars with Creamed Cheese Frosting, or the new Vanilla Bean Almond Fudge. All will satisfy your sweet tooth, all very easy to make!

Raw Chai Bars with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting - photo by Lisa Pitman
Photo credit: Lisa Pitman, veganculinarycrusade.com

These are all very omni-friendly recipes too. Nothing too unusual for those new to plant-based dishes. Just some really good food… made with really good ingredients!

Wishing you a blessed and healthy New Year! What plant-powered dishes are you making to ring in 2014?  xx

Vida Vegan Con 2013: The Food, The People, The Fun!

Sitting at my computer for the first time since last Thursday. What a whirlwind trip off to Portland, Oregon for the Vida Vegan blogging conference. This is only the second event in its history, and yet it is a wonderland of vegan personalities and of course, vegan food!

vvc2013

I arrived Thursday afternoon, and that night went to dinner with my buddy JL, her hubby Dave, and our new friend Ashley from The Unintentional Vegan. I actually saw JL as the elevator doors opened (we stayed at same hotel), and we squealed SO loud I think we damaged Dave’s ears! JL had reservations at Natural Selections. WHAT a find! They had a four-course vegan menu (their menu changes daily), and it was phenomenal. By far the best meal of my visit. I don’t remember the names of the dishes (pop to JL’s blog to check, she took a pic of the menu!), but here are some pics (quality not the best b/c of lighting, and well we wanted to EAT!).

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Every course was exquisite with rounded flavors and special touches. We all literally groaned tasting the first bites of each dish. JL had chosen this restaurant after reading a review by Grant Butler in the Oregonian. If you visit Portland – get there!

The next morning I was meeting my dear friend Heather Nauta for brekkie! We got lucky, the “Kure” juice/smoothie bar was 2 blocks from my hotel, it fit our bill perfectly. I got the “Queen Green” smoothie. Of course. 😉 We also bumped into Lisa Pitman (I hugged her extra long to absorb her joy, see pic below), Nicole Axworthy (photographer for my upcoming cookbook!), Hannah, Angela Liddon, Kate Lewis, and Marika Collins. (Some photos to come.) Here I am with Heather afterwards at the VVC registration:

dreenaandheather

Also at registration I met Isa Chandra Moskowitz for the first time.

dreenaandisa

We got our swag bag. Holy shmokes, lots of stuff:

swagbag

I had my first panel that morning – “Compassionate Parenting” with Sayward Rebhal, Michelle Schwegmann and Josh Hooten:

parentingpanel

photo credit Ami Baio, heart-shaped sky

Here I am later with Sayward:

dreenaandsayward

I had no idea she was so tall! I have slight heels on here, and Sayward is in flats! I missed getting photos with Michelle and Josh. What a beautiful, kind group of people. Splendid energy, loved it.

After that panel I met my Canadian blogging buddy, Ricki Heller and we snapped a pic with Angela. Canadian Plant-Power!!

dreenarickiangela

This is the first time I’ve met both, despite having ‘known’ them through blogging and email for years. What a pleasure to hang out with these ladies. Ricki’s new book is coming out this fall, by the way. If you are gluten-free and vegan and love healthy sweets – just go preorder! Angela was so unassuming and humble despite her huge fan following, she is as lovely as you can imagine – and yes, she glows. 😉

Food interruption!! Sampled this Wayfare oat ice cream. O M G.

oaticecream

There was a LOT of decadent vegan food at the conference. Coconut Bliss also have a new Salted Chocolate Caramel flavor (WOW!) and So Delicious has a new sugar-free ice cream (also amazing). Thank HEAVENS the kind people from Portland Juice Press let me monopolize their Saturday morning sample table (later I scored a whole bottle, saved my butt that day)! Later Angela Liddon and I escaped with Tess Masters (aka The Blender Girl!) for another green juice! Here I am with Tess, must admit I have bit of a girl crush! :)

dreenaandtess

Also finally met my friend Gena. She is also so unbelievably real and down-to-earth, despite her huge online presence and career accomplishments. Her smile brightens my heart.

dreenaandgena

Group pic with Ricki, Heather, Christy, JL and Gena:

thegang

Later I did the “Art of Writing Recipes” panel with Terry Hope Romero and Nava AtlasJason Das tweeted this sketch of us afterwards. HOW COOL! (And, how did I miss meeting you, Jason?!) It was a flurry of activity and people.

artofwritingsketch

Here I am later with Nava. What a privilege to meet this vegetarian and vegan cookbook pioneer. I have communicated by email so many times with Nava, and this was our first time to meet. I felt like I’d known her forever, so easy to talk to, great sense of humor, and so much career wisdom.

dreenaandnava

Also reunited Fran Costigan (we first met at Summerfest). Here I am with Fran and Brian Patton (aka The Sexy Vegan). Brian is funny and witty in his videos, and in person he is that and also a really sweet guy. I’ve been tweeting with him the last month, he is uber-fun. I’m sure I’ve annoyed the heck out of him, repeatedly telling him to get gifts for his beautiful pregnant wife!

dreenafranbrian

Also reunited with Allison Rivers Samson and Jill Nussinow. Couple pics of these vegan divas!

dreenaandallison

Jill with Lisa and Nicole…

jilllisanicole

If you’re still with me (!), here’s that “joy hugging” with Lisa:

dreenaandlisa

My 3rd and final panel was “oversharing and privacy lines” with Susan Voisin and Joanna Vaught. Gosh, so blown away by the spirit of personalities at this conference. Again, for someone with the reputation and fan base that Susan has garnered, she is one of the most genuine and gentle people I have ever met. This panel was useful for many bloggers I think, to determine what type of blog they want to have (more lifestyle-oriented like Joanna, or more recipe-based like Susan’s or mine), and how much of our personal lives we are willing to share. Joanna was engaging and humorous, first time I met her as well!

paneloversharing

I met Whitney of Eco-Vegan Gal fame. I must admit, I was a little nervous meeting her – she is so savvy. But, I should not have been. Whitney is every bit as warm and beautiful as she appears in her videos.

dreenaandwhitney

Here we are at the Galarama Saturday night. Isn’t she just naturally stunning? She complimented me on my style! I cannot tell you how lovely that is to hear as a mom of three normally bustling about in day-to-day routines. Only wish I had more time with you, Whitney!

With Grant Butler at gala:

dreenaandgrant

Another gala pic, with Jared Bigman. We had quite a few laughs, made my night!

dreenaandjared

And with Cadry Nelson from Cadry’s Kitchen:

dreenaandcadry

So many pics, so little time…

Another with JL. Gosh, she is FUNNY. She cracked me up at dinner the first night, and her no-nonsense attitude is refreshing.

dreenaandjl

I met many other people just briefly but didn’t get a chance to talk with them or get photos. Didn’t even get a photo with VVC organizers Jess, Janessa, and Michele (boo). As much fun as it was (and it WAS)… boy, it was good to get home. Seeing the girls jumping around in the van to pick me up was the best. Our eldest had drawn this to welcome me home:

Csketch

I think it’s a peace offering for the week of housework I have ahead of me. 😉

Were you at VVC? Tell us what your favorite eats were, the highlights, etc! 

(p.s. for more photos and fun, check out #VVC2013)

Motherhood and Working: Finding The Balance

I’ve done a lot of food blogging in recent months, developing new recipes and posting some goodies from my cookbooks as well. Today, I am not posting ANY food pics – but I hope you’ll still stick around, read, and join my discussion (despite not having any visual food appeal)!

I’ve been mothering for 12 years now. I’ve been writing cookbooks even longer, and blogging about 8 years. Through these years, I have been asked many times – both in my personal life and through online acquaintances – “how do you do it? … how do you find the balance?“.

girlsatbeach

My short reply is often “I’m not sure there is any balance“. We may wax poetic about how us moms can “have it all”, but is that really true? Can we? For me, motherhood and working has always been more of a juggling act than a balancing act. With all the demands of family and work-life, something has to give – eventually a ball is going to drop.

Admittedly, I don’t even experience the challenges of working outside the home. The pressure and stress that must arise from trying to keep on top of chores, errands, your household, kids’ activities, homework, and just simple “time” with children – to talk about daily joys or worries. I can only imagine how trying it must be to keep on top of day-to-day life. Myself, I have perpetual guilt when I’m working… that I’m spending time in front of the computer instead of with my girls. (Time in the kitchen is easier to mentally and emotionally justify – the family reaps the benefits of the cooking and baking). And, if I take much time off to reboot with my family, I feel I am not being very responsive with you, my readers – and that I am falling behind on deadlines and projects.

One day I was on the computer (I have dubbed myself “momputer”), and the girls were stick-handling in the garage with hubby. I heard our middle girl say “mom’s missing out on all the fun because she’s tweeting to the world“.

*sinking heart* :(

Truth be told, the idea of dodging pucks in a cold garage is NOT my idea of fun. Yet, I realized in that moment that our girls see me momputing a lot because I don’t have “regular” work hours – I’m catching up when they are engaged and I have a few moments.

As I said, something’s gotta’ give. For me, it’s two areas (1) social and leisure time and (2) household. I rarely go to movies or concerts or events or dinners or even tea with my girlfriends (they are nodding their heads right now). Hubby and I have little time together as a couple too, partly because we are struggling with babysitting right now, and we don’t have that extended family support which is such a blessing when raising children (even for their connectedness with other loving adults). So, I work and mother most of my hours. The trickiest part for me is that working blurs into mothering and mothering back into working – there is little separation between the two. Also, areas of my house are disastrously disorganized! I need that Peter Walsh bloke in here to help me sort out my office, my kitchen pantry, and my PHOTOS! (who else has 164,987 digital photos of their kids to go through? Raise your hand!)

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At times it feels like you are not doing anything particularly well! Anyone relate to that? In my heart of hearts, I know that really I AM doing a good job with my work, and more importantly that I AM a pretty good mom (I have my shit days, and even shittier hours). Yet, I think as women, we are often tough on ourselves, because we hold ourselves to high standards and expectations – rooted in our goals for our career and family. As I type this, I have the contract for my next book. I am excited and yet plenty nervous, wondering how I will “do it all”. Things have gotten busier as the girls have grown, and they aren’t slowing down yet!

Recently I’ve had many discussions with girlfriends about this pressure of working and motherhood. Several of my friends have been at home with their kiddos since birth, and now that their youngest children are in kindergarten they are struggling with the decision of going back to work. We have talked about how it’s still so busy even with the kids in school, catching up on household chores and also being part of school volunteering, and more. Then, once the kids are out of school, our days truly just begin! With homework and activities, dinner hour, and bath/bedtime and getting ready for the next day – there is so much to do in those after-school hours. Some of my friends don’t really want to go back to work, but they feel that pressure to do so, that it is expected. Many of them are asked “well, what are you going to DO now?”  Huh?! I find that upsetting and unfair, as if there is nothing to do during school hours. And, it is disappointing that our worth is so quickly ‘diminished’ as mothers once our children are in school. Our children still need us, in many ways! Also, many mothers feel the financial pinch to get back to work because our current day of parenting means we have so many expenses associated with our kids’ activities. After being at home for 7-10 years with children, it’s not simple to transition back to the work force. We need more flexibility with hours, our skills sets may need retuning, the field we’ve worked in has moved on “without us”, we may have completely different interests than before (often we do).

While I hardly have all the answers, I have found a few things that work for me. First, I do love my work. It feels meaningful and creative and purposeful. I wouldn’t work as hard as I do if I didn’t have this connection and passion. Second, I respect my burnout. When I have had too much, I break from blogging or social media. I only blog about once a week, because that’s really all I can maintain right now. Third, I respect my sleep. I have always been an early bird – early to bed, early to rise. So, I don’t abuse that. I shut off from momputing by about 8:30pm. Here’s the embarrassing confession: I’m in bed most nights by 9:30. I know, plant-powered partay! Well, I’m often up at 5:30 or 6am, so it’s my rhythm. Sleep is critical for maintaining our serenity as mothers, and I have had periods of torturous insomnia after having children – which could be a whole post on its own. So, I do my best to respect my rhythms and try – try – not to be hard on myself. Fourth, I exercise. I don’t run miles or endure long, exhausting workouts. For my body, just small spurts of daily exercise works best. So, 20-30 minutes a morning of yoga, weight-training, or rebounding (I hope to post about that soon)! Fifth, I feel whole foods help energize and stabilize me through the day. My diet is about 80-85% whole foods. I’m not perfect, I enjoy my treats. I love my chocolate. And there you have my sixth coping mechanism. 😉

girlsatbeach3

There are many things I know I should do more. I know I should meditate, have more “me” time like spa visits (ahhhh!), get out for girls’ nights, and also get away to food and veggie conferences more often. Maybe in time. I’m sure I could fit in even 10 minutes of meditation a day, that might be the best place to start.

As for “finding the balance”, that may forever remain elusive … at least until our children are much older and independent – and by that time I will likely miss the noise and chaos of my current days. 😉

How do you feel? Are you a mother working from home or outside the home? How do YOU do it all? Do you feel you have “balance”? Do you feel a lot of pressure from peers and family and society to “get back to work”? Does that upset you? What are your coping strategies? Please share your thoughts and experiences. I’d really like to hear from you on this, and if you have any links to share – feel free to do so.

Vegetarian Summerfest 2012!

I’m back from a whirlwind week at Summerfest!  Right now I’m recalibrating, trying to figure out what time zone I’m in and what day it is!  (I owe many of you e-mails, I know, please bear with me.) But, it was a wonderful experience and so let’s hit some highlights!

Summerfest is run by the North American Vegetarian Society.  This year marked its 38th annual conference, with almost 800 attendees.  The conference is held in a small town in Pennsylvania – Johnstown – at the university campus.  Getting to the conference was a bit of a feat in and of itself!  I left on a red-eye last Tuesday, connected through Chicago to Pittsburgh, and then after those ten hours or so of travel, there was a 2-hour bus shuttle ride to the campus.

What made that travel bearable was knowing that I would be meeting my gorgeous and accomplished friend, Julieanna Hever.  We have become friends this past year and were beyond excited about finally meeting!  We were texting like highschool sweethearts through the night and morning, and when I saw her at the shuttle departure, we hugged the dickens out of each other.  Exhausted but giddy, we boarded the bus and chatted the full two hours until we reached the conference.

I had two presentations, a cooking demo (featuring my Mediterranean Bean Burgers, DJ’s Hummus Salad Dressing, and Cocoa Cookie Dough Balls) and a talk on “Eating Your Leafy Greens”.  Here is a pic Julieanna snapped during my cooking demo:

Julieanna had FIVE presentations, including a plenary talk.  She has been to Summerfest several times before and said “D!!, you HAVE to come this year with your new book just released“.  Here is Julieanna during a couple of her talks – she captivates the room:

The days are FULL at Summerfest.  There are activities before breakfast, then a plenary talk after breakfast, individual talks and presentations to lunch hour, another plenary after lunch, more individual talks and presentations leading to dinner, and then another plenary after dinner followed by some evening activities.  There is NO way you can take in all the talks, especially as a speaker.  Still, what you take in is valuable, and if you are new to the vegan diet… empowering and life-changing.

Gosh, I met so many other people and speakers!  Lisa Pitman was one of the first people I met, just after registration.  How could I mistake her?  She greets you with a warm, heartfelt smile and joyful blue eyes.

She looked at me and said “Dreena”… with a calm, kind voice and we gave each other a big hug.  I have only known LIsa online and through her work with the Toronto Vegetarian Association in past years.  She decided to volunteer at Summerfest this year, with the children’s activities.  EVERY time I saw Lisa, I felt she grounded me with her smile and calm hugs.  She has this serene yet joyful spirit, and I tried to soak in some of that energy every time we connected.  Yet, I neglected to get a photo of us together, and I almost kicked myself when I realized such – except that I know Lisa wouldn’t want me to have that grief or regret, so we will get a photo the next time we meet, dear LIsa. :)

I also met Heather Nauta for the very first time.  She arrived a little later in the conference, and by that time Julieanna and I were pretty much hanging by a thread after delivering our talks and still working through time zone exhaustion and the busy Summerfest schedule!  I saw her as I walked into one of Julieanna’s talks and gave her a hug straight away!  Heather is gentle and sweet – but has quite the adventurous side to her!  The more I talk to Heather, the more I learn that this lady has done (or will do) some things that you would never expect… like hang-gliding and get this – aerobatics!!!  Heather was compiling a video from some speakers at Summerfest, with their “top tip” for becoming vegan, so stay tuned for that!

I met Brenda Davis, who ironically lives in BC but apparently we need to travel to the east coast of the United States to connect and talk!  She is the wikipedia of vegan nutrition, and yet is entirely down-to-earth and warm and wonderful.  And, she HAS discovered the fountain of youth with a plant-based diet… her skin is radiant and smooth and she exudes glow and energy.

And, here is a photo of Julieanna and I with Dina Aronson (second to right) and Allison Rivers Samson (far right)!  What cool ladies, I enjoyed talking with them and getting to know them both, if even just a little. I also attended Allison’s cooking demo, which was excellent.  Allison’s Gourmet was the first vegan goodie shop on the block, she pioneered online vegan confections.

Here is a photo of the vegan RD’s at Summerfest, including Jill Nussinow, “The Veggie Queen” (in the purple tank).  She is dynamic and passionate and you can just sit and have a real good chat with Jill!

Another vegan icon I was excited to meet was Fran Costigan.  I sat in on one of her talks, and she delivers her vast experience and knowledge with ease and an approachability and ‘realness’ that I really value.

I met and chatted briefly with Rae Sikora.  She is warm and embracing and beautifully radiant.

How many times have I mentioned the words “warm” and “kind” when describing people from Summerfest?  There were so many lovely, good-hearted people there.

Have I talked about the food yet?  We had full vegan meals, all coordinated under the direction of Chef Mark Reinfeld. Mark contributed a back cover quote for LTEV, but I had never met him.  When I did, I couldn’t believe how someone so mellow, warm, and sweet could take charge of putting out full vegan meals (with gluten-free, raw, and oil-free options) for almost 800 people, three times a day for a week.  I didn’t get a photo with Mark (darn!), but here he is with one of the attendees, Monica Vereau Trzaska (who kindly allowed me to many of her photos here):

photo credit: Monica Vereau Trzaska

 During the conference, I did a couple of book signings.  Julieanna and I coordinated our signing times, which was great fun!  Here we are with Monica (from above photo) and Jeff:

photo credit: Monica Vereau Trzaska

Julieanna and I were joined by Jonathan Balcombe for our book signings:

photo credit: Monica Vereau Trzaska

He delivered a plenary talk the second night, “The Mental Lives of Fishes”.  I felt this was such a valuable talk, because we tend to be very dissociated from fish, not seeing them as sentient animals.  He dispelled that myth during his talk.  When we met at the book signing, I picked up a copy of his new book, The Exultant Ark: A Pictorial Tour of Animal Pleasure for our girls.  Jonathan was great fun to sign with, lots of good humor at our table!

Then, we get to the plenary talks.  Julieanna gave a talk called “Breaking Bread”, which she first debuted at TEDxCONEJO and you can view her exceptional talk right here.

Another highlight was Dr. Neal Barnard, with his talk “Memory: How Foods and Lifestyle Choices Can Strengthen the Brain and Protect Against Everyday Memory Lapses, “Senior Moments”, And Even Reduce Your Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and Stroke”.  Dr. Barnard is not only effective at communicating the important nutritional and medical facts, but he delivers laughs along the way.

photo credit: Monica Vereau Trzaska

Dr. Melanie Joy, author of Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows delivered a thought-provoking talk “Vegan Empowerment: How to Live an Inspired, Fulfilling, and Empowering Life in a Non-Vegan World” that captured every person in that auditorium:

Here is a photo of Melanie with Julieanna, they are good friends:

Another of my favorite talks was by Jenny Brown.  You may not know her name, but if you listened to her talk, “Voices for the Voiceless: If We are to Progress as a Peaceful, Moral Society and as a Sustainable Planet, We Need to Take a Serious Look at Animal Farming”, you would never forget her.  She has a book coming out in August, The Lucky Ones.

photo credit: Monica Vereau Trzaska

She spoke from the heart, unscripted, with passionate yet genuine intent.  Her last line she quoted from another “we must not refuse to see with our eyes what they endure with their bodies“.  Truth.

And, one of the crowd favorites… Dr. Michael Greger with his talk, “The Latest in Nutrition 2012″.  As dry and dull as you might imagine that talk to be from the title, Dr. Greger made it fascinating, engaging, and hilarious!

photo credit: Monica Vereau Trzaska

I met him briefly as well outside of the talks.  He endears you with his excitement and humor, and most of the day you would find him talking with attendees at his booth, one-to-one, about their health.

Here is another photo of Julieanna and I.  Even with ALL the dynamic, informative, inspiring speakers… sharing time with Julieanna was THE best, and I will cherish the laughs, stresses, and all the experiences we had together.

Once I dried my tears from saying goodbye to Julieanna, I was excited to return home to my wee girls and hubby.  Here is a note our middle girl wrote the night before I arrived home:

Welcome to Plant-Powered Eating!

Hello friends!  Welcome to my new home, my Plant-Powered Kitchen!  

Many of you have been with me for years on my blog, and I am thrilled to introduce you to my new site!

Here you will find healthy and delicious recipes, video links, and in coming months – even more (such as plant-powered tees and aprons)!

I welcome your feedback on my site and its developments, my recipes, and my new cookbook – Let Them Eat Vegan (due out May 1st)!  You can e-mail me here.

So, grab a tea, some fine dark chocolate, have a browse, and get Plant-Powered!

-Dreena