Dreena’s Peanut Butter Cups (vegan, gluten-free, oil-free)


So many of the foods we love are connected to memories. Favorite meals and desserts we had as children, foods we shared with friends, dishes during the holidays, and more.

Dreena's PB Cups #vegan #glutenfree #oilfree www.plantpoweredkitchen.com

While I’ve talked about some of the junky foods I ate as a child, I have many memories of home-cooked meals and treats. I remember my mom putting a lot of love and time into making stews, casseroles, and more. She is famous for her mac ‘n cheese,  cod au gratin, and rhubarb jam. She had six girls, so I cannot even fathom how much food she had to buy and prepare to feed us all. She also had a husband who loved good food. I remember many family dinners, and how much my father would appreciate those meals. Even if he didn’t get seconds because of six growing girls.

My father passed just after my 11th birthday. Today is the anniversary, it’s now 34 years since that day. Our middle daughter (Bridget) is almost the exact age I was when it happened. Charlotte and Hope are quite close to the ages of two of my sisters. I haven’t written much about my family history and childhood. My dad was a recreational pilot, and died in a helicopter accident (my three cousins were also with him). It was a single, tragic, inexplicable event that changed our lives forever. There were other things going on that hurt our family life and relationships – some related to our dad’s tragedy, some not. But, they all took a very heavy toll on our family, and our hearts and souls.


I find it hard to believe it’s been 34 years. Moments can trigger a memory that brings me to tears in seconds, and yet most of my days I’m carrying on with my life as an adult (as we do). I mentioned in my last post that it was my birthday this week. For years and years I didn’t enjoy my birthday because it felt so close to my dad’s death. There were other deaths in October for our extended family when I was young. So, October has always felt very dark and emotional for me.

Last year I realized how much I was connecting the two, and this year I made a conscious effort to separate them. I’ve been joking with friends that I’m making it my “birthweek” or “birthmonth” rather than birthday. I figure if my actual birthday isn’t great, or the few days before or after, I can certainly celebrate the person I am on other days. We should all be doing this, don’t you think? It doesn’t have to be extravagant or costly efforts. Just finding ways to appreciate and love ourselves. This year I did enjoy my birthday. I still think of my dad, and my mom, and my sisters at this time. How could I not? But, I’m feeling differently this year, and maybe that’s why I am choosing to write about it today.

I mentioned my dad loved hearty home-cooked meals – and he also loved his treats! My mom made the best jams, date squares, and pies. And, I remember my dad having a good stash of chocolate bars in the house. Dad was also a huge prankster. He would have loved how Halloween has become this big event of spooking out your house! He’d be part of it, in full character. He’d also be scoring his favorite treats from the stash.

I created these PB Cups as a healthier (but still delicious) alternative to Reese’s for Halloween. I think my dad would have loved them. I think you will too.

x Dreena

Dreena's PB Cups #vegan #glutenfree #oilfree www.plantpoweredkitchen.com

Dreena’s PB Cups

link to print/share

These little cups are much like an open-faced Reese’s cup – made much healthier! Makes 15–18 cups

Chocolate Base:
1/2 cup non-dairy chocolate chips
2 1/2 tbsp coconut butter

Peanut Butter Topping:
2 tbsp coconut butter
1/3 cup natural unsalted peanut butter (see note for substitution)
3 1/2 tbsp coconut sugar
1/4 rounded tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract or 1/4 tsp vanilla bean powder

Line a mini-muffin pan with 15–18 small muffin liners. To make the chocolate base: Set a heat-proof bowl over a small pot or double boiler with a few inches of water in it. Turn heat to medium. Add chocolate chips and coconut butter to the bowl. Stir through until well combined and melted. Remove from heat, and
spoon roughly one tablespoon of chocolate mixture into each liner. Once finished, transfer the pan to the fridge to cool completely. Reserve saucepan with hot water or double boiler (still with just a small amount of water in it). To make the peanut butter topping: Add the coconut butter to another small bowl, place over the saucepan/double boiler, and allow it to melt. If needed, turn on low heat to help melt. Meanwhile, prepare the peanut butter mixture. In a mini food processor, puree the peanut butter, coconut sugar, salt, and vanilla. Add the melted coconut butter to the peanut butter mixture and puree until fully incorporated.
To assemble: Once chocolate cups are chilled and firm, spoon about 11/2 tbsp peanut butter mixture on top of each of the chocolate cups. I use a small cookie scoop, and then gently smooth out the peanut mixture to cover the chocolate. Place the cups in the fridge until completely chilled, about an hour.
Peanut Butter Note: You bet you can substitute a nut butter – try almond or cashew! If your peanut butter/ nut butter does contain salt, reduce the salt measure to just under 1/8 tsp.

Food photos credit: Nicole Axworthy

Top 5 Vegan Halloween Recipes

What are your favorite recipes for Halloween? Today I’m sharing my top picks for Halloween. These vegan treats have been popular with my kiddos, and also festive for Halloween parties. After reading my roundup, add your favorite plant-based recipe links in the comments (I’ll add some back to my post, see below.)

Top 5 HEALTHY Halloween Recipes #plantbased #vegan #dairyfree #wfpb #healthy #halloween #treats


My top 5 Halloween recipes are…

1. Pumpkin Chia Pudding

Our girls love this pudding, and it’s easy to make. Take it one step further by layering with Chocolate Mousse.

Pumpkin Chia Pudding by Dreena Burton #vegan #glutenfree

Photo credit: Nicole Axworthy


2. Green Chickpea Hummus:

When I created this recipe, I wasn’t thinking about Halloween. But, doesn’t it look ghoulish? Fun party dip for sure!

Green Chickpea Hummus by Dreena Burton #vegan #glutenfree #nutfree #oilfree


3. Cream of Pumpkin Soup with Maple-Spiced Pepitas

I shared this recipe for Thanksgiving, but look how you can spook it up for Halloween! That web design is actually really easy, here’s a youtube demonstration.

Cream of Pumpkin Soup with Maple-Spiced Pepitas #vegan #glutenfree

Photo credit: Emma Potts


4. Sugar-Free Caramel Apples

Kids will love these. (You will too.) You can also use the caramel as a dip for fruit slices, more details in the post.

Sugar-free caramel apples by Dreena Burton, Plant-Powered Kitchen #vegan #glutenfree


5. 2-Ingredient Chocolate Lollibats

I mean, they are cute, right? You can use other Halloween-themed molds, pumpkins or ghosts, maybe?

Chocolate Lollibats by Dreena Burton #vegan #glutenfree #dairyfree

I’d love to know YOUR favorite Halloween recipes. Share your own link, or a link fom another blog. I’ll select 5 to add back to this post!

Happy Halloween!

x Dreena

Updating with YOUR links! …

Check out Kristina’s collection of wickedly fun Halloween treats, including these PIZZA PEPPER JACKS (I’d say they’re a heck of a lot easier to carve than pumpkins):


Next, check out Alexa’s COOL decorations and her Dried Pear and Apples Slices.

And, how about these stunning Creepy Crawly Sugar Cookies from My Darling Vegan…? Amazing!


Vegan Travel Tips, My Trip To Newfoundland, and Hummus Recipes!

If I’ve seemed a little distant the past few weeks, it’s because I was – literally. We took a family trip back to Newfoundland to visit family with our girls. The last time we visited was 6 years ago, before our youngest was born. It’s a day-long trip with a 4 1/2 hour time difference. Some of you know that I was born in Newfoundland, so most of my extended family (and all of my husband’s family) live there. It was time us to reconnect with grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. I was not looking forward to the travel, however, and had no idea it would be even harder than I imagined…

Our trip began with us arriving at Vancouver airport in the morning and getting the announcement that our flight was just cancelled. What?! We don’t take a family trip for six years and then our flight is cancelled when we do? The next flight we could jump on was at 7pm that night. With 3 kids travelling a total of about 11 hours and 4 1/2 hours jet-lag, a red-eye was NOT happening. We talked to the manager of WestJet and eventually we were put up in the airport hotel overnight, given some food vouchers and some credit for future WestJet travel, and booked our flight for the next morning. I didn’t want to go home because there was no fresh food and I knew the girls would be bummed to return home. So, we made it a mini-adventure to stay at the hotel. The girls got to swim and watch planes take off and land, plus they thought it was SO cool to hang out in the hotel. View from our room:


The real inconvenience was the food. Eating vegan in an airport is hard. Eating a whole-foods vegan diet and eating well in an airport is near impossible. I had packed a lot of food for the flight, so we ate most of that the first day. But, what about a proper dinner and food the next? We had $150 in food vouchers, which sounds terrific. But, that’s for 5 people for 3 meals, and they had to be used in certain dollar quantities for each vendor. We ate the food we had packed, and that night we ate at the Fairmont Hotel restaurant. This is a very nice hotel, and the restaurant had vegan options. I got a vegetable curry with rice – it was nice but a small portion. Hubby got a roasted vegetable pizza which was beautiful. The girls – we ordered the all-too-typical pasta with marinara sauce. But, their pasta had eggs. So, we ordered it over brown rice. The girls wanted bread but the hotel bread had dairy. I’m sorry, but if you have vegan options on your menu, you need to have vegan bread. How hard is that? Most breads are made without dairy! Frustrating. Dinner was decent and satisfying, but we used the bulk of our food vouchers – $100. Oh well! The next day we had to figure out some food for travel. In the morning, we still had some fruit and muffins and almond butter sandwiches that I packed, so the girls ate those. I grabbed a Starbucks Soy Chai Latte (love those). We picked up some water and granola bars, and then our next best bet for lunch on the plane was Subway. We knew they could do a veggie sub so we ordered a few of those. Our eldest girl had tried the veggie patty and convinced us all to get it. I should have just ordered a full-on veg sub, I was not a fan of that patty – and neither were the other girls or hubby! I took a few bites and passed on the rest. But, at least it was a vegan option, and at least one of us loved it!

I had hoped there would be food options on the plane to purchase, but there was really nothing. I asked if they had fresh fruit, the attendant said “no, trust me, we’ve come a long way with the popcorn chips“. OY! There was an Asian Veggie Wrap, but it had dairy when I looked at the ingredients. So, we snacked on the subs and nibbly food until we got to Toronto. I was wise to tote some Cocoa Cookie Dough Balls. They satisfied my treat-need! Plus, they can be made in advance and frozen – so you can prep them a couple of weeks before a trip. Make note!


It made me a little sad to see what people eat regularly, with the time spent in the airport and on flight. Sodas, diet sodas, chips and more chips, just a steady intake of sugar, aspartame, and fat and salt. What is all this “food” we are eating that isn’t even food? All chemical concoctions designed to bring us back for more and continue to be hungry because we are never really nourished. I was a little disturbed and talked to hubby about it, but he told me to relax (as usual). 😉  I guess because I’m so connected to a healthy eating community online that I am often distanced from what society consumes regularly. Being reminded of it wasn’t pleasant. But, it grounds me in what I am doing to help educate and inspire people to reach out to whole plant food choices more often.

Once we hit Toronto I saw light… a sign with a menu that had rice and quinoa bowls, vegetables, tofu, and… KALE! BINGO! I hit the washrooms with the girls (it must be easier travelling with boys!), and then got to that green-glowing Freshii counter! I ordered some quinoa and noodle bowls, and we got on to our next flight to St. John’s. We dug into those bowls and hubby said “I never thought I’d be so happy to see broccoli“. Even the girls were sighing, saying “mom, this is really good“. They ate a lot of veggies, without coaxing! Thank heavens for that food, it got us through our day! We arrived in St. John’s around 1 am, and were eager to get settled after a long day of travel, hence blurry photo. (Real men wear flower backpacks.)


The next few days we were adjusting to the time change. In fact, we didn’t really adjust fully until we were about ready to return home! That morning, we popped out for some staple items – sprouted breads, fresh fruit/veg and avocados, nondairy milks, larabars (for out and about), nut butter, and some veggie burgers and a few other quick vegan meals. Before leaving for this trip, I told hubby I was not cooking while in St. John’s. We were staying with his parents, and I was visiting my mom a lot. I decided all of our meals would be quick/simple, and I would go out for some lunches and dinners with hubby and my sisters and mother. We rarely get to do that in Vancouver, so that was the plan!

Our first day there my eldest sister Debbie had a get-together at her house for her daughter’s graduation from university. Great timing for us, we were able to connect with many extended family members and friends. Here I am with my beautiful sister Debbie, and then another of us with the hubbies!



Plus, my sis made a BIG pot of veggie chili. Hubby kept saying how good of her that was, we were able to have a decent meal that first day, plus brought leftovers home. Also, she made batches of my cookies! I was so excited I pulled out my camera… yup, and posted to Instagram. Here they are: my Berry Patch Brownies and Troll Cookies (both from LTEV) and my Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies. My sis adds peanut butter to them, and they are amazing! (Deb, if you’re reading, please tell us how much you use, I forgot to ask!) My sis made many more batches of cookies while we were there. One day, she welcomed me with an ENTIRE, batch of freshly-baked, still-warm Troll Cookies! Hit. The. Spot.


Many happy nanny hugs on the trip. Our girls only see my mom and hubby’s parents every year or two. They sure love spending time with them, it’s hard being so far removed – maybe many of you reading have family living far away and can relate.


And I taught mom how to take a selfie! Not sure she’ll repeat it, but pretty good for a first try, right?


With the time change, most days we weren’t all awake until about 10 am (except me, I’m up with the sun – or earlier)! So, breakfast was light and then I’d lunch, usually wraps with fresh veggies and prepared hummus, or nut butter sandwiches on sprouted bread. As I said, I was keeping things simple. But, simple should still taste good, and I tell you I got sick of storebought hummus. Truly, most brands of hummus give hummus a bad name. They have a weird, predominant flavor from the citric acid preservative. And, some are more garlicky than kiddos like. After a few days eating different varieties, I got sick of them, just couldn’t eat them. I said to hubby “if people think this is the hummus we eat and love, no wonder they think vegan food isn’t good“! We needed other lunch options.

THIS was not one of them.


We passed this food truck several times in downtown St. John’s. So very NOT vegan! 

Thankfully, St. John’s has two vegetarian spots that are great for quick meals. The Sprout and The Happy Hummus Hut. We got a terrific lunch at The Happy Hummus Hut one day, and another day stopped in for some snacks (they make dessert rolls with rice paper wraps and raw chocolate or pumpkin ‘fudge’… pumpkin was my fave!). I met the owner, Hlynn. We have tweeted quite a few times. She is incredibly warm and generous, and gave me a couple of her raw savory rice rolls to sample – they were delicious! They have a featured ‘hummus of the day’ each day. How much could I love that? Much!


And, I had a few dinners at The Sprout, enjoying the Pad Thai (shown below, image credit: The Sprout), Lentil Burger, Tempeh Burger (zoinks! amazing tempeh!), and soups and salads. All delicious meals! One night I had dinner there, then lunch and dinner again the following day. Just slightly embarrassing.


We ordered take-out pizzas at Pi Pizza two evenings. They mention some vegan specifics on their menu, including their vegan crust and non-dairy cheese. Though their menu says “soya cheese”, Pi actually had Daiya – which is far better than other (soy-based) vegan cheeses. And, we dined at Quintanas, a Mexican restaurant. I was pleasantly surprised at how much they knew about modifying for a vegan diet. They also had Daiya cheese as an option to dairy for their burritos, and so we had a delicious veggie/bean burrito with salad that night. Here I am with my mom and sister having our Mexican meal:


We didn’t do a lot of sight-seeing on our visit. This trip was all about our girls spending time with grandparents and close relatives, and also hubby and I getting a little time out together (we rarely do), and me getting to have some ‘solo’ time with my sisters and mom. We did, however, take the girls to Signal Hill. One MUST go to Signal Hill when visiting St. John’s. It’s a crime not to! Truly it’s beautiful up there. The wind can literally sweep you off your feet on a gusty day! Check out hub’s hair – and he has thick hair! Our youngest girl kept calling Cabot Tower “Rapunzel’s Tower”… she is a huge fan of the Tangled movie (and I still cry at the ending after seeing it a good 25 times). Yeah.


Our eldest loved it, here she is looking out over the Atlantic Ocean. If you look close you can see walking trails… not for the faint of heart in some spots!…


Some of you know that I have 5 sisters. All of our names begin with a “D”, and I’m the 5th in line, second youngest. Here I am with my other beautiful (and youngest!) sister, Dayle.


…and with our beautiful mama…


Fashion Sidenote: You can’t quite see it fully in this photo, but I am wearing a new skirt I bought from Squeezed Yoga in Toronto. I have seen most of their beautiful, comfy clothes via Melissa West of Namaste Yoga, as she models their yoga wear through her video segments (and on the Squeezed site). After seeing Melissa’s bamboo skirt last year, I had to have one this year! Sign up for their newsletter, because you can get in on pre-orders for new lines. I did just that when I ordered this skirt and got in on their discount. The skirt fits beautifully, and is soft and light. I ordered a small, and when it arrived I choked a little because it looked like and extra-small. But, Donna knows how to design clothes to flatter women’s bodies. When I tried it on, it just fit like a glove skirt. 😀

My eldest sister, Debbie, also has three children so our girls had a blast getting to know them better in person. They also have a wee dog, Winston. Our girls fell in love. Ok, so did I. Think I need to find our family a little Winston!


Oh, and Deb also has a Porsche! Here we are going for a spin. We took off like Thelma and Louise! … To David’s Tea. Then Toys ‘r Us. Then Starbucks. Party women. 😉


One of the highlights for our girls on the trip was visiting their grandparents’ cabin. Hubby spent many of his summers there as a child, and they have a beautiful big pond and often rabbits, beavers, and yes moose come for a visit! No moose pictures, but lots of water fun!



On the return flight home, I was armed with small meals and substantial snacks to carry us through the long day. I made quesadillas with hummus, leftover sweet potato fries (thanks Deb!), veggies, and Daiya for the girls. That was one meal. I also had larabars, granola bars, granola, fresh fruit (apples, oranges, grapes), baby carrots, and some baggies of snack chips for the girls (a healthier alternative than those in airports and on the plane). For our second ‘meal’, I kept it as lightweight/simple as possible with some sprouted grain bagels with almond butter. My bags of food were getting heavy already! In addition to the fruit and veg, we kept hydrated with plenty of water and for me – mint tea on the plane. It was a long flight back – 3 hrs to Toronto, then another 5 to Vancouver, and that’s just flying time! The view from over western Canada, gosh it’s beautiful out here!


If YOU are flying or doing other long hours of travel, here are some of my ideas for snacks and small meals. PLEASE feel free to add your own in the comments! —

  • Wraps or quesadillas with hummus and veg. I love using collard leaves for wraps, so while I packed whole-grain wraps for the fam, I snuck in a collard wrap for me!
  • Sprouted grain sandwiches with sliced cucumber/tomato and cashew cheese or rawesome nut dip
  • Whole-grain bagels with nut butter or low-sugar/sweetener preserves.
  • Small containers of hummus along with fresh veggies (cukes, carrots, bell peppers, celery, cherry tomatoes).
  • Healthy oatmeal-to-go cups, soup cups, and noodle bowls. Search out varieties that are lower in sodium, have organic and natural ingredients, and no artificial ingredients/MSG. Airlines sell these types of noodle/oatmeal cups on the plane, so if you tote your own they can fill with hot water – plus they are LIGHT for packing in your carry-on! At VVC, we took home an oatmeal cup sample from Straw Propeller. That’s one brand of healthier oatmeal cups, there are a few others on the market.
  • Fresh fruit. Keeps you hydrated and is satisfying!
  • Teas. I kept a stash of bags of my favorite teas in my purse while travelling, all through my trip. I could use them at restaurants, visiting with my mom, etc. Plus, I carry small packets of stevia to sweeten my tea. I don’t use stevia in baking or otherwise, but love a little sprinkle in my tea!
  • Dry cereal and individual non-dairy milks for the kids. They can either munch on the cereal straight up, drink the milks straight up, or combine both in a baggy – pack a few spoons!
  • Larabars. They saved our butts through the trip!
  • Granola. Terrific for nibbling. You can find a few decent store-bought varieties, but most are still sweeter than I’d like. Try my Hempanola, Cocoa-Goji Granola, or my oil-free Almond Zen Granola from the Plant-Powered 15!
  • Popcorn, kale chips, and baked chips. For very long flights, crunchy snack foods are great for the kids (ok, adults too). There are healthier options than those sold in-flight or airports!
  • Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or nuts – plain or seasoned. I love the Kaia Foods salt and vinegar pumpkin seeds. Actually, our 4 year old loves them even more. Eat straight up or make a little trail mix with raisins, or mix with popcorn, etc.
  • If you have time to bake/cook: Tamari Roasted Chickpeas, healthy muffins/snackles, Cocoa Cookie Dough Balls, Pumpkin Seed and Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars (they keep very well)!

Finally, knowing you love hummus as I do… and knowing that you also believe it such be deemed a food group, after returning from my trip I posted two more hummus recipes for you to enjoy!

Chipotle Lime Two-Bean Hummus from ed&bv; it has an entire HUMMUS chapter, hoo-ahh! (link to print/share)

Chipotle Lime Two-Bean Hummus from eat, drink & be vegan

and Peanut Sesame Hummus, also from ed&bv (link to print/share)

Peanut Sesame Hummus (background) from eat, drink & be vegan

Make some hummus! Make it often! Double or triple your batches, because it freezes brilliantly. Make it for a friend, travelling without a food processor. 😉 Don’t forget it can be enjoyed slathered on pizzas, used in wraps and sandwiches, thinned out and tossed into pasta, dolloped on baked spuds! Or, put a big ol’ scoop in your salad. Trust me on that one!

p.s. If you are wondering where to subscribe to my blog, link through here. Also, link up with me on facebook for DAILY updates – it’s like my mini-blog!

Have you done any travelling eating plant-powered? Have any words of wisdom or extra food ideas to share

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!


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!).






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:


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


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


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


photo credit Ami Baio, heart-shaped sky

Here I am later with Sayward:


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!!


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.


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! :)


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.


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


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.


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.


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!


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


Jill with Lisa and Nicole…


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


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!


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.


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:


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


And with Cadry Nelson from Cadry’s Kitchen:


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.


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:


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)

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: