November is Vegan Month! To celebrate, we welcome Chef Dreena Burton as our Zen Chef of the Month. Vegan for over 25 years, Dreena is also a mom to three daughters, all raised on a plant-based diet. She is an award-winning vegan cookbook author extraordinaire, having written SIX vegan cookbooks. Her most recent title "Dreena's Kind Kitchen" was released last August and recently won first place in the International Vegan Film Festival's first-ever Vegan Cookbook Contest. Dreena is certainly a wealth of knowledge when it comes to keeping fuelled on a vegan diet. Scroll to learn more about our Zen Chef!
1. What inspires you most when cooking?
I think the ingredients themselves. Sometimes cooked sweet potatoes sitting in my fridge are calling to be transformed into a burger, pasta sauce, pudding, or dressing. Sometimes it’s a meal at a restaurant that introduces me to an ingredient prepped in a new way. And, very often it’s my readers, sharing how they have served one of my recipes that sparks an idea for a new dish. And, a whole lot of the time I’m inspired by chocolate. Because how can’t you be inspired by chocolate!
2. What is your number one piece of advice for someone seeking to practice a more plant-forward style of eating?
I like to remind people that they are already eating a lot of plant foods. Most people already eat fruit like bananas, apples, oranges, and berries - grains like rice and oats - and nuts like almonds and pistachios. And, they may even be eating some beans and some variety of vegetables. So, think of broadening the spectrum of plant foods, rather than mere removal of foods. Every day, include more plant foods in your meals, rather than just eliminating meat and dairy. With that expansion comes new flavours and cuisines, and as your palate opens up (as it does when removing dairy and meat), your food will be even more flavorful and exciting. Trust the process, and give it time.
3. You share so many drool-worthy vegan recipes! Which one is your family’s favourite?
Hmmm, that’s tough! When I’m recipe testing, I cycle through certain recipes, and then when I move on I may not return to a particular dish for months - or years. But, my family really loves soups and stews, I make them a lot. They also love my Spinach Artichoke Dip, one pot meals like my Stewed Chickpeas and many pasta dishes like Creamy Fettuccine. Also burgers and spuds. I make a lot of different burger recipes, and cook potatoes and sweet potatoes quite regularly. They especially love my new Zucchini Fritters. And, of course, the baking! Some favorites are my Best Banana Bread, Sweet Potato Muffins, and more decadent treats like my Nanaimo Bars. Let’s just say they eat well!
4. If you could cook and enjoy a meal with anyone dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Wow. That’s big, I’m choosing one in both categories. I’d love to have dinner with Dr. T. Colin Campbell - along with my father, who died when I was 11. My father would be about the same age as Dr. Campbell, and I think he would have loved this diet.
5. What can we look forward to from @dreenaburton?
Dreena’s Kind Kitchen released in August, and I’ve been very involved with the promotion for that book. And, it just won first place at the International Vegan Film Festival, so that’s been very exciting. I’m working on a couple of e-books and a meal plan for people following disease-reversal diets. Not sure if I’ll do another printed cookbook, though I’ve learned to never say never.
6. What is your favourite vegan restaurant and/or dish?
I have a memory of an artichoke dish braised in a tomato sauce, from a Middle-Eastern restaurant in Portland, Oregon. It was many years ago and I still remember it as one of the most delicious dishes. It’s tough to choose, I love a well-crafted buddha-style bowl at restaurants, or a deliciously innovative pasta. But, you know, over time I’ve come to love simple foods more and more. When I dish up hot quinoa with roasted sweet potatoes or kabocha squash, along with some greens and a tangy dressing or tamari, lemon juice, and a drizzle of tahini… I find that incredibly satisfying and delicious.
Mind you, I also love desserts and ice cream is my favorite treat - always. I have too many favorite ice creams to mention!
Keep up with our Zen Chef this month, including our ‘Dreena’s Kind Kitchen’ Cookbook Giveaway by following @zengarrykitchen on Instagram!