Review: Plant-Powered Families by Dreena Burton (plus a CRAZY dessert recipe)

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New cookbook makes plant-based eating fun for the whole family

Busy mornings, picky eaters, concerns about nutrient intake-parents deal with it all when it comes to their kids’ diets and lifestyles. So what’s a frazzled Mom or Dad to do? Dreena Burton’s new book, Plant-Powered Families, has the answers!

Plant-Powered Families Front Cover from BenBella Books

Image courtesy of BenBella Books

This fun, vibrant cookbook features five family-friendly categories, each labeled in its own color:

  • Healthy Mornings (dark blue)
  • Lunch Fixes (red)
  • Salad Dressings, Sauces and Toppers (green)
  • Dinnertime (purple)
  • Sweet Treats (bright blue)

This makes it easy to flip through and find a section when you know the sort of recipe you want to make but aren’t quite sure which one to go for. And believe me, with this book it’s hard to choose! Dreena Burton serves up a delicious selection of recipes including Almond Zen Granola, Potato-Meets-Egg Salad, Green Superhero Dressing, Sneaky Chickpea Burgers and Crazy Brownies (which you can try out for yourself with the recipe below).

That’s just a small taste of what you’ll find in Plant-Powered Families. The book goes beyond recipes with tips for parents who want to feed their kids a healthy plant-based diet and stay on track even when life gets a little crazy. Burton starts with a chapter of basics including suggestions for stocking a plant-based pantry, cooking hints and suggestions for ingredients that can be prepared in advance. She includes helpful icons throughout the book to denote recipes that can be made in large batches and others that make use of pre-prepped ingredients.

Another emphasis in Plant-Powered Families is making plant-based eating fun for kids. Burton emphasizes the importance of getting children involved with food choices and meal prep and goes on to provide solutions for introducing new foods to picky eaters. A section on preparing packed lunches for school, both cold and hot, gives parents a way to provide nutritious midday meals that appeal to kids at any age. There’s even a bit on how to host plant-based kids’ parties and how to handle the food situation when kids get invited to gatherings where treats will be served.

The book concludes with a “DIY Staples” section, which I must admit I absolutely love. The more plant-based my own diet becomes, the more I appreciate cookbooks that offer recipes for ingredients whose packaged forms include excessive additives. This section also has charts with bean and grain cooking times to make meal prep that much easier.

At first, I was a little put off by the long ingredient lists in some of the recipes and what seemed to me to be a small selection of dishes in each of the sections. Having flipped through the book more, though, I’m convinced that Plant-Powered Families is the perfect addition to any plant-based parent’s library. The simplicity of most of the recipes makes them easy for kids to follow while helping Mom and Dad in the kitchen. Even the Smoky Bean Chili, which I made a variation on, is easy despite appearing to require a lot of prep work.

Best of all? Every recipe in the book uses whole-food ingredients. That means no packaged products, no oil and no refined anything. Nut, seed and coconut butters provide fat in baked goods, and coconut sugar and maple syrup are the sweeteners of choice. That means parents can feel good about feeding their kids anything from the book-even the desserts-and know that they’re promoting a healthy lifestyle for their family. And with unique twists on standards like granola, mac & cheese, burgers and meatballs, there’s always something new for kids to try.

The book concludes with a selection of sample meal plans complete with nutritional breakdowns to get families started on their plant-based adventures, and Burton doesn’t neglect to include the all-important information about where kids (and their parents!) get essential nutrients on a plant-based diet. The information may seem a bit obvious to those who have been eating plant-based for years, but for a Mom or a Dad who’s just starting out with a vegan diet for the family, it’s essential and gives them guidance as to what their kids should be eating to live vibrant, healthy lives.

Plant-Powered Families is more than a cookbook; it’s a resource for any family that decides it’s time to move away from animal products and embrace a fully plant-based life. Kudos to Dreena Burton for making that life more accessible to parents and their kids.

BenBella Books has graciously provided the recipe for one of the most unique treats in the book-Crazy Brownies! Check it out below and enjoy a fudgy treat that’s not-so-secretly good for you.

What are your favorite strategies to cook plant-based for kids?

 Crazy Brownies

Makes 16 brownies

crazy brownies with chocolate ganache benbella

Image courtesy of BenBella Books

These brownies are incredible! They are fudgy and dense and sweet. Make them and see whether your family can even GUESS what’s in them!
(QV note: I think I’ll bring them to the next church potluck and watch everyone devour them in blissful ignorance!)


  • 1/2 cup kidney beans
  • 1/2 cup pitted dates
  • 1/3 cup peeled, precooked, and cooled yellow or red potato (see note)
  • 2 tablespoons tahini or nut butter (see note and nut-free option)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut butter (see note)
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons nondairy milk
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean powder or 11/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons nondairy chocolate chips (mini are nice)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8″ × 8″ brownie pan with parchment paper.

Using a small or mini food processor, puree the beans, dates, potato, tahini, and coconut butter until smooth, and then add the maple syrup and milk and puree again.

Add the cocoa powder, sugar, arrowroot, vanilla bean powder, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt to the processor and puree until combined. (If your processor is too small, transfer the date mixture to a bowl, and use a spatula to incorporate the dry ingredients.) Stir in the chocolate chips.

Transfer the mixture to the brownie pan, and spread evenly with a spatula. Bake for 22–24 minutes (brownies will firm with cooling and are more fudgy with less baking, so don’t overbake).

Remove, let cool completely, frost if desired, and cut into squares.

Potato Note: Potatoes add moisture and density when combined with the beans. If you don’t have cooked potato, substitute 1/4 cup of potato starch and increase the milk to 5 tablespoons.

Nut-Free Option/Tahini Note: I use a good-quality tahini, with a mellow, buttery flavor and smooth texture. If you don’t have nut allergies, try substituting macadamia or almond butter. Another 1 tablespoon of nondairy milk may be needed if the nut butter is quite thick/dense.

Coconut Butter Note: If you don’t have coconut butter, you can substitute another 11/2 tablespoons of a nut butter like macadamia, almond, or cashew butter—or more tahini.

Frosting Note: Chocolate Ganache, page 211, is wickedly good on these brownies! (QV note: The ganache is made with coconut butter for true decadence!)

Reprinted with permission from BenBella Books. (c) Dreena Burton.

About The Author

Sam has been a vegan since summer of 2009 and has spent the subsequent years experimenting with all manner of vegan food. She holds a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and is a graduate of the Bauman College Nutrition Consultant Program. She is a member of Toastmasters International and currently serves as Vice President Membership of the Capital View Toastmasters club. When she's not blogging or cooking, Sam likes to read, play silly card games and knit socks.

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