I have followed Dynise's blog, the Urban Vegan, for a few years now. Though it didn't surprise me that she had put together a cookbook, and I knew the recipes would be tasty (I had tried a couple from her blog before), I really had no idea what to expect. With my mind wide open, I was amazed by the culinary depth and creativity in The Urban Vegan cookbook. Dynise proudly displays the global food influences she has gained living in the major metropolis of Philadelphia and traveling to thirty different countries (and counting as she reminds us!).
At first, I had a bit of trouble choosing what recipes to make. Not because they didn't sound enticing, but because a good majority of the recipes in this cookbook do call for soy in some form. Dynise uses soy flour as her main egg substitute in baked goodies. Though she does offer some other options for egg substitutes in the beginning of the book, I was a bit confused on how I would swap them out (for flax seeds would I need to reduce the liquid in the recipe or add more, and in which recipes would that be a fair substitute for?). And of course, since it is a vegan cookbook, there is liberal use of tofu, soy creamer, TVP, and other soy products. I have nothing against the bean, but we stock a very limited amount of soy products in our household (just miso and soy sauce - I never have soy flour on hand), since it really upsets my husband's stomach. I don't consider this a downfall of the book though, since it is our own dietary preference, and the author certainly makes no soy-free claims.
Luckily, there were still several soy-free or soy-reduced gems within that both my husband and I could enjoy. In fact, I did start by making use of that miso (we actually used a soy-free light miso) in the Miso-Sesame Dressing. It was a deliciously light and flavorful vinaigrette!
For my second taste of this cookbook, I made the Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin. This dish was so good (and SO EASY), that I devoured half a pound of Brussels sprouts by myself, in one sitting.
With simple successes like these, I can guarantee that I will be trialing more recipes from The Urban Vegan Cookbook. In fact, the Super-Sonic Sunflower Squares, Curry Cashew Casserole, Foil-Roasted Beets with Wasabi Vinaigrette, Oven-Roasted Potatoes with Basil-Fennel Cream, and Michelle's Peanut Butter Graham Balls are already on my "to make" list.
The Urban Vegan Cookbook Vitals:
The recipes in The Urban Vegan vary widely in complexity. There are extremely simple recipes that can be whipped up in mere minutes using common pantry food, and there are Sunday afternoon type recipes that might entice you to use several new-to-you ingredients.
There are 250 recipes within, yet the print is easy to read, and the page count is kept to a respectable 227 pages. They really did an excellent job with the layout.
The chapters have a less traditional format. Titles like "Café Culture," "Soup Kitchen," "Happy Hour," "Lunch Cart," and "House Party," form the chapter subjects rather than your traditional, appetizers, entrees, desserts type of format. I love this fun format, but admit I had some trouble re-finding a recipe that I didn't know the exact title of.
There are no pictures in The Urban Vegan, but that is just fine with me. I never require pictures in a cookbook and appreciate the lower cost without (this jam-packed book is just $16.95 retail!).