Customer Reviews: The Urban Vegan: 250 Simple, Sumptuous Recipes from Street Cart Favorites to Haute Cuisine
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on October 16, 2009
I just happened upon The Urban Vegan at my local "booksellers" and did not realize it was so new, it is copyrighted for next year! Lucky me! I loved the tone of Dynise's voice in her introduction. It was if she was articulating my thoughts exactly but much more mellifluously. I do not have any vegan friends so to read her words was really cool.

I am sure this cookbook/lifestyle guide/armchair international adventure will do very well. I made the Cauliflower-Chickpea Tagine tonight (adding potatoes since I am wheat free at the moment) and It Was Amazing. Tomorrow I am cooking up the Pumpkin Risotto with Sage and Sundried Tomatoes and have my eyes on the Chickpea Paprikash for next week. Yum! I am sure I will not run out of "What's for dinner?" for a long time to come. Thanks Dynise!
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VINE VOICEon October 4, 2009
The last year or two have seen an explosion of new vegan cookbooks, and it can be rather overwhelming to try to choose among them. However, The Urban Vegan should be on everyone's list. Dynise Balcavage's fine cooking sense and surprising flavor combinations will make this book appealing to all kitchen adventurers, vegan or otherwise. So far, we have made two recipes - the Hearty Adzuki Bean Soup, and the Spaghetti with Eggplant - both of which were fantastic. Having followed Balcavage's blog for some time, I am confident that the rest of the book's recipes will be equally wonderful. Get it now!
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on November 11, 2009
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!).
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on October 7, 2009
I flipped through this in my local big box bookstore and came to the realization that I wasn't leaving there without it, even with knowing I could save a good bit by ordering online. Every single recipe looked SO delicious and inspired that I couldn't resist--after spending well over an hour drooling over what to make first I realized there were no pictures, something I normally notice immediately but this book just looked so tasty I still don't miss them at all. I love how inspired the recipes are while maintaining a surprising simplicity in preparation. Even the "Haute Cuisine" section with slightly more sophisticated flavor combinations (Like a Raspberry Tamarind sauce-Yum!)aren't daunting enough to make them seem like a major task to attempt. I look forward to wearing this book out over the next few weeks.
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on November 12, 2010
I'm not a vegan. In fact, I'm the opposite; an omnivore. So why did I buy this book? My vegetarian friend and I decided to go vegan for a couple weeks to "cleanse" our bodies of some bad habits and see if eliminating dairy and meats (for me especially) would give us more energy and some ideas for restructuring our diets.

I am the one who likes to cook and I wouldn't call myself a novice in the kitchen either. I purchased three vegan cookbooks on the market - popular, well-known books - and this was one of them. I tried recipes from all the cookbooks and this book HANDS DOWN was the only one that made me forget that I practicing a lifestyle far from my norm. The food is good, very good. I've made the sloppy joes, the paella, scones, and a couple other recipes. I've had to buy TVP and nutritional yeast for the first time in my life, and both items enhanced the recipes in this book.

Many of the reviewers of these vegan cookbooks are vegans themselves and, no offense, but I imagine that living the lifestyle might make you immune to the textures and tastes that the rest of Americans are eating. I don't give five stars lightly. This book is making me seriously consider moving towards a plant-based diet and neither of the other two vegan cookbooks did that. Buy this book. You will forget that the meat and dairy are missing.
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on November 18, 2009
This cookbook is right up my alley. Dynise Balcavage combines compassion for animals with a sophisticated culinary repertoire. Her recipes are informed by her life in the urban jungle, as well as by her travels all around the world. You will never get tired of her exciting ingredient and flavor combinations. One thing I love about this book is how sumptuous many of the recipes are- decadent tiramisu, perfect crème brûlée, special-occasion liqueur cake, and more. However, there is also lots of comfort food here- recipes for homemade gnocchi, spaetzle, and one for the best marinara sauce you will ever taste. If you want to show yourself and your loved ones just how wonderful vegan cuisine can be, treat yourself to this book. You won't regret it!
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on November 8, 2009
This book became my go-to CB. The recipes are easy to follow, and the ingredients are easy to find in stores/markets. I've tried just a handful of recipes so far, but each one turned out to be delicious (I've never thought the super-easy Brussels sprouts au Gratin could be so yummy). I mixed my vegetables and used turnips instead of parsnips in a very rich Parsnips St. Jacque, which still turned out to be great.
I highly recommend this book.
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on March 18, 2014
I think you can find recipe's at least as good, if not better, just browsing the internet. There are hardly any pictures, and the writing comes across a little condescending. Some of the ingredients needed will be expensive for something that you may only make once, because it didn't come out that great. I wouldn't buy it again, and wouldn't recommend it. If you must, look for it used, it pretty easy to come across for a couple of bucks.
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on March 14, 2012
I'm a longtime reader of Dynise's blog (also called Urban Vegan). When I began exploring veganism in late 2007/early 2008, Dynise's site was one of the first few that I found. I was immediately mesmerized by both her delicious food and her writing talent. When this, her first cookbook, came out, I couldn't have been more excited.

Dynise has a way with words that lets you "taste" her dishes before you even TASTE them, if you know what I mean! Although some people hesitate to buy cookbooks without photos inside, this is one case in which you do not need to worry about that one bit. Simply reading Dynise's descriptions of each dish will transport you to her dinner table, allow you to smell the heavenly aromas drifting from her kitchen, and help you imagine the flavors, textures, and satisfaction you'll experience eating her food.

I don't love Dynise's work simply because she's an excellent writer, however. Her food speaks for itself. She has a knack for ethnic and "international" food that completely seduces my taste buds. In her book, you'll find dishes inspired by Italy, France, Greece, Spain, India, Morocco, Brazil, Indonesia, and so many more, plus belly-filling, classic American comfort food. I've tried so many of her dishes - Sloppy Joes and Chickpea-Chili Burgers, Lunch Muffins and Rosemary-Olive Bread, Gobhi Aloo and Cauliflower-Chickpea Tagine, Pumpkin-Daal Soup and Black Olive Tapenade, Raspberry-Swirl Pound Cake with Limoncello Glaze (drool!)...and yet I've hardly made a dent in my "checklist" of dishes I want to make from this book. Her recipes vary from weeknight-meal food to dinner-party dishes, from no-fuss fare to "treat yourself" eats, from healthy to hedonistic. The fact that it's all vegan is just icing on the cake. You can be sure that any recipe you make from this book will appeal to vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike, and you'll want to keep this cookbook near your kitchen for years to come.
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on December 29, 2009
At first, I wasn't sure I "needed" this book, but after only a few days of owning it I'm convinced I made the right choice. The recipes are easy to follow and so far, adapt easily to what you have on hand. The first thing I made was the cocoa chili, and I had to make a few changes based on what I had lying around the house...the recipe made a great base, though. I've also made the cabbage with caraway seeds, and at first thought the recipe looked way too simple and would be bland. It turned out to be one of my new favorites, though I recommend keeping all ingredients the same but halving the cabbage (the more caraway and onions the merrier!) I know I'll love a lot of these recipes just going by the ingredients list. The author is based in Philadelphia, where I currently live, and it just makes me that much more excited to live in a city that has great vegan options. I love the cultural and local flair in this book-- definitely something unique among all the cookbooks I own.
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