I’ve been reading Urban Vegan for years, but just recently had the pleasure of meeting the amazing person behind the blog and cookbook. Attending Vida Vegan Con in August brought the opportunity of connecting with Dynise Balcavage in person. Shortly after, Dynise released her second cookbook called Celebrate Vegan and so kindly sent me a copy to review! I read through it several times, marking the recipes and menus I’d like to create.
Celebrate Vegan contains two hundred recipes carefully organized into menus that correspond with every holiday and get together you could imagine. Dynise created menus for New Year’s Day, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, but also provides recipes and background information for celebrations like New Year’s Day around the world, Guy Fawkes Day, and Diwali. Don’t forget Snow Day and Girls’ Night In! These ready-made creations take the guesswork out of menu planning, which is certainly helpful during stressful holiday seasons. The deal gets sweeter for new vegans! A clear answer to the question, “what ever am I going to make for _______ Day without meat, cheese, butter, and eggs?!” is a lifesaver. She even includes wine pairings! I really enjoy how Dynise completely reinvents traditional holiday fare into something unique, rather than simply and straightforwardly veganizing these traditional dishes. In the Thanksgiving chapter you’ll find Seitan with Quince, Apple, and Onion, not tofurkey!
Since the basis of this cookbook is creative holiday menus, I thought making a complete menu would be the best way to stay true to Dynise’s vision when approaching the recipes (though if you would like to mix and match, the recipe index in the back of the book is divided into traditional categories!).
I decided to make the New Year’s Day Good Luck Brunch menu which includes Lucky Soba Noodles, Hot-and-Sour Carrots and Lentils, and Hoppin’ John. Dynise explains that the ingredients in this menu center on a fresh start and good luck. In Japan, soba noodles are traditionally eaten to represent a long life, and legumes and lentils evoke money, prosperity, and eternity.
Here is the spread:
The Lucky Soba Noodles with fresh veggies, bean sprouts, edamame, and tempeh were so refreshing and healthy-in-a-good-way. The tempeh bacon imbued the Hoppin’ John with a lovely smokey flavor throughout. This dish paired perfectly with the Hot-and-Sour Carrots and Lentils, which had a bit of sweetness, a pleasant tartness from the lemon juice, and a bit of spice.
Since this was a brunch menu, I accompanied the meal with a Bloody Mary.
This meal was so full of color, texture, and flavor that danced around the taste buds, all while being healthful and packed with nutrients. It was a wonderful meal for the middle of the day, and to start the year. I’d love to try out the other New Year’s menus in Celebrate Vegan (though the Sick Day menu might be appropriate for me and my never ending cold lately!).
Thank you for a fantastic cookbook, Dynise!
P.S. You can find a couple items from Celebrate Vegan on my Thanksgiving menu as well!