One of the hardest parts of being a new vegan (or even an old seasoned vegan) is trying to keep up with all the new products out there. I must have spent over $50 looking for the "right" vegan cheese my first year being a vegan and I have over 50 vegan/vegetarian cookbooks in my arsenal but not all the recipes are the greatest. I’m the first born so I’m used to being a Guinea Pig and now I’m your Vegan Guinea Pig. So here are my recommendations and critiques. Let me know what you think!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cookbook Review: Viva Vegan! by Terry Hope Romero

Although I wrote Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food for the masses, my ultimate comfort food cuisine is Latin food. I’m a California girl so Mexican food is number one on my list but I adore the flavors or Argentina, Costa Rica, Cuba, Colombia, basically any Latin country you can think of I would eat their food morning, noon and night and never be bored. When Viva Vegan! By Terry Hope Romero showed up on my doorstep I knew that this book would either be the answers to my Latin food prayers or a huge disappointment. I’ve been cooking out of books that Terry has written since I went vegan 4 years ago so I instinctively knew that Viva Vegan! would be in heavy rotation in the Vegan Guinea Pig home.

Ok, so let’s get down to it – I loved the book. But, like most international cookbooks, you will need to take a trip to your local international market or Hispanic grocer to get some of the key ingredients. My only issue with this book is that there aren’t enough everyday alternatives to some of the more hard to find ingredients. While I was trying out recipes from Viva Vegan! to write this blog I was also in the middle of a 2 week ban on grocery shopping in my home, so I could only cook out of my pantry, freezer and fridge. No grocery shopping and only a trip to my CSA for fresh veggies. I would advise the average person that was about to crack open Viva Vegan! and get cooking to head to the back of the book, page 257 to be exact, and take a look at the shopping list that Terry has made. You can easily pick out what you have handy and what you’ll need to pick up from your local international market. I highly recommend adding every spice, sauce, grain and chile on the list as they will all come in handy when working through this book.

Now on to the good stuff – it was impossible for me to narrow down the 200 recipes in Viva Vegan! down to 5, so I made a top 10 list. The first recipe I tried as the the Tempeh Asada and it was incredible. When it comes to tempeh I don’t always love it but this recipe hit the mark. The recipe says that it only needs to be marinated for 10 minutes but I highly recommend allowing the marinade to sit overnight to let the flavor really soak in. I decided to create Tamales from the Tempeh Asado. I used Terry’s Savory Vegan Masa Dough recipe and filled the tamales with sliced Tempeh Asado and thinly sliced fried plantains (this recipe is also in the book). Since I had some leftovers plantains I decided to make Terry’s Bean, Rice and Plantain Empanadas. I didn’t have the ingredients necessary to make her corn dough so I used my own empanada dough recipe and everything turned out beautifully.

If you’ve ever seen me eat a churro it’s like a scene out of national geographic – I just attack. I was very happy to see not one but two churros in Viva Vegan, both of which were astounding. I typically don’t like chocolate with my churros but Terry’s Chocolate para churros has officially changed my mind. My hands down favorite recipe from the book is the Tostones with Avocado and Palm Ceviche (minus the avocado). I can’t even begin to explain what happened in my mouth the first time I tasted the combination of unripened fried plantains with the tangy palm ceviche. I’ve had a jar of hearts of palm in my pantry for months that I had just given up on. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to make it into anything delicious – ceviche was, without a doubt, the answer.

One of the best parts of Viva Vegan! is the opportunity to try foods that I’ve never heard of from regions that I love. Patacones was a prime example of this. Patacones are a bite size green plantain sandwich filled with shredded seitan, avocado, Terry’s Spicy Salsa Golf, lettuce and tomatoes. The Red Beans with Dominican-Style Sazon was a simple yet flavorful dish that will be a staple in my home. In fact, there are a few cups of it in my freezer right now. I paired the Red Beans with Dominican-Style Sazon with Braised Brazilian Shredded Kale and my own Mexican-rice recipe. As my pantry started to dwindle I looked around and found a few potatoes, a couple links of Field Roast Mexican Chiptole Sausage and a big bunch of kale from my CSA. The next natural step was to make the Potato-Kale Soup with sizzling chorizo. I cannot explain how delicious this soup was. Even on a 95 degree day in Atlanta I found myself licking the bottom of the bowl of hot soup. Using the same combination of ingredients I tried Taquitos with Chorizo and Potatoes, also a hands down winner.

To recap, my top 10 favorite recipes from Viva Vegan! are:
Tempeh Asado (all variations)
Beans, Rice and Sweet Plantain Empanadas
Chocolate Para Churros
Tostones with Avocado and Palm Ceviche
Red Beans with Dominican-Style Sazon
Braised Brazilian Shredded Kale
Potato-Kale Soup with Sizzling Chorizo
Taquitos with Chorizo and Potatoes

Now go pick up your copy and start cooking!


  1. I agree whole heartedly!! I was a tester for this book, and made all but 1 recipe in testing. Its all so very very good, but you do need a trip to a store with authentic latin stuff to get the most out of it.
    Good review!

  2. It all sounds pretty fantastic!

  3. I am convinced! Great review.

  4. I've got the book. I've only made one recipe so far, the black bean-sweet potato tamales, and they are amazing. Romero's masa recipe for tamales is the best masa I've had in years.

  5. I really appreciate such a well-thought out and honest review. I was really... overwhelmed by the ingredients but I expected it to not be "for the masses" it's clearly a speciality book with specialty ingredients. it sounds like its well worth the investment of the extras to have such good latin food.


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