Chef Fran Costigan

Vegan Mango Banana Mousse

Vegan Vacation at SeaI’m so looking forward to setting sail to the Panama Canal next month for the 2017 Vegan Vacation at Sea with the Vegan Cruise Planners. I’ll be joining the Vegan Black Metal ChefThe Vegan Zombie, and Laurel Anderson for this wonderful  Last year’s Vegan Cruise to Alaska was truly life-changing, and I am ready for this tropical version.

We will be sailing on the Holland America Line’s ms Zuiderdam from Ft. Lauderdale to Half Moon Cay, Aruba, Curacao, Panama Canal, and Costa Rica. Vegan Cruise Planners Franci and Curtis Kettman are focused on one thing: providing an absolutely FUN sailing, complete with awesome vegan cuisine and awesome vegan people. We’ll al be enjoying excellent meals and snacks, special shore excursions, nighlife and to be sure, making new lifelong friends! Vegan Vacation at Sea will tempt your vegan sensibilities and taste buds with these exclusive offerings, but believe me, you need not be vegan to come along with us!

  • Cooking demonstrations in the ms Zuiderdam’s fantastic Culinary Arts Center
  • Exclusive vegan menu
  • Exclusive vegan shore excursions available only for our group
  • Exclusive vegan private parties and social events
  • A vegan swag bag

Sailing dates are October 30th through November 9th, 2016. (Bring your Halloween costume friends!)  Franci and Curtis are your exclusive booking agent for the Vegan Vacation at Sea 2016. (You cannot book into our group with another agency or direct with the cruise line.)  If you’re ready to join the fun call us at 800.253.1984 or use the easy online registration tool:

To get myself into a tropical state of mind, I’m nibbling on some Mango Banana Mousse with Coconut Fluff Cream. This just might be one of the recipes that I demo and you get to taste on the cruise.

Fran Costigan's vegan Mango Banana Mousse

Mango Banana Mousse

Yield: 6 to 8 servings


  • 4 tsp. arrowroot
  • 3 tbsp room temperature water
  • 9 ounces unsweetened dried mango (sulfite-free), cut into small pieces
  • 4 to 5 cups unsweetened mango juice
  • 1/4 cup agar flakes
  • 1 (12.3 ounce) shelf stable box, firm or extra-firm silken tofu
  • 2 small ripe bananas (1 for the mousse, the other for serving)
  • zest of half an orange
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • zest of 1 small organic lime.
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • ripe fresh mango, diced



  1. In a small bowl, dissolve arrowroot in the water.
  2. Put mango into medium heatproof bowl.
  3. Pour 3 cups of the mango juice into small saucepan, cook to a boil. Pour the heated juice over the mango and set aside 1 hour or longer, until the mango is very soft. Drier fruit will take longer, and you may find it more convenient to soak the fruit overnight in the refrigerator.
  4. Drain the mango, reserving the juice. Cool juice to room temperature.
  5. Puree the mango in a food processor. Add a small amount of the cooking juice to get a smooth, but thick puree if needed. Add the tofu, 1 of the bananas, orange zest, orange juice, and vanilla to the mango purée, and process until no specks of tofu are visible and the mixture is very creamy. Set aside in the food processor.
  6. Measure the agar into a medium saucepan. Add enough additional mango juice to the soaking juice to measure 1 1/4 cups and pour over the agar. Do not stir or heat. Set aside for 10 minutes or longer to allow the agar to soften. (This will help the agar dissolve thoroughly and easily; the equivalent to blooming gelatin)
  7. Cook to a simmer over medium low heat without stirring. At the simmer, whisk, making sure to reach the bottom of the saucepan to release any bits of agar that may be stuck. Immediately reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cover the saucepan and simmer 5 minutes.
  8. Uncover and whisk. Do a visual check to see if the agar has fully dissolved Dip a soup spoon into the gel for any specks of agar. If necessary, cover and simmer longer until the agar has completely dissolved.
  9. Stir the dissolved arrowroot with a fork to release starch that has settled in the bottom. Add the arrowroot slurry, whisking constantly. The mixture will be very thick and may sputter rather boil. As soon as you see heaving in middle of mixture, remove from the heat. (If you cook or stir arrowroot-thickened mixtures after they have boiled, they are likely to become thin again.)
  10. Add to mango mixture in the food processor and pulse a few times to blend, and then process for 30 seconds to incorporate.
  11. Do a test of the consistency: Refrigerate a small amount of the mousse in a ramekin. Properly made, the consistency will be quite firm but taste creamy
  12. Transfer to a shallow dish, cover, and refrigerate about 45 minutes, or until set.
  13. Make the Mango Banana Mousse: About 30 minutes before serving, spoon the set mousse into the food processor and pulse until creamed.
  14. Layer the mousse with the diced mango. Top with a few banana slices and a dollop coconut whipped cream and toasted coconut.

Variation: Tart Filling or Molded Cream – Pour the finished puree directly from the food processor into tart shells or ramekin. Unmold when set.

Adapted from a recipe in More Great Good Dairy Free Desserts Naturally, (Book Publishing Company 2006 by Fran Costigan)


While I get ready for the cruise, I am also getting ready to launch the inaugural Essential Vegan Desserts Course with Rouxbe online cooking school. In fact, the course begins Novemeber 10th, the very day after the cruise ends! Check out the syllabus, FAQ, recipes here and grab your seat now with a special $200.00 discounted early bird pricing. Here’s the link!



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Raw Raisin-Walnut-Hemp Energy Bites

Raw Raisin-Walnut-Hemp Energy Bites - FranCostigan.comThe other morning, I felt a whisper of fall in the air. Mind you, I am likely the very only person in New York City who would think this, as it was sunny and warm in the very high 70’s. But with no humidity and a breeze, I felt summer’s end coming. So, I switched from my savory greens topped oatmeal to one topped with raisins, walnuts, and cinnamon.

As I was about to put the jar of walnuts back into my refrigerator and the container of raisins on into the pantry, I thought, cookies could happen. I didn’t have time to bake. Instead, I added these ingredients plus a teaspoon of coconut butter into a food processor, and in 2-3 minutes I had ‘dough’ to shape. As I flattened the tablespoon size balls of dough, I thought– I’ve made an accidently raw cookie since the walnuts were untoasted. (Of course you could roast and cool them for more flavor.)

The so-called cookies were delicious and a nice change, in my opinion, from date and coconut based mixtures. But, I decided after eating a few that while others may name recipes like this one “cookies” I’m telling it like it more like it is, a raw bite. or balls. With repect to the healthy ingredients, I’ve named these Raw Raisin-Walnut-Hemp Energy Bites, but you can call them whatever you want, as long as you make them. Mine are stored in the freezer, and I’ve been carrying them with me when I go out. It’s a lot less expensive than buying prepackaged snacks. No sweeteners were added, and the teaspoon of nut or coocnut butter is really optional. The mixture will come together with or without it.


Raw Raisin Walnut CookiesA raisin is a dried grape or currant. They are rich in concentrated sources of energy, vitamins, electrolytes, and minerals. On weight per weight comparison basis, dried grapes contain many more calories, fiber, vitamins, minerals and polyphenol antioxidants than fresh grapes . They do contain fewer amounts of vitamin C, folic acid, carotenes, lutein and xanthins than fresh grapes. All to say, vary your food. Do buy sulfite-free raisins, all dried fruit in fact, and store in a tightly covered container in a pantry.


Raw Raisin Walnut CookiesWalnuts are part of the tree nut family that includes Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts (filberts), macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, and pistachios. I read recently that around 90% of the healthy phenols in walnuts are found in the skin. There is a slight bitterness to this skin, which is the reason many people remove it by rubbing it in a fine mesh strainer, but I don’t bother. They are a very health supportive nut, but as they are calorie dense, as are all nuts, don’t overdo your daily ration. Store walnuts, and all nuts in the freezer or refrigerator, depending on the size of your stash, to protect against rancidity.


hemp seedsHemp seeds are loaded with omega-3 and amino acids. In fact, some nutrition experts say that hemp contains most balanced and complete source of protein and essential fats found anywhere in nature. Hemp seeds are also high in magnesium, a mineral that helps with relaxation, blood sugar control, blood pressure, and possibly even osteoporosis. They also contain high amounts of fiber, iron, and vitamin E.


Raw Raisin-Walnut-Hemp Energy Bites - FranCostigan.comRaw Raisin-Walnut-Hemp Energy Bites

Makes 1 2/3 cup dough for 16 tablespoon size bites (Note that the process photos show half recipe, as that is how I do tests.)


  • 1 cup walnut halves
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons hemp seeds, plus about 1/4 cup more for coating
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons cashew or any nut butter or coconut butter


Raw Raisin-Walnut-Hemp Energy Bites mixture in food processor - FranCostigan.comPut the walnuts, raisins, 2 tablespoons hemp seeds, cinnamon and nutmeg into food processor. Grind until the mixture is fine and sticks together when pressed in your fingers.

Raw Raisin-Walnut-Hemp Energy Bites mixture in food processor - FranCostigan.comAdd the nut or coconut butter and vanilla and process a minute of 2 longer, until the mixtures is smooth. Process a shorter time if you want more texture in your bites. Taste and adjust spices.


Raw Raisin-Walnut-Hemp Energy Bites - FranCostigan.comPress into 1 tablespoon size balls. Flatten into bars if you prefer.

Roll each ball or bar in hemp seeds (Or cacao nibs, toasted coconut, chocolate.)


Raw Raisin-Walnut-Hemp Energy Bites in container - FranCostigan.comStore in refrigerator or freezer until ready to eat.


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Vegan and Gluten-Free Cake in a Crate

Cake in a CrateInitially I found Cake In A Crate on Instagram, as I was admiring the cake photos. It took me a while to realize the name, which I though was cute, was actually describing the concept – think meal delivery service like Purple Carrot, but for cake.  All the ingredients that are needed to make a particular recipe are in the cute box that arrives, along with the recipe and a list of what you equipment you’ll need.  As my focus is on teaching people how to make desserts from scratch, I was curious about this concept.  My Cake in a Crate had me from the moment the box showed up. The packaging is  attractive and inviting. When I opened the recipe cards saw the parchment circle in it, I was impressed. The ingredients used are top quality, from companies I support. All the cakes are vegan and gluten free and from top bloggers and recipe developers.  My cake was easy to make, and well, me being me, I took a little detour from the suggested topping and made the cake my own, but that is part of the fun. After talking with founder, Asha Carrol, I understand the why. If someone doesn’t bake, or think they can, they won’t have a baker’s pantry. Going the Cake in a Crate route is a good way to try your hand at making a cake. I asked Asha to be my guest blogger for September, as part of my Interesting Women in Food series. I’m sure you will enjoy learning about her journey from opera singer to business owner. Asha has a Cake in A Crate for one lucky winner so remember to enter the giveaway!

Cake in a CrateImagine this. It’s a weeknight, you’ve got company coming over, and you don’t know what to serve for dessert. One of your guests is gluten-free, another Paleo, and you’re vegan, of course. You’d like to show off with something homemade, something indulgent but secretly wholesome. You spent the day browsing Pinterest, trying to find a dessert that’s appropriate only to realize that all the enviable recipes call for almond flour, coconut oil, chia seeds, tahini. An Amazon search reveals that these ingredients, which you don’t have on hand, are going to set you back about $40. You live 45 minutes from the nearest Whole Foods, anyway, and there’s no time for that after work. You whip together a “raw vegan carrot cake” from a random Google search and call it a day. An hour later, the finished cake looks awful, tastes barely better, and you’re exhausted from trying to please everyone, mostly your admittedly perfectionistic self. You wish there were an easier way.

This isn’t an imaginary scenario. In fact, it’s the exact one I found myself in just over two years ago, when I first conceptualized Cake in a Crate. Exhausted from my New York City day job and hungering for chocolate, I dreamed of a world where plant-based dessert was as simple as pulling a box from my pantry, following clear directions (with pictures), and crafting dessert without a trip to the store. The meal kit market made it look so simple, and yet, no one was doing it for dessert. Blame conventional baking and its eggs, milk, butter. The vegan baking I knew used shelf stable ingredients like maple syrup and applesauce, peanut butter and coconut milk. I had a feeling it was the perfect fit, the something that was missing from the baking aisle. The almost homemade, the modern, healthier version of a baking mix. The anti-Pinterest fail, if you will.

If you asked me five years ago what I would be doing with my life, I probably would have said singing high notes. I was an opera singer looking for more until I fell madly in love with baking, which started as a hobby to defray from the stress of my job, that is, until I’d made plans to launch the company. At that point it was a total takeover. I’d run home and bake at night, sometimes until one, two, three in the morning as I began to develop recipes for Cake in a Crate, starting by adapting my grandma’s recipes from the 50’s and working my way through vegan baking bibles like Fran’s until I was able to whip up, convert, develop almost anything. (Vanilla frosting still evades me).


Cake in a CrateAll that said, becoming a vegan entrepreneur didn’t happen overnight. I had loads of research to do, other business owners to meet, advisors, numbers, pitch decks, start-up competitions, all of which I’d never done. I bought a camera and taught myself photography. I took my handwritten notes and broke them down into blog posts and recipes. I set up our first production facility in Brooklyn and all the systems to go with it. Next I set to work making connections with good food brands, brands like Bob’s Red Mill, Justin’s Nut Butters, Soom Tahini. I connected with a blogger friend of my fiancé’s, who just so happened to win last year’s Saveur awards, and she pitched the idea of a blogger crate. I liked her brand and her chutzpah, so we brought her on board. It was slow to start, but it caught up fast with one realization: if we let our bloggers sell a piece of themselves to their readers, it would give them a new way to engage their audience beyond the website, beyond the cookbook, even. Once they tried Cake in a Crate, they kept coming back, not just for more dessert, but for more personalities. And so it went, which has led to the state of things today: nine bloggers, a dozen major brands, and a dedicated team of administrators, producers, and a network of 30+ gifted test bakers to make sure everything runs smoothly and produces the best dessert possible, from our beautifully photographed recipe cards to our perfectly measured ingredients to the droolworthy Instagram photos our customers share. Hint: the key to running a successful vegan business lies largely in customer satisfaction. If it tastes great and looks great, they will come!

Cake in a Crate’s most recent baking kit is a collaboration with Heartbeet Kitchen, a vegetable-forward gluten-free blog from my native Minnesota, on a tried-and-true Midwest dessert: Scotcheroos, better described as peanut butter caramel Rice Krispie treats topped in chocolate.. The traditional recipe calls for corn syrup, sugary cereal, and white sugar. Ours uses dates, brown rice syrup, brown rice crisps, and dark chocolate to achieve even better results, topped with a sprinkling of Maldon salt. You’ve got to try this one. Trust me on this.


Cake in a Crate Asha is giving away a Salty Date Caramel Scotcheroos Cake in a Crate baking kit for one lucky reader. Each Cake in a Crate includes a four-page step-by-step recipe card and every single ingredient, perfectly measured, to create the vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar-free dessert of your dreams. Follow the instructions below to enter for a chance to win a Cake in a Crate. Good luck!

Asha Carroll is the creator of Cake in a Crate and the author of the blog The Plant-Based Baker. An award-winning baker, her recipe development, photography, and collaborations with food bloggers have earned Cake in a Crate mentions in Food & Wine, Real Simple, The Kitchn, and on numerous podcasts, radio, and television interviews. Asha divides her time between Vermont and New York City. In her former life, she was an opera singer.


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