Chef Fran Costigan

Vegan Brigaderios

Fran Costigan's Vegan Brigaderios

I was glued to the TV coverage of the 2016 Olympics in Rio last week. Swimming and gymnastics have always been my favorites of the summer competitions, but this year I marveled at the white water rafting, volleyball, and pretty much everything else.

So with Brazil, and Rio in particular, on my mind, I was thinking about my friend and colleague chef Daniel Biron and his brand new restaurant Teva in Rio. Opened just a few days, it is already garnering raves. I was very interested when Anna Paula, another Brazilian friend told me about about brigadeiro, saying this very sweet fudgy confection is a staple sweet at children’s birthday parties in Brazil.

Since brigaderios are typically made from sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder, and butter, then rolled into balls and coated with sprinkles, it seemed easy to do – and it was, once I made the vegan sweetened condensed milk. I couldn’t see why butter was needed in the mixture or to coat my hands before rolling, which is typically done, so I left those steps out. I did use more cocoa powder than most recipes specified.


vegan dulce de leche

Sweetened Condensed Milk is becoming more like Dulce de Leche.

The vegan sweetened condensed milk was easy but it does take time, as the milk has to reduce for over an hour. I decided to take the condensed milk to dulce de leche by reducing it further, thinking the thicker, taster cooked milk would work best. Then, making the fudgy base was easy.

Anna Paula’s mother who was visiting from Brazil, gave these thumbs up. I hope you will too!


Fran Costigan's Vegan BrigaderiosVegan Brigaderios

The National Truffle of Brazil

Yield: about 1 cup fudge base, 12 to 14 brigadeiros

There are many recipes for brigadeiros. Even with the large amount of sugar, this version is still less sweet than traditional versions. This recipe is long, but trust me, it’s just dulce de leche and cocoa. The dulce can be made ahead and refrigerated in a covered container for two weeks.

Tips for Success
Freeze the brigadeiro mixture before shaping the truffles. If they get too soft to shape at any point, put them back into the freezer. Plan to wash and dry your hands a few times. Keeping the fudge very cold, and using plastic wrap to push the fudge into balls is helpful.

For the Dulce de Leche

  • 3 1/4 cups soy milk
  • 1 1/4 cups organic cane sugar (or use coconut sugar)
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Brigaderios

  • 1/4 cup Dutched or natural cocoa powder. Here it is a matter of taste. I used Dutched.
  • 1/2 cup vegan sprinkles, coconut flakes, and chopped nuts to coat, or as needed
  • small paper candy cups


Make the Dulce de Leche

  1. Combine all of the ingredients except the vanilla in a large heavy bottom saucepan. The wider the saucepan, the faster the milk will reduce. Have a 4-cup measure ready near the stove.
  2. Bring the milk, sugar, and salt to a low boil over medium low heat. Immediately reduce the heat to low, adjusting heat as needed to maintain an active simmer. Simmer for 1 hour, whisking often.
  3. After about 30 minutes you will see the bubbles in the milk get more active and bigger, even on lowest heat, while the milk gets darker as it caramelizes.
  4. At 45 minutes, pour the milk into the measuring cup. Whisk until the bubbling stops and measure. You want 1 cup, so cooking longer is likely. It took 1 1/4 hours until my milk was fully reduced. Cook as long as needed. Once the milk has fully reduced, remove from the heat and add the vanilla.
  5. Either proceed to making the brigaderios, or cool and refrigerate the dulce de leche in a covered jar until needed.


Fran Costigan's Briagadarios  – Cooking the Mixture

Make the Brigaderios

  1. Whisk the cocoa powder into warm dulce de leche in two additions. Chocolate mixtures burn easily, so stir constantly with both a silicon spatula and whisk, reaching the sides and bottom of the saucepan. The bottom of the saucepan will film but it should not burn.
  2. Cook at an active simmer for 5 minutes until the fudge is thick and shiny. Put a very small amount into a little dish and refrigerate 10 minutes to test. Cover the saucepan to keep the mixture warm. If the test can be pushed into a ball, albeit a soft and sticky one, scrape it into a shallow container lined with plastic wrap, and allow to cool. Freeze a few hours. If the test is much too soft, cook a minute or two longer.


Fran Costigan's Vegan Brigaderios

Shape the Brigaderios

Traditional recipes call for pulling off pieces of the fudge and rolling into balls in buttered hands. I am not buttering my hands, not even with vegan butter.

  1. Have bowls of sprinkles, shredded coconut and chopped nuts ready.
  2. Spoon teaspoon size pieces into the palm of your hand and roll them into balls.
  3. Drop the balls into the sprinkles, coconut flakes, or chopped nuts. and serve in little candy cups. Store the finished brigaderios in the freezer.

I’d like to know if you’ve ever eaten this confection. And if you make these, or the sweetened condensed milk, please let me know.




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V for Veg and Vegan Twinkies

V for Veg by Vance Lehmkuhl

Vance Lehmkuhl is the vegan columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, covering the city’s plant-based food scene in his print column “V for Veg” and the blog “V for Vegan.”

He is also the founder of the eco-pop band Green Beings, whose song “Leftovers,” listing the varieties of food besides meat and dairy, has made multiple appearances on the Dr. Demento Show.

Vance served as political cartoonist for Philadelphia City Paper for 12 years, often writing feature stories as well. For many years he drew the editorial cartoon “Edgy Veggies” for VegNews Magazine, which he named after the caption to a cartoon in his first book The Joy of Soy (Laugh Lines Press).

Vance’s  new book, is a must read for vegheads and vegcurious. V for Veg is a collection of Vance’s vegan food columns written for the Philadelphia Daily News. Filled with his trademark wit, humor, and good information about the vegan/vegetarian/plant-based community in Philadelphia, the book covers many of the events, personalities, restaurants, and industries that have grown up in and around Philadelphia.

The book is divided into categories. The easy stories – that is columns – are short and snappy, making this small paperback perfect to carry and read on the bus, train, or in between appointments. Written in Vance’s trademark snappy style, you will actually learn quite a lot about many topics from the origins of the award winning Vedge restaurant, to how Senator Cory Booker got a to-go vegan Philly Cheesesteak, and if you don’t know jack about jackfruit, you will learn. There are no photos or recipes, but the book is a feast of information served in Vance’s signature snappy style.

With stories about healthful information offered up in engaging style, V for Veg will delight the veg-conscious and may spur many a meat eater to explore the animal-free options now available for feeding all aspects of our lives.

From Vance’s book, here is my recipe for Vegan Twinkies as mentioned in the column on “Recipe Remakes for Vegan Junk Food Junkies.”

Fran Costigan's Vegan Twinkies

Vegan Twinkies

I am committed to making desserts that taste utterly delicious using organic, wholesome ingredients. The recipe for my Twinkie is adapted from The Vanilla Cupcake recipe in my book More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts Naturally. If you can’t find a Twinkie kit, use the more readily available cream canoe cake kits. Watch me making Vegan Twinkies in this video from Better TV:

The Game Plan:
  1.  Make the cream and let it chill for a few hours.
  2.  Make the cakes, cool and chill.
  3.  Fill the cakes.
The Cakes:

Yield: 16 Twinkies (2 pans.) Halve the recipe if you have just 1 pan.


  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons organic cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/3 cup organic vegetable oil, sunflower, safflower, organic canola
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup, Grade B dark amber
  • ¾ cup any plant milk
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar


  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Spray the pan with canola or other nonstick spray very well.
  2. Place a wire mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Add the pastry flour, AP flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to the strainer. Stir to sift the dry ingredients into the bowl. Whisk to distribute the ingredients.
  3. Whisk the oil, maple syrup, plant milk, vanilla, and vinegar in a separate bowl until well blended. Pour into the dry mixture and  whisk until the batter is smooth.
  4. Fill each cup about 1/3 full (about 3 tablespoons of batter each). Bake for 16 to 17 minutes, until the cakes are golden and a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  5. Cool the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Run a thin knife between the cakes and the inside of the cup and lift each onto the rack to cool completely. Chill before filling.
The Cream Filling:

Yield: 1 ½ cups


  • 7 ounces firm tofu, drained (simmer in water for 5 minutes first)
  • 4 teaspoons natural vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup,
  • 3 tablespoons raw light agave syrup
  • 6 tablespoons  organic cane sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon very finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 1/2 ounces of vegan white chocolate melted
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot dissolved in 6 tablespoons soy creamer


You will need a food processor. Remember this tip: Tofu based creams must be pureed until absolutely smooth and creamy. If properly made, there will be absolutely no taste of tofu.

  1. Crumble the tofu into a food processor and process for 1 minute. Add the oil and process 1 minute.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients except the arrowroot, and process 3 to 4 minutes, until the mixture is very smooth and creamy. Stop the processor a few times and clean the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  3. Taste and add more sugar for a sweeter whip. Stir the dissolved arrowroot to release any starch that has settled to the bottom.
  4. Pour into a small saucepan and cook, whisking frequently over medium heat until the mixture reaches a full boil. It will be very thick and gummy. Immediately remove the saucepan from the stove. Add to the cream and pulse to incorporate.
  5. Process until the cream is smooth. Spoon the cream into a container. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or longer to allow the flavors to blend. The cream will thicken slightly as it chills but it is not a stiff cream.
Assemble the Cakes:
  1. Use a pastry tip, large straw, or chopstick to poke 3 holes into the bottom of each cake. Remove a plug of cake, but don’t go all the way through the cake.
  2. Fit a12-inch pastry bag with a star or round (¼ inch opening) tip and fill with cream. Slowly squeeze about one tablespoon into each hole. The cakes will seem to expand. Don’t worry if the other side of the cake cracks a little. Refrigerate the filled cakes in a covered container.
  3. Serve at room temperature.



I have a copy of V for Veg for one lucky reader. Follow the instructions below to enter. U.S. residents only, please. Contest ends at midnight eastern time on August 23rd. Good luck!


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Ellen Kanner Breaks out the Beans to Celebrate the International Year of Pulses

Ellen Kanner Breaks out the Beans to Celebrate the International Year of Pulses

Ellen Kanner is the award-winning author of Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for DinnerShe is also Huffington Post’s Meatless Monday blogger, a Miami Herald syndicated columnist, and a recipe developer for numerous publications. With her personal food consulting service Veg Therapy, she helps people make more conscious food choices, and as a Miami EatWith host, she gathers others at her table and serves up plant-based feasts. Ellen is a firm believer in using fresh produce and always noting the nutritional benefits of foods such as pulses, you know–beans!  I’m lucky, and often laughing, when I get a chance to hang with my friend Ellen. Get to know her. Thank you, Ellen, for writing this month’s guest blog post and including an e book giveaway.


The United Nations has declared 2016 to be the International Year of Pulses. Call them pulses, call them dried beans, call them legumes, I love them by every name.

I do not sell beans for a living, I’m not fourth generation bean farmer, I didn’t grow up in a bean-eating family. So how did I get to be the priestess of pulses, our lady of legumes?

Beans and I have a lot in common— we’re small but powerful, we multitask, we overdeliver. For starters, pulses offer heaps of amino acids, fiber, phytonutrients and are my favorite source of plant-based protein. Black beans out-protein beef, and a new study confirms beans provide the same happy satisfaction of beef without the cow, cruelty, cholesterol or extra calories.

They nourish us, they also nourish the planet. Beans are one of the few crops that actually improve the soil, with little nodules on their roots that take in nitrogen. They’re plant-based fertilizer. As a business model, pulses offer a great bottom line — they’re low carbon, low water, high yield. Growing a pound of beans requires a tenth of the resources it takes to produce a pound of beef. They’re drought-tolerant and heat- tolerant.

Let’s not forget delicious. From classic Egyptian ful to New Orleans RBR (red beans and rice), every culture has a bean recipe that fills the belly and stretches the budget. A bean burrito and hummus-stuffed pita are separated by only a few clicks. Caribbean pigeon peas and rice has African origins. So does that Southern staple, hopping john, A wat, the beany mainstay of Ethiopian cuisine, Greek fava dip and Brit fave peas porridge are all legumes cooked down to their divine beanly essence. They’re the most versatile thing in your kitchen, the little black dress of cuisine, costing about $.10 per serving, as compared to $1.50 for a serving of beef. This is where I get especially passionate, not just because I’m cheap. There’s well over 7 billion of us on the planet now,   By 2050, we’ll reach 9 billion. And we all need to eat. Beans make it possible to feed everyone well.

Okay, you’re thinking, but are they sexy? Yes, they are. Pulses are an age-old symbol of fertility. And desire. Back in 400 AD, the Latin priest Saint Jerome warned all of Rome about the dangers of black beans. He even forbid the nuns of his church to eat, cook or even touch them. He said, “They tickle the genitals.” Happily, the Italians didn’t listen. Beans are so much a part of Italian culture and cuisine, the Florentines call themselves mangia fagioli — bean-eaters.

We should all mangia fagioli. They’re the real deal. They connect us to our culinary traditions, they connect us to who we are and to each other. And who knows, they may even tickle the genitals.

 Ellen Kanner's Fireworks Black Bean and Mango SaladFireworks Black Bean and Mango Salad

This summer recipe marries black beans with seasonal produce for a big flavor, no fuss, no cook, no fat significant salad. It makes for a quick weeknight dinner, it’s pretty and sturdy enough for buffets and picnics, too.

More Ellen Kanner pulse recipes at Beans: A Handful of Magic .


  • 1 jalapeno, minced (wear gloves when handling chilies — really. Yes, even you.)
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped fine
  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained (or 4 cups cooked black beans)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (about 1/2 lime)
  • 2 mangoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 3-4 cups fresh greens like spinach, arugula or frisee
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) for garnish, optional but adding fabulous crunch, not to mention goodly amounts of manganese and magnesium


  1. In a large bowl, gently mix together jalapeno, diced red pepper and celery. Add the black beans and combine well.
  2. Add the cumin and the lime and toss to coat.
  3. Just before serving, add the chopped mangoes and chopped cilantro.
  4. Season to taste. Place atop greens and serve at once, garnishing with toasted pepitas, if you like (and you will).

Serves 4 to 6.


Ellen Kanner is the award-winning soulful vegan author of F​eeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner (​VegNews’ 2013 Book of the Year, PETA’s debut Book of the Month Club pick), Huffington Post’s Meatless Monday blogger, Miami Herald syndicated columnist the Edgy Veggie and vegan writer for numerous publications. She runs the personal food consulting service Veg Therapy. An ardent advocate for sustainable, accessible food, Ellen serves on multiple Miami boards. More at​:​ ​


Beans: A Handful of Magic by Ellen KannerEllen has a copy of her ebook Beans: A Handful of Magic for one lucky reader. Beans: A Handful of Magic celebrates beans with easy plant-based recipes from around the globe. From Caribbean pigeon peas and rice to Greek fava dip, they magically add inexpensive oomph to meals and provide deep, satisfying sustenance.

Follow the instructions below to enter for a chance to win Beans: A Handful of Magic by Ellen Kanner. Contest ends at midnight on August 16th. Good luck!


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