Chef Fran Costigan

The Blender Girl Review, Recipe and Giveaway


“Hi, my name is Tess and I am a blendaholic” says Tess Masters, aka, The Blender Girl of the wildly popular website of the same name. Tess just released her first cookbook, also titled The Blender Girl.


As you’d expect from the title, there are plenty of blended beverages in this user friendly book, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to continue to chew your food! There are also recipes for as staples like dips, sauces, and condiments that can transform a simple plate of steamed vegetables, a salad, sandwiches, or other “sink your teeth into it” foods from bland to brilliant. Recipes for savory dishes include Fresh Spring Rolls with Orange-Almond Sauce, Twisted Caesar Pleaser, Spicy Chickpea Burgers with Portobello Buns and Greens, and I-Love-Veggies! Bake. Her desserts are out of this world, with recipes for  such treats as Chocolate-Chile Banana Spilly, Flourless Triple-Pecan Mousse Pie, and Chai Rice Pudding.


The recipes are definitely easy to make, foolproof when you follow Tess’s clear directions, and they are delicious, but I was surprised–in a good way– by the amount of food education found in the book. Nut-milk cheat sheets, soaking and sprouting charts, nutrient guides, and resources for finding ingredients are all in the book. While Tess uses the gold-standard Vitamix blenders, the book lists and compares other brands, including those that are considerably expensive.  Tess assures that any blender will successfully make the recipes in her book.


If you’ve seen Tess do a demo as I have—wow–you know she is a woman who exudes health, vitality, and enthusiasm. Her book, The Blender Girl, is like having Tess cheering you on in your kitchen.


As I make desserts nearly everyday, I am always on the lookout for healthy fruit and veg heavy blended drinks. I was drawn to the Anti-oxidant Avenger by the recipe’s name alone, but the photograph of this jewel tone beverage sealed the deal. I made it and trusted Tess’s promise: “Every recipe can easily be adjusted to your personal taste: add an extra squeeze of this, another handful of that, or leave something out altogether— my recipes are super easy and forgiving, so you can’t mess them up.” I did not have macqui in my pantry so I used a teaspoon of maca instead. The beverage was delicious and good for me.


Antioxidant Avenger

Antioxidant Avenger 

Serves 2


  • ½ cup (120ml) coconut water
  • ½ teaspoon probiotic powder (optional)
  • 1 packet (3.5 ounces/100g) frozen acai pulp, or 2 tablespoons dried acai powder
  • 2 teaspoons maqui powder
  • 2 cups (320g) mixed fresh or frozen berries (1/2 cup each of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries)
  • ½ cup (85g) red seedless grapes
  • 1 ripe pear, skin on, cored and diced
  • ½ teaspoon minced ginger (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon finely grated orange zest (optional)
  • 1 cup (125g) ice cubes
  • 1 chopped pitted date, soaked

Throw everything into your blender and puree on high for 30 to 60 seconds, until smooth and creamy. Tweak the sweetness to taste.

Tess has been kind enough to give me a book to share with a lucky reader. To enter to win, follow the instructions below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Recipe and photos reprinted with permission from The Blender Girl by Tess Masters, copyright (c) 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC.

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Weekend Plans & Beyond

The Seed

The Seed Experience

August 9th and 10th |  10am – 6pm  |  82 Mercer St, Soho, New York City

The Seed is back for it’s third year celebrating a plant-based lifestyle. Munch on scrumptious food from local restaurants, get inspired by world-renowned speakers, champion athletes, and top chefs, discover the fun new products and services, and much more.

Join me at my Desserts Cooking Demo Sunday August 10th at 2pm and taste the Mini Gluten-free Brownie Bites from Vegan Chocolate – and likely some other surprises.  Copies of Vegan Chocolate and More Great Good Dairy Free Desserts Naturally will be available for purchase at a discount. I’d love to sign your copy!
I’ll bring bookplates to sign too if you already have your book!

Friends of Chef Fran receive 50% by visiting the seed website and using the code “seed50.”

Get your tickets here. Hope to see you there!



Cowspiracy: Tickets to the premiere are available. 

Thursday, August 21st | 7:00pm | AMC Village 7, 66 3rd Ave, New York City

COWSPIRACY: The Sustainability Secret” is a groundbreaking feature-length environmental documentary following an intrepid filmmaker as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today, and investigates why the world’s leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about it.

This documentary will be as eye-opening as “Blackfish” and as inspiring as “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Get your tickets hereWatch for news about the After-Party)



What I’m reading this month: The Blender Girl cookbook, Choosing Raw, and The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook

Reviews and giveaways coming soon!


Baking bookcamp

My Vegan Baking Boot Camp starts in just two weeks! Students are coming from across the U.S., Mexico, and Haiti and …other faraway from NYC places. That’s because everyone eats desserts and this course, a certificate course, is the only vegan pastry arts program in the world!  I am very excited. I love “Boot” and I’m looking forward to meeting the new group. I’ll be assisted on Day4  by Boot grad, chef -owner of Simply Home Goods, Chef Dawn Pascale and on Day5 by boot grad and cake artist Sabrina Ravello, cake designer extraordinaire. Check out her company, Sweet Inspirations.

Lots of food porn to come.




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Chocolate Date Thick Shake

Chocolate Date Thick Shake LR

Chocolate Date Thick Shake

Not far from the magnificent Joshua Tree National Park  where I hiked with my children, California dates reign supreme,  and the Date Shake at the amazing Hadley’s Fruit Orchard is said to be the best in the world. Expect long lines if you want one of those ultra-popular date shakes—especially the chocolate ones. I guess I can be grateful in one regard: Since ice cream is the base of Hadley’s creamy shakes and I am a vegan, there would be no waiting in line for me. But I did get to watch as pitted Deglet Noor dates were blended into vanilla ice cream and milk and served up to throngs of people.

Years later, inspiration came from my desserts demonstration at the New York Veg Food Fest and my brand- new high-speed Vitamix blender. As I was figuring out how to make a thick and creamy, no-apologies vegan version, I enjoyed every sip along the way. In this recipe, the dates serve as more than a sweetener  so their taste should be evident. If using a high-speed blender, the shake will be thick and creamy in a flash. If using a standard blender, process the nuts, dates, and ice in batches.

Note: It is essential to check every single pitted date for a stray pit or, as I found one morning, a moldy one. Dried dates are sticky, so be sure to rinse them before soaking. If raw does not matter to you and you want to save time, the cashews and the dates can be soaked in boiling water for 2 to 3 hours. But no matter what method you choose, do not discard the soaking water! It is sweet,luscious liquid gold. I often peel soaked dates (I am not in the majority here), but this is a date shake and pieces of skin are just fine.

Makes 1 Large Luscious Serving 


  • 3/4 cup / 110 grams whole raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup packed / 115 grams any pitted dried dates
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or seeds from half a vanilla bean
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons / 45 to 60 ml All-Purpose Chocolate Syrup (recipe follows)
  • 1 1/2 cups / 210 grams ice cubes


  1. Rinse the cashews in a strainer, then put in a container and add enough water to cover the cashews by 2 to 3 inches. Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours or overnight.
  2. Rinse the dates in a strainer. Put the dates into a container. Add enough water to cover them by 2 inches. Soak the dates for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature or refrigerate them for up to 2 days (or cover the dates with boiling water and they will be ready to use in about 1 hour).
  3. Drain and rinse the cashews. Put them in a blender and add 3/4 cup / 180 ml water, which will barely cover the nuts. Start the blender on low and increase to high speed. Blend until the cashew cream is perfectly smooth. This will happen quickly in a high-speed blender but can be done in a standard blender in two batches and with longer blending.
  4. Drain the dates in a strainer set over a measuring cup, saving the liquid. Add the dates, 3/4 cup of the soaking liquid, and the vanilla to the cashew cream and blend until completely smooth.
  5. Add 2 tablespoons / 30 ml of the chocolate sauce and the ice and blend until frothy. Taste and add more sauce or ice to taste.
  6. Pour into a tall glass and serve immediately.


All-Purpose Chocolate Syrup

Makes 1 Cup / 240 Ml


  • 3/4 cup / 84 grams Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup plus 6 tablespoons / 270 ml boiling water, divided
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon / 124 grams organic granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon / 15 ml pure maple syrup, Grade B or dark amber
  • 3/4 teaspoon / 3.75 ml pure vanilla extract


  1. Sift the cocoa powder into a medium saucepan. Pour 3/4cup / 180 ml of the boiling water over the cocoa. Stir with a silicone spatula to moisten the cocoa. (The paste need not be smooth.) Remove from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes while the cocoa blooms.
  2. Whisk the remaining 6 tablespoons / 90 ml of very hot water into the cocoa paste and add a pinch of salt. Cook over low heat, stirring with the silicone spatula for 2 minutes, making sure to reach the bottom and sides of the saucepan.
  3. Add the sugar and maple syrup, and continue to cook over lowest heat for another minute. Taste the syrup carefully: it will be hot. If you want sweeter syrup, add another tablespoon each of sugar and water. When small bubbles start to form around the sides, it is time to turn off the heat. Stir the vanilla into the syrup.
  4. Cool the syrup to room temperature in the saucepan, stirring once or twice while the syrup cools.


Store the syrup in a covered jar in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. Add a little very hot water to adjust the consistency, if needed.



From Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts, © 2013 by Fran Costigan. Photo © Kate Lewis 2013





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Sneak Peek from Nava’s Plant Power

Plant power

My dear friend and colleague, Nava Atlas is a bestselling vegan cookbook author and the founder of Her highly anticipated new book, Plant Power: Transform Your Kitchen, Plate, and Life with More Than 150 Fresh and Flavorful Vegan Recipes is launching on September 2nd and is available for preorder now. Plant Power is packed with customizable recipes, and step-by-step guides that are appropriate for everyone–beginners, experienced cooks, vegan, and otherwise. The talent behind the 75 beautiful color photographs is celebrated author and food photographer, Hannah Kaminsky.

When the book launches officially, I will do a full review and giveaway contest. For now, as a sneak peek, Nava graciously shared a recipe from the book with me today, and I am now sharing it with you. Enjoy! I did.




Vegan Niçoise-Style Salad

Salade niçoise is a beautifully composed salad of French origin that looks fancy but is incredibly easy to make. The traditional version is often made with tuna, but here the fish is replaced with baked tofu, which makes a great stand-in. And the array of ingredients—white beans or chickpeas, slender green beans, tomatoes, and olives—makes it a splendid main dish salad for a summer meal, either on busy weeknights or festive occasions. Recipe from Plant Power: Transform Your Kitchen, Plate, and Life with More Than 150 Fresh and Flavorful Vegan Recipes by Nava Atlas. ©2014, published by HarperOne, reprinted by permission. Photos by Hannah Kaminsky.   Serves: 4 to 6

  • 8 to 10 ounces fresh slender green beans, trimmed (see Note)
  • 1 large head Boston or Bibb lettuce, torn, or mixed baby greens
  • Sliced fresh basil leaves or chopped fresh parsley as desired
  • 8-ounce package baked tofu, diced, or 1 recipe Baked Tofu Teriyaki or 8 ounces combined baked tofu and dense herbed tofu
  • 1 heaping cup grape or cherry tomatoes, or diced ripe fresh tomatoes
  • 15- to 16-ounce can cannellini beans or chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • Pitted green or black olives, or a combination
  • Sliced red onion to taste, optional
  • Vinaigrette, homemade or storebought, to taste

Steam the green beans just until bright green and tender-crisp. Err on the side of undercooking rather than overcooking. Drain and rinse with cool water until they’re at room temperature.

On a large serving platter or large shallow serving bowl, arrange the lettuce or greens. Scatter the basil or parsley over it. Arrange the green beans, tofu, tomatoes, beans, and olives in separate mounds over the lettuce or greens.

Top everything with a few thinly sliced rings of red onion if you like. Drizzle a little vinaigrette over the salad, then serve at once, passing the remainder of the vinaigrette at the table.

Note: If fresh slender green beans are unavailable, use organic whole green beans, thawed and steamed just until tender-crisp.

Nutrition information:  Per serving (without dressing): Calories: 233; Total fat: 8g; Protein: 17g; Carbohydrates: 26g; Fiber: 9g; Sodium: 655mg


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Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream with a Chocolate Shell

Chocolate Ice Cream Shell

Mint on mint! Truthfully, until I developed the Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream recipe in Vegan Chocolate, I wasn’t a fan of mint-flavored ice creams. This avocado based ice cream (come on, don’t turn up your noses!) changed my mind, and it’smade even better with a crunchy-chewy coating of mint-kissed Chocolate Shell. Note that the ice cream pictured here is the Chocolate Coconut  Ice Cream in Vegan Chocolate. The point being, make and eat any flavor you like, but eat ice cream- it’s summer! And embellish it.

Chocolate Shell refers to the magical liquid chocolate elixir that hardens on contact with ice cream. Remember Brown Bonnet cones?  Mine were from Carvel. The topping couldn’t be easier to make, and like the ice cream, it’s vegan.

Most recipes for chocolate shells use coconut oil. While this recipe works with coconut oil, my taste buds like a mild tasting extra virgin olive oil better. I use extra virgin Everyday Oil from California Olive Ranch, but any mild tasting oil will do—or use coconut oil, of course. With just three ingredients (and that’s counting the vanilla extract) and a few minutes, you’ve got “magic” chocolate shell to use or keep in the refrigerator. Make it–you’ll like it, minty, straight-up chocolate or flavored with other culinary oils.

We can’t talk about  ice cream toppings without mentioning Hot Fudge Sauce. (You’ll find a recipe for Hot Fudge in Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts.)

Recently the New York Times published Julie Moskin’s recipe for Chocolate Ganache as a topping alternative to Hot Fudge. It’s a terrific idea, and if  you’re like me, you always have a container of ganache in your refrigerator or freezer. I use the beautifully versatile ganache to make truffles, and to glaze or spread over cakes. Warmed in a water bath until pourable, ganache is definitely delectable on ice cream. Julie’s recipe was for a pretty classic ganache made with heavy cream and 1/4 cup of white sugar. Contrast that with my vegan version, which is rich, glossy, definitely  chocolate, but made wtih only 1 tablespoon of (organic) sugar and cholesterol-free plant milk. Plus, without the excess fat you get a more direct chocolate hit. I have learned this to be true over many years and a rather famous but cannot be named traditonal pastry chef told me he agrees.


Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

I like avocados for their taste, texture, and healthy nutritional profile. I eat them in salads, on crusty dense bread, mashed into a chunky guacamole, or simply halved and sprinkled with lime juice and flaked sea salt. Then, there is avocado- based ice cream! You may have already enjoyed some of the naturally vegan avocado ice creams that are standard fare in Mexico and other countries, and if you have, you know the good fat in this fruit churns into ultra creamy frozen desserts. You won’t notice the slightly vegetal flavor of the fruit if you use just-ripe—not very ripe—fruit. But don’t worry too much: It’s the chocolate and mint that you’ll taste the most. As a New Yorker with limited avocado choices, I use the creamy, neutral-flavored but rich Hass from California.


Makes about 1 1/2 pints / 
3/4 liter ice cream

  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons / 390 ml almond milk
  • 1 1/4 cups / 300 ml agave syrup or pure maple syrup, Grade B or dark amber
  • 1 cup / 150 grams just-ripe Hass avocado, mashed (about 1/2 an average-size fruit)
  • 1/4 cup / 25 grams Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon / 5 ml pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon natural mint oil or 3/8 teaspoon mint extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon guar gum
3 ounces / 85 grams vegan mint chocolate, finely chopped
1 recipe Mint Chocolate Ice Cream Shell (recipe follows), for serving (optional)


Process the almond milk, agave, avocado, cocoa powder, vanilla, and mint oil in a blender on high for 1 minute or until completely puréed.

Sprinkle the guar gum directly on the mixture. Blend on low for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to high and blend for 1 minute. Taste the mixture. The mint should be strong but not overpowering. Add more mint oil cautiously, drop by drop, if needed.

Pour the purée into a 2-cup / 500-ml measure. Add enough almond milk to equal 2 cups / 480 ml.

Pour the ice cream base into a 2-cup / 500-ml container. Cover and refrigerate the base for 2 to 4 hours until thoroughly chilled before churning. Chilling the base thoroughly means faster churning, which results in a creamier frozen dessert.

When the mixture is cold, give it a good whisk. Pour into an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s directions. It will look like soft serve when it is ready. Add the chopped chocolate and process for another minute or two.

Using a silicone spatula, immediately transfer the frozen ice cream to the chilled container. Cover tightly and freeze for at least 3 hours until the ice cream is firm enough to scoop.


Serve the ice cream in chilled bowls. Add a few tablespoons of Mint Chocolate Ice Cream Shell if you like.


The ice cream will stay creamy for at least five days in the freezer.


Chocolate Ice Cream Shell

Makes 1 cup / 240 ml

  • 7 ounces / 198 grams dark chocolate (68 to 70%), finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons / 30 ml mild tasting extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl and set it in a saucepan of very hot water over the lowest heat. Allow the chocolate to melt undisturbed until about two-thirds is melted.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir with a silicone spatula until all the chocolate is melted. Stir the oil into the chocolate until incorporated. Add the vanilla.

Keep the shell in liquid form until ready to pour over the ice cream— do not refrigerate.


Spoon a few tablespoons of the liquid shell over a dish of ice cream and wait a few seconds until it magically hardens. The liquid sauce will turn into a firm chocolate shell within a few seconds of touching ice cream and will turn matte when it hardens.


Store the Chocolate Ice Cream Shell in a jar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. It will harden. To warm before using: place the jar in a small saucepan. Pour hot water to reach about halfway up the sides of the jar and warm over the lowest heat until liquefied.



Mint Shell: Add 2 or 3 drops of pure mint or use or 1⁄4 teaspoon good quality mint extract,  or to taste.

With appreciation,


P.S. What’s your favorite way to eat ice cream?



From Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts, © 2013 by Fran Costigan. Photo © Kate Lewis 2013




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Raspberry Chocolate Silk Tart

Raspberry Chocolate Silk Tart

Raspberry Chocolate Silk Tart

Raspberries and dark chocolate look beautiful together and taste even better, especially if you follow my few caveats to ensure the chocolate will not overpower the raspberry flavor. I don’t cook the raspberries, and I use frozen unsweetened berries instead of fresh—even in season—when making the purée (called a coulis). Mixing a good-quality seedless raspberry jam or straining the seeded kind into the purée adds even more raspberry flavor. Save the fresh seasonal berries for the top of the tart, using a mix of golden and red berries for a stunning presentation.

Makes one 9 to 91⁄2-inch / 23 to 24-cm tart

  • 7 ounces / 198 grams dark chocolate (66 to 70%), finely chopped
  • 3 ⁄4 cup / 180 ml canned unsweetened full-fat coconut milk, well-stirred (do not use light)
  • 1 ⁄4 cup / 50 grams organic granulated sugar
  • 1 ⁄4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 ⁄2 cup / 61 grams frozen raspberries
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 ⁄4 cup / 105 ml seedless raspberry jam, divided
1 tablespoon / 15 ml framboise (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon / 15 ml mild tasting extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon / 5 ml pure vanilla extract
  • 1 Almond Cookie Crust, baked in a tart pan with a removable bottom and cooled (Recipe Follows)
  • 1 ⁄2 to 1 pint / 250 to 500 ml fresh raspberries, red and golden, for garnish (optional)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons / 12 to 18 grams organic confectioners’ sugar for garnish (optional)

Put the chocolate into a medium heatproof bowl and set aside until needed.

In a small saucepan, bring the coconut milk, sugar, and salt to a low boil over medium heat, stirring a few times as the milk heats. Strain the hot milk through a fine mesh strainer directly into the chocolate. Swirl the bowl to ensure the chocolate is submerged. Cover the bowl with a plate and set aside undisturbed for 4 minutes.

While the chocolate mixture sits, make the raspberry coulis: Mash the frozen raspberries with a fork and press them through a small fine mesh sieve into a small bowl (you should have about 3 tablespoons / 45 ml of purée). Stir 3 tablespoons / 45 ml of the raspberry jam and the framboise (if using) into the purée and set aside until needed. The coulis (purée) can be made ahead; use at room temperature.

Uncover the bowl of chocolate and whisk from the center out until the ganache is smooth. Stir the raspberry coulis, olive oil, and vanilla into the ganache.

Assemble The Tart

Mix the remaining 1⁄4cup / 60 ml of the raspberry jam and 1⁄3cup / 80 ml of the ganache in a small bowl and spread over the crust. Chill briefly until the ganache is set. Pour the remaining raspberry ganache into the tart crust, and slowly rotate the tart to level the top. Chill until the filling is set.



Garnish the tart with fresh raspberries and a sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar if you like. For the neatest slices, cut the tart cold, but serve at room temperature.



The assembled tart can be refrigerated for up to two days. Add the fruit and sugar garnish just before serving.


Almond Cookie Crust

Combine finely ground nuts with flour, sweetener, and flavorings; bind the mixture with just enough fat; press the crumb into a removable-bottom tart pan; bake, and let cool. That’s all you need to do before you can load tender crust up with any unbaked creamy filling or even ice cream. Using a removable-bottom tart pan makes the prettiest presentation, but you can bake the crust in a well-oiled pie pan instead.

Makes one (9 to 91⁄2-inch / 23 to 24-cm) crust or six (4-inch / 10-cm) tarts

  • 1/2 cup / 64 grams organic all-purpose flour
1/2 cup / 70 grams organic whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 cup / 106 grams whole unpeeled almonds, toasted cooled
  • 1/4 cup / 60 ml mild tasting extra-virgin olive oil or organic neutral vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup / 60 ml pure maple syrup, Grade B or dark amber
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons / 7.5 ml pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Place a 9-inch / 23-cm tart pan with a removable bottom on a baking sheet. A nonstick pan is highly recommended; and it still needs to be lightly oiled. If using a regular pan, coat thoroughly with oil or cooking spray.

Place a wire mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Add the all-purpose flour, pastry flour, cinnamon, and salt to the strainer and stir with a whisk to sift the ingredients into the bowl. (If any small bits remain in the strainer, add them to the mixture in the bowl.) Whisk to aerate the mixture.

Grind the almonds to a fine meal in a food processor. Do not process longer or the nuts will be oily. Stir the ground almonds into the flour mixture.

Whisk the oil, maple syrup, and vanilla and almond extracts in a small bowl until completely combined. Pour over the dry mixture and mix with a silicone spatula until the crumbs are evenly moistened and a small amount squeezed between your fingers sticks together. In the unlikely case that it does not, add a little more maple syrup. If it is still too dry, add a little more oil.

Spoon the dough into the tart pan. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the crust and use a flat- bottomed glass or cup to press the dough into an even layer on the bottom and up the sides of the pan, making the bottom a little thicker than the sides. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. While it chills, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 ̊F / 190 ̊C.

Place the baking sheet on the center rack, and immediately reduce the temperature to 350 ̊F / 180 ̊C. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the sides are lightly browned and the bottom looks evenly dry. The crust may puff up in a few spots, but do not be concerned. Just push the high spots down lightly after the crust is removed from the oven.

Set the baking sheet on a wire rack. Do not touch the sides of the crust—they are soft and easily broken when hot, but become firm as the crust cools.

Release the sides after 5 minutes: Holding the sides with a dry kitchen cloth, lift the tart pan onto a jar or can. The sides will slip right off. Carefully move the tart crust to the wire rack and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate or freeze until cold before filling.



From Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts, © 2013 by Fran Costigan. Photo © Kate Lewis 2013



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Vanilla Wafer Cookies

Vanilla Wafer Cookies

Several tasters said these cookies reminded them of animal crackers or plain arrowroot cookies. The dough is quite versatile and can be used to make several types of cookies; my favorite variations follow the recipe. 


Vanilla Wafer Cookies
Yield: 2 1/2 dozen (2-inch) cookies


  • 3/4 cup organic unbleached white flour
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot
  • 1/2 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons organic canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup, grade A dark amber or Grade B
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • about 1/2 cup light organic cane sugar, or maple sugar for sprinkling, more or less

Place a wire mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Add the flour, arrowroot, baking powder, and salt to the strainer. Tap the strainer against the palm of your hand to sift the ingredients into the bowl. Stir with a wire whisk to distribute the ingredients.

Whisk the oil, maple syrup, and vanilla in a small bowl until well combined. Pour into the dry mixture and mix with a rubber spatula until the dough is smooth and shiny; it will be soft.

Divide the dough in half, pat each half into a flat disk and wrap each disk in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 1 hour, until the dough is cold enough to roll and cut.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Spread 1⁄2 cup of the sugar on one of the sheets.

Remove one piece of dough from the refrigerator and unwrap it onto a piece of parchment paper. Cover with another piece of parchment paper and roll the dough with a rolling pin into a round or oval shape, about 1⁄4 inch thick. Press a cookie cutter into the dough, making the cuts as close together as possible. Lift the dough remnants from between the cookies; press together, roll out, and cut more cookies. Lightly press the cookies in the sugar and sprinkle the tops of the cookies with sugar as well.

Carefully lift the cookies, using a wide spatula, onto the prepared baking sheet, placing them 1⁄2 inch apart. If the cookies have become too soft to move to the baking sheet, refrigerate for about 15 minutes until chilled and firm.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the cookies look dry and slightly puffed and the bottoms are lightly browned. Set the baking sheet on a rack and cool for 3 minutes, until the cookies are firm enough to move. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool

Roll, cut, bake, and cool the second piece of dough in the same fashion. Store the cookies in a tightly covered tin or jar at room temperature for up to three days.


Sandwich Cookies:
Spread a layer of jam or melted chocolate over the bottoms of half of the cookies. Top each with another cookie (bottom-side down), and press lightly. Refrigerate until the filling is firm, 15 to 20 minutes.

Black and White Cookies:
Dip half of each cookie into melted chocolate. Refrigerate until the chocolate is set, 15 to 20 minutes. Or dip into chocolate first, then into finely chopped nuts or dried, shredded coconut.

Fancy Thins:
Dip the tines of a fork into melted chocolate and allow the chocolate to drip on the cookies, creating a freeform design.

From More Great Good Dairy Free Desserts Naturally, © 2006 by Fran Costigan.




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Summer Solstice Recipe & Book Giveaway

Watermelon with Chocolate Seeds

Frozen Granita Needs No Ice Cream Machine

I am known to my friends and family as the odd one who says, “bring it on” of the summer heat in the city but I love summer and don’t mind the heat and humidity!   I drink lots of water, not iced, and eat lots of watermelon– chunked or sliced and preferably with a healthy  squeeze of lime, my favorite watermelon, tomato, arugula salad and I drink watermelon juice. My favorite iced watermelon treat is the easy to make, refreshing and delicious  Watermelon Granita from Vegan Chocolate. Granitas are typically made by freezing fruity liquid in a shallow pan and scraping the mixture with a fork at regular intervals as it freezes. That’s pretty simple, but I didn’t want to be tied to setting a timer and scraping. I had heard about making granita in a food processor using frozen cubes of fruit purée, and I decided to test the process. It worked perfectly. The granita was fluffy and the watermelon taste shone through.




  • 1 1⁄2 pounds / 680 grams watermelon, cubed and seeded
  • 1⁄4 cup / 50 grams organic granulated sugar, ground in a blender until powdered
  • 1 tablespoon / 15 ml fresh lime juice
  • 1 to 2 ounces / 28 to 57 grams dark chocolate (any percentage), chopped into small chunks for the “seeds” (use more if you like)
  • Flaked sea salt (optional)

1. Purée the watermelon cubes in a food processor or blender and pour into a bowl. (You should have 2 cups / 480 ml of juice.) Add the powdered sugar and lime juice to the purée and whisk briskly until the sugar is dissolved.

2. Pour the mixture into ice cube trays and freeze until hard. This can take up to 24 hours.

3. Make the granita: Put a 2-quart container with a lid into the freezer. Transfer the frozen cubes to a food processor. Limit the number of cubes to no more than a double layer at a time so that the granita does not get slushy. Pulse a dozen or so times in 2 to 3-second bursts until the cubes are finely chopped. The number of pulses will depend on your machine.

4. Scrape the granita into the chilled container, cover the container, and return it to the freezer; repeat with the remaining cubes if necessary.

Serving: The granita is ready to eat right out of the food processor. Serve in chilled bowls and garnish with as many chocolate “seeds” as you like. I believe watermelon benefits from a sprinkling of flaked sea salt, and if you agree, sprinkle a bit over each bowl. Keeping: Freeze the granita in a covered container. For the best flavor and texture, eat the granita within one week. Fluff with a fork before serving.


Photo © Kate Lewis 2013



Elizabeth Castoria, author

HOW TO BE VEGAN by Elizabeth Castoria

Elizabeth’s slim but mighty book had me laughing out loud, nodding yes and underlining many passages with my favorite pink highlighter. I particularly liked Chapter 5: Don’t Be A Jerk, which puts a fresh spin on the usual questions, and explains how to be a good vegan guest and a vegan host. The flowchart for sucessful party planning is brilliant!!  In fact, I found all the graphics and charts in the book to be extremely useful and beautifully designed. The colored-coded produce lists make good sense. 

Then, there is the food of course. Elizabeth says, “Enough talk—It’s time to eat”, and has included 50 enticing recipes, all using familiar ingredients, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and even dessert. Variations are encouraged.

As the book jacket says, How to Be Vegan “Demystifies, destigmatizes and uncomplicates the vegan lifestyle.”

I highly recommend How to Be Vegan to those who are clueless about veganism, or thinking of transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, to new vegans, and long-time vegans (including any of the you aren’t vegan enough vegans), and to everyone who is just looking for a good read.The book makes a perfect gift to give friends and families of vegans.

Elizabeth’s publisher Avery is giving away a copy of How to Be Vegan. Enter below! Contest ends at midnight eastern time on Friday, July 4th.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Rhubarb and Strawberry Dessert Recipe

Mmmm Good!
Ruhbarb Strawberry Crumble from Fran Costigan

Warm from the oven! Rhubarb Strawberry Crumble

  • Detailed notes for this recipe are in the June Newsletter.
  • Use 4 ovenproof  baking dishes, aka ramekins, with a 1-cup capacity, at least 2 inches deep,  3 -inches wide, or adjust filling and topping amounts for other size baking dishes.
  • My preference is always to use organic ingredients and fairtrade sweeteners, but use whatever you like. All-purpose flour can replace the whole-wheat pastry flour, but do not use whole wheat flour.
  • Be Aware: Do your best to find organic berries. Strawberries are on the Dirty Dozen List of foods.
Almost ready to Bake Rhubarb Strawberry Compote

Macerating Strawberries, ready to top the Cooked Rhubarb Compote

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble: Makes 4 serving

Ingredients: The Fruit, Makes 1 – 11/4 cups filling

  • 8 ounces frozen organic strawberries (I buy bags of frozen organic berries)
  • 3/4 cup rhubarb, leaves removed, washed and sliced into 3/4 inch pieces (see notes)
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon organic cane sugar, divided
  • 3 tablespoons organic whole cane sugar (such as Sucanat) or coconut sugar, more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 8 large organic strawberries, washed, hulled, sliced into large chunks

Prepare the Fruit

1. Put the frozen berries into a non-reactive medium saucepan and set aside until they are defrosted.

Cooking Rhubarb Strawberry Compote

Cooking Rhubarb in Strawberry juice

2. While the berries defrost, combine the rhubarb slices and 1/4 cup of the organic cane sugar, the whole cane sugar, and the salt in a medium bowl. Toss to coat the fruit. Set aside for 15 minutes, stirring ever 5 minutes or while the fruit macerates. The sugar will pull liquid from the fruit. Do not discard the juice.

3. Mash the defrosted berries and their juices. Add the macerated rhubarb and any accumulated juice. Add the ginger powder. Cook to a low boil over medium heat and reduce the heat to an active simmer.

4. Simmer about 6 minutes. Taste a bit of the sauce, (which should be just sweet enough) with a piece or two of the rhubarb. The rhubarb should be softened but retain its shape. It may taste quite tart to you. It will become sweeter as it baths in the syrup, but if the taste is making you screw up your face, add another tablespoon or so of sugar now, and cook until it’s dissolved.

Compote of rhubarb and strawberries

Pectin in the fruit thickens the syrup

5. Remove the saucepan from the heat and cover. Set aside for 10 minutes. This will further soften and sweeten the rhubarb. Cool for 1 hour or refrigerate up to 2 days.











Whole Wheat Pastry Flour Crumble

Whole Wheat Pastry Flour Crumble

Make the Crumble: Makes: 1 cup  Note: Freeze any leftover crumb in an airtight container or bag.

Ingredients: Crumble

  • 3/4 cup organic whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1/4 cup organic whole cane sugar (such as Sucanat)
  • 3/4 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons mild tasting extra virgin olive oil, neutral vegetable oil, or liquefied coconut oil
  • 7 ounces, about 8 large fresh organic strawberries
  1. Sift the flour, both of the sugars, ginger and salt into a medium bowl.
  2. Drizzle 3 tablespoons of the oil over the dry ingredients and toss with a spatula until uneven crumbs form. Don’t over mix–you want some fat crumbs. It’s unlikely, but add another tablespoon of oil if needed to get a nice damp, crumbly mixture. The crumb is ready to use now. It can be frozen in an airtight container or bag for up to one month.
Getting ready to bake crumble and cobblers, Vegan

Getting ready to bake crumble and cobblers

Bake the Crumbles

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350oF.
  2. Remove the compote from the refrigerator, if made ahead, so it can return to room temperature for baking.
  3. Wash, pat dry, hull and cut the fresh strawberries into large chunks. Put into a small bowl and toss with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar. Set aside for 15 minutes to macerate, stirring occasionally while you fill the ramekins.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper to catch any drippy fruit juice during baking.
  5. Fill each ramekin with 1/2 cup of the compote. Divide the macerated strawberries and any accumulated juice among the ramekins. Push down slightly.
  6. Sprinkle about 3 tablespoons of the crumb over each ramekin.
  7. Bake on the center rack for 20 minutes. Adjust the oven temperature to 375 oF and bake another 5 to 8 minutes longer until some of the fruit juice is thick and bubbling.
  8. Remove from the oven. Wait about 5 minutes before serving.

Servng: Eat warm from the oven or at room temperature.  For the most direct Rhubarb-Strawberry experience, I eat my Crumble without adding any toppings. You wouldn’t be alone in wanting to add a scoop of ice cream and there are many good commerical vegan ice creams in the market. Personally, I can see a scoop of Chocolate Ginger Ice Cream, from the Vegan Chocolate book on my next Crumble.

Warm Rhubarb Strawberry Crumbles and Cobblers

Warm Baked Rhubarb Strawberry Crumbles and Cobblers

Variations: I have not yet made the compote in a larger baking dish but it would be very easy to do so. (I’ll be doing so this weekend, but I wanted to get this recipe to you before the weekend.

  • Simply double both of the recipes.
  • Choose a 1-quart baking dish and adjust the baking time.
  • When the fruit juices are thick and bubbling, the crumble is ready.

The Crumbles are amazing. I had trouble not eating two, so I brought one of each of the ramekins to Michael and Ethan, the Vegan Mos.

Note: We agreed that the Crumbles were perfect but that the gluten-free oat-based cobbler topping was pasty and needs work. So “work” on this topping I will and when the recipe is ready for prime time, I’ll post it.

If you’ve got a favorite Gluten-Free Topping, please share your recipe!

More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts Naturally Book Giveaway:  Leave a comment  about this post on the blog, and if you are on Facebook, on my page, Vegan Pastry Chef Fran Costigan, as well. A winner will be picked at random, and a signed copy of the book will be mailed to you, but you’ve got to comment. The contest starts now and ends on June 29th 12 midnight EST.

Happy June! Next blog has to be an ice cream recipe, don’t you think?

With love and gratitude.

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Late Night Recipe Testing

I was wearing my winter coat, hat, boots and gloves on Tuesday, April 30th in N.Y.C when I took sweet Chloe for her walks. If you follow me on Facebook: Fran Costigan Vegan Pastry Chef, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest @goodcakesfran, you’ve met Chloe, the shitzu mix who lives full-time with my daughter and her family in a house with a yard. Tracy adopted Chloe ten years ago. I fell in love with the nervous little puppy the first time we met. We’ve watched her learn to trust and play, and now as ten year old(ish) dog, she still looks like a puppy. This year Tracy and I decided to try co-parenting her, so she spends time in the city as well as the country. 
For me, she is a true blessing. Chloe does not like to go out in the rain or cold, so this never-ending winter has been a challenge. Luckily, my building is completely covered by construction scaffolding so we didn’t get soaked these last few rainy days.

Chloe dog in Yardley

Chloe at her country house

Tuesday night, when Chloe and I came in from what was meant to be the last walk of the day, I decided to spend a quick ten minutes inventorying ingredients on the bottom shelf of one cabinet only. It was late but I was eager to do one more thing to move my spring inventory/organizing along.

 What happened next reminded me of my year of obsessive thinking about recipes, which was, of course, the year I spent writing Vegan Chocolate. Ideas would pop into my mind that I just had-to-try-right-now- no matter the time or what else I was meant to be doing. Mostly I stick to a schedule, or nothing would get finished, but this Tuesday night, when I saw the jar of Nutiva Coconut Manna, aka coconut butter that I rarely use, I just couldn’t stop myself from making something right now, even though I had no recipe or even category in mind. Out of the refrigerator came jars of raw almonds, organic rolled oats, and already toasted coconut. I still had no idea what I was after but I couldn’t wait for morning.

Pantry Staples

Ready to recipe test

I did make myself grab my notebook and list the ingredients:  coconut butter, oats, whole raw almonds, shredded coconut, coconut sugar and liquid sweetener  (I opted for agave and rice syrup.) That’s when I “saw” bars or bites.

Making the recipe took 5 minutes. Really that’s all. I didn’t measure the finished mixture, which is something I always do. It  pressed easily  into a neat rectangle, about 7×4 x 1-inch on a piece of parchment.  A sprinkling of chia seeds on a portion of the top, just to see, was the last step.  

Oat and Nut Bar

Oat, Almond, Coconut Slab

The texture was soft and the taste delicious. Wondering if the bar would firm in the refrigerator, or remain soft, be chewy or too hard, I washed the pot, spatula and measuring cups, and entered what I did into a word doc. The bar went into the refrigerator, and I set a timer  for 30 minutes. Chloe and I went out again.

Thirty minutes later, the mixture was still too soft to cut cleanly, although the end piece I ate had almost the right texture. I went to bed. Chloe was already asleep.

In the morning, before I took Chloe out, I pulled the bar from the refrigerator, and took a heavy sharp knife off the magnetic strip. The bar was too hard to cut without shattering. I wasn’t going to risk my teeth to test the chew factor. While I waited to see if letting the bar return to room temperature would make a difference, I answered emails, and posted pictures of the uncut slab on facebook.

In an hour’s time, the bar cut easily and the little squares had that perfect chewy, not sticky, and crunchy from nuts thing going. I cut freehand, into pieces about 3/4-inch without noting how many- another recipe testing no-no. I liked the chia topping. (I did figure the yield today by drawing the measurement of the bar on a piece of paper.)

This confection is seriously delicious. I will make this again. I’m hoping you will make the recipe and let me know what you think. I can see some variations, although these have not been tested. For example, I might swap in maple syrup for the agave, perhaps cut the coconut sugar to 1/3 or so cup, mix in a couple of tablespoons of chia seeds, and add a small amount of cinnamon powder, for taste and health promoting properties. It won’t surprise many of you to know that I think a coating melted chocolate, or  adding some chocolate chunks is a good idea for another time too.

Cutting the oat, almond, coconut bars

Cutting the slab into small squares & my breakfast Kale Berry Smoothie

No-Bake Oat, Almond, Coconut Confection

Yield: 30 to 36 3/4-inch pieces

  • 1/4 cup coconut butter
  • 1/4 cup agave syrup
  • 1 tablespoon rice syrup
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup raw almonds
  • 1/4 cup dried unsweeteend shredded coconut
  • 2-3 tablespoons chia seeds, optional for top but recommended

In a medium heavy bottom saucepan, cook the coconut butter, agave and rice syrups and coconut sugar until everything has melted and bubbles are just starting to appear around the sides of the pan. Stir with a heatproof silicon spatula. You may need to press on the coconut butter to help it melt. Do not touch the syrup; it’s hotter than it looks.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix until the dry ingredients are coated.

Line a quarter sheet pan or similar with a piece of parchment paper. (Don’t use plastic wrap- the mixture is hot.) Turn the mixture out onto the center of the parchment, and fold the paper over the top. Press into a slab, about 7 x4 x1-inch. (It’s easy to shape). Sprinkle the top with the optional chia seeds. 

Refrigerate until  firm enough to cut. I think this will take about an hour, but it might be longer. If the bar is refrigerated overnight, wait until it has returned to room temperature before cutting into squares with a heavy sharp knife.

Store in a container at room temperature for a couple of days.

The smoothie on the cutting board was my breakfast on Wednesday, a kale, pineapple, blueberry, hemp smoothie made in my Vitamix 5200. It’s all about balance! I use my Vitamix everyday! It’s a real game changer. Pricy but worth it. i

Buy the books here. 

Fran Costigan’s Vegan Chocolate is the holy grail of sweet, plant-based treats! This cookbook is destined to be a treasured baking classic for all kitchens.” —Kris Carr, New York Times bestselling author of Crazy Sexy Kitchen

Vegan Chocolate book

Vegan Chocolate book


Delicious, Reliable, and Adaptable Recipes, Plus a Virtual Vegan Baking ClassThe Costigan Vegan Baking Boot Camp Intensive® is based on this book.

More Great Good Dairy-Free Dessets Naturally

More Great Good Dairy-Free Dessets Naturally


I’ll be running a Giveaway of both of my books on my newsletter, so keep in touch.

In the meantime, remember, there is just about 24 hours left to leave a comment on the last blog, Juicing It in LA to be eligible to win a copy of Robin Asbell’s newest book, Juice It!



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