Chef Fran Costigan

California Dreaming with VegNews Magazine

CA from San Bruno Google to miyokos Kitchen

 Friday after leaving YouTube Google. Elizabeth and I drove to Miyokos Kitchen.

Miyokos KitchenWe met the Miyokos Kitchen team, and donned our hairnets and clogs to tour the kitchen and cheese aging room. The scent of real cheese was in the air, creating for me a somewhat surreal experience. After two decades of being vegan, aged cheese that is dairy-free is a relatively new phenomenon. I wasn’t hungry after the big veggie lunch at YouTube, but production manager Sheila was toasting bagels, the better for us to taste the brand new cream cheese. Kyle, shown above, also a production manager and the father of infant twins, developed this recipe which I hope will come to market soon. Had you been there, you’d have seen us eating this miraculous vegan cream cheese that tasted like my childhood, by the spoonful. I have only two recipes in Vegan Chocolate that use vegan cream cheese. With sweeteners and flavorings added, the cheeses work well. But now, all I could think of was CREAM CHEESE COOKBOOK. Then, as Miyoko is always a step ahead, out of the refrigerator came two – what else – New York Style Cheesecakes, chocolate and vanilla. Does anyone besides me remember the creamy yet heavy traditional NY cheesecakes? This is it. More tasting followed as we nibbled two special edition cheeses, Sweet Cream Strawberry – Fleurs de Mai and Napa Valley in a Brandy Cured Fig Leaf. Cheese heaven that just happens to be vegan is a fact. Both were excellent.

Miyokos SoupI stayed at Miyoko’s lovely home. She said dinner would be simple. I said – dinner? In the kitchen we seee on Vegan Mashup, I watched Miyoko make a silken soup and fresh green salad. We went to bed early, and in the morning, after some freshly ground coffee and homemade muesli, I got to work making chocolate cakes, ganache glaze, truffles and crostini for the next two events. Jill Nussinow, The Veggies Queen stopped by for a quick visit and stayed for lunch.

I brought Orange Sesame Truffles and Chocolate Crostini to Friday night’s San Francisco Vegetarian Society Benefit, and Chocolate Torte To Live For and Ganache to the Vegan Cheese and Chocolate Soiree held at VegNews on Saturday.

Friday Night: San Francisco Vegetarian Society Benefit. Do Bay Area Vegans have more fun?

CA SFVS Miyoko CheesesThis party was held at a beautiful apartment with an outdoor space. The Bay Area vegans are very active group that were warm and welcoming. They definitely know how to do a party. That’s LaVonne with the spirally  glasses and Laura with the heart on hers. Such nice people!


Saturday Afternoon: Food Empowerment Project Birthday Party

Food Empowerment 3Vegan Chocolate went to press before I knew about this organization, but I always point to Food Empowerment Project as the best resource for up to date information on slavery free chocolate and other ingredients. I had a chance to thank FEP founder Lauren Ornelas for her vision and work, meet some people I’d met only virtually before, as well as friends and colleagues who live in the Bay Area. The day was gorgeous and the food was plentiful and delicious and, of course, it was all vegan. Pictured are the two Colleens: Patrick Goudreau and Holland, and Theresa Perez of LoveBaked, the pastry artist who made the cake, and Lauren.


Saturday Night: The Relaunch of VegNews Magazine – The Cheese and Chocolate Soiree! 

VegNews 2It was a real treat to see the actual office space of my favorite vegan lifestyle magazine. It is light and airy and even has a terrace. A lot happens behind the scenes at cooking classes and events, and while Miyoko and I set up with help from our assistants Elise, Olivia and chef Elizabeth, guests were treated to cocktails and vegan cheese nibbles. VegNews Publisher Colleen Holland knows how to throw a party!

Our guests went home goodie bags filled with treats from the following companies.

After a very big day, we once again crossed the Golden Gate Bridge back to Miyoko’s home. I left for L.A. on Sunday morning. This last part of the trip would include a visit with my son and his family and later in the week, a Vegan Chocolate Demo at Google LA in Venice Beach, as well as a visit to the new Matthew Kinney Culinary Academy & Restaurant.

To be continued…

Photo of Fran, with Theresa and Lauren  by Michelle Cehn. Chocolate cake photo from the VegNews Soiree by Hannah Kaminsky.

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The Good Karma Diet by Victoria Moran

The Good Karma DietIn her new book The Good Karma Diet: Eat Gently, Feel Amazing, Age in Slow Motion, my dear friend, the super talented, truly kind and beautiful, smart and sassy Victoria Moran goes beyond restrictive diet plans (eat blueberries on day one, chia seeds sprinkled on matzo on day two, etc. etc.) and obsessive calorie counting to explore how being mindful of the world around us is the best “diet plan” there is.

“You’ll be doing something revolutionary,” Victoria writes in her introduction, “making food choices based on kindness and love instead of preferences formed in childhood, or opinions about calories, carbs, and fat grams that developed later.”

With the warmth and humor that has made her one of the most trusted names in the vegan world, Victoria encourages non-vegans, vegetarians, and everyone in-between to start basking in the health, joy, and personal gratification of a “karmically good diet.”

Unlike most diet plans on the market, The Good Karma Diet is an invitation to live a more momentous life than most people allow themselves to believe is even possible. Victoria reveals that the secret to treating ourselves well (and, in turn, dropping those persistent last ten pounds!) is actually quite simple: treat our planet and all its inhabitants with love and kindness.

Victoria Moran catalog photo_by David Rodgers Photography

The Good Karma Diet

From “The Good Karma Diet” By Victoria Moran

Good Karma eating is as simple as can be: comprise your meals of plants instead of animals, and most of the time choose unprocessed plant foods, meaning that they got from the garden or orchard or field to your kitchen with minimal corporate interference.

this way of eating gives you good karma in two ways. The first is self-explanatory: by eating foods of high nutrient density and avoiding the animal products and processed foods your body can have trouble dealing with, you’ll reap the rewards of improved health. The second is a bit more mystical: you do good and you get good back.

As is true for life in general, it’s probably better to do this with unselfish motives, but even if your motivation is to become thinner, healthier, or more youthful, you’ll be doing something modestly heroic at the same time. This way of eating and living could lessen the suffering of billions of animals. I know it’s hard to think in terms of billions, but if you imagine counting the individual beings one at a time, you get some of the impact. In addition, ninety-eight percent of the animals raised for food suffer horrifically on factory farms before being slaughtered, often in adolescence. Every time you eat a vegan meal, you’re voting for something different.

This choice also lightens the burden on the planet. Raising animals for food in the numbers we do today calls for an exorbitant amount of water and fossil fuels. It leads to vast “lagoons” of animal waste, and the release into the atmosphere of tons of greenhouse gases, mostly in the form of methane.

What you have here is holistic dining at its finest – body and soul. Eating whole, plant foods is scientifically validated as being both nutritionally adequate and anti-pathological. In other words, it cures stuff. Not everything. But reversal of such scourges as coronary disease and type 2 diabetes among people on this kind of diet has been repeatedly reported in the scientific literature; and the preventive potential of this way of eating is supported by ample research.

If this sounds great but going all the way seems impossible right now, go partway. Americans’ consumption of animal foods has, as I write this, been decreasing annually since 2007, primarily because non-vegans are making vegan choices some – or much – of the time. They fix a veggie-burger or black beans and rice, or they order their latté with soy, or have a green smoothie for breakfast so they’ll look prettier and — what do you know? — the statistics get prettier, too.

Once you’re fully vegan, celebrate! The only thing you need to “do” nutritionally that you weren’t doing before is take a vitamin B12 supplement of about 100 micrograms a day as a tiny, tasty, melt-in-your mouth tablet. B12 is not reliably found in plant foods unless they’ve been fortified with it, and lack of B12 is dangerous. This single missing element in a plant-food diet pains many vegans. If this is the perfect diet, it ought to be, well, perfect. But this is life on earth: extraordinary, magnificent, and absolutely not perfect. Bacteria in our mouths and intestines do make some B12, and maybe at some point in evolutionary history we all made enough, just as our long-ago ancestors made their own vitamin C and now we don’t. I look at taking B12 as a tiny surcharge for the privilege of being vegan.

If you hear yourself saying “I could never give up ice cream” (or something else), realize that you may just be short on vegucation. There are lots of rich, luscious nondairy ice creams on the market, and you can make exquisite homemade ice cream with only a DIYgene and an ice cream maker.

If you have the information and you’re still saying “I could never give up. . .,” listen to yourself. You’re affirming weakness. You’re bigger than that. You can eat plants and save lives. You can give your life exponentially more meaning by living in a way that decreases suffering just because you got up and chose a kind breakfast.

Without this commitment, the Good Karma Diet would be, as much as I hate to say it, just a diet. To me, a diet is: “Eat this and don’t eat that, and feel guilty when you screw up, which of course you will because you’re only human, for heaven’s sake, and nobody can be on a diet forever.” That doesn’t really make you want to say, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

Understand and embrace the compassion piece, the conviction that you’re here to make life easier for others, regardless of species, and then everything else – whatever tweaks you might make because of an allergy, a digestive peculiarity, a personal preference — will come with little effort. This lifts that word “diet” from the deprivational depths and restores its original meaning from the Greek diaita, “a way of life.” And this particular way of life is one replete with meaning and fulfillment and joy.

Green Smoothie

Green Power Smoothie


  • 1 large celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 frozen banana, or 1/2 cup other frozen fruit (peaches, pineapple, berries, etc.)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups water
  • About 1 cup kale, spinach, or romaine lettuce, tightly packed


  • For a greener smoothie:1 to 2 teaspoons spirulena or barley grass powder, and/or a handful of fresh cilantro or parsley
  • For a sweeter smoothie: 1 teaspoon maple syrup or 3-4 drops stevia
  • For a heftier smoothie: 1/2 small avocado, and/or 1 scoop vegan protein powder
  • For a spicy smoothie: 1/2-inch knob of fresh ginger, or 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • For a super-duper smoothie: 1 to 2 teaspoons maca powder and/or ground flaxseeds

Loving Preparation:

  1. In a blender, blend celery, banana (or other fruit), lemon juice, greens, water, and any optional ingredients, until liquefied.
  2. Add greens of your choice and blend until completely liquified. Taste and adjust if necessary. (Go easy on the greens at first. The time will come when you’ll fill the blender with them.)
  3. Serve immediately.

Makes 1 to 2 servings


Excerpted from THE GOOD KARMA DIET: Eat Gently, Feel Amazing, Age in Slow Motion by Victoria Moran, with the permission of Tarcher/Penguin, a division of Penguin Random House. Copyright © 2015.

Photo and recipe by Doris Fin, CCHP, AADP.


I have a copy of The Good Karma Diet for one lucky reader. Follow the instructions below to enter. U.S. and Canadian residents only, please. Contest ends at midnight on May 26, 2015. Good luck!


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California Fun and Yum

California Dreaming: Eating Vegan & Google

I was super excited with invitations to do Vegan Chocolate book events at two of Google’s California offices. The first was as a Zagat’s Guest Chef at YouTube Google Headquarters in San Bruno, CA, to be followed the following week by an Authors@Google chocolate dessert demo at Google-LA. What I didn’t know at the time was how much more exciting my trip to California would be, thanks to special vegan happenings around the Google dates. I was super busy and very well fed, from the minute I landed at SFO, May 28th.


Day one: The Plant Cafe Organic

The Plant Cafe Organic

My friend Cathleen, a vegan friendly omnivore and culinary professional, picked me up for an early dinner. We decided on The Plant Cafe Organic in nearby Burlingame. All of The Plant locations feature organic, sustainably grown foods and the vegan options are many. The host, Sarah, greeted us very warmly. We got chatting about vegan cuisine and I gave her my business card. Cathleen and I choose a couple of starters and salad mains, which we thoroughly enjoyed with some California white wine.


Fran and Cathleen at The Plant

We had decided against dessert until sous chef Amiel Baesa came out of the kitchen with a slice of a heavenly raw berry cheesecake. Coincidently, executive chef, Sasha Weiss has been one of my student at the Natural Gourmet Instiute, way back in the 90’s when I was a CTP instructor. Sasha Weiss, who was off that night, has a very impressive resume that includes executive pastry chef at San Francisco’s famed Millennium restaurant.


Chef Ameil of Plant Cafe Organic

After dinner, we wandered into the big indie bookstore next door. I gave the manager, Earle, my card (Lesson here: carry your business cards!) and he said, “see you tomorrow, Fran, at your YouTubeGoogle event with the books.” Now I felt even more comfortable.


Day 2: YouTube Google Headquarters, San Bruno

YouTube Google

I was given a tour of the two YouTube Google buildings, plus the kitchens and cafes and snack corners that are everywhere. I noticed that all of the food, even the fruit, was labeled quite specifically. (Bananas: Rainforest Certified.) Trent Page, the director of culinary, said it is a mission of the company to educate the “Googlers” about ingredients, ethics, and even why taking just enough food is the way to go. With so many people to feed several times a day, plus snacks, Google has enough buying power to make a difference. I felt really good about Google “voting with their very big fork.”

Fran at YouTube Google

The pastry department made twenty beautifully glazed Chocolate Tortes to Live For (two were Gluten-Free) and served the cakes with Vanilla Pastry Cream during lunch. I answered questions about ingredients, about vegan desserts in general and signed lots of books. I was having the best time ever, but when I saw my cookbook video, plus others of my YouTubes (including one with Grant Butler for Oregonian and an oldie with Caryn Harglass) on multiple screens, well, that was a thrill.

Chocolate Torte at YouTube Google

The day just kept getting better. While I was having lunch, I saw that a friend from another time, long ago had entered the café. And so it was that the former executive vegan chef educator at Google at Mountainview, Elizabeth Schindler and I were reunited after almost 30 years. Now, Elizabeth and I would have a chance to catch up on the drive to the acutal Miyoko’s Kitchen, where the atisan vegan cheese is made, aged, hand-wrapped and sent out.

To be continued…


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When: May 29, 2015 – May 31, 2015 all-day
Where: AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center, The University of Texas at Austin, 1900 University Avenue, Austin, TX 78705, USA

The weekend opens with Friday, May 29th’s Vegan Bazaar at The Marchesa Hall & Theatre and heads to AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center on Saturday and Sunday for two full days of conference happenings.   Vida Vegan Con 2015…