Chef Fran Costigan

Thanksgiving Morning Chocolate, Fruit and Nut Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

Spiced Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

You may remember that when I was in Portland for the Portland VegFest, I got to bake with Grant Butler, who is food writer (and fellow vegan) of the Oregonian. Grant told me to gathera lot of holiday recipes for his column. We  talked about how the vegan quick breads and muffins that would be good for Thanksgiving, and I offered up my updated Chocolate-enhanced Spiced Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins as a faster alternative to a lonter baking quick breads.  Grant liked the idea, and I got to spend a few fun hours in his home kitchen making these muffins with him. Obviously I bake a lot in my small but efficient NYC apartment kitchen. Grant, on the other hand, has a fabulous kitchen with plenty of space. His spice/ condiment cabinet fascinated me. Not a drawer, folks – Grant has a cabinet. Also, as this is Portland, OR, the attractive black countertops are made from recycled materials. We not only made – and tasted the muffins that morning, we made a How To baking video while doing so.


Spiced Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Pecans

Makes 12 standard size muffins

This update to the quick and easy Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins in More Great Good Dairy Free Desserts Naturally  is the result of my two granddaughters; Georgia and Cecile’s idea to add chocolate chips before baking. (All Costigans think chocolate makes everything better so I put some into the batter too!) I believe that taking 5 minutes to cook the whole cane sugar and spices into the pumpkin puree makes the best tasting muffins, and the puree can be made days ahead and even frozen. Because homemade pumpkin puree is often watery, cooking it first will evaporate extra liquid. Note that canned pumpkin puree from Farmer’s Market brand is  excellent.If you are pressed for time, use their organic pumpkin pie mix.



For the Spiced Pumpkin Puree: This makes more than you need for the recipe. Stir extra puree into oatmeal or grits or blend into smoothies.

  • 2 cups unsweetened canned pumpkin purée
  • 2/3 cup organic whole cane sugar (such as Sucanat), or maple
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

For the batter:

  • 4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar, divided
  • 2/3 cup soymilk or almond milk
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 heaping cup cooled Spiced Pumpkin Purée
  • 1/4 cup mild tasting extra virgin olive oil, or any neutral vegetable oil, or melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup, Grade B or dark amber
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dairy-free chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pecans (optional)


Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Oil a 12-cup standard muffin tin including the top.

To Make the Spiced Pumpkin Puree : Combine all the ingredients in a medium skillet. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture comes to a low boil. Lower the heat and simmer 3 to 4 minutes, until the purée is dark and shiny, slightly thickened, and the sugar has dissolved.

Remove from the heat and spoon into a shallow dish to cool. Refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze up to 1 month. Use at room temperature.

To make the batter: In a small bowl, mix the soy or almond milk with 2 teaspoons of the apple cider vinegar. Set aside for 10 minutes to clabber.

Place a wire mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Add the pastry flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg to the strainer. Stir with a whisk to sift the ingredients into the bowl.   Whisk to aerate the ingredients. Stir  1/3 cup of the chocolate chips

Combine the Spice Pumpkin Purée, oil, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and the remaining 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in medium bowl. Add clabbered milk and whisk until well blended. Pour into dry mixture and stir with a spatula only until the batter is smooth and no traces of flour remain. Stir the cranberries into the batter.

Divide the batter evenly, filling each cup 3/4 full. An ice cream scoop makes filling the cups easy. Sprinkle the top of each muffin with the remaing chocolate chips and a few pieces of the pecans.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, or until muffins are golden and a tester inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs.

Cool the tin on a rack for 5 minutes. Carefully run a thin knife between the muffins and the inside of the cups, and lift each muffin onto the rack to cool completely.

Store at room temperature in a tightly closed tin for a day or freeze for up to 1 month. Defrost uncovered.

Fran's Spiced Pumpkin Muffins with Chocoalate Chips

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

Chocolate inspiration from Georgia and Cecile Costigan and Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts (Running Press, 2013 by Fran Costigan)

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Julie Hasson’s Bumbleberry Cobbler

Prepping Julie Hassons Bumbleberry Cobbler

I agree with Julie Hasson who says, “In my book, you can never have enough berry dessert recipes. Ever!” I made the Bumbleberry Cobber from Julie’s latest book Vegan Casseroles this weekend, and as it is winter in N.Y.C., I used a mix of unthawed frozen organic blueberries and blackberries. The milk was almond and the oil was coconut.


Fran’s Bumbleberry Cobbler

This cobbler takes all of about 10 minutes to put together, and I baked it during dinner. The hardest part was waiting for it to cool before serving. I’m going to make the gluten-free version another time, and given that Julie’s recipes are always excellent, I know it’ll be a winner. Make this cobbler – you will love it. Don’t forget to enter the contest, which is at the end of this post, for a chance to win a BlendTec high-speed blender or one of the copies of Vegan Casseroles being given away. Vegan Casseroles is an appealing, user-friendly book, filled with have-to-make recipes as we have come to expect. Don’t forget to check out Julie’s last two cookbooks Vegan Diner and Vegan Pizza too.


Bumbleberry Cobbler - Vegan Casseroles

Bumbleberry Cobbler from Vegan Casseroles by Julie Hasson. Photo from the book.

Bumbleberry Cobbler

“In my book, you can never have enough berry dessert recipes. Ever!” This is another perfect berry dessert to add to your dessert rotation, no matter the season. One of the coolest things about this cobbler is that even though the berries go on the top, the batter below bakes up into a cake-like topping over them. I adapted this recipe from my pie book, The Complete Book of Pies.

Serves 4 to 6



  • 4 cups (1 pound) fresh or frozen mixed berries, such as blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries (unthawed if frozen)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup plain unsweetened soymilk or other nondairy milk
  • 1/3 cup nonhydrogenated vegan margarine or coconut oil, melted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract



Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 11 x 7-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Fran’s Note: I don’t own an 11×7 inch pan but know that it holds 6 cups. I used a 8×3 inch round cake pan instead.

In a medium bowl, toss the berries with 1/4 cup of the sugar.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining 3/4 cup sugar. Add the soymilk, melted margarine, and vanilla, whisking to combine.

Scrape the batter into the prepared baking dish. Scoop the berries evenly on top of the batter (don’t stir, as the batter will rise to the top as it bakes).

Bake for about 65 to 70 minutes, or until the top crust is nicely browned and looks cooked through and the berries have formed a thick sauce. If it looks like there are a few spots where the batter isn’t cooked all the way through, which you can confirm by lightly touching the spots with your finger, continue baking for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until fully cooked through. Let the cobbler cool on a rack for 15 minutes before serving.

Gluten-Free: Substitute a mix of 1/2 cup sorghum flour, 1/4 cup superfine brown rice flour, 1/4 cup potato starch, and 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum for the all-purpose flour.


Reprinted with permission from VEGAN CASSEROLES © 2014 by Julie Hasson, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.


Follow the instructions below for a chance to win a BlendTec 725 Designer Blender. Five runners up will receive a copy of Vegan Casseroles. US residents only please. Contest ends December 11th.

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Mock Chopped Liver Recipe

Shirely B with Sister Arlene

Arlene Chernin Lillian and Shirley Chernin Bernstein


Some of you know that my mother, Shirley Bernstein passed peacefully in Florida at the age of 91 on October 30th. I was with her. As family came to visit Shirley – mother, sister, grandmother, great grandmother, aunt – we told stories.  As most families do, we talked quite a lot about family gatherings, which always revolved around food. My mother gave me permission years ago to say that she was not a good cook. She was amazed at my enthusiasm for time spent in the kitchen and my career as a cooking teacher and author. My mother’s chocolate pudding, always from a box was lumpy, her jello creations had thick skin and her attempt at brownies – well, think burnt chocolate matzo and you’ll have an idea. What she did extremely well were big composed salads and chopped liver.



My mother Shirley with my daughter – her granddaughter – Tracy, and Tracy’s son great-grandson Seth.

I gathered some family and close family friends in my small apartment last weekend to commemorate my mom, who everyone called Grandma Shirley. Food was always the main player in our family gatherings and this was no different. What I knew for sure was that  I had to serve my friend Liz Hoffman’s unbelievable Mock Chopped Liver. Everyone loved this vegan version. (I’d made a double batch and it was all eaten.) Because I was so interested in the stories I heard about Mom, I forgot to take a photo of the lettuce-lined bowl of the spread I put on the table. Try it. You’ll like it! This is the easiest, tastiest and as it’s oil-free, healthiest of the mock liver spreads I have tasted. Let me know what you think!


Mock Chopped Liver

Liz Hoffman’s Mock Chopped Liver Spread

This mock chopped liver, which as I said is oil free, tastes even better the day after it is made, and it will last in the refrigerator for at least 3 days.  I followed the directions as written, but Liz tells me now she puts everything into the food processor at the same time, pulses the machine a few times and processes  until the ‘pate’ is almost smooth. Taste, add black pepper and decide if you want to process the spread longer. My mom and her mother, my Grandma Ida would definitely love this recipe. Actually, it is pareve as are all vegan arecipes, so it works in kosher homes too.
Note: Measure the miso carefully, and use tamari for a gluten free version.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings, depending on appetites. 



  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup dried lentils
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 large carrot, coarsely shredded
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 3/4 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon red miso
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • Freshly ground black pepper



  1. Combine the water, lentils, and salt in an open 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to medium, and cook uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes, until the lentils are tender but still firm.
  2. Grind the walnuts in the food processor until almost smooth.
  3. Add the shredded carrot, onions, brown rice, miso, soy sauce, and pepper to the walnuts in the processor. Drain and discard any excess liquid from the cooked lentils and add them to processor. Process for 1 to 2 minutes, until smooth.
  4. Transfer the mixture to an attractive lettuce-lined serving bowl or platter and garnish or serve chilled.

Keeping: Refrigerate  in a covered container for up to a week.

Serving suggestions:  rye bread, crackers, celery, endive leaves


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