Chef Fran Costigan

Vegan Trends at Expo East

expo-eastNatural Products Expo East is trade event which showcases ‘natural’ foods, and continues to grow exponentially. Over 30,000 attendees packed the Balimore Convention Center and adjoining Hilton.

I was invited to the Plant Based Foods Association party where we applauded executive director Michele Simon, JD, MPH,  and Policy and Partership Consultant, Elizabeth  Kuchinich. Billy Bramlet, founder of Wildwood Dairy and now the big cheese at  Miyoko’s Creamery took my wine glass to clink, asking everyone to sing happy birthday to Miyoko. Many exceptional vegan change makers like David Benzaquen, of PlantBased Solutions; Colleen Holland, publisher of VegNews; Renée Loux, vegan chef-author; Joy and Bart of the Candle family of restaurants; Jill Nussinow, The Veggie Queen; and so many more – including a vegan cheesemaker from France – were in the room!



Some trends that I noted at Expo East were vegan and paleo on the same label; organic, non-GMO, additive-free, and allergy-free foods; vegan burgers; beans being used in crackers and snacks, and bars; cold brew coffee; and lots of plant-milks. I got to sample new-to-me Ripple Milk, which is made with peas, and it was fantastic. The choices for ready-to-cook and grab-and-go foods are plentiful, including already spiralized vegetables, and complete organic salads in a bag. I saw a lot of probiotics, both in supplement form and in shots of sauerkraut and kimchi juice. Superfoods and super promises were also trending. (I still roll my eyes quite a bit at many of the claims).

vegan-chocolatesThere were lots of vegan chocolates at the Expo, and some of my favorites were Raaka Virgin Chocolate, Hui, Pacari, Divine, Theo, and Chocolate Inspirations. I didn’t expect to like the Raaka Apple Pie bar but it is incredible – and it’s gluten free!


Vegan cheeses are continuing to grab market share. I’ve tasted most of Miyoko’s Kitchen’s cheesees and enjoy them all, but my personal favorite is the Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash. I spent a lot of time at their booth, which was done up as a French café, and I nibbled pretty constantly on the Fresh VeganMozz panini and bread spread with her  European Style Cultured VeganButter.


Kite Hill also had a booth, and I was able to finally taste their ricotta. Amazing! It was worth the wait. Field Roast Grain Meat Co. was at the Expo, serving their Hand-Formed Burgers and the new mac and cheese, made with the Chao Cheese.


Baking Products


A lot of sweetener companies were represented at Expo East. Wholesome! showcased granulated and liquid sweeteners, and they introduced new vegan organic Swedish fish and canned frosting. Big Tree Farms had delectable coconut sugars and nectars. Suzanne’s Specialties makes the first rice syrup I ever used,  as well as Rice Mallow Cream. The line has greatly expanded over the years. Bob’s Red Mill always has a lot of items. This year what caught my eye was their new Paleo Flour. Edwards and Sons has new Heavy Cream Coconut Milk and Green Banana Flour. Dandies Vegan Marshmallows gave out samples of Pumpkin and Peppermint minis. Yum!


Just the Facts


The educational sessions were my favorite parts of the Expo. Elizabeth Kucinich moderated a panel for the Plant Based Foods Association, which was sponsored by Miyoko’s Kitchen and Plant-Based Solutions. Plant Based Foods Association advocates for better policies to meet the growing consumer demand for plant-based foods. I’m not a manufacturer but I am going to join.

Some of the things I learned:

  • Plant based foods have contributed $13.7 Billion to U.S. economy.
  • Plant-based foods are a fundamental consumer shift. They’re not a trend – they’re here to stay!
  • 55% of people want to embrace plant-based foods and they ask that it be made easier to do.
  • Climate change is number 1 concern of government and military. Promoting plant foods is critical for protecting the environment.
  • Vegan jerky is outselling meat-based jerky!
  • Sales of plant milks are up 64%, while dairy is down. Vegan cheeses are roaring ahead of dairy cheese.
  • Climate change is on everyone’s mind, (well…) including the government and military, and this factor is contributing to the shift to plant foods.


Vegan Fun

EXPO w. Elizbeth Kuchinach_ JillI was invited to the Plant Based Foods Association party at Expo East, where we applauded executive director Michele Simon and sang happy birthday to Miyoko Schinner.Wine, Miyokos’s Cheeses, and party food were served, and many exceptional vegan change makers like David Benzaquen, PlantBased Solutions and Renée Loux, vegan chef and author of Easy Green Living.

On my last night in Baltimore, I had fun at the vegan expo meet-up organized by Eco-Vegan Gal Whitney Lauritsen.


Do you have a favorite plant milk or cheese? Let’s talk to each other!

Want to learn to make the best ever vegan desserts? Of course you do!!  Sign up now to save $200.00 on my Essential Vegan Desserts Course with Rouxbe. Course starts Nov 10th!

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Vegan Mango Banana Mousse

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

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

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

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

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

Fran Costigan's vegan Mango Banana Mousse

Mango Banana Mousse

Yield: 6 to 8 servings


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



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

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

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


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



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Raw Raisin-Walnut-Hemp Energy Bites

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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


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


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