Chef Fran Costigan

A So Delicious Vegan Dinner at Avant Garden

Summer Kick Off MenuI changed my name to “Happy”  when I got the invitation from So Delicious to their summer kick off 7-course dinner at Avant Garden in New York City. I use So Delicious products regularly for many reasons: their products are Non-GMO Project Verified, certified vegan and gluten-free, and carrageenan-free, and the packaging is BPA free. They are much more than vegan ice cream and coconut milk beverage!

As for Avant Garden, I have eaten there a half dozen times, and this teeny place on New York’s lower east side has remained a top choice for me. Make a reservation – you will thank me!

Some of my favorite dishes, like the toasts, salt-baked sweet potatoes, and maitake mushrooms were on this night’s menu, but they were changed up some as the chefs used So Delicious products in the dishes. It was a marriage made in heaven.

At the dinner were bloggers, food writers, and recipe developers, including back-in-Brooklyn Isa Chandra Moscowitz, who, by the way, is inteviewing chefs for her Modern Love Brooklyn restaurant. I was seated near Marisa Wolfson of Vegucated, Rebecca of Well And Good, Dianne Wenz from Dianne’s Vegan Kitchen, and Main Street Vegan’s Victoria Moran, who was with her daughter Adair.


Toast Hors D'OeuvresThe Famous Avant Garden Toasts: (left to right) Carrot Romesco, Crimini Onion Marmalade, Fennel Hummus, and Sunchoke Quince.


Beet TartarBeet Tartare with Horseradish Vegan Yogurt


White Almond GazpachoI ate the whole bowl of White Almond Gazpacho almondmilk based soup.


Salt Baked Sweet PotatoesThe Salt Baked Sweet Potatoes were meltingly tender. I couldn’t get enough of the cilantro sauce. (As Marisa will attest!)


Maitake MushroomsLook at this Maitake Mushroom dish! It was made using So Delicious cashewmilk.


Roasted CauliflowerAnd this spiced-just-right, Roasted Cauliflower with Vadouvan Spinach was incredible. (“Vadouvan” had us all Googling!) So Delicious culinary coconut milk was used in this dish.

Not shown but definitely enjoyed – dessert!! Ice cream cookie sandwiches with a kick and Avant Garden’s rice pudding with berry puree. I was glad to have a walk to the subway with Victoria and Adair, and then walk home.


Photos courtesy of Dianne Wenz.

Vegan Chocolate at the Albany VegFest

SpeakersI was in Albany June 3rd and 4th for the Albany VegFest, a project of the Albany Vegan Network. Every one of the organizers are wonderful, selfless people and I was very happy to be invited. This year’s VegFest saw record setting attendance, and the day was filled with excellent information, delicious food and drink, and vegan vendors.

My planning for VegFests includes demo materials, recipes, ingredients for demo and samples, lists and more lists. I consider travel too, and when it is feasible, I carry my own food. It might be just nuts, seeds, fruit and some dark chocolate,  but when I take a train, as I did to this time, I figured overnight oat and chia pudding would be a perfect breakfast to bring.  I added blackberries and  turmeric and cinnamon to the basic pudding, and enjoyed a nourishing and delicious meal on the train.

Overnight Oats Chia Pudding


A sold out speaker’s dinner took place the night before the VegFest. The vegan dinner, made by the chefs in the non-vegan restuarant, was tasty. After dinner, noted  television journalist and author, Jane Velez-Mitchell, delivered the keynote presentation. You can see her presentation at the dinner and the fest on her website Jane UnChained. Jane speaks with passion and humor. This talk was particularly energized and hopeful.  I follow her and suggest you do too!

Jane Velez Mitchell


I was excited to be reunited with Chris from The Vegan Zombie. I got to know Chris last year on the Vegan Cruise to Alaska, and we’ve had dinner since in NYC. We are looking forward to this years Vegan Cruise to Panama. His arms are so long, even selfies look good.

Fran with Chris from The Vegan Zombie


In the photo with Chris, I am holding a nearly empty glass of green drink. It was just what I needed after prepping 125 samples for my demo. Pastry chefs need greens you know!

Making Juice


You may know the @FoodDuo and #VeganFoodChat. I was happy to see Carlo at the VegFest with their VMarkstheShop.



From the time the door opened until the end of the day, the line at the Vegan Treats table was long! No surpise here. Their treats are gorgeous and — worthy of waiting.

Vegan Treats Table


My lunch– a YeahDawg.  It tasted better than the photo would indicate.

Yeah Dawg


Thank you to Wholesome! for donating sweeteners for my desserts at this Veg Fest.

Wholesome Sweeteners


And thank you So Delicious for the coconut milk beverages I used to make the tastings and the demo desserts.

So Delicous Coconut Milk


My menu for the VegFest included this made-in-advance Dairy Free Chocolate Ganache. Here I was demonstrating how to liquify a made-in-advance ganche.

Melting Chocolate


I made another full recipe of ganache at the demo, and used it to glaze a gluten free version of this cake: the Bittersweet Ganache Glazed Chocolate Torte to Live For.

Fran Costigans Ganache Glazed Chocolate Torte to Live For

Attendees also tasted Ganache Glazed GlutenFree Brownie Bites, New York Eggless Cream with Ganache Glaze as the syrup, Chocolate Orange Sesame Truffles, and Chocolate Crostini. My assistant  got to eat the chocolate ice cream sundae I made with Ben and Jerry’s Vegan Ice Cream and yep- vegan chocolate. A very good time was had by all. Jane Velez Mitchell actually made a video of my demo for her series #LunchBreakLive. You can see it here.

Anyone care to guess the amount of vegan chocolate I used to make the tastings and the demo items?
Til next time,



Subscribe graphic

Vegan Meringue Cookies

Meringue whisk

Vegan meringue

It was the early 80’s when, as a mother of two preteens, I enrolled in NY Restaurant School. There I discovered that my interest in food was a passion. I was not yet vegan then, but I am certain that my schooling in traditional technique informed and improved the vegan desserts I would go on to create. One of my favorite recipes pre-vegan was mushroom meringues, but they were made using egg whites, so after I went vegan I never made those cookies again – until a few months ago, when I tried aquababa (bean liquid) meringue. I was astonished as I watched the bean water and sugar expand into a stiff and glossy and delicious merengue.


Meringue Mushrooms

Vegan Meringue Mushrooms

Big Bowl Meringue

Vegan meringue in the bowl

When I graduated from NY Restaurant School, my family gifted me with fabulous  gifts: an 11 pound block of dark chocolate, a scale and a KitchenAid Stand Mixer. This mixer, despite heavy use, never needed a single repair in over 30 years, until about 4 months ago when it just stopped working. The timing was very bad as I had to get right to work on recipes for my upcoming Rouxbe Vegan Desserts Course. What could I do, but get another KitchenAid Stand Mixer asap? And so I did!


Kitchen Aid Then and Now

Kitchen Aid Mixers and the booklets_ Then and Now

I couldn’t wait to try out my spanky new candy apple red KitchenAid. In honor of the old and the new, I decided to make Mushroom Meringues from chickpea water, or as it is popularly known, aquafaba. Into the mixer went the ingredients, the whisk attachment was connected, and I tell you, I stood there transfixed. I almost couldn’t believe what I saw. From 1/2 cup of chickpea water, a bit of cream of tartar, and finely ground organic cane sugar, I watched perfectly stabile meringue mounding. I was transported  nack in time to culinary school, but with major differences. In addition to the obvious – no eggs were used to make this compassionate meringue, I could taste it without concern that salmonella was lurking in raw egg whites. Chickpea meringue is easier to make than the egg white variety, since there is no worry about overbeating. In fact the resulting meringue can be rewhipped. Another plus, the meringue  is gluten-free and likely you’ll be eating more chickpeas too.


Making Meringue in Fran's brand new Kitchen Aid Pro Mixer

Making vegan meringue in Fran’s brand new KitchenAid Pro Mixer Stand Mixer

Aquafaba Meringue on Whisk

Vegan meringue can be rewhipped!

Thank you to KitchenAid for making an excellent, reliable mixer. Thank you to Joël Roessel, the French tenor credited with the first blog post about vegetable foams. Goose Wohlt expanded upon and popularized the discovery, which he named aquafaba (bean water). For everything aquabafa, check out the aquafaba website and the FB community Vegan Meringue – Hits and Misses.


Vegan Meringue Blackberry Tart

Vegan Meringue Blackberry Tart

The basic meringue recipe calls for beating the aquafaba first with cream of tartar (or lemon juice) until stiff before starting to add the sugar. I mix the aquafaba and cream of tartar until opaque first, and then start adding the sugar. (I bet that is because of my previous training). Try both ways, and see what works best for you. Whatever you do, add the superfine sugar slowly.


Vegan Meringue Strawberry Heart Tart

Vegan Meringue Strawberry Heart Tart

I piped more vegan meringue onto fresh berry tarts, and then used my Torch to burn the meringue. Think toasted marshallow!I would love to know if you are using aquafaba, and if so, what you make with it! Please share with us.

Aquafaba Meringue Cookies (Chickpea Meringue)

Fran Costigan's Vegan Meringue CookiesIf you find the meringue starts to deflate before you use it all, just beat again until stiff.


  • 4 ounces chickpea liquid: use cold. (I used to reduce the liquid, but I found it unnecessary most of the time. Watch for another blog post)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces superfine sugar (organic cane sugar ground in high speed blender or spice grinder)


  1. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle. Preheat oven to 225F. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment.
  2. To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment add the chilled chickpea liquid and cream of tartar. Start beating on medium, and then increase to high. Beat until the mixture is opaque.
  3. Start adding the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. After half the sugar is incorporated, stop machine and scrape down sides of bowl with silicone spatula, and then add the vanilla. Add the remaining sugar, a tablespoon at a time, until it is all used. Beat another 10 minutes, or the meringue is glossy, very thick and stiff peaks are showing on the whisk.
  4. Pipe (I used an Ateco 866 tip) rounds onto parchment lined sheet pans. Bake 1 hour.
  5. Remove from the oven when meringues are dry. After a few minutes, they will lift off the baking sheet. Cool completely.
  6. Store cooled cookies in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.

Note: On humid or rainy days, meringues may be sticky. If so, allow the meringues to cool in a turned-off oven for an additional hour without opening the door, then transfer them immediately to airtight containers.



Subscribe graphic