Chef Fran Costigan

Rouxbe Plant-Based Professional Course review by Dianne Wenz

Today my friend Dianne Wenz from Dianne’s Vegan Kitchen is here to tell you about the Rouxbe Plant-Based Professional Course, which she took upon my recommendation. Dianne is a Health Coach, a Vegan Lifestyle Coach, and now she’s a Certified Plant-Based Chef too!

Pho 2I grew up eating boxes of beef flavored Rice-a-Roni, canned baby potatoes, and frozen broccoli doused in reconstituted powdered cheese sauce. When I first decided to go vegetarian at the age of 21, meal times were tough, but I bought a cookbook and cooked my way through it. Soon mealtimes were a breeze, and I was eating a wider variety of foods than I had been before I changed my diet. Since then I’ve become a bit of a self taught expert in the kitchen, and I write my own recipes for my blog Dianne’s Vegan Kitchen as well as teach both private and public cooking classes in my community in New Jersey.

Despite the many, many delicious meals I’ve cooked over the years, something always secretly felt not-quite right. To start with, my knife skills were atrocious, and there have been many near misses with my fingers. While I’ve always been good at veganizing meaty recipes, I wasn’t that great at coming up with my own meal ideas from scratch. I looked into various cooking schools in the area, but they were either not vegan or extremely pricey. Last year Fran mentioned the Rouxbe Plant-Based Professional cooking course to me and I was intrigued. She explained that Rouxbe is a professional level cooking class that takes place online and is self paced. It is also reasonably priced. I signed up for a trial week and after watching a few of their instructional videos, I was convinced. Sign me up!


Knife Cuts - Dianne WenzI enrolled in Rouxbe’s February 2015 class, which is set to graduate in August, but I actually finished in May. THAT’s how much I enjoyed it. Although I’ve been cooking vegan food for years, I started learning new things right from the start. To begin with, I’ve been holding my chef’s knife wrong my whole life. I didn’t know the difference between a julienne cut and a bâtonnet, but I do now. I also now know the proper way to cook rice, the correct way to sauté without oil (which probably isn’t the way you’re doing it!), and why the “fresh” pasta you in the refrigerated case at the grocery store isn’t any better than dried. And I also know how to make pasta! The fresh pasta I made while studying with Rouxbe is the best I’ve ever eaten. Actually, most of the meals I made while taking the class were the best I’ve ever eaten.


Pasta CarbonaraI will admit that I was super scared when I began the course. The quizzes were a little intimidating at first, but since there are practice flash cards, I quickly realized that I actually did know the material. The cooking assignments were what really frightened me though. I was afraid I was going to be told that I was doing it all wrong and to start over, but that didn’t happen. Instead, the instructors were very enthusiastic about my dishes, and their evaluations encouraged me to keep at it in the kitchen. In fact, after realizing I was doing well with the first few assignments, I developed a new-found confidence in the kitchen and I couldn’t wait to get cooking each day.


Black Box SaladSome of Rouxbe’s cooking assignments used recipes created by the instructors, which forced me to try new foods and flavors, and helped me learn the correct way to cook certain dishes. Others were recipes I had to create on my own, which really helped encourage me to get creative in the kitchen. I loved that there was a balance of both. I actually went to be each night dreaming up new recipes!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe course is six months long, but it’s self-paced, so you can run wild like I did, or you can take your time and savor it. There are regular live, webinar-style classes run by instructors Chad Sarno and Ken Rubin, where you can ask any burning questions you might have. Even though the class takes place online, you can easily connect with your fellow classmates through the Plant-Based Professional Facebook group. You’re never really on your own, as you can submit questions to the instructors, who answer very quickly.


Chocolate Ganache TorteI would highly encourage anyone who wants to learn more about cooking to take Rouxbe. I learned so much and I enjoyed every minute of it!

Because Fran loved the course so much herself, she teamed up with Rouxbe to give her readers a discount. From now until July 31st, sign up for the August seating of the Rouxbe Plant-Based Professional class with the code “FRANCOSTIGAN” and save 20% off the regular price of tuition. To learn more, to sign up for a free trial, or enroll, visit:

4 Vegan Dessert Recipes for the 4th of July

4 Vegan Dessert Recipes for the 4th of JulyKnock me over that June is over and it’s time for the 4th of July or Independence Day. Traditionally celebrated with barbecues, picnics, watermelon, corn and summer fresh berries, I choose two new and two old favorite dessert recipes to share with you. They’re all quick and easy and can be made ahead. Please let me know if you make them, some or all!

4 Vegan Dessert Recipes for the 4th of July

Red, White and Blue Cornbread ShortcakesRed, White and Blue Cornbread Shortcakes

Of course, I like biscuits but let’s be honest, they’re basically flour and fat, and are kind of bland tasting on their own. My ideal shortcake base is would be flavorful and more nurtitious, and I figured the quick and easy corn muffins would fit the bill. Did they ever! Note the very small amount of fat and sweetener in the recipe! Anyway, who doesn’t want to eat corn on the Forth of July?  I used Bob’s Red Mill medium grind – I like the slight crunch, but you can use fine grind. The Vanilla Cream is from Vegan Chocolate (Running Press 2013). The fruit is from my farmers market!

Makes 12 shortcakes


For the Corn Muffins 

Note: Muffins can be made ahead and frozen.

  • 1 cup fresh yellow cornmeal, use medium grind for a pleasant crunch
  • 3/4 cup all-purpse flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons any favorite plant milk (I don’t recommend rice milk here)
  • 3 tablespoons pure dark maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons mild tasting extra virgin olive oil or any neutral oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the Shortcakes


  1. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Oil a 12 cup standard muffin tin.
  2. Place a wire mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Add the cornmeal, both of the flours,  baking powder, and salt to the strainer. Whisk to sift the ingredients into the bowl. Stir with a wire whisk to aerate the ingredients.
  3. Whisk the plant milk, maple syrup, oil, and vanilla in a small bowl until well blended. Pour into the dry mixture and whisk only until the batter is smooth. The batter will drop off a spoon like heavy pancake batter. Fill the muffin tin cups three-quarters full.
  4. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until firm to the touch, and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
  5. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes and turn the muffins out of the pan onto the rack to cool. If not using immediately, place in a plastic bag or container to keep them moist. Extra muffins can be frozen in a tightly closed container for up to 2 months.
  6. When the muffins are cool, cut in half horizontally with a serrated knife. Place one half on a plate and top with a healthy dollop of Vanilla Custard Cream and some berries. Place the other muffin half on top along with more Vanilla Custard Cream and more berries. Continue until you’ve made as many shortcakes as you like. 

Corn Muffin recipe Adapted from recipe in More Great Good Dairy Free Desserts Naturally, © 2006 by Fran Costigan.


White Chocolate MousseWhite Chocolate Cream Parfaits

Adapted from the White Chocolate and Matcha Mousse Pudding in Vegan Chocolate, this version of the pudding is not only divine, it is a bit faster to make. I love the freedom of using good recipes as building blocks to new ones. Here, a portion of the cream is left white and the rest (or as much as you want) is flavored with strawberry (or raspberry) jam.

Note: For the berry cream, the ratio is 1 tablespoon jam (seedless or not, that is up to you) stirred into 1/4 cup of the cream. Taste and adjust flavor and color as you wish.

Makes 1 cup cream for 4 small servings. I use more fruit than cream. The recipe is easily doubled. 


  • 6 ounces  vegan white chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup almond milk or coconut milk beverage
  • 4 ounces silken tofu  (one third of a 12.3-ounce/ 349 gram aseptic box), drained
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 pint raspberries
  • 1 pint blueberries


  1. Put a small heatproof bowl into a skillet and pour enough water into the skillet so that the water reaches halfway up the bowl. Put the chocolate chips in the bowl.
  2. Bring the water to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, adjusting the heat as needed to keep the water at a bare simmer. When the chocolate looks softer and glossy, stir with a silicone spatula until it is completely melted and smooth. White chocolate takes longer to melt than dark chocolate and chips, even longer.
  3. Keep the bowl of white chocolate in the warm water while you prepare the other ingredients.
  4. Add the drained tofu and lemon juice to food processor. Process, scraping down sides as needed.
  5. Wipe the bottom of the bowl of chocolate. Add the melted white chocolate to the food processor, and pulse until blended. Add the almond milk or coconut milk beverage and blend. Spoon the cream into a bowl and refrigerate a couple of hours to allow the flavors to blend ideally but it is ready to use if you are ready to go.
  6. Make the berry cream per the note.  The cream can be made up to 3 days in advance. Refrigerate in a covered container.
Make the parfaits
Spoon a layer of the white cream into a small glass. Add lots of raspberries and top with some of the berry cream. Top with blueberries. Use any combination of cream and berries  you like, of course! It’s your parfait.

Adapted from the White Chocolate and Matcha Mousse Pudding recipe in Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts, © 2013 by Fran Costigan.


Watermelon Granita with Chocolate Seeds from Vegan Chocolate by Fran CostiganWatermelon Granita with Chocolate Seeds

Watermelon for the 4th! Cold, refreshing fruit ice is perfect for a hot summer day. Add as many chocolate “seeds” as you like.

Makes about 1 1/2 pints / 3/4 liter


  • 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.


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.


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.


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


Chocolate Ice Cream Shell  from Vegan Chocolate by Fran CostiganChocolate Ice Cream Shell

Add drops of mint or orange oil to the Ice Cream Shell depending on your mood and the ice cream flavor you’re serving.

Makes 1 cup / 240 ml


For the Chocolate Ice Cream Shell

  • 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

For Serving

  • Your favorite vegan ice cream (There’s a whole chapter of vegan ice creams in my book Vegan Chocolate)
  • Raspberries and blueberries


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 the 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. Top with lots of blueberries and raspberries.


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.


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


The Homemade Vegan Pantry by Miyoko Schinner

The Homemade Vegan PantryMiyoko Schinner has been delivering up her distinctive style of gourmet vegan cuisine for decades through her many enterprises, including her Now and Zen restaurant in San Francisco, the natural food company where she invented Hip Whip and the Unturkey, cooking classes, lectures, and cookbooks. Her groundbreaking book Artisan Vegan Cheese preceeded Miyokos’s highly anticipated newest: The Homemade Vegan Pantry. Miyoko is the founder of Miyoko’s Kitchen, makers of artisanal vegan cheese which are available at key retailers and online. I had the delicious pleasure of visiting Miyoko’s Kitchen on June 1st this year,  when I was in the Bay Area for my Google YouTube Vegan Chocolate event. Let me just say this, Miyoko’s cheese facility is all that you’d imagine and more. Since I stayed at Miyoko’s home, I got to see her advance copy of The Homemade Vegan Pantry and taste the Glorious Butterless Butter, which can be found in the book. It looks and tastes like the best butter of memory, and really, it is quite simple to make. Miyoko’s recipes work.

WafflesIt was hard to choose a recipe to make for the blog, and while I think most people, including Miyoko, would have expected I’d go right for the French Buttercream, my family had other ideas. I was responsible for making breakfast at my daughter’s home Sunday, June 14th, which happens to be my birthday. Go figure. My grandsons Seth and Eli (5 and 4 respectively) and their dad wanted pancakes and waffles. I looked through my copy of The Homemade Vegan Pantry and there I found Classic Pancake and Biscuit Mix. The photos we took of our adventures in breakfast are not especially fine, but the pancakes and waffles sure were. My daughter took the apron strings after all and said, “Mom, this is like a healthy Bisquick”. The mix came together in no time. Wanting to make the whole wheat version but without whole wheat pastry flour in the house, Tracy mixed all-purpose and whole wheat flours, 50-50. She heated the griddle and also her stovetop Waffle Stick pan.  Another thing Tracy has that I don’t is a pancake batter dispenser. I never understood the point. Now I do. Making designer pancakes was a breeze. The boys, who are used to taste testing recipes, gave two enthusiastic thumbs up.  Tracy is going to make this again and keep it stored in a container in her refrigerator. (Mom says, whole wheat in the refrigerator!) With recipes for everything from Ketchup, Mustard, Jam, Sour Cream, to make your own Tempeh and Real Tofu, Yuba and UnFish Sticks, there is something for everyone who wants to make their own real food. Right now, I’m fascinated by the recipe for Roasted Tomato Skin Pesto that follows the Roasted Tomatoes. Who but Miyoko would find a way to use those flavorful skins?! She did the same with the flax seeds left after straining the Flax Seed Egg Whites, giving us the option to make crackers. I’m going to be DIY’ing from this book on a very regular basis. Check it out, I think you’ll feel the same.


Classic Pancake and Biscuit Mix

 Classic Pancake and Biscuit Mix

Weekends are more relaxing with this in your cupboard ready to be turned into pancakes, biscuits, and waffles.


  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 tablespoons ground flax seeds
  • 3 tablespoons organic sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt


Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined,
2 to 3 minutes. Store in an airtight container or ziplock bags in your pantry for up to 6 months.
Makes 4 1/2 cups

Whole Wheat Pancake and Biscuit Mix – Substitute whole wheat pastry flour for the all-purpose flour and increase the baking powder to 3 tablespoons. Follow the ratios below for pancakes and waffles.
Whole Wheat Pancakes — 1 1/2 parts baking mix : 1 part soy milk
Whole Wheat Waffles—1 part baking mix : 1 part soy milk If desired, add 1 tablespoon of maple syrup at the same time as the soy milk for extra sweetness.


Diner Pancakes

These are thick, fluffy pancakes that will delight young and old alike, bringing memories of a time when Sunday mornings were lazy and meant for pajamas. And these pancakes let you stay in your pajamas, because they’re so easy to make once you have the mix!


  • 1 cup Pancake Mix
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk


  1. Actually, the recipe is just equal parts mix and non-dairy milk, so you can make this in any quantity you want. As a guide, one cup of mix is enough for four to six pancakes, so that might feed two or three people (or sometimes only one!).
  2. Get your griddle heating before you mix the batter, because it takes no time to do that, and you’ll be waiting around for your hot griddle otherwise. Your griddle should always be hot when the pancake batter hits it. To make the batter, simply put the mix in a bowl, and the milk, and stir quickly and not thoroughly; you want to deliberately leave it lumpy. When the griddle is hot, spray it lightly with non-stick spray, or melt a little Glorious Butter on it. Then pour about a third to half a cup of batter per pancake. To make light, fluffy pancakes, make sure to cook it on one side until the top is covered in bubbles (air pockets), then flip and cook briefly until browned. They’ll rise quite a bit, so three will form quite a stack. Spread some Glorious Butter, pour on some maple syrup, and dig in while in your jammies!

Crispy Waffles


  • 1 cup Pancake mix
  • 1 1/4 cup nondairy Milk

Whisk together the mix and nondairy milk. Pour into a heated waffle iron, and cook until crispy and golden brown on both sides.


Reprinted from THE HOMEMADE VEGAN PANTRY Copyright © 2015 by Miyoko Schinner. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.  Photo © 2015 by Eva Kolenko


I have a copy of The Homemade Vegan Pantry for one lucky winner. Follow the instructions below to enter. Contest ends at midnight eastern time on Sunday, July 5th. U.S. residents only, please. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway