Chef Fran Costigan

The Great Vegan Pie Contest

Great Vegan Pie Contest JudgesRecently, U.S. Veg Corps asked me to judge The Great Vegan Pie Contest that they hosted at VSpot Organic, along with Diana from This Pie is Nuts and Barbara from Gone Pie. Some work is more fun than… well, this is more fun than almost anything!

The winners selected by the judges were 1- Sweet Potato Mini Pies in Gingerbread Crust, 2- Chocolate Truffle Pie, and 3- Strawberry-Rosewater Pie.


Pie ContestJudges first place winner Chef Kasey Hearns said this was her first competition. We all acknowledged that making individual pastry dough crusts is a lot of work. We judges liked the flavor and flakiness of the crust and the-not-too-sweet-but-well-spiced filling too. Our collective feedback was more filling would have been better.


Chocoalte Raspberry PieSecond prize went to Brian David for his Raw Truffle Pie with Raspberries. It was creamy and intensely chocolate and the raspberries added a bit of needed sweet tart. Lovely presentation, don’t you think?


Stars PieVSpot Pastry Chef and owner of Brooklyn Rose Pastries Shoshana Frishberg-Izzo made hand pies for the judges and guest, as well as this larger version of same Strawberry-Rosewater recipe. She got third from judges, but won first place for People’s Choice.


PieA happy guest!


Pie ContestOther delicious pies were the S’mores Pie by Tere Fox of Rockin’ Raw, Dayna Rozental’s Mini Watermelon Pies, and a pie from Wendy Landiak from Shankara Vegan Restaurant. Ice creams were provided by Junie Dish of Rockforest Organics and Blythe Ann’s. A delicious time was had by all!



Subscribe graphic

5 Favorite Coconut Milk Chocolates

For some time I’ve wanted to introduce my readers to the growing number of remarkable women with much to tell us about about food, fitness, and beyond. Today it’s my pleasure to welcome my first guest Food Writer-Feminist-Chocolate Eater Megan Gillerwhose blog is on my short list of must reads. Today, Megan writes about the bean to bar process and the best coconut milk chocolates. After you read (and drool), don’t forget to enter the contest. You could win a very special box of  vegan Chocolate Truffles from our friends at the award winning French Broad Chocolates in Asheville, NC.


French Broad TrufflesI love milk chocolate. There, I said it. As a chocolate expert, sometimes I want to savor a piece of the darkest chocolate, and sometimes I want to relax into the luscious creaminess of milk chocolate. Why am I waxing chocorific about milk on a vegan blog? Well, because some of the best milk chocolates I’ve tasted are actually vegan: They’re made with coconut milk!

Now, this isn’t any old chocolate with coconut milk added. The small companies releasing these kinds of bars and bonbons make their chocolate from scratch: They buy whole beans and roast, grind, and refine them into chocolate themselves. It’s called “bean-to-bar chocolate,” and the movement is exploding the way craft beer and specialty coffee did a few decades ago. There’s so many great makers these days that I’m writing an entire book about American bean-to-bar chocolate, with profiles of makers, background on bean to bar, and recipes from pastry chefs and chocolatiers like Alice Medrich and Michael Recchiuti (it’s coming out from Storey Publishing in 2017!).


Charm School Chocolate Melted


Here are 5 of my favorite coconut milk chocolates from some of the best makers around!


Charm School Chocolate Coconut Milk ChocolateCoconut Milk From Charm School Chocolate
This vegan maker has created a truly scrumptious bar with single-origin cocoa beans from Belize, coconut milk, whole vanilla beans, and sea salt. No wonder it won awards at both the 2016 International Chocolate Awards and the 2015 Good Food Awards!

Raaka Coconut Milk

Coconut Milk From Raaka Chocolate
Dark chocolate meets coconut in this 60 percent bar from the hip Brooklyn company for a bar that tastes as good as it looks. Find notes of caramel and strawberry in this melt-in-your-mouth goodie.


Madre Chocolate

Coconut and Caramelized Ginger From Madre Chocolate
Caramelized ginger ups the ante in this coconut milk bar from Hawaii. There’s a reason it won a gold medal at the 2014 Northwest Chocolate Festival and is the company’s most popular seller.


Buddha Collection Truffles From French Broad Chocolates

Buddha Collection Truffles From French Broad Chocolates
French Broad Chocolates makes much more than bars with their bean-to-bar chocolate: At their café in Asheville, North Carolina, you’ll find cakes, cookies, drinking chocolate, and bonbons. Of course, you can also order some of those sweets online, including this coconut cream collection of vegan truffles: Think classics like chocolate caramel as well as unusual flavors like olive oil, orange, and fennel.


Coconut Couverture from Zotter Chocolate

Coconut Couverture from Zotter Chocolate
White chocolate meets its vegan maker in this rich couverture chocolate perfect for baking or making bonbons. Zotter adds a chaser of bourbon vanilla to the mix for an added bonus.


Food writer, feminist, and chocolate eater Megan Giller explores the world of American craft chocolate on her site Chocolate Noise. Read about the best bean-to-bar makers in America, with mouthwatering photos and videos to match. She’s also working on a book about the American craft chocolate movement, to be published by Storey Publishing in 2017. Join the journey at and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and subscribe to her newsletter to get mouthwatering stories delivered to your inbox!


French Broad Chocolates Buddha Collection Truffles

We have a 12-piece box of Buddha Collection Truffles from French Broad Chocolates for one lucky winner! The Buddha Collection truffle box contains:

Buddha – our original vegan truffle made with bittersweet chocolate & coconut cream.
Lemongrass Ginger – lemongrass, ginger, and lime in dark chocolate coconut cream ganache. topped with a slice of toasted coconut.
Strawberry Balsamic – purée of local strawberries and organic balsamic vinegar in a dark chocolate + coconut cream ganache. sprinkled with cacao nibs.
Chocolate Caramel – a rich, creamy chocolate caramel made with coconut milk, in a dark chocolate shell.
Bananas Foster Caramel –  organic bananas and rum in a creamy coconut caramel, with cacao nibs for crunch. In a dark chocolate shell.
Orange & Olive Oil – locally-bottled olive oil & essential oil of orange in dark chocolate, topped with candied fennel.

To enter for a chance to win, follow the instructions below. U.S. residents only, please. Contest ends at midnight on July 19th. Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Vegan at the Fancy Food Show

Fran with Beatrice

Fran with Beatrice Ughi from Gustiamo

I recently attended the International Summer Fancy Food Show at the Javits Center in New York City, and let me tell you, vegan products were in the house, both specifically vegan products and the ones that are accidentally vegan. Two vegan entries for the Sofi Awards were finalists, Miyokos Creamery Black Ash Cheese in the dairy cheese category (!) and Fabanasise vegan mayo from Sir Kensington. Read on, you’ll see.


Pane Nero

Pane Nero flown in from Torino

In the first photo I am with one of the most entusiastic and generous women I know – Beatrice Ughi, founder of Gustiamo. Gustiamo imports the best Italian products, and Beatrice insisted I taste plump figs from Cilento, the area in Southern Italy I visited last year with Vegano Italiano. Well, it was impossible to eat just one!  I tasted a pure – just chocolate, hazenuts from Piemonte – chocolate hazelnut spread that puts commercial Nutella to shame. The real discovery, though, was the Pane Nero that had been flown in from Torino 6 days earlier! You read that right! The bread made by esteemed baker Alessandro Spoto in Turino was flavorful and chewy.  It was not for sale, but Beatrice gave me and our mutal friend Terry Romaro a piece to take home! The secret to this bread is that is it made by an artisan baker from a very ancient grain that is grown and stoneground by Filippo Drago in Castelventrano, Sicily. I had tasted pane nero and pastas made from this grain last month at a wareshouse dinner hosted by Gustiamo. It is so pure that I’m told even wheat sensitive people enjoy it without problem.


Cacao Nocciole

This pure chocolate hazelnut chocolate spread puts commercial Nutella to shame!

All Gustiamo products are the real deal. Italian products made by artisans Their Pianogrillo Sicilan Cherry Tomato Sauce won the Gold Sofi in Pasta Sauce category. It tastes like summer. Check them out online, and if you are in New York, go visit the warehouse in the Bronx! Don’t leave without a jar of the Pistachio Cream made wth famed Sicilian Pistachios  and this Chocolate-Piemonte Hazelnut Cream.


Jackfruit and Tumeric

Melissa’s Produce

Jackfruit, turmeric, multicolor peppers, fully cooked beans (love the favas!) cotton candy grapes, and more than I can list here were on display at the Melissa’s Produce booth. New this year, too, are ready-to-use coconut hearts. Yes, fruits and vegetables are vegan, but Melissa’s was the only vendor at the show with fresh produce. Their Snack Bites are addictive! Someone bought the giant jackfruit at the end of the show. I heard Robert from Melissa’s say, “spray your knife!!” Do you cook with fresh jackfruit?


Bobs Red Mill

Bob from Bob’s Red Mill

The real Bob of Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods met with fans who formed a long, long line, and he signed books. I am a fan of Bob’s Red Mill products. Having visited the factory, I know the products are premium quality and the gluten-free ones are carefully tested and separate. I use the Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Baking Flour and many of their other products.



Forager Green Juices and Chips

I’d not seen this before: At Forager, the pulp from the juice is used to make the chips. Smart and tasty!



Sir Kensington’s Fabinaise

Sir Kensignton’s brand new aquafaba vegan mayo was a finalist in the Condiment Category. I didn’t get a chance to taste it, though.


Coconut Milk

Edward & Sons Trading Co.

Ok. I adore Alison and Edward from Edward & Sons Trading Co., Inc. Actually, their booth at any of the food shows is always the hangout for the vegan attendees. I’ve been using  many of the Edwards/ NativeForest/ Let’s Do Organic products for years. I always look forward to hearing about and tasting the new products. Last year it was the super handy Coconut Milk Powder.  The big news this year is the soon-to-launch coconut milk with 30% fat content. This makes it equivilent to whipping cream! I’ll be trying it soon and let you know what I think.



K’ul Chocolate

Yes, there was chocolate – lots of it. I visited and tasted Taza, Raaka, Republic of Cacao, Guittard, and others of the brands I like, and I found several that were new to me. Do you have a favorite chocolate? A trend seems to be Vegan Coconut Milk Chocolate. You’ll hear more about that on a future blog post.

Clearly vegan is hot, paleo isn’t going away, functional foods, greens, chia in drinks and puddings, fermented foods, coconut and coconut oil, pre- and pro-biotics, and allergy specific products are what’s happening.




Subscribe graphic