Vegan Treats Bakery Halloween Box

IMG_2712    In yesterday’s mail, I received the Trick or Vegan Treats Box from Vegan Treats Bakery in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.   This is one of the best Halloween treats I’ve ever gotten and so thank you to Josie and Tim!  This bakery is so awesome that we once drove two hours out of our way to get there.  Vegan Treats Bakery does ship their goodies, and you can pre-order boxes of deliciousness like this, or even regular or gluten-free Easter Baskets–just go to their super-cool web site and look for merch.  Last night we split a pumpkin whoopee pie and I ate two white-chocolate-peanut-butter eyeballs (I swear I can see better).  On this Hallowed Eve, we will sup on Skeleton Gingerdead Men, or maybe the Swiss Chocolate Mummy Pop with bloody Red Velvet filling, or the Speculoos Brownie Bat with Belgian Cookie Butter filling, etc.  Bwa ha ha. . .
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Vegan Butterfinger Milkshake

IMG_0998    We recently tried the Butterfinger Milkshake at Café Blossom, and it was really good.  The key to this recipe is that old-school candy called Chick-O-Stick, because Chick-O-Sticks taste pretty much like the orange-colored center of a Butterfinger candy bar.  You can also get a vegan Butterfinger milkshake at Terri restaurants in New York City, but I haven’t had theirs.  Here’s my own delicious version of the Butterfinger Milkshake.

VEGAN BUTTERFINGER MILKSHAKE

Makes 3 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS
6 oz. soy yogurt in plain or vanilla flavor  (I used So Delicious brand)
1 Cup cold almond milk  (or soy milk)
3 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
2 dried dates (pits discarded), roughly chopped
8 Chick-O-Sticks  (sticks, not bites)
1 Cup ice

DIRECTIONS
Spoon vegan yogurt into ice-cube tray and freeze.
When yogurt cubes are frozen, get out your blender.
Set aside 4 Chick-O-Sticks
Into blender, put almond milk, peanut butter, cocoa powder and pitted dates, and blend until almost smooth.
Add the yogurt cubes and blend until almost smooth.
Add the ice and 4 of the Chick-O-Sticks and blend until almost smooth.
Add the last 4 Chick-O-Sticks and blend just a bit, so there are some tiny chunks of Chick-O-Sticks still intact.
Serve immediately.

Notes:  More photos below.  I put half the complete milkshake into the fridge, and it was still a nice, thick consistency an hour later.  I experimented, making this shake several times, trying different ingredients and mixing up the order of blending, in order to figure out better flavor and consistency.   I found the pretty paper straws at Target in their Thanksgiving paper-goods display, 40 for $3, and you get two different color combos (orange and brown in this case).

IMG_0993  I got the Chick-O-Sticks from amazon.com.
IMG_1000  I used only one 6 oz. container of yogurt.

Vegan Nut Bars

This Nut Bar is sort of like my old favorite, the Payday candy bar, which is unfortunately not vegan.  No worries, because this tastes way better.  The nuts and dried fruit can be mixed and matched here, using whatever you like.  The Lyle’s Golden Syrup, while British, is easily available in most U.S. grocery stores, and it adds a buttery unctuousness that’s hard to describe, with a slight caramel flavor.  The salt is a tiny bit intense but is an amazing foil against the sugar, and makes up the whole “salted nuts” flavor profile.  Any kind of nut combinations would do, so I plan to experiment with hazelnuts, pecans, etc., someday.   Vegan Mofo 2012.
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VEGAN NUT BARS

Makes approximately 12 to 16 bars, depending upon how you cut them.

INGREDIENTS
1 Earth Balance Buttery Stick  (1/2 Cup vegan butter)
1/2 Cup packed brown sugar
1/2 Cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 Cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 Cup slivered almonds (also called blanched almonds)
1/4 Cup white sesame seeds
1/2 Cup cocktail peanuts
1/4 Cup raisins

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.    Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper  (cut the parchment paper slightly long so you will be able to grasp it to pull the baked-and-cooled bar mass out of the pan).

In a large bowl, combine oats, all nuts and dried fruit, and stir well.    In a small saucepan, combine vegan butter, brown sugar, syrup and salt over medium heat.
Cook, stirring, just until you see a bubble or two, about 5 minutes, and remove from heat.   Add syrup mixture to oat/nut mixture, stir well and press evenly into prepared pan.    Bake 20 to 25 minutes, making sure edges turn golden brown, but do not burn.  Place pan on rack and allow mixture to fully cool in the pan, so it can harden and set.   Lift nut-bar mass onto a cutting board and cut into bars.  I used a long, sharp knife.   Store in airtight container with wax paper between the layers, so they don’t end up stuck together.  Chill in fridge, which will harden them a bit and make them less likely to fall apart.  Or freeze.

Notes:  Mix and match, use any combination of nuts and fruit you like!  Wrap in wax paper for the best lunchbox or road trip snack ever.

Cacahuates Garapinados or Candied Peanuts

Cacahuates Garapinados are a common treat in Mexico, or so I’ve read, because I’ve never been to Mexico.  The packaged candied peanuts in our local Latin market do not look nearly as good as these; they’re obviously commercially made and look a bit like those Boston Baked Beans candy.  So, I went to Plaza Latina in Easton, and purchased two 10 oz. bags of peanuts-in-the-shell, for $1.50 per bag, and these yielded a total of 3 Cups of usable shelled peanuts (some were duds).  At first, I thought the hardest part of making this recipe was shelling the peanuts.  But afterwards, I realized the most difficult part is not eating them all in one sitting.  These would be perfect to take to the movies if your theatre has nothing vegan.  Placed into paper cones or twists, they would be great filler for a vegan Easter basket, or delicious with after-dinner drinks instead of a heavy dessert.  In the interest of science, I made two batches of these Cacahuates Garapinados.  The first batch I made using Planters Cocktail Peanuts from a can, and it was just as good as, if not better than the raw peanuts with the skins on, believe it or not.  I know this is heresy, but it’s true.  Because the Planters Cocktail Peanuts are already roasted, you get an intensified roasted flavor by the time you make this recipe, because you’re not only cooking them on stovetop, but roasting them again.  I found two wonderful videos on YouTube; one using peanuts, and one using almonds.  The almond video really shows the transformation of the sugar.  Latin markets also have shelled raw peanuts, which would save a lot of time.  I’m guessing it took me about 45 minutes to shell the two bags of peanuts.  p.s.  Plaza Latina is a lovely store.
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Cacahuates Garapinados  or  Candied Peanuts

INGREDIENTS
2 Cups unsalted raw peanuts (preferably with skins on)
(or you can use Planters Cocktail Peanuts from a can)
1 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup water
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, and stir.
Stirring occasionally, bring to a boil.
Once boiling, stir often for 10 minutes and then stir constantly for another 5 minutes, just until sugar gets sandy.
Stir again to coat, and pour peanuts onto prepared baking sheet.
Using two forks or spoons, spread the peanuts out a little.
Bake for about 13 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool completely.
Peanuts will harden as they cool.
Keep in a glass jar for up to a month.  Believe me, they won’t last that long.

Tips:  The raw “redskin” peanuts are the most traditional, but they are time consuming to shell, so next time, I’ll try using the shelled, raw peanuts.  My favorite flavor, however, came from using Planters Cocktail Peanuts.  One good ratio is using a 12.5 ounce can of Planters Redskin Spanish Peanuts.

Pates de Fruits from Whole Foods

I bought two boxes of these Pates de Fruits (pronounced pat de fweets) from Whole Foods, and now I wish I’d bought more.  I put one box out for a party and they really remind me of the ones I’ve bought on Ile St. Louis in Paris.  The best part, NO gelatin!  Just fruit juice, fruit pectin, etc.  And the flavors are slightly sophisticated ones like quince, mandarin, black currant, raspberry and apple.  Each piece comes in its own little ruffled paper cup, so they don’t stick together and they are ever so pretty in their jewel tones, stacked on a sterling candy dish or on a plain white plate.  I hope Whole Foods will keep these little babies, so I can give them out as gifts next year.  I really can’t remember exactly, but I think I paid about $8 per box and although the box is small, they are really packed in there and you get quite a lot.  One of our boxes went to our wonderful postmaster who lets me bring my dog in every day to get our mail (and the occasional dog treat).  Perfect to put out after a dinner party too!

Annie’s Homegrown Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks

I usually take candy to my sister Nancy, so I was looking for something vegan.  I found Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks at my local health food store, and then I saw them at one of the grocery stores in town.  I bought the Summer Strawberry flavor, but there are three other flavors (berry patch, citrus and tropical).  When I tried them, I liked the flavor a lot, even though they are just ever so slightly softer than gummy candies of the ursine variety.  Yes, these are a GREAT alternative to Gummy Bears.  Gummy Bears taste good, but they’re also made of skin and hair and bones, and suffering and enslavement (gelatin).  Sooooo, anyhoo.  These are great for kids, of all ages, with ingredients like tapioca syrup, organic cane sugar, organic white grape juice concentrate, pectin (instead of gelatin), and black carrot juice, etc.  Thumbs up.  

Go Max Go Candy Bars

With Halloween coming next month, I know lots of vegan parents are going to try to make sure their kids have a traditional Halloween, but without the dairy and meat byproducts that are in many, many candies.  Yes, even seemingly innocuous treats like Candy Corn and Gummy Bears have gelatin (bones and skin and hair) in them.   That’s where Go Max Go Foods candy bars can come in handy.  Instead of the body parts of tortured animals, the ingredients list consists of things like beet sugar and agave syrup, hurrah!  I stumbled upon these at a little health food store in Salisbury, Maryland, but the web site has a where to buy  page on it, to help you find these candy bars in your area.  PETA also has good web pages with a list of cruelty-free candy and also for other types of foods.   I tried the Go Max Go  Jokerz  bar and was surprised that it tasted just like a regular candy bar.  I was trying to place why it tasted so familiar, and then it hit me; it tastes just like a Snickers bar.  I’m guessing the other flavors also taste like the old favorite candy bars too.  After looking at the labels again, I’m thinking the Mahalo bar will taste like an Almond Joy, for example.  More testing is needed.  It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.  Will report back.

Chocolove chocolate bars

I’m seeing these Chocolove candy bars in the most unlikely of places, including locally in our small area.  Not all of their candy bars are vegan, but some are.  Since Hershey’s and Nestle cannot seem to make much of anything that’s  cruelty-free, Chocolove is nice to have around.  Below is a statement cut and pasted from the FAQs page of the Chocolove web site.   This is one of the most informative and plain-speaking food sites I’ve seen.  This particular flavor has seven ingredients in it, and all of them are recognizable.  These bars have little breakable squares of chocolate, so you can simply snap off a chunk when you get the urge.  You’ll get a sweet love poem in each bar, making them the perfect sweets to give to your Sweet.  I happen to be married to someone who really isn’t crazy about chocolate, so, I guess I’ll have to eat this one.  Good karma, and chocolate; what could be better?

6. Is Chocolove vegan?   We do not claim that Chocolove bars are vegan. Most of our dark chocolate arrives at our facility as kosher parve which means it is completely free of milk products, according to Jewish dietary law. The remainder arrives kosher dairy, which means the dark chocolate was made on equipment that also makes milk chocolate. Chocolove has separate equipment for melting and molding milk chocolate and dark chocolate. We take every measure to assure that milk chocolate is kept away from dark chocolate. You can expect our organic dark chocolate to be the least likely to contain any traces of milk chocolate.