Thursday, June 27, 2013

Top Ten Vegan Sweet Treats

The title is misleading.  It should actually read 22+ vegan sweet treats, but that would be an arguement on semantics and that title doesn't seem nearly as appealing.  Instead, let's call it ten, with alternatives, and two unsolicited bonus suggestions.

This list came about because my friend Jordan and I were recently discussing the qualms of eating too many cookies, especially at inappropriate times like 8am.  She is newly vegan and my casual use of the phrase "Joe Joe's" was lost on her.  Being the smart (and pretty!) cookie that she is, she googled it and saw that there is an even more vegan friendly sandwich cookie than accidentally vegan Oreos.

I then proceeded to promise Jordan that I would do a blog about my top ten vegan friendly, commercially available sugar fixes.  Thinking about the research required for this was grueling, and knowing I'd have to buy one of each for photographing seemed daunting.. how on earth would I ever survive?  =D  [Please note:  photographing these treats never happened.]

This list contains a lot of items from Trader Joe's or Whole Foods.  If you are fortunate enough to live near one, you will be relieved to see this.  If you aren't, I will try to offer alternatives where I know of them.  Sadly, even accidentally vegan sweets are becoming harder & harder to come by.  I avoided "candy" in this list because, honestly, I don't eat a lot of it.  I'd rather have a cupcake or a cookie than taffy.  If that's odd, I'm not sorry.

1.  Trader Joe Joe's Cookies - Candy Cane; $2.79 @ Trader Joe's
Okay, I specify these rare seasonal Joe Joe's because they are hands down my favorite.  The creme filling is peppermint flavored with actual peppermint oil, and there are tiny bits of candy cane throughout.  They are only available around Christmas, and I wish I had stocked up.  The vanilla bean flavor is a close second, however, and the chocolate are amazing as well; I tend to rotate out what I buy.  Unlike Oreos, the filling becomes almost melty at just above room temperature, and doesn't leave behind that.. film that Oreos do.  I can easily destroy an entire box in a day, but that's terrifying to my waist line because these have 130 calories per 2 cookies.  I think Oreos are right around that amount, but these just taste better, period.

Alternative:  Late July Organic Vanilla Bean Sandwich Cookies; $2.99 @ Kroger
These cookies have been available in the Natural Foods section for years.  They were one of the first cookies I ever commercially bought after becoming vegan, and they are definitely very, very tasty.  You can tell they actually use vanilla bean in the icing, and the cookie is a different texture than what you'd usually buy in a store (more dense, giving them a great crunch, though I certainly wouldn't consider them dry or crumbly at all).

2.  Hail Merry Choco Macaroons; $3.99 - $4.99 @ Whole Foods,
I am obsessed with the Choco flavor, though they alco come in Blonde and apparently now Strawberry!  I found the Choco flavor on sale recently at Whole Foods and had to stop myself from buying fifteen packs of them.. they are insanely good.  Everyone I've had try them loves them, and I'm so glad that they're raw, gluten & soy free so that I can share with all of my vegan-friendly friends (..except those allergic to tree nuts, but they wouldn't be after coconut anyways!!).  These are only 130 calories for two macaroons, and with how rich and decadent they are, it is easy to stop at two.  However.. for those of us with a serious sweet tooth, it is quite easy to finish the bag in one sitting, so maybe take two out and put the rest away before you start...

Alternative:  Larabar Coconut Cream Pie; $1.99 @ most grocery stores & online
Leaning more to the raw and coconut side of sweet things, you may enjoy a Coconut Cream Pie Larabar if you can't find Hail Merry products near you.  It's not going to be chocolate, but neither is the Blonde Macaroon, so we can just call it an alternative for that.

3.  Whole Foods Bakery Case of Magical, Sugary Dreams; price varies @ Whole Foods
If you have never been to a Whole Foods and you're vegan, you are seriously missing out.  They have a TON of vegan friendly products, but most importantly, freshly made vegan baked goods.  On any given day, I can find multiple fresh items in the case.  For example, on my visit on Sunday, I found fresh made cookie sandwiches with decadent vanilla icing in both chocolate chip and oatmeal varieties; a chocolate graham cracker sandwich filled with a chocolate ganache and both vanilla and chocolate cupcakes.  If there were more options than that, I missed them because I was already drooling over the cold deli case items (General Tsao's "Chicken"?!?!?  Why yes I'd LOVE to try it!).  Most importantly, you won't break the bank on a vegan cupcake, it was around $2-$3.  I don't even know how much the cookies are.. I just surrender to them with reckless abandon.

Alternative:  Pair with your local bakery and see if they're willing to make you vegan baked goods!  A lot of the time, an arrangement can be made IF they take custom orders and you place a minimum amount (think half a dozen cupcakes or a baker's dozen of cookies).  Just make sure you're clear that vegan means no eggs, milk, butter, gelatin, etc.  It is YOUR responsbility to clearly communicate your dietary needs.

4.  Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies; 20 for $5 @ Kroger (seasonal & at select stores)
These cookies are amazing.  They hold a special place in my heart, and will forever and ever.  I imagine I could very easily make them myself (I already make pumpkin chocolate chip muffins), but there is something magical about being able to get them from a store.  They are available only seasonally, and you may need to request them.  One local Kroger would let me place orders for them, whereas my other Kroger rudely told me they wouldn't be carrying them and to stop asking and go look somewhere else.  Remember: just smile & move on.  Anyone who wants to give you attitude over cookies in a bakery isn't worth your time or $$.

Alternative:  See suggestion for #3.

5.  Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate With Almonds 3 Pack; $1.79 @ Trader Joe's
This has become my favorite way to get chocolate.  I, for whatever reason, am much better at portion control with this format.  The bars are smaller, but I don't feel jipped because I'm getting three.  I can open one, eat less than half, and still feel like I got my chocolate fix, and take joy in the fact that I have SO MUCH chocolate still left (two and a half more bars?!?!?!).  They also come in two other varieties, but I prefer them with the almonds.

Alternative:  Most grocery stores carry some kind of vegan friendly chocolate, though it is usually accidentally vegan, and can be scary to buy.  A lot of dark chocolate drifts toward the waxy side, as a lack of milk can case a lack of fat (though sugar is still usually abundant).  Rice Dream does make a Rice Milk Chocolate if you're missing creamy chocolate, though I think it's around $3-$5.

6.  Trader Joe's Soy Creamy Cherry Chocolate Chip Frozen Dessert; $2.99 @ Trader Joe's
This stuff is just downright good.  I am a huge fan of cherry cordials, and miss them about 99% of the year (though I can rarely find questionably vegan dark chocolate ones occasionally at CVS and/or Walgreen's, but I can't remember which brand it is because they carry TWO brands of cherry cordials).  Unlike a lot of "frozen dessert" ice cream alternatives, I have never bought this, brought it home, and found it freezer burnt or crystalized.  It has always been creamy and delicious.  I believe they do make another flavor, but I have honestly never made it past this one.

Alternative:  So Delicious Coconut Milk Frozen Dessert - all varieties;  ~$5 @ Kroger
So this stuff made the list as an alternative instead of a primary favorite due to the price point.  It is on point for premium, gourmet ice cream, but I'm a cheap ass.  I know I'm going to sit down and eat the whole thing in one go, so I certainly don't want to pay nearly $5 a pop.  There are several frozen dessert ice cream replacements on the market, but the Coconut Milk ones tend to have the best texture, assumably because of the fat content of the coconut.  The good news?  Coconut fat is a good saturated fat and eating a serving of this as a treat won't kill you or your diet.

7.  Trader Joe's Gone Bananas Frozen Chocolate Covered Banana Slices; $1.99 @ Trader Joe's
An old school treat that has gotten lost with the time, chocolate covered bananas were a pretty big deal in their day.  They were usually on a stick and possibly sprinkled with nuts, but I am a fan of the Trader Joe's sliced variety.  Portion control is easy and they taste amazing.  They're awesome frozen solid, or good "just melty" for those of us with sensitive teeth.  The price is right, and it's nearly impossible to eat the whole box in one sitting.

Alternative:  well.  I don't have one, honestly.  What I would suggest is looking for chocolate covered strawberries at the bakery or at a specialty store, but even then, double check the ingredients for the dipping chocolate.

8.  Clif Kids Brownie Bar; $0.99 - $1.99 @ most grocery stores
These scaled down "meal bars" are intended to be a healthy snack for kids and a great finisher to a packed lunch.  I like them because they taste more like junk food than their grown up counter parts, and the texture is nice.  Warning: it's easy to eat a whole box in one sitting.. tread carefully.

Alternative:  You don't need one.  You can find these at most grocery stores, both specialty and chain.

9.  Family Gourmet Fudge Covered Peanut Butter Cookies; $1-$2 @ Family Dollar
I don't know if all locations carry these, but Clancy pointed these out to me the other day and my little heart sang.  These are very similar to the Girl Scout Cookies that I think are now called Tagalongs (who can keep up) and can regionally be accidentally vegan (check the box before you buy!).  These are a dangerous cookie for me because I will eat the whole box in one sitting with the justification that peanut butter = protein.. yeah.  These are high in sugar and fat, so the macros are a little skewed for that.

Alternative:  See the description for the seasonally available Girl Scout cookie.

10.  Zico Coconut Water in Chocolate; price varies by size
I know Trader Joe's carries Zico, but I'm pretty sure they're widely available at many major grocery stores.  They have an original flavor, but something about the chocolate flavor makes me feel like I'm getting a decadent treat (when in reality, I'm getting hydration, electrolytes, and a healthy dose of antioxidant rich cocoa).  Mind the calories per serving, but I'll be honestly; when I get this stuff I drink the whole bottle in a day, regardless of size.

Alternative:  Silk Chocolate Soymilk; price varies by size
Silk is widely distributed so you can probably find this almost anywhere.  The plus side of this treat is that it is a fortified soymilk, so you're getting protein, vitamins and minerals.  The downside is that almost all chocolate soymilks on the market tend to be a little heavy on the sugary side.  Good for a treat, not recommended as your regular protein source.

Regional Sugar Fix Love:  Sweet Peace Bakery!
Sweet Peace Bakery is a one woman show that makes and delivers tasty treats to several coffee houses and specialty stores in the Cincinnati area.  You can find her various treats at Taza, Sitwell's, Coffee Emporium (both locations), Clifton Natural Foods and Park + Vine.  There may be even more options, but I honestly haven't made my way back to the area in a while; I feel like she may have expanded to somewhere in Findlay Market.  What is available varies by what she makes, because deliveries always sell out and she rotates what she makes.  If you ever get the chance to try a Voreo or a Betterfinger, you had better do it or you will regret it.  You can also order treats by the dozen, for gift baskets, or events (such as a vegan wedding cake).

Honorable Mention:  Trader Joe's Roasted Coconut Chips; $2.99 @ Trader Joe's
So I didn't put these in the main list because these are not a typical sweet treat.  Clancy and I are both fans of shredded coconut, so these are amazing to us because they don't taste like a sugar overload, but they definitely taste like a sweet coconut treat with some crunch.  I love using them as a garnish to asian inspired meals and on soup.  I also like eating them by the handful straight out of the bag...

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