Arguably one the of the best things about Trader Joe’s is our holiday offerings; from classics like Peppermint Joe Joe’s cookies to silly little things like Candy Cane Coal, TJ’s really brings it when it comes to holiday treats. That’s the thing about Trader Joe’s: by not oversaturating the shelves with things like peppermint extract and powdered sugar during the year, they seem extra special when winter rolls around. It can be pretty sad for a vegan, though, as the new products roll in and nary a one lacks eggs, milk, or whey in the ingredient list. I’ve got a few favorites that happen to be vegan, like the Chocolate Rings with Sprinkles, but I mostly find myself disappointed that I can’t enjoy some of the more traditional options. This year, I decided to take matters into my own hands, and veganize some of those I’ve been lusting after most. Looking for some last minute holiday cheer? Look no further than these recipes, culled and adapted from some of the best vegan sites around. Enjoy!
Caramel and Dark Chocolate Popcorn Crunch:
You know those popcorn tins with puppies or penguins that start showing up everywhere around the holidays? I’ve always really, really loved them. As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve realized I might only be in it for that dark, sticky caramel corn. Which is why it was such a bummer to see that Trader Joe’s holiday caramel corn, which amazingly uses brown rice syrup for sugar, had butter in it. I knew I had to make my own. I used a caramel corn recipe from the Sweet Life, replacing the Earth Balance with coconut oil. I also added in one cup of mixed nuts, made up of chopped walnuts, pecans, and almonds.
Once the popcorn and nuts are sweet and caramel-y, you’ve got a few options for melting the chocolate: 1, in a double boiler; 2, in the microwave; and 3, in a heatproof bowl over a simmering pan of water. I usually use a glass bowl in a steamer pot over a pot of boiling water. Melt some dark chocolate, and dip in a few choice pieces. The result? A delicious, crunchy treat perfect for enjoying during Miracle on 34th Street or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Peppermint bark is extraordinarily easy to make- the trick is finding vegan white chocolate! If you’re able to find it at the Whole Foods or co-op near you, you’re in luck! If, like me, you have to resort to making your own, I had a lot of luck with this recipe from Vegan Nom Noms. It’s certainly an extra step, but it’s totally worth it.
This recipe makes about 15 small pieces; for more, double or triple the recipe.
3 oz semi sweet or dark chocolate, roughly chopped
3 oz vegan white chocolate, roughly chopped.
1/4 cup crushed candy canes or peppermints.
Prepare a piece of aluminum foil or a Silpat on a baking sheet.
Whichever method you choose, melt the dark chocolate, then spread in an even, thin layer on your prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes, or until the chocolate has set.
Crush your peppermints. My food processor couldn’t really handle it, so I crushed them in a plastic bag in a towel with a hammer. Then I attempted to separate the larger crushed pieces from the powder (a metal sieve would work great!), and set each aside.
Melt the white chocolate in the same way; pull of the heat and mix in the peppermint powder. Pour white chocolate over the dark, tilting the pan or using a spatula to spread it evenly. Sprinkle the crushed candy cane pieces over top, pressing them in a bit, and refrigerate for another 30 minutes.
Peel back the foil/ Silpat, and break or cut the bark into small pieces. Store in the refrigerator.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Salted Caramel Truffles:
These are AMAZING. For real, they turned out better than I could ever have imagined. So good, in fact, that I had to hide them from Michael in order to take pictures. And if he likes something that much, you know it’s good. These babies take a little time to put together; put on some holiday tunes and grab a friend to help you roll/stuff caramel into truffley goodness.
This recipe is easily doubled, or tripled.
1/3 cup brown rice syrup.
1/3 cup creamy, salted peanut butter (natural is best!)
4 oz vegan cream cheese
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz semi-sweet or dark chocolate, melted (use above methods)
Optional, for coating truffles:
chopped peanuts or other nuts
Beat or blend the cream cheese, slowly adding in the powdered sugar until smooth. Add the melted chocolate and vanilla and mix until completely combined. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
In the meantime, combine brown rice syrup and peanut butter in a small saucepan. Heat until the consistency of fluid-y, yet thick caramel. Let cool. Once cooled, split caramel into small rounds, and set aside on a plate/ baking sheet (lining it with parchment paper makes it much easier).
Pull the truffle mixture from the fridge. Roll a small hunk into a ball, then flatten. Place a caramel round into the middle, and fold the chocolate over until covered. Roll between your hands until ball-shaped. Use additional truffle mixture to patch any holes where caramel shows through, then re-roll between your palms. Roll truffles in peanuts or cocoa, if desired. Once all truffles are stuffed with caramel, refrigerate for at least a half hour. Then enjoy!