Vegan Carrot Cake Banana Bread

Once upon a time I made these chocolate banana penguin things for my Vegan Bites bit on Spoon University’s Insta stories. They were fun. Putsy, but fun.

Loaf Vegan Carrot Cake Banana Bread

In an ideal world, the feet and noses were to be made with orange candies. But I didn’t have any and wasn’t motivated to spend money on a bag of them only to use a few (Spoon doesn’t pay me for VB for the record, and I buy all the materials for cooking with my own money…and as a grad student I have about $40 a week to feed, water and caffeinate myself…so I gotta be selective with where my money goes) so I improvised and used cut carrots.

While eating them and being like wow bananas and carrots frozen together is rather awkward, I had an epiphany that perhaps baked together they’d be delightful. And so, the incident inspired this Vegan Carrot Cake Banana Bread.

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So a few weeks later, I made some. And now I’m going to share it with you. I ended up enjoying the loaf. I think I like carrot cake as dessert with lots of icing and banana bread the regular way the best, but this was a really fun way to mix it up. Truly, if you like carrot cake and/or banana bread, you will probably enjoy this recipe. If you want, you can add a vegan cream cheese icing on top.

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Personally, I wanted it as a not-too-sweet snacking/breakfast loaf, so this is the frosting-less route I went. But you do you. Live your best life.

I made this recipe with shredded coconut, too, and eventually decided it distracted too much from the rest of it and have concluded it is better without it. If you want dem coconut shreds tho, add in about 1/4 cup unsweetened.

Vegan Carrot Cake Banana Bread.

Cheers to 2018, baking new things, and of course, BANANAS!

For regular banana bread, click here.

For dog banana bread, click here.

Vegan Carrot Cake Bread

Prep Time:  1 hour

Bake Time: 30-40 minutes

Yield: 1 loaf

Ingredients:

  • 2 large very-ripe mashed bananas (or 2.5 small)
  • 3/4 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup vegan butter, softened (or sub neutral oil like canola or vegetable)
  • 1/3 cup brown or coconut sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (can sub regular whole-wheat, all-purpose or additional oat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup oat flour (made by pulsing rolled oats in a food processor or blender until a flour forms)
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax (can sub chia seeds)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup pecans
  • 1/4 cup raisins or golden raisins

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease a banana loaf pan with softened non-dairy butter or oil.
  2. Mash bananas in a large bowl. Shred carrots, or pulse into small pieces in a food processor. Set carrots aside
  3. Add melted butter or oil, sugar, non-dairy milk, and vanilla to bananas. Whisk together.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine whole wheat flour, almond meal, oat flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, rolled oats and flax in a bowl. Whisk together until combined.
  5. Add half of dry mixture to wet. Fold together. Add remaining dry ingredients, and fold again.
  6. Add walnuts, pecans, and raisins to the mixture. Fold until combined.
  7. Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake 45-60 minutes until fragrant, lightly golden, and a toothpick or fork inserted in the center comes out clean upon insertion and removal.
  8. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Slice and enjoy.

Baked Buffalo Tofu Bites

Look! A recipe that isn’t dessert! Oh JOY!

EASY vegan BAKED tofu buffalo bites

Haha I’m not sure why I wrote that…I’ve posted many non-desesrt or non-baked good recipes in my day. It just seems like lately desserts have been the kbaked.com trend (other than these nom nom baked plantains).

tofu prep

Back to the topic at hand: Baked Buffalo Tofu Bites. I made these after mentally toying with the idea for a few weeks now. Personally, I love any food or dish that is essentially a vehicle to eat an excessive amount of hot sauce. And while I do love cauliflower wings, I wanted to play around with buffalo sauce + tofu.

buffalo tofu

Anyone else just really love tofu? My theory is that if you don’t like tofu, you haven’t had it prepared well.I love it so much I can literally eat it plain with salt. That’s a little extreme for most people, but I am a tofu fiend for sure.

buffalo tofu marinating

The tofu and hot sauce lover that I am, I finally decided to pair them together. The result was stellar. So good, in fact, after testing only once, I immediately declared them blog-worthy, grabbed my camera, and just a few hours later here we are.

Vegan Baked Tofu Bites

These bites are blissful. Crispy on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside. And oh, so tangy and good!

Vegan Dipping Sauce for buffalo wings

To get the texture and flavor I desired, I first drained and pressed the tofu for about 4 hours before marinating overnight. This is optional and something I only did because I happen to be on break from school and have more time than usual on my hands.

EASY Vegan Baked Buffalo Tofu Bites

Skipping pressing the tofu and marinating for an time longer than an hour will totally work. You could even skip marinating all together if you wanted to, and simply drench the baked tofu in the marinate after baking.

marinating buffalo tofu

Another new tofu technique I toyed around with for these was the addition of a coating of cornstarch on the tofu cubes. I had read that lightly coating tofu in cornstarch enhances the crispness of the tofu’s exterior. What I read was correct. Highly recommend this technique if you’ve never tried it.

Easy VEGAN buffalo tofu bites

I also used what I had on hand to whip up a quick, cooling dipping sauce by combining plain unsweetened vegan yogurt (I used KiteHill Greek Style unsweetened yogurt) + some seasonings. You could also simply use vegan bottled ranch or regular ranch if you’re not vegan. Or a blue cheese dip. I personally hate blue cheese-flavored things, but you do you.

Easy Cool Vegan Dipping sauce

If you like hot sauce, even just a little bit, you should really give these a whirl. They are so, so easy, and so SO good. Crispy, tangy, chewy, creamy, spicy, addicting little bites of heaven!

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Easy Baked Buffalo Tofu Bites

Prep Time:  1 hour
Bake Time: 30-40 minutes
Servings: 2 people

Ingredients:

Buffalo Bites:

  • 1 16-ounce container firm tofu (I used Organic firm from Trader Joe’s – the one in the pink package)
  • 3/4 cup Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Sauce, divided
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon vegan butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

Dipping Sauce (OR sub Vegan Ranch):

  • 6 ounces unsweetened Greek-style non-dairy yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon seasoning blend like Ranch seasonings (I used Trader Joe’s 21 seasoning salute)

Method:

  1. Remove tofu from package and drain excess liquid.
  2. If pressing, place tofu block between two plates and place 2-3 cans on top. Place in refrigerator for 3-4 hours and drain additional water. You can skip this step if short on time.
  3. Cube tofu into 1 inch cubes and place in a Tupperware container or baking dish large enough that cubes are close but not stacked.
  4. Prepare marinade by combining 1 tablespoon melted non-dairy butter with 1/2 cup hot sauce + 1/4 cup water. Mix. Pour over tofu. Cover tofu.
  5. Place tofu in the refrigerator for 1-8 hours (or overnight).
  6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove tofu from refrigerator and transfer to a bowl. Add cornstarch and gently toss until all tofu is lightly coated.
  7. Line a baking sheet with a Sil-pat or parchment paper. Transfer tofu to baking sheet, spaced evenly.
  8. Bake tofu for 30-45 minutes, until crispy on the outside, flipping halfway through.
  9. Meanwhile, combine remaining 1/4 cup hot sauce + 1 teaspoon melted non-dairy butter. Use to drench tofu immediately after removing from the oven.
  10. Serve immediately.

Vegan Hazelnut Cake with Chocolate Buttercream

For Christmas this year, I really wanted to make a special kind of cake. Something that screamed celebration or occasion. I went back and forth over what to make. A Bouche de Noel? A fruit torte? An apple cinnamon spice cake with cream cheese icing? So many options, so few people (at least, at our holiday gathering) to feed.

delicious vegan hazelnut cake chocolate buttercream

Eventually, I settled upon the idea of a nut cake. I love a hearty, dense, nut-meal cake. It reminds me of holidays. Growing up I used to always go to my friend Michelle’s house and her mom would always have these delicious walnut cookies covered in powdered sugar and I could.not.get.enough. of them. I LOVE anything made with ground nuts.

Vegan Gluten-free Hazelnut cake with chocolate buttercream

I set out of to make a hazelnut cake with a the very clear idea in my mind that it would be a nut-meal cake. And to my surprise, recipes were hard to come by. I did some extensive googling and found many ‘hazelnut cakes’ made with hazelnut liqueur…not ground hazelnuts. Or regular cakes that had hazelnuts on top…or hazelnut liqueur in the frosting.

Easy Vegan Hazelnut Cake with Chocolate buttercream

Those might be all fine and well and good but those were not what I had in mind for my holiday hazelnut cake. I very specifically wanted a cake that contained quite a bit of ground hazelnuts.

Vegan Hazelnut Cake - Gluten-free, Chocolate frosting

My mom also speaks highly and frequently of a hazelnut-meal cake her Italian great aunt used to make, the dense cake made from hazelnuts all grated by hand. That’s what I wanted. No regular cake with liqueur for this gal (also, I hate liqueur).

Vegan Hazelnut Cake - Gluten-free

Lucky for me, hotforfood had a recipe that was sort of what I was looking for. I based the base of the cake loosely off her recipe, tweaking it to my liking and going a different direction with the frosting. Also lucky for me, food processors now exist and I didn’t have to grind hazelnuts by hand.

Gluten-free Vegan Hazelnut Cake

This cake turned out delicious. Rich, light, and dense, fluffy, sweet and nutty, all at once. The frosting pairs oh-so-perfectly with the cake.

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This is not the fastest easiest cake you will ever make. It requires prep work and planning ahead, but I assure you it is worth it. The nutty hazelnut cake offers a rich hazelnut flavor, the dense texture of the nut meal lightened by the oat flour. The ultra-rich deeply chocolatey buttercream elevates the cake from special to spectacular, the flavors reminiscent of Nutella, with far more finesse.

Vegan Chocolate Hazelnutcake_With_Chocolate_Buttercream

This is most definitely a special occasion cake. It feels festive and delicious. The recipe below with give you two layers, and enough buttercream to cover them both. The photos you see are of a cake that only had one layer, made into two, due to a dropped cake incident and making do with what was available. Didn’t matter tho, still tasted delicious!

Vegan Hazelnut cake with chocolate buttercream

I hope you make this and I hope you love it. If you do give the recipe a whirl, be sure to take me on Insta (@katherinebaker4). I love seeing what y’all make!

Happy 2018 everyone!

Vegan Hazelnut Cake with Chocolate Buttercream

Prep Time:  1 hour
Bake Time: 20-30 minutes
Servings: 6-8 people

Ingredients:

Cake:

  • 2 cups hazelnuts
  • 2 cups oat flour (or sub all-purpose)
  • 3 tablespoons flax
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • aquafaba (liquid) from one can of chickpeas
  • 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract (sub additional vanilla if you don’t have it)

Chocolate Buttercream:

  • 1 cup vegan butter, softened (I like Earth Balance baking sticks for frosting)
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 cups powder sugar, more as needed
  • 2-3 tablespoons non-dairy milk, as needed

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. If aquafaba is not cold, place in the fridge to chill.
  2. Spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat. Toast for 8-10 minutes until lightly toasted brown. Remove from oven and rub hazelnuts with a paper towel or clean towel to remove skins. If you can’t remove them all, that’s okay. Just do your best.
  3. Allow hazelnuts to cool completely. Meanwhile, lower oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans generously with oil or melted vegan butter.
  4. Combine oat flour, flax, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Once hazelnuts have cooled, pulse in a food processor until a flour/fine-ish meal forms. Some chunks are okay. It adds texture.
  5. Add hazelnut meal to dry mixture. Whisk well.
  6. Whip aquafaba with an electric mixture until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  7. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, non-dairy milk, sugar, vanilla, and almond extract. Stir into dry ingredients until just combined.
  8. Fold aquafaba into mix until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pans. Place in the oven for 20-22 minutes until lightly golden browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean upon insertion and removal. Once baked, allow to cool completely.
  9. Meanwhile, prepare frosting: combine softened vegan butter with cocoa powder and powder sugar. Use an electric hand or stand mixer to beat until light and fluffy. Add non-dairy milk if a thinner texture is desired. Add more cocoa powder and/or powder sugar (up to 1 additional cup) if thicker texture is desired. Personally, I added no non-dairy milk because I wanted a super rich thick and fudgy icing. But if you want something a bit thinner and fluffier, add non-dairy milk, one tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is achieved.
  10. Frost cooled cake, top with hazelnuts, and serve!

Easy Vegan Gingerbread People

Happiest of holidays to you! Are you ready for some easy vegan gingerbread cookies and/or dog pics? Great! Keep reading.easy vegan gingerbread cookies kbaked

Finals are over which means it is BAKING SEASON (cue creepy Pillsbury dough-boy laugh). If I am ignoring your calls and texts and have seemingly disappeared into the abyss, assume it is because my hands are covered in (vegan) butter and cookie crumbs until further notice.

delicious easy vegan gingerbread

As much of a pessimistic Pauly as I can be, I really love the holidays. And the excuse to bake in excess is among the many reasons I relish this season (I also love being cozy, drinking copious amounts of hot chocolate, spending time with fam, and watching The Santa Claus and Home Alone 2).

Presently I’m watching Relationsheep (#Bravofan5ever) as I quickly type up this post. Then it’s back to cleaning, gift wrapping, and doing a bunch of work (non-school related) that I pushed onto the back burner until finals had ended.

delicious vegan gingerbread cookies

But I thought I’d take a pause from my grind to share these easy vegan gingerbread people. These literally took about 10 minutes to throw together, and an additional 8-10 to bake. They were almost too easy making them the perfect cookie to whip up last minute for a gathering, and/or the perfect treat to satisfy a random gingerbread craving (which, personally, I have on occasion).

gingerbread people easy vegan

If you’d like to dress them up with some icing, by all means do your thing. I’m currently digging them plain, paired with a wicked cup of cocoa or a alongside a cold brew iced coffee. Mmmm.

super simple vegan gingerbread

If you don’t want the fuss of rolling out cookie dough, you can certainly bake these in dough balls with a dusting of raw sugar. This is a delicious option and gives the cookies a yummy chewy tummy middle.

easy vegan gingerbread people

I hope you give these cookies a whirl and love them as much as I do! If you make them, tag me on Insta (@katherinebaker4). I’d love to see them IRL!

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Many more posts coming your way this weekend/upcoming week! In the meantime, please enjoy this photo of my dog in a Mrs. Claus outfit her grandma bought her from Walgreens. Happiest of holidays to you!

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Easy Vegan Gingerbread People

Prep Time:  10 minutes
Cook Time: 8-10 minutes
Servings: 8-10 people, depending on the size of your cookie cuter

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup softened vegan butter (I like Earth Balance baking sticks)
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax + 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup + 1 additional tablespoon molasses (note: these are molasse-y cookies, since I love the taste of molasses. If you want them a little less molasses-heavy, sub the additional tablespoon for water)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat baking flour (can sub additional all-purpose, if desired)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place flax and water in a small bowl and allow to thicken, at least 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, cream together softened butter and brown sugar using an electric mixer or stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add molasses and flax egg and mix again.
  4. Combine flours, baking soda, spices, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together.
  5. Fold dry ingredients into wet until just combined. Form dough into a ball and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for ease of rolling (optional, but highly recommended; you can also pop it in the freezer for 5-10 minutes if you’re short on time).
  6. Roll out dough and cut with cookie cutters as desired. Place shapes on a lined baking sheet. For non-shaped cookies, you can also roll dough into balls, sprinkle with raw sugar, and place onto a lined baking sheet.
  7. Bake 8-10 minutes until just golden. Allow to cool before eating or icing.
  8. Enjoy!

PS – If you want more gingerbread goodness, try this yummy Nutty Gingerbread Granola!

Vegan Halo Top Review

Once upon a time I was asked to write about Vegan Halo Top’s release for Spoon University. Although I have a history of disliking Halo Top’s marketing for a variety of reasons, my curiosity was instantly peaked. I had to know what the hype was about.

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So for those who, like me, find themselves curious about the new non-dairy Halo Top flavors but are a bit hesitant to spend $5-8 on a pint of heavily-marketed frozen dessert, I thought I’d share my review to help you decide if it’s worthy of your time.

What Is Vegan Halo Top?

Halo Top has built a brand on a highly-effective marketing campaign of being the ultimate ‘guilt-free’ ice cream. It was one of the first well-received ‘low-calorie’ ice creams on the market (sorry Arctic Zero..), and has embedded itself into pop food culture alongside avocado toast and matcha lattes.

Halo Top advertises the calorie count of the entire pint right smack dab front and center of the packaging, and flaunts a high-protein content.

Non-dairy Halo Top is a coconut-milk based version of the original (280-360 calories per pint), with similar calorie counts and slightly lower protein contents (12 grams per pint versus 20 grams per pint).

Vegan Halo Top currently comes in 7 flavors: Caramel Macchiato, Chocolate, Chocolate Covered Banana, Peanut Butter Cup, Oatmeal Cookie, Sea Salt Caramel, and Cinnamon Roll.

The base appears to be a mix of coconut cream and water, and the dessert also contains prebiotic fiber (a thickener), organic cane sugar, erythritol (a calorie-free sugar alcohol), rice protein, pea protein, carob gum and guar gum (for thickness, I presume), stevia, and other ingredients that vary by flavor.

My Previous Distaste Of the Brand, Explained:

I have history of expressing irritation at the Halo Top marketing strategy. I don’t like the thought of demonizing or glorifying any foods, let alone my beloved ice cream. I don’t think we should feel guilty for eating regular ice cream, and I don’t think it’s wise, even if a food happens to be low-calorie, to disengage from internal hunger and fullness cues and give yourself permission to eat a whole pint.

Because the reality is, you should always give yourself permission to eat whatever sounds good to you in whatever amount satisfies your tastebuds and your tummy, whether it be a large salad as a snack, a piece of pie for breakfast, or a large scoop of your favorite ice cream whenever a craving hits.

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And you should also give yourself permission to stop if you’re full or things start not tasting so good. I can eat sweet potatoes until next Thursday and not tire of them, but often when I’m eating very rich foods, like ice cream or doughnuts, my taste buds will get over them and my stomach will tell me to stop. And I think it’s best I listen to my body.

This is what I’ve disliked for so long about Halo Top’s marketing: it presents itself as the angel among a devil-like group of foods, when really ‘real’ ice cream is just that: real ice cream. Delicious, rich, and satisfying.

Anyways…

Despite all of this, I still wanted to give Halo Top a try. I had always been curious: Okay, just how good can this stuff be? What could it possibly even taste like?

I had to know.

I pitched the idea of a review to my editors at Spoon, who approved the idea,* I went out into the world that very next weekend, only to find some pints of vegan Halo Top scattered among the original versions at my local Whole Foods. I picked up a single pint, put it in my cart, and went on my way.

*the review never ended up happening because apparently another Spoon writer reached out to HT to do a review and was sent a bunch of samples, but i decided to do my own on my blog

General First Impression

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Let me preface this by saying I love ice cream. Ice cream is probably my favorite dessert, and holds a special sentimental place in my heart as it’s a dessert I cherish many fond memories over enjoying with my dad growing up.

When it comes to ice cream preference, I go two ways: either I want rich, thick, dense hard-packed ice cream, loaded with texture (nuts, chocolate, cookies, candy, etc) or an airy soft serve that begins to melt the second it makes contact with the tongue.

So when I peeled back the golden foil from my Halo Top, I was pretty ready to be disappointment. After all, how could they manage such a low calorie count without making something completely fake-tasting, icy, or overly-artificially-flavored? It seemed like a near mathematical impossibility to me.

Throughout my trial and error with Halo Top, however, I settled upon something: it’s not ice cream. It will never be ice cream. It’s something else. It’s flavored fluff. And it’s delicious. Read on for details…

Texture:

 

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Right off the bat it was obvious that the texture of Halo Top is far different from that of a full-fat ice cream. This frozen dessert (I’m still not calling it ice cream) was almost fluffy when pulled from the carton with a spoon. I can best compare the mouthfeel of vegan Halo Top to that of marshmallow fluff or barely-thawed frozen Cool Whip. It’s aerated, light, and melts in the mouth.

The texture allows the flavor hits your palate in layers; first you just taste sticky cold and a hint of sweet. As it quickly melts on your tongue, you’re hit with a flood of de-fattened peanut butter, or cinnamon, it whatever flavor it is you happen to be eating. It’s almost soft-serve like, but with a quicker dissemination on the tongue.

Sweetness:

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Halo Top is a sweet treat but not overly so. I was quite worried the stuff would reek of nauseating over-artificial sweetness or leave your mouth feeling glowy as artificial sugar alcohols so often do.

The actual level of sweetness, however, is decently balanced. It’s certainly sweet, but not so sweet it’s inedible (as I find the non-dairy flavors of Ben & Jerry’s to be…sorry Ben & Jerry I so badly wanted to like you…).

As you swallow, you get a subtle lingering taste of artificial sugar alcohols, just slightly drying yet peaking your palate for more. The artificial taste is oddly not off-putting, but rather comforting and reminiscent of something semi-artificial you ate at sleepovers during childhood.

Chunks:

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As a texture junky, particularly when it comes to ice cream, this was the element of Halo Top I found most disappointing.

To me, when you a flavor has the word cookie in the title, I anticipate there will be chunks of cookie in the tub. This is not really the case with Halo Top. At first I was upset, but realized perhaps I misunderstood their concept. Maybe, after all, it was cookie-flavored-fluff, not ice-cream-filled-with-cookies. More on this is the flavor-by-flavor review below.

Slight misbranding aside, once I accepted this was not what Halo Top brought to the table, I was able to go back to enjoying it, reasoning I had the power (albeit less convenient) to add my own cookie pieces, chocolate chunks, candies, and whole nuts, especially since I am not concerned with keeping the calorie count of my desserts low as I’m not trying to lose weight or micromanage my body size.

By the Flavor:

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Since their launch, I’ve tried 4 flavors of non-dairy Halo Top. Below you can find my take on each I’ve had so far. I’d like to try more, but haven’t been able to find several of them. I’m also hoping they develop some of their other flavors (like cake batter or candy pieces) into non-dairy versions.

Oatmeal Cookie

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This was my first Halo Top experience, and my first dance with disappoint. Allow me to explain: I love oatmela cookies. the chewiness and moistness and soft crumb are what I dream of in a cookie, and I envisioned how wonderfully chunks of such a thing would taste dropped into ice cream.

To my sadness, there were no chunks in this flavor. Not a one. Rather, there were seemingly random oats floating within the fluff; oats which were dry and distracting rather than plush, scrumptious and experience-enhancing cookie chunks I had envisioned. Sigh.

The cloud-like texture and light sweet cinnamon flavor, however, brought my Spoon back into the point, digging for chunks, then cycling from anger, denial (no, there HAS to be chunks in here), to eventual acceptance of Halo Top as it was.

This flavor was just okay. It tasted nice on top of a German chocolate cake I made. I used it in place of whipped topping and for that, it served it’s purpose. Probably wouldn’t buy this flavor again.

Peanut Butter Cup

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Peanut Butter Cup was the second flavor I tried; I was hoping for redemption after my original cookie-less-Oatmeal Cookie letdown. Peanut Butter Cup had promises of two things I adore: peanut butter and chocolate. It certainly had to be good, right?

When I opened my second tub, I feel as if my expectations were more realistic. While I had a glimmer of hope that perhaps there were, in fact, real pieces of crushed candy in the frozen fluff, I knew there was a decent chance that would not be the case.

It was not the case. After emitting a sigh over the matter, I dug in with my spoon, ready to explore exactly what this had to offer instead.

It was at this point that I came to terms with the fact that Halo Top is not the texture-ridden, chocolate-and-nut-candy-packed ice cream I typically enjoy. It’s different. It’s fluff. That said, it’s weirdly enjoyable flavored fluff with miscellaneous swirly streaks and mysterious flecks of goo, and the occasional chunk if you picked up the right variety.

And that’s okay. It was halfway deep through the Peanut Butter Cup exploration that I mentally classified Halo Top as a separate food. It’s not ice cream, that was for certain. It’s not really even froyo or soft serve. It’s frozen flavored fluff. And oddly, I dig it.

Now. I’m not entirely sure what the base flavor was trying to taste like in this pint. There was a clearly defined peanut butter swirl which tasted like someone thinned out the insides of a Reece’s cup and rolled it into a thin strip that they decided would taste great in frozen fluff. But the fluff, itself, was confusing to me. Was it chocolate flavored? Was it peanut butter flavored? Was it somewhere in the middle?

I never reached a conclusion. I did, however, draw 3 conclusions during the consumption of Peanut Butter Cup: 1) I really liked the hard sweet peanut butter frozen-frosting-like swirl, 2)The flavored fluff in this pint is meh, and 3) I would maybe buy this flavor again and 4) This tastes way better with actual chopped up peanut butter cups added to it (obviously).

Chocolate Covered Banana

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I was wary about this one. While I an bonkers for bananas, I vehemently oppose artificial banana-flavored things.

Originally, I wasn’t even going to try it, but when Halo Top went on sale for $2.88 per pint at my local grocery store, this was the only vegan flavor I find in the bin besides Caramel Machiato. I went with Chocolate Covered Banana because for a fleeting moment I forgot it was likely banana-flavored and envisioned chocolate-dipped banana pieces in ice cream (back to my rookie-Halo Top-misunderstanding-ways) and I tend to dislike coffee ice-cream.

The verdict: it does have that artificial banana taste, reminiscent of banana-flavored Laffy Taffy. If you’re into that kind of thing, this flavor is for you. If you’re like me and a banana purist, I’d pick another flavor.

One clear strength of this point was the chocolate fudge swirl. This swirl Halo Top did not skimp upon, at least in my pint. There was ample chocolate fudge, albeit it syrupy, throughout the fluff.

I ended up hating the artificial flavor less than I normally do, perhaps as means to justify the money spent, adding chocolate chips and coconut whipped cream to temper the strong fake banana flavor.

This variety I wouldn’t buy again. Texture still on point, but not a flavor my tastebuds care for.

Cinnamon Roll

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This is by far my favorite of the four flavors I have tried. Unlike oatmeal cookie and peanut butter cups, Cinnamon Roll actually contains little chunks of….something. No, it’s not quite cinnamon roll pieces; rather, tiny balls of chewy cinnamon sweetness with a doughy texture float throughout the pint alongside a cinnamon sugary swirl.

It’s just enough textural contrast to keep you committed. I don’t need to add anything to this flavor (though it does taste good with crushed vanilla Joe Joe’s/Oreo’s). The base flavor itself, a sweet vanilla cinnamon, is superior in taste to Oatmeal Cookie, Peanut Butter Cups, and Chocolate Covered Banana in terms of palatability. Of the flavors, it also has the least ‘fake’ aftertaste.

I would buy this one again and again. Fluffy, cloudy, dreamy cinnamon sweet goodness. Excellent topper for pie or ice cream or on top of an iced coffee (yes, I went there).

Overall Thoughts:

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I went into this experiment curious but cautious, with my guard up high. I desperately wanted to write off Halo Top as a literal and figurative nasty marketing scam, but I emerge with a nuanced understanding of the obsession, and would like to make a public profession: I am a fan.

I want to try them all, especially the salted caramel if I ever come across it. I am even going so far to say I have stalked their flavors site and am hoping and praying they veganize other flavors, especially vanilla bean, lemon cake, birthday cake, pistachio, chocolate almond crunch, candy bar, and particularly pancakes and waffles.

And here I stand, a changed woman, humbled by Halo Top. I shouldn’t have judged you by your cover. And while I still dislike your anti-intuitive eating, diet-culture-contributing marketing style, I want to eat all the fluff I can get my sticky little paws on. Spoons up.

Easy Baked Plantains

Our department has a lunch meeting every Wednesday where first year students sit and eat while a faculty member tells us about their research how they got where they are, and sometimes their life story, etc. it’s a nice time / I’m all about free food.plantain_baked_kbaked_coined_

Delivery options are limited around the Columbia University Medical Center campus. Hence why every single week lunch ends up being one of 3 options: pizza that smells like burnt Chuck E Cheese kitchen grease and is paired with a salad cloaked in sad cold deli meat (and one plain salad, but that goes fast), Dominican food, or on a good day, sandwiches on really strangely delicious fluffy crusty white hoagie bread.plantain_baked_kbaked_coins_vertical

Dominican food days are frequent, and I don’t hate it. The buffet has enough veggie options (salad with avocado, rice, beans) that I can finagle a decent meal out of it.

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The star of every Dominican week is, of course, the fried plantains. Sticky sweet gooey goodness, the fried plantains have become a cherished and familiar treat.

It dawned upon me this week that I’ve never actually made plantains at home which considering bananas and potatoes are my favorite foods and plantains are essentially the potato of bananas (as in not sweet and rather starchy), is quite odd. So over the weekend I decided to change this. I picked up some plantains, 3/$1, at my local grocery store.

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A kind woman was also picking out plantains when I was sorting through them. I asked her if she had any advice for a new plantain cook, and she told me to wait until the plantains were “soft like sponges.” Noted.

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Now onto cooking. I don’t love frying things and my stomach doesn’t love eating large quantities of fried food. Hence why I after doing some googling to confirm it was possible, I opted to bake mine.

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I did mine skin-on because the method sounded intriguing to me. You can totally peel them and cube them, coat them in oil and seasonings, and bake them that way (just for a shorter duration, 20-25 minutes until tender rather than 40-45).

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If you are curious about the skin-on method as I was, I am happy to report that it totally works. Just take it out of the oven when the foil-wrapped plantain gives to a squeeze.

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Next comes topping. I played around with topping these babies. One I coined and ate with melted vegan butter and brown sugar.

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Another I drizzled with almond butter, cinnamon, and a dash of sugar. The last I ate with leftover black bean soup and cilantro. I decided they would also taste great with guacamole. All were solid options, and it was a very plantain-filled day.

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Speaking of filled, I found plantains quite filling. I plan to keep this in mind since they are a cheap starchy piece of produce aka something I desperately need to befriend.

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I hope you give these a try. If you do, please let me know, and let me know how you topped or are them.

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Happy plantaining!

Easy Baked Plantains

Prep Time:  2 minutes
Cook Time: 35-45 minutes
Servings: 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium very spotted ripe plantains

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Using a knife, draw a slit lengthwise down each plantain.
  3. Wrap each plantain (skin on) in aluminum foil, or lay out on a baking sheet with parchment paper underneath.
  4. Bake plantains for 35-50 minutes (depending on size/oven) until soft and squeezeable to the touch.
  5. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  6. Top and eat as desired.

Topping Ideas:

  • non-dairy butter + 1 teaspoon brown sugar + dash cinnamon
  • drizzle of almond butter + cinnamon + sugar
  • black bean soup + salsa + cilantro
  • guacamole

Salted Peanut Butter Cup Brownies (Brownie Mix Shortcut)

The same says it all: salty sweet rich and decadent brownies swirled with luscious peanut butter and topped with peanut butter cups and crunchy sea salt. These salted peanut butter cup brownie mix brownies are tastebud heaven.

I made these a few weeks ago for Vegan Bites (which airs Thursday evenings on @spoonuniveristy Instagram stories) and wasn’t planning to put them on the blog, but the response to the episode was so positive I decided despite only having mediocre phone pics they deserved a place on kbaked.com.

You’ve probably noticed based on the title of the post that these brownies are made with a box mix. Now you may be saying “that’s cheating” or that “true bakers never use mixes.” To which I say your opinion is fair, however, I’ve come to find times and places for box mixes and like to keep them on hand for such occasions. They’re especially nice when you need to whip something up and find your baking pantry bare.

Making a cake for a special occasion is not, in my opinion, the place for a mix, but these brownies definitely are. All you have to do to make these is grab a box of brownie mix, some peanut butter cups, sea salt, oil/vegan butter, and an egg substitute, and you’re on your way to peanut butter cup brownie mix magic in a matter of minutes.

Now let’s talk brownie mix. Some are better than others. Look for an ingredient list that contains things you’d add at home and doesn’t contain too many things you wouldn’t (like DATEM and mono- and do-triglycerides, etc). I like Trader Joe’s, Annie’s, and Cherrybrook Kitchen mixes. Also check the ingredient list for animal ingredients. You’ll find many are accidentally vegan, making your life a wee bit easier.

You’re going to cook the brownie mix according to the package with a few modifications, swapping animal products for non-animal products. While many mixes call for oil, should yours call for butter, simply swap in vegan butter (like Earthbalance).

Now on to the milk. Should your box’s recipe call for milk, simply add your favorite unsweetened non-dairy milk. I would go for the unsweetened, since box mixes tend to be far sweet enough already.

Lastly, the egg. This is the trickiest to swap but you can handle it. For quick breads, cookies, and muffins, swapping each egg with 1/4 cup applesauce or a flax or chia egg works fabulously. If you don’t mind a subtle banana taste, 1/2 a small ripe mashed banana will also work. For brownies, replacing an egg with a chia or flax eggs or 1/4 cup puréed silken tofu or canned pumpkin will do the trick. Cakes are a bit trickier and sometimes with delicate crumb, aquafaba is best, but know that chia and flax eggs will do just fine.

To make a chia or flax egg, simply combine 1 tablespoon flax or chia seeds + 3 tablespoons water in a small bowl and allow to thicken for at least 10 minutes. Fabulous.

Now back to brownies: despite this long and winding post these truly couldn’t be easier. Make the brownies according to the mix instructions with swaps mentioned above, swirl in 1/4 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter, and bake according to time listed on the package.

When there’s a minute or two left in the bake time, chop up vegan peanut butter cups (like Justin’s dark chocolate) and when you pull the brownies out of the oven to cool, sprinkle the cups over the top of the hot brownies. You’ll notice the cups will start to melt slightly; this is perfect. Sprinkle with flakey sea salt to finish, allow to cool, and enjoy, preferably crumbled atop your favorite non-dairy ice cream (I’m partial to Van Leeuwen or So Delicious Cashew Milk – particularly their Caramel Cashew Cluster ice cream myself).

I hope you make these or that this recipe has inspired you to use that box of brownie mix in your pantry that has been sitting there lonely for months.

Salted Peanut Butter Cup Brownies (Brownie Mix Shortcut)

Level: Easy
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Bake Time: 20-30 minutes
serves 12

Ingredients:

  • 1 box egg and dairy free brownie mix (just check labels, many brands are vegan)
  • oil / water that the mix calls for -1/4 cup apple sauce, silken tofu, mashed sweet potato or 1 tablespoon chia + 2 tablespoons water per egg called for on box.
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (optional)
  • 10-12 nondairy peanut butter cups (optional, I like Justin’s dark chocolate)
  • 1-2 tablespoons flakey sea salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven and prepare mix per box instructions, subbing your egg replacement for eggs.
  2. Pour into well-greased pan.
  3. Swirl in peanut butter evenly throughout batter.
  4. Bake per time called for on box.
  5. Remove from oven. Immediately too with sea salt + chopped pb cups.
  6. Enjoy! 🤗