Oatmeal Raisin’ Hell Redux

Some of you readers may remember my old blog back on NotPopular.com (Thanks to Josh Highland for the hosting space!) on which I posted a bunch of recipes and ramblings back in the day. One of my favorite entries on it was my Oatmeal Raisin Hell cookie recipe. Raisin haters be damned! (Fine, I’ll give you some tips on how to substitute them. Punks.) These cookies are my go-to when I need cookies in a flash and don’t have time to shop for new ingredients since pretty much everything in it is stuff you most likely already have in your pantry anyway. They’re always a hit wherever they show up, and a batch makes quite a few of them. Sometimes I even make bags or tins of them as gifts for the dudes in my life that enjoy food more than gift cards. And the best part is since they’re egg-free, you can eat tons of the (DELICIOUS) dough without a worry that Salmonella is going to ruin your whole cookie-inhaling experience. My grandma clipped this recipe out of a newspaper in the ’50s or ’60s, and made these cookies for many decades. I’m proud to carry on the tradition, with a somewhat updated and veganized edition!

A few notes:

  • These babies are a tad on the salty side of your average cookie, and I think it gives them a little somethin-somethin’ since these are also nice and sweet and spiced, but you can take it down to 3/4 teaspoon if you like. Try it with a full teaspoon the first time and see what you think.
  • A #40 cookie scoop (completely full and then scraped against the side of your mixing bowl) works great for these. You want smallish cookies, no bigger than a rounded tablespoon or so.
  • I like mine soft so I find that 10 minutes at 375 F is pretty much the sweet spot in my oven. You can go higher, up to 12 minutes (and even turn the heat up to 400) if you’d like crispy cookies to dunk in your tea or something, but I really love these chewy and they can burn pretty easily if you don’t watch them.
  • I also really like using my little mini measuring cup plunger for measuring out the molasses. That way you really get every drop out. I use mine anytime I’m doing syrups or other thick sticky liquids. Not necessary, but nice to have!
  • If you don’t dig on raisins, you lamewad, then any other chopped “plump” dried fruit like chopped dried apricots, craisins (crazy raisins!), cherries, or even chopped nuts or chocolate chips will work just fine.
  • In my old recipe I used Ener-G egg replacer, but over the years I’ve swapped it for flax eggs. Ground flaxseed works great in this crunchy oaty cookie, but I wouldn’t use it in a lighter cookie or cake. I haven’t gotten on the chia egg train yet but I bet it would work great here too.
  • As to rolled oats, you can use whole or quick-cooking (which I prefer just because it’s a bit smaller and makes for easier mixing and more even cookies), but not instant.
  • This is one of those easy-ish recipes that you can actually mix entirely by hand. I use my stand mixer to cream the shortening with the sugar just because it goes faster, but it’s totally not necessary if you have a good sturdy mixing spoon and a strong bicep.
  • You can easily double this recipe! I’ve done it many times. You’ll be in the kitchen swapping out sheets a lot more frequently, but you’ll have dozens and dozens of amazingly chewy gooey hearty cookies at a moment’s notice.

Oatmeal Raisin’ Hell Cookies

makes about 3 dozen cookies (give or take how much dough you eat)

Cat not included.

Cat not included.

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 c shortening
  • 1 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 6 T dark molasses
  • 1/4 c ground flaxseed meal
  • 6 T water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
  • generous 1/2 c raisins
  • 2 c rolled oats
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Note the all-knowing visage of Her Veganness Isa Chandra Moskowitz looking on in the background. She watches over us all. May she bless every batch of cookies.

Place rack in center position of oven and preheat to 375 F. Grease (or attack with nonstick spray) 3 cookie sheets. (You can use 2 but it just means you’ll have to re-grease one of them after the first batch is done.)

In a small bowl, mix together flaxseeds and water with a small whisk or fork. Set aside while you mix other wet ingredients. Give it a couple of minutes to sit and get funky and weird.

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Girl, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

In a large bowl, with either a stand mixer or a mixing spoon, cream together shortening and sugar as much as possible, then add molasses and vanilla extract. By now the flaxseed sludge should be thick and gooey and pretty much a solid mass. Add it to the other wet ingredients and mix well.

In a separate medium bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon with a whisk until well-combined. (This is a great sifting shortcut! I only use my sifter when I’m working with powdered sugar or cocoa since it’s such a pain to clean. This works just as well for airing out the flour and mixing the dry ingredients.) Add half of the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until combined, then add the rest. Add in the raisins and stir to mix, then the oats one cup at a time. Stir to make sure everything’s well-distributed and no oats are left lonely and dry at the bottom of the bowl.

Drop dough by the rounded tablespoonful (see note) onto greased cookie sheets at least an inch or two apart. These won’t spread too terribly much if you keep them small.

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All the little cookies say ah-ah, I want to

Pop in the oven on the center rack and bake for 9-11 minutes one tray at a time. Let each batch cool on the tray for at least 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack to cool completely. Store covered in a cool, dry place. Serve with a few shots of almond milk and a smile.

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Best beer/whiskey/almond milk glass ever.

See you at the Crossroads

Ever since Madeleine Bistro went more or less underground, LA has been sorely lacking in gourmet upscale vegan dining options. We’re lucky enough to have a plethora of casual vegan restaurants and even some fantastic new veg-friendly hotspots like the swank  The Village in Studio City, the incredibly delicious STREET on Highland and Melrose, and the ever-scrumtrulescent Mohawk Bend in Silver Lake. But 100% plant-based places are rarely all that fancy, and sometimes a vegan wants to get her high heels on and be able to eat more than three things on the menu, you know?

Enter Crossroads. No, it’s not based on the Bone Thugs-n-Harmony song, nor on the Britney Spears vehicle, nor the used clothing trading company. It was founded by none other than vegan megachef Tal Ronnen, whom I can personally attest to being 100% good dude. The Conscious Cook author/Gardein golden boy has created a beautiful yet unpretentious setting in the Fairfax/Beverly Grove area that serves all-vegan cuisine and gets me that much closer to my dream of being the world’s foremost vegan gourmet restaurant critic. This Friday night the hubs and I were lucky enough to get a reservation on the second night it was in business and I’m so, so glad we did. Forgive the quality of my crappy cell phone photos – it’s dark as a mother in there. Moby was eating there at the same time, NBD. Bottom line: the place has a few kinks to work out, as does any in its early days, but overall it’s fantastic.

The restaurant itself is just gorgeous. Tal and the other founders clearly paid a lot of attention to detail. The bar is the focal point of the main dining room, and I’d be happy to wile away a few hours here chatting it up with the friendly bartenders.

IMAG1967Our reservation (DEFINITELY make one) was for 9 PM, and we ended up having to stand at the bar and wait for a good half hour for our table. I’m pretty forgiving of slow/disorganized service when a place is brand new, and it ended up giving us a few moments to hang out and try the drink options. Some of these beverages were downright crazypants – they were out of the Caprese Smash and I really wanted to try a concoction with 9 ingredients, especially one with Sriracha bitters. I ended up going with the Punch Lyfe and the Mr. got an old-fashioned. Both of us agreed they were THE BEST EVER and immediately ordered a second round. I ended up getting the Sunset & Vine the second time around, which looks super pretty on account of the beet juice, but tasted sorta eh also on account of the beet juice. The Punch Lyfe seriously was amazing and I’d get it again in a heartbeat, and the hubs’ old-fashioned was no joke the best I’ve ever had.

SUNSET & VINE milagro reposado / solerno / lillet rouge / st. germain / rhubarb bitters
blood orange / beet / basil / ginger beer,  and PUNCH LYFE tullamore dew / gingersnap liqueur / orange marmalade / angostura / sparkling wine; both $15

After being seated we ordered about a billion dishes. One thing to note here – the portions are not just small, they are TEENY. Some dishes are bigger than others, of course, but for the most part you’re going to be getting just a bite or two off each plate. Again on the service, it was somewhat poorly timed. We ended up getting four dishes at once, which of course didn’t all fit on the table, was a little uncomfortable, and not to mention made us look like total hogs. First up was the kale spanakopita.

photo (1)

KALE SPANAKOPITA / 8
harissa spiced smoked tomato fondu / mint oil

These were nothing short of goddamned delightful. The little tomato fondu (say that in as obnoxious of an accent as you can for full effect) was creamy, rich and thick, and the little spanakopita (you have to press your fingertips together and move your hands up and down while saying that like you’re in an old racist cartoon) were crisp on the outside and full of creamy, chewy kale on the inside. We both oohed and ahhed over these babies. I could have eaten about twelve of the little two-bite rolls.

Flat bread - PISTACHIO KALAMATA TAPENADE & SPICY ROASTED CAULIFLOWER   / 10

Flat bread – PISTACHIO KALAMATA TAPENADE & SPICY ROASTED CAULIFLOWER / 10

We saw a couple at the table next to us eating this, and had to get it for ourselves. The texture on the cauliflower was just perfect. It was almost like a BBQ chicken pizza, but vegan and for grownups. Definitely would get this dish again. This was probably the biggest dish we had, and luckily one of the tastiest.

KITE HILL CHEESE PLATE   / 14 assorted cheeses / housemade jams / and other goodies -- (GF optional)

KITE HILL CHEESE PLATE / 14
assorted cheeses / housemade jams / and other goodies — (GF optional)

I was really excited about the cheese plate, and ended up being a little disappointed. The serving size was ample, and I enjoyed the accompaniments, but the cheese itself left a bit to be desired. It was just way too springy. Too much agar or carageenan or somethin’. The cheeses weren’t labeled, but from their facebook page I can guess that the red-rinded one in the center was their Costanoa and the one on the far left was the Cassucio. The White Alder (in the foreground, with a mottled white rind) was the only one I really enjoyed, as it was creamy and rich and spread nicely across the little multigrain bread provided. Still, I think they’re all worth trying because new vegan cheese duh.

“CRAB CAKES”   / 8 hearts of palm / apples / beets / horseradish cream -- (GF optional)

“CRAB CAKES” / 8
hearts of palm / apples / beets / horseradish cream — (GF optional)

The mini crab cakes were teeny tiny, barely two bites each. Our only complaint with these was that the texture of the veggies inside was a little bit off – they were just barely too firm and too big, which was a bit distracting, but the flavors were on point. It reminded me quite a bit of a dish that Fatty’s used to serve that I dearly miss. Don’t know that I’d get these again, but they were nice.

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SPICED CHICKPEAS / 8
oven-dried tomatoes / parsley garlic whip — (GF)

The spiced chickpeas were also a bit weird in the texture department. I don’t know if they were undercooked, but they just seemed a bit too firm. The parlsey garlic whip was a lovely complement to the spicy red sauce, but in the end I wasn’t crazy about these garbanzos. And you know how I feel about garbanzos.

PAPPARDELLE BOLOGNESE   / 12

PAPPARDELLE BOLOGNESE / 12

Even though we had ordered enough dishes to keep our waitress busy all night, we agreed we were still hungry after all that and ordered the papardelle. This dish ended up being my least favorite, sadly – the sauce was just way, WAY too salty. And I LOVE SALT. Both of us WHOAED Joey Lawrence-style upon our first bites. The flavors were great, the veggie meat crumbles were great, the pasta was great – but the salt level just threw everything off. I probably would have enjoyed it just fine if not for that. Hopefully it was just a one-time mistake and not the way it’s supposed to be made.

The dude at the table next to us ordered all four desserts on the menu and ate all of them by himself. Not to be outdone, we ordered some of our own (though not all four, which I still regret bitterly.)

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CARROT CAKE ICE CREAM, CHOCOLATE BUNDT CAKE, both $4

First of all, OMG SO CUTE. The desserts are itty-bitty (and only $4 a pop!) so don’t feel guilty at all for ordering one of them after eating here. Or all of them. The chocolate bundt cake was super rich and dark – in fact, the cocoa level was a little too strong and bitter, and I’m a dark cocoa fiend. But once I got to the ooey gooey caramely center I couldn’t help but exclaim OMUHGAH at that. It was ridiculous. In the best way. And the carrot cake ice cream? GOOD LORD SO GOOD. Absolutely delicious. Also, the little slices of carrot are candied and they’re bunny ears. GET THIS DESSERT.

Overall, I really loved Crossroads. There were a few hiccups but that’s more than understandable during the very early days of a restaurant. I really believe this is going to be the new vegan place to be, and know that my non-veg friends wouldn’t complain about eating here. The atmosphere is really classy, the food and drinks are bomb, the bartenders all wear cute suspenders, and the bathroom sink is mad fancy.

CRAZY SINK!

CRAZY SINK from inside the restaurant’s holodeck.

Well done, Mr. Ronnen and company. I’ll be back soon!

Crossroads

http://www.crossroadskitchen.com/

8284 Melrose Ave

Los Angeles, CA 90046

(323) 782-9245

 

Duty Now for the Future (Or, CHIPOTLE HAS TOFU! YAY!)

The first time I made the pilgrimage to a Chipotle (this was circa 2005; they were not as omnipresent as they are today), I looked at the mound of guacamole being heaped upon my forearm-sized burrito, gasped aloud, and asked, “Is this the promised land?”

But now Chipotle has even surpassed my initial impression, because they have added another vegan protein option to the menu.

Yay!

Yay!

You may feel you are experiencing déjà vu as you read this.  Hasn’t Chipotle offered faux meat in the past?  Yep.  Your memory doesn’t deceive you: it was a seasoned Gardein, and it made a fine taco.  But this option was never actually featured on the menu, so those not tapped in to the vegan hivemind didn’t know it existed.  After a few short months, it was pulled entirely due to “lack of interest.” (Otherwise known as: “No one ordered this secret menu item that we never actually told anyone about.”) I will always remember that summer of (Gardein-)lovin’ fondly.  It was beautiful, but it was never meant to be.

This time, the protein is a braised tofu that Chipotle is calling “sofritas.” (I’m guessing this is some derivation of sofrito? Silly honkeys and their misguided attempts at appropriation.)  And it is on the signage in the restaurant, so consumers are actually aware of its existence.

It’s currently being tested in a handful of San Francisco bay area locations, and as fate would have it, one of these locations is practically adjacent to my office. I had my gentleman procure some for us while I was working on Saturday in the hope that it would dull the pain that accompanies being an empty office because it’s Saturday.

It did!  The only pain I felt after lunch was a gluttony-induced stomachache. The tofu is extra-firm and cooked in a tangy, semi-spicy sauce.  Imagine if barbacoa and a block of tofu had a lovechild: barbacoa called tofu (okay, actually he texted, and it was at 1:00am) to “hang out.” He poured a couple glasses of red wine, put on an Otis Redding record, and, well…you can imagine the results—or taste them firsthand, if you happen to be in the bay area.

I had a generous portion of the tofu on tacos with black beans, fajita vegetables, salsa (“Uh, the spicy one,” is typically how I distinguish it) and guac.  Other than a serious oozing problem (this is not a dish I would advise shoveling into your mouth as you handle important documents), I have no complaints. I ate two of the three tacos, and then almost died from a combination of gluttony and pure happiness.

Side-effects include needing way more napkins than you have at your disposal.

Side-effects include needing way more napkins than you have at your disposal.

The mister, on the other hand, had his tofu served in a burrito. This burrito easily weighed more than the dumbbells I use when I do bicep curls: it was Man-vs.-Food, seriously-do-I-get-a-plaque-for-finishing-this sized, and I’m proud to say that my svelte gentleman took it down.

Look at the scale of this beast.

Look at the scale of this beast.

The only real drawback to this option is that, since we now have a vegan “meat,” guacamole costs extra.  But come on: it’s like twelve ounces of guac. It’s worth the $1.50.

While he was buying the food, my fiancé asked the Chipotle employee how the tofu was selling (I think to gauge the regularity with which we will have to buy it in order to ensure its permanent presence on the menu; three times a day?  Five?).  She responded, “Oh, great!  It tastes just like meat!”  Sigh.  Nevertheless, I hereby pledge to eat as much Chipotle as necessary to keep this option alive and well.  It’s a big commitment, but I’ll do it for our future. And for all of you.