Munching my way through Portland

As someone who is skeptical of every new hipster food obsession that emerges (constantly eating gluten-free food even when you aren’t celiac? kale in everything?), I wasn’t quite sure of what to expect when I visited Portland in late December last year. I knew that there existed a high number of food trucks and some amazing wineries and breweries in and around this city, but other than that, would I be underwhelmed by hipster food trends in an otherwise hipster city? Thankfully not! I got more than my fair share of amazing food in this city over a few days, and also got to check out some of their famous breweries. So here’s my recommendations for some delicious (and definitely unique!) foods to check out the next time you’re there:

Screen Door

Serving Southern (particularly Cajun) and soul food, I was eager to visit this place and with an impressive 1,500 reviews on Yelp, I had my hopes up quite high for this one. Everyone recommended arriving there before they opened in order to not wait in a line for over an hour. We arrived half an hour before it opened, and we were still the 20th party standing in line! Thankfully, the restaurant is pretty spacious and we managed to get in the first cycle. Service was quick and we were not disappointed by their famous chicken & waffles and the bananas foster french toast. I preferred the french toast a lot more than the chicken and waffles, even though the latter is more popular – the bananas were perfectly caramelized, the rum paired perfectly with the bananas and it definitely convinced me to make one of my resolutions for this new year – which is learning how to flambé!

Chicken & Waffles @ Screen Door, Portland, OR.

Chicken & Waffles @ Screen Door, Portland, OR.

Bananas Foster French Toast @ Screen Door, Portland, OR

Bananas Foster French Toast @ Screen Door, Portland, OR

Mother’s Bistro and Bar

Located in the heart of downtown Portland, Mother’s has a warm, inviting feel that would be perfect for a lazy brunch or at their Velvet Lounge next to the bar, for some pre or post-dinner cocktails. We went there for a Sunday brunch and it was absolutely packed – though we were on the waiting list, it surprisingly did not take more than 20 minutes for us to get seated given how many other people were also waiting. Service was prompt and courteous and the food came out quickly and was quite delicious. I especially liked their breakfast nachos which contained roasted red potatoes sauteed with bacon, caramelized onions and a touch of sour cream, topped with melted cheddar cheese, green onions and some sour cream. Definitely a must-prepare the next time I’m hosting brunch. The peach compote on top of the crisp belgian waffle was also really fresh, and was the right balance of sweet and acidic.

Breakfast Tacos @ Mother's Bistro & Bar, Portland, OR.

Breakfast Tacos @ Mother’s Bistro & Bar, Portland, OR.

Crispy Belgian waffle with a peach compote and whipped cream @ Mother's Bistro & Bar

Crispy Belgian waffle with a peach compote and whipped cream @ Mother’s Bistro & Bar

Voodoo Doughnuts

Which indepedent donut seller makes $600,000 in revenue each year? Voodoo Donuts established a little over a decade ago, has shown that donuts can be just an empty canvas and can given whatever flavor that a baker chooses. With a rotating menu, some of their most famous donuts include their signature Voodoo Doll Doughnut, Captain my Captain doughnut (both of which I ate and was surprised by how amazing they tasted) and the Portland Creme donut (which I unfortunately did not taste!), also designated as Portland’s “Official City Doughnut” by a resolution introduced by Portland Mayor Tom Potter and passed by city commissioners the same night. Their Bacon Maple Doughnut was also pretty great with the sweetness of the maple syrup pairing excellently with the saltiness of the bacon, which also provided a nice crunch to the glaze on top of the doughnut.

The signature voodoo donut

The signature voodoo donut

Bacon Maple Doughnut

Bacon Maple Doughnut

I also tried the Mexican Hot Chocolate Doughnut which is a chocolate cake doughnut dusted in cinnamon sugar and cayenne pepper. It might have been good if I had tried it at some other shop on some other day, but after the above listed donuts, this one, as well as the Lemon Chiffon Doughnut, both tasted a bit underwhelming. The latter was a bit too sweet for my taste with lemon dust and three marshmallows melted on top of the donut.

Cap'n Crunch Doughnut

Captain my captain Doughnut

Food Carts

Given how many food carts exist throughout Portland, I immediately felt overwhelmed and didn’t quite know where to start. With hundreds of food carts concentrated throughout various hubs in Portland, there is probably no better place to grab a quick, cheap and delicious lunch. Some of the notable ones that stand out in my memory include The Frying Scotsman – I’m not even a huge fan of fish, but his fish and chips had light, crunchy batter that paired perfectly with a squeeze of lemon. Currently, their fried cod and chips is their main bestseller, with the other dishes in large demand being haddock and chips, halibut and chips. Sideshow, also located in downtown Portland, offered 5 beignets for $3 – I wasn’t too sure about how beignets from a cart would turn out, but they were fresh, warm, light and fluffy. They could have used a little more powdered sugar, but other than that I was quite pleased with their quality. The other famous item at Sideshow Eatery is their poutine – a Canadian dish consisting of fries doused with gravy and topped with a pile of cheese curds!

In case you’re looking for specific kinds of food carts, check out this map of food carts in Portland.

Beignets from a food cart? Check.

Beignets from a food cart? Check.

And in case this post made you hungry, here’s how to make some of these delicious goodies at home:

 

 

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Banana-Nutella Ice Cream

Last weekend, I had a huge craving for crêpes. Bananas and Nutella are usually my favorite crepe toppings and I thought to myself – I bet together they’d make a pretty great ice-cream combination.  I was also looking for an excuse to use my ice-cream machine because my roommate kept taunting me about the large amount of space the freezer bowl was taking up, especially given how long it had been since I had last used it. Thankfully it turned out to be a warm weekend, great for ice cream, and the results didn’t disappoint. It’s also an incredibly fast recipe as you don’t really need to make any sort of custard before putting the mixture into the ice-cream maker – just blend together all the ingredients, and they’re ready to go into the mixer.

I eventually ended up using the ice cream as a topping for some darn good crêpes that my roommate whipped up the same morning (recipe for those coming soon!). I was also watching an old episode of The Next Food Network Star, which reminded me of how much I love Bobby Flay, and if you like the flavors in this recipe, you should definitely try out his Nutella and Banana Sandwich.

Banana-Nutella Ice Cream

Banana-Nutella Ice Cream

Reciped adapted from Isabelle’s Crumb Blog

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup Nutella spread
  • 3 ripe small bananas, cut into chunks
  • 1.5 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1.5 cups half-and-half cream

Directions

  • Using a blender or food processor, process the Nutella and bananas until smooth and thick. Sift in the cocoa, and process again to blend. Lastly, add the cream and process until completely blended and smooth.
  • Transfer the mixture into a mixing bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Pour the chilled mixture to an ice cream maker, and process according to manufacturer’s directions. Once the ice cream is mostly frozen and has a consistency similar to soft-serve, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze for at least 30 minutes to harden up.

 

Bananas Foster Bread Pudding with Vanilla Rum Sauce

What happens when you combine bananas, rum, raisins, toasted pecans and custard? A decadent dessert that is perfect for the holiday season. One of the best bread puddings that I’ve ever had was at Bonton Cafe in New Orleans, which was served with a whiskey sauce. However, that whiskey sauce was way too strong for me, so this recipe, with its mild rum sauce is perfect for those of us who don’t like a particularly strong whiskey or bourbon taste in our desserts.

This recipe gives around 12-14 servings, so feel free to cut it in half. However, you’re gonna regret it the minute it gets over, so I would suggest making this large a batch. The rum sauce can be made up to 2 days in advance, and can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. Just warm it up and drizzle on the bread pudding to serve!

bbp_opt

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, March 1995

INGREDIENTS
Banana Bread Pudding:

  • 2/3 cup raisins or currants
  • 4 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
  • 6 bananas, peeled, halved crosswise and then lengthwise
  • 10 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 cups whipping cream
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extracts
  • 2 large baguettes, dried, with crusts off, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup chopped toasted pecans

Rum Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 tablespoons dark rum

DIRECTIONS

FOR BANANA BREAD PUDDING:

  • Combine raisins and 4 tablespoons rum in a small bowl. Let stand 20 minutes.
  • Melt 4 tablespoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add bananas and 4 tablespoons sugar and cook until bananas are tender, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from heat.

    Cooking the bananas until they get tender

    Cooking the bananas until they get tender

  • In a different bowl, combine whipping cream, eggs, vanilla extract and remaining 1/2 cup rum and 6 tablespoons sugar and whisk to blend.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 17 x 11-inch loaf pan. Arrange 1/3 of bread strips cubes in bottom of prepared pan. Make sure the bread cubes are packed tightly. Arrange 6 banana pieces atop bread. Sprinkle with half of raisins and half of pecans. Arrange 1/3 of bread cibes atop bananas. Pour half of egg mixture over. Arrange remaining banana pieces atop bread. Sprinkle with remaining raisins and pecans. Arrange remaining bread cubes atop bananas. Pour remaining egg mixture over. Press gently on top layer to compact. Let stand 15 minutes.

    Topping the first layer of bread cubes with the cooked bananas, rum-soaked raisins and chopped toasted pecans

    Topping the first layer of bread cubes with the cooked bananas, rum-soaked raisins and chopped toasted pecans

  • Bake bread pudding until puffed and golden and knife inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool slightly.
  • Cut bread pudding into slices. Arrange on plates; drizzle with warm Rum Sauce and serve.

RUM SAUCE (Makes about 2 cups):

  • Melt butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cream, sugar and salt. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.

    Making the rum sauce, waiting until the sauce starts to bubble

    Making the rum sauce, waiting until the sauce starts to bubble

  • Remove from heat. Stir in rum. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over low heat, stirring constantly.)  

    Mixing in the rum after taking the sauce off the heat

    Mixing in the rum after taking the sauce off the heat

Drizzle a tablespoon (or more, if you like!) of warm rum sauce on a serving of bread pudding. Hope you guys had a lovely Christmas and have a great rest of the holiday season as well 🙂
Ready to be served!

Ready to be served!

Healthy Summer Smoothies

Given that I spent a chunk of my summer in India and was too busy eating just mangoes (let alone transforming them), being back in the States has at least shifted my attention to other fruits. Even though summer is officially gone, the last of the summer produce is still around (especially for those who had the sense to preserve their berries!). These two are super-healthy smoothies and are perfect for a nutritious breakfast that can successfully tide me over until lunch

Strawberry Basil Smoothie – Serves 1

  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, frozen and sliced
  • 4-5 basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, plain or strawberry flavored (I used Chobani Strawberry Flavored Greek Yogurt)
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • Pinch of ground black pepper (optional)

Mix all the ingredients in a blender. Add some honey or sugar if you like your smoothie to be sweet. I personally enjoy the lack of sugar and I like the tart kick that the basil provides. For those who are looking for more of a kick, try adding some black pepper! I know it sounds weird, but it turns out great, especially if you’re not looking for something particularly sweet.

Strawberry Basil Smoothie

Pineapple Banana Smoothie – Serves 2

  • 1 1/4 cup pineapple, cored and sliced
  • 1 1/2 bananas, chopped
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • ice cubes
  • 5-6 almonds

Mix all the ingredients in a blender. I used the almonds because they have a lot of nutritional value, but I imagine oats would also work great in a smoothie like this.

So what kind of smoothies do you like?

Banana-Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

I just managed to make the simplest dessert ever (no, I’m not even exaggerating!) thanks to the wisdom bestowed upon me by numerous Google searches regarding summer fruit recipes, both fresh and frozen.  This ice cream literally needs just 2 ingredients – bananas and chocolate chips, and given a few hours, you can make one of the most hassle-free and healthy desserts ever (and it’s vegan too).

The following recipe yields 2 servings. You should prep for this at least 4-5 hours in advance of when you actually plan to make the ice cream

Ingredients

2 bananas, chopped and frozen

A quarter cup chocolate chips

Chopped almonds, for garnish (optional)

Directions

1. Take the chopped bananas and put them in the freezer for 4-5 hours, until they appear to be completely frozen

Ingredient  #1: Frozen Bananas

Ingredient #2: Nestle’s Mini Chocolate Chips

Putting the frozen bananas in a blender

2. After they have been frozen, put them into a blender or a food processor. (If you are using a blender, you will need one on the stronger side. For those using weaker blenders, you might want to consider adding a few tablespoons of milk to ensure that the bananas don’t stick to the sides of the blender and get mashed easily)

3. Once the bananas have been mashed completely and achieved a mushy consistency, you might want to add chocolate chips. Some other great alternatives would be a few spoonfuls of peanut butter and/or almonds, depending on your taste.

Adding in the chocolate chips

4. Start the blender again until the mixture has been properly mixed. It should still be relatively frozen, but in case you’re making this in an extremely hot climate (like I was), you should probably put it in the freezer for an hour or two before serving.

5. Garnish with more chocolate chips/chopped oreos/chopped almonds and serve!

Easy Desserts I: How to satisfy cravings the fast and cheap way

One of my new year’s resolutions was to post more on my blog and try out many new recipes. Unfortunately, that resolution is failing in the face of a super-demanding semester. So the last time I shopped for food, I decided to look for things that wouldn’t take time to make and also didn’t cost me a bomb. Strangely, I managed to find a combination of super-cheap and easy to whip up desserts. Here are some of these ideas:

1. Yellow Cake – Banana Muffins

Main Ingredient: Pillsbury Moist Supreme Yellow Cake Mix costing  just $1

  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
  • 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Prepare yellow cake mix according to package directions. Preheat oven to 350 F
  2. Mash the bananas with the baking soda and stir into the cake mix batter. Pour batter into one greased and floured 9×13 inch baking pan/muffin trays
It took me 5 minutes to prepare the batter and around 15 minutes for my cupcakes to bake. Just keep checking yours with a fork – if the fork comes out clean and the batter’s not runny, then your cupcakes are ready! I personally prefer them refrigerated.
You can use walnuts and chocolate chips as well (though depending on your cake mix, your batter could already be pretty sweet, so you might stay off chocolate chips or similarly sweet frosting).
Alternatively, if you’re making these cupcakes for a fancier occasion, you can try putting this awesome lemon glaze on your cupcakes: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/lemon-blossoms-recipe/index.html

Yellow Cake Mix Cupcakes

2. Parfait

Main ingredient: 1-2 cups of yoplait light/fat free yogurt costing 60 cents each!

I only recently discovered Yoplait’s many flavors and their fat free/light flavors are absolutely delicious. My favorite ones are: Strawberry-Banana and Blueberry. The Red Velvet and Blackberry are also decent, but the Boston Creme Pie is a bit of fail.

So if these yogurts are not enough by themselves, go ahead and whip up a parfait! Most of us have granola, different kinds  of berries or bananas always lying at home. It makes  for a delicious, filling and a healthy snack.

Berry Parfait

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some other ideas include:

1. Toasted Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich (though I personally would not add maple syrup to this): http://allrecipes.com/recipe/toasted-waffle-ice-cream-sandwich/detail.aspx

2. Chocolate-covered strawberries (http://www.marthastewart.com/313844/chocolate-covered-strawberries?center=276948&gallery=275225&slide=281675

3. Grilled banana-nutella panini (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes-and-cooking/quick-and-easy-dessert-recipes/pictures/page-4.html)

 

Muffins I: Banana & Chocolate Chip

So after a lot of procrastination, I finally bought a muffin pan. I originally planned to make blueberry muffins, but due to poor planning, I didn’t have enough blueberries, so I just decided to use good ol’ chocolate chips and bananas. They turned out delicious – I really think bananas and chocolate chips are a great combination (Though sometimes I’m conflicted because peanut butter and chocolate chips seem to go together really well also). Here’s the recipe I used (it made 16 large muffins):

  • 1 and a 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (white should work too)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup  yogurt (I used vanilla yogurt. I’m guessing plain yogurt/greek yogurt works equally well. Not so sure about these flavored yogurts)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 mashed ripe bananas
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup of milk (to be used just in case the batter is too dry)

 

 

 

 

Preparing the tray

 

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, combine the egg, oil, yogurt and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Put in bananas and chocolate chips and mix gently (do not overbeat the mixture).
  2. Depending on whether you measure exactly or not/the kind of yogurt that you used and/or the size of the bananas, the mixture may be too dry or too moist. If it’s too dry (which it was for me because I put too much flour), just pour some milk until it has a squishy consistency. If it’s too moist/squishy, use some more flour. Remember, unlike cookie dough, muffin batter should not be over-beaten. The batter does not need to have perfect consistency.
  3. Switch on the oven to 350 F.
  4. I didn’t have paper cups, so I sprayed the muffin tray with cooking spray. If you end up spraying too much, just sprinkle some flour on to the tray. Alternatively, you could also take a paper tissue and wipe a thin layer of vegetable oil over the tray.
  5. Fill the muffin cups 3/4th of the way. Insert inside oven. Depending on your oven and muffin cup sizes, it may take anytime between 10-25 minutes for the muffin to bake.

Banana-Chocolate Chip Muffins!

How to check if a muffin is done:

1. Poke the muffin with a toothpick or fork. If it comes back without anything on it, they should be done. If it has the mixture/crumbs on them, let it bake some more.

2. Also, if you lightly press the top of the muffin and it bounces back, then it should be done.

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On an unrelated note, my new favorite ice cream (actually, gelato) is Talenti Gelato. The Caramel Cookie Crunch and the Sea Salt Caramel flavors are to die for. And this is coming from someone who is not even such a huge fan of caramel. Check out their website and head to a grocery store soon!

My new favorite flavor