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And if you have a Bloglovin’ account, add me here! Next week will be the last installation of Portland, Oregon, and after that will be an intro to Portland, Maine that I’m visiting for the long weekend! Check Instagram for live updates of the New England adventures, and come back soon!

Portland Part 4: Voodoo Doughnuts

You can’t go to Portland without stopping at Voodoo Doughnuts right outside of Chinatown. Your friends will have told you about the crazy flavors, and you will have smelled a distinct doughnuty aroma from the Waterfront Park by the river. As a doughnut enthusiast, Voodoo naturally made it to my list of things to eat in Portland. But it wasn’t until towards the end of the trip that we made it over.

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An idea that came to mind when I entered Voodoo was that it had a “cult following”…lots of interesting clothing and posters decorated the pink walls under bright fluorescent lighting. The antithesis of Blue Star Donuts was a treasure trove of “keep Portland weird” and ridonkulous doughnut flavors – check out this *rotating* display case:

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This plus the chalkboard menu of flavors made for quite overwhelming decision-making. Luckily, we had some time to mull over the choices and take a look at the options, since we did not arrive to a line hugging the side of the building, like you’d typically see on a weekend afternoon.

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We walked away with the iconic large pink box, and three doughnuts: Caramel Delight (West coast’s version of a Samoa), maple-glazed old fashion, and a mango tango filled doughnut.

Voodoo does not claim artisanally made doughnuts, and neither do their prices. We left with only $5 less than we entered with. I’m glad we did eventually make the trip over. We didn’t exactly go crazy with the flavors, as we could have opted for “Arnold Palmer”, “dirty snowball”, or “butterfingering”. This is likely in part because we couldn’t decipher many of the flavors from the names alone. The doughnuts we did try were very sweet, too much for even my sweet tooth. But my favorite was the Caramel Delight with its crunchy coconut exterior and soft cake interior.

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Visiting Voodoo is definitely an experience, and one worth having. But the doughnuts, however famous and wacky, are not on my top 5 list.

Stay tuned for a few more Portland spots you’ll want to check out on your next trip over!

Portland Part 3: Street Food

Portland is known for its extensive street food scene. The food carts in Portland line blocks of downtown and the Pearl district, and pop up in clusters throughout the east side of the city. When there are over 20 carts within a 5 minute walk of each other, it’s difficult to choose one to eat from. Luckily, we were able to go a couple times.

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One thing to keep in mind when planning a meal here is the hours that the carts keep. While they’re not all open at the same time, most of them will be open for lunch throughout the week, and a handful open for dinner. But we found that by 3pm, a lot are closed for business.

Our successful trip for lunch was by SW Alder St and SW 9th Ave. There are so many cuisines and foods to choose from – Egyptian, Korean, Ethiopian, Mexican, Japanese, mac and cheese, and more. No matter your mood, you’ll probably find something good to eat. At the craft market we visited over the weekend, we got a recommendation to go to a Scottish man’s food cart for fish & chips. In an effort to try different things, my mom and I shared fish & chips and Korean BBQ.

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The Frying Scotsman had a variety of fish to choose from for frying. We took the road less traveled with red snapper – more fishy than classic cod/haddock (#nigerian). For Korean BBQ, we chose their Bulgogi-Chicken combo with rice, noodles, chicken, beef, kimchi, and what looked like iceberg lettuce.

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Not pictured: salt + vinegar additions (no ketchup, that’s so American)

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The chicken was more flavorful than the beef but it was all good.

 

If you’re in Portland, check out this food cart Google map of the city to guide you. There’s most likely a hub of carts in a couple areas you’re planning to check out anyway.

Have a favorite food cart corner? Share below! And stay tuned for next week’s review on VOODOO doughnuts!

Portland Part 2: Blue Star Donuts

Read on for a thorough examination of the coolest, cleanest doughnut joint I’ve ever stepped foot in.

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Upon our arrival in Portland, my mom and I knew we had to locate a Blue Star Donuts. There are a handful of locations around the city, one in LA and one in Tokyo. The one we went to near the Pearl district had warm sunlight flooding in from the tall windows covering half the shop, and the steady drumming of the XL stand mixer kneading away.

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When we arrived around 10am, the line was not quite out the door yet, but we still had some time to decide on the doughnut varieties displayed behind glass next to the register before we had to order.

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We ultimately went with this half dozen:

Hard Apple Cider Fritter
Valrhona Chocolate Crunch
Blueberry Bourbon & Basil
Almond & Chocolate Ganache
Meyer Lemon & Key Lime CurdCointreau Crème Brûlée

While we waited for our box to be assembled, I wandered the modestly sized operation, and I noticed a baker prepping a fresh mound of dough next to the coffee corner. When I asked him if I could take his picture, he said yes, and was very appreciative of my asking (I guessed he’s ended up on lots of people’s instagram feeds without consent).

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Less than three minutes after ordering, our box was ready.

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First up: Cointreau Crème Brûlée

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Torched top, vanilla bean cream center, and orange liqueur poking out, ready for incorporation via pinching.

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It was quite fun to bite into the crusty sweet top and land in a pillow of cream, all transported by soft and fresh brioche dough. This one’s a winner!

Next: Hard Apple Cider Fritter

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Fritters are usually more dense than doughnuts since they’re typically made of the doughnut scraps and packed together once the rising in the dough has already occurred. These fritters are combined with an apple compote-looking mix, as shown in the second photo, further up.

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The outside was sweet and crispy, and the inside was very moist and apple-y. However, I think the density was too much for my mom’s and my stomach. We also couldn’t taste the hard cider (perhaps it got completely cooked off). Not bad, but not their best.

 

Following: Blueberry Bourbon & Basil (BBB)

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This doughnut was actually featured on one of the three covers of Bon Appétit’s May Travel Issue – for good reason.

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This doughnut didn’t need any filling with the icing it came with. One bite and I got one big mouthful of summertime markets with the basil notes heading this train of flavor. The arresting blueberry burst came quickly after, and the combination was delightfully refreshing (but again, no alcohol). Plus, the crack of the icing when closing in is a great textural addition.

The rest:

The Valrhona Chocolate Crunch was super fun to eat. It had the same filling as the crème brûlée doughnut, and the top was covered in fancy deep dark chocolate and pearls of chocolate covered rice crispies.

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The chocolate ganache and almond doughnut was similar to the chocolate crunch doughnut, but without the filling, and with the crunch coming form the crushed almonds. Not too shabby.

When we got around to the Meyer Lemon & Key Lime Curd doughnut, it seemed a little ordinary in comparison to all the others, but I’m always happy with lemon in my sweets, and it was enjoyable.

 

Overall, our experience at Blue Star was one to remember, and probably to return to. I highly recommend making a stop if you’re ever in the area (including LA and Tokyo!). I’ll leave you with this accurate dough-piction of today in the social media world:

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Portland Part 1: Touchdown in PDX

Greetings from Portland, OR, AKA Rip City AKA Stumptown AKA City of Roses AKA 🚴🚴🚴🚴! A much anticipated cross-country vacation has finally arrived and I am here with my mom where the weather is fine and the biking is fierce. Here is a sneak peak of our first stop of the trip (surprise, surprise…)

  
Blue Star Donuts is yet another TV-bucket-wish-list location that my mom and I spotted when watching an episode of Unique Sweets. Though our list of things to do is not bare, and includes beautiful things that Portland has to offer besides food, this place just happened to make it to the top of our list today – and for good reason. I think we made some excellent choices at the shop, where they were friendly and fast, and one of the dough-pros let me take his photo with a huge mound of delicious brioche-ness (more on that to come).

  
In the meantime, here’s a sample of the city from the largest independently owned bookstore in the country:

  

Stay tuned for a full account of the trip. Any recos? Feel free to share them below!

The 3 Why’s of Chocolate Chip Cookies

There are a lot of decisions that go into making the best chocolate chip cookies. Do you ever stand at your kitchen counter, looking at a recipe thinking “what’s the big deal about leaving my butter at room temperature? Can’t I just melt it?” Or a slew of other concerns? I’ve broken down three of the basic cookie enigmas to get to the reasons behind the recipe.

1.  Why do I cream my butter and sugar?

When you start baking your cookies with soft butter, it allows for pockets of air to be created when combined at a rapid pace with the sugar. They say that this gives your cookies a better texture, that they come out  with more body. But why? When the cookies are in the oven, the air from the creaming evaporates, and steam allows the dough to rise taller in the oven and become less dense. That’s why the cookies have a lighter texture when you cream the butter instead of melt it. For those who love cookies that crumble instead of sink into your teeth like paste, this is logical solution for you.

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2. Why do I chill my dough?

What a bummer it is to reach the part of your chocolate chip cookie recipe where it says to chill your dough, either for a couple hours, or overnight. Don’t they know you’re craving these cookies right now, and have no time for dough firming? Kenji Lopez-Alt swears by leaving your dough to rest in the fridge overnight – and I got to hear it from the food scientist himself. He told me that’s the easiest way to enhance the flavor of your cookies. All the flour and starch proteins in the cookie have more time to break down when the dough is resting, creating a more intense butterscotchy cookie flavor. When the cookie bakes in the oven, these same proteins are breaking down anyway, but they get to go even further if you just give them more time to pre-game. This leaves you with maximum depth in your cookies.

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3. Why heat the oven to 375°?

There are a lot of super cool chemical reactions that happen in the oven when your cookies are baking, that this TED Ed video illustrates very well. One of these reactions is caramelization, but this only happens at 356° F. At this temperature, the sugar molecules in the dough break down and create the nutty quality that caramel has. If your recipe calls for an oven set to 350°, this reaction won’t occur and your cookies will come out differently. The change in flavor is better or not, depending on personal preference, but it would be a good experiment to try out and see which you enjoy more.

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There is an abundance of factors to consider when baking something as simple as chocolate chip cookies. These are the all-stars of basic cookie improvement that will help guide you in your next journey to the best chocolate chip cookies. Have a favorite recipe? Leave it below!

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The Evils of Snacking/Trail Mix

Too often I find myself “hungry” in the middle of the day; usually between lunch and dinner. By “hungry”, I’m talking about when you’re:
a. suddenly not busy and looking for something to do
b. looking for a new flavor or taste to occupy your mouth, or
c. just feel like eating for no apparent reason.
It takes willpower not to submit to the temptation of the mind to eat when you don’t need to. It’s a battle between the brain and the body. Mindless eating is a dangerously easy habit to get into, which is why mindful eating is very important to understand and get friendly with.
I’ve heard multiple time that 6 small meals are better than 3 large meals, but I’m of the belief that 3 meals with a small nutritious snack in between is totally acceptable, and a healthy habit. Some of the best snacks are nuts. They are full of nutrients and good, natural fats, and extremely filling. One handful of almonds (skip the jalepeño/honey roasted/hickory smoked additions for best results) will alleviate any case of the nibbles. Personally I go for cashews because I think they taste the best, though they have the most fat (definitely a correlation there). Another prime snack is fruit, dried or fresh. Be wary of dried fruits with extra sugar added and preservatives. Apricots and mango are a good example of where this happens.

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My favorite way to combine these power snacks is in trail mix. Do you ever get trail mix and end up with a bunch of peanuts, or raisins at the bottom of the bag? Trail mix is so easy to put together and so customizable that, well, why would you pay more money to buy a prepackaged one? While snacking shouldn’t be constant and should be nutritious, it must always be enjoyable, right? I like to add corn nuts/snacks/fried nothings for some crunch, and dried soy beans for flavor. For the last batch, along with these fillers, I used lightly salted cashews and raisins.

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With this combination of individual snacks, you get the 1. filling effect 2. natural sugars 3. yum-ability. Other non-reversible trail mix bits you can add are dark chocolate chips for sweetness and anti-oxidants, other dried fruit, any nuts without crazy flavors,  and pretzels! I love adding pretzel stick chunks to a trail mix for a different variety of salty crunch.

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It’s super easy to make. Here’s a “recipe”

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2 cups each of what you want to add: chocolate chips, nuts, raisins, etc.

Throw everything in a big tupperware container, for plenty of room for shaking around. Shake the contents of the tupperware, and serve.

 

Any tips for mindful eating? Share below, and happy snacking!

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Skillet S’mores

I’ve seen this idea floating around the internet, probably on Tasty or Buzzfeed, and I had the perfect size (read: smallest) cast iron skillet to try it in, so here’s a great way to prepare for the summer in the safety and warmth of your kitchen while waiting for the March Nor’easter to pass.

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This is a good and fast thing to whip up if you have people over and are trying to keep them happy – but for that, you’ll probably want a bigger skillet…

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Just load up the components of a s’more, minus the graham cracker, into a cast iron skillet. So, that’s really just the chocolate and marshmallows. Use milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips (or both, hi), depending on your taste. Add the marshmallows on top until you can’t fit any more. Pro-tip, which I did not do: cut the marshmallows in half so it’s easier to get to the chocolate once everything is melted. It will also allow the marshmallows to melt more, before the chocolate seizes.

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Needs more padding
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Perfect

 

Throw it in the top half of the oven and broil for a few minutes – go nowhere! Keep a close eye on the marshmallows and take out the skillet once the marshmallows have browned to your liking.

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Now! Grab your graham crackers and dig in. But really, you’ll need some wrist pivoting and finagling to get up under the marshmallows for the chocolate. Not that it’s difficult, this is just fair warning for you and your friends. Actually, speculoos biscuits may be the true pro-route here.

Disclosure: Graham crackers are prone to snapping under pressure.

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Enjoy your premature summer treat with the crew while we wait for the 60° weather to return in New York.

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Leave any more pro tips you come across in the comments!

Keep in the Kitchen: Tortillas

The flour tortilla is a blank canvas for a customized piece of art. They’re great things to have around in case you’re in the mood to repurpose the week’s leftovers in a wrap.

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You can go as simple or complex as you want. I usually start with refried beans, ground meat, vegetables, and cheese.

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Other good additions like tomatoes, salsa, rice and lettuce can beef up the burrito, but sometimes you just have to work with what you got. The best part for me is making the burrito as big or small as I want – no need for 1,000 calorie lunches. Sorry, Chipotle.

 

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White, wheat, corn, spinach, whatever – tortillas are a handy and versatile vessel for all sorts of food. Burritos are just one example of a quick on-the-go fix that will satisfy.

Chocolate Comfort Cookies

I’ve written about this recipe before, but it merits some revamping, AKA more-than-subpar-photographing. Surprisingly, it’s still the best cookie I’ve made – especially for the simplicity. Say you have a chocolate chip cookie recipe. All you do is add half a cup of peanut butter, half a cup of cocoa powder, and bam: delicious treats that will blow the minds of all your omnivorous friends. Make sure there are no allergies in the crowd you’re feeding.

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I think the key here is the ratio of two eggs to one stick of butter. These are big-bodied cookies, with some heft and height, but they stay soft and chewy and somehow manage to melt in your mouth 24 hours later.

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Chocolate Comfort Cookies
based on the recipe from Bakerella

Yields around 30-40 cookies

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips (I use a combo of milk and semi-sweet)

Beat the butter, peanut butter, and sugar together until smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Combine with the butter mixture gradually. Add the chocolate chips and chill for a couple of hours. Roll the dough into balls of your desired size, and bake in the oven at 350° for around 10 minutes, or until the surface of the cookies are no longer shiny. Devour immediately.

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Seriously folks, these are unfathomably delightful. I fed them to some of the guys that work at the rock climbing gym I go to (baking = friends), and they were elated, many nights made. If you love these as much as I do, or wanna chat climbing beta, leave some words!