Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pumpkin White Chocolate Chip Cookies

Happy Halloween everyone! 

Cameron and I didn't really do anything this year for Halloween. Although we did go to the pumpkin patch, we opted not to carve pumpkins since we don't have any outdoor space in our apartment. We didn't end up doing costumes this year either which I was a little disappointed about...Cam not so much, as he's not really into getting dressed up for Halloween. Whomp whomp. I have eaten a lot of Halloween candy/candy corn though, so I suppose that counts for something? I was actually really hoping to find some sort of dog Halloween event to take Lola to (because I've done it before) however, I couldn't find ANYTHING like this in Portland. Which, I thought was really strange considering the fact that the city is super dog-friendly and people here are totally into crazy things like putting their dogs in costumes. (Portland peeps: I am missing something? Fill me in on the doggie Halloween fun!) So in lieu of any costume photos this year, I've got a fun "treat" to share with you instead!

As you may have noticed here on my blog, I have really slacked off on posting recipes after moving to Portland. We've just been busy enjoying our new city the past few months, and the majority of my food posts have been focused on restaurant reviews vs. things I've made at home. However, last week I really got the urge to bake (it's one of my favorite hobbies) and decided to go with it! 
Recently, I bought a 6-pack of cans of organic pumpkin (an impulse purchase at Costco) so I thought that pumpkin cookies would be a great idea. I contemplated making these amazing cookies from last year (seriously, make them!) but really wanted to do a chocolate chip cookie vs. a snickerdoodle. However, pumpkin can actually a challenging ingredient to bake with, depending on what you're making as it tends to make everything super cakey, which is great if you're making a cake or even a quick-bread but not so great for chewy cookies. My Pinterest search yielded a lot of results that looked like blobs--not what I was going for! I found this recipe on Baked By Rachel that I thought looked promising, so I decided to give it a try! 

I'm still kind of on my white chocolate kick from earlier this year, and decided to substitute white chocolate chips for semi-sweet. The resulting cookie was definitely slightly more cakey and blob-like than a normal chocolate chip cookie, however, overall, I was pleased with how they turned out! The white chocolate paired really nicely with the pumpkin and the spices and they were even better the day after I made them. They are such a perfect cookie for enjoying with a hot cup of coffee!

Pumpkin White Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe Source: Baked By Rachel
10 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/2C granulated sugar
1/2C light brown sugar
6 Tbsp pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
Pinch cloves
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2C all purpose flour
1 1/2C semi-sweet chocolate chips white chocolate chips

In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream together butter and sugars. Mix in pumpkin, vanilla and dry ingredients. Mix well until there are no streaks in the batter. Stir in chocolate chips. Cover and chill until dough is completely chilled and firm. 

Sidenote: Because there are no eggs in these cookies, you can eat all the dough you want! Although, who am I kidding, fear of salmonella has never stopped me from eating cookie dough! :)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat (I didn't do this, and they came out fine). Use a medium cookie scoop to scoop dough, place dough 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Press additional chocolate chips into the tops of cookie dough if desired. 

Bake for 10-11 minutes. Allow cookies to rest on baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. (Obviously there is one missing in my photo, for taste test purposes) Repeat process with remaining dough. Store cookies in an airtight container. 

If you're looking for an easy fall recipe, definitely give these cookies a try!
I hope everyone has a fun and safe Halloween :)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Brunch in Portland

One of my favorite things to do on the weekend is to go out for a big brunch, and luckily Portland has a ton of great options! Since we're halfway to the weekend already (woo!), I thought I'd share a few of the more popular spots that we've visited (and enjoyed) for brunch in the past few months.

Located in NE Portland, this place is very popular! They serve Southern-style food and having lived in the South for a bit, I can attest to the fact that they do it well. As the name would suggest, they are known for their delicious biscuits but they've got a variety of great dishes on their menu. I've only ever been to their location on NE Alberta, but apparently they will be opening a new location SE Division next year! (They also have a tent at the PSU Farmer's Market, just FYI!)

There is usually a line out the door on the weekends, but it seems to move pretty quickly!
 For some reason, the color/contrast on the food photos I took at Pine State was really off--sorry about that! I ordered the Pine State Fried Club, which is a trio of fried grit cakes topped with fried chicken and spiced honey, pimento cheese and a fried green tomato, and country ham with white cheddar. It's a great thing to order if you want to try a little bit of everything!
Obviously these photos are from our visit to Pine State quite a few weeks ago now (I'm way behind on blogging about a lot of the restaurants we've visited!), but they do have both indoor/outdoor seating.
Delicious biscuits and marionberry jam!
At Pine State, you wait in line, go up to the counter and place your order, take a number, find a seat, and then they bring your food out to you. I tried to inconspicuously take a picture of the menu, but judging by the look on the cashier's face I failed. Awkward.
One of the biscuit sandwiches--pretty sure this one is the Reggie!
(I realize the awful color on this picture makes it look kind of gross...but I promise, it's delicious!)
Edison lighbulbs inside mason jars--doesn't get much more Portland than that.
Hash Ups, which are delicious hashbrowns smothered with ham, mushrooms, onions, and cheese.
Pine State is an awesome place to go when the weather's nice :)
Hushpuppies, which are actually pretty spicy!

If you like biscuits and gravy, then you definitely need to check out Pine State!

Pine State Biscuits on Urbanspoon

When people talk about where to go for brunch in Portland, Mother's is a spot that always seems to come up in the conversation. Located downtown, I had heard that the wait for brunch on the weekend at this place can get really crazy. I decided to finally give it a try when my parents were visiting last month; we went on a Friday morning around 9:30am and only had a wait of about 15 minutes, which wasn't bad at all. I really liked the decor at Mother's, which I'd describe as sort of cozy yet glamorous. I also liked that their liked that their style was a little bit more traditional than brunches at other restaurants (aka they call it breakfast) and I thought that the prices were very reasonable relative to the quality of the food and the nice atmosphere.

Mother's actually has their own blend of Stumptown Coffee, and it's such a perfect breakfast coffee...
I definitely enjoyed multiple refills during our visit!
My mom got the Greek Frittata which had lots of spinach, kalamata olives, and feta cheese.
My dad got Mike's Special Scramble, which featured prosciutto, tomatoes, and basil.
I couldn't resist going for my favorite breakfast food--chocolate chip pancakes!
They were super light and fluffy and seriously delicious!
The bright dining room is such a perfect setting for a brunch, especially on a rainy Portland day.
I loved all the beautiful chandeliers everywhere!
We were stuffed from our breakfast, but I'd love to come back and try their awesome baked goods!
Mother's has a full bar and it seems like it would be great for lunch or dinner as well.

After trying out Mother's, I can definitely see why it's so popular. I enjoyed the more traditional vibe of the menu, and my parents and I each loved what we ordered. I loved the pretty yet relaxed decor, and it's definitely a place I'll be going back to for brunch. I'd just advise going early to avoid the wait!

Mother's Bistro & Bar on Urbanspoon

Slappy Cakes
I have passed by this place on SE Belmont so many times, and I've always wanted to check it out...mainly because I'm a sucker for cute names/signage/branding. We finally decided to give it a try after Cameron picked me up from the airport after my trip to Florida; it was an absolutely gorgeous fall morning and this place had their giant garage doors open to enjoy the nice weather!

The whole concept of this place is that they have tables with griddles in the middle where you can cook your own pancakes. So basically you're paying money to go to a restaurant to make your own food (and a food that's super easy to make at that), which I realize is pretty gimmicky. But honestly, I though it was adorable! Because of the concept, it does tend to attract a lot of families with kids vs. the trendier brunch places, which I suppose is either a good or a bad thing depending on who you're talking to. However, I enjoyed the clean yet whimsical decor and the relaxed vibe.

We actually opted to sit at the bar during our visit because we didn't feel like waiting for a table, and it ended up being great. They have lots of other menu options (that they will cook for you) beyond the make-your-own pancakes, so don't rule this place out if you aren't interested in a DIY breakfast.
Cameron and I ordered a few different things to split, starting with one of the specials--an apple fritter drenched in pear butter. Really yummy, but really sweet.
We also got an order of candied bacon with hazelnuts, which was really sweet and chewy!
We ordered one chocolate chip pancake, and honestly this was probably our least favorite dish out of everything we ordered. It wasn't a bad pancake by any means, it was just ok.
However, on their menu they have a bunch of different types of pancake batter you can choose from, along with lots of different add-ins/toppings, so next time I go here I'll probably experiment with something a little more creative!
Finally, we ordered the Pork Belly Benedict which we both loved!

Overall, I found this place to be really charming and thought that their food was pretty good. Is it the best breakfast place in Portland? Probably not. But it's definitely a cute place that would be fun to go again, especially with my nieces or a group of friends for a low-key breakfast.

Slappy Cakes on Urbanspoon

I've still got lots of brunch places in Portland on my list to try including Broder, Screen Door, and Roost, to name a few! Cheers to the weekend (in a few days)!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My Trader Joe's Favorites

This weekend, Cameron and I did some shopping at Trader Joe's (Word to the wise: Don't go to TJ's hungry. Just don't do it.) and it got me thinking that sharing a list of some of my favorite products might be a fun idea for a blog post!  I've seen other bloggers do similar posts and really enjoyed them because there are SO many different things at TJ's that sometimes it's hard to know what to buy! We probably shop there 1-2 times a month and I always like trying out new products as they have some really unique (and delicious!) stuff. Here are some of the items from Trader Joe's that I'm loving lately:
Roasted Coconut Chips
These little guys are super addictive...and also (sort of) Paleo-friendly! They're such a great snack and I love that they're both salty and sweet. Cam's not a huge coconut person and even he loves these!

Coconut Body Butter
Speaking of coconut, TJ's sells the best body butter that's perfect for dry winter skin. It's super thick and moisturizing and smells delicious. Apparently, they also have a pumpkin version available for fall which sounds amazing, but unfortunately they didn't have it at the store I went to this weekend. 

Beurre Meuniere Popcorn
Ok, so this stuff is kind of an acquired taste in my opinion. I picked up a bag this weekend after being enticed by the cute French flags on the bag (seriously, I am a marketer's dream) along with the fact that it said it was drizzled with brown butter. The popcorn definitely has an herb-y flavor and Cameron found the parsley/thyme to be too overwhelming. I shared the bag with some family and friends over the weekend and honestly, no one seemed to like it that much! So I ate it myself (obviously solution, ha) and you know what? It really grew on me! It's only $1.99 so it's definitely worth trying!

Darrell Lea Traditional Liquorice 
Black licorice is definitely one of those flavors that people either love or hate, and I fall firmly in the first camp. I am a big fan of soft, Australian-style black licorice and Trader Joe's sells one-pound tubs of the Darrel Lea brand, which happens to be my favorite kind. The tub I got this weekend? Already gone. Which may reflect more on the fact that I have zero self-control when it comes to candy than anything else, but honestly, this is just really delicious black licorice!

Black Truffle Oil
I love drizzling truffle oil on my salads/roasted veggies, but it's definitely an ingredient that can get very pricey. TJ's makes a great truffle infused olive oil that's perfect for adding truffle flavor at a fraction of the price of a normal bottle of truffle oil. I pretty much always keep a bottle of this stuff on hand!

Pound Plus Chocolate
This is another staple in our house that we always keep on hand! Cameron and I both love having dark chocolate as an after dinner treat and TJ's Pound Plus bars are a great way to feed your chocolate cravings without breaking the bank. These chocolate bars giant, really high-quality, and only $4.99!

Applewood Bacon
Not gonna lie, I freaking love bacon. Cameron and I eat it quite a bit for breakfast, and I'm a big fan of this apple-smoked variety from Trader Joe's. It's very thick-cut, which I absolutely love.

Happy Trekking Trail Mix
This trail mix is our go-to hiking snack as it's Paleo-friendly and really delicious. Trader Joe's has a wide-variety of different trail mixes, and it seems like these and all their bulk nuts are a great value!

Natural Jerky
Another hiking staple for us, and they have a bunch of different types/flavors. My favorites are the turkey jerky, the buffalo jerky, and the organic beef jerky. Great when you need some protein!

Alamos Malbec
Trader Joe's is known for it's extensive selection of inexpensive wines, and this one is probably our favorite as it's a drinkable red that pairs well with a variety of foods. They sell it other places besides TJ's, however, they usually seem to have the best price on it ($8.99 per bottle).

Organic Avocados (Bag of 4)
I love putting avocado on my salads and I love that TJ's organic avocados are small because that way I can just use a whole one vs. trying to use half of a big avocado. Healthy fats FTW!

Sea Salt & Turbinado Sugar Dark Chocolate Almonds
Pretty sure these don't need any explanation. Just buy them.

So there you have it, some of my favorite TJ's goodies! So tell me, what are your favorite products? I'd love some suggestions to check out on my next shopping trip to Trader Joe's!


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