Recipe: Fall’n for Spaghetti Squash

CRAP! You mean summer is over? Already?? I didn’t get into my bikini one time all summer and now it’s time to start layering on those socks/turtlenecks/sweaters/raincoats?!

F.M.L.

Well, I guess fall isn’t all fail. There is college football [Ed. note: Go Ducks!] and…um…ummm…. OK, maybe just college football.

Seriously, dear readers, I was not made to live in a cold, dark, rainy climate, but somehow I’ve lived in Portland many years of my life.

Anyhoozles, I guess if you need to adjust to chilly temps and never-ending overcast skies, there’s no better way than making something warm, tasty and in season. Hot apple cider with brandy? Nope…I’m talkin’ SPAGHETTI SQAUSH! (But now I really want that spiked hot apple cider, too.)

I’ve only recently re-introduced myself to spaghetti squash. I had it as a kid, but completely overlooked it as an adult. And, honestly, I regret I’ve waited this long. The flavor is mildly sweet and can be mixed with a variety of ingredients—from simple to really complex flavors. It’s also very filling, but low in carbs and calories.

And, no, it doesn’t really taste like pasta spaghetti.

When looking to purchase your very own spaghetti squash, look for ones that are the most yellow in color, still very firm and about 3-4 pounds. Spaghetti squash is considered a “winter” squash and they keep well in dark, cool pantries/cabinets. So stock up!

BTW, click on the pics for a bigger, better view.

How to make the perfect spaghetti squash:
– Buy one medium-size spaghetti squash
– Heat your oven to 400 degrees
– Make lots of puncture wounds in the squash with a paring knife so it doesn’t explode in the oven! (This may or may not be a myth, but Stumptown Lunch plays it safe.)
– Line a baking dish/pan with aluminum foil and bake for 50 minutes to an hour (just until the outside is soft to the touch—with an oven mitt on, duh!)
– Remove from oven; let cool

– Slice lengthwise

– Scoop out the seeds with a spoon; discard those gnarly parts in your compost/trash
– With a fork, carefully scrape out the spaghetti-like “innards” of the squash—place them in a bowl and set aside

Now…
– Heat 2 tablespoons of EVOO in a skillet on medium heat

Add:
– Two cloves of minced garlic (or more if you like garlic)
– One finely diced shallot
– One teaspoon of red chile pepper flakes
– Sprinkle in salt and pepper to taste

– Once the shallots are soft and the garlic starts to brown, remove from heat and carefully mix in the spaghetti squash

Toppings:
– 1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
– Two tablespoons of chopped fresh basil (dried basil will work, just use less)
– Fresh ground pepper

There are tons of variations for this simple recipe, and I’m looking forward to trying out all sorts of different ingredients this fall! Next time I’m trying it with Feta, black olives and diced tomatoes.

ENJOY!

[Recipe inspired by Food with Dottie]

Review: Mexicali Express (Beaverton)

Mexicali Express
12590 SW Canyon Road
Beaverton, Oregon 97005
Map It!
Ph: 503-643-3739
Hours: 9 a.m. to midnight daily
Website
Lunch money: $-$$
Rating: ★★★★☆

The Portland area certainly has a plethora of Mexican food options, but sometimes it seems very few of them are worth your hard earned dinero. In the heart of downtown Beaverton sits an almost DayGlo-colored painted building that advertises their video lottery machines. It’s not exactly the place you’d expect to find some of the tastiest Mexican food around…but it is.

Mexicali Express has actually been around for a couple of decades (they were originally located on West Burnside where Gaya Gaya Sushi is now). From my experience, local fast food places tend to diminish in quality over the years, get run out of business by the national chain behemoths or attempt to expand on their own.

Happily, Mexicali Express has remained almost exactly the same for the 20+ years I’ve been eating there, so I feel a little nostalgic every time I walk through the doors. The décor is FAR from fancy, and the relatively recent addition of a video lotto lounge doesn’t help—but you’re not coming here for haute cuisine; you’re coming here to nosh!

The menu is typical Mexican fast food: Tacos. Burritos. Nachos. Quesadillas. Fajitas. Enchiladas. You know the stuff. But this is no Taco Bell. The freshness and quality of the food is remarkable considering the slightly rundown location.

I almost always go with a burrito, a taco AND the Mexicali fries (which comes to about $6 total). I’m not usually a fry person, but there’s something special about those lightly seasoned potato discs that I can’t resist…especially dipped in ketchup. Yum!

Practically everyone I take to Mexicali mentions the tortilla chips and taco shells with delight—they’re light, crispy, and offer the perfect crunch. I always suggest ordering a side of chips and salsa or guacamole for your table as a starter. (Sorry, no free chips and salsa appetizer here.)

The food is full of flavor and seasoned well, but they do serve almost everything on the mild range of the spicy scale (of course, some items can be ordered with a more spicy sauce option). If you need that extra kick, they do offer an extensive fresh salsa bar with a boatload more options than you’ll find at your local Baja Fresh (that place is so bland and boring, right?).

Mexicali Express opens at 9 a.m. for breakfast (you can order breakfast burritos until 1 p.m.) and stays open until midnight daily. They also offer a convenient drive-thru. The service is fantastic, and I get the feeling that this is a family run operation because you tend to see the same faces behind the counter again and again.

Overall, this is the perfect place to hit up for a quick, fresh meal that won’t break your budget. Simple. Fresh. Fast. Delicious.

PROS:
– Fresh, fast food
– Very reasonable prices
– Fresh salsa bar
– Friendly service
– Open late and there’s a drive-thru

CONS:
– The video lottery area is a little weird
– The building is a bit of an eyesore

Mexicali Express on Urbanspoon

Review: Beard Papa’s (Beaverton)

Beard Papa’s
10500 NW Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway
(Inside Uwajimaya Food Market)
Beaverton, Oregon 97005
Map It!
Ph: 503-924-1101
Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Video
Lunch Money: $
Rating: ★★★★½

I’m just going to make a modest prediction here: cream puffs are the new cupcakes! Yeah, I might be getting a little ahead of myself with this prediction, but at least at my house cream puffs are the creamy-crispy baked good of choice these days.

Part of the resurgence of cream puff popularity has to do with the arrival and expansion of Japan-based Beard Papa’s in the United States…and now the Portland area has a location, too!! Rejoice!

The first Portland-area Beard Papa’s opened in March inside the Uwajimaya Asian Food Market on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway (across the street from Target).

I’d been salivating for a couple weeks before I had the time to make it out to Beaverton for a taste, but it was worth the wait. Although, I did get there in the early evening and noticed that their last batch of puffs was quickly dwindling as the long line ahead of me placed their orders. (The guy in line ahead of me pulled out a $50 bill and I thought all chances of scoring some precious puff were lost. Alas, there were just enough left for me!)

Beard Papa’s offers a variety of puff selections to pick from: the original, the éclair, the Paris-Brest, the cookie crumb and the coco. After you pick your puffs, you have your choice of creamy custard fillings: vanilla bean, Belgian chocolate or the selection of the week. The filling of the week varies and range from strawberry to caramel to green tea.

Then stand back and watch as your puffs get plumped with that delicious creamy custard filling. They fill after you order to keep your puffs fresh, because nobody wants a soggy puff!

These fist-sized tasty treats certainly make a delightful snack, decadent breakfast or darn-good dessert. And Beard Papa’s cream puffs aren’t too dangerous for your wallet or your waistline. Each puff is currently $2.50 to $2.75 (with discounts on orders of 6 or 12) and contains about 220 calories.

Try one; you’ll be hooked!

PROS:
– Delicious treat that’s perfect for breakfast or dessert
– Very fresh and tasty
– Affordable indulgence

CONS:
– They do sell out of certain “puffs,” especially in the evening
– Currently only one location in the Portland area

Beard Papa's on Urbanspoon

Review: Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches (Hillsboro)

Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches
18033 NW Evergreen Pkwy
Hillsboro, Oregon 97006
Map It!
Ph: 503-567-3444
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
Website | Menu | Facebook | Twitter
Lunch Money: $-$$
Rating: ★★★★½

Just a few years ago (like two years ago, actually) there were no Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwich restaurants in Portland at all, now there are seven* of the shops in the metro area.

I know, I know. You’re thinking: “Why do we need another sandwich shop in town, and it’s a chain place on top of that…?”

Here’s why: Jimmy John’s is really good, really fresh AND really affordable.

As far as the chain shops go, Subway might have their $5 Footlongs (and those uber-annoying commercial jingles to go with), but they’re the low man on the totem pole as far as a sandwich spots go these days. Quizno’s toasts their subs, but the service is soooo sloooow and the food is still just blah. Big Town Hero? They used to be good (about 10 years ago), but as their prices have gone up, the quality seems to have gone down.

Jimmy John’s is really changing my expectations of what a “fast food” sandwich place should offer. With their delish made-daily French bread, fresh ingredients and quick service, it’s really hard to overlook this relative newcomer to the Portland sandwich scene…and with sandwiches going from $3.75 (plain) to $5.75 (loaded), it’s REALLY hard to beat their prices. (NOTE: Prices may vary depending on location.)

I was itching to get out of the city, so a friend and I high-tailed it to Tanasbourne for some retail therapy and lunch. While there are plenty of lunch places in the NW 185th area, I knew there was a Jimmy John’s nearby and I’d been craving a big, cold cut sub for ages. Jimmy John’s was next to our next retail target, Target, so it was a done deal.

Being a newbie to JJ’s, I quickly studied the menu, and decided on the 8” #5, The Vito: Genoa salami, provolone, capicola, onion, lettuce, tomato and zesty Italian vinaigrette on their famous French bread roll. My shopping pal, who’s familiar with JJ’s due to Midwest roots, went for the #10, Hunter’s Club: roast beef, provolone, lettuce, tomato and mayo.

Within seconds our sandwiches were ready to eat! It’s really, really speedy service.

While the sandwiches at JJ’s aren’t all that bad for you to begin with (it’s really easy to get the nutritional information), you can have your sandwich prepared on 7-grain wheat bread or they’ll even make your sub into a lettuce wrap. This is nice because swimsuit season will be here soon (I hope)!

One thing I really like is that JJ’s also offers delivery. This is fantastic for that workday when you don’t have time to leave the desk for lunch. Just call or place your order online and, voila, lunch is on its way!

Overall, I was very pleased with my first JJ’s experience. I actually took half my sandwich home and enjoyed it the next day for lunch and it WASN’T soggy! That’s an impressive feat!!

PROS:
Affordable prices
Just tastes better than the competition
Large sandwiches with good meat, veggie and cheese portions
FAST service
They deliver (check for exact delivery areas)
Online ordering

CONS:
Wish there were more locations!

[*Note: Currently, there are seven Jimmy John’s in the Portland area: one downtown, one in NE PDX, one in Tigard, two in Beaverton, one in Vancouver and one in Hillsboro.)

Lunch for $1 tomorrow? Who’s in??!!

We’ve been using LivingSocial’s Instant Deals for awhile. They’re SO easy to use and the deals are fantastic. If you plan to eat lunch tomorrow (and you probably are), I recommend checking this out. But get up early, I’m sure many of the most popular spots are going to sell out fast!!! Some of the participating eateries include Aybla Grill, Fuego Food Carts and Pacific Pie Company.

LivingSocial Bringing Dollar Lunch Day to Portland

WHEN:
Wednesday, December 7
Vouchers will be available for purchase beginning at 6:00 a.m. PT
Vouchers will be available for redemption from 11:00 a.m. PT to 2:00 p.m. PT

WHERE:
$1 lunch deals will be available at nearly 100 food merchants in Portland

HOW:
Starting just after sunrise on Wednesday, 12/7, eager Portland eaters can log into their LivingSocial app and select Instant, or logon to or livingsocial.com/instant and marvel at a mass of $1 lunch offers available around town.

Step by step instructions:
1. Download the LivingSocial mobile app to your smartphone. When the app opens, click on Instant. Or, visitlivingsocial.com/instant and select “Portland” as your city.

2. Select from the list of available Instant deals near your current coordinates and pay one dollar per voucher.

3. Visit your selected merchant location and display your Instant voucher on your mobile device at check-out (or print a hard copy from your computer).

Review (L.A. Edition): Papaya King


Papaya King ~ Hollywood
1645 N. Wilcox Avenue
Hollywood, California 90028
323-871-8799
Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. daily
Website
Map It!
Twitter: @papayakingla

We waited and waited and waited for the infamous Papaya King to arrive in our former Hollywood neighborhood for sooooo long. So when we learned (via Twitter) that the only location outside of New York City was officially open, we were totally ready to dive into hot dog and tropical drink paradise.

Nervous about grand opening week crowds, we cruised by the prime location (just south of Hollywood Boulevard on Wilcox Avenue) on a sunny afternoon and were surprised that the line was actually reasonable. We found a parking space,* hopped out of the car and quickly took our place in the nine-people deep queue.

First off, the place is teeny, tiny at just 400 square feet, so expect to feel a little cramped at best and a lot claustrophobic at worst. Also, there is NO seating inside the shop, so be prepared to get everything to go. There are benches around the neighborhood to sit and eat, or do as New Yorkers do and just eat on the go.

As we approached the front of the line it was time to make some decisions. What kind of dog were we going to try? We were tempted to try one of the six classic combos (which include a tropical drink and curly fries), but then decided to go our own route with a specialty dog, the C&C (that’s chili and cheese frank for you n00bs), a classic frankfurter with “Kraut” and, of course, a cup of the infamous papaya tropical drink.

All of that was just $7.00—a great deal for a quick meal in the heart of Hollywood. Continue reading Review (L.A. Edition): Papaya King

Review: Silver Dollar Pizza II

Silver Dollar Pizza II
225 SW Broadway
Portland, OR 97205
503-241-3465
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Rating: ★★★½☆

I’m not going to try to fool you; Silver Dollar Pizza II is not an upscale restaurant by any means. In fact, the place is pretty much a dive bar, serving up their stiff drinks to the often-smoking and drinking clientele. But there is a good reason to try it out: their pizza is very, very delicious!

I have been coming here off and on for almost two years, and I’ve never had a complaint with the service or the food. Sure, it’s a little bit smoky at times, but what can expect from a bar with a façade of a pizza-serving sports bar? They do in fact have several TVs showing sports, so, yes, I would call it a sports bar. Continue reading Review: Silver Dollar Pizza II

Review: Five Guys Burgers and Fries

Five Guys Burger and Fries
2606 SW Cedar Hills Boulevard
Beaverton, OR 97005
503-430-8748
Map it!
Rating: ★★★★½

 

Having lived in Washington, DC, for several years, I was already familiar with Five Guys and their delicious burgers and yummy fries. But when a friend mentioned the opening of Five Guys in Beaverton, I thought I heard her wrong. A Five Guys in Beaverton? How could that be? When I moved back to Oregon several years ago, I thought I would never experience a delicious Five Guys lunch again.

Sure enough, it was my beloved Five Guys! (They have been franchising the stores for a number of years now and there are more than 1000 stores across the U.S.) So we hopped in the car and headed to the brand new suburban strip mall location.

The line was pretty long and the wait for our order was about 10 minutes, but once we had our scrumptious burgers and a regular-sized order of Cajun fries we were in hamburger heaven. Continue reading Review: Five Guys Burgers and Fries

Review: No Fish! Go Fish!

No Fish! Go Fish!
3962 SE Hawthorne Boulevard
Portland, Oregon 97214
503-235-5378
Map It!
Rating: ★★★★☆

I woke up today feeling a little under the weather, but I managed to make it to my lunch appointment with friends at No Fish! Go Fish! Lucky for me the restaurant specializes in comfort food like soup and stuffed sandwiches—and no, despite the name, it’s not a fish place.

The soup menu actually changes daily. Today’s selections were cream of basil, potato with roasted peppers, lentil and black bean minestrone. If you are headed to the restaurant or the food cart location (located at 5th and Yamhill downtown) you can check out their daily menu at their Web site.

If soup isn’t what you’re in the mood for, their cute fish-shaped stuffed sandwiches should satisfy whatever you are craving. From turkey and cheese to the more creative refried bean with pico de gallo, the fish-shaped sandwiches kind of reminded me of healthy and hearty homegrown Hot Pockets. The sandwiches also come in desert versions, like chocolate with banana and apple cinnamon. Continue reading Review: No Fish! Go Fish!

Review: Sushi Land

Marinepolis Sushi Land (Lloyd location)
1409 NE Weidler Street
Portland, Oregon 97232
503-280-0300
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Rating: ★★★½☆

There are a handful of Sushi Land locations around the metro area and they all feature the train-style conveyor belt of small sushi plates.

I have now visited two of the Portland area Sushi Land restaurants. Typically I go to the Pearl District location when the nearby Sushi Takahashi is too busy. But recently an eastside friend suggested we check out the Lloyd District location.

There isn’t too much difference between the Pearl and Lloyd locations when it comes to the food, but the Lloyd location does seem a little less upscale than the Pearl. There might be more seating at the Lloyd location, but it has more of a “diner counter” feel to it than the Pearl location.

It wasn’t too crowed when our party of three arrived, so we seated ourselves and dove in! The friendly server came by quickly to take our drink orders. Continue reading Review: Sushi Land

Review: Muchas Gracias Mexican Food

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Muchas Gracias Mexican Food (Lake Oswego location)
3970 Mercantile Drive #180
Lake Oswego, OR
503-675-7400
Map It!
Rating: ★★★★☆

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Wow. I really wonder why it took me so long to discover the cheesy goodness that is Muchas Gracias Mexican restaurants. There are actually more than 30 locations dotted across Oregon and Washington, but until yesterday I’d never even been to one! Actually, I don’t even think I’d even heard of the Muchas Gracias restaurants before yesterday.

You see, yesterday I pulled up to my restaurant of choice (an Italian sandwich shop) only to discover the place was closed down and about to be auctioned off next week! So, without any backup plan, I ended up at Muchas Gracias by chance. Continue reading Review: Muchas Gracias Mexican Food

Review: Kauai Island Grill

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Kauai Island Grill
811 NW Murray Boulevard
Portland, OR
503-643-4820
Map It!
Rating: ★★★½☆

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A little bit of Hawaii is the perfect pick-me-up during a rainy Stumptown lunch hour; so, today I trekked to the Westside to sample some tasty teriyaki treats. But Kauai Island Grill’s menu goes way beyond teriyaki, they offer traditional Hawaiian fare–where else can you find SPAM on a menu?

The restaurant itself is pretty much a hole in the wall, and you’ll want to get it to go because seating is minimal (by minimal, I mean there are just two small tables and a counter with stools). But looking beyond the seating dilemma, this place is charming and seems to be a family-run joint with a following of regulars who are happy to spend the wait for takeout chatting with the women behind the counter. The wall is covered with family photos, kitschy Hawaiian pictures and even a couple of autographed photos (hello, Peter Jacobsen!). Continue reading Review: Kauai Island Grill