Monday, May 22, 2017

Sour Cream Blueberry Muffins (with recipe)

Thing #5 loves to bake!  Seriously.  She asked Santa for her own baking set last Christmas.  He delivered and we all benefit!  She loves watching Food Network and doesn't like cooking so much as baking.  I think this is her brilliant plan to eat more sweets in this organic household. :-)  Good plan.

I found an amazing recipe online posted to one of the blogs we like to follow and decided to print it out for Thing #5 to try.  I made some recipe notes of our own at the bottom.


5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold is fine
1/2 cup sugar
Finely grated zest from 1/2 a lemon (previously: 1/2 teaspoon zest) (we left this ingredient out because Thing #5 is only 9 and .... we'll get to lemon zesting later)
3/4 cup plain sour cream
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups blueberries, frozen (we like our berries frozen when we bake - they hold their shape better!)
3 tablespoons brown sugar


Heat oven to 375°F.

Line a muffin tin with 9 paper liners or spray each cup with a nonstick spray.

Melt butter in the bottom of a large bowl and whisk in sugar, zest (if using), sour cream and egg until smooth.

Whisk in baking powder, baking soda and salt until fully combined, then lightly fold in flour and berries.

Batter will be very thick, like a cookie dough. (truth!)

Divide between prepared muffin cups and sprinkle each with 1 teaspoon brown sugar, if you go over, don't worry, it will be delicious!

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until tops are golden and a tester inserted into the center of muffins comes out clean. (we use toothpicks)

 Let cool in pan for 10 minutes then the rest of the way on a rack.

Our Recipe Notes:

  • We used paper liners and the blueberries leaked through - not a big deal, we were eating them at home and just used plates under each one.  But maybe the paper liners...not such a good idea.  It's also possible that Thing #5 put in a bit more blueberries than the recipe called for :-)  Hard to know.
  • This recipe makes EXACTLY 9 muffins.  

The family's assessment?  DELICOUS!  Thing #3 and Thing #4 scarfed them down and Thing #3 went back for more!  These didn't last long in our house :-)

Thing #5 was incredibly proud of herself!  "They're healthy, mom!  All organic!"  Well....sure. :-)

Friday, May 19, 2017

Nearly Normal's (SHOUT OUT!)

The sun is out and I do believe that summer may have decided to show up!

When the sun is out, I'm not a big eater.  I like salads, cold foods, raw foods and a lot of vegan and vegetarian so I don't feel sweaty and weighed down.  Emmaright!?  I thought today about restaurants with just such foods this morning and *BAM!*  Nearly Normal's!!!!!

If you've never been to Nearly Normal's in Corvallis, you should definitely try it!  Vegan, Gluten-Free, Vegetarian....any specialized way you like to eat, they have the options for you.

This restaurant has been around since I was a kid - my hippie parents used to frequent this place with my wee self quite often!  And I've been back many times since, sometimes with my dear mama to enjoy the nostalgia :-)

Check out their website and go pay them a visit - I recommend sitting out back on the patio!  My favorite on the menu:  Athena's Delight.  Favorite must-try dish:  Nearly Nasty Burrito (order an extra side of marinara and prepare to take home the leftovers!)

No review here, this restaurant is well-established and well-loved by its community - just a quick shout-out to remind you of this favorite and to share it with some who may want to branch out a little.


Vegan Paella with Chickpeas (with recipe)

I wonder how many vegetarian dishes Brownie will let me cook before he fires up the Barbecue .... ?????  I feel like we're close.
So we loved this recipe!  When Brownie saw it on the menu planner his first reaction was, "What the hell are you making?  Paella has shrimp!"  Well, it turned out really well and he liked it!  What was he saying then!?  "It's really good!"  HA!
"You know would make it even better?  Shrimp."
So there you have it.  It has amazing flavor and textures ... I think it's divine on its own.  The male perspective seems to crave the shrimp .... maybe we'll try a traditional recipe sometime if I can find shrimp that isn't radioactive in this day and age.  Wish me luck!
In the mean time, here is what we did!  This recipe is ingredient-heavy but it's nothing complicated, just a little time-consuming during prep.  You can do it if I can!  :-)  OH and yes, I used white basmati rice .... I told you before the ONLY thing I can eat brown rice with is our homemade Yumm! bowls.
Brownie got home just in time to plate this beautifully for me, he's amazing that way.  But trust me, it was just as delicious spooned into my bowl and sprinkled with parsley normal-like :-)  As you wish!

1 cup short-grain brown rice (See Recipe Note - seriously!  Scroll to the bottom and read the note before you buy your ingredients)
Hefty pinch saffron (about 8 strands) - I found this reasonably priced at Trader Joe's
6 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
3/4 cup crushed tomatoes, fresh or canned
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 tablespoon hot paprika - didn't have it, I used 1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika and a dash of cayenne pepper...maybe more than a dash.
1 cup green beans, trimmed and halved
3 artichoke hearts, sliced (fresh, frozen, or canned)
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1/4 cup peas, fresh or frozen - Brownie has a HUGE problem with peas - I used riced cauliflower instead
1/4 cup chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)
Salt and pepper
Bring 3 cups of water and a hefty pinch of salt to a boil, add the rice, and cook for about about 20 minutes, or until the rice begins to soften. Drain and set aside. (Par-boiling the brown rice speeds up the overall cooking time.)
Combine saffron threads and 3 tablespoons of warm water in a small bowl and set aside. Bring the broth to a simmer, then reduce the heat and keep at a low simmer until needed.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large cast iron skillet, and sauté the onions until soft and fragrant. Add the garlic slices and peppers. Cook until soft, about 7 minutes. Mix in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, hot paprika, saffron threads (along with the water), and season generously with salt and freshly cracked pepper. Let it cook for a few minutes.
Make sure to have your vegetable broth simmering nearby. Fold in the green beans, artichoke slices, and chickpeas. Then stir in the par-boiled, drained rice. Ladle the simmering broth over the rice. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the liquid has evaporated. A few minutes before the rice is fully cooked, scatter the peas over top. Sprinkle with parsley just before serving.

Recipe Notes

  • Paella with Traditional White Rice: If you'd prefer, use a traditional short-grain white rice for this dish, like Bomba or Valencia. If using white rice, there's no need to par-boil and you only need 3 cups of broth.
  • Adding my own note - this recipe goes pretty quickly - chop and slice everything ahead of time to save yourself some stress!
  • Also, my broth simmered for what felt like too long and I was worried I didn't have enough liquid so .... I added about 1/4 cup of red wine ... just because it was on the counter.
  • I am also including a photo of my sliced garlic and my well-loved garlic press/slicer that makes this step incredibly easy.  Bed, Bath & Beyond has them here.
Original Recipe here:

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Avocado Chocolate Pudding (with recipe)

This was an easy recipe and I'm happy to report that Thing #5 loved it!


2 Large Organic Avocados
1/2 Cup Organic Cocoa Powder
1/2 Cup Organic Brown Sugar
1/3 cup Unsweetened Almond Milk (or coconut milk, sweetened if you prefer)
3 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
Pinch Ground Cinnamon


Combine all ingredients in the food processor (or blender if it's all you've got) and blend!

A few notes on what I discovered making this:

  • Make sure your avocados are ripe and soft, but not brown and bitter inside - you'll taste it if they are!
  • You may have to process/blend longer than you'd imagine and take breaks to scrape down the sides to make sure no little person gets their tongue on a chunk of avocado!  Whoah to you you if you let this happen! hahahaha
  • This tastes very much like dark chocolate pudding .... adjust sugar/maple syrup as desired
  • It's very rich!  Have a glass of sweetened almond or coconut milk at the ready!
  • I would make these batches fresh if possible.  I chilled some in the refrigerator overnight and in the morning it was still good after some stirring but ... I wouldn't push it too far.

Little Wuesten German Foods - Albany, OR (Review)

We've visited Little Wuesten a couple times now and I am just in love.The atmosphere of this little space is so homey and fun!  The radio plays 40s music, the owner is cheerful and sweet and I can tell she just loves her restaurant!  She comes out from behind the counter to visit with customers, will give you recommendations and is just the most adorable lady I've ever seen!

The first time we visited, we wanted to try the pastries and coffee.  We had heard that they focus on locally sourced, non-GMO ingredients; right up our alley!  The coffee they serve is from Longbottom Coffee & Tea right here in Oregon and it's so rich and flavorful. I ordered the lavender honey latte and Brownie had the mexican mocha (had a little kick to it - very nice!).

All of their pastries are beautiful and fresh, we just want to go back again and again so we can try them all! Brownie had a Salted Walnut Caramel Sticky Bun, I had a Marionberry Almond Roll - both were warmed up for us and were the perfect compliment to our coffee while we ate; I was tapping my toes and swaying to the music on the radio.

On our second visit, we wanted to try some of their warmer breakfast options, but we arrived just as lunch was beginning, so we sampled those options instead!

We did get one Spinat Küchlein, a savory spinach and feta tart that we enjoyed very much.  This made our experience technically
brunch instead of lunch ;-)

Brownie ordered the German Sausage Plate; your choice of German sausage (frankfurter, wiener, bockwurst or chicken) with mustard, roll, and sauerkraut.  It had good flavor, the mustard was sweet with little zing to it and the sauerkraut might have been his favorite part of it all.

I ordered the Beef on Kümmelweck; thinly sliced roasted beef on a house-made, toasted caraway rye roll with a horseradish/sour cream sauce.  The beef was tender and juicy and the flavors worked well together.  I don't think it would have been the same without that caraway rye!  And I just love horseradish so...there's that.  It also came with the most delicious cheesy spaetzle.  I had to take a picture of the real cheese this pasta was swimming in!  It was beyond delectable!  We just kept saying how much our kids would love it.

This little place has only been open for a few months and it's taking off!  The first visit, it was quiet and sweet, but our second visit was bustling and busy and a line at the counter came and went!  And that fabulous music coming from the radio ... did I mention that I love this!?

Still some glitches to work out service-wise when it's overwhelmingly busy but nothing out of the ordinary or that wasn't corrected immediately.  This is a unique little gem in downtown and I hope it becomes a permanent part of Albany!

We gave Little Wuesten 4 stars on our Brownifer Scale - this will be a regular haunt for Brownifer and once you try it, it will be one of yours as well!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mushroom Bourguignon (with recipe)

This recipe is so delicious; you'll almost forget it's vegetarian!  The flavors work so well together and of
course, whatever wine you choose to cook with, a glass of that same wine will pair perfectly with your meal!

I know when you're weighing your mushrooms in the produce section that it will seem like a lot - but trust us:  it's right.

We've tweaked the recipe a bit and it turned out amazing.  Depending on the amount of mushrooms you end up with, you may need to add a little extra broth or wine.  Don't be afraid to play with it!

Make a list and head to the store to make this for dinner tonight!  You won't be sorry!


4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 pounds portobello, shiitake or crimini mushrooms, sliced
4 Medium/Large Leeks, trimmed and thickly sliced
1 large carrot, diced

1 medium onion, diced
1 heaping teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 1teaspoon dried
sea salt & cracked pepper, to taste
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup full-bodied red wine
2 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons flour (you can use arrowroot powder to keep it gluten-free if you prefer)
Mashed potatoes - made as you like them


  • Cut potatoes - get started on the stove for mashed potatoes
  • Slice Mushrooms and leeks, add to soup pot with olive oil
  • Chop onion and carrot, set aside
  • Sear mushrooms and leeks until they begin to take on a little coloring, about 3 to 4 minutes. Carefully remove from pot and set aside.
  • Reduce heat to medium, add one tablespoon of oil. Add the carrots, onions, thyme, salt and pepper, saute for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are lightly browned. Toss in the garlic and cook for another minute.
  • Slowly add the wine to the pot and scrap any bits that are stuck to the bottom or sides. Turn heat to high and reduce wine by half.
  • Stir in tomato paste and broth, mix. Add in mushrooms and leeks, including any juices that have collected, back to the pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, or until mushrooms are very tender. Let simmer, covered or cover askewed, stirring occasionally and enjoy the wonderful aroma.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the remaining tablespoon oil, or water, with flour to make a paste, stir into the stew. Simmer for 10 minutes. If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to the right consistency. Season to taste.
  • Serve spooned over mashed potatoes (or cooked grain/pasta of your choice), sprinkled with a pinch of fresh thyme.

We used Swallow Pinot Noir to make this - it's inexpensive and it was really good!  I suggest buying 2 bottles of whatever you choose - some to drink while cooking, some to cook with and more to enjoy your food with!  

The original recipe we tweaked a bit can be seen here:

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Novak's Hungarian Restaurant - Albany, OR (A Tribute)

This is our 100th blog post!  It's been an evolving adventure for us!  We cooked so much food, grew so many of our own delicious ingredients, canned our recipes and visited so many restaurants; we only wish we'd shared more about all of them here!  Our goal moving forward is to do just that.  Those restaurants we've written about so far:  Sweet Red Bistro, House of Noodle, Brick & Mortar Cafe, Aomatsu Sushi & Grill, Saprona Sushi, Le Pigeon, Cheese Bar, Sybaris, Cheesy Stuffed Burgers and Burger Queen.  You'll hear more from us in the future!

We've decided that our milestone blogs will be tributes (as opposed to reviews) of some well-established restaurants in the area that we all know and love.

We chose do do our first tribute to Novak's Hungarian Restaurant in Albany.  This family-owned business has been part of Albany since 1984!  Originally located on Santiam Hwy, many of us remember eating here with our parents as children.  Brownie himself grew up just down the street from this restaurant.

Novak's also spent some time in a space tucked away near what is now Marshall's across the street from Heritage Mall and has made their new home downtown on 2nd street between the stained glass store and The Still.  This new space seems like a perfect fit for them!

The idea for doing this blog came when we had a less-than-satisfying dining experience and just wanted some good coffee and dessert.  I remembered that I used to go to Novak's with my daughter when we wanted just the same thing and how delicious their desserts were.  While we looked at the menu we thought:  why didn't we come here for dinner!?  So we decided to do just that!

Now Novak's doesn't need a good review, they don't even need to get their name out there - everyone knows how amazing this restaurant is.  But for those of you who may have forgotten about them with their new move or are new to town and have never been - here is your refresher course!


Karen's Exquisite Pate
We were so excited to have dinner here after feeling like we've ignored such a wonderful restaurant for too long.  We started with Karen's Exquisite Pate served with crackers and garlic toast.  This is a chicken liver pate made in-house and is incredibly delicious!  We highly recommend it!  We also had to order the Langos - a fried bread that is so soft and light that it nearly melts in your mouth.  When we were at the restaurant having dessert the night before, a table of sweet regulars to the restaurant offered to share theirs with us.  We declined, but made sure it was on our list to order when we came for dinner!  It comes with raw garlic (we cut the garlic into small pieces and ate it with bites of bread) or apricot and strawberry preserves to give you a sweet flavor - any way you eat this bread will be amazing!  Pace yourself, however, it's very filling!

For our main courses, we tried two different platters.  It was the best way to try as many  different things as possible!  Brownie ordered the Hunter's Platter that included Szekely Toltott Kaposzta (cabbage roll), Becsi Szelet (breaded beef cutlet), Parizsi Szeleet (batter dipped pork tenderloin) and papa's Kolbasz (spicy sausage) with a side of veggies.
Hunter's Platter
I chose the Shepherd's Platter with Chicken paprikas, Beef Porkolt (both of these are served over homemade spaetzle), Szekely Toltott Kaposzta and papa's Kolbasz; mine also came with a side of veggies.

Shepherd's Platter

Need I tell you that everything we tried was perfection?  No, because you know.  This family is straight from Hungary and they know their stuff!  If you're a die-hard foodie, they have a cookbook of some of their most requested recipes for sale as well!  Only $5!

We came away with a ton of leftover food, obviously.  No complaints here!  We enjoyed the dining room atmosphere before leaving, everyone bustling and chatting away.  This restaurant is always busy when we go in, we suggest making a reservation if you don't like to wait - but if you decide to drop in and there's a long wait at the door, grin and bare it - you won't be sorry!


Creme Brulee
We also wanted to share our small dessert experience with you!  So this is a second part of our Tribute Trifecta dedicated to the many desserts you can enjoy here.  We only had two - Maybe we'll bring our littles here some time and let them review some desserts for you :-)

Dobos Torta
Brownie chose the Creme Brulee (no description needed) which he said was really good; it's a favorite of his.  I decided on the Dobos Torta - Cookie style pastry layers alternated with milk chocolate cream filling, topped with a unique caramelized sugar wedge.  Twelve luscious layers in all!  And it was luscious! The cookie was soft and the cream filling wasn't too sweet - the crunch of the sugar wedge was just a fun little extra!  I enjoyed it emensely!


Cafe Budapest
The Trifecta Finale!  Now, we know there are amazing breakfast options at Novak's, after seeing the dinners we had, you can just imagine - but we were desperate to try the Beignets!  I've been to New Orleans and trying to find a good Beignet around here is not easy.  I guess you could say we opted for the light breakfast after a heavy dinner :-)

We sipped our Cafe Budapest, Novak's signature coffee, while we waited for our food (layered coffee with espresso, steamed milk, European chocolate & cinnamon syrups, topped with whipped cream and dusted  cinnamon.)  A definite MUST when having dessert or breakfast!

Beignets (bacon making an
appearance in the background)
For those of you not familiar with Beignets - these are a french-style doughnut fried to order and sprinkled with powdered sugar.  They are soft and doughy to perfection and melt in your mouth!  We ordered six and took two home for later - they also can be ordered here in a baker's dozen!  The waitress suggested a side of meat with our doughnuts to counter-act the sweetness.  This was a fabulous idea!  Brownie decided on a side of bacon - which incidentally goes really well with a bite of Beignet!

So concludes our tribute to an Albany Restaurant Icon!  If you haven't visited in a while - it's time!  If you've never been - you absolutely MUST try this place and find out what you've been missing!

Happy 100th Blog and long live Novak's!