Brownifer Bites: July 2016

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Camping Ramen Noodles

If you've never been camping with 5 kids ... then you don't know our pain.  This weekend we only had 4 out of 5 and luckily, we have a camp stove.  This trip, we brought hot dogs to roast, of course and sandwich fixin's to make sure we were prepared.  But we always make camp spaghetti and I am just sick of the idea truthfully.  So this year, I had read a blog someone posted about their own family tradition of making Curry Ramen Noodles when they go camping and how the tradition got started.  I thought:  Ramen!  What a perfectly awesome camping idea!  Plus, it's inexpensive and with 4 kids ... you get the idea. 

I can't in good conscious feed our kids merely noodles, but they argue over which cooked vegetables are edible.  So we opted for raw veggies!  Brownie cut up three bell peppers and put them on a plate with some raw carrots and heirloom cherry tomatoes.  The kids munched on (and nearly finished) those while I concocted the noodles with what we'd brought.

What we brought was very little.  I am allergic to MSG.  The packets in Ramen Noodles with all those salty spices? They get tossed. Knowing how they make me feel, I can't put that into our kids' bodies.  I had brought some vegetable broth leftover from making our Jambalaya with us and a handful of jars from the spice cupboard, knowing the spice packets would be useless to me.  There must be others out there who can't stand those packets, so I will share. At home, I will sometimes use cumin or curry or wherever my intuition leads me, but ... in the spirit of camping I kept it simple.  My skeleton recipe for camping Ramen with no spice packets? Here ya go:


6 packets Ramen Noodles
Broth (doesn't matter what kind - I have to use specific brands and usually vegetable to avoid MSG)
Garlic Powder
Poultry Seasoning
Chives (dried from our garden)
Dried Basil


Boil water and broth, add noodles, add everything else until the taste is just right for you.  You know how to make Ramen! :-)

Once the kids were fed and full, we still had noodles left for us.  I stirred in a little more water, chopped up the rest of the Jerk Chicken from our Jamexican Tacos that I'd put in the cooler on our way out of town, threw it in and warmed the noodles up again.  Yes!  This may be a new favorite. Did I mention we're packing Jerk Chicken with us no matter where we go now form now on?  Yup.

We even had enough noodles leftover to store in the used chicken container to heat up for breakfast!  I will never camp without Ramen (and 1/2 my spice cupboard) again!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Jamexican Tacos

So, as most of you know by now, my stepdad is Jamaican.  We've learned a lot about Jamaican foods since he became part of our family.  His sisters have taught my mom so much about cooking their favorite family dishes. Jerk seasoning is by far the most popular Jamaican culinary delight among Americans; it's a staple in my mom's house as well.  We buy Walkerswood - it is full of amazing seasonings and just happens to be the one brand I've found that doesn't give me an MSG headache!  That's huge for me.  We find it at World Market here in Oregon, but I'm sure their website can direct you to where you can buy it locally or ... there's always Amazon!  There are other brands out there, this just happens to be our favorite.

Needless to say, we try a lot of things with jerk seasoning.  Once Brownie smoked a jerk pork roast for my parents and we kept some of the meat - YUM!  With the leftovers, we made some tacos since we always have Mexican food staples around this house.  They were delicious!  But what in the world do you call these fusion foods?  That was the day Jamexican Tacos were born.  Taco cravings happen regularly here, and tonight was one of them.  So we decided to make our chicken version of these and share them with you.

What you'll need:

  • Chicken breasts or thighs or both (we've also used the smoked jerk pork roast and flank steak)
  • Jerk seasoning (paste)
  • Jerk Marinade
  • Onion
  • Radishes
  • Avocado
  • Fresh cilantro
  • yellow chili pepper
  • Cotija cheese
  • White corn tortillas
  • Limes
  • Olive Oil

What to do:

  • Rub down chicken with Jerk paste, pour liquid marinade over meat and let sit 30 minutes
  • While the meat is sitting, dice your onion and chop cilantro, toss with olive oil and lime juice, slice radishes and yellow chili pepper, crumble your Cotija cheese
  • Grill the chicken until it's cooked thoroughly
  • Cut/shred your chicken for tacos
  • Put two tortillas down and build your tacos!

These are spicy!  A slow heat that creeps up and stays with you.  So we chose some Northwest wines that would possibly compliment these flavors.  It's a complicated thing to try to pair wine with since it's a fusion of Mexican flavors and Jamaican spices.  We love going to wineries and buying more expensive bottles to enjoy, but your average Oregonian doesn't have wine in the cellar and relies heavily on what is in the grocery store.  We are incredibly spoiled in The Willamette Valley with the amount of wineries and vineyards that make some incredible wine.  Our grocery stores are filled with shelves of Oregon and Washington wines that would amaze you.  Some of these wines are inexpensive as well.  Don't be fooled around here by the price tag.  So we hit the wine stacks and here's what we tried tonight:

The first wine we chose was Airlie Winery's 2013 Dry Gewurztraminer.  This one was Brownie's favorite.  Brownie is usually a red wine sipper and leans more toward IPAs when it comes to Oregon beer.  When I tasted the three wines, I knew this one would be the one he liked best.  First, let me say that it cuts the heat INCREDIBLY well!  The wine doesn't have any overpowering personality of its own and Brownie thought it brought out the aromas of everything in the tacos.  I disagree a little.  I'm the white wine drinker around here and when it comes to beer ... I'd rather have hard cider. :-) I would say that it brought out more of the savory and Mexican notes in the food.  But it's a really good companion to these tacos!

The second wine was my choice, obviously.  Chateau St. Michelle's 2014 Harvest Select Sweet Riesling.  I thought it would be a fun bottle of sweetness to sip while Brownie cooked and created and I worked on our social media.  I'm disappointed that I didn't save more to have with the food! Brownie didn't hate it, but he wasn't thrilled.  It had too much sweetness of its own and for him it didn't compliment the food.  Again I disagree a bit, though it does have its own flavors for sure. No, it didn't cut the heat like the Airlie did, but for me the sweet in this wine brought out the flowery smells and flavors in the cilantro and the pepper and even the avocado.  I loved it!

The third wine was Chateau St. Michelle's 2014 Gewurztraminer.  Neither one of us really preferred this with our fusion creation.  It was just all wrong for this combination in just about every way.  I do like the wine on its own though!  I'll make good use of it on these hot summer days! :-)  But while you're making Jamexican Tacos ... I would leave this one chilling in the refrigerator.

So that's our Jamexican adventure for the night!  One of our favorites that we've now shared with you!  If you try this one out, be sure to come back and post your pictures and let us know what twists and turns you took on your own version!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Juicy Jennifer

Before you gasp at the title of this blog, let's remember the original invention of the cheese-stuffed burger patty: The Juicy Lucy.  Food has such a rich history in this country, it's always fun to learn something new!

We just received our order of grass-fed beef last week and I know Brownie has been itching to thaw some of it and get to the grill.  Now, we have an amazing food truck near us called Cheesy Stuffed Burgers that we haven't had a chance to try yet.  Rest assured, we will!  But tonight we decided to dig into that delicious beef and try our own version.

Brownie topped his with pickles, roasted red pepper and mustard and toasted his buns.  The hamburger buns.  I am not a fan of toasted buns, so I kept my Juicy Jennifer's buns soft and used pickles, mustard, horseradish and ketchup.  They were delicious!

I reminded Brownie we couldn't call it a Juicy Lucy because well .... this is something different.  So he told me, "It's my Juicy Jennifer!"  We giggled and laughed and munched on our burgers .... but it's a great name for them!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Dirty South Pasta Salad (from The North)

Tonight we had leftovers to use up in the refrigerator. Some chicken and andouille sausage left from the Jambalaya this weekend, remoulade sauce and some cooked shrimp coupled with tomatoes, yellow squash and zucchini from our garden.

What to do?

Well, Brownie found pasta in the pantry! So began his creation...

Dirty South Pasta Salad (from The North) - Brownie grilled the sausage and chicken and let them cool and chill, then tossed them with the chopped yellow squash and zucchini from our garden, cooked and chilled some pasta he found in the pantry and clipped some chives from the herb garden. Stirred together with the remoulade sauce... another delectable meal under his hat! That tomato out of the garden was the most flavorful garnish I could have imagined! Our tomatoes have so much character!

I dare say, this concoction will be our new go-to for bringing to potlucks and picnics! Creating food can't always be about expensive and hand-picked ingredients - sometimes all you have is what is left over. That's how amazing things are born in this house. I love us for this very reason.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

New Orleans Inspiration

This week, we had the pleasure of seeing New Breed Brass Band in Albany and we had such a good time! But we came away craving New Orleans cuisine! So today, we meandered through a few grocery stores collecting ingredients for Jambalaya.   I always start my Jambalaya with a standard recipe and work from there:


12 oz. (or so) skinless, boneless chicken (breasts or thighs - your choice. Breasts tend to try out too much for me.)
2 Bell Peppers (we use green and yellow to add more color)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced or diced, whatever your preference
Raw minced garlic - 4 cloves, 6 cloves ... whatever your taste buds desire
Canned tomatoes (14.5 oz - we use a quart jar of our home canned tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
Broth - chicken, beef, vegetable ... whatever you have on hand - I use about 16 oz?
1 Tablespoon dried parsley - or a small bunch of fine cut fresh parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil (or again - some fine cut fresh basil)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon hot sauce (your preference!)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 lb. shrimp, shelled and deveined (do NOT use pre-cooked shrimp - we tried that once and they got very rubbery)
3 cups cooked Rice


Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces
Add all ingredients accept for shrimp and rice to your crockpot
Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours
Add shrimp during last 15-20 minutes of cooking
Stir in rice when ready to dish up!

  Tonight we used chicken, shrimp and andouille sausage. We didn't put any hot sauce in, expecting the andouille sausage to bring the spice but the sausage we used was hardly spicy and the flavor was lacking. So we mixed in a little Melinda's Red Savina Hot Pepper Sauce and the flavors came right out! That sauce is amazing!  The key to good Jambalaya is definitely in the heat! :-)

 As for Shrimp Remoulade - there are just as many recipes for this as there are for Gumbo and Jambalaya. Everyone likes something a little different. I prefer a horseradish flavor and Brownie seems to agree. Tonight I switched from horseradish mustard to creole mustard and I ended up adding horseradish anyway. So I'll stick with my usual method. Don't mess with what works!

As for wines, we tried a few. The one we liked best was De Martino Estate Organic Savignon Blanc, it seemed to compliment the flavors best. It didn't blow me away paired together though, I'll try something different next time. Brownie said it would be a refreshing wine on a hot summer day, which is saying a lot because he's not a huge fan of white wines.

Our craving is satiated and our taste buds are dancing, no complaints here! Now we just need to put these bottles of wine to good use! :-)

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Brick and Mortar Cafe

We live near the town of Albany and the restaurant scene is booming in that little town!  Brownie and I tried out Brick and Mortar Cafe downtown a few months ago to check out their famous Bloody Mary Bar on a weekend when we had no kids.  We are in love!  The Bloody Mary Bar is everything you could ever want in your Bloody Mary and trust me when I tell you that there are endless combinations and possibilities - but be careful!  You can spend a lot VERY quickly building these drinks!  Is it worth it?  Yes, the novelty is unique and the ingredients and options are awesome.  I mean, a pepperoni straw!?  Fahgeddaboutit.  But unless you're feeling wealthy, I would stick to just one and order breakfast :-)

Which brings me to Brownie's favorite item on Brick and Mortar's menu:  Chicken and Waffles.  I myself am not a fan of sweet and savory together, but Ryan simply can't get enough of this dish!  He now wants a Belgian Waffle Maker so we can play with this idea at home.  So look out for that :-)  Even though it isn't my style, it smelled amazing!  The chicken was crispy and perfectly fried and as you can see, the waffle was perfect as well.  He drizzled it all with syrup and devoured it in no time!

I ordered the Eggs Benedict and while it was delicious ... the ham was cut too thick for my taste and it overpowered the flavor of the english muffin and hollandaise, which is my favorite.  It was cooked well and plated nicely, just too much ham for me.  Someone who likes more ham flavor would LOVE the Eggs Benedict here.

We returned recently so Brownie's two boys could try the Chicken and Waffles.  They are now just as in love with it!  This menu choice just never seems to disappoint!  I tried the Salmon Lox Benedict this time and it was DELICIOUS!  A little red onion, the lemon flavor in the hollandaise .. .all went incredibly well together in each bite with the salmon.  I can't say enough good things about it!  YUM!
This time, we also chose to try their espresso over Bloody Marys.  As you can see in the photo, they make the foam lovely.  Brownie ordered a salted caramel latte and he loved it, but was VERY sweet as syrup drinks usually are.  I ordered the honey lavender latte and it was beautiful!  Good, strong coffee flavor and a hint of lavender.  
Albany has been begging for a new spin on breakfast and brunch for years and I must say, Brick and Mortar is a breath of fresh air!  We highly recommend trying it!  Be prepared for a line, this town loves this little restaurant!