Brownifer Bites: May 2017

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Death By Donutz

Our Things always hear about us reviewing restaurants and they really want to be part of this blog!  So they are working on a restaurant review of their own, stay tuned!

While visiting a restaurant they were interested in trying, we came by Death By Donutz in Corvallis and I mentioned that it was one of the places I had been wanting to try with the kiddos.

So when we were done eating our lunch, we headed in to check things out!

The kids were overwhelmed with their choices, so ordering just one doughnut probably wasn't ever going to be realistic.  We got a dozen and everyone set in trying them out.

They do have most of your favorite classic doughnuts, but they also have some signature names that you really must try!

Thing #5 was in love with her Banana Split doughnut, she said it was 'so good!' Be careful - one bite and the whipped cream will smear your nose!  Totally worth it.
Cookie Dough

Banana Split
Brownie and Thing #4 both had Cookie Dough and I chose the Nutella, topped with a wee little Filbert (we live in Oregon - they're Filberts, not Hazelnuts)  Both of those were very good as well.

Beaver Tail
That big bar lined with chocolate stripes there?  Orange cream frosting.....Beaver Tail I believe.  Thing #5 was protecting it with her life so no one would eat it.

Now Thing #3 chose to be really adventurous and try the PB&J doughnut.  We were all a bit skeptical.  His review?  'Probably the best doughnut I've ever eaten in my life.'  His advice - order a milk to drink with this because it's rich and that peanut butter will stick to the roof of your mouth.  It's filled with jelly too - but it won't change the fact that you need milk!

Peanut Butter & Jelly
If Brownie and I had to recommend one doughnut to try here, it would have to be the Raspberry Fritter.  You heard us right!  And it's just as amazing as it sounds!

Raspberry Fritter
The novelty of this little place is indeed its attraction, the kids even got logo stickers to take home with them.  But you're guaranteed to find something you love here and fill out your dozen with some classics with which you can't go wrong.

Visit them and let us know what you tried!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Stick a Pork In It - Lebanon, OR (Review)

Someone Brownie works with recommended we try Stick a Pork In It.  They're a food truck in Lebanon, usually parked in the Mega Foods parking lot on Main Street.

We have eaten here on a couple of occasions and the food was consistently delicious!  Brownie is a pulled pork aficionado and  he will be the first to tell you that this is some good pork!  "I thought it had a good smoke flavor, wasn't dry, and was evenly pulled."

I am a huge fan of Brownie's pulled pork, I just don't think it gets any better.  But this truck definitely has their pork down to an art! Now, if you've driven by and rolled your eyes thinking, 'another BBQ truck?' - that's not what this is!  This is about pork and they play with it well!
Cuban Sandwic

There aren't a lot of places locally to order a Cuban Sandwich, so if you stop by here, be sure to try theirs!  It's done the traditional way with sliced pork loin, ham, swiss cheese, mustard and pickles and it's really good!  I love that they have this twist on their menu!

We've tried just about everything on the truck by now and we have our favorites! Thing #5 refuses to eat BBQ because it 'tastes like smoke'.  But the rest of us who've eaten it definitely have an opinion!
Pork Tacos w/Cilantro Lime Slaw
Porkadilla with BBQ Sauce
Traditional BBQ Sandwich

Brownie and I both agree that if you have to order just one thing, you really must try the pork tacos with their signature cilantro lime slaw!  It's a flavor punch with just the right amount of spice that compliments the pork perfectly and we can't get enough!

Thing #3 highly recommends the Porkadilla with BBQ sauce - he said it was 'Heaven.'  Thing #4 cleared his throat and asked about their Dad's BBQ.  Thing #3 quickly added, 'Well, except for your barbecue, Dad!'  Have I mentioned how smart our Things are!?  :-)

The traditional BBQ sandwich is also there if you're really craving BBQ but in our humble opinion - it's not the best thing on the menu - we recommend branching out!

We have also tried the strawberry lemonade blended and unblended, Brownie prefers it blended so the muddled strawberries don't block his straw, I prefer it unblended; I'll happily deal with muddled strawberries on my own. 

We will be returning often I'm sure; we still have not been able to try the Cuban Potato Ball.  In true food truck fashion, they run out before we get there.  So they must be good!

We rate our restaurants on our Brownifer scale and I feel like it must be mentioned that one of the areas where they scored a 5 was customer service!  They have proven that they love their business and their customers are their #1 priority!  Trust us, they will feed you well, keep you happy and coming back for more!

On our Brownifer Scale, Stick a Pork In It came out with a 4-Star rating!  It's well worth trying out and making one of your go-to BBQ stops!  We don't even want to hear how far the drive to Lebanon is.  It's worth it.  Just go!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Cuban Sandwich Hoagies (with recipe)

I followed a recipe I found here to make the bread for our Cuban Sandwiches.  We wanted authenticity so I spent a Saturday perfecting this bread and making individual sandwich loaves.  This recipe will make 4 Cuban Sandwich Hoagies.

After three batches - I have to say that it turned out well WHEN I used the cornmeal on the baking sheet AND brushed each loaf with the water as instructed.  Both very important for the crispness Cuban Bread and to keep the bottom from becoming hard as a brick.  Yes...that happened!


1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 cups bread flower
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup lard (melted in microwave)
2 tablespoons warm water (to brush on loaves before baking)


  • Grease a large bowl, set aside
  • In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in 1/4 cup warm water.  I've mentioned before how important it is to proof your yeast!  Let it sit in the water with the sugar for about 10 minutes and it's nice and foamy.  No foam - dead yeast!
  • Measure 1/4 cup lard and place in a Pyrex measuring cup and heat in the microwave for 1 minute or until just melted.
  • Add the rest of the warm water and the salt to the yeast mixture and stir until combined well.
  • Sift all 4 cups of flour together in a small bowl
  • Gradually add the flower mixture, a little at a time, to the wet ingredients in your bowl - mixing constantly.  At the same time you are adding flour, gradually pour in the melted lard.  keep adding a little flour and a little lard until all the lard is added.
  • Continue adding more flower a little at a time (seriously - don't just dump it all in!  I did this on the first batch and it was way too much.)  Use leftover flour rolling out the dough.
  • When you have sticky, elastic dough - turn it out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  • Put dough into greased bowl and turn a few times to coat the dough.
  • Cover and place in a warm place for 45 minutes to an hour or until dough is double in size.
  • Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide the dough in 4 even pieces
  • Spray a cookie tray or baking sheet with oil or grease however you normally bake.  Sprinkle cookie sheet with cornmeal.
  • Shape each piece of dough into a loaf, placing it on the sheet 3" apart.  The shape of your loaf is up to you - we did ours on the sheets about 2 - 3 inches wide and about 9" long.
  • Put cookie sheet (or sheets - we used 2) in a warm place and let rise again until loaves are doubled in size - about 45 minutes.
  • Preheat your oven to 450 - place a pan of water on the lowest shelf of the oven.
  • Use a sharp knife to cut a shallow seam down the middle of the top of the bread, leaving about 1" of uncut top on each end of the loaves.
  • Brush the top of the loaves with water and place in your preheated oven on the middle shelf.
  • After 5 minutes of baking, brush some more water on top of the bread.
  • Total baking time for the loaves in our oven was 10 - 11 minutes.  Longer than that and the bottoms got really hard.  I also expected the loaves to get golden brown on top and overcooked a batch waiting for that color.  If your bread doesn't turn golden brown - it will still taste delicious.  Just watch the bottoms!
  • When bread is done, remove from the sheet and place on a cooling rack.
  • Slice as desired for sandwiches when the bread is cool.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

BJ's Old Fashioned Ice Cream

When we heard that Baskin Robbins in Albany was closing - it was a jab to the heart.  Admittedly, I haven't been there in quite a while but it had been a fixture in our town since we were kids.  Fond memories there!

First I panicked .... where would I get peanut butter and chocolate now!?  But recently, 31 Flavors seemed to have changed their recipe to include crunchy peanut butter so I had switched to Tillamook anyway.

Of course there was rumor that BJ's was moving into the space.  Brownie and I love this place.  We visit Florence often and always try to find time to stop by BJ's.  I mean .... Brownie & Jen!?  Hello!?  :-)  It's one of our things.

While we were visiting the coast with Things #3, #4 and #5 we decided to stop at BJ's and introduce ourselves to Albany's newest ice cream.  Little did we know that the Albany location had already opened!  That was a quick transition!

BJ's on the coast has salt water taffy, caramel corn, fudge and several different kinds of desserts.  We took pictures of it all but we were there for the ice cream!

We kept it simple and the kids and I just ordered 1 scoop.  Well, one scoop may seem a bit expensive on the menu but as you can see in the pictures - it isn't just one scoop!  It's actually quite a bit of ice cream!  The kids tried different cones, I stuck with mine just in a dish.  Brownie went for two scoops!  That's his on the right.

 My dish may look less impressive, but it was creamy peanut butter (of course I tried the chocolate peanut butter!) and it was really good!

Now, none of us are fans of saltwater taffy; we're terrible Oregonians that way.  We took a picture for you anyway.  I doubt they'll bring this into the Albany space, but you never know!  They had a huge variety of flavors!

Did we mention they have fudge!?  Why yes, they do!  This isn't just an ice cream parlor!  We got 1/4 lb of chocolate mint and we all tried a little piece.  It was very rich and a few of us were too full from our ice cream to try it.  The kids did make some time to play with the fudge on their cones, however.  Gotta love Thing #4.

 We always enjoy our experience at BJ's and I know the kids loved it!  On a whim,we bought a bag of the caramel corn just so we could try it and tell you how it is.  This. Is. The. Best. Caramel. Corn. I've. Ever. Eaten.  I sincerely hope they bring the caramel corn in with the new location in Albany!  It is buttery and sweet and salty and FANTASTIC!

I know we Albany-ites are possessive with our favorite places and Baskin Robbins will be greatly missed as part of our town.  But don't blame BJ's and don't hesitate to go in and try their ice cream.  It's made right here in Oregon on Hwy 101!  It may not be healthier than 31 Flavors in many ways, but they have just as many flavor choices and it's very good. You'll like it; I promise!

Go give them a try and let us know what YOU think!  Craving more caramel corn now....

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Grilled Burgers #1 (with recipe)

We were exhausted eating and talking about eating burgers all over town (we've begun our search for the Best Burger in Albany) and decided it was time to just make a good one at home.

I got in the kitchen to make some burger buns and Brownie set to making patties.

We make a lot of burgers with a lot of variations depending on what we have on hand and our mood.  This night, we just wanted a simple classic.  It's been a busy few weeks.  So we're labeling this #1 as there will most likely be many more!

Once Brownie is in the kitchen and in chef mode, he's hard to slow down.  But I risked irritating him to get him to measure things as he went so I could get a recipe for you!

You're Welcome. :-)


  • 2 lbs Grass-Fed Ground Beef
  • 1/2 Cup Panko (or bread crumbs)
  • 1/4 Cup Milk
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons Worcestershire
  • 1 Tablespoon Ketchup
  • 2 Tablespoons minced onion
  • Mixed spices (in any amounts you prefer) for rub:  salt, garlic powder, paprika, smoked paprika

  • Let your beef rest on a counter until it's room temperature 
  • Mix panko and milk in a bowl and combine well
  • Add all other ingredients (excluding your mixed spices for your rub) to the bowl and mix well with your hands.  This is grass-fed beef, y'all - don't even sweat bacteria.  Just get in there! (if you're using conventional beef - use gloves)
  • Form your patties to your desired size - if you want your patties to maintain a larger form while grilling, make sure to put an indent in the center of each burger before grilling.
  • Sprinkle your mixed spices onto patties or mix spices in a bowl and rub on each side of your patties.
  • Wash those nasty hands 
  • Heat your grill and prepare for the burgers while your burger soaks up those flavors.
  • Grill burgers approximately 3 minutes on each side or until done - we like ours a little pink in the middle.  (if you're using conventional beef - always cook until well-done to kill bacteria!)
  • Add slice of cheese after flipping if desired.  Cheddar, Pepper Jack, whatever you choose.  Do us proud and use real cheese!
  • Grill your buns if desired - Brownie likes his grilled, I do not.

Decorate those babies with any and all toppings you prefer!  This recipe was delicious - of course we left the spice rub off of one burger for Thing #5 who isn't a huge fan of meat in the first place.  But she devoured this burger and loved it!  So I'm going to label this one kid-approved!

Homemade Hamburger Buns #1 (with recipe)

Jen is experimenting with homemade burger buns!  So this is attempt #1, we're naming it such because we're not 100% in love quite yet.  Tweaking and research must be done!  But just because we're going for knock-out amazing doesn't mean that these weren't good!  They were.

This recipe is quick and simple and even if you're not used to working with yeast breads, it's a breeze.

The recipe makes 6 large buns or 12 smaller buns - however you like to eat your burgers!


  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water, plus 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3-4 cups flour
  • In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water with a pinch of sugar (this is vital - yeast needs to come to life and it loves to feed on sugar!  I always proof my yeast this way)
  • Let yeast stand for 10 minutes or until it's nice and foamy as you can see in the picture - that means it's awake!
  • Add oil, remaining sugar, egg, salt and enough flour to form a soft dough (I used 3 cups flour)
  • Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, about 3-5 minutes
  • Divide dough into 6 pieces (or 12 if you're doing smaller buns), roll into a ball and flatten/shape each as you want your buns to be.  Ours were large - we like big buns and we cannot lie!
  • Place each piece on a greased cookie sheet (or two if you need more room) - I spray my cookie sheets with coconut oil spray.
  • Cover and let rest for 10 minutes
  • Bake at 425 degrees for 8-12 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Remove from pan and place on a wire rack to cool (this is important!  I didn't remove mine and as you can see below - the bottoms were over-done by the time we were ready to slice!  I blame the wine.)

Like I said, these were very good, even the over-done bottoms (my fault) didn't ruin them.  We'll be experimenting with recipes until we find one that we can honestly say is to die for.  But these are an excellent, quick and simple bun that even Thing #5 liked!  Our picky little Bite.

Try them with your next burger adventure and let us know how yours turned out!

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?  DELICIOUS!  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: