Brussels Sprouts, Bacon and Smoked Cheddar Panini…and My Trip to Tillamook!

It’s taken me all week to pull together this post – I’ve got lots of great stuff to share! First, there’s the incredible two-day blogger excursion through Oregon I went on last month, hosted by Tillamook. I’ve been eager to show you what I got to see and do in Portland, at the Tillamook factory, along the Oregon coast and on the farm. And, of course, I’ve got a recipe that was inspired by my experience – Brussels Sprouts, Bacon and Smoked Cheddar Panini, which I made with Tillamook’s Smoked Black Pepper White Cheddar.

Making friends with baby calves That’s me with a Tillamook farmer’s baby calves. 🙂 But we’re jumping ahead of things – let’s back up to where everything started, Portland.

I love Portland!I arrived in Portland early on the first day, which gave me ample time to explore this amazing city. First order of business was, of course, a cup of Stumptown coffee. From there, I meandered in and out of eclectic shops in the Pearl District. I was marching out to Voodoo Doughnut (maple bacon bars were calling) when my friend Carrian from Oh Sweet Basil texted me to meet for lunch at the food carts. Portland boasts more than 600 food carts, and there was a “pod” of them not too far from our hotel (the Hotel deLuxe, which was a wonderful place to stay).

A little Loafy loveBy evening, the whole group of bloggers had arrived in Portland and there was a nice reception for us back at the hotel (my old friend Loafy made an appearance!). It was a good thing we called it an early night because we had a full day ahead of us!

The rainy road to the Oregon coastThe next morning, we boarded the bus out to Tillamook, which is about two hours west of Portland, along the Oregon coast. The route winds along the Wilson River over the mountains, through the Tillamook State Forest. We stopped along the way to inhale the fresh mountain air and watch the river rush by.

Packaging cheese at the Tillamook factory

Tillamook Factory highlightsOut at the Tillamook factory, we were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour, we had the chance to meet the people who taste test the cheese and other products all day, and of course we did plenty of taste testing ourselves!

I promise that ice cream was not all mine!

We stopped off at the Cape Meares lighthouseOur day was far from over after the factory. On the way out to our inn on the coast, we made a quick stop at the Cape Meares Lighthouse. That was one of the things I really loved most about this trip – we had a schedule, but there was also the flexibility to take little detours and really enjoy our immensely beautiful surroundings.

Cape Meares LighthouseI can’t help but notice how much more bundled up I am than everyone else in this picture! Oh well, I blame it on nine years living in San Diego. 🙂 The lovely, less-bundled-up ladies in this picture are Carrian, Katie from Tillamook, and Dyan and Kelly from Soda Pop PR. (Thanks to Jennifer from Real Posh Mom for sharing the pic with me!)

View from the Inn at Cape Kiwanda
This incredible view was waiting for us when we arrived at the Inn at Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City. I took this photo from my balcony. I only wish we could have stayed there for more than one night (I made a mental note to definitely come back with my family!). We had a rather entertaining dinner that night at the restaurant you see at the lower left, the Pelican Pub & Brewery, where I enjoyed a very delicious smoked oyster pizza.

Last, but not least, we had the chance to visit one of the ninety-nine farms that comprise the dairy cooperative that supplies all the milk for Tillamook. Out of respect for their privacy, we didn’t take pictures of the pastoral scenery of the farm but, trust me, it was truly picturesque.

Cow coiffsWe learned a lot about what it’s like to be a dairy farmer (it’s a lot harder than I ever knew), what the cows do all day, and the qualities Tillamook looks for in the milk to make their cheese and other dairy products. One of the quirkier tidbits I learned about cows is that they have “hairstyles”! They each do that little tuft of hair on top of their head in their own way. Who knew?

What a fun and memorable excursion with this incredible group
What a fun and memorable excursion with this incredible group (Left to right: Me, Stacy from Kids, Stuff, World, Vianney from Sweet Life Bake, Jennifer from Real Posh Mom, Heather from Farmgirl Gourmet, Gerry from Foodness Gracious (who shared this wonderful pic with me!), Staci from 7 On A Shoestring, Carrian from Oh Sweet Basil. Also on the tour but not pictured here were Chelsea and Nate from Someday I’ll Learn.

Not only were there were so many memorable moments from the trip, but there were also memorable people. Most of us didn’t know each other before the trip, but we bonded well over the two days. What a great group!

Tillamook sent us home with plenty of cheese. 🙂 As I mentioned earlier, I made these Brussels Sprouts, Bacon and Smoked Cheddar Panini to show off one of my favorite Tillamook cheeses, their Smoked Black Pepper White Cheddar. Brussels sprouts and smoky flavor go so well together, I knew these would be amazing. The next time you roast sprouts (which happens a lot in our house, especially at this time of year), make extra so you’ll have leftovers to make these sandwiches!
Brussels Sprouts, Bacon and Smoked Cheddar Panini


Brussels Sprouts, Bacon and Smoked Cheddar Panini

Recipe by Kathy Strahs,

Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 10 minutes | Total time: 25 minutes

Yield: 4 panini


  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 8 slices sourdough or other rustic white bread, sliced from a dense bakery loaf
  • 8 ounces smoked cheddar, sliced (I used Tillamook Smoked Black Pepper White Cheddar)
  • 3/4 cup cooked, sliced Brussels sprouts
  • 8 slices cooked bacon


  1. Heat the panini press to medium-high heat.
  2. For each sandwich: Spread butter on two slices of bread to flavor the outside of the sandwich. Flip over one slice and top the other side with cheese, Brussels sprouts, bacon and more cheese. Close the sandwich with the other slice of bread, buttered side up.
  3. Grill two panini at a time, with the lid closed, until the cheese is melted and the bread is toasted, 4 to 5 minutes.



KathyPanini Happy, online since 2008, is more than just a sandwich blog. Here, you'll find hundreds of my original panini recipes, my guide to choosing a panini press and a whole lot of other creative uses for the panini press.
~ Kathy Strahs
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  1. How much fun is that to go home with all of that cheese! The picture of you with the big coat on is great, that was me when I moved from AL to Indy and thought it was “cold.” And I will definitely have to try out brussels sprouts on a sandwich – have never done that before!

    Posted 11.14.13 Reply
  2. Angela wrote:

    So great to learn that they take such pride in their dairy!

    Posted 11.14.13 Reply
  3. Chelsea wrote:

    Love reading this and seeing all the fun pics!!! Reminds me of how much I miss you!!!! XOXO

    Posted 11.14.13 Reply
    • Kathy Strahs wrote:

      I miss you too, Chelsea!! We need to remedy that. 🙂

      Posted 11.14.13 Reply
  4. Katie wrote:

    Hi Kathy,

    First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to come visit us here in Tillamook! It was so great to meet you, show you around our farms, and learn more about you. Hopefully next time you come, the weather will be more like what you’re used to in San Diego. 🙂

    Secondly, that sandwich looks amazing! It’s all of my favorite things in one panini. Yummm!

    All our best,
    Katie, of the Tillamook team

    Posted 11.14.13 Reply
    • Kathy Strahs wrote:

      The crisp autumn weather was just perfect, Katie – I wouldn’t have it any other way! Thanks so much again for such a fun and memorable time. 🙂

      Posted 11.14.13 Reply
  5. Aggie wrote:

    Oh this is my kind of trip and my kind of sandwich! This looks heavenly, I’m craving brussels sprouts now 🙂

    Posted 11.17.13 Reply
  6. Ohmygosh – I am so craving ice cream right now. Looks like a fun trip!

    Posted 11.17.13 Reply
  7. Oregon is pretty awesome, isn’t it?! Glad you guys had a great trip! This sandwich sounds fantastic, too! 🙂

    Posted 11.19.13 Reply
  8. I love brussel sprouts! This panini is overflowing with delciousness 🙂 yum!!

    Posted 11.27.13 Reply