chubby hubby cookies.

It’s December 1, and that means it’s time for the 12 Days of Christmas Cookies!

Chubby Hubby Cookies

My pal, Becca, and I started this little baking tradition a few years back (when we were just little college kids baking our way through finals). We were inspired by the Food Network’s 12 Days of Christmas Cookies, but quickly determined we’d rather select our own dozen cookies to consume.

This year, we’re kicking off the season with some cookies inspired by my favorite Ben and Jerry’s flavor: Chubby Hubby. I love a good crunch in my ice cream, and apparently I like it in my cookies, as well. These bad boys are full of crunchy pretzels, chocolate, and peanut butter. And salt. I’ve been on a salt kick lately, so I sprinkled a little sea salt on these right before baking. It was the right choice.

But perhaps the best thing about these cookies is the complete lack of waiting time. No need to soften your butter. No need to refrigerate your dough. Just mix, bake, and eat.

Chubby Hubby Cookies

These are best enjoyed while watching Love Actually, putting up your Christmas decorations, or listening to the N’Sync Christmas album (that’s your glimpse into my day in real life).

Chubby Hubby Cookies

Chubby Hubby Cookies

makes 27 cookies

1 stick cold butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup peanut butter chips

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

1 cup crushed pretzels

sea salt, for sprinkling

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or silpat liner.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars. Beat in the peanut butter, egg, and vanilla.

Stir together the salt, baking powder, baking soda, and flours. Beat into the wet ingredients.

Stir in the peanut butter chips, chocolate chips, and pretzel pieces.

Use your hands to form the dough into balls. Place on the cookie sheet, sprinkle the tops with sea salt, and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until slightly browned on top.

-Ally

gifts for the amateur outdoorsman.

Next up on our Christmas shopping list: the friend who loves to be outside. These are some of our favorite hiking and camping essentials.

gifts for outdoorsman

1- Stanley Thermos– We love this for short hikes on a cold day. It’s fun to drink some hot chocolate at the top of a viewpoint.

2- ENO Double Hammock– We packed this on our camping trip in the Grand Tetons, and on our hike to Green Lakes. And it lived on our balcony during the warm months in our last apartment. Sometimes you just need to hammock. And this one is built for two!

3- Columbia Women’s Back Beauty Straight Leg Pant– This was the solution to a hiking dilemma for me. I hate hiking in jeans, but I wanted something warm and water repellent (my running tights don’t cut it). These are great on their own for cool weather hikes, and in combination with a base layer for snowy weather. And they’ve passed my test of wearing them in the rain on a hike. Water repellent, indeed! Plus, the straight leg keeps them from looking really dorky, and they come in petite!

4- Lodge Cast Iron Skillet, 8-Inch– We take this bad boy camping and use it for cooking eggs and bacon, or for toasting bagels or muffins.

5- Merrell Women’s Moab Waterproof Hiking Shoe– After living in Oregon for two years, it became clear I needed some waterproof hiking shoes. These are comfortable, and keep my feet nice and dry.

6- Men’s Peakfreak Enduro Dry Hiking Shoe– Eric bought these when he faced the same wet sock dilemma. And now we both hike nice and dry!

7- Fiskars X7 14 Inch Hatchet– We use this on camping trips to chop wood for the absolutely necessary campfire.

8- Black Diamond Headlamp– For the hikes that start early or end late.

9- Camelbak Eddy Bottle– My go-to water bottle for the past 6 years. It has a lifetime warranty, so Camelbak will replace it if something goes wrong. My mouthpiece started leaking last year, and I was able to fill out a form and get a new one for free!

 

Happy gifting!

-Ally

 

gifts for the amateur chef.

Christmas is almost here, folks. And if you are anything like me, you probably have no idea what to gift your loved ones. So, I’m putting together a few gift giving guides to help you out this holiday season! We’ll start with gifts for the friend who likes to spend some time in the kitchen.

Gifts for Chefs

1- Cuisinart Dutch Oven– I got this for Christmas last year, and it rocks. Like everyone else in the world, I’ve spent years drooling over Le Creuset dutch ovens, but the price tag turns me away. The Cuisinart version is affordable, and it makes cooking anything from a hearty soup to pork tenderloin a breeze. Plus, it’s pretty.

2- KitchenAid Stand Mixer– I don’t even know how I mixed anything before I got this. It’s perfect for everything from baked goods to pizza dough. And it’s way easier to clean than a hand-mixer, and much easier on your arm muscles.

3- Winco Fine Mesh Strainer– It appears the fine mesh strainer I have is no longer available, but this one is similar. I got one of these specifically for rinsing quinoa (as an alternative to using my big strainer lined with paper towels, which didn’t really work anyway). It’s awesome. And also good for rinsing berries and other small things.

4- Chef’n Palm Peeler– It slides over your finger and fits in your palm. A few minutes with this bad boy, and you’re on your way to sweet potato fries.

5- Cuisinart Mini Prep Food Processor– As a gal with very little storage space, this tiny food processor is pretty convenient. I’ve used it for making pie crust, sauces, dressings, peanut butter, and crumbs for cheesecake crust.

6- Flexible Nylon Spatula– Since the spatula is slender (and non-stick!), it slides easily under cookies, burgers, and eggs.

7- Prepara Garlic Crusher– I’ve broken a lot of garlic presses in my day, and this one holds up the best. Plus, you can stick a lot of garlic in there at once and avoid a lot of peeling and chopping.

8- OXO Potato Masher– I’m not really big on potatoes, but I use this to mash bananas for banana muffins all the time.

9- Ninja Blender– This is the only thing on the list that I don’t own, but it’s on my wish list this year. I got to use a Ninja when we lived in the commune a few months ago, and man, does this thing have some power. And it has separate smaller cups that you can attach to blend smaller batches, like salad dressings or single serve smoothies.

 

Happy gift giving!

-Ally

 

 

 

wildwood recreation site.

The weathermen predicted 4-6 inches of snow for Portland last week.

We got zero.

As two people who love, love, love snow, we were super bummed. So we went snow chasing over the weekend.

Wildwood Recreation Site

We drove about an hour east to the Wildwood Recreation Site in hopes of hiking to the top of Huckleberry Mountain. First, we spent a while wandering around the Cascade Streamwatch Trail, which runs along the Salmon River. We were hoping to see some salmon, but had no luck.

Salmon River

Salmon River

Wildwood Recreation Site

We crossed over the river to take the Boulder Ridge Trail up to Huckleberry Mountain. By this point, it was already much later than when we anticipated starting our hike (thanks to a desire for a yummy brunch with a long wait earlier that morning), so we opted to just hike around 2 miles up to what was supposed to be a great view of Mt. Hood (instead of the 5.3 miles to the top of Huckleberry Mountain).

The glorious snow proved to be a bit of a hindrance to that plan. The combination of the enormous wind and snowstorms in the area knocked a ton of trees across the trail, which we had to climb over or find a way around. It was tricky. And slow.

Huckleberry Trail

And then we found these paw prints in the snow. My apologies to anyone hiking in the general area last weekend. If you heard two people obnoxiously singing random phrases, that was us. Just trying to keep the bears away.

Huckleberry Trail

Huckleberry TrailThe quickly fading daylight forced us to turn around before we found any great viewpoint, but we did get a pretty spectacular view of Mt. Hood on our way back to Portland.

Mount Hood

-Ally

ecola state park and cannon beach.

Hooray for spontaneity!

On Sunday morning, as we were getting ready to leave for church, I just mentioned that it would be fun to visit the coast that afternoon. So we threw some clothes in a bag and opted to plan the trip on the way there.

And that’s how we ended up dining at Camp 18 along Highway 26.

This place is crazy. It’s one of the few places to eat between Portland and the coast (after you exit the suburbs). I remember my mom telling me about this place back when my parents lived in Portland a few years ago, but words don’t really do it justice. You have to see it.

It’s basically a big log cabin, built in the 1970’s, using timber from the area. There’s a 25-ton (!), 85-foot-long tree serving as the center ceiling beam in the dining room. How they cut that tree down and then managed to build it into the structure of the cabin is a marvel.

This place has everything. Antler chandeliers, a stuffed cougar, 2 fireplaces, intricately carved dancing bears. It’s everything you’ve ever wanted in a log cabin. It reminded me quite a bit of Cracker Barrel, but a bit more unique. I think I had a huge smile on my face the entire time we were there, as we kept discovering new crazy things in the restaurant. I mean, how can you not smile at hand-carved doors (that weigh 500 pounds each, by the way) with an axe for a door handle?

Camp 18

Camp 18

Camp 18

Camp 18

Camp 18

The food wasn’t fancy or anything, but I think Camp 18 is more about the experience than the meal. We had a pretty basic breakfast of waffles, eggs, bacon, sausage, and coffee.

Camp 18

Camp 18

Camp 18

Camp 18

Camp 18

As if the inside of the cabin isn’t enough, outside is pretty fun too. Humbug Creek (yes, that’s its real name) runs right behind the restaurant, and it was full of enormous salmon swimming upstream. You can walk right down to the water and see those bad boys fighting their way against the current.

Camp 18

Camp 18

From there, we headed to Ecola State Park (pick up a park map when you pay your $5 day use fee), between Seaside and Cannon Beach. And that’s where we encountered the wind. Holy cow. I’ve never experienced such winds. It felt like what I imagine getting punched in the face feels like, except it was my hair slapping me and getting stuck in tree branches (yes, that happened).

Ecola State Park

We started out at the Ecola Point parking area (which is also the tsunami assembly area, in case disaster strikes during your visit to the coast). The view from the lookout was pretty impressive.

Ecola State Park

We walked around the area a bit and found a great view of the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, a mile off-shore. If you have a few minutes, you should read the full story of this lighthouse’s fascinating history. It was lit for the first time in 1881, after 525 days of labor (during which a group of workers were stranded on the rock during a 16-day-long storm). Most recently, the lighthouse served as the Eternity at Sea Columbarium, where people can have their ashes placed in the lighthouse for a hefty sum. Crazy.

Ecola State Park

Ecola State Park

Ecola State Park

Ecola State Park

Ecola State Park

Ecola State Park

We hopped back in the car and drove up to the Indian Beach parking area (you can take a 2.5 mile hike on part of the park’s Oregon Coast Trail, but the wind deterred us a bit). From there, you can walk down to the beach and watch the waves crash over the rocks off-shore. We found a big log that seemed a safe distance from the crashing waves, but the ocean is pretty unpredictable on the Oregon coast, and this wave crashed up over the log right after I took this photo, causing me to scream, jump off, and run up the beach. Eric got a good laugh out of that one.

Ecola State Park

Ecola State Park

Ecola State Park

Ecola State Park

Ecola State Park

We drove a few minutes south to Cannon Beach, which is a little beach town with lots of little touristy shops. We grabbed some hot chocolate (did I mention it was around 50 degrees on the coast?) and walked down to the beach. I’ve only been to a few Oregon coast beaches, but this was, by far, the best one. There was so much beach space! Because the Oregon coast is so mountainous and rugged, “beaches” tend to be very short (and easily overtaken by waves). But this beach was long, flat, and deep enough to really feel like a beach (says the girl who grew up closer to the Atlantic Ocean).

Cannon Beach

We took a long stroll down to Haystack Rock, passing folks in all types of clothing (shorts, parkas, rain jackets, boots, barefoot). I don’t know if photos really do this thing justice, but this rock is huge. It’s 235-feet tall. And there are a bunch of adorable beach houses nearby to admire this wonder of nature, in case you are planning a little Oregon coast vacay.

Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach

Here’s to the coast and that unruly Pacific Ocean!

-Ally

wildwood trail.

Fog is quickly becoming one of my favorite things.

Wildwood Trail

I mean, I still hate driving in it, thanks to the night we drove on mountaintops in the dark, but I’m loving the way it looks on a hike.

On this particular morning, after sending Eric off to work, I peeked out the window and saw the entire city enclosed in fog. And knowing how glorious it is to hike through fog, I scrambled to get out the door and chase the fog through the woods.

Wildwood Trail

Wildwood Trail

Wildwood Trail

Wildwood Trail

Wildwood Trail

Wildwood Trail

Originally, I was just going to hike a short little familiar section of Forest Park. But after finishing that section, I thought it might be even prettier up ahead. So I planned the next place I would stop and turn around. But once I got there, I thought it might be even better up ahead. And once I got there, I figured I was already pretty darn close to Pittock Mansion, so I might as well just carry on, in hopes that I would be able to hike above the fog (which we seemed to be able to do pretty easily back in Eugene). But the fog was even thicker up at Pittock Mansion! It was so thick that I couldn’t even see the mansion from about 20 feet away. It was the oddest sensation, like I was going blind or something. Since I’ve been there a few times before, I had a general idea of what things should look like and where things were, but I couldn’t see any of it! It was so wild. On a clear day, there’s a pretty incredible view of the city of Portland with Mt. Hood in the background. But when I looked in that direction, it was just a white cloud.

Pittock Mansion

In the end, I wound up hiking a little less than 6 miles through the glorious, enchanting fog.

To do this hike yourself, which is beautiful in the fog and the sun, start at the Aspen Trailhead on NW Aspen Ave (there’s parking all along the street). Take the Aspen Trail for .23 miles until it connects with the Wildwood Trail. Take Wildwood to the left, and follow it all the way up to Pittock Mansion (you’ll cross NW Cornell and continue on the trail across the street). There’s a bit of a climb at the beginning of the Aspen Trail, but it levels out pretty quickly, giving you a nice, easy stroll until you get close to the intersection with the Lower Macleay Trail. From there, it’s basically up, up, up until you reach Pittock Mansion. The good news is, it’s down, down, down on your way back.

Aspen and Wildwood Trails Happy hiking!

-Ally