THE Chocolate Chip Cookie

If you’ve been following along on the 12 Days of Cookies you know that I haven’t kept up my end of the baking bargain.  

Ally has been rocking it out with her chubby hubby cookies, whiskey cinnamon cookies, and mocha fudge cookies.  (Plus launching her “new” blog design! It’s incredible.)

Me? Oh well I threw together some Nilla-oons (you know, fake macaroons) while Chad cooked dinner one night.  

Hey,  at least I have an adorable excuse.IMG_6904

How about wearing shorts and lighting the fire?  Welcome to South Louisiana.

Then late last week I attempted Pure Ella’s Two-Ingredient cookies.  Oats + bananas should make a delicious base for these little no-bake bites.  

However, I got a little heavy handed in the mixing stage and threw in a few too many ingredients.  Agave, natural (extra crunchy) peanut butter, dark chocolate chunks.  I knew Chad would love these.  If only I could get them to stick together…

I guess my extra crunchy peanut butter threw off the balance because I just couldn’t get them to stick together right. Think uncooked granola.  He had a few bites and managed to say “Mmmmmm”…but I think he was just being nice.

Along came my redemption.  I’ve always wanted to try the New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookie.  I hoped and dreamed that it would cover up the oat mess that happened days before.

I was right!

So classic, so chewy (the only way to eat cookies) on the inside, so slightly crispy on the edges.  Perfection.

Instead of milk chocolate I used dark chocolate chunks.  Does any other type of chocolate exist?

I highly recommend making these.  

They are perfect to whip up and wait for the dough to chill while you clean up.  Or watch The Pioneer Woman’s Christmas Special you’ve recorded.

I took these straight from NY Times Cooking Blog.  Make them now.

 

“Quintessential Chocolate Chip Cookies”

 

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Day 2: 12 Days of Cookies

Cookies! Cookies! They’re back! 

Like Ally, I’ve already had people asking if cookies would return this year.  Yes, of course! But I have to warn you, my cookies will be much different than years past. 

Ally kicked things off the right way.  But are we surprised? That girl does everything right.  Even when I admit I do not like peanut butter and chocolate, she finds a way to make it sound delicious.  See her Chubby Hubby Cookies for Day 1.  Mmmmm…Ben & Jerry’s.  

I’m almost ashamed to say that Day 2 is a recipe.  It’s not.  Really.

So you’ll just have to excuse 3/6 days I’ll post because I have a beautifully sweet and sassy 11 week old to play with for a few hours after work each day.  

Priorities.  

But hey, who said cookies have to take lots of time?  My favorite cookies have always been the quick and easy ones.  Everyone loves instant gratification. 

And today’s cookies are exactly that.  

No baking!

No mixing!

No bowls!

…and if you don’t want to plate them…. No dishes to clean!

I was thinking about how my college days were so full of time.  I could bake all sorts of time-consuming cookies.  What was that like? What did I do with all my time?  Oh yeah.  That’s right.  Real Housewives of New York came out.  That’s where time went. 

When I couldn’t sleep the other night I got to thinking about cookies that I would never be able to make.  Cookies that take up too much precious time.

Macaroons came to mind.

So pretty.  

So delicate.  

So not real life.

But what IS real life?  FAKE Macaroons.  Oh yeah. 

They take maybe 10 seconds to assemble.  That’s my kind of cookie.

Nilla-oons

  • Vanilla Wafer Cookies
  • Biscoff Spread
  • Dark Chocolate

Spread a thin layer of Biscoff on one wafer, top with another.  Dunk in dark choclate.  Cover in sprinkles if you heart so desires.  Which it does. Enjoy.
See? No plate needed.  Straight to your stomach.

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How To: Tour The West in 9 Days (Part 2)

The adventure continues! If you missed Part 1 (of 2) of the Campbell-Carlile West Coast Excursion, check out the previous post here.  It too has lots of tips (and strong suggestions) on what you should eat, eat, do, and eat out west.

Day 6: San Fran to Mt. Rainer via Portland

  • Our original plan was to drive from San Francisco to Seattle and hopefully find some places to stop along the way.  Fortunately my Uncle Mike suggested we find some cheap flights to cut out that 13 hour drive (yikes!).  There really wasn’t much we wanted to see along the route anyways, and I’m so glad we flew! For one, our flights were mega cheap (under $100) and we got to fly Virgin Airlines which was FANTASTIC.  Too bad we only had a quick hour to enjoy free satellite TV…it made our 4 hour flight home very sad.  
  • After flying from San Francisco to Portland (get an early flight, but don’t go crazy! You’re still on vacation. Leaving at 9 will get you there by 10) we found our new rental car (we remained partial to Volkswagen Passat’s….their MPG was incredible!)  and headed into the city.  
  • Portland wasn’t really a destination for us, but it could be for you! Find some time to explore the incredible array of food trucks for lunch and Powell’s Bookstore.  Oh, and if you’re curious like we were, check out a City Target.  Just to say you’ve been.  
  • My pal Ally sent me a list of recommended food trucks for Portland that I highly suggest you follow.  Her  #1 suggestion was also #1 on their list, so I knew we had to try it.  
  • Arrive hungry and make your way to Nong’s Khao Man Gai (no idea how you pronounce that).  Feel free to stop along the way if you see some tasty pot-stickers that you want to munch on.  There are so many trucks here that I highly suggest splitting whenever possible to maximize how much your belly can hold.  Ally told me to order the Chicken and Rice with extra sauce.  It did not disappoint.  The chicken and rice look pretty lackluster (simple poached chicken and steamed rice with cilantro) but the sauce! Oh the sauce.  It’s what makes the meal.  And for .25cents an extra sauce is a no-brainer.  What’s in that stuff?  It’s the perfect blend of garlic and sweetness with some heat and power punch flavor.  You’ll want to go.  
  • Then you’ll want to have two desserts because you’ve already had pot-stickers and chicken and rice, so onto the other two courses! A waffle truck will hook you up with some spectacular waffle sundaes.  Chad ordered the Lemon Meringue and I devoured the Smoregasm waffle complete with marshmallow cream, chocolate squares, and graham cracker cookie butter—-whaaaaaaat?! 
  • Dessert one down, but take a little time to walk around and get your stomach ready for another one.  Right beside the food trucks is that cute little City Target I told you to visit, and then a few blocks away is Powell’s Bookstore.  You probably won’t even make it through the entire store…I got a little stuck on the first level…but you’ll have plenty of time to marvel at how vast the store is.  Okay, now you’re ready for dessert #2.  And it’s time to head out of Oregon!
  • On your way out stop by Salt & Straw for some extraordinary ice cream.  The flavors are way cool ranging from Coffee & Bourbon (Chad’s choice) to Honey Balsalmic Strawberry with Cracked Pepper (my choice)…oh! And Coconut with Petunia’s Salted Caramel Bars (Kathy’s choice.  You can always go  Pear with Blue Cheese (no one’s choice) or Double Vanilla (Ric’s choice).  The people working there are super friendly and honestly don’t mind letting you try two…six..flavors before deciding what you want.  (Especially if you’re pregnant or just have a cute smile).
  • A quick two and a half hour drive northeast will bring you to Mt. Rainer where I suggest staying at the most adorable Alexander’s Country Inn.  It’s essentially a B&B and only a mile away from the Mt. Rainer National Park gates.  The views around the Inn are beautiful and they have a fully stocked trout pond out back.  If you order trout for dinner (which I highly suggest) they pull it out of their pond! Super fresh.  Also your stay includes breakfast…more on that later. 
  • Check in but don’t hang around too long! Head out to chase some views of Mt. Rainer between the rain and clouds that are (hopefully not) slowly approaching.  
  • Thankfully we did score about 10-15 minutes of peak views from the Longmire Museum.  A few park rangers even came out and said “Wow! This is the most it’s been out all day!”  Kathy nailed it when she said God totally did that for us.  Yes, yes He did! 
  • When it starts getting dark and stormy (and hopefully it won’t be for you) head back to the Inn for dinner.  If you’re lucky enough you’ll also happen to meet a cute retired couple from Massachusetts who is traveling this part of the world for a month or so.  Ask them what they’re up to and you’re sure to find some great ideas for your trip! 
  • According to this couple the Boeing Museum of Flight outside of Seattle is amazing.  Having never heard of this (to which I’m still surprised both engineer Ric and plane-fascinated husband hadn’t) we decided that if it was still raining in the morning we’d head there instead of trying some hikes in the park. 
  • I have to confess that I was actually okay with the rain.  Up until this point we had been doing so much walking and touring that it was really nice to just….be in one place.  Next time though, we’re coming for you Mt. Rainer! 

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View with a room at Alexander's Inn

View with a room at Alexander’s Inn

Day 7: Mt. Rainer to Seattle

  • Again, my best travel suggestion is to stay somewhere with a free breakfast.  Holiday Inn Express is always a pleaser, but Alexander’s Inn put them to shame.  Having never had a great B&B experience (see Washington D.C. groupon B&B…yikes!) I was a little skeptical.  The front desk worker who was there for our entire stay was super great.  She did everything from showing us around the Inn to taking our drink orders and preparing our breakfast table…I even joked to Kathy that she probably did the Spa treatments too.  I’m 95% sure I’m right on that assumption too.  
  • Anyways, breakfast was great.  (Especially if you’re pregnant or you just love a good breakfast.)  Alexanders sets out fresh fruit and muffins for you before you are seated, meaning that the moment you sit down you have something to eat! Genius! Then you get to pick from a selection of breakfast plates each served with bread and…my favorite…marionberry jam.  More on marionberry later. 
  • After you’ve fallen in love with Alexander’s Inn (and signed the guest book of course) head north to Everett, Washington which is just north of Seattle.  Also, while you’re on the way, go ahead and purchase tickets to the Boeing Future of Flight tour to save a few dollars on admission.  It’s $18 online and $20 at the door- hey! Every buck counts. 
  • Plan to spend 2-3 hours at Future of Flight.  The tour is 90 minutes and the museum back at the visitor center is great!  Unfortunately for you and me they don’t allow cell phones or really any kind of bag on the tour of the factory.  So you’ll just have to Google images of 747, 737, and Dreamlifters.  
  • My favorite part about the Future of Flight tour was that I can now say I’ve been in the biggest building in the WORLD! How cool is that? The place is all kinds of huge (obviously) and seeing 4-5 airplanes on a moving assembly line really was cool.  
  • Now that you’ve got your education fill, head back south to Seattle.  Check into your hotel and do some researching for dinner.  We found Red Mill Burger which claimed to be the best in Seattle.  It was good. Not great.  Not the best.  Oh well, you can’t always have spectacular food….wait! No! Don’t settle! Head out there to find some amazing dessert to save the day! 
  • It just so happened that while our hotel was a 10 minute walk from the Space Needle, we weren’t super close to any great eateries.  So we hopped the Seattle Monorail (build specifically for the World’s Fair and has only one route) to the downtown area and found….The Cheesecake Factory.  Hey, I know.  It’s a chain.  But it’s so….so…GOOD.  We somehow avoided the 1-2 hour wait (thanks Kathy) and got a table where large slabs of cheesecake were enjoyed.  Fully satisfied (Best Cheesecake in Seattle?!) we headed over to the Space Needle where you can get a night time ride to the top.  Chad and I opted out to save some cash for the next day, but Ric and Kathy said its as beautiful!

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Day 8: Seattle 

  • Seattle is such a cool place.  I spent a summer here back in 2008 working at a camp in Bellevue, and we had tons of weekends to explore the city.  This time around I got to explore the city with my husband and close friends…I don’t think I would have believed I’d be doing that just six years after that summer.  Pregnant.  Ha!  
  • Our first stop on the somewhat gloomy Seattle morning was Top Pot Donuts.  It was a terrific Yelp find! By the way, maybe it’s be “Big Breakfast” mentality I was born with, but isn’t two donuts a full breakfast?  Who eats one?  I kid, I kid Ric and Kathy.  But seriously.  There are so many flavors to choose from.  I decided on Cherry Blossom and Blueberry Cake…heaven.  
  • After donuts we walked down to Pikes Place Market and toured the area, sampling every little bit of fruit they offered us.  (Minus Chad who swore he saw them tap the same knife they cut fruit with on the old wooden beams…hey, tastes like character!) 
  • Because you’ve plenty of donuts and fruit it’s not time for something substantial.  Like cheese.  
  • Head to Beecher’s Handmade Cheese for some decadent grilled cheese, soups, cheese samples, and breads.  Plus, you’ll get a show! The shop and deli are in the building where they make all their cheese.  You can scavenge for a seat (or look pathetically tired and pregnant and someone will soon give up theirs) and watch through the windows how cheese is made.  It’s pretty cool! 
  • What goes better with cheese than….heights?! While Ric and Kathy headed to the Seattle Underground tour we walked around more of the city (oh yeah, and found cupcakes) then decided to see the city from the new Seattle Great Wheel.  
  • The thing we kind of forgot is that neither one of us cares for heights or towering above water.  But we found ourselves doing both, and hardly budging from the time we got in the car.  After three rounds and attempts to change the topic from our fears, we realized it was over and had survived.  Looking back I’d say, “Oh yeah, Seattle Ferris Wheel! So fun!”  But if I’m honest I’ll probably not do that again.  Ever.  
  • A quick nap for me (self and baby preservation, ya know?) and we were headed to dinner across the Puget Sound for our last night on vacation.  
  • If there is one thing that all four of us are good at, it’s finding places to eat and eating WELL.  We decided on our last night of vacation that we’d really hit it big and enjoy the evening.  We found Salty’s on Alki Beach (a Yelp find of course) that is situated right across the bay from Seattle, with panoramic windows overlooking the skyline.  Beautiful!  Dinner was all we expected and more.  We feasted on shrimp, steak, steelhead (still salmon in my mind), clam chowder, and the best desserts of our whole trip.  It was the perfect ending for our trip.  Why we even got to watch Karl, our long lost San Francisco friend, devour Seattle while we ate and ate and ate.  A sign that we’ll be headed back to San Fran again soon. 

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Watching the cheese-masters while eating our lunch.

Watching the cheese-masters while eating our lunch.

 

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Day 9:  No Place Like Home

  • The whole reason this trip took place was because of the deals the New Orleans airport had back in the Spring.  Non-stop flights to Los Angeles and Seattle?  Yes please! We headed back mid morning to Louisiana where it was humid and in the high 90s.  It’s safe to say we didn’t need our fleeces and down jackets when we deplaned.  Hello humidity! Are you related to Karl?

 

How To: Tour the West Coast in Nine Days (Part 1)

Yesh! December was the last entry on here, and obviously much has been changing.  

We found out a few weeks after that last post that were were having a BABY! Even though today marks my third trimester, it still seems so strange that it’s all happening.

 I could most definitely write a whole post on what pregnancy has been like, and maybe that’ll come later, but for now I thought we’d share about our latest adventure to the west coast.  

Previously we did New York in a Whirlwind Weekend with some friends of ours.    This trip might also sound whirl-windish, but take it from the 28 weeks pregnant lady… it really…honestly…wasn’t as crazy it all seems.  

It was simply fantastic.  And we can’t wait to go back and spend more time one day.  With babe in tow!

 

How To: Tour the West Coast in Nine Days (or less)

(Pre-day 1): We choose to fly nonstop from New Orleans to Los Angeles on a Friday night so we could wake up and go the next day.  

Excellent choice! I highly recommend getting the traveling out of the way an extra day early if you can.

Westward bound and only a little excited.

Westward bound and only a little excited.

Day 1:  Los Angeles 

  • Do a drive-by of the famous landmarks:  Beverly Hills, Beverly Hills Hotel, Rodeo Drive
  • Find a place to park outside the Chinese Theater area so you can walk and see the stars (and of course trek to find your favorite star if you have one in mind!)
  • Gawk at how many people are actually paying to take pictures with a (not so very) lookalike Spiderman.
  • Walk around Chinese Theater grounds to look at all the celebrity handprints/footprints in the concrete (very cool to see dates from the ’30s and tiny tiny heels imprinted)
  • For lunch with LOTS of options, head to the Farmers Market 
  • If you’re into styling your own lunch I suggest Fritzi Dog where you can build your own kind of hotdog.  Sure you can go ballpark, but why?! I enjoyed a delicious duck+turkey sausage on a pretzel bun…mmmmm delicious.
  • Drive to Griffith Observatory (where you might struggle for a parking spot)
  • Explore the grounds of the observatory…and head for a hike to the Hollywood Sign!…(if you’re not pregnant or beginning to suffer from the time change)
  • Need a pick-me-up?  I’d typically go for coffee or coffee ice cream, but at this point, a nap is really what you’ll want.
  • Fuel up on a power-nap for your nighttime adventures.
  • Find a unique dining option (Our #1 eating-out rule was that it had to be unique to the area.  No chains please!)
  • Dinner at Cha-Cha Chicken  (featured on Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate”) where you’ll loose yourself over the Coconut Fried Chicken and the delicious dipping sauces.  And those plantains?! YUM YUM YUM.
  • Walk the Santa Monica Pier and take in all the sights…and smells.
  • Take a stroll along the boardwalk and marvel at how huge the beachfront is.
  • Hey! Feeling adventurous?  Join some serious athletes and even Chinese acrobats on the beachside exercise equipment.  (Again, I’d advise against this is you’re pregnant…or if you can’t do regular monkey bars)
  • Finish out strong with some gelato, then don’t be ashamed of going to bed by 9:30.  It just might be close to midnight back home.

 

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LA

 

Griffith Observatory overlooking the city

Griffith Observatory overlooking the city

Cha Cha Chicken's Coconut Friend Chicken

Cha Cha Chicken’s Coconut Fried Chicken- and the best Strawberry Lemonade on the planet.

Feeling like studs in Santa Monica.  For two seconds.

Feeling like studs in Santa Monica. For two seconds.

Day 2: Pacific Coast Highway Joyriding + San Luis Obispo

  • Set that alarm! Lots to do today!
  • I highly recommend you take advantage of hotels with free breakfasts (the best money saver possible!).  And take a banana or two to go.  Especially if you’re pregnant.  Or your body thinks it’s lunch time…at like…9am.
  • Head north to the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) and enjoy some seriously beautiful scenery.  Make sure you let everyone in your caravan know they have any and all opportunities to yell STOP! You’ll want to take lots of pictures. And don’t get concerned if they’ve used all their STOP lifelines…be generous and let them take more pictures of more beautiful coastline.  It’s worth it!
  • Lunch time?! Finally.  (Remember the #1 rule? No chain restaurants? Well, this doesn’t count.)  Get you some In-n-Out because, you’re in California of course! Be amazed at the deliciousness and how you don’t feel completed grease covered by the end.  So, so good.
  • Your final destination could be anywhere near San Luis Obispo (a 3-5 hour drive, depending on how many pictures you take along the way, or “wrong” turns you make)
  • Be sure to stop in Santa Barbara to walk on Stern’s Warf and see the most beautiful courthouse and government buildings ever created.
  • Take Highway 1 to Cambria where you can visit Hearst Castle like Ric and Kathy did.   Or, if you have famous and super talented family like we do, check out the Vocal Arts concert at a nearby church.  The music selection and singing will astound you.
  • Next, head back back south to San Luis Obispo.  Unpack your bags and get yourself ready for the night.  Also, don’t snack too much.  You’ll want to take in every last bite at dinner.
  • En route to dinner, check out the Madonna Inn.  It’s just….fantastic.  A fan of Alice in Wonderland?  You’ll want to move right in!  Also, please make sure you bring your incredible Aunt and Uncle who force all the men out of the men’s room just so you and a bunch of foreign tourist women can take pictures of the men’s urinal.  Just Google it.  It’s.  Awesome.
  • Hey…I know those pastries and cakes look dynamite (especially if you’re pregnant or adjusting to time change…isn’t it past dinner?) at the Madonna Inn restaurant.  Save yourself.  Dinner is worth it.  I promise.
  • Congratulations! You made it without (too much) snacking to dinner.  Now enjoy, savor, and take it all in.  This is one spectacular meal you’re about to have at Ciopinot.
  • Start off with killer, crispy calamari.  Split the Chilean Sea Bass (or eat the whole thing…especially if you’re pregnant) and end with the most spectacular blueberry cobbler ever.  All the while please consume as much bread and butter as possible.  Especially if you’re pregnant.  Or, you just love bread.
  • Take a walking tour guided by your fabulous cousin and her fiancé, or just guide yourself! Make sure you stop by Bubble Gum Alley and contribute to the “art”…just please don’t take bets on licking it.  That’s gross.  Walk past the beautiful San Luis Obsipo mission and through the cute little town streets.  Then call it a night, because, you’re headed out early again.  And to be honest…you’re feeling pretty fat and happy (especially if you’re pregnant…or just love bread).
Stearn's Warf in Santa Barbara

Stearn’s Warf in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Courthouse

Santa Barbara Courthouse

Exploring Santa Barbara Courthouse

Exploring Santa Barbara Courthouse

Kathy at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, CA

Kathy at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, CA

Day 3:  Big Sur and Monterey 

  • Before heading out of town you must stop at Frankie & Lola’s in Morro Bay for breakfast.  You’re crazy if you don’t get the french toast (which is basically bread pudding) and some type of unique breakfast dish (like Chad’s chorizo, avocado, eggs and tortillas plate).  Oh, did I mention you can split that?  Don’t feel like you have to..especially if you’re pregnant.
  • Head north to Monterey taking some senic views of the Pacific Coastline in.
  • Stop at a few key spots in Big Sur like Bixby Bridge and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.  You can definitely do some great hikes, but hurry up…you’ll want to get to Monterey before 3:00pm.
  • Once in Monterey head straight to the aquarium.  I’d suggest purchasing the San Francisco City Pass once you get there- it’s a HUGE money saver.  ($86 for the pass and one ticket to the aquarium is $40, so you’re halfway to earning it’s keep! And it will for sure earn it’s way.)
  • Give yourself a few hours at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  It’s one…no, THE best aquarium I’ve ever been to (take that Baltimore).  Most everything at the aquarium has to do with the California coastline and the natural habitats they’ve created with the bay water and real sunlight are spectacular.  Plus, who doesn’t love penguin and otter feedings PLUS getting to touch sea cucumbers, star fish, sting rays, sea urchins and more?! The best.
  • Make sure you spend a little time outside of the aquarium checking out the sailboats on the bay.  It’s such a beautiful place!
  • In between aquarium and dinner take a little spin on the 17 Mile Drive that leads you right around the peninsula of Carmel + Monterey.  There are some really gorgeous views to see and be photographed!
  • Now here’s where I give you full permission to break away from our plans.  You see, we’re kind of into eating. Really good food.  So, if you’re not into delicious seafood or unique dining atmospheres, you can visit a slurry of other places in Monterey.   But we just couldn’t resist a little fine dining.  Hey! We’re vacationing.  And I’m pregnant.  So we all get to eat….reeeeeeeeeally good.
  • Make sure you can snag some reservations for dinner if you want to be assured you’ll have a table.  We made reservations at Schooners Coastal Kitchen for 7:30 to be sure we caught the sunset.  The restaurant overlooked the bay and we got prime seating at a half-cricle booth set above the other tables.  While we ate waves crashed up on the windows and we could look out over the bay and the ships floating in.  It was magical.  Even if we didn’t get to see the sunset…because lo-and-behold, we weren’t facing directly west.  Oh well!
  • There’s a dish that’s really unique to this area called Ciopinno.  My cousin said it originated when Italian fishermen would gather with their final day’s catch and “chip in” remaining bits of seafood for a stew.  The results? Phenomenal.  I’d highly suggest a bib or maybe bring a Tide to-go pen….especially if you’re pregnant.   Cracking the crab legs open can be a little tricky.  Well worth it though!
  • Because you’re on vacation you’ll want to make sure you take your time eating.  Plus, it doesn’t get dark until 9:15 so enjoy the day.  And the fact that you’re staying up past 9:30 on a weeknight! …Especially if you’re pregnant.
Happy bellies post Frankie & Lola's breakfast.

The best family and travel guides you could ever want.  Happy bellies post Frankie & Lola’s breakfast.

Highway views are never the same when you get back from California.

Highway views are never the same when you get back from California.

 

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

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Spectacular jellies at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Spectacular jellies at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

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I don't care if you ruined one of my favorite shirts, you were worth it Ciponni.

I don’t care if you ruined one of my favorite shirts, you were worth it Cioppino.

Dinner views at Schooner's Coastal Kitchen

Dinner views at Schooner’s Coastal Kitchen

Day 4:  San Francisco (the rural side) 

  • Good Morning Monterey! Again, thanks for the “complimentary” breakfast Holiday Inn Express! Now fill your bag with a few bananas and apples and  you’re off!
  • It’s a quick drive from Monterey to San Francisco.  Instead of stopping immediately, drive straight to Muir Woods on the other side of the bay.  It’s about 30 minutes from the heart of the city.
  • Muir Woods is breath taking! The hikes are easy (rejoicing pregnant lady!)  and you’ll never stop saying “Look at that tree!” …no, wait…”Look at that tree!” It’s $7 per person and make sure you grab a map of the trail.  Also, it helps to have an audio-book quality reader on your trip.  Thanks Kathy for narrating our hike so professionally.
  • If you’re visiting in June be prepared for lots of views with lots of…..FOG.  We learned from my cousin Michelle that San Francisco has named their beloved fog, Karl.  You can find him on Instagram and Facebook.  He’s hilariously sarcastic and full of himself…just like your pictures will be.
  • I warn you against the “June Gloom” because your next few destination spots will be dependent on the time of year.  There is a lighthouse you can visit called Point Bonita Lighthouse, but unfortunately we realized we’d only see Karl if we ventured out there.  But, you can for sure get some stunning pictures at Battery Spencer in the Golden Gate Recreational Area just before crossing back over into San Francisco.  (FAIR WARNING:  It’s extremely windy.  Your hair won’t look good no matter how hard your try)
  • Next, get out that SF City Pass and head to the Golden Gate State Park.  Visit the California Academy of Sciences where you will also be transported to the rainforest and to a very creepy collection of animal skulls.
  • By now you’re ready for some dinner in San Francisco.  We were super fortunate to stay with my cousin who lives on Lombard Street.  So, on our way to her house before dinner Chad took us through what Lombard is known for….“The Crookedest Street” .  It was only slightly terrifying.  Actually, to be honest, I was pretty much slightly terrified the entire drive through San Fran.  How can cars park on such an incline without rolling into their doom?! Coming from the land of below-sea-level I’ll never understand.
  • Where Michelle lives on Lombard you can walk to your MANY choices of incredible restaurants, including Little Italy district.  We dined at Mona Lisa where I had some pretty stellar Osso Buco, and tasted Michell’s off the charts Saffron Risotto, the first time I think I’ve ever had saffron…hey! That means baby too, right?!
  • Keep that Italian vibe going with some gelato en route to your final sight of the day, the Bay Bridge.
  • Sure everyone knows the Golden Gate Bridge.  But how many tourists make the Bay Bridge a destination?  We didn’t.  Not until Michelle told us about the LED light show it puts on every night! And what’s more?! It’s a totally different pattern every night of the year, created according to an algorithm based on…. (the weather? help me out here Michelle…or Google…)
  • Find a spot along one of the many Pier points to watch the lights display on the bridge.  We happened to catch a school of fish swimming across the bridge’s suspension….very cool! What’s up Baton Rouge Bridge? Can you also become just as interesting?
  • Catch a glimpse of a show here!

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One of my favorite series of pictures...  "See Kathy Run"

One of my favorite series of pictures… “See Kathy Run”

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Michelle, Ric, Kathy, me, and Chad waiting for the Bay Bridge Lights to appear.

Michelle, Ric, Kathy, me, and Chad waiting for the Bay Bridge Lights to appear.

Day 5:  San Francisco (the city side)

  • Okay ladies, gents, and babies…fuel up! So much to do today.
  • Our original plan was to head to Filmore’s Bakeshop for an original Cronut (croissant crossed with a donut…say HELLO BABY!).   But, as we pulled up a sign struck down our glee.  “Closed until Thursday”.  It was Wednesday.  Our last day in San Francisco.  Boooooooo!  A quick Yelp request for more cronut’s brought us to B Patisserie…where…they don’t even make cronut’s.  Oh well! Chad and I split a most delicious chocolate chip banana almond croissant.  This was probably one of my favorite day’s of eating by the way….so much snacking and eating here and there.  My kind of day.
  • Next you’ll get more good use of the SF City Pass I told you to get by visiting the Exploratorium.  You can literally spend all day and night here tinkering with the science experiments.  But you could also spend all day waiting in line as little ants…err, children, also enjoy playing on the experiments.  Michelle mentioned that on Thursday nights it’s open for adults only.  How fun?! We still fully enjoyed the Exploratorium and all it’s insanity…maybe minus the face mash-up experiment?  Adult Chad face + Adult Becca face don’t exactly make an attractive person.  We think there might still be hope for Baby Campbell.  As long as it doesn’t come out with a beard we’re good.
  • By now that snack of a half-croissant is a disant memory, so head to the Ferry Building Marketplace on the Embarcedro for some lunch.  Chad and I split (yes yes, we’re very into splitting things…saves some money!) a burger at a local beef shop that was good, not great, but a perfect snack.  Because, I knew what was coming.
  • City Pass saves the day again! (You’ve long paid for it by now btw—$25 for both Academy of Sciences and Exploratorium, so that’s $50 + $40 at aquarium = $90, a little over the cost of the pass, but more to come!).  The City Pass also gives you unlimited access to public transportation (including cable cars!).  So instead of walking (especially if you’re pregnant or maybe needing more fuel than half a burger) take a bus down to Pier 39.
  • Pier 39 is a crazy busy collection of tourist shops, restaurants, and lookouts into the San Francisco Bay.  It isn’t quite my favorite place in San Francisco, but it did have my favorite meal of San Francisco.  Clam Chowder in a sourdough bread bowl anyone?! Yes Chad, I took the smaller half of the burger because I knew this was calling my name.  Oh heaven, you better have this dish.  There are a few places that have it, but you’ll want Chowder’s version for sure.
  • If chowder isn’t quite what you’re longing for, next door is a deliciously sweet smelling donut shop where you can have your very own bucket of 36 mini donuts! Who eats 36 mini donuts?  Chad.  And us, to be fair.
  • Side note: when you get to Pier 39 check out the Visitor’s Center.  With your City Pass you get a whole book of coupons for the stores and shops around.
  • The last part of the City Pass we used was the Blue & Gold Bay Cruise.  There are two options in the City Pass, Bay Cruise or RocketBoat Tour.  Since we wanted to really take in all the views and sights of the bay we opted for the regular cruise.  (Again City Pass scores! $77/person for the cruise and $86 for the whole pass.)
  • The Bay Cruise is the perfect way to see a lot of landmarks up close and get tons of great pictures.  Karl even decided to hang back a little on this sunny afternoon so we got some pretty great shots of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and San Fran skyline.  It was for sure quite chilly so layer up well! (Except if you’re pregnant and can’t zip up the jacket you bought because you refuse to buy a maternity jacket.)
  • Our tour left at 2:00 and returned to Pier 39 at 3:00, so we had plenty of time to visit a few more places before dinner.  After all, meals dictate all plans.
  • On a list of less touristy but still wonderful sights of San Fran was Coit Tower, just a few blocks away from where we stayed.  Coit Tower is a monument for firefighters of the city build by a very wealthy woman (according to plaques and Michelle’s handy knowledge) back in the 1930s.  It also houses fabulous murals and a sweet gift shop full of black and white matted photographs of the Golden Gate being constructed (Chad’s favorite part).  It costs $5 to go up top, and well worth it.  I’ll admit, Chad and I spent maybe 5 minutes up there (I mean how long are you supposed to look out??).  It was only slightly scary how the severe winds were actually swaying the tower we were currently stuck in.  The views were great though!
  • If you’re feeling up to it, venture out again to explore more of the Piers and city.  Or, if you’re….tired/preggo/still not on pacific time….go take a nap.  Naps are important on vacation.
  • Up until now we’ve explored seafood, Italian, steak, burgers, and sandwiches…leaving out our favorite genre, Mexican food.  Michelle took us to Tacolicious where we ordered a bunch of amazing small bites and tacos.  Chased down with a sundae at Ghirardelli Square of course.  A perfect end to our favorite few days.
  • San Francisco was by the best stop along our trip.  The people were super friendly, food always delicious, the streets and sights were cleaned up (HUGE plus!), and there was always something we could do.  One day we’ll be back to explore the surrounding areas (Napa didn’t sound too fun with my current digestion restrictions) and can’t wait to come back with less….Karl.
The best thing I ever ate on vacation.  Chowder's Clam Chowder in a Sourdough Bread Bowl.  Pure bliss.

The best thing I ever ate on vacation. Chowder’s Clam Chowder in a Sourdough Bread Bowl.

 

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View's from the Bay Cruise

Views from the Bay Cruise

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Super thankful for Michelle letting us stay with her on our visit! The Patricks make the world's best tour guides.

Super thankful for Michelle letting us stay with her on our visit! The Patricks make the world’s best tour guides.

Part 2 includes Day 6-9 and is also just as packed with fun and good food as our California part.  Oregon & Washington, here we come!

 

12 Days of Cookies (Day 12)

On the twelfth day of cookies my doggie came to me….licking her lips, saying “Thank you for the delicious snack!”

That’s right folks. My dog, Jolie, ate all but 5 of day 12 cookies.

Although this final cookie was not my absolute favorite, that doesn’t mean I didn’t want them. They required a little bit of work, and so I was going to proudly bring them to my coworkers, who are no doubt going to morn the end of the cookie days.

These Turtle Cookie Cups were cute and had a great blend of textures. (I’m all about having good texture)

It took about an hour and a half to mix, bake, melt, press, place, plop, and drizzle these little boogers.

And in three minutes she devoured 2 dozen. At least someone appreciated them.

This morning as I got ready for the day I noticed Jolie wasn’t laying on the floor outside the bathroom like usual.

I figured that instead she must be laying in her bed. That’s where I’d be at least.

When I came out of the bathroom to locate her I realized she wasn’t even in her bed.

Nope. She was standing in the kitchen, licking her face, and pressing her ears so far back against her head that they might as well have been her shoulders.

Then. She crawled with her belly touching the ground into another room.

I didn’t even know what to do except announce the terrible news to Chad.

How do you take care of a dog who just ate about 24 Turtle Cookie Cups??

After perusing the internet we decided to just wait it out.

I have a half day today. So I’m bracing myself for a surprise when I get home.

This does solve one problem though.

I’m quite tired of eating cookies.

And I haven’t had a free night to run all week.

Thanks for having my back, Jolie.

You took the temptation from me.

Ally, maybe you could send me some of those Toffee Snickerdoodles to make up for my loss?

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12 Days of Cookies (Day 10)

My favorite Christmas movie is How The Grinch Stole Christmas…cartoon version.

I just love Dr. Seuss, the creatures from Whoville, and the happy feasting together at the end.

Tonight I felt a little Grinch like as I got home around 8:15pm from a long school day, and most definitely did NOT want to make cookies.

But today I had planned on making some super quick, husband favorite, cookies.

I even pulled myself together long enough to make some neon green sugar to use. Funny how it actually ended up looking Grinch like itself.

If you are instead looking for some beautiful photography and Southern inspired cookies, you should probably jump on over to Ally’s blog for her knock out Brown Butter Bourbon Spiced Cookies. YUM.

There is no oven needed in these little bites of bliss, and only two ingredients. As our dear Ina would say, “How easy is that?”

Ritz Almond Cookies
from Carla Campbell

-1 package peanut butter ritz bits crackers
-1 package almond bark

Melt almond bark over medium-low to low heat on stove. Once all bark is silky and melted, pour in half the bag of Ritz crackers. Stir with forks to make sure all crackers are covered by almond bark. Scoop out covered crackers and place on parchment paper. If desired, cover in festive sprinkles. Once all crackers are laid out, pour the remaining crackers into the almond bark and repeat process of stirring, covering, placing on paper, and Sprinkling with sugar. Allow them to dry for 15 minutes. Enjoy!

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12 Days of Cookies (Day 8)

“You made a good cookie.”

A sentiment that really means…”WOW. THIS COOKIE BLEW MY MIND! It was the best! I haven’t tasted a better cookie all day!” But that’s my husband. Short. Sweet. To the point.

Which is perfect for my typical over emotional self.

What’s also perfect is that this cookie is easily adored.

Who doesn’t love Andes mints? (Ally? Really?)

It’s pretty labor intensive, so if you’re looking for easy, refer back to Day 6 or stay tuned for Day 10. But this one is a knock out, folks.

I’ll ship you one Eric, okay?

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Peppermint Butter Cookies

From Taste and Tell

For now you can jump to her blog for the full instructions. For this baking-cleaning weary gal it’s time for bed.

Oh 9:00pm, I love you.

12 Days of Cookies (Day 6)

I’m a day late but I know Ally’s Day 5  Monster Cookies (which makes 50 cookies…WHHAAAT?!) kept you full.  

While Day 4 blew all other chances of good cookies out of the water, Day 6 is pretty darn good too.

Mostly because they are literally balls of chocolate goodness.

I was slightly nervous about doing chocolate truffles.  I researched a lot of different recipes and settled on either lemon white chocolate or red wine truffles.  

But when Saturday morning rolled around I didn’t want anything complicated, so I opted for simple chocolate truffles.  

Also, Day 4 was a mouth-full.  Chocolate Truffles is an easy title.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Truffles

(Level: for lazy bakers)

from Your Cup of Cake

2 cups chocolate chips

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon coffee

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

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Combine all ingredients into a saucepan.  Heat over medium low and stir continuously.  Once all chips have melted, take off of the heat and transfer to a bowl.  Let chocolate mixture chill in the fridge for a few hours, even overnight would be good! Next, using an ice cream scoop or spoons,  drop small (bite size) servings onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Place in freezer for 30 minutes until they have hardened a bit more.  In small bowls lay out any toppings you wish! I used snowflake sprinkles and mini chocolate chips.  Take the chocolate out of the freezer, and use your hands to roll the scoops into a ball, then roll in your topping.  Work quickly, because the chocolate melts very fast! Set the truffles on a platter and keep in the fridge until ready to serve.  Or….eat them as you roll the toppings on…either works.

12 Days of Cookies: Day 2

The 12 Days of Cookies! My favorite time of year.  Where serving sizes are held off (yes laugh, those of you who pick on me for my serving size only lifestyle) and indulging in full fat cream cheese is acceptable.  I’m so happy that Ally is my cookie soul-mate.  

Although I finally admitted to her on my trip out there that I don’t actually care for the chocolate + peanut butter combo.

 I’m hoping that didn’t dent our relationship too much (:

Ally kicked off our annual 12 Days of Cookies with Coffee Toffee Caramel Thumbprint Cookies.   Three of my most favorite things put in one.  It looks so gooey and delicious…Mmmmm.

Day 2 is essentially a cheesecake.  There’s no looking at it any other way.  

I suppose the question is really….are things like truffles and bars considered cookies?

I vote yes.  But if you are not in the same mindset, please ignore Day 2 (bars) and Day 6 (truffles).

Eggnog Cranberry Cheesecake Bars

from Baked by Rachel

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*Bars do not like to be photographed BTW.*

Cranberry Swirl:
1 cup whole cranberries
2 T  sugar
2 T  water

Crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
4 T unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
20 oz (2.5 packs) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup eggnog
3/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 T all purpose flour
2 eggs

Make your cranberry puree first to set aside for filling by simmering berries, sugar, and water over medium-low heat until all berries are popped.  Rachel suggests straining your puree through a fine mesh strainer…but since I lack one, I used it all.  

Preheat oven to 350.  

Combine all crust ingredients in a food processor and pulse until fine and crumbly.  Press evenly onto bottom of springform pan or 9×13.  Bake 8-10 minutes until the edges are golden brown.  

While crust is baking, beat cream cheese and sugar together in mixer.  Add eggnog, vanilla, nutmeg, salt, and flour and mix until combined.  Finally add eggs one at a time until all ingredients are blended together.

Pour over crust.  

Using a spoon, dollop the cranberry puree onto the cheesecake filling.  Use a toothpick or knife to create swirl patterns in the filling (be careful to not drag your knife through the crust!)  

Bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until the filling is set.  Chill overnight, remove from pan (here’s where spring form works best) and cut into small bars.  

Best served very cold and right before you go to bed.