Pre-Adoptathon Bakeathon

What a blur. This past weekend was our Annual Global Pet Adoptathon at North Shore Animal League America; hundreds of puppies, dogs, kittens and cats were rescued and brought to our adoption center in hopes of finding a potential home.  This weekend is the biggest and busiest adoption event of the year.

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Beginning at 9am on Saturday, May 6th, our adoption center was open for 36 hours straight as we hoped to find homes for our puppies, dogs, kittens and cats.

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People lined up all throughout our campus for the chance to adopt one of these little guys.  Naturally, on a busy weekend like this one, we wanted to be on our A-game.  At our adoption center our kennel associates and managers work diligently to make sure our animals are going home to the right match; on a weekend like Adoptathon, that rule is not any different.

If we were going to make it through the weekend, I thought that the volunteers and associates could use some sustenance.

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Enter Bakeathon.

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I hoped that a few batches of chocolate chip cookies and Nutella brownies would help boost morale.

36 hours later, we are happy to announce that over 440 puppies, dogs, kittens and cats found a home during our Adoptathon weekend.  It was an incredibly busy weekend, but certainly a wonderful one as well.

Icing on your nose

It is crazy to look back and see how fast time flies!  This past Tuesday, my cousin, Courtney, celebrated her 18th birthday. To think that she will be going off to college in the Fall, I am truly at a loss for words.

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I am incredibly proud of who Courtney has become; not only is she a funny and intelligent individual, but she is a genuinely kind-hearted person as well.  I cannot believe that I can sit with her and converse with her like an adult when it feels like just yesterday that she was a toddler, that she had found herself climbing atop of a treadmill, and after I lifted her off of it, she bit me.

Needless to say, I wanted to bake my cousin something extremely special for her birthday; I wanted to combine two of her favorite desserts: cannolis and brownies.

IMG_1495 I had researched a recipe for a cannoli cheesecake and quickly decided to add a nutella brownie bottom.  The result?  Well, seeing as it was a no-bake cheesecake, it did not come out as planned.  In fact, it was more of a whipped cannoli cream pie on top of nutella brownies.  Courtney did not seem to mind though!  I am glad that Courtney enjoyed both her birthday, as well as her cannoli, brownie pie.  Although I still cannot believe that Courtney is now an adult, I know that some things will never change, such as one very important life lesson: when you are presented with a birthday cake, you must smear off your name and put the frosting on your nose (always). 

Boozy Brownies and Blizzard Thoughts

If March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb, than this is certainly one cranky lion.  Staring out the window at the blizzard that surrounded us, you would never guess that we were halfway through March.  It wasn’t your typical blizzard, though; it was not one where the sky glowed a faint orange-gray as the sun began to rise, and the snow gently drifted towards the ground.  No.  This blizzard was full of ice, hale and slush.

Even Watson was content on staying indoors (and he loves the snow!).

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Naturally, there was only one thing to do on a day like that: equip the fuzzy socks, pour a warm cup of coffee and bake!  Since the weather was quite morose, I wanted to make something with a little kick; there is nothing that gives your coffee (or your baking) a kick like Irish cream. (And Nutella – you cannot forget the Nutella).

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Feeling a little experimental, I researched two possible Nutella and Baileys infused recipes.  I settled on two varying brownie recipes.  The first was the simpler of the two: my Nutella brownies with a Baileys chocolate ganache.

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Although I was confident about the brownies baking well, I was a little unsure about how the ganache would settle.  The end result was an extremely rich and decadent treat.  When cutting my brownies, I usually cut them on the larger side; this recipe, though, called for a more petite and modest piece.

My other experimentation was a Flourless Nutella and Baileys brownie/cake.  I had attempted to make a flourless cake once before; the end result of that disaster?  The flourless cake had bubbled over and hit my oven rack, cracking the cake completely.  (That still did not stop me from emotionally digging into it with a spoon, but I digress!)

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This time, all went well in the land of the flourless: there was no sign of bubbling, no cracking, no drama – just a simple and smooth boozy cake.  The recipe was easy enough to follow, even for a flourless cake.  The Nutella and Baileys also did a fine job covering up the eggy texture and taste.  It was a much needed comfort on such a frigid and gloomy day.

Seeing as we just had 60 degree weather a few days prior and with the beginning of Spring just around the corner, this blizzard seems like odd timing.  It’s funny, I find myself thinking a lot about that lately: timing.

(Maybe it’s the boozy brownies or the stir crazy talking, but follow me down this rabbit hole)

Sometimes, it feels like we’re always pinned against time: being a second (a month, or a year) too late; time not moving fast enough; wishing for more hours in the day; realizing that someone else got there first (whether it’s to a place, a job or a person); or wondering if only I were at a different stage of my life – it seems that we are always at odds with time.  I wonder, though, if we are so focused on the missed timing, do we fail to see when the timing is right?  Or, do we not want to see when the timing is right?  Realizing that our path could take us in a different direction than originally intended can be terrifying.  But the universe does listen, and the universe does send us signs when we are on our true path.

These signs can be more simplistic than we think. It could be seeing a meaningful number on a clock or a count; hearing a certain song suddenly play during a moment of apprehension; or being at the right place at the right time (without even meaning to be): I believe these occurrences are messages that our timing is lining up with the universe; our path will unfold itself naturally, without the coercion of others.  I guess the point of this ramble (that has absolutely nothing to do with delicious boozy treats) is that where ever we may stray, no matter how dark the stars become, the universe will help us make things right. The signs are out there; I guess you just have to be brave enough to listen.

 

The Healing Power of Nutella

Change can kick up many feeling and emotions; it can cause you to reflect inward about your own stance and choices, even if you are not the one changing.  Last week at work, we had to say goodbye to Tara, our Foster Care Manager.  She has been in her position for about a year and a half, and ran the department efficiently and with care.  Although we are excited about the new opportunities that await her, losing a coworker, especially one who has become your friend, can be bittersweet.  As happy as you are for that person and the path that lies ahead, deep down, you are selfishly sad.

Tara was one of the first people at work that I had become friendly with.  Although I had always been bubbly and social with our volunteers, when it came to befriending other members of our staff, I quickly retreated back to my painfully shy self.  Tara helped me break out of that shell, something I will always be thankful for.  Not only did she help me connect with the other staff members, but she helped me feel confident just being my (socially awkward) self.

I will certainly miss our lunchtime hang outs, venting about our fitness and nutrition frustrations while dancing to Latin music; I will definitely miss our mini therapy sessions, chatting about life and all of its speed bumps.  But I know that Tara’s next steps will lead her to an amazing adventure, one that I hope she finds much success and happiness from.  Although I know she and I will keep in touch, a proper sendoff was still in order.  What better way to say goodbye than with Nutella-induced treats?

It may not be the healthiest ingredient for you, but I am convinced that Nutella can take any situation and make it better.

Nutella Brownies

When it comes to Nutella-based treats, Nutella brownies are a given!  Not only are these brownies simple to make, but they are the perfect combination of crispy and chewy.  These brownies are always a crowd pleaser, as well as Tara’s favorite, thus, they had to be made.

As my manager and I continued to brainstorm desserts to serve at Tara’s farewell party, I knew I wanted to experiment more with Nutella-based recipes.

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One of my favorite ingredient combinations is Oreos and cream cheese; this combination alone can often serve as the staple of many baked treats.  In the past, I have made Oreo and cream cheese truffles, but I was curious as to what would happen if Nutella was thrown into the mix.  Luckily, the experiment was a success, and these bad boys flew right off the plate!

For a while, I debated making a Nutella cake as the main dish of Tara’s goodbye party, but when it came to finally prep it, a lightbulb went off instead.  Why not make a pie?

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It’s nothing against cake.  Cake is often a fan favorite at parties; however, the idea of crafting a Nutella pie was quietly calling my name.  After prepping the Oreo crust, I was ready to whip up a combination of Nutella, cream cheese and heavy whipping cream.

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The result?  A smooth and creamy Nutella pie!  With one last spark of inspiration, I decided to crumble a chocolate chip cookie on top (for a little pop of color and a contrast in taste).  In the end, everyone who gathered to wish Tara a happy sendoff seemed to enjoy themselves.  Most importantly, we hope that Tara felt supported as she stands at the beginner of her new endeavor.  Although we are sad to see her go, we know that incredible opportunities await her.