I hate sugar cookies

Okay, maybe hate is a strong word.  But sugar cookies and I? We have beef.

When I first started playing around with cookie cutters and new recipes, I was excited to dabble in this venture; however, I am slowly learning that sugar cookies and I are currently intertwined in quite the love/hate relationship.  Or, maybe I am just grumpy from this week’s baking escapades.  Or, maybe I’m just grumpy in general? It could really be either option. 

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On a random side note: I swear, I will go bankrupt from buying butter – but I digress!

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Tomorrow, my manager and I have our Annual Volunteer Appreciation Brunch; although the event is catered, staff have the chance to bake dessert to help show our appreciation for all of the work our volunteers do.  Naturally, I was walking into this week excited to bake my brains out!  This year’s theme for Volunteer Appreciation Month is Volunteers Make the World a Brighter Place, and a reoccurring symbol within our brunch is a butterfly.  My plan was set: I was determined to make butterfly shaped cookies.  Unfortunately, this feat did not go as well as I had hoped.

All week, I had three trays of cookie dough chilling in our fridge.  The first tray was great, chilled to perfection and ready for cutting.  The second tray did not mix well at all.  Sometimes when I double my batch of sugar cookies, the dough at the very bottom of my mixer fails to blend completely, leaving behind a wet and sticky dough.  This tray did not work out.  The third dough had chilled well; however, our refrigerator had dripped water onto the pan, which seeped through the parchment paper spoiling the dough.  Luckily, I was able to salvage the first tray and I began to brainstorm other dessert options.

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I quickly whipped together a chocolate chip cookie cake, and as long as I am able to successfully transport it, it should be brunch ready!  Although this week’s baking adventures did not go as well as I had anticipated, I am still happy about the cookies I was able to salvage and I hope our volunteers enjoy them as well!

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Feel Good Friday

Although it may not feel like it yet, we have finally turned a corner in the seasons.  The days are longer, the chill is starting to leave the air and the sound of birds chirping are serving as my alarm clock.  With March almost behind us, I am more excited than ever to jump into Spring; everything begins to stir again, as I look to the upcoming days with a new focus.

This week has been pretty wavy, rocking from mundane and uneventful, to emotional and stirring, to enlightening and empowering; but honestly, I am okay with that!  Sometimes that feeling of just getting through the week, successfully sailing through the different waves of emotions, is enough to revitalize you; it also helps you focus on the little things that make you happy, such as the changing seasons or new recipes.

At work, though, I have been excited to explore new projects; this week, we borrowed a camera from our social media department in hopes of collecting portraits for our upcoming Volunteer Appreciation Brunch.  Of course, having the camera has offered me the opportunity to capture more than just volunteer portraits.

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(This is Lootah! A new friend I met in our cat habitat.)

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(And this is Miss Maggie! A sweet little lady who loves going for walks, and is also available for adoption.)

I love playing around with photography, and the fact that I get to explore this passion at work has been amazing!  Things have begun to settle back into a routine at work, a busy routine but one with a good flow.  As I jumped back into the swing of things, I realized that I haven’t spoiled my fellow workers with treats for some time now; I decided that maybe a small pick-me-up was needed to help get us through the week.

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One of my favorite ingredients to bake with is oats.  Not only is oatmeal utterly delicious (and good for you!), but I love the consistency when added to a baked treat.  It adds a smooth yet heartier taste.  For these cookies, I found a new oatmeal chocolate chunk recipe and was excited to try it out.  The recipe called for all of the basic cookie ingredients, but I was intrigued to see cinnamon thrown into the mix.  I had never thought to add cinnamon to an oatmeal cookie before!  I’m glad that I did, as many of my taste-testers commented that the hint of cinnamon was quite enjoyable.

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Overall, what may have started as a temperamental week certainly settled into an amazing Friday feeling.  Sometimes, you just need a week to go through the motions and clear away the cobwebs of the mundane.  In the end, you’ll find yourself springing into the weekend with feel-good vibes and a clear mind.

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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.

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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.