I spoke the words out loud today. The words that have been circling in the back of my mind for months, waiting patiently to come to the surface until my emotions were ready for them.
It happened when we let our 12-yr-old dog, Jigs, out of the office where he’d been waiting for the guy from Lowe’s to finish rolling our new dishwasher into the kitchen. Jigs likes people, and while that’s a really great thing, we didn’t want distractions while work was going on. Turns out the dishwasher had a major dent, the Lowe’s guy hauled it away, and within five minutes Jigs hobbled back into the living room, back over to his well-worn spot next to the fireplace.
And he was peeing the entire time.
And didn’t know it.
“Jigs is peeing! Jigs is peeing!” Alan grabs him and tries to get him outside as quickly as possible. I grab a roll of paper towels and frantically begin cleaning up the mess.
I’m wondering why I don’t just let it soak in to match the rest of the stains he’s left behind.
Alan comes back in the room and that’s when I say it. Those four little words that I knew were there but haven’t wanted to face.
“I think it’s time.”
And then I cried.
Jigs came to live with us when he was four months old. Alan and I had gone to the pet store to get a fish and came home with a puppy. A super cute pit-lab mix with so much personality it was literally impossible not to love him. Petsmart had been hosting an adopt-a-thon for the local shelter and there was no way I was going to let this cute puppy not be loved for one more minute.
Did I mention that we lived in a 600-sq foot apartment in San Diego at the time and they didn’t allow dogs over 20 lbs?
So we moved.
Into a house with a big backyard with a fence. And when Alan finished his masters degree and it was time to move again, Jigs went with us.
He’s now lived with us through six moves and three states.
But that’s another story.
He’s been a great dog. The best. He never barks unless there’s a reason to and – with the exception of a scuffle with a few of our current neighbors – everyone has always loved him. Our old mailman used to bring treats on his route just for Jigs and would come into our yard to play with him. A neighbor in our last ‘hood who shared part of our fence asked us if he could put a gate in just so he could let Jigs in his yard whenever he felt like it. The guys dog used to jump the fence and come over to play; we’d see the Irish Setter at our back door and yell, “Jiiiigs, you have a playdate!”
Jigs now has severe skin issues that we’re spending thousands of dollars to cope with. His behavior is erratic in recent months (remind me to tell you the story of how he ate a Duraflame log – and no, he wasn’t hungry) and his current bladder issues are just one of many. But we love him. He’s part of our family.
These are all the things that are going through my mind after I clean up the mess and resume my computer duties. When I realize I’m staring at the screen not getting a thing done, I decide that I should do what every mom/cook/dog lover would do in this situation.
I made cheesecake.
A lot of it.
Because cheesecake fixes everything. At least temporarily.
And y’ know what? It lifted my spirits. It made life seem just a bit brighter.
I swear that it even lifted Jigs spirits. I mean, c’mon, even a dog would smile at cute little cheesecakes with chocolate hearts.
I’m not sure if he sensed that I was upset or if it’s all in my crazy head, but I swear he had a spring in his step that hasn’t been there for awhile. Or maybe I just wanted there to be a spring, was looking for a spring. Either way, I’m pretty sure the ol’ boy hasn’t given up on himself yet. So I won’t either, buddy.
I might have to bake one heck-of-a-lotta cheesecakes, but we’ll get through it.
These cheesecakes were good.
Notice I used past-tense there?
They were really good. And mini. And so stinkin’ cute I could hardly stand myself.
I know. Total awesomeness.
So first…the crust.
I crushed enough of those Nutella Cookies to make about a cup of crumbs. Mixed in 2 tablespoons of melted butter and added a heaping teaspoon to each well.
Next, I tamped each one down with the greatest tool every created. Also known as the Pampered Chef Mini Tart Shaper (but it has sooo many other uses – like forming cheesecake crusts).
The next steps are been there, done that steps…mix together your filling, pour into pan, bake.
If you want to put chocolate-stuffed-raspberries in the center like I did – and who are we kidding, of course you want to – add half of your batter, drop in a raspberry, and fill the rest of the way. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
And while they’re baking, you can make your chocolate hearts. Be sure to sprinkle on cute Valentine’s sprinkles – or St. Patty’s Day, or Fourth of July, or Halloween, etc. – all over the chocolate before it hardens. Do this quickly because the hearts aren’t going to wait all day.
They’re chocolate. They can do what they want.
When your cheesecakes are cooled, push them up from the bottom to remove from pan. Don’t follow the directions that come with the box – if you use a knife to help them release, they won’t look all smooth and pretty.
Set them on parchment or foil lightly sprayed with oil. Drizzle chocolate over them. Use these disposable bags because they are awesome.
Place one of your cuter-than-cute chocolate hearts on your fabulous cheesecakes.
Call everyone in your family to gather around your works of art and demand that they swoon appropriately.
Eat. And feel better.
Then take the rest to your neighbor so that they feel better, too.
Repeat as many times as necessary.
The Best Mini-Cheesecakes Ever
Makes 12 mini cheesecakes. Which clearly will not be enough so I grant you my permission to quadruple.
- 1 cup crushed Nutella Cookies (view 3-ingredient recipe on thewickednoodle.com/nutella-cookies)
- 2 T butter, melted
- 2 8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 t vanilla extract
- 12 raspberries, stuffed with chocolate chips (white or dark)
- melted chocolate for hearts and drizzling over cheesecakes (preferably different colors for contrast, but use whatever you’ve got)
- sprinkles of your choice
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease pan.
Place a heaping teaspoon (more or less, depending on how much you like crust) in each cheesecake well. Press down with tamper.
In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until well mixed. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until light and fluffy.
Fill wells 1/2 full and add one raspberry to each well. Fill with the rest of the batter. Bake for 13-15 minutes. Cool.
Meanwhile, pipe chocolate hearts onto parchment paper or lightly greased tinfoil. Work quickly and add sprinkles before chocolate hardens to ensure they stick well. Allow to harden.
Push each cheesecake out of its well from the bottom. With a thin spatula, remove each cheesecake from the bottom plate and place on parchment paper or lightly greased tinfoil. Drizzle with melted chocolate and place a chocolate heart on each cheesecake.