Category Archives: french bulldog

Caramel Pecan Graham Squares

My dreams came true on Sunday. If you didn’t notice me shouting it from the Insta-sphere, THIS. HAPPENED.:

Oh just the tiniest 12-week-old baby Frenchie. WHOSE NAME IS BERNIE. With the nicest owner who let me pet that teeny little ball of wrinkle and take 10000 pictures and threaten to take him home. The stuff [my] dreams are made of, people. The stuff. Of dreams.

I apologize that this picture is blurry but I just needed to show you that Bernie is THE SIZE OF MIKE’S FOOT. His head is the size of a clementine. I AM LITERALLY LOSING MY MIND.

As in, I can’t think about anything else. WhencanIgetapuppywhencanIgetapuppywhencanIgetapuppy??? And also: grahamcrackercrumbscaramelpecanschocolate.

After meeting the puppy of my dreams (and eating an entire pot of fondue at Grendel’s Den), I came home and ate the best caramel-pecan-graham bars in the whole world and subsequently had the best Sunday e-v-e-r. Puppies + cheese + chocolate = MelsSweetLife ideal day.

These bars are whasssssupppp. They’re kind of a pain to make (ahem, homemade caramel), but I promise you they are worth it. I mean, can you ever go wrong with caramel and pecans and graham cracker crust and dark chocolate drizzle and a puppy named Bernie? Can you?

You can’t. So make these bars and and bask in their chewy caramel-ey graham cracker glory.

And think of Bernie. Always.

Caramel Pecan Graham Squares

yield: about 16 squares, depending on size

Ingredients

For the graham cracker crust**:

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups roughly chopped pecans, toasted

For the caramel layer (recipe slightly adapted from Ina Garten):

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the chocolate drizzle:

  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening

*Edit: Originally I had noted that the crust seemed very crumbly, so I did some research and realized the ratio of butter to graham cracker crumbs was too high – I’ve reduced the amount of butter from 8 tablespoons to 5, which should solve the crumble problem!

Directions

  1. Prepare the graham layer: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (325 if you’re using a glass baking dish). Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine the butter, graham cracker crumbs, honey, and cinnamon. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan to form a smooth, single layer. Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Place on a wire rack to cool while you make the caramel. Sprinkle the toasted pecans to form a layer on top of the graham crust.
  2. Prepare the caramel layer: In a deep saucepan (at least 4 1/2 inches deep) combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue to boil until the caramel is a warm golden brown color. Do not stir – just swirl the sugar mixture around in the pan. Watch carefully, because the mixture will burn quickly! While the sugar is cooking, bring the cream, butter, and sea salt to a simmer in a small pan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and set aside. When the caramelized sugar is the right color, slowly add the cream mixture to the caramel – it will boil up at first but should subside after a few seconds. Stir in the vanilla with a rubber spatula and cook over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches 244 degrees F (between soft and firm ball) on a candy thermometer. Carefully pour the caramel on top of the pecans/graham crust in the prepared pan. Put the pan into the fridge and allow it to cool for a few hours, until the caramel is set.
  3. Prepare the chocolate drizzle: In the microwave or using a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips and shortening; stir to combine. Drizzle over the cooled caramel bars. Allow the chocolate to harden, then cut into squares (tip: it’s easier to cut the bars if they’re at room temperature, but make sure the caramel and chocolate have set before you start slicing!). Store in a sealed container at room temperature.

Bernie.

Paris: According to Mike

Hey friends!  Today I have a VERY special guest poster: my Paris partner-in-crime and boyfriend Mike!  We decided a Paris recap would be a perfect excuse for Mike to make his blog debut, and I’d be lying if I said he didn’t take his post writing VERY seriously.  I’d also be lying if I said there weren’t notecards and highlighters and hours.of.editing. involved.  This is what I get for dating a law student.

Get pumped up! Here’s Paris: According to Mike.

This is hard.  I am not a creative writer and I am definitely not a blogger.  I have learned a lot from Melanie’s blogging – I know not to eat my food before a photo is taken, I know how to help switch camera lenses, I know why pinning on Pintrest (?) is important, and I finally got a Twitter account.  But this is hard and if you are expecting to laugh, read phrases with mid-sentence periods, or learn a new recipe, then this may not be a post for you. (If you are a family member, then this may give you more info about Paris than I have said over the phone).

As I think about our trip there are a few moments and a few themes that standout – but more importantly (like anyone who has interviewed for a job) I can identify my strengths and my weaknesses.

My (Parisian) weaknesses

Obviously, this trip was about food. We ate a ton of it, we stood in line to wait for it, and we searched for hours to find it.  Why did we search for hours? Well… like blogging, I have weaknesses.

1. MAPS

 Apparently one of those weaknesses is planning a trip. Before we left I had a great idea – put all of our restaurants, shops, bakeries, etc. on to one map so we could find everything and be efficient. However, my plan failed because my “asterisks” on the map were way too large and most of my notations got us within a few blocks of our goal.

This led to some frantic wanderings and sadly a few missed shops. (“Fromagerie 31,” “the shop with the best crepes,” and a restaurant with “sud ouest” in its name were never found.) It also meant I spent way too much time hiding my face in my map…

On the other hand, because we got lost in Saint Germain des Pres, Melanie got to meet her first French Bulldog in Paris… Minnie. It was love at first sight.

2. FRENCH

I would like to thank Ms. Ferrara, Prof. Hin Tun, and Prof. Luks for my many years of French lessons, I would also like to apologize for butchering the language for one week in March 2012. Here are two quick examples:

-Ordering water. This has always been a challenge for me. In France, like in many European nations, when you order water from your waiter you may be ordering an expensive bottle of Evian. There is a way to order “tap water” but I CANNOT do it.  During our trip I accidentally ordered Evian, I made a waiter avoid us for an entire meal, I ordered one glass of water with no refills, and a few times I actually got us a pitcher of tap water.  However, it was stressful, it was awful… someone please teach me how to do this correctly.

-Ordering anything really. The afternoon we went to the Musee d’Orsay I was not feeling well. (I felt a little bit like this gargoyle.) Melanie wanted lunch and I was not feeling up to a big meal. So I wanted to be smart and order something that would help me feel better. My four-year old, non-doctor, self decided that ice cream was exactly what I needed. Unlike ordering water, I felt confident ordering some citrus ice cream.  I knew almost every word on the menu and any ice cream dessert called “Le Colonel” had to be exactly what I needed to feel better. Oh how wrong I was.  The word I didn’t know was “Cachaça”. Do you know what that is? It turns out that instead of ordering a nice bowl of citrus ice cream, I ordered one scoop of lemon sorbet, an entire lime (rind included) ground up into bits, and two-thirds of a glass of Cachaça. Cachaça is a liquor made from fermented sugarcane juice. This was my biggest French fail of the trip. But because the drink cost more than the admission ticket to the museum and because the setting was so beautiful; I manned up and finished it.

3. PHOTOGRAPHY

I have a problem. I do not know how to take just one photo. Maybe I just like pretending I am the paparazzi or maybe its because I’m always afraid the perfect photo will be out of focus, but I take lots of photos. This is the real reason we took 1,300 photos in 6 days – because Melanie had to delete 300-400 of my photos.

For example, when trying to take one photo of Melanie – I took 12.

When I wanted a picture of Melanie leaving a great cafe – I made a stop motion movie.

Using a Melanie phrase: “I’m sorry, I’m not sorry.”  We got a few good photos didn’t we?

4. PARIS SHOPPING RULES

Like ordering water, another repeated failure was my conduct in Parisian stores.  Did you know you couldn’t take photos in grocery stores? Did you know that you can’t serve yourself in chocolate shops? Melanie got a few good laughs as I got yelled at by store managers.

One of these illicit photo shoots was to support Stirrings (a Nantucket/Boston company). We were surprised to find it in one of Paris’s best food markets – Au Bon Marche. However, as I rearranged the bottles to get the best shot (with flash), a store manager quickly came running over to tell me that “It is not possible to take photos in the store.” Oh well, I am a tourist and I already got a bunch of other photos in the store.

Almost instantly after the photo-fiasco, I got yelled at for picking out chocolates in a tiny shop.  This french store has been run by the same family for seven generations and had a great selection of marshmallows, caramels, and chocolates. Maybe it’s part of their history, but the employees in white gloves are the only people that can place your chocolates in perfect little cellophane bags. When an employee approached and saw me jamming marshmallows into a wrinkled, ripping bag she was horrified at best. (She also asked if I had touched anything with my bare hands – prepared to throw out anything I had contaminated). Luckily the chocolate and caramels were good enough to replace my sinking feeling of embarrassment.

5. LENT

My last weakness is staying vigilant to Lent. This year I gave up soda (mainly because Melanie was horrified to learn just how much Coca-Cola I drink each day). On Sunday, we got up with the sun to go to mass at Notre Dame. It was a beautiful French service, where I spent more time paying attention to the windows and stonework than to the readings. After church we went to a small boulangerie on Île Saint-Louis and bought a vegetable tartine, a chicken sandwich, an obligatory pain au chocolat, and a palmier. Our riverside lunch, listening to 1930s music played by a band on Pont Saint-Louis, was a highlight for the trip. However, my lunch included a European Coca-Cola (which I love because it uses sugar instead of corn syrup) and I broke my Lenten season sacrifice. I confess.

A few strengths: “Practice for Paris”

Just to rebuild my self-esteem (and because I’ve had some french wine and french chocolate to help inspire my blogging) I think I should list a few of my strengths on this trip.

I warned Melanie for all of January and February that we needed to “practice for Paris.” My memories of a previous trip to Paris are mainly lots of walking, lots of bread, and lots of wine.  This is slightly different from our Boston lives – and we needed to practice.  While I can’t speak for Melanie, I can proudly say that I got ready for Paris.  And this is why I was prepared.

1. I was ready with the camera to document each food shop and eating experience.

2. I had hit the gym to be ready to carry any and all of Melanie’s purchases (including an excessive amount of macarons and chocolates).

3. I knew to pick random churches for a quick visit. (Which explains how we found the practice session for “Concert Spirituel” at the Basilique Sainte-Clotilde. We were able to walk in to a beautiful church to listen to the “Choeur Fra Angelico” sing with the “Ensemble Instrumental de Paris.”)

4. I figured out the pricing system at E.Dehillerin, which apparently stumps many tourists. (If you’re into cooking and love good deals on knives, cooking supplies, pots and pans this culinary supply store is a must see!)

Despite my many weaknesses, this was a trip of a lifetime. I hope all of you can travel to Paris and have the great weather, food, and moments that we got to experience for six days.

{Paris: The Sights}, {Paris: The Eiffel Tower}, {Paris: The Food}, {Paris: The Details}, {Paris: By Night}

Paris: The Details

Even though I’ve la-la-LOVED each and every Paris post I’ve done so far: {sights}, {Eiffel tower}, {food}, this one may be my favorite.  Here are all the little details I caught on our trip, the things you may not notice at first but inevitably add up to make Paris the spectacular city that it is.

I bring you Paris: The Deets.

We spotted these guys ALL over the city; they’re from the Invader project and so fun to keep an eye out for!

MINNIE!!  My frenchie BFF.

This frenchie {with his spiked collar and “I don’t give a ****” glare} is cooler than you’ll ever be.

Tune in for Paris: By Night next!

Frenchie Friday

I have a scale like this! I could do this with my very own tiny Frenchie!

{source}

**ANNOUNCEMENT** My wonderfully talented mom, creator of emme purses on etsy, is selling her clutches and totes at a craft fair tomorrow, November 5, from 9-3 at Jennie F. Snapp middle school (in Endicott, NY).

If you’re in the area you should go check her out – new styles galore! Go mom :)