Friday, May 15, 2015

Bark! Bark!

Right around the holidays, we started talking about it.

Dark Chocolate Bark with Mega Mix-Ins | Cheesy Pennies

Tentatively at first, because we were still so tender and upset, then more analytically and then, at last, giving ourselves permission to be hopeful, with a fair amount of actual giddiness.

I mean, who were we kidding, right?  We had been expertly trained by our big guy on how to be a dog family, and to let all that work go to waste would be almost criminal.  We couldn't do it.

We decided to get a puppy.

Not a replacement, because there can be no such thing, but someone furry and new and special in their own way.

I began my research.

ME: [Googling on my laptop] What breed is like a Bernese, but is not a Bernese

GOOGLE:  Here are images of Bernese Mountain Dogs and websites full of Bernese Mountain Dogs and breeders of Bernese Mountain Dogs and they all look just like your dog that you still miss so much you can barely stand it.

ME: [incoherent muffled sob]

I stayed away from Google after that. Eventually, I found a breed that sounded amazing.  Huge and hairy and friendly and smart.  There was a breeder just a few hours away who was due to have puppies on my husband's birthday.  I told her all about our loss and our family and she loved the whole thing. It was a sign. We were thrilled.

Dark Chocolate Bark with Mega Mix-Ins II | Cheesy Pennies

The puppies were born, and the photos began arriving. Nine adorable balls of fluff rolling around with their exhausted mom.  My daughter was besotted with them, and I was, too.  My husband, a bit concerned about just how huge and how hairy these things would grow up to be, consented to sending in our deposit.  With so many puppies, the breeder was glad to set one aside for us newcomers, even though other families had been waiting for years.  We signed up for puppy class and bought all the puppy things.  We began counting down the weeks until our little one could come home.

My son was appalled. We should be rescuing a dog, he said firmly.  There were all kinds of animals needing good homes. These purebred dogs didn't need us. There's a dog out there who does.

Yes, I agreed, distracted by a fluffy curly tail in my inbox.  But look how sweet they are, honey. These puppies need homes, too.

Would it be rambunctious Miss Red, or shy little Miss Yellow? Identified only by their adorable bow collars, we could only speculate, as the breeder would be matchmaking when we met.  Miss Orange was awfully winsome, too.

Pick up day was set, less than 10 days away.  After all these weeks, the sheer level of email cuteness and anticipation was staggering.

Then came the staggering email of cruelty.

To: Puppy-obsessed family I have been taunting for three months
From:  Nutjob Breeder from Hell
Subject:  No puppy for you*

I just now noticed that all of my puppies are perfect.  I asked my friends who are puppy experts, and they agree. Every single one of them is going to be a champion show dog. Since you are only going to be bringing the puppy home to love it like mad and make it part of your family, and not parade it around a ring on weekends to earn trophies, I have decided you are unsuitable.  If I had a flawed puppy, I would have given it to you.  But I don't. 

True story.

Mix-Ins in the making | Cheesy Pennies

So instead of Miss Red or Miss Orange or Miss Yellow, who are likely piling up accolades and blue ribbons at this very moment, we rescued Miss Juneau, the mutt.

Miss Juneau the Mutt | Cheesy Pennies

Turns out she is the perfect puppy for us.**

More photos of Juneau can be found daily on Instragram, #juneaudiaries.  

My son was right all along. Mutts rock.

Mutt Bark: Dark Chocolate with Mega Mix-Ins

by Sharon Graves
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes, plus cooling time
The ultimate DIY chocolate bar.  My mixture was inspired by Trader Joe's Cowboy and Cowgirl Barks, which combine salty and sweet treats.  Feel free to make your own mutt of a mixture.  And if it isn't perfect, then you did it exactly right.  
  • 1 lb. dark chocolate (60-70% cacao) - Trader Joe's has a 1 lb. bar, or you can use a combination of semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 3 c. (generous) mix-ins of your choice, chopped (I used smoked almonds, dried cherries, Speculoos cookies and Ruffles, and LOVED it)
  • Flaky sea salt, for finishing

Line a large baking sheet with foil or a silicon baking mat and set aside. Be sure your mix-ins are all in similarly sized pieces.***

Break chocolate up into smaller pieces if you are using a big bar.  Using a double boiler set up (bowl placed over a pot with an inch or two of simmering water in it) or your microwave (zap on high for a minute at time, stirring in between, about 4 minutes total), melt chocolate in a large bowl, stirring until completely smooth.

Option 1: Add your mix-ins to the chocolate, stirring until coated. Turn the mixture out into the prepared pan, and press out into a relatively flat rectangle. The mixture will be chunky, and it won't come out exactly smooth and even. In other words, kind of ugly. 

Personally, I liked eating this version better because the various textures were in the chocolate and not just on top of it, and I got a surprise in every bite, not knowing if it would be a cherry, an almond, a chip or a cookie.

Dark Chocolate Bark with Mega Mix Ins Mixed In | Cheesy Pennies

Option 2: Pour the chocolate out into a single layer on the prepared baking sheet, to a thickness of about 1/4-1/3 inch. Sprinkle the mix-ins on top, then use your spatula to gently press into the chocolate.  This version looks cool, and still tastes wonderful.

With either option, sprinkle with a little of the sea salt while the chocolate is still warm.

Dark Chocolate Bark with Mega Mix Ins III | Cheesy Pennies

Cool completely, then remove from the pan and break into pieces to serve.

* Actual subject line of the email.  The body of the email was paraphrased here, but that is essentially what this insane awful woman said to us. My daughter cried for two days.
** Except for the time when she ate two $80 power cords to my laptop and pooped on the couch. Then she was super flawed.
*** Other mix-in ideas:  Oreo cookies, pretzels, yogurt raisins, chopped up peanut butter cups, raw almonds, spicy pecans, toffee bits, butterscotch chips, candied orange peel or ginger, fresh herbs, dried apricots, mini marshmallows.


  1. Yay Juneau! Even though I would have (quietly) sided with your son, I'm truly sorry for the initial disappointment on the adoption. (That breeder woman, good grief, is she a robot?) But I'm so glad you and Juneau and those ears found each other. And that recipe - oh my. :)

    1. We totally dodged a bullet with her. She actually offered to come up and take our puppy to shows herself if we wouldn't agree to do it. Plus she planned to rig the judging so every puppy had a turn to win. As the State Farm baby says,"Fah-reaky!"

  2. You are so lucky you didn't get entwined with that cray breeder. Life's too short for cheating and nonsense like that! Juneau was waiting for you, all along, patient until you got there. You said yes to the right doggie!

    1. We both lucked out completely, Dorothy. That's for sure!