I try to be grateful on a daily basis for the many blessings in my life. Two wonderful children, a supportive husband, a great church community, a career doing what I love most, the ability to travel and see the world, and good health for all.
But sometimes it’s good to reflect on the small blessings too. You know, the little things that add grace to your day. The person who holds the door for you when your arms are full. The parking spot that miraculously opens up when you’ve been circling for ten minutes.
Yesterday I was grateful for good customer service.
Too often, I get the other kind. A cashier who shrugs when I ask for help finding something. Or two clerks who stand around discussing – honestly, you don’t even want to know – while I search the shelves a foot away.
But I’m not here to complain about them. Yesterday I went to Crate and Barrel at Yorkdale Mall. A woman by the name of Barb helped us. She saw us from across the store and walked over to greet us with a friendly smile. She knew the products and graciously walked us around the floor pointing out what I needed. Not only did she answer my questions, she anticipated questions I hadn’t even thought of.
In short, it was a delight shopping with her, and I was thrilled to give her – and the store – my business.
(It goes without saying – but I’ll say it anyhow – this is a completely independent opinion. Crate and Barrel hasn’t offered me anything to post about my experience. In fact, Crate and Barrel doesn’t even know about my experience. But they will next week when I write them a letter telling them how great Barb was.)
What little things have you been grateful for this week?
I was also grateful to find this recipe for Caramel Crumb Bars. This is the kind of bar that you could easily overlook in favour of flashier ones, but don't do that. It's completely wonderful and satisfying. Nick Malgieri has said that it’s his favourite. High praise indeed.
Caramel Crumb Bars
(adapted from The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri)
16 Tbsp (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 – 2 ¼ cups flour (first amount)
¼ cup flour (second amount, optional)
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp corn syrup
¼ cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened, condensed milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 x 2” pan with parchment paper.
For the dough:
In an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter with the sugar and salt until soft and light, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla.
On the lowest speed, beat in the first amount of flour (2 to 2 ¼ cups), mixing just until the flour has been absorbed.
Place ¾ of the dough into the prepared pan, using the palm of your hand to press it down evenly. Chill. In the meantime, work the remaining ¼ cup flour into the remaining dough to form crumbs. Set aside at room temperature.
For the filling:
In a medium saucepan, bring the butter, corn syrup, brown sugar and condensed milk to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Allow the mixture to boil gently, stirring often, until it starts to thicken and darken slightly, about 8 – 10 minutes. Pour into a stainless steel bowl to cool for five minutes
Remove the dough-lined pan from the fridge and scrape the cooled filling onto the dough, spreading evenly. Scatter the crumb mixture on top.
Bake until the filling is bubbling gently and the dough is baked through, about thirty minutes.
Cool in the pan until lukewarm. Lift the dough out of the pan and onto a cutting board before it has cooled completely. Cut into 2-inch squares.