Tuesday, October 13, 2009

First Anniversary Update by the Queen of All Things

For as long as I can remember when my sister gets mad at me she likes to call me controlling as if that is going to hurt my feelings. My only reply to that is a heartfelt “I know!” You’re going to have to work a lot harder than that to hurt my feelings, Missy. I’m sorry, but I really don’t think that that is such a bad thing.

We controlling types always have an answer for questions like “Where would you like to go for dinner?” or “What movie would you like to go see?” Where as those who have no control over their lives and never have an answer for anything, must quietly resent sitting in life’s backseat, having their lives ruled by the decisions of others. I don’t blame them, I’d hate that too. Maybe they ought to try blogging, what great therapy. This is my kingdom and I am queen of all things. All I can hope is that I am a good queen and that I often make my readers smile.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been a blogger for a year now. When I first started doing this, I had no idea whether I’d still be hanging in there a year later or not. Well, if nothing else, I’ve proven to myself that I’m persistent, I love to write and I love to cook (which I already knew).

I wish that my mother and father, who have both passed away, had had a blog or a diary.  Just think of the things that I might have discovered about them. Having their thoughts written down on paper would have been priceless to me. I hope my children will someday take the time to read my blog and get to know me in a whole new way. Instead of just being that know-it-all at the bottom of the stairs yelling up at them to hurry up or go back up and brush their teeth, they might see me for the woman that I really am with insecurities and fears and most importantly, hopes and dreams.

I’m getting ready to pack my bags and head to Nottingham for my annual visit. As usual, I’ll be mooching off of Karen and Chris for a couple of weeks (boy, now that’s what I call true friends). A few things have changed since my last visit. For those of you who may have read my entry titled, A Mad Dash to Nottingham, it may come as no surprise that my friends lost their well loved 22 year old cat, Sammy. He is now pushing up daisies in a warm, sunny spot in their back garden.

Their oldest son Alex left for university a couple of weeks ago so their house will be a bit quieter this visit even though their younger son Conor is still around to stir things up a bit. Watching Alex make decisions about his future has been an interesting process as he is not only a scholar but he is also a rock star. No kidding, he is the lead singer and guitarist for a band called Frontiers. They just played at the Reading and Leeds Festival on the BBC new bands stage.

These guys are getting some great national airplay and reviews. It’s exciting to see good things happen to a talented group of young musicians. I hope they make it big for several reasons one of which I have to admit is pretty selfish. I have a beautiful young daughter with very expensive tastes that only a rock star or professional athlete could support. I may have to bring her with me next time so they can get reacquainted.

Since one of Karen’s other friends from America (that floozy) messed up my Fourth of July plans when she beat me to the guest room at Karen’s house, my trip got bumped out until November. It really worked out well because the timing puts me in Nottingham in the middle of things. I arrive the day before Halloween so I’m bringing a box of my handmade Peanut Butter Truffle Eyeballs.

Karen always has some fun Halloween party planned so these will be a fun addition. A few days later is Guy Fawks Night and the whole country gets fired up and let’s be honest folks, any reason for the British to get excited is alright by me. The night before I leave is Karen’s birthday and she turns twenty-five…again. I’m hoping to cook her birthday supper as my swan song. I’m going to bake her a cake although after living high altitude for the past six years, I’ve basically given up baking so I’m pretty rusty but she’s pretty forgiving, as good friends are.

I’m really pleased to tell everyone here that I’ve had an article published in the fall 2009 edition of American in Britain entitled Karen’s Recipe for Success. I am just thrilled to be in the same magazine as Housedoctor, Ann Maurice. My article is very similar to the material that I include here on my blog.

This article focused on my thoughts and experiences upon our arrival into the UK and how we ultimately settled in and had the time of our lives. I will be publishing the article in it’s entirety on my accompanying blog which is located at www.karen'srecipeforsuccess.blogspot.com. Please stop by and take a look. Thanks so much to American in Britain’s Editor, Helen Elliot for being gracious enough for giving me this wonderful platform to showcase my writing and my recipe for Chicken and White Bean Chili. I hope this is only the first in a series of articles to come.

On a sad note, I got a call a couple of days ago that my great Aunt June who was the inspiration for my story, Dewberries and Copperheads passed away peacefully in her sleep. She takes with her many great recipes and a lifetime of experience in the kitchen. She was just a simple country woman who loved nothing more than her family and friends. She had her priorities straight alright. I’ll promise to always smile when I think of her and those delicious dewberry cobblers.

Peanut Butter Truffle Eyeballs

Ok, here I go, I'm breaking my own rule and I'm including a recipe with a hard to find American ingredient like white chocolate bark coating. Other than visually, it has no advantage over regular chocolate. In fact, it is inferior in flavor, it's just a fun look for Halloween. These do take awhile but if you are willing to take your time and be patient, you will really be pleased with the results. I first made this recipe with a group of mothers from my children’s school in the form of oversized Easter eggs as a fundraiser. I remember thinking then that these delicious rich sweets would be even better in two or three bite size form, so that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. If you prefer, melt a pound and a half of milk or plain chocolate in a double boiler with a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil, mix well and gently dip the truffles in it, sprinkle with crushed peanuts or sprinkles and allow to set for a couple of hours before trimming and serving. Decorated to look like eyeballs, Easter eggs, Christmas balls, dipped in chocolate or whatever, the important thing is to have fun with them make them your own.

3 – 4 ounce sticks (339g) butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup (375ml) peanut butter (I like crunchy, my son likes smooth)
1/2 teaspoon (2.5ml) vanilla extract
1-1/2 tablespoon (22.5ml) light corn or golden syrup
4 – 6 cups icing or powdered sugar, plus 1 cup extra for decorating
1 – 24 ounce (680g) package white chocolate bark candy melt coating (or you can also use 24 ounces of chocolate chips melted with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and mixed well)
1 – 1 pound (500g) bag candy coated chocolate candies (such as Smarties or M&Ms)
Red and Black paste food colouring
1 – 2 tablespoons (15 – 30ml) milk

Place butter, peanut butter, vanilla extract, light corn or golden syrup in a large bowl and blend on the medium speed of and electric mixer until well blended. Slowly mix in icing sugar one half cup at a time until you have a thick and heavy yet smooth mixture about the consistency of toothpaste.

Line a couple of cookie sheets with paper towels that are at least 3 – 4 sheets thick. Scoop truffle dough in rounded teaspoons and roll in round balls between your palms. Place truffles side by side on paper towels. Recipe makes approximately 48 truffles. Place a double thickness of paper towels on top of truffles and let set overnight (approximately 12 – 18 hours).

Place your candy melts or chocolate in the top of a double boiler and allow to melt. Gently dip each truffle in the chocolate and carefully transfer to a waxed paper lined tray; repeat until all truffles have been dipped. A couple of words of caution here, be careful not to be too rough when dipping the truffles because if they begin to break apart the peanut butter could cause your chocolate to become grainy. If you like, you can gently tap excess chocolate from your truffle but too much tapping can cause the truffle to break apart which can spell disaster for your chocolate. The amount of dipping chocolate called for is just barely enough so there isn’t too much for waste so if you feel a bit unsure your first time you may want to buy extra to give yourself a bit of “wiggle” room.

After the truffles are dipped and before they set up, without picking up or moving, gently push an iris coloured M&M or Smartie in the center of each “eyeball”; allow to harden. After the eyeballs have hardened, gently pick up each and carefully trim extra chocolate from the bottom of each with a sharp paring knife.

In a small bowl, mix 1 cup of icing sugar with just enough milk to form a very thick icing to decorate. Remove 1/3 of the icing and mix with black paste; place in a small zipper seal bag and set aside. Mix the remaining 2/3 of the icing mixture with red decorating paste and place in a zipper seal bag; clip a tiny piece from the corner of the bag and squeeze squiggly lines onto the surface of the eyeballs to look like veins, repeat with all of the eyeballs. Clip a tiny hole from the corner of the bag holding the black icing and squeeze a black dot in the center of the Smartie to resemble a pupil; repeat with all of the eyeballs. Allow to dry.

Truffles are best stored covered in the refrigerator and will keep that way for about a week.