Fun While They Lasted
October 17, 2008
Today, my sister is packing up her car, heading northwest on I-94 out of Chicago, up into Wisconsin, over the St. Croix River and into Minnesota. And, after a year of living about a mile down Armitage from Kevin and me, she’s not coming back. She’s moving home to Minnesota and it’s got me pretty sad—a little weepy, even, and a lot nostalgic—this morning.
I know I’ll see her soon: Thanksgiving, at the latest. But I also know that it just won’t be the same. For the year that she lived here, we saw her at least once a week, usually over dinner. We called it Family Dinner and, on this nostalgic morning, I wish that we could re-live every single one of them. We settled into such a comfortable pattern with the dinners—painstakingly craft a menu, pick a day, convene after work, Ali bears a bottle of wine, Kevin mans the television for the evening, Kristin darts around the kitchen, all of us feast. It was the kind of easy comfort that only comes with family.
(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)
I think that for a little while, things are going to feel just a little off. A little empty. And this site is no exception. For the almost-year that this site’s been up and going, Ali’s played a substantial behind-the-scenes role: recipe hunting, proof reading, taste testing, assistant photographer-ing, and serving as chief leftover benefactor. As we got down to our last couple Family Dinners, we abandoned our usual pattern of trying new recipes and took a tour through our favorites. But, for dinner this Monday, I wanted a really special dessert.
As I wracked my brain for a show-stopping confection, I kept coming back to chocolate and peanut butter. It was a combination that cropped up in many a Family Dinner Dessert. So, when I discovered this recipe for chocolate-peanut butter balls (an inelegant title, if ever there was one), I felt like I’d hit pay dirt. They were easy, irresistible, comforting, decadent, memorable—all words that could also describe my friendship with my sister. And, like the Family Dinners, they’re gone for now, they were fun while they lasted, and we’re going to have do them again real soon.
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Balls
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup creamy peanut butter [I used natural]
a 12-ounce bag semisweet chocolate chips [I used bittersweet]
In a bowl, stir together the brown sugar, 1/2 stick of the butter, the graham cracker crumbs, and the peanut butter until the mixture is smooth and chill the mixture, covered, for 1 hour, or until it is firm enough to form into balls. Form teaspoonfuls of the mixture into balls and transfer the balls as they are formed to a baking sheet lined with wax paper. In a metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water melt the chocolate chips with the remaining 3/4 stick butter, stirring until the mixture is smooth, and let the chocolate mixture cool. Dip the balls into the chocolate mixture with a fork, coating them well and letting the excess drip off, transfer them as they are coated to the baking sheet, and chill them, covered loosely, for at least 1 hour or overnight. (The balls may be double-dipped if desired.)