Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 7: Shirley's Buckeyes

This is a bittersweet blog for me to write today. The recipe I’m showcasing comes from one of the nearest and dearest women I’ve ever known. As I began sketching out what I wanted to write, I realized that a simple 250 words could do no justice to the imprint this woman had on my life so I won’t even dare to try. Instead, I’ll give you a short history and a short memory, and perhaps leave the rest for another day.

The story goes that when I was about 6 months old, my mom had to have her gallbladder removed. Now back then, getting a gallbladder removed was a fairly major operation. Judging by the rugged scar across my mom’s mid-section, it looks like they pretty much filleted your stomach to get that little bugger out.

After the surgery, my mother couldn’t lift anything (including little ole’ me) for 6 weeks. So while my mom recouped, her best friend, Shirley, took me on as her own. For six weeks I was her little baby girl. And she used to tell me that when my dad came to pick me up on the last day in order to take me back home to my mom, Shirley cried and cried because she couldn’t stand to let me go.

Thankfully Shirley was a constant presence throughout my life, but I remember her most fondly at Christmastime. It was her favorite season, and being an extraordinary baker, it was her chance to really show off. One Christmas in particular, she arrived at our family get-together with a huge round tin, brimming with festively frilled red and green wrappers, each cradling what we Ohioans fondly call the Buckeye. This decadent confection is, simply put, peanut butter fudge rolled into balls and dipped into chocolate. What’s not to love.

I spent nearly every Christmas season of my life enjoying the delights of Shirley’s cooking. Then, in July of 2009, just 2 weeks after I had my baby, Sam, Shirley passed away. His slight little body cuddled me on the solemn flight from Virginia to Ohio for her funeral. He never got to meet her, the only one of my children not to know their “Grandma Shirley”.

Oh, how I miss her…

But she would be so delighted to know that her Buckeye recipe is alive and well and bouncing around cyberspace. Thanks, Shirley, for this recipe.

Shirley’s Buckeyes

1, 18oz. jar of creamy peanut butter
½ c. softened butter
1 lb. box of confectioner’s sugar
1, 12 oz. pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 tbsp. shortening

Combine the peanut butter and butter. Add sugar and mix well. Roll mixture into balls, stick a toothpick in each one and chill for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, melt chocolate chips and shortening in microwave, stopping every 30 minutes to stir chocolate until completely melted.

Working quickly, dip chilled peanut butter balls in melted chocolate being careful not to completely cover the top but allowing a crown of peanut butter to show through on the top, resembling a buckeye. Place dipped balls on waxed paper, remove toothpicks, and refrigerate till ready to serve.

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