my recipe for celebration

The month just passed isn't a month I dread, but I'm never quite prepared for it, either. Every year as December approaches I know things will get crazy; I also know things will be fun. Plans for meals and parties at our home and the homes of others will fill our calendar -- we the geeky homebodies will become gadabouts.

The day or so after Thanksgiving, I always get the notion that this will be the year I'll write and send a Christmas letter. But when you birth both your children the week that begins December 20, you don't produce a Christmas letter. Even the year your daughter gets married, the year you really should, you know, conform to the tradition of getting out a holiday missive by post, you wake up December 19 and realize it just isn't going to happen. So you sigh, imagine a nebulous January mailing, and finish wrapping presents.

My son's birthday is the day each year when I begin to enjoy things. This time -- after being sick, having injured my shoulder, and having seen both of my parents through back surgeries 11 days apart (my brother and sister-in-law were here, helping immensely) -- was no exception. I've now gratefully experienced our family's twelve days of happy things. Last night marked the preparing of bonbons. These are chocolate peanut-buttery goodies that the aforementioned sister-in-law, Lynn, gave me the recipe for several years (10? 12?) ago. They have become the only "baking" I do for the holidays, probably because I don't get time or energy to make the first batch until just before a New Year's Eve party we attend with friends who used to work with Tim. How many years has that tradition gone on? Let's just say it started long before the kids were old enough to make their own plans for New Year's.

[caption id="attachment_6393" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Tim and me partying last night Tim and me partying last night[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_6392" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Bonbons in process. Bonbons in process.[/caption]

In lieu of a Christmas letter, below is my recipe for bonbons, complete with the gluten-free and dairy-free alternatives I have found over the years. I also now strive to use organic powdered sugar, since it's often available. This year's semisweet chocolate chips came from my mom via Costco; they contain chocolate liquor, sugar, soy lecithin, and vanilla.

Peanut Butter Bonbons
3 cups powdered sugar
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (or 2 cups almond meal/almond flour)
1 cup butter (or 1 cup Earth Balance/Smart Balance)
2 tablespoons shortening (Earth Balance also makes this without hydrogenated oil)
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups (about 1 12 oz. package) semisweet or milk chocolate chips

In a large bowl, mix powdered sugar and cracker crumbs (or almond meal).
Heat butter and peanut butter over low heat until melted; stir into crumb mixture. Shape mixture into 1-inch balls. Refrigerate 1 hour.
Heat chocolate and shortening until smoothly melted.
Using tongs, dip balls into chocolate until coated. Refrigerate until firm.

Happy New Year!