First, a little exciting news!
They say when chocolate and flowers aren't enough...
LOVE IS MURDER!
I attended the Love is Murder mystery conference this past weekend. Always in the Chicago area, always an incredibly great time. People talk about how this is one of the warmest, most welcoming conferences out there, and they're right. So much fun. The blizzard of 2011 might have scared folks a bit in the days leading up to it, but by the time the wonderful organizers opened the doors, Chicago had its act together and we were ready to have fun.
At the Saturday banquet, Love is Murder bestows their version of a readers' choice award -- the Lovey -- to authors in various categories. I was delighted and thrilled when GRACE UNDER PRESSURE won a Lovey for "Best Traditional/Amateur Sleuth." A full list of winners can be found on Carol Thomas's Mystery Examiner Series article here.
Below is a photo of my award, isn't it gorgeous?
More news! The Love Is Murder organizers asked me to be their local guest of honor next year! How cool is that!! The other guests of honor will be Donald Bain, Julie James, David Morrell, and the delightful Hank Phillippi Ryan who has guested here a few times.
If you have a chance to come to Chicago next February 3 -5, please do so. Yes, I know it's cold here, but the people are warm and the conference is lovely.
Okay, are you still with me?
I received more awesome good news Wednesday. EGGSECUTIVE ORDERS, third in my White House Chef Mystery series, has been nominated for a BARRY AWARD in the Best Paperback Original category!
I am crazy excited and honored beyond belief. Others in my category include Val McDermid, Bryan Gruley, Sophie Hannah, Judith Rock, and A.D. Scott. Congrats to all, and good luck all around! The complete list of nominees can be found on Janet Rudolph's blog here.
You know, I'm feeling kind of out of breath just typing all that. I can't even begin to tell you what a whirlwind week this has been. Only problem... I haven't gotten any writing done! Yikes. Next week for sure!
In the meantime, I need something sweet and delicious to help celebrate Valentine's Day. And what better choice than....
Chocolate Covered Strawberries!!
Chocolate covered strawberries just ooze with Valentine's Day goodness, don't they? One of our favorite local restaurants - which is also a winery - always has delicious, fresh, chocolate covered strawberries on display. I find it *very* difficult to pass by without picking out a couple to take home.
But on these snowy, wintry days, nobody wants to go out. Not even for dinner. (Did I actually just say that??)
This Valentine's Day, why not surprise your sweeties (spouses, kids, significant others) with chocolate covered strawberries? They're easy, delicious, and I have a few hints and ideas I picked up over the years of making them.
A long time ago, a relative who always made chocolate covered strawberries for family events gave me her secret. Melt a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave, she said, but be sure to add a couple tablespoons of butter to make it smooth. And you know what, that worked. Except... I dunno... the strawberries came out with a matte finish. And they were just a little grainy, melting quickly in my fingers when I picked them up.
But then I started adding a couple tablespoons of Crisco (vegetable shortening) instead. Yeah, I know this isn't the healthiest recipe in the world, but do I plan to eat an entire pound of these at one sitting?
Umm, well, hmm. Maybe I'd better not answer that!
Anyway, just like Cleo, this is less a recipe than a how-to.
Chocolate Covered Strawberries
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate morsels (I prefer semi-sweet, but you can adjust with other flavors as you prefer)
2 Tbsp Crisco shortening, to give your strawberries that shine
1 or 2 long skewers
Toppings of choice... coconut shavings, crushed nuts, etc. I used Heath Bar crumbles - little toffee bits - that I found in the same area as my chocolate morsels.
Wash and dry strawberries. Keep the green tops on. Now... I know you've heard this before, but be sure these strawberries are completely dry. Even the tiniest bit of water can cause chocolate to seize up. With the Crisco in there, the worry is slightly diminished, but you really don't want grainy chocolate. Strawberries = dry.
Melt chocolate and Crisco in a microwave safe bowl by heating for about 15 seconds, stirring, and repeating until the mixture is smooth. You may find you need to add a little more Crisco, but don't add too much. You don't want a watery consistency.
Spear the top of a strawberry with one of your skewers and twirl in the bowl of melted chocolate until it's about 3/4 covered. I used to do this with my fingers, but the spear makes it so much easier!
At this point, you could be done. Using a fork, or your fingers, slide the chocolate covered strawberry onto wax paper to dry.
But... if you want to add extra flavor, you can take the freshly dipped strawberry and roll it in a small bowl of your topping of choice. I wasn't quite sure how the toffee would work - wasn't sure if the sweet, juicy strawberry and the coarse, crunchy toffee would work well together (sometimes it's a texture thing, you know?) but I am very happy to say that the combination was a huge hit. In fact, the toffee covered ones were the first to go.
Yep. Ate them all that afternoon.
Did I really just say that, too?
Thanks for stopping by today and thanks for letting me share my good news. Hope you enjoy making these. They're crazy-easy and make such a beautiful display. The only problem? There are never enough!
Happy Valentine's Day!