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Sealed with a Kiss


Unless the powers that be in the state of Ohio follow the lead of others in the Midwest who are calling off school for Monday, we’re down to the last day of Christmas break.  Yesterday the snow was gently falling and gathering outside, covering the landscape with a soft coat of white.  My girls spent the afternoon dressed in their winter gear and running around outside; the 8-year-old even shoveled the whole driveway to make it easier for her dad to pull into the garage.  She said she didn’t mean to do the whole thing, but at the point she wanted to stop, she thought it looked dumb with some spots not shoveled, so she kept going.  Gotta love that little perfectionist!  Today the temps are frigid; I could easily dump the stockpile from my chest freezer outside and defrost the thing without any worries about thawed food.  And the 8-year-old wants to go outside again.  I’ve been opting to stay inside the warm house, munching on leftover Christmas cookies!

I’m often reminded of my grandma when I eat Christmas cookies.  I look back now with amazement at the sheer variety of baked goods she produced each Christmas.  When my family lived in Michigan, we often didn’t get back to visit my grandparents during the holidays, so she would send a box of Christmas treats all carefully nestled in wax paper.  I didn’t always appreciate everything she made; spicy or chewy or fruity German cookies and bars were often tucked between my preferred kinds (meaning: anything with chocolate or frosting), threatening to contaminate the good stuff with their strong flavors.  And by the end of Christmas vacation, well, that box didn’t hold much magic any more as everything had become stale versions of what she had originally made.

I had forgotten about one particularly messy cookie I’d reach for each year until last Christmas when I picked up several bags of Hershey’s Kisses on clearance last year. There on the back of the package was a recipe for “Hershey’s Secret Kisses Cookies” — a relatively easy cookie that was exactly what my grandma had baked and carefully packed into her cookie boxes every year.  A Hershey’s Kiss wrapped in a buttery, nut-studded pastry and rolled in powdered sugar can hardly be bad (though when it becomes neighbor to a chewy gingerbread bar with raisins for long enough, I might start to waver).

A few of these cookies are still hanging around here, keeping me blissfully happy with just enough sugar and protein (hello! nuts!) to start taking down the Christmas decorations.  But I’m thinking they might just make an appearance prior to next Christmas: wouldn’t they be a great gift for Valentine’s Day all nestled in a box with red and pink?  Or what about a gift of “snowballs” for someone in the midst of summer?  I think Grandma would like it. 

IMG_2947Hershey’s Secret Kisses Cookies

  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts or almonds
  • 36 Hershey’s Kisses Brand Milk Chocolates
  • powdered sugar
  1. Beat butter, granulated sugar, and vanilla in large bowl until fluffy.
  2. Add flour and nuts; beat on low speed of mixer until well blended. Cover; refrigerate 1 to 2 hours or until dough is firm enough to handle.
  3. Remove wrappers from chocolates. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  4. Using 1 tablespoon dough for each cookie, shape dough around each chocolate; roll in hand to make ball. (Cover each chocolate completely, and note that not all cookies will end up baking with the kiss “standing” the right way.) Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until cookies are set but not browned. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet.
  5. While still slightly warm, roll in powdered sugar (be certain to let them cool down a bit; otherwise the powdered sugar begins to steam and melt and become a gooey frosting rather than a nice powdery coating). Cool completely. Store in tightly covered container. Roll again in powdered sugar just before serving.

Note:  For variety, sift together 1 Tbsp. Hershey’s Cocoa with 1/3 cup powdered sugar. Roll warm cookies in cocoa mixture.



Wheatless Wednesday — Taco Stuffed Peppers


Were there ever meals your parents made that caused you to cringe?  Liver and fish were never options in our house, so I’m thankful to say that those foods never made me fear dinner.  But when I was younger I was not a big fan of beef roast or peas, and my dad would often pair those together.  I’ll never forget the one time (I was maybe 5 or 6 years old) I made the mistake of grumbling out loud about the upcoming meal and was sent to my room with a piece of bread and a small glass of water that wasn’t exactly cold.  True story.

I got the point.

I’m a firm believer that our taste buds mature as we grow older.  I know this because about once a year I start craving stuffed peppers.  I didn’t really like stuffed peppers until a few years ago.  And I now love beef roast.  And peas.  So when my kids are grumbling about the food I put on the table (because that does happen–with beef roast and peas, naturally), I know that someday they will come around.  Until that day comes, I will continue to cook my best and pray that they will somehow like it or at least bite their tongues over the complaints sliding around on them.  

And it never hurts to play to their taste buds a bit…


Taco Stuffed Peppers

  • 3/4 cup long grain rice
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 can (16 oz) refried beans
  • 2 cups chunky salsa, divided
  • 1 package (1 oz)  or 3 Tbsp. taco seasoning mix
  • 3/4 cup frozen corn
  • 3/4 cup chopped olives (optional)
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, divided
  • 6 medium-sized bell peppers (any color)
  1. Move oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Wash and halve each pepper, carefully removing stems, seeds, and ribs.  Set aside.
  2. Add rice to 1-1/2 cups water in medium saucepan. Bring to boil over high heat; add bouillon cube, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until water is absorbed and rice is tender, about 15-20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, brown ground beef in large skillet (12-inch) over medium-high heat until no longer pink (honestly, I like to cook it a little past this, getting a little bit of a good sear on the meat for extra flavor). Add onion and cook till crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add refried beans, 1 cup salsa, and taco seasoning and stir to combine.  Stir in rice, corn, olives, and 1 cup cheddar cheese.  Remove from heat.
  5. Spread remaining salsa in 9 by 13 baking dish.  Carefully spoon meat and rice mixture into each pepper half and place in baking dish.  Sprinkle remaining cup of cheese over peppers.  
  6. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  If desired, remove foil and bake additional 10-15 minutes, or until cheese begins to brown (otherwise just leave covered and bake additional time till peppers are crisp-tender and mixture is heated through).  
  7. Top with crushed tortilla chips and serve with sour cream, if desired.