Christmas Cookies – Pretzel and Hershey Kiss Bites

It is holiday season, and one thing that I probably would never thought I would really get into from a cooking experience is baking cookies. I think that ‘time’ is currently on my hand and when I heard my wife and daughter talking about making cookies for guests this year, I decided I would get my feet wet and dive in. This baking of sweets is something I typically always stay on the sidelines with as I am not into desserts or sweets (I stand corrected), so I have always let my wife take the lead during this time of year.

I’ve said it countless times of how I am not into desserts, and I stood by that for many, many years. That is until recently. Now, I cannot get enough of sweets, whether it is candy, cookies, bars, or anything in between… I am trying these sweets, loving every bite, and making attempts at baking. So to say the least, I have been on a roll in the baking zone now for nearly a few weeks now, typically batching out at least two different types of holiday cookies a week. This recipe is just too simple not to make and the combination of sweet and salty just make them very addictive. These are the Pretzel and Hershey Kiss bites.

Christmas Cookies - Pretzel and Hershey Kiss Bites
Christmas Cookies – Pretzel and Hershey Kiss Bites

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag mini salted pretzels
  • 1 bag Hershey Kisses
  • 1 bag Christmas colored M&Ms
  • Parchment paper, optional

That’s it. Sometimes it is crazy to think about how little a few ingredients combined can make something so delicious and addictive. This is one of those.

Preheat oven to 175 degrees.

Now for the monotonous part, and a great task to hand over to kids. In my case I was home alone and I had to take this one over. Talk about a test of patience, this is it but if you can get over this hurdle, then you are going to be a winner.

Lay the pretzels onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Unwrap and place a Hershey Kiss onto the center of each pretzel piece.

Repeat until all pretzels are completed. Place the sheet(s) into the preheated oven and bake for about 7-10 minutes, making sure that the kisses do not melt. You want the chocolate to be nice and glossy.

Carefully remove them from the oven and gently push a M&M piece into the Hershey Kiss. Repeat (again, super monotonous) until all Kisses have been topped. I place the baking sheets in my garage for about 10 minutes to set. Did I mention I love having the garage as my second refrigerator/freezer?

Once the chocolate is cool and hardened a bit, plate them up, take a few for snacking, and freeze what you want in a ziplock bag for future holiday plating.

Your patience will pay off, trust me. I know mine was well worth it seeing the expressions on my kids faces, and their constant intake of these little morsels. Hope you enjoy and I’m curious as I trek through lots of holiday baking… what is your favorite holiday cookie?

Pork Loin Jerky Recipe and a Holiday Slate Cheese Board

I’m a big fan of good jerky. Do you find that it is typically a ‘guy’ thing to eat jerky? For whatever reason it seems that I rarely see a woman get excited to tear into a bag of jerky, but when a guy sees that jerky is available well then it seems like it is a whole different ball game. I know from my experience that seems to be the case, and hence why I tend to make my own. I just think that when looking at the cost, and ingredients for that matter, that jerky can be expensive. Not only that but I do not even know what a lot of those ingredients are in the jerky! Recently there were pork loins on sale and as I was purging one of our large freezers for a good thaw and cleaning, I decided to pull a couple of pork loins out to be used as sandwiches, but then quickly thought of trying out making jerky with the lean pork. Glad I did because this pork loin jerky was money well spent.

Pork Loin Jerky Recipe
Pork Loin Jerky Recipe

Let’s get started on this simple pork loin jerky recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lb pork loin, trimmed of fat, cut into 1/2 inch medallions with the grain
  • 1 tbsp worchestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 2 dashes of liquid smoke, hickory flavor
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

First start by cutting the pork loin. I like to have mine almost slightly frozen so that it is way easier to slice, and you get really even slices.

Mix all of the everything but the pork in a bowl. Mix it really well. I like to use kitchen safe disposable plastic gloves when mixing so if you have them, strap them into place. Make sure all of the pork is completely marinated in the pork, and gently massage if possible. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator overnight to marinate, or at least four hours.

Next is the food dehydrator. Make sure the grates are cleaned and everything is ready to go. take the bottom rack and start laying pieces of the pork around the tray. Keep in mind some dehydrators are different shapes so the racks may be rectangular. If you are baking, Google ‘how to make jerky in the oven’. Do not crowd or overlap any of the pork pieces.

Continue with the pork on the remaining dehydrator racks. Stack the racks accordingly, cover, and turn on the dehydrator. For the most part you are done and simply have to wait about 5 hours for the pork to be jerky.

Pork Loin Jerky Recipe
Pork Loin Jerky Recipe

Once the jerky is done (it should be completely dry, but not like a shoelace as you still want to be able to easily eat through it), take them off of the rack (they will be slightly hot) and let cool before storing them. Once cooled, I like to keep half and then vacuum seal the rest. I learned the hard way some time ago when making a batch of jerky that when I placed them into a ziplock bag that the moisture got trapped and when pulling some out of the refrigerator, only a couple of days later, they were covered in mold. No bueno.

The end result is a really great pork jerky. Heck you would probably not even know it was pork if it wasn’t for the medallion cut! The light smokiness was all due to the liquid smoke, and trust me a little goes a long way. My taste testers came out of their rooms with excitement, and sure enough the pork loin jerky was a hit. The pork jerky makes a great holiday snack and can go well with an array of holiday servings, and in my case cookies and cheese.

The board I like to serve holiday appetizers on is this slate cheese board from Brooklyn Slate Company (comes with a nice maple cutting knife, chalk, bag, and you can even get it engraved). The cheese board actually elevates the low brow jerky into a more stunning presentation. Having the jerky on the board, alongside some funky cheese and some homemade cookies only resulted in a couple of slices of cheese being left, only after minutes of setting it out on display. The slate board that attracted so many quickly became a hit. I did not even get to use the chalk to write little notes on the board such as ‘pork jerky’, ‘manchego’, and ‘pecan pralines’. Next time. There is always next time.

Brooklyn Slate Cheese Board
Brooklyn Slate Cheese Board, @hometonest #hometonest, #slatecheeseboard #charcuterie #gifts

Happy holidays everyone (I know it’s early but my schedule is so random nowadays)! If you are looking for a unique appetizer to share, or a great holiday vessel to serve on, give these two a shot. They are both well worth it!

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