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Papa Loved Peppers!

By Gini Rainey

I must apologize to any of my blog followers I might still have.  With all of the life’s busyness our family has been through in the last couple months, one of the first things I (sadly) had to set aside was writing my weekly blog.  My designated writing time for the past several years has been following church every Sunday.  It became apparent it was more important for me to have Sunday lunches with my in-laws as my 101-year old father-in-law, Tom, slowly began winding down his life on earth.  And I must say, I am very glad that I was able to enjoy that time with him because he passed away on December 30th. 

I’ve sitting here for the past hour reminiscing about how very much he loved to eat.  Snacking was a number one favorite for him, and it seems like there was always a plethora of snacky-type food around their house.  In fact, one of the things I was supposed to be sure to retrieve from the rehab hospital when he was moved home for hospice care was his cheese balls and cookies.  If he didn’t eat anything else for breakfast, he was sure to have the cookies and coffee which had become his daily staple.  And, while many of us would say that’s not a very nutritious diet, who among us will live to be 101?  Maybe Tom had the right idea after all!  You know “Life is short! Eat dessert first!” 

I received a lovely cookbook for Christmas from my sister.  “The Great Minnesota Cookie Book” with 190 pages filled with beautiful colored photos, was written by Lee Svitak and Rick Nelson and published by University of Minnesota Press, features award-winning recipes from the Star Tribune’s Holiday Cookie Contest.  Flipping through the pages makes me want to get up and make a few dozen cookies right now! 

One of the recipes that jumped smooth off the page at me is for Hot and Sassy Peanut Butter Buds, mostly because Tom is on my mind and he loved peppers – the hotter, the better, and this recipe calls for cayenne pepper!  As unlikely combination as this might seem, I can only imagine how wonderful that surprising zing of hotness will be. 

So, to make these cookies, whisk together 1 ¼ cup flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, and 2 tablespoons sesame seeds.  In another bowl beat ½ cup crunchy peanut butter and 1/3 cup unsalted butter until creamy.  Beat in ½ cup packed brown sugar and add 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.  Slowly add flour mixture, a third at a time, until thoroughly combined. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.  When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350° and line baking sheets with parchment.  In a small bowl, whisk together ¼ cup granulated sugar and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne.  Shape the dough into 1-inch balls, roll in the sugar/cayenne mixture and place 2 inches apart on the baking sheets.  Bake until slightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes, and remove from oven to cool before transferring to wire rack to cool completely. 

In a double boiler over gently simmering water, melt 3 ounces dark chocolate infused with chile, and ¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips, stirring until smooth.  Frost the tops of the cooled cookies with the melted chocolate and place on wax paper to set.  Once again, in a double boiler, melt 3 ounces of white chocolate and drizzle over the cookies.  Oh, my goodness, this will be so yummy and zingy, your family and friends will want you to make them all the time!  I just wish that I had received this book a little earlier – I just know that Tom would have loved these spicy peanut butter/chocolate cookies for breakfast, lunch AND dinner! 

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