Stuffed Jalapenos or jalapeno poppers as they’re often called. It’s hard to believe there was a time not too long ago when they were not around. Now they “pop ” up on menus and grocery stores everywhere. Some are filled with the classic- cream cheese, cheddar cheese and bacon and others have seafood fillings with gourmet cheeses. The possibilities are endless! Some are fried, some are grilled, some are roasted. There are special stuffed jalapeno “tools” to purchase to remove the seeds and gadgets to buy to hold the peppers while roasting or grilling!! (FYI, muffin tin works great!)

I do love stuffed jalapeno peppers, but I was never one to pull it off successfully. I usually ended up with a big mess, either the dripping grease from the bacon wrapped around the pepper or the oozing of the cream cheese filling everywhere. I would get excited at times to have mistakenly thought they actually came out perfect, only to bite into one and have a raw jalapeno pepper packed with too much heat to eat!! Do you ever have any of these problems?

If so, keep reading. I’m going to share a couple of tips that will lead to stuffed jalapeno success!

To prepare: I recommend wearing latex free gloves or using sandwich bags on your hands. All it took for me was one accidental wipe of my eye and my contacts to burn for hours to learn this lesson. You can make the jalapenos whole or halved. I prefer halved for the appearance, presentation and ease of cooking and eating-end to stem. See all the seeds and white membrane? This is what holds most of the heat. Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and membranes. Hold the pepper under running water while removing the seeds and membranes, it will keep the spicy juice from shooting up in your eye, another recommendation learned the hard way. If you prefer your peppers a little bit spicy, just leave some of the white membranes. The removed seeds and membranes can also be used to flavor olive oil!

Afterwards, place peppers scraped side down onto a towel to drain. When all done, put peppers in a shallow dish. If you like them spicy, skip next step.

Now, have you ever wondered why the stuffed jalapeno peppers you order at your favorite restaurant don’t seem as spicy as when you make them at home? If so, for an insight, read the ingredient list on a jar of jalapenos? Some restaurants use jarred jalapenos. Notice there is vinegar listed? Vinegar is part of a pickling process, which not only helps remove some of the heat, but also helps the peppers cook faster. If you want to lessen the heat, let’s pickle the peppers!!

To pickle: Put peppers into a shallow dish. Boil some water. Boil enough water to cover peppers. Pour boiling water over peppers and let stand for 5 minutes. Drain. The peppers should feel a little bit softer already! Next, take equal parts olive oil and vinegar (white vinegar is my choice, but have used apple cider, too) and a little sugar. To give you an idea, I used 1/4 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, and sprinkled 1/4 tsp sugar on top. Give the dish a shake to mix liquids. Cover and put in refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight. Drain the peppers and reserve the juice. Use the juice within two days as a marinade, to spice up a bloody Mary or to add zing to potato salad. Rinse and dry the peppers.

To Stuff:  For the filling, the amount will depend on how many peppers you want to stuff. Average, about 1/2 oz of filling per pepper or 3 tsp. I keep it simple, I add 2 to 1 ratio of cream cheese to whatever grated cheese I have on hand (Monterey Jack and Colby cheese is my preferred cheese). Instead of wrapping the pepper with bacon, I like to add cooked crumbled bacon for less mess. For seasoning, add same amount of garlic, onion, and chili powders, for instance all 1/2 TSP in one batch and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Adjust according to taste. I spray my hands with non-stick spray and roll the filling into logs. Judge the size of the logs needed by eyeing your jalapeno peppers. Wrap each cheese log in Saran wrap and put in a freezer bag. Freeze for at least 2 hours or overnight. This slows the cooking time for the cream cheese helping to prevent the oozing mess! Take frozen logs out freezer and lay one in each jalapeno half. They’re now ready for the grill or oven. I like to cook them in the oven. Why? To free up some grill space, you should see my 4th of July grilling menu!

To bake: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place filled peppers side by side on a foiled lined baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until brown. Carefully enjoy all the toasty cheese. I think they call them “poppers” because once they’re done, I can’t wait to “pop” them in my mouth! Which reminds me better make some extra for “popping” and for leftovers! Leftover jalapeno poppers, even the fried ones from your favorite restaurant, can make a tasty entrée Stuffed Jalapeno Chicken with Enchilada Sauce

Put your TO COOK IS TO CREATE Thinking Cap On: Think about all the cheese combinations you can use for the filling. Think about all the meat and seafood combinations, too, just about any precooked protein will work. Stuffed jalapenos see a great way to use up leftovers, too. Think of leftover pulled pork, the last grilled hamburger, or one of my favorite all time fillings, leftover cheese grits. Simply fold in some cream cheese into the cold grits and bake. No need to freeze this filling, the grits hold on to the cheese goodness.

FOOD FUN: How much do you like jalapeno peppers? Enough to beat a record? According to Wikipedia, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut holds the Major League Eating record for jalapeno poppers. He ate 118 in 10 minutes!! WOW! Think I definitely would POP! He must have “jaws” of steel.



Two Secrets to Successful Stuffed Jalapenos

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