Pimiento Cheese Jalapeño Poppers

Pimiento Cheese Jalapeño Popper image

One of our friends always makes jalapeño poppers whenever we get together. It’s not that they’re a showy dish — in fact, I think their simplicity is part of their addictive charm. I admit that at first I was wondering why they were always on the table, but now I seek them out eagerly. After all, there’s a reason why they’re called poppers.

I might have to switch it up a little on the popper front, though, because these pimiento cheese jalapeño poppers are basically the best way to kick off your end-of-summer party. Why use cream cheese when you can use pimiento cheese, right? (And no, my pimiento cheese does not have cream cheese in it. I can’t do that to my Texan friends.)

Pimiento Cheese Jalapeño Popper ingredients

Honestly, for these poppers the hardest part is getting the bacon to stay wrapped around the peppers. Or maybe waiting for the peppers to cool down enough to eat without searing the top of your mouth. Whichever. The point is, even when making pimiento cheese from scratch, the whole dish comes together quickly, and you can even be a party ninja and do everything in advance, then toss ‘em on the grill or in the oven when the first guests arrive. Twenty minutes later, boom! Mouthful of happiness right there, folks.

I used aged cheddar in these, but you can really use whichever kind of cheddar you prefer. Sharp cheddar is classic, but smoked gouda is also darn good. The great thing is that this makes far more pimiento cheese than you need for the jalapeños, which means you can either set the rest out with a bowl of crackers or make the best darn grilled cheese in history.

Pimiento Cheese Jalapeño Popper photo

I made these pimiento cheese jalapeño poppers as part of the August Progressive Eats! Jump below the recipe for more information on our fun monthly progressive dinners, and get the rest of this month’s recipes.

Pimiento Cheese Jalapeño Poppers

Ingredients

  • 7 to 8 ounces cheddar (or use a mix of cheeses)
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 ounces diced pimientos
  • 1 teaspoon grated shallot
  • Pinch cayenne pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10 jalapeños
  • 8 strips bacon

Instructions

  1. Shred cheese and set aside.
  2. Stir together mayonnaise, pimientos, shallot, cayenne, and salt. Fold in cheese. This can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge until ready to use.
  3. Preheat oven to 400°F or prep grill.
  4. Halve jalapeños lengthwise and remove seeds. Fill each cavity with pimiento cheese.
  5. Slice bacon into halves or thirds (depending on size of slices) and wrap around each jalapeño, securing with a toothpick if necessary.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, or grill 10-15 minutes.
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Welcome to another edition of Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a progressive dinner party. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner involves going from house to house, enjoying a different course at each location. With Progressive Eats, a theme is chosen each month, members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party, and you can hop from blog to blog to check them out.

We have a core group of 12 bloggers, but we will always need substitutes and if there is enough interest would consider additional groups. To see our upcoming themes and how you can participate, please check out the schedule at Creative Culinary or contact Barb for more information.

This month’s theme is Summer Barbecue hosted by Liz of That Skinny Chick Can Bake. You’ll love all the summertime recipes that will be perfect for your next cookout or Labor Day gathering.

Main Course

Appetizers

Bread

Salad

Soup

Sides

Beverage

Desserts

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Monster Cookies

Monster Cookies Photo

First grade starts tomorrow. Last week, my son was conflicted, torn between being excited to be back in school and being nervous about meeting a classroom full of people again. His nerves were calmed when we went to “Meet the Teacher” night and he found out many of his classmates from last year are in his class. He grinned like a fool when one of the school workers remembered him and gave him a big hug.

For kids that are a little quieter, a little more anxious, these small things are a big deal. He’ll need every small win to help him get through the days, weeks, months. My own first grade experience was terrible, but I’m hopeful I can help him navigate the tricky waters of kids learning their way, though that way is peppered with floating mines of exclusion and sometimes fists.

Obviously I can’t be there in the classroom (my tolerance for children doesn’t extend to volunteering as a room parent) but there are small things I’m doing to let him know I’m there for him if he needs a shoulder after a long day. First up, homemade cookies in the lunch box.

Even though I love baking, we generally don’t have cookies on hand in the house. Mostly this is because we LOVE cookies. As soon as they get made, it seems like half the batch is gone. Disappeared, I tell you. Poof.

The exception I make to having cookies is during the school year, when I’ll rotate cookies into the daily lunch treat. Sometimes it’s mini muffins or a piece of Halloween candy, but I always try to put something in his box that is enticing.

Monster Cookies Image

Monster cookies are a sure bet, with their bright candies peeking out. They’re sorta healthy too, because they’re full of oats. My recipe uses Dark Chocolate Dreams, a favorite from Peanut Butter & Co, to amp up the chocolate. However, you can use whatever kind of nut butter you prefer. If your school has a no-nuts rule, sunbutter also works well in these cookies. You could also try my Blueberry White Chocolate Cookies, which are a perennial favorite.

To me, homemade cookies are like edible hugs. After all, that’s what we all need, right? A hug and a cookie.

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Pressed Italian Sandwiches

Italian Pressed Sandwich Image

When I was a kid, I never got very excited about the prospect of sandwiches, with one exception. Every year for the Superbowl we’d order subs from our favorite place near my dad’s work, big bready things that put national sandwich chains to shame.

Maybe it was the idea of being able to choose whatever I wanted on the sandwich or just the ritual of the event, but even now I think about those sandwiches 1,500 miles away. My go-to? An Italian sandwich, with plenty of creamy Italian dressing.

When I started thinking about sandwiches for fall, the season of the sandwich, I inevitably fell back on the flavors of Italian sandwiches. Pepperoni, ham, plenty of onions, an oil-and vinegar dressing. These ingredients are great for any sandwich, but they’re particularly ideal for pressed sandwiches.

Pressed sandwiches are a wonderful option when feeding a family, packing a picnic, or getting lunches ready for the day. I know that the last thing I want to do at 6:30 in the morning is pack lunches — keeping in mind my son’s current tastes, any activities he might have that day, whether he’ll eat last night’s leftovers, if we have any fresh fruit left in the house — so I’ll take as many shortcuts as possible while still being able to provide a home-packed lunch. Pressed sandwiches are made ahead of time and stored in the fridge overnight, making lunch as easy as grab and stuff.

My version uses a homemade vinaigrette, though you can use any other dressing or spread you like. Don’t skimp on the dressing, because it will meld into the sandwich as it rests, distributing the flavor all through the thick bread. Do make sure to use a bread like focaccia or ciabatta, which will stand up to the ingredients and not be too mushy or too hard after pressing.

It might not be the Italian sandwich of my childhood, but it’s a pretty darn good substitute.

See my post for Pressed Italian Sandwiches over on Recipe.com!

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Declutter & Deep Clean for Fall (Recipe: All-Purpose Orange Cleaner)

Get cleaned up for fall with a giveaway from Casabella.

Homemade Cleaner Photo

My son’s new backpack sits in his closet, loaded up with brand-new supplies, each one marked with his name. I learned my lesson with giving in to a character backpack last year, and upgraded to a JanSport that should last for more than one year of toting homework folders and lunch boxes. The old backpack sits among the pile of stuff we need to haul away, part of my ongoing project to reduce the amount of things we have in the house.

Back-to-school time is the ideal time to do a bout of heavy cleaning and decluttering. For those of us with kids, we’re already taking stock of outgrown clothes, replacing broken scissors, and realizing shoes have been run bare by summer’s escapades. It’s time to throw stuff out, so why not expand your critical eye to the rest of the house? Getting the house ready for fall will help get the school year off on the right foot by setting a calmer atmosphere, and it will also help ease the transition into the holiday season. (Yeah, I said it. Winter is coming.)

There’s two methods for getting your house in shape:

  • Room by Room: Completely declutter and clean each room or area before moving on to the next. This is great if you have a large chunk of time to devote, and no small ones underfoot as you purge and clean. Also, much like the debt snowball, it gives a greater sense of satisfaction — particularly if you can shut the room off while you work on the next!
  • Grab and Toss: Move through the house putting things away and tossing trash, cleaning in wherever you end up. This works best if you have a bit of a scattered brain, are continually interrupted, or need to multitask while cleaning.

I like a combination of both, first making a pass through the house sorting and tossing, and then getting down and dirty in one room. While we always have a “donate” pile in the house, clutter always seems to sneak its way back in, and I love the fresh start a big clean gives me.

My checklist for fall cleaning:

  • Remove outgrown/unworn clothing
  • Organize summer treasures (shells, rocks, etc)
  • Discard broken toys
  • Clean blinds and HVAC vents
  • Wash refrigerator bins
  • Deep-clean oven
  • Scrub floors
  • Take stock of pantry items, removing expired items and refreshing ground spices
  • Take stock of bathroom cabinets, removing hotel shampoos, unused nail polishes, etc
  • Sweep out garage and store summer toys
  • Toss any plants that were killed by summer’s heat

These tasks are in addition to our regular cleaning of course, but are items that always need special attention after a season of lazy days. I confess that while I absolutely adore decluttering, I don’t get too excited about cleaning. Luckily I have a few tools to help make cleaning a cinch, created by the designers at Casabella.

Homemade Cleaner Picture

My most hated task is cleaning slat blinds — aside from taking them down and hosing them off in the driveway, they’re just awkward to clean. When I saw that Casabella created Window Blinds Gloves I knew they would make my life easier. I’m happy to report that they work even better than expected, because your hand can get in between each slat so much easier than a wand cleaner, and reusable microfiber means not wasting tons of cleaning wipes.

The Microfiber Vent Brush is also fantastic. I have two cats who shed like it’s their job, and the hair manages to get everywhere, including our HVAC vents. This thin tool gets between the grates so easily, and the length makes it a lot easier to reach our ceiling vents.

My other favorite new tool is the Quick Scrub Double Sided Spray Mop. We’ve used mops similar to this one, but the scrubbing power was lackluster, and I never quite felt like the floors got more than wet. The head on this one is made of scrubby microfiber, not a spongy pad, and I can use whatever cleaner I want in the attached tank. It’s so easy to use, I’m thinking of making this my son’s new after-school chore. He can even mix the cleaner himself! All you need is vinegar, orange peels, a jar, and some patience.

Are you ready to tackle your house for fall? Thanks to the folks at Casabella, I’m giving away a set of cleaning gear! Simply enter via the Rafflecopter widget below, then grab the recipe for homemade orange cleaner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy cleaning!

Homemade Cleaner Image

All-Purpose Orange Cleaner

Ingredients

  • 1 quart Mason jar
  • Orange peels
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Cloves (optional)
  • Water

Instructions

  1. Place orange peels and cloves (if using) in the mason jar, then fill with vinegar.
  2. Let sit for 2 weeks, then strain into a clean jar.
  3. To use, add mixture to a spray bottle and dilute with water. I like a 1:1 ratio, but your preference may differ depending on the strength of your cleaner.
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Disclaimer: I received the products above for the purpose of review. I was not otherwise compensated, and of course, all opinions are my own.

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Blackberry Basil Crumble

Blackberries and basil photo on Stetted

The first time I visited a farmers market was in 2007. Our family had gone through big changes in the six months prior, having bought a house and then had our first child. I remember toting the baby in my Beco, squinting against the Texas December sun, and being disappointed that there was pretty much only greens on the farmers’ tables. Greens that, aside from lettuce, I was completely unfamiliar with. I think we went home with a head of broccoli and some eggs, but I vowed to return in a better month.

I had been prompted on this trip by reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, in which Barbara Kingsolver and her family spend a year eating only local food. I’m not sure how I came upon the book, other than being a fan of her other work, but I was completely enchanted with the romantic picture of living off the land. With the addition of the baby, I was determined to find better solutions to our family’s food chain, and this site morphed from random ramblings and a log of what we ate to a more developed recipe blog.

Blackberry Basil Crumble photo on Stetted

Looking back I was a bit insufferable when it came to certain aspects of food, and as my kids have gotten older, I’ve realized there’s so much more involved in eating than just proclaiming local is best. After all, if I stuck with local, I would hardly ever get to eat my beloved raspberries.

During my insufferable time, I discovered Texas blackberries. Growing up “blackberries” were actually black raspberries, and for a few years I was quite disappointed by the plump, tart berries that grow here. I longed for the fruit of my childhood, but instead was presented with blackberries the size of my thumb, and peaches whose fuzz made my lips tingle.

Blackberry Basil Crumble pic on Stetted

Oddly, it took a trip back north a few years ago to embrace the blackberry. Wandering the market in Madison, I snagged fresh-picked raspberries and we devoured them on the capital lawn, languidly stretched out on the grass. The best of summer. That memory went into my pocket, and I realized by shunning Texas blackberries I was missing out on eating off the bramble, staining my fingers with purple, and showing my kids how lovely summer can be.

This blackberry basil crumble is based on the version in Kingsolver’s book. The first time I made it, back in 2008, I was skeptical about the inclusion of basil, but it freshens up the dish, making it more than just a mouthful of sweet. The addition of almonds adds a subtle mellowness, and if you serve it with vanilla ice cream, it might just be the best late-summer dessert ever.

Blackberry Basil Crumble image on Stetted

 

Note: You can make this gluten-free by swapping out the flour for your favorite GF blend.

Blackberry Basil Crumble

Ingredients

  • 2 pints blackberries, washed and patted dry
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves (not packed)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F and lightly butter a 1-quart casserole dish.
  2. Chop basil leaves and stir with blackberries and honey.
  3. In a food processor, pulse almonds until finely chopped. Add flour, salt, and brown sugar and pulse a few times to mix.
  4. Cut butter into chunks and pulse in until mixture forms crumbles, some large and some small. You can add more butter if it isn't crumbling properly.
  5. Pour blackberry mixture into casserole dish and scatter crumble over the top. (You might have extra crumble, depending on the depth of your dish. You can store extra in the fridge and use it on coffee cake or muffins.)
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until crumble is browned. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.
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No-Bake Mocha Marble Cheesecake

No-Bake Mocha Marble Cheesecake photo on Stetted

I keep making desserts this summer, even though we’re not really a family that eats lots of desserts. I think I view each recipe as a challenge, trying to figure out exactly what will end up in my entertaining repertoire for the dinner parties I envision having. I can’t quite figure out when those dinner parties would happen, since bedtimes put a high-pitched damper on a festive atmosphere, but that doesn’t stop me from from making up reasons to cook dishes that serve 10 for a family of four.

This no-bake mocha marble cheesecake is one of those make-ahead desserts that seem fancier than they are. The hardest part is making sure your cream cheese is sufficiently soft so that it mixes smoothly, creating no minefields of unsweetened cheese in the middle of the dessert. The cheesecake is meant to be marbled , but if you’re swirl-inept like I am, it will look and taste just fine as layers instead of swirls.

You can always skip using the coffee, but because the flavor here is very subtle, I think you should go for it. My preference is to use cold-brew coffee, although any regular coffee should work fine. The coffee replaces some of the milk in the recipe, and you could also boost the coffee flavor by adding instant granules to the melted chocolate.

I highly recommend using superfine sugar, also called caster sugar, in this recipe. Because you’re not baking the cheesecake, the finer grind of sugar will blend into the cream cheese better, helping to ensure the final dessert is smooth, not gritty. You can easily create caster sugar at home by blitzing granulated sugar in your food processor, blender, or spice grinder, until it is finely ground but not powder.

Check out my post for No-Bake Mocha Marble Cheesecake over on Recipe.com!

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