Category Archives: Appetizer

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers

It seems like there are at least two ways to make Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers. I got interested in doing the bacon wrapped version this summer when I was trying to cut down on carbs; the crusted versions of Jalapeno Poppers that I worked on two years ago are good, but a friend said they liked bacon wrapped better, so I decided to investigate that direction both for the lower carbs and for the “liked better” bit.

On the internet, the method for making bacon wrapped poppers gives half peppers; my friend Bill showed me the method for making whole peppers. I will try to show you both ways in this article. A quick summary is shown in this set of images.

To make the half pepper version, we start by cutting the pepper’s stem down the middle such that each half pepper will have a stem. Then we cut the rest of the pepper in half and clean it of seeds and membranes. The filling is as made for the crusted poppers and made ahead of time. A little is put into each half of the pepper, and then the pepper is wrapped with a half slice of bacon.

In making the full pepper version, we start by slicing the pepper in half as close to the stem as possible. Keep the two halves together so they can fit back to make the pepper whole again. Now the filling is cream cheese in one half of the pepper and a hard cheese like cheddar in the other half. You will need to trim the cheese so it doesn’t hang over the edges of the pepper and keep it from closing. I found that the hard cheese would push into the soft cream cheese and absorb much of the difference in size.

While I prefer Cheddar as the hard cheese, I have made these with Pepper Jack, and Monterey Jack; They are all good.

To close the whole pepper, it is wrapped in a strip of bacon; ideally, it would be about 3/4 of a strip but I have no reason to save bacon bits, so mostly use a whole piece. (The half piece in the photos is a little short). A tooth pick holds everything together.

The bacon wrapped poppers can be cooked on a grill like Bill does, but I decided to bake them in my oven. I lined a pan with parchment paper, set a rack in the pan, and the peppers on the rack. For the half pepper version, keep the open side up. For the whole pepper version, I tried to keep the hard cheese on the top. I baked the poppers at 350 degrees for over 30 minutes- until the bacon looked brown; it takes quite a while for the bacon to render all its fat and crisp up.

Spider Eggs for Halloween

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Last year, Brandy showed me her deviled eggs with ripe olive spiders on top. I knew at that time that I wanted to try this idea for Halloween this year. There is quite a bit of work in making these; Brandy said that her twin 11 year old daughters had helped her, so maybe this is a good project at the family level.

I tried to make them on Halloween morning for a party that afternoon, and got myself into a little bit of trouble without realizing it. The hard cooked eggs didn’t peel cleanly; pieces of egg white stuck to the shell causing pits in the egg whites. So after Halloween, I decided to review and research what I knew and didn’t know about making hard cooked eggs. What I learned is that you should not try to peel the eggs as soon as they are cool, but should wait for a couple hours, or even overnight. I guess the egg white shrinks a little and pulls away from the shell. As a result, I have updated my original article concerning deviled eggs-Green Eggs and Ham- Deviled Eggs– to reflect the need to wait longer between cooking and cooling the eggs, and shelling them. (I notice that I left the wait time down at 15 minutes, but I think that is still pushing it, and would go with a couple hours minimum).

In the Green Eggs article, I suggest pushing the egg yolk mixture through a sieve to eliminate any tough pieces. I was going to try to skip that step, but when I saw what I had, I felt I had to sieve the mixture.

The spider is made by cutting a ripe olive in half length-wise, and then cutting one half into 6 legs; I used two cross cuts, and then cut each of those three pieces in half. You could go for 8 legs, but I felt the work of getting 6 small pieces on the deviled egg was enough. (There is one spider in the photo with 8 legs- second one in on the third row).

So plan a few spider eggs for next year. Between Spider Cookies, and Spider Eggs you have both an appetizer and a dessert for that Halloween party.

Zucchini Oven-Baked Crisps

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Normally when we think of crisps, we are dreading having to heat the oil and deep fry the food. These are baked in the oven and come out just the way I like them- tasty and crisp.

I tried a couple ideas when it came to preparing the baking pan that I mention here so you can see the possible choices. I used an 11 x 15 pan. First, I used a small amount of olive oil; it burns easily at these temperatures and left me with a bad cleanup job. Then I tried to line the pan with parchment paper; I was surprised that while the pan seemed protected, there was still burn on the edges of the pan- I don’t know how that burn got there. And the parchment paper was really done for; it crumbled in my hand as I took it out. I think the answer is probable back to a fat with a higher burn point; I believe peanut oil and safflower oil are considered best for being stable in high heat. And remember that the oven temperature actually rises and falls to give an average temperature at which you set the knob- I watched mine one day and it seemed like the excursion of temperature was almost 100 degrees in each way. Perhaps, with that in mind, the answer is to reduce the temperature setting and cook the crisps longer. For now, you will either need to accept where I am in my experimenting, or try changing the parameters yourself.

Zucchini Oven-Baked Crisps

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchini (yellow, green, or both)
  • 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup AP flour
  • 2 eggs

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and lightly grease a baking sheet. (See the August 17th update at the bottom of the page; lower heat and higher smoking-temperature grease).
  • Slice the zucchini into 1/4 inch rounds; this can be done on a mandolin slicer, a meat slicer, or with a handheld knife.
  • Prepare three dishes for dredging the rounds and coating them. In the first dish, place the AP flour. In the second dish, break the two eggs and whip them. Finally, in the third dish, mix the Panko, cheese, salt, pepper and garlic powder to form the coating.
  • For each zucchini round, dredge it in the flour and shake off any excess, then wash it thoroughly with the egg, and finally dredge it in the coating mix. Lay the coated round on the baking sheet.
  • Bake for 25 minutes (See the August 17th update below;- increased cooking time to go with lower cooking temperature). or until the rounds are golden brouwn and crispy. Allow them to cool about 5 minutes on the baking sheet, and then transfer them to a serving try with a spatula.

August 17, 2015: Made another batch today, and used shortening as the pan grease; it worked well without a lot of splatter like I had with Olive Oil. I also turned the oven down to 400 degrees F., and cooked for 30 minutes– lower heat but longer cook time. I think everything worked like I wanted it to work!

Green Eggs and Ham (Deviled Eggs)

Dr. Seuss was the go-to author when the daughters were young, and I am always thinking about rhymes that appeared in his books. So when I was starting to work on St. Patrick’s day, I kept getting into my head “Green Eggs and Ham” I decided I had to do something about it. This is easy, and it can carry over to when you are not doing a St Patrick’s day event. The eggs are basically a bland deviled egg, and the green is food color. I used lunch meat ham under the eggs, cut to a nice size for little fingers to pick up.

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Deviled Eggs

Ingredients

  • Eggs- 6-8 is a nice number, but make what you want
  • Mayonaise- use 1 Tablespoon for every 2 eggs
  • Mustard- use 1 teaspoon for every 2 eggs
  • White Wine Vinegar – use 1/4 teaspoon for every 2 eggs

Because this recipe is particulary bland, you can add other ingredients to suit the taste, such as hot sauce, crumbled bacon, chopped jalapenos, etc.

Directions

  1. Place the eggs in a single layer in the bottom of a sauce pan; fill the pan with cold water to a depth of 1 inch over the top of the eggs. Place the pan on the stove and bring to a boil.
  2. When the water boils, remove the pan from the heat and cover the pan with a lid. Let the pan sit undisturbed for 13 minutes.
  3. Cool the eggs as quickly as possible. Dump the hot water and replace it with cold water. Place a large number of ice cubes in the pan.
  4. As soon as the eggs are cool enough to handle, crack the shells to allow the cold water to get into the shells.
  5. Let the eggs sit in the cool water for at least 15 minutes; longer is better, even refrigerated over night.
  6. Peel the eggs. Cut them lengthwise and remove the yolk to a separate bowl. If you are coloring the egg whites, place them in a bowl of food color and water for a couple minutes, then place them on paper toweling to drain.
  7. Smash the yolks, and add all the other ingredients to the bowl. Mix thoroughly. Push the resulting mixture through a sieve to remove lumps and make it smooth.
  8. Place the yolk mixture in a piping bag, or a plastic storage bag, and cut the corner off to pipe the yolk mixture into the egg whites. Sprinkle carefully with paprika for color.
  9. Serve immediately, or chill until serving time


NOTE: November 5, 2015 After making the Spider Eggs, I decided to test a couple differences in making the Deviled Eggs. First, I tried letting the cooled eggs rest for different lengths of time- 15 minutes and 2 hours and overnite in the refrigerator. I did not leave them in water in the refrigerator. Waiting the 2 hours definitely made peeling easier. The refrigerated eggs had lost much of the air pocket at the big end, and were harder to get started; that is why I mention the lack of water in the refrigerator. They did come out perfectly once I got peeling started.

The second test was to make the filling in the food processor rather than in a mixing bowl. I must say it worked very well; I did NOT feel I needed to sieve the mixture to eliminate the lumpiness I have previously had. I just put everything in the food processor and pulsed it a few times.

Deviled Ham Cheese Logs

Not only is a cheese log tasty, but it is also attractive. If you have a simple party coming up, this is a real treat that you can serve with crackers of almost any kind. It takes only a few minutes to make, and you can make it ahead of the guests arriving. I think the up-coming Super Bowl would be a great time to have these Logs and some crackers ready. And it is still good if your party size is only two.

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I have to admit that daughter Mindy does a much nicer rolling of the logs in the chopped nuts. I may need to take another lesson from her.

Deviled Ham Cheese Logs

  • 4 oz. sharp cheddar cheeese, shredded
  • 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
  • 4 1/2 oz. can deviled ham
  • 1/2 cup pitted chopped ripe olives
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

Have cheddar cheese at room temperature. In a small
mixer bowl, beat cheeses together until well blended.
Beat in deviled ham; stir in olives and chill.
Shape into two 8″ logs. Wrap in cling wrap and chill
until ready to serve. Then unwrap and roll in pecans.
Serve with crackers or small breads

Paté

Here is a very simple recipe that makes a great spread for crackers. It is easy to make, and is great for the small party you might be planning like for Super Bowl Sunday. Even if you small party size is just two, this will make an excellent snack.

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Paté

  • 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • 8 oz. pkg. braunswager or liver sausage, softened
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • dash of salt and pepper

Combine softened cream cheese and sausage, mixing until
well blended. Add rest of ingredients and mix well.
Place mixture on wax paper and shape into a tree or
whatever you wish or pat firmly into a mold that has
been lined with cling wrap. Chill.

Unmold onto serving plate and decorate.

We made our paté for Christmas, and so I shaped it into a tree and decorated it with chopped parsley and pimento pieces. Really, it doesn’t need to be decorated at all; just put it near the crackers and your guests will be scooping it up with the crackers. Maybe the right shape would be a football for Super Bowl Sunday.

Jalapeno Poppers

This year I planted a couple jalapeno pepper plants, and unlike other years, they are really producing. Not many of my local contacts cook with jalapenos, so I was left with needing a way to use the jalapenos. I discovered that I could make jalapeno poppers and a lot of people like them.

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I have made over 100 poppers to date, and that means I have some proofs of what works, and can comment on my experiences. I want to take you through the whole exercise of making these tasty treat. You don’t need to grow your own pepper, you can buy the peppers and make the poppers as a contribution to a pot luck dinner, or for your own entertainment; they are sure to be liked by a majority of the people to whom you offer them.

There are many recipes on the web for Jalapeno peppers; this recipe hides the filling inside the pepper and then breads and deep fries the pepper. I have seen recipes that slice a side off the pepper, and others that do not deep fry the pepper. I have also heard of wrapping the pepper in bacon after it is stuffed, and BBQing the stuffed pepper. I decided I liked this basic recipe and have put my energy into making minor changes rather than trying totally different methods.

The first step is to open the peppers and remove the seeds and membranes. This is the part of the process where the most capsicum is present, and all the warning about not touching your eyes and such hold. In addition, I recommend using latex gloves; one day I did 50 peppers without using gloves, and several hours later I noticed my left hand feeling strange. (I hold the knife and spoon in the right hand and the pepper on which I am working in the left hand). I will go even further and warn you not to have your face over the sink if you are running the seeds and membranes down the garbage disposal; the fumes will really get to your eyes and throat.

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Most of the websites I read say to cut a T shaped slit across the stem end of the pepper and down the side. I tried that, and I couldn’t get the sides of the pepper open far enough to do a good job of cleaning out the seeds and membranes. I discovered that I did a better cleaning job if I cut through both sides of the pepper from the stem to the end. Now the pepper “wings” can be opened far enough to see in and get the insides out. I use a grapefruit spoon- it has a serrated tip- to scrape the insides out.

Occasionally, a wing will break off the pepper; don’t let it bother you with this recipe. I have found that of the 10% of the peppers where a wing has broken off, I have never had a pepper fall apart in the deep fat fryer. The filling and the breading seems to be a good glue and holds the pepper together when you want it to stay. Even though the wing falls off while cleaning the pepper out, it sometimes falls off again up to the point that it gets breaded. So do not fear that you have lost one of your poppers; it will come out okay.

(An interesting side note is that peppers range in the heat they have, and we never know just how hot the pepper will be other than a general range based on type of pepper; a jalapeno is suppose to be one of the mildest of hot peppers, but even they are inconsistent. One blogger I was reading said that he feels that the heat of the pepper is related to the white striation on the skin of the pepper. Thus, in this photo, the near pepper would be hotter than the other pepper.)

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Now that the pepper is open and cleaned, it is ready to fill. This is a simple filling but good; I have had no complaints about it. It consists of a mixture of 1/2 pound each of three ingredients- cheddar cheese, cream cheese and bacon. I use a dessert spoon and scrape the filling into the pepper cavity. Remember, I said that the filling acts somewhat like a glue to hold the wings together, so I start by being generous with the amount I put into the cavity, press the wings together and scrape the excess that pushes out off.

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After filling the peppers, I refrigerate them overnight. I find it is a general rule that you want things cold when you go to cook them. The original recipe said to refrigerate for 15 minutes, so I would assume that is the minimum time, but as I said, I split the process into two days, and refrigerate overnight. In fact, when I start breading and frying the peppers, I only take about 6 out of the refrigerator at a time; this is the number that seem to fit nicely in my fryer, and as I monitor the temperature of the cooking oil, I found that it needs several minutes to come back to the cooking temperature after doing a batch from the refrigerator.

One of the steps of the process that I changed is the breading of the peppers. The process starts like most processes by putting flour on the pepper, dredging the pepper in egg, and then rolling it in the flavored crumbs. I discovered that at this point, a lot of the area of the pepper didn’t seem to have a crumb coating, and I had read somewhere that the coating was better if repeated. So I put the peppers back into the egg and then back into the flavored crumbs. This really does make a big difference in the looks of the final popper.

Jalapeno Poppers

Ingredients

  • Jalapeno Peppers (24-40: the original recipe said 24 but I’ve had enough filling for 40)
  • 8 oz cream cheese softened
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
  • 8 oz cooked bacon, crumbled
  • about 2 cups cooking oil
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3-5 eggs, beaten
  • 40-60 RITZ cracker, finely crushed.

The looseness in the specification of the eggs and crackers is because of the looseness in the specification of the number of peppers. The original recipe was for 24 peppers, 2 eggs and 40 crackers, but only egged and crumbed the peppers once; when I started doing the egging and crumbing twice, I needed more ingredients, and of course, you need more egg and cracker crumb as you do more than 24 peppers, too. I would suggest starting with 3 eggs and 40 crackers, but be ready to add more egg and more crackers.

Cut the peppers lengthwise and remove the seeds and membranes.
Combine the cheeses and the bacon for the filling.
Spoon the filling into the pepper cavity and press the sides of the pepper together.
Refrigerate the filled peppers for at least 15 minutes.

Heat a couple inches of cooking oil in a medium saucepan or a deep fat fryer to 375 degrees F.

Coat the peppers with flour, knocking off the excess.
Coat the floured peppers with egg.
Roll the egged pepper in the cracker crumbs.
Again, coat the pepper with egg, and roll it in the cracker crumbs a second time.

When the temperature is close to the 375 degrees, add a batch (6) of coated peppers and cook for 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve. Let the temperature of the cooking oil recover before adding more peppers.

8 Layer Dip

This dip has a Mexican taste; it starts with Beans, contains Avocado, and ends with with Salsa, and we suggest serving it with Corn Chips. It is big in size, and your problem might be finding a dish on which to assemble it. I would suggest a 12 inch platter as a starting point. And it is bold, with lots of opportunity for spicing it up.
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I purposely built my version of the dip in a pyramid so that the different layers would show; that is not necessary, and you should bring each layer out to the edge of the serving platter. A lot goes into the dip, and you need all the surface you can use for each layer.
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8 Layer Dip

  • 3 Avacados
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cans bean dip or 16 oz refried beans
  • 1 cup green onions, chopped
  • 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 3 chopped tomatoes
  • 1 (4-6 oz.) can sliced ripe olives
  • Salsa

Mash avacados with lemon juice, salt and pepper
(You may use commercial guacomole instead.)

Assemble in layers on a large round or oblong dish:

  • spread bean dip
  • Avocado mixture
  • sour cream
  • onions
  • tomatoes
  • olives
  • cheese
  • salsa

Serve with corn chips for dipping


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I made my version of the dip with the bean dip that is usually in the aisle with the chips; I feel the dip could use a little more spice at that level, and might try one of the refried beans that are sauced up to medium instead of mild. You could also add a little spice in the guacamole (Avocado mixture) with a couple shakes of hot sauce. The sour cream acts to cool the hot tastes down, but if your crowd isn’t into spicy food, you can do just as well with the recipe as given. The only heat I detected in my version was in the salsa.

Hot Crab Dip

I found this to be a simple recipe for a very different tasting dip. I tested it with crackers, but it would go good with anything that can carry the dip to your mouth. Again, a simple recipe with very good taste.
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Hot Crab Dip

  • 3 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 6 oz. can crab meat, drained
    (or fresh crab or imitation krab)
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add rest of ingredients.
Put into a small oven-proof dish and bake at 350 degrees
for 30 minutes.

The only suggestion I can make on the recipe is with the ingredients. They imply that you can buy a 3 oz package of cream cheese. I found only 8 ounce packages, and had to cut one at the 3 ounce mark. I used the canned crab meat, and I didn’t think there was enough hot sauce to give the dip any bite, and would probably use more the next time.
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Enjoy, Errol

Dill Dip

This is one of the simplest recipes you will find, and yet it is a very good dip, especially for raw vegetables. We were standing around testing it before going out to lunch, and someone said we had to stop or we wouldn’t have room for lunch. With this dip, it is easy to just stand by it and keep dunking your raw vegetables.

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Dill Dip

(Joan Cusack 1971)

Mix together thoroughly and let stand in refrigerator to
blend flavors before serving.

  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon dry onion flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Beau Monde
  • 1 Tablespoon dill weed
  • 1 Tablespoon shredded parsley


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I have no hints or suggestions to help you make this recipe. As I mentioned to the subscribers of WidowerRecipes.com, if you are having more than just a few people over to enjoy the dip, better put it in two bowls and spread apart so that there isn’t a bottleneck trying to get at the dip.