Birthday poppers, three ways. (Who said it had to be cake?)

My friend Debi had a birthday. Debi likes birthdays, which I think is a really admirable quality in a woman. I can't stand all this womanly secrecy about birthdays. I mean, I don't care how much Oil of Olay you use, or how many $50 products you buy at the shi-shi makeup counters where the twenty year old salesgirls tell you that THIS is the MOST AMAZING moisturizer they have ever tried. Ladies, we're not fooling anyone.

Anyway, Debi embraces birthdays with admirable zeal, and doesn't hide or cower with the passing of the years. Debi has firey red hair and an attitude to match, so for her party this year, I had to bring a spicy dish, fitting of her firecracker self.

Jalapenos are in plentiful supply right now, so I took advantage and did poppers, three ways.

I started with the traditional popper, because it's really tough to mess with something as perfect as a spicy boat of cheese and bacon.

Start by cleaning your jalapenos. I was lazy last night and didn't wear gloves, and Mr. Meat and Potatoes will attest to the fact that I should have, seeing as he had to hear me cry and complain all night that I simply could not do one. single. thing. around the house because my left palm was on fire from too much jalapeno exposure. Seriously, people, this happens.

So, put on your gloves. Then cut the tops off the jalapenos and slice them in half, long-ways.

Then, with a small spoon, scrape the fibers and seeds out of the middle of the pepper. Don't push too hard or you'll break your pepper in half. You'll get good at this - it goes pretty fast.

Set the pepper boats aside, and move on to your filling.

Combine in a medium sized bowl a block of cream cheese, a cup of shredded cheddar, 3/4 cup of bacon (either you can cook your bacon and break it up, or you can be lazy like me and buy that marvelous Hormel product in the bag - real bacon, already in bits!), dried ranch dressing mix, and garlic powder.

Now fill the boats. It takes about a tablespoon of filling per boat, and this amount of filling is enough for 10 jalapenos (20 boats).

Bacon and Cheddar Jalapeno Poppers

10 jalapenos, halved and cleaned
1 block of cream cheese
1 C shredded cheddar
1 T dried ranch mix
1 tsp garlic powder
3/4 C real bacon bits

So I can't just show up with plain old traditional poppers. I mean, I have a reputation to uphold.

So I got to thinking about what else I could do, and seeing as I love salsa that is both sweet and spicy, I thought it might be good to concoct a popper that also brings both of those worlds together. I had a jar of Lindsey's strawberry preserves just sitting there calling my name, so I decided that strawberry was exactly what these jalapenos had been missing all their lives.

To make this filling, just stir together a block of cream cheese, a half cup of strawberry jam, a tablespoon of cumin, and a handful of finely chopped cilantro. Fill you boats. Again, this is about enough for ten jalapenos. Maybe nine, if you like them good and full, like I do.

Oh, baby. Come to Mama. The flavor of the strawberry cream cheese with the cumin - perfection. Add to it a spicy jalapeno. I'm dying inside just thinking about it. So easy, so summer, so ALL MINE.

Strawberry Poppers

10 jalapenos
1 block cream cheese
1/2 C strawberry preserves
1 T cumin
1/2 C finely chopped cilantro

Poppers can go directly onto the grill for just a couple of minutes to heat through. Or you can use a grilling basket - or like we did this time, just put them on the grill inside their disposable aluminum foil transportation containers. Just get em hot, and eat.

If you are, however, the kind of jalapeno noob who doesn't like the idea of just biting straight into a hot pepper, even if it's filled with cream cheese goodness, take heart. I have a solution for you. You, too, can still enjoy poppers, but in a more controlled environment. Popper dip!

My friend Sara Jane, she who is the real popper expert among us and owns special grilling utensils just for popper-making, came up with this little winner of a dish, which is great for when you need to take something with you to a party but aren't sure if there will be a fired-up grill awaiting your arrival.

I have loosely adapted her recipe here, based on my own particular needs, because let's face it. If I'm cooking it, I get to make it how I like it.

Popper Dip

5 jalapenos
1 C bacon bits
1 block cream cheese
1/2 C mayo
1 1/2 C shredded cheddar
1 red bell pepper
1/2 C black beans
2 T dried ranch powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 T olive oil

Begin by chopping your jalapenos and red pepper into a small dice, as uniformly as you can. Put them into a skillet with the black beans and your bacon bits along with a bit of olive oil, and cook until they are all softened but not completely cooked through. You want a little bit of crunch left in them.

In the meantime, combine a block of cream cheese with a cup of cheddar and the rest of the ingredients. When the pepper/bean mix is finished cooking, combine it all and top with the reserved half cup of shredded cheese. Warm it all up in the oven, or even the microwave. I like this with Fritos, for some reason, but the rest of the world prefers a traditional tortilla chip.

I hope my firey friend had a red hot birthday. My hand certainly was red hot all night in her honor, after touching all those jalapenos. I just thought of it as a little reminder of her, on her special day. Seemed appropriate, after all.


Jonathan Kealing 12 years, 7 months ago

Great recipes. And sounds delicious. Your friend is lucky.

linswri 12 years, 7 months ago

Everything looks awesome! Yum! You're a good friends just bring me a bottle of wine...I'd totally take poppers!

Megan Green Stuke 12 years, 7 months ago

Lindsey Taylor, it's all thanks to your JAM. Which, now that it is open, I have to resist eating with a spoon every time I open the fridge. So yeah, thanks for that.

ilovelucy 12 years, 7 months ago

They were quite tasty! Just an FYI, Megan, Margeaux took ALL THE LEFTOVERS left from your peppers and dip. ALL OF THEM. He planned to freeze the dip for later use.
If you ever need a taste tester or human garbage disposal, he's your person. Thanks!! xoxo

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