Pickled Jalapenos

I’m not the most successful gardener. Over the years I’ve tried to grow a myriad of fruits and vegetables including, tomatoes, squash, eggplant, strawberries, watermelon, sweet onions, bell peppers, hot peppers, and herbs. Some with moderate success, and some (squash and zucchini) with disastrous results. However, I have consistently shined in the herbs and hot peppers department – producing an abundance of basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano and jalapeno peppers. In fact, my oregano is on it’s 5th year of continuous growth! And my peppers are in their second year :)

jalapeno plant

When I went to clear the weeds from my garden this Spring, my three naked and stickly jalapeno plants from last year appeared to have some life left to them. I clipped off the dead woody bits, and moved them to a pot with fresh soil (I nixed my large above ground garden this year in exchange for a smaller container garden on the porch). To my delight, the scrawny half dead plants came back to full life, and produced more peppers than they did the year before. In fact, it’s early August, and they are still producing jalapenos.

Having a successful crop isn’t exactly a problem, but I have run into the inevitable What am I supposed to do with all these jalapenos?? Poppers are always a good option, but the first dozen peppers or so were on the small side. So I let them sit in the fridge until I needed them…..which I didn’t….and didn’t….until Ok, I need to figure something out before they have to go in the trash!

Pickled jalapenos

This recipe for Pickled Jalapenos is mostly void of measurements. The amount of jalapenos varies, depending on the size of your peppers. And the water and vinegar is relative to the displacement of the other ingredients. But you only need to worry about 2 things. First, fill your jar almost to the top before adding liquid. Second, you want a 50/50 ratio of vinegar to water.

Pickled Jalapenos

  • Jalapeno peppers, sliced
  • 1 Lime, sliced
  • 1 Clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. agave nectar
  • 1 tsp. coarse sea salt
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • water
  • Mason jar

Add peppers, lime, garlic, agave and salt in a mason jar until almost full. Pour in vinegar until it comes halfway up the jar. Fill remaining jar with water. Put lid on tightly and shake to combine. Refrigerate overnight before use.

Now back to the original quandary – what to do with all these peppers?? Pickled jalapenos always make me think of nachos. So a heaping pile of grilled chicken nachos is where my first batch went :)

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The Lighter Side of Football Fare

football fare

Despite my team being out of it, the NFL playoffs have made for some exciting TV the last couple weekends. And for me, good football pairs nicely with good food (and cold beer). But the go-to grub for a football spread tends to be fried, fattening, and void of some key food groups. If celery with ranch is the only vegetable on your spread, then your spread needs some work! And don’t worry – I’m not about to spring some lentils or tofu on you. And I wouldn’t even call this “healthy” food – it’s just good food….that won’t be hanging on your thighs/gut after the Super Bowl! So here is the spread – grilled Teryaki Chicken, Cucumber Boats, Baked Spinach & Artichoke Dip, Grilled Corn & Avocado Salsa, and Buffalo Chicken Sausage in Wonton Cups.

Teryaki Chicken

We gotta have some wings. But they don’t have to be fried, and they don’t have to be dripping in a sauce whose main ingredient is butter (although, we will use some of that sauce towards the end of the post). Chicken is a clean slate for flavor – if you want flavor, you need to add it yourself. I started with wings and legs in a brine – salty and sweet, a brine will infuse the meat with moisture and ensure the end result is super tender. It’s ideal to brine the meat over night. But even 2 to 3 hours in a brine is better than none at all.

brining chicked

Take the chicken out of the brine about an hour before cooking time. This gives the meat a chance to rest, and for your dry rub to get comfy. The rub needs to compliment the finishing glaze – which for me is teryaki. So a simple rub of salt, pepper, and Chinese Five Spice will do. Coat the meat, and rub it in good. Let the meat hang out in the fridge, uncovered, until it’s time to cook.

Speaking of cooking – it’s time to fire up the grill! I use a gas grill because of easy/quick start up and very little clean up. If you are using charcoal, put your coals only on one side – we want to be set up for indirect heat. I start my grill on high and let it warm up. Then I turn 1 burner off, and 1 burner to medium-high. Put the chicken over the off burner, and leave it be. It will need to be turned eventually – but don’t mess with it too much. I’d say every 15 minutes, give the pieces a turn. If you are impatient, or just really don’t have the time – go ahead and grill them on direct heat. But the indirect method will yield a crispy skin and tender meat – simulating a fried wing, without all the fat.

Once the meat is thinking about divorcing itself from the bones, it’s time for the glaze. Turn your burner back on, and up to about medium (or just move the meat over your coals, if using a charcoal grill). Brush the wings and legs with the teryaki glaze, and allow it to cook for a minute I like the glaze to get cooked on, with some crispy bits – but be careful, the glaze can burn.

teryaki grilled wings

  • 6 wings
  • 6 legs
  • Brine
  • Dry rub
  • Teryaki glaze (store bought)

Brine

  • 4 C. Water
  • 1/4 C. Salt
  • 2 T. Soy sauce
  • 1/4 C. sugar
  • 1 tsp. Pepper
  • 1 tsp. Tabasco sauce

Combine all ingredients. Whisk until sugar and salt are dissolved. Pour over chicken and seal in a zip-lock bag. Allow to marinate at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.

Dry Rub

  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. Chinese 5 Spice

Cucumber Boats

cucumber boats

If you ever look at Pinterest, then you have seen this recipe from Bite Delite. It looks fresh and flavorful, so I’m giving it a try! It seems an easy addition to our spread. I made some minor changes though. First, I added a little garlic infused olive oil. I aslo added a squeeze of lime juice. I also assembled the boats a few hours in advance. I put the unsliced, filled cucumbers on a plate, and wrapped tightly with plastic wrap. This helped to keep the filling in place when I sliced them.

Spinach & Artichoke Dip

spinach & artichoke dip

WARNING! This dip may vanish in front of your eyes. For real…If you are having a big crowd, you may want to double up the recipe. If you have friends like mine (you know who you are!) you may want to triple it. And how is this “lightened” up, you may ask? Yes, it has mayonnaise and full fat sour cream….but is has twice the amount of vegetables, and half the amount of parmesan cheese as the Joy of Cooking Baked Artichoke Dip recipe.

Make sure that you don’t buy “marinated” artichoke hearts. They are swimming in olive oil, and we don’t want that for this recipe. I buy the quarters, and rough chop them. But feel free to leave them in quarters, if you prefer. This is easily made in advance, just leave the bread crumbs off until ready to bake.

  • 1/4 C. onion, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 C. Mayonnaise
  • 1/2 C. Sour cream
  • 1 14 oz. can artichoke hearts, chopped
  • 1 10 oz. package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1/2 C. Parmesan, grated
  • 1/4 C. Panko breadcrumbs

Saute onion in olive oil until softened. Add in garlic, and saute for another 2 minutes. Combine Mayo, sour cream, onion mixture, artichokes, spinach, and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a greased baking dish. Top with bread crumbs. Spray lightly with cooking spray. Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes. Dip should be bubbly and starting to brown. Serve with crackers, tortilla chips, or warm pita bread.

Grilled Corn & Avocado Salsa

grilled corn & avocado salsa

This is a salsa that I like to make on Taco Night (AKA Margarita Thursday). It’s so colorful, and pops with flavor – the perfect topping to a grilled steak taco….man, I should make some grilled steak tacos soon…. But I always end up with too much of this stuff and find myself hovering over the bowl, with a bag of tortilla chips – it’s too good to let it go to waste! So  today I’m skipping the tacos, and going straight to hover mode.

Feel free to change things up – add some jalapeno, different colored peppers, maybe roasted garlic? But don’t make too much – you don’t want leftovers. Avocados just don’t jive the next day – the texture changes, the browning sets in, and they just start to get funky.

  • 4 ears of corn
  • 1 orange bell pepper, quartered (ribs and seeds removed)
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced into thick rings
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Cilatro
  • Lime juice
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, cumin to taste

Brush corn, onion and pepper with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until corn is cooked through and other veggies are soft. Allow to cool. Cut the corn off of the cob and rough chop onion and pepper.

In a bowl combine corn, onion, pepper, tomatoes, avocado and cilantro. Squeeze the juice of two limes directly into the bowl and drizzle with olive oil (1 – 2 T.). Season with salt, pepper and cumin. Mix thoroughly. Refrigerated until ready to serve.

Buffalo Chicken Sausage in Wonton Cups

Buffalo Chicken Sausage Wonton cups

A few years back my mother-in-law made these Bob Evans sausage cups for a Thanksgiving appetizer. They flew off the plate. But they were a little on the heavy and salty side. I’m using the Bob Evans concept, but I’m lightening it up a little. First change, I’m not using Bob Evans sausage….sorry Bob.

  • 24 Wonton wrappers
  • 1 lb. chicken sausage, removed from casings (spicy, if desired)
  • 1 C. Mexican blend, shredded cheese
  • 1/4 C. yogurt Ranch dressing
  • 1/4 C. buffalo hot sauce (Frank’s)

Lightly spray a mini muffin tin with cooking spray. Line each cup with a wonton skin, to form little cups. Bake at 350F for 5 minutes, until lightly browned.

Saute sausage, breaking into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Drain. Combine cooked sausage, Ranch dressing, buffalo sauce, and cheese. Scoop filling into wonton cups, and bake at 350F for 10 minutes (or until bubbly).

Jalapeno Poppers

poppers

While impatiently waiting on my chili to cook, I decided we needed an appetizer. Baked jalapeno poppers are a quick spicy fix for the hungry, chili craving belly. Enjoy!

  • 6 jalapeno peppers
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili spice
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon onion powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cheddar cheese, shredded

Cut jalapenos in half and scrape out seeds and ribs (leave a little rib tor a spicier popper).

jalapenos

In a small bowl, mix together cream cheese and spices. Spoon cream cheese mixture into each pepper half. Top each pepper with about 1 Tablespoon of cheese.

stuffed pepper

Place peppers in a greased dish and bake at 375F for about 25-30 minutes. Cheese should be starting to brown and filling should start to bubble.

baked

Spicy Chex Mix

spicy chexNothing highfalutin about Chex mix – unless you do something fancy like add cashews. And the only way to make a classic snack better, is to add Tabasco sauce. Feel free to be as liberal (or light-handed) with the Tabasco as you want. If you are a little scared, go light and taste as you mix – you can always add more, even while it cooks. And as far as the measurements and choice of dry ingredients – feel free to change it up to your liking. I’m partial to Corn Chex, so I leave out wheat and rice altogether. I also like to use plain flavored Goldfish crackers – but my mom kills two birds with one stone and uses pretzel goldfish. So mix it up and have fun.

  • 6 Cups Corn chex 
  • 2/3 Cups cashews
  • 2/3 Cups pretzels
  • 1/2 Cup bagel chips (broken into bite size pieces)
  • 1/2 Cup Goldfish crackers
  • 5 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Tabasco sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Melt butter in a small bowl. Add in Worcestershire, Tobasco, cajun seasoning, garlic, onion and pepper. In a large bowl, mix Chex, cashews, pretzels, bagel chips, and goldfish. Pour butter/seasoning mixture over Chex mixture, and stir until well coated. Spread out on a sheet pan, and bake at 250F for 1 hour. Stir every 15 minutes. Once done, spread onto a sheet pan lined with paper towels until cool.