The Second Day of Christmas

On the second day of Christmas I began plans for next year…

Peppers are a poppin’–to spread some holiday cheer.

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Although I have claimed this year was the year of the skunk because of Bell’s chance encounter with one early last fall, I could also claim that this year was the year of the pepper. After harvesting more than 1,000 peppers from the garden starting in July, and not picking the last until early November, I’d have to say my pepper crop was a success.

Last spring I planted approximately 35 szegedi, white cloud, and Romanian bell pepper plants, 6 yellow and green bells, and two jalapenos. At least 95% of the peppers I harvested came from the Romanian and szegedi, which was my hope. I canned nearly all of those. The other types were for eating and just a little freezing.

In 2014 I harvested more than 200 jalapeno’s just from two plants and never thought I need to plant them again. Now, however, I can’t wait to plant at least 10 jalapeno’s this spring so I can prepare and freeze the absolute best jalapeno poppers I’ve ever tasted.

For years we have enjoyed the occasional treat of store-bought frozen poppers. I didn’t buy them very often because we try to stay away from processed food as much as possible. The thought of making them myself, however, seemed unrealistic. All I imagined was dropping a cheese filled pepper half, dipped in bread crumbs into my deep fryer and ending up with a pile of goo burning at the bottom.

Experience is a wonderful thing. With all the cooking and experimenting I’ve been doing these past couple of years, I finally felt confident enough to give making my own poppers a try. With experience comes “tricks of the trade” and to make perfect poppers, there is definitely a trick!

I bought a small container of jalapeno peppers, made sure I had enough time to complete the project because doing this right was not going to be short and sweet, and then set to work. The results…perfectly fried poppers pulled from the deep fryer. For the recipe and step-by-step instructions, visit Simply Grateful Cooking Homemade Jalapeno Poppers.

After I was sure that the process and recipe were right, I gave some thought as to how I was going to utilize this recipe next summer. I decided to try freezing a few of the poppers two different ways to see how they would hold up.

First I froze one before I cooked it. The only glitch in doing this I could see was whether or not it would cook through before it browned too much. No problem. It took between 3 and 4 minutes to turn golden brown and the cheese was melted and hot.

The next test was to freeze a deep fried popper and then reheat it. Reheating could be done in two ways: microwave or oven. Both methods worked fine. The microwaved popper heated up faster, but was not as crispy as the oven heated popper, but either way worked great. I microwaved the frozen popper for 1 minute and then 25 second intervals until it was hot and baked the frozen poppers in a 350 oven for 10-12 minutes.

Success! So come this summer I have a new project and a plan. I’m going to plant at least 10 jalapeno pepper plants and hope to harvest 100’s of peppers. I’ll clean, fill, bread, fry, and freeze at least half of them, and then clean, fill, bread, and freeze uncooked the rest. This way I’ll have poppers the kids and Hubby can reheat whenever they want, and I’ll have fresh ones to deep fry next year for holiday entertaining.

What a great way to spend the second day of Christmas – in the kitchen, making something everyone loves, and getting a jump start on my garden plans for the coming spring, and for this I am – Simply Grateful.

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Homemade White Cheddar Thumbprint Crackers/Cookies

Last summer the two jalapeno pepper plants I planted yielded more than 300 peppers.  After canning more jars than I would need in a single year, using some in daily meals, gifting some to the neighbors and family, and freezing some just in case I found another use for them, I still had more peppers than I knew what to do with.  As usual, this brought me to the internet to search for uses for these wonderfully hot peppers.

Jalepeno Peppers

Jalapeno Peppers

One recipe I found was for Jalapeno Jelly.  Thrilled with this new recipe, I made a full batch and put it on the pantry shelf, hoping to find a use for it sometime in the future.  To be honest, I was sort of afraid to even try it.  I like hot things, but jalapeno’s are so very hot, that even testing this jelly was not something I could bring myself to do.

Last week, after I made my Cranberry-Tangerine Spread, I bought some water crackers to eat it on.  Remembering seeing an advertisement where someone used jalapeno jelly over cream cheese and served it with water crackers, I decided to finally test the jelly.  I fixed two crackers.  First I spread a thin layer of cream cheese on each cracker and then a thin layer of jalapeno jelly.  Not wanting to go through this experiment alone, I took the crackers to Hubby and we ate them together.  What a surprise!  I was expecting the jelly to be hot — not sweet. It was both hot and sweet which was a total shock.  Why, I’m not really sure as the recipe called for lots of sugar, but I guess I never thought beyond the hotness.

Hubby absolutely loved it and proceeded to follow me back out to the kitchen and make himself a plate full of crackers.  Totally thrilled, my mind began to race with the possibilities.  I remembered printing off a recipe for a thumbprint cookie that called for hot pepper jelly as the center.  Perfect.  Not only would I have another use for all the jalapeno jelly, but hopefully have a new appetizer worthy of serving to guests.

The recipe I printed off used several ingredients that Hubby doesn’t like — nuts for one.  He isn’t fond of having nuts in any cookie or dip I make.  So, I tweaked the recipe a bit and came up with the following:

White Cheddar Thumbprint Cookies

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  • 1 1/2 Cups Shredded Sharp White Cheddar Cheese (I used Cracker Barrel)
  • 1/2 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 Cup Butter Softened
  • 1 Egg Yolk
  • 1/4 tsp. Pepper
  • 1 Cup Flour

Toppings (optional):

  • Hot Pepper Jelly
  • Cream Cheese
  1. In a food processor, pulse together cheeses and butter until smooth.
  2. Add egg yolk and pepper.  Pulse until blended.
  3. Add flour to food processor and pulse until dough forms.
  4. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet.
  5. At this point you can make an indentation in the center of each ball with your thumb if you wish or use a meat tenderizer as I did to press the cookies flat.
  6. Place cookie tray in fridge for 15 minutes.
  7. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, until lightly golden.  Cool on baking sheet.
  8. If you want to top, place a small amount of hot pepper jelly in the center of each cookie or a small amount of cream cheese and top with hot pepper jelly.

Hubby loved these cookies with and without the jalapeno jelly.  I made the first tray of cookies with thumb indentations and the second pressed flat.

This recipe can be tweaked in many ways.  I can’t wait to try them using different cheeses and possibly some cayenne pepper.  The white cheddar made the flavor of these cookies very similar to that of a Cheez-It, but the texture was far superior and the flavor more pronounced. A definite keeper for my recipe box.

I’m not as open-minded as I’d like to be when it comes to trying new foods, but I’m getting better.  Having Hubby around as a willing guinea pig is a big help in this department, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.