Poppers that Pop

If you are just in the mood for a bite sized treat or making something for the big game jalapeno poppers are sure to please. These little spicy bites of heaven have been passed around parties for as long as I can remember and since there never seem to be any leftover the next day I will go out on a limb and say that people must really like them. I know I do. I have tried many different varieties over the years and everyone seems to have their own special way of doing them. Some swear by the type of bacon you need or the size of the jalapeno and even the brand of cream cheese for the perfect flavor. For some its a science and for others its just something you throw together to please the party goers. Either way they always seem to turn out great. For this recipe I have taken a couple of elements from several different poppers that I have tried and come up with what I will now call my “go to popper”.

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What you need. (This is for a small batch to serve 3 to 4 people)

12 large raw jalapenos (whole)

1 8oz container of Philadelphia fat free cream cheese

1 lb hickory smoked bacon

1 lb maple breakfast sausage

at least 24 toothpicks

Prep and cooking.

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First get the sausage started cooking in a pan on the stove over medium heat. You want to get it nice and brown and crunchy for texture.

Now while the sausage is cooking, cut the stem end off of the peppers and then cut them in half long ways so it looks like you have a fleet of little green boats. Be sure to remove all of the seeds and white membrane inside.

The sausage should now be done and ready to drain any fat off of. Just line a bowl with paper towels and poor the sausage in. The paper towels will absorb most of the fat. Now gently pull the paper towels out from under the sausage and out of the bowl. You will leave a little fat in there but it will be fine because you have gotten most of it out. Now mix in the cream cheese with the sausage until you get a nicely mixed paste.

Now for the fun part.

With a spoon go ahead and start filling each jalapeno half to the top. You don’t want it to overflow that much but make sure it is full.

Once you have all of the halves full open the bacon and cut the entire slab in half. Half a slice of bacon is perfect to wrap around the center of the jalapeno. You will hold the bacon in place by sliding a toothpick through from one side to the other.

Now it is time to cook them. You can do this a couple of different ways. My preferred method is on the grill. Turn it on medium high heat and let the grill heat up. If you have a top rack I like to sit them up there for a few minutes with the grill closed but it is not needed. Place the poppers on the grill and cook until the bacon looks done. You don’t want to get it too crisp but you do want it to be thoroughly cooked. You will most likely get a few black ends but don’t worry, they taste better that way.

You may want to keep a spray bottle of water on hand while cooking these. The bacon is going to drip and it will cause flare ups when the grease catches on fire.

That is how you make poppers that pop. They turned out great and that is why these will now be my “go to poppers”. If you are feeling a little adventurous try sprinkling just a little garlic powder on top before sticking them on the grill.

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I hope that you all enjoy these.

Thanks for reading,

JMW

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Breakfast Sandwiches

Everyone that knows me knows that breakfast is my favorite meal. So much so that I have been known to have breakfast for lunch and even dinner on more than one occasion. While I love all types of breakfast foods and combinations of them, one of my favorite things is breakfast sandwiches. Yes the kind you get from fast food restaurants (I am a sucker for a sausage McMuffin). I don’t now why but they are a guilty pleasure of mine that I tend to enjoy way to much. Oh and its not just one kind either, I enjoy the breakfast sandwiches from several different fast food restaurants. It just depends on my mood as to which one I go to.  This however does create a bit of a problem when it comes to trying to eat right and drop a few pounds, which is something I am working toward right now. So I set out to create my own breakfast sandwich that I can make at home that cuts out a lot of the fat that you get from fast food places but still tastes great.

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Here is what I did

What you need:

(this makes two sandwiches)

Butterball Smoked turkey sausage (one link)

2 slices Kraft fat free cheese

4 slices Natures Own White/Wheat bread

2 eggs

1 teaspoon smart balance heart right buttery spread

Non stick cooking spray

Here’s how to make it:

Coat a non stick skillet with the cooking spray and heat to medium high heat. Add a teaspoon of smart balance to the pan and let it melt while spreading it around with a spatula to coat the bottom of the pan. Take your bread and separate into two stacks so that it looks like you have two sandwiches with nothing in them. Put them in the pan and toast them on either side (leaving the middle part un-toasted. This step is just like making a grilled cheese with no cheese in between the two slices. Now put them on a plate and separate the pieces so you have 4 pieces of bread toasted side down on the plate in a big square. Two slices for the bottom of the sandwich and two for the top.

Cut the sausage link in half and then cut both halves in half long ways down the middle. Spray a little more non stick spray in the pan and place the sausage cut side down and cook to your desired amount of done-ness. I like mine cooked pretty well but some people like it just warmed up a little. Turn them once and cook on the other side. Now place them on the bread (two pieces for each sandwich). Then place a slice of cheese on each sandwich so it will start to melt.

Reduce the heat in the pan to medium and crack two eggs in it. Cook on one side a couple of minutes until the white starts to firm up. Now add a little salt and black pepper for flavor and flip both eggs over. Once flipped over gently pop the yolk so it runs out and starts to cook. As much as I love a runny yolk it doesn’t work to well on a sandwich.  Let the eggs cook for another minute or so and then place on top of the sausage and cheese and add the other piece of toasted bread on top to finish off the sandwich.

That my friends is how to make a tasty low fat breakfast sandwich. There are several reasons for doing it this way. Using the smart balance to toast the bread adds a little extra flavor that reduces the need for topping it off with Jelly, Mayo, ketchup or whatever you like to put on your sandwiches that tends to add extra fat or unwanted calories. The other ingredients are to me the best tasting brands out there for fat free and low fat food of its kind. When combined they taste great and make a great sandwich. While this is not 100% health food it is a lower fat alternative to the high fat and processed versions of what you will find in a fast food restaurant.

Enjoy

Thanks for Reading,

James

A new Year after a Holiday Scramble

Hello everyone. I am back for another great year of fun and food. I hope that you all had a great holiday season and are ready to get back into the swing of things.

I was on vacation over the Christmas break and I was faced with an unusual challenge while staying with my In-laws. What kind of challenge could this be you ask? No, it’s not the usual challenges people face when staying with In-laws because mine are great people and easy to get along with. I am very lucky in that respect.  It would instead be what to make for breakfast in a kitchen that is not really set up to be functional but more decorative and does not really have any two items that go together in the fridge. I love my in laws to death but they live very different lives in regards to food and don’t really have the variety in the fridge that I am used to. So like a contestant on Top Chef heading into a difficult quick fire challenge I started scouring the kitchen to see what I might be able to come up with. Trust me on this, it was no easy task.

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After digging through the fridge, pantry, cabinets and drawers and looking under several rocks, here is what I was able to come up with.

Ingredients

Eggs

Frozen Tater Tots

Frozen chopped onion

Sliced vegetarian cheese

Frozen Italian Meatballs

Black Pepper

Salt

Rubbed sage

Butter

I know that you just read that I thought to yourself “Maybe a couple of those items work together but certainly not all of them”. Well my brain made sense out of them and came up with something that was filling and quite delicious. Everyone involved was pleasantly surprised.

I started out by melting butter in a non stick pan and adding in the frozen onions and tater tots. My plan was to make a rough version of home fries/hashbrowns. While those were heating up I thawed out a couple of meatballs to test and see if I could do anything with them. They ended up being quite bland and I was about to toss the idea of using them when I remembered seeing rubbed sage in the pantry. Now is where the brain juices kicked in. I decided to thaw out a few more meatballs and chop them up into small pieces and toss them into the pan to brown. I started adding black pepper, salt and rubbed sage and to my surprise it started smelling like breakfast sausage. I know that some of you probably saw this coming, seeing as how sage is a component of most breakfast sausages but I was still very happy at how it was all coming together. By now the “sausage” has started to brown and crisp up and the tater tots have broken into smaller hashbrown like pieces. I added a little more sage and then stirred in the eggs that I had whisked up and ready to scramble. When the eggs were about done I added a piece of the vegetarian cheese and melted it through the entire scramble, just for a little extra consistency.

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I will admit to being pretty skeptical about trying this but I am so glad I did. The meal turned out great and if you had not known what was in it you would have sworn it was a breakfast sausage and egg scramble.  Keep this in mind that next time you are looking in your fridge and think to yourself that you have nothing to make. With a little thought and maybe even a little inspiration from MacGyver you never know what you can come up with.

Thanks for Reading

JMW

Lazy Day Recipe Help #3

I think you will find that most of my lazy day recipe help blogs will revolve around breakfast. While I do come up with on the spot things for other meals breakfast is usually the one I experiment with the most in trying to make quick and easy. Today we are all about breakfast tacos. I know some of you will read this and say “what are breakfast tacos”? This makes me sad to know that there are places in the this country that do not serve breakfast tacos. Shame, Shame, Shame. But back to it.


I woke up one morning and was having a hard time figuring out what I wanted to do for breakfast. I did not want to pick something up and I wasn’t really up for cooking and elaborate meal that morning so I opened the fridge door and stared in waiting for something to jump out at me. I had smoked a nice big brisket the weekend before and had a few pieces of that left over. I of course had eggs and I remembered that I had saved a couple of left over tortillas from dinner a couple of nights before. So with that a plan started to form in my groggy early morning brain. Brisket breakfast tacos. “mmmm good”

Tip: Always keep eggs in the fridge. They are a very versatile and easy to make.

In a medium bowl I whisked up three eggs and poured them into a hot pan to scramble. When those were done I placed a few pieces of the brisket in the same pan and let it heat up (this doesn’t take long and makes a nice crispy edge that is wonderful). I took those out and added them to the plate with the eggs and then dropped in a tortilla. I heated those one at a time (since I was using the small pan that day) and heated them until them were soft and easy to roll.

Tip: If you do not have brisket a piece of leftover steak sliced thin or even microwave bacon can be used to make an equally tasty meal.

I laid out the now warm tortillas and then placed and equal amount of egg on each one. Then I added a slice of brisket to each, but after looking at it thought to myself that something was missing. I looked in the fridge and thought for a minute…CHEESE!!! I grabbed the bag of shredded cheddar and sprinkled a little on each taco then added a few drops of hot sauce.  Now all that was left to do was fold them up and enjoy. They turned out great and only took about 15 minutes to make (I was moving slow that morning).

 

Thanks for reading

JMW

Grumpy’s Mexican Cafe

Great ***

Pretty Good

OK

No Thanks

Every now and then I get a taste for good ole home cooked food like I grew up on. I remember standing in my Grandma’s kitchen as she would cook breakfast and the smell of the bacon and eggs frying and the biscuits baking was almost too much to have to wait for but of course she would always slip me a piece of bacon when no one was looking. Every now and then I run across a place that brings those memories back and I am happy to say I can add another to my list. Grumpy’s Mexican Cafe is just that place. Located just outside of 1604 on Nacodoches near Garden Ridge this little place is just far enough off the radar to have almost escaped my site but not quite. I don’t know if you like more traditional San Antonio breakfast dishes like breakfast tacos and huevos rancheros or a more southern style like biscuits and gravy or chicken and waffles, but whatever your pleasure is you can be sure to find it at Grumpy’s. I have tried several different dishes over a few visits to Grumpy’s but kept forgetting to take pictures until I was about half way through the meal. Yes it is that good. But I was able to set my excitement aside on one trip and get a couple of pics of the biscuits and sausage gravy I finally decided to give a try. I only say finally because biscuits and sausage gravy are one of those dishes that I doubt I will ever find as good as Grandma used to make but do get brave enough to try every now and then just to see.

I will say that the gravy was great even though it was pretty different from Grandmas. I’m pretty sure they didn’t use a cast iron skillet to cook it in but it was tasty non the less. The biscuits on the other hand were just like she was back in the kitchen mixing them up herself. They were moist and flaky and not dry and crumbly like a lot of restaurants make them.  You can order a half order or a whole order. Half an order is one biscuit split in half and a whole order is two biscuits both split in half. I ordered a whole order and now know that next time I will get the half order. This is a lot of food.  The gravy has a nice texture and flavor that compliments the biscuits but needed a little more black pepper to get up to my standards. You can get the gravy with or without sausage, but whats the point of biscuits and gravy if you don’t have sausage in the gravy? This meal also comes with a side of hash browns that are pretty tasty with a hint of a butter flavor and two eggs however you want them cooked. I had mine over medium because I like the yellow runny but not the white.

Like I said earlier I have been back several times and tried multiple things on the menu but did not take pictures. I guess I will have to go back and try them all over again. It’s hard being me.

A couple of note worthy dishes to mention and ones I know I will be getting again is the chicken and waffles and the country fried steak. Great tasting fluffy waffle and had breaded chicken coated with powdered sugar and syrup and a large side of potato twisters which are kind of like a giant twisted potato chip that covers half the plate. This is one to try. And the country fried steak will take up most of your plate and can be cut with a fork it is so tender. Don’t forget to get a side of biscuits instead of toast. They just compliment everything.

Grumpy’s isn’t just a breakfast spot but also has a lunch menu that has quite a few great looking selections that I will have to try some day.

So you can guess that after reading this I will without a doubt be back for more. I hear they have a pretty incredible steak and eggs breakfast that is now on my list of dishes to try.

Thanks for reading

JMW

Lazy Day Recipe Help #2

I bet you get up some mornings and are getting ready for work and get stuck in that moment when you have to decide on making something at home or stopping and picking up something on the way in and in that moment you usually decide to pick something up because you don’t think there will be enough time to make something. Don’t fall for it! You are telling yourself a lie. Breakfast is a very important part of the day and is also very simple to make. The most important thing to do is plan ahead.

When I go for my weekly market trip I make sure to pick up various items to use throughout the week. This last trip I spotted some croissants in the bakery and picked up a pack of 8. I also try to keep things in the fridge like eggs and something easily microwavable like microwave bacon or sausage. You don’t always have to do everything fresh and elaborate. Most times the easy to put together stuff will taste better and leave you more satisfied than if you pick something up at a drive through.

Tip: Keep a pack of microwave bacon (or sausage)in your fridge. It lasts for a while and is quick and easy to prepare. If you are concerned about health then there are a couple of really good microwave turkey bacon’s available.

So for my lazy morning breakfast I pulled  a few items out of the fridge to get started. A few strips of microwave turkey bacon, a couple of slices of fat-free cheese, 2 microwave sausage patties and two eggs. I also set out two of the croissants I picked up earlier in the week.

Now I know you are thinking that sounds like a lot of work and that you would rather just hit a drive through. Well it is actually not a lot of work at all. The entire process took me less than 10 minutes. I got out a frying pan and turned on medium heat and sprayed it with non stick oil. While it is heating up I laid out the bacon on a paper towel and stuck it in the microwave for a minute. I then cracked the eggs in the pan and sprinkled with a little salt and black pepper. While those started cooking I removed the bacon and put in the sausage for a minute and a half. Then it was time to flip the eggs. Once I turned them over I used the spatula to pop the yolk. I know some people like it to be a little runny but if you plan to eat this in the car on your way to work you don’t want something drippy and runny in your hand. While the eggs were finishing up i cut the croissants in half for sandwiches and then scooped the eggs out on to a plate. I then laid the croissants cut side down in the pan to heat them up and give them just a little bit of toastiness. They only take about 45 seconds to warm up.

Tip: While croissants are always best fresh you can heat them up in a frying pan to give them back a little bit of the toasty, crunchy flakiness for your sandwich. This will allow you to buy a few more to keep throughout the week. Or you can just use toasted bread if you like.

Now it is time to assemble the sandwich. lay down egg on the bottom half of the croissant, place a slice of cheese then put down the bacon or sausage and cover with the other half of the croissant. There you have it. A quick simple and very tasty breakfast that will rival almost anything that you can be handed out of a window of a fast food place. You don’t have to use croissants either as a couple of slices of toast will work just as well.

Tip: It’s all in the seasoning. If for some reason you have a problem with making eggs that taste like the do in a restaurant remember these two things. Salt and Pepper. a few sprinkles of salt and black pepper go a long way to transform your eggs from bland into a taste sensation.
Well I hope that this can get some of you motivated in the mornings to treat yourself to a home-made delight instead of just heading off to the drive through.
Thanks for reading

JMW

Omelet Making 101

I know many people out there have attempted to make an omelet only to get egg stuck in a pan or burnt on one side or just have it fall apart completely but I am here to tell you that there is hope. It have taken me a while to come up with my technique for omelet making which is surprising because it was actually pretty simple once I figured it out. The most important thing to have to make a successful omelet at home is a small to medium non stick pan with a lid. There are many different types of omelets and many different ingredients to put in an omelet so I will not try and sway anyone one way or the other with what to add because we all like different things. Instead I will just walk you through the process of making an omelet using the ingredients I decided to use on this occasion. I also know that some people like to add the ingredients to the egg mixture and cook it all together. I’m sorry but this is not an omelet to me. This is just scrambled eggs with stuff in it. So I will be showing you how to do what I consider a real omelet.

 

Ingredients

 

1 small bell pepper

1 small white onion

1 roma tomato

2 tablespoons of minced pickled jalapenos

2 ounces goat cheese

salt

black pepper

2 to 3 eggs (depends on how hungry you are)

 

 

Prep. Dice up all the veggies (keeping the tomatoes separate from the onion and bell pepper).

Coat a non stick pan with a non stick spray and heat to medium heat.

Cook Onions and both kinds of peppers until they start to caramelize. You want the onions to turn clear and the edges to start to turn brown. This brings out the flavor in them. Once they start to turn brown add in the tomatoes and cook for a couple more minutes. You will see the tomatoes start to soften up and change color. Scoop them all in to a bowl and add the goat cheese. Stir it all together and set aside. Now rinse out the pan, spray with non stick spray and heat on medium heat with the lid on it.

In a mixing bowl beat or whisk the eggs until the yolks and the whites are blended together.

Now add the egg mixture to the heated pan and cover for about 20 seconds. Remove the lid and tilt the pan in a circular motion so that the uncooked egg starts to make a thin coat around the sides of the pan. Add a little salt and black pepper and replace the lid for another minute. Using the lid traps the heat and lets the top of the egg cook along with the bottom so there is no flipping involved. Now remove the lid and the egg should be solid on top and not move when you jiggle the pan. If the eggs still jiggle a bit put the lid back on for a few more seconds until they are ready. Now take your filling and scoop it out into a nice layer on one half of the egg. Using a spatula flip the other half of the egg over on top of the mixture closing your omelet. Replace the lid for another 10 to 15 seconds to let everything heat up.

Now you are ready to plate your omelet. Have a plate standing by and take the pan in one hand and a spatula in the other. Hold the pan over the plate as close you can and tilt it toward the plate. Use the spatula to guide the omelet to the plate and it should slide right out with no trouble. Now you are ready to eat. You can add a little salsa (or hot sauce as it is called here is SA).

You of course can use whatever filler you would like but I do urge you to give mine a try. I hope that this helps at least a few people in your future breakfast endeavors.

 

Thanks for Reading

JMW