Sweet and Spicy Pepper Poppers

I’ve always loved spicy food, but I never really loved the heart burn afterwards. Yeah, I had prescriptions for that, but they didn’t always work. It was odd though, that when I cut out the grains and sugars I no longer had heart burn. I always blamed my heart burn on the jalapeño or the salsa, never did it occur to me that it wasn’t the things I ate the least of, but maybe it was the things I ate the most of, and the same things spiked my blood sugar.

I always thought the local Mexican restaurant’s food was just too spicy for this spice loving girl. When I began bringing my own things to dip in the salsa and asking for my fajitas to be served without the rice, beans, and tortillas, I quit having the after effects that normally plagued me after a spicy meal. I also quit having those high blood sugar readings. I learned that a meal of meat and vegetables was best for me as an individual and that romaine lettuce leaves make awesome tacos and wraps.

Early in my journey I was lucky to cross paths with some amazing people who not only were on a path similar to mine, but they were some good cooks too. My first experience with non breaded Jalapeño Poppers was from Cori’s Low Carb Life. These became a staple in my meal planning. Over the past couple years, I’ve made some changes to save time, when another friend, Theresa started using sweet peppers instead of jalapeños and thus began this recipe:

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Oh sweet peppers, where have you been all my life? Your colorful beauty feeds my eyes while your sweet taste makes my taste buds dance!

Ingredients:

10 – 12 sweet peppers, 1 8oz pkg cream cheese, softened, 1 t “slap ya mama” hot spice (or creole seasoning, what ever you have on hand), 1 T mayo, 1/2 c cheddar, shredded (shredded cheddar contains potato starch and/or corn starch as an anti caking agent. Grating your own will not save time, but it will prevent you from digesting starchy additives), 3 slices thick cut bacon, chopped, fried, and drained on paper towels, and parmesan for “breading”.

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Step one: Wash peppers and slice in half lengthwise. I like to keep the stems on and just slice through them, it keeps the filling from running out and it looks pretty.

 

You will need a sharp knife and a cutting board.

Place a damp hand towel or damp paper towel under your cutting board to make it more stable.

You will also need a small metal spoon to remove the membranes. I like using a baby spoon for small peppers because baby spoons are small and they just work better than big spoons for the task.

 

pepper before and after

Firmly hold pepper in one hand, dig spoon in just below stem and scrape all the way down. The right is what your prepped pepper should look like.

I don’t always plan for poppers, sometimes I just happen to have the ingredients and decide “I bet poppers would be good with dinner”. Luckily, cream cheese tends to soften in the same amount of time it takes me to prep my peppers.

If your cream cheese is not yet softened by this point, don’t despair, just go ahead and grab a large baking sheet and a silicone mat if you have one, if not, don’t worry, you can use cooking spray.

 

Once you have your baking sheet lined or greased, place peppers, cut side up, onto prepped pan. You want to have a little space between them.

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Unlike cookies, you don’t need a full two inches of space, you just don’t want them touching.

Once you have your peppers on your baking sheet, move it some place safe. It really is no fun if you set them in a place where they could potentially end up in the floor. With kids, grandkids, and a cat, we don’t follow the five second rule, we have the “pig” rule. If it hits the floor, rinse it off, put it in a freezer bag for the pigs, and start over. Yeah, it’s a sucky rule, but I know where our cat’s feet have been 😉

 

In a mixing bowl, combine your cream cheese, mayo, slap ya mama (the seasoning, not the actual act ha ha), cheddar cheese, and chopped bacon.

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the yummy goodness that fill our peppers…

 

Using a fork or small wire whisk, mix well. It is easier if your cream cheese is softened. If by some chance your cream cheese is not softened, use a bit of elbow grease and stir harder, it’s tough, but not impossible. The end result is worth all the pain and suffering cooking your own foods can present. Besides, once you’ve tasted what your own hands can create, you will never again purchase pre-made processed poppers from your grocer’s freezer section. Besides, saving a little time is no match for great taste, and for what you’re paying for the frozen kind, you will save money too.

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Once the stuffing is mixed, I like to use a small scoop to put a dollop onto each pepper half. It is at this point that I preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

 

When you have a dollop of stuffing on each one, simply mash it down to fill each pepper half. It’s a messy job, but someone has to do it. Remember, your taste buds will thank you later.

 

 

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This is a side view of the filled pepper halves, over filling will cause flowing over. To help prevent that, don’t over fill them. I like it best when the filling is flush with the pepper.

With our oven preheated to 375°, press down the dollops of filling, making sure to keep it even with the pepper tops. Over filling the peppers results in tipping over, filling lava running all over the pan. Not only is it messy, it’s a waste of darned good stuffing.

A tip if your peppers are wobbly. Turn pepper half over to the solid side. Gently cut off a small slice of the skin area, making a flat spot. Put it back on the pan and it shouldn’t wobble any longer.

 

Once you have the filling mashed into each pepper, take some Parmesan cheese (I use the kind in the jar because it looks more like “breading” than the fancy parmesan) and sprinkle over the tops. Don’t worry if you get it all over the baking sheet, it’s no easy task to make crumbles of cheese fall exactly where you want them.

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These are the filled pepper halves sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, they are ready for the oven now.

 

Place your tray of peppers into your oven that has been preheated to 375°. Make sure to place them in the middle. Having an older oven, I’ve found that placing them on the bottom rack makes for burned bottoms. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with burned bottoms if you like them, but I really don’t like them.

 

I like to cook the poppers for 20-25 minutes. It lets the tops get a little browned while keeping the peppers firm enough to not be “squishy”. If you like squishy peppers, cook them a little longer, maybe 30 minutes, but be sure to check them at the 25 minute mark so that the cheese filling does not burn.

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The finished poppers.

 

Sometimes I serve poppers on Mondays with meatloaf, sometimes I serve them with taco salad.

Sometimes I just eat them by themselves.

Sometimes I find that there are a couple left over from dinner the night before and I eat them for breakfast. This is a really rare occasion because there are usually no left over poppers in our house.

 

A couple important things I need to say: 1. taste your filling. Because we used mayo instead of raw eggs, the filling is ok to consume raw. You are just taking a little taste to see if you might like them a bit spicier. The teaspoon of Slap Ya Mama does not make them overly spicy, tasting your filling prior to waiting for the finished product will help you to have a finished product more suited to your tastes. 2. Clean as you go. There is nothing worse than spending a lot of time making something delicious and then having a mess of dishes waiting on you. 3. If you have kids, let them help. There is no greater feeling than the feeling you get from teaching your children or grand children how to cook. It is a gift that will last a lifetime and will also help them to see that not everything we eat comes out of a box.

I leave you today with a photo of one of the peppers used in this recipe. We found it funny how such an innocent looking fruit could be so spooky on the inside. Unsure of what to do with it, we stuffed it and ate it. It wasn’t very spooky after 20 minutes at 375°!

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If you come across a spooky pepper while prepping just stuff it, cook it, and eat it. It was hard to tell which one of us got the spooky pepper once they were cooked, but we had fun guessing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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