A few years ago this book called “The Five Love Languages” came out. I never read it though I remember a lot of people talking about it. I’m hoping that food was included in this text as one of the love languages. If not, it should be. I feel like we here in the south most definitely use food as an indication of love.
Think of all the times we share a meal with friends and family for special occasions and holidays. It’s not only the good times when food is ever-present. When a family member dies, it’s only a matter of hours before neighbors show up with casseroles, sandwiches or pound cakes to be eaten by the grieving who don’t feel like cooking.
Preparing food for others, even if it’s as simple as setting out a plate of cheese and crackers, is certainly a labor of love.
When the food item is somewhat complicated to prepare I think the level of love is even more evident. A favorite casserole called Chicken Swan with Rice is one example from my own childhood. It was always one of the meals I most enjoyed Mamma preparing. A few years ago I helped her make this dish for her dear friend who also loved it. Being a casserole I always figured all the ingredients were just dumped into the dish to cook. Little did I know that this particular recipe called for each of the items in the dish, chicken, rice and broccoli, to be cooked separately before putting them together in the casserole. I realized then how much work it was to fix this and how much my mamma must really love us to put it all together at our request.
My friend Susan, who I met last year in a community theater production, has another recipe that is I think proves how much she loves her fellow cast mates. All in the midst of the stress of preparing to sing and dance on stage, Susan has still prepared this dish to bring for us to enjoy before a show and at our cast party. It involves two of my favorite things, cheese and bacon. Her recipe is a cream cheese stuffed jalapeño pepper wrapped in bacon. It is one of the most delicious things you will ever eat! If you don’t like spicy, don’t worry, you can prepare them in such a way that there is little to no heat.
“I like this recipe because I love the combo of pepper, cheese, and bacon and everyone seems to enjoy them,” Susan told me. “I started making them a little over a year ago for a 4th of July party because I was tired of making the same old stuff for parties and wanted to try something new.”
She has graciously shared her recipe with us. The ingredients are pretty simple although the recipe involves several steps to prepare. If you have an upcoming party or gathering that you really want to impress your guests and show them how much you love them, give this recipe a try.
Susan’s Splendid Jalapeño Poppers
• 12-20 jalapeños
• 1 8-oz. package of cream cheese (Susan uses 1/3 less fat Philadelphia)
• 1 package shredded cheddar (Susan says the brand doesn’t matter but she usually tries to get the three or four kinds of cheddar mix)
• 1 pouch Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix
• 1-2 packages low sodium bacon (depending on the number of jalapeños)
Cut jalapeños in half long ways (trim stem back), clean out center of pepper. Boil jalapeños for 15 minutes (less to keep more of the spiciness.) Ice bath jalapeños for 30 minutes (less for more spiciness.) Mix together cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and ranch. Fill jalapeños just to the edge (don’t overfill because the cheese expands as it melts, extra filling can be made into a mini cheese ball.) Wrap in half a slice of bacon and secure with toothpick. Place on a broiler pan or cookie sheet wrapped in tin foil with a rack to allow for drainage of the bacon grease while cooking. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bacon is cooked to desired crispiness. Be sure to wash hands thoroughly after handling the peppers and if preparing a large number of these, do so in a well ventilated area because the jalapeños release a gas when they are cut into.
Kitsey Burns Harrison is a reporter for The Yadkin Ripple and The Tribune, here she shares her musings on food, life and love. She can be reached at 336-518-3049 or on Twitter or Instagram @RippleReporterK.