Friday, January 17, 2014

Homemade Rodeo Burgers

You'd think two people that love burgers as much as we do would actually make more of an effort to hit the fast food joints now and again, especially when one of them comes up with something that we desperately want to try. There's a even a Burger King a block away from where we live, so it's not even like our transportation woes are any real excuse.

Lately, we've been positively salivating over the idea of their new rodeo burgers. However, we haven't quite been in the mood to actually hit the restaurant and snag a real one yet, so Seth decided to pick up some supplies from the store and whip up a homemade version recently. He is really becoming quite the burger chef. I tell you, it was pretty fantastic finishing up after a long day of writing web content for clients and getting to sit down to one of these.

He used grass-fed beef for the patties and added a combination of aged cheddar and Havarti cheeses. There were also three deliciously crispy onion rings on each patty. They were served on soft butter buns with tangy barbecue sauce and a side of curly fries -- perfection on a plate, basically. Honestly, I'm sure the real rodeo burger is pretty good, but this was most certainly an upgrade as homemade version often are. I've been reminiscing about eating this ever since.

In other news, we'll be celebrating Lent this year and Ash Wednesday is March 5th. Our official Lenten sacrifice is going to pizza in all its glorious forms. However, we're also going to be using Lent as a reason to cut back and be less indulgent food wise in general. Smaller portions, less alcohol, fewer unnecessary treats, and so forth. Probably even a fast here or there. You know the drill!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Easy Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Jalapenos

This is one of those recipes that I keep meaning to write down and post for people because it's just so delicious and easy. We certainly get multiple request for it every time a picture of these floats through Facebook or Instagram. I originally started making these for Seth and I to munch on during the Oscars, but we liked them so much that they've become a finger food staple for holidays or other special occasions. They're certainly a crowd pleaser, because jalapenos!!  And bacon, too, naturally.

As far as what you need, it's the following:

  • Whole fresh jalapenos (each jalapeno yields two of these little poppers)
  • Enough bacon to provide one strip per jalapeno half
  • Stove Top stuffing
  • Velveeta cheese
  • Shredded cheddar (or other cheese of your choice)
  • Sausage or ground beef
I usually work with about eight of the largest jalapenos we can find, maybe half a pound of sausage, and one box of Stove Top stuffing, but you can make as many of these as you like. If you wind up with extra filling, don't sweat it. It's great as a side dish all by itself.

Start by sauteeing your sausage or ground beef until cooked through. Drain any excess grease. We often have link sausages around the house, so sometimes instead of using ground beef, I'll mince a couple of whatever I happen to have on hand instead. Or you can completely forgo the sausage altogether. Or sautee it along with a little minced onion or garlic. It's up to you.

Now you're going to start building your stuffing on top of your sausage according to the directions on the package. As you'll know if you're familiar with making boxed stuffings, you need to bring the water to a boil first... so do that. Then, before adding the actual stuffing mix, add a few slices of Velveeta to the water and stir it until it dissolves completely. This makes your stuffing nice and cheesy with a minimum of fuss.

At this point, fold in the stuffing as directed along with a few generous handfuls of your shredded cheddar and let stand until it's finished. 

You can either prep the peppers ahead of time or do it while your sausage is sauteeing. (I'm not a big planner, so it's usually the latter for me, but you can do whatever you want.) Rinse the peppers thoroughly, slice them in half (stem and all), and then use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and veins.This makes the heat level tolerable, as well as creates a hollow for your filling. Arrange them on a cookie sheet.

Once your stuffing is cool, start dividing it up among your jalapeno halves. (You can preheat your oven to 375 degrees while you're doing this.) Each should have a generous helping just like the picture. Then wrap a slice of bacon around each one before returning it to the cookie sheet. Now pop your finished jalapenos in the oven to bake until crispy and golden brown -- about 30-45 minutes, but cooking times can vary.

I'm a big fan of flexible recipes that leave a lot of room for experimentation and these definitely fit the bill in that regard. Instant bread stuffing is easy to work with and it's also something inexpensive you're likely to have on hand at any given time, but you can use just about anything you think would taste good. I've stuffed these with cous cous before. I've done them with Mexican rice. I've made vegan versions for my mother that involved filling the jalapenos with soy crumbles and topping them with vegan cheese. 

I've even mixed it up when it came to the peppers I used. Seth and I like to live dangerously, so we usually will do a couple of halved and stuffed habaneros along with the jalapenos (just use half a bacon slice, since they're small). We've also done Anaheims and other alternatives if the store happened to be out of jalapenos or something. Really, what you do with these is totally up to you. This is a difficult recipe to screw up and it's affordable to make on a budget for sure, but it's a real crowd pleaser -- perfect for the Oscars, a party, or the Super Bowl

Most recently we had these for New Year's Eve at Seth's insistence. I made a nice big tray of those (along with a couple of stuffed habaneros to mix things up). I also made ground pork sliders with cheese and red onions on mini-ciabatta rolls. The combination of the two is a house staple around here and we look forward to special events that give us an excuse to indulge. We've already made plans to break these out again when Super Bowl rolls around!