Jalapeño Cheese Stuffed Pickle Poppers

So, yeh, this happened.

And truly, it is wicked tasty!

And simple to toss together.

And really, who hasn’t considered cutting whole dill pickles in half, then scooping out the seeds and filling the hole with a jalapeño and hot sauce mixture before wrapping the pickle halves in bacon and baking.

I’ve made these twice in the past week.

For two different gatherings.

And they were quite the hit! Well, except for with Ruth. I totally forgot that Ruth does not care for pickles. Oh, well, I did have her fave crackers, and the wine was nice, and the dinner, if I do say so myself, was nice.

But, back to the pickles…

•Dill pickles
•Sliced bacon*

•1 container (7.5 oz) whipped cream cheese with jalapeño
•1/2 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
•1 tsp dried chives
•1 tsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce – or your fave hot sauce, to taste

*1, 12 oz package of bacon should be enough to make 16 poppers. I used Trader Joe’s uncured, dry rubbed bacon.

HINT: a thin, 1/4 tsp round metal measuring spoon worked a treat at scooping out the pickle seeds.

Note: can’t find jalapeño cream cheese at your market? Use whichever flavor you prefer and add your own jalapeños. Might I suggest these sweet and hot candied jalapeños?

First things first, make your cheese filling by combining those ingredients together in a bowl and mixing together until well blended.

Transfer to a covered container and stash in the fridge until needed.

Slice the pickles in half, then, using a spoon (that 1/4 teaspoon measure worked much better than a regular teaspoon, but use what you have), scoop out and discard the seeds.

Pat the pickle halves down with a paper towel, then set aside to dry out a bit.

Line a rimmed baking pan with foil, then insert a baking rack into the pan.

Note: you don’t have to use the baking rack, but cooking the pickles on it will give you more all around crispity bacon wrapped pickle poppers.

Baking rack or no, apply cooking spray to the baking pan and/or rack.

Using a small knife, spread the cheese filling in each pickle half to fill.

Wrap one strip of bacon around each pickle half in a spiral to cover. Arrange on the baking pan.

Note: you can fill and wrap the pickles ahead of time and stash ’em in a container in the fridge.

When you are ready to bake the pickles, heat your oven to 400º.

Arrange the pickles in your prepared baking pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the bacon is cooked.

Arrange your pickles on a platter and serve with ranch dressing.

Ermmm… if I might…

This homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing is dead simple to toss together, but very, very good.

Zippy cheese stuffed, bacon wrapped pickles. Who’d a thunk it?

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Marinated Pork Tenderloin

Consider the pork tenderloin.

Wicked easy to overcook and turn into a dry, tasteless hunk o’ meat.

Now… consider this pork tenderloin.

Moist, tender, and oh! so tasty, with just the right amount of char from the grill on the outside (I credit my husband for his expert grilling – about 25 to 30 minutes over medium direct heat), but I’ll take credit for all of the rest of it.

My secret? A new marinade I tossed together to use up a condiment I don’t usually keep on hand – though that may very well change, now.

•1-1/2 to 2 lb pork tenderloin

•1/2 tsp curry powder
•1/2 tsp ground ginger
•6 cloves garlic, minced
– or use an immersion blender
•1 tsp dried basil
•1 tsp rosemary
•1 tsp dried parsley
•1 tbsp steak sauce (I used A.1.)
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1 tbsp Cowboy Candy Juice
– or use your fave sweet chili sauce
•2 tbsp olive oil

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Add the marinade ingredients to a beaker or sturdy jar, then use and immersion to blend well and chop the garlic – the marinade will be quite thick.

A note on the garlic. Due to quality issues with fresh garlic around here, I use roasted California garlic from the olive bar at my market. Since they are roasted, they are milder than raw garlic; so feel free to adjust the amount used to suit your own tastes.

Place the pork tenderloin in a gallon sized zipper bag, then pour the marinade over.

Close the bag and toss to coat all sides of the tenderloin with the marinade.

Stash on a rimmed plate – for to catch any drippage – in the fridge for a few hours or, always more better, overnight.

Give the bag a toss and a turn when you think to, and move some of the marinade around over the pork.

About and hour before you are ready to grill, remove the pork from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.

Heat your grill to medium and add the pork. Grill for 25 to 30 minutes, turning every six minutes or so to sear all sides of the pork.

Transfer the pork to a platter, loosely cover with foil, and set aside to rest for five or ten minutes before slicing.

Perfectly grilled, and perfectly tasty!

We didn’t even think it needed any additional sauce or seasoning; though the grilled Marinated Asparagus with Feta cheese made for a really nice side dish.

Note: this amount of marinade was perfect for one, 1-1/2 pound or so tenderloin. If you are cooking for a crowd, certainly double (or triple) the amounts called for.

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Honey Garlic Chicken Wings

These are, without doubt, my new favorite chicken wings!

Nicely zippy, and, actually, not too, too bad for you – since these are baked, not fried.

Oh, and did I mention that they can easily be gluten free – by using almond flour or G-F panko crumbs in place of the flour in the wing seasoning mix?

Add in the home made – and better – Ranch Dressing, and I think we have a winner!

Wing Seasoning:
•2 tbsp flour – almond flour works, too
•1 tsp garlic powder
•1 tsp onion powder
•1 tsp sweet paprika
•1/2 tsp dried parsley
•1/2 tsp dried chives
•1/2 tsp curry powder
•1/2 tsp celery salt
•1/2 tsp barbecue seasoning
•1/4 tsp black pepper
•1/4 tsp Cayenne
•1 tbsp veggie oil

Honey Garlic Sauce:
•1/2 cup honey
•3 tbsp rice vinegar
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1 tbsp lower sodium Tamari
•1 tbsp Zippy Mustard (or Dijon)
•1 tbsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce – or your fave hot sauce, to taste
•6 cloves garlic, crushed
•1/2 tsp black pepper
•1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
•1/2 tsp garlic powder

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

A note on the garlic: I use roasted California garlic cloves from the olive bar at my local market, and so use more than six cloves (because roasted are milder). Feel free to adjust the amount up or down according to your taste.

Heat your oven to 400º, line a baking pan with foil and, if you have one insert a baking rack. Apply cooking spray to the rack.

Add the chicken wing seasonings to a gallon sized zipper bag, close, and give a good shake to combine.

Add the chicken wings – one of our local markets sells just the drummettes, which is what we prefer – and toss to coat well.

Pour the oil in over the seasoned wings, close the bag and toss to coat well.

Note: these amounts are good for one, 1-1/2 lb or so, package of wings. If you want to make these for a crowd, I find it easier to prepare the seasoning mixture in separate bowls for each package of wings used; then season and add oil to each package individually.

Arrange the wings on the baking pan and pop into the hot oven for 45 minutes.

While the wings are cooking, make the honey garlic sauce by adding all of the ingredients to a beaker and blending together with an immersion blender.

Transfer to a covered container and stash in the fridge until needed.

Note: this will make more honey garlic sauce than is need for the dozen or so wings I made for just us for dinner – which is a good thing, because, as it happens, it is also pretty darned tasty on pork, too.

After 45 minutes in the oven, remove the wings and toss with enough of the honey garlic sauce to coat well.

Return the wings to the baking pan and pop back in the oven for another 15 minutes.

Wing perfection, if you ask me; and totally not horrible for you! Minimal flour, just a bit of oil – and the option of gluten free, too; it really doesn’t get much better than this!

We thoroughly enjoyed ours with some of that home made Ranch Dressing and a lovely side of broccoli slaw.

All in all, I’d call it a fine week night dinner; but I would guess our friends would also call these more than welcome munchies.

Best. Wings. Ever.

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Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

Fergettabout those packets at the market; real buttermilk ranch dressing (and dip) is as close as your fridge and spice cabinet.

And better!

I use this interchangeably as a dressing and a dip, but if you prefer the thicker dressing or dip, fell free to mebbe cut the buttermilk in half and use sour cream or crème fraîche to thicken things up a bit.

But first; a note about buttermilk…

You do not have to buy it!

All you need to make your own buttermilk is milk (I use whole milk) and lemon juice or white vinegar.

For each cup of buttermilk needed, add one tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar in a measuring cup, then add milk to make one cup. Give it a whisk, then let rest for ten minutes or so.


Note: for this recipe, place 1-1/2 teaspoons of lemon juice or vinegar in your beaker, then add milk to measure 1/2 cup. Stir and set aside to rest.

•1/2 cup buttermilk
•1/2 cup mayonnaise
•1 clove garlic
•2 tsp dried shallots
•2 tsp dried chives
•1 tsp dried parsley
•1/2 tsp dried dill weed
•1/2 tsp dry mustard
•1/4 tsp black pepper
•1/4 tsp Aleppo pepper
•1/8 tsp Seasoned Salt

Whisk all the ingredients together until nicely blended – an immersion blender works a treat here; if you don’t have one, be certain to chop you garlic and shallots well.

Transfer the dressing to a covered jar and chill until needed. I would recommend letting it rest in the fridge for a couple of hours to allow the flavors to blend.

Very nice on a salad, and practically perfect on chicken wings!

Oh, and that interesting jar behind the ranch dressing bottle?

That, my friends is honey and roasted garlic sauce, which makes for a fine batch of chicken wings!

Those details, tomorrow.

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Balsamic Marinated Grilled Asparagus

We like asparagus most any way, but this recipe, where the asparagus is marinated in balsamic vinegar and oil with garlic and shallots before being grilled is one of my new top ten faves.

I used a fig balsamic vinegar and a mixture of avocado and canola oils (all avocado oil, much like olive oil, will solidify in the fridge, so I thinned it out with canola oil); but feel free to use your preferred balsamic and swap out the oil(s) to suit your taste and pantry contents.

•1/2 cup fig balsamic vinegar
•1/4 cup avocado oil
•1/4 cup canola oil
•6 roasted garlic cloves, smashed
•1 tsp dried shallots
•1/2 tsp dried oregano
•1/2 tsp black pepper
•1/2 tsp sea salt

•1 bunch asparagus, trimmed

Whisk the marinade ingredients together in a small pitcher, then pour over the asparagus in a gallon sized zipper bag.

Flip the bag a couple of times to ensure all the spears are nicely coated with the marinade, then place on a rimmed plate (for to catch any drippage) and stash in the fridge for at least eight hours or – always more better – overnight, giving the bag a flip when you think to.

When ready to grill, remove the asparagus from the marinade (discard the marinade) and shake off any excess.

Grill the asparagus over medium heat for about eight minutes, until it is crisp-tender, and a bit charred in spots.

Since the grill was on, we had ours with Beer ‘n Buttermilk Marinated Pork Chops.


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Beer ‘n Buttermilk Marinade

So, YEH, I have featured buttermilk and beer marinades before, here, and here, among others; but this time, I’ve mixed things up a bit, and am even happier with the results.

Give it a try, I think you will be, too.

I used bone-in thick cut chops from my butcher, but this marinade will work every bit as well with chicken, too, so go ahead and put a batch together today – just remember, an overnight soak is best!

•1 tbsp Sherry vinegar (or white vinegar)
•Milk to measure 1 cup
•12 oz beer (not “lite”)
•1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
•2 tbsp brown sugar
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1 tbsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce – or your fave hot sauce, to taste
•1 tbsp Zippy Mustard (or Dijon mustard)
•3 or 4 crushed garlic cloves (I use roasted garlic)
•1 tsp curry powder
•1 tsp rosemary
•1 tsp thyme
•1 tsp black pepper

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Add the tablespoon of vinegar to a beaker of measuring cup, then add milk to measure one cup. Give it a whisk to mix, then set aside to rest for five or ten minutes.

You have just made your own buttermilk.

Add the beer, brown sugar, Worcestershire and Sherry Peppers Sauce, Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce, and the mustard and whisk until well combined.

Place the pork chops (or chicken) in a gallon sized zipper bag and add the crushed garlic, curry powder, rosemary, thyme, and black pepper.

Pour the marinade over the chops in the bag, seal, pressing out any excess air, then give a couple of flips to evenly coat the chops and distribute the garlic and seasonings.

Place the bag on a rimmed plate – for to catch any drippage – and stash in the fridge for a few hours or – you know this by now – always more better, overnight; giving the bad a flip and a turn when you think to.

When ready to cook, remove from the marinade (discard the marinade and the bag), and allow the chops to come to room temperature.

Grill as you like, then allow to rest for five minutes before serving.

Wicked tasty chops! Loaded with flavor, moist and tender, and lightly charred here and there from the grill. Perfection.

We enjoyed ours with grilled marinated asparagus. Look for that recipe…


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A Timely Repeat. Cloudy Canning Jars?


this happened.

I was sterilizing canning jars in a boiling water bath and, when they came out, they were like this.

At first, I could not imagine what the problem could be, but then I went onto the internet. Turns out, our water, which is actually pretty good from Lake Michigan, was the problem.

Fortunately, there was a wicked simple solution.

White vinegar.

For the cloudy jars, soak ’em in vinegar, then wipe them clean.

To process the jars, and when actually canning, add about 1/2 pint of white vinegar to your canning pot and bring to a boil.

Sterilize your jars and then fill and process them with the vinegar solution.

No more cloudy canning jars.

I love it when a plan comes together.


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Antipasto Pasta Salad

So, yeh, fergettabout the mayonnaise for this salad; and, while we’re at it, let’s fergettabout the gluten, too, because we’re making this salad with chickpea pasta!

Penne chickpea pasta, blanched asparagus, grape tomatoes, chopped marinated artichoke hearts, onion, Feta cheese, and assorted Italian style deli meats – I used coarsely chopped, uncured salami and sopressata – and it was tasty!

But first, let’s talk about the pasta…

We’ve been using Banza brand and have been loving it for the most part, though friends swear by the chickpea and lentil pasta. Every store in my area is different; some carry the gluten free pastas in with the regular and “carb smart” pastas, some carry them in their “organic” section, and some have dedicated “gluten free” aisles.

Chickpea pasta is not quite as absorbent as regular pasta, so, it will not soak up as much of the dressing (and flavor), but it’ll still get the job done.

Another thing about the chickpea pasta is that, on the back, with the cooking instructions, it says to “expect foam.”

No sh… ermmm, shucks, Sherlock!

But – after using my tall stock pot to cook the pasta, and battling the foam by near constant stirring; I’ve discovered that cooking it in a lower, wider Dutch oven style pot yields much less foam, so, cool!

•1 pkg penne pasta, cooked, drained, and rinsed according to package instructions
•Assorted Italian cold cuts, sliced into thin strips
•Sliced Peperoncini, drained well
•1 jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
•Grape tomatoes, quartered
•Blanched sliced asparagus*
•Thinly sliced onion
•Basil, fresh chopped or from that tube in the produce section of the market
•Crumbled Feta cheese
•Italian Dressing

A note on the feta cheese. I am loving this Wisconsin chunk style packed in brine, it is so much more flavorful, and a bit smoother, even creamier, than the same brand’s dry packed crumbled Feta, so, check it out; I think you will be pleased.

A note on the Italian dressing. I use this powdered mix from a local company that, as the package front states, really contains no funky ingredients. I can only find them at one store around here, but you can order online, here.

Place the prepped meat and veggies in a large bowl and toss with the basil and Feta cheese. As you will note in a minute or so, I forgot one of Julia Child’s main rules: “always start with a bowl bigger than you think you will need.”


Sooo… after transfering all that to a bowl large enough to handle the meats and veggies and cheese, and the pasta; pour the prepared Italian dressing over all and toss well to coat evenly.

Cover and stash in the fridge for a couple of hours, or, even better, overnight, to allow the flavors to blend and the pasta to soak up some of the dressing.

Serve at cool room temperature.

*Wondering about how to blanch asparagus? It’s simple! Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then stir in one tablespoon each sugar and salt. For this batch, I used a smoked bacon and onion sea salt from dashndrizzle.com.

Add your trimmed asparagus to the boiling water and cook for two or three minutes, until bright green.

Transfer immediately to a bowl of ice water and push the spears about a bit to ensure they are all cooled quickly. This shock will help to lock in the bright green color.

Drain the asparagus well on a towel.

How easy was that?

Oh, and many thanks to Alex Guarnaschelli for posting the blanched asparagus method on the Food Network web site.

When in doubt, you just gotta go to da Google.

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Pork Loin Ends, Ollie’s Way

One of my local markets carries Pork Loin Ends – a slightly fattier tip of the tenderloin – for a ridiculous price – 1.99 per pound.

Each package contains four boneless loin ends – more than enough for a couple of dinners for us.

I always marinate them first, and, since I had multiple dinner plans for this batch, I opted to start off with Ollie’s Marinade – it is most excellent for much more then just burgers!

•Pork loin ends, or chops, your choice

Ollie’s Marinade:
Dry Seasonings:
•1/4 cup sugar
•2 tbsp paprika
•1 tbsp garlic powder
•1 tbsp crushed red pepper
•1 tsp curry powder
•1 tsp ground black pepper
•1 tsp ground coriander
•1 tsp fennel seed
•1/2 tsp onion powder
•1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
•1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
•1/2 tsp cornstarch
•1/2 tsp turmeric

Liquid Seasonings:
•3/8 cup lemon juice
•2 tbsp lower sodium Tamari
•2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
•2 tbsp A-1 steak sauce
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•2 tsp Heinz 57 sauce
•2 tsp cider vinegar
•2 tsp canola oil

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Whisk the liquid seasonings together in a large beaker, then, in a separate bowl, stir the dry seasonings with a fork until well and truly blended.

Whisk the dry seasonings into the liquid seasonings – an immersion blender works a treat here; then pour over the pork in a gallon sized zipper bag.

Note: if you plan on making Ollie’s Most Excellent Sammich Sauce, don’t forget to take out two tablespoons of the marinade before pouring over the pork.

Seal the bag, give it a couple of flips to coat all bits of the pork, then stash on a rimmed plate, for to catch any drippage, in the fridge for a couple of hours or, always more better, overnight.

When you think to, give the bag a flip or five.

When ready to grill, remove the pork from the marinade (discard the marinade), and allow to come to room temperature.

Grill as you will, until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the pork reads 145º.

Let rest for five minutes before serving.

We enjoyed ours the first night with an antipasto pasta salad, then then a couple of days later as carnitas tacos with peppers and onions.

After that, leftovers went in the freezer until the weekend when we thoroughly enjoyed then as black bean and corn enchiladas.

I call that a fair bit of work for one packet of pork.

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Ollie’s Most Excellent Sammich Sauce

So… recall when we were making Ollie’s Marinade yesterday, and I had you save back two tablespoons?

Well, this is what we’re gonna use it for and, I gotta say, this sammich sauce is good enough to justify keeping at stash of Ollie’s in the fridge.

Creamy, a little bit smoky and tangy,with a few interesting (but not exotic) ingredients, this is not your parents’ secret sammich sauce!

Oh, and do try it on fries and/or onion rings.

Sweet potato fries, too.

•1/4 cup Miracle Whip Salad Dressing
•1/4 cup mayonnaise
•2 tbsp French dressing (the orange stuff)*
•2 tbsp prepared Ollie’s Marinade
•2 tsp dill relish
•1/2 tsp sweet relish
•1 tsp dried shallots
(in a pinch, dried onion will work just fine)
•1 tsp white vinegar
•1 tsp chili sauce
(or ketchup, but chili sauce is zippier)
•1 tsp steak seasoning
(Montreal or whatever your favorite may be)

*I used Ken’s, which is made with real sugar instead of corn sweeteners. If you want more control over your sugars and ingredients, here is an excellent Vintage French Salad Dressing that is a snap to make.

Place all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl or beaker, then stir to combine.

Transfer to a covered container and stash in the fridge for at least three hours before using to allow the flavors to fully blend and develop.

To use for burgers, spread on lightly toasted buns, then add shredded lettuce and sliced pickles. We also had melted Swiss cheese on our Ollie Burgers.

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