Appetizers

Cheesy Pepper Poppers

I hope everyone had enjoyed a wonderful holiday, whether you are celebrating Christmas or not! The clock is ticking down until New Year’s Eve, and I’ve prepared a few appetizer recipes for you to help ring in 2013. Growing up we always spent New Year’s Eve playing games with our family and friends. In college we went through the phase of getting really dressed up and going out to a club downtown. Now… well, Ryan and I aren’t the craziest on the block. Truth be told we went camping last year in California with some of our friends and went to sleep around, oh… 10:00 pm. No matter how you celebrate, it’s nice to be surrounded by good friends, family, and great food. I think the most appropriate type is “heavy” appetizers, where you eat enough to feel satisfied for a night of fun without sitting down to a full meal. Heavy does not  imply that you have to eat a bunch of fried and fatty dough balls and pretend that you still fit into that cute little mini-dress at midnight. There are dozens of healthy and filling options to choose from that will satisfy your guests without sending them over the edge. 

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My mom and I made these Cheesy Pepper Poppers for a night of appetizers with our neighbors. We used banana peppers, which are more commonly seen as a pickled condiment than as a vessel for deliciousness. They are crunchy and have just a bit of that spicy pop without being overkill on the Scoville scale. If you really want to give your guests some spice, feel free to add some finely chopped jalapeno pepper to the filling. Instead of a cream cheese-based filling, we mixed greens with a bit of cotija cheese. Cotija is a crumbly Mexican cheese that is similar in texture to feta. It’s salty and doesn’t melt down all the way. This is ideal for dressed up cocktails so that your guests can eat the appetizers without sitting down or making a mess.  Ideal for a night of dressing up and heading around the town! 

Makes: 6 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes    Baking Time: 30 minutes          Total Time: 45 minutes

6 small banana peppers (think 2 bite-size)
1/3 cup cotija cheese, crumbled
1 medium tomato, seeds and stem removed, minced
1/3 cup minced kale leaves
2 tbs lime juice
2 tbs fresh cilantro leaves, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
  • Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds with a spoon. Set aside.
  • Mix the remaining ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl.
  • Fill each of the pepper halves with a scant tablespoon of filling. You don’t want them overfilled, just to the top. Put the peppers on a sprayed cookie sheet.
  • Bake the peppers for 30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the peppers start to soften slightly.
  • Serve immediately.
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