JALAPEÑO POPPERS

If you are looking for a jalapeño popper that looks like this, then sadly, this recipe is not for you.  If, however, you are a popper purist looking for the authentic, crispy-fried variety, then you have come to the right place.

I’ve been looking for a good jalapeño popper recipe for some time now, and, after several failed attempts to find anything I could truly be proud of, I’ve finally cobbled together a version that lives up to the high bar set by frozen versions sold in bars around the country.  I tried everything: versions with fresh jalapeños, versions with cream cheese, fine breadcrumbs and egg batters.  These same iterations, were either raw, greasy or simply exploded in the frying oil. My winning version utilizes a combination of quality pickled jalapenos, a combo of cheddar and jack cheese, hot sauce and a buttermilk/panko batter.  Served alongside some buttermilk dip, and you have a appetizer that has few equals in the fabulous world of fried food.

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MEATLOAF SANDWICH

Like roast beef, I’ll sometime make meatloaf just for the sandwiches.  Funny, considering I wouldn’t touch them as a kid.  I’m not sure if it was a texture thing or the idea of eating a ‘loaf’ in between two pieces of bread that threw me off, but whatever it was, I made sure they never ended up in my lunch bag.  These days, however, leftover meatloaf is a godsend and something that rarely lasts more than a day in our fridge. You see, as good as meatloaf is straight from the oven, something magical seems to take place after an overnight rest in the cold.  Not only do the savory flavors concentrate, but the consistency of the loaf changes as well, firming up a bit for easy sandwich slicing.  Served warm or cold, a good meatloaf sandwich seems to hit all the right notes.  You don’t need a recipe for a meatloaf sandwich, just the inspiration to make one.

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CLASSIC MEATLOAF

The real title of this post should be “Mom’s Meatloaf,” as this is the very same recipe I grew up eating as a child.  A perennial favorite in our household, few meatloaves deliver in the way this barbecue sauce-topped rendition does.  The epitome of comfort, my Mom would be the first to tell you that this dish is “hard to screw up.”  In fact, it’s the simplicity of this recipe that makes it a true standout in my mind.  Perfect for company, yet quick and easy enough for a weeknight meal, this tender and juicy meatloaf comes together in no time and feeds a crowd for next to nothing.  Covered with a sweet, tangy homemade barbecue sauce, this meatloaf is sure to please even the pickiest of eaters as few can resist it’s sticky, ketchup-like topping.  If you love meatloaf but can’t justify the saturated fat, substitute ground turkey for a version that is just as tasty and quite a bit healthier — you’ll barely notice the difference.  As good cold as it is served warm, this recipe also makes for a killer meatloaf sandwich.  So, in a world filled with so much bad meatloaf, do yourself a favor and go with a tried-and-true recipe that works.  Your family, friends and significant others will thank you.

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HOT SPINACH DIP

We’ve all had good spinach dip. A little sour cream, a little cheese, some thawed frozen spinach and you’re in business. It’s the type of party dish you throw out on a table with a few crackers, maybe some slices of toasted baguette, and it’s guaranteed to be gobbled up in a matter of minutes. You may be used to seeing it served cold or at room temperature on most occasions, but those of us who take our dips seriously know that there is nothing quite like a hot version.

Somewhere between a french onion dip and everybody’s favorite green side dish, creamed spinach, this warm rendition satisfies in ways a cold version simply cannot. Just think — all those wonderful, rich flavors that are usually muted by the frosty interior of your refrigerator come alive when warmed through in the oven. Creamy, gooey and indulgent, this spinach dip is guaranteed to become one of your new favorite appetizers. Serve it to guests or bring it to your next potluck, but whatever you do, beware: I’ve seen a small group of people easily polish this off, so it may be worth doubling if you’re serving it for a party.

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SPINACH, FETA & KALAMATA OLIVE STROMBOLI

I should start by saying that I’d never actually eaten stromboli before making this recipe.  After seeing a rendition on TV, I set out to make one in the style of Stuff Yer Face in New Brunswick, New Jersey.  Where most versions seem to be rolled into a pinwheel-like log, this version is more like a burrito — er, Hot Pocket.  Not quite a pizza, almost like a calzone, stromboli seemed like a perfect hand-held version of one of my favorite foods.  Then again, I’m the kind of person who likes to fold my pizza slices in half before biting into them — there’s just something so satisfying about biting into gooey cheese surrounded by crisp then chewy dough.

Sure enough, the ‘boli satisfied this particular craving. Cheesy, salty with tart feta cheese, chalk full of wilted spinach and steaming hot, if you even kind of like pizza (and who doesn’t?), then you’re going to like biting into one of these. Plus, if you have the dough on hand already, they’re easy enough to put together for a lazy weeknight dinner.

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