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Basketball season is a big deal in my house, rife with its own bit of ritual and tradition. While I myself am largely a Sports-Agnostic, I am nonetheless surrounded by wholehearted devotees. Nevertheless, I enjoy the enthusiasm, and have learned to bend the season to my own purposes, using the games from time to time as a reason to gather the family in one place in order to develop a few hardy, sports-friendly dishes to add to my Spring menu, as well as to turn out a few tried and true crowd-pleasers.
One such favorite are my Jalapeno Poppers, which have become a predictable sight in my home when the family gathers for a game. Spicy, hardy, and just small enough to still be finger food and served in piles, they are the quintessential sports-party item. Served alongside my home-style oven baked onion rings, the party-duo are devoured between plays, or sometimes after the game with drinks, debate, and replays. Either way, there are never any leftovers.
While the jalapenos may appear ‘fried,’ oven baking them as opposed to basket-frying them allows the poppers to retain their original pepper ‘crunch,’ while their cream cheese filling softens rather than oozes, as may happen with standard frying.
Typical onion rings can be a soggy or even a ‘mushy’ affair, but oven baking helps to foolproof the process, allowing the onions to retain a portion of their natural firmness, while at the same time crisping rather than dousing their crusted exterior.
Crisped to a fine shade of gold that would make any short order chef beam with pride, and served with a blue cheese dip as well as stock-condiments, means these rings and poppers have all the trappings of game-day comfort food.
However, during a recent Target run, I discovered a pair of items that caused me to rethink the golden crusts of my beloved party-duo. Cheez-It Crunch’d and Cheez-It Grooves, both of which I purchased in Original Cheddar flavor. Regardless, before I made any final, rash decisions, I had to get them home and taste them.
After setting up to begin preparing my rings and poppers, I tried the new Cheez-It products, and just as I thought, they were sure to make for an excellent twist on my two tried and true favorites. With just the right amount of crunch and natural cheese flavor, they would add an extra layer of ‘game day’ to my game day food.
Grinding up the Cheez-It Grooves, I used them in place of my more traditional coating for the poppers, while the Crunch’d provided an excellent cheddar crisp for the rings. Combined with my signature blue cheese dip, my A-Game was primed and ready to go for our next game themed family get together.
That’s a little insight into one of the ways we spend our game days. What are some of your game themed recipes? Do you do anything special for the sports season? We’d love to hear from you.
In case you’re interested, Cheez-Its are on sale for 3/$8 at Target. You can use Target’s Cartwheel app to save an additional 35% off of this sale price when you buy three varieties of Cheez-Its.
2 ½ cups Cheez-It Grooves
1½ cups flour
2 eggs plus ¼ cup milk
10 – 12 jalapeño peppers
Canola oil for drizzling
For the Stuffing:
8 oz. cream cheese
1 large clove garlic
½ cup Italian parsley
2 tbs. lemon juice
Place the jalapeños on a parchment lined baking sheet and drizzle with canola oil. Bake the peppers for 5 – 6 minutes; remove from oven and let cool.
In the meantime, place the Cheez-It Grooves in the food process and process into crumbs and set aside.
Next, combine all of the ingredients for the stuffing and place in the food processor and process until creamy.
When the peppers are cool; carefully make a slit lengthwise and gently remove the vein and seeds, leaving the top stem in tack.
With a small spoon, fill the peppers with the stuffing.
Prepare three shallow bowls; one with the flour, one with the egg and milk wash and one with the Cheez-It crumbs.
Roll the stuffed pepper in the flour, then dip in the egg-wash and finally coat in the Cheeze-It crumbs. (You may repeat this process twice if you like a nice thick coating).
Place peppers on prepared baking sheet and drizzle with Canola oil.
Bake for 10 – 12 minutes or until lightly golden.
Cheez-It Crunch’d Onion Rings & Blue Cheese Dip
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10-12 minutes
Ingredients for Onion Rings:
1 large onion – sliced into rings
1½ cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs – beaten
½ cup milk
3 cups Cheez-It Crunch’d
Canola oil for drizzling
Bowl of cold water
Ingredients for Blue Cheese Dip:
8 oz. of cream cheese
4 oz. of blue cheese
1 clove of garlic
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup of Italian parsley
Preheat Oven 400 degrees F. and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place onion rings in bowl with cold water and let stand for 5 minutes.
Place Cheez-It Crunch’d in the food processor and process into crumbs.
Set up three shallow bowls; one with the flour plus the baking powder, one with the eggs and milk and one with the Cheez-It Crunch’d crumbs.
Let the excess water drip off of the onion ring before dredging in the flour; then the egg-wash and finally in the Cheez-It Crunch’d crumbs. (You may repeat this process for a thicker crust).
Place the onion rings on parchment lined baking sheet and drizzle with Canola oil. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes or until lightly golden.
For the Blue Cheese Dip:
Combine all of the ingredients for the dip in a food processor and process until a creamy consistency is achieved.
This dip is a good compliment for the Cheez-It Jalepeno Poppers and the Cheez-It Crunch’d Onion Rings.
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Enjoy with Love,