Thursday, October 17, 2013

Kendra's Italian Sausage and Cheese Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers

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It's amazing how many times you can forget not to touch your eyes after handling jalapeños.  For me, like 12 times probably.


Which is enough to make me wonder for a moment whether I have short term memory loss or whether maybe I am just a really slow learner.  Kendra's public service announcement is that you may want to use disposable gloves for this recipe (especially if you wear contact lenses) to protect your eyes and skin from the spicy jalapeños.  Or like me, you can just...not...

Who is Kendra, creator of Jalapeno Poppers, you ask?  Well, Kendra and I have been friends for ten years now, she was one of my bridesmaids, and she's one of my besties.

Kenji and me.

We met while working together at Milestone's Restaurant back in the early 2000's, most likely while commiserating over waiting for 'campers' (restaurant guests who linger even after the restaurant is closed, for no apparent reason, and don't take a hint to leave even after the ugly lights have come on and two waitresses are staring them down awkwardly from the other side of the restaurant) to finally go home so that we could do the same (or - let's be honest since we were 20 years old and worked in a restaurant - go to the bar).

The two of us also stay in regular contact with two of our other girlfriends from these restaurant days, Sara and Ainslie.  Kendra claims that she is actually still quite famous at that restaurant, stating each time we go there that there is one of her old bills framed in the back of the restaurant showing her 'perfect' table sale, which would be the following order shared between two guests:  2 cocktails, 2 bottled waters, 1 appetizer, 1 bottle of wine, 2 entrees, 2 specialty coffees, and 1 dessert.  It's as coveted as a unicorn or a 4-leaf clover.  When we were last there for a Milestone's reunion with the other two girls, Kendra asked our waitress if the bill was still in the back of the restaurant in a frame and our waitress appeared confused, but, I'm sure it's there Kendra.  It's totally there.

Kendra and me at our finest, circa 2004
"It's one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
We worried that our friendship may be doomed when she moved across the country for a couple of years to pursue a career dream, but we needn't have done so because in fact it made us stronger.  Now she's back living here with her awesome (awesome, awesome) boyfriend Kyle, just about 15 minutes from where The Hubby and I live, which is how I like it.  She operates a camera professionally as part of her career, and I'm sure she is totally cringing at the amateur pictures that I have posted of the jalapeno poppers (Kendra I need your help!).

Kendra and I both have a bit of a goofball side, and that's what makes our friendship so fun.  It's hard to really wrap my finger around what makes our friendship so strong after 10 years, but the best friendships are usually those formed by time.  She knows everything about me and still likes me anyways, she's always ready to lend a shoulder when I need it, and she makes me laugh my ass off.

Kendra was a happy participant in me
getting tickled to death by my
brother against my will.
As Sara and Ainslie know, Kendra and I like to do
duets, usually dedicated to them.
And she's totally aced my
family's 'worried look.'
Friends share, even when it comes
to corn on the cob.
She's my 'buddy boy' and I am hers.  She even got me a gluten-free 'buddy boy' cake for my birthday (it was amazing).

In fact, it's actually Kendra's birthday today...happy birthday buddy boy!

She even did my makeup and all of my
bridesmaids'  makeup on my wedding day.

Now that Kendra is living in the 'burbs near me, she is the hostess with the mostest whenever she has a games night or a night with just the girls.  These jalapeno poppers came from one of those such nights, and I had to get the recipe from her.  I made them the other night when my parents and my in-laws came for dinner for The Hubby's birthday, and again for The Hubby's hockey pool night the next evening (best wife ever?).

They vanished really quickly!  Picture a cream cheesy Italian sausage mixture stuffed into hollowed out roasted jalapeno peppers, topped with even more cheese, heading into your mouth like a torpedo.  No wonder they are called poppers.

The spice from the jalapeños almost disappears after removing the seeds and roasting them, so
If you like things spicy, use Hot Italian Sausage.  If you prefer a mild flavour, use regular Italian Sausage, and you will be fine.

For another great meat-based appetizer, you may want to check out these Lemongrass and Chili Beef Cucumber Cups.

Without further ado...

Kendra's Italian Sausage and Cheese Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers

Makes:  40 poppers

  • 20 jalapeños
  • 1 pound ground Italian sausage (I used the spicy kind)
  • 1/4 cup sweet onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated white cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 F, and line a baking sheet with foil.  Slice the stems off of the jalapenos, then slice each jalapeño in half length-wise.  Using a spoon, scrape all of the seeds out of the jalapeños (you may want to use gloves during this step).  Place the jalapeños on the baking sheet.

Bake for 10 - 12 minutes, or until jalapeños are softer but still firm.  Remove from oven.  Change your oven's setting from 350 F down to a low broil.

Meanwhile, place the Italian sausage into a sauté pan, and cook for 7 - 10 minutes or until fully cooked through.  Add the onions, garlic, and some freshly ground pepper (to taste) and cook for 5 more minutes.  Drain off any fat and discard.  Add the cream cheese and the parmesan cheese to your pan, and stir until the cheese is fully melted and everything is nicely combined.

Scoop the sausage mixture into the jalapeños by the small spoonful.  Top with the grated cheddar cheese.

Place into the oven and broil on low for a few minutes, until the cheddar cheese has melted.  Serve on a platter - enjoy!

Recipe Source: My pal Kendra - love you!

What Was Cooking on Playing With My Food One Year Ago:  
Triple Coconut Banana Muffins (Gluten Free and Paleo!)


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