Bacon-Wrapped Date-Stuffed Jalapeños

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I got the inspiration for this recipe from, of all things, a TGI Fridays commercial. This is pretty hilarious considering how generally scornful I am toward what most corporate-chain restaurants pass off as cuisine. But Fridays has been showing this commercial here in the U.S. that features some of its new happy-hour appetizer offerings, and roasted stuffed jalapeños is one of them. When I saw those suckers, all gloriously festooned in my favorite cut of pork, I was like, “WHAAAATTTT?”Bacon + spiciness = two of my favorite things in life EVER. I immediately knew I had to make my own and thought of dates and cheese as two prospective fillings –  I liked the idea of intermingling sweet and savory with the spiciness. Curious to see what Fridays uses in its bacon-wrapped jalapeños, I visited its website; here is the given description:
Roasted jalapeño peppers wrapped with bacon and stuffed with Asiago, Parmesan and slow-cooked beef, glazed with Jack Daniel’s sauce.
So I have to say, those sound pretty damn good! But let’s be real: they are probably loaded up to their ears with all kinds of processed-food chemicals and preservatives. I’m all for saying “F it” and hitting up a junk-food-laden, Fridays-type happy-hour every now and again; the many late-night jaunts to places like Red Robin, Boston’s, and Brann’s that I made in my waitressing days with my server buddies stand among some of the happiest times in my life, and I relished all that gloriously crappy-for-you but often-tasty food and occasionally still do (Bar Louie, I’m looking at you and those epic tater tots – such a love-hate relationship do I have with them!). But why not enjoy our own, BS-free version when we can? These stuffed jalapeños are easy to make, and using hormone-free, organic cheese, and hormone-, nitrate-, and preservative-free bacon (I used Applegate Naturals Uncured Sunday Bacon), we can make a version that is a heck of a lot healthier – and feel less guilty when we do succumb to our friend’s invitation to meet her for a Buffalo Wild Wings patio jaunt!
What is great about removing the seeds from the jalapeños and roasting them is that they are much milder than they would be in their natural state; they just have a slight heat to them after cooking, so they should appeal to pretty much anyone but the most spice-adverse. I only made the three jalapeños pictured above because that’s how many I had in my house at the time of preparation (fresh jalapeños go awfully quick around here – I love them!). You can prepare as many as you’d like, bearing in mind that if you are using large jalapeños as I did, each one should  hold about two dates, less than half of a slice of cheese, and a bit of diced onion (a tablespoon of the latter per four jalapeños would be sufficient), as well as a strip or two of bacon on the outside.
To summarize succinctly, here is what you’ll need:
-Desired number of large-sized jalapeños
-Sliced bacon, cooked but still pliable enough to wrap around the jalapeños
-Your preferred type of cheese (I used both Monterey Jack and pepper jack slices and just broke them up into smaller crumbles)
-Dried, pitted dates
-Diced onion
-Honey
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Slice the tops off of the jalapeños, reserve them, and carefully scrape the seeds out of the jalapeños to the best of your ability. Layer cheese, dates, and diced onion in the cavity of each jalapeño until it is stuffed full. Wrap bacon around the outside of each; secure with a toothpick. Drizzle liberally with honey. Bake 15 minutes and then check them to see if they are your preferred doneness (I baked mine for over 20 minutes, and as you can see, the bacon is pretty well done, which I like, but as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my oven does seem to tend to take longer than the typical oven). Once ready, slip the toothpicks out – or keep them in as nice little serving sticks if you’d like, and serve at your next fête or backyard happy-hour.

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Jackie

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