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Baked Jalapeño Poppers for Superbowl Sunday

I’ve recently discovered the appeal of a stuffed jalapeño – it’s more than just heat. I now understand the small peppers have a ton of flavor potential, and are easy to stuff and bake for divinely cheesy, mildly spicy snacks that are perfect for serving in front of the Superbowl this Sunday. Baking them instead of deep-frying them means less mess, and far fewer calories.

Panko – crispy Japanese breadcrumbs – are becoming easier to find on most grocery store shelves, and are worth seeking out. If you can’t find them, use dry breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs. Of course these are baked, rather than deep fried – and low fat cream cheese is perfectly sufficient. (Fat free goes a bit far, in my opinion!)

Jalapeño Poppers

6 good-sized fresh jalapeño peppers
1/2 – 8 oz. (250 g) pkg. light cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup grated old cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 tsp. ground cumin (optional)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
salt and pepper
1-1 1/2 cups Panko (crunchy Japanese breadcrumbs), or fine dry breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cut the jalapeños in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and membranes. (Rubber gloves are never a bad idea.)

In a small bowl, stir together the cream cheese, cheddar and cumin. Stuff the jalapeño halves with the cheese mixture they will be overflowing! That’s OK. When I do this, I take a bit of cheese in my hand and roll it into a rough cylinder, then press it into the pepper.

Get three shallow dishes. In one, beat the eggs with a fork. In another, combine the flour, salt and pepper. In the third put the Panko or breadcrumbs.

One at a time, dredge the jalapeños in flour, then in the beaten egg, and then into the crumbs, pressing to coat well. Place the coated peppers, cut side up, on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick spray.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden and bubbly. Serve immediately. Makes 12 poppers.

Per popper: 87 calories, 3.6 g total fat (1.7 g saturated fat, 1.2 g monounsaturated fat, 0.3 g polyunsaturated fat), 4 g protein, 9.5 g carbohydrate, 43.2 mg cholesterol, 0.5 g fiber. 37% calories from fat

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