photoI love watching college football. More so than the NFL. I loved heading out to college games with my brother, loaded with food, and meeting up with friends for tailgating before the game starts. But, now that he’s in China, I now sit at home and cheer on my UCLA Bruins. Still, I like to have friends and family over during the big games. And, I love to share food. One of my favorite tailgating appetizers is Jalapeno Poppers. I love the hot pepper bite and the cooling sensation of the cream cheese. I used to get these boxed from Costco. The poppers would be frozen, filled with cheese and dipped in breaded crumbs. I would heat them in the oven and hope for the best. Sometimes, before they would get hot, the cheese would start oozing out. Ugh. Then, I decided to start making my own — minus the extra breading. I think poppers made this way lets you enjoy the full taste of the jalapeno.

1/2 cup Panko crumbs
4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
8 ounces whipped cream cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
dash of salt and pepper
10 jalapeños, halved lengthwise and seeds removed
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese and extra bacon bits

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a medium bowl, stir together cream cheese, shredded cheese, half the bacon and salt and pepper (to taste). In a separate bowl, toss together Panko and the other half of the bacon bits. Spoon the filling into each jalapeño cavity. Then top each jalapeno with a spoonful of the Panko and bacon bit mixture. Place on baking sheet, cavity side up. Mist each of the jalapenos with cooking spray. Bake until the filling is melty and the Panko is golden, about 15-20 minutes. Top with extra cheddar cheese. Continue to bake until cheese is melted. Remove from oven, and sprinkle with additional bacon bits. Serve immediately.