Recipe Roundup: Awesome Appetizers

by | Feb 23, 2017

WRAL reporter Brian Shrader and our own Lisa Prince feature seasonal recipes in their weekly Local Dish Cooking segment. This month, Brian and Lisa feature award-winning appetizers.

Billy Narron from Middlesex won 1st place in the N.C. Pork Council’s cooking contest at the 2016 NC State Fair with this pork-filled recipe. It was a crowd-pleaser with all the judges. You can cook it on the grill or in the oven. Lisa recommends using gloves when working with the jalapeno peppers.

Jalapeno Whoppers

  • 6 large, fresh jalapeno peppers
  • 4 ounce-block, sliced pepper Jack cheese
  • 1 pack pork pepperoni
  • 1 pound hot bulk sausage, separated into 12 uncooked patties
  • 1 pound regular bacon
  • Creole seasoning
  • BBQ sauce of your choosing

Split pepper in half lengthwise, remove seeds, but leave stem and end intact. Fill each half with a slice of pepper Jack cheese, then place 3 slices of pepperoni on top of cheese. Take a sausage patty and wrap entire pepper half with sausage. Then wrap each pepper half with a slice of bacon. Sprinkle lightly with creole seasoning. Cook peppers on grill for 1 hour at 325 degrees. Turn peppers to brown bacon on all sides. Near end of cooking apply a thin layer of BBQ sauce to each bacon wrapper pepper.

The next recipe is a creative idea from Julia Truelove of Raleigh for the perfect game-day snack. Lisa notes that “popcorn is the perfect snack for a crowd on game day. You can’t go wrong with N.C. peanuts and bacon!”

Bacon & Beer Caramel Popcorn

  • 1 pound bacon
  • 2 bags microwave popcorn
  • 3⁄4 cup peanuts
  • 12 ounces beer
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1⁄2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of sea salt

In a large skillet or on a plate in the microwave, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Break up into 1/2-inch pieces and set aside. Heat oven to 250 degrees. Butter two large cookie sheets. Pop each of the bags of popcorn separately by following instructions on the bag. Remove the un-popped kernels before pouring the popped popcorn onto the cookie sheets. Allow to cool, add the bacon and peanuts, evenly split among the pans, and toss to combine. Set aside.

Bring the beer to a gentle boil in a large saucepan over medium heat, cooking and stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes until reduced to 1 cup. Stir in the butter and brown sugar, and cook for 10-12 minutes until thick, stirring only if it is going to boil over. Cook to 235 degrees on a candy thermometer, or to test if it’s done, drop a bit in ice water and it should form a soft ball. If not, keep cooking. When ready, stir in the cream and keep cooking until sauce thickens, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, cayenne and salt.

Pour the caramel sauce over the popcorn, peanuts and bacon and stir to completely coat. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring at 15 minute intervals. Remove from oven and cool completely. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until the next tailgate party.

Sandra Davis shared the following recipe. Spice up the recipe with hot sausage, hot sauce or cayenne pepper.

Sausage Muffins

  • 1 pound cooked sausage (drain grease)
  • 1 cup Bisquick
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 4 eggs (beat well before mixing with other ingredients)

Combine all ingredients and spoon into a lightly greased mini-muffin pan. Bake at 350 for 13 to 15 minutes.

The N.C. Sweet Potato Commission provided the next recipe. It’s a dip that is full of flavor. Serve it with tortilla chips, corn chips or toasted baguettes.

Cheesy Sweet Potato Sausage Spread

  • 2 cups peeled and diced sweet potatoes (¼ inch cube)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 pound sausage
  • 1⁄4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1⁄4 cup sweet red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1⁄2 cup shredded Colby Jack cheese
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 14 1⁄2 ounce-can Italian diced tomatoes, slightly drained

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine olive oil and cayenne pepper. Pour over sweet potatoes and toss lightly to coat. Spread evenly on a baking pan and roast for 35-40 minutes or until tender.

In a medium frying pan, brown sausage, onion, and bell pepper. Drain grease and press garlic into sausage mixture. Cook 2-3 minutes. Add cream cheese, ¼ cup Colby Jack cheese, roasted sweet potatoes and tomatoes. Stir until well blended. Add mixture to a small baking dish. Top with remaining cheese, bake until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.

The next recipe is for a super-easy, creamy dip. Lisa prefers hot sausage and suggest trying on French fries or a baked potato.

Spicy Sausage Queso Dip

  • 1 pound Velveeta (cut into ½ inch cubes)
  • 1⁄2 pound sausage, cooked and drained
  • 10 ounce-can RoTel Original diced tomatoes and chilies, undrained
  • 1 bag tortilla chips

Mix ingredients in a microwavable bowl. Microwave on high for 5 minutes or until cheese is completely melted, stirring after 3 minutes.