Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
I’m all about healthy eating, but I’m also all about eating good food. One of the biggest misunderstandings when it comes to dieting is the idea that you have to surrender all yummy foods for boring low carb dishes composed mostly of fat free ingredients. The truth? For starters, fat free ingredients are actually very unhealthy for you (I am going to do an entire article on this very subject and why you should avoid fat free foods like the plague, so keep an eye out for that!). Also, it is important to remember that if you truly want to eat healthy, your biggest focus should be on portion control. You could be eating nothing but veggies, fruits and yogurt for each meal, but if you’re eating enough for three people you are never going to see the results you so desperately want.
I have found that the only foods I NEED to give up are the ones with poor ingredients like Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), preservatives, chemicals and hormone additives. If you would like to learn more about the quality of foods and their poor ingredients, click here, to read my latest article “Quality of Foods: The Key to Healthy Living Begins With Your Diet.” It is unbelievable to discover how many foods contain terrible ingredients! On a more encouraging note, it is also so much fun when you discover food products that are both healthy and of good quality. Don’t panic, these foods do exist! You just have to find them. I recommend going to Organic grocery stores like Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s, and Sprouts Market to find the best selection of products.
Now that I have transformed my diet to be 99% Organic and 100% MSG free, my motto for eating is “everything in moderation.” I have found that I can stay healthy while still eating the comfort foods I love by monitoring my portions. Now, I’m not saying it’s okay to eat greasy, fried foods for every meal. I simply mean that it’s okay to eat some foods like this every once in a while without beating yourself up afterward. The only ingredients I have removed from my diet are MSG, synthetic contents, hormone additives and as many chemicals possible. I eat “fattening” foods like bread and pasta, but I manage to maintain a healthy weight of 114 pounds through portion control.
In fact, one of my favorite meals to both cook and eat happens to be grilled cheese sandwiches. So, when I found an entire blog entry dedicated to various gourmet-grilled cheeses, it instantly became a red-letter day. This list was composed of some pretty amazing creations, but there was one in particular that stood out to me: Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese Sandwich. It was the picture that initially caught my eye. Layers of bacon strips and baked jalapeño peppers in between sourdough bread, one side coated in goat cheese, the other in apricot jam. Enough to make your mouth water, right?
You can visit the full article for this recipe or you can scroll down to find it with step-by-step directions complete with pictures. In addition to sharing this delicious recipe, I’m also going to give you a few tips on what products to use so that you can avoid unhealthy ingredients like MSG, therefore making a grilled cheese that is actually healthy for you! Who knew that was possible???
If you would like to visit the full list of gourmet grilled cheese you can here: 8 Innovative Ways to Eat a Grilled Cheese!
Here’s an extra link to some extra recipes if you’re grilled cheese obsessed like me: 31 Grilled Cheeses That Are Better Than a Boyfriend!
Okay, so there are five key ingredients to this recipe: sourdough bread, bacon, jalapeño peppers, goat cheese, and apricot preserves. My first tip for this recipe is to be extra careful with the brand of bacon you use. When I first removed MSG from my diet, grocery shopping became challenging, but finding good quality bacon was impossible! After searching and searching, I finally found Applegate Sunday Bacon. It’s free of MSG, chemical additives, dextrose and many other toxic ingredients commonly found in most bacon. The best part? You can find it at Target! I use two different types of Applegate bacon: Good Morning Bacon (which is a thicker cut of bacon, closer to what you typically find in Europe) and Sunday Bacon (the thinner cut of bacon commonly found here in the United States).
I prefer cooking my bacon in the oven, so I place the strips side by side in glass pans and cook them for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees, sometimes more or less depending on the bacon.
While the bacon is cooking, you can start on the jalapeño peppers. I like to begin by slicing off the top of the pepper where the stem is located. I then continue to slice the jalapeños in half so that I can remove the seeds. Once the seeds are completely removed, I place them in rows in a 9×13 inch glass pan (although any size will do, 9×13 prevents overcrowding, giving the peppers plenty of room to bake).
I recommend cooking these little guys for at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until the outer skins are starting to brown. The original source for this recipe suggests peeling the outer skin off each jalapeño pepper, but after trying it and struggling to accomplish this task, I tried leaving the skins on and found that it tastes exactly the same! So, peeling the skins is completely up to you, but it really makes no difference in the flavor or the texture of the sandwich (and it saves you time in the kitchen, who doesn’t love that?).
Now that our bacon and jalapeños are finished cooking, we can start assembling our grilled cheeses. For the sourdough bread, I use the Trader Joe’s brand Artisan Bread Sourdough Boule. It’s not Organic, unfortunately, but it is baked fresh daily and free of toxic ingredients. I also use Trader’s Joe’s brand goat cheese, it’s delicious! As for the apricot jam, I get mine from a local bakery exclusive to my area so for those of you outside of the Southern California area I recommend trying to find a locally grown product, as well. If you can’t find a local jam, look for an Organic brand with a small list of ingredients. This will give you the best chance at finding a “clean” product, free or almost free of toxic ingredients.
For each sandwich you make, be sure to butter the outsides of both pieces of bread for when you cook them in the skillet. On the inside of one piece of bread, spread an even layer of goat cheese and do the same with the apricot jam on the other piece. Add the jalapeños and bacon to complete the assembly process. In the picture below you can only see one layer of bacon, but I actually like to add a second layer on top of the jalapeños for a little extra crunch. The amount of bacon you add is really up to you and your preference because they’re delicious either way!
And now you’re ready to put your sandwiches into the skillet! If you cook them on Medium Low heat, it will take about 8-10 minutes for the bread to become golden brown, which is exactly what you want! Be sure to flip the grilled cheeses once halfway through so that both sides are thoroughly toasted.
And voila! Your Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese Sandwiches are now ready to eat! After one bite, I’m sure this will become one of your favorite meals! Happy Cooking!!!
Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese Sandwiches:
2 slices sourdough bread
2 ounces goat cheese, softened to room temp
4 slices crisp bacon
3 whole fresh jalapeño peppers
1 Tbsp apricot preserves
2 Tbsp butter
Slice each jalapeño in half lengthwise, and remove stem, ribs and seeds.
Place cut-side-down on a baking sheet, and broil until skins blacken and blister, about five minutes. Remove jalapeños from broiler (or oven), and transfer immediately into a plastic bag or other sealed container.
Seal and let steam until cool enough to handle, about 10-20 minutes. Remove blacked skins by pinching them between your thumb and forefinger, and discard.
Spread one of the slices of bread with goat cheese. Top with roasted jalapeño peppers, then bacon.
Spread the other piece of bread with the apricot preserves, and add to sandwich. Butter each side of the sandwich, and toast in saucepan over medium low heat until bread is toasted, about 2-3 minutes a side.
Recipe courtesy of Beantown Baker