It’s September, which means football season is underway.  For some people, it is an exciting time as they root for their favorite teams, whether it be high school, college, or professional.  If I had to pick a favorite sport, I guess I would say it is football, although I have forgotten more than I remember about the game.  My reason for choosing football is because it was “the” game in my home state of Tennessee and I grew up listening to Saturday radio broadcasts of UT’s weekly matchups.

Tailgating has become quite popular in recent years, and I have put together whole columns featuring recipes that lend themselves to the practice of meeting in a parking lot before an event to enjoy a time of food and fellowship with other fans.  It is not limited to football, although that sport seems to draw more attention to the activity than others do.  I am sure the time of year has something to do with it, as fall seems a better season to hold a tailgate party than do the others.

Several folks bring grills to their tailgating event.  With that in mind, I decided that the recipe I found for Jalapeño Popper Burgers would be a good fit for this subject.  I will admit that I cooked them on an indoor grill, cutting the recipe in half because I didn’t need four sandwiches.  And I used ground turkey instead of ground beef.  My instinct that this recipe was a good one was quite correct.  The effort I made in preparing it was well worth it – I thoroughly enjoyed the results!

Knowing I had one new recipe to provide for my readers, I decided to raid other columns on tailgating to obtain the rest.  I’m not going to say that it was a mistake; nevertheless, it turned out to be not as easy for me as it seemed.  Past columns were filled with comments like “Bob loved this” and “Bob said I should definitely make this again.”  My late husband loved being a part of the taste-testing that went on when I prepared new dishes.  His input made it much easier for me.  To rephrase an old saying, “Two tasters are better than one.”  Things were better balanced when I had someone else to offer his opinion, not to mention another person to help eat all the food I cooked.

However, my life goes on and so does Cooks’ Corner.  This column comes with some sadness, some tears, and some very good memories.  The rest of the recipes for the week were all “Bob-approved.”  He had pretty good taste, don’t you think?


Jalapeño Popper Burgers

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup shredded cheddar (or cheese of choice)

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

2 jalapeños, minced

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

6 slices bacon, cooked and chopped

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1-1/2 pounds ground beef (may use ground turkey)

4 burger buns

Make filling: In a medium bowl, mix together cream cheese, cheddar, mozzarella, and jalapeños. Season with salt and pepper, then fold in cooked bacon.

Form ground beef into 8 large, thin rounds (about 1/4-inch thick). Spoon about 1/4 of filling mixture onto one patty, then place a second patty on top. Pinch edges to seal burger and re-shape into a disc if necessary. Repeat with remaining patties and filling mixture.

Preheat grill to medium-high. Season burgers on both sides with chili powder, salt, and pepper. Place on grill and cook until cooked through to your liking, about 6 minutes per side for medium.

Sandwich with burger buns and serve immediately.  Yields: 4 Servings.


Spinach Dip

 1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach (thaw and drain before using)
1/2 cup sweet onion, diced
1 cup (drained) canned petite diced tomatoes and green chilies
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (may use Monterrey jack)
Splash of milk
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place the first five ingredients in a greased baking dish, with the spinach on the bottom.  Cover.  Bake for 10 minutes.

Remove from oven, stir to combine ingredients and distribute cream cheese.  Add splash of milk, garlic, salt, and pepper and stir until well blended.  Bake for an additional 15 minutes uncovered.

Serve warm with tortilla chips, pita chips, or crackers.  May also be served as a cold spread.


Chewy Snack Bars

5 cups cornflakes

4 cups crisp rice cereal

1 cup salted peanuts

1 cup flaked coconut

1 cup light corn syrup

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter or margarine

1/2 cup half-and-half cream


In a large bowl, combine cereals, peanuts, and coconut; set aside.

In a heavy saucepan, combine corn syrup, sugar, butter, and cream; cook and stir over medium heat until the mixture reaches soft-ball stage (240 degrees).  Pour over cereal mixture and toss to coat evenly.  Pat into a greased 15-by-10-by-1-inch baking pan.  Cool before cutting.

Yield:  50 1-by-3-inch bars.


Tennessee Treats

1-3/4 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar

2 egg whites

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon baking powder, dissolved in 1/4 cup boiling water

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon allspice

1/8 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped dates

1/2 cup walnut pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8-by-12-inch baking pan.  In a large mixing bowl, mix brown sugar and egg whites.  Add honey and stir.  Add baking powder to water and mix.  Add to mixture.  Sift together flour and spices; stir into mixture.  Add remaining ingredients and stir.  Pour into prepared baking pan.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a tester inserted in center comes out clean.  Cut into squares while warm (this is important!).


Tailgate Potatoes

5 pounds white or red Potatoes
1 medium sweet onion

1 to 2 bell peppers, (green, red, orange or yellow)
1 jalapeño pepper (may add more if desired)

1 (8-ounce) container Parmesan Cheese

1/4 cup olive oil (may use canola)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons dry milk powder

1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning

1 clean small plastic garbage bag or equivalent (may use a very large bowl)

Lightly oil a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan (may use disposable aluminum for easy clean-up).

Scrub potatoes, leaving skin on. Cut into 3/4-inch cubes.

Wash, clean and cut bell peppers into small chunks. Dice onion the same way as peppers (1/4 to 1/2-inch chunks). Seed and finely chop jalapeño pepper (wear rubber gloves). Place potatoes, bell peppers, jalapeño pepper and onions in plastic bag (or large bowl). Add olive oil. Shake the bag well to evenly coat the potatoes and to evenly mix in the peppers and onions (if using bowl, stir gently until well mixed).

In a small bowl, mix flour, dry milk powder, and Cajun seasoning.  Add to potato mixture and shake well (in bowl, stir to coat).

Pour contents of the bag (or bowl) into prepared pan. Completely cover potatoes with a layer of parmesan cheese, using up to 3/4 of the container. Bake for about 1 hour at 375 degrees.  Stir potatoes and cover with the remaining cheese.  Cook another 30 minutes or until potatoes are soft and well done.