Warning: Calories on board! Stuffed banana peppers make your grill sizzle.

Okay so this is fair warning…if you are on a diet…if you are a vegetarian…if you avoid pork. What! Now pretend you hear squealing brakes and see wheels skidding to a stop. Who in their right mind would avoid pork? Well, let me tell you…

I know a few people and that’s okay by me – for religious reasons, for health reasons, for (ahem) “I’ve never had really well prepared pork so why all the fuss” people. But today’s recipe is not for any of those people. This recipe is extra special because it is my brother’s recipe, because it uses fresh local peppers, because it uses only 3 ingredients (4 if you count toothpicks, ha-ha) and because it is so darn good!

If the picture above didn’t reel you in like a catfish to a hunk of old pork rind, then STOP because “there is something wrong with you, son” – as local restaurateur and friend Hugh Lockman would say. This recipe is not for those on a diet – so stop reading this post immediately if this means you. Well, unless you think 205 calories is not too caloric, well then, you’re approved to proceed.

What with cream cheese AND bacon?!? I know what you’re thinking but my 100% non-scientific method of calculation gives me a number of approximately 205 calories and 10 grams of fat in one of these beauties. Have smaller peppers? Then can reduce the calorie and fat number per stuffed pepper accordingly. The peppers themselves have no fat but do contain copious dietary fiber as well as vitamins A, C and E, folate, niacin, calcium and potassium. And home grown or farmers market fresh? Buckle your seat belt ‘cause those exceed the taste limit in my book.

These are favorites of my hubby, and me too. We wait all winter and most of the spring for the new crop of sweet banana peppers to arrive at the farmers market. We even set out our own plants (see previous post) in the hope of having plenty to use specifically for this recipe during the summer.

While you can certainly use hot banana peppers, we prefer mild peppers with plenty of pepper flavor, but no real heat at my house. These are very popular at summer cookouts at the beach house, at the lake, at home. And special thanks to my brother John. His recipe has brought much grilling happiness to our table, and now hopefully to yours too.

The ingredients list is minimal but the flavor is maximum!

Peak inside the pepper. You need to remove the seeds and that stringy flesh they are attached to.

This is how the peppers should look after being cleaned.

Pepper stuffed with cream cheese.

Around and around we go with the bacon. Secure with toothpicks. I try to stick the toothpick through the meat of the bacon, rather than the fat.

Ready for the freezer. The peppers came be made up to this point and stored in the freezer, for up to a day. They need to freeze at least 1 hour anyway.

Here they go onto a sizzling grill. The cooking time depends upon your grill, i.e. how hot it gets and how evenly the heat is distributed. The best way to find out is by giving the recipe a try!

These peppers are almost done! Looks like I lost a toothpick. Oh well, I call ‘cooks treat’!

Ready for the dinner table. The combo of smoky bacon and roasted peppers smells so delicious… and only 205 calories! I don’t feel too guilty.

Stuffed Banana Peppers

  • 6 large (6”) sweet banana peppers
  • 12 oz. light cream cheese (about 1 ½ packages)
  • 6 pieces bacon (I use low sodium and nitrite free whenever possible)

Wash and dry the peppers. Split each pepper down the center along the long side, careful to not cut through to the other side. Clean out all the seeds and the stringy part inside. Wash and dry the insides. Stuff each pepper with the cream cheese – about 2 oz per pepper – smoothing to cover the entire length of the pepper. Once you’ve filled all the peppers, wrap 1 piece of bacon around each and secure with toothpicks. I usually use 2 each for medium peppers and 3 for these large ones.

Place stuffed peppers on a platter or baking dish, cover with plastic wrap and place in the freeze. Can be made up to this point up to one day ahead. Freeze at least 1 hour. Fire up your grill and place the frozen peppers on the grill. Watch them carefully and rotate to cook the bacon as evenly as possible, but avoid flipping them around too much. Once the bacon is cooked – after about 10-15 minutes – remove from the grill and serve immediately.

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Sometimes the best you can do… is pretty darn good.

Zinnias and such… in the Southern garden.

My hands have been dirty for much of my life. We called it “working in the yard” when I was growing up and now that I am an older married lady I suppose I should be calling it “gardening”. Need to be proper and all.

Behind my parents house we had a nice-sized vegetable garden and us kids spent many hours working (playing?) out there. Even in winter my brother and I dug for buried ‘treasure’, usually getting our clothes filthy and occasionally ending up with a prized find of an old Coke bottle or an unusually colored rock. I can even now give a fairly accurate rain prediction because of playing in that garden, but that’s a story for another post…

Since we lived out in the sticks (and there was no internet and only 4 – yes only 4! television channels) entertainment for the most part hinged on our own creativity and imagination. Well that, and a colorful cast of characters including my extended family, my parent’s friends and our neighbors. There was always something to do. The choice was either inside and that usually involved real chores or outside – also chore-related albeit a little more loosely defined. Most outside chores could be easily changed up, especially if my Dad was involved… and voilà, fun!

I spy with my little eye – squash blossoms! Need some of those to stuff with cheese – so delish. Not exactly Southern, but Southern Italian, at least.

This included that garden. Although my mom and dad considered it serious business (we ate, preserved or gave away all the produce we grew) mostly it was a pleasure to work the garden. My mother got her Park’s Seed catalog back in January and spent hours pouring over the choices and discussing the mail order with my dad. If we had been behaving they would even allow us to each pick out a packet of something they deemed worthy and feasible to grow in the number 8 USDA hardiness zone. Alas, my usual pick of English lavender never made the cut so I chose some unusual-shaped squash or exotic melon.

The Farmer’s Almanac, filled with lots of useful information on many subjects including “A Brief Look at Pruning”, spring and fall frost dates, a “scientifically compiled” fisherman’s calendar and monthly planting tables.

That garden was magical and wondrous. In just one week, after consulting the Farmer’s Almanac and the local weather forecast, my parents would have the whole garden either planted or in the least, partially planted and totally prepared for any last minute change-ups. After all, my Uncle Gene or Mom’s cousin George may drop off some tomato plants or excess seeds of some kind or another. Expect the unexpected at spring planting time.

When I was young, I loved feeling how cool and good the dirt was in my hands, even though the air was warm, even hot on my face. Now I think about that sensation whenever I need to relax. Funny how things like that, which happened so long ago can stay ever-fresh in one’s mind, but I can forget exactly where I left my smart phone within 2 seconds. Shrug.

The sense of accomplishment in planning, growing, tending and harvesting the garden is also a great feeling and one I long to pass on to my own daughter. I can write all day long about my own experiences but unless she participates it means zilch to her.

Bush tomatoes – hope ours do this well!

At the moment we reside in a beautiful little spot in the Lowcountry of South Carolina and while I tell everyone within earshot that “we’re never moving!” our current abode is a townhouse with no true yard (but a nice patio). True, we’re never leaving this diminutive ‘burg but I do hope for my own garden space, someday.

My daughter, and this fills my heart with pride, is a scrappy ‘lil gardener who would mulch a whole one acre plot with her child-sized garden tools if we let her. So this year, we’ve “done the best we can with what we’ve got” and created a tiny potted garden area with some bush-type tomatoes, sweet banana peppers and a variety of herbs out back. We’ve even got some zinnia seeds ready to sow in old paper egg cartons.

…and in the beginning there was…this. A humble container garden this year.

And the news on the street is that that there is a “super moon’ this weekend. According to the trusty farmer’s almanac this makes May 3rd-7th a great time to plant, entertain friends AND dig holes. How about a garden planting party? Sounds like my kind of fun.