Life of a Pioneer

It seems like only yesterday I thought about what I'd say if I were giving a commencement speech to the class of 2010 and here it's already time for the Class of 2011 to sharpen their pencils and break out their new Blue Horse notebook. The TV is full of back-to-school shopping ads which cause my nights, even twenty years later, to be filled with the typical first-day-of-school anxiety dreams.

Since I've already advised last year's graduating class, allow me to start this school year off by spewing words of advice for teachers, especially history teachers. When I was a kid, we'd open our American History books to Page 1 and begin. Every. Single. Year.

Thanks to that, I can kick some serious booty in Trivial Pursuit when it comes to questions about Christopher Columbus, Pilgrims, and pioneers. Just as we'd get to the good stuff, it was time to close the books for summer, and you guessed it....Page 1 was always waiting for us the next school year, just like we'd never seen it before in our lives. When you get past the 4th or 5th grade, there's really no need to remind us that Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 and the pioneers lived in log cabins and fought Indians. Is it so wrong to skip a few chapters and learn about more recent stuff like the JKF administration, World Wars, and communist China? Evidently.

The only pioneer I care to know anything about these days is Ree Drummond aka Pioneer Woman. You can read about PW's story, Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, as she tells it far better than I ever could, but her main claim to fame is that she was a bonafide city girl who fell in love with and married an Oklahoma rancher known as Marlboro Man and became an "accidental country girl." She, like so many of us bloggers, started documenting her thoughts and ramblings and before long she had millions (literally) of followers, a cookbook, book tour and an upcoming movie about her life (unlike so many of us bloggers). Just like the pioneers in my history book, she lives in a farmhouse (albeit a VERY NICE farmhouse) and her family works the land and farms cattle and horses.

There are lovers and haters of Pioneer Woman and I'll admit that I don't follow her on a regular basis anymore simply because I have a short-lived attention span but you can read and decide for yourself if you think she's really "keeping it real." I fall into the category of thinking that Ree started her story as a real thing but soon realized that she had a knack for story-telling and capturing an audience and used it much to her benefit. Personally, I'm inspired by her progress and find motivation in her ability to build an empire based on herself. What she's accomplished is really no different than the likes of Martha Stewart or any other self-made female. And like all females who pioneer the frontier of breaking the glass ceiling and carving a name for themselves, she must also fight the Indians of ridicule.

I did not feel motivated, however, to stand in line for hours and hours on end to get my copy of her cookbook signed when she recently visited the Queen City on her book tour. I left my copy at the desk for Ree to sign and picked it up a few days later. The book is beautifully illustrated and while it doesn't contain any new, earth-shattering recipes, it does bring back to mind some long forgotten favorites that have been tucked away in my recipe box for eons. Again, I bought the book simply for inspirational value and it will soon claim it's rightful place on my over-burdened cookbook shelf.

Before I close the book on this piece of blog history, I'll leave you with Pioneer Woman's recipe for jalapeno poppers, which I made for a cookout last weekend. In an effort to "keep it real," my next post will detail how these things caused myself and all other party guests to nearly die alone on the prairie with a severe case of heartburn. Zantac anyone?

Pioneer Woman's BBQ Jalapeno Poppers

18 fresh jalapeños
One 8-ounce package cream cheese
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
1 green onion, sliced
18 slices thin bacon, cut into halves
Bottled barbecue sauce
Toothpicks
Rubber gloves (or plastic bags) for working with jalapeños

Preheat the oven to 275ºF.

Begin by cutting jalapeños in half lengthwise. Try to keep the stems intact. They look prettier that way.(Important: Wear gloves when working with fresh jalapeños or you'll curse the ground on which I walk because you'll wake up in the middle of the night with throbbing fingertips. And that's nothing compared to what happens if you accidentally scratch your eye—or worse, something else.)

With a spoon, scrape out the seeds and light-colored membranes. Remember: The heat comes from the seeds and membranes, so if you can handle the sizzle, leave some of them intact.

Now, in a bowl, combine the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and chopped green onion. Mix the ingredients together gently. And don't feel you have to use an electric mixer. I do because I'm lazy and don't like to exert myself. Ever. (Too much scrubbing clothes on the washboard, I suppose.)

Next, stuff each hollowed jalapeño half with the cheese mixture.

Wrap bacon slices around each half, covering as much of the surface as you can. Be careful not to stretch the bacon too tightly around the jalapeño, as the bacon will contract as it cooks.

Brush the surface of the bacon with your favorite barbecue sauce. Chutney or apricot jelly works well, too!

Secure the jalapeños with toothpicks and pop them in the oven for 1 hour, or until the bacon is sizzling.

Serve hot or at room temperature, and watch them disappear within seconds. I've seriously caught guests stuffing these into their purses. Sometimes I have to call law enforcement.

Variations:

For a simpler version, omit the cheddar and green onion from the cream cheese.

Cut sliced peaches or pineapple into small bits and press them into the cream cheese before wrapping the jalapeños in bacon.

Use Pepper Jack cheese in place of the cheddar cheese.

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