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Roasted Garlic Basil Pepper Poppers

Mini Sweet Peppers

Every Saturday, I get to talk food.  I get to share recipes, discuss veggies and sell people healthy food. It’s great. I’m totally in my element, which makes waking up on Saturdays to work feel almost like a treat. (The Honeycrisps snatched for breakfast helps those mornings out too. As does the coffee from the nearby train station cafe. — Shout out to Elcy’s for being adorable.)

As I’ve said in recent posts, I’ve been helping a family with their weekend farmer’s market. If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, this is the same family I used to spend summers with as a full-time “farmer” throughout school. The same family that taught me how toss watermelons around like basketballs, ventilate a high tunnel, and run an entire CSA operation. Reflecting on it now, I had no idea at the time what a life experience that was. It’s not everyday a girl learns how to drive a tractor. After moving to the city — where farming is  romanticized — I realized that was a pretty bad ass time in my life.

Since the move to the city streets and pavement, since becoming a recipe developer / journalist / food writer, among other things, I’ve come full circle. Once again, I’m working with both vegetables and a family that loves having me there. It’s a return I wouldn’t have foresaw, but a circle I’m happy to complete. It’s also such a nice feeling lending a hand to people who really value you being there. Life has taught me that.

And I have to say, I’m pretty sure I’m their best salesman. That’s not too vain, right?

I know how to talk Red Russian kale vs. Lacinato kale, white eggplant vs. regular, pie apples vs. eating apples, etc. etc. better than any of them when it comes to cooking. Which is why when a customer comes up to the stand and inquires about anything to do with taste/flavor, they get directed straight to me. We toss around recipe ideas, eating and storage suggestions. And then I send the customers home after they’ve bought a few extra pounds of produce. And vitamins and yumminess. Boom.

Farmer's market produce

People will often swing by and tell me what they’re cooking, which I absolutely love for inspiration. One Saturday, these mini sweet peppers were the topic of discussion. A man was telling me how he liked to stuff them with cheese and pop them in the oven. Brilliant.

The little peppers are gorgeous in themselves, so I love the idea of serving them whole. I started thinking how I could do a vegan variation of my customer’s idea, and so home I went to try experimenting on my own. Naturally, I turned to garlic, a favorite ingredient of mine. The first time around, I added cilantro too, which was a success, and then the next time, basil, which would land a spot on my blog. Both herbs work well. If you’re a cilantro fan, I’d say go with that, along with a few dashes of chili powder to season the peppers. Basil is also nice though, and would lend itself well if you decide to bring cheese back to the equation. A simple appetizer at its best.

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Vegan Stuffed Mushroom Poppers

Here’s another great party app., this time one without dairy.  Although, it is not without “cheese.”

Ever since I was introduced to the stuff, I’ve been on an unending Daiya kick. I swear, when melted, the dairy-free cheese, is so velvety and smooth, it’s almost better than real cheese. Sure, it can’t compare to the Roqueforts and the double cream Bries of the cheese kingdom. It has a relatively bland taste, but one that can certainly stand up to your standard melted mozzarella, if not surpass it in texture and flavor.

While Daiya’s website will make it seem otherwise, I originally heard that the creator of Daiya was not a vegan with a significant longing for cheese, but rather an inventor who wanted to tackle on the problem of yucky-tasting soy cheeses. Maybe that’s why Daiya’s so good. If you’re a professional inventor, you’ve probably got some special science tricks up your sleeve, along with the dedication to continously experiment until you’ve created an end product that’s just right. Daiya claims,”The story began with a love of pizza and a family kitchen,” probably for promotional purposes. They dodge the fact of whether inventor Andre Kroecher is vegan or not, and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t when he set out to create Daiya. But he did an exceptional job at creating a dairy-free cheese product. I won’t ever test out another soy cheese product after tasting Daiya. Which is good, because the majority of those soy cheese products usually ended up in the garbage rather than my mouth.

Anyways, with an open bag of Daiya in the fridge and a package of mushrooms, I was inspired to create vegan mushroom poppers, a delicious bite-sized snack/appetizer/party food. These were so easy, but turned out so well that my boyfriend actually remarked it was one of his favorite recipes of mine. Figures he would pick one that took less than 10 minutes to prepare. Vary the chili-garlic sauce depending on how much heat you prefer, tasting the sauce before you stuff the mini mushrooms. Two tablespoons will give you pretty spicy poppers, which are great for a kick.

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