A hot and spicy, cheesy-crispy one-pop flavor bomb you and your vegetarian friends will love.
Just about everyone has a family member or friend who is vegetarian these days and probably for good reason: most nutrition experts agree that a plant-based diet is most likely the healthiest diet we can eat. (Sorry Paleo, Atkins (yes, still), and Whole 30.) That said, my nutritional conscience (powered by my B.S. and M.S. degrees in Nutrition), simply won’t let me tell you that today’s vegetarian recipe is the be-all end-all healthy vegetarian appetizer of this holiday season. What it WILL let me tell you is that if you’re vegetarian, or if you’re cooking for a vegetarian you’re crazy if you don’t give these Extra Cheesy Kale and Portabella Jalapeno Poppers a try.
Mr. EN and I made these Saturday, while watching Wisconsin roll over U of M (a good day in football for us Spartans), and MSU clobber Maryland. We made two different kinds of poppers: these Extra Cheesy Kale and Portabella Jalapeno Poppers which we ate entirely ourselves over two days, and a second batch of the more traditional poppers (swap out the mushrooms and kale for cooked, spicy Italian sausage) which we brought with us Saturday night to a house concert at a friend’s house. Both versions received rave reviews, but the vegetarian version is what I’m posting for you today because it’s one you’ve probably not made before. I really think you’ll like it!
The Nutrition 411
- Jalapenos: Low-cal, fat-free, and loaded with Vitamin C – like all peppers.
- Veggies for Meat: Swapping out kale and mushrooms for Italian sausage (used in the standard poppers) cuts the calories in this recipe by almost half and it boosts the nutritional value way, way up. Totally worth it.
- Cream Cheese: We used the 1/3 less fat version – a good choice and it worked perfectly.
- Kale is King. I love dinosaur kale, also called Lacinato kale. It’s so beautiful, plus it’s extra mild and tender and its absolutely loaded with vitamins and minerals. Be sure to remove the rib before cutting, chiffonade style (see the close up pic below).
- Portabellas: Yes, you could use another type of mushroom but the meaty taste and texture of Baby Bellas just can’t be beat. And they’re low in calories, fat free and a good source of Vitamin D, copper and selenium.
- Get rid of some of the heat. If you prefer your poppers on the milder side, be sure to scrape out as much of the ribs and seeds of the jalapenos as you can. That’s the really hot part of the pepper. I wear food safe gloves so the peppers don’t sting my hands.
- After cooking, drain the mushrooms well. Mushrooms are almost 100% water. Bes sure to drain them well (see Step 2 below) so you don’t get soggy poppers.
- Don’t forget the drizzle. Adding a tiny drizzle of olive oil just before baking helps the poppers, and their delightful little edges, bake to crispy-cheesy perfection.
Mmmmm. Yes, please.
Are you ready to give my poppers a try? Please let me know what you and your vegetarian friends think. I am also curious to hear, what special ingredients all of you put in your jalapeno poppers? Please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.
Peace, love and good eats; from our empty nest to yours.
Mr. ENs Take on This Recipe: The panko breadcrumbs are what makes these so good! I thought I would miss the sausage but I don’t; well maybe just a little. 😊
Trending in the Empty Nest Kitchen: Organic Lacinato (Dinosaur) Kale, purchased at our local Meijer Store.
Extra Cheesy Kale and Portabella Jalapeno Poppers
A hot and spicy, cheesy-crispy one-pop flavor bomb your vegetarian friends will love.
- 8 small jalapeno peppers, 2-3 inches long, cut in half lengthwise, seeds and ribs scraped out
- 4 ounces low-fat cream cheese (softened)
- ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese - make it a generous half cup
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (save 1 tablespoon for topping)
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- ½ pound Baby Bella (Portabella) mushrooms, diced
- 4 large leaves dinosaur or Lacinato kale, washed, middle stems removed, sliced chiffonade-style
- 2 teaspoons olive oil, plus a little more for drizzling at the end
- Salt and pepper
- Paprika (plain or smoked)
- 2-3 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley
- In a large bowl, combine the softened cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese. (Don't mix yet, see step 4.)
- Heat the olive oil in medium size skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and a dash of salt and pepper; cook until golden brown. Drain.
- To the mushrooms, add the thinly sliced kale and granulated garlic. Saute the kale/mushroom mixtures over medium heat for about three minutes, or until the kale is tender. If there appears to be more water in the pan drain it off. Cool 5 minutes.
- Add the slightly warm mushroom mixture to the cheese mixture and stir until mixed well.
- In a small bowl, combine the panko, 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan, the parsley and a dash of salt.
- Using your hands, stuff each pepper half with the cheese/mushroom mixture rounding out the top.
- Carefully press each stuffed pepper half into the panko mixture.
- Place the stuffed pepper halves onto a greased baking pan. Drizzle the peppers with a tiny bit of olive oil then sprinkle a little paprika over the top.
- Bake, uncovered, at 375 for 20-30 minutes until the peppers are tender and the panko is golden brown.
Wear disposable gloves when cutting hot peppers; their oils can burn your skin. Avoid touching your face or eyes.
Serving Size 4 poppers
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value
Total Fat 14 g
Saturated Fat 7 g
Cholesterol 34 mg
Sodium 435 mg
Total Carbohydrates 11 g
Dietary Fiber 1 g
Protein 10 g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.