When the pandemic hit in 2020, Maria Vassett bought a KitchenAid mixer to learn the art of making soft pretzels. A social worker and concert photographer, Vassett and her English professor husband, Chad Day, started making pretzels and delivering them to friends who were down on their luck. Before long, they were selling the doughy knots through Facebook Marketplace and pumping out pretzels day and night. The duo, who had no prior baking experience, experimented with different toppings and decided on traditional salted, cinnamon-sugar and everything ($7); naked to-go ($5); and dips and seasonings ($1). Now, they peddle their pillowy pretzels at Uptown Farmers Market, Gilbert Farmers Market and through The Salted Knot website. Many of their customers prefer buying naked to-go pretzels so they can dress them at home with everything from peanut butter and jelly to balsamic vinegar and Parmesan cheese. But the best part of making pretzels? “We get to see the smiles on people’s faces and hear their stories,” Day says.
The Salted Knot
In 2019, Capri Middleton wanted to transition her infant son from breast milk to something other than cow’s milk. She looked at commercially processed alternative milk options, but wasn’t keen on the additives and emulsifiers. Disillusioned, she started making plant-based milk at home and before long, was selling the bottles at a local farmers market. “There seemed to be a lot of reception for organic plant-based milks,” she says. Middleton makes five alternative milks: plain cashew-oat milk and almond milk ($8 for 16 oz.); cashew-oat cacao and cashew-oat strawberry ($9 for 16 oz.); and a rotating seasonal flavor like pumpkin or wild blueberry ($9 for 16 oz.). She fresh-presses the milk by hand and uses all organic ingredients, including raw nuts and seeds and sprouted and gluten-free oats. The milk is not pasteurized or homogenized and will last 10-14 days under refrigeration. You can find Milk of Life at Uptown Farmers Market year-round and Old Town Farmers Market from October to May.
Milk of Life
Mushroom-Style Kettle Corn
Joe Rivera was working at a golf course in New Mexico when he decided to make a career change. He built a kettle corn machine in his garage, bought 100 pounds of popcorn and learned how to make the irresistible sweet and salty snack. In 2014, he moved his family to Arizona and started selling kettle corn ($7-$9) at farmers markets around the Valley. He uses mushroom popcorn seeds, a variety that when heated properly produces round and uniform popcorn kernels. Because the surface is round, sugar, caramel and other toppings adhere more easily to the popcorn. “If you don’t get the kernels hot enough, it will come out looking like regular popcorn, or what is called butterfly popcorn,” Rivera says. He pops his kettle corn on site and also sells a variety of other flavors, including caramel, cheddar and flaming hot. You can find Ava’s Kettle Corn (named after his daughter, Ava) at Uptown and Chandler Farmers Markets and at Phoenix Vegan Night Market.