Tag Archives: popcorn

Game Day Eats – Boozy Caramel Corn

When I was single, I would sometimes make dinner out of beer and popcorn.  Occasionally, it was followed by ice cream.

I would come home too tired to do much of anything but take off my high heels and plug in my air-popper.  But, that was enough.  The salty, crunchy, buttery (real butter, of course) corn would improve my mood in minutes.  Okay, okay…the beer and ice cream helped, too.

I’ve spread the popcorn habit to my husband, but we don’t eat for dinner.  Just lots of snacking.  I so clearly convinced him of the value of regular popcorn that he bought me a huge table top popcorn popper for our bar.  Now, we can make big batches for our friends when they come over to watch a game.

But, when I want something a bit more than butter and salt  on my popcorn, I mix up something like this…

Tequila Caramel Corn
Makes about 4 quarts

4 quarts popped popcorn
1/2 cup unsalted butter, more for greasing pan
1 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp agave syrup
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp tequila
1 cup roasted, salted peanuts

Place popped popcorn in a large, buttered roasting pan.  Place the roasting pan in a 200 degree oven to keep the popcorn warm while you make the caramel.

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt butter, brown sugar, syrups, and salt.  Stirring constantly while it heats.

Once it starts to boil, stop stirring and let it boil for 5 minutes.

Remove the popcorn filled roasting pan from the oven.  At the end of 5 minutes, quickly stir in baking soda and tequila.  You may want to add spicy tequila, like I did.

Working very quickly, sprinkle 1 cup of peanuts (I used chile lime peanuts!) on top of the popcorn.  Then, pour the  caramel on top.  It is very helpful to have an assistant here so one person can scrape out the caramel and one person can stir it into the popcorn and peanut mixture.  It is very hot, so be careful.

Once the popcorn and caramel are well mixed, put the roasting pan back in the oven and increase the temperature to 250 degrees F.  Bake the mixture for about an hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

Break apart and let cool before storing.

Charley is not my only four-legged friend.  I also have a cat, Izzy.  He apparently wanted to see what that other black cat was doing…

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A Little Something Fancy

This week Washington, DC was host to the Summer Fancy Foods Show by the National Association of Specialty Food Trade.  And, I was lucky enough to go.

Um…wow.  This was my first time and I was completely overwhelmed.  There were over 2400 exhibitors and 180,000 products on display.

This is not an event open to the public.  It is a business trade show and a large number of attendees are buyers of food products.  The show gives specialty food purveyors an opportunity to showcase their goods, and for some, it becomes a fast track to success.

I didn’t t have press credentials so I can’t provide you with pictures of the hottest products direct from the showroom floor.  I can offer you my opinion about some of the big trends.

Popcorn.  Lots and lots of popcorn products.  I love the stuff, but I didn’t realize there was this great a need in the marketplace.

Heat and spice.  Spicy elements were all over the place, especially chipotle and jalapeno flavors.  Bring it on!

Salt.  Exotic salts and just plain sea salt were added to unexpected products…Some were intriguing, but others felt like just an excuse to introduce something new.  What have we got?  Hmmm…I know, let’s sprinkle it with sea salt!

Pork is king.  There is saw a continued (stale?) emphasis on bacon writ large, but there were several purveyors of Spanish ham, too.  We did not turn down any samples.

Asia rising.  I noticed a pretty large number of products with an Asian influence (that were not from Asia), and I lost count of how many folks were peddling crispy seaweed snacks.  I was partial to the ones labeled Beer Mate.  We also drank several versions of aloe juice.  I like it and I hope it spreads.

Goat.  Tons of dairy products using goat’s milk…not just rounds of goat cheese, but yogurt, ice cream, baked goods, and more.  Yay!

Water.  Too many lame fancy-pants waters.  It felt very ugly American.  I find them a bit too precious and out of touch with our current economic situation and not too environmentally friendly either.

I am very grateful to the person who supplied our complimentary passes.  She knows who she is, and I hope she knows we appreciated the opportunity.

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Party Time

‘Tis the season for parties.  If you are hosting a party or want to bring some goodies to a party you are attending, think about this party mix.  Popcorn is always a favorite, and this is an easy recipe that can be made in advance.

Popcorn Party Mix
Yields about 4 quarts

3 quarts popped popcorn
2 cups mixed nuts
2 cups miniature pretzel twists
2 cups miniature cheese crackers
6 Tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

In a very large bowl, mix popcorn, nuts, pretzels, and cheese crackers.

In a small saucepan, melt butter.
Stir in salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and Worcestershire sauce.
Pour over popcorn mixture and mix well to coat.
Transfer mixture to ungreased baking sheets.  I used two.  Bake, uncovered for about 45 minutes, but stir about every 15 minutes.
Cool, then store in an airtight container.  It keeps for about three days.


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September is National Bourbon Heritage Month

Oh, it’s the most wonderful time of the year…I’m just kidding.  I do enjoy any recognition of bourbon, though.  Bourbon is one of my favorite spirits, and I appreciate its impact on American history.

National Bourbon Heritage Month is the celebration of bourbon as America’s Native Spirit.  On August 2, 2007, the US Senate declared September as “National Bourbon Heritage Month.”  The bill, sponsored by Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky, passed by unanimous consent.  The resolution reinforced the 1964 Act of Congress that declared bourbon America’s Native Spirit by celebrating the family heritage, tradition and deep-rooted legacy that the bourbon industry contributes to the United States.  At that time (1964), Congress established guidelines for the distilling of bourbon and declared that only whiskey made in the United States can be called bourbon.
I celebrated my legacy this weekend by making some popcorn balls, which were a favorite of my family when I was growing up.  These continued the tradition.

Bourbon Pecan Popcorn Balls
Makes about 3 dozen 2 1/2-inch balls

4 quarts popped popcorn
1/2 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp bourbon
1/2 to 1 cup toasted pecans, chopped

Carefully remove any unpopped kernels from popcorn.  Put popcorn in a large (or 2 medium) buttered baking pan.  Keep warm in a 250 degree F oven.

Combine butter, sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt in a saucepan.

Stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.  Cook until mixture reaches 255 degrees F on a candy thermometer, stirring frequently.

Remove saucepan from heat.  Quickly stir in vanilla, bourbon, and pecans.

Pour mixture over popcorn, stirring to mix well.

Butter hands or lightly cover with cooking spray.  Form popcorn into balls with hands.  Watch out the mixture will still be hot!

Let cool on wax paper.  Once completely cool, wrap individual balls in plastic wrap to store and serve.

They are perfect for tailgating or Halloween parties.  Wrapped and kept in a dry place, they will stay fresh about 3 to 5 days.

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Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Take me out to the ballgame…
Take me out to the fair…
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack…
I don’t care if we never get back…

I used to enjoy getting boxes of Cracker Jack when I was a little kid – not because I thought it was all that good, but because I wanted the prize.  As I got older, even the prize lost its appeal for me.

I decided to bring back the enjoyment this weekend by mixing up a batch of homemade Cracker Jack.  It is pretty easy and makes for a tasty treat for your summer outings.

Homemade Cracker Jack

4 to 6 quarts of popped popcorn
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 to 2 cups nuts, chopped

Pop popcorn and place in a large buttered roasting pan.  The amount of corn you pop depends on how heavily you want your popcorn covered by the caramel mixture.  The more popcorn you pop, the lighter the coverage.   We used an air popper to pop the corn, and I’ve found that 1/2 cup of unpopped kernels makes about 3 quarts of popped popcorn.

I turned on the oven to 200 degrees F and put the roasting pan full of popcorn in while we made the caramel.

On the stovetop, melt the butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup, stirring constantly while it is heating.

Once it starts to boil, stop stirring and let it boil for 5 minutes.  Take the popcorn out of the oven in preparation for coating it in caramel.

When the 5 minutes has expired, remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the baking soda, vanilla, and chopped nuts.  We used a mixture of peanuts and almonds.  Make sure it is well blended and then pour it over the popcorn.  It is helpful to have a partner here to help you stir the mixture as you scrape the pan.

Once the popcorn and caramel are well mixed, put the roasting pan back in the oven and increase the temperature to 250 degrees F.  Every 15 minutes for an hour and 15 minutes, remove the roasting pan and stir the mixture to ensure even coating.

Break apart and let it cool before serving or storing.  Enjoy!

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