Caramel Corn

[donotprint]You’re looking at my family’s recipe for caramel corn nirvana. It disappears all too quickly when snack time rolls around. I made a few test recipes with honey and/or peanut butter. I tried to come up with a “healthy” version. Really I did. But once you’ve tasted caramel corn perfection, it’s hard to compromise much more than this.

I did manage to health it up a bit by decreasing the sugar and butter and replacing the corn syrup that most recipes call for. But even so, it’s still full of refined sugars and fat, just a little less than most. If you love caramel corn like I do, it’s worth it!

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Caramel Corn Recipe

 

Do not allow children to do much more than observe from a distance as the caramel coating gets extremely hot. Also, try to remove any unpopped kernels from the mix. Eating them is jarring when they are coated with baked-on caramel.

This recipe calls for a candy thermometer for making the caramel mixture. One that can be mounted on the side of the saucepan with a clip is easiest and safest. The mixture doesn’t cover as much of the bottom of the thermometer as it should. But it does rise a bit once it boils and manages to get a decent reading.

1/3 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
1/2 cup shelled lightly salted peanuts (optional)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown rice syrup OR Lyle’s Golden Syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pop the popcorn via your preferred method.

Lightly grease a large mixing bowl with spray oil. Pour in popped popcorn and peanuts, if desired. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and the syrup and bring to a low boil, stirring frequently. Clip a candy thermometer onto the saucepan. Bring the mixture to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. This should only take a few minutes with the mixture at a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and baking soda. It will foam a bit.

Pour the hot caramel mixture over the popcorn and peanuts. Stir gently but vigorously with a rubber spatula until the popcorn is evenly coated. Spread the caramel corn evenly onto a parchment-lined jelly roll pan (a baking sheet with raised sides). Take a couple minutes to spot and remove any unpopped kernels.

Bake for 50 minutes, stirring once halfway through. The caramel will darken as it bakes. Allow the popcorn to cool for a couple minutes on the jelly roll pan. Once it is cool enough to touch, separate the pieces with your fingertips a few times. Once it is completely cool, the pieces should no longer be sticky. Serve or store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Yield: 8 cups (a little more with peanuts)
Prep-time: 15 minutes
Bake-time: 50 minutes

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Pie for Breakfast! (Granola Tart Shells)

These tart shells are super easy to throw together and there is no rolling out of the dough. They take as much time and effort as throwing together a batch of cookies. I still love cookies, but these are a delightful and healthier alternative that can serve as a breakfast treat, snack, or dessert.

Whenever any kind of fresh raw fruit is piled into tart shells, the kids are completely on board. My favorite way to fill it up so far is with fresh chopped peaches, strained yogurt, and honey. Add a dash of cinnamon on top if you dare.

The only warning I should give is that it isn’t the easiest crust to cut up. It’s on the hard and crumbly side. So, don’t hate me if the kids (or grown-ups) make a mess.

1/2 cup white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour
2 cups oats & honey granola (I use store-bought)
3/4 cups walnut pieces
Pinch salt
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons virgin coconut oil, melted

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the flour, granola, walnuts, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Run the food processor for approximately 30 seconds or until the mixture resembles large crumbs. Drizzle the honey through the feed tube of the food processor and incorporate for a five seconds. Then pour the melted and butter and coconut oil through the feed tube with the machine running and process until the mixture starts to come together.

Take one large golf ball-sized portion of dough at a time and press it gently into a 4-inch round tart pan with removable bottoms until it covers the bottom and sides of the pan.  You should have enough dough to make 8 shells. Place the filled tart pans on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Place baked shells on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. To serve, remove gently from tart pan by popping up the removeable bottom. The shells may be stored in the pans in an airtight container for up to two days.

Yield: 8 4-inch tart shells
Prep-time: 20 minutes
Bake-time: 10 minutes

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Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

I don’t know about you, but our summer is off to a good start…

Gone are the orange and brown days of winter. The berries are finally here! 

 

1 pint (3 cups) fresh strawberries
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips OR chocolate chopped into small pieces
1/4 cup virgin coconut oil

Wash strawberries. Spread them out on a towel to dry completely.

Meanwhile, place the chocolate and coconut oil in a microwaveable cup, mug, or small bowl. Gently microwave the chocolate and coconut oil for 2 minutes at very low power (10 or 20 percent). Check the chocolate and stir if possible. Microwave for another minute on low power and keep checking until the chocolate is mostly melted. Stir vigorously until the remaining chocolate is melted and well combined with the oil.

If you don’t have a microwave, you can melt the chocolate in a double boiler over medium low heat.

Dip the strawberries in the melted chocolate. Place on a sheet of wax paper. The chocolate will set in a about five minutes. Serve.

Yield: approximately 24 strawberries
Prep-time: 10 minutes

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Nutty Apricot Turnovers

[donotprint]A year ago I would have dismissed you completely if you told me I’d be making pastry dough from scratch and turning it into little turnovers full of dried fruit and nutty goodness. My mission is to make quick and easy snacks that are healthy too. But alas, it’s time to fess up to the fact that I’ve been playing around with pastry dough lately. I’ve been keeping it off the blog. I’ve been leading a double life.

These turnovers are made with a pastry dough that I’ve modified to include yogurt and white whole wheat flour. The innards include walnuts, pecans, dried fruits, and ground flaxseed. I had a lot of fun making them…and even more fun eating them.

I used to be really frightened by the thought of working with pastry dough. And I still sort of am. But I’m starting to think we should all make pie. I took a pastry class a while ago and it really helped to see a professional whip out a pie shell and see the consistency of the dough, etc. I’ve still got a lot to learn. Thank goodness I’ll need to practice practice practice.[/donotprint]

The recipe for the filling is flexible. Don’t have ground flaxseed handy? Try replacing it with some wheat germ. Don’t have pecans? Just replace them with walnuts. Don’t have dried dates? Try replacing them with more dried apricots and raisins. Other than that, I’d try to stick to the recipe.

Turnover dough:

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup plain Greek style yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt together a few times. Evenly distribute the butter pieces over the flour mixture and pulse 5 or 10 times until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with the occasional pea-sized chunk. Add the yogurt and vanilla and pulse until mixture starts to form into a ball.

Remove dough from processor. Form into a disk as best as you are able. Knead it a few times if necessary. The dough will be wetter and stickier than most pastry dough. Wrap the disk tightly in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least one hour, preferably overnight.

Filling:

Make sure the walnuts and the pecans are minimally altered. They should not be salted or flavored – just nuts.

2 dried dates, pitted (preferably Medjool)
2 unsulfered dried apricots
2 tablespoons raisins
1/4 cup walnut pieces
6 pecans
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon agave nectar or honey
2 teaspoons apricot preserves

On a cutting board, finely chop the dates, apricots, raisins, walnuts, and pecans together. Transfer to a small bowl. Add the flaxseed and salt. Stir to distribute. Add the agave nectar and preserves and stir to coat.

To Assemble:

1 egg
1 teaspoon milk
All-purpose flour

In a small bowl make an egg wash. Beat the egg and milk together. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prepare a work surface by dusting it with flour. Get out your rolling pin and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. The dough gets unfriendly once it warms up, have everything ready to go and work as quickly as you can. Don’t make this on the hottest day of the summer.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and remove plastic wrap. Place on floured work surface and dust the top of the dough with additional flour. Beat on the dough with the rolling pin a few times in order to make it malleable while still cold. Roll it out to 1/4″ thickness, turning it occasionally (a quarter or half turn) and dusting with additional flour when it starts to stick.

Cut dough into four squares. Gently pick up with your hands or by resting it over the rolling pin. Dust off any excess flour with a pastry brush. Transfer to the parchment-lined baking sheet.

Place 2-3 tablespoons of the dried fruit mixture on each square. Wet the edges of the squares with the egg wash using a pastry brush. Fold each square over into a rectangle or triangle. Gently press edges together with the tines of a fork. Cut a small hole in the top of each turnover to allow any steam to escape. Brush the tops with more egg wash.

Bake for 13-15 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Transfer to cooling rack with a large spatula. Allow to cool 5 – 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 turnovers (I cut them in half to serve to the kids)
Prep-time: 30 minutes (not counting the time the dough rests in the refrigerator)
Bake-time: 13 minutes

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Requiem for the “Healthy” Cookie

I’m sure there are healthy and tasty cookie recipes out there somewhere. But Fix Me A Snack has come to an exectutive decision that there will be no more cookies here.

Every six months or so I decide I need to make a cookie that is yummy and has some redeeming nutritional qualities. And every time the process is fraught with disappointment. Sometimes I just need a sugar hit. Biting into something that looks like a cookie, but does not deliver the goods is cruel. I will no longer do this to myself or my children.

Here’s a picture of the results of the latest round of experiments: Oatmeal Raisin Flax Cookies.

Looks yummy, doesn’t it? Don’t be fooled. Save yourself for the real thing. And by real I mean loaded with sugar and butter.

Graham Crackers

These graham crackers taste more like pie crust than store-bought graham crackers (and given the amount of butter in them, I’m not a bit surprised). This is adapted from the Graham Crackers recipe in Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook I’ve looked around for alternatives to try, some of which look amazingly delicious. But Martha’s recipe has less sugar (which I’ve reduced further) and did well with a couple adjustments I made to cut back on time and effort expended.

I found graham flour from Hodgson Mill at my neighborhood grocery store, but it was desceptively labeled as whole wheat flour. Regardless, graham flour appears to be more coarsely ground than regular whole wheat flour. It reminds me a lot of King Arthur’s spelt flour. It does add a noticable texture and taste to the finished cracker, but it is certainly not required. I’ve used whole wheat pastry flour and the world didn’t come crashing down. In fact, they were yummy.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or graham flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons honey

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flours, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.

The butter should be soft but not runny. In a large bowl beat butter until creamy. Add sugar and honey and beat well. Pour flour mixture into the large bowl and mix with a rubber spatula until the color is uniform and the dough easily forms into a ball.

Divide the dough into 4 equal-sized balls. Put each ball in-between parchment or wax paper and roll it out with a rolling pin until it is 1/8-inch thick. (If the dough is too sticky, your room temperature may be too high. Wrap up the dough and put it in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.) Cut the dough into 1 1/2-inch squares. Use a spatula to transfer the squares onto a parchment lined baking sheet about 1/4-inch or more apart. Pierce each square once with a fork.

Bake the crackers for 5-8 minutes, rotating once, or until the edges are golden.

Yield: approximately 96 crackers
Prep time: 30 minutes
Bake time: 5 minutes

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Stuffed Dates

The super sweetness of dates demands a counter-balance of, you guessed it, FAT. Cheesy, nutty sweetness, here I come. Seriously, take it easy with these. I read somewhere once that a dried date has more fiber than a prune.

If you’d like to learn more about dates, click on over to my Dried Dates page. (Yes, I have a page devoted to dates. Stop teasing.)

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1 tablespoon cream cheese
1 teaspoon almond butter
1/4 teaspoon orange juice
Pinch salt, if the almond butter is unsalted
3 large or 4 medium dried organic dates, pitted

In a small bowl mix together the cream cheese, almond butter, cinnamon, and salt (if required) until smooth and uniform in color. Divide the cream cheese mixture between the dates. Serve.

Yield: 3-4 dates
Prep time: 5 minutes

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Halloween Mush

I used some sweet and juicy Garnet Spy apples for this recipe today. Try to use fresh apples as I can see a mealy grocery store apple really ruining the party.

Adapted from “Apple and Sweet Potato Puree” in the Apple Cookbook by Olwen Woodier.

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1 small sweet potato (yields approximately 1 cup of cooked potato)
2 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into quarters
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch ground ginger (optional)
Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
Pinch salt
1/4 cup plain yogurt

With a knife or fork puncture the skin of the sweet potato a few times. Microwave on high for approximately 4 minutes or until soft throughout. Test by inserting a knife into the potato. If there is little resistance, it is cooked. Set aside and allow to cool.

Microwave apples in a small bowl for 3 minutes or until well cooked. Transfer apples to a blender along with any juices that were released while cooking. Slice the sweet potato in half lengthwise and remove most of the skin. Put the potato plup in the blender along with the apples.

Put the remaining ingredients in the blender (butter, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt and yogurt) and puree until smooth. Allow to cool 2 minutes and serve in small bowls. If you feel like pulling out all the stops top with chocolate sprinkles. Store in the refrigerator in an air-tight container.

Yield: 4 servings (approximately 2 cups)
Prep time: 15 minutes

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Snack for sick kids

[donotprint]I, along with the rest of my town, have been nursing mildly sick kids this past week. Since they are not deathly ill, I’ve taken it as an opportunity to craft a snack specifically for the sick kid. Behold, jellied coconut water with fruit juice:

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Now, in case you didn’t know, coconut water seems to be the latest answer to all the world’s problems. It is naturally high in electrolytes and other good bits that are well suited to keeping you hydrated.

My local Whole Foods carries coconut water that is flavored with other juices such as mango and passion fruit. But the taste of these flavored drinks was not to my liking. But apparently, some kids will go for it. 

Plain coconut water is just not yummy; unless you’re sipping it out of a fresh coconut on a beach, then maybe it’s drinkable. So I chose to mix it with some fruit juice. I recommend apple juice instead of pomegrante if your child is vomiting. No need to wonder if your child is vomiting blood on top of everything else.

I’ve included two versions of the same recipe here. One uses a “natural” vegan gelling agent and another uses Knox. If you’d like more background on gelling agents, check out my Gelling Agents page.[/donotprint]

Vegan Gelled Coconut Water

1 cup unflavored coconut water
1 cup apple or pomegrante juice
1 packet (5 teaspoons) vegan powdered unflavored jel

In a small saucepan, bring coconut water and juice to a simmer. Transfer hot juice mixture to a small bowl. Slowly pour jel into juice mixture while stirring vigirously with a fork or small whisk. Keep stirring for two minutes. Pour juice mixture through a fine sieve or cheesecloth to remove any clumps. Pour mixture into small bowls, ramekins, or cups. Cover and refrigerate until set, about 1 hour. Serve.

Yield: 2 cups
Prep time: 10 minutes
Set time: 1 hour

Traditional Gelled Coconut Water

1/2 cup cold apple or pomegrante juice
1 cup coconut water
1 packet (2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored powdered gelatin

In a small saucepan or microwave, heat coconut water until hot. In the mean time, pour juice into a small bowl. Pour gelatin over juice and allow to soak for 1 minute (a couple extra minutes is fine). Pour hot coconut water over juice mixture and stir until completely dissolved or 5 minutes. Skim any foam off of the top of the mixture with a spoon. Transfer the mixture to small bowls, ramekins or small cups. Cover and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours. Serve.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups
Prep time: 15 minutes
Set time: 3 hours

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