Cheese Popcorn

There are hard-core cookbooks out there that have recipes for homemade cheese powder. But somehow, I haven’t gotten around to making my own. Actually, I think cheese powder is where I draw the line. People think I’m crazy enough already. If I made cheese powder from scratch I couldn’t tell anyone about it for fear of the looks I’d get, so what’s the point? It’s much more normal feeling to get really excited about King Arthur’s cheese powder. This stuff is the bomb.

I make about 8 or 10 cups of popcorn in our whirly pop and immediately sprinkle on a couple tablespoons of the powder along with a pinch of salt and viola! If you use an air popper, you might need to spray a little oil on the popcorn to help the powder stick.

King Arthur is not paying me for this. :(

Za’atar Popcorn

I was trolling the isles of Whole Foods yesterday and this giant bag of herb-encrusted popcorn was calling out to me quite loudly. The only reason I resisted was because I knew Zatar popcorn would be even better. Is it Zatar or Za’tar or Zathar? Does anyone really care? However you spell it, it is a middle eastern spice blend that contains sumac, thyme, and sesame seeds.

If you drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on freshly popped popcorn and sprinkle it liberally with Zatar, you will be happy. One of my kids even thinks it’s the bee’s knees. Sometimes I might add a small pinch of salt if I’m in the mood. But it doesn’t really need it.

I get my Zatar from Penzey’s Spices. You can make your own following this recipe on 101 Cookbooks.

Maple Kettle Corn

[donotprint]Thank goodness I write a food blog or I never would have taken the leap and bought a little container of maple sugar for what seemed like way too much money. But for you, my dear readers, I forked over the $4.00 and got busy making some maple kettle corn.

We picked up the sugar at the Hebron Maple Festival after we sampled maple ice cream, frothy maple milk (yum!), and maple cotton candy. The line for the maple kettle corn was too long. A long line is always a good sign. But at that point we’d eaten so much we didn’t see the point of waiting it out even if maple kettle corn was a life-changing event. So I went about making some a couple days later with my trusty maple sugar.[/donotprint]

Maple Kettle Corn Recipe

Kettle corn made with maple sugar is more prone to burn than regular kettle corn. So don’t go anywhere while you’re making it. Get all the ingredients ready ahead of time while your pot is heating. Things can move quickly, but the pay off is worth it. Imagine crunchy-salty-sweet goodness with undertones of molasses. Or is it caramel? I’m not sure, but it’s definitely tasty.

1/4 cup canola or safflower oil
3/4 cup popcorn
2 tablespoons maple sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat a large non-stick pot over medium high heat. When it is nice and warm, add the oil, popcorn, and sugar. Stir well to make sure that the sugar is well distributed. Place the lid on the pot. Shake the pot with increasing frequency once the popping begins to make sure that the corn and sugar do not burn.

After a few minutes, the popping should subside. Remove the pot from the burner (a little too early is better than too late) and stir the popcorn with a wooden spoon while you sprinkle on the salt. Stir a few more times to make sure none of the sugar burns on the bottom of the pot.

Serve immediately or store for up to a couple days in an airtight container. Be sure to give the popcorn a little extra cooling time if you’re serving youngsters. The sugar bits can be very hot.

Yield: 10 cups – serves 3 -4
Prep-time: 10 minutes

Note: My kids didn’t start eating popcorn until they were three years old. Make sure you’re up to date on current recommendations as far as choking hazards and feeding before serving this snack to children.

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Kettle Corn

[donotprint]You must make this snack as soon as you possibly can. It is brilliant simplicity.

Today when the kids were munching happily on kettle corn I told them I didn’t want to hear any more whining about how they never get Oreos in their lunch like all the other kids at school. As long as they get to snack on homemade kettle corn, I can do no wrong.

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Kettle Corn Recipe

I like to get all the ingredients ready for this snack while the pot is preheating. Things happen quickly once the pot is ready and the popcorn needs all of your attention while it is popping. But then 4 minutes later you get to experience a snack trifecta: crunchy, sweet, and salty.

1/4 cup canola or safflower oil
3/4 cup popcorn
2 heaping tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat a large non-stick pot over medium high heat. When it is nice and warm, add the oil, popcorn, and sugar. Stir well to make sure that the sugar is well distributed. Place the lid on the pot. Shake the pot with increasing frequency once the popping begins to make sure that the corn and sugar do not burn.

After a few minutes, the popping should subside. Remove the pot from the burner (a little too early is better than too late) and stir the popcorn with a wooden spoon while you sprinkle on the salt. Stir a few more times to make sure none of the sugar burns on the bottom of the pot.

Serve immediately. Be sure to give the popcorn a little extra cooling time if you’re serving youngsters. The sugar bits can be very hot.

Yield: 10 cups – serves 3 -4
Prep-time: 10 minutes

Note: My kids didn’t start eating popcorn until they were three years old. Make sure you’re up to date on current recommendations as far as choking hazards and feeding before serving this snack to children.

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Popcorn on the cob

Down at the Pickin’ Patch in Avon, CT I found the darnedest thing – popcorn still on the cob! Will wonders never cease? It’s like they knew a snack-obsessed blogger was headed their way. I used to think I was special for making homemade microwave popcorn. But now look at me! Boo-ya!

Seriously, the kids were all excited. It was fun. And the popcorn truly tasted superior to the store-bought variety we usually stuff our faces with.

So, get this, all you do is put an ear of dried corn in a bag. Microwave it for 2 1/2 or 3 minutes on high with the bag folded shut.

Then, ta da, you have popcorn. And a semi-naked cob. Magic!

One ear made more than enough to feed my two growing and hungry children. Now I’m wondering how one dries an ear of corn. Anyone know?

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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DIY Microwave Popcorn

Way back in 2009, I read a glorious post from The Little Foodie about Homemade Microwave Popcorn. Today we finally made it ourselves. Either I’ve been spending way too much time thinking about and preparing high-maintenance snacks (I blame the cold New England winter.), or this is the quickest, easiest, cheapest, simplest snack on the planet. There’s not much there as far as nutrition goes unfortunately, but at least it’s homemade.

Of course, the kids gobbled it all up and were very happy. An added bonus is that we could play around with flavorings if we felt like it. I’m thinking a dash of smoked paprika or cheese powder with Italian Seasoning will be in order sometime soon. Today we took the simple route with a touch of butter and salt.

One small paper lunch bag (ours was 11 x 5 x 3″)
2 tablespoons popcorn kernels
1/4 teaspoon butter
Small pinch salt (only if your butter is unsalted)

Place kernels in paper bag and fold closed two or three times. Microwave on high for approximately 1 minutes 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Ours was ready at 1 minute 40 seconds. Stop the microwave as soon as the flurry of popping is starting to ebb. When the pops start to space themselves out with a second or two, it is done. Take it out even if there is a a little bit of popping still happening. Better a few unpopped kernels than burnt popcorn.

Remove bag from microwave. Open bag and drop in the butter. Sprinkle on the salt as well. Close up the bag and shake it for a minute or two to allow the butter to melt. Serve.

Note: Obviously, this isn’t a snack for little ones who are still required to stay far away from choking hazards. Mine are officially old enough now and I’ve quickly forgotten all the rules.

Yield: 1 1/2 – 2 cups
Prep-time: 5 minutes

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