Friday Recipe Exchange: Holiday Gifts, Salty-Sweet Edition

Caramel Corn 12-17-11

I love popcorn. So much so, I actually have an electric stirring popcorn popper. It must be a family thing, because my brother, Paul, has all the ingredients to make movie popcorn – and he did serious research on how to get that flavor. I’m good with butter and salt, myself. But my true weakness is caramel corn, so one year when I was trying to think of something fun to give for those neighbor Christmas treat boxes, I decided to try my hand at caramel corn.

And to take it up a notch I decided to make Bacon Caramel Corn. The featured recipe tonight.

But let’s begin with some other salty-sweet ideas for the holiday gift box.

Tex-Mex Popcorn Mix, recipe here.

White Cheddar Popcorn and Chili-Cheese Popcorn, recipes here.

And if popcorn is not your thing, how about some Cajun Spiced Nuts or Indian Spiced Nuts, recipes here.

Finally, the dinner menu this week is all about improving Oven Fried Chicken and amazing Baked Garlic Potatoes, complete menu, recipes, shopping list are here.

What favorite recipes are in your gift box this year? If you give food gifts for the holidays, do you include copies of the recipes? I’m always torn. Either way, go ahead and share some of your favorite recipes in the comments. Next week we’ll tackle sweet treats for gift giving.

Tonight’s featured recipe actually came about because I read this comment at Balloon-Juice, I was intrigued enough to search out a recipe. If bacon isn’t your thing, just omit it from the recipe below to make regular caramel corn, or caramel corn with nuts.

Cashew Bacon Caramel Corn

  • 8 oz maple smoked bacon, cut into eight pieces per strip
  • 12 cups (3 quarts) of popped corn
  • 10 tbsp butter
  • 1-1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups salted cashews (or peanuts, or peanut/cashew mix)
Skillet, saucepan, baking sheets*

In skillet, cook bacon until mostly crisp, drain on paper towels and set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Reduce to 200 degrees after 15 minutes of baking.

Place popcorn onto a well-greased baking sheets.

In saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Bring to a low boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to med-low and simmer until thickened, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, add vanilla and baking soda (yes, it will foam up so be prepared). Gently stir nuts and bacon into sugar mixture and pour over popcorn, toss, coating popcorn evenly. Bake, stirring occasionally, until popcorn is a deep golden brown, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours  – mine was done at the 1 hour mark. Cool and break apart.

*most recipes call for a roasting pan, I had better luck on my second batch using baking sheets – the popcorn cooked more evenly and was very crisp.

That’s if for this week. Bixby is 6 months old today which doesn’t seem possible and I may have an update on him later, depending on how work goes today  – TaMara



Mmm… cookies

This is just a generic chocolate chip cookie recipe that Mrs J had on – *gasp* – a sheet of paper!  I have no idea where it came from, may be straight off of a chocolate chip package.  Here are the ingredients:

3/4 cup sugar, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup softened butter, 1 T vanilla, 2 slightly beaten eggs, 3 cups flour, 3/4 t baking soda, 3/4 t salt, 3 cups semi sweet chips, and 1 cup chopped nuts.

Cream together the sugars and the butter, add the eggs and vanilla, mix.  In another bowl, sift together the dry ingredients, add to the wet and mix well, dough will be stiff, add the chips and the nuts.

Using a cookie scoop drop the dough onto baking trays lined with baking mats or parchment paper and bake for 12-13 minutes at 350.  Remove when they look brown enough to suit you and cool on a rack.

More Muffins!

Banana, pecan, hazelnut, raisin, cranberry, and chocolate muffins this time.  LOL  And they are gooood!

I used this same basic recipe as a starting point:

2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup butter, 3/4 cup of brown sugar, 2 beaten eggs, and 2-1/3 cups of mashed over-ripe bananas.  Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl, in a second bowl cream together the brown sugar and the butter, then stir in the eggs and the bananas.

Now start adding stuff!  I soaked 3/4 cup each of raisins and dried cranberries in water for ten minutes and tossed them, drained, into the wet mix, followed by some nuts I found in the cupboard.  Pecans and some hazelnuts, about 3/4 or so together.  More nuts would not be too many.  I chopped 6 ounces of semi sweet chocolate and tossed that in, looked real hard at some white chocolate but sighed and left that out, this time.

Now fold all of that into the flour mixture and either bake in a greased loaf pan or in greased muffin pans.  I’m a muffin man, myself.  These baked in a 350 degree oven for about 16-18 minutes.  They are done when a toothpick comes out clean.  I took temps as they came out and got 200+ from the centers.  They weren’t a bit dry.  I got 8 full sized muffins, and another 12 smaller ones.



Orange Cookies

Orange Cookies and Lavazza Coffee

Scrubbed out the cookie jar today, which is more difficult than it sounds because it’s shaped like flamingos and an Airstream trailer, so there are all these nooks and crannies to clean out.  But now that it is clean, it must have a new batch of cookies to occupy it. These are a nice change of pace.  Sweet and tart, melt in your mouth drop cookies.

NOTE:  See changes added on July 2011

Orange Cookies

  • ¼ cup milk
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tbsp orange zest
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1 ¾ cups flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • dash salt
  • ½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts

bowl & baking sheet

Add lemon juice to milk and let set for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cream butter & sugar, add egg, orange peel, orange juice, vanilla, & milk. Mix well. Sift together dry ingredients, then add to butter mixture. Add nuts. Drop by teaspoons full to baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes 3 dozen

NOTE:  I was out of pecans (used them all in the Carrot Cake last week) and used chopped almonds instead.  Worked just as well.